On tipping points and gender bias

On tipping points and gender bias

Re Niranjan Rajadhyaksha’s “Beyond gender dystopia", , 7 November. I doubt if the South Korean situation could get replicated in India in the absence of inclusive economic growth. But will the economic factor be the tipping point for such social change? Unless the post-retirement dependence on male progeny gets off the social radar, the perception on the girl child is unlikely to get diluted. Cultural perceptions may need serious reform. Else, the heart-and-soul game of sex determination will outweigh the mind-and-body game of economic emancipation, in continuing with business as usual. Perceptions, emotions and values impact people’s psyche, the economics can only induce cosmetic change. Aren’t people in Punjab economically well off?

—Sudhirendar Sharma

Ramesh Ramanathan’s column, “What’s wrong with babus", Mint, 5 November, highlights the problem of bureaucratic constraints. But there’s more to be said.

Failures are failures. Babus have been failing in their efforts since independence. Hence, exasperation with them is obvious. But taking the excuse of institutional constraints is a camouflage for their failures.

The integration of efforts from policy formulation to implementation to review is interlinked so that assigning personal responsibility is next to impossible. This aggregation of responsibilities is too complex to be separated cleanly.

This is where their strength lies; this is institutional camouflage, not a constraint.

A three-filter test was written about. “The three- filter test" itself has a bureaucratic tinge. The format of the questions is oblique. If the questions are to be asked, why not ask straight ones.

These will obviate the need for clarifications or retraction, at which babus are adept.

The first question should be: what is the problem and where do you find yourself having a share in it? So, if they admit there is a problem, then let them come out with their version and juxtapose it with the public version. If the problem happens to be the same and is admitted, the next level is to see if they confess what went wrong on their part.

The second question should be: what should be the solution and why was it not implemented? In answering this, let the bureaucrat come out with an elaborate answer. When contrasted with the solution implemented, it will become clear if paucity of skills had turned the solution to a “wrong answer" or institutional constraints are to be blamed for the failure. With the benefit of hindsight, their skills can be easily examined.

The third question should be: what if you were given an opportunity to work with a non-governmental organization or any private company for the same project? The institutional pressure can easily be known from the response time to the answer.

No difference seems to appear between the three questions; what needs to be appreciated is the directness required to elicit honest answers from bureaucrats.

Correct and honest answers are no solution beyond a point; this does not mean that one is no longer a babu and has climbed the ladder to sainthood.

Perpetual corruption has made them so vulnerable that cynicism in the common man, who deals with them regularly, is immutable. Invariably, these babus lack the skills required for steering the nation on the right path. This is the reason, not the solution to the problem.

Idealism is just a cliché and every time it is packed to pass off as a “cult word". What is needed is a radical change in the nature of the people of the country. We have been living in the era of the British Raj even after 60 years of independence. So, the concern for the country’s freedom concerns all citizens.

—Rajat Mittal

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