Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kolkata...makes me happy. And sad

There's a lot about Kolkata. When the pilot announces, "We are landing in Kolkata, Nejaji Shubas Chandra Bose Airport. Temperature outside 30 degree Celsius"... Your heart skips a beat. You feel those butterflies yet again. The thrill of hearing, speaking and eating Bengali is a feeling that just cannot be described.

And then, a day passes. Kosha mangsho, shutki mach, chocchori, chaa and cigarettes after cigarettes are just the beginning to an awesome holiday you believe. The air makes you feel that you belong here. You tell yourself that this will be the last holiday. Next time you'll be Kolkata's again. But well, it doesn't turn out that way.

Slowly, things happen. Things that make you sad. Things that make you angry. Things you thought you will never look back at when you left the city 3 years back.  Things that remind why you left, why you decided never to come back. And then you feel you need to leave Kolkata again. Just, this time you don't know if you can ever say "home is where heart is."

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dear FM, your 'women-friendly' budget isn't what we need

So, our Finance Minister P Chidambaram said today that India will set up a special Public Sector Unit bank solely for women. Noble idea. But how will that help?

Will this ‘all-women’ bank give me more interest rates on my savings account? Or will it give me cheaper loans? If it does neither, what’s the point really? Last time I checked, banking didn’t differ much based on whether you were a man or a woman. We find it to be equally easy or difficult. And it’s not like I feel particularly unsafe there rather than anywhere else. Then, why this exclusive bank?

He proposed to set up ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ and allocated Rs 1,000 crore to it.  He also proposed to provide an additional sum of 200 crore to Ministry of Women and Child Development to design schemes for women belonging to vulnerable groups.

Very populist I must say. But how this going to be used?

Last year, Ministry of Women and Child Development was allocated Rs 18,500 crore and the year before Rs 12, 650 crore. Have they been able to improve or make our society secure? No.

What we need is education, for both male and female. What we need is fast-track courts for crimes against women. What we need is development at the grassroot level– one of them being more toilets for women. And what we really need is security. Maybe, more funds to increase policing on the streets, as well as more female police officers would be a better idea.

It was a plain populist budget.

Most women will still be groped on the streets – perhaps even on the way to the all female bank, men standing in crowded buses will still make those lunges at our thighs, chest or butt, they will keep gesturing from a passing cab and complaints about molestation will still be taken lightly.

Isn't it time, Dear FM, to put some action where your words and your money seem to be?