Slipping on oil
Sir — It had seemed as if the petroleum minister, Ram Naik, and Arun Shourie, the disinvestment minister, were taking turns to get the better of each other over the issue of the disinvestment of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited. With any luck, Shourie will hopefully have the last laugh now with his proposal to split the other oil major, Indian Oil, and sell its retail business (“Shourie springs selloff surprise”, Oct 4). But one thing is clear — while one is sure of his priorities, the other is all at sea. Ram Naik, who was named in the petrol pump allotment scandal just last year, is trying to scuttle an economic exercise aimed at bailing out the economy, even if only partly. All he can think about is his private constituency and how to perpetuate his own influence— the fate of the country at large does not worry him. Thankfully, Shourie has been able to use his ingenuity to bring in privatization by the back door.
Swaraj Basu, Calcutta
Sir — Such is the media’s bias while reporting on cases of sexual and dowry harassment, that it has for long overlooked a crime of a somewhat similar nature on men. The editorial, “Scarlet and black” (Sept 13), therefore came as a welcome relief, touching on the pitiable condition of husbands who have been victims of harassment and torture by their wives. If highlighting the problem takes us any nearer to a solution, it will come as a boon to these men.
Women are fortunate in having a number of organizations to help and counsel them in cases of harassment or violence. But society refuses to consider the possibility that a man too could be harassed by his wife, and feel insecure and helpless. The police too rarely accept the statements of such men. Given their pre-conceived notions, the police would much rather arrest the man than the actual guilty.
Sadly some women take advantage of the many provisions of the law meant to protect them. Principle among these is section 498A of the criminal procedure code, which has been misused by women who think women’s liberation means they can get away with anything. Possibly the most glaring loophole in the law is to make the arrest of a husband on mere suspicion of harassing his wife for dowry, non-bailable.
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — The report, “Save me, cries husband” (Sept 13), and the editorial on the same issue, is a reminder of certain grim realities. Aniruddha Sen is definitely not alone; of late there have been many reports of upper class families misusing the loopholes in the criminal procedure code to extract large sums from husbands in the name of alimony. The problem is aggravated because dowry-harasment is a non-bailable offence, and there is little room for husbands to defend themselves. Thus a single allegation against an innocent can ruin his reputation and his career. It is strange that the vocal women’s cells across the country hardly ever come to the rescue of these oppressed men.
Dilip Dutta, Calcutta
Sir — Aniruddha Sen’s case is neither isolated nor rare. Atrocities on men by women have always happened. And it is also not as if men cannot retaliate; they can, but are tied down by social mores and a biased law. Everyone is quick to conclude that the woman is wronged, and the man in the wrong. For example, in many cases, a conviction is handed down to the man on a “rape” charge, when it was clearly a case of premarital sex with mutual consent. There are other cases where the man is punished on the argument that he has cohabited with a women promising marriage and then backed out. But that does not stand because everybody says a lot of things they don’t mean. Also, someone we find attractive at first might not seem so after a while. Then there is also the question of incompatibility. After all, people renege on their marriage vows.
Consider the case of Debasish Mitra, who was directed by the Calcutta high court to stay at his in-laws’ house for a week on the offence of having tortured his handicapped wife for dowry. In its efforts to ensure justice, the court has taken recourse to humilation. In this case, it was evident that the marriage had failed and it would have been logical to grant a divorce.
The courts’ biggest failure is their refusal to accept the intricacies underlying human relationships.
S. Saha, Calcutta
Sir — The editorial, “Home in law” (Sept 22), sheds light on a grossly unjust tradition in our society namely that after marriage a woman is expected to live with her husband’s family and accept the members of that family and its ways. Times are changing and so are family set-ups. More and more couples are now opting to set up house away from their parents’. Then again, there are many men who choose to settle with their wives’ family — and society thinks nothing of such men.
The high court ruling that women have an equal right to decide where to stay after marriage and that the desire to stay with the husband away from his family home cannot be reasons to file for divorce is definitely laudable.
But in appreciating this apparently fair ruling, we should not forget that in many cases, the groom’s parents are perfectly amiable and it is the bride who choses to stay separately, abandoning all duty towards their parents. The neglect of the aged in our country is well-known and there are not even enough old-age homes where they can seek refuge. So where will these hapless people go'
Sujit De, Sodepur
Sir — Sankar Sen is right in observing that the anti-dowry provisions in the Indian Penal Code have either not been used or they have been misused (“Unequal marriages”, Sept 13). It is the latter which has drawn the attention of the judiciary and thus it is not surprising that women’s organizations have protested against a Delhi high court lawyer’s suggestion that dowry offences be made “bailable and compoundable”.
Sen gives the example of Nisha Sharma who was in the public eye for her decision to back out of a marriage because of the dowry demands being made on her parents. Two questions need to be answered here. Why did she change her mind suddenly at the last moment when the purchases for her dowry had already been made' Was the groom’s side of the story given a hearing' There is reason to believe that Nisha did not want to marry him at all, because right after this episode, she married another man who, supposedly, was in love with her. Can this not be considered a case of subtle exploitation'
Nutan Agarwal, Bokaro