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Who was Thanthai Periyar?

Arti Ghargi

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Periyar

Two days after BJP’s Lotus bloomed in the north-eastern state of Tripura, a statue of Lenin was taken down allegedly by the BJP workers. A day after the incident, a similar act was reported from Tamil Nadu. This time the statue of Periyar was vandalised.

For Tamil Nadu, Periyar is more than just a social reformer; he is a Thanthai Periyar(Respected Father). Periyar has widespread influence on the state of Tamil Nadu- a state where the Dravidian movement was started and strengthened by Periyar. Periyar’s ideology runs so deep in the veins of Tamilians that even after 45 years of his death, he continues to dominate not only social, cultural but also the political sphere of Tamil Nadu. One of the reasons for this is the self-respect and Tamil Nationalist movement started by Periyar which touched people from all walks of life invoking Tamilian Pride in them.

Who was Periyar?

Erode Venkata Ramasamy also known as Thanthai Periyar (Father Periyar) even today continues to inspire the rationalists across the country. In the Tamil heartland, Periyar is considered no less than a God, criticizing whom would be inviting a lot of wrath upon oneself.

Periyar’s hatred towards Hinduism and Brahminism, in particular, was too radical but his rationale and logic found some admirers, even when they rejected his radical Anti-Hindu propositions. He took pride in his Dravidian ancestry and rejected the dominance of Northern Aryans on Southern Dravidians in its entirety. He considered Brahminism, Vedas and Caste system laid down by Manu a tool of oppression by the Aryans. Therefore, for his entire life, he batted for the abolition of castes and equality among genders, classes and self-respect amongst Dravidians.

The seeds of even prevalent Anti-Hindi notion in south India were sown during Periyar’s 1938 Anti-Hindi agitation when Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari became the Chief Minister of Madras Presidency and introduced Hindi as a compulsory language of study in schools.

Periyar

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Early years of Periyar:

Born into a rich and wealthy family, Periyar was inquisitive from childhood. He questioned the mythologies, pointed out contradictions and countered ideologies. In 1929, he even deleted his surname which he thought indicates towards his caste at the First Provincial Self-Respect Conference.

Growing up Periyar developed abhorrence towards religion as a concept to deceive people from the truth and considered it is his duty to make people aware of it. Though he also fought for allowing Harijans to enter the temple during Vaikom Satyagraha, he himself remained an atheist.

Periyar during his lifetime gained a huge number of followers. They consistently campaigned to pressurize the government to abolish social inequality and thereby removing untouchability the manual scavenging system, etc. The Self-Respect Movement was described from the beginning as “dedicated to the goal of giving non-Brahmins a sense of pride based on their Dravidian past”.

Periyar

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Periyar and politics:

He was a member of Indian National Congress in his early years. However, the dominance of upper caste brahminical leaders in the party led to his decision of quitting the party. He joined the justice Party later on. However, it was until only 1944 he served in Justice Party. At a rally in 1944, he in his capacity as the leader of the Justice Party declared that the party would henceforth be known as the Dravidar Kazhagam. A party that took social reform not as a political motive but as a social motive to root out the inequality prevalent in the society.

Periyar mostly stayed away from parliamentary politics as he felt the only way to achieve his aim of social equality was through masses and not parliament. However, many leaders who didn’t agree with his stance split from Dravidar Kazhagam and formed their own party  Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) under the leadership of C N Annadurai in 1949. Even though the split was due to the method adopted to achieve social equality, the main aim of both the party remained same.

In post-independence era, DMK rose to new heights following the mass mobilization for the Dravidian cause. Even the most powerful leaders like Karunanidhi, MGR and J Jayalalitha and now the new entrant like Kamal Haasan swear by his ideology.

Periyar

Image Source: Web

 

Periyar on Women Empowerment:

Remarkably, Periyar advocated liberation of women from the chains of customs and superstitions that he felt were the reasons of degenerating Dravidian community. The Dravidar Kazhagam vehemently fought for the abolition of untouchability amongst the Dalits. It also focused its attention on the liberation of womenwomen’s education, willing marriage, widow marriage, orphanages and mercy homes.

BJP National Secretary H. Raja’s comment against Periyar, calling for breaking his statue after similar was done to Lenin, was the biggest mistake the BJP hoped not to commit. At a time when allies are on the verge of abandoning BJP ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP is seeking to make a stronger alternative to these allies in the south. Periyar’s ideology runs deep in the blood of Tamilian and he is one of the sources of Tamizhan pride. At such a crucial time, H. raja’s act is nothing less than suicidal for the party.

 

 

Opinion

RSS conclave: Did Mohan Bhagwat take a sly dig at PM Modi?

Arti Ghargi

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In those 80 minutes of speech, RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat stumped the critiques and supporters an equal number of times.

 

If yesterday’s speech of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is to be described with a phrase, it has to be a “package of surprises”. After all the antagonism and vilification thrown out at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh– the ideological fountainhead of the ruling BJP, by (yet to be) united opposition, the RSS presented itself as an all-embracing, truly democratic organization. In those 80 minutes of speech, the sarsanghchalak stumped the critiques and supporters an equal number of times.

“Congress played a big role in the freedom movement and gave India many great personalities,” Mohan Bhagwat said. This comes at a time when Congress has frequently questioned RSS/BJP’s contribution in the freedom movement. On the other hand, the ruling BJP had time and again invoked Congress’ contribution in the last 70 years of independence.

Mohan Bhagwat

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The first speech at the 3-day event titled “Bhavishya ka Bharat-an RSS Perspective” seemed like an attempt by the organization to clear the alleged misconceptions about it from the minds of people. Bhagwat further made a statement on the topic of diversity. “India’s diversity must be respected, celebrated and it should not be a reason for any discord in society,” the RSS chief said. The organization has been time and again accused of causing disharmony in the Indian society by furthering the Hindutva agenda.

Calling the organization democratic, the Sarsanghchalak reiterated that the organization believes in “Yukt Bharat, not mukt” (inclusion not an exclusion). This is the second time that the RSS chief has re-established this. Earlier, at a book launch event in Pune on April 1, RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat had said, “Congress-mukt Bharat is merely a political slogan. It is not the language of RSS.” Underlining the inclusiveness of RSS, Bhagwat had even said that RSS does not believe in such political slogans which talk about excluding anyone.

The comments made by RSS chief have come in the wake of several comments made by the BJP top leadership which often refers to the “Congress-mukt Bharat” including Prime minister Modi himself.

Bhagwat

Mohan Bhagwat on the Day 1 of RSS Conclave

If this is not the clear sign of RSS showing a significant detour from the BJP, then what is? If there’s still room left for any doubt, then one must read what Mohan Bhagwat said further. Talking about what people think about the organization, Bhagwat said that people often tell him that the organization is becoming faceless. “We want to be faceless so that we don’t become arrogant. If tomorrow pictures of Mohan Bhagwat start getting published in newspapers, it will be a matter of concern for Mohan Bhagwat,” said Bhagwat in reply. Out of all the subtle hints that the Sarsanghchalak dropped, this particular statement has to be the highlight. Was it a sly dig at once RSS worker, now PM Narendra Modi? There is hardly any chance that it is not!

In our earlier article titled, ‘Is Mohan Bhagwat drifting away from BJP?’ we elaborated that RSS fears Modi’s omnipresence may also outgrow that of Sangh’s. The RSS insiders also say that the Sangh is not much flattered with the Modi’s autocratic leadership style. Modi’s tenure has already seen the BJP decimating the alliance parties. In the last four years, BJP’s existence has been limited to the Modi-Shah duo. Narendra Modi has become the only face of the party and the government.

RSS

There has also been a significant shift in the party’s attitude which not only it reeks of arrogance but also egomania. Remember, during Atal Kalash Yatra, every front page advertisement in the newspapers and posters had big pictures of Modi and Shah while the picture of late. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was nowhere to be seen. Was the sarsanghchalak’s comment made in this regard? Or else, was it a warning bell for the Modi-Shah duo?

Taking a significant shift from BJP-who has been constantly playing up the Mughal invasion card on the opposition, Bhagwat recalled the teachings of Dr. Hedgewar-the founder of the Sangh. He said, “Dr. Hedgewar (the founding chief of the RSS) always used to say for how long will we blame the Muslim invaders and British for our state. How did it happen that a handful of invaders from thousands of miles away conquered this nation of warriors? He used to say there is some problem with you which you need to correct.”

These statements force more eyeballs to turn as they come in the light of Lok Sabha Elections. The importance of the booth-level RSS worker is tried and tested. Not only in Lok Sabha elections of 20114 but also subsequent assembly elections and even Tripura Assembly Election where the saffron storm took over the red bastion. Thus, RSS which has only grown in size since independence hinting at a shift in its political approach is a major political development in waiting.

Will RSS back Modi again? The chances are very scarce. Is it trying to cozy up with the opposition? Maybe. The opposition’s response to the invitation of Sangh’s event by turning it down says volume. However, the three days RSS event is sure to gather more steam.

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Should student elections be limited to concerned Universities?

Arti Ghargi

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It is not wrong if one may see student elections as the Launchpad for mainstream or national politics- a ticket to have a national exposure.

The recently concluded Delhi University Student Union Elections and Jawaharlal Nehru University Elections were among the topmost news last week. So much so, that the results of DUSU Elections were a top trend on the social media sites like Twitter. #DUSUElection2018 was trending all over the Twitter. For someone who has been part of Universities other than Delhi University or JNU, the amount of coverage and impetus the Student Body elections get, comes with a package of astonishment and a lot of important questions. Why in the first place, the DUSU, and JNU election get so much importance? There are total 819 odd universities in India enrolling lakhs of students. Why is it that we rarely hear about the student elections from any other university? And most importantly, do the student elections from Universities really matter in a national political arena?

Left

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India has a long history of student movements and indeed a very successful and powerful one. Right from India’s freedom movement in which youth and college-going students took part in large numbers to the most recent Anti-Corruption Movement led by Anna Hazare, the student involvement was something that was at the core of why the movements gained importance. Thus, student politics and student elections remain a point of fascination. There are even people who readily equate the outcomes of DUSU Elections and JNU elections to that of national politics and mood of the nation at large. Whether these arguments hold water or not is a different question altogether.

It is not wrong if one may see student politics as the Launchpad for mainstream or national politics- a ticket to have a national exposure. After all, a leader like Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken, Delhi’s former BJP president Satish Upadhyay are among the many national and state-level politicians who began their political career from the student politics and the elections. The student elections are also an opportunity for the existing political parties to reach out to the young voters brimming with enthusiasm. If looked at it from this perspective, it is easy to understand why student elections thus become a matter of prestige for political parties and their student wings.

student

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For now, let us take the example of DUSU elections that happened this year. The largest central university in the country has more than one lakh students. Out of which 44.5% turned up for elections. It was a clean sweep for BJP and RSS backed student wing ABVP. While ABVP won 3 seats including that of president’s, BAPSA won 1 seat. On the other hand, JNU which has been in controversy for a few years due to various reasons, saw a red storm taking the center stage.

Being the largest central university and the most controversial university in the national capital which is the center-stage for national politics, the student elections tend to reflect the national political culture at the student level. The politics at this level is heated and as much amount is splurged in these elections as in Municipal Corporation elections. The student elections in recent years have been marred by the incidents of violence, poll code violations, and expensive campaigning. Thus, the elections that are a week’s affair suddenly gain national importance.

Left

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But for those, sitting away from the politically charged Delhi environment, this treatment to student elections is alienated. In country’s economic capital Mumbai, student elections hardly make it to the news headlines, let alone the front page. The elections in Mumbai University which houses more than 5 lakh students and is affiliated to as many as 700 colleges, rarely see the kind of coverage that DU or JNU student elections get.

At a time, when student body elections have become a part and parcel of national politics, the one who stands at the losing end is a student. While the topics as OROP, Triple Talaq, Rohingya Muslims take the center stage in the presidential debate, issues that worry the students in their academic and campus lives are rarely addressed. We also have heard a lot of students complaining about the disturbance in their classes and invasion of privacy in the days of student body elections. The solution is not taking the politics out of institutes. The politics which is deeply entrenched in our system is equally necessary for education institutions to hold the authorities accountable. The need is to decide what should be the degree or level of politicisation being allowed.

For starters, we can keep student elections, an affair limited to the concerned university rather than blowing it up as a reflection of the nation’s mandate at large!

 

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In Uttar Pradesh, government’s Maternity Benefit Scheme is still in the womb

Arti Ghargi

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uttar pradesh

With such a high IMR and high TFR, Uttar Pradesh spends a meager Rs 452 per capita on health.

On the eve of New Year 2017, Prime minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation. Amongst all the other schemes and their benefits, he talked about a scheme that was launched nation-wide for pregnant women in the country. The scheme named Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana aimed to provide a prenatal financial assistance to pregnant women. In his speech, PM Modi said, “This scheme will help reduce the maternal mortality rate, in a big way. This will help ensure nutrition before and after delivery, and improve the health of mother and child.” Prime Minister also cited that under the pilot project, the scheme had already benefitted women in 53 Indian districts who were given assistance of 4000 rupees each.

 Almost two years after the highly-touted project launch, not a single woman from Uttar Pradesh has benefitted from PM’s Matru Vandana Yojana, an RTI has revealed. According to the RTI filed by IANS, not a rupee of government money has been spent on maternity benefit scheme till August 2018 in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state also has the highest fertility rate among the Indian states.

The RTI further revealed that out of the states whom the funds were allocated under the scheme, Uttar Pradesh received the maximum. Out of total Rs. 2,049 crores in 2017-18 sanctioned and approved by the central government, Uttar Pradesh received the largest share of Rs. 336 crores.

Though, the positive picture states that as many as 34 lakh women across the country out of the 44 lakh enrolled stood as beneficiaries of the scheme, only 184 women enrolled in PM MVY and none of them received the benefit since its inception in January 2017.

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana:

Image Source: Web

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) is a Maternity Benefit Programme that is implemented in all the districts of the country in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013. It was launched as a replacement of Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahayog Yojana which was launched in 2010 by the then UPA government. The objective of the scheme was Providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentives so that the women can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first living child. The cash incentive provided would lead to improved health seeking behavior amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers. All eligible Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers who have their pregnancy on or after 01.01.2017 for the first child in a family can receive the benefit.

The fertility rate of Uttar Pradesh:

Source: NITI Aayog Website

Uttar Pradesh, out of all the Indian states registers one of the highest fertility rates. A NITI Aayog report published in 2016, the state recorded Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 3.1. This is second highest following Bihar which has TFR of 3.3. The TFR in Uttar Pradesh is way higher than the ideal Fertility Rate suggested by the central government which is 2.4. If we look at the details of TFR district-wise, the picture is even worse. According to the data released by Health ministry in July this year, as many as 11 districts from UP have a fertility rate of 4. Nineteen districts have a total fertility rate of between 3.5 and 4, while 28 have a total fertility rate of between 3 and 3.5.

Infant Mortality Rate of Uttar Pradesh:

 

Image Source: NFHS 2015-16

According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, UP’s Infant Mortality Rate is now the same as the strife-torn West-African nation of Mauritania (65), worse than another poor, chaotic African country, Burkina Faso (61) and only just better than Afghanistan (66). The state now also has India’s worst under-five mortality rate of 78 deaths per 1,000 live births which are comparable to that of Mozambique (79), an African nation with half of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. This is an 18-point reduction in under-five mortality from 96 per 1,000 live births ten years ago.

However, with such a high IMR and High TFR, Uttar Pradesh spends a meager Rs 452 per capita on health. India’s most populous state spends 70% less than the Indian average on health. It means one in two children in the state is not fully immunized. As well as, the state has India’s second-highest maternal mortality rate i.e. 258 deaths per 100,000 live births.

At a time when UP government spends only Rs. 452 per capita on health, the Yogi government spent Rs 65 crore on the ‘makeup’ of Lucknow to host the mega Uttar Pradesh Investors Summit 2018. The mere lip service and fund allocation will not ensure that maternal benefits will reach the needy. It has to be streamlined in a process with appropriate auditing of the fund allocated and spreading awareness of the same.

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