It is anti-national to deny us paternity leave | columns | Hindustan Times
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It is anti-national to deny us paternity leave

China has recently allowed dads in Beijing up to 15 days of paternity leave. Surely our nationalist government will not allow itself to be beaten by our eastern rival on paternity leave?

columns Updated: Aug 28, 2016 01:15 IST
Prince William took six weeks of paternity leave when his second child was born

This is terrible, really terrible. After the Rajya Sabha passed the bill making maternity leave for 26 weeks mandatory, the country’s male population had been eagerly awaiting a similar rule for paternity leave. Visions of bonding with the baby in a hammock at a beach resort swam before our eyes. And then Maneka Gandhi butted in, slanderously alleging that husbands don’t help care for the baby. What the deluded soul doesn’t realise is that the mere sight of dad snoozing beside her is enough to reassure any baby. Seeing her dad lolling around on the sofa watching TV and guzzling beer has an amazingly soothing effect on a new-born recovering from the trauma of being kicked out of the womb.

Read: Maneka Gandhi says more sophisticated bill on paternity leave in future

Perhaps we could appeal to Manekaji’s animal-loving side? We could point out, for instance, that the male barking frog stays near the eggs until they are hatched, occasionally wetting them down with urine so that they don’t dry out. The giant waterbug mom glues her eggs onto her mate and dad then carries those eggs on his back until they hatch. Both these dads obviously deserve paternity leave.

We could also point out that Prince William took six weeks of paternity leave when his second child was born.

We could make the point that an unintended consequence of making maternity leave mandatory is that businesses will be wary of hiring young married women. The only way of correcting this anomaly is if the policy is applied uniformly to dads too and paternity leave is granted for at least six months.

These are all powerful arguments, but our government often gives more weight to emotional issues than cold logic. For example, Sushma Swaraj, who has spoken emotionally of the Indian ethos and of ‘ma, bhabhi, mausi, mami’ helping out as surrogate mothers, will probably say the extended family will rally around and help the mother with the baby. Our strategy should be to make Sushmaji binge watch TV family sitcoms. These complex stories have one common theme—they all show the members of the great extended Indian family spending most of their time conspiring, backstabbing and plotting against one another.

Read: Baby girl born to Zuckerberg, couple to give 99% FB shares to charity

What else does our government hold dear that we can use to our advantage? Perhaps we could show they had paternity leave in ancient India? Regrettably, the stories suggest that Bheem left his demon wife Hidimbi soon after Ghatotkach was born. There is no record of his availing paternity leave. Ditto for other ancient warriors and sages. No luck there.

Is there no way out? Will we then have to wait till such time as mindsets are changed and they start teaching nappy changing and burping techniques at RSS shakhas?

Read: It will be tough to leave home after the baby is born: Shahid Kapoor

There could be, though, one clinching argument. China has recently allowed dads in Beijing up to 15 days of paternity leave. Surely our nationalist government will not allow itself to be beaten by our eastern rival on paternity leave? Reports suggest the Chinese policy is to encourage couples to have more children. Didn’t Mohan Bhagwatji make a similar call recently to Hindu couples? And what better way to encourage them to go forth and multiply than to give both new dads and new mums six months parental leave? Indeed, seen from this perspective, not allowing paternity leave is blatantly anti-national.

manas.c@livemint.com

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint

The views expressed are personal