Better half than never

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was set up after the Great Depression of the 1930s with a primary aim to ensure the stability of the monetary system. However, economic systems do not exist in vacuum. Their prosperity depends on the stability of social milieu where they operate. Therefore, IMF chief Christine Lagarde’s comment that Prime Minister Modi should “pay more attention” to uplift the condition of women of India, is not completely out of context. Social media is inundated by reports of atrocities and heinous crimes against women from across India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Gory details of such crimes are bound to unnerve the collective conscience of the global community. Lagarde could not control herself when a reporter asked a pointed question to her in the recent press conference — “I wanted to ask you about India’s economic reforms. Has this been inclusive enough to benefit the women of the country? I am asking you this question in the backdrop of the series of protests that have been going on in India for the outrageous gangrape against the 8-year-old girl”. This triggered Lagarde rant, although she hurriedly clarified that it was her personal opinion and not an IMF official position.No rational human would justify such crimes. While she praised India’s recent economic reforms such as the GST rollout and enactment of the bankruptcy law, she abhorred the powerlessness of Indian women in the fastest growing economy. Indeed, growth will remain a statistical number unless fruits of development are evenly distributed in society. Lagarde termed the recent rape cases as “revolting” and disclosed her suggestions to PM Modi after his speech in Davos that “he had not mentioned the women of India enough”.India cannot progress unless it ensures dignified living conditions for another half of its population. Stringent punishments, including death for rape, could be a deterrent, but that alone would not stop atrocities against women. There is a need to transform society by empowering women. A start could be made by ensuring their adequate representation in Parliament — a promise of all governments, long overdue.

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