Should governments—Union or State—spend money for full-page advertisement in the media, highlighting their ‘self-professed achievements’? A petition has been filed by NGO Foundation for Restoration of National Values before the Supreme Court which has decided to hear the PIL. The NGO foundation’s Advocate, RP Mehrotra has sought direction for an immediate end to what he called us “wasteful expenditure “by the governments. He has sought mandamus restraining the Centre as well as all State Governments from spending public funds and tax-payers’ money for self-praise. Mehrotra’s argument is that newspapers would be largely beholden to the State and Central administrations for the cash and, under such circumstances, the press is unlikely to remain unbiased, neutral and non-partisan.
The argument sounds logical. Of course, rich dailies can afford to ignore government largesse and it is unlikely that their usual editorial stance would change in the context of denial of administrative munificence. One suspects that the same cannot be said of subaltern media which cannot possibly afford to lose government ads. But that said, what is wrong with governments spending money on what they claim are their achievements? The public has the right to know how tax money is spent and if placing full-page ads in the media will help governments too communicate with the public, can that be considered wrong?
Meanwhile a hot debate is going on concerning what is termed “moral policings” by some rightist, so-called fundamentalist groups, in Mangalore. Should a birthday party be held in what is loosely termed as a ‘Home Stay’ which is neither a home nor a hotel, but the premises of which can be occupied on a costly rental that is priced between Rs 3,000 to Rs 10,000 pm? The ‘Home Stay’ provides privacy but no security and many believe that such places can be used for a wide range of purposes from the illegitimate to the immoral and no questions asked. Notice is being taken in the media of wide social changes and how they are affecting society. The Delhi Age (July 30) for example, carried an article that quoted an advertising professional Borishta Sengupta as saying that “casual sex works in today’s day and age, mainly because it helps in distressing”. Where do young people indulge in such activity, without being noticed? One answer is Home Stay, the likes of which are reportedly proliferating all over India. Another issue that is commanding attention is domestic tension.
According to The Time of India (July 15) last year alone, as many as 24,596 home-makers committed suicide of whom 51.5 per cent were women. One sociologist is quoted as saying that “marriage in itself is not an enabling factor for suicides, (only) it leads to a variety of stresses which can cause women to take their lives”. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRU) “while social and economic causes have led most of the males to commit suicide, it’s emotional and personal causes that have mainly forced women to end their lives”. The New Sunday Express (August 5) carried an article by Deepshika Punj which noted that “relationship problems and loneliness among youngsters and senior citizens” are some of the reasons for committing suicide, with “lack of communication” between youngsters and their parents being an additional reason for taking one’s life. As for senior citizens, according to Aamir Khan, writing in The Hindu (July16) it is the change, ‘the gradual shift’ from the joint family to the nuclear family is what is wreaking damage to family kife, not to speak of neglect of elders. Changes in society are noticeable in many ways, as, for example, in the matter of dress. This has also led to high level controversy. Thus, The Hindu (July 29) had an article saying “Skirts have become shorter, inviting taunts’. Should girl students wear skirts that are getting shorter by the day? Won’t that lead to what is called éve-teasing”? The paper quoted a prominent Trinamool Congress legislator, Chiranjeet Chakraborty as saying girl students’ dresses “have become shorter to appeal to men…. that should be appreciated…. but when it attracts taunts and comments, it becomes a case for eve-teasing….. which is undesirable”.
Quoted also is a comment from Trinamool Congress Minister for Women and Social Welfare, Sabitri Mitra, according to whom dress and style have nothing to do with eve teasing and it is only “a mental perversion, a social malady” considering that ïf the manner of dressing was the culprit, then villages belles in saris and salwar kameez would not have faced harassment.” But trouble is brewing in colleges. According to Deccan Herald (August 14) in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand, girls wearing jeans and tops without dupatta are being threatened with acid attacks which has compelled the administration of one college in Patna (Magadh Mahila College to issue a diktat prohibiting students from wearing jeans and sleeveless tops. Girls students are apparently upset. One agitated student is reported by the paper as saying: Äre we living in the 21st century? If tight jeans and short kurtas can be provocative, then why not ban sari also? It exposes the midriff more than it covers”. According to the student “What needs to be changed is not the dress, but the mindset”. The paper also quoted a social activist, one Kanchan Bala as saying : “More and more girls are raped in rural areas of Bihar. They don’t wear tight jeans or sleeveless kurta. Therefore, the argument that girls will be safe in traditional dress is illogical”.
Incidentally, dress code is not something peculiar to Indian colleges. According to Economic Times (August 1), at Oxford University, men and women have to wear “formal clothing “while taking examinations. In an editorial it said: “(while) there may be a reason to insist in a minimum level of clothing within college premises—in the interest of decorum—to burned students with apparel that they otherwise do not use, simply to write examinations is both illogical and impractical”. So there are dress codes too in foreign countries and even in a hoary university like Oxford!