India Insight

Rahul Gandhi takes first step in race to be India’s next PM

It’s the news some Congress leaders have waited for with bated breath. On Saturday, spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi announced the party’s decision to make Rahul Gandhi its vice-president.

Pressure had been mounting on the “young emperor” from within the troubled party to take charge. For years, Gandhi had shown no inclination to do so. But with his formal promotion to the party’s number two position next to mother Sonia, the 42-year-old is ready to claim the throne of the world’s largest democracy in the 2014 elections.

Here’s the latest from around the web.

Major changes in Congress with Rahul Gandhi as vice-president

Rahul’s elevation in Congress comes as no surprise: BJP

Congress gives Rahul Gandhi official status to take major decisions: Samajwadi Party

It’s less chintan, more Rahul promotion at Congress Shivir

Elevation of Rahul ‘historic’, ‘game-changer’: Cong young leaders

Reactions on Twitter
SHAILI CHOPRA – “So if Rahul Gandhi is going to be Vice President of the Congress party, question still remains Who will be the PM candidate?”

RAJDEEP SARDESAI – “Anyone who tells you its rahul vs modi in 2014, tell that to Jaya, Mamata, Mulayam, Jagan, Pawar, Nitish, Naveen! Gnight”

‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ meets ‘Indian Idol’ in West Bengal

(Any career-destroying attempts at irony or humour are the responsibility of the author, and not of the chief ministers of Gujarat or West Bengal or any of their associates.)

Everybody’s talking about how Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has fostered fair weather for businesses and investors in his state. Maybe he’s making it too easy. In West Bengal, it looks like investors and business people must work a little harder for their returns. Take a look at that state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee. She isn’t just making business people and investors work for their profits; she’s making them sing.

From India Today:

An industrialist climbing the dais at an investors’ summit to sing a popular Rabindra Sangeet. The perhaps unseen scene was made possible on Tuesday courtesy West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee .

Firing on LoC: Blame game and spillovers continue

Firing between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed region of Kashmir has left five soldiers dead (two Indians and three Pakistanis). In India, the issue became a front-page story with the media expressing outrage over reports that the body of one Indian soldier was allegedly mutilated by the Pakistanis.

The incident fuelled tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours and Indian political parties have minced no words in their calls for retribution.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday called the act “barbaric” and said it was no more “business as usual” with Islamabad.

from India Masala:

Bollywood and sex education

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Reuters)

A couple of weeks ago, I watched a Marathi film called "Balak Palak" (Children and Parents). A new crop of film-makers is portraying the burgeoning Indian middle class with its own set of problems and "Balak Palak" is no different.

Director Ravi Jadhav chronicles the lives of four school students and their first encounter with adult literature and how it alters their friendship. In the background is middle-class morality, which prevents parents from talking openly about the birds and the bees with their children, considers any such talk "dirty" but is clueless about dealing with their curiosity.

In southern Delhi, a slum lives in fear and uncertainty

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

Raju Saini appears fidgety and nervous as he talks about his cousin. He speaks matter-of-factly, but there is a hint of caution in his voice, as if he is wary of what we might think about him and the place where he lives. Fifteen minutes into the conversation, he says what has been on his mind.

“We know what we are going through. Now even if people don’t say it out openly, they know we are from Ravidas camp, and eye us with suspicion whenever we go to work. This incident has given us a bad name,” said the 40-year-old man. Saini is tall and lanky with salt-and-pepper hair and a thin moustache, and was wearing grey thermals on the day we met in the slum.

Know your rights: staying safe in India’s rape capital

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

Despite increased media scrutiny of violence against women after the Dec. 16 gang rape case, such incidents continue to be reported in and around New Delhi — now holder of the infamous title, “India’s rape capital.”

It’s unfair to expect women to no longer step outside their homes, but it’s best to be prepared. Carry pepper spray. Take a self-defence course. Learn kickboxing or Krav Maga. Most importantly, be aware of your legal rights.

LoC killings: Is a third-party probe the way ahead?

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The death toll on the Line of Control in Kashmir is four since Jan. 6: two from India’s military, two from Pakistan’s. One thing is sure: neither side started it, judging by what you hear from both countries’ armed forces and from media reports.

The killings threaten to muffle talk of a thaw in relations, something that would have been welcome after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and years of fighting and death in Kashmir before a 2003 ceasefire.

Bold moves, smart timing on rail fares, diesel proposal

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The railway budget in India is usually presented in parliament a few days before the main budget in February. In a rare move, the railways minister on Wednesday announced an across-the-board increase in passenger fares starting Jan. 21, the first such step in nine years.

The increase is significant. A ticket for an air-conditioned coach with three-tier sleeping berths in a mail or express train from New Delhi to Mumbai will cost 1,205 rupees, up 13 percent from 1,065 rupees.

Interview: Satisfied with response from police, government: rape victim’s father

Five men accused of the rape and murder of the 23-year-old student appeared in court on Monday to hear charges against them.

Reuters’ Shashank Chouhan interviewed the rape victim’s father over telephone. Here are the excerpts:

Q: Why did you reveal your daughter’s identity to a UK newspaper?
A: When the (new) law will be made, it has to be made after the girl’s name. There is nothing wrong in giving out the name – it is not for any wrong purpose. It will not harm anyone nor should anyone object. Nothing objectionable is being said or written. That is why I gave the name.

Delhi gang rape: Fast-track courts, juvenile laws don’t guarantee justice

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)
During the anti-rape protests across India in December, two slogans stood out among all the placards and banners — “Hang the rapists” and “We want justice”.

It was a case that stirred national debate and forced the state government in New Delhi to set up five fast-track courts to try sexual offences against women.
It’s nothing new. The Indian government set up 1,734 fast-track courts in the country a decade ago. The purpose was to quickly clear pending cases. But some legal experts say that the courts are not always a good thing, and many of these courts disbanded after the government stopped funding them.

“Fast-track courts were set up in Rajasthan to try some rape cases, but were forced to shut down due to ‘high costs’,” Supreme Court lawyer Pinky Anand told Reuters in an email.

  •