The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Yes, Delhi needs autonomy – but the arrangement must be well thought out

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

The Big Story: Administrative chaos

On Monday night, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal along with several of his cabinet colleagues staged a sit-in protest in the waiting room of Raj Niwas, demanding that the lieutenant governor clear key projects awaiting his sanction and move to end what the Aam Aadmi Party alleged is a “strike” by Indian Administrative Service officers in the Capital that has continued for four months.

Earlier in the day, the Aam Aadmi Party relaunched its campaign for statehood for Delhi, passing a resolution to this effect in the Assembly. Dramatically, Kejriwal declared that if the Bharatiya Janata Party granted statehood to Delhi, he would campaign for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The is no denying that since the Aam Aadmi Party came to power in 2015 with a stunning majority, its government has been confronted with administrative roadblocks posed by the office of the lieutenant governor, who is the representative of the Centre and controls key subjects like land and police. In 2016, the Aam Aadmi Party government made a legal challenge
to the powers of the lieutenant governor in the Supreme Court. A constitution bench is likely to deliver its verdict in the matter after the court reopens on July 2.

However, the question of granting statehood to Delhi is not as simple as the Aam Aadmi Party makes it to be. Its own conception of what the Delhi state should be has challenges. For instance, in 2016, when it put out a draft law on statehood, the Aam Aadmi Party allowed the New Delhi municipal council area to remain in the control of Parliament, even though it wanted control of land in others areas of the city. This signaled a willingness to give up a large amount of tax revenue in exchange for political control. Questions were raised about whether such an arrangement would be viable and generate enough money to sustain the city.

While Kejriwal has said that Delhi generates Rs 1.3 lakh crore as tax revenue but gains only Rs 350 crore in return, he hides the fact that Delhi is actually a big beneficiary of the Centre’s tax revenue allocation model. Compared to major states, Delhi produces hardly anything. It even depends on other states for water and power. One reason Delhi does not face inter-state problems like other states do is because of the recognition of its importance as the national capital territory. If Delhi is granted statehood, its government will no longer be treated preferentially and will have to tackle neighbouring states as equals. For example, 30% of the Union Urban Development Ministry’s budget is allocated for infrastructure in Delhi alone, a luxury that no other state enjoys. Around the world, efficient capital cities remain federal units under the central governments. Some like Washington DC have even less autonomy than Delhi does.

However, it is also true that the demand for statehood has become more urgent due to the attitude of the Centre and the lieutenant governor. Both have failed to recognise Delhi’s unique nature and have stalled projects, such as a scheme to deliver rations at residents’ doorsteps. The functioning of the lieutenant governors has for all practical reasons undermined the powers of the Assembly and the Delhi government elected by the people.

More problematic is the manner in which Kejriwal is trying to make this the single-most important issue in Delhi, even offering support to the BJP if the Centre accepts the statehood demand. While greater autonomy is indeed the ideal situation, such profound changes to the system of governance need to be debated thoroughly and should not be the product of political grandstanding.

Punditry

  1. India has entered a regime of “permanent surpluses” in most crops – a reality our policymakers are unable to grasp, stuck as they are in the era of the Essential Commodities Act, argues Harish Damodaran in Indian Express. 
  2.   It is important to invest in negotiations, political concessions and soft power within Jammu and Kashmir, writes Happymon Jacob in The Hindu. 
  3.   Yeonmi Park and her family suffered tragically under the North Korean regime. Now she’s urging the United States to pressure Kim Jong-un to end the holocaust against his own people.  

Giggles

Don’t miss

‘Everything that could go wrong went wrong’: Days of rumours led to the lynchings in Assam village.

“In Kaibongkro village, barely a kilometre from where Das and Nath were murdered, Lakhi Ingtipy lives with her father-in-law and three-year old son. Five people have been arrested from the village. Ingtipy said that all she recalled from Friday evening, were men screaming on the street about two phankodongs being spotted. She claimed she did not step out of her house. ‘We had been warned to be extra careful and to keep the kids safe at home because phankodongs had apparently abducted children in Diphu,’ she said.” 

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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:

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