To jolt me out of a stupor…

…it takes something like this. Just in case you aren’t the link-clicking type, this is what ‘Justice’s Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia of the Supreme Court of India have to say about the Janani Suraksha Yojana:

You cannot go on producing children and then make the taxpayer pay for it. We have to have some curb on population also

And in case you are wondering what the JSY is, this is what the ‘Guidelines for Implementation’ say:

 Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) under the overall umbrella of National
Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is being proposed by way of modifying the
existing National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS). While NMBS is linked
to provision of better diet for pregnant women from BPL families, JSY
integrates the cash assistance with antenatal care during the pregnancy
period, institutional care during delivery and immediate post-partum
period in a health centre by establishing a system of coordinated care by
field level health worker. The JSY would be a 100% centrally sponsored
scheme.

So, what is this all about? This was the most detailed report I could find so far, and I’ll summarise again: there was once a scheme called the National Maternity Benefit Scheme, which provided that pregnant women above the age of 19, who lived ‘below the poverty line’ (BPL), for their first two pregnancies, could enrol with their local primary health centres for free maternal healthcare, and were given certain benefits to facilitate their better nutrition. This scheme was replaced by the JSY, which was more ambitious, but as badly inplemented, apparently, as the earlier one. (Didn’t I mention it was badly implemented? Well, it is the default state for government welfare schemes, after all) So there is a petition before the court, asking it to direct better implementation. The Government submits that the scheme has been modified to make its benefits available to all BPL women, not just those below 19, or just those having less than two kids.

And the hon’ble Supreme Court, reserving the order on the petition, sees fit to remark that providing healthcare to poor young women ought to be conditional on their observing State-recommended family planning norms. Because, of course, poor women below the age of nineteen are choosing to get pregnant so that upper-class judges’ salaries can be taxed to pay for their healthcare. And not only that, they are doing it again and again and again!!

How dare they!

time to read

Before I start posting about work (as I’m very likely to start doing; I’m having a hard time not blogging about it!), I thought I should tell you about a certain classroom I visited in Bangalore. This was a first-year class of law students in a five-year course. I was asked to talk to them about ‘anything at all’.

And what a class it was! We started a little tentatively, but then got on fine. I think I might have gotten a little bit tedious, but they were all very polite about it. And at the end of the hour, a kid (who is going to grow up gorgeous, by the way) came and asked me how to find time to read fiction and stuff while in college.

And that set me thinking. Even with people who aren’t in college any more, I increasingly get a “nothing, really – no time, you know” response to the old “so, what have you been reading lately?” conversation-opener. Has everyone stopped reading or what?!

(I hope not; what will I do for conversation, then?)

But back to that classroom and that going-to-be-gorgeous kid. I never had a problem finding time to read stuff in college – no one I knew did, except maybe around the time we wrote the PIL exam. And I don’t think that was only because we ignored the class reading lists, either. We either had memberships at Eloor or that (then) new place in Vijayanagar, we borrowed books off people who had memberships, or we just borrowed books and I, for one, learnt not to lend mine around.

So, have class reading lists become heavier? Have teachers become stricter about having read the stuff on the lists? Why do people tell me they have no time to read?! 

And finally…

an ad campaign that made me feel good!

There are lots of goodies in there: check out the Evolution film, the true colours campaign for the self-esteem fund, and the pro-age commerical, among other things.

Wikipedia has information about the commercial, and a warning that Unilever’s quite the hypocrite. A much better critique of the campaign is at Salon, and Twisty has a word that describes things like this: ’empowerful’.

It’s still a feel-good campaign, innit?

Domestic violence goes colourful*

Apology/Update: Turns out it wasn’t Benetton (see Jill’s comment below). The ads were never sanctioned by them. So you could replace this post with a “someone’s so sick they think this is a practical joke”.

 Blr Bytes again points me to something thought-provoking: a Benetton ad(?) “issued in public interest”, part of a series called ‘Colours of Domestic Violence‘.

My first instinctive response was ‘ugh’. And the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that it’s the right response. The ads are not just in bad taste, they trivialise and use domestic violence in a way that is absolutely repulsive.

Each of them is a typical Benetton ad – good looking models wearing trendy Benetton clothes against a plain background and just the little green block with the UCB tagline to identify the brand. Except, it isn’t the UCB tagline. It says “colours of domestic violence”. And the good looking models are wearing, in addition to the trendy clothes, bruises.

What do I see, when I see the ad? (No, I’m not putting up the visual: follow the link above if you want to see it.) I see Benetton clothes worn by domestic violence survivors. Benetton first, clothes next, survivors last. Well, you may say, that’s not necessarily true; someone might see the domestic violence first, or the survivor first.

I don’t think so. The focus of each of the ads is on the clothes: they occupy the most space, are centrally placed, the models are obviously showing off the clothes: posture, body language, all indicative of a typical clothing ad. The logo is right where you’d expect it to be, and you know this is Benetton even without reading the tagline or the ‘public interest’ line at the bottom.

All of that makes me assume the point of the ads is to sell the clothes, piggybacking on the shock value of bringing Domestic Violence into the open.

Another campaign in the recent past talked about Domestic Violence: remember Ponds’ Chehra kahe dil ki baat? The reason I wasn’t disgusted by that campaign was the demonstrated good faith effort to address the issue at hand: the ad announced that part of the revenues from the products were going to go towards helping Domestic Violence survivors. Product and brand placement were discreet and secondary.

Domestic Violence is pain, humiliation, abuse. It is stigma and self-doubt and ugliness. It is a lot of things that need to be talked about, but it is not a vehicle to sell clothes on.

*Cross-posted. Sort of.

Shut up, Mr. Police Officer

Gautam (formerly known as Blr Bytes) points me to the mind-numbingly-misogynistic Police Statement of The Day:

For a typical rape case the judgment is fine but in cases like this the accused should be given a chance to repent provided the victim also wants to give him the chance,” says T S Chakraborty, Additional IG, Prisons, Orissa

He’s talking about the SC judgement in which the court said that proposing marriage to the victim wasn’t a reason to condone rape. You know why? Because rape is not a compoundable offence. You know what it means? It means the injury of rape is not that of leaving the woman ‘tarnished’ and ‘unfit for use’, but that of sexual assault. The Supreme Court recognised that.

And much as Mr. Chakraborty would like to think otherwise, non-compoundable means non-compoundable, not “non-compoundable except where the prison officer, in all his misogynistic ignorance of the law, thinks it ought to be compoundable”.

“influenced by some western culture”

Today’s paper carried, on the front page, news of a student killed in a campus shooting, right here in my very own city. Investigation details were in the local news on an inside page. And guess what the Assistant Commissioner of Police has to say?

 We’re yet to ascertain who is at fault but it seems the students are influenced by some western culture of sorts

Right. You see, we don’t have campus gangs here. Those scenes in our movies, from as far back as I can remember, the ones that go like the first couple of paragraphs of that news report, they are depictions of ‘western culture’. Western culture is bad, you see, bad bad bad.

Censorship

There was the blog ban. Then there was the Orkut ban. Now, it’s apparently Youtube.

And the parallels between what’s in the news and what’s in my life continue.

Look at the last post. It was first posted on TomaytoTomahto. Now read the comments thread there. It’s rather two-dimensional; a conversation of sorts. Now, go to Nita’s post.  You notice there’s no trackback there to either Canace or Tomatoes? And there are only two comments from me? Well, I tried to trackback, and it wasn’t approved. I’ve commented thrice before, and she’s disapproved the comments. She approved the two later comments, which only asked questions and didn’t express any opinion on what she’d said.

Let’s look at her comment policy:

Any comment which is personal in nature either about me or any of the other commentators will not be published.

Fair enough. But my comments weren’t personal; they were about her post, and my disagreements with it. You can check: they’re on Tomatoes. And she disapproved them, nonetheless. Her blog, her wish, you might say. But I’m entitled to know why, no? If I don’t agree with state censorship, surely private censorship is as problematic? Got me thinking, that did. Here’s my take on why her censorship of my comments/post trackbacks are problematic.

Where I come from, trackbacks are an advanced form of referencing. Which means they show my readers where I picked up what I’m writing about, and give them a chance to examine what I’m saying in the light of the material, like normal referencing, but also provide her readers a chance to examine what other people are saying on the subject.

Now, she hasn’t yet figured out how to prevent me linking to her post, so my readers can still go back. But if my trackback doesn’t appear in her comments thread, her readers cannot see that people are disagreeing with her. So she would rather spoonfeed her readers what she thinks are appropriate views. Which would be okay if she had an honest statement to that effect in her comments policy, but this way, people think her comments thread is representative of responses to a post like that, and it quite simply isn’t. 

So, while we discuss state censorship, it might be worthwhile to examine our own acts of censorship: private, personal paternalisms that we all perpetuate. After all, any form of censorship, by the State or by private individuals, can only be justified when the process leading up to it, the premises underlying it, and its effects, are open to scrutiny.