March 23, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss the Norwegian ambassador’s take on the movie Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway. We also look at the discovery of ancient stone inscriptions in Andhra Pradesh, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway: Is the Norwegian ambassador right in his assessment?
Akin to what we mentioned yesterday, globalisation isn’t always smooth. When boundaries become porous and people move to different countries, so do ideas, cultures, and values. So it’s no surprise that the rich worlds of immigrants have found their way into Bollywood. Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway tells of a clash of cultures, child rights regulations, and the oft-ignored harsh, isolating world of motherhood.
Directed by Ashima Chibber, the movie is inspired by a real-life story about a Bengali immigrant woman’s battle against Norwegian and Indian law enforcement authorities to gain custody of her children. The film became somewhat controversial after Hans Jacob Frydenlund, Norway’s Ambassador to India, claimed that it doesn’t reflect Norway’s deep care for families.
Sagarika Chakraborty’s story began in 2007 when she moved to Norway with her husband, Anurup Bhattacharya. By 2011, the couple had two children, Abhigyaan and Aishwarya. The Barnevernet (pronounced Bar-Nay-Var-Na), Norwegian child welfare services, separated the children from their family and sent them to foster care.
They found the couple unfit for parenting. For the Norwegian authorities, the problems were that Sagarika had slapped the children once, that the kids slept on the same bed as their parents, and that they were handfed.
Now, Norway takes child rights and protection very seriously. They set up an ombudsman for children in 1981 and banned the physical punishment of children in 1987. Predominantly a social democratic welfare regime, the Norwegian State is seriously involved in its citizens’ private and family lives, like child care, through its support services and measures.
The Barnevernet are present in every municipality. They are empowered to separate children from families they believe are not conducive to the children’s well-being and growth. It’s how child protection services function in most countries. They have delivered their services in some measure to approximately 3% of all children in the country.
Sagarika entered a legal tussle with the child welfare authorities to regain custody of the children. During this, the Norwegian authorities developed a case against her that challenged her mental competence. In her late twenties, she was admittedly a little tardy.
Since it was an immigrant-related issue, the case garnered much media attention inside and outside Norway. They criticised the Barnevernet for being draconian in practice and parochial in their worldview. One problem was that they appeared ignorant of and insensitive to differences between Norwegian and Indian cultures. The second problem was their personal attacks against Sagarika.
The matter now reached the top guns. Then External Affairs Minister SM Krishna reached a compromise with the Norwegian government to award the children’s custody to their paternal uncle. In December 2012, Sagarika approached the Calcutta High Court, and after over a month, she secured custody of her children. The over-a-year-long tussle had taken its toll on Sagarika and Anurup’s marriage.
Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway is based on Chakraborty’s autobiography, “The Journey Of A Mother”. But it is fiction. The names, places, and characters have been changed and modified to suit the tone and timbre of films. It shows the different treatment of child care in Norway when compared to India from its female protagonists’ perspective. Apart from the presently unfolding controversy, the film also offers an opportunity to rethink traditional parenting practices in one’s country.
Historically, Norway has been a homogeneous country. It’s helped enforce largely uniform and universalistic laws in the country. But the last decade has seen an increased diversity in the country’s ethnic profile. As of 6 March 2023, there are 8,77,227 immigrants in Norway.
After watching Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, Ambassador Frydenlund expressed his hope in an Indian Express op-ed that the movie wouldn’t stop Indians from migrating to the Scandinavian country. In response, Chakraborty wrote an op-ed, emphasising the pain that Norwegian authorities put her through. Let’s assess how the debate unfolded.
VIEW: The movie is one-sided
Frydenlund’s op-ed expresses his concern over Norway’s depiction as an unfeeling country, especially towards families and immigrants. The movie’s tagline is “A woman’s fight against a nation”. He believes the movie’s powerful and moving depiction against Norway could dissuade Indians from immigrating to the country.
Given that the movie is primarily from the Indian mother’s perspective, Frydenlund and the Norwegian Embassy in India have released a statement explaining the Norwegian side. They said the case was resolved over a decade ago and that Norway is an inclusive society that respects different cultural practices. Norway cares for children and stringently enforces its ban on physical abuse.
Frydenlund’s other clarification is that there are factual inaccuracies in the film. He and the embassy argue that children in Norway aren’t separated from their families for sleeping in their parent’s beds or being fed by their parents.
COUNTERVIEW: It hits home
The Barnevernet has often come under fire for taking over custody of the children too quickly. There are 36 child welfare cases from Norway in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Activists argue that the Barnevernet have too much power and has made mistakes too often. The problem is that court decisions are skewed against the parents.
If Norwegian law didn’t discriminate on account of diverse cultural practices in parenting, then references to said practices would not have made their way into the case against Chakraborty. Data shows that children of immigrant or foreign mothers are four times more likely than other children to be separated from their families. It displays a certain disregard for diverse cultural practices.
The ambassador’s complete denial of Barnevernet’s cultural bias seems ill-informed. Although the embassy has expressed sympathy for Chakraborty’s duress, it clings to the idea that this is a resolved issue. But the diplomatic resolution that Norway arrived at had not conferred the children’s custody to the parent. In India, the Burdwan Child Welfare Committee gave its verdict in Chakraborty’s favour.
- The true story behind Rani Mukherjee’s latest film ‘Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway’ – The Indian Express
- ‘Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway’ doesn’t represent the deep care Norway has for families – The Indian Express
- Don’t dismiss it as fiction, I lived this story – The Indian Express
- Should your kid be taken away if they don’t like fish-balls? – TRT World
- Contemporary discourses on children and parenting in Norway – Science Direct
- Immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents – Statistics Norway
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Norwegian Ambassador’s assessment of the movie Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway is correct.
b) The Norwegian Ambassador’s assessment of the movie Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway is incorrect.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
China hasn’t restored pre-April 2020 status quo. New Delhi’s muted response is also to blame
For the Left:
How Measures Taken By Regulatory Bodies Helped India Achieve Higher Economic Growth
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Himachal to discontinue water bleaching (Himachal Pradesh) – Following an epidemic of a water-borne disease in Hamirpur’s Nadaun that sickened over 1,000 people, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu announced the discontinuation of bleaching powder for disinfecting drinking water on Tuesday.
Why it matters: The CM also stated that towns close to bodies of water would receive 24-hour water supply. Following the epidemic in January, 1,112 individuals became sick with diarrhoea, and over 50 villages in Hamirpur were impacted. Sukhu stated that UV light will now be used to control the spread of water-borne illnesses such as jaundice and diarrhoea, which have previously been seen in Shimla and lately in Hamirpur’s Nadaun.
Ancient stone inscriptions discovered at Prakasam (Andhra Pradesh) – Two stone inscriptions from the king’s regime of 1257 CE and 1740 CE were recently found in Bodicherla village of Markapur Mandal in the Prakasam region. Among these two, a 13th-century inscription discovered lately in the Prakasam district dates from the reign of the famous Kakatiya emperor Kakati Ganapathi Deva.
Why it matters: This inscription carved in Telugu language lists the gifts of market tax at the rate of one ‘Niskas’ (gold coin) and one matter of lands in the village Bodducherrla to the God Ramanadhadeva, as food offerings, and the lighting of a perpetual lamp (dhupa-deep-naivedyam) in the temple by Pebbutula Malesetti. This inscription can be found on a stone in the Sri Chennamalleswara Swamy (Shivalayam) shrine, which is located on the banks of the Gundlakamma river within the Bodicherla village boundaries.
WB gets UK aid to build EV workforce (West Bengal) – The United Kingdom will help West Bengal in developing a technical staff to maintain its EV infrastructure, which is expected to expand rapidly as India transitions to electric mobility in the coming years. The state government is preparing a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for the maintenance and manufacturing of electric cars (EVs) as part of the project, with help from the UK government, they said.
Why it matters: According to Peter Cook, the British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata, skill development in the electric mobility area is an essential component adding to the ‘net-zero’ plan and will assist in the creation of new green employment and investment in the EV sector. S Suresh Kumar, assistant chief secretary of West Bengal’s electricity department, stated that technical assistance for EV charging infrastructure as well as car maintenance is critical.
Right to Health bill passed (Rajasthan) – Rajasthan became the first state to approve the Right to Health Bill in the Assembly on Tuesday, giving every citizen of the state the right to free Out Patient Department (OPD) and In-Patient Department (IPD) services at all public health institutions. Similarly, comparable healthcare services will be given at no expense at chosen private facilities. Despite protests from the Opposition BJP, which wanted to alter some of the provisions, and agitation by a group of physicians, the bill was approved.
Why it matters: According to the Bill, all public health institutions and select private facilities will provide free healthcare services, including counselling, medicines, tests, emergency transit, procedure, and emergency care, subject to the conditions stated in the regulations, which will be developed now. In addition, all residents will be eligible to free medical therapy and care in the event of an accident. Importantly, in a medico-legal situation, no public or private hospital can postpone treatment solely on the basis of obtaining police approval.
Manipur hosts international football contest (Manipur) – The state hosted its first-ever international football match yesterday in Imphal, when India beat Myanmar 1-0 in a tri-nation friendly tournament involving the two countries along with Kyrgyz Republic. The next match will be held on March 28, when India plays against Kyrgyz Republic. In India’s squad of 23 players, seven are from Manipur.
Why it matters: The northeast is home to one-third of the registered Indian players in the country’s highest level, the Indian Super League. Manipur, along with Mizoram, has produced nearly one-fourth of all Indians who compete in the ISL. Manipuri players, who are products of state and private football schools and are renowned for their technical skills and speed, have populated all levels of Indian football for the greater part of the last decade, with the greatest presence in the ISL.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
15,000 – In the last 15 months, wildfire has destroyed 15,000 hectares of forest cover in Odisha, according to Minister Pradip Kumar Amat.