Friday, August 10, 2012

A series of articles

Here’s a collection of articles I found in the papers today. My favourite are the ones about comments from Shivpal Singh Yadav.


India's servants bear brunt of callous rich

Date: August 11, 2012

Amrit Dhillon

A still from the film showing an upset maid.

ONCE in a while, the Indian media carry stories of rich Indians abusing domestic servants.

A teenage girl bludgeoned to death for trying on her employer's lipstick; a maid left for a week with no food and locked in the flat by a doctor couple who have gone to Bangkok; a boy punished for over-salting his employer's food by having a hot spatula pressed against his face.

But the daily indignities of staff are known only to the victims, and it is these experiences that film director Prashant Nair portrays in his film Delhi in a Day. A satire on Delhi's nouveaux riches, the film lampoons their conspicuous consumption, endless socialising, narcissism, social one-upmanship - and mistreatment of staff.

Director Prashant Nair.

''My characters do charity work and engage in philanthropic activities but the moment they get home, they can't treat the staff with civility or dignity,'' said Nair, 35, an engineering graduate who turned to making films a few years ago.

In his first feature film, Nair has chosen not to portray the worst crimes committed against domestic help. Depicting brutality would have worked against his intention to use humour and to generate debate among Indians about mistreatment of servants. Also, too dark a film might have run the risk of being rejected outright by Indians.

Delhi in a Day shows a rich, loudmouth socialite who leads a frou-frou lifestyle with her wealthy businessman husband in a mansion in south Delhi. A semi-alcoholic cook, butler, two drivers, and a maid minister to their needs. The socialite routinely calls them ''idiots'' or waves them away in front of guests.

The event that serves as a catalyst to expose how the rich view servants is the visit by a British friend who comes to India seeking spiritual inspiration and finds only the family's rank materialism. His money is stolen. The family assumes automatically that one of the servants is the thief. They are given 24 hours to replace it - or else.

While choosing a location, Nair looked at about 40 sprawling farmhouses in south Delhi.

''In every one, the servants' quarters were pathetic,'' he said. As a French-Indian director, Nair brings a dual perspective: he is an outsider who has lived all over the world with his diplomat parents before settling in Paris but is also an insider who was born in India and used to spend childhood summers in Delhi.

In these holidays, Nair saw a far greater contempt for poor Indians than any shown by the white Mississippi women towards their black maids in the film The Help, with which his film has been compared.

''I used to see children kicking elderly staff. Once I saw a servant being slapped in front of 80 to 90 people for forgetting something. My aim is to get people to … realise that such behaviour needs to change,'' he said.
The film is not the first to portray this lack of humanity. In 2008, Mumbai director Raja
Menon, in his film Shortchanged, showed how when a driver tries to borrow money - the equivalent of what a family would spend on a pizza - from the tenants in the building where he works, they brush him off without a thought that he needs it for his son's medical treatment.

But Delhi in a Day focuses on the routine and casual cruelties meted out to servants every day. ''I don't see things getting better. If anything, the younger generation are even more selfish and materialistic,'' Nair said.

This article was found at:


Indian minister says bureaucrats 'can steal a little'


A provincial minister in India's most populous state has sparked a scandal after suggesting to bureaucrats that they could "steal a little" if they performed well in their duties.

Shivpal Singh Yadav accused journalists of sneaking into the gathering 

2:58PM BST 10 Aug 2012

Shivpal Singh Yadav, in charge of housing and construction in northern Uttar Pradesh state, on Friday hastily withdrew the offer he made a day earlier during a meeting with government employees, which was also attended by journalists.
Yadav is an uncle to the state chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party stormed into power on an anti-corruption platform in elections held in Uttar Pradesh in March.

"If you work hard, you can steal a little, but don't behave like bandits," the Press Trust of India quoted Yadav as saying at the meeting in Etah town, about 124 miles from capital Lucknow.

The comments drew flak from political opponents, prompting Yadav to retract his offer and accuse journalists of sneaking into the gathering.

"I have taken back those words," he told reporters in Lucknow on Friday. "Why are you raking it up? I don't know why the media is targeting me," he said.

The opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) condemned the minister's invitation to officials to steal.

"A minister's statement is like a policy of the government and if he says so then the government is offering a license to steal the public money," local BJP leader Lalji Tandon said.

"It is not appropriate for a minister to talk like this," he told reporters.

Shahid Siddiqui, who was expelled last month from a senior post in the ruling Samajwadi Party, also turned his guns on the minister.

"It is very unfortunate that a minister who is the uncle of the chief minister and who does not consider himself anything less than a chief minister talks in such a way," Siddiqui said.

"Now you are giving officers a free hand to steal," he added.

Yadav's dubious offer came a month after his nephew warned about corruption in the overwhelmingly poor and underdeveloped state of nearly 200 million people – a population larger than Brazil's.

Corruption has been one of the biggest political issues in India over the last two years, with a string of scandals hitting the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sparking popular protest movements.

Activist Anna Hazare, who models himself on independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, and famous TV yoga guru Baba Ramdev have led hundreds of thousands in protests against endemic bribe-taking and corruption in India.

Source: AFP


India to trigger economic boom by giving mobiles to the poor


The Indian government is considering plans to give millions of mobile phones to its poorest families to help lift them from penury.

Photo: Reuters
11:43AM BST 10 Aug 2012

Officials believe the scheme, called *Har Hath Mein Mobile*, or A Mobile in Every Hand, could revolutionise government services to the poor by offering more than 200 million people without phone connections access to banking services and information sites which could help boost their incomes. They also believe it could help protect their state benefits from corrupt civil servants.

Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, a senior advisor to India's prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh confirmed the idea was aimed the millions of poor families in rural India.
Telecom ministry officials told industry figures the scheme will cost just under a billion pounds and will initially be targeted at six million 'below poverty level' families living on less than £63 per month. It is expected to feature in the Congress-led government's manifesto for the 2014 election campaign.

The scheme has been partly inspired by Kenya's M-PESA mobile phone banking system which enables poor people to transfer money and receive payments via sms text messages. Similar schemes in India have been hampered because millions have no official identity documentation.

The Mobile in Every Hand Scheme however will benefit from the government's ambitious unique identification project to record the biometric details of every Indian and issue them a secure number to help them access government services online. More than 200 million people have already been given new ID numbers.
India has undergone a mobile phone revolution in the last decade with cheap Chinese-made mobile phones and 'pay as you go' services encouraging millions of poor rickshaw pullers and domestic servants to subscribe.

Despite chronic electricity shortages, more than three-quarters of its 1.2 billion people have mobile phones and use them to boost their incomes.

Rickshaw pullers have established cellphone booking services in some cities, while small-holders use them to get text message weather forecasts which have helped boost crops.

Telecommunications analyst Anil Kumar, who runs the independent Telecom Watchdog, said government officials had discussed the scheme with him and that they expected it to be operational by the end of 2013 – just as election campaigning begins. "The idea is give all below the poverty line a mobile handset with 200 free talk minutes. They have yet to work out the details, but 2014 is an election year and it will take a year to invite tenders. It is mainly a political matter for them," he said.

Anti-poverty campaigners gave the proposals a mixed reception, welcoming it as an "empowering move" but also complaining that more pressing priorities had been overlooked. "We have already been tagged as a nation with more mobile phones than toilets. Basic facilities like health care and food security should be available to poor people before planning to give them mobile phones," said Harsh Mandar, activist and Supreme court's special commissioner for the Right to Food.

Professor Anil Gupta, one of India's leading experts on 'frugal innovations' for the poor, said the proposal was "potentially revolutionary" and could help reduce corruption.

"It could be used for mobile banking. Camera phones could be used to record whether [government school] teachers come to school every day – a way of monitoring the bureaucracy. People could use them to create markets for things they have to sell," he said.


Indian officials told they can steal a little, but 'don't be a bandit'

A minister in the country's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, was caught on camera telling officials they could 'steal some'

Officials have been criticised for corruption in a state where malnutrition and poverty are widespread. Photograph: Piyal Adhikary/EPA

Indian bureaucrats can steal a little as long as they work hard, according to a minister in the country's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.

"If you work hard, and put your heart and soul into it ... then you are allowed to steal some," Shivpal Singh Yadav told a gathering of local officials in comments caught on camera. "But don't be a bandit."

The comments made on Thursday were played on newscasts across the country. Yadav, a minister for public works who belongs to the state's ruling Samajwadi party, quickly sought to control the damage, calling a news conference to explain that the comments had been taken out of context and that he had been discussing how to combat corruption.

"In that event, the media was not allowed in, I don't know how they sneaked in. And if they had sneaked in, the whole discussion should have come out in the press, not just part of it," he said.

Uttar Pradesh, which has a bigger population than Brazil, was earlier governed by 'Dalit Queen' Mayawati. She has been criticised for spending millions of rupees on building statues of herself and buying diamond jewellery despite widespread malnutrition and poverty in her state.

Yadav's nephew is Akhilesh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh's chief minister, who came to power
earlier this year proclaiming an end to corruption in the state.

Foreign-educated Akhilesh Yadav, who is the state's youngest chief minister, had projected himself as an agent of change, even though members of his party have been involved in criminal investigations.
Last year, millions of middle class urban Indians protested against corruption in government. But even though prime minister Manmohan Singh's government has been mired in massive graft scandals, the anti-corruption protests have now lost momentum.

  • © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

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