There was an error in this gadget

May 24, 2013

Chit funds or cheat funds? | The Hindu

Chit funds or cheat funds? | The Hindu   BANGALORE, May 21, 2013

Legal chit funds safer but many risk the illegal route. In other words, they are sitting on a powder keg

Every once in a way, the media reports about unregistered chit fund operators fleeing with crores of rupees belonging to gullible investors. But that does not seem to deter people who continue on the same path of risky investment.
In Bangalore, there are 193 registered chit fund operations under the Chit Funds Act 1982, with a turnover of about Rs. 4,000 crore per annum. However, the number of unregistered chit operators is estimated to be at least 100 times that. In other words, investors are sitting on a powder keg that can blow up any time.

What is a chit fund?
Chit fund is a traditional financial scheme carried out based on trust between operators and members, which prevailed even before formal banking began. Unregistered chit funds, whose chit value exceeds Rs. 100, are illegal in India.
Why do people risk dealing with unregistered operators? There are three main reasons: there is no need for any document to participate in chit fund schemes, unlike in the case of registered companies; flexibility in borrowing, and an easy way to invest unaccounted for money.
And how do unregistered chit operators flourish despite cases of cheating against many of them? The main reasons are: non-implementation of preventive measures as prescribed in the Chit Funds Act to prosecute unregistered chit operators; lack of stringent provisions in law to check their operations and third, many unregistered operators adopt dubious methodology to ensure that their schemes are slightly different from the chit fund scheme as defined in the Act, to avoid registration.
Overregulation and the multilayered procedures to get a chit fund registered under the Act also are a deterrent for people to go the legal way.

Relatively safe
While there are innumerable instances of unregistered chit operators duping investors, there has been no such instance involving a registered chit fund operator in Bangalore in the recent times.
Both Karnataka Chitsters’ Association president B. Shivalingappa and Registrar of Cooperative Societies and Chits N.S. Chinnappa point out that except for minor cases of non-payment of the instalment by a member and delay in payment of the chit fund amount or prize money, there have been no complaints against registered chit fund operators in the State.
The 1982 Act prohibits operators from utilisation or appropriation of the money collected as chit fund subscription, says Mr. Shivalingappa, pointing out that chit fund companies are barred from accepting deposits.
“Chit funds are overregulated but less governed, and regulations on chit funds are more stringent than banking regulations. Simplification of the Act will solve many hurdles and prevent people from being attracted towards unregistered chit fund operators,” says T.S. Sivaramakrishnan, general secretary of All Indian Association of Chit Funds, while pointing out that Saradha Group of West Bengal, which is still making news following the collapse of its ponzi scheme, was not registered to operate chit funds.

Why they are popular
Shivakumar, an advocate, says that less stringent documentation and easy investment of unaccounted for money drive people towards unregistered chit fund operators. Penal provisions for operating an unregistered chit fund are too soft. They should be changed to ensure longer imprisonment with higher penalty amount of at least Rs. 5 lakh from the Rs. 5,000 now, he said and added that that the Registrar of Chits has, perhaps, never used his power to raid an illegally operated chit fund firm/operator in Bangalore.

‘Vehicle for the poor’
A study by the Institute for Financial Management and Research, Chennai, found that 96 per cent of chit fund members surveyed had commented that participation in registered chit fund operations as “safe”.
“The results from this study underscore the importance of chit funds as a savings and borrowing vehicle for the poor and lower income households in India. The data we collected from the Chit Fund Registrars of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Delhi for the first time allows us to estimate the size of the registered chit fund industry. We find that the total amount of capital lent per year through registered chit funds is between 10 per cent and 50 per cent of all priority-sector lending which is extended by regular banks in these same States,” stated the IFMR report.
The study pointed out that though chit funds are an important source of finance for small businesses and low-income households, there has been a general exodus of low value chit fund schemes from the registered chit fund market. “This is mainly because registered chit funds find it less lucrative to serve the poor due to the increased cost of operating such schemes imposed by the regulators. Most registered chit funds have moved away from smaller chit fund schemes and mainly offer large schemes. These developments make it very difficult for the poor to participate in chit fund schemes and often leave them without any institutional savings options,” said the report.

May 14, 2013

How Corrupt Are Politicians?

By Ray Fisman

What’s it worth to be a politician? In this country, we hear a lot about the rich lobbying and consulting earnings that lawmakers enjoy after leaving office. But at least while they’re still serving in government, with the exception of a few scandalous examples, our elected representatives take home pretty modest paychecks and nothing else. In many other parts of the world, politicians don’t wait till they’re out of office to reap the rewards of public service: There are rumors that Vladimir Putin has amassed a personal fortune in the billions; the same goes for the Suhartos of Indonesia, Libya’s Qaddafi family, and so on. But these stories of untold riches involve a lot of speculation and rumor, and, in any event, a few high profile cases tell us little about whether rank and file parliamentarians and senators are also profiting financially from their elected offices.
Recent disclosure laws in India, which require that political candidates publicly list their bank balances, the cars they own, and other assets, have given us a glimpse into the wealth accumulation of politicians in that country, which I analyze with coauthors Florian Schulz and Vikrant Vig in a recently posted unpublished study. What we find should be at least a little bit comforting to those who question their politicians’ scruples. Comparing the reported assets of politicians who have run for office in elections since 2003, we find that candidates who were elected to state assemblies fared only marginally better financially than runners-up. There is an exception: Politicians who get high-level cabinet posts do sometimes make out like bandits. But for politicians who never make it very far up the hierarchy, politics doesn’t really pay at all.
It used to be nearly impossible to measure the wealth of politicians, or the rate at which they grew their fortunes. But many countries now require elected officials—and even candidates merely running for office—to reveal their asset holdings. In India, it’s been possible to keep tabs on what politicians have stashed away since 2003, when the Association for Democratic Reform, a nonprofit group, successfully petitioned to have all candidates for public office provide detailed disclosure of their finances. This included a list of bank deposits and loans outstanding; their stock portfolios; and the value of cars, jewelry, buildings, land, and other potentially valuable holdings. (They were also required to list their educational credentials and any criminal history. A surprising fraction of Indian politicians—nearly a third—had criminal backgrounds to report.)
The effect of holding office is fairly modest: The wealth of an elected MLA grows, on average, 6 percentage points faster relative to his runner-up. You might think that the candidate who prevails in the election is a smarter, better campaigner—that’s why he won—and his bigger brain may also mean that he is better able to pick stocks and otherwise earn money faster than his opponent. But we found that the “winner’s premium” for MLAs was even larger when we looked only at cases where the vote was decided by a margin of just a few percent—close enough that the election outcome was essentially a matter of random chance. (The attributes of winners and losers in these close elections were also very similar, with roughly comparable initial wealth, education, and criminal histories.)

For anyone familiar with the magic of compound interest, 6 percent a year can add up pretty quickly—at the end of five years in office, winners end up with assets worth nearly 70 percent more than their unelected counterparts, or about $60,000 in extra wealth. This is more than can be accounted for by the very meager official earnings of state parliamentarians, which were generally no more than a few thousand dollars a year during this period, but also far from the million dollar paydays that capture the public’s imagination.
But that 6 percent difference between winners and losers is misleading. There is a much wider divergence in wealth when it comes to elite members of the government. MLAs who are appointed to cabinet-level posts in the state’s Council of Ministers grow their wealth at a rate that’s 15 percent faster than runners-up. By the time they finish their time in office, they’ve got more than double the wealth that runners-up or other elected officials have. Once you take MLAs who become ministers out of the picture and then compare winners to losers, the MLAs who are left behind don’t do any better financially than election losers at all. The fortunes made by state ministers aren’t a smoking gun—cabinet posts aren’t handed out randomly, so someone with the smarts to be appointed minister may also be a better investor than a run-of-the-mill MLA. But it still suggests that watchdog organizations like the ADR should take a careful look at the land deals and bank transactions of state ministers and their families.
We also found that the size of the MLA “winner’s premium” depends on whether a candidate is running as an incumbent. Incumbents who were re-elected out-earned incumbents who lost, but the pattern was reversed for candidates coming from the private sector: Winners earned less in the next few years than losers. It may be the consequences of becoming a political lifer in India, where legislators may not have the same lobbying opportunities that their counterparts in the United States do, and they haven’t developed the skills they need to make a lot of money when no longer in office. Politicians coming in from the private sector, on the other hand, can go back to earning decent wages if they lose, but are stuck with the paltry salary of a state assemblyman if they are “lucky” enough to win.

Overall, the numbers belie the widely held view in India that politicians are on the take. Before letting them off the hook completely, though, it’s worth keeping in mind that we only account for the wealth that MLAs themselves report in their disclosure documents.  Funds or jewelry may be hidden in foreign accounts, secreted away in bank vaults, or “loaned” to cousins—though given these holes in the disclosure laws, it is all the more surprising that the data reveal the rich returns of state ministers.
There will always be ways of eluding public scrutiny—the goal of disclosure laws is to make it harder, not impossible, for politicians to exploit their positions for personal gain. To really accomplish this objective, it’s also crucial to get the disclosed information—imperfect as it may be—into the hands of voters who can then reach their own conclusions about whether there’s something suspicious going on.
Researchers at Harvard and MIT have in fact taken advantage of Indian disclosure laws in a study which finds that the electorate does make use of information from their MLA’s disclosures when casting their ballots. It may be quixotic to hope that greater disclosure and transparency will cleanse the world of corruption, but it can at least help voters keep their politicians just a little bit more honest.

Ray Fisman is the Lambert Family professor of social enterprise and director of the Social Enterprise Program at the Columbia Business School. He is the co-author, with Tim Sullivan, ofThe Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office. )

May 13, 2013

The Dragon Invasion (INTERNATIONAL) May 16-31 -2013 ( JustInPrint)

The Dragon Invasion (INTERNATIONAL) May 16-31 -2013 ( JustInPrint)

The boundary between India and China extends over 2200 miles. The boundary of Sikkim with the Tibet region of China extends over 140 miles while that of Bhutan extends over 300 miles. The entire length of this border has been either defined by treaty or recognised by custom or by both and until the present controversy no Chinese Government had ever protested against the exercise of jurisdiction by the Government of India upto the customary border. The problem is due to the long Sino-Indian border 4,057 km  is disputed.

The Government of the People’s Republic of China contends that this boundary is entirely undefined. This is wholly incorrect. The traditional border has been well-known for centuries. It follows the geographical principle of the watershed which is in most places the crest of the Himalayan mountains. Moreover, in most parts the boundary has the sanction of specific international agreements.

On April 15,2013 Chinese troops are about 10 kms inside  Ladakh (Depsang area) and have made a remote camp as well. Even Chinese helicopters entered Indian territory.India continues to say it hopes to resolve issues with China peacefully !

Repeated entry inside Indian territory by Chinese has become a normal news , may be for us and the government too. So let them enter and take up all our country and we will see when we can schedule a meeting with their officials to solve the issue peacefully.
The China-Indian clash served to confirm the suspicion that China had grown power drunk because the boundary question was opened by the Chinese when they were strong enough to inflict their will upon India. Till then the Chinese refused to be drawn into discussion on the ground that the time for the negotiations was not ripe.

What is the Government up to, only they know the best? Feels so helpless to realize someone is capturing our country slowly since decades and claims our part of land as theirs and we let them do so? The government prefers to remain silent on the issue as it prefers on any other topics. The opposition is helplessly accusing as they always do and all goes to deaf ears. We the Mangoes of India, we are busy watching IPL, or at the most discussing Chinese invasions over office coffee breaks , office gossips and over a peg or two. Rural mangoes probably may not even know about the news. Looks like no one is bothered.

If the East India Company can what is the harm if China ends up ruling us or even taking away half our country? Who cares !! In India nobody cares , capture a 5 year old girl or parts of country nobody cares .
India is planning to extend a red carpet treatment to the new Chinese Premier, when he arrives next month for a summit meeting with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh. It is his first overseas trip, and Li Kiqiang will attempt to show how serious and sincere China is in dealing with India. He will emphasise the great importance it attaches to this relationship, at least outwardly.

There have been reports of consultation between the giant neighbours on counter-terrorism and the first ever dialogue on Afghanistan.

 Across the eastern Ladakh border, however, Chinese troops have moved some 10 km inside the Indian territory and both sides are facing each other at the Line of Actual Control.  Fortunately, no clash has taken place so far, and no injury or death reported, on either side. Flag meetings are said to be in progress.

 Apparently, their move was met with no resistance, and Indians were taken by surprise.  This unexpected move by the People's Liberation Army and the flag meetings are expected to produce the stale result of both sides claiming for “status quo”, as the perception of Line of Actual Control would differ.

 On the TV news channels, however, it was reported that the Chinese have demanded that Indian troops to dismantle the structures built by them (how long ago, we do not know) as a precondition for talks to resolve the issue amicably!

In the last few years, ever since the Chinese became a financial super-power house, it has relentlessly attempted to expand its overseas activities, in all fields. Without declaring a war it is at loggerheads with its ASEAN neighbours. It has its navy patrolling the South China and Japanese Seas and has threatened everyone on the Spartleys Island, where it is involved in some construction activities. Other claimants, whether it is the Philippines, Indonesia Malaysia and others have not been able to do anything.

 Japan, though has the US support, does not feel as safe as it was before. And China is obviously using its proxy of North Korea to threaten South Korea. It is also eyeing at the possibility of entering Afghanistan when US troops are withdrawn. This is more likely to be a move engineered by Pakistan which is averse to Indian influence in that country.

 It must be borne in mind that China is already building an all-weather port in Baluchistan and is fully entrenched in Myanmar. The Chinese expansion policy is slowly, but firmly, enlarging in our neighbourhood, ably and silently supported by Pakistan.

Chinese influence in Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and attempts to break-through in Afghanistan with financial assistance are increasing. It made inroads in Nepal and possibly considers Bhutan as a harmless spectator.
 Pakistan is an annexe of China, a shift from being a handmaid of USA. Only question is do we have a credible strategy of nullifying this reality and do we still tie our defence forces in shackles of finance, policy and support rooted as the Govt. is in 2 or 3 year electoral thinking always?

But more than Mao, it was Nehru who contributed to his own disgrace by blundering twice on China.  His first blunder was to shut his eyes to the impending fall of Tibet even when Sardar Patel had repeatedly cautioned him in 1949 that the Chinese communists would annex that historical buffer as soon as they installed themselves in Beijing.  An overconfident Nehru, who ran foreign policy as if it were personal policy, went to the extent of telling Patel by letter that it would be a “foolish adventure” for the Chinese Communists to try and gobble up Tibet – a possibility that “may not arise at all” as it was, he claimed, geographically impracticable!

 In 1962, Nehru, however, had to admit he had been living in a fool’s paradise. “We were getting out of touch with reality in the modern world and we were living in an artificial atmosphere of our creation,” he said in a national address after the Chinese aggression.

Nehru had ignored India’s military needs despite the Chinese surreptitiously occupying Indian areas on the basis of Tibet’s putative historical ties with them, and setting up a land corridor to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir through Aksai Chin. Although Indian military commanders after the 1959 border clashes and casualties began saying that they lacked adequate manpower and weapons to fend off the People’s Liberation Army, Nehru ordered the creation of forward posts to prevent the loss of further Indian territory without taking the required concomitant steps to beef up Indian military strength, including through arms imports.  Nehru had convinced himself grievously that the Chinese designs were to carry out further furtive encroachments on Indian territory, not to launch major aggression. 

 The world is changing through information technology, and economic interdependence. India and China both realise the need to adapt to these tectonic changes, if they hope to develop as economically stable and politically lasting entities. The leadership in both states is aware of the need to ensure the social and economic well-being of their peoples. In that lies real security and stability, the two essential conditions for development. They realise that autonomous behaviour in internal and external relations is no longer feasible in international arena. The need to assure neighbours of their interests through confidence building measures, placing ancient disputes in correct perspective, reaching for consensus instead of conflict resolution by force are the need of the day. India and China both realise the need for military strength commensurate with their security and the anxieties of neighbours. The reality after the Cold War is of a world order based on equity amongst states and constructive engagement through trade and economic development. Even as some hegemonic and other similar mindsets are still to be seen, the future of inter-state relations is well set on the course of cooperation. China and India realise the need for cooperation and for moving away from old animosities through mutual agreements. They have resolved to find solutions to their disputes through negotiations. Indian initiatives in South Asia and Chinese efforts in finding solutions to its issues of contention with Russia, Japan, USA and in the Asia Pacific are evidence of their new awareness. In some ways China is adding a healthy dose of “Idealist” balance to its policies. India on the other hand is introducing an element of “Realist” pragmatism to its policies. They are in the process going beyond the culture constraints of the past. Kautilya and Sunzi would have both approved of such a reorientation.

In the military perspective, the best way to remove the prospect of war remains the removal of the bone of contention. There has never been a better time than the present to take cooperation between India and China to the levels they are capable of reaching. The need of the time is to formally and finally resolve the disputes between the two giant sized states. The conflicts of the past between China and India were not of nations but between states following different policies to secure themselves. Now that the two states are in a better environment of “Realist-Idealist” mix, specific measures can be looked at. The border dispute should now be formally and finally settled. This will need accommodation from both sides and that should not be an insurmountable problem given the new circumstances. The larger issue of weapons rivalry between the two states and through either of them into the region is another issue which requires urgent attention. If these two vexing issues are taken in hand, the way ahead in the 21st Century would be free from the compulsions of the past and pave the way to a stable future. If that is achieved, the military perspective which so dominated the India-China relations in the last  years would be balanced by the larger contexts of economy, trade, and international cooperation. China and India would then be partners in providing a lead through the principles of Panchsheel and in moving the world away from military conflicts. It would be a condition which both Kautilya and Sunzi would have approved.

The Daulat Beg incursion is just a posturing from the Chinese which is meant to be sorted out in a few days after it has served its diplomatic purpose and rationale. However, China committed a mistake by hoisting a war on India in 1962 over the territory issue. The 1962 war virtually formalized and sanctified the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the eyes of the world just as Pakistan’s misadventure in imposing the Kargil War on India in 1999 virtually sanctified the Line of Control (LoC) before the international community.

Borders have become mostly irrelevant today as the two nations are well-integrated economically. But disputed borders have been the greatest problem in healthy relations in any region of the world and therefore it warrants a solution, as soon as possible. In this case, a solution is not possible unless the public is willing to understand the problem. Politicians will always engage in grandstanding over this issue and may even be willing to sacrifice more Indian lives again if it is able to fetch them votes. But the public needs to understand.

The biggest problem in solving territorial disputes is that people attach their emotions and sense of patriotism with the land, and not with the people living there exactly in the case of Kashmir. Finding a solution is difficult because convincing the people that they have always been disillusioned by political experts, is difficult. Can India go for a war and put thousands of lives and years of development at stake for a place which has no strategic significance, where nobody lives and which was never even our own? Only the masses hold an answer to that.

Siddhartha Shankar Mishra,
Sambalpur, Odisha

May 02, 2013

Not just another border incident

The Ladakh intrusion by China points to India's imperative to review its strategic priorities
It is almost with disdain that a bunch of Chinese soldiers have set up camp inside Indian territory. Baffled by this defiant Chinese intrusion into Ladakh, the Indian establishment has chosen to downplay the incident. What is worrisome is that we seem to have no answers to such repeated Chinese provocations across the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

This stand-off may be defused diplomatically, but what it really shows is the PLA's contempt for our military capability. This raises a serious question: why do we continue to remain militarily fragile vis-a-vis China, despite being nuclear-armed, with a deterrent that boasts of an ICBM capability?

A candid assessment will reveal we are operationally disadvantaged across the LAC. In handling border situations, nuclear deterrence is hardly of consequence, as the military equation is determined solely by "conventional" war-fighting capability. In this respect, it would be absurd to compare our war-fighting capability with that of the PLA. China belongs to a different league and we would only be deluding ourselves if we believe that our nuclear deterrent has a sobering influence on China.

Removing the intrusion during the Kargil war, or launching Operation Parakram, may have worked with Pakistan, but against the PLA, a coercive manoeuvre would be a different ballgame. Our strategic calculations would need to keep in mind the PLA's aggressive war-fighting doctrine of "Forward Defence", matched by its robust build-up along the entire McMahon Line.
Handling the Sumdorong Chu situation in 1986 was commendable, but we need to remember that the PLA has come a long way since then. With a vastly upgraded conventional war-fighting capability, the PLA has rapidly modernised its armed forces in comparison to ours, which have been degraded through years of neglect. We consequently lack the refinements needed for manoeuvre warfare in our mountainous borders with China. With improved border infrastructure and massive airlift resources, the PLA can deploy up to four full-fledged mountain divisions to any point along the LAC within 24 hours. In contrast, our troops remain bogged down by decrepit border infrastructure and lack of mobility. That is the ground reality.

As the chairman of the chiefs of staffs committee, when I visited our forward outposts on the Chinese border, I was heartened by the brave faces of our field commanders, though they knew they would be outclassed.

But why are we in such a paradox — nuclear-armed, yet militarily fragile? It is because we have deluded ourselves that nuclear deterrence reduces the need for conventional force levels and, taken in by this flawed proposition, scarce national resources have been diverted to build a nuclear war-fighting machine that will never be used. Influenced by nuclear warfare gurus with a "nuclear mindset", we have misplaced our strategic priorities. Where our foremost need has always been to equip and modernise our conventional force levels to match our vastly superior northern neighbour, we have merrily stockpiled a nuclear arsenal. The overriding need has always been to build up our conventional combat capability, for that is what credible deterrence is about. More, nuclear deterrence remains counterproductive unless matched by an effective and credible conventional war-fighting capability. What ultimately matters is "conventional deterrence", which not only prevents a war but, if the need arises, ensures a credible response. And that is the dilemma we face, with the Chinese soldiers defiantly squatting inside our territory in Ladakh.

It is mistakenly believed in some quarters that China is preoccupied with its domestic agenda and problems in the South and East China Seas and would rather not stir up a border conflict with India. To military professionals, this would seem unconvincing, for it is China's belligerence and huge capability that remains our concern. Moreover, China has always been a non-status quo power, which remains miffed at being constantly compared to India. Dismissing the PLA's intrusion into Ladakh as just another border incident may have geostrategic implications viewed in the context of China's longstanding territorial claims.

Hopefully, we are not going to make the type of strategic blunder Great Britain made in the 1960s and 1970s, when it opted for the Polaris-Trident programme to bolster its nuclear deterrence. Massive resources were diverted that emasculated Britain's conventional war-fighting capability. It cost the Royal Navy dearly. An atrophied Royal Navy realised the consequences of this folly much later in1982, when it could barely assemble a motley group of ships to sail for the Falklands. A navy that took centuries to build and proudly ruled the waves was eclipsed by the misplaced strategic priorities of its government. The Ladakh incident may blow over, but it ought to act as a wake-up call to review our strategic priorities.

The writer is a former chief of the Indian navy and chairman, COSC

The problem with porn


Source - Indian Express

Can pornography be given free play when the state remains an integral expression of male power?

There are many things we need to know that we wish we did not have to. The existence of domestic violence against women and children is one of them. The use of pornography as a tool for learning and justifying such brutal behaviour, is another. We have lived in denial of links between the two for too long, despite ample evidence that patterns of abusive sexual dominance are often first picked up by males at home and then honed through viewing porn that furthers the idea of the inferiority of all females. Recent cases of gangrape also verify what feminists and criminologists have been saying for a long time: violent abusers of young women and female children are mostly repeat offenders, and known area bullies. Such men will become even more prone to abusive predatory behaviour after bouts of heavy drinking and collective viewing of pornographic material with similarly inclined male friends.

Despite this, the moment the issue of banning pornography or regulating the sale of alcohol comes up, loud protests erupt, citing the constitutional right to earning a livelihood and the basic freedom of speech and expression.

Think, for a minute, that material containing propaganda justifying the killing or torture of specific groups on the basis of caste or creed were made freely available. Would we not become outraged, knowing that such propaganda precedes and justifies casteist and ethnic violence? Why, then, should the easy availability of pornographic material depicting the grossest forms of violence against women and children, remain an exception, and Article 19(1) be invoked for its continuance? Even in a liberal state, can pornography be given free play, even when it comes at the cost of the free speech of women victims who, as it is, do not have full freedom of speech within homes?

Liberal theoreticians of both sexes are so confused by the din of the erotic versus obscene debate that they mostly refrain from delving into how pornography capitalises on the tacit approval for male freedom of speech by the same state and the civil society that say they can book offenders only if the victims speak up. Even those outraged by the police dragging its feet and demanding better safety and policing of streets, ended up looking schizoid as they asked for dramatically swift state intervention and gory reprisals against the guilty on behalf of the sexually abused women and children, quite forgetting that they had found the state so useless that they wanted all leaders to resign.

The state, as victims of sexual violence encounter it first hand, is not a free floating reality. It has a clear face and voice: that of the SHO who tries to bribe a child victim's father and buy his silence, that of an ACP who slaps a young female protester, an MP who looks upon the anger of women protesters dismissively, calling them a bunch of "dented and painted" females. With such movers and shakers, can even a vociferous demand for positive state intervention tilt the scales of justice in favour of women and children? Can the battered victims and their families be coaxed into believing that the state as it is, must be viewed as a primary tool of their empowerment?

It is true that gender is first the construct of a social system, but in a country like ours, it has a long history that predates democracy. There are many who still seek to explain the upswing in rapes as linked to the wide dissemination of pornographic material to new technology. They like to remind us that we were a much kinder, safer society just a century ago, before the birth of the present day Westernised system. But they are wrong. Burning up TV sets or shops selling DVDs will not help. Violent and abusive behaviour against the weak, women and children in particular, has had a long history in India. Less than a century and a half ago, notorious gangs of thugs roamed our unsafe highways, unwanted widows were routinely being sent away when not being burnt on pyres, children from poor families were being sold to the highest bidders by their impoverished families and unpaid labour was routinely subjected to hair-raising acts of sadism by landlords and princelings. I have heard many stories about how, earlier, in large joint families, young girls and indigent widows felt the spectre of molestation by some male relative or family friend hanging over their heads. Some girls were saved from predatory family males by their prudent and watchful mothers, some were not. But all of them, when they reported sexual abuse to mothers or family elders, were forced to hold their tongues for fear of family reprisals and a social stigmatising that would render the victim as unmarriageable commodity. Fact is, since male dominance over women remains basically sexual, even in a democratic set-up, rape and porn are not deviant phenomena, but only one extreme example of the way in which men will use women and simultaneously show them their true place within a state they control and have moulded in their image.

Since the modern Indian state is founded on male power, male dominance over women is clearly visible socially, economically and politically. Since nothing is gender neutral in India, and the state remains an integral expression of male power from the thana to Jantar Mantar to Parliament, how can it serve the interests of women on whose brutal dominance, powerlessness and guaranteed silence its porn and sex industries thrive? Go to the police first!

Ironically the thanedar who lets boys be boys, finds young women out late at night on streets, women in pubs with male or female friends, women in comfortable cool short dresses that make mobility easier, abetting the crime, while the eroticisation of dominance and submission in popular films and myriad item numbers continue to be seen as entertaining by all. Unless the basic theory of such a schizophrenic state is questioned, can we assume that full implementation of laws amended by liberal jurists will solve the problem and lead to better-crafted legal arguments in favour of women that will show everyone, from our parliamentarians to the police and the courts, the error of their ways?

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist and chairperson of Prasar Bharati