Mangaluru: Renowned human rights activist and journalist, Teesta Setalvad, held a interaction with the students at College of Business Management Auditorium, SDM College here, on January 29.
Speaking on this occasion, Teesta said that everyone could do their part in helping the weaker section. She gave an example of ‘Dabbawala’ of Mumbai who had started a ‘Roti-Bank,’ by which they collected extra rotis and gave to the hungry people. “These are the small things that even we can do,” she said.
She also quote Martin Luther King Junior, who had once said, ‘The world suffered not due to the deeds of the bad, but due to the silence of the good people’ and said that it was time that the good people spoke against the bad that is happening in the society. Teesta said, “The society never mentions Savitribai Phule and Jyotirao Phule, who worked to provide education to women in 18th century in India, as the society doesn’t want the young to revolt to change the education system.”
Teesta further said that the Government of India has brought forward Right to Information, MNREGA and Food Security Act 2013, to help the citizens voice their concerns and bring down hunger. It was the duty of the public to act whenever they found someone not being paid the minimum wages as fixed by the government. The young should question when the society gives preference to boys over girls. “You will be criticized; even I was when I debated against high fee structures restricting the access of the poor to quality education. You should watch at least one documentary every week from any country, only then you will know how privileged you are,” Teesta said.
Teesta said that she couldn’t understand why the government planned to stop the scholarship of Rs 8000 given to research students. “This scholarship helped a poor student get quality education. The media also needs to highlight these issues. We saw that in the ‘Occupy UGC’ movement the student did not receive much attention by the media, so they took up to uploading a video on YouTube. This video gave them the much needed publicity. A video can be captured using a cellphone and even you can do so when you feel that your voice is unheard,” She said.
Teesta said, “Media in any democracy should be critical of the establishment so that we can assess the government. Media should not reproduce and be a spokesperson of the west. In the entire cabinet of ministers, about 383 are crorepatis out of which two-thirds are businessmen and corporate. We need to think what kind of decisions such a government will take,” she said.
Students also asked certain questions about human rights and other issues. On the question of moral policing, Teesta said, “Young people should be given a chance to be associated with anyone. We must have faith in them, just like they have faith in us. Why should my identity be shaky when my child interacts with a person of another community? Moral policing is totally irrational. It is important for young people to develop their own ideas and not be restricted to our own ideas.”
“I believe murder is worse than rape, but I don’t believe in castration or capital punishment. The convict should be punished in such a way that it makes him a better person. Whenever you feel bad about anything or feel that justice is not served, at least write to an editor,” she said.
On intolerance, Teesta said, “If we follow the constitution, then there is no intolerance and it shouldn’t bother anyone. I believe any ban on beef or pork or vegetarianism is a ban on one’s cultural choice. Everybody had the freedom to follow their own culture, by respecting the culture of others.”
Teesta said, “We have freedom of speech only on ‘Paper,’ as it’s written in the constitution. The only restriction in constitution is when we use our freedom of speech to incite violence. But we have to voice our concerns and not keep quiet when we see injustice.”
She said that capitalist democracies like England, America and France had spent their money on public education, in India the job of providing education was however given to the private sectors. She also said that one should not feel deprived to see the seats being reserved for the backward classes, as it was only through reservations such communities could come up.
Aruna Kamath, Tilakraj G and S Nandgopal were also present.