The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: If BJP is against corruption and dynasty, it should welcome scrutiny of Jay Shah

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Same old

Despite all the bluster over the weekend – trotting out a Cabinet minister and, on television, a dozen other Bharatiya Janata Party leaders to defend him – Jay Shah, businessman and son of BJP President Amit Shah, did not turn up in court for the hearing of the criminal defamation case he had filed against news website The Wire. His lawyer was not there either, prompting the magistrate to adjourn the case until later in the week. Shah would do well to dispense with the case altogether.

The criminal defamation complaint was filed on October 9, after The Wire published an article that reported on the fortunes of several of Shah’s companies. One in particular, Temple Enterprises, saw its revenues go from Rs 50,000 in 2014-’15 to Rs 80.5 crore the next year, which also happened to be just after Amit Shah took control of the BJP and Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister. The article also mentioned that this spike in revenues came even as the company posted a loss of Rs 1.4 crore the same year, and also reported on loans received by Shah’s companies.

Immediately after the piece was published, Union Rail Minister and senior BJP leader Piyush Goyal held a press conference denouncing the article and calling it baseless, although he did not point to any error in the piece itself. Jay Shah then filed a criminal complaint against The Wire alleging that it had highlighted only certain facts “to make it a spicy and selling story at the cost of the reputation of the complainant”. According to news reports, he also filed a civil defamation case demanding damages of Rs 100 crore, though there is little information about this suit so far.

Criminal defamation is a deeply problematic tool that remains on the lawbooks in India and is frequently used to harass the media and suppress dissent. Its use in a matter like this seems even more egregious. The BJP came to power on the back of an anti-corruption campaign and has insisted that it has been transparent and yet maintained a spotless record of governance without any allegations against it. Much of this is rhetoric, since there have been credible allegations, but it is evident the party takes pride in this image, whether accurate or not.

With this in mind, the party should welcome scrutiny of its leaders and their families, since it is certain they have nothing to hide. Indeed, the appropriate response to an article like this – especially since it touches on the immediate family member of the party president – could simply have been responded to by throwing open the books of the business for all to see. Instead, Jay Shah’s lawyer did not just take issue with the article, he also told the Wire that any reporting on these businesses would constitute a violation of Shah’s privacy and attract a lawsuit.

The BJP also campaigned on the idea that the Congress represented dynastic politics, something that it would seek to end. Yet on Sunday we saw a Cabinet minister be trotted out to defend Jay Shah, a private person, followed by scores of other BJP leaders all over television. Additionally, it turned out that the Law Ministry made an exception and gave permission to the Additional Solicitor General to represent Jay Shah two days before the article was even published. This would potentially violate rules. But more importantly, it shows yet again how the family members of important leaders are treated as royalty, even by a party claiming to be opposed to dynasties.

If nothing else, this episode has proven how, despite its claims of probity, the BJP behaves just like the Congress or any other party when it is questioned. It does not even matter what the actual allegations are here. The immediacy with which the party resorted to criminal defamation, and used a Cabinet minister to do so, when the case involves a private person, is proof of how the BJP’s promises of being a party with a difference ring hollow.

The Big Scroll

Subscribe to “The Daily Fix” by either downloading Scroll’s Android app or opting for it to be delivered to your mailbox. For the rest of the day’s headlines do click here.

If you have any concerns about our coverage of particular issues, please write to the Readers’ Editor at readerseditor@scroll.in

Punditry

  1. “Till recently, atrocities were often motivated by caste consciousnesses, but the current wave seems to be driven by an ideology which expresses faith in a hierarchical social system, although there is an occasional symbolic display of concern about the persistence of caste and untouchability,” writes Sukhadeo Thorat in the Indian Express. “It is this ideological boost which has, perhaps, revived and lent moral support to the denial of rights and the use of violence against Dalits.”
  2. “The takeout is simple: the BJP has a fight on its hands. And if it hopes to keep its winning narrative alive until 2019, it has to win Gujarat with a clear majority,” writes R jagannathan in Swarajya. “Right now, it can’t be certain of that, given the groundswell of discontent over the treatment of Dalits, the goods and services tax uncertainties, and demands for job reservations.”
  3. “PM Modi must study the maze before recommencing his ‘huggy-feely’ journey through [Gulf politics]” , writes KC Singh in the Tribune.
  4. “This lesson, the religious right, indeed fundamentalists of every hue, need to learn. We do not tolerate others because we alone know the truth, we tolerate because we do not know enough. Confidence that we know the truth leads to violence, doubt that we know enough leads to non-violence. We come to terms with history by learning from it, not by erasing it,” writes Neera Chandhoke in the Hindu.

Giggle

Don’t miss

Vinita Govindarajan writes about the Maruthu Pandiyar brothers, who were the leaders of a rebellion against the British in 1801.

More than 50 years before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the Maruthu Pandiyar brothers had led a concerted struggle against the oppressive practices of the British. On June 16, 1801, months before their death, the brothers issued a proclamation of independence from the Tiruchi fort, calling for people of all castes and communities to unite their fight against European domination.

“An all-Indian concept inspired the proclamation, for it not only made a direct appeal to the entire country but expressed an anxiety that if the political malady persisted, India would fall under alien rule,” wrote K Rajayyan, author of the book South Indian Rebellion: The First War of Independence 1800-1801.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Relying on the power of habits to solve India’s mammoth sanitation problem

Adopting three simple habits can help maximise the benefits of existing sanitation infrastructure.

India’s sanitation problem is well documented – the country was recently declared as having the highest number of people living without basic sanitation facilities. Sanitation encompasses all conditions relating to public health - especially sewage disposal and access to clean drinking water. Due to associated losses in productivity caused by sickness, increased healthcare costs and increased mortality, India recorded a loss of 5.2% of its GDP to poor sanitation in 2015. As tremendous as the economic losses are, the on-ground, human consequences of poor sanitation are grim - about one in 10 deaths, according to the World Bank.

Poor sanitation contributes to about 10% of the world’s disease burden and is linked to even those diseases that may not present any correlation at first. For example, while lack of nutrition is a direct cause of anaemia, poor sanitation can contribute to the problem by causing intestinal diseases which prevent people from absorbing nutrition from their food. In fact, a study found a correlation between improved sanitation and reduced prevalence of anaemia in 14 Indian states. Diarrhoeal diseases, the most well-known consequence of poor sanitation, are the third largest cause of child mortality in India. They are also linked to undernutrition and stunting in children - 38% of Indian children exhibit stunted growth. Improved sanitation can also help reduce prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Though not a cause of high mortality rate, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death and affect overall productivity. NTDs caused by parasitic worms - such as hookworms, whipworms etc. - infect millions every year and spread through open defecation. Improving toilet access and access to clean drinking water can significantly boost disease control programmes for diarrhoea, NTDs and other correlated conditions.

Unfortunately, with about 732 million people who have no access to toilets, India currently accounts for more than half of the world population that defecates in the open. India also accounts for the largest rural population living without access to clean water. Only 16% of India’s rural population is currently served by piped water.

However, there is cause for optimism. In the three years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the country’s sanitation coverage has risen from 39% to 65% and eight states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free. But lasting change cannot be ensured by the proliferation of sanitation infrastructure alone. Ensuring the usage of toilets is as important as building them, more so due to the cultural preference for open defecation in rural India.

According to the World Bank, hygiene promotion is essential to realise the potential of infrastructure investments in sanitation. Behavioural intervention is most successful when it targets few behaviours with the most potential for impact. An area of public health where behavioural training has made an impact is WASH - water, sanitation and hygiene - a key issue of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6. Compliance to WASH practices has the potential to reduce illness and death, poverty and improve overall socio-economic development. The UN has even marked observance days for each - World Water Day for water (22 March), World Toilet Day for sanitation (19 November) and Global Handwashing Day for hygiene (15 October).

At its simplest, the benefits of WASH can be availed through three simple habits that safeguard against disease - washing hands before eating, drinking clean water and using a clean toilet. Handwashing and use of toilets are some of the most important behavioural interventions that keep diarrhoeal diseases from spreading, while clean drinking water is essential to prevent water-borne diseases and adverse health effects of toxic contaminants. In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited launched the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, a WASH behaviour change programme, to complement the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Through its on-ground behaviour change model, SASB seeks to promote the three basic WASH habits to create long-lasting personal hygiene compliance among the populations it serves.

This touching film made as a part of SASB’s awareness campaign shows how lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices means children miss out on developmental milestones due to preventable diseases.

Play

SASB created the Swachhata curriculum, a textbook to encourage adoption of personal hygiene among school going children. It makes use of conceptual learning to teach primary school students about cleanliness, germs and clean habits in an engaging manner. Swachh Basti is an extensive urban outreach programme for sensitising urban slum residents about WASH habits through demos, skits and etc. in partnership with key local stakeholders such as doctors, anganwadi workers and support groups. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, HUL built the first-of-its-kind Suvidha Centre - an urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre. It provides toilets, handwashing and shower facilities, safe drinking water and state-of-the-art laundry operations at an affordable cost to about 1,500 residents of the area.

HUL’s factory workers also act as Swachhata Doots, or messengers of change who teach the three habits of WASH in their own villages. This mobile-led rural behaviour change communication model also provides a volunteering opportunity to those who are busy but wish to make a difference. A toolkit especially designed for this purpose helps volunteers approach, explain and teach people in their immediate vicinity - their drivers, cooks, domestic helps etc. - about the three simple habits for better hygiene. This helps cast the net of awareness wider as regular interaction is conducive to habit formation. To learn more about their volunteering programme, click here. To learn more about the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.