Of Cabbages and Kings

April 8, 2008

when IAS divorces IPS

For those who are unfamiliar with the Indian government’s executive arm – the IAS is possibly the most powerful civil service…it very literally runs the country. Every years, thousands (some idealistic, many power hungry) applicants, write the civil services exams. The really fortunate make it. The less fortunate settle for the other services, such as the Indian Police service (IPS), and the unfortunate don’t make anything.

Today I read two stories about IAS officers…’lady officers’ as the media insists on describing. Both had IPS husbands…husbands who by conventional Indian standards were not as successful as them, both for whom the marriage didn’t work. Hemlata Pant was divorced twenty four years ago and is now homeless and reduced to living on the pavement. Nidhi Pandey has, with some difficulty managed to file a harassment case against her husband – she was recently thrown down the courtroom stairs. News articles suggest that the little support that Nidhi is managing to garner is solely due to the “women IAS officers” who seem to be the only people taking the issue seriously.

There we have it. My beautiful country. Where the most powerful women in the country are certified insane since they could save their marriages and are beaten and harassed for dowry. Where it isn’t even all their colleagues that are seen to be backing them but only the small minority from their own gender. Where a woman gets thrown down the stairs in court and the word ‘allegedly’ is still used in the face of her bruises.

If the most powerful women are so vulnerable, imagine what could become of the little girl next door, or of the one selling flowers round the corner…

UPDATE

An ex-policeman has denounced the action taken in the Nidhi Pandey case. While I agree that it does not seem fair to suspend anybody without an enquiry, I am afraid that I fail to concur with his stand that the “higher -ups …not meddle into the private affairs of an officer whose professional honesty in the field of service was never in question [sic]“. Since the law makers (fortunately) consider domestic violence a crime rather than ‘private affairs’, physical torture by an officer would mean that we have a police officer breaking the law. I can’t imagine how and why that should be tolerated. There is much research to be done on this and I shall be back soon with the whys, hows and wheres of it.

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