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Quirky or grim, data tells a story

In the past few days, newspapers have carried three interesting surveys — one quirky, the other two grim — but all pertinent to life in this city.

mumbai Updated: Sep 02, 2016 00:49 IST
Ayaz Memon

In the past few days, newspapers have carried three interesting surveys — one quirky, the other two grim — but all pertinent to life in this city.

The quirky one first. Seventy per cent of the students at IIT-Bombay have disclosed that they don’t bathe daily, maybe twice a week at most. I scoured four papers, four times each, to affirm what I had read. All tallied on this score.

Weaned on cricket’s ethos where benefit of doubt must be given without compunction, I asked around whether IIT-B had, like several parts of the city, suffered from severe water cuts because of the poor monsoon in the previous years.

Nope. And no, it wasn’t that a “regular bath” was replaced by a splash in the campus pool, though the two aren’t quite the same thing: the percentage of students swimming regularly was below 10.

So does this phenomenon have something to do with the intensive study that being in IIT entails, using up long hours, leaving little time for supposedly trivial pursuits? And over time, does a non-bath situation become a cultural ritual in itself, with comfort and validation found in numbers?

More likely it is just the sloth that afflicts hostel life. Since the problem in IIT-B is endemic it would need an extraordinary stimulus to improve the situation.

I wonder if campus placements accompanied with a caveat that a once-a-day bath is a must is the answer.

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Data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is unflattering of Maharashtra and Mumbai. The state tops the country in crime on railways, and is second in juvenile crimes; the city has shown an upward trend across all crimes.

Such statistics are usually dry and would not highlight the drama and excitement of a diabolical murder case like Sheena Bora’s, but are no less relevant for that.

While the overall figures for Mumbai are not alarming per se – murder and dacoity have in fact shown marginal decline — the types that have grown should worry law enforcing agencies and the state administration.

Kidnapping and abduction has gone up by a whopping 158.7% in the previous year. Cases of rape and outraging of modesty have increased by 16.9 and 23.5%, respectively. Torture by husbands or relatives reveals a 16.9% rise.

On a socio-economic matrix, these figures suggest societal turmoil. Kidnappings and abductions generally have a financial/enmity angle to them and in some measure, could also be attributed to the society’s growing disparity in wealth.

But rape, cruelty by husbands etc, on the other hand reveal a hardening of old prejudices despite economic progress, which to my mind is a more serious challenge for the authorities to counter.

Fundamentally, this requires a change in social mores and attitudes. Without the awakening of people themselves, the law-enforcement system will remain a lame duck.

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Census data on education in the country (2011) reveals that Muslims have the lowest level of graduates in the country: 2.8% overall, and less than half of the national average of 6%.

While there has been an increase from 1.7% in the decade since 2001, the total number is still measly and shows why Muslims are languishing on most indices of national life.

This should be of greater concern among the community leaders and elders than, say, obstructing the right of women to enter Haji Ali Dargah, in which, to my mind, they have taken a pointlessly recalcitrant position.

In my growing up years, when my mother took us to Haji Ali, there was no restriction on women from entering the inner sanctorum. Indeed, there were no objections on religious grounds for centuries till the ban came a few years back.

There could be a case for separate enclosures for women in the inner sanctorum, or separate time-bands for them to visit the shrine — if the matter is not only about controlling them.

The greater need now for those ready to plead and fight on behalf of the community is to recognise real problems, revise their priorities. Getting youngsters educated – and especially women – will improve lives of Indian Muslims dramatically, rather than raising a ruckus on non-issues.