Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Jallikattu protests and Culture
India is a diverse country with rich cultural heritage and each contributing uniquely to India’s identity in the world. The recent dynamics around Jallikattu and its justifications via protests and legislations raises a question on the true aspects of culture and society.
The Supreme Court recently refused to stay the new piece of legislation passed recently by the Tamil Nadu Assembly may have been a relief for jallikattu supporters, but it came with the reminder to the State government “that maintaining law and order situation is its prime duty”.
The hundreds of youth who had taken to peaceful protest for the cause were nowhere to be seen in this moment of celebration
History and misrepresentation
It is said that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.
Listing out the number of times students have protested, we seem to have learnt nothing from history, and there seems to be every possibility that these will recur in the future.
In picking out verses to support jallikattu, scholars suffer from selective amnesia.
The most prevalent theme of Sangam literature is on the connections we have with nature.
Sangam poetry is replete with references to how our fortunes are inextricably intertwined with nature.
Among the many things it speaks about, such as music, art, dance, drama, emotions and food, games form one small facet of culture;
Jallikattu occupies an even smaller part and found support mostly from the pastoral regions. On the other hand, boat racing was for the coastal regions.
Those who look to literature for support also look at it from a contradictorily western perspective — older is better and safer.
If culture is what defined the Sangam period, then we have really missed the point.
Tamil has had a continuously evolving literary tradition beyond Sangam poetry which was discovered only a few hundred years ago.
Culture is also made up of Bhakti poetry that came after that, where poets used stories from the epics but not the Sanskrit alphabet.
In a history of more than 2,000 years, focussing on one “sport” where a terrified animal is set upon by groups of men — which is also not how it was played in the past — doesn’t seem to explain why so many young passionate individuals took to the streets with courage and conviction, and in a non-violent way.
What could have been the driving force in the protests?
If we don’t view history as a series of protests but as behaviors exhibited to fulfill basic needs, we get a different perspective.
What has happened has happened, and the time and energy spent must not go in vain. It will not if we actually act on the needs because protests, like sharing social media posts, are strategies to fulfil needs.
In a way, people are not very different from the bull that we see in video clips.
As humans, we may articulate it far better, but we are just living beings with needs. We have an imagination but our needs are the same, and these predict ours as well as the bull’s behaviour.
Our fundamental needs are to ensure physical safety, which we experience most strongly in our gut; emotional safety, which we experience most strongly in our heart; and intellectual safety or the need for identity, which we experience most strongly in our head.
When these needs are not met, we have corresponding fears. We then try to adopt various strategies to meet these needs and allay our fears.
Inspiration from inscriptions
There are more than 50,000 temple inscriptions in Tamil Nadu which have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with administration and legal issues across the last 2,000 years.
If we look at them as a source and in turn look at how these needs were met, we may yet be able to work on needs that were unfulfilled which made hundreds of youth take to the streets.
The current trend towards centralisation of power, for example within the ruling party, between districts and Chennai, and even between States and the Centre is alien to Tamil culture, if we use a 1,000-year-old past as a reference point.
This has robbed people, especially youth searching for jobs in a State that has seen little government-driven employment, of their need for an identity and security.
This is what resulted in the ripple that became a wave.
If only such display of power had been utilised when, for example, there was an oil spill off the coast of Chennai. Policymakers must stop residing in Tamil history for their glory and instead reference it to see what needs, they can meet, if they look at governance patterns of the past.
History and culture are valuable evidences and collections that need to imbibed from generations with clear message and protocols. It is important to ensure no misrepresentation of the same happens and for narrow ends. Youth of the day need to understand and appreciate history in that context and times. Justifying or demonizing anything of the past in current context is not justifiable.
Connecting the dots:
In light of recent incidents w.r.t Tipu Sultan and Jallikattu protests in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu respectively, critically analyse the role played by ancient history and culture on the modern day society. How is it used often for narrow political ends?
Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
A gender scorecard for politicians
Elections in India
Many Indians seem to approach elections like they would appear for examination.
Here, the winners are predetermined due to being influenced by the “candidate/ party wave”.
Electoral loss is viewed as personal failure by the voter in marking the “right” answer.
This attitude places tremendous barriers on risk taking and thus not allowing new politics or radical change to appear.
Where does the fault lie?
The voters have mentioned explicitly that they will not vote a candidate with a cold track record on gender.
Derogatory comments, crimes against women or espousing gender inequality are viewed as disqualifiers.
Yet, sexist and even misogynistic politicians are voted in, and in many cases repeatedly with huge majorities.
The parties almost never impose penalties against sexism, be it demanding a public apology or for more serious violations- dismissal, demotion or denial of ticket.
The standard approach of parties have been explaining it or distance themselves from the comment.
Hence there is a need to combat sexism in politics and usher in more gender balanced governance. And voters have to initiate their right to vote for a suitable candidate.
What can be done?
Indian voters are known to research candidates using whatever tools are available to them before they vote.
Hence when information on gender governance and parity are accessible to voters, they may likely include it into their vote.
These parameters can provide direction to voters on whom not to vote for, whom to disqualify and whom to reject despite the incomplete picture available for selecting the candidate.
However, this can make the elections bend towards a more equitable India by making gender scorecards easily available.
In past 70 years, sex ratio at birth has fallen from 946 to 887 though literacy and higher education have risen for men and women.
Only 20% of urban educated working-age women work compared to over double that for men.
There has been 14 times increase in trafficking of minor girls in last decade.
Women are barely 10% of central government employees and 11% of the parliament and state legislatures averaged.
Expenditures towards universal programmes have failed to deliver to women their rightful share. Gender specific programmes are barely funded and utilised.
Thus, India’s progress on women’s health, education, livelihood, political representation and other social indicators along with guarantee of constitutional rights is poor compared to men.
What is it?
It is a report card on candidates and parties
It will measure and rate their achievements on women’s development and rights across multiple axes.
They are crucial in capturing evidence based metrics on gender inequity, disparity and imbalance in the system.
Ideally, gender scorecards must be put beside with good governance scorecards for a balanced 360 degree assessment.
It will be a reference for them for their voting decisions at the local body, state or central level.
Who publishes it?
Any group with non partisan or partisan interests that provides voters information on parties’ and candidates’ performance.
Interestingly, many groups — media houses, think tanks, policy institutes, women’s and advocacy groups and even parties themselves — can and should publish it.
There are many groups such as Association for Democratic Reforms, PRS Legislative Research, IndiaSpend etc. which can publish it.
It will be upto public to refer to the ones they trust the most and make choices.
Collating the card
The gender score card on candidates and parties should not be assembled by taking surveys of candidates and parties since those responses are intended to say the things that will get them elected.
Instead, it should record actual performance against gender development indicators from data and reports on the outcomes of policies effected and programmes implemented.
Usage of MLA and MP funds for gender inclusion will also give insight into candidates and parties’ seriousness towards promoting equality and women empowerment.
Over time, outcomes-based scorecards can be supplemented with performance scorecards. It can be even commissioned by representatives themselves, for live tracking, feedback and course correction.
For instance, the Delhi Policy Group has done pioneering work ranking Indian states using gender indicators. However this “state of women in the states” does not assess political parties or candidates, so it not directly usable by voters.
A gender scorecard must evaluate a party or candidate in domains of
Life and Liberty
For parties, they should be assessed on bills passed and programmes implemented with success rates, and gender affirmative actions. Mere championing and lip service should not be counted.
What impacts the scorecard?
Availability of data on outcomes of policies and programmes.
India has serious paucity of comprehensive measurements, proper data presentation and transparency.
There are numerous announcements of programmes and schemes but the performance and outcomes are inadequately measured.
Difference in importance accorded
It is important to weigh the verticals with the assumption that they differentially contribute to women’s socio-economic development.
For example, lack of running water have a multiplier effect on women’s socio-economic progress as burden falls on them to fetch water for the family from distant sources. This leads to degradation of their education, employment and safety.
Lack of toilets or safe transport can become overwhelming barriers for their development and safety.
Thus it is important to assign equal weights to the verticals.
“What gets measured gets done” can be used as a method to steer socio-political change and combat gender imbalance.
Gender scorecards create healthy rivalry between candidates or parties and makes them accountable to deliver an India for all, while keeping voters in the dark expands poor politics.
Connecting the dots:
What do you understand by a gender scorecard? How can it propel women empowerment in different spheres of society?
In India, diverging incomes despite equalising forces
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