In the case of slanderous remarks on women by Union minister Prakash Jaiswal in October 2012, RTI reveals that neither the NWC nor the PMO lodged even the elementary police complaint against him. Why have such a lame-duck NWC?
While the horrendous gang-rape of a medical student in South Delhi, who is now battling for life has infuriated the entire nation, the fact is sexual abuse, verbal or otherwise is taken lightly not only by the law enforcing authorities and political powers-that-be but hold your breath—even the National Women’s Commission (NWC)!
While the NWC has not taken any stringent action against the gang-rape case and has merely voiced concern (thank you), its recent history reveals that its chairpersons/members themselves suffer from foot-in-the-mouth syndrome, or worse have outrageous views on women. A couple of examples include the 2009 Mangalore Pub attack case when its member Nirmala Venkatesh made a statement that women who went to that pub should have protected themselves against the backdrop of less security provided by the pub and if they were not in the wrong, should have come forward and given a complaint. She was sacked from NWC. In July 2012, NWC member Alka Lamba leaked out the name of the minor raped in Guwahati and was subsequently removed from the fact-finding committee. Present chairperson of NWC, Mamata Sharma advocated that women dress properly for reduction of rape crimes.
Hence, it is not surprising how casual was the attitude of NWC when Union minister Prakash Jaiswal made derogatory remarks against women at a public function in Kanpur in October 2012. The revelations under the RTI (Right to Information) Act in response to RTI applications filed by ace RTI activist Subhash Agrawal reveals the callous and indifferent attitude towards women abuse.
Just to recall, Prakash Jaiswal, at a poetry function in Kanpur in October 2012, compared India’s T-20 World Cup win to a wife. He stated that like in cricket where a new victory has importance, a new marriage also has charm but with passing time, like the victory, a wife becomes old and loses charm and then there is no fun. (Nayi nayi jeet aur nayi nayi shaadi, iska apna alag mahatva hota hai... jaise jaise samay beetega.. jeet ki yaadein purani hoti jayegi; jaise jaise samay beet ta hai, patni purani hoti chali jati hai, vo maza nahi rehta hai.)
Delhi-based RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal sought information from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in the first week of this October, regarding action taken against Mr Jaiswal in this issue of derogatory remarks against women and whether the NWC has taken up the matter with the PMO and whether NWC had lodged a police complaint in this regard?
NCW letter to PMO in the Jaiswal case
The PMO sent him a photocopy of a letter written by Mamta Sharma, chairperson of NWC on 3 October 2012 which reveals that all that she did was to dash of a letter which any faceless citizen could have done. The letter written to prime minister Manmohan Singh by Mamta Sharma reads: “I would like to bring to your kind attention regarding the derogatory remarks made by Shri Sriprakash Jaiswal, minister of coal, Government of India against the women while attending a programme during Kavi Sammelan at KK Girls College. Kanpur, UP.
“The comments made by him were almost abusive for all the women of the country and extremely unfortunate. Women’s groups, social organizations and political parties have strongly criticized his comments.
“The incident was also aired on electronic media as well as print media and the NGOs demonstrated outside his house at Kanpur.
“National Commission for Women is seriously concerned about the remarks made by the minister against the women as the comments are unfortunate abusive and insulting for women of the country. Keeping in view of the above, I shall be grateful if you kindly look into the matter and advised him to be more careful in future while making such comments in public.” (produced verbatim).
If the NWC does not go beyond the verbose statement of asking the PM to advise Mr Jaiswal to “be more careful in future” what hope can women of being safe or have an organization of the caliber of NWC to fight for them? No police complaint was lodged by NWC as per RTI documents.
PMO’s letter to NWC
The PMO was equally spineless in its reply to Ms Sharma. The copy of the letter received by Mr Agrawal under RTI, from PM Manmohan Singh (written on 17th October) to Mamta Sharma states: “ I am in receipt of your letter of 3 October, 2012 regarding the alleged remarks made by Shri Sriprakash Jaiswal, minister of coal, Government of India while attending a programme at KK Girls College, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. I can understand your sentiments on the issue.
“The government and I personally attach great importance to the need to protect the dignity and status of women. I agree with you that nothing should be said or done that is or can be construed to be disrespectful to women.” That’s it and the matter of women abuse by a Union minister was over for the NWC as well as the PMO.
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Agrawal’s RTI application:
Subhash Agrawal has asked the following information in his RTI application of 3 October 2012, from the PMO. He had to go to in first appeal to the appellate authority in PMO before he received a reply. Earlier he had sent a letter to PMO asking the PM to sack Mr Jaiswal on this issue.
He had asked for:
“Has the National Commission of Women (NWC) taken up the matter as referred in queries above with the prime minister and/or PMO as also referred in enclosed news-clippings? If yes, copies of all such correspondence between the NWC and PMO and also information on action taken by PMO on any such reporting by NWC.”
“Complete information together with related file-notings/correspondence/documents on under-mentioned aspects also relating to my submissions ‘File police-complaint against Shri Prakash Jaiswal apart from sacking from Union Cabinet’ (03.10.2012) e-mailed to PMO, and the news item ‘Wives lose their charm with age, remarks Jaiswal’ (TOI 03.10.2012) copies enclosed:
“Complete information together with related correspondence/file-notings/documents on action taken on each and every aspect of my submissions. File police complaint against Shri Prakash Jaiswal apart from sacking from the Union cabinet (03.1 0.2012) e-mailed to the PMO by PMO and/or by public-authority where these submissions have been forwarded by the PMO.
“Complete information on action taken by the prime minister/PMO and/or concerned public authority against Union minister Shri Prakash Jaiswal for his said remarks against women.
“Has some clarification etc sought from Union minister Shri Prakash Jaiswal for his said remarks against women? If yes, please provide details with copies of explanation sought and received.
“Was resignation sought from Union minister Shri Prakash Jaiswal for his said remarks against women as referred in this RTI petition? Was video-recording of disgraceful remarks against women made by Union minister Shri Prakash Jaiswal sought by PMO/NWC/Union ministry for women/any other concerned public authority for study and/or matching with his twisted clarifications? If yes to (6) and/or (7), please provide details.”
To Mr Agrawal’s queries of whether the PMO sought explanation from Mr Jaiswal or whether a resignation order was given against him for his derogatory remarks in public, the PMO replied that: “there is no information of such record in this office.”
Let see if both the PMO and NWC limp back to solid action in the gang-rape case.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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