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Racial attack on Sonia Gandhi: Are Giriraj Singh’s comments the voice of India?

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Sonia-Gandhi

By Harshmeet Singh

Just when the public was about to forget and move over the scathing comments of Sharad Yadav regarding India’s infatuation towards white skin, Giriraj Singh, a Union Minister went a step further and hit out at the Congress party’s alleged obsession with fair skinned Sonia Gandhi. Here is what he said “If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian lady and not a white-skinned woman, then would the Congress have accepted her leadership?”  While the rising voices of dissent from all corners are inevitable, it would be worth questioning ourselves if Giriraj Singh is being despised just for saying what is actually the harsh reality of our country?

As expected, the minister’s statement was shaped as an attack on the Congress party by the BJP, when it was, in fact, much more than that. While we may raise slogans and put out placards against racist attacks on Indians in western countries, the fact remains that over the years, we, as a nation, knowingly or unknowingly, have imbibed racism deep into our veins. Right from our ‘preference’ for a very fair bride, as highlighted in our matrimonial ads, to the mentality that teaches us to see every African in India as a drug cartel, our love for fair skin and hostility towards dark skin is blatant. While trying to accuse the Congress of being a racist party and choosing their leadership on the basis of skin colour, Giriraj Singh presented the world with a piece of his own demonic thinking.

The loud applause that Singh received from his ‘exclusively men’ audience, after he made the comment, was a testimony to the fact that according to most Indian males, marrying a dark skinned woman would be an unimaginable sin. While the minister of state for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises offered an apology to Sonia Gandhi, interestingly, he is still in denial of the disrespect shelved out to the Nigerian women. The Nigerian envoy to India made no attempts to hide his displeasure over the minister’s remarks. Despite this, no official apology has been offered towards Nigeria. Coming months before the India – Africa summit to be held in New Delhi this year, his comments are sure to hurt India’s plans of coming closer to the African nations and enhancing trade engagement.

Don’t go out in the afternoon! You will turn black!

Multiple spheres of our society exemplify our affinity towards fair skin. Our past as a British colony played a major role in imbibing the superiority of fair skin into our minds. Questioning a white man with the same authority with which a dark skinned man is interrogated, is still a distinct possibility. There are still a number of professions where the colour of the skin is much more important than the qualification held by the person. The dark person, for instance, was considered a perfect choice for a villain in Bollywood movies, in contrast to a fair looking hero. People from the North East being beaten and discriminated in other parts of the country, workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh being cornered in Maharashtra and asked to go back, North Indians being sidelined when they visit South India, are some of the most brutal forms of racism we witness and yet choose to ignore, in our everyday life. The brutal mob attack on three African men at the heavily crowded Rajiv Chowk metro station last year was another rude reminder of what we have become as a society. With Indians giving offensive racial nick names such as ‘chinkee’, ‘mallu’ and ‘kallu’ to their own countrymen, they can’t be expected to do any better with the foreigners.

One of the best excuses made by the parents to stop their kids from going out of the home is ‘Don’t go out in the afternoon! You will turn black!’ A dark coloured skin is projected as a liability from the very childhood and once we grow up, there is no turning back. Many reports show that there are negligible foreign students studying in Indian Universities as compared to a number of other well known countries. This, in fact, is a major factor behind Indian institutions scoring low in world rankings. With India earning a reputation as an unsafe and hostile country for alien races, this number can’t be expected to rise anytime soon.

India is a racist country. Full stop. Did it hurt when you read this? It should. But rather than getting hurt and waiting for the next politician to come up with a similar comment, India would be served much better if our infatuation with fair skin dies and we accept people on the basis of their qualities and not colour. Let us not make Giriraj Singh’s voice the voice of India.

Next Story

Is NYAY Going To Be A Game Changer for Congress?

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers.

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Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress state units given more power for 2019 battle- wikimedia commons

By Amit Kapoor & Manisha Kapoor 

The idea of launching Nyuntam Aay Yojana, a cash transfer scheme that intends to provide Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent Indian families, by the Congress Party if it comes to power, has stirred a debate among the policymakers about whether the move is economically viable or is just a tactic by the Congress Party to garner votes in the upcoming general elections.

The discussions are foreseeable, provided that this intervention to ensure basic income to the poor households will cost the country somewhere between 1.5 per cent to 3.4 per cent of GDP, a number higher than the government’s expenditure on healthcare and education. The implementation of NYAY means an additional cost between Rs 3.6 lakh crore to Rs 7.2 lakh crore per year.

To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. However, this will be a major dent in India’s budget expenditure and will explode the fiscal deficit from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

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An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. Pixabay

Apart from fiscal prudence, the other immediate concern surrounding the scheme is the identification of beneficiaries and the database that will be used for this. There is no official income database available with the government at the individual level and since most of the poor work in unorganised rural areas, there is no direct way of verifying their incomes such as through a payroll or income tax.

The proponents of the approach state that a good starting point could be Socio Economic Caste Census of 2011 if one goes by multi-dimensional aspect of poverty. However, one can’t ignore the fact that even if the scheme defines poverty by assets and not income for quick exclusion rules, the data is outdated. A scheme targeted at reducing poverty can’t use data that is seven-eight years old. Even if one ignores that, it should be noted that there are major methodological issues with how data was collected. This is reflected in the discrepancies that exist in the data collected through SECC and other governmental data. A fresh survey for the identification process will lead to possibilities of corruption as in other targeted schemes. For instance, various studies have shown that many people who are not below poverty line have BPL cards.

One should also keep in mind that there exist significant disparities across Indian states and districts in terms of income levels and affordability of basic needs such as education, healthcare etc. Therefore, the same amount that means a lot to a person living in a low-income state or a state that has good access to public facilities such as public hospitals, schools etc would not be enough for a person trying to make a living in a high-income region. As a result, a prerequisite for such a scheme is a detailed regional level survey on income characteristics of Indian states and districts.

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To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. Pixabay

Another major concern surrounding the scheme is its inflationary implications. It is argued that the act of transferring cash to the target population will boost their purchasing power, which would lead to an increase in demand for goods and services and, thus, push prices upwards. Advocates of the approach have tried to argue that studies around the world present a lot of evidence to the contrary.

An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. However, these evidences should be considered with a pinch of salt. They rest on the assumption that the money will be spent on useful goods, that will help the local economy in becoming more productive. Though this will not be the case always.

Also Read: Food Unites People Across The Globe

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers. This idea is supported by claim that in-kind transfers will help by encouraging the consumption of right things, such as healthy food.

Given India’s concerns about rising unemployment rates, jobless growth and the fact that we need to have effective utilization of our young population to gain a competitive edge over other economies, the promoters are trying to project that NYAY can prove to be a game changer. However, for the Indian economy, a better alternative would be to strengthen the existing public services landscape by removing social, political and personal barriers, along with carrying out structural reforms that leads to creation of more productive jobs. (IANS)