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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Dangerous denim

Uttarakhand CM Rawat starts on a low note, finds root cause of social ills in tattered jeans and exposed knees

By: Editorial |
Updated: March 18, 2021 9:19:06 am
The extent of the labour market scarring during this period has been enormous.

In his first speech in high office, Nehru marked a “tryst with destiny”, Lincoln began “with malice towards none; with charity towards all”. Not this high-minded, ivory-tower stuff for the recently-appointed Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Tirath Singh Rawat. His focus is below the belt. In one of his first public appearances as CM, Rawat has found an unconventional “root cause” for all that plagues society, particularly the youth — “kainchi se sanskar”.

His argument goes something like this: Ripped jeans (the result of the work of kainchis or scissors) are both the cause for and symptom of declining sanskari-ness. This “run towards nudity” by young men and women, to which their parents turn a blind eye, is part of a “mad race towards westernisation”. Rawat even drew a connection between exposed knees and drug abuse. The diatribe against denim and the offensive knee-joint was apparently triggered by Rawat having witnessed a woman running an NGO in tattered jeans. One of Rawat’s new ministers, Ganesh Joshi, spoke in his master’s voice: “Women talk about all things they want to do in life, but the most important thing for them is to look after their family and children.”

The sweeping connecting of dots by the new chief minister is a matter for Freudians and Jungians to unravel. But women in India have fought for their right to wear denim, tattered or otherwise, against many an overbearing uncle. Perhaps it is the attempt at individuality, of assertion, that irks so. As Minister Joshi seems to suggest, the problem isn’t the ghutna (knee), but what women should and should not do. Since the CM has much to do in his new job, perhaps it’s best if he kept his nose to the grindstone, not his eye on the knee.

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