Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: Why is the Supreme Court looking the other way on Aadhaar?

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Aadhaar question

Good that the Supreme Court finally confronted the government on the deceit (“At the very end of SC’s Aadhaar hearings, government admits it has been dishonest all along”). Being an avowed no-Aadhaar person, I have been diligently following developments in the case and even I, a lay person, knew the government was misrepresenting facts. I couldn’t help but wonder why the Supreme Court was allowing the Centre to diminish its standing and stature. Recently, the IRCTC offered incentives for people to link their accounts with their Aadhaar numbers. Why is the Supreme Court looking the other way? The judiciary needs to confront the government on the information asymmetry. Why is the government not implementing data security and privacy laws with the same urgency as it is making Aadhaar mandatory for everything, even though the project’s voluntary nature is enshrined in the Aadhaar Act itself?

Even though Aadhaar-linking has been put off, all services routinely ask for Aadhaar cards. The misery caused by this ‘link-fest’ is too much. It’s high time the Supreme Court ruled that Aadhaar is voluntary and making it de-facto mandatory is unconstitutional. It also needs to spur the government into safeguarding the data and privacy of those who opt for Aadhar. And I earnestly plead to the judges not to not fall for the fait accompli argument. – Chitra D

***

From the introduction of Aadhaar as a money bill to its linking with various schemes and contrary to the Supreme Court’s views, the government’s stance on Aadhaar begs clarification. The government has often issued inconsistent directives on the due dates to link Aadhaar numbers with various services. Citizens were cautioned that failure to link Aadhaar would deny them access to their bank accounts, mobile phones and a host of other related services. We as citizens look forward to the highest court of our land resolving these concerns, all the more so in the light of frequent reports of Aadhaar data being leaked into the public domain. – HN Ramakrishna

Meaty matters

This article on protein deficiency in Indians has distorted facts about nutrition (“Indians need their protein where they can get it – especially from meat and eggs”). It indicates that only meat-based food offer complete protein and vegetarians are bound to be protein deficient. That is misleading.

That most Indians are protein deficient because they are vegetarian is a very generalised and wrong statement to make without any data. The assumption that meat-eating people have sufficient protein also lacks scientific basis. I have seen many non-vegetarian people with low muscle mass. In fact, it is not protein deficiency but low muscle mass that is a problem, which happens due to lack of physical activity. If a vegetarian person exercises regularly, they will not have low muscle mass. The problem of weight gain happens because of eating processed food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. There are so many vegetarian athletes and body builders. Are they protein deficient?

Please read the biggest nutrition study in the world, The China Study, which proves that animal protein is the reason for most chronic diseases like heart problems, diabetes and cancer. If plants lack proteins, then as the writer herself mentions, legumes and pulses are rich in protein. But she forgot to mention nuts and seeds. I am a nutritionist and I eat and advise a vegetarian diet. – Vishal Wadi

Pesticide use

Thank you to Scroll.in and Mridula Chari for this nice article showcasing the hollowness of pesticide management in India (“Eight terrifying things we found about pesticide regulation and use in India”). At the ground level, pesticide use is not as guided by scientists. The ground reality is that farmers were guided by retailers to mix two or more pesticides, bactericides, fungicides or, in many cases, micro nutrients. The resultant mix is a cocktail and no one knows what the combination is in the tank.

The authorities and regulators have not made any effort to study the impact of such a cocktail on living beings. Secondly, Integrated Pest Management was much talked about but only till the promotion of genetically modified technology. After that, its proponents and promoters were silenced by starving them of funds and stopping the schemes that promoted Integrated Pest Management. The system was buried to give way to GM crops. Finally, it seems that the regulators, scientists, technologists and planners in pesticide development, promotion or regulation are either purposefully blind to the facts or have never gone vegetable shopping in their life. The general guidance offered to the farmers is not to harvest the crop for at least 15 days after pesticide is sprayed. This is suggested to reduce the presence of the pesticide in the vegetable. Whatever be the crop, if farmer waited for 15 days, none of his produce would be chosen by the consumers as it would be over ripe and unfit for cooking. Mockery is the name of pesticide regulation. – R Selvam

Living with disability

This is an excellent article depicting the lack of infrastructure for disabled people in our country and the lack of awareness among people (“India needs to understand that living with a disability makes me neither ‘helpless’ nor ‘heroic’”). I was shocked to read that someone had asked the author if she was allowed to board a Metro. Like the author, I too am quite irritated with the patronising behaviour of society towards disabled people. Society seems to be telling them that you will have to be brave to live your life because nothing is going to be changed to make your life any easier. – Sandeep Kandwal

Coastal road

The idea behind the coastal road is to ease traffic congestion and cut down travel time (“What will Mumbai’s coastal road actually look like? An eyesore, show these architectural projections”). I agree with the author on the utility of this project and environmental damage. An underground railway line below the existing local train tracks or existing highways can be useful public transport resource that does not need land or sea reclamation. – MJ Kotak

Foot in mouth

What is the educational background of Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb (“Civil engineers should join civil services, they have experience to build society, claims Tripura CM”)? How much does he know about mechanical engineering? It is the most inter-disciplinary programme in science. I shall be happy to clarify his doubts and apprehension. Being a chief minister, he should not talk like this. – B Pradhan

Winged companions

This is a very good article on sparrows (“The sparrow is dying out in Indian cities. This is how you can help save it from your terrace”). The best way to help sparrow conservation is by having a small nest at home. The simplest way to build a nest is to make a small hole in a shoe box and tie it to the ceiling. I have been doing this since January and have eight nests, all occupied by sparrows. Let’s hope I can do something for this little creature. – Dharmesh Tandel

E-waste concerns

I wish it was that simple – that a robot could undo the harm (“Watch: Meet Daisy, who can take apart your old iPhone to harvest valuable parts for recycling”). But it will take humans to clean up the mess. Apple’s alleged toxic manufacturing process creates unsafe conditions for workers has been reported on. A cutesy robot just won’t undo the up-steam harm, even if it prevents pollution at the end of the first product cycle. We need human intervention and the will to invest in the lives and well-being of other humans, not to mention the Earth. Till this happens, that i-phone’s contamination has happened before you bought it. And now, don’t say you didn’t know. – Bharati Chaturvedi

Voice of dissent

I live in the United States and there is a world of difference (age wise) between Imran Pratapgarhi and me and yet I am drawn to the social commentary hidden behind his poetry (“Meet Imran Pratapgarhi, the rockstar poet who draws tens of thousands of fans at Urdu mushairas”). This young man is brutally honest and calls it as he sees it. He does not mince words to appease anyone, especially the BJP and its henchmen. His is a truth train that is rolling forward and those that criticise him for whatever reason must come to a realisation that their moribund ways are over. Let him speak and defend the marginalised and continue to speak up against the injustice and other malaise in society. – Usman Madha

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.