A split wide open
Sir — If the cabinet has already taken the “unpleasant” decision to entertain foreign direct investment in the print media, why is there so much consternation at opening the electronic media more widely to Rupert Murdoch (“Cabinet to hear Murdoch news”, Oct 21)' Especially, since this media tycoon already dominates the show' The haggling over the percentage of equity does not seem to be the crux of the question. Nor, the divisions of “non-news” and “non-current” affairs. The main problem with the decision is that the beaming of English news and current affairs is still very much monopolized by one particular news agency and, as in the case of the corporate sector, the Indian bureaucracy and its political masters are in two minds about the efficacy of doing away with such indigenous monopolies. Therefore, they are intent on tying the hands of the foreigner with committees that will raise questions every time there is a change of “character”. The question is, for how long'
N. Sinha, Calcutta
Rites of passage
Sir — Sankar Sen’s “Trading the miserable” (Oct 15) raises some disturbing questions. Sen implies that prostitutes are distressed because there are no stringent laws against prostitution. He also implicitly equates trafficking with prostitution per se. Does Sen know that every day, hundreds of women are rounded up from the streets, brothels, hotels and private residences on real or trumped up charges of immoral trafficking' He says that “pimps and clients” are not arrested and laws should be made to prosecute them also. The reality is the exact opposite.
One does not actually have to be a prostitute to be arrested or harassed by law. Any couple anywhere can be picked up and charged under the Immoral Trafficking of Persons (Prevention) Act. In Calcutta, young men and women are often arrested for standing and talking on the streets and near parks. I have seen this happen regularly in my locality, near Vivekananda Park. An acquaintance got nabbed in front of the Calcutta Rowing Club for talking to his lady friend at 7 in the evening. And here we have an erstwhile human rights top brass advocating stricter laws and bemoaning the low priority accorded to the “crime”. It is to be noted that as per the Indian Police Act, 1861, the police can literally do anything to anyone, at least for one night.
Sen refers to laws in the United States of America. No matter how stringent the law there, there is a basic hiatus. The US police does not equate prostitution with the evil of trafficking and hence they would never harass ordinary couples. Besides, the US human rights institutions would never allow it, unlike ours.
Sandeep Mukherjee, Calcutta
Sir — Sankar Sen is right when he points out that anti-trafficking legislation in our country has proved ineffective. There are countries where prostitution has been legalized, more so in southeast Asia, where countries promote sex tourism. Immoral trafficking is however not a new problem. But perhaps we need to make a distinction between those selling sex willingly and those who are being forced into the trade. In the former case, it will be unjust to punish either the prostitute or the client, since they are both voluntary partners in the act.
Indian law also has to deal with the hordes of women who cross the borders to join the flesh trade here. And they do it willingly. On one recent visit to a red light area in Calcutta along with some non-government organizations, we talked to several Nepalese girls serving as prostitutes who said that for them it had been a conscious decision. Contrary to this there was also a Bangla-deshi woman interviewed, who said she had been cheated by touts and sold to a brothel.
We should probably be more specific by asking for laws for pimps and recruiters who reap the maximum benefit from trafficking in women and children. Laws should provide exemplary punishment for them.
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta
Sir — Frailty, said William Shakespeare, thy name is woman. Perhaps in the same vein we can say, folly, thy name is man. Brinda Karat’s “Delivering anything but justice” (Oct 17) exemplifies this statement. Men function under the supreme belief that they are right, always. They are not. And every time they are disproved, they use physical force to alter that truth. The same thing happened in Bhuvaneswari Devi’s case, where she was threatened with gang rape for her courage to remain the lone female teacher among the males. The encouraging thing is that Bhuvaneswari Devi decided to fight the male order. And that her voice from distant Sankarikala got heard also gives us hope.
Oeendri Biswas, Calcutta
Sir — Given that Bhuvaneswari Devi could not have conducted her “sexual act” in the school without the assistance of the male teacher, why is it that the latter was not given the same brutal judgment given to her'
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge
Lost and found
Sir — On October 3, as I was about to board a Tollygunge bound train at the Esplanade Metro station around 2.47 pm, my spectacle fell into the gap between the platform and the train. I went to the station master and requested help. He directed me to another employee who in turn instructed his fellow employees to look into the problem. I was told that the operation was dangerous although I could not fathom why, since the rail close to the platform does not have live power. Anyway, they agreed to retrieve my glasses only if I paid Rs 50. Which I did. Is this customer service'
Francis Louis, Calcutta