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What will define citizenship in India and the world in 2017?

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As 2016 draws to a close and many of us are emotionally spent lamenting events that we consider undesirable, citizenship has emerged as one of the murkiest ideas of the last year. Who is a citizen? What does citizenship entail? What should be expected of citizens and what is owed to them? Where does the writ of the state end, vis-à-vis rights and privacy? Every major event of 2016 has raised one or more of these questions. ComplianceIn India, demonetization has put the spotlight on compliance. Introduced suddenly and executed shoddily, those struggling to cope have found their situation exacerbated by what seemed like daily changes in regulations. The on-the-ground reality of cash shortages and non-functioning ATMs have plunged countless Indians into crisis. The broadcasting style of the government—they pronounce, we scurry, no questions asked—has left Indians helpless. We must comply because we have no way to challenge or defy.The absence of large protests was offered the other day on television as evidence of the success of this move. The reality is that most of us have been too busy trying to figure out withdrawals and deposits to organise! Most beleaguered are bank staff who have gone in fifty days from making patriotic noises to lamenting their choice of career—to ordinary account-holders, they are the face of this arbitrary government and the recipients of public ire. We are all complying because we have no choice.“Compliance” is not a bad thing—laws, rules and regulations are presumably intended to benefit us. Citizens should obey them. But should we obey blindly and should we be expected to obey without debate? ‘To comply’ means to conform, to follow along, to observe, to submit—and in the absence of debate, discussion, questioning and accountability, all these words are inimical to democracy. Compliance achieved by enforcement suggests that there is no consensus on the appropriateness or utility of a regulation. And if there is no consensus, that means the law or rule has not really been discussed adequately.Parliament sessions are listed on the calendar but how many days do Parliamentarians actually do any session-time work—debates, questions and answers? All Indian parties are responsible for this breakdown but governments—all governments—have turned it into an opportunity to govern by ordinance. This is a windfall for anyone seeking to push their will through to the public. That makes enforced compliance of rules-never-debated sinister. Yes, Indians are past-masters at flouting rules. But stressing compliance over an understanding of the spirit of a law or regulation is not the answer; it suggests that the government is keener on making us obey than creating a climate in which we engage with and together fashion the frameworks of our lives.In 2017, what I want to know is, will my citizenship be measured solely and entirely—by government and fellow-citizens—in terms of my willingness to comply without question? I suspect so, given the tendency to cry ‘anti-national’ when faced with any debate or questions. Judging by the last two months, I would suggest that we have definitely entered a phase in which citizens are expected to be subjects of a state that knows best.Embed from Getty ImagesCredulityPolitical smarts, when I was growing up, involved questioning the actions of the state. Being interested in politics meant asking before obeying, challenging before accepting and endlessly debating. Being apolitical was manifested by finding the loopholes and generally believing that it made no difference who was in power or what they did. Both poles kept the rhetoric of political leaders in their place—“Nice to see you, but no one really believes what you say.”This is quite a different moment. We now desperately want to believe in our political leaders. We crave strong paternalistic leaders who will tell us what to do—whether or not they actually know. We are okay with being ruled by people who give directions to places they have never heard of. We just want them to sound confident. We want to be children and subjects who are led into a better future. We ask no questions. We have obliterated from our minds every historical memory and so we have no fear of a return to other fascist ages. We have no interest in political agency—we would even like to vote by SMS as if life were a reality show—and so we surrender it to strong men who know (always men, by the way!). This seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.We are content to swallow the dreams these strong men articulate, the road-maps they outline even if they keep shifting, their self-assessment as successful and visionary (this is after all, the age of self-nomination for awards and LinkedIn visionary leaders!) and their choice of a range of coercive measures. We accept with faith everything we are told about those who challenge them—human rights workers usually, who do their work in the face of great danger. Around the world, human rights NGOs are being charged with non-compliance—but it is becoming hard to distinguish whether it is non-compliance with rules and regulations or non-compliance with the government’s line that they are being framed and punished for. We have to remember that today it is them, but tomorrow, it could be any of us.Targeting dissenting elements in civil society is not unique to the present Indian government, to be fair. However, what has changed in the state-civil society equation is that citizens are stepping forward to sweep away any obstacles or rubble in the path of the state juggernaut. Nobody is asking questions. Most are not asking questions because they have chosen to live as subjects of a paternalist state that shows tough love for their own good. Some are not asking questions because they are afraid of being crushed by the juggernaut. A very small number are picking their battles so that they can outlast this moment. The fate of the handful of truly brave Indian citizens, who are undeterred in the face of government pressure and persecution and unsupported in this moment of absolute credulity on our parts, hangs in the balance. Will we ensure they survive 2017?ConvictionThe word ‘conviction’ is now associated more with being found guilty and punished than with having strong unassailable beliefs. Many of us around the world are proud of living in democratic political systems—in fact, those of us that occasionally ask questions are reminded that democracy involves accepting (unconscionable?) points of view and the outcomes of due process elections. Fair enough!This pride does not however seem to translate into much else. In an age when information is ubiquitous, democratic citizenship remains confined to expressing opinion and not seeking to have an informed opinion. This is why, on the morning after the Brexit vote, Google reported that the most-searched term of the day was “What is the EU?” Not knowing the answer to something, no longer precludes our having an opinion on it—that is democracy 2016-style. Democracy is about giving everyone a voice. The US presidential election suggests this is how we understand it: feeling alienated and excluded from the political and social changes of the last few decades, we can seek to exclude and alienate others. Democracy is not about inclusive and enabling processes but a tug-of-war about who is in and who is out. There are shades of this view of democracy to be found all over the world, including India and other parts of South Asia. We sway with the prevailing wind, giving uninformed opinion the clout of conviction. If someone comes to us sounding confident about what they are saying, we are convinced and do not find it necessary to question values, logic or facts. This is why “post-truth” was selected by the Oxford Dictionaries as the word of the year.Embed from Getty Images‘Conviction’ is a beautiful word. To say of someone that they are a person of strong convictions is to pay them a compliment. But should our convictions be so rigid that they cannot accommodate the experience of others? More critically, when we are talking about democracy and citizenship, should the strong men to whom we have handed over our agency be allowed to impose their convictions upon us?I want to know where we stand. As 2017 begins, I want to understand what we believe in—individually and collectively. Citizens of democratic states and societies around the world need to think about this and find ways to express themselves. Our casual submission betrays our values. Our silence emboldens those who would disregard our citizenship.Do we truly believe in democracy? If we did, our societies would not be as divided, our public debates replaced by monologues and tweet-binges and our ability to converse with each other so badly impaired. Our everyday engagement with politics seems confined to ‘who started it’ and ‘who said what to whom.’ Our so-called democratic convictions stop short of understanding citizenship and our own relationship with states. We see the purpose of government as ‘control’ (as reflected in many school civics lessons)—and so we submit to that control uncritically. Citizenship is naturally about compliance and credulity, rather than a conviction-driven engagement.CourageIn 2017, conviction-driven engagement will take even more courage than usual. We have lowered our defences everywhere to such a degree that every small thing—including writing a cheeky response to the requirement that we explain our deposits—appears bold. To say that we will not get Aadhaar cards (which, please note, are not mandatory) and we will not use a digital wallet now seem like volunteering to face bullets. What will we then do when the real lathis and bullets come?Where citizenship is expressed by over-eager compliance and utter credulity (really, rolling over and playing dead), then the work that is done by the groups like the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group is astoundingly brave. To understand how the politics of implementing demonetization ties in with the way that the government wants to suppress dissent, take this development. Shalini Gera, a lawyer from this group, travelled to Bijapur for a case and was told that a complaint had been filed against her for “exchanging old Rs 1,000 notes worth Rs 10 lakh for the Maoists.” Is this true or is this not true? Do we care enough to find out? The chances are we don’t. We are happy to believe that all human rights activists are engaged in nefarious activities involving anti-national elements. Because the government would never lie to us, would it? But people like Shalini Gera—or any of the many other human rights activists targeted by the government through tax probes or FCRA challenges—have the courage of their convictions. They stay the course. Thankfully.Right or wrong, every accused person has the right to due process and a legal defence. All citizens have the right to ask questions and get answers. The constitution of India gives us the right to ask what has happened to missing people; to expect that governments will do their work without exceeding their mandate and jurisdiction and to understand by what authority governments act. Citizenship is not an entitlement or a legal status alone; it is a privilege, and one that you exercise through agency, when political agency requires courage. Citizens—in India and other democratic countries—enjoy civil and political rights, but in 2017, we will get to see whether they have the conviction and the courage to reclaim and exercise them.CompassionIn 2016, political discussions hit a new low. At the good end, we had uncivil, uninformed and ad hominem discussions. At the bad end, we had trolling, cyber-bullying and hate speech. Sometimes, it was hard to tell the two ends apart. Nothing however, highlighted the absence of compassion from our public lives as much as the Syrian crisis and demonetisation.The world has been grappling with a Syrian exodus for a couple of years. As nearby states have quietly absorbed large numbers of refugees, this has precipitated an identity crisis and cultural debates in Europe and North America. To the extent that various European countries have taken in refugees and tried to help them settle down, this has become an issue in domestic politics. But even as we watched elections around Europe and discussed political trends there, news kept emerging from Syria about the deteriorating ground situation. People tweeted photos and blogged stories. We liked, favourited, shared and retweeted, and maybe signed petitions. What history will record is that we did nothing. More than a century since we began looking for collective security, we have not found a way to channel our compassion into action that strikes a good balance between interference and intervention, between helping and handling.Embed from Getty ImagesThe other, closer to home, is how middle-class Indians have responded to demonetization. When faced with questions about implementation and concerns about impact, I have been saddened by the things I hear people say.“Don’t worry about the poor! They have lots of cash.” “Do you think the street vendor is poor? He or she has other sources of income. And by the way, they don’t pay tax.” “See, everyone should have a bank account.”“What’s the problem? Soldiers fight on the front, we can’t stand in queues?” (Never mind the old, the frail, the arthritic and the diabetic, who stood for hours to maybe get a small portion of their money.)“It’s so easy to use digital if you have a smartphone.” (IF you have a smartphone, electricity and decent connectivity.)“Small businesses like tailors will take a hit but everything will be alright in the long run.” (“In the long run, we are all dead,” wrote Keynes.)Middle class resentment about those better-off seems logical. What has emerged is our resentment about those worse off than us. It is as if they are secretly better off. As we have palmed off our stashes of old notes to them, we have not considered that they might be accountable too. We do not consider whose who work in our homes and offices to be human, leave alone citizens. I have been alarmed by the payment in advance of salaries—does that portend a new version of bonded labour that ties the honest worker to the dishonest employer for an indefinite period?A government that appears callous and a credulous citizenry that seems to lack compassion—this is a lethal combination that is now in evidence worldwide. The likelihood that 2017 will redefine citizenship as a web of compassionate relationships seems non-existent, but because we cannot afford that pessimism, I list compassion here anyway.***What will we make of our citizenship in 2017? Wherever we live, it will be a year in which, consciously or unconsciously, we mark our place on the spectrum between credulous compliance and courage of conviction. Wherever we live, the experiences of others and our compassion for them will need to colour our political choices—if only because, in this political climate, any one of us could be the next person to need that support and compassion. As we countdown to this new Gregorian year, I wish you courage.Swarna Rajagopalan is a political scientist by training.

The toxic waters of religion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as numerous steps are being taken towards cleaning the Ganga, Yamuna, and other rivers, researchers continue to suggest that various religious practices are responsible for polluting the holy waters on a much larger scale than toxic industrial waste.While yagnas (fire rituals), days of fasting, and walking barefoot to the shrine make up most Hindu activities, taking a ‘dip’ in ‘holy water’ to wash away the sins of mortals is a ritual often followed during various festivals. Even the immersion of deities after keeping them for days at home is another ritual causing damage to rivers.Every time a pilgrim takes a ‘holy’ dip in those river, they swallow copious amounts of toxic material flushed from power plants or the waste thrown in the river.In the latest trend, Chath puja in Delhi was observed by taking a dip in the pond at India Gate or at the already polluted Yamuna where huge idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali are also immersed every year. During the month of September, devotees flock to the beaches of Mumbai with thousands of Ganesh idols for immersion, days after which the idols often wash up on shore.Also, cremated remains are floated in the river, believing the dead will not attain salvation if the last remains are not immersed. This practice is adding to the woes of the rising problem of water pollution. According to a Rishikesh based NGO, Ganga Action Parivar, “When the river in Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar is cleaned for two months we collect a large quantity of wastes like matki, plastic bags, garlands, coins, etc. Not only this, Hindu’s mostly cremate ashes here. But these don’t harm the river as much as the idols made of cement, plastic, and other non-eco friendly things does which are dumped in the river. It resists the flow of water and makes it stagnant. The only way to prevent this is to use eco-friendly idols.”Poor Hindu pilgrims stand at their makeshift campsite. Devotees believe that taking a holy dip in the Ganges washes away their sins and paves the path to salvation. —Getty Images There are some religions which follow the practice of floating the dead bodies in the river which are then eaten by crocodiles. But with the increasing pollution even the habitat of crocodiles has been disturbed hugely. As a result, bodies now get stuck in the river plants or float to the banks adding to the degradation.“The bodies that are floated in the water to make sure it gains eternity, actually get stuck on the banks and infect the river and creates an imbalance to the ecosystem of the river,” said Vineet of Ganga Action Parivar.The Ganga was known to have self-cleansing effect but with the continuous abuse the losing its charm. According to Rakesh, a taxi driver from Uttar Pradesh residing in Mumbai, there is nothing wrong with the Ganga. “It is always needed and is done for good. Ganga can never be dirty, it is holy. Ganga water is used to cure all types of diseases and wash away sins,” he said.Water pollution experts estimate that around 32k human corpses are cremated each year in the Ganges river, Varanasi — GETTY IMAGESExpressing dismay over the deteriorating condition of Ganga, Saurav Tiwari a student of Benaras Hindu University said, “The Ganga river is not in a good shape. Along with industries, various religious practices have also joined hands in slowly poisoning the river.”Not only Ganga but the Yamuna in Delhi and the Mula Mutha in Pune get religiously polluted in the months of September and October.India’s chief sources of water are becoming increasingly unsafe for drinking and for aquatic life. The idea of implementing artificial ponds for devotees to take a dip and other alternatives have never seen the light of the day.

Kerala: Blast reported near court complex in Malappuram, none injured

Kerala: Blast reported near court complex in Malappuram, none injured

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Malappuram: A blast took place inside the civil station near the court of the Judicial First Class Magistrate in Malappuram.

Representational image. Getty images

Representational image. Getty images

No one was injured in the incident.

The blast occurred in a car hired by the Homeo District Medical officer (DMO), which had been parked along with some other vehicles near the court.

“No one was injured,” District collector A Shainamol told PTI.

Bomb and dog squads are searching the place, police said.

Further details are awaited.

910 rape cases reported in Kerala in six months in 2016: State police

Thiruvanathapuram: Despite stringent laws and awareness campaigns, as many as 910 cases of rape have been reported in Kerala in the first six months of this year, giving an indication of continuing atrocities against women in the state.

A total of 7,909 cases of crimes against women were reported across the state upto July, according to state police’s crime statistics.

Of them, 2332 were cases of molestation, 190 cases of eve teasing and 78 cases of kidnapping of women besides 910 cases of rape, it said.

The number of rape cases reported last year was 1263, it said.

Representational image. Getty imagesRepresentational image. Getty images

Representational image. Getty images

Expressing concern over the alarming figures, state Women’s Commission Chairperson K C Rosakkutty said awareness seminars and classes were not enough to tackle the increasing atrocities against women.

Absence of fast-track courts and speedy trials are among the major challenges in dealing with rape cases, she said.

“In most of the rape cases, we fail in ensuring that the accused gets the right punishment at the right time for the gruesome crime committed.

“The delay in trials and awarding of punishments also contribute to increase in such cases,” Rosakkutty told PTI.

“We have been demanding fast-track courts for years to ensure speedy trial in rape cases. But, it still remains as a demand. The delay in trials gives criminals ample time to escape through the loopholes in law,” she said.

Stating that the Women’s Commission conducts state-wide seminars and awareness classes regularly, she said such drives were not enough to check the atrocities against women.

“Despite all these drives, women are still considered and treated as second grade citizens in our society. This attitude should be changed first. Mothers should be given special awareness to nurture their children as good citizens,” she said.

Local bodies and community outfits also have a role to play at the grassroot level to check attacks against women.

According to the statistics, the highest number of crimes against women including rape were reported from the northern district of Malappuram, where as many as 861 cases under various categories were registered during the period.

The total number of rape cases reported from Malappuram was 106, followed by Thiruvananthapuram rural (78) and Ernakulam rural (64), it said.

Malappuram also witnessed highest number of cases in terms of molestation (160) and cruelty by husbands and other relatives (266), the statistics added.

Kolkata photographer gets Getty Images Instagram Grant for project on Jharia coal mines

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Photographer Ronny Sen of Kolkata was among the three who got selected for the second annual Getty Images Instagram grant, that recognizes those who have documented the work of underrepresented communities around the world using just Instagram. It would be a major undersell to call him one of the “lucky” winners, because his work really speaks volumes. The prestigious grant of $10000 was for his project “The End”, that documents life at Jharkhand’s Jharia coal mines and the. “An underground fire has been burning inside these coal mines in Jharia for the last one hundred years,” Sen writes in one of his posts. Children wait for their parents to return from work, both of whom are coal pickers inside a coal mine in Jharia.A photo posted by The End (@whatdoestheendoftimelooklike) on Apr 21, 2016 at 4:22pm PDT The Instagram profile appropriately named “What does the end of time look like”, offers a poignant look at the lives of the people who stay in the area and work at the mines.The symbol of Indian bureaucracy, the iconic white ambassador car waits inside one of the coal mines in Jharia. Whenever the coal thieves see this car coming they run away from the mines.A photo posted by The End (@whatdoestheendoftimelooklike) on Apr 21, 2016 at 4:25pm PDT Mentioning how Jharia was once covered in green and has now been reduced to shades of black, much like the situation of the people, he explored how detrimental the dependence of the locals on the coal business has been.A contractual labour inside one of the coal mines in Jharia. He will make two dollars after loading almost five trucks with coal in Jharia.A photo posted by The End (@whatdoestheendoftimelooklike) on Apr 21, 2016 at 4:17pm PDT Industrial dynamite being laid for a blasting inside one of the mines in Jharia.A photo posted by The End (@whatdoestheendoftimelooklike) on Apr 21, 2016 at 4:15pm PDT Some of the photographs show how people are going about the business collecting coal under deplorable conditions, far from what can be called safe.Talking to HuffPost India, Ronny Sen said, “The story is not only specific and limited to India at all. It is just a coincidence that Jharia is here. It’s an economic, environmental and deeply political problem which is predominantly visible across the world… I hope that this can initiate a dialogue and show people a small glimpse of a possible future that is coming towards us.”

Outraging to success

Indian comedian Tanmay Bhat benefited from the Streisand Effect, where an attempt to suppress something has the unintended effect of publicising it more widely.

Where are the jobs Mr Prime Minister? Chidambaram asks BJP after 2 years’ of Modi

New Delhi: The Congress on Saturday questioned the BJP-led NDA government for its “failure to create jobs” during its two-year rule and said that Narendra Modi-led government’s record in agriculture was dismal.

Congress leader P. Chidambaram. Getty ImagesCongress leader P. Chidambaram. Getty Images

Congress leader P Chidambaram. Getty Images

Senior Congress leader P Chadambaram, in a press conference here on completion of two years of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, said: “Growth was negative at -0.2 percent in 2014-15 and a meagre 1.1 percent in 2015-16.”

The government failed to anticipate and tackle the acute distress in rural India, he said.

“Where are the jobs? The most notable failure of the NDA government has been in job creation,” the Congress leader said.

“The ferment in universities can be partly attributed to the bleak future faced by university graduates. Besides, there are millions of young people who will complete no more than 8 or 10 years of school education and will have no special skills. Where are the jobs for them,” Chidambaram said.

He further said: “There is little to cheer in the GDP numbers. There is a growing dichotomy between the GDP numbers and the other economic indicators.

“If calculated under the methodology of the old series, the estimate for 2015-16 would be about 5 percent and not 7.6 percent. The average citizens need jobs and incomes. They do not consume GDP numbers,” he added.

BJP ‘ally’ Shiv Sena criticises Narendra Modi government on multiple issues

Mumbai: As the Narendra Modi government completed two years in office, ally Shiv Sena on Thursday hit out at the BJP-led dispensation over a host of issues, alleging it failed to rein in inflation, curb cross border terrorism and the schemes started during this period did not reach people.

Sena also took a dig at the Prime Minister over his frequent foreign trips, saying he has to first decide if his residence was within the country or outside.

While there were no big corruption scandals in the last two years, the government “failed” to arrest inflation and bring solace to people reeling under the impact of price rise and end distress in farm sector, the party said.

Representative image. Getty imagesRepresentative image. Getty images

Representative image. Getty images

“Modi government started one scheme after the other in two years. But people barely know of any (schemes). The previous government was running the same schemes with different names which eventually got embroiled in corruption,” an editorial in Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ said.

“Modi first has to decide whether his residence is inside or outside the country,” it said referring to the Prime Minister’s engagements abroad.

The partner also criticised the government over the issue of retrieving black money stashed in foreign banks, citing it as one of the tall poll promises which were not honoured.

Modi had promised that he would get back black money and deposit lakhs of rupees in every individual’s account from foreign banks but two years on, the promise remains unfulfilled, it said.

It also attacked the government over holding talks with Pakistan and unabated terror activities from across the border.

“Terrorist activities by Pakistanis in Kashmir has not stopped. Our jawans are dying fighting Naxalites and terrorists. We are still talking with the neighbouring country,” it said.

Taking a jibe at the NDA over its poor performance in some recent state polls, the Shiv Sena said taking stock of the work of the Modi government at this juncture is unnecessary because people of Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have already evaluated it in their own independent way.

Dear Lisa Haydon, if you believe in gender equality then you are a feminist

Like the term ‘urban poor’, the social media bubble of upwardly mobile citizens suddenly seem to have a huge problem with the term ‘feminism’. The very term evokes outrage among people who seem to think the term is synonymous with hating men, families and babies. In our collective heads, feminism equals misandry, hatred for the family structure, hatred for reproduction, for men, for bras and for sex.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The latest to jump on the I-am-not-a-feminist bandwagon is Lisa Haydon, who is ironically a feminist icon for her single-mother role in Queen. She said in an interview: “I don’t like the word feminist. I don’t think women trying to be men is feminism. I also don’t believe in being outspoken for the sake of it, or just to prove a point. Feminism is just an overused term and people make too much noise about it for no reason. Women have been given these bodies to produce children, and the spirit and tenderness to take care of people around us. It’s fine to be an outspoken and working woman. I don’t want to be a man. One day I look forward to making dinner for my husband and children. I don’t want to be a career feminist.”She’s not the only one. Major Bollywood actresses from Madhuri Dixit to Katrina Kaif to Priyanka Chopra to Vidya Balan have been aghast at being linked with the f-word despite the fact that most of them enjoy success because of people who fought for feminism. If there was no feminism, then we’d still be living in a society where women are treated little better than chattel or where her consent has no meaning.What Haydon and those of her ilk completely miss is the fact that feminism doesn’t mean not having a husband. Or not taking care of your kids. Feminism isn’t about tearing down the family structure or being mean to people around you. Simply put, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.9th February 1913: A banner advertising a talk on the Women’s Suffrage Movement by Jane Addams and others at Carnegie Hall in New York.It’s because of feminism that women can vote and have a career. If it wasn’t for feminism, we’d be living in a world where a woman or a child was burned on the pyre with her dead husband. If it wasn’t for feminism, then we’d still be living in a world where women aren’t allowed to go to school. Or step out of their homes without an escort. Or be not allowed to dress in a certain way. The truth is that we are far, far away from an equal world.And the world is far from equal. In our own nation, which we take pride in calling it Bharat Mata, marital rape is still not a recognised crime, making marriage little better than a right to rape violence. There are girls who are never born because of sex-selective abortion and a girl is likelier to get less nutrition than her male family members. She is also less likely to go to school and more likely to be the one who is expected to do most of the household work.Machinists working for Ford Motors attending a Women’s Conference on equal rights in industry at Friends House in Euston, 28th June 1968. (Getty Images) If somehow she does manage to avoid all these hurdles, and get an education and a job, she will still constantly be judged for her sexual choices and spend her life being harassed for having a vagina. She could be raped on the streets or by a family member, and then spend her life fighting for justice where the very system demonises her.In an essay in 1990, India’s only Nobel-winning economist had hypothesised that over a hundred million are ‘missing’ in Asia, eliminated through either sex-selective abortion, infanticide or inadequate nutrition. As Shemeer Padinzjharedil, who runs Maps4aid.com a website which documents crime against women put it: “It’s a miracle a woman survives in India. Even before she is born, she is at risk of being aborted due to our obsession for sons. As a child, she faces abuse, rape and early marriage and even when she marries, she is killed for dowry. If she survives all of this, as a widow she is discriminated against and given no rights over inheritance or property.”Or as comedian Radhika Vaz eloquently put it: “The next bitch who says she isn’t a feminist needs to pay dowry and then perform sati. And be married off at age 11. And no school for you.”True equality, irrespective of gender, is still far away in the future and we will never reach that phase if famous women keep on vilifying feminism.Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s statue in London (Getty Images) So every time a famous actress comes out and says she’s not a feminist, they are not only mocking the millions who have fought so they can enjoy a modicum of equality, but also hurting a million more who are still living under oppression.And by saying that they believe in equality but not feminism, they are simply misrepresenting the term.As comedian Aziz Ansari put it: “If you look up feminism in the dictionary, it just means that men and women have equal rights. And I feel like everyone here believes men and women have equal rights. But I think the reason people don’t clap is that word is so weirdly used in our culture. Now, people think feminist means ‘some woman is gonna start yelling at them,’” he said.“So, I feel like if you do believe that, if you believe that men and women have equal rights, if someone asks if you’re feminist, you have to say yes because that is how words work,” he says, joking, “You can’t be like, ‘Oh yeah I’m a doctor that primarily does diseases of the skin.’ Oh, so you’re a dermatologist? ‘Oh no, that’s way too aggressive of a word! No no not at all not at all.”

World Bank team visits Taj Mahal, assesses development plans

Agra: A team from the World Bank on Monday visited the Taj Mahal and some adjoining villages at the rear of the monument across the Yamuna to assess plans for development projects in the area centering around tourism.

Taj Mahal. Getty imagesTaj Mahal. Getty images

Taj Mahal. Getty images

Principal Secretary (Information) Navneet Sehgal and Director General UP Tourism accompanied the team members who came from eight different countries.

Sehgal said some projects under the World Bank Pro-poor Tourism Plan was discussed.

The area behind the Taj Mahal would be taken up for comprehensive development to provide basic civic amenities for the tourists and benefit the villagers, he said.

Development of the area would help integrate tourism with local needs and open up avenues for gainful employment.

Sehgal along with senior district officials also visited the site of the proposed Mughal museum on Shilpgram road.

Jisha’s sister claims being ‘hounded for no reason’, taken in for questioning

Kerela: Twelve days after the murder of law student Jisha in Ernakulam district , police on Monday took her sister Deepa in for questioning.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

In the past two days, the police probe team had called Deepa’s uncle, with whom she was staying, for questioning.

Police have also been checking Deepa’s call list after her uncle said she was spending a lot of time talking on the phone.

Deepa on Sunday said she was being hounded for no reason.

Police, meanwhile, are on the lookout for a migrant labourer known as ‘Bhaya’.

The probe team has ascertained that the murder took place around 5.45 pm on 28 April, after which Jisha’s mutilated body was found by her mother Rajeshwari.

Police believe that the 27-year-old woman was sexually assaulted before being killed.

The police have so far questioned over a dozen people.

Meanwhile, the case continues to be a subject of political theatre in Kerala where assembly elections are scheduled on 16 May.

State Congress president VM Sudheeran was the first high profile visitor on Friday to visit Jisha’s mother Rajeshwari at a hospital where she has been admitted following the trauma caused by her daughter’s murder.

Kota DC’s letter to parents: Let them do what they want and are able to do

Kota: Moved by the tragic case of a 17-year-old IIT aspirant who committed suicide a day after clearing her exam, the Kota district collector has written an emotional letter to parents of over 1.50 lakh students in coaching institutes here, asking them not to force their expectations on the children.

The five-page letter by Collector Ravi Kumar Surpur has been dispatched to the coaching institutes in the city and will be forwarded to the parents after translation into Hindi and other regional languages.

Referring to suicides by young students, the district collector wrote that for all of them death was a much peaceful and effortless action than going through the dilemma of artificially doing what their parents wanted them to do.

“Your solacing words of comfort, asking them to give their best and forget the results could have been the blade of grass” that would have saved precious lives, he wrote, adding, instead, what they got were threats to perform even better.

Representational image. Getty ImageRepresentational image. Getty Image

Representational image. Getty Image

“Should parents go the children’s immature way? Not necessarily.” Surpur has made an emotional appeal in the letter, asking parents “not to force their expectations and dreams on their children” and “let them do what they want and are able to do”.

Besides, the district administration has also decided to seek feedback on stress level of students in various institutes to check for signs of anxiety among them.

The initiative came after the recent suicide by IIT-JEE aspirant Kriti who took the extreme step on 28 April despite having cleared IIT-JEE mains in the result declared a day before her suicide. At least 19 aspirants ended their lives in 2015 while five students have taken the extreme step in 2016.

Surpur also mentioned a recent suicide letter by a young girl, written in perfect grammar and in beautiful running handwriting, where she thanked her mother for giving up her career for raising the children. In another suicide note, a girl requested her parents to allow her younger sister to do what she likes.

The district collector also asked the parents and children to look beyond engineering and medicine for their career. Surpur had also written a letter to students and parents in January this year telling them that life is beautiful and clearing an exam is not everything.

Meanwhile, the district administration held a meeting with the officials of coaching institutes and hostel owners on Saturday regarding the implementation of its guidelines issued a few months ago for checking stress among the coaching students.

Kota district collector’s letter to parents: Let them do what they want and are able to do

Kota: Moved by the tragic case of a 17-year-old IIT aspirant who committed suicide a day after clearing her exam, the Kota district collector has written an emotional letter to parents of over 1.50 lakh students in coaching institutes here, asking them not to force their expectations on the children.

The five-page letter by Collector Ravi Kumar Surpur has been dispatched to the coaching institutes in the city and will be forwarded to the parents after translation into Hindi and other regional languages.

Referring to suicides by young students, the district collector wrote that for all of them death was a much peaceful and effortless action than going through the dilemma of artificially doing what their parents wanted them to do.

“Your solacing words of comfort, asking them to give their best and forget the results could have been the blade of grass” that would have saved precious lives, he wrote, adding, instead, what they got were threats to perform even better.

Representational image. Getty ImageRepresentational image. Getty Image

Representational image. Getty Image

“Should parents go the children’s immature way? Not necessarily.” Surpur has made an emotional appeal in the letter, asking parents “not to force their expectations and dreams on their children” and “let them do what they want and are able to do”.

Besides, the district administration has also decided to seek feedback on stress level of students in various institutes to check for signs of anxiety among them.

The initiative came after the recent suicide by IIT-JEE aspirant Kriti who took the extreme step on 28 April despite having cleared IIT-JEE mains in the result declared a day before her suicide. At least 19 aspirants ended their lives in 2015 while five students have taken the extreme step in 2016.

Surpur also mentioned a recent suicide letter by a young girl, written in perfect grammar and in beautiful running handwriting, where she thanked her mother for giving up her career for raising the children. In another suicide note, a girl requested her parents to allow her younger sister to do what she likes.

The district collector also asked the parents and children to look beyond engineering and medicine for their career. Surpur had also written a letter to students and parents in January this year telling them that life is beautiful and clearing an exam is not everything.

Meanwhile, the district administration held a meeting with the officials of coaching institutes and hostel owners on Saturday regarding the implementation of its guidelines issued a few months ago for checking stress among the coaching students.

Jharkhand: Man commits suicide after finding no water 700 feet below the earth

Ranchi: A man committed suicide in Jharkhand’s Giridih district as a result of severe water crisis in the state, sources said on Wednesday.

According to the sources, Dilip Yadav a resident of Purnanagar committed suicide by jumping in a well.

He had taken a loan of Rs. 70,000 for boring his well which had dried up due to the heatwave, family members said.

Representational image. Getty ImagesRepresentational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

However, no water was found after 700 feet inside the earth.

Dilip was shocked over the incident and jumped in the well on Tuesday, the sources added.

Jharkhand is witnessing heatwave and acute water crisis.

Majority of water sources have dried up. In many parts of the state, villagers are being forced to use contaminated water.

Aspirin pills may help reduce bile duct cancer risk

New York: Aspirin – a common painkiller – often used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation is likely to reduce the risk for bile duct cancer, finds a new research.

Bile duct cancer – also called cholangiocarcinoma – is an aggressive type of cancer that forms in the slender tubes (bile ducts) that carry digestive fluid through the liver.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

“The evidence has been accumulating that regular, long-term use of aspirin is associated with a decreased risk of a number of different cancer types, particularly gastrointestinal cancers,” said one of the researchers, Lewis Roberts, gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Mayo Clinic in the US.

The findings showed that individuals who took aspirin had a more than a two-and-half to three-and-half times lesser chance of developing bile duct cancer, compared to individuals who did not take aspirin.

The researchers found that aspirin, with it’s an anti-inflammatory properties can decrease the risk of bile duct cancer by lessening inflammation through slowing down an enzyme called cyclo-oxygenase (COX), which is known to promote inflammation.

“We know that continuous unremitting inflammation is one of the main factors that promotes cancer of the bile ducts,” Roberts added in the paper published in the journal Hepatology.

In addition to the COX enzyme pathway, according to previous studies, aspirin also blocks additional cell-signaling cascades that promote cancer development.

However, it is not yet certain that aspirin is safe to use for cancer prevention.

The team said additional confirmatory studies are needed before aspirin can be recommended for use in preventing bile duct cancer.

Bile duct cancer occurs mostly in people over 50 and can cause symptoms, such as yellowing of the skin and eyes, intense itchiness of the skin, and white stools. It progresses quickly and is difficult to treat.

PM Narendra Modi to visit Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday

Jammu: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday to formally inaugurate the 230-bed Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Super Speciality Hospital, officials said on Monday.

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Getty Images

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Getty Images

The facility has been set up by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board at a cost of Rs.300 crore near Katra in Reasi district, an official said.

Free of cost OPD services and diagnostic tests started at the hospital from March 15. The hospital became fully functional from April 8.

“The hospital is equipped with state-of-the-art computerized equipment to provide best possible diagnostic and treatment facilities to the patients,” the official said.

Kerala Assembly polls: Left campaigners launch ‘missed call’ campaign to woo voters

Thiruvananthapuram: Ahead of Kerala polls that are scheduled to be held on 16 May, Left leaders in Kerala have launched a ‘missed call campaign’ to reach out to voters, with the target especially being the youth.

93-year-old Marxist veteran and state opposition leader VS Achuthanandan and party politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan have launched the new mode of campaign in support of CPI(M)-led LDF candidates for the 16 May assembly polls.

Representational image. Getty imagesRepresentational image. Getty images

Representational image. Getty images

Party sources said the campaign would not only create an awareness among voters to exercise their franchise in favour of LDF but also expose corruption in the five-year rule of Congress-UDF government led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Under the campaign, anybody can give a missed call from their phones to the campaign’s assigned mobile number. In return, the callers will get a recorded message of Achuthanandan and Vijayan.

Achuthanandan focuses on corruption under the UDF rule in his over 30 second-long message, while Vijayan asks people to vote for LDF for ‘responsible government and development.’

“I am VS Achuthanandan. Are you not fed up with corruption? It is the people’s dream that is getting shatteredwhen Rs 70 of the Rs 100 earmarked for development goes into someone’s pocket. This also results in blocking of the state’s development. This trend has to be stopped. Join LDF for a corruption-free Kerala,” the recorded message says.

Meanwhile, discussions are going on at different levels of the party on the finalisation of candidates list. LDF has already taken a decision to come out with its front manifesto
on 5 April.

PTI

‘Women can enter Sabarimala’: Zakir Hussain weighs in on debate, evokes Mahatma Gandhi

Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain on Wednesday said that if women in the country want, they can enter Sabarimala, the famous shrine in Kerala where women of reproductive age are banned from entering.

File photo of Zakir Hussain. GettyFile photo of Zakir Hussain. Getty

File photo of Zakir Hussain. Getty

“Indian women are strong and they can go to Sabarimala, if they want. That’s what Mahatma Gandhi taught us. He didn’t pick up any weapon, but walked to the place where he was told not to go. If our woman have the will, they can go anywhere,” Hussain said ahead of a performance at Nishagandhi auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram, reports The Times of India.

Talking about the raging intolerance debate in the country, he said he believed that India is a very tolerant country, “Maybe it is important for some politicians to magnify the intolerance issue because they honestly believe that there is a problem, but I do not believe so. I’m a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist because I’m an Indian. For me to think otherwise is totally wrong. For our government to think otherwise is wrong,” reports The Hindu.

Just this last Monday, in an interview with The Times of India, Hussain had said how proud he feels to be an Indian. “India is a tolerant nation… I am proud to be an Indian. My wife is an American. I can get an American passport – I never went for it… No priest or mullah prevented me from doing what I did – I was welcomed into every house of God and i felt blessed in each place,” he said.