| Rajasthan village: Too many boys, not enough girls
BBC on India’s sex time bomb
The BBC has interviewed a man in Calcutta who admitted brazenly to trafficking between 150 and 200 young girls a year and earning the equivalent of £700 (about Rs 61,415) on each transaction.
Tracked down to “a dark house in one of Calcutta’s slums”, the man appeared confident that neither the police nor politicians would do anything to impede the trade.
“We have to bribe the local politicians — without their support we can’t do this business,” he told Natalia Antelava, an experienced BBC investigative reporter of Georgian origin who spent weeks checking on “people trafficking in India”.
In the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape, the BBC is focusing on the dark side of India. It warned that listeners to Antelava’s programme, aired on a Radio 4 strand called Crossing Continents, “may find some details of her report disturbing”.
“The police are well aware of what I do,” boasted Calcutta’s Mr Big, speaking in Bengali. “I have to bribe the police in every state. We have to always let the police know how many girls we are taking. We can’t transport the girls without informing the police.”
The girls, aged 10-15, were procured, typically, by his agents working in the villages of the Sunderbans or from across the border in Bangladesh. But, worryingly for parents with young daughters in Calcutta and elsewhere, the net is being cast wider.
“I persuade the parents,” confided the man. “I tell them we will give the girls good jobs in Calcutta or Delhi. Once they are convinced we get them to Calcutta and traffic them. My job is to get them to the domestic placement agencies and then what happens after that is not my concern.”
It appears demand for girls in states such as Haryana and Punjab is being driven by an acute shortage caused by foeticide which, in turn, stems from sex determination by ultra sound technology.
Antelava was present when a girl of 14, a rape victim, was rescued from a house in Haryana. She also visited five villages in the Sunderbans and found each had several families with children missing.
One mother rescued her daughter Debanjana, now 18, from a brothel in Delhi but it was the family which was shunned by neighbours and had their house stoned when the girl returned. The traffickers, local men, had been identified but, after being released on bail, they were now threatening to throw acid into Debanjana’s face unless her mother dropped all charges.
The imbalance in the female-male ratio was unwittingly observed by a British team from Virgin Atlantic Airways which undertook a charity bicycle ride through Rajasthan in late 2011. It was welcomed in one village where there were about 120 boys to 20 girls.
The sex imbalance is “a problem the United Nations describes as of ‘genocidal proportions’”, the BBC said.
The BBC, which has now named the 23-year-old Delhi rape victim and interviewed the woman’s friend and her father, has also turned its attention to sexual assaults in South Africa.
“Here almost 60,000 rapes are reported to the police each year —more than double the number in India, in a far smaller country,” a BBC report said. “Experts believe the true figure is at least 10 times that — 600,000 attacks.”
“At a time when Indians are re-examining their society in the light of a single, horrific incident of gang rape, South Africa seems numb — unable to muster much more than a collective shrug in the face of almost unbelievably grim statistics — seemingly far worse than India’s.”
The report quoted businesswoman and activist Andy Kawa, herself the victim of a gang rape: “Rape is in our culture. There’s silence because of fear, because the perpetrator, most of the time, has the power.”
| Pathbreaking: Stamps to mark the tube’s 150th birthday
The Royal Mail is issuing 10 imaginative stamps to mark London Underground’s 150th anniversary — the first passenger train ran deep under the capital on January 10, 1863.
The network, which has 270 stations, extends 250 miles and carries 1,071 million passengers a year, sustains the capital’s economy.
Trains, which can do 60mph on some stretches, enable commuters to work in central London and live in homes with pretty gardens in the counties of Surrey, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and Buckinghamshire. Many of the stations intersect with British Rail, Docklands Light Railway, London Overland and will do so in future with Cross Rail. All in all, the London Underground provides a blueprint for how Calcutta could develop in the next 20 years.
Thankfully, I have not seen too many people eating and drinking on the Calcutta Metro. In London, English reserve being a thing of the past, passengers think nothing of working their way through hamburgers, fried onions, chips and a fizzy drink. Others rest dirty shoes on seats.
However, given the overcrowding at peak times, there could be a lot more pickpocketing and harassment of women. The range of novels read on the tube is remarkable.
Boris Johnson, the mayor of London and chairman for Transport for London — he cycles everywhere or uses the tube — hailed “the engineering ingenuity of our Victorian forefathers” on “what is arguably the best, and most iconic, underground transport system in the world”.
The biggest problem with the Underground is its prohibitive cost — it’s £1.90 to travel just one stop. This renders what should be cheap public transport a luxury. And by repeatedly going on strike, the bolshy unions have inflated wages for the 19,000 staff employed by the Underground, with drivers on £50,000 a year.
Prajwal Parajuly is currently studying for a masters in creative writing at Kellogg College, Oxford.
Perhaps he should do the teaching.
The Bookseller reported: “Quercus has acquired two books from 26-year-old debut author, Prajwal Parajuly, who becomes the youngest writer at the publisher. Editor-in-chief Jon Riley bought UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, to The Gurkha’s Daughter: Stories, and Land Where I Flee, a novel, for a five-figure sum from Susan Yearwood at the Susan Yearwood Literary Agency.”
I heard the BBC describe Parajuly as “the next big thing in South Asian literature”.
The author has attracted plenty of attention from envious student journalists at Oxford and Cambridge.
| Change for 007? Testing the Glock 17 9mm pistol
This week comes the news that the British have ordered 25,000 of the new Austrian-made Glock 17 Gen 4 pistols. They are to replace the Browning pistols that have done duty for over 40 years. The former are said to be lighter, more accurate and carry 17 bullets to the latter’s 13.
Is it time then for Commander James Bond to update his firearm? Over the years 007 has used many handguns though he has remained partial to his Walther PPK.
| Rising star: Suraj Sharma
In an effort to please the American, Bafta has nominated Hollywood films such as Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln that haven’t even released in the UK. The Bafta awards are on February 10, ahead of the Oscars on February 24.
But Life of Pi, seen in 3-D, has been a big hit — and its juvenile lead, 19-year-old Delhi boy Suraj Sharma, has a good chance of bagging the “Rising Star” award.