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Vulnerable women: Victims of neglect

The Nirbhaya case may have helped bring cases of violence against women sharply into focus, yet large number of a women activists have begun to wonder, as to why, if the victim is from a vulnerable community, she rarely draws attention. The mysterious death of a lady tribal police constable from Rajpipla in Gujarat — Vasanti Vasava — between November 24 and 26, 2014 highlights how a state machinery treats atrocities committed on such women. Tables were turned only after the Gujarat Women Rights Council, a recently floated group by a well-known dalit rights activist, Manjula Pradeep, took up the death of Vasanti as a case of sexual assault and murder at a time when the police was trying to turn it into a “simple case of suicide”.

We want to annihilate caste, but without alternative media?

There is an increasing view among civil society groups that the established media is “not responsive” to the needs and aspirations of civil society. I would like to be audacious: I think the complaint is totally misplaced. Working with the Times of India for nearly two decades, and looking after Gandhinagar beat for 15 years, last as political editor, I knew the constraints under which one had to work. There were some very specific “holy cows”, and this wasn’t just true of the Times of India, but of all media houses with presence in Gujarat: One can report whatever was true, but “business interests” of the paper should be taken care of. I always believed – it was wrong to complain: It was business interests alone that drove news. If business interests of the newspaper were hit, the news wouldn’t go through, you could be in trouble. I remember, once I got terribly disturbed when my paper published an editorial page article, (presumably by Jug Suraiya), that news something like Colgate…

How to be newsy: Choosing wheat from the chaff

Culling out gist from a plethora of sources available to you is indeed quite tricky. While I cannot speak for others (frankly, I lack competence to do it), journalists are made to do it almost on a daily basis. In doing so, at initial stages, they often falter, as they lack conceptual clarity as to what should be considered news. Of course, there are textbook definitions, but they cannot in any way help one to identify news from the huge flow of information available around. Journalists, especially of my generation, have never been trained into a formal school of communication, hence to them to answer this question academically is even more difficult. They have just “picked up” the skill. I asked a senior editor, “How do you identify what should be headline today?”, and his answer was simple, “Well, Rajiv, it comes from within, frankly, it just comes…” Often, whatever new you find from the available information is identified as news. It’s especially very easy when a big event takes…

Flutter in NGO circle... What's changing?

There is a flutter among voluntary organisations in Gujarat, as elsewhere. With the change of guards at the Centre, there is a rising apprehension about what would be the government's new policy towards civil society, in Gujarat as well as in India. Would the NGOs’ space shrink? Would they have to make political compromises with the powers-that-be for the sake of survival? What kind of structural changes they might have to undergo in case they have to survive in the new atmosphere? What would happen to sources of foreign funding, on which many NGOs depend? These are some of the most common questions currently being asked by several leading members of civil society, which have involved themselves in different types of activities, developmental or rights-based, across Gujarat. Informal meetings have been held. Despite their differences in approach, all of them agree: That there is a need to find fresh ways to work in the new situation.
Without any doubt, the situation in the countr…

Gujarat's development dilemma

A few days back, I received an email from a non-resident Indian, working as an expert researcher in a US consultancy firm which provides different types of financial services. He said he was googling around on Gujarat development issues and chanced to see my story, based on analysis carried out by an IAS officer who retired as additional chief secretary, Gujarat government, CJ Jose. He was “helping out” Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in any possible way he could, and had followed Arvind Kejriwal’s visit to Gujarat closely. And, he had begun doing “some research” on the Gujarat development model, about which so much was being talked about. I am not revealing his name, as he asked me not to quote him.
Referring to my story, his email said, “I know Kejriwal has questioned Modi’s claims of more than 10 per cent agriculture growth, and has said Gujarat agriculture growth has been 1.18 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), whereas you claim the growth to be 0.82 per cent. Could you please le…

Modi tax?

BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi was in Goa in January second week. He took a jibe at former Union environment and forests minister Jayanthi Natarajan – saying there was a “Jayanthi tax” when she was in charge of the ministry. Modi alleged many files in the ministry were pending only because of a new tax in Delhi called “Jayanthi tax”, and unless it was “paid” no file would move. "We've heard of income tax, sales tax, commercial tax in the past, but this is the first time we are hearing of a Jayanthi tax!" he declared. When he made the remark, I humbly thought, what’s new about it. Politicians of all hues are alike. They all charge a “tax” for all that they do. My experience in Gandhinagar as correspondent wasn’t any different.
Indeed, I wasn’t wrong. My friend Mahesh Pandya, who, as environmental engineer (he calls himself environmental expert; “I am not an environmentalist”, he says), moves around Gujarat campaigning on environmental issues with all his …