The 26-week maternity leave bill is counterproductive

The 26-week maternity leave bill is counterproductive

Rajeev Srinivasan | 18 Mar 2017 08:12 AM

Representational Picture. (AFP)

The law of unintended consequences strikes again. That’s what makes the latest attempt to pander to leftist feminist fantasies different from what happened during the heyday of that unelectable and unaccountable and motley crew called the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi – the NAC knew exactly what they were doing, which was creating yet more “million mutinies”, to use VS Naipaul’s phrase.

Oh, yes, the NAC did know. They knew that the RTE and the CVB and the RTF and all other pieces of dangerous lawmaking would drive deep wedges between groups, and preferably destroy the Indian family as an incidental bonus. It was meant to create chaos, because the NAC, like their sponsors in the Congress, fundamentally deteste the Indian State and wish it to be “tukde tukde”, as our dear JNU senior citizen-students frequently proclaim.

The WCD ministry is probably not intent on creating chaos. Actually, when I think of it, I am not so sure. I just assumethat the WCD Ministry isn’t intent on it. But an argument could be made that Minister Madame Gandhi the Youngest does want to create chaos, for she spent some years in the Nehru household, and contempt for India’s masses and tenderness for vague Leftie causes was probably served with the morning coffee there. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the WCD were being do-gooders.

The problem is that this brain-dead legislation hurts the very women it is intended to support, because it’s forcing a small business to give free money to a woman who gets pregnant. It is a bit of social engineering that Lefties would applaud, but makes no sense in the real world (as the Leftie Hans discovered when they effects of the one-child policy became apparent about fifty years after it was instituted.) The logical thing is to not hire a woman in her fertile years: nobody below 50, in other words.

Let me give you a parable of sorts, based on my own experience. I used to run a business school, and by sheer mis-chance, hired a female professor, who we later learned to our chagrin was seriously disturbed. She suffered from paranoid delusions, and believed the other faculty, especially other females, were out to get her. I was her bete-noire.

This was the time when under the NAC’s guidance particularly draconian rules were framed which basically said that if a woman accused you of sexual harassment, it was true. (Not to be confused with the CVB which said that if a non-Hindu merely accused a Hindu of any crime, the Hindu was arrested forthwith and presumed guilty until proved innocent. Yes, presumed guilty until proved innocent).

Faculty advised me that I should never meet this woman alone in my office, in case, in a fit of pique, she were, heaven forbid, to accuse me of sexual assault. Imagine the scenario, they said to me. Just a mere assertion would immediately get the hyperactive Kerala media to our doorstep, and there I’d be, 5 o’clock shadow and all, looking distinctly shifty and Nixon-like while I tried to avoid some reporter poking a mike in my face.

Yeah, I could imagine it. Everybody and his brother would be saying, “Yes, that guy, he has that devious look about him. I knew he was a pervert. Just look at him!” And I’d be convicted in the court of public opinion, a ruined man, even if I were to provide rock-solid evidence that I had not harassed her (like tapes from closed-circuit cameras, of which unfortunately there were none in my office, only in the corridor outside).

I learned my lesson from that. If that faculty ever wanted to meet me, and extrapolating therefrom if any female student wanted to meet me, I’d ask them to talk on the phone, or better still go to the canteen in full view of lots of people.

And you can imagine all of us became extra-careful about hiring the next female professor.

And we were probably not the only institution that was cautious. In other words, those rules meant to protect women actually made it harder for women to find jobs, because the natural tendency of hiring managers is to avoid potential trouble makers.

Similarly, there is another law called 498B if I remember correctly that assumes that the man’s family is guilty by definition of dowry harassment merely on the say-so of the woman. And the entire family is thrown in jail forthwith, with the presumption of guilt: it’s a non-bailable offence. Again, the best of intentions. It was meant to deter real dowry-harassment and dowry-deaths, which happens mostly to poor and illiterate rural women.

But poor, illiterate rural women weren’t the ones exercising 498B with gay abandon. It was (is?) rich urban women who had a peeve with their husbands who started using it left and right (I also remember there was a rash of rape-accusations in Rajasthan a while ago which turned out to be women using the stigma to ‘punish’ innocent men.) Thus a bunch of bra-burning Leftie harpies were brutalizing the poor slobs unlucky enough to have married them. There are entire websites about harassed males, and I remember a woman named DeepikaBharadwaj standing up for these poor suckers, and being trolled by Lefties.

Yes, a disclaimer. I do believe there are many more woman brutalised by men than vice versa.

But the moral of the story is the same: beware of what you ask for. You may get it, and then you may wish you hadn’t. It would be instructive for sceptics to read a terrifying short story, The Monkey’s Paw. 

(Rajeev Srinivasan, a management professional, is a popular blogger on current affairs.)

(The writer tweets @rajeevsrinivasa)

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