Monday, October 22, 2012

Of rice and ministers

What do Kashmiri militants, traditional caste-based panchayats in Haryana and the Chhattisgarh police have in common?

No, not various kinds of illegal violence. (Well, who knows?) But today, what I’m talking about is a hatred of denim pants. Jeans. That is, women wearing jeans. We’ve heard of girls getting shot at for wearing jeans in Kashmir. And now there are reports that the Chhattisgarh Police Training Academy is frowning upon policewomen in jeans.

Not just jeans, though. Apparently, they’re not supposed to wear slacks, leggings or any kind of western outfit during office hours. The funny thing is, most policewomen on active duty are actually supposed to be wearing pants. They don’t go chasing robbers (or alleged Naxals, for that matter) in sarees.

This rejection of ‘western’ denim is confined to its appearance on women’s bodies, incidentally. Male police officers are not obliged to do their bit for the preservation of Indian culture. Which makes me wonder — what were the two cops — now suspended — wearing when they molested school teachers in Rajgarh? And what were the male cops wearing when they were torturing Soni Sori? Were they in their khaki uniform pants or denim?

The Chhattisgarh police have been busy with other kinds of problematic actions too. There are allegations that one young man in Raipur was beaten up by the police, and he suffered hearing loss as a result. One Anwar Hussain was beaten up allegedly after he asked the chief minister Raman Singh a fairly reasonable question at a rally. The question was about rice production.

Perhaps Raman Singh wasn’t responsible for the thrashing. He may have asked the cops to just remove the guy who asked the question. But it was not the smartest thing to do. Especially when he’s just made the appalling public statement that a father should be punished for crimes committed by murderer or rapist sons, because it is daddy’s fault for passing on bad DNA. Clearly, his views on crime and punishment are a bit wonky.

At any rate, rice seems to be sore point with Raman Singh. Other reports suggest that he had yelled at a journalist who asked a question about rice procurement. Which wasn’t such a smart thing to do. When a politician lashes out at those who raise questions, it just confirms everyone’s worst suspicions. So, now, I’m really starting to wonder what’s going on with rice in the troubled state of Chhattisgarh.

Because troubled it surely is. If Raman Singh was serious about fixing it, he’d get serious about rice. He might look at reports coming in from citizens, and hear of people in Surguja district who have not been paid their dues for six months. He would hear of anganwadi workers in Bastar who have not been paid for months.

He might hear that forest-dwelling people would prefer not to have agricultural universities, as minister Sharad Pawar seems to be promising. They might think that they already know their agriculture. They might prefer it if forest land was not given over to coal mining.

Raman Singh would do well to prepare himself for criticism in coming weeks. If the India Against Corruption workers are to be believed, they’re busy digging up dirt in the state because they believe that “Corruption is the root cause behind the Maoist problem.”

I don’t know about the Maoists, but the people of ‘affected’ districts like Dantewada probably don’t want a college for the unemployed, which Raman Singh seems to be offering. I think they would prefer not to be made unemployed in the first place.

First published here.

6 comments:

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मुझे लगता है कि दिल्ली में बैठकर एक खास किस्म का ओपिनियन बनाना और उसे लेकर चलना सही नहीं है, माओवाद के लिए रमन सिंह को जिम्मेदार ठहराना तो बिल्कुल नहीं, मैं रमन सिंह की कई नीतियों का विरोधी हूँ लेकिन कम से कम इस बात से सहमत नहीं हूँ कि वो अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतंत्रता के विरोधी हैं। आपका तहलका में अमृतसर के स्वर्ण मंदिर पर लेख पढ़ा था, बहुत खूबसूरत था लेकिन इस लेख ने निराश किया है।

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