It’s important to have acknowledged the unfortunate news that over 21 million women will remain disenfranchised in the coming election (The Women Count March 18). It is something to seriously think about on this women’s day. Statistics can reveal what we as a country are trying to hide. There is no active programme that is encouraging this large figure to exercise its voting rights. There are only a handful of women representing people’s interests in Parliament. The women’s reservation bill is still hanging fire. Would our next government care to make our women count in the democracy? The example has to be set now.
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth, Australia
Women in India always get a raw deal and it is a shame that they are at the receiving end of even the suffrage drive, with more than 20 million women not being able to exercise their franchise. As for the efficacy of EVMs, there cannot be any doubt that they are faster, more accurate and the least prone to rigging and booth-capturing. But the moot point is that the Election Commission does not seem fully committed to capitalising the advanced technology of EVMs. Otherwise how can one justify the forthcoming elections being held in seven phases spread over 37 days, pushing up the costs and bringing all development activities to a stand-still.
It never used to take so long for the election process to be completed when EVMs were not around. May be, the scheduling has been done to suit the ruling party, totally ignoring the inconvenience it may create for the general public and government officials engaged in poll duty. Even in a state like Karnataka where the number of LS seats is only 28, the polling is being conducted in two phases.
It is high time that the EC acts as an independent body, as was the case when T.N. Seshan was at the helm of affairs, and does not compromise national interests for pleasing the party in power.
Shailendra Dasari, Bangalore
The nation has been following Prannoy Roy since the 1980s. His World this Week on DD was a news show eagerly awaited by millions. He caught the nation by storm teaming up with Vinod Dua for its Hindi version and with Sopariwala, the irrepressible psephologist. His coverage of the elections both in Star TV and NDTV now is taken very seriously. However, I think Mr Roy has overstated the case of the woman voter this time. It’s a fact that the women of Tamil Nadu used to vote for MGR and Jayalalitha simply because both the leaders cared for women’s issues. Now, Modi has caught the imagination of the woman voter because of schemes like Ujjwala and Swachh Bharat as well as the Mudra scheme. So, more women may come out to vote than expected.
Rangarajan T.S., Bangalore
After going through the two psephologists’ theories and contentions about elections in India, the gist of The Verdict lies in the answer given by Prannoy Roy to the question: Who is winning in 2019? He says “most psephologists give half-way plus a little bit for one side and half-way minus a bit for the other side.” He then speaks about the 2019 Lok Sabha election with lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. Roy says that “there is a danger in saying who is going to win” and he and Sopariwala will answer the question after the results are out. How convenient! Even I can give such an answer. The book says that the turnout of women voters will be more than men in the 2019 polls and it also says that if only men had voted in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the NDA would have won by an enormous landslide with 376 seats. However, if only women had voted, the NDA would have won 265 seats—which would have been seven seats short of the majority mark. Going by such assumptions, shouldn’t it be fairly simple to calculate who is winning in 2019. If the figures are authentic, The Verdict’s claim that 21 million eligible women will not vote in 2019 is extremely disturbing and puts the Election Commission and the government in the dock. What did they do for the right-to-vote of these women if the fact was in their knowledge?
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Yes, women count; that’s precisely why they’re uncounted by our patriarchal polity.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
This is in reference to the story about India’s diplomatic offensive against Pakistan, in the light of India’s presence at the OIC foreign ministers’ conference in Abu Dhabi for the first time in nearly half a century (A Hum of Persuasion, Mar 18). It may have irked Pakistan no end, but if Russia, with a minority population of a few Muslims, can be an observer, India with its large Muslim population is a deserving candidate too. This could open doors for a broader engagement with the Muslim world that can shore up India’s interests in areas ranging from energy to counter-terror strategies. Pakistan tried to keep us out this time also, but its entreaties cut no ice with OIC boss Saudi Arabia. More cuttingly for Pakistan, the host country, the UAE, also snubbed it by not heeding its unfair request to keep India out. The reason is, even West Asia is feeling the threat of terror and they are wary of the prime habitat of its breeding—Pakistan. Though the OIC may not have plumped for India over Pakistan, it seems a major diplomatic victory has been achieved by New Delhi.
Lal Singh, Amritsar
Outlook’s Diary pages are a reader’s delight, offering peeks at places well-known and little-known, with glimpses of foreign and domestic states of being, all filtered through unique and prominent points of view. You may consider carrying a small map of the places being covered—actually its position on the globe. It would be a great help to people like me.
Manik Das, On E-Mail
This refers to It’s Freezing, But They Want To Bat (March 18). Sportspersons are aware of things others do not give a thought to or cannot understand. On the field, both your body and mind are at work and this is the case with every player. So, the goal is common and the sentiment for victory is shared. This makes players of any game respect each other no matter how strong individual or team rivalries may be. In times of crisis—like the war clouds that gathered briefly over the Indo-Pak border, nothing may work well as sport to help mend relations.
The Dhyan Chand-Dara Shah incident mentioned in your story was so heartening to read. A lot of contemporary sports personalities from both India and Pakistan may take inspiration from it. But, sadly, we live in times where we are pushed and coaxed into being hostile. Take the example of online trolls viciously criticising cricket legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar for not adding fuel to fire during the recent escalations at the LoC. Then we had the gimmick of the Indian cricket team wearing military caps to ‘respect our soldiers’. To me, those military caps were a statement of aggression. Military caps have no business on the cricket field.
Ram Avadheesh, Mumbai
The data revelations made by psephologist Prannoy Roy’s The Verdict are very interesting (The Women Count, March 18). The findings show that the largest democracy in the world is far from utilising its true democratic potential. The right to exercise one’s vote is a fundamental right and understanding this, the Election Commission must be given the powers to come up with a massive awareness campaign so that each and every person in India above the voting age can make their decision.
We could do a small test to study how democracies are manipulated. If an agency can analyse what all groups the present government is encouraging to vote through various campaigns, we can get an idea about those left out. The same can be done for opposition parties. Then, we’ll know which party wants to leave out which group from voting. The remedy then would be to focus on all these left-out groups and get them to vote for a truly unbiased election. Roy and Sopariwala’s book is an eye-opener as one doesn’t get to learn of the internal dynamics of elections even though they are all that is covered by the news.
Anil S., Pune
Refer to Ek Ladki Ko Dekha... (March 18). It’s great to see the pace at which film content is evolving in the Indian mainstream. It’s probably because the mainstream has splintered due to the coming of multiple platforms and the various modes of visual content-consumption. So, we have left the ‘family drama’ mould behind us, or rather, relegated it to everyday TV or to a handful of films that still attempt to be pan-Indian. I’m amazed to see the boldness with which Netflix and Amazon Prime are creating content. They benefit from being out of the country’s censorship framework. Soon, theatre films will also be doing what they can to keep up with this revolutionisation of content online.
Anirudh Sinha, On e-mail
The informal ‘queen’ of this generation of actresses is truly Kangana Ranaut. She single-handedly increased the market value of ‘one-woman productions’ in recent years with films like Queen (2013) and the Tanu Weds Manu (2011, 2015) series. Now, Ranaut has set another benchmark with Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. Vidya Balan is the other pioneer of ‘women-centric’ films in new-age Bollywood. Her Dirty Picture (2011) had a huge impact on gender perceptions in the film industry. Both Vidya and Kangana are responsible for ushering in a market understanding that relates to strong, vocal women characters.
Prerit Lal, Ranchi
Refers to Doves, Hawks And Market Lows (March 18). So, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise is understood by a considerable section of semi-pro market investors to correspond with the highs in the stock market. But when it comes to the talk of war, the gloom cannot be avoided. The slump in the exchange due to hostilities between India and Pakistan tells us that war is good for no one.
Harshit Gupta, On e-mail