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Safety of women in India

Editor,

India has been making monumental strides in numerous aspects of development such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, rural development, defence etc. But one major sphere where the development graph shows a downward trend and we are still light-years behind is women’s safety. As a country, we still need to do a lot more to ensure that women feel safe and protected both at home as well as outside.

Be it in the cities or villages, India is a not a safe country for women. In the last decade or so the situation has visibly deteriorated to an unpalatable level. There is more jeering and leering by the Indian men at young women and more physical (including sexual) violence against them like never before. Women between the ages of 15 and 30 face the most hostility, but women of other age groups are hardly any safer. There have been unspeakable rapes of little girls in the schools of Bangalore; attacks on elderly women in Delhi and this goes on and on.

We live in a patriarchal society. The dominant religions viz. Hinduism and Islam have historically accorded an inferior place to women both in scripture as well as social practice. Now, as women try to liberate themselves from the traditional gender roles, educate themselves, take up jobs outside their homes, choose their own marriage partners, in other ways assert their independence, they face a patriarchal backlash.

India, at the same time, is undergoing an inexorable and convoluted transition, where ancient hierarchies of caste and gender are reluctantly giving way to modern ideas about the equality of all individuals before the law. In recent years, there have been a series of attacks against Dalits across the country, conducted by upper-caste men enraged that their social inferiors were now becoming IAS and IPS officers, in other words, their equals. The spurt in attacks on women is similarly an angry attempt by men to sustain the social and political dominance they have enjoyed for centuries but which is now challenged by the modern concept of gender equality and justice.

Violence against women in contemporary India has other causes too. Every year, millions of young men move from the rural to the urban areas in search of jobs. Not all of them manage to get regular employment though. Moreover, their ignorance and insensitivity towards the liberated, free-spirited westernized womenfolk of the cities only fuel the exasperation and craving. Dissatisfied and disenchanted, they vent their anger on women. Careful or not, women become the target of these men who leer, jeer and do not hesitate to even attack their dignity.

Another contributory factor is the portrayal of women in films, magazines, and advertisements etc. that try to objectify them. Bollywood films, targeted mostly at a rapidly westernizing middle class, depict romance and desire as ineluctable by-products of contemporary life, creating a further sense of frustration among the unemployed young men who watch them but can’t have them.

The apathy of the governments and civic bodies is also to be blamed too for this growing atmosphere of insecurity amongst women. Streets lit dimly or not at all; bad or non-existent means of public transport; an incompetent and corrupt police force, all add up to make it even more difficult for them. There can’t be a bigger irony than the fact that talking about sex and sexuality is considered a taboo here whereas the most watched content by teenagers on the internet is adult/porn. Yes, India is indeed incredible!!

It’s good to see the present government bringing in a slew of reforms across multiple spheres to usher in a new era of development. But a country can never be developed if its women population doesn’t feel safe, secure and protected all the time. For now, “Make in India” may be the fundamental focus, “Make women safe in India” should be more fundamental, in my view.

Yours etc.,

Subhasish Das

Kahilipara, Guwahati.

Misleading letter

Editor,

Apropos the letter, ‘NEHU violates UGC regulations’ (ST Oct 28, 2016) written by one AS Mawphlang, the person behind the name has been either misled or is attempting to mislead readers by giving a wrong interpretation of the case. The writer has alleged that the decision of NEHU Executive Council to change the date of promotions is in violation of the UGC norms. On the contrary, the fact is that the decision was to correct the dates of promotion which were, in violation of UGC norms, imposed on the teachers in their promotion held in 2012-2013.

Normally, Selection Committees perform their duties and give recommendations on the basis of and in accordance with the UGC rules and the university ordinances. But in the interviews held for Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) in 2012-2013, Prof. A.N. Rai, the then Vice-Chancellor, misled the Selection Committees and imposed arbitrary conditions for promotion thereby violating the UGC norms and changing the dates of promotion of many teachers in which some teachers were deprived of as much as seven years of service/ seniority.  These teachers protested by sending representations to the Vice-Chancellor. However, as its chairman, Prof. A.N. Rai managed to get the Executive Council to approve the illegal decisions of the Selection Committees (also chaired by him).  At this juncture Prof. A.N. Rai left NEHU without completing his tenure as Vice-Chancellor.

The issue was taken up by the NEHU Teachers’ Association (NEHUTA) which continued to make appeals to the university authority to redress the teachers’ grievances. In the event, during the Acting Vice-Chancellorship of Prof Shukla a committee was constituted by the university to examine the validity of the teachers’ grievances. This committee established that the Selection Committees headed by Prof. A N Rai had in fact violated the UGC rules.  The committee also made recommendations for redress and rectification of the date of promotion. However, it is only with the fresh and unbiased VC and Executive Council that the matter is being resolved.

Considering the request of the affected teachers, Prof. S.K. Srivastava, the new Vice-Chancellor, has taken the initiative to undo the illegal decisions taken during the previous regime.  The remedial measure initiated by the university, supported by Executive Council members, is welcomed by overwhelming majority of the university teachers. As a teachers’ association, NEHUTA has been demanding that the university abide by UGC rules and undo the injustice done to the teachers.

Yours etc.,

Prof. Vanlalruata Rengsi

President

NEHUTA, NEHU

Garbage on the streets!

Editor,

We have all been taught about not throwing garbage anywhere and everywhere since our childhood, but this is what is happening in Shillong! As a school student I walk to school from my home at Motinagar and have to cross the Kamala Nehru school and the Assamese School . Behind the Pantaloons store I see that there is a heap of garbage thrown right on the road, with everything you can imagine of, starting from fish scales to Huggies and many other types of waste which would take a whole page to write. At first I thought the residents of nearby flats were the only ones who were throwing garbage but they were not the only ones! The people who came for morning walk also brought along the waste from their homes and throw it there in the same spot! Don’t be alarmed but I even see some of the parents who had come to drop their children to St.Edmund’s School also throw their waste there! All I want is that the Municipal Corporation should do something about it and people should stop treating Shillong as one big garbage bin! We cannot stand the awful stench while passing that part of the street and have to cover our noses with handkerchiefs and try to cross that part of the street as fast as we can. Something must be done. Interestingly the spot where the garbage is thrown has a board which says, “Do not throw garbage here.” I have even taken a photo of the place. Can someone please do something about this seriously unhygienic practice?

Yours etc.,

Rishika Kakoty

(Student of Class VI, Loreto Convent) Via email

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