At the receiving end

BY ADITI WAGH & ALISHA D’SOUZA

Even among the most subjugated classes in our society, there is often one section that bears the brunt of the oppression – the women. The myriad of atrocities against women include molestation, dowry suicides and murders, eve-teasing, kidnapping, harassment by husband and family members, domestic violence and prostitution. Among all these, rape debilitates the mental strength and completely annihilates the morale of a woman.

The Mumbai Commiserate has the highest number of cases reported annually. However, Mumbai is an extensive geographical area with a number of smaller districts that are independent. The difference in the size of Mumbai and Pune makes the incidences in Pune all the more alarming. Pune has the highest incidences of rapes reported in the state, after Mumbai.

In Maharashtra, the trend has been that urban areas register more cases of violence than their rural counterparts. Pune city is an exception to this rule. According to the CID Report of 2009, more cases were reported in rural areas as opposed to urban parts of the state of Maharashtra. Pune witnessed a 27% increase in violence against women last year, in comparison to the year 2009.

A crime branch study on rape cases revealed that there was a decline in the number of rape cases over the last two years. In 2008, as many as 91 rape cases were registered in the city, while in 2009, the number was 66. Rural Pune registered about 72 cases.

Shedding some light on the statement, Jayant Umranikar, Retired Director General of Police, Special Operations said, “Rural Pune is urban in its outlook. In terms of development it surpasses even some other cities in the state. Places like Lonavala, the outskirts of the city that houses the urban IT sector cannot be termed as rural, because the population is highly urbanized.”

Offences like rape have a negative connotation amongst rural populace. It is the victim who is subjected to social stigma and shunning instead of the rapist. Despite the social stigma associated with the crime, the reason behind higher number of victims registering cases in rural area than the urban region in Pune is a cause worth investigating.

Higher education levels have made women more sensitive to these issues. They are better informed about their fundamental rights and the civil laws that protect them. They are empowered to fight these social battles. Another possible factor that encourages Pune’s rural to file complaints against atrocities is sensitivity on the part of police and legal authorities.

Highlighting an astonishing trend, Umranikar said, “Often cases that are filed are not genuine in nature. It may be a form of blackmail by a girl who was promised marriage, and later hung out to dry. Or in case of a minor who elopes, parents may file kidnapping and rape charges against the man. “

Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code states that only physical penetration without consent constitutes a rape. Our judicial system is designed such that very few cases of perjury are punished.

Women tend to use this to their advantage, by filing wrongful charges against men they want to prosecute. But in case of trial, the accused is booked under a non-bailable offence. Arrest is then the only form of justice, although the legal proceedings in courts may drag cases for years.

Approximately 60 % of rapes are instigated because the rapist’s approach is turned down by the girl, hurting his male ego. He then uses his physical strength as a symbol of his masculinity. About 30% of cases stem from sexual arousal after seeing a girl.

The remaining 10% may be attributed to intimidation tactics, where a woman maybe a witness to a crime. Rape is used against a voice that needs to be heard. In certain cases, the criminal may be a stranger to the victim. He may however perpetrate the crime to seek revenge against another loved one. Rape may also be a method to enforce a sense of domination over the victim.

For these victims who are subject to inhuman brutality, there are rehabilitation measures offered by the government. One such governmental wing which functions under the Police Department is Prevention of atrocities against women (PAW).

It is a mandatory unit for every police station. It provides counselling for victims and criminals associated with a wide range of crimes. Of course, as in other crimes, in case of rape as well, the rapist has to be psychologically unfit which is an aspect police discovers during the investigation. It is only post the declaration of his mental illness that the criminal is sent to the counselling department for treatment.

Rape is physical force applied to make a statement. However, Jayant Umranikar believes that mere statistics do not point towards an increase in crimes against women. There may be more registered reports in the rural sector which is encouraging. Not only are women contending against the men they are also empowering themselves.

Pune, being an educated, cosmopolitan city of the state, has identified the seriousness of the issue. Thus reporting this may just be the sign of a more responsible society.

Picture: google.com/images

A different kind of rush

BY ANCHAL PATHAK, SWATI DEOGIRE, TARANA ARORA

A dimly lit room with a red Chinese lamp glowing in the far end. A young girl aged 22 opens an innocent looking packet containing white powder. With the help of her friend she draws the powder into lines. As both take chances to snort the powder, the Trance music playing in the background becomes subdued. And as they rest their heads back and let the drug take its effect, their realities start slipping and they are transported into a world of their own.

This scene which looks straight out of a blockbuster movie is what more than five million  Indian youngsters go through on almost a daily basis. Sadly this shattering statistic pertains to Heroin alone. The  percentage consumption of other types of drugs is virtually unknown and on the rise.

“You feel dizzy, you feel like floating. There is a flowing sensation under your skin. It’s the easiest form of escapism,” says a 22 year old Preeti Singhania (name changed) who was a user of Cannabis drugs. The “feeling” as Singhania describes, that comes from smoking non chemical drugs that she and her friends used to indulge in while in college, was surreal. She started at 18 herself but claims she knows people who took to the bud when as young as 14 or 15.

“People who get into drugs usually don’t do it with the motive of getting addicted. They just want a onetime escape or an occasional drag as they see their friends enjoying while doing so,” says clinical psychologist, Glennis Mendosa. Working with people trying to kick the habit she says, “every time you consume an addictive substance your threshold increases by a level.

Why do people indulge in a habit that they know might damage their nervous system in particular and their life in general? There are various reasons, the strongest being unstable family environment. If a person has had a tumultuous past, then taking up this habit becomes an obvious consequence. Mendosa explains, “If a child witnesses friction between his parents at an impressionable age and the only time he/she has seen them calm is when they are drinking or smoking, the child automatically equates calmness and peace with these substances.”

Peer pressure is also one of the rising reasons for addiction. Young people want to be cool and accepted therefore, they, on the insistence of their friends take a few drags, little knowing that they are walking into an addiction.

Singhania adds to this list by saying that people use these substances for things as trivial as losing weight or getting over a break up.

People today have a very casual attitude towards substances. The media is to be blamed to a certain extent for not only glorifying but at the same time attaching the element of normalcy to narcotics. This can be observed in sitcoms and films such as How I met your mother, Dev D and Dum maro dum to name a few.

What is even more unnerving is the easy availability of these drugs in public places which families frequent. Places as common as a small kiosk under Shoppers’ Stop in Pune are known to be the selling point of these narcotics. One may shell out 100 bucks for a small packet of grass or up to Rs. 45,000 for a smaller packet of chemical drugs.

To help the cause of addiction, various organisations such as Muktangan in Pune have been set up. These organisations are working to help out addicts by providing them with therapy and medication. Just as every time you take a substance your level increases, similarly the method of curing is to decrease the level or dosage every time an addict takes to them. For example, if your regular dosage is five units a day, it is reduced to four a day. When withdrawal occurs the patient is provided with medication as well as psychotherapy to educate him/her about this addiction. Family members are also included in this session. Addicts are given safe medication like calcium tablets which acts as a Placebo which helps them cut down their addiction.

Mendosa says, “Acceptance is the only way a person can let go off his addiction. A person in denial cannot be helped by the best therapists in the world that’s why a therapist’s first task it to help change the mindset of the addict.”

With determination in her eyes, Singhania adds, “My fainting experience drove me to quit my addiction. I came to terms with the toll it was taking on my health, both physically and mentally.”

With the casual attitude that the society showers drugs with, one can only hope that there are more Preeti Singhania’s in the world that have woken up from the trance and seen the light.

 Picture: google.com/images

When the light turns RED

BY MUGDHA VARIYAR, SHOUMELI DAS, PRATITI CHAKRABORTY

Pune’s vibrant night-life brings out the youth brigade in its hundreds, upbeat and ready to paint the town red. In another part of town, the colour assumes a completely contrasting connotation.

Buddhwar Peth is notorious as Pune’s red light area, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. This controversial area is close to Dagdusheth Ganpati and Kaka Halwai; both abuzz with activity and the daily humdrum of traffic and travel. The dingy lanes and dilapidated houses of Buddhwar Peth catch our attention immediately. The overbearing stench makes us flinch involuntarily.

While Hindi films may have accustomed us to the stereotypically gaudy sex workers and their traits, but when we see the young girls standing stoically on the streets, the reality hits hard.

Our first stop is the Shukravar Peth Police Station, mainly because it seems too naïve to wander around without any understanding of the place. PSI Yadav tells us that most of these girls are between 18 and 30 years of age. “They mainly come from Nepal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. Some of them are forced to work here, some are conned into the business with dreams of a better life; but most of them come here by choice, having fled from utter poverty and other problems.”

How do the police check this racket? “We often conduct raids to ensure minor girls are not being forced into this occupation. Offenders are taken into custody under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act, 1956,” Yadav explains.

As we walk along the streets of Budhwarpeth, we see girls huddled up on the sidewalk, on stairs and near shops. A sign board on a shaky building catches our attention – Akhila Budhwar Peth Devdasi Sanstha. We enter the gate promptly, to be greeted by a woman in her fourties, a peer with the organization. Her name is Kamala Kattipalla from Bijapur in Karnataka.

In a candid interaction with Kamala, she revisited her life story. Kamala arrived in the city at the age of fifteen with a hope for finding work and money. She soon found herself running out of choices and was forced to become a sex-worker. She continued to work for a long time before one of her customers agreed to take her from there. Today, not only does Kamala have a family with one son but also does her bit to help other sex workers who need her guidance. She now stays in the city and works with the government-sponsored organisation.

She takes us around the corner where a group of girls are chattering. As we introduce ourselves, they all remain mum and indifferent.

“We face no problems here”, replies one woman, rather indignantly. Though initially apprehensive about answering questions, she soon loosens up. She is from Uttar Pradesh, and has been working in Buddhwar Peth for over a year. Her heavily-made up eyes light up and her pursed lips give way to a smile at the mention of her three month old son, who sleeps upstairs as she waits for customers. Surrounding her are five other young girls, and one middle-aged woman all of whom stare at us, stoically. The fatigue of their twelve hour work day is cleverly hidden. A sixth joins the group in a huff, after angrily refusing a customer who was haggling with her.

When she prefers to stay silent, Kamala takes over. “It is tough”, she says, “since the girls come here at a very young age and get into the business. Some work throughout the night and many face health problems. The police have also given us a lot of trouble, since they round up everyone under the PITA act and keep them in custody for days.”

We make our way to the office of the Akhila Buddhwar Peth Devdasi Sanstha. There Mr. Prakash Yadav, who manages the organisation, briefs us on the work that the organisation does. “We offer health assistance to these girls in every way possible. From getting them tested for HIV and STDs to giving out free condoms, we try to maximize health awareness for their benefit”, he says.

The health and hygiene of the sex workers is a wide spread concern apart from trafficking. To address this major issue, there are four NGOs that operate in the area. Ensuring that these women stay healthy and disease free is a huge challenge, owing to the lack of literacy among the women, or Key Persons (KPs) as they are referred to.

Manali Ahir, a counseller at the organization, gives us a lot of insight on the world of sex-workers in Pune.   “Our main aim is to create awareness and provide medical services,” she tells us. “We go to brothels, talk to these KPs and give them the necessary medical aid. Our volunteers conduct regular blood tests, six monthly HIV tests, provide them with condoms and any other clinical assistance that may be required”, says Manali Ahir. This form of Targetted Intervention by the organisation is funded by programmes like Pathfinder as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

However, she does clarify that during the peak season of the business such as the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, the organization refrains from excessive intervention as they don’t like to affect their work.

Ahir talks about their earnings. “They earn between Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 for services of 15-20 minutes. Some of them charge about Rs. 500 per hour, and some take up to Rs. 1200 for the entire night.

For women with toddlers, there is a crèche facility provided by organisations such as Vanchit Vikas and Kaya Kalp. Organizations like Saheli work towards providing formal education for sex workers with the inclination to learn.

At this point of time, one cannot help but wonder what happens to these women after their prime. While a few fortunate settle down with their Regular Partners (RPs), others return to their villages with their life savings.  A few choose to become managers who help protect the girls.

We received more food for thought than we expected. Choice, exploitation, bravery, greed, necessity, resignation. Different outlooks, crammed into four gallis.

The day turns into an experience of a life-time and an eradicator of previously-held notions, as we open up to a different world that stands in our very midst.

Tragedy of the innocent

BY AISHWARYA KADAM, ALETTA D’CRUZ, RESHMA EMMATTY

Ayesha D’mello (Name Changed) is a 22 year old master’s student in one of the reputed colleges of India. A girl who has everything going for her, right from beauty, to intelligence, self confidence and a personality that pleases all. Ayesha however has her secrets, dark ones as she may call them. She was sexually abused as a child. She was a kid who lost the innocence of her childhood, even before she discovered it.

At an age, where children were supposed to be outside playing and enjoying themselves, Ayesha found herself indoors, allegedly ‘playing’ a different game, that was enjoyed by a man thrice her age.

Ayesha was seven when he first touched her. She was his playmate, as he called her – his doll, whom he would dress up and make pretty. He wasn’t any stranger that just walked into her life. He was a neighbour, a family friend she trusted – a trust that faded with time; a trust that changed a lot for her as she grew older.

India has the largest number of children (375 million) in the world. 69% of Indian children are victims of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse (or read it as every 2 out of 3). New Delhi, the nation’s capital, has an abuse rate of over 83%.89% of the crimes are perpetrated by family members (65%). More than 70% of cases go unreported and unshared even with parents/family. This is the magnitude of child abuse in our country.Abuse against children can be of 4 types, Sexual, Physical, Emotional and Mental. In India, we have just started recognizing child abuse as a problem and of the four types, only sexual and physical abuse are even considered as abuse.

Legally, sexual abuse towards a child is defined as inappropriate sexual behaviour with a child. The sexual abuse of some children can be so brutal, as to induce temporary amnesia.

Nine year old Priya was brought to Jagruti (an NGO working on this issue) by the police. She knew nothing about herself, her parents, or her past, apart from her name. She had cigarette burns all over her body. She had forgotten how to perform basic everyday functions, such as brushing her teeth, going to the toilet and wearing clothes. She would continue eating and drinking until told to stop. She didn’t know the difference between rice and curry. Priya would, however, discard her underwear every ten or 15 minutes and then come and stand in front of the people in the room to indicate that she was ready for sex. It is anybody’s guess how much this child was abused at an age when children are supposed to dream and be carefree.

Emotional abuse is also known as verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological maltreatment. It includes acts or the failures to act by parents or caretakers that have caused or could cause, serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional, or mental trauma. Less severe acts, but no less damaging, are belittling or rejecting treatment, using derogatory terms to describe the child, habitual tendency to blame the child or make him/her a scapegoat.

Physical abuse is the inflicting of physical injury upon a child. This may include burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating or otherwise harming a child. The parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child. It may, however, be the result of over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child’s age

Though Ayesha has come a long way from her experiences, her scars still remain. However, unlike most abuse victims, Ayesha has not confined herself. She is a normal girl, with dreams and aspirations. What worries her is the fact that she has no scar.

Could it be that Ayesha’s experiences made her indifferent to her pain? She might just look at it as a normal part of her life – and what could be a bigger danger than that.

Child protection rights talk about  protecting children from child labour, forced beggary, violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, abduction for child marriage, organ trading, superstition etc., Drug abuse, torture and deprivation of liberty, armed conflict, protection from interference with privacy and protecton from discrimination of any kind.

Though these make good statements on paper, we find them being violated at large all around us.

Children should be taught to respect elders, until they act wrongly. Monitor, screen, and filter if necessary, the way your children use the Net. Teach them about the importance of privacy when using instant messaging, email, or social networking sites.

Finally, spread the word. Spread the awareness. We owe it to the next generation.Let every child born into this world enjoy their innocent childhood.

 Picture: google.com/images

Land Acquisition: An hurdle to Infrastructure development

BY AGAMONI GHOSH, NIKITA MUKHERJEE, RAINA KSHETRY

A sigh of relief made its way through the farmlands of Singur as Mamata finally managed to return their rightly owned land to the farmers. An array of disappointment however marred the young of the same community who may have had a glorified vision of finally moving towards an industrial outlook that in some way would improve the environment they resided in. Land acquisition, the heated topic of debate across state governments and developmental boards has pricked the infrastructural development of the country in such a way that its growth is at questionable quarters.

One of the most prickly nettles for governments in India today is land acquisition for industry. The complex and ambiguous routines involved in Land acquisition by the government for public projects has adversely affected the infrastructural development.  The Land Acquisition bill of 1984 an almost draconian approach to acquire land for developmental purposes was recently sought to be replaced for which the Draft Land Acquisition Bill 2011 was tabled in parliament. But has it served any purpose or is it just the old wine in a new bottle failing to gain any results. Billion-dollar projects stalled or abandoned due to protests or legal battles with angry former landowners have exposed the dicey world of corporate land acquisition in Asia’s third-largest economy, sparking calls for a legislative fix.

India’s abysmal record in terms of providing adequate compensation and honouring promises to the oustees has contributed to the present trust deficit and consequent opposition on the part of owners of land to part with it. In the public eye, the government is no longer considered an honest broker.

Amidst this chaos the only sufferers are the common man who expecting better infrastructure pay stashes of money every year as taxes but are time and again left high and dry.  Himanshu Chandrakar, an IT salaried official working at Infosys says, ‘A silicon valley or a couple of SEZ’s do not decide the overall infrastructure of the country. So what if I live comfortably and work in these environments. The moment I step out and go to my native place which falls outside the territorial domains of the city it’s as sad as one can imagine. If this kind of lob sided infrastructural development continues we are most likely to have an urban outburst of excessive population.”

The beauracratic nuances with its ever prolonged red tapism has plagued the Indian developmental visions. In its  report – Building India: Accelerating Infrastructure Projects by the Economic Survey  drew the comparison that building a thermal power plant in India took three and a half years, while in China it took a year less. Such concerns cast doubt on the speed with which the economy can be transformed by big spending on infrastructure. MOSPI in its annual report showed that 293 Out Of 559 Construction Projects in India Were Delayed As Of October 2010.

Only a quarter of India’s 88 cities with populations of more than 500,000 have formal transport systems, according to the Asian Development Bank. Currently, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is inviting bids for 65 highway projects, the equivalent of 6,800km of road for a total cost of Rs680.8bn. However, according to research by Macquarie, the Australian investment bank, only 15 have been awarded so far. Another 50 are still up for grabs. This is because progress has been hampered by disagreements between the government and private sector companies over whether roads would yield enough revenues to justify investment.

Even the new bill has failed to provide any kind of relief. Soumyajit Sen, practicing advocate at the High Court of Kolkata says, “Land owners badly needed a law that would offer a redressal system for disputes/acts of coercion, a fair compensation package and suitable rehabilitation. Corporates, on the other hand, were in dire need of a process-oriented system that would not only reduce the time involved in land acquisition but also provide safety for their massive investments, without entirely altering their payback estimates. The draft bill has disappointed both.”

The Chamber of Indian Industries  also suggested that the government should carry out an extensive survey of the country, identify the most fertile and productive agricultural land to be protected, and then carry out a massive zoning plan, designating certain areas for different types of development, including infrastructure. However, the new land bill makes no provision for any such an undertaking.

Not only has this new proposed system created further ambiguity but also raised the potential scope of land dealings. The Bill, prima facie, is expected to increase the cost of land acquisition for the Railways, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), mining, airport and metal projects, even as it is expected to speed up land acquisition due to better compensation and lesser dispute.

Ninad Mishra, a real estate agent from Pune states, “The existent costs in land dealings including the payments made to the middlemen were already so expensive.

With the introduction of the new levels of transparency so as they call it has become newer levels of expenses. The more the running from one authority to another the more is the cost incurred.”

So if this new policy is a nightmare for the urbanites does it fare any better for the farmers as it claims. The new policy takes effect prospectively, and does not cover projects for which land has already been acquired. It promises added benefits to farmers and revises certain provisions of the earlier policy announced on September 3, 2010.

Besides compensation, farmers will get an annuity of Rs 23,000 per year per acre for the next 33 years, going up by Rs 800 every year. In the earlier policy, this amount was Rs 20,000 per acre, going up by Rs 600 every year. Farmers can also settle for one-time compensation of Rs 2.76 lakh (earlier Rs 2.40 lakh) per acre.

The new policy has three parts. The first deals with land to be acquired for basic infrastructure, such as highways and canals, which will be based on mutual agreement. The second part will deal with agencies that prepare master plans for planned development. Karar Niyamavali or mutual agreement will guide land acquisition for this and allow for all the benefits announced in the earlier policy.

A key difference now is that farmers will also be entitled to get 16 per cent of the developed land for free. If the farmer does not intend to keep the land or part of the 16 per cent developed land, he could liquidate a part of it for cash.

The third part deals with land acquisition for development and other commercial purposes by private developers, where companies can negotiate and acquire land directly from farmers, provided they have the consent of 70 per cent of the affected people.

The most major loop hole in this system is that there is a huge distance between the farmer and the development agency which does not allow the farmer to avail all the profits from the deal. Also due to illiteracy of the farmers in the state, many are fooled easily in giving up their lands.

Disappointments, disagreements, non implementations. This is all the infrastructure progress has faced in light of the recent land acquisition dramas. Will it fare any better in times to come ahead or will the hierarchical costs inculcated in land dealings proof to be a huge set back.

The prime challenge for the government is not to turn a blind eye to the needs of the people and have a comprehensive revision of the Bill along with the consent of various representations from groups as corporate, public infrastructure boards, state governments and most importantly local governments.

It’s time we realised that infrastructure is shaped more by the local forces than anyone else and hence decentralisation with effective outcome should be the need of the hour.

A story of the Third India

By Apeksha Mishra, Shagun Kapil, Sanket Chaukiyal

Sadashiv Das is a former medical Superintendent of SCB Medical College in Cuttack, Odisha. He retired last month. His sixtieth birthday was just a couple of days ago. The years have however not been very kind to him. Arthritis has completely immobilized him. He hobbles now using a crutch. So, the idea of finally resting is not entirely unwelcome.

Das has been visiting the secretariat in Bhubaneswar every single day for the past 18 days. He wishes to get his service papers in order so that he can start receiving his pension. But eighteen days of patiently standing in queues has not yielded anything. He is directed from table to table. No one seems to be responsible for anything.

Das suffers from diabetes and hypertension too. His condition requires visiting the wash room from time to time. However the latter in the secretariat is a festering Inferno of stench, stains and flies.  The closest place is his niece’s house, seven kilometers away. He cannot possibly go there leaving his place in the line.  The eighteen days have been a torture to him. He has already paid Rs. 2000 in cash, five packets of Wills and two packets of Jalaram laddoos as bribe. The inertia is however unaffected.

This too is the story of India. Beyond the dazzling growth. Beyond the dark poverty.

Whether it’s Bhubaneswar or Pune or Delhi, the story is the same. What has stopped administrations and Governments across towns and tehsils from working is something beyond corruption. It is a total refusal to get things moving. It is almost a sadistic pleasure in seeing people squirm, despair, cajole and still get snubbed. Reason can no longer apply to explain this behavior. The poor are no longer the only sufferers in India. Constant harassment and humiliation can rival the pangs of hunger too. As middle class India groans in misery, there is no Lochinvar who rides into television studios in righteous anger. As everyone, from the anchors to the activists, discusses and bemoans the fate of the other India that comprises the poor, everyone forgets that India is not just of the rich and the poor but also of the 200 million strong middle class whose angst is overshadowed by the excesses against the poor.

The Jan Lokpal movement has churned out opinions galore. The ones against the same have sneered that most of the agitators did not even know the concept of an (anti corruption) ombudsman. Prajikta Kakatar, a resident of Pune stopped her twenty two year old son from going to a rally in support of Hazare in Pune. Her logic was, “When you don’t even know what the Jan Lokpal Bill is, who made it, how many versions there are, what are you agitating for?”

“India has indeed had a skewed story”, says sociologist Kalindi Jena. “However the problem is that a proper identification of victims has not been made. The poor in India are not the only ones suffering. Middle class India is too. The poor at least have the competing attention of the political class these days. But who fights for the middle classes?”

The Anna Hazare movement was criticized for not including Dalits and minorities. It was criticized for being an upper caste middle class agitation. The truth of the matter, however, is that in a country of competing appeasements, the middle class, especially upper caste Hindu, is an Indian who has a story of untold grievances. He enjoys no quotas, no subsidies, no reliefs and no bailouts. This even after it is his money, his taxes that go to pay for most of the aforementioned goodies. The pursuit of a welfare state has created a Robin Hood government that robs not the rich but the middle class to pay for the poor. One of after the other, the grandiose schemes of a welfare state waives away Rs. 60,000 crores worth of farm loans and spends Rs, 45,000 crores for a rural employment guarantee scheme. Little do governments realize that the pockets that they rob to pay for rice at Rs 2 a kilo are empty because the same pocket pays Rs 40-50 for the same amount.

“Hence the resentment”, says Darpan Chowdhury, political science professor at Jadavpur University. “There is no doubt that middle class India has also been suffering. It may not be an active suffering like someone taking their lands or raping their women. Decades of being ignored by the governing class can also be frustrating. But facts are facts and it also is partly their own fault. Voting percentage in Gadchiroli is 68% when it is 42 % in Mumbai. Middle class India hardly votes. And even when they do, it is not en masse like the poor whose numbers are their strength. Middle class India has stayed away from active political participation and it is what is costing them dearly today.”

The indictment is indisputable. But if the middle classes have sinned, they have also paid for it. The Lokpal movement is now a hope that this inertia is finally broken.

And as they gather their powers to make their voices heard all one can hope for is that the story of this third India does not fall behind the other two.

Picture: google.com/images

Mausam – Review

BY SWATI DEOGIRE

When you look away from the picture-perfect frames and beautiful cinematography of Mausam (courtesy Binod Pradhan) you understand that not all the seasons of love in this film are suitable for you.

Mausam is veteran actor Pankaj Kapur’s directorial debut with son Shahid and Sonam Kapoor in the lead, along with Supriya Pathak, Anupam Kher and Manoj Pahwa. Kapur Sr. has put forth commendable work in his debut film with respect to attention to detail. The art direction and cinematography makes the Punjab ka pind look very real and believable, with loud, noisy middle aged women, a tonga wala and sarsoon ke khet in the background. But with Pankaj Kapur at the helm of affairs, one expects something close to perfection. And sadly, the film disappoints with a dragging screenplay and unnecessary melodrama that it offers.

The film starts in the early 90s set in a small village in Punjab with Harry (Harvinder Singh), played by Shahid, and Aayat, played by Sonam, as the main characters. As Harry awaits his letter from the Indian Air Force, he falls in love with a Kashmiri refugee, Aayat. Love blossoms between the two and just before you think the two will soon bind together in matrimony, Babri Masjid is demolished and hence, Aayat relocates to an undisclosed location. The political undercurrent and terrorist activities in India and the West for over a decade set the tone of the film. They come together again only to be separated by another series of attacks. The longing and wait of the couple seems endless and highly annoying as in an era of cell phones and emails, the two of them depend on traditional sources of communication and as a result, the two finally meet after a decade, that too in the midst of the Gujarat riots.

Pritam Chakraborty’s music seems refreshing and adds more beauty to the film. Shahid’s restrained acting in the second half as an Air Force officer and his village boy act in the first part show his commendable growth as an actor. Sonam looks dignified and giggles her way through most of the first half of the film which is replaced only by her yearning and pining act till the end. A good script on paper gone awry on screen, the Mausam vibhaag here at Ink gives it a thumbs down!

Greek Tragedy: Default to Survive

By RAMESH GOPALKRISHNAN

In 1999, the European Union (EU), an economic and political community of 27 nations, established a monetary union, the ‘Eurozone’. All EU member nations who were part of this zone had the freedom to decide their individual fiscal policies. However, the European Central Bank (ECB) decided a common monetary policy. It dealt with establishing a common currency (the Euro) and the supply of money in the zone by targeting rate of interest to propel or control growth.

While this worked well during times of economic prosperity during the global financial crisis, the ECB’s one-size-fits-all policy  looks suspect.

As a formal structure bridging the ECB’s monetary policy with the fiscal policy of individual nations is non-existent, there is a chasmic difference in how different nations handle their public finances. This has led to a chary Germany and a profligate Greece on the same side of the table, both bound by the same monetary policy.

Though a few riders exist to protect member nations from their wastrel neighbours, (EU Treaties have a ‘no bail out’ clause for member nations with financial difficulty) it is easier said than done. In an economy as intertwined as the EU, there is little choice but to bailout member nations, as in the case of Greece.

However, the bailout’s harsh provisos of slashing public spending and stabilizing national debt, will adversely affect an already recessionary Greek economy. Reduction in public spending reduces money in the economy and results in lesser money in the hands of the people. This shrinks investments and reduces demand; thereby stifling growth. Without growth, Greece cannot possibly earn any revenue to repay its loans. Increasing taxes, especially in the current scenario will lead to civil unrest and the kind of political instability that Greece cannot afford. In such a scenario, the Greeks have little choice but to default.

Hypothetically, the immediate effect of the $400 billion sovereign debt default will lead to global financial markets entering into a double-dip recession. Banks heavily exposed to toxic Greek debt will close down, à la American subprime crisis all over again. Investors will panic and short EU nations’ bonds, especially Italy and Spain as they seem to be heading the Greek way.

Another perspective could be that a Greek default is imminent. While no one discounts its cascading effect, what works for it is that the global financial markets and investors are anticipating a Greek default. They are already mitigating or hedging their losses. Moreover, the EU’s repeated bailouts seem to have little effect on the actual problem, Greece’s national debts.

Instead of squandering huge sums of money on Greece, the EU should shore up European banks most exposed to the toxic debt. Alternatively, it can bailout Italy and Spain, both bigger and more powerful economies than Greece which are on the periphery of a Greece style downward spiral.

Meanwhile Greece must use the crisis to cobble together political will to restructure its public finances and rewrite its policies. If necessary, it should leave the eurozone, give up the euro, and return to the Greek drachm. Only then, can it control its monetary policy, devalue its currency and kick start its exports, all of which will eventually in time lead to positive growth.

For Greece and the European Union, the only choices are; the two must work out a closely integrated and orchestrated default wherein everyone takes a hit or a complete collapse of the Union and with it the very idea of an integrated Europe. There is no third way.

The Champions League challenge

BY HARKET SUCHDE

In European Football, one trophy is coveted by every major club above all else – the UEFA Champions League. The red devils are no different, and will be hoping to go one step further in the competition than they did last year, where they succumbed to the might of Barcelona in the finals of the tournament.

Judging  by the red devils’ performance in their recent qualifier tie against Portuguese club and champions league minnows Benfica it appears that this might be a bridge too far for the reigning premier league champions.

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has had a difficult summer. The core of his highly experienced side that progressed so well in last season’s champion’s league have left the club. Their goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar, who was an assured presence between the posts finally hung up his gloves, Powerhouse defender Gary Neville followed suit, and club legend Paul Scholes too called an end to his career, leaving a gaping void in the United midfield.

Sir Alex responded by purchasing young Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea form Atletico Madrid to fill in the big boots of Van Der Sar, and promoted youngsters such as Fabio Da Silva and Tom Cleverley from within the club’s setup to replace Neville and Scholes respectively.

Between them, these youngsters have minimal champion’s league experience and this appears to be the first big stumbling block in United’s road to champion’s league glory. Although Cleverley has shown flashes of brilliance for the reds this season, he is no Paul Scholes, and will find it difficult to replicate the quality and consistency that the Englishman produced for United. Da Silva too has appeared shaky at times, and De Gea has made a number of high profile blunders in goal for United, a stark contrast from the calming presence of Van Der Sar.

Apart from this, Barcelona who hit the back of United’s net with absurd ease in last year’s final, have added some more firepower to an already potent attacking side with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. Real Madrid too have visibly strengthened an already star studded line-up with the purchase of Coentrao, Altintop and Nuri Sahin among others, and appear to be a formidable force in this tournament.

United’s local rivals Manchester City who have also qualified for the champion’s league this season, may prove to be the dark horse of the tournament. With high profile purchases such as Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Sergio Aguero and Stefan Savic, Manchester City will definitely hope to push on and leave a mark on the tournament this season.

Football is an unpredictable game. There’s no two ways about it and it is near impossible to predict the fates of clubs with such quality as the ones participating in this year’s champion’s league. But judging by the evidence at hand, United will have to wait at least another year for a taste of European glory.

Beauty ‘Con’tests

BY NIKITA MUKHERJEE

 A very prominent disconnect is prevalent between expectations and reality. However, this detachment seems to get wider and wider, when it comes to the likes of beauty pageants.  A dry spell for India, on such international platforms has been certified for over a decade now and very recently, another opportunity has also been lost.  The continuing tradition augments many questions in the minds of young Indian audience. Are our Indian lasses losing on their poise & prowess? Are they not well groomed to represent a cosmopolitan country like India? Or have the changing stratagems of these beauty pageants resulted in India arriving at such a standpoint.

The new shining glory at the Miss Universe this year, Leila Lopes quipped that she hopes her victory will allow her to assist her native Angola in escaping its history of war and impoverishment, and that she plans to focus on fighting HIV around the globe.  The quote though reasonably unambiguous, makes the prude in some of us question the redemptive nature of such pageants. The opportunity to highlight Leila’s troubles pertaining to her continent was grappled by every possible media channel. Call it an advertising tactic or the penetration of sponsors associated with these competitions to the third world countries, ‘gimmicks’ sums up these pageants. Pageants invariably are now thriving on a country’s economy, and ideally a developing economy. So few years back the focus was on India, owing to its illustrious position at the international market. Now, it is some other developing economy being solicited over by such authorities. India previously opened its gate for all multi-national corporations, making it an oasis in the desert of countries, thereby attracting travelers in terms of advertisers and sponsors. Now perhaps, some other country is in India’s shoes.

Scandals and controversies are no stranger to these beauty pageants.  It surfaces at every competition and makes rounds for a consistent period. Be it Vanessa William’s alleged nude pictures controversy in 1983, Miss India Universe Usnoshi Gupta’s ‘evening gown’ controversy in 2010 or the very recent Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes’ fake-documents controversy. The connection between these pageants and scandals are parallel and exclusively dependant.  These cases again bring the most clichéd question to the forefront. Are these pageants indeed rigged? Are these pageants through and though deceitful?

Maybe a similar question, if asked to the contestants in one of the final rounds of the pageant, could fetch us an answer.