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Uber vs Orbit: Justice is about uniformity in judgments, not hypocrisy

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By Gaurav Sharma

The body of the 13-year-old girl who died after being thrown off the bus by molesters in Punjab’s Moga district still awaits cremation.

The family of the teenage girl has refused to give the body for post-mortem or cremate her, till the government takes strict action against the molesters.

However, apart from implicating the molesters, the family wants action to be taken against the owners of the bus company.

The incident draws parallels with the Uber rape case that happened in December last year. Both the incidents bring up the issue of safety and security of women while using public/private transport.

Whereas strict dictatorial action was taken up against Uber, no substantial action has been taken yet against the bus owner in this particular case, till the time this article was written.

Does it speak well for the kind of justice handed out to the victims of such heinous crimes?

The bus, from which the teenage girl was tossed out along with her mother, belonged to Orbit Aviation, a company co-owned by Sukhbir Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab.

Sukhbir’s father and Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal, said, “Unfortunately, the vehicle was ours.”

The police, so far, have arrested four persons, including the bus driver, conductor and the helper. However, no action has been taken against the owners.

Punjab DGP, Sumedh Singh Saini, ruled out any questioning of the owners of Orbit Aviation Pvt. Ltd, including Sukhbir Badal.

In stark contrast to the lack of initiative shown by the government so far in the case, the government had gone all out against Uber, when a woman was raped by its cab driver last year.

Apart from questioning Uber on the process of selection of drivers, screening its staff and harassing the management through notices, the Delhi government banned almost all the app-based taxi services.

The government did not stop there; it issued an FIR against Uber under Section 188 and Section 420 in the Indian Penal Code, for failing to provide adequate safety measures and cheating customers.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh had called all the state governments and union territories to ban all web-based taxi services.

“Uber should be considered an accused. Uber is providing services, it has to take responsibility, it should engage drivers only after verification. It is my view,” ex-Home Secretary R. K. Singh had told ANI.

So why the hypocrisy in dealing with the Badals?

For one, they occupy the ‘privileged’ position of being the first persons of Punjab. But, it is more so because they are important allies with the presiding NDA government.

This is not to say that the Badals are guilty of the murder of the girl. Just like taking such over-the-top stringent action against Uber–to the extent of banning the service–was uncalled for, the Badals cannot be held accountable for the death of the girl.

There might have been some transgressions, such as checking the credentials of the staff, the licenses, the permit and verification of police records, for which they certainly should be pulled-up.

But politicizing the issue is uncalled for. Particularly when, opposition parties shout slogans for the resignation of Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal and Union Food Processing Minister and wife of Sukhbir Singh Badal, Harsimrat Kaur.

However, by acting like mute spectators, the Punjab government has missed a golden opportunity to bring out the menace of the corrupt business of private buses into the fore.

Is Sukhbir Badal an honest politician?

Under election fever, leaders resort to all sorts of tactics, often making tall promises, which are mostly left unfulfilled.

The gambit that runs common in the blood of politicians is the attempt to associate with the masses through an infusion of speeches, which advertises their shared and common background with the aam aadmi.

As it turns out, Sukhbir Singh Badal’s proclamation in 2012 of being a humble farmer is one blatant example of false election rhetoric.

Records from the Registrar of Companies show that Badal owns close to 2,4500,000 shares in the bus company, through direct ownership and through his media firm called G-Next media Private Limited, along with ownership through his hospitality firm Orbit Resorts.

Also, as per a Times of India report, Sukhbir’s aviation company owns three flying jets – an eight-seater Cessna 525A jet, another eight-seater Super King Air B 200 and a helicopter Bell 429.

From such disclosures, it hardly seems like the man is an ‘agriculturalist’.

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India Can Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?

A total of 548 global experts on women’s issues , 43 of them from India

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BJP Leader Asks Parents Of A Rape Victim To Express Gratitude To Them
Can India Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?. Flickr

-By Deepa Gahlot

You read with a mixture of alarm and scepticism, the poll report by the London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation that India is the most dangerous country in the world for women, beating Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

According to reports, a total of 548 global experts on women’s issues — 43 of them from India — were asked about risks faced by women in six areas: healthcare, access to economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, and human trafficking. And shockingly, India comes out as the worst!

We see women progressing in every field in India, but, there is also the increasing violence against women and young girls reported every day; not long ago, female tourists felt safe in India; but now, women travelling solo are constantly targeted. Everyday there are reports of the rapes and murders of minor girls, often accompanied by unimaginable torture and mutilation.

There has been outrage in India, and also holes punctured in the survey that has such a small number of respondents, but can we really take an ostrich approach to the condition of women? Even as education and healthcare improve for women — at least in metro cities — the contempt for women is socially and culturally ingrained in the Indian psyche. In a city like Mumbai considered progressive and relatively safe for women, the girl child is unwanted even by many educated and wealthy families. In spite of laws being in place, female foeticide and infanticide is rampant, to the extent that there are large territories where there are no girl children and brides for the men have to be ‘imported’ from other states.  As dowry murders and rapes rise, the more unwanted the girl child becomes.  The fact is that India’s gender ratio is deplorable.

And if the male child is valued over the girl child, he grows up believing that he is special and if he is thwarted in any way, he can resort to violence. In spite of education and exposure to progressive ideas, in the case of rape or sexual violence, the tendency to blame and shame the victim persists.

To give just one small example, in the West, accusations of sexual harassment resulted in united shunning of a man as powerful as Harvey Weinstein and many others in the wake of the #MeToo movement, that helped many women speak out about their experiences.

In India, Malayalam actor Dileep, who has been accused in the abduction and rape of an actress, and was boycotted by the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), was recently reinstated. This caused shock and dismay among women in the film industry.

A statement by a group of over 150 women film practitioners says it like it is, “A body that is meant to represent artistes of the Malayalam movie industry showed complete disregard for its own member who is the victim of this gross crime. Even before the case has reached its conclusion, AMMA has chosen to validate a person accused of a very serious crime against a colleague. We condemn this cavalier attitude by artistes against women artistes who are working alongside them. There is misogyny and gender discrimination embedded in this action.

“We admired and supported the Women in Cinema Collective that was formed by women film artistes in Kerala in the aftermath of the abduction and molestation of a colleague, a top star in the industry. We applaud the WCC members who have walked out of AMMA to protest the chairman’s invitation to reinstate the accused. We pledge our continued support to the Women in Cinema Collective who are blazing a trail to battle sexism in the film industry.

“Cinema is an art form that can challenge deeply entrenched violence and discrimination in society. It is distressing to see an industry that stands amongst the best in the country and has even made a mark in world cinema choose to shy away from using their position and their medium responsibly at this important moment. Today, women form a significant part of the film and media industries, we reject any attempt at silencing us and making us invisible.”

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Indian women. VOA

The preference for male children has had some unexpected ramifications. In a working paper published by the American non-profit, National Bureau of Economic Research, by Northwestern University’s Seema Jayachandran and Harvard University’s Rohini Pande (quoted in Quartz Media), finds that stunting in Indian children could also be blamed on the cultural preference for sons.

“In India, on average, the first child — if he is a son — doesn’t suffer from stunting. But, if the first — and so the eldest — child of the family is a girl, she suffers from a height deficit. And, then, if the second child is a boy, and hence the eldest son of the family, he will not be stunted. This happens because of an unequal allocation of resources to the first child”.

According to the report, “When Jayachandran and Pande compared India and Africa results through this lens, they found that the Indian first and eldest son tends to be taller than an African firstborn. If the eldest child of the family is a girl, and a son is born next, the son will still be taller in India than Africa. For girls, however, the India-Africa height deficit is large. It is the largest for daughters with no older brothers, probably because repeated attempts to have a son takes a beating on the growth of the girls.”

Also read: Has Legal Framework Turned a Blind Eye towards Under-representation of Women in Indian Politics?

In spite of all the Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao rhetoric, the required shift in the male-centric attitude towards a more egalitarian one is simply not happening; or, it is a case of one step forward, two steps backward. The Thomson Reuters Foundation report may be unfair and skewed, but being known as the rape capital of the world does nothing to improve the image of India in the world or even in its own eyes. (IANS)