Public safety is a distant dream

The latest Central budget brought a fresh cheque for the Nirbhaya fund, leading to debates about existing fund utilization and efficiency. At both the Central and state levels, the efforts around women's safety are focused on front-end solutions - closed-circuit televisions, street lighting, women police and even an increase in the quantum of compensation for survivors of sexual assault.

Special entry

The granting of citizenship has had a fractious history in India. The latest rumblings between the Asom Gana Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party - the two are in an alliance in Assam - bear testimony to the tensions that are latent in the idea of citizenship. The AGP has stated that it would resist the Centre's attempts to bestow legal recognition on Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh. Incidentally, the citizenship (amendment) bill - radical changes have been proposed to amend the existing provisions by the ruling BJP - seeks to make six religious communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh eligible for Indian citizenship. 
Apr 19, 2018 00:00 IST

Needless pain

Should a city in the 21st century be helpless in a squall? The fury of the storm last Tuesday evening - one of the strongest since Aila - was certainly fearsome and it is not surprising that the city should have to wait for it to blow over. But the number and manner of deaths and the scale of destruction have to be confronted and questioned. This is not the first storm to have hit Calcutta and its neighbourhood, and certainly not so in the season of thunderstorms. Within the city, deaths from falling trees, collapsing structures and electrocution during storms and heavy rainfall have been occurring for years. Such deaths are somehow always written off as a kind of collateral damage in an act of god, as though no human being can prevent them. While the city and state administrations are certainly responsible for letting such incidents pass without any obvious effort to prevent them from happening again, it is also true that there is little pressure from citizens to compel a change in this attitude. Is it fatalism or escapism? Death and destruction in the face of a natural disturbance can occur in spite of the best efforts, but that is no reason not to shore up against them.
Apr 19, 2018 00:00 IST

Dust and ashes; Life lost; Sort it out; Parting shot

Dust and ashes

• Sir — In "Hidden behind the shelves" (April 13), Swapan Chakravorty highl... | Read»

Life lost

• Sir — Media reports suggest that the Bengal tiger, which had strayed into... | Read»

Sort it out

• Sir — Several public interest litigations questioning the prerogatives of... | Read»

Parting shot

• Sir — It is quite common to see mounds of sand and stone chips lying on t... | Read»

Apr 19, 2018 00:00 IST

Shifting back, slowly

The Hindutva bubble has clearly burst. Not that efforts will not be made to form another bubble before the 2019 elections, but the one that had formed in the run-up to the 2014 elections and had carried the Bharatiya Janata Party to power is over.
Prabhat Patnaik Apr 18, 2018 00:00 IST

For the sake of a better harvest

Farm distress was already apparent when members of 184 farmers' organizations hailing from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Telangana staged demonstrations in the national capital. Their distress and the resultant unrest were not taken note of as it should have been at that time. However, the election results in Gujarat and the 'Long March' in Mumbai have underlined the significance of the problem which demands urgent attention and national priority.

Muffled voices

When it rains, it pours. This does not bode well for teachers in the colleges and universities of West Bengal, who are now likely to be at the receiving end of a number of draconian rules drawn up by the state government. The draft of the rules, put together by a committee in accordance with the West Bengal Universities and Colleges (Administration and Regulation) Act, 2017, not only impinges on their constitutional right to go to court against the authorities, but also prevents them from speaking to or writing in the media without prior approval. Published articles that are deemed critical of the Centre or state dispensation are likely to invite punishment, as will any behaviour that is perceived to be subversive. Teachers will not even be allowed to hire a lawyer; any grievances they might have against their employers can only be placed before a tribunal set up by the government. If the government's muscle-flexing were not pronounced enough already, the new rules also state that it shall have a say in the recruitment process - a job that was hitherto the prerogative of the universities. These are ominous signs, for they lay bare the State's determined attempt to encroach upon the autonomy of educational institutions and the freedom of teachers.
Apr 18, 2018 00:00 IST

Not enough

Consistency is rare in the White House these days. For it has a rather temperamental occupant. However, in a rare show of steadfastness, the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, carried out his threat of launching an attack against sites allegedly involved in the production and storage of chemical agents in Syria. The military intervention - bombs and missiles were employed - had become necessary after Syrian forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad caused international outrage by using chemical weapons in Douma. The transgression is denied by Syria and Russia; Moscow has been by Mr Assad's side during the civil war that has ravaged Syria for years now. But relief agencies and the World Health Organization have claimed that they have credible proof of the butchery. The photographs of dying children frothing from the mouth in agony may have prompted Mr Trump to act.
Apr 18, 2018 00:00 IST

Rough ride; Without shame; Treat better

Rough ride

• Sir — In recent times, app-based cab services like Ola and Uber have been... | Read»

Without shame

• Sir — After the nation and the Opposition parties rose in clamour against... | Read»

Treat better

• Sir — Given the present state of healthcare in West Bengal, where the doc... | Read»

Apr 18, 2018 00:00 IST

Missing the mark

There is no correlation between countries and patriotism. Of the 60-odd countries I have visited, citizens of most - for instance, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Canada or Singapore - would hardly ever give a thought to patriotism. They are no less fond or proud of their country than we; but they would think it crazy to make a show of it. Indians do make a ritual of patriotism; one only has to think of the poor school kids who have to get up early on Independence Day, rush to some common field and sit for hours waiting for some politician to give them a supremely boring speech.
Ashok V. Desai Apr 17, 2018 00:00 IST

Ides of March

March carved a special niche for itself in India's crop calendar. Last month, the district of Sikar in Rajasthan witnessed a terrible hailstorm that caused damage to harvest-ready wheat, life and livestock. Several districts of North Bengal and parts of northern Bihar have tasted the fury too. The magnitude of crop loss and the resultant economic downturns in agrarian lives are being speculated on.
Sriroop Chaudhuri and Mimi Roy Apr 17, 2018 00:00 IST


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