A Woman’s Place

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To say that the Rajya Sabha elections were dramatic barely justifies it. It started with defections and the flight of 40 Congress ministers to Bengaluru. Then the Income Tax Department raided the house of D.Shivakumar who was hosting the  MLAs. At the elections, the results were contested with both parties crying foul and the Election Commission finally supporting Ahmed Patel. I bit all my nails off.

Analysts pointed out the lengths to which the BJP was ready to go, the use of the CRPF for an IT raid on a Congress Minister in Karnataka, but  the real winner was the Election Commission. Ahmed Patel managed to retain his seat but DK Singh says that the Congress needs to do much more for its own morale and Darshan Desai asks us to wait for December when the Gujarat elections will be held.

The Rajya Sabha elections also brought to the forefront the sorry state of the Opposition in the government. Chandan Mitra says that the vacuum in the Opposition is the fault of the terminal decline of the Congress party. Sunita Aron says that the Congress is either hibernating or has already given up the fight for the 2019 elections. Anil Baluni looks at how Amit Shah has galvanized the BJP into one of the largest political parties in the world. CPI (M) MP from Palakkad says that the Sangh Parivar is trying to polarize Kerala and welcomes Yogi Adityanath to the state. Meanwhile, Karan Thapar laments the decision of the CPI (M) in not letting Sitaram Yechury a third term in the Rajya Sabha because the man was a venerable opponent.

Do or Die

On the 75th anniversary of the Quit India Movement, our Prime Minister wants us to resolve to accomplish stuff- “Sankalp se Siddhi” he termed it. Sudheendra Kulkarni wants the Prime Minister to ensure that Sangh is the starting point for this. Hilal Ahmed looks at how the Quit India movement has been spun by different political parties over the years. Pranab Bardhan sizes up the promises and narratives by the government and the story told by various data sets. Happymon Jacob deems this action as a paradigm shift to Hindutva 2.0 while Vidya Subramaniam calls it the dawn of “collective targeting of opposition parties.” Abdul Khaliq reflects on how India has fared with respect to inequality, communalism and social justice over the last seventy years.

Reforms

Even if I do have a personal grouse against all the engineers whom I have dated, I’m not alone in thinking that their education needs reform. Milind Sohoni suggests revamping engineering education at central universities by bringing back the focus on development and policymaking, and Samarth Bansal suggests shifting away from a placements oriented approach. Examinations were also discussed this week as analysts criticized the idea of a common NEET-like exam for India’s lower judiciary and even suggested making Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) eligible for public appointments.  On the side of technology, Surajit Mishra calls for an incremental technology neutral approach for the adoption of electric cars. Jessica Seddon looks at ambitious policy proclamations and whether there is any recalibration.

Niti Aayog

Arvind Panagariya, the vice-Chairman of Niti Aayog quit to go back to the quiet academic life and his replacement, Rajiv Kumar kicked up a storm in an interview saying that there will be lesser foreign influence on India’s policies. Sunit Arora says that the new Niti Aayog chief looks to reverse the ‘liberal’ stance of the organization and wean it towards swadeshi outfits. Mihir Sharma says that if Arvind Panagriya’s departure from Niti Aayog is an indication that the government is averse to reformist thinking, then we have a definite problem on our hands.

Robocalypse

Last week we saw a flurry of news of Facebook shutting down two bots it had created because they had started communicating in a language of their own making. Pratik Kanjilal dismisses the fear of a robapocalypse and Sashank Reddy argues that instead of worry about AI turning rogue, we should focus on real effects such as impact on jobs, weapons and privacy. (Sounds like sound advice if you ask me.) Meanwhile, Rajyashree Sen wonders if the new app Sarahah (that lets you send anonymous messages) is just a gift for trolls and cyberbullies. Chetna Keer says that trolls on social media are the cyber equivalent of slipper throwing against politicians.

Foreign Policy

After being ousted from the position of Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif made a grand exit by organizing  a rally between Islamabad and Lahore. Shaheen Shehbai says that Sharif’s rally will not change status quo as odds are currently against him. On terrorism, the US put more pressure to force Pakistan’s hand in the Haqqani network. Khaled Ahmed says that Pakistan will not act out against the Haqqanis for it is the only leverage that the country has with Afganistan and chances of a peaceful western border. On the eastern border, Afaq Hussain says that the resumption of Uri-Muzaffarabad cross border trade is the only semblance of peace in an otherwise tense region. But Pranay Kotasthane and Rohan Joshi argue that the Pakistani Army will continue to determine the relationship with India

Its been two months since the standoff between India and China began. Sushant Singh says that a prolonged stand-off will have an adverse impact on Indo-Bhutanese ties while Sandeep Baradwaj makes the counter argument. Analysts note that goodwill has already been lost in Nepal and that India may not have the ware withal to fight a battle according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. On the other side, Shishir Gupta says that despite hawks in China escalating, the aspiring global power will have to risk escalation if it does.

Women

Last week was bad enough that a young woman, Varnika Kundu in Chandigarh was stalked by the son of Haryana BJP. In a predictably Indian auntiji reaction, BJP ministers automatically engaged in victim-shaming. Chief Madhu Mehra says that the case was not one of stalking but attempted abduction. Shailaja Bajpai analyses the unity of the otherwise warring television channels to rally behind Varnika Kundu.  But the quest for TRPs manages to extend itself wherever a good story can be sold. Pawan Sharma says that the incident cast a shadow on the BJP’s ongoing campaign in Haryana. Of course, there were other stories about harassment of women in the headline. Little heed was paid to the online abuse of a senior journalist who dared to possess an opinion, witch-hunting of Adivasi and tribal women, and the gradual dilution of anti-dowry law and the silence of families on the issue.

Kanika Dutta points out double standards not only in the Varnika Kundu case but in everyday life:

The implicit message in this double standard is that it’s somehow understandable if women who behave in a non-prescribed manner are harassed. She’s asking for it, the cliché goes, though you wonder which woman would ask to be harassed or raped, or, for that matter, why so many minor girls, who do not indulge in any of the above, should become victims too.

The more I read of these criticisms of misogyny, the more annoyed I get. Why can’t women just resign themselves to their true roles in society? Please excuse me, I know I shouldn’t have any opinions. I’ll just go back to the kitchen.