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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 41, New Delhi, Sept 25, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Sept 25, 2021

Saturday 25 September 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, September 25, 2021

We have seen how the government or powerful interests are sensitive and nervous about data that shows them in poor light. Manipulation of statistics and numbers to manage and influence public perception is an old strategy. Data of famines or on election results in post-revolution Soviet Union or China was tightly controlled and held back. We saw the data scientists uncover large-scale fudging of data on the real numbers and estimates of covid-19 infections and the number of deaths in India during the Covid-19 pandemic. This was a recent demonstration of the use of officialdom to craft suitable data by underplaying numbers; the near-collapse of the public health system and shortage of vaccines, was ‘managed’ and deflected instead into propaganda ‘thanking the Prime Minister for Free Vaccines’. We have long seen activists and leaders from right-wing xenophobic circles or from the BJP —India’s ruling party spin out and spread unfounded, spurious figures intended to craft social fears —of a ‘growing’ demographic imbalance with rise of numbers of certain ethnic or religious groups in India since its independence in 1947; or fear of an invasion of immigrants (depending on the location the targets of the blame game keep changing from ‘illegal’ migrants of South India from North or Northeast India or from Bangladesh) that have swamped the cities taking away all the jobs etc.; Propaganda and rumor mills keep churning out tailored truths and the end the result is that fake and baseless data — repeated over and over are accepted as real and it works. The opposition political parties and civil society formations in India must keep trying to counter these falsehoods and by making other ‘real fact-based data’ accepted in society. They must also make continuous efforts to bring issues that ‘remain invisible’ from the social reforms agenda with all the facts. Here are examples of two very important issues that are not on the horizon of trade unions, citizens movements, and social democratic or left political parties and that should be a top priority in the 21st century. 1) India has a very low level of participation of women in its labour force of around 20 percent and the numbers have vastly declined over the past decades and are now among the lowest in South Asia. Rolling back this regressive trend and promoting the right to work for women could make India a slightly more equal place. 2) Public health consequences of air pollution is another area that is invisible —in 2019 there were 1.7 million deaths due to air pollution in India. Checking a toxic and divided social environment and a better air to breathe should be more important than the obsession of India’s elites to make India a 5 Trillion dollar economy

Tributes:

Marcia Freedman an American Israeli activist on active on peace, women’s rights, and gay rights issues passed away on 21 September 2021

Rati Bartholomew, a popular teacher at Indraprastha College at Delhi University. Rati was known for promoting and supporting Drama Societies and theatre on the University campus and this was due to her long association with theatre groups in the city in the 1960s, passed away on Sept 23, 2021

Kamla Bhasin, one of the pioneers of the South Asian Feminist movement passed away in Delhi on 25th September 2021, her passing is a huge loss for the women’s movement.

We pay our tributes to the above figures

September 25, 2021 – HK

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