Women as a block themselves are not a cohesive vote with single and non-white women favouring President Obama by a significant margin and married and white women favouring Mitt Romney
It is quite clear that what is keeping President Obama’s re-election bid afloat is women. A US Today Gallup Poll of swing states shows a difference of 20 percentage points in the presidential preferences of men and women. Women support President Obama by 12 points. Men support Mitt Romney by eight points. 50% to 42% women make up 53% of the electorate. Though the gap has been narrowing, it remains quite stubborn. In the 2008 election there was a significant gender gap in favour of Barrack Obama which carried him through to the Presidency. But in the congressional elections of 2010, the Republicans won the women’s vote by 49% to 48% which led to the Republican landslide given the advantages the Republicans have among men.
But women as a block themselves are not a cohesive vote with single and non-white women favouring President Obama by a significant margin and married and white women favouring Mitt Romney. The Democratic Party’s policies are generally friendlier to women than the Republican Party’s policies. For instance the Democrats believe in equal pay for equal work whereas the Republican attitude towards it is more ambivalent and they do not want to impose an additional burden on small businesses who are their constituents. Further, on women’s issues such as abortion and contraception the Republican Party is moving to the right and seems to be out of tune with the wishes of women. This dovetails with the fact that women are slowly but surely getting more powerful. For instance they now constitute more than half of the workforce and seem to be asserting themselves though the proverbial glass ceiling is still in place. No one is any more surprised when the Augusta National Golf Club for the first time in history admits women members including Condi Rice and the question when two ladies are admitted for the first time is why only two ladies and why not more? It is increasingly common, if not routine, to have women head Fortune 500 corporations. Hewlett Packard, Yahoo and Pepsi all come to mind. The Republican Party has not kept pace with these changes. The Democratic Party has declared the attitude of the Republican Party as a war against women.
In the case of Roe Vs Wade, the United States Supreme Court in 1973 guaranteed women a constitutional right of abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. The Republican Party, ever since that judgement, has been trying to reverse it. Despite the Supreme Court having turned to the right over the last 40 years and despite several appointments by the Republican president, it has failed. The precedent of Roe Vs Wade is intact. It might be interesting to notice that the majority judgement in the case was written by justice Harry Blackmun who was a Republican appointee to Supreme court.
On the abortion issue Mitt Romney’s position has been here, there and everywhere. When he ran for the Governor of Massachusetts—a liberal state—he said that he was personally opposed to abortion but would not oppose it as a policy. However, when it came to signing an important Stem Cell Bill he did not do it and said was unable to do so. Running for the presidency, he opposes abortion but says it’s ok in cases of rape incest and when the life of the woman is in danger. He has, however, chosen Representative Paul Ryan as the vice-presidential running mate who opposes abortion in all cases including rape.
All the Republican presidents, since the path-breaking Roe Vs Wade judgement of the Supreme Court in 1973, have had an ambivalent policy on abortion. Ronald Regan was the Governor of California (a liberal western state) before he became president and a law he had brought into force in California led to thousands of abortions. However, he ran for president calling for a constitutional amendment banning abortion though he never did much about it. His successor George HW Bush called for adoption rather than abortion and the younger President George Bush was also constrained by the fact that there were democratic majorities in at least one of the chambers of congress so that no law overturning Roe could be passed.
However, what is known as late term abortion or partial birth abortion was banned by Congress in 2003. George W Bush did say that he would not make the opposition to Roe Vs Wade a litmus test for his Supreme Court appointees. However, all the presidents appointed prolife judges to the Supreme Court in the hope that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe Vs Wade but the court has not done so.
Mitt Romney’s already difficult task of persuading women to vote for him has been complicated by the comments of the Senate candidate for Missouri, Representative Todd Akin who said that pregnancy from rape is “really rare” and implied that the female reproductive system is able to block conception from an unwanted pregnancy, reports the Washington Post. This has to the glee of the Democrats caused a huge storm and the Republicans are back-pedalling hard to restrict the damage.
Governor Mitt Romney’s best hope of winning back women is to highlight the fact that the great recession has been harsher on women than on men and more women have lost jobs than men during the great recession. Republican pollsters also say that abortion is not one of the top five concerns of women polled and the Republicans can hope that the storm created by Todd Akin blows over. Governor Romney should also showcase his record in Massachusetts where he appointed an unusually large number of women to top positions as also his support to his wife Ann Romney after she got multiple sclerosis.
Mitt Romney now has the task of reaching out to women while at the same time not alienating his conservative supporters, which is actually quite a difficult task.
(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)
While it is encouraging to note that the government is committed to export 300,000 tonnes of wheat, the government does not maintain a buffer stock of pulses or oilseeds. An apex body should be set up for all-round development of these items
Weather conditions continue to cause anxiety with reports of rain and floods in some parts of the country and signs of improvement in others. However, at the Centre, political conditions are stormy and the divided opposition to the UPA government was weakened by some wanting a debate and others, mainly BJP, putting a pre-condition of the prime minister’s resignation before anything else.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD), in the meantime, has forecast rain and or thunderstorm/showers in many parts of the country on Wednesday. It has, fortunately, left out the Parliament in the process.
No major development in regard to assistance to the affected farmers in drought states has been reported in terms of foodgrain subsidies and other forms of assistance.
The buffer stock of foodgrain has given a continued safety assurance of our ability to overcome conditions akin to a famine, but what is encouraging to note is the continuing attempts for exports of several items like wheat. Reports indicate that export commitment for 300,000 tonnes of wheat has been made and an additional 450,000 tonnes may be available for bidding in early September. These are good signs and developments.
Instead of taking a chance for foodgrain stocks to be damaged or allowed to rot due to weather conditions, open storage, rodent menace, etc, it is in our interest to push for export sales. This will be an impetus for the farmer to sow and take care of his winter crops.
Our maize exports have also picked up due to drought conditions in the USA. In the meantime, our food minister KV Thomas has stated that because of the poor monsoon production of pulses and oilseeds is likely to fall and may result in our short-term import to meet the demand.
Unfortunately, the government does not maintain a buffer stock of pulses or oilseeds, as a result of which the market price shoots up in case of a shortfall.
There is NO reason why Food Corporation of India does not deem it necessary to commence a buffer operation for these, unless their original terms of reference did not make a provision for these at that time. Perhaps they are more conversant with wheat and rice and leave other items for others to care.
It is never too late for innovation. Better still would be for the government to authorize and set up an organization like “Oilseeds and Pulses Corporation of India”, right in the centre of the growing area to cover all other essential items in this category, leaving foodgrain to Food Corporation of India.
The Oilseeds and Pulses Corporation of India should be entrusted with the task of being the apex body for all-round development of these items, just not act as the warehousing point, but rather devote entirely upon indigenous self-sufficiency with an eye to export in the near future. Such an organization should also be responsible for imports in case of shortage.
It must be borne in mind that farmers, as a general rule, prefer to sow cash crops; they switch to other hybrid varieties of pulses which can mature in short span of time (5-6 months) so that the turnover could be twice a year and land utilized to the optimum extent possible, and hoping, of course, rain gods don't play foul. Since these require much less water supply, perhaps, the government can play a vital role in facilitating irrigational canals, etc.
Also, technical and agricultural guidance would enable farmers to make a positive contribution to the society and improve their own standard of living.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
Corrupt people take shelter under the age-old protection available to those facing allegations to the effect that “until proved guilty”. If we miss the opportunity to cleanse public life and allow our position in international assessments to drift further, it may take ages to redeem the country’s reputation
In November 2010 writing on “Demand and supply of corruption in India” Dr Bimal Jalan made the following observation on the working of the watchdogs of governance in India: “Investigations are carried out, guilt is established, appeals are filed but nothing much happens after that. Years pass; courts, people and the media soon move on to other cases.” The same feeling, in different situations has been finding expression through word of mouth, media reports and on faces of aam admi captured by electronic media and telecast across the world.
The simmering discontent in the minds of one billion people who toiled to make India rich and were denied any share in the end-product of their work is there for all to see. This discontent is finding expression in various forms, some peaceful, some violent, and most of the time as statistics on hunger deaths, increasing number of people going down the “poverty line” which itself is defective and designed to camouflage real situation. The political leadership is being blind to the realities when they are trying even at this late hour to resolve the issues being focused in well-intentioned movements like the one spearheaded by Anna Hazare. The issues get dodged or diverted by raising trivial differences of views, where the real problem is the fear of any ‘watchdog’.
India has an array of politicians, statesmen, businessmen and bureaucrats who do not face corruption charges. These eminent individuals have a moral responsibility to help the country pull out of the present crisis. UPA (United Progressive Alliance) chairperson Sonia Gandhi had exhorted for “zero tolerance” to corruption while addressing Congressmen in Allahabad sometime back. Her vision did not find takers even among her followers inasmuch as the government guided by her failed to take steps to ensure that at least people facing huge corruption charges did not hold public offices. While convalescing in the United States last year, Sonia Gandhi once again remembered the need to tackle corruption and on return to India promptly requested her party to do something about it.
Going by the dictionary meaning, the word corruption is associated with words like bribe, cheating, evil, badness, decayed, stinking, decayed, false, defilement, wickedness, violation, defective, spoilt, faulty, wrong, malignant, offensive, immoral, unchaste, vile and fallen (the list can go on). Suffice to say, anyone or any institution/organization having something attributable to any formations out of any of these words can be alleged to be corrupt. Luckily not so. It is generally accepted that what is legal is not corrupt. Then, like morality, the perception of corruption varies from individual to individual, society to society and country to country. Meaning, what is construed as legal in one context need not be so in another context.
For the rich and the powerful, there will always be legal remedies, as, historically, the laws are made and interpreted in their favour. No wonder, while really corrupt people take shelter under legal interpretations and the age-old protection available to those facing allegations to the effect that until proved guilty, the benefit of doubt would go in favour of the accused, eminent statesmen and innocent common man get dragged into controversies related to corruption, despite their efforts to maintain high moral and ethical standards in their own lives. In the deluge of corruption that the world is witnessing today, no Krishna will be able to float on a leaf unaffected by the deluge. The value system which is in disrepair globally needs a shock treatment. The initiative can come from India, if the nation decides to make every embarrassment an opportunity to correct and move forward. This can be done only by handling individual corruption cases on the basis of the facts of the case and not with reference to the impact such action will have on coalition government’s equilibrium or the immediate inconvenience or discomfort some individuals will face.
There are several ‘current’ corruption cases which compete between and among them as to which one has more quality ingredients of immense possibilities for multiplying personal net-worth without any value addition. While on the subject of corruption, one is reminded of a quote from Kautilya:
“Just as fish moving inside water cannot be known when drinking water, even so officers appointed for carrying out works cannot be known when appropriating money. It is possible to know even the path of birds flying in the sky, but not the ways of officers moving with their intentions concealed.” (Kautilya Arthasastra, 2.9.33, 34)
Leaving political in-fights and probes by various agencies to take their course, management institutes like IIMs and academicians should consider seriously studying the most ‘popular’ corruption cases of recent times such as 2G spectrum auction, Common Wealth Games and the allegations against family members of former CJI K G Balakrishnan having amassed wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. As, generally, management institutes have a soft approach to squandering of money by private sector enterprises, to protect the interests of private sector, subjects like a comparison between the managements of Air India and Kingfisher Airlines with their counterparts in India and abroad also could be done.
The cases cited are illustrative meant to indicate that they are multi-dimensional in nature as stakeholders include politicians, ministers and government officials and a dispassionate study by academicians may bring out socio-economic issues that may have to be addressed as part of the fight against corruption. The study should aim at unearthing the connections or nexus between and among stakeholders at various levels and come out with suggestions/recommendations about the safeguards that can be built into the system to minimize recurrence of similar instances. The safeguards could include, stricter penalties for economic crimes, denial of party tickets to ‘tainted’ politicians for fighting election, periodic publication of names of individuals/organizations involved in economic offences involving, say, Rs100 crore or more and voluntary/automatic vacation of public offices by individuals occupying high public offices and facing allegations which courts or government agencies like CBI admit for investigation.
If we miss this opportunity to cleanse public life and allow our position in international assessments to drift further, it may take ages to redeem the country’s reputation.
(The writer is a former general manager of Reserve Bank of India. He can be contacted at [email protected].)