Dear Prime Minister Modi,
Heartiest congratulations on your recent election and historic win; a phenomenon that reaffirmed our democratic beliefs! Obviously, several things in India need to change; and if there is one person who has the courage, dedication and vision to put our country on the path to greatness, my hope is that that person is you. The entire country seems to be galvanized by the speed at which you seem to want to turn around age old practices of sycophancy and corruption, and create an bustling economy with your ten-point agenda that focuses on education, health, water, transparent governance, energy and infrastructure.
However, we were disappointed when we noticed nothing about women's safety issues -- unless you count health and education as closely related issues. In light of the recent atrocities committed on women and girls, shouldn't this issue be of the utmost concern to our government? Not only does this make our country unsafe for almost half it's existing population, but it also puts India in a very bad light internationally. That we are refusing to tackle the issue with a clear strategy, eliminating the problems one step at a time, and giving our daughters a chance for a secure future, is disappointing.
I understand that the lack of women's safety is not just one problem, it is the culmination of years of inequality. It is the problem of not having enough toilets for women to do their daily business with dignity; the problem of dealing with policemen who treat issues of sexual harassment with callousness; the problem that society does not view non-rape sexual offense, like eve-teasing, with the seriousness that it should; the problem of moral police who consider dressing up as provocative; the problem that our boys are being taught that women are not equal; the problem of a sexually repressed society; the list of problems does seem endless.
So here is a suggestion. Let's start with the first tangible issue that has the probability of being tackled in your first term -- the problem of not enough toilets. Since there are purportedly more cellphones than toilets in our country, and over 600 million people practice open defecation, this would seem like a good place to start. And since over 65 percent of those people live in rural India, I would like to propose this ten-step strategy to address that issue:
- Pick a list of 1000 villages from the 3961 that have a population greater than 10,000 people or more to begin with. It would be impractical to implement such a program in all the 5.94 lakh villages at one go, so let us start with the those with the highest population for the biggest impact.
While this might not be the only or even the ideal solution, I believe it is the start of a more solution-focused discussion to our problems. It is not the time to sit in our chairs and raise fingers at what is wrong in India, it is time to take action. If not with actual labor, then with diligently researched strategies. Our country is known for its brilliant minds, the IITs and IIMs; why not engage their talent by putting forth competitions that are aimed at designing solutions to other women-related issues? Meanwhile, many of us will be more than willing to help if the situation so demands, all you have to do is ask.