Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: Question to the woman who chose to leave India – how is the US any better?

A selection of responses to an article republished on Scroll.in about a student who renounced her Indian citizenship over its poor women’s safety record.

No country for women

This article is a case study on the intersection of privilege and lack of perspective (“First person: I loved India. But after Nirbhaya’s rape and murder, I decided to leave it forever”). The author felt oppressed by India because India “failed [its] women”, and her solution is to join a military force that has engaged in brutal, unnecessary violence, bringing untold misery around the world for decades, in a country where the rate of violence against women is virtually identical to that of India and where gender bias and discrimination is so pervasive as to spawn the #MeToo movement. All of that seems worth it because she can leave home at 3 am and stay out late at night.

Perhaps one day she will meet some of the underprivileged women in her newly adopted country who cannot stay out late at night or leave home at that time without facing the same horrors she fled. And maybe she will realise that the reason she had never encountered these people before is because America hyper-segregates its society to the point that the underprivileged are invisible to privileged people like her – unlike India, where rich and poor, privileged and underprivileged, live in closer proximity to each other and as a result share more of the consequences of society’s problems. With all its flaws, India is brave enough to outrage openly over its problems and try to solve them together instead of sweeping them under the rug the American way. Better that people like this stay away so that those who care to make India a better place can work towards social progress. – Sandeep S


I agree with the author that women’s safety is a problem, especially at night. But she does not mention even one of America’s many problems, including drugs, shootings, street crimes, racism and so on. It would have been better if she had mentioned these problems before justifying her intention not to return India because of women’s safety. – Suresh Gangireddi


I can’t blame her; I felt the same anger when the Nirbhaya case happened, and many times since then. But my final decision has been to stay and work for change. May god bless her. – Jamila Koshy


I’ve been reader of your website for years now. But printing such incredibly shallow, self-important garbage is the absolute limit, so far beneath a website like yours. Are you facing such an acute shortage of material that you have to resort to something so ludicrous?

People like these are the ones the rest of us Indians are glad to have out of our country. I’ve lived for years in the same places she calls home today, and she’s welcome to ignore their shortcomings as she pleases. But publications like yours cannot be granting such people a voice. You should be ashamed. – Karthik Gopalan


I too left India years ago, 2003 to be precise. Over the years, my job has taken me to India on regular visits, no less than three-four times a year, plus holidays. Over the years, I would sit and think about how I can make a difference, small and insignificant though it may be in the vastness of problems we have in India. After talking to my parents, we started a NGO that teaches 150 underprivileged children. These children go to government schools, which are often of no use, and then attend our NGO, where we are making sure that at least 150 kids grow up to be different.

It’s easier to say that India has problems but we are the lucky ones who had good fortune to see the world and see what is the difference between our India and the world. Rapes happen all over and they will not stop very easily. What will make a difference is if we can educate a man to stop him from doing this.

My suggestion to the writer is to sit back think about what she can do about the problems faced by India or humankind in general. We are not born just to lead our lives as comfortably as possible and die. That is a life wasted. The pleasure and purpose is to serve and make the world a better place. Best wishes to her in her journey ahead. – Gurinder Duggal


A wonderful read. People are affected by things and happenings around them with varying intensities, but aren’t able to make decisions unless provided with alternatives. The author was able to pursue a path because she could see one. I do hope, some day, she reconsiders her take on the society from where she started her life, for Rome – or the US – was not built in a day. Congratulations for her success, and wishes for a prosperous life. – Srinivas


There are millions of women who fight for their rights and security. There is no place in the world where a woman feels secure, even in Europe or in the US. So, leaving the country is not a solution. – Sujoy Sardar


This wonderful post about the author’s experiences enlightens me on the differences between India and other countries. I feel like an extreme patriot on one hand and a hypocrite on the other.

My first thought when I read this article was: Really? India surely has many flaws including those mentioned by the writer, but so do the US and other countries. But what is the point of complaining and staying away from the evils of society? If we want the change to happen, we have to try to be at least 1% of the change. That’s what I believe. If the author and others run away from the country, India is losing out on all the people with a good heart who may bring a change. I assure the writer that my generation can make a change. – Jyothi R


I read Abhinanda Bhattacharya’s article. The Nirbhaya case was truly a tragedy. But what’s worse is that because of a few bad people, the author blamed my India. These tragedies happen in every part of the world but you one can’t just give up their country. The author is a coward. After looking at her, and all those who did the same, I think its people like her who failed India. Good luck to her for her life in America with her honourable president Trump. – Gargi Singh


The concerns over being a woman in India were very appropriately put. I wonder when a woman will feel safe in Indian cities. The situation is getting worse by the day. Indian men by and large are not civilised. – Vinod Sharma


The author is a coward. I have travelled from work alone in empty trains in India at 10 pm. Every country has its own problems. At least here in my country, youngsters do not take out a gun and shoot their own friends in cold blood. – Prameela Balan


This is a most condescending narrative read, purportedly on women and by a woman. Crime in any manner is heinous and, wanton crime especially, deserves unequivocal condemnation. The Nirbhaya rape and murder was brutal and did raise grave concerns about crime against women in India. Yet, rapes are still occurring in India and no doubt in the US and across the globe. Read any report and you will find that the incidence of rape is higher in the US than in India. It’s a bad analogy and rape should be a matter of concern to all. I also agree that a lot more can be done in India too to ameliorate the sexual harassment women face at home and outside.

There are millions of women in India who step out every day, many with trepidation. However, the author decided that the US was safer for her. She is entitled to her view and to carry on with her life wherever and however it suits her, but the patronising tone of the author’s narrative is what I object to and I question her motives. Her rambling narrative sounds more like an excuse to get away from India and the Nirbhaya episode becomes her main pitch. It is not as if the US is crime-free. Among the plethora of crimes, the senseless killings at schools is unique to the US (the author has ignored this), despite which any talk about gun control laws is shot down quickly. It would have been courageous had she had returned to India and championed the cause of women that agitates her so much. But then, life goes on. – P Raghavendra


We don’t need people who fly away when their own country is under-performing and needs radical change. – Akash Sharma


Which country doesn’t have problems? But you people love to blame India. Running away from problems instead of facing them is cowardly action. Inspite of all these problems, Indian culture and lifestyle has a self-driven rhythm that the author will never understand. If you can’t improve things, stop blaming them.

It’s us who can take India to a higher level. Staying away from the country and talking about its problems is easy but doing something is very tough. So be kind and stop blaming India.

I am an Indian and I love to be here, despite all its problems, and unlike you, I am [not] running away from the country. – Suman


Congratulations to the author for securing US citizenship, but there is no need to throw dirt on India. – Vasanth Pawar


This post was full of the emotions a girl faces during tough times. Maybe wide inequality in our society has created monsters among us. It’s good to know she found peace in the US, but now I wonder about the rest of the women of our country who don’t have the means to move out. – Aditay Singh


After reading this article I realised that a desperate person can do any thing, even renounce one’s motherland.
Good luck Abhinanda! India will always accept you whenever you choose to return. – Satpal Ahuja


This is just not right. The author should not compare both nations, both have good things and bad, advantages and disadvantages. It’s not like rape and murder are problems only in India. Yes, there are delays, but the government is working on these problems. Plus, the government alone can’t do everything, we also have to take some steps. – Keshav Agarwal


The author is welcome to visit Port Alberni, Canada, and stay with me until she establishes herself. I am East Indian and my children are half Indian and half Ukrainian. The air and water is clean and beautiful people live here. Others from India are also working and living here. – Jag Sidoruk


This is a choice that the author made. I don’t question her right to choose but I do pity her need to explain herself without provocation, which leads me to believe that she is not so sure of herself after all. On reading this article, a person unacquainted with India might feel that the average Indian male is a priapic murderer with rape on his mind and a dagger in his hand. I wish the author hadn’t felt the need to fall back on such stereotypes to justify her emigration and had instead had a clear and well-thought-out reason, or even none at all.

Still, it’s her call and we don’t grudge it. But when she feels the need to blame it on 1.2 billion people, or at least on .7 billion Indian males, I feel sad that despite an elite education, she does not feel the need to go beyond the stereotypes, scratch the surface or glance at data, but rely instead on writing an eyeball-grabbing piece. – Muralita


A meandering, self-pitying autobiographical search for US citizenship is passed off as a critique of gender violence in India and how it drove the author to seek refuge in the land of the free and the brave. A land which, coincidentally, has yet to elect a female president, where children are massacred in schools and which was built on genocide. I don’t grudge the writer her dream but please don’t make it about Nirbhaya. Millions live here and continue to fight for Nirbhaya every single day. They don’t exit the fight. – Malati Das


It hurts me when I see an Indian who is not willing to stay in India. It hurts me when I see people capable of doing something for the country deciding to settle abroad. It hurts me when I see an Indian abusing the country as though country were an individual.

Has the author ever thought that she too has a role to play for betterment of the country? Whose country is this? Who, in her opinion, is accountable for women’s safety? Surely, politicians are one of them. Did she ever think of joining politics to serve the country?

That’s the problem with us. We are just leading selfish lives. I am a software engineer and could have chosen a convenient life, but have restrained myself. India has over a billion people and one incident should not compel one to leave the country. If five people had committed the crime, the rest of India protested. Even the family members of those criminals did not take their side. More heinous things happen in the US.

The author needs to do her bit instead of blaming the country and its people. I am not asking her to come back and serve the nation, but at least don’t paint it black.

Just think about the population, so deprived yet living peacefully! Such a big nation, so many languages, so many cultures, so many different problems and aspirations...do you really think that pointing one incident you can justify staying away from the country? We will build the nation with our strength. Our people are amazing and if we can groom our kids from school days, we will be exemplary. That’s my dream. – Nirmalya Hazra


As a fan of the kind of journalism Scroll.in is trying to uphold, I felt very let down by the absurdity of this piece, to the extent that I almost considered leaving the country myself! I expect so much better, Scroll.in, than this extremely immature piece of writing that is being passed off as a “woman’s narrative”. Apart from the fact that it read like a privileged person’s blog post (who ironically was privileged enough to carry that privilege with her to the United States), it is just blatantly misrepresenting the topic it claims to be about.

This is the same Scroll.in that in 2014 carried Mridula Chari’s “Is India the rape capital of the world? Think again”, which clearly states that the US has a much higher rate of rapes than India, even when factoring in the issue of under-reporting.

A piece such as the one by Abhinanda really ought not to pass your high journalistic standards because it distorts the picture and gives the reader the wrong impression of reality. It is subjectivity to an extreme, one person’s extreme response to one over-highlighted tragedy. It doesn’t serve the cause of gender justice in India or the US. I wonder what you possibly hoped to achieve by re-publishing this perspective.

As a so-called progressive and liberal type I do feel it’s this kind of exaggerated India-bashing nonsense that has allowed the “nationalists” to hijack the narrative by peddling to their victim mentality. – Neerja Dasani


Every country has problems, but the country this author praises and whose army she joined is currently killing thousands of people globally everyday. It’s a society with rampant racism and a high crime rate. That the country could chose Trump as president shows how progressive it is. Kindly don’t come back. We are doing quite well. – Sanjeetsingh Vasisth

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Do you really need to use that plastic straw?

The hazards of single-use plastic items, and what to use instead.

In June 2018, a distressed whale in Thailand made headlines around the world. After an autopsy it’s cause of death was determined to be more than 80 plastic bags it had ingested. The pictures caused great concern and brought into focus the urgency of the fight against single-use plastic. This term refers to use-and-throw plastic products that are designed for one-time use, such as takeaway spoons and forks, polythene bags styrofoam cups etc. In its report on single-use plastics, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has described how single-use plastics have a far-reaching impact in the environment.

Dense quantity of plastic litter means sights such as the distressed whale in Thailand aren’t uncommon. Plastic products have been found in the airways and stomachs of hundreds of marine and land species. Plastic bags, especially, confuse turtles who mistake them for jellyfish - their food. They can even exacerbate health crises, such as a malarial outbreak, by clogging sewers and creating ideal conditions for vector-borne diseases to thrive. In 1988, poor drainage made worse by plastic clogging contributed to the devastating Bangladesh floods in which two-thirds of the country was submerged.

Plastic litter can, moreover, cause physiological harm. Burning plastic waste for cooking fuel and in open air pits releases harmful gases in the air, contributing to poor air quality especially in poorer countries where these practices are common. But plastic needn’t even be burned to cause physiological harm. The toxic chemical additives in the manufacturing process of plastics remain in animal tissue, which is then consumed by humans. These highly toxic and carcinogenic substances (benzene, styrene etc.) can cause damage to nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.

The European Commission recently released a list of top 10 single-use plastic items that it plans to ban in the near future. These items are ubiquitous as trash across the world’s beaches, even the pristine, seemingly untouched ones. Some of them, such as styrofoam cups, take up to a 1,000 years to photodegrade (the breakdown of substances by exposure to UV and infrared rays from sunlight), disintegrating into microplastics, another health hazard.

More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to discourage the use of single-use plastics. Morocco and Rwanda have emerged as inspiring success stories of such policies. Rwanda, in fact, is now among the cleanest countries on Earth. In India, Maharashtra became the 18th state to effect a ban on disposable plastic items in March 2018. Now India plans to replicate the decision on a national level, aiming to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2022. While government efforts are important to encourage industries to redesign their production methods, individuals too can take steps to minimise their consumption, and littering, of single-use plastics. Most of these actions are low on effort, but can cause a significant reduction in plastic waste in the environment, if the return of Olive Ridley turtles to a Mumbai beach are anything to go by.

To know more about the single-use plastics problem, visit Planet or Plastic portal, National Geographic’s multi-year effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis. From microplastics in cosmetics to haunting art on plastic pollution, Planet or Plastic is a comprehensive resource on the problem. You can take the pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics, here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.