Thursday, 21 August 2014

Reading Dreze and Sen 2: India's problems are not because of its democratic character, but rather due to a lack of it.

Given that China has done much better than India in using its economic growth for the advancement of public services and social infrastructure (which means the provision of basic social services such as schooling, healthcare, safe water, drainage, housing etc), some people in India are often tempted to think that this is because China is authoritarian and India a democracy. The conclusion that these persons reach is that it is India’s democracy that is to blame for its lag behind China. But Dreze and Sen argue that this needs to be questioned.

They point out that, in China, policies are decided at the top, with little scope for pressures from below (i.e. from citizens like us). It is a fact that Chinese leaders – although authoritarian - have been strongly committed to eliminating hunger and illiteracy, and this has certainly helped China’s socio-economic advancement. But authoritarian political systems like China always remains fragile because government leaders can arbitrarily change their priorities in a counter-productive direction and citizens can do very little about it.

Dreze and Sen stress that the gravity of this danger is made clear by the following example: from 1959-62, a catastrophic famine occurred in China. The regime failed to understand what was going on, there was no public pressure against its policies and so it continued its policy mistakes for 3 years, resulting in the death of 30 million (I.e. 30,000,000) people. This is highly unlikely in a democracy which allows room for public pressure, and in which the government is forced to be more accountable to citizens.
Another example they provide of the fragility of the process of economic and social advancement through an authoritarian system is China’s economic reforms in 1979. These reforms involved a huge retreat from the principle of universal healthcare coverage: the proportion of rural population covered by free or heavily subsidized healthcare crashed to around 10% within a few years. In a democracy, healthcare could not have been withdrawn so easily and swiftly. This withdrawal of universal entitlement to healthcare reduced the progress of longevity in China, and China’s large lead over India in life expectancy dwindled over the following 2 decades (falling from a 14 year lead to just 7 years)[1]

Being a democracy, India has the advantage of having political leaders who are accountable to its citizens (the UPA regime’s rout in the 2014 elections is a good example of the advantage of being a democracy; if India was not a democracy, its citizens would not have been able to effectively show their disfavor regarding UPA’s policies much less bring about its end). But how much a democracy is able to achieve depends largely on what issues are brought into political engagement i.e. what issues are considered important enough by citizens and are translated into ‘demands’ by the public from the government.

Making certain issues important in the public mind is not easy and does take time (it took many years and the Delhi Gang-rape of 2012 to make women’s right to safety a public demand), but once these issues become a ‘normal’ public demand, they are less capable of being ignored by a democratic government. On the other hand, decisions by authoritarian governments are taken by a handful of leaders at the top and - even when benevolent and public-oriented - can be suddenly and arbitrarily withdrawn. 
Given India’s multiple problems, some may be tempted to demand that India gives up or reduces its commitment to democracy for which so many have fought and out of which so much good has come to India. But the continuance of India’s problems is not because of democracy, but instead because MORE use has not been made of the opportunities offered by a political democracy and a free society to solve the problems that so many Indians continue to face.

[The purpose of the ‘Reading Dreze and Sen’ series of blogs is to briefly summarise some of the arguments given by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen in their book ‘An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions’. The arguments are of the authors alone and the blogs are merely a recapitulation of them in as simple a way possible (the style is deliberately informal). The aim is to help myself to remember the details of these arguments (writing always helps!) but more importantly to hopefully trigger conversation and provoke contestation regarding the issues raised, even if on small forums like facebook :)]

[1] Chinese authorities eventually reintroduced social health insurance on a large scale from around 2004. 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Reading Dreze and Sen: 1 - India needs to strive for more than economic growth

There has been some slackening of the growth rate of India’s economy very recently (which is partly related to the global slump). But Dreze and Sen point out that even with its diminished growth rate India is still one of the fastest-growing economies of the world. This is something that we have to keep in mind – despite the hue and cry about an ‘economic slowdown’ in India, our growth rate is still not THAT bad. 
         But still, they agree that India should strive for higher, faster growth. This can be a huge source of strength for it as the fruits of economic growth can be used for the advancement of human lives.

Although agreeing that India has achieved a lot since Independence, both economically and socially, Dreze and Sen emphasise that there is scope for A WHOLE LOT MORE. There have been major shortcomings and breakdowns – even though the privileged as well as our media tends to overlook these. The neglect of these problems in public reasoning [say, in debates on news channels or in our general public consciousness] is harmful because in a democracy it is usually through such discussion and understanding that serious problems are addressed. Although we must celebrate India’s economic progress, one must also remember that its societal reach has been very very limited.

One serious issue is that income distribution in India has been getting more unequal in recent years – this is something we share with China. But China has witnessed a rapid rise in real wages from which Chinese working classes have benefitted. In contrast, India has had relative stagnant real wages.   

A second issue is that the public revenue generated by rapid economic growth has not been used to expand social and physical infrastructure in a determined and well-planned way. In this, India is far behind China.

Third, despite its economic growth, India continues to lack essential social services for a huge part of the population. Schooling, heath-care, provision of safe drinking water and drainage are some examples of crucial social services. 

Another problem is that while India has overtaken other countries in terms of its real income, it has been overtaken in terms of social indicators by many of these countries - even by some of its poorer neighbours! 
For example, India has caught up with China in terms of GDP growth but it lags far behind China in terms of longevity (how long people live), literacy, child nourishment and maternal mortality. In South Asia itself, a much poorer Bangladesh has overtaken it in terms of social indicators (such as life expectancy, immunization of children, infant mortality, child nourishment and girls’ schooling). Even Nepal is catching up with India (inspite of its GDP being just 1/3rd of India’s)! 20 years ago, India used to have the 2nd best social indicators among 6 South Asian Countries (i.e. among India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan) – now.. it’s the 2nd worst (ahead only of ‘problem-ridden Pakistan’)!  

So, while India has been climbing up the ladder of per capita income (average income of a person per year has been increasing), it has been slipping in terms of social indicators.

Economic growth generates income. But in India, the income generated by growth has been unequally shared (to put it simply, the rich get more than the poor). Moreover, the resources created have not been used to address the social deprivation of the poor and marginalized.

There is much work to be done – India has to make use of the fruits of economic growth a) to enhance the living conditions of the people and b) to reduce the massive inequalities in India’s economy and society.

Apart from that, India needs to address its far-reaching failure in governance and organization. One instance of this is the mismanagement of the power sector – most of us have suffered from India’s persistent power failures and some of us may know that 1/3rd of India’s population has no electricity at all! This is a massive failure (only 1% of China’s population suffers from this problem). But the sad state of the power sector is only part of the serious failure to provide good physical infrastructure. Similar deficiencies can be seen in water supply, drainage, garbage disposal, public transport, and so on.

So, Dreze and Sen conclude that while maintaining a consistently high growth rate is surely important, India needs to strive for something larger than that - It needs to utilise the fruits of its growth to address the disparities and deficiencies mentioned above.     

[The purpose of the ‘Reading Dreze and Sen’ series of blogs is to briefly summarise some of the arguments given by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen in their book ‘An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions’. The arguments are of the authors alone and the blogs are merely a recapitulation of them in as simple a way possible (the style is deliberately informal). The aim is to help myself to remember the details of these arguments (writing always helps!) but more importantly to hopefully trigger conversation and provoke contestation regarding the issues raised, even if on small forums like facebook :)]

Saturday, 13 July 2013

What's So Wrong With Modi Calling Himself a Hindu Nationalist?

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said in his interview to Reuters on June 25: "I'm nationalist, I'm patriotic. Nothing is wrong. I'm a born Hindu. Nothing is wrong. So I'm a Hindu nationalist. So yes, you can say I'm a Hindu Nationalist because I'm a born Hindu". BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi on NDTV yesterday said that 'Hindu nationalist' has wrongly been made into a 'dirty word' by people with a malicious agenda. She said, 'If anybody calling himself a Muslim and a nationalist is not being questioned, why should anybody calling himself a Hindu and a nationalist be questioned?". She asserted that the right to practice one's religion is a constitutional right, 'so why should the same right not be available to Hindus?'

There are at least two things here which need debunking. One, there is a difference between a Hindu nationalist and a nationalist Hindu. Hindu nationalism is an ideology that crystallised almost a hundred years ago. Its founder, V.D. Savarkar, wrote a monograph called 'Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?' in 1922 in which he outlined the definition of the Hindu nation. He wrote that Hindus were those people who loved the territory of Hindustan, shared common blood (this was the Indian version of racism), possessed the same culture and worshiped Hindustan as their fatherland and their holyland. These were the four essential criteria of citizenship of the Hindu nation. This meant that Muslims and Christians - whose holylands were outside India - were automatically excluded from the very definition of the Hindu nation. Muslims and Christians - even if their ancestors had been born in India, and even if they loved it as their own - could never claim full citizenship. According to the ideology of Hindu nationalism, they must live in India as second class citizens and must completely assimilate everything that is Hindu - they must worship Hindu gods, participate in Hindu festivals, give up their customs and even their language; they must not ask for any rights and freedoms because they live on the sufferance of Hindus.

On the contrary, a person who is a nationalist Hindu need not necessarily possess such an ideology: he or she may simply be a Hindu who believes in the ideology of secular nationalism, which does not give any supremacy to Hindu-ness. A nationalist Hindu does not necessarily foreground Hindu identity as an essential criteria for citizenship. He or she can accept that the nation does not just consist of Hindus but also of Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Sikhs and others - who may all have distinct religious identities but yet are equal citizens of the same Indian nation. So when Modi makes the argument of 'Hindu + nationalist = Hindu nationalist, whats wrong with that?', we might ask why he cant instead choose to be 'Hindu + nationalist = nationalist Hindu'? Whats wrong with the former is that it stems from an ideology that has a long lineage of seeing the Indian nation as being exclusively composed only of Hindus. The very definition of the Hindu nation excludes those who belong to other religious communities, people who have every right to call themselves Indian  as much as any Hindu.

The second issue is the following. Yes, Muslims are allowed to proclaim that they are nationalists. But so are Hindus. People are not disturbed by Modi claiming to be a nationalist, it is because they know he is a particular type of nationalist. Lekhi speaks as if Modi is being unjustly denied his constitutional right to practice his religion. But the alarm at his statement does not spring from his assertion that he is Hindu. He proudly proclaimed that he is not just a Hindu but a Hindu nationalist. Lekhi would have us confuse Hindu nationalism with Hinduism, but the two are not the same. Hindu nationalism is not a religion; it's an ideology which  has historically aimed to turn India into a 'pure' Hindu nation at the exclusion of others. This is not guaranteed by the Indian constitution; on the contrary, it is diametrically opposed to its ideals. It is this ideology which made the organisation from which Modi springs (i.e. the RSS) support the colonial state, participate in violent riots, and ultimately assassinate Gandhi. Its history is what makes Hindu nationalism a 'dirty word', not some malicious propaganda by anyone else.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Modi and the Animal Song

In 2002, there occurred the mass killing of more than 3000 people in India. This was violence on a scale unprecedented in Independent India. Women were stripped, made to run naked, tortured, then killed and burned. They were tortured by inserting metal rods into their vaginas, and were then set on fire. A pregnant woman’s stomach was slit open and her unborn baby paraded on a trident. The chief minister under whose watch it happened has been re-elected again and again. He is still in power.

Despite the fact that there are charges that the chief minister was involved in a state-sponsored massacre of citizens of his own country, let us forget that for now. The disturbing fact is that he has not apologised to this day for what happened in those 6 weeks  - when citizens of his own state were brutally raped and killed by what he claims were spontaneous, frenzied mobs. How much could it take to make a simple apology for what at any rate was a complete collapse of law and order, and an utter failure to protect the citizens of his own state – 3000 of his very own Gujaratis? Is an apology too much to ask for? But the chief minister has stubbornly refused to apologise for ten years. Does this not show a lack of warmth, sympathy and compassion? The dictionary describes such a person as ‘inhuman’.

But there is serious talk among many Indians of making this chief minister the next Prime Minister of India. This is a very real possibility in 2014. According to one poll, 43% Indians want Modi as PM. How are we, as a nation, so eager to bring to power a man under whose watch 3000 Indians died? How are we so eager to bring to power someone who was unable to prevent rape and mass murder and has not cared even to apologise for it? I wonder what that says about us, as a people. And I think the answer is: we do not really care that 3000 citizens died. We do not care for justice as long as it’s not us to whom the injustice is done.  We too are inhuman, for that is the word for such blatant lack of sympathy and compassion for our fellow-citizens and fellow-humans. These are the values we have apparently inherited from our culture and tradition.

And we also lack respect for basic rule of law; we are not really bothered if killers and rapists are put behind bars. We do not care to know or respect our own constitution (the law of the land), which guarantees rights and freedoms to our fellow-citizens. We do not care if these constitutional and fundamental rights are violated, as long as it’s not us to whom this is done.   

Is compassion for others too much to ask for? Asking for this vital, essentially human emotion is portrayed as 'sentimentalism'; one is accused of being 'too emotional', 'not pragmatic'. But why must must reason and emotion be mutually exclusive? One can be pragmatic and compassionate.  One can be determined to build a strong India and have compassion for others at the same time. But Modi pretends that both at the same time are not possible. He hides his lack of compassion in his emphasis on making India into a superpower. And that is exactly how many of us hide our lack of it. Recognising this lack of humanity is not a sign of sentimentality; it is recognising a hard fact

Perhaps we will ultimately reach our goal of building a militarily and economically strong nation of hypocritical, inhuman individuals. A nation whose citizens are utterly self-interested and care neither for the law of the land, nor for their fellow-citizens. This is the vision we clearly desire and this is the nation we shall ultimately choose to build. 

Modi repeatedly refuses to answer questions about/apologise for/say that he regrets the mass killings of 2002. Video links to 2 such occasions:

Friday, 25 January 2013

My Talk at the Oxford India Society: Course of Action for the Indian State and Its People in the Aftermath of the Delhi Gang Rape

Below is the script of the talk I gave at the Oxford India Society to discuss the future course of action that the Indian state and its people need to take in the aftermath of the Delhi Gang Rape in December. 


At the outset I’d like to clarify - that I am not a legal expert and I have never thought of calling myself a feminist. I speak here as an ordinary citizen who feels strongly about the issue of women’s safety... Strongly enough to take part in the recent protests, to ponder over and articulate my thoughts on this horrific event. And strongly enough to feel compelled to go along with some friends - to Sandeep Dixit (an MP from Delhi) with a list of demands and suggestions to ensure safety for women. We then sent this list to the Justice Verma Committee that was set up in the aftermath of this gang-rape to propose amendments to laws relating to crimes against women.

Neither of us works full-time on this issue. Our demands and suggestions are therefore based on our own intuitions, past experience, knowledge and understanding. But we did try to inform ourselves as much as possible through dialoguing with those who were more informed than us, and by reading as widely as possible - within the given time constraints. I would like to share with you our suggestions regarding the future course of action that can be taken. I divide these in 3 parts: 

1) Judicial reforms, 
2) Measures to increase security for women, and 
3) The most difficult - but also the most important --– tackling the misogynistic attitude in our society.

To start with judicial reforms, I am wary of aligning myself with demands for death penalty & chemical castration which gained shrill popularity during the protests. I personally do not support this form of retributive justice. And arguing from a different viewpoint, when enforced - neither form of punishment has been proven to be a deterrent.

The very fact that the victim was brutalised with an iron rod, makes it clear that rape is not just about sexual pleasure for the perpetrator, but is an assertion of power and dominance. Apparently one of the accused in the recent case categorically mentioned that it was the defiance and resistance of the victim that angered him the most. If indeed that is the case, then, chemical castration, quite apart from being morally questionable, isn’t an effective deterrent at all. 
As for capital punishment, I personally feel the debate around it is too complex – both morally and practically - and going into the details of it will only divert the issue at hand.

I strongly feel that what is needed is not more brutal punishment, but CERTAINTY of punishment i.e perpetrators must feel that they WILL be caught, quickly tried and punished if they commit a crime, and that there is NO way out.

Therefore we must demand certainty of REGISTRATION OF CRIME. There have been innumerable instances of the police being unwilling to register crimes against women or discouraging the filing of complaints. We need to demand a zero-tolerance policy on non-registration of crime, as without registration, how can the investigation begin? Then, we need thorough and honest investigation by the police. Many cases are damaged by shoddy investigation and evidence-collection. ‘Fast-track courts’ can only lead to fast-track acquittals without these measures. Finally, we need efficient trials and speedier delivery of justice where cases do not drag on for years with the accused out on bail. Yet we must remember and ensure that speedy trials don’t occur at the cost of FAIR trials.

Regarding a change of law, given my limited knowledge, I can only say that apart from enforcing a strict prohibition of the antiquated “two-finger” test to establish rape, two other extremely important measures are needed. These are a) the rectification of the current ‘peno-vaginal’ definition of rape to include other forms of sexual assault such as peno-anal or by means of objects and b) the inclusion of MARITAL RAPE within the legal definition of sexual assault. This oversight needs to be corrected as marital rape is the most pervasive form of rape in India. The Indian state needs to take into consideration, the informed opinion of eminent lawyers who have been working for years on such legal reform.

Some measures that have been suggested to increase security for women  are the following: better surveillance (for instance more functional CCTVs with regular analysis of data), the adoption of modern methods of hiring and training the police, upgraded technology for it, incentives for the police so they find their job fulfilling and remain honest and motivated, a regular audit to weed out non-performers, plain-clothes policemen in buses and the Metro, more police women in PCR vans and in police stations, allocation of funds to a special cell for crimes against women that must be present  in every police station... And so on. However, while ensuring women’s safety DOES require these measures, I feel there is little point – and even grave danger – in simply putting more police out into our streets. This is because, currently, there is a massive trust deficit in citizens vis-a-vis the police. When we think police, we think ‘thug’, ‘corrupt’, ‘extortionist’, ‘intimidating’, ‘dishonest’, ‘prejudiced’, ‘conservative’ -  a force that exploits the vulnerability and legal illiteracy of ordinary citizens. So before the state puts out more police onto our streets, we must demand and insist that this be a SENSITISED police force.

This brings me to my 3rd point about tackling the deep-seated misogynistic attitude in India and increased SENSITISATION of people in positions of authority as well as of ordinary citizens. This change is the MOST difficult to bring about: It requires long- term commitment and sustained efforts by the Indian state and its citizens. I believe the state can play a crucial role here by starting at the INSITUTIONAL LEVEL.
·        Apart from gender (and indeed, more GENERAL) sensitisation of the police force through initial and regular training, the state perhaps needs to make a course on gender equality and citizens’ rights a permanent part of the school curriculum from an early stage. In addition, regular gender sensitisation workshops and self-defence classes need to be held for both boys and girls. Compulsory sensitisation of teachers is another important step - as they have an indelible impact on a child’s life.
·        At the college level, we need EFFECTIVE gender sensitisation committees which will hold regular and mandatory workshops - and, here too, a sensitisation of the administration is imperative: authorities like Girls Hostel Wardens often resort to blackmail to coerce victims of sexual harassment to NOT file a complaint.
·        At all schools, colleges AND indeed workplaces, contact numbers and addresses of local, verified NGOs must be publicised so that students and employees have somewhere to go if their administration is unresponsive.

A gender sensitisation and rights awareness drive by the Government needs to be pursued through media such as TV, radio and newspaper ads, through posters and hoardings in all our different languages, through collaboration with local community leaders, and through social education packages for families.

The sensitisation and awareness campaign, in my opinion, needs first to be against the idea that after a sexual assault the woman has been ‘dishonoured’ and has nothing to live for. The campaign must emphasise that she still has reason to live a normal life: she can and should be helped to re-build her life. Second, the campaign needs to be strictly against any association of blame with the victim, and must shift it to the perpetrator. It needs to emphasise that NOTHING JUSTIFIES sexual assault and a violation of rights – no specific clothing worn by a woman nor any behaviour on her part... Be it drinking, going to a nightclub or being out in the evening with male friends. Therefore the campaign must NOT promote a flawed concept of ‘protection’ i.e. It mustn’t promote the idea that women can be protected by keeping them indoors or by wearing particular kinds of cloths. Third, the campaign should emphasise the fact that women are EQUAL to men and therefore are entitled - to the same rights and freedoms as them– to go wherever they want, whenever they want and in whichever clothes they want to wear. And that these rights must not be violated in the name of their ‘safety’. It must highlight - as abominable - all acts and norms that violate the principle of gender equality – these include preference for sons, female foeticide, inheritance inequality, dowry, wife-beating, forced widowhood etc. Finally, it needs to educate citizens – men and women – on:

a) What constitutes sexual assault and harassment; what is meant by consent and what constitutes its violation,
b) what are OUR fundamental and legal rights and what is the course of action that can be followed when these are infringed.

I feel such a campaign should involve collaboration between the state and ‘civil society’ – roping in survivors of sexual assault, women’s organisations, keen students from schools and colleges, local community leaders, the newsmedia, advertising gurus, designers and artists. This would make it collaborative, inventive and effective.

I think the way forward - on part of the state - should consist of a multi-pronged approach - which needs to include short and long-term measures. As of today, many of our demands and suggestions have found a voice in the recommendations announced by the Justice Verma Committee yesterday. These include: a rejection of the death penalty & chemical castration but the enhancement of the minimum sentence for rape from 7 to 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for it...  Making touching-without-consent, voyeurism, stalking and other forms-of-sexual harassment punishable offences, making marital rape a punishable offence, establishing a protocol for the medical examination of the rape victim, and punishment of officers who fail to report rape. These are far-reaching recommendations and now it’s up to the parliament to implement them.

As for citizens, I feel that - at this point - we must be extremely vigilant. First, with regard to a clampdown on liberties in the name of ‘security for women’. Instances of this include the discriminatory rule that girls living in college hostels need to return by 10pm, and other measures taken in the aftermath of this rape - such as discotheques being closed at 1am, the Puducherry Govt prescribing compulsory overcoats for girls, and Eastern Wing of Delhi Police advising girls to ‘go straight home after school or college’.  We must insist that the police make the streets safe for women at all times, and does not absolve itself of its duty by enforcing such ‘cop out’ measures. Second, we must be extremely wary of tokenism and knee-jerk populism.

Indian citizens need to remain consistently engaged with this cause and persisten­tly demand that the media and Govt remain committed to it. Equally urgent is the need for them to increase their knowledge of the rights and values enshrined in our constitution, and of our legal and political processes - in order.. That they don’t resort to ill-informed, knee-jerk responses.. But instead - become capable of making demands which are informed, practical and morally defensible.

Saturday, 29 December 2012


Please sign the petition if you agree with its demands and suggestions:


The protest means different things to different organised and unorganised groups and individuals, who were making different demands – from “castration!” to “death to rapists!”. We did not identify with each protestor nor with each demand of theirs. In addition, we speak as ordinary, individual citizens of this country, not as representative of any organisation. For us – this protest is about the following:

  • It is not just about this girl: we believe the protests received massive support because the majority of women feel unsafe in Delhi (it received support from people across states because it is the same predicament across states)
  • It is not just about rape: it is against harassment that women have to deal with everyday – ranging from eve teasing, cat calls, groping, molestation to rape.
  •  It is to reclaim public space: Against the idea that public spaces do not belong to women.
  • Against the idea that women can only be protected if they are at home, or dress in a particular manner or if they are in the company of male relatives or if they are segregated.
  • Against the culture of putting blame on the victim: ideas or thinking that perpetuate the stance “She asked for it – by wearing a short dress, by drinking, by being on the streets at night or by being with a male friend.”
  • Against the law enforcement agencies – why is the response time so slow in so many cases? Why is the police often reluctant to register FIRs regarding sexual violence and harassment? Why is the police so insensitive? Why is the conviction rate so low?
  • Against the delay/denial of justice: Why do trials take forever?


We demand a MULTI-PRONGED APPROACH which deals with increased security, institutionalised sensitisation and attitudinal change through education, media campaigns, govt programs, social education packages etc as well as judicial and police reform.  These include short-term as well as long-term steps.


  1. Better transportation in the city which functions during the day and night. The frequency of public transportation needs to become better.
  2. Better surveillance systems which can record happenings in the city (more functional CCTV cameras around the city)
  3. More police vans both patrolling areas and stationary with policemen on the lookout (rather than sitting inside the van).
  4. Better street lighting
  5. More security outside malls, bars, restaurants and marketplaces.
  6.  Police vans should patrol poorer residential areas a few time a day and at night
  7. Make it easier for women to report harassment and crimes against women. Make all relevant contact #s PUBLIC and VISIBLE.
  8. All police stations should have a sexual harassment/rape centre with up to 70% female police who are also sensitised. Apparently there is a cell for atrocities/crimes against women which exists only on paper because no funds are allocated to it. Funds should be allocated to such cells; it should NOT remain on paper.
  9. Local verified NGOs to be present at all police stations, so that if denied by the police they have some where to go.
  10. Have more policewomen in PCR vans. Make female police more visible.
  11. Police personnel in buses and metros who have direct access to PCR vans in order to register and act on the complaint immediately
  12. We also demand a fitter police force. There must be regular physical training and regular re-evaluation of their fitness level. 

A) à WE FEAR AND ARE STRONGLY AGAINST ANY CLAMPDOWN OF LIBERTIES IN THE NAME OF SECURITY (For example, we are against discotheques being closed down at 1am, or the general norm/rule of girl hostel gates closing at 10pm. Make our streets safer for women, do not curb their liberties)
Ø   We condemn the detainment of peaceful protesters such as Shambhavi and 15 others on the Dec 25, 2012 ( Such arbitrary, illegal detainment and beating of citizens only reinforces the lack of faith ordinary citizens have in the police force (and the state as a whole).
Ø   The recent case of suicide by a rape victim from Patiala because of humiliation by police officers as well as the case of the UP rape victim being raped by the policemen probing the case do not inspire much confidence either. Citizens feel that this misogynistic attitude among the police is not the exception, but the rule. ( and

TACKLING THE MYSOGINISTIC ATTITUDE – this change needs to be at an INSTITUTIONAL level – police training, educational institutions, media, social education packages for families. We acknowledge that this is a long-term process, but one which requires ACTIVE, persistent perseverance.
  1.  Sensitisation for current police/aspiring police cadets: Gender sensitisation course for aspiring police cadets (male and female) followed by regular training and workshops in the same. The state should collaborate with civil society and NGOs that are apt in giving such training.

a.      Regular evaluation: Should be evaluations of gender-related attitudes of officers in the police force.
b.      Reinforce positive behaviour: Reward officers that exemplify model behaviour as far as gender sensitivity and equality is concerned.

Role of education and schools: Gender sensitisation and sex education workshops and programs (maybe taught under ‘Health Education’ to avoid parental anxiety) to be a vital, permanent part of the curriculum. This is important to shape minds before it is too late.
a.      Education/schooling as a medium to inculcate gender equality and sensitisation to tackle deep-seated ideas of women as property, without any self-ownership and agency of their own
b.      Check against political manipulation: Must have in-built mechanism to check against this gender sensitisation curriculum being manipulated by conservative political parties when they come into power.
c.       Collaboration: Regular workshops undertaken through collaboration between state-“civil society” NGOs.
d.      Workshops which educate children on what constitutes sexual harassment and violence, on how to disclose and to whom if one has been a victim of this.
e.      Self defence classes for girls and boys (for boys standing up to protect their female friends have been assaulted and murdered) in school and college.
f.        State can recruit keen students from schools and universities for its awareness drives.
g.      Teacher sensitisation: We feel it is absolutely IMPERATIVE for teachers to attend these sensitisation workshops and programs.
3.      College-level gender sensitisation: currently colleges have ineffective gender sensitisation committees. Make sure these are effective and hold regular, mandatory, inventive workshops. Make weekly/monthly vibrant discussions on gender issues mandatory. Involve Womens-issue NGOs if possible.
4.     Sensitisation at work places (public and private sector): provisions to ensure the safety of women through regulatory bodies that address any problems that women may be facing in the office (sexual harassment, abuse etc).
5.      Government programs to educate society on the injustice of rape, sexual violence and harassment. Must shift the association of the word ‘shame’ from the victim to the perpetrator.  Make people aware of their rights.
a.      USE THE MEDIA:
                                                              i.      TV Advertisements: Work with good advertisement companies, invest in good adverts which can spread awareness about:
1.      What constitutes ‘crimes against women’/ ‘sexual harrassment’? Not just rape, but also domestic violence, molestation, sexual abuse, harassment, dowry.
2.      What are our legal and constitutional rights?  
3.      Whom can we contact (contact # of Delhi Commission for Women)? How can our grievance be addressed? Reassure us.
                                                            ii.      Approach and encourage news channels to start campaigns (like NDTV’s ‘Marks for Sports’ and ‘Save the Tiger’ – women’s safety is surely as important an issue).
                                                          iii.      Invest in half/full-page newspaper ads – Hindi and English (and even vernaculars, ideally)
                                                          iv.      Radio adverts and jingles
                                                            v.      Use the ‘Social media’ – facebook pages, twitter accounts, websites. Invest money and PUBLICISE them.
                                                          vi.      Posters, hoardings @ bus-stops, metro-stations, roadsides, school bulletin boards, workplaces, malls etc. Involve designers to make them effective, and women’s organisation to make them sensitive. Make important contact numbers KNOWN through these. These must be in Hindi and English. 
6.      State collaboration with local community leaders: Workshops and awareness campaigns in collaboration with local community leaders. Raise awareness through local workshops, street plays. Involve NGOs as well.
7.      Make discussion of gender issues mandatory for Resident Welfare Associations. 
8.      Social education packages for families: provision of social education packages for families in a way similar to population control and family planning programs of the past. These packages must include gender sensitization as a vital component, making clear  that the harassment of women or violence against them is severely punishable by law and amounts to a serious offence.

·        Awareness campaigns should:
o   Emphasise that rape is not about sexual/physical pleasure- it is about asserting power
o   Highlight that the victim/survivor need not be felt ‘sorry’ for, that it is NOT the case that now ‘dishonoured’ she has nothing to live for. Highlight that she can still lead a life of honour and dignity and make a significant contribution in the lives of people she loves or in society.
o   Be strictly against the culture of putting blame on the victim of sexual violence or harrassment: ideas or thinking that perpetuate the stance “She asked for it – by wearing a short dress, by drinking, by being on the streets at night or by being with a male friend.”
o   Be strictly against the idea that women can only be protected if they are at home, or dress in a particular manner or if in the company of male relatives or if they are segregated (it must be clear that ladies compartments/buses are only a temporary measure). Long-term goal must be highlighted: sexes cohabiting and sharing the same space and respecting each other’s dignity.
o   Counter deep-seated ideas of women as property, without any self-ownership and agency of their own.
o   Spread awareness of women’s rights and of gender equality (stress fact that women are EQUAL to men).
o   Highlight crimes which violate the principle of gender equality – these included female foeticide, female infanticide, inheritance inequality, dowry, wife-beating, widowhood. [Perhaps Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate Team can be involved in this campaign. Along with ordinary women who have fought gender injustice]
o   Highlight WHAT/HOW/WHOM - ‘what’ constitutes sexual harassment and violence, on ‘how’ to disclose and to ‘whom’ if one has been a victim of abuse or harassment.
o   Be against the idea that somehow a man who rapes a woman is “mental” or belongs to “lower” class and somehow men with money or who are rich do not rape.
o   Target men AND women.
o   WE STRONGLY THINK that collaboration between the state and “civil society” is essential for an effective campaign. Rope in keen students at the level of school and college, movie stars, advertising and marketing gurus, designers, and victims and survivors of sexual violence and harassment. This will make the campaign creative, inventive and effective


1.     We are not for castration or the death penalty. We demand CERTAINTY of punishment i.e. the perpetrator must think that if he does wrong, he WILL be caught and there is absolutely NO way out. We believe this is a bigger deterrent than more brutal/harsher punishment.
2.     Revision of rape laws:
a.      We appreciate The Criminal Law (Amendment ) Bill, 2012 which deals with punishment for rape being from 7 years to a possible life sentence as well as making rape a gender neutral offence has been given the go-ahead by the cabinet to be tabled before the Parliament. But we believe some gaps do exist with the current law as well as with the bill tabled before Parliament. The most gaping one = marital rape isn't covered within the meaning of rape or sexual assault (as the Bill calls it). This is an loophole which must be filled given that marital rape is possibly the most pervasive form of rape in this country. The Bill also retains the archaic and patently paternalistic concept of "modesty of women". We condemn the use of such patriarchal language in the framing of our laws as this perpetuates biases against women.
b.      Please take advice from eminent lawyers such as Brinda Grover regarding this. As ordinary citizens, we can only say this much.
3.     Time-bound justice: speedy trials in all rape cases. Fast-track the 100,000 pending rape cases (all-India figure). In addition, we want speedy trials in ALL cases of sexual violence and harassment.
4.     Better, Reliable Investigation: before any law can be implemented, there is need of diligent investigation. We need proper investigating agencies which are 1) sensitised and motivated 2) efficient 3) competent and well-trained 4) well-equipped. Without this, any implementation or reform of law would be useless because the case would be damaged at the start.


1.   All hospitals – govt and private – to have rape kits. Training on how to use them.
2.   Free treatment for sexual assault victims
3.   Seek opinions of those who have worked with rape survivors for more on what is needed.


·        WE FEAR the treatment of this gang-rape case as an isolated case:
o   We fear that in trying to safe THIS particular victim, and in trying to bring THESE particular perpetrators to justice, will IGNORE justice for rape victims.
o   We fear that the govt will make this only about rape and IGNORE the larger issue of safety and security for women in general.
o    We fear tokenism, and a one-time token bow to populism in this sensational case. We demand a rational, sustained commitment from the government regarding the safety of women.

·        WE STRONGLY ADVISE that the govt should make itself more accessible, keeping the public informed regarding the actions it is taking regarding these issues on a routine basis (for instance, through regular press conferences even after the media hype has died down).
o   We feel this is ESSENTIAL for the following reasons:
§  To overcome the trust deficit and restore faith of the citizenry
§  To make sure that there is no scope left for the opposition to politicise the issue/appropriate the agenda/claim credit for campaign outcomes (hopefully there will be some”) started by the present government if it comes into power at a later date.
o   This can be done through buying time on TV, press conferences, longer, reassuring Obama-like speeches by government representatives with oratory skills, through radio, websites, Facebook, twitter, YouTube. Find out how Modi does it – that’s his secret weapon. We must feel that the government is engaging with us DIRECTLY and REGULARLY.
·        We do not demand resignations; but we DO demand quick action, safety, engagement, communication and justice.