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India’s Cities: Idols of Goddesses in Temples and Sexual Harassment of Women on the Streets

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 04 January 2013 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Kaleem Kawaja

The heritage

India's civilization is very ancient, very rich and very sublime. And we are justifiably proud of that heritage. In the Indian Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses, there are many goddesses, the more popular ones being Durga and Kali (protection from evil); Lakshmi (wealth); Saraswati (knowledge); Sita (faithfulness); Parvati (kindness). Throughout India countless temples have existed for millennia in the name of these goddesses; their graceful idols have added holiness to the temples and men and women have prayed to them for the removal of their afflictions.
In India’s many ancient legends and stories that are part of our folklore and culture there is much affectionate emphasis on the female form of mother, sister, daughter, and sweetheart. All that has distinguished the Indian culture and society in a very unique way.

In the Indian society men are taught from an early age to be more respectful of women per se and especially not treat them as sexual objects. But in the last several decades as the culture in the cities has modernized and westernized and many more women are out on the streets, going to colleges, offices, public events etc. the reality has become opposite of the sanctified heritage.

The reality

Go to any major city and try to travel in trains, busses and public transport, or visit public places like entertainment complexes, sports stadiums, major public events like New Year Day, Independence Day, Republic Day, Diwali, Holi, Christmas, Eid, Baisakhi, sporting events where crowds throng. You will observe all sorts of men, older and younger, trying to take sexual advantage of women. Touching women inappropriately, making obscene sexual gestures, making lewd verbal comments and taking physical-sexual advantage of women in crowded public places has become commonplace and is euphemistically termed, “eve-teasing”.

Whenever a woman or girl finds herself alone after sunset in a place where there are a few men, she worries. Even in big, world-class metropolitan cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore, women worry when going outside their houses alone after dark for fear of molestation.

But with much modernization and development in India’s cities, many a career-women and girl-students have to go around by themselves and return home by themselves at night. It is no exaggeration to say that they become vulnerable to molestation by praying men. The women from the upper class families generally travel by car and do not face predatory men. But most women from middleclass families who do not have cars available to them and travel by public transport face this risk every day.

In 2012 alone, in New Delhi, police reported about 600 instances of actual rape (molestation and harassment cases not being recorded by the police). And in the same year only one man was actually convicted of rape in New Delhi; the remainder being acquitted. Even those few men who are convicted of rape, receive light sentences and are out of jail in a few short years. Thus predator men are not that afraid of the consequences of raping or molesting women.
One of the major reasons for such inordinate increase of rapes of women is that the police often decline to record complaints of rape from women and in fact discourage them from even reporting the crime.

The courts follow very cumbersome and long winded procedures to try the rapists and put very difficult burden of proof on the victim women. That results in encouraging the predatory men from being fearless in their ugly pursuits of women.

The upsurge of a modern lifestyle that entails the mixing of men and women and its proliferation on TV, internet and flashy magazines in the last decade in the big cities in India, has further heightened the libido of the sexually frustrated unmarried men, in a society where most young men know females only as either mother or sister. Having no interface with women outside of their close family, but a heightened desire for physical contact with women, drives some of these men up the wall and prone to molest women whenever and wherever they can find an opportunity.

The gruesome gang rape and murder of a young college student girl in a moving bus in the suburbs of New Delhi in mid-December has shocked the conscience of India. A huge number of men and women including many youth have staged massive rallies in the heart of New Delhi and Mumbai and other big cities and the prestigious seats of the Indian government.

The remedy

So as India modernizes and westernizes rapidly, its men have to accept an equal space for women not only in professions and careers but also to stop looking at them as sex objects. Men need to resolve the contradiction between their reverence for the goddesses from the pantheon and their lack of respect for the ordinary women whom they perceive from a carnal angle.

There is an immediate need for India to change its laws on rape, molestation and sexual harassment of women by instituting harsh punishments through the court system at a fast pace. And ensure that policemen drop their casual attitude towards molestation of women and view it as a serious crime. The roles and responsibilities of policemen on the streets should be changed making them more responsive to safeguarding women from sexual harassment.

Indeed since a large number of sexual harassment of women involves powerful politicians and officials and their kin, the government should ensure that the said laws are actually applied to all men, regardless of their status in society. The Indian government needs to learn a lot in this respect from other countries where men responsible for sexual harassment of women are punished severely for their crimes.

[Kaleem Kawaja is a community activist based at Washington DC. He can be contacted at: kaleemkawaja@gmail.com]

GUEST EDITORIAL: Delhi Gangrape Protest cannot be Ignored

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 27 December 2012 | Posted in , , , , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

The gang rape in New Delhi in a moving bus on Dec 17, 2012 has stirred the consciousness of the entire nation. More incensed are the people living in the national capital who are its victim every now and then. What separates this event with other is the powerful youth protest against such horrendous crime that continues to grow without any solutions in sight. The protestors gave a strong message that they can no more tolerate such ghastly assaults on the dignity of women in near future.

It was unfortunate that some hooligans joined the peaceful protestors and indulged in the acts of vandalism that caused grave injuries to a police .constable who later succumbed to his wounds. Notwithstanding the facts, the essence of the protest cannot be ignored.

In recent memory, the presence of young brigade on the Rajpath demonstrating for a rightful cause is unprecedented. It was a sheer call of consciousness that mobilized such a large number of young people driven by a common cause. The brave hearts defied the chilling winter of the capital and were peaceful in giving vent to their pent up anger.

The youth demanded to live a peaceful life, better security, and prevention of crime, swift action and punishment, better law to handle such cases. They were deeply hurt because all such basic requirements were missing from the national capital. If that be the case, imagine the condition in rest of the country.

The angry youth while coming out for protest walked alone nursing the gruesome of the images of lowering the dignity of women in a moving bus. Each one carried their anger within but never realized were not alone. They were astonished to find that there were many who thought in the similar way. It was a rare sight to see such synchronization of aspirations convergence of people to articulate their demands.

If we ignore the few miscreants who set fire some logs and vandalized some vehicles, and hurt a policeman, the demonstration was by and large purposeful. Most of the young folks were peaceful and liked to be counted for standing up for a cause.

Their din and clatter went beyond the Raisina Hills and Malacha, the two forgotten villages of Delhi that were razed to construct the viceroy’s palace. The chivalry shown by the youth on the most high profile street in the country made the place look very ordinary where India’s might is on full display every 26 January.

These youth were not the one who believed in Facebook based protests or signing the online petition as a means of protest. They were convinced lot and had decided to raise the banner of revolt through street protest. Their message was clear that this time they will not remain a silent spectator to such growing crime in the city. Being beaten up or strewn with tear gas and water canons did not deterred their resolve. They were willing to suffer any amount of pain and sufferings and refused to be cowed down by any odd.

Their heroic efforts has reclaimed the dignity of the street protest' that’s fast being over taken by the social media these days. At a time when it is felt that social media has become one of the most favored way of youth protest, the recent street protest Delhi have preempted such assumption. In fact this was the first spontaneous protest in New Delhi after the Mandal agitation of 1990.

It would be wrong to call the jeans clad protesters as an 'urban centric,' crowd and it would be naive to dismiss them as elitist protesters as well. These middle class youth wearing T-Shirts and jeans and holding banners wanted to be counted as someone who can muster courage to defy any odds can not be dismissed lightly. These brave hearts stood for demanding greater respect and dignity for women and deserves to be applauded.

It was great sight to see some young girls demanding their right to be protected in this country. They were not merely a protest against the physical abuse but for all form of abuses; be it mental or social or about their priorities and aspirations in life. These fearless faces epitomized a whole brave new India those who no more like to tolerate such humiliation of women in the public places.

In this season of protest equally praiseworthy are the police forces of Delhi that handled the protestors with exemplary restrain and courage. Imagine the scene of the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989 and compare with those of the Rajpath on December 21-22, 2012.

It was a rare sight to watch the police force standing up in their defence, while youth force were in full mood of aggression. In fact the police was allowing the youth to have their way while taking the beating from all corners. In the process they lost one of their brave constables. Such restrain demonstrated by the security forces is never found in the annals of street protest in New Delhi. The Delhi police deserve some praise for doing so.

It’s not for the first time the incident of rape has rocked Delhi. If memory serves right, in 1978 two children, Geeta and Sanjay Chopra, were kidnapped by two criminals Ranga and Billa, for ransom. The children were kidnapped while hitching a ride from outside Gol Dak Khana near Connaught Place. The kidnappers plan went haywire when their car met with an accident with a DTC bus. The duo escaped from the city after murdering the children. Later, medical examination confirmed that Geeta Chopra was raped before murder. Delhi, at that time was seething with anger and every one wanted the culprits to be caught and punished. Subsequently, the kidnappers were arrested, tried and hanged for their crime in 1982.

Since then Delhi continues to lives up to its reputation for being the rape city of the country. The incidents of rape in the national capital are happening at regular intervals. Delhi tops the chart in the rape cases every year. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics of 2011 Delhi reported much higher rape cases then other five metros of India. Delhi had 572 rape cases, Mumbai (221), Kolkata (46), Chennai (76), Bangalore (97) and Hyderabad (59).

In contrast to all the previous rape cases, the latest rape case in Delhi is an eye opener. This can be singled out for huge mobilization of the youth in the capital. The protesters represented the public outrage against such heinous crime in the city. Their protest should not go in wane and their demands may usher in change in handling such cases in the country.

With the constitution of fast-track court to try such cases and the promise of speedy conviction and deterrent punishment to the culprits there are some ray of hope to firmly tackle the occurrence of such crime in the city. It could well be a turning point in bringing new law to handle rape cases in the country.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He grew up in New Delhi and can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Focus on effective law enforcement: Civil society and government agencies need to be in sync

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 26 December 2012 | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Nabeel A Khan

Insensitivity, vandalism and oppression in a democracy are the worst scourge. Unfortunately we, the Indians, have become used to it. The most vital reason for this is the lack of fine balance between the rights and duties. It is correct that protest is pride of democracy, and oppression, restriction is a blot on the form of people’s governance. Last week, we have seen restriction and oppression by the government as well as protests from the civil society transcending its civilized limitations.

The government should respect its duty of allowing its people the right to protest, while at the same time citizens need to understand their responsibility and not to turn the protest into vandalism and hooliganism. A wrong cannot be right through a wrong act or means.
The idea is not meant to preach, but a gist of an ideal situation which is nothing less than a euphoric thought in the current situation.

However, we must congratulate ourselves for the peace and patience we maintained in the majority part of the protest. Emotional issues like this, most often weakens our intelligence and we tend to succumb to some malicious, conceited and politically motivated forces. This happens because of a preconceived notion – the moment we come on the roads we treat government and its agencies as our enemy. We need to remember that, the system has not been imposed by a third party but we have made it. So the fight is with us only.


The essence of the movement/protest should not be emotional, but a logical one. The demand should be well chalked out, precise and efficacious. But, our logic and intelligence is most often overpowered by storm of emotional outburst. We most often ask for a new legislation, which is apparently the most convenient thing to do for any government. We did it during the Lokpal, Mumbai attacks or current brutal rape case in the national capital. It’s not that we don’t have legislation or agency to punish/investigate the rapists, corrupt, and a terrorist. We have well established agencies and laws, but what we need is effective enforcement of the law. Death penalty for rape is being demanded, but where is the guarantee that it won't be misused by girls and women folk to settle scores or the rapists won't finish off the victims? Certainly, the one of the most valid concerns raised by the experts is that the chances of victim being killed becomes more, if the death penalty becomes the norm. At the same time this could be misused. The other debate is – can India, which is respected as a civilized nation in the world, implement death penalty in the cases of rape?

Enforce Law

We don’t lack laws. What we lack is the implementation, and execution of law. There are lakhs of rape cases registered in the country, but they are just there for years to pass by. And at the end of the day what is the result? We see only a negligible percentage of conviction in rape cases. The other depressing factor is that when the case goes on for long, the witness tends to become cold while the victim also gets disappointed and loses hope. While, the victim is also treated almost like an accused in the current scenario. We need to make the judicial procedure more victim-friendly. The lack of conviction is one of the main reasons for inciting crime. So the right idea would be to demand for something what is immediately possible and easily doable. And, in this case the government should ensure what strategy it is going embrace for effective and efficient implementation of law, if no new legislation is introduced.

It’s been since ages that we have seen huge numbers of cases being pending due to lack of the size of judicial machinery in the country.

Why can’t the government think of expanding it to match the growing population of the country. May be, the government can strategically distribute the responsibilities –such as making the panchayati system (Sarpanch) more effective for specific kinds of cases such as civil suits.

Policing

The cops might be giving VIP security as main reason for their lack of effectiveness but the police also seem to have lost its way in terms of understanding its nature of work. We immediately need to coach them of their responsibility and job profile. They need to act more than a thug in a look out to fleece people and get bribes. For the cops, their most important job profile currently is to find if a chana wala (roasted gram seller), andawala (egg seller), or any other small roadside vendor if they are paying the monthly bribe on time or not. Even the parking people pay a fixed amount to these cops and a strategic identification sign is made to protect the vehicles parked at unauthorized location/roads. If the actual case comes they police will first try to scare and then ignore and most often will not lodge any FIR. They want to remain in the safe heaven and focus on the earning part. If some pressure comes in then they will nab/arrest – most often an easy pray and implicate them under fabricated charges. The same Delhi Police do not allow a single tempo-wala (autorickshaw drivers), and petty vendor to run business without paying bribe but at the same time big crimes such as bomb blast, rape, robbery are easily committed. We urgently need to train the cops and make them understand actual KRA or Job responsibilities.

Be Civilized Society

Be a civilized society and not merely civil society. The civil society very quickly draws a divide between them and the government and finger is raised against government which is quite valid and natural. But in democracy, how can we totally ignore the fact that government is formed by us. We make hue and cry and MPs, MLAs are criminals – but who voted for them. The society also needs to wake up and understand its responsibility; we should not wait to put off the fire till it reaches our house. Let me confront the bitter truth, we have crores of people shouting slogans after a crime is commited, what happens why the same society acts as mere darshak (spectator) when the crime is being committed and no one came to help the victims. People simply ignore. We need to be sensitive and nip the crime in its bud stage.

The society need to build an environment where women’s stature and respect is restored as mother, sister and not treated as commodity.

The women themselves should adopt a zero tolerance against any such advancement – never ignore. The society should also collectively take action against the wrong doers so the stigma of doing wrong pinches them every minute of their lives.

[Nabeel A. Khan, a Delhi-based Journalist, is Consulting Editor with IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be contacted at nabeelkhan786@gmail.com]

Anti Corruption Campaign Has Lost its Way

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 24 December 2012 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

At a time when Anna Hazare has announced to form a new team to revive the anti corruption movement, speculations are rife whether his second innings to cleanse the bane of corruption would again start with a thunder and end in a whimper or actually it may serve such genuine cause.

Catcalls are being made that it is high time that India should look beyond Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal to defeat the forces of corruption in the country.

A year ago, when Anna Hazare launched the nationwide anti corruption movement, there was a genuine support and appreciation from all quarters. Every Indian saw in it a ray of hope to get ameliorated from the ills of corruption.

However, a year after the situation has totally changed on the ground. Even though the grouse against corruption remains a seething ember, the mass support has vanished in thin air. In such situation whether the revival of anti corruption movement by Anna Hazare would instill faith amongst the people is something that remains to be seen.

Corruption is an issue plaguing India for long. Scam after scam has become the order of the day, even foreign direct investment has slowed down due to its menace. The politician (neta) the bureaucrats (babu) the musclemen (dada) and the NGOs (johla) are all seen as symbols of corruption.

When Anna Hazare came to the forefront to take up cudgels against corruption, his image of being a Gandhian and his method of using the Gandhian tool of protest gave him due respect. People had faith in his commitment to the cause and believed that he would usher the second freedom struggle in the country.

However, when Anna Hazare gave the prescription that Lokpal Bill to be the ultimate tool to root out corruption, many started having reservations. The way he dictated that the Lokpal Bill should be drafted by the civil the society and it would lead to the appointment of an independent body to investigate corruption cases, peeved people closely following the developments.

The idea of Lokpal was inspired by the Hong Kong ‘Independent Commission against Corruption’ (ICAC) of the 1970s, when the HK government created a commission with direct powers to investigate and deal with corruption cases.

On similar lines team Anna demanded the Lok Pal to be constituted as a supra constructional body to monitor corruption cases. Its when the clash of interest between the role of the government and the civil society started surfacing and the question who may have an upper hand started emerging. People got alarmed when the civil activists started demonizing the government and it was seen as an assault on democracy.

The anti corruption movement lost its sheen due to the use of vituperative language and sort of coercive tactics in demanding the Lok Pal. And when all and sundry jumped into Anna Hazare’s bandwagon to become overnight famous, the anti corruption movement lost its sense direction. The Gandhian social worker, in order to save his image, had to withdraw himself from the campaign for all practical purposes.

With the petering of Anna Hazare’s anti corruption movement, Arvind Kejriwal tried to step into his shoes to fill the vacuum. However, his style of playing to the gallery gave entirely a new color to the movement. The dignity associated with Anna Hazare was not evident in the antics of Arvind Kejriwal. His method of leveling corruption charges against public figures provoked animosity in the society.

People got put off by his regular rants on the television and they questioned what stops him from adopting the due process of law. Kejriwal’s desire to be in the media glare virtually brought the anti corruption movement to the level of ridicule. He reduced the anti corruption campaign to a matter of stage shows and in the process did huge damage to the anti corruption cause.

People started questioning the source of his funding and the lack of transparency in that further put a question mark to his anti corruption campaign. There is little doubt that Arvind Kejriwal could be singled out for derailing the anti corruption movement in India.

Corruption as an issue continues to haunt the country and the way to tackle is back to square one. In such situation Anna Hazre’s declaration to start the second innings of anti corruption campaign and Kejrewal’s formation of political party to take up the cause, is being questioned to take the cause forward.

There is no doubt that the pronouncements of anti corruption crusaders would be widely covered in the media. They may even succeed in building up sensation and whip up mass hysteria, but will their campaign remain de politicized and reach out to the micro level of the society is something that remains to be seen.

The average Indian can see through the game of the politicians and social activists and they certainly could decipher the antics of these two categories of people. It’s beyond doubt that if the people are not happy with the government, they are not pleased with the performance of the civil society as well. It appears that the era of Anna Hazre and Kejriwal has past its prime and the country has to search for new messiah to defeat the forces of corruption.

The battle against corruption has to be fought in the minds and hearts of people and has to go beyond individuals if it were to provide the intended results. The laws and legislation can never overpower individual greed. Only those in the position of making money if are willing to sacrifice their personal benefits and comforts can alone serve the cause of anti corruption in India.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Can the media bail itself out in time?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 15 December 2012 | Posted in , , , , ,

The ongoing Jindal-Zee scandal is the latest warning signal for India’s troubled Fourth Estate. But is there anybody in the business willing to clean up the mess?

By Shoma Chaudhury

In Britain, the hacking of a dead schoolgirl’s cell phone hair-triggered a national outrage that eventually led to the most sweeping inquiry on the media — its culture, practice and ethics — in the history of the country. The inquiry examined everything: the excessive cosiness between politicians and the media; the collusion between police and the media; public grievances against the media; media intrusions into privacy; cartelisation; cross-ownership; the slide in internal governance; and regulation.

Perhaps, it is time now for the Indian media to recall the old parable of the frog as well. If you don’t recognise the slow heating of the waters you swim in, a day comes uncomfortably soon when you find yourself fried. For a variety of reasons, it’s indisputable that the Indian media is coasting in several danger zones now, but are we, as a fraternity, sufficiently willing to acknowledge that? Are we putting in the correctives? Do we even agree the water is hot? And, if so, why?

It is not that there are no warning signals. Few would deny, for instance, that the ongoing Jindal-Zee News extortion scandal is a serious spike in the tank. Over the past couple of years, there have been several others — most prominently, the Niira Radia tapes; the ‘paid news’ scandals; and earlier this year, the arrest of a journalist in Guwahati for allegedly urging a mob to molest a girl more effectively for his camera. How is the Indian media responding to these spikes? How is it reading the symptoms? And is the media’s response sufficient to inspire confidence in the public?

Tehelka’s cover this week set out to examine these questions because there is a creeping sense of public disenchantment with the media and, given the great freedoms and duties it bears as a profession, the media’s response to challenges within do not just concern the fraternity, they concern the country. If we do not self-regulate effectively, there is a real danger it will begin to be done for us. The tabling of the highprofile Leveson Report in Britain — that great bastion of press freedoms — and the bitter debate it has brought in its wake is a sobering reminder of what can happen when great freedoms are not acquitted with great responsibility — and the public mood turns.

So what does the Indian media think about its own conduct? Is it headed for its own catalytic News of the World moment? Or is it ready for necessary introspections? And what are the possible remedies that can forestall the need for a Leveson Report in our country? As media, our strength — our immunities — lie in public trust. This is to offer that public an earphone into a crucial internal conversation.

In a sense, perhaps the Zee TV scandal should already be India’s News of the World moment. Certainly, it has enough jolt value. Such incidents do not have to be endemic in the profession to trigger outrage; the shock lies in how low the depths can go.

(For readers as yet unfamiliar with the case, last week, two of Zee’s top editors — Sudhir Chaudhary and Samir Ahluwalia — were arrested on charges of extortion levelled at them by the Jindal Group. The backstory is that Zee had been running a series of investigative stories on Jindal’s alleged corruption in the coal allocation scam. In October, Congress MP and steel magnate Naveen Jindal called a press conference in which he suddenly released hidden camera footage that showed the two Zee editors brazenly negotiating a Rs 100 crore deal with his men in return for dropping the damaging stories and setting up a symbiotic relationship for the future. Zee’s contention is that it is Jindal who had approached them with a bribe and the editors were playing along to see how far they would go. However, even if it is true that the Jindal Group made the first offer and so are themselves culpable, Zee’s defence appears incredibly weak because they have no counter-footage of their own to prove they intended an exposé. They also have no explanation for why their editors were trying to push what seemed a Rs 20 crore agreement into a Rs 100 crore deal, if journalistic exposure and not extortion was their real goal. Zee News CEO Alok Agarwal conceded to TEHELKA that the footage looks “disturbing”, but he said the editors were trying to get a contract document signed before they exposed Jindal. He could not explain, however, why they did not then just stop at Rs 20 crore. According to him, the editors were “acting in their own wisdom” and, curiously, no one else in the management knew that such a negotiation — or exposé — was underway. The Delhi Police, however, say the editors’ call records show they allegedly spoke to their boss, Zee TV owner Subhash Chandra, for several minutes from the hotel premises where the meeting with the Jindal’s representatives took place.)

However, despite its many ramifications for the media, many print and TV editors have declined to comment on the case on the plea that it is “sub-judice”. This is not a courtesy the Indian media extends too often to others outside the profession: recall Kanimozhi, A Raja, or Aarushi Talwar’s parents, to name only a few recent high-profile cases. A refusal, therefore, to even contingently condemn fellow journalists on whom prima facie there is disturbing evidence may serve a kind of professional piety — but the silence is likely to have hard fallouts.

As Ravish Kumar, Executive Editor of NDTV India, puts it, “The question is not about how we see this case, but about how people have started seeing us after this case. This is one more blot on journalism, adding to the bad name it has been earning repeatedly. We are anyway losing our credibility because of our content and cases like this will totally ruin us.”

There are other editors who share this dread. Vinod Mehta, Editorial Director, Outlook, says, “In my 40 years as editor, I have never seen such cynicism about the media in the public. We have been in denial since the Niira Radia tapes. No matter what scandal hits us, we seem to bury our head in the sand and pretend nothing has happened. We say we must do something, but we hope if we procrastinate, it will go away. Instead, each time, it is coming back with greater intensity.”

For a variety of reasons, it’s indisputable that the Indian media is coasting in several danger zones now, but are we sufficiently willing to acknowledge that?

Siddharth Varadarajan, Editor of The Hindu, extends that concern, “We never like writing about the fraternity. To put it crudely, we don’t like pissing inside the tent. The Zee story is definitely a matter for the police to investigate as both sides have levelled charges against each other, but it leaves one very disturbed. What we fail to realise is that the phenomenon of paid news is bound to take you down this road to extortion and blackmail and, despite the mountain of evidence, no one has taken up the issue of paid news. So, it is really time the fraternity looks at all this very seriously.”

It is true the Jindal-Zee case is a very murky one: both sides have much to answer for. Sudhir Chaudhary, for instance, was heading LiveIndia when the infamous “Uma Khurana” sting was conducted by a LiveIndia reporter, Prakash Singh. This led to a shameful incident in which Uma Khurana, a government schoolteacher who the sting had falsely accused of forcing students into prostitution, was almost lynched by a mob in Delhi. The sting was subsequently found to be fake and Prakash Singh was arrested for it. However, despite having presided over this debacle, Sudhir Chaudhary faced no strictures and wound up as Zee News head, while Jindal, it appears, employed the discredited Prakash Singh to engineer his “reverse sting” on Zee News.

This “face-off between two evils”, as independent journalist and educator Paranjoy Guha Thakurta calls it, might be one of the reasons that explains why some in the fraternity have subsided behind an omerta on the Jindal-Zee case. But the clear split in the media between those who are deeply concerned about its falling ethics and standards, and those who believe all is well, extends to pretty much every crisis there has been.

As Varadarajan says, “The biggest threat to Indian media is not necessarily from government or big business, but from within, from our unwillingness to admit there are serious problems. Even in private, off-record chats with many senior editors and proprietors, forget about agreeing on the nature of the problem, they say, there is no problem. The biggest players in the business just don’t want to subject themselves to any scrutiny.”

Nowhere has resistance to scrutiny — and apathy to exposure — been as stark as the media’s response to the dark phenomenon of ‘paid news’. For the longest time, the idea of ‘paid news’ was scathingly synonymous with Bennett, Coleman and Co. In 2003, the Times Group — as it is more popularly known — infamously started a company called Medianet through which celebrities, products and film promotionals could buy space for themselves in its supplements, dressed up to look like bona fide editorial stories. (The group now carries a small disclaimer in Delhi Times and Bombay Times to say these are sponsored features, but many argue it is not significant enough to catch attention and the stories are still kitted to look like journalism. Besides, it seems excessively cynical — and a total abdication of a rich history of cultural journalism — to assert that the world of cinema, entertainment, the arts and popular icons does not need honest assessments.)

In 2005, however, even as murmurs about Medianet continued, the Times Group floated the idea of “private treaties” — called Brand Capital — through which, instead of money, it took equity from companies in exchange for advertisement space. Starting out with 10 companies, Bennett, Coleman and Co now has private treaties with 500. Justifiably, this has invited intense criticism about conflict of interest. The question everyone asks is, how can readers trust coverage by the Times Group on any corporate or business story, when it is difficult to track who they have treaties with?

As Hartosh Singh Bal, Political Editor with Open magazine, says, “The Times of India has changed the very idea of what we consider normal. But after the initial questions, almost everyone has gone along with their ideas and things have gotten worse. Now, even other media houses have private treaties. The seeds of all this were sown when (Bennett, Coleman and Co proprietor) Samir Jain asserted he was in the business of advertisement rather than news.”
Such is the disquiet about private treaties, on 15 July 2009, the Securities and Exchange Board of India chief wrote to Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman GN Ray saying it “may give rise to conflict of interest and result in the dilution of the independence of the press”. Recently, both The New Yorker and Caravan magazines have carried critical cover stories on the impact of the Jain brothers — Vineet and Samir — and Times Now Editor Arnab Goswami on the media.

But Ravi Dhariwal, CEO of Bennett, Coleman and Co, expresses extreme exasperation when confronted with these questions. “There is a complete misunderstanding among journalists about all of this,” he says. “Why is our circulation increasing if we were doing so much wrong? Why have we not been hung out to dry by our readers? I’m tired of these innuendoes. I challenge anyone to show us even one example of an unduly positive story on a company that is part of Brand Capital! You have to understand, we do not take shares in exchange for favourable stories. There has never been interference in the editorial decisions of any of the main publications. Whatever coverage we do for money is upfront through Medianet. Nothing is surreptitious. Brand Capital, in fact, is business with risk — we take equity from companies who may be cash-strapped so as to enable business to grow. We feel if the advertisement market grows, we will grow with it. That is the idea behind it. And unlike other media companies, we have never ever taken money for political coverage. Find me one politician who says we have.”

Unfortunately, Dhariwal’s parting arrow hits hard. It is true: Bennett, Coleman and Co can no longer be isolated for the phenomenon of ‘paid news’. In 2010, the media collectively entered an even darker chapter. Although many journalists might be familiar with this story, few ordinary readers would know that in January 2010, acting on several complaints, the PCI commissioned Thakurta and K Sreenivas Reddy to prepare a report on the pervasive culture of ‘paid news’.

The report was submitted on 10 April 2010. In a scandalous move, however, the 30-member PCI deferred publishing it till 31 July because some members felt it would “destroy the credibility of publishers mentioned in it and hurt their longterm interest (sic)”. When July came, the PCI not only failed to make the report public, it did not even append it to the summary it sent the government. Shamefully, the report was only made public in October 2011 — a year and a half later — by order of the Chief Information Commissioner, acting on an RTI request.

Reading that report is like falling through a dark chute. ‘Paid news’ has now travelled from the relative frivolity of Delhi Times into the political domain, threatening the very basis of democracy. Media across the board have begun demanding “election premiums” and “package deals” from politicians in return for favourable coverage. Stories worded exactly the same appear in different papers under different bylines as exclusives. PR agencies displace journalists at election time. Depending on what candidates shuck out, they might find themselves above the fold in a paper being declared a victor; below the fold a loser. Two candidates from the same constituency might even find themselves declared winners with equal vehemence on the same page. Failure to pay could mean a complete blackout or even a hostile campaign. Paying more could advance you from merely getting “political publicity” to inflicting “political mudslinging”. Politician after politician testified to this dismal state of affairs in the report.

K Ramasubramanian, state secretary of the BSP in Tamil Nadu, said he’d been assured positive publicity for 20 days for a fee of Rs 5 lakh. Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit said he’d been approached by mainstream media to pay for favourable coverage of Rahul Gandhi. Atul Anjaan of the CPI named Aaj Tak, Dainik Jagran and Punjab Kesari as offenders. Yogi Adityanath of the BJP said every paper had a “rate card”. Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said her campaign managers had been approached for Rs 1 crore. The list stretches on. In Andhra Pradesh alone, the paid news pie in 2009 was allegedly worth Rs 1,000 crore: A new “creative” device had been cracked to get past the Election Commission’s spending limit of Rs 16 lakh per candidate. As ads were restricted by the EC rules, the media offered its editorial space instead.

Booth rigging had been replaced by the rigging of minds.

P Sainath of The Hindu, who was among the first journalists to start exposing the advent of ‘paid news’ in politics, demonstrated how Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan had been praised for his “young and dynamic leadership” in three publications — Lokmat, Pudhari and Maharashtra Times — on different days in exactly the same words. He also exposed how Chavan had got 89 full pages of coverage, though he claimed he had spent only Rs 10 lakh on his election.

In a Rajya Sabha discussion on 5 March 2010, several senior politicians noted the staggering proportions ‘paid news’ had acquired. CPM’s Sitaram Yechury told the House that this disease not only affected the Fourth Estate, “but the future of Parliamentary democracy itself”. ‘Paid news’, he said, was “distorting the electoral system, privileging those with money, demeaning the very idea and essence of journalism”.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley was even more hard-hitting. “Industries,” he said, “can shape the economy but media shapes the human mind… Yet respectable media organisations had ‘legitimised’ the practice of ‘paid news’ and several broadcasters had made a cartel and raised rates for political advertisement in 2009”. That, he argued, placed these actions of the media “not in the realm of free speech, but in trade and business, that too with unlawful objective, violating the IT Act”. Any candidate indulging in paid news, therefore, should be disqualified and the media house fined in exemplary terms.

Others have argued that ‘paid news’ should be declared an electoral malpractice and also invoke provisions of the IPC to do with cheating. But after the initial noise, nothing has happened. According to SY Quraishi, former chief election commissioner, in the Punjab Assembly election earlier this year, a staggering 339 notices were sent out to media houses and politicians on suspected cases of ‘paid news’. But nothing happened.

Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor, CNN-IBN, sounds a warning note. “The more we prevaricate, the greater the hole we will dig ourselves into. The public mood can eventually lead to a nanny state. There has always been corruption in the media, but it has now become more institutionalised and systemic. So how do we fix it? How do journalists ensure proprietors play by the rule? These are questions that should deeply worry the entire profession.”

But the water has gone back to slow burn. No one is worried enough to undertake action.
To suggest Indian media needs introspection or peer scrutiny is not to assert all of it is corroded or even that it has lost all of the robustness that should underpin media in a free world. But to arrive at an honest measure of oneself, one must at least remind oneself what an ideal media in a democracy is meant to be.

By its most rudimentary definition, a democratic press is meant to inform, educate and entertain the citizenry in a fair, objective, factual and proportionate way. It is meant also to be opinionated, irreverent and inviolably committed to the idea of individual and civil liberties. At its purest, however, it is meant to have the appetite to investigate and question both money and power and hold them to the idea of the greater common good. It is meant not only to reflect the popular mood, but also to stand against it, if the popular ever consolidates into something detrimental to a core constitutional or democratic value.

While almost every editor Tehelka spoke to feels the Indian media collectively is doing better and more feisty work than an earlier generation of journalists, part of the slow burn in the beaker is that on almost all of these counts, the media has begun to slip.

“A big part of the problem is that journalists have become too arrogant and filled with hubris. This is even more true of the TV media than print,” says Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in- Chief of The Indian Express. “Print itself has bad conscience because it has been guilty of ‘paid news’, but with TV, there is a sense that we are the movers and shakers; we can build or destroy governments and individuals. So, you have very strong positions being taken on TV without due diligence. As the State is getting weaker, this power of the media is becoming more disproportionate. The tall claims made by the CAG on the 2G, coal scam, etc, are a good case in point. Scepticism — a desire to check facts — should be the first impulse of the media, but TV does not bother. Why does every scandal have to be made to look like 2-3 percent of India’s GDP to excite the media? TV just goes with the popular mood and it becomes very difficult for others in the fraternity to take more nuanced positions without sounding pro-government or pro-corporate. In fact, a desire to wait till you can check the facts is almost seen as cowardice or compromise now. We have TV anchors who would have taken us to war with China, Pakistan and Australia at the same time if they had their way!”

Perhaps these are only the surface symptoms. If there is one concern that binds everyone in the media — a concern everyone agrees lies at the heart of what is eroding its standards — it is the intense struggle for revenue.

For instance, Sanjoy Narayan, Editor, Hindustan Times, is part of the fraternity who says he has never seen “the Chinese wall between editorial and marketing” ever breached at HT or other publications he has worked in. But he admits the “intensification of competition and the decline in revenue and profitability across the media” are areas of great alarm. The skimping on resources, the slide in credibility, the dumbing down of content, the absence of due diligence, the low quality of hirings, the scramble for TRPs and visibility, the fact that most media play it safe and don’t dig into the political- corporate nexus of corruption is all a product of that resource crunch, he says.

Intensification of competition is an understatement: India has more than 800 channels — of them, 300 are news channels. Yet, everyone has to vie for the same finite advertising pie. Both in print and TV, there is a disproportionate dependence on advertising, and corporates as subscribers do not pay the cost price of news. (They would pay Rs 150 for a cup of coffee or an imported packet of chips, but not a news magazine.) In the television business, this is further skewed dangerously by the collective delusion of the TRP rating.

Vikram Chandra, CEO of NDTV, is scathing in his analysis. “There is a key structural issue why TV has collapsed,” he says. The Indian TV news business is perhaps the only one in the world that cannot raise revenue through subscriptions and instead spends almost 40 percent of its costs paying distribution fee to cable operators. In the analog format, every cable operator can only put on about 50-60 channels on air, but there are 200 vying to get on, so everyone is willing to pay an extortionate fee. This is a double-edged sword because it then forces channels to be dependent on only TRP ratings for ads.

The trap here is that the viewing tastes of an uber-heterogenous country of 1.2 billion people is gauged by only 8,000 TRP boxes. Of this, only about 200 boxes can be seen as a reflection of English viewers’ tastes. Of these, at least 30-40 can be bought off. “That leaves one trapped in a Chakravyuh you cannot get out of,” says Chandra. “Instead of being rewarded for good programming, one is forced to follow the herd and play to the lowest common denominator.”

But both Chandra and other TV editors see a slow turnaround ahead. “If the government can get its act together, it is possible to turn the business,” he says. “With the movement to digital from analog, the carriage fee will start to go down and a channel can actually gauge who its real viewers are and what sort of programming they will reward. As this mad desperation for TRP ratings goes away, TV programming will improve drastically.”

But corrections in revenue generation are perhaps neither the only danger nor the only panacea. As Shekhar Gupta points out, “There is a very dangerous trend in India now, when media is beginning to get evaluated only in terms of money and balance sheets rather than respect and influence. In itself, media will always be a very small business. The total earnings of the top 10 news channels in India would be just over Rs 1,200 crore a year. So you have a situation now when new “resource” corporates have realised that they can pay 10 times the book value for a media house and just buy it out. The attitude is, ‘you have such tiny financial muscle and such huge nuisance value, let us show you your place’. Whatever they spend is just small change for them, so they can buy out any media house and either neutralise or use that influence.”

Curiously, the remedies to many of the challenges confronting Indian media then lie in the old, undefinable mix between high principles, personal moral fibre and sound pragmatics. For media to preserve its noble calling, first of all, editors must go back to being editors. As former chief justice, Justice JS Verma, says, “We must remind ourselves of what Rajendra Prasad said at the end of the Constituent Assembly debates: ‘The worth of the Constitution will depend on the worth of those who run it’.”

The reason Justice Leveson’s report has kicked up a furore is that despite reiterating his unwavering commitment to the idea of a free press, his report is proof that Britain has turned a historic corner. It no longer believes its press is capable of self-regulation. Among some sound recommendations and some worrying excesses that speak of an impulse towards paranoia (a call to share sources, a demand for politicians and police to declare which journalists they met and what they spoke of ), the Leveson Report not only suggests setting up an independent regulatory body — with neither government nor any serving editors as a part of it — it also suggests a statutory underpinning for the body. Piquantly, it is left to British Prime Minister David Cameron to attempt a final stand on behalf of the media — against the public mood — and protect its freedoms from even a shadow of legislative or government control.

The clear split in the media between those who are deeply concerned about its falling ethics and standards, and those who believe all is well extends to pretty much every crisis.

In India too, some of these faultlines are already starting to show. Vinod Mehta, for instance, says, “I had always believed that we should be tried only by our peers, but now I’m not so sure of that. Perhaps, we need a mixed bag with men like Justice Santosh Hegde and Justice JS Verma.”

Hartosh Bal is willing to go even a step further. “One of the biggest issues facing Indian media that is rarely spoken of is the question of cross-ownership — the same company owning huge slices of print, TV, radio, Internet, et al. No media house should become too big, so how does one arrive at ownership norms? We need to debate and take these decisions, and where can this demand come from but from Parliament?”

Regulation, of course, is always a thorny business — assailed by many imponderables. How much is too much; how little is too little? How can one enforce even as one leaves free? If there are to be guardians of conscience, how are they to be appointed? If someone unworthy sits on a high chair, how can the chair itself be safeguarded?

Tehelka has always been a passionate defender of the press’ right to remain inviolably free and self-correcting. But lapses like the absent peer response to the PCI report on ‘paid news’, for instance, does severely challenge that notion.

Should such gross misdemeanours be left to the workings of individual conscience? Or, should one adhere to what Quraishi says: “The media is the watchdog of democracy. Nothing that weakens it should be permitted, but if it is weakening from within, that too should not be permitted.”

On one principle, however, there can be no doubt; there should never be any pre-facto control over a media group’s right to publish a story. All parsing of mistakes can only be post-facto.
‘Print itself has bad conscience because of paid news, but with TV channels, there is a sense that we are the movers and shakers; we can build or destroy governments’.

Interestingly, while the PCI remains an institution in disarray, a potentially sound forum is taking shape in the television medium. The National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) led by Justice Verma and four other eminent citizens — Dipankar Gupta, Nitin Desai, SY Quraishi and Chokila Iyer — as well as four serving TV editors, is slowly building up a body of informal jurisprudence through fines, censures and orders.

Justice Verma’s sober gravitas has created a natural alcove of leadership for it. “I did not want to just handle complaints,” he says, “I wanted to help build a framework, a code of conduct.” When the NBSA invited him to chair the body, he asked for some non-negotiables: that he could take suo moto notice of wrongdoing; that he could impose fines; and that as long as any media organisation was part of the NBSA, they would be bound by its rules.

While its membership remains voluntary and merely 25 of 300 channels are part of it (and Rajat Sharma of India TV walked out of it when he was fined Rs 1 lakh), the NBSA is getting cases referred to it from the information & broadcasting ministry on non-member channels as well, who seem inclined to comply with its decisions from outside, mostly out of peer pressure. To make it truly effective, membership of all channels ought to be compulsory, but even Justice Verma is hesitant to articulate how that might be democratically effected.

Just the opening of the conversation is a start. In print too, experiments like The Hindu’s Readers’ Editor — a post independent of the editor — and committed to the readers’ experience and redress of grievance, are gaining currency. As more of the media is called upon for course corrections, it will be our responses to the small doses of heat that will ultimately determine our collective health rather than the panicked response to the super bolt.

(With inputs from Brijesh Pandey, Prakhar Jain and Rahul Kotiyal)

[Shoma Chaudhury is Managing Editor, Tehelka. She can be contacted at shoma@tehelka.com]

(Courtesy: Tehelka)

Dole to Muslim girls to promote child marriage?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 14 December 2012 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Arvind Singh Bisht

Lucknow: Teen marriage has always been a hot button topic. The issue is debated endlessly but doesn't change the fact that teen marriages are still very much prevalent and quite common among poor Muslims. Considering this, the Akhilesh Yadav government's latest decision to give Rs 30,000 for education or marriage of class X pass poor Muslim girls, whose father's annual income is less than Rs 36,000 is now open to political debate.

The government has earmarked Rs 250 crore for the scheme in the supplementary budget for the current financial year passed on Tuesday. The budget literature categorically states that the poor Muslim girls, whose fathers' net annual worth is not more than Rs 36,000 will be eligible for grants for pursuing their education beyond Class X, or marriage.

Calling it blatant appeasement of Muslims by the ruling Samajwadi Party, the BJP says that it would divide the society on communal line. Calling upon the people to rise against it, BJP leader Hukum Singh said that the criteria for giving such a grant should be economic and not community. Terming it as only a 'glitter without purpose' for cheap popularity, he said the scheme would only increase the incidence of child marriages among poor Muslims and lose its basic purpose of promoting education among them.

Contrary to this, the Samajwadi Party takes a different view. Parliamentary affairs minister Mohammed Azam Khan says: "The decision has been taken in the backdrop of the Sachar Committee's report, according to which Muslims are even worse than dalits on the parameters like income, poverty, education, health and general lifestyle." Poverty is a curse in Muslim community and in such a situation a grant of Rs 30,000 is a great help to a poor father, if he wants to get her girl married after class X, Azam says.

However, his argument makes no defence against checking child marriages, which are rampant among Muslim communities. A class X pass student is normally in the age group of 15 to 16.And going by the policy, the grant will be available for the marriage of any such girl if her father wishes so. But curiously, this is illegal under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, according to which the marriageable age of a girl is 18 years and 21 for boys.

An effective mechanism to check the teen marriages could have been the mandatory registration of marriages. But the state government has so far been skirting the issue, predictably under pressure of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which is against it. The arguments given against the marriage registration is that Muslims marriages are governed by the Shariat and it does not allow it.

"Emphasis should be given on increasing economic opportunities for Muslims rather than indulging in short-term measures," says Tahira Hasan, a social activist. She said that the Akhilesh Yadav should revisit the scheme and increase the eligibility for such a grant after intermediate. This will serve the purpose of promoting the education as well as helping the poor Muslims for the good, Tahira points out.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

Extramarital Affair: A Shifted Mechanism of Social Degradation in Bangladesh

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 12 December 2012 | Posted in , , , ,

By Md. Abdullah Al Helal

Marriage is commonly understood as relatively enduring relationship between male and female as husband and wife. It is a bond by which a male and female gain the religious, social and legal recognition to live together. It creates mutual obligation between husband and wife. However, marriage is a universal system to regulate sex life. Procreation of children is the additional purpose. No religion permits to fulfill this biological need without being married. Otherwise it is adultery and this type of relationship is known as extramarital affairs. Broadly, extramarital affairs are relationships outside of marriage where an illicit romantic or sexual relationship or a romantic friendship or passionate attachment occurs.

In most of the cases an extramarital relation starts silently from the cheating of one party of other in conjugal life. This affair begins benignly but may later evolve by becoming sexual posing a serious threat to the marital relationship. Extramarital affairs involve the infidelity (physical, emotional, mental) of someone who is married. It has added a new dimension in the social degrading that is really sham for civil society. It is damages the trust, the foundation of relationship, among spouse which is the predicator of all long-term relationships. As marriage bond is enduring so no one can deny the role of trust to sustain this bond. Finally it devastates marriages and may lead to divorce if the illicit affair does not end and trust cannot be rebuilt.

In the recent period it has raised a grave concerned among the conscious people of the country due to the rising family discord for this illicit affair and its consequences. Evidence shows that, husbands are beating and, in extreme cases, killing their wives. In contrast, men are also being killed. For example, in England and Wales about 100 women are killed by partners or former partners each year while 21 men were killed in 2010. In 2008, in France, 156 women in comparison with 27 men were killed by their intimate partners. Statistics shows that about 40-70 percent of murders of women are committed by their husbands or boyfriends. In addition to this, a woman is beaten every 18 minutes in the USA. In Peru, 70 percent of all crimes reported to the police involve women beaten by their husbands. On an average, 80 mentally disturbed people visit the hospital a day. About 40 percent of them become mentally disordered due to such extramarital relationships. In Bangladesh, though there is no authentic statistics on sever consequences of extramarital relationship, the number of suicidal death or murder is not poor. Very often these are seen in daily news paper, local satellite channels. According to a report of Dhaka City Corporation, from 2006 to 2011 the figure of divorce in Dhaka city is 43,007 and most of them are due to extra marital affairs.

Apart from this, most of the sensitive death is one of the root causes of extra marital affair according to the DCC police information. Instigating by illicit love, husband killing wife. On the other hand, wife also killing husband. Even they killing their innocent children in order to prove their love to the second party. Again, wife committing suicide for husband's extramarital affairs being helpless. People can not forget the incident occurred at Adabar of capital Dhaka, in June 5, 2010 where mother Ayesha Humayra killed her innocent child Samiul barbarically in association with her illicit lover. In the same year on 11th June Farzana Kabir Rita commited suicide in the capitals Jurain with her 12-year old son Ishrat Kabir Pabon and 10-year old daughter Raisa Rashmi Payel Romana for having illicit love of her husband with another girl. The conscious people had nothing but cry watching these incidents. And raised question are they human being or beast? A report published in the prominent daily newspaper where Dr Zillur Kamal, associate professor of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) said, persons getting such a shock lose faith in any kind of relationship. As the world is nothing but a sum of some relationships, gradually they lose taste of earth and try to commit suicide. Truly, it is these relationships for which people feel an urge to remain alive in this world bearing all sorts of pain in heart. Very often it is seen to be broadcasted in the media what is not tolerable to the sound minded people. These features prove that how immoral these people are as well as how degraded the society is. In this situation children are being affected severely. Sociologists and educationalists opine that, this forbidden relationships hurting children as well. The children of the married couple are affected by the extramarital affair because of the increasing absence of one parent. Once an affair is out in the open, the children feel betrayed and rejected. They experience confusion over why the parent has damaged the family by having the affair, because they are unable to grasp the complex emotional factors which led to that point. Their antagonistic tug of war is the toxicity hurting their child. The child, eventually, after witnessing the hostile environment at home and the parental animosity resulting from the extra-marital of either of the parents, breaks down under the strain of conflict. The child’s distress may take the form of school related problems, anxiety, depression, bullying, victimization and sometimes even health related illness. So, it is a line in the sand that cannot be crossed without serious consequences.

Marriage leads to the establishment of family which is situated in the nuclear position of society. None can deny its significance regarding providing social status, upbringing and socialization of the children. But this primitive and basic institution of the society is perilous now due to such illicit affairs apart from other causes of family discord such as poverty, dowry etc. and ultimately society is plunged into chaos. So, it is indispensably needed to protect this evil deed in order to protect social devaluation. Firstly, there is no alternative of practicing religious value. No religion permits adultery and adultery is considered a sin in all religions. The Bible decrees the death sentence for both the adulterer and the adulteress (Lev.20:10). Islam also equally punishes both the adulterer and the adulteress (Quran 24:2). All religions recognized as systematic way in this regard. So, they are far away from religious value those are involving with illicit affair and doing barbaric act. Secondly, we must stop following western culture. Evident are available in this case that this problem raised tremendously since country people started to follow the western culture blindly. Our local culture has to be popularized and print as well as electronic media can play pioneer role in this regard. Thirdly, last but not least, husband and wife must be tolerant for the sake of family existence. They should have sacrificing mentality because sacrificing mentality ensures everlasting peace.

[Md. Abdullah Al Helal is a Senior Lecturer of General Education at Northern University Bangladesh. He can be contacted at helalabdullah001@yahoo.com]

Report on Jansunwai of Ration Cardholders in Bhiwandi

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 December 2012 | Posted in , , , ,

Public hearing held in Kawad village and Padagha near Bhiwandi

IMO News Service

A Public hearing was conducted in the presence of Soheb Lokhandwala (Rep. to Advisor SC on Right to Food, Maharashtra), Shekhar Kapure, Dr. Das, and members of local committee of Lok Raj Sangathan.

The hearing was conducted in 2 places in the morning of 2nd December 2012 from 11 am to 1 pm in Aanganwadi premises of village Kawad. More than 150 people participated in the public hearing. People from neighbouring villages / padas like Madkyacha Pada, Sontakke, Shambhunagar, Vaghiwali, Pariwali, Rohine gaon also attended the public hearing. People had walked more than 5 km. To attend the hearing in the afternoon of 2nd December 2012 from 3.30 pm to 5 pm in Sudarshannagar of Padagha. More than 100 people participated in the public hearing. People from Balajinagar, Sudershannagar, Navi Ali, Brahman aali and also from neighbouring villages like Sherekarpada, Chmbipada and Bhadane etc. also attended the public hearing. Ex Sarpanch of Padagha Mr. Sane was also present.

Soheb Lokhandwala clarified that right to food is part of right to life. He also clarified that as a member of Supreme Court appointed committee he will try his best to help people get their right as per the law. And also pursue their complaints to the concern authority in Tehsil and State.

In both the meetings a very large number of local people, who are the direct beneficiaries of PDS, participated. The beneficiaries included both Yellow & Saffron card holders. The common grievances expressed by more than 40 people who gave evidence were:

Grievances of Yellow Card holders / BPL cardholders

1. For most of the period over last two years they have not got Palm oil

2. Over last 2 years they never received any Tur Dal

3. They get ½ litre Kerosene per month for each person which is extremely inadequate. The Kerosene distributing shops are open for a very short duration in some cases for less than 2 hours in the evening.

4. Most of the time they get between 25 to 30 Kgs. Of Wheat & Rice put together, but never got 35 Kgs. as per their entitlement.

5. Sugar is not given every month.

6. Ration shop owners tell them that Yellow card holders are getting less since Saffron card holders have to be given some quantity. Thus they try to incite Yellow card holders against Saffron card holders.

Grievances of Saffron Card holders / APL cardholders

1. Ration shop owners tell them that saffron card holders will be given ration only if any stock is left after giving to BPL card holders.

2. Over last 2 years they have never received any Tur Dal , Palm oil, or Sugar.

3. They get ½ litre Keroscene per month for each person which is extremely inadequate. The Keroscene distributing shops are open for a very short duration in some cases for less than 2 hours in the evening

4. Most of the time they get between 4 to 6 kgs. Of Wheat & Rice put together, but never got 15 Kgs. as per their entitlement.

Common grievances of both cardholders

1. The Ration shops distributing grains open only after 20th of the month, as a result of which many of them cannot buy since they have no money left at the end of the month. Ration shop owners tell them that this is because they receive ration from government only after 20th.

2. The quality of both Wheat & Rice is rarely very good. Most of the times the quality is very poor.

3. The ration shop owners refuse to give Complaint book even when asked by the card holders and instead threaten them.

4. Many times complaints have been given in writing; delegations have met the officials in Bhiwandi and even in Konkan Bhawan. But after they fight, for a few days the quota increases a little bit, but after that again it is reduced.

According to norms, Ration to be provided for BPL cardholders is as follows:

Total ration to be received 35kg ie 25kg Rice and 10kg Wheat

Sugar 500gm per person.Palmolive oil 1lit/family,Tur Dal 1kg/family

Kerosene 2litre/per person and if one cylinder 4litre/family and no kerosene for family having 2 cylinder.

For APL card holders:-

Total ration to be reeived 15kg ie Rice 10kg and 5kg Wheat

(Previously sugar was given now no sugar provided)

Tur Dal-1kg/family and Cooking oil 1lit/family and Kerosene same as BPL category

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