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Monthly Archives: JULY 2018


Will a helmet save a Kaur? Can she have a Kaur?
28.07.18 - VIPIN PUBBY*
Will a helmet save a Kaur? Can she have a Kaur?



THE SHIROMANI GURDWARA PARBANDHAK Committee, considered the parliament of the Sikhs, is up in arms these days on issues related to Sikh women. While it is worked up against the use of the word Kaur by porn star Sunny Leone in the title of her web series, the organisation has also crossed swords with the Chandigarh administration on the issue of making wearing of helmets compulsory for Sikh women riding two-wheelers, except those using turbans.

The SGPC, which is tasked with upholding and spreading the tenets of Sikhism, has asked Essel Entertainment Company, which has produced a biopic on the porn-star-turned-Bollywood actress, to immediately remove the word Kaur from the title. The company is yet to respond to the demand.

Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story of Sunny Leone, the web series, is based on the life and times of by-far-the-most-internet-searched woman in India. It is common knowledge that she was born to a Sikh family in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab and had migrated to the United States as a child. Her emergence as a porn star and foray into Bollywood, which initially raised the hackles of a section of society, is now well-known.

Sikh clerics point out that as per Article XVII of the SGPC’s Sikh Rehat Maryada (code of religious conduct), the name of a newborn should start with the first letter of a hymn picked by a granthi (Sikh priest) from the holy book, and it should be followed by the word Singh for boys and the word Kaur for girls. Thus, the surname has a religious connotation.
 
A spokesman of the SGPC, Daljit Singh Bedi, said that "Kaur is a very respectable and exalted name given to Sikh women by the gurus” and any person who does not follow the tenets of Sikhism should not use the name as it hurts the community’s feelings. He demanded a public apology from Leone.
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DSGMC General Secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa said that as the surname was bestowed by Sikh gurus, it should not be used in depicting the life of a porn artiste.
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The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), too, supported the demand to remove the word Kaur from the biopic. DSGMC General Secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa said that as the surname was bestowed by Sikh gurus, it should not be used in depicting the life of a porn artiste. Istri Akali Dal chief Bibi Jagir Kaur also said that the use of "Kaur” by Leone was denigrating to Sikhs. Leone and Essel are yet to react to the demand, and the web series has already started airing.

Also, though possibly there is little that Sikh organisations and leaders can do about it at this stage, they now have a new axe to grind. There is widespread objection among their rank and file to a rule under the Motor Vehicles Act which earlier exempted women from wearing helmets while driving or riding pillion on two-wheelers inside the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

The decision to exempt all women from wearing helmets in Chandigarh was taken in 1998 when certain Sikh organisations and activists led protests against a directive of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The directive to make helmets compulsory for all women, including Sikh women, was part of a slew of directives that were not made binding on the administration. The organisations representing Sikhs opposed the use of helmets on grounds that Sikh religious tenets do not allow heads of Sikh women to be covered by anything other than the dupatta and the pagri (turban). Since it was felt that to enforce the rule by checking the identity of all women two-wheeler drivers was too humongous a job, the adminis­tration decided to exempt all women from the purview of the rule. While several women riders voluntarily used the safety device, others were content to keep only their coiffure in place.
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Sikh organisations are likely to launch a protest and approach the Supreme Court if the Chandigarh administration notifies the proposed amendments. The issue is unlikely to be resolved any time soon, with Bibi Jagir Kaur quoted as saying, "When death comes even helmets cannot save us.”
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The issue came up again earlier this year when a division bench of the same High Court suo motu took up the question of traffic management in the wake of reports of a rise in the number of accidents. Statistics also revealed that a substantial percentage of road accident victims were women without helmets. While 20 women two-wheeler riders were killed and 79 seriously injured on Chandigarh roads in 2016, 18 lost their lives the following year and 78 sustained injuries during the same period. The High Court observed: "Is there any difference between the skull of a male and a female?” 
 
The High Court issued notice to the administration, seeking a status report. The administration responded by saying that it was considering making helmets compulsory for all except Sikh women who wear turbans. It subsequently proposed an amendment to the Chandigarh Motor Vehicles Rules, 1990, to pave the way for helmets becoming compulsory for women.

The words, "a Sikh woman wearing a turban”, instead of the words, "or a woman”, are proposed to be substituted in Rule 193 of the Chandigarh Motor Vehicles Rules. The administration had invited objections from the general public but has so far refrained from issuing a formal notification.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has taken strong objection to the proposal and has said that the administration is attempting to change the definition of a Sikh woman to mean "only a woman wearing a turban”. Its spokesperson, Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, said that the decision was "absolutely dictatorial, ill-conceived and thoughtless”. "How can the UT administration assume the right to change the definition of a Sikh woman which has been well laid out in the Sikh Rehat Maryada? It is not the UT’s business to change the Rehat Maryada,” he said, and added that the Sikh organisations will meet the prime minister and the National Commission of Minorities to restrain the administration from notifying the new rules.

Dr Cheema has also pointed out a ruling of the Supreme Court in civil appeal No. 3700 of 1999 on September 27, 2004, which said, "If any exemption is granted to any person including Sikh women from any of the Motor Vehicle Rules relating to different states or areas or under any statutory rule, the same shall operate, notwithstanding even the directions of the High Court that all persons including women shall wear helmets.”

Sikh organisations are likely to launch a protest and approach the Supreme Court if the Chandigarh administration notifies the proposed amendments. The issue is unlikely to be resolved any time soon, with Bibi Jagir Kaur quoted as saying, "When death comes even helmets cannot save us.”
 

 

*(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career. This article was also published by indialegalive.com and is being reproduced here with the due permission of the author. - Ed)

 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT




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Digital Disorder; how it is affecting society the world over
23.07.18 - ZUBEIDA MUSTAFA
Digital Disorder; how it is affecting society the world over



EARLIER THIS YEAR, WHO classified video-gaming as a disorder. It is defined in the draft Eleventh Revision of the International Classification of Diseases as a mental health condition. Understandably, controversy has erupted round this move as many experts believe that sufficient data doesn’t exist to support this drastic diagnosis.
 
Besides, the symptoms defined are too broad to be applied to one particular area of engagement. Thus a person may have a strong preference for any activity that he enjoys to the extent that "he does not stop even if there are negative consequences, the compulsion strains his life, health and relationships” — WHO’s definition of the gaming disorder. Definitely more data is needed.

It is, however, a different matter to revisit a variety of social media to see how it is affecting society the world over. We do not necessarily have to study the medical aspect to worry about Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and so on.

It is important to view these entrants in the digital world in the context of communications technology and artificial intelligence (AI) and their impact on human society, politics, the growing economic divide and the lifestyles of people. Social media has dramatically transformed the communication scene for all and sundry.

From oral communication that connected men and women without any help from technology, we have moved over the millennia into the digital age. Even the invention of paper in China and the printing press in Germany did not have the same far-reaching impact on human society as the internet has had.
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It is worrisome how the internet has taken control of human life.
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The change driven by digital technology has been rapid and ubiquitous. This has been possible partly because the social media set out to do just this. The Facebook’s website states its mission "is to give people the power to build community and bring the world together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends … and express what matters to them”. A noble intent no doubt. But as its founder Mark Zuckerberg himself once admitted in an interview, he had not anticipated the course his creation would take.

Within reasonable limits no one would have taken any objection to this activity. The internet has made communication easier and facilitated the work of people looking for information/education. But what I worry about is the way it has taken control of human life. This is by design. Facebook, the oldest of the lot, has nearly 1.45 billion daily active users, WhatsApp has 1bn and Twitter 336 million.

These statistics do not tell us how much time is consumed and exactly what effect this massive interactive exercise daily has on people’s lifestyles, emotional health and physical fitness. Even in terms of bringing the world together, as social media claims to be doing, the results are questionable.

Social media, in its various forms, is a tool of communication, offering advantages that have never been offered in human history. Yet, its utility cannot be taken for granted. Like other similar tools, it carries risks of fraud, breach of privacy and the global consequences of a breakdown or misuse. We have already been witness to Black Monday (1987), when the stock markets crashed, and the 2008 banking crisis. The internet certainly had a role to play on both occasions. With users rapidly becoming its compulsive slaves and the corporate sector increasing its hold over digital space, regulation is becoming more and more difficult.
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From oral communication that connected men and women without any help from technology, we have moved over the millennia into the digital age.
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It is too early to assess the long-term impact of the new narcissistic culture, the loss of privacy, the irresponsible dissemination of disinformation and paradoxically the personal disconnect social media encourages between people living in physical proximity.

The most serious aspect of the social media that is difficult to regulate effectively is its misuse to spread rumours among gullible users who have no means of verifying the information that is disseminated. The Cambridge Analytica scandal conclusively proved that digital information on many social media outlets could be stolen to manipulate data with evil intentions.

Our next worry should be AI that has a symbiotic relationship with the internet. It is now creeping into our daily lives. We should not ignore scientist Stephen Hawking’s words of wisdom: "I believe there is no deep difference between what can be achieved by a biological brain and what can be achieved by a computer. It therefore follows that computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence — and exceed it. That could lead to the eradication of disease and poverty and the conquest of climate change. But it could also bring us all sorts of things we didn’t like — autonomous weapons, economic disruption and machines that developed a will of their own, in conflict with humanity.”

He categorically declared that the outcome was not known. His advice to scientists was to study this phenomenon and find out if AI was going to kill us or not.
 
 

*Zubeida Mustafa is a pioneering and award winning Pakistani journalist who became the first woman to work as assistant editor in Pakistan, she is also the recipient of the Lifetime Award Achievement from the International Women’s Media Foundation. This particular piece appeared in dawn.com and is being reproduced here with the author's due permission. 

 

 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles: 

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_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT




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AN IDEA THAT MILITATES AGAINST FEDERAL STRUCTURE
Simultaneous polls: An idea that must be dumped
20.07.18 - VIPIN PUBBY*
Simultaneous polls: An idea that must be dumped



State Assembly elections are due in four states this year, in double that number of states besides the Lok Sabha elections next year, in three states during 2020 and in six states the following year. There has been no year in the recent past when elections were not held in one state or the other.

That’s one of the major arguments taken by the votaries of those who are seeking simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha as well as state Assemblies. They claim that the top political leaders, and consequently the governments they run, remain constantly in election mode and this ‘diverts’ their attention from developmental works. They also claim that the frequent enforcement of model code of conduct also derails progress and governments refrain from taking harsh decisions with election prospects in mind.

The most prominent among them to make a case for simultaneous elections are none else than President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP has always expressed itself in favour of holding simultaneous elections and had even said in its 2014 manifesto that it would "evolve method of holding Assembly and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously”.

Although the party leaders maintained a studied silence on this issue over the last four years, the re-emergence of the issue in the wake of reports that the Modi government may go in for early elections to Lok Sabha to cut down on anti incumbency, has led to a debate on the feasibility of the idea.
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India is a "Union of States” and its strength lies in its diversity. Each state has its unique identity and priorities. These have their own dynamics besides regional identities and aspirations. It can’t be a one-hat-fits-all situation and would be clearly an anti-democratic measure.
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Other political parties have remained divided over the issue. Congress had opposed the proposal on the grounds that it was ‘impractical’, the left parties too doubt its feasibility while the Trinamool Congress had called it "undemocratic and unconstitutional”. Some of the regional parties like the AIADMK and AGP had backed the BJP stand.

While the country had witnessed simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and Assemblies till 1967, a variety of factors such as early dissolution of Lok Sabha, dismissal of state governments or fall of some governments, had led to disruption of the schedule. Another major factor was that it was virtually a one-party rule in the country with the Congress dominating the scene. Much water has flown down the Ganges since then and other parties, including the BJP and a host of regional parties, have emerged stronger.

Also apart from the gigantic practical task of holding simultaneous elections, which would need setting up of over 7,00,000 polling booths, deployment of staff to man these booths, security arrangements and the procurement of double the number of existing voting machines, several factors would make it an unworkable task.

But even more important than these factors would be the impact it would have on the federal structure of our nation. India is a "Union of States” and its strength lies in its diversity. Each state has its unique identity and priorities. These have their own dynamics besides regional identities and aspirations. It can’t be a one-hat-fits-all situation and would be clearly an anti-democratic measure.
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Let the governments and leaders remain on their toes and face electorate from time to time. Their performance must be put to test at the altar of democracy.
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Such a provision would place huge powers in the hands of the ruling party or coalition at the Centre which enjoys power under Article 356 to dismiss state governments. It could take various pleas to dismiss governments and make them face elections. Then there is the question of keeping states under prolonged Central rule to await simultaneous elections. What would happen if state governments fall due to splits and political dissensions or if the government at the Centre falls. To reduce frequency of elections, there could be minor tweaking to ensure that wherever elections are due, these are held just once in a year. Even currently the Election Commission clubs together elections due in six months.

However, the federal structure conceived by the members of the constituent Assembly and enshrined in the constitution would come under tremendous strain if the government goes ahead with the idea of holding all elections simultaneously or even in mid-term slabs of two and a half years each. Fortunately such a change would require a constitutional amendment and the current government is not in a position to push it through on its own.

While it is true that top political leaders remain constantly in election mode and have elections at the back of their mind, the very idea of simultaneous elections militates against the federal structure.
 
The pros of the current system far outweigh the cons. Let the governments and leaders remain on their toes and face electorate from time to time. Their performance must be put to test at the altar of democracy. We must trust the voters whose mandate must be earned and respected by all political parties. The ill conceived idea of simultaneous elections after five years must be dumped for good.
 

 

 

*(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career. This article was also published by lokmarg.com and is being reproduced here with the due permission of the author. - Ed)


 


Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles: 

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

DEATH EMBRACING LOGIC: Drugs in Punjab

PANJAB'S EMERGENCY: FORMAL AND INFORMAL

THE KASHMIR GOVERNOR, THE TRIBUNE TRUST & ETHICS - How Journalism Fails Readers?

"Congress Sikhan Di Dushman Jamaat Hai?” —Akalis need to dump broken record, shift gears

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

SARKAR IN MANALI: From Shahkot to Mohali Court, Sara Alam Bigrra Jaye

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

SIKHS & FEMINISTS – We hailed Harjit Sajjan; they didn’t hail Gina Haspel

AFTER BEING RAPED, I WAS WOUNDED; MY HONOUR WAS NOT

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WE MISSED A REVOLUTION, BUT CAN IT STILL BE A GAME CHANGER?

A POLITICIAN SPEAKS – YOU SHOULD HEAR

ENCOUNTER, JULOOS & SELFIES

SOWING ANGER - NO QUICK FIX - Democracy is an Empty Ritual in Punjab

OUT-OF-BOX SOLUTION TO STOP FARMERS' SUICIDES

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

'THORRI BAHUTI EHNA NU SHARAM AUNI CHAHEEDI HAI'

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON SUICIDE-HIT BATS FOR AARHTIYAS

RANGROOT OFFERS A PEEK INTO PUNJAB'S TRAGEDY

WHAT MAKE NEWS IN INDIA, AND WHAT DOES NOT?

HITLER, MODI & GANDHI: ON THE SAME PAGE?

PUNJAB IS STILL VERY FAR FROM INDIA

APOLOGY – AKALIS BIG LOSER, CONG TOO 

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

SUPER EFFICIENCY ONBOARD CM’S CHOPPER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties: The Coordinated Silence of Amarinder Singh & Badals

PM MODI VINDICATES PUNJAB TODAY REPORTAGE

NEW DELHI V/S OTTAWA — WILL QUEBEC DEFEAT INDIA?        

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA - Trudeau came to Punjab, pushed Amarinder closer to BJP, then called him a liar

JASPAL ATWAL CONTROVERSY: Mr. Ujjal, will you throw some light on this too?   

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SHEKHAR GUPTA'S HALF-BAKED TRUTHS 

OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES - Karze Ne Layee Ikk Hor Kisan Di Jaan...

PNB Scam: Who is Nirav Choksi and what he is doing In the name of God?

Congress upset due to Priyanka’s cleavage on calendar 

RENUKA'S LAUGHTER: Thank you for your guffaws. We needed this non-violent weapon.

MR CLEAN to PAKKE DHEETH: How Punjab’s Congress hurt Brand Rahul Gandhi? 

MANJIT SINGH CALCUTTA– THE DISSENTER

PUNJAB FARMERS AND IPL CRICKETERS - Finally, they can stand like equals

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION. My teacher is not alive, but you please call it off!

SUKHBIR IS RIGHT – On 97th anniversary  Panth Khatre Vich Hai. Where does this threat come from?

THE FINAL HONESTY CERTIFICATE: ISSUED BY THE TRIBUNE

NO TIME TO READ THIS STORY? – That’s OK - Please do not feel guilty 

BAD, BAD WOMAN! – Punjab’s top playwright slams woman complainant against Langah

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL – On Amod Kanth’s badge of shame

RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS – Panchkula says something stinking about its conscience

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT 

 





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High on atmospherics
Punjab's drug problem needs a sober, well thought out strategy
13.07.18 - VIPIN PUBBY
Punjab's drug problem needs a sober, well thought out strategy



DURING THE CAMPAIGN for the Punjab Assembly elections last year, Amarinder Singh, then the Congress’s chief ministerial candidate, had pledged to eradicate the State’s drug problem within four weeks of coming to power. Given the complexity of the issue, hardly anyone took his pledge seriously but it did convey his concern. After coming to power, Capt. Singh took little time to set up a Special Task Force (STF) to tackle the problem. The STF claimed to have arrested about 15,000 drug peddlers. It also claimed that the supply line of drugs had been choked.
 
Cascading problems 
However, with the tightening of supply chains, many turned to cheaper and spurious drugs. The last one month witnessed a spurt in deaths due to overdose or usage of spurious drugs. Although the government maintains that there were only two such incidents, the local media reported over 25 deaths during the period. The subsequent outcry has triggered knee-jerk reactions by the State government.

The Punjab Cabinet has asked the Centre to amend the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 to include the death penalty for even first-time offenders. It followed this up with a declaration that all 3.4 lakh government employees would have to undergo a dope test.
 
The recommendation of the death penalty for first-time offenders in NDPS cases is a dangerous overreaction. Currently there are about 15,000 convicts and undertrials in jails. Most have been booked for carrying minuscule quantities of drugs or banned substances. Besides, the courts have already described as unconstitutional an amendment introduced in 2001 providing death penalty for repeat offenders under the NDPS Act. The Act was amended in 2014 to remove the provision.
------
Punjab needs a sober, well-thought-out strategy to deal with drug abuse
------ 
Even before the ink dried on the proposal sent to the Centre, the State government came out with the absurd announcement that all its employees would be put through a dope test. This degenerated into a farce when demands were put forth to the Cabinet, including the Chief Minister, through a dope test.

For one, the test cannot establish whether a person is an addict or not. The test can only confirm the presence of narcotics in samples. For instance, a regular user of heroin may test negative if he or she has abstained for three-four days. In any case, there has never been any allegation that a significant number of government employees are drug addicts.

The government is clearly aiming at the wrong target. It is well-known that the vast majority of drug addicts are unemployed youth. It is this segment of youth who need to be targeted for proactive and preventive measures.
 
This can be done by involving volunteers and elders from localities and villages. Families and teachers need to be put through counselling to identify potential victims and to watch for early signs of trouble. Such action requires an understanding of the situation, sincerity and patience.
------
The previous Akali Dal-led government remained in denial, claiming that Punjab’s youth were being "defamed”. Now in the Opposition, the party is blaming the Congress government for its failure to contain the problem.
------
Need for a survey 
Shockingly, for a State that is well-known for substance abuse, there is no empirical study on the extent of the problem. The previous Akali Dal-led government remained in denial, claiming that Punjab’s youth were being "defamed”. Now in the Opposition, the party is blaming the Congress government for its failure to contain the problem. Some surveys have been conducted with small sample sizes. What is needed is an extensive survey and a well-thought-out strategy to tackle the problem. 
 
 
The problem also lies in the poor handling of drug-related cases by police and prosecution agencies. This was brought to the notice of Capt. Singh by a High Court judge last week when he was appearing in an election-related case. The judge said she would take the opportunity of the presence of the Chief Minister in the court to point out that challans were being presented in drug cases even when crucial forensic reports were pending, and added that false drug cases were on the rise. An embarrassed Chief Minister said he would personally look into the issue.

Punjab has gone through several periods of crisis, including militancy during the 1980s and 1990s when thousands of lives were lost, and is currently in danger of losing too many youngsters to drugs. It requires sensitive handling rather than knee-jerk reactions which can be counterproductive.
 

 

 

 

 

*(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career. This article was also published by The Hindu and is being reproduced here with the due permission of the author. - Ed)

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


 

 





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THE MENTAL HOSPITAL-ITY OF DEVLOK HIMACHAL
No one speaks Kannada in Himachal Pradesh. No one cares, either.
11.07.18 - Anita Pathania
No one speaks Kannada in Himachal Pradesh. No one cares, either.



REPORTERS BECOME IMMUNE to certain shocking realities of life. Most reporters do not lose a wink of sleep after filing a headline that says 'Two dead in car, scooter accident.' You can call such loss of sensitivity a professional hazard. It's a trait reporters share with police, with medics, even with staffers carrying out post-mortems of bodies, day in and day out.

And then comes a story like this, and it breaks your heart that while many aspects could be uncertain, one is true: our ability of not being shocked. 

In his 1983 book, India File, based on reporting India as a foreign correspondent, Trevor Fishlock recalled the felicity and the matter-of-fact tone with which reporters in remote Bihar villages used to describe caste-based violence and multiple killings as if these were just a societal norm. He specifically mentioned news reports that would describe that killers preferred blunt scythes for massacres since sharp ones did not inflict enough pain while they chopped off body parts. Most such reports were written in a straight-faced manner, much in the style of a pasta recipe writing.

Read this story in a leading national daily, reported on Thursday, July 12. 

A woman, Padma Samptha, from Mysore who only spoke Kannada has been an inmate at the Shimla mental hospital for two years now, and the only reason she has not been reunited with her family is that "she speaks only Kannada, which none understands here."

"Padma’s frustrations have only grown," says the news report. 

A woman remained confined in a leading facility like the Himachal Hospital of Mental Health and Rehabilitation (HHMHR), right in the capital of a state that receives tourists from all over the world, and the police, the hospital authorities, the entire might of the government put together can't find one person who can translate what this woman says into Hindi so that we can find out about her family and reach out?

All they needed was one person who knew Kannada and one more language understandable to just one person in all of Himachal Pradesh. Last we checked, Karnataka was in India and rumours have it that some people there still speak the Kannada language.
------
News reports used to describe how killers preferred blunt scythes to massacre their enemies since sharp ones did not inflict enough pain as they chopped off body parts.
------
Of the 6.41 crore people in Karnataka, a few must still be speaking Kannada. If Himachal Pradesh's BJP government has such an antipathy towards a state that Amit Shah's tactics could not win, it could have tapped a Kannada speaker in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kerala or Goa. Roughly, 4.37 crore people speak Kannada. Most of them live in India. One such speaker should not be so hard to find.

The hospital authorities, the police or the state administration could have requested a Kannada-speaking tourist to please spare 15 minutes and help them know what the woman wants to communicate. They had two years for this.

It finally took a self-inspired kind college teacher, Dr Suneela Sharma, to make the effort and explore if some help could be mustered for the inmate of the mental asylum, who, the doctors state, has no mental health issue. 
------
Last we checked, Karnataka was in India and rumours have it that some people there still speak the Kannada language.
------
Lest we, too, are found to be people who have developed an incapacity to be shocked, once again, on the pain of repetition, go over this: doctors say a woman is in a mental hospital but has no mental issue, no one understands what she says, everyone knows that she speaks Kannada, there is no one around who speaks Kannada, so all one has to do is to find one person who speaks Kannada for about 15 minutes, and everyone fails to do so for two years. Everyone. The doctors, the nurses, the hospital authorities, the health department, the district administration, the police, the state government. You. Me. Our collective shameless selves.

If there's one reason you should advise your neighbours to go to Pakistan, this one would be enough. No one cares. So if Pakistan is really such a bad place, we are giving it a tough competition. We might already be there, actually.
 
How much does it take to move a human being with any semblance of nicety to action? Read the first two sentences of senior journalist Ashwani Sharma's report in the Indian Express: "She looks at the security guard and the locked gate in utter disappointment. Then, tears rolling down her eyes, she goes back hurriedly, crying out aloud."

This is her daily morning routine. Now, decode her situation: you think the problem is that we have failed to locate her family and she should be reunited with her family? Wait, you missed another problem: the hapless woman hasn't spoken to a human soul in all this time!

What will shock you? For starters, try not speaking to another human being for a week.

Imagine the potential that the story of Padma Samptha has for our tourism sector. A competing hill town anywhere in the world has only to tell people that an entire infrastructural set up of police and civilian administration and civil society segment in this city does not care to get one person for a few minutes from an Indian province to communicate with a woman. For two full years! 

What if a Dutch or a Greek or a Peruvian tourist falls sick and you need someone to decode what he or she says?
------
If Pakistan is really such a bad place, we are giving it a tough competition. We might already be there, actually.
------
Shimla and Himachal Pradesh have shamed themselves. Its medical fraternity, the unions of nurses and doctors, the unions of non-medical staffers, all have shamed themselves.

In the course of the reportage, a senior doctor says that "contacts have been established with Karnataka government’s health authorities, which have written to district mental healthcare programme officer in Mysore to work out modalities for her relocation to a local rehabilitation centre."

We leave it to the readers to deduce whether this shows a sense of urgency, or one of utter apathy. Those weaving a tapestry of insensitivity with the endless bureaucratic red tape need to realise that the world invented a thing called a telephone. Someone needs to pick up one and dial.

This is a case where even the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh is in the loop. The circle of shamelessness and utter apathy is now complete. 

Tomorrow morning, Padma Samptha will be at the gate. She will go back, disappointed, torn asunder, and will utter a curse.

But don't worry: it will be in Kannada, and no one understands it. So why bother? 

"Modalities are being worked out." There is nothing more vulgar than official-speak. We have learnt the dirtiest language in the world. We need to be in that mental hospital, learning to say ‘We are sorry’. In Kannada. 
 
Post-script: 
Full disclosure: I am a Himachali, and spent several years in a village called Tihra in Mandi district. In the defence of the common people of my state, all I can say is that of the nearly 400 residents of my village, 154 kilometres away from Shimla and in the back of the beyond of this Devlok province, I do not know of one person who will be able to have a meal in peace after knowing the plight of Padma Samptha — primarily not just because of what happened to Padma Samptha, but because of what has happened to us, as a people. That’s our only hope, and my only defence of my people. And we are sorry.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles: 

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

DEATH EMBRACING LOGIC: Drugs in Punjab

WHO WAS FIRST BJP PRIME MINISTER?

PANJAB'S EMERGENCY: FORMAL AND INFORMAL

THE KASHMIR GOVERNOR, THE TRIBUNE TRUST & ETHICS - How Journalism Fails Readers?

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A POLITICIAN SPEAKS – YOU SHOULD HEAR

ENCOUNTER, JULOOS & SELFIES

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MR CLEAN to PAKKE DHEETH: How Punjab’s Congress hurt Brand Rahul Gandhi? 

MANJIT SINGH CALCUTTA– THE DISSENTER

PUNJAB FARMERS AND IPL CRICKETERS - Finally, they can stand like equals

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION. My teacher is not alive, but you please call it off!

SUKHBIR IS RIGHT – On 97th anniversary  Panth Khatre Vich Hai. Where does this threat come from?

THE FINAL HONESTY CERTIFICATE: ISSUED BY THE TRIBUNE

NO TIME TO READ THIS STORY? – That’s OK - Please do not feel guilty 

BAD, BAD WOMAN! – Punjab’s top playwright slams woman complainant against Langah

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL – On Amod Kanth’s badge of shame

RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS – Panchkula says something stinking about its conscience

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT






[home] [1] 2  [next]1-5 of 6


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comments*
You may use these HTML tags:<p> <u> <i> <b> <strong> <del> <code> <hr> <em> <ul> <li> <ol> <span> <div>

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