Friday, March 8, 2019

Number of the day: 46.19

Just in time for International Women’s Day, Monster Salary Index reveals the median gross hourly salary for a man in India is 46.19 rupees more than for a woman. And the more high-skilled you are, the bigger the gender gap. There’s no gender pay gap in semi-skilled work but it’s 30 percent in highly skilled occupations. PwC’s Women in Work Index 2019 does not include India since it looks at 33 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. But PwC did a special study of India and if India WAS included in the study it would be dead last. The best place for women at work? Iceland.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The attack on the Kashmiri fruitsellers in Lucknow 

What Happened? Two Kashmiri dry fruit sellers were attacked on a busy road in Lucknow by men in saffron kurtas on Wednesday afternoon.  One started beating the fruit seller with a wooden cane while he begged for mercy. The attackers called the men terrorists and demanded to see “I-cards”.  Passersby intervened asking the men to call the police instead of taking the law into their own hands. Four men have been arrested. Lucknow SSP Kalanidhi Naithani said “We want to send a strict message.” If you really want to see the video, here it is.


Why did this make such big news? This is not the first attack on Kashmiris since Pulwama. Kashmiri students reported being harassed and beaten in  Dehra Dun in Uttarkhand  and Ambala in Haryana among other places. The Supreme Court sent notices to the Center and ten states asking for responses on a plea to protect Kashmiris in different parts of India. At that point the Centre told the court there had been no instances of fresh attacks on Kashmiris since February 22, the day the Court had taken cognizance of a PIL on that issue. The Centre did issue an advisory to all states and Union Territories asking them to ensure the safety of  people from Jammu and Kashmir. Narendra Modi broke his silence to say “Our fight is for Kashmir, not against Kashmiris.”  This is the first attack since then. And the attackers uploaded the video on Facebook to brag about it. Hence the outrage.


Who were the Attackers? Thanks to their own video, it wasn’t hard to ID the attackers. They belonged to a group called the Vishwa Hindu Dal, yet another “fringe Hindutva outfit”, and one of the attackers, Bajrang Sonkar, who has 12 cases pending against him, is apparently its president. Four people have been arrested including Himanshu Awasthi who describes himself as a “former BJP politician” and flaunts his picture with UP governor Ram Naik.


Who Said What? The usual suspects said the expected things:

One not so usual suspect:

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley: “The attack on innocent Kashmiris is condemnable. Our fight is against the separatists and terrorists. We need the people of Jammu and Kashmir with us in the fight against terror.


And the ones still on maunvrat:

  • Narendra Mod
  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh who represents Lucknow in the Lok Sabh
  • UP CM Yogi Adityanath


What’s Noteworthy

Here’s the good news:

  • A high-ranking BJP minister finally stepped forward to condemn it. And condemn it within a day which is lightning speed when it comes to these things these days.

  • There was a good Samaritan here. As journalist Barkha Dutt tweeted: “What happened was hideous. But other people did step in and not look away.”

  • Here’s the man who tried to stop the attack. The fruitsellers Mohammed Afzal Naik and Abdul Salaam thanked the people who saved them saying “They’re good. They had reached before the police.”

Here’s the bad news:

The video was not uploaded by some bystander. The goons who did it uploaded it themselves as a calling card of sorts, much like those lynching videos. There’s a presumption of impunity at play here, not just run-of-the-mill thuggery. As Mehbooba Mufti tweeted “The culprits here were clad in saffron kurtas & are from VHD. They have no fear & in fact uploaded the video on SM.”


Bottomline: Once goons, fringe or not, think they have the green light, they will do their goondagiri. Not so long ago Meghalaya governor Tathagata Roy had endorsed a call to boycott all things Kashmiri. Despite widespread outrage he did not even get a rap on his knuckles. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad merely said, “I don’t agree with his tweet. Matter ends there.”  As Lucknow proves, it obviously did not. What Lucknow also proves is that we might not need an Aadhar card to get a mobile connection anymore. But apparently it’s still a must-have in order to prove your desh bhakti.


In More J&K News: A grenade attack in Jammu left 28 injured and at least 1 dead. A teenager has been arrested for lobbing the grenade. Police say he was indoctrinated by the Hizbul Mujahideen.


If you are looking for a bit of good news about Kashmir, here’s something. Muslim residents just helped Hindus rebuild an 80-year-old temple in Pulwama.

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while checking out your attic for Lakshmibai’s weapons


Sonia Gandhi runs again: It’s official! Sonia Gandhi is running for election again. Squelching those rumours that ill health would force her to step down, Sonia Gandhi’s name is in the first list of Congress candidates from UP. She will be in her bastion of Rae Bareli. Also on that list—Rahul Gandhi from Amethi. And predictably missing, at least in list 1, is Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. (Times of India)


Tipu’s Treasure Trove: In a story worthy of an adventure novel, a couple in Berkshire have found a treasure trove in a dusty attic—weapons looted from British India by their ancestor, an army officer. But what’s even more exciting is these are thought to be Tipu Sultan’s own weapons—his gun, his sword, his black lacquered shield and a solid gold betelnut box (with betel nuts intact). Looted or not, this is like winning a lottery. Maybe Imran Khan, who’s been talking up Tipu Sultan these days, will want the booty since Karnataka seems rather torn about its local son these days. BTW you can see pictures of the treasures in full-colour glory in the article. (Metro UK)


Young Pakistani Crusader Killed: In 2012 a grainy cellphone video of five girls from a Pakistani tribe singing and clapping at a wedding went viral. The women were fully covered and not dancing but a tribal council regarded it as offensive enough to order their deaths. Afzal Kohistani, a young man from that same tribe, tried to expose the murderers and the cleric who ordered the killings. Since then his own life has been in danger and this Thursday he was shot dead in Abbottabad proving that no good deed goes unpunished. (India Today)


Happiest Twitter Day (Yes, it exists): If you think Twitter is just non-stop toxicity you aren’t using your Hedonometer. That’s a graph that measures Twitter sentiments using 10,000 common positive and negative words. And the 10 happiest days in the past 9 years include the day Adele dropped “Hello” and Bieber dropped “Sorry” (we didn’t realize it was the same day either!) and that famous Ellen selfie at the 2014 Oscars, the is it blue or is it black dress and sigh, Barack Obama singing Amazing Grace. Mind you, the Hedonometer only knows English positive and negative words so our desi trolls cussing in chaste Hindustani are outside its purview. (The Ringer)


Ladies in Space: It’s going to be a historic girls night out in space as NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch get set to conduct a 7-hour spacewalk March 29th at the International Space Station supported by an all-female crew. And while we are not going as far as space, Air India has a record all-female crews for 12 of its major Atlantic and Pacific routes for Women’s Day. Is that what’s called an “unmanned” flight? (Bustle)


Insta Queen: Queen Elizabeth II isn’t content becoming the longest reigning monarch in the world. She’s now posted her first Instagram. It’s a picture of a letter she discovered at the Science Museum written by Charles Babbage, regarded as the world’s first computer pioneer and addressed to her great-great-grandfather, Prince Albert. BTW the Queen has already made her first tweet. That happened in 2014. What next? Snapchat? (Mashable)


Captain Marvel lands: It’s finally here and just in time for International Women’s Day—a female-led Marvel movie. Can Captain Marvel top DC Studio’s Wonder Woman? That’s the million dollar question. Actually 100 million dollar question since that’s what Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman made in its domestic opening. Reviews have been thumbs up and the girl-josh is said to be strong. Trailer here but in theatres today! (NDTV)


The Legend of Didi: Bengalis take great pride in well, other Bengalis. An outdoor billboard of Bengali heroes with the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Netaji as “Famous Bengali Legends” would not have raised too many eyebrows in Kolkata  except the last of the legends (and the only living legend in the lot) was the state’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee. That’s causing quite a social media stir while everybody pretends they didn’t know how it got up there. (NDTV)


Bajrangi Not-so Bhaijaan: Babu Bajrangi sent to 21 years in prison for the Naroda Patiya massacre in the Gujarat riots just got bail. 97 people were killed after the Godhra train carnage. Tehelka had caught him bragging about it on camera. The most infamous charge against him - ripping the foetus out of a pregnant woman. Babu Bajrangi got bail after he had heart surgery and the state filed a medical report certifying him as blind. (Telegraph)


Headline of the Day: And just in time for International Women’s Day this headline—Mumbai Man’s 2nd Wife Kills 3rd Wife Aided by 1st Wife’s Daughters and Daughter’s Boyfriend. That’s how we keep it all in the family in India. (Storypick)

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Stuff we love, buy and use

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It's my life

If all the talk about Michelle Obama’s Becoming has whetted your appetite for memoirs but you just can’t deal with the Accidental Prime Minister, here are a few life stories from women that are a little more off the beaten path.


When you think we are all becoming post-caste... 


Yashica Dutt, a former fashion reporter comes at India’s caste problems from a very different angle than the usual Mayawati-reservations-caste-violence-in-villages perspective as she writes a memoir about how she spent her life passing as upper caste even thought they were actually Dalit. The upper caste performance even included their own personal cow, Lali . Coming Out As Dalit (Aleph) makes you think not just about what it means to be Dalit in modern India but also what it actually means to be upper caste and have noone ever question it.  Check out an excerpt from the book here and an interview with Dutt here.


Price: Rs 380 | Coming Out As Dalit | Amazon

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When you have had it with those I-started-with-10,000-rupees-and-built-a-retail-empire kinda stories…

Shabnam Aggarwal, an Indian American who came to Delhi, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, to launch a Zomato-style start-up for educational services. And then she went belly-up. Her parents were shocked she wanted to write about failing but as Aggarwal puts it, it’s a lesson every entrepreneur needs to know. Check out an excerpt from Freedom to Fail here.


Price: Rs 186 | Freedom to Fail | Amazon

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When you need a shot of Vitamin Inspiring...

We might want to avert our eyes from victims of acid attacks but Reshma Qureshi wants to force us to at least listen. In 2004 she was attacked by her abusive brother-in-law as she was on her way to an examination centre. She was wearing her sister’s niqab and he didn’t realize it. Being Reshma unflinchingly tells the story of what happens afterwards to people like her—bureaucratic apathy, medical callousness, depression and suicide attempts until she finally becomes the face of the campaign to end acid sales and walks the ramp at New York Fashion Week. Here’s an excerpt from Being Reshma.


Price: Rs 302 | Being Reshma | Amazon

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