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A Fight To Reclaim Dignity And Rights! This is what the facebook page of the SLUT WALK IN DELHI reads. The rationale behind this walk is to reclaim the word slut and restore pride.

Besides reclaiming the word slut the walk includes fight against the Rape Culture, liberty to wear anything ‘they’ want and making the society a safe place for all. There is no one issue that the walk is addressing rather it is giving the media people yet another chance to fill up a 30 minute slot.

Slut Walk is a movement that started inTorontoin April 2011, when a police man addressing students ofYorkUniversity, made a statement that “women should avoid dressing up as sluts in order to not be victimized.” Later it spread to other western cities likeMelbourne,Brisbane,Saskatoon,Montreal,EdmontonandLondonto name a few. And nowDelhi, the first Asian city is to follow suit.

What does it mean toDelhi?

The word ‘slut’ came into usage through the evolution of television and the English TV serials and movies that are aired. The word and the reclamation of the word does not fit in our Indian context. It would have made sense if women were constantly judged and shamed by it. In a city likeDelhirape and murders take place even without the use of the word ‘slut’. So whom are we reclaiming the word for? Who are the beneficiaries? Does the word strike a chord amongst all the Delhiites irrespective of class? It is completely pointless to carry out a Slut Walk just because the word sparked off protest in the western world!

A misplaced campaign with a good intent

These sort of campaigns are floated in a spur of a moment but there are certain aspects which are not thought of, like: who are we addressing, what are we trying to change, does it amass woman from all the section of the society and the like. This campaign will be nothing other than a get together where girls would come in their loudest dress with fancy props; and a free public show with photographers thronging the streets.

So much so that the regular ogler and groper who travel in the daily public transport will have a greater chance to satisfy their desires by way of this walk. An ogler who has no clue of what a Slut Walk is would Google it out of curiosity and would get enticed by the kind of images displayed and would look forward to the event. On the D day he would take full advantage of the situation and after the event the same person would follow the girls back to the public transportation. Not able to take the harassment the same girls would shun the idea of reclaiming the word ‘slut.

The campaign is hyped so much that the cause would be forgotten. What would matter the most is how many people Liked the facebook page and how to gather more people at a short span of time.

A walk which would leave the women community untouched and confused, to be precise it would end up being one of those flash campaigns.

Yes no doubt the cause behind the campaign is genuine but a cause with a misplaced campaign. There is a little bit of everything in the walk, there is no one concrete idea.

This movement is nothing but free show of upper class feminism which is restricted only to the creamy layer. What about those women, who belong to the lower strata of the society, who get beaten up by their husbands everyday (they don’t wear short or skimpy clothes) or get raped by villagers or her own father in law, who don’t even know what slut means. What about them?

Let us not be one of those sorts who say ‘we have the democratic right to wear anything we want’, ‘it’s a democracy’, ‘we can’t be regressive in our thought process’ blah blah. We have to get one thing straight; we stay in a society where more than half the population is illiterate and there is a huge gap in our thought process which needs to be bridged. So, ask this question to yourself, are we as liberated in our heads as we show ourselves to be? We are under constant fear of being judged by all and sundry about what we wear irrespective of being molested. The need of the hour is to sensitize the society, men and women along.

To conclude, I wish the same amount of zeal and enthusiasm could be put in to create a strong campaign for the evils meted out in our society against women; domestic violence, female infanticide, dowry deaths, honour killings and the list continues. There are so many reasons to carry out a campaign, why are we running behind reclaiming a word which finds no place in our Indian context!

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Supriya Sekhar

The reality shows ‘Big Boss 4’ and ‘Rakhi ka Insaaf’ which was being aired on prime time has come under the scanner of the Information & Broadcasting Ministry (I&B). The Ministry has served notice to both reality shows that they should be aired only between 11pm and 5am as they are not suitable for viewing by children. Although ‘Bigg Boss 4’ got a stay on I&B’s directive but ‘Rakhi ka Insaaf’ shifted to 11pm time slot. But the question remains: will the Information & Broadcasting Ministry’s decision to push the reality TV shows to a late night slot make any difference?

Vulgarity and sensationalism was always prevalent in the media, the only difference now is that it has spilled over to the small screen and we the audience have let it happen. The change of time slot will do no good because those who want to watch these shows will watch even after 11pm. Rather this change in time slot will give children better access to these shows as their parents will go to sleep by that time! If the Indian audience is so particular about television content, there is always the option to switch channels.

No doubt most reality shows are the copies of international TV formats and do not fit into the framework of Indian culture and tradition. But we can’t ignore the fact that many English serials and for that matter reality shows like MTV Roadies, whose content is objectionable are aired over prime time. Then, why object these reality shows? We don’t hesitate to see an item number by Bipasha Basu or Katrina Kaif with our children; then, why do we hesitate to see these reality shows? It is up to an individual to decide what is good and what is bad for him, no I&B directive or shifting of time slots will be of help. By changing the time slot the channel would get a leeway in continuing with its vulgar content. There is even the danger of the degree of vulgarity being stepped up after 11pm.

It is speculated that on Nov 12, 2010, a 25-year-old young man committed suicide following the humiliation meted out to him on the show Rakhi Ka Insaaf. Yes, it is wrong to humiliate or talk ill about a person on a live show. If at all the ministry wants to change anything, they can tone down the vulgarity, shown on channels or scrap the vulgar parts.

Marketing and management guru Suhel Seth has a caustic take on the ruling. “The Bigg Boss timings had to shift since Pamela Anderson is here and our MPs only finish making money by about 11pm. Why should they not watch? With 5 am slots, now Dolly Bindra and Pamela Anderson will compete with Aastha and Gayatri Mantra or what?”

We have become so used to statistics that without seeing them we do not accept reality. The contribution of reality shows to total programming hours on most channels has grown from a mere six per cent in 2007-08 to about 15 per cent this year.
In a run for high Television Rating Points (TRP) the directors of the reality shows have to script it in such a way so as to grab maximum eyeballs. So the audience has to selective about their viewing, in terms of content.

When finally our TV content is evolving ahead of crude comedy, cheesy drama and dance shows, why are we brooding and agonizing over it now? It is to be seen that will the I&B Ministry do something to keep a track over the content or would it stick to its move of postponing timeslot?

Supriya Sekhar

An end to standing in long queues  for passport, driving license and electoral identity cards , elimination of the need for multiple documentary proofs, easy accessibility to e-governance services, these are the dreams projected  by the Unique Identity (UID) project that is headed by Nandan Nilekani.  But will the technology driven 12-digit unique identification number change the face of governance in India? One is inclined to believe so, given the euphoria surrounding the project. If we study the implications of this project, we might discover that the euphoria surrounding it is exaggerated.

Flawed in many respects, the UID needs a careful study. The three main metrics incorporated to issue a unique identification number are: a photograph, iris scan and a fingerprint. The iris scan and fingerprint are used for a process known as deduplication. This would mean that the person coming to take a unique identification number will be checked through this scan to determine whether he has been issued a number previously or not. But the question arises, is this biometric technology capable of handling the gigantic task of deduplication?

Basically the data that UID collects by way of the above mentioned metrics is aimed to help those who are outside the gamut of government records and welfare schemes. Firstly, if we look carefully the fingerprint way of doing it is faulty because 70% of the Indian population lives in the rural areas and work in the fields; thus there are great chances that their fingers could be worn-out. So the quality of the fingerprint might change from time to time apart from being poor. Secondly, the shape of the iris changes as one gets older and moreover, according to WHO, India carries the largest burden of corneal blind people (approximately one-third of the total 45 million in the world). Thus the iris scan also, but to fail. So, neither iris scan nor fingerprint is reliable because it can lead to identity theft if it falls into wrong hands.

As the database of one billion people will be easily accessible to the government there are chances of harassment too. Usha Ramanathan, lawyer says, “Say I go to Srinagar six times in a month. That information could be accessed by the government because the airlines asked for my number before booking a ticket. And that could make me a suspect. There’s something wrong in being treated as a suspect for no other reason, than State paranoia.” Activists claim that in a few years, banks, insurance companies, cell phone providers and hospitals will demand UID number before doing business with you. There are chances that the information can be shared between organizations which would lead to unnecessary harassment. “An insurance company and a hospital can merge databases. If you have AIDS or TB, they can bump up your premium or refuse you cover,” says Sunil Abraham, Director, Centre for Internet and Society.

The ‘so-called saviours’ who brought in the concept of UID claim that it is beneficial to social welfare schemes like the Public Distribution System (PDS), which it is, in some aspects. If there is a unique identification number, a migrant worker can avail his share of grain from anywhere in India and the people bereft of their rights can demand for it.

But the present scenario of Fair Price Shops (FPS) which plays a pivotal role in implementing the PDS effectively projects something else. Each FPS’s has a specified number of households registered under it. The FPS stores do not keep track of migrant labourers who come during a year. Due to the lack of stocks migrant labourers would be turned away. Thus, the UID-PDS linkage does not quite seem to go well.

If we look at the UID project as a whole, it lacks an in-depth study of developmental and security issues. It is supposed to be a developmental tool but the project is so loosely defined that it leads to privacy and civil liberties issues. On the other hand it plays the devil by violating security rights of the citizens. Infact the unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) needs to attend to, immediately are data protection and the privacy law issues.

The UID project has both ‘security’ and ‘developmental’ dimensions. The former leads to an invasive state and the latter leaves us with a retreating state – says R.Ramkumar associate researcher in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Supriya Sekhar

The UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) to reassure the public is coming up with technological advancements.

On November 23, Suprema, Inc., a global leader in biometrics and ID solutions, announced company’s latest ‘RealScan-10 UID’ fingerprint live scanner tested in full compliance and received certification from the Government of India’s STQC (Standardization Testing & Quality Certification) for the country’s UID (Unique ID) project. Suprema’s RealScan-10 UID is a compact-sized portable fingerprint live scanner which provides range-leading capture speed and clear image quality by using the company’s advanced optical image processing technology. The device performs world’s fastest image scan rate of over 20 frames per second using powerful internal DSP and image processing technique.

4G Identity Solutions, Suprema’s partner in India has supported Suprema’s STQC certification process and in development of VDMs. “We are committed to provide the best of breed biometric products and technologies that are best suited for Indian market and Realscan-10 ranks right at the top in capturing the best quality fingerprints” said Dr.Sreeni Tripuraneni, CEO of 4G Identity Solutions. Earlier in 2010, the company won a number of public projects in USA, China and Brazil.

The technology might be fast and effective but the question that lingers is that: can this technology record a staggering 600 million Indians, scan 1.2 billion irises, collect 6 billion fingerprints and record 600 million addresses? Frankly speaking no system in the world has handled anything on this scale! If you think about it this is the result we get: When the 600 millionth person is assigned a unique 12-digit UID, the system that generates it will have to compare it against 599,999,999 photographs, 1,199,999,998 irises and 12,999,999,990 fingerprints to ensure the number is indeed unique. By the time the entire Indian population is covered, the complexity, well, doubles. This project is like the proverb, ‘building castles in the air’. This project holds no good because the problem which lies in the foundation-level is unattended.

There is a problem of the project being left mid-way! If the current government loses at the next polls, there is a chance that the next one may think the idea a waste of time and money and simply disband the project, and the team may lose five years of hard effort. As the project focuses on giving identification number so as to avail the benefits of government program and to establish equality. But the larger picture shows a Nazi-induced holocaust-like pogrom against the minorities in India. Once again the poor falls under the category of distinction, so the focus of the project is far from achievement. Moreover, the technocrat Nandan Nilekani says that the project is not mandatory. If it is not mandatory then how will half the population (who comprise the poor section of the society) avail the benefits of the UID process!

Gopal Krishna, member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), says in a November 23-dated letter to Oscar Fernandes, chairperson, and members of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources: “The UID scheme is an opposite of Right to Information. The latter makes the government transparent before their masters, the citizens. The former makes the citizens transparent before their servant, the government. It is a fascist plan.”

The icing on the cake is that the SEBI (Securities Exchange Board of India) has come out with a proposition which talks about the inclusion of the poor turning as retail participant in the markets. This proposition is beyond imagination, instead of questioning the feasibility of the project, the market is ready to reap profits.

Besides this capitalist approach Nilekani has a consumerist approach to the whole project. Speaking to business leaders gathered at The Nielsen Company’s Consumer 360 event in New Delhi on November 24, the UIDAI chief said over a third of India’s 1.1 billion consumers had been largely overlooked in areas such as banking and social services. He also detailed four trends        taking   place across India:

1. A demographic disruption taking place in India with an expected 11 million new people  joining  the workforce every year for the next five years;

2. Mass migration to cities. The urban population is expected to grow by 31 people every minute for many years to come;

3. Low-cost mobile phones mean all social sets have access to the same or similar content;

4. Indians are increasingly impatient with failing systems. As a consequence, service providers are responding more rapidly than ever.

Maintaining that the new consumer, empowered with an ‘Aadhar’ number, will change the way she reaches out to products and services, Piyush Mathur, president, India region, The Nielsen Company, said, “We will need to adapt how we market to these consumers and win in the marketplace. In addition to price, place, promotion and product, it will bring the fifth P – Precision – to life.”

According to an activist, Aadhaar is a blind endorsement of Professor Coimbatore Krishnarao (CK) Prahalad’s ‘Theory of Marketing to the Bottom of the Pyramid’, which in India’s case is 60 crore people living below the poverty line; would-be consumers who corporations wish to target in order to improve their bottom line. “It’s an idea in conflict, because the target population for this mega-marketing adventure is consumers who cannot afford three square meals a day, let alone avail of goods and services aimed at them by corporations,” the activist said.

In my opinion the UID project instead of adding benefits will add more complexities and problems. If it goes in this business-model path then it is not far for UID turning into a scam.

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