Mr Modi, we need a Safe India more than a Clean India
A Safe India for women or a Clean India — Prime Minister, take your pick.
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Coal and power minister Piyush Goyal jumped on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan bandwagon in Delhi this week. Last week, Reliance ADAG chairman Anil Ambani made a broom-bastic statement in Mumbai and was followed by ICICI Bank managing director and chief executive Chanda Kochhar picking up a broom as well. They are all part of the prime minister’s "Clean India" drive, eager to create a spectacle and to impress the hell out of Narendra Modi than to, of course, "educate" the general public of "civic sensibilities".
What's surprising is that a Surakhshit Bharat Abhiyan has no takers in the corridors of power despite women’s safety being close to Modi’s heart. Among several other issues that the PM raised on Independence Day, he had a unique advice for parents which he apparently believes could curb gender attacks in the country — raise your sons properly! “I want to ask parents when your daughter turns ten or 12 years old, you ask, ‘Where are you going? When will you return?’. Do parents dare ask their sons, ‘Where are you going? Why are you going? Who are your friends?’ After all, the rapist is also someone’s son.” Good lord! Surely, the Ram Singhs, Mukesh Singhs, Vinay Sharmas, Pawan Gupta and Akshay Thakurs will not brutally gang-rape another Nirbhaya fearing that they will be answerable to their inquisitive parents. What bollocks!
Modi was pretty vociferous during his campaign trail about the spurt in crimes against women. Once at the helm, Modi urged politicians in June to work together to ensure women’s safety, not “politicise rape” and play with the dignity of women referring to the political mud-slinging over the Badaun gang rape.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto elaborately explained how women will be a top priority if the party was voted to power: Women’s Reservation Bill, "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" campaign, Balika Samrudhi, Ladli Laxmi and Chiranjeevi Yojna. Even the Union Budget had an outlay of Rs 50 crore for a scheme on safety of women on public transport, Rs 150 crore for increasing their safety in large cities and another Rs 100 crore for "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana".
Modi even challenged the manhood of Indian men as Gujarat chief minister in Chhota Udaipur in 2013. Indian men have no right to call themselves "mard" “if Sitas and Savitirs” feel insecure, Modi thundered.
Catcalled, teased, groped, molested and raped, the last thing Indian women need is highfalutin speeches of politicians, filthy political debates on sexual assaults and big bang projects on their safety launched amid media wolves and selfie-obsessed celebs. Instead, a safe saunter in the nearby market, a hassle-free ride in the Metro, bus or rickshaw, daily shopping at the grocery store without eve-teasers on trail, or meeting a friend at a pizzeria without the usual ogling by a potential rapist or sensitised cops, is what women desperately need.
National Crime Records Bureau rape figures for 2013 speak for themselves: 33,707 cases were reported with Delhi recording 1,636 rapes. Madhya Pradesh topped the chart with 4,335 rapes followed by Rajasthan (3,285), Maharashtra(3,063), Uttar Pradesh(3,050) and Assam(1.937).
We empathise with your government, Mr Modi, that you inherited a battered economy from the United Progressive Alliance with sub-five-per cent growth rate, high inflation, rocketing fiscal deficit, decreasing foreign direct investment and stalled projects, but it is better to have a weak economy - or a littered street - than the law of the jungle under which women are at the mercy of predators. A father can sustain a high inflation but cannot live with the constant fear of his daughter getting abducted and gang-raped while she is returning from tuition or after buying groceries.
Politicians never miss an opportunity, especially on international turf, to make high-decibel speeches on women’s development. Minister of women and child development Maneka Gandhi this week called for an end of gender-based inequalities in Bangkok. “How extraordinary that when the human species has only men and women and when neither can do without the other, yet there is no equality, and we need a movement spanning across centuries to fight for parity. What does it say about humankind? If we cannot be fair and gentle with each other within the species, how can we protect any other species?” she said.
Mr Modi, it is high time you launch a "Safe India" campaign for women instead of allowing some senior BJP members and corporate bigwigs to gain mileage by sweeping the streets where garbage was deliberately strewn for the fluff-famished section of the media. We have never seen you reining in on the top cops how a rape victim should be dealt with and not asked the usual filthy, unsavoury questions when she tries to lodge a first information report.
A Safe India for women or a Clean India — Mr Prime Minister, take your pick.