NO ONE knows the name of the 23-year-old student who died after she was brutally raped by six men in a bus with tinted windows that moved unchecked through South Delhi. But aspects of her biography have been reported. Put together, they provide a revealing contrast to what is known about those accused of the crime.
The young woman was ambitious and driven. Her father worked as a loader at Delhi’s airport. He could at least afford a one-bedroom apartment for his family of five. The girl had worked hard to supplement her family’s income since she was 13; to finance her higher education and professional qualification, her father sold some land — a sadly unusual choice when it’s a girl’s education that needs to be paid for. It has been reported that she left home in order to finish her degree. This is a story of constant self-improvement, based on a supportive family. The men who raped and killed her have starkly different biographies. They fell through the cracks in the Indian system. One is a juvenile from a broken home who survived without work for many years. None had access to the formal employment that grants security, self-worth and a degree of investment in society. Two drove the bus; a third was their onboard "helper".
Economic policy, other than ensuring women have access to markets, can do little about the misogyny that shapes such men’s minds. But it can ensure they have more to lose than these men did. The self-improvement and drive of the woman is darkly inverted in the angry alienation of the men who raped her.
India’s unwillingness to change its labour laws and push manufacturing growth means a hopeful narrative is being undermined. The task this year is to reverse that.
New Delhi, January 2