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Absurd to say returning awards is paid propaganda: Shantha Sinha

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Shantha Sinha

Jamshedpur: Child rights activist and Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Shantha Sinha says it is “absolutely absurd” to say that returning state awards as a show of dissent in the ongoing debate over intolerance in the country was “a paid propaganda”.

“I’m as worried as most in the country on the issue that there is polarisation that is happening through national discourse, especially going against the very mettle of the Indian Constitution – diversity,” Sinha told IANS in an interview here, where she is attending ‘Samvaad’, a pan-India tribal conclave.

Sinha added it was “absolutely absurd to say that people are returning awards because it’s a paid propaganda”.

Though she did not name anyone, her comment was obviously a retort to union ministers V.K.Singh and Arun Jaitley, who trashed both the debate on intolerance and the return of awards by artists and intellectuals.

“This particular debate (on intolerance) is no debate. It is the unnecessary creation of very imaginative minds who are being paid with a lot of money,” Minister of State for External Affairs Singh told reporters on the sidelines of the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

“Those returning awards are playing politics by other means. Follow their tweets and their stances on various social and political issues. You will find a lot of rabid anti-BJP elements in them,” Jaitley told reporters on October 29.

“I had already called it a manufactured rebellion. I stand by my phrase. And I think, the events as they are unfolding only indicate that kind of manufacturing is going on at faster speed,” Jaitley said when asked about artists returning awards to protest growing “intolerance”.

Stoutly defending the artists and intellectuals, Shantha Sinha said returning state awards was a form of protest and a way of making a statement that one was against what was happening in the country. She added that it was a way of creating consensus in the country in favour of a secular India.

“Due to the present kind of politics, there is no mature understanding of our society,” she said.

Sinha, who served as the first chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) for two consecutive terms, was also honoured with the civilian honour, Padma Shri.

Asked if she would return her awards, Sinha answered in the negative, saying the awards were for the “idea that children should not be allowed to work, and not for me alone”.

The anti-child labour activist remarked that the amendments mooted by the current government to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, which allow children below 14 years of age to work in “family enterprises” or entertainment industry, were “extremely disappointing”.

She said it “reinforces invisibilization of child labour”.

Sinha added that it was the state’s responsibility to ensure a child gets all the support he or she needs so as to go to school and not to open him or her to greater exploitation.

“Need of the hour is to make a separate ministry for children, considering we have 420 million children in the country, out of which at least a 50 percent are school dropouts,” the activist said, and added that it would also be a way of fighting the thinking that it is a woman’s job alone to take care of children.

Sinha also expressed opposition to the move to lower the legally defined age of a “juvenile” as an adult for purposes of trial in the heinous crime. In the December 2012 Nirbhaya rape case, it was the “failure of the state to give guidance to the child”, she said.

Expressing discontentment with Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi’s move to allow the Juvenile Justice Board to decide whether a child had reformed or not, Sinha said, “It is against the very mettle of juvenile justice system, which is to help a child reform and give him/her a second chance at life.”

(Bhavana Akella, IANS)

 

Next Story

Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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VOA
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. Pixabay

For people streaming in from rural areas around New Delhi, the first stop is a collection of busy city intersections where contractors select daily wage labor from the crowds of young and old waiting every morning to get work.

Many standing at these intersections say they get work for barely half the month. “I have the ability to work hard. I never turn down any work. But I would prefer to get a cleaner, permanent job,” says 29-year-old Tek Chand. “The problem is one day I have money to buy rations, the next day I don’t.” Like millions of others, he migrated from his village three years ago to seek work and a better life in the city.

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA
As India prepares for general elections on April 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being attacked by opposition parties for failing to make good on a promise he made in 2014 to create millions of jobs for India’s huge young population. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rebuts that criticism and says India is generating new opportunities as it becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies.

Job creation is a massive challenge for a nation with one of the world’s youngest populations — half the country’s 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25.

Recent data shows that joblessness has soared to record high levels. Opposition parties have made joblessness one of their principal election planks and have accused the prime minister of failing the estimated 8 to 10 million young people who enter the workforce every year.

The independent Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that unemployment reached 7.2 percent last month and that 11 million jobs were lost in 2018. With a working population of 500 million, that translates into more than 30 million people waiting for jobs. An unpublished official survey that showed unemployment at a 45-year-high has also been widely quoted by Indian media.

India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019.
India’s main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019. VOA

On the campaign trail, the head of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Modi’s principal challenger, talks repeatedly about a “jobs crisis.”

“Our government is refusing to accept that we have a massive crisis and potential disaster in front of us,” Gandhi told a group of university students in New Delhi recently, many who will be first time voters.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. It points to a recent industry report that jobs have been created in the medium and small sectors.

The BJP says millions of people have found work in the transport and infrastructure sectors or as delivery boys in booming online businesses as India becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. They point out that the issue is not jobs but livelihoods, and point to millions of people who are not counted in job data.

They are self-employed people like cab owner Chain Pal Singh. As the app based taxi business boomed, Singh’s friend, who operated a cab, persuaded him to quit his job and take out a loan to buy a car. His decision has paid off — in four years he has earned enough money to invest in two more cabs.

Singh says he is much better off than when he held a job. “I used to earn about $225 dollars a month. Now in some months I can earn almost double that amount. Its beneficial for me.”

Following defeats in key state elections in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament last month, “This truth has to be acknowledged. The unorganized sector has 80 to 85 percent of the employment.” He pointed to millions of commercial vehicles sold in recent years and questioned if they had not generated jobs for drivers.

Economists admit India’s large informal sector has made it difficult to calculate employment, but they say joblessness or underemployment remains the country’s biggest challenge. While scarcity of jobs is not a new problem, two disruptive economic steps in the last two years exacerbated the problem.

In 2016 a sweeping currency ban meant to tackle the problem of illegal cash, dried up jobs as it created huge currency shortages, particularly in small businesses and in the countryside. A poorly-implemented tax reform known as the Goods and Services Tax a few months later was another blow to businesses.

Meanwhile, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign, which aimed at making India a manufacturing hub like China, has made a slow start and sluggish labor-intensive sectors cannot cater to growing numbers of job seekers.

“We can’t keep patting ourselves on the back that we are the fastest growing economy specially if all these other indicators are not growing at a rate that will absorb the growing labor force,” says Santosh Mehrotra, a human development economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

Also Read: The Mental Health ‘Epidemic’: About Six in Ten Teen Say, They Feel A Lot Of Pressure To Get Good Grades

He points out that exports, another sector that created a number of jobs has also not been performing well.

As the campaign heats up, the opposition will try to keep the spotlight on jobs, or lack of them, even as the BJP tries to focus on national security following a recent confrontation with Pakistan. The final verdict on whether to give Prime Minister Modi a second term in office will be delivered by millions of voters when they cast their ballots. (VOA)

One response to “Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?”

  1. If the employment picture is bleak despite the construction of so many more Kilometers of roads, railways, air ports, bridges, toilets and other infrastructures compared to the five or even ten years of UPA government, imagine where we would be if we had UPA III government .