By B Sivakumar
CHENNAI: Four states account for nearly half of the country’s dalit population, reveals the 2011 census. Uttar Pradesh stands first with 20.5% of the total scheduled caste (SC) population, followed by West Bengal with 10.7%, says the data released by the Union census directorate on Tuesday. Bihar with 8.2% and Tamil Nadu with 7.2 % come third and fourth. Dalits form around 16.6% of India’s population.
The 2011 census recorded nearly 20.14 crore people belonging to various scheduled castes in the country. As per the 2001 census, the number was 16.66 crore. The dalit population showed a decadal growth of 20.8%, whereas India’s population grew 17.7% during the same period. “Though there is an increase in the population of dalits in the country, many states with a considerable number of dalits don’t have any legislation to protect the interests of the community. Dalit empowerment is very poor in many states,” said former Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) MLA D Ravikumar.
Many scheduled caste families don’t own land or any other property, said Ravikumar. “Many dalits are landless and efforts to empower them by giving free land have not been successful in Tamil Nadu. Unlike Punjab, which has a considerable number of dalits as industrialists, here there is hardly any industrialist from our community,” the leader of the dalit party said.
There are around 9.79 crore women among the total SC population, and the sex ratio works out to 946 females per 1000 males. Nagaland, Lakshwadeep and Andaman and Nicobar islands have no scheduled castes among their population. Though UP has the largest chunk of the total SC population, Punjab has the largest share of dalits in its population at 31.9%. Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal follow Punjab with 25.2% and 23.5%. In Tamil Nadu, dalits account for about 18% of the population.
The state budget should also allocate funds for creation of assets for dalits, said Ravikumar. “Instead of distributing freebies, the state governments can set aside a portion of the total allocation for dalits. In many cases, funds are being diverted and dalits lose whatever is due to them,” he said. The states with considerable number of dalits in their population must pass a separate legislation on the lines of Andhra Pradesh, which has passed the SC/ST Sub Plan Act, said a dalit activist.
The Times of India, May 2, 2013
Posted on: May 2, 2013
The city of Tirupati now has two prominent landmarks in the form of statues inaugurated for senior Dalit leaders.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar inaugurated the statue of her father and former Deputy Prime Minister Babu Jagjivan Ram at the park meant to be developed by the Municipal Corporation of Tirupati (MCT) at Kesavayanagunta in the city. Earlier, she unveiled a statue of former Chief Minister and ex-president of AICC, Damodaram Sanjeevaiah near Shilparamam, which was developed by Tirupati Urban Development Authority (TUDA).
Ms. Kumar hailed the two leaders for breaking the shackles of untouchability and oppression witnessed during their times and making it big in their respective domains. Heaping laurels on her father, she said, “Be it as the Defence Minister when he deftly handled the 1971 Pakistan war or ushering in the ‘Green Revolution’ as the Food Minister or in empowering the working classes as the Labour Minister, Babuji proved to be a master statesman and administrator.”
She said that Babuji had the innate talent to identify, understand and channelise innate courage and strength in the oppressed, the downtrodden and the ‘have-not’ sections of the society. She also recalled the days when Mr. Sanjeevaiah used to visit her father and discuss policy issues.
Member of Parliament Chinta Mohan hailed Babuji for ensuring social parity as enshrined in the constitution and Damodaram Sanjivaiah for launching the pension scheme in the State during his stint. Legislative Council chairman A. Chakrapani asked for more Dalits to occupy higher echelons of power, while Endowments Minister C. Ramachandraiah wanted social justice to be the order of the day. MLC B. Chengalrayudu, local MLA B. Karunakar Reddy and Collector Solomon Arokiaraj took part.
Offers prayers at Tirumala
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar offered prayers at the Lord Venkateswara temple on Sunday with her husband Manjul Kumar and other family members.
She was accorded a traditional reception on her arrival at the main temple complex by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) authorities and the priests and was cordially led into the sanctum sanctorum of the sacred shrine where she stood in front of the presiding deity for about ten minutes and paid her obeisance.
After the darshan, while temple priests showered Vedasirvachanams on the Speaker and her family at the ranganayakula mandapam situated inside the temple complex, TTDs chairman K. Bapiraju, Executive Officer L.V. Subramanyam presented her with a set of religious books, memento and prasadam of the deity.
Earlier, she also offered prayers at the Bhoo Varahaswamy temple as is the practise.
Prominent among those who accompanied her include Chairman of Legislative Council Chakrapani, Endowments Minister Ramachandraiah, Tirupati MP Chinta Mohan, JEO K.S. Srinivasa Raju and other officials.
The Hindu, April 29, 2013
Posted on: April 29, 2013
By Bernadine Racoma
It took a Parliamentary stand-off for a bill called The Enterprise and Regulatory Bill to get through. And now it has received a royal nod from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II herself. Parliament has recently included provisions on caste in the Equality Act 2010, the bill that is now outlawing caste in the UK. An estimated total of 400,000 dalits or untouchables residing in the country will benefit from this development in legislation.
On Tuesday, Equalities Minister Jo Swinson addressed the House of Commons and said that the House of Lords have reconsidered their position and has made a decision to introduce legislation related to caste. The government initially opposed any legislation, arguing that an education program tackling caste discrimination is already in place.
This is considered a triumph for four lakh dalits in Britain. The House of Lords voted two times for the law to legally protect them. The first Lords vote was overturned by Commons MPs last month which sparked a heated debate. But after third reading there was a reversal of opinion. Both Houses of Parliament approved the exact wording of the Bill.
Business Secretary Vince Cable of the House of Commons put down the amendments on the table which includes provisions “for caste to be an aspect of race.” Given this move, the Secretary of State is required to put forward regulations within a period of two months of the Enterprise Bill’s enactment.
Davinder Prasad, General Secretary of Caste Watch UK has been advocating inclusion of caste-based discrimination in the equity laws of the United Kingdom. He says that this is a triumph for the victims of prejudice based on caste. A number of South Asian citizens of the United Kingdom have suffered through discriminatory practices. Prasad said that there is now reason to celebrate at Parliament Square. They originally scheduled a protest against the former stance of the government. Keith Porteous Wood, the Executive Director of the National Secular Society added that this is a victory for the House of Lords as well in their effort to protect Human Rights.
On the other hand, the AHO (Alliance of Hindu Organisations) sought to boycott legislation in order to avoid any label on the Hindu community. AHO says that their community wants to move beyond the caste system since modern Hindus do not put any weight on the issue anymore.
“Caste discrimination is wrong.”
Richard Fuller, Conservative MP says that people discriminated against deserve legal protection and that workplace caste discrimination is wrong.
The UK government commissioned the NIESR (National Institute of Economic and Social Research) to conduct a research. The report was put together on December 2010 called “Caste Discrimination and Harassment in Great Britain.” According to the report the Dalit community in Britain number from 50,000 to 200,000 individuals. The Equality and Human Rights Commission was also asked by the government to examine race related harassment and caste prejudice.
Lord Deben, a former Conservative cabinet minister favors the amendment says that it is not enough to change the name from “untouchable” to “Dalit” and just turn their back on how they are treated just because of the situation of their birth. Lord Deben says that it is “utterly wrong” to decide not to take the opportunity to protect people from discrimination.
Day News, April 27, 2013
Posted on: April 27, 2013
NEW DELHI (AP) — A child disappears. Police are called. Nothing happens.
Child rights activists say the rape last week of a 5-year-old girl is just the latest case in which Indian police failed to take urgent action on a report of a missing child. Three days after the attack, the girl was found alone in locked room in the same New Delhi building where her family lives.
More than 90,000 children go missing in India each year; more than 34,000 are never found. Some parents say they lost crucial time because police wrongly dismissed their missing children as runaways, refused to file reports or treated the cases as nuisances.
The parents of the 5-year-old said that after their daughter disappeared, they repeatedly begged police to register a complaint and begin a search, but they were rejected.
Three days later, neighbors heard the sound of a child crying from a locked room in the tenement. They broke down the door and rushed the brutalized girl to the police station.
The parents said the police response was to offer the couple 2,000 rupees ($37) to keep quiet about what had happened.
“They just wanted us to go away. They didn’t want to register a case even after they saw how badly our daughter was injured,” said the girl’s father, who cannot be identified because Indian law requires a rape victim’s identity be kept secret.
Delhi’s Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar admitted Monday that local police had erred in handling the case.
“There have been shortfalls, so the station house officer and his deputy have been suspended,” Kumar told reporters.
Other poor parents of missing children say they also have found police reluctant to help them.
In 2010, police took 15 days to register a missing-persons case for 14-year-old Pankaj Singh. His mother is still waiting for him to come home.
“Every day my husband and my father would go wait at the police station, but they would shoo them away,” Pravesh Kumari Singh said as she sat on her son’s bed, surrounded by his pictures and books.
One morning in March 2010, she fed her son a breakfast of fried pancakes and spicy potatoes, then left for a community health training program.
“He told me he would have a bath and settle down to study for his exams,” said Singh, clutching the boy’s photograph to her heart.
When she returned, he was gone. “The neighbors said some boys had called him out. We searched everywhere, went to the police, but they refused to believe that something had happened to our son.”
The police insisted he had run off with friends and would return, she said.
“They said we must have scolded him or beaten him, which is why he had run away from home,” she said.
Formal police complaints were registered in only one-sixth of missing child cases in 2011, said Bhuwan Ribhu, a lawyer with Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or the Save the Childhood Movement. He said police resist registering cases because they want to keep crime figures low, and that parents are often too poor to bribe them to reconsider.
Ribhu said the first few hours after a child goes missing are the most crucial. “The police can cordon off nearby areas, issue alerts at railway and bus stations, and step up vigilance to catch the kidnappers,” he said.
Activists say delays let traffickers move children to neighboring states, where the police don’t have jurisdiction. There is no national database of missing children that state police can reference.
Police have insisted that most of missing children are runways fleeing grinding poverty.
“It’s easy enough to blame the police for not finding the children. Some of the parents do not even possess a photograph of the child. Or they will come up with a years-old picture. It becomes difficult when there’s not even a photograph to work with,” Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said last month when asked about complaints on police inaction in investigating case of missing children.
Many cases involved poor migrant construction workers who move from site to site around the city, Bhagat said.
“The children are unfamiliar with the place and once they lose their way, they wouldn’t know how to return,” he said.
India’s Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath told Parliament last month that the problem of missing children had assumed “alarming” proportions. The National Crime Records Bureau reported that 34,406 missing children were never found in 2011, up from 18,166 in 2009.
Activists say some children are trafficked and forced to beg on the streets. Some work on farms or factories as forced labor and others have their organs harvested and sold. The activists say young girls are pushed into the sex trade or sold for marriage.
“The government is just not ready to confront the issue of trafficking or missing children. And this gets reflected in the apathy of the police in dealing with cases of missing children,” said Ribhu, the lawyer.
In 2006, the Central Bureau of Investigation said at least 815 criminal gangs were kidnapping children for begging, prostitution or ransom.
The Save the Childhood Movement said police have not cracked a single one of those syndicates.
“Despite our providing the police with all the details of where a child was picked up from, where he was taken, the police are simply not willing to act,” said Ribhu.
Two streets away from Singh, in a tiny windowless room crammed with clothes, bedding and a stove, Pinky Devi keeps a prized possession locked away in a drawer: a faded color photograph of her son Ravi Shankar.
One afternoon in November 2011, she says, the 11-year-old went off with other children to a neighborhood fair. He never returned.
Devi said the police visited her home a couple of times and spoke to her neighbors, but their interest soon wore out.
“I’m sure if we had money to spend on them, the police would have been more active in tracing my son,” said Devi, her two younger sons and infant daughter clinging to her sari in their one-room tenement in southeast Delhi.
Shantha Sinha, who heads the government’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, acknowledged that much remained to be done to make police take cases of missing children seriously.
“There has to be a strong message that in every incident of a missing child, a criminal case has to be registered and the case is properly investigated,” Sinha said.
Kunwar Pal, a construction worker, fears police indifference crushed his efforts to find his son Ravi Kumar.
Since the 12-year-old disappeared three years ago, the distraught father has cycled across India’s sprawling capital, visiting police and railway stations, children’s homes and hospitals, handing out posters and photographs of his missing son. Every time he hears of a child found anywhere in the city, he cycles to the police station, hoping it’s Ravi.
Pal, a lean 45-year-old with haunted eyes, refuses to think the worst. He believes Ravi was taken by a childless couple who wanted a child of their own.
“If they were to let me know somehow that my son is alive, I would be happy,” said Pal, his spare frame wracked by dry heaves. “They can keep him. Just let me see his shadow. Just let me know he’s safe.”
He also believes police would have worked harder if he had not been poor.
“If I were rich, my son would have been found by now. If I had money, the police would have taken the case more seriously,” he said.
USA Today, April 22, 2013
Posted on: April 22, 2013
The IMF and World Bank on Saturday backed a bold Bank goal to eradicate extreme poverty within a generation and raise the shared prosperity of their 188 member countries.
The Development Committee, representing the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on development issues, said it had endorsed the “ambitious” agenda proposed two weeks ago by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
Calling the initiative a “historic opportunity” to make a difference, the committee said the goals must be achieved without jeopardizing the environment, increasing economic debt or excluding vulnerable people.
Kim welcomed the committee’s endorsement as “an important step.”
“I have no doubt that the world can end extreme poverty within a generation. But it’s not a given and we cannot do it alone. It requires focus, innovation and commitments from everyone,” he said.
“If we succeed, together, we would have accomplished an historic milestone.”
Kim, a physician who took the reins of the Bank in July, had made adoption of the poverty agenda his top priority for the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
The plan aims at reducing the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day to three percent by 2030, while raising the incomes of the poorest 40 percent in each country.
The level of extreme poverty has fallen from 42 percent of the world’s population to 21 percent over the past 25 years, in part due to China’s economic growth.
The Development Committee said in its statement that achieving the goal would take strong growth across the developing world, and an unprecedented translation of growth into poverty reduction in many low-income countries.
The panel also noted institutional and governance challenges would have to be overcome and investments in infrastructure and agricultural productivity would be needed.
“Ministers unequivocally supported Dr. Kim’s vision and stated that we can count on the World Bank Group as a partner in the endeavor of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity,” Marek Belka, the chairman of the Development Committee, said in the statement.
“Dr. Kim renewed our zeal for the Bank Group’s core mission of a world free of poverty. There is a historic opportunity at our reach to make critical progress.”
The Times of India, April 21, 2013
Posted on: April 21, 2013
By Anurodh Lalit Jain
As the nation pays tribute to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on his 122 birth anniversary (April 14), one would realise that much more remains to be done to achieve his aim of social equality for the suppressed classes. A principal architect in drafting the Constitution, he made significant efforts at giving political rights and social freedom to Dalits. However, till date, members of Schedule Castes continue to face caste biases.
Dr. Ambedkar had a first-hand experience of untouchability in school, where he was segregated from caste Hindus. He was allowed to drink water from vessel only if it was poured from a height by the peon. In his biography, he spoke of school days when he would not drink water as very often the peon intentionally became unavailable.
Even today, there are instances where Dalit children are made to sit separately for the mid-day meal. Also, in some places students belonging to caste Hindus refuse to eat the food cooked by the ‘lower caste’ people. In a few districts of Madhya Pradesh, Dalit children are reportedly served food from a distance. Such caste biases in school will not only deprive these children of education but also fill their minds with pessimism about society at a tender age. Dr. Ambedkar throughout his life advised Dalits to get educated before agitating for their rights.
Data from the House listing & Housing Census 2011 highlight the continued injustice done to Dalits through the demeaning practice of manual scavenging. These workers collect human excreta with their brooms and tinplate and carry it for disposal. This work division continues based upon the traditional Hindu social order, which assigns to the Dalits the dirty, mean jobs. Dr. Ambedkar said that “in India, a man is not a scavenger because of his work. He is a scavenger because of his birth irrespective of the question whether he does scavenging or not.”
A depressing fact as revealed in the 2011 census data on households is that an estimated 8 lakh people are traditionally engaged in manual removal of night soil — a great embarrassment to the State governments that are still in denial mode. Dr. Ambedkar’s efforts to root out such caste biases were perceived to be advanced by Mayawati, who eventually became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. However, the census data show that Uttar Pradesh continues to have the dubious distinction of leading the list with approximately 3.2 lakh people still involved in manually removing human waste.
The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act in 1993 has provision for punishment, including fine, for employing scavengers or constructing dry toilets. However, manual scavengers are continued to be employed to this day by municipalities, the Railways and defence establishments. The UPA government, on the advice of the National Advisory Council, has recognised manual scavenging as a social problem rather than as a sanitation issue and is looking for ways to stop the abhorrent practice.
Dr. Ambedkar is considered the messiah for his efforts to bring equal opportunity and social justice to the marginalised communities. A real tribute to the great leader would be to continue with his efforts of empowering the Scheduled Castes and helping them overcome the vicious cycle of caste and cultural barrier, rather than merely offering flowers to his statue on his birth and death anniversaries.
The Hindu, April 14, 2013
Posted on: April 14, 2013
London: Nepal and Bangladesh are reducing poverty faster compared to India, according to a new study based on the multidimensional poverty index developed at the University of Oxford and used by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in its Human Development Reports.
India also made significant progress in reducing poverty between 1999 and 2006, but at a rate that was less than one-third of the speed of its neighbours, with a reduction in poverty rates of 1.2 percentage points per year [instead of 4.1% (Nepal) or 3.2% (Bangladesh)], the study found.
However, multidimensional poverty was reduced least in certain states – such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal – and among social groups like the Scheduled Tribes, Muslims, female-headed households and larger households.
According to the study, even India’s best-performing states – Kerala and Andhra Pradesh – progressed little more than half as fast as Nepal or Bangladesh in reducing multidimensional poverty, a release from the Oxford Poverty and Human development Initiative (OPHI), which conducted the study, said.
“The success of Nepal and Bangladesh in reducing poverty despite their relatively low income highlights the effectiveness of social policy investments combined with active civil society engagement,” said Dr Sabina Alkire, director of OPHI.
The poverty measure used by OPHI, the global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), is said to be unique in capturing the simultaneous disadvantages experienced by poor people, such as malnutrition, education and sanitation, providing a high-resolution lens on their lives.
According to researcher Suman Seth, “From 1999-2006 India did very well in certain aspects of poverty reduction; for example, MPI among the scheduled caste groups showed a strong reduction, and poverty among the most destitute went down faster than the average.”
She added: “However, it’s still the case that the benefits of national poverty reduction have been enjoyed least by some of the poorer groups and regions.”
OPHI added that India had not collected official data on MPI deprivations including malnutrition since 2005/6, making India’s MPI the least up-to-date in South Asia.
The global MPI, which was developed by OPHI and UNDP in 2010 and has been published in Human Development reports since, assesses multidimensional poverty in 104 countries for which data since 2002 are available.
The study found that were ‘star performers’: the percentage of poor people in Nepal dropped from 64.7% to 44.2% between 2006 and 2011, 4.1 percentage points per year, while in Bangladesh poverty rates decreased by 3.2 percentage points per year between 2004 and 2007.
In addition to reducing the percentage of poor people, both Nepal and Bangladesh reduced the intensity of poverty. This means that even poor people were on average less poor – deprived in fewer things at the same time – than they had been before, an important element of multidimensional poverty analysis that provides a more balanced picture of poor people’s lives, the release added.
The MPI is based on a deprivation score which reflects each person’s overlapping deprivations in nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, child school attendance, water, sanitation, electricity, cooking fuel, flooring, and assets.
A person is identified as ‘multidimensionally poor’ if he or she is deprived in one-third or more of ten (weighted) indicators.
NDTV, March 18, 2013
Posted on: March 18, 2013
Giving a commitment to help India meet its significant needs by providing finance and knowledge services in response to India’s request to increase support to the low-income States where most of the country’s India’s poor live, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on Wednesday indicated an assured annual funding of $3-5 billion for the next four years to push development projects and poverty eradication programmes.
Addressing a press conference at the conclusion of his three-day India visit, Dr. Kim said: “We have an historic opportunity to accelerate the reduction of poverty in India. The World Bank Group is committed to supporting the Indian people as they pursue this crucial goal…The World Bank Group will work toward continuing its level of annual assistance of $3-5 billion to India over the next four years”.
“We hope, especially working through IFC [International Finance Corporation], $3-5 billion can leverage many more billions for investment in India. We believe that India is a good investment and we will deepen our engagement as much as we can, using every bit of flexibility and creativity to get there,” he said.
The Bank, he said, would complement its enhanced financial lending with technical assistance and knowledge services to help India improve the implementation of its development programmes. During the year ended June last year, the multilateral funding agency extended a total loan of $ 3.2 billion for various projects, which included the national mission ‘Clean Ganga.’
Asked whether the Group was thinking of closing the soft loans tap — the International Development Association (IDA) — for India on its graduating to a “middle-income country”, Dr. Kim said: “We are in middle of discussions right now about our IDA strategy…We are going to be as creative as possible to maintain our commitment to India at very high levels.”
Asserting that the World Bank Group was concerned about the poor — about 400 million poor people who live in India, Dr. Kim said that the lending agency’s mission of ending global poverty would require it to step up support for India’s poorest citizens.
“Achieving the World Bank Group’s mission of ending global poverty will require us to step up our support for India’s poorest citizens…India’s poorest seven States are home to over 200 million people who have yet to secure access to education, healthcare and other basic services they deserve. Increasing our focus on these areas will help India build shared prosperity for all its people,” he said.
On the issue of India’s GDP (gross domestic product) growth estimates for 2013-14, Dr. Kim viewed that the country had a much higher potential than the six per cent projected for the coming fiscal. “We have seen signs of the economy having bottomed out. Six per cent is not a spectacular growth. India has many things going. The challenge is how to go back to the potential,” he said.
Signing off his maiden visit to India after taking over as World Bank President, during which he had “productive discussions” with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Dr. Kim said: “I leave India with a profound admiration for the remarkable development gains this country has achieved in recent decades. India’s experience holds valuable lessons for the World Bank Group and for countries around the world.”
The Hindu, March 14, 2013
Posted on: March 14, 2013
By Ashok Kotwal and Arka Roy Chaudhuri
We celebrate growth mainly because we believe that it can have an impact on poverty. However, despite two decades of fast growth of per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in India, poverty has declined quite slowly. In this column, we propose to explore why this might be so.
Figure 1 below shows growth over the last 20 years has moved the entire distribution to the right. In other words, all income groups have experienced some increase in their consumption. In fact, the population below the poverty line has come down from around 45% to 30%. This seems to suggest that we have made reasonable progress on the poverty front. However, in the context of the fast per capita GDP growth that India has had, its poverty performance leaves a great deal to be desired.
Structure of the Indian economy
Though it is the organized or formal sector that is always in the news, most of India and certainly most of its poor, make their living in the unorganized or informal sector.
To get out of poverty, they need to either increase productivity of their existing activities or to acquire skills enough to gain better paying jobs in the formal sector. Even when they do not acquire skills, workers leaving agriculture and finding employment elsewhere raises the wages of those left behind as now the latter have more land to work on. Thus, when the unskilled workers find unskilled non-farm jobs even at the same wage as before, they still make others better off. Job creation in the non-farm sectors whether for skilled or unskilled jobs is crucial for poverty reduction.
In 2004-2005, the informal sector produced 58% of national domestic product and employed 93% of India’s labour force. If the formal sector produces 42% of the output with only 7% of the labour force, it is clearly hugely more productive than the informal sector. It also has the potential to raise its productivity much faster through technology transfer from the developed world due to superior access to credit, infrastructure and skilled labour. The businesses in the informal sector are in the informal sector precisely because they lack access to these crucial inputs. The policies that will have an impact on poverty are those that would facilitate productivity improvement in the informal sector through improving access to crucial inputs, and those that convert the unskilled into skilled.
Growth drivers in the Indian economy
Which specific sectors within the formal sector are driving GDP growth and how much employment are they providing for the unskilled workers that constitute the poor?
To a large extent, what triggered India’s growth episode in the 90’s was the happenstance of the availability of a large excess supply of graduates from engineering and management schools to fill the large excess demand in the international markets for software engineers and managers. India’s growth spurt was spearheaded by very small sectors such as business services that employed a very small part of Indian labour force and that too, mostly the highly skilled. The fastest growing sectors in India were skill intensive sectors that created very little employment in general, especially for the unskilled and the poor.
Livemint.com, February 26, 2013
During the period 1993–2004, the fastest growing sectors were mostly high-end services such as business services, communications, research, hotels and restaurants, banking, insurance etc. The growth in most of these sectors was not accompanied by much increase in the employment of unskilled workers. There were only three non-farm sectors that did increase the employment of the unskilled—trade, transportation and construction—all low-end services. During this period, the labour force working in agriculture declined by 7% and almost all of that labour was absorbed in these three sectors. The labour drawn out of agriculture was still not substantial; in fact, the labour to land ratio increased in all but four states during this period. Real wages increased but this would not have happened had there been no agricultural productivity increase.
The pattern of growth changed slightly during 2004-2009. A few manufacturing sectors such as electric machinery, metal products, wood, furniture and transport equipment joined the list of fast growing, high-end service sectors. The fact remained however that the growth in none of these sectors provided much employment for the unskilled workers. In fact, many of these sectors shed unskilled labour. Almost all the additional jobs created for the unskilled during this period were in a single sector—“construction”. It employed 30% of the unskilled workers in 2009-2010. Perhaps, because of the massive employment created in “construction”, the labour to land ratio decreased in most states helping to raise the real wages in agriculture. This partially explains why the growth elasticity of poverty has improved over this period.
Demand composition as a determinant of which sectors grow fast
Why did the sectors that employed unskilled labour not grow fast? While the high-end services are export-oriented and grew fast in response to the rising international demand, the informal sectors that employ unskilled workers are typically non-traded services plus agriculture. The growth in these activities typically depends on the growth in derived demand for them. When a software engineer working for Infosys sees an increase in her income, how would she spend this additional income? She already has a driver, a maid and a cook. She is not going to hire more domestic help. She might buy an iPad, visit more holiday resorts and buy higher quality processed and unprocessed food items. The component of value added by the unskilled in producing these items is quite limited.
Figure 2 (shows how people at different levels of income spend their money and how this pattern has varied during 1993-2009. Group 1 and Group 2 are “food grains and pulses” and “other unprocessed food items” respectively. Group 3 and 4 represent the informal sector (other than agriculture) and formal sector products respectively. Notice that richer people spend more on the formal sector products. Moreover, over time, all income groups have increased the share of their consumption of formal sector products. It is clear that as incomes grow, the demand for skilled labour grows much faster than for the unskilled labour. That is, only a small part of the income gains, especially of the rich, trickles down to what the poor can produce. The more concentrated the income gains at the top, the lower is the trickle down. There in lies a part of the explanation for our motivating question.
This implies that sectors such as dairy, fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry have a high growth potential and also hold the promise of providing employment to relatively unskilled people. It should be a matter of high priority to remove any impediments to their growth.
The role of education
So far we have only talked about poverty reduction in terms of the employment for the unskilled. However, a big part of the development process is the skilling of the unskilled labour force. If the educational system rapidly converted the unskilled into skilled, they would be absorbed into the fast growing formal sector and there would be rapid poverty reduction. A research paper by A. Kotwal and A. Roy Chaudhuri “Why Is Poverty Declining So Slowly in India?” shows that the educational premium for graduates has increased continuously from Rs.322 per week in 1993 to Rs.494 per week in 2009. This indicates that the excess demand for graduates persists and has grown. In other words, the educational system is not generating skills fast enough.
To explore the root cause of the poor quality of our graduates, we need to start at the primary education level across the country. Pratham, the foremost educational NGO in India has been actively studying the problem of the quality of education for many years now. For eight years now they have published Annual Status of Education Report (ASER).
The findings are alarming.
“In 2010 nationally, 46.3% of all children in Std. V could not read a Std. II text. This proportion increased to 51.8% in 2011 and further to 53.2% in 2012”. Similarly, “…in 2010, of all the children enrolled in Std. V, 29.1% could not solve simple two-digit subtraction problems with borrowing. This proportion increased to 39% in 2011 and further to 46.5% in 2012. Barring Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, every major state shows signs of a substantial drop in arithmetic learning levels.”
How can a skilled labour force be built on such a weak base?
Thus, a part of the answer lies in our educational system. Without major improvements in our educational system all talk of demographic dividend is empty. Undereducated, unskilled youth will offer little dividend, if any.
To sum up, the slow rate of poverty decline despite fast growth can be attributed to: (1) the lack of access of the informal sector to crucial inputs that would allow it to improve its productivity, (2) the positive feedback emanating from a skill biased growth pattern so that the skilled workers (non-poor) spend their increased incomes mostly on the goods produced by skilled workers, (3) the failure of the educational system in creating a skilled labour force fast enough. The policies required to remedy (1) and (3) require institutional improvement and that in turn require concerted efforts over a long period. One avenue that will have an impact on poverty in the short run is to facilitate diversification of agriculture so that farmers could shift from food grains to horticulture, dairy and poultry for which the demand is growing across the country.
Posted on: February 26, 2013
By CP Chandrashekar and Jayati Ghosh
There is a widespread perception that poverty in India is concentrated in the rural areas.
It is certainly true that the officially estimated urban poverty ratio (at 21 per cent on average for all of India according to the Planning Commission’s poverty estimates for 2009-10) is considerably lower than the rural ratio of 34 per cent.
It is also true that — given the still low rate of urbanisation in India — most of India’s officially defined poor (nearly four-fifths) live in villages.
However, there are grounds for questioning the policy focus on rural poverty, and important reasons for recognising that the nature and extent of urban poverty require urgent attention.
This is not only because of the significant increase in absolute numbers of the urban population over the decade of the 2000s and the change in the classification of many settlements from rural to urban in the 2011 Census.
It is also especially because urban poverty can take on a qualitatively different nature from its rural counterpart, and therefore may require very different policy interventions.
Definition of poverty
On the face of it, as Chart 1 suggests, urban poverty has been declining in terms of rates as well as (in the most recent estimates) in terms of absolute numbers.
It should be noted that the official urban poverty estimates presented in Chart 1 reflect the numbers derived from the Tendulkar Committee recommendations, and therefore are not strictly comparable with the earlier figures.
Even with comparable figures, however, the data suggest that the rate of urban poverty has been coming down (although certainly not as rapidly as could be hoped given the aggregate income increase in the country). However, the absolute numbers of urban poor remain extremely large, at more than 76 million.
However, one important concern is that these urban poverty figures are quite misleading because they have such a minimalist notion of survival that they generate a maximalist definition of poverty in terms of the derived income line.
What is called “poverty” in India is really extreme destitution, such that a much larger proportion of the population would tend to be classified as poor according to most international standards, even in other developing countries at similar levels of per capita income.
The issue of the official poverty line has generated much debate in recent times, as it became evident to the wider public that both the methodology and the actual lines drawn for estimating the poor were deeply flawed.
Until the official estimates for 2009-10, the poverty numbers were generated by using the consumer price indices to update poverty lines determined by average monthly consumption expenditure of households whose members consumed (per capita) 2400 Kcal of food per day in rural India and 2100 Kcal per day in urban India in the 1970s.
Thereafter, the Tendulkar Committee set up by the government provided another even more arbitrary determination of the poverty line, which did, however, generate somewhat larger numbers in terms of the incidence of poverty.
Even so, the income poverty lines that are now being officially used are still extremely low, for both urban and rural poverty.
Table 1 provides some estimates of these lines across States for 2009-10, as well as the associated urban poverty ratios.
It is evident from Table 1 that the lines for determining urban income poverty remain extraordinarily low, and would not be considered as sufficient to describe a household as “non-poor” in any meaningful sense.
In Delhi, for example, the stated daily consumption spending per capita of less than Rs 35 would not have been enough, even in 2009-10, to enable a person to use the public transport system from one end of the city to the other, quite apart from all necessary items of consumption.
Clearly the determination of the income poverty line leaves much to be desired, not least because it ignores the actual elements and rising costs of the standard spending basket of poor households whose members are forced to seek wage employment for survival.
Since there is no clearly specified norm for the determination of the line, apart from some “guesstimates” by experts of the likely necessary consumption of households, there are good reasons for finding this line not only arbitrary but also unrealistic and even unfair. It is quite likely that the lower incidence of urban poverty stems from this insensitivity to the actual requirements and material conditions of the majority of the urban population.
Even these highly problematic income poverty measures, however, reveal a concentration of urban poverty in India, which is somewhat different from the concentration of rural poverty.
Chart 2 describes how just ten States account for nearly four-fifths of the number of officially defined urban poor in India. This is not only reflective of larger absolute populations or greater degrees of urbanisation.
In fact, in some States, urban poverty ratios are as high as or even higher than rural poverty ratios, such as in Kerala, Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand.
In other States such as Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, the gap between urban and rural poverty ratios is quite small.
Some States such as Bihar and Manipur have very high urban poverty rates of 40 per cent or more, even according to this very stringent measure that actually captures extreme destitution.
Of course, one basic problem with assessing the incidence of poverty, whether urban or rural, is the continued reliance on the crude single indicator of income.
It is quite evident that poverty is multidimensional, encompassing a range of different, although typically overlapping, deprivations.
It comes as no surprise that the UNDP’s Multidimensional Poverty Index found the incidence of multidimensional poverty in India to be almost double that of the income poverty rate, and even slightly higher than that for urban India.
The Central government has declared that it will use a multidimensional measure, based on data from the ongoing Socio-Economic census, to determine which households should be classified as poor.
But there are still relevant concerns about whether this will actually capture the nature and extent of urban poverty in its various manifestations.
One frequently used indicator applied to gauge the extent of poverty is the extent of the slum population. But it is clearly the case (and also increasingly recognised) that not all the slum-dwelling population is poor; nor do all the poor live in slums.
The 2011 Census found that around 12 per cent of the urban population in “Class I” cities lived in slums, with higher rates in the larger cities.
The amenities available to the urban population may provide some further indications of their material status. For example, according to the 2011 Census, nearly one-fifth (17 per cent) of the urban population do not live in “pukka” houses.
Nearly one-third (32 per cent) of urban households — accounting for around 120 million people — live in a single room, while more than 3 per cent of households have no exclusive room to themselves at all.
Around 19 per cent of urban households have no latrine facilities within their premises while another ten per cent do not have modern water closets or improved sanitation. Around a quarter of families do not have bathing areas within their homes.
Since these can be interpreted as characteristics of extreme destitution and absolute privation rather than simple poverty, it is noteworthy that the numbers involved here are slightly more than those described by our official system as urban poor in income terms.
Once again, this points to the likelihood that the available income poverty indicators are significantly wanting in their ability to capture the true extent of poverty, even in urban India.
This is not just important because it indicates an insufficient grasp of the material reality of urban India.
It also affects the significance that policy makers attach to solving the pervasive problem of urban poverty. Since so many government schemes also continue — mistakenly — to be targeted at “the poor”, this also critically reflects the rights of urban citizens.
The Hindu Business Line, February 4, 2013
Posted on: February 4, 2013
By Chetan Chauhan
Inequality between the richest and the poorest has risen at a faster rate in cities as compared to rural India raising questions over the impact of UPA government’s inclusive growth agenda.
It was believed that benefits of liberalisation unveiled in 1992 were more for urban India because of increase in incomes for all classes as compared to rural India.
The myth seems have been broken by a new Planning Commission study which found that the incomes of the rich grew at a much faster rate than the poor in cities resulting in rise in inequality.
Inequality of wealth societies is measured using the Gini ratios—developed by Italian statistician Corrado Gini in 1912—- methodology where zero means perfect equality whereas one stands for highest inequality.
A plan panel’s group headed by SR Hashim, set up to define poverty in urban areas, employed Gini ratio on the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) per capita monthly consumption data to measure the inequality over short (2004-05 to 2009-10) and long (1973-74 to 2009-10) periods.
For the shorter period, which quantifies the regime of the UPA government, the Gini ratio for rural India declined from 0.30 in 2004-05 to 0.29 in 2009-10 whereas the same for urban India increased from 0.37 to 0.38 in the same period.
In simpler terms, it meant that inequality dipped in rural areas whereas it increased in urban India.
The NSSO data showed that per capita consumption expenditure of the top 10 % of the population in urban India was 10.11 times of the bottom 10 % of the population in 2009-10, which was 8.41 times in 2004-05, another indication of the widening income gap between rich and poor.
If the data is compared for longer duration (1977-98 to 2009-10), the Gini ratio for urban India has steadily increased from 0.27 to 0.38 whereas for rural areas it has shown marginal dip because of the gains during the UPA regime.
What the study describes as a “disturbing trend” was disparity in incomes in urban India widening at a faster rate than in rural India. “The inequality in terms of consumption expenditure has widened in urban areas as compared to rural areas,” the study said.
The group also said that high economic growth in the country over the last decade was expected to result in sharper fall in poverty in urban India as compared to rural India.
But, the reverse happened. The poverty in rural India declined by 8 percentage points between 2004-05 and 2009-10 as compared to just 6.1 percentage point fall in urban poverty numbers.
A prime reason for lower poverty alleviation in urban areas was lack of skills among poor to get decent income jobs resulting in many becoming vulnerable to “uncertain urban environment”.
Hindustan Times, January 22, 2013
Posted on: January 22, 2013
By Anjani Trivedi and Heather Timmons
One answer, some experts say, is India’s gender ratio, distorted by the practice of sex selection in favor of baby boys.
A much-cited 2002 study,“A Surplus of Men, a Deficit of Peace,” by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea den Boer, contends that a gender imbalance in Asian countries, caused by a shortage of marriageable women, results in higher rates of crime, including rape, committed by young unmarried men.
“Internal instability is heightened in nations displaying exaggerated gender inequality, leading to an altered security calculus for the state,” the authors wrote in 2002, and reiterated in a book on the subject. Their conclusions are even more true today, Ms. Hudson said in an e-mail interview.
“Certainly the situation is, if anything, worse in both India and China than it was 10 years ago,” she wrote. “Certainly violent crime against women increases as the deficit of women increases. This will constrain the life chances of females far into the future.”
Right now, the statistics are worrying. India has 37 million more men than women, as of 2011 census data, and about 17 million excess men in the age group that commits most crimes, up from 7 million in 1991.
Violent crime in India rose nearly 19 percent from 2007 to 2011, while the kidnapping of women (much of which is related to forced marriage) increased 74 percent in that time. That’s a marked increase from the five years before 2007, when violent crime actually fell by 2.8 percent, and the kidnapping of women rose by 41 percent.
If the study’s conclusions are correct, India’s problems with rape and other forms of violence against women – recently seen in the gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi, the gang rape of a high school student in Bihar state and the rape of a young woman in Punjab, who committed suicide afterward – may only get worse, given the trend in India’s demographics.
The authors adopted a Chinese term, guang gun-er (“bare branches”), for unmarried men from age 15 to their mid-30s who have limited prospects for employment. This group, which is larger in countries where sex selection is prevalent, usually “commits the preponderance of violence within a society,” according to the report.
In a marriage market where women are scarce and thus able to “marry up,” certain characteristics of young surplus males are easily and accurately predicted. They are liable to come from the lowest socioeconomic class, be un- or underemployed, live a fairly nomadic or transient lifestyle with few ties to the communities in which they are working, and generally live and socialize with other bachelors. In sum, these young surplus males may be considered, relatively speaking, losers in societal competition.
Marital status affects more than just social standing for these men, the authors argued. Citing research indicating that levels of testosterone (referred to as “T” in the following quote) decline for married men, they said that marriage can thwart potentially antisocial male behavior.
When T falls, so does the propensity to engage in these behaviors. The more men in the society who are unable to marry, even though they would be willing to marry, the higher their circulating T and the greater amount of antisocial, violent and criminal behavior they will exhibit, generally speaking, than if they were able to marry.
A study on the sexuality of “bare branches” in China this year elaborated on the issues that arise with these carnally charged young men. The report said a “series of problems from sexual repression to sexual conflicts, from sexually transmitted diseases (including AIDS) to sexual crimes can arise.”
Intermingling and aggregation are key to understanding “bare branches,” according to Ms. Hudson and Ms. den Boer’s study. These men hang out together, befriend each other, compete with each other and legitimize each others’ “risky choices.” When clumped together and left to their own devices, they become a tool of social disorder, the authors said:
In this “least common denominator” theory, the behavior of men in groups — most particularly young, single, low-status males — will not rise above the behavior of the worst-behaved individual. Together, they will take larger risks and be more violent than they otherwise would individually.
The sheer number of bare branches, coupled with the distinctive outcast subculture that binds them together and their lack of “stake” in the existing social order, predispose them to organized social banditry. The potential for intrasocietal violence is increased when society selects for bare branches, as certain Asian societies do. It is possible that this intrasocietal violence may have intersocietal consequences as well.
According to the 2011 crime statistics in India, of all the people arrested for rape crimes, almost 60 percent were men between the ages of 18 to 30 years and nearly 30 percent were men between the ages of 30 to 45 years.
India’s total sex ratio — defined as the number of females per 1,000 males — has increased over the past 20 years, after dropping for the 80 years before that. As of 2011, there were 940 Indian women for every 1,000 men, up from 933 in 2001. But, thanks to population growth and a still-prevalent practice of female foeticide, the number of “extra men” is growing among India’s youth. There will be about 30 million extra men in India between the age of 15 and 35, the study estimates.
And among India’s youngest population, the gender ratio is still getting worse, perhaps setting the foundation for new generations of violent crime and attacks on women, experts say.
India’s child population, defined in the national census data as all children between the ages of zero and 6 years, was almost 160 million as of 2011. The overall sex ratio for this age group is 914 female children for every 1,000 male children, and it is even more skewed in the urban parts, at 902. These figures mark a severe decline from a decade ago.
Overall, the Indian average gender ratio is far behind the global average of 984 for every 1,000 men, and is the second lowest in the world, before China. Urban India is on par with China though, with 926 women per 1,000 men.
India’s Planning Commission, in a report on women’s rights and child rights released last year, called the gender imbalance in the sex ratio “a silent demographic disaster in the making.”
The report said that the heavily patriarchal areas in the north and northwest have shown a mild improvement in the gender ratio for children, but that most of India has seen it decline. The number of female children relative to male children is expected to remain very low, according to the report.
The Indian government has tried to mend this deteriorating ratio through cash incentive programs that began in 2007. The idea, officials said, was to “force the families to look upon the girl as an asset rather than a liability since her very existence has led to cash inflow to the family.”
However, a recent evaluation of these various programs shows that they have way too many muddled conditions and imprecise focus groups.
“I think it is true that unless the government is willing to enforce its own laws against dowry and sex-selective abortion, not much will change,” Professor Hudson said.
The New York Times – India Ink, January 16, 2013
Posted on: January 16, 2013
By Stephanie Nolen
At 20 minutes past eight on Sunday night, Manoj Kumar and his family were gathered under their thatch roof, warming themselves by the weak heat of a dung fire, faces turned expectantly toward their ancient black-and-white television screen.
In moments, the immensely popular Kaun Banega Crorepati? (the Hindi version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) would air – a show with 27 million viewers each week, hosted by Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan. Here in rural Bihar, the poorest and least developed part of India, people follow the show religiously.
In this episode, taped in Mumbai a few weeks earlier, Mr. Kumar, a boy from the village, would sit down opposite Mr. Bachchan and face a barrage of questions about geometry, cricket players and Hindu gods. It would be Slumdog Millionaire brought to life.
Mr. Kumar, 18, is a star Grade 11 student at a school founded by a philanthropist to assist Dalit, or “untouchable,” boys in Bihar.
The name of the school is Shoshit Samadhan Kendra, or Centre to Resolve Exploitation. It is an audaciously optimistic name. But with his appearance on the quiz show, a charity broadcast meant to highlight caste issues, Mr. Kumar gave his community and a nationwide audience a whole new picture of what a kid like him can be.
With seven minutes to go before the broadcast, there was mad excitement in Jam Saut.
Then the power went out. Pitch darkness in every direction. It was not unusual – the village has power intermittently for about three hours a day.
But on this night, it was unbearable.
Mr. Kumar is Mushahar, the Dalit group at the lowest rung of the Hindu caste system, which is still rigidly enforced here. And he overcame a childhood bout of polio that left him disabled and, in the minds of many in his community, a lost cause. He is also only the third person from his village ever to attend high school. Jam Saut is the community where the anti-caste activist Sudha Varghese, profiled in The Globe and Mail’s Breaking Caste series, began her social work 30 years ago, and Mr. Kumar and his education have been a special project of hers.
Sister Sudha, who had come to the village from the Prerna residential girls’ school she now runs in the town of Danapur about 15 kilometres away, made a snap decision. She stuffed Mr. Kumar and his parents into her battered jeep and they took off into the darkness, careening along foggy roads into town, while she phoned ahead to the school to have staff fire up the school’s generator and turn on the television.
At 8:40 p.m., Mr. Kumar, his parents, Shanthi Devi and Mahesh Kumar, and Sister Sudha tumbled in the door to find all 150 of Prerna’s students, bundled into bright print shawls against the cold and sitting on old rice sacks on the floor, crammed in front of the school’s colour television. When they caught sight of Mr. Kumar, they let out a huge shriek, then tugged the shawls over their faces to hide delighted giggles.
Mr. Kumar and his parents arrived just in time: On the TV, another contestant was stepping off the stage and Mr. Kumar was about to shake hands with host Mr. Bachchan, whose lordly manner makes him the most loved, most trusted man in India.
It is not quite the same story as Slumdog, in which a boy from the streets of Mumbai improbably makes his way on to the quiz show and sweeps every question, winning the big jackpot. Mr. Kumar did not come through the screening program for contestants, but was invited; Mr. Bachchan cultivates a reputation as a social activist and, through a connection, heard about Mr. Kumar’s school.
J.K. Sinha, a retired police administrator turned philanthropist, founded it in 2007, after consulting with Sister Sudha, among others, about how he might have the greatest impact in Bihar. Mr. Kumar was appearing on a special charity episode, with any winnings to be donated to expand the school.
At the sight of Mr. Bachchan slinging his arm around her son’s shoulders on the screen, Shanthi Devi gasped and started to cry. Her husband looked as if he might burst. Both are illiterate and never attended school. Mr. Kumar himself – slight, bespectacled and shy – maintained an air of studied calm as his own image appeared on the screen.
He was cool on screen, too, whipping through the questions, bantering with Mr. Bachchan and the movie star Manoj Bajpai, who hails from Bihar and who made a special appearance with him on the show. “No one could be afraid with Amitabh Bachchan – he behaved like a friend,” Mr. Kumar said. He also engaged the actors’ questions about Jam Saut seriously, agreeing that no one should have to live that way in India today.
Back to the game: A question came about the opposing team in cricket star Sachin Tendulkar’s last match. “Pakistan,” Mahesh Kumar hissed at the image of his son on screen, before the multiple choice answers came up. But Mr. Kumar had handled the question just fine.
Watching him, Sister Sudha recalled the summer Mr. Kumar was 2. He contracted polio although his mother had faithfully had him and her other three children vaccinated. (He likely received a fake or poorly made vaccine, which used to be a problem in the early days of India’s polio program.) She was heartbroken. Mr. Kumar survived the fever, but was left with one leg paralyzed and was left scrambling on the ground. His family could not afford the five-cent return bus fare to the government hospital for prescribed therapy.
Sister Sudha and his mother embarked on a relentless campaign of physiotherapy; his mother massaged his paralyzed leg with mustard oil and a paste of boiled creek snails, and they made him practise standing, leaning on a tiny cart. To this day, Shanthi Devi and Sister Sudha get teary when they retell the story of the day when he was 4, and took his first steps back on his feet. Today, Mr. Kumar walks with just a slight limp.
Sister Sudha pushed him into school, as part of her campaign to get the local government school to educate Dalit children. Bored and neglected there, he dropped out in Grade 4. But she knew he was bright and hounded him, and urged Mr. Sinha to enroll him at the new centre. Now Mr. Kumar is the top student, and plans to become an engineer. He took a teacher from the centre on the show with him – but it was to Sudha didi [elder sister] he turned quietly on Sunday night and said, “Thank you. This is because of you.”
Sister Sudha replied brusquely, “It’s because you work hard.” But she was beaming, watching Shanthi Devi watch her son.
Mr. Kumar has just one regret. There was something he wanted to tell Mr. Bachchan on the show and, amidst the lights and cheering, he never had the chance.
“My mother always tells other people in our village, ‘Take your children to school’ and they don’t listen. I want to say to all the villagers, on behalf of my mother, send your children because – look at me.”
The Globe and Mail, January 14, 2013
Posted on: January 14, 2013
Times News Network
BANGALORE: Food insecurity and poverty persist in India because the country ranks the lowest among emerging nations like China, Brazil and South Africa in addressing hunger and nutrition problems.
This is what Shenggen Fan, director-general of Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said at an international conference on agricultural productivity and sustainability at the National Institute of Advanced Studies on Tuesday.
“An innovative and integrated approach is needed to address the problem. The need of the hour is investment in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and development, and education,” he said.
Economist Abhijit Sen, member of the planning commission, felt there’s still something to cheer about despite the declining growth rate and global warming. “The country’s rate of yield growth in agriculture in the last five years is the best yet,” he said.
The Times of India, January 9, 2013
Posted on: January 9, 2013
By Mahendra Kumar Singh
India is expected to miss the crucial UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG), including those related to reduction in poverty, hunger and infant mortality, according to a government report.
The poverty ratio is likely to be 26.7% by 2015 as against the target of 23.9%, while infant mortality rate (IMR) would be 43 per 1,000 live births against the milestone of bringing it down to 27.
The child mortality rate would be at 52 per 1,000 live births compared to the target of 52, according to the Statistical Year Book 2013 released by minister of statistics and programme implementation Srikant Kumar Jena.
According to the report, the poverty ratio is likely to be 26.7% compared to MDG target of 23.9% by 2015. It was 29.8% in 2009-10.
India was supposed to halve the percentage of population below the national poverty line by 2015 over the 1990 level. In 1990, poverty ratio was 47.8% that came down to 37.2% in 2004-05.
India was also required to reduce the mortality rate for children under-five years to 42 per 1,000 live births by 2015. However, the current estimates suggest that it would be around 52 when the MDG deadline lapses.
The latest data suggests that maternal mortality rate (MMR) would come down to 139 per 1 lakh births by 2015 from 437 in 1990, while the nation is expected to reduce MMR by three quarters between 1990 and 2015 to 109 per 1 lakh births.
“Malnutrition continues to be a major hurdle,” the report said.
The trend of the proportion of underweight (severe & moderate) children below three years shows that India is going slow in eliminating the effect of malnourishment.
From estimated 52% in 1990, the proportion of underweight children below three years is required to be reduced to 26% by 2015.
According to official estimates, the proportion of underweight children has declined from 43% during 1998-99 to 40% in 2005-06.
At the historical rate of decline, the proportion is expected to come down to only about 33% by 2015 vis-a-vis the target of 26%.
While India is expected to lag behind on health indicators, the performance is upto the mark on education front.
It is expected to meet the target to ensure that by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls alike will be able to complete a full course of primary education.
“Achieving universal primary education is round the corner,” the report said.
The data shows that the country is well set to achieve 100% primary education for children ahead of 2015.
“Gender parity has already been achieved in primary education (in 2007-08 itself) and the disparity in secondary education is set to disappear by 2015,” the report noted.
The Times of India, January 2, 2013
Posted on: January 2, 2013
By Shreya Bhandary
The hope for justice for women that is resounding around the country may stay unrealised unless the government infuses resources into the fight. Activists point out that while the law mandates a special court in every district for cases of human trafficking, Maharashtra at present has just one magistrate to try such crimes. This paucity of special courts, activists argue, impedes swift disposal of trafficking cases and conviction rates.
Dr S Anand of the NGO Save the Children notes that India is the “source, transit route and destination of human trafficking”. In Maharashtra, he says, the “source area” of human trafficking is villages, but these regions lack designated courts to deal with the offence. Only Mumbai has a special court for trials related to Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
Save the Children has been working to prevent human trafficking in “source areas”, where communities are vulnerable and ignorant of the issue. “Either police or the prosecution does not present the facts of the case properly. Thus, few convictions take place,” says Dr Anand.
Activists concede that the government has taken positive measures towards rescue of children and women. “Trafficking does not happen only for flesh trade. The objectives behind the crime also are organ donation and cheap labour. While the government has applied curative measures by rescuing women from brothels, work in the preventive sense is needed,” says Nandini Thakkar, a lawyer and an activist with Save the Children.
Thakkar adds that the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, which was introduced to prevent commercial sexual exploitation, states the need for special courts in relevant districts. But till now, there is one such court in the state. “Convictions and acquittals in such matters is a long-drawn process. Without proper authority, these cases go unnoticed,” she explains.
Advocate S N Raj concludes, “The presence of just one special court for PITA cases in Mumbai does cause protraction of trials.”
The Times of India, December 31, 2012
Posted on: December 31, 2012
By Morgan Hartley and Chris Walker
In 1995, Dr. Agrawal quit his job as a government health minister to become a philanthropist. It wasn’t long before he was second-guessing the move. During his first efforts to establish free health clinics and schoolrooms in India’s slums, nobody came. The problem, he discovered, was food.
“They said, ‘our priority is bread. Education is useless,’” Agrawal remembers.
With barely enough money to put a meal on the table, slum dwellers weren’t interested in sitting through Agrawal’s health lessons, or sending kids to his schools. It’s a common issue NGO’s and social entrepreneurs run into– how do they engage a poor community about social issues when its citizens are still worrying about feeding their families?
That’s when Dr. Agrawal came to appreciate “the hierarchy of needs,” as he put it. Slum inhabitants weren’t going to benefit from his programs until they were making money themselves, feeding themselves by the power of their own productivity. If he was to help them with health and education, he had to turn them into businessmen first.
The business he helped them found was door to door trash collection. He provided capital, customers, and billing infrastructure to help one of India’s poorest groups—trash collecters—find a living that could sustain their families.
It was just another day for Vinod Kumar. At 7am, he was standing among the crowds of day laborers at a busy intersection in Jaipur’s SFS Mansarovar, hoping that today, this day, he would get picked for work. It was always a crapshoot, hard to know when a foreman would select him, or even what job he would be assigned. He had been working since he was 10 years old, when he dropped out of 5th grade to support his family. On good days, he could earn 100 rupees (two dollars) doing construction or house cleaning. On others, he went home empty-handed, where he lived alone with his mother.
When things got really desperate Vinod scavenged for trash. Growing up in Jaipur, the trash dumps used to be plentiful, and there was a garbage dump right by his house. There, scavengers would arrive at sunrise, the best time to find scrapes before the others found them first. It was a thankless competition that involved plunging gloveless hands into rotting piles of refuse, seeking and sorting out sellable items. Metals from plastics. Paper from glass. Like day laboring, profits were usually slim; full-time scavengers lived off as little as 10 rupees per day (20 cents). Of course, it could have been more had it not been for the trash dealers — middle men who bribed industrial recyclers to be exclusive suppliers. Trash dealers always took huge cuts from scavengers like Vinod in the process.
Vinod looked healthier than most of the day laborers at the intersection. Many of them, especially those who worked in trash dumps, suffered from serious health ailments like Tuberculosis, Gangrene, and Hepatitis B. Perhaps this is why he – among all the masses that morning — was selected by Dr. Agrawal and his team. Vinod was to be one of the first to found a business with Agrawal’s NGO, the Center for Development Communication.
“They [CDC] saw me on the street. They told me they could help me start my own business.” he recalls. Interested, Vinod went along with the NGO workers, who outlined their plan. Vinod agreed to the plan because the CDC offered ready customers and a pushcart, which he never would have been able to purchase on his own.
Sitting in CDC’s modern office in South Jaipur, Agrawal remembers how it was in the beginning. When he first started CDC in 1995, he wasn’t even convinced the trash collection idea would work. No one had ever tried to organize door to door collection before.
“Everyone thought I was crazy. No one thought it would work,” he remembers. His family and friends were upset that he’d left his lucrative government job in the Department of Medical Health to go work with scavengers. “In India, you just don’t do something like that,” Agrawal laughed.
Nevertheless, the young doctor was determined. He took his trash collectors house to house, meeting with homeowners and trying to convince them to buy into the 30-rupee-a-month service. In his first try, CDC started off by visiting 500 houses. Only 10 signed up.
“Then something amazing happened” he said flashing a smile. “In three weeks all 500 houses had come on board.”
There was no arguing it; trash around the neighborhood started clearing up, and health issues started to disappear. When the media began to take notice, even more communities demanded CDC’s ever-growing legion of trash collectors.
Not everyone was happy about it though. Threats and attacks emerged from the middle men who had profited on the scavengers before. CDC had undermined the dealer’s role by connecting its trash collectors directly with recycling centers. Even Dr. Agrawal got attacked in the very beginning, when he had bottles and stones thrown at him. “It sometimes happens during the first month.” He said.
Sticks and stones weren’t enough to stop CDC. As the numbers of trash collectors swelled, CDC helped them develop their own businesses. By 2004, Vinod had saved enough to start his own company, and now has 8 people working for him, a 4 wheeler, and a wherehouse.
It’s changed everything about how he lives. No longer facing the day-to-day uncertainty of day labor, Vinod started a family and has two children. The father with a 5th grade education swears he’ll do anything to send his kids off to college. “It’s the opportunity I never had” He said.
Meanwhile, Agrawal’s organization has blossomed. Earning just 1% on the front end from the trash collectors, and .05% on the back from industrial recyclers, his operations have swelled to service millions of homes across India. CDC begins its first withdrawals in 2015, leaving Jaipur’s trash collectors to their own established clientele. The loss of commission is not an issue for the NGO. There is almost too much demand in India for Agrawal’s 100 person organization to match. More cities are coming online every year, and the developing nations around the world are clamoring for the program. CDC has begun setting up an operation in the Maldives, and plans to enter select African nations in the near future.
By focusing on job creation, CDC has largely accomplished its health and education goals. It has allowed slum inhabitants to turn their attention to things other than food.
Forbes, December 28, 2012
Posted on: December 28, 2012
By Nikita, Shalini,
Mumbai/New Delhi: As 2012 comes to an end, CNN-IBN takes a look at the key health issues of the year – from the fight against polio that India can take pride in to the dismal malnutrition figures that shame the nation.
Reports showed 10 lakh deaths from oral cancer every year and 80 per cent were due to chewable tobacco products. The implementation of the gutka ban in 14 states starting with Madhya Pradesh in March 2012, has been possibly the biggest public health breakthrough of 2012. The Health Ministry is now urging states to ban all chewable tobacco products like zarda and khaini.
Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Shakuntala Gamlin said, “We are looking at a universal ban now, otherwise gutka is being smuggled from other states.”
India’s progress in the fight against polio has also got global recognition. Come January 2013, India will complete 2 years of being polio free.
Yet for every breakthrough, there’s news of India failing miserably on some front. 48 per cent of India’s children under five are malnourished and the country continues to have the highest maternal mortality rates, globally.
India has also been failing to protect its young from encephalitis, year after year. The toll across Uttar Pradesh in 2012 was nearly 600 deaths.
There is lack of movement on an antibiotic policy despite a task force created two years ago and the threat of superbugs, from NDM1 and to drug resistant TB. Here’s hoping India has a more robust, healthier 2013.
IBN Live, December 27, 2012
Posted on: December 27, 2012
By Simon Denyer
BANSWARA, India — Stung by the realization that it faced a child malnutrition crisis worse than in most African countries, India is finally waking to the scale of the problem.
Progress is slow and political will patchy, but there are signs that a new approach to fighting malnutrition is beginning to reap dividends.
Efforts to improve rural health and education have combined with an expansion of a child welfare program that employs nearly 2 million village health workers to focus on maternal and infant health and nutrition. A rural jobs plan has helped raise wages in the countryside, and new programs are educating adolescent girls, nearly half of whom will marry before age 18, about feeding and hygiene.
Signs of progress appeared in an independent survey of malnutrition in 100 of India’s least-
developed districts. Released in January, it showed the proportion of underweight children falling to 42 percent, a drop of 11 percentage points.
Even more dramatic are preliminary data from the western state of Maharashtra released last month, which show a decline in the number of children who were stunted, to 22.8 percent from 39 percent in 2006, thanks to a government program aimed at the needs of infants and mothers.
“We are confident that there is a good story in the making,” said Victor Aguayo, head of UNICEF’s India nutrition program. “There is excitement that what can happen is happening.”
Maharashtra is home to India’s financial capital, Mumbai, and is the country’s economic powerhouse. But malnutrition rates did not begin falling significantly until the state government started showing the political will to tackle the problem head-on.
Nationally, the wake-up call came in 2007 with the realization that a decade and a half of buoyant economic growth had scarcely dented child malnutrition rates, which remained higher than the average in sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly half of Indian children younger than 5 were stunted and underweight for their age, a government survey released that year showed, permanently impairing their mental and physical development.
But in a country where many middle-class people find the subject of malnutrition rather boring, it took the idea that India was underperforming — not just compared with Africa but also with neighbors such as Bangladesh — to embarrass the government into action. In 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called it a “national shame,” and a failed strategy began to be reevaluated.
“India as a nation had been overemphasizing economic growth in the hope it would somehow solve the problem,” Aguayo said. But growth has not been equitably distributed, and experts argue that the health sector has been neglected.
Malnutrition, Aguayo said, has been undermining India’s ambitions to be the nation “it wants to become.”
Despite the progress, India has a long way to go. In a poor tribal district of Banswara, in the western state of Rajasthan, the mismatch between India’s aspirations and its problems, between its self-image and the grueling reality in the lives of millions of its citizens, is striking.
On the outside of one family’s simple home, between paintings of Hindu gods, were two pictures. One was a drawing of a woman cradling her baby, titled “Mother’s Love.” The other was a photo of a pudgy white-skinned baby wearing only a woolly hat.
But beneath the posters, a filthy and thin Indian baby named Jitendra sat listlessly on the veranda, dirt caking his cheeks, flies gathering around his eyes, nose and mouth.
Three months ago, when Jitendra was 15 months old, health workers found that he weighed just 12.1 pounds — less than two-thirds the minimum global standard for his age. The workers began visiting regularly and giving the family supplementary food, and Jitendra has gained about two pounds. But he remains severely malnourished.
Although he was not underweight when he was born, repeated illnesses have taken a toll.
“He has been sick for a long time,” said his slight, 18-year-old mother, Sundari Dhindor. “Where is the money? How do you expect me to feed him? He is still on my breast milk.”
The family’s situation illustrates what nutritionists call a perfect storm of factors driving India’s malnutrition crisis. Many children are born to teenage, anemic, malnourished mothers. Feeding practices are poor, and the environment — a crowded country where 600 million people have no access to toilets — is rife with fecal matter.
Health programs were largely failing to reach infants in the first two years of their lives, when malnutrition usually sets in and causes permanent mental and physical damage, Aguayo said.
Fewer than half of Indian children start nursing within their first 24 hours, receiving water rather than the early, antibody-rich breast milk that helps protect against infections. Most spend their first few years subsisting on protein- and vitamin-poor diets of rice or bread. Other major factors include persistent poverty in communities that have not benefited from economic growth, and the low status of women in India.
In Banswara, village health workers blame rampant malnutrition on the prevalence of child marriages. Dhindor, Jitendra’s mother, got married when she was 13 to a man she describes as a “good-for-nothing drunkard.” She said she spends most of her day cooking, washing, cleaning and fetching firewood or water for her in-laws, or trying to earn money as a day laborer in local fields.
India’s progress in fighting malnutrition fails to impress many experts.
Save the Children and World Vision recently ranked India alongside Congo and Yemen at the bottom of a global nutrition barometer for its commitment and performance.
While the nation frets constantly about whether economic growth and the stock market are up or down, the government has not collected data on child malnutrition since 2004 — something Purnima Menon of the International Food Policy Research Institute calls “mind-boggling.”
Last month, India’s president and a leading Bollywood actor launched a national publicity campaign to combat malnutrition. The government has also promised a huge rise in health-care spending during the next five years.
Nevertheless, experts say the government lacks a coherent plan to overcome the shortcomings of the child health program, which depends on village health workers who are overburdened and poorly educated, trained and paid.
Spending comes easily to the government, critics say, but setting up mechanisms to monitor performance and raise accountability seems far less instinctive. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Women and Child Development remains a junior cabinet post, a department where few civil servants want to work, said A.K. Shiva Kumar, an independent adviser to the government on development.
“The problem of malnutrition is not visible or in-your-face,” he said. “The political attraction of working on nutrition is very low. It doesn’t really sell.”
The Washington Post, December 26, 2012
Posted on: December 26, 2012
by Julie McCarthy
India, the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, marks the birth of Jesus with a national holiday.
Indians call Christmas bara din, or the Big Day.
Chef Bhakshish Dean, a Punjabi Christian, traces the roots of Christianity in India through food.
Standing in the New Delhi kitchen of one of several restaurants he overseas, pots bubbling with scrumptious holiday specials, Dean says Syrian Christians were the first to arrive in India, in the first century. The ancient sect devoted to St. Thomas the Apostle is believed to have first landed on the Indian coast in what is today the state of Kerala. He says they came with the fabled spice trade, intermarried and introduced their cuisine.
Dean’s Syrian stews, which top his Christmas menu, are infused with the scents of South Indian cloves, cardamom and star anise — a star-shaped spice with a hint of licorice that is popular in cooking throughout South Asia.
Just 2 percent of the Indian population is Christian, but writer Naresh Fernandes says, “That’s 2 percent of the population of one billion. So that is quite a lot of people for whom December 25th is very important.”
Fernandes says in his Roman Catholic neighborhood in Mumbai, the Portuguese converted the locals and Christmas tends to be “big opulent meals” that start in the afternoon and go late into the night. “Things like vindaloo, which is a preparation made of pork,” he says, adding, “no roast turkeys, but lots of things involving fat and pig-lings.”
The British Raj also may have fixed Christmas in the Indian imagination as quintessentially English: the requisite roasted turkey and tipple of mulled wine. They’ll grace many Yuletide tables of Delhi’s sizable expatriate community.
Delhi-based food writer Pamela Timms says she’s managed to Indian-nize her traditional recipe for mince pies, which includes “glacee cherries.”
“I found out this year they are not actually cherries in India,” she says. “They are made from a local berry called karonda, which is pink and white in its natural state but once you add sugar to it and boil it away, it looks like a glacee cherry.”
As a long-time resident of India, Timms says Christmas seems to slot right into the pantheon of festivals in the Indian calendar. “It’s a time of year that comes right after lots of other Indian festivals, so the country is already in festival mode,” she says.
Carolers from St. Columba’s School in the capital stage their annual Christmas program that expresses the multifaith nature of India. This alma mater of health guru Deepak Chopra was founded by the Christian Brothers of Ireland, and while it is a Catholic school, the student body is also Sikh and Hindu.
Arsh Wahi, a Hindu student at St. Columba’s, says his family puts up a Christmas tree every year and stocks up on plum pudding and other Christmas goodies from the fabled Dehli bakery called Wenger’s.
With its 70 varieties of cakes in the shape of stars, yule logs and Santas, this 86-year-old establishment is jammed this time of year with holiday-makers who eat and sing their way through the season.
Choirs echo in the churches across the city, and choral groups perform Christmas concerts.
Neeraj Devraj, a soloist with The Capital City Minstrels, says he’s not Christian or religious, but celebrates Christmas with the same fervor he celebrates the Hindu festival of lights known as Diwali, and the Muslim feast of Eid.
“For me personally, Christmas is about getting together with the people you are fond of, people you love,” he says. “It’s great fun, it’s the joy of giving. It’s very Indian … to just celebrate the aspect of being alive and being around people who matter.”
NPR, December 25, 2012
Posted on: December 25, 2012
By Pranjal Baruah
GUWAHATI: As Delhi convulses in deep anger and anxiety at the gang-rape of a 23-year-old last Sunday, quietly in the North-East hordes of women continue to be put up for sale – for work as bonded labourers, as wives to men around the country too old or infirm to get one, and as prostitutes in the brothels of the country.
In fact, so blaise and open is the trade that there is a price fixed for each category—Rs 1 lakh for marriage, Rs 1.5 lakh for prostitution and Rs 5,000-Rs 6,000 for bonded labour.
“Assam has become the hotbed of human traffickers from all over the country,” says Kailash Satyarthi, noted anti-human trafficking and child labour activist. “Children from the North-East, mostly minor girls, are trafficked for being used as domestic helps in metros and are physically abused and sexually exploited as well. Every year, 4,000 children go missing from the state.”
On Thursday, Dispur police rescued a 15-year-old Assamese girl from Haryana. Earlier, the Hatigaon police arrested two men, Md Abdul Rashid and Rafiqul Islam, for selling two girls, hailing from the city’s Hatigaon area, in New Delhi. Assam police have arrested 449 persons so far this year in relation to trafficking cases.
According to state home department records, during 2012, a total of 2,109 cases of abduction of women were registered in Assam, of which 1,398 were rescued from various places. At least 894 women, mostly in the age group 15-30, were rescued from outside the state.
The largest markets for trafficked NE women are metros like Delhi and Mumbai, and states like West Bengal, Goa, Kerala and even Arunachal Pradesh. According to official records, 117 Assamese women were rescued in Maharashtra, 173 in the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh and 13 in Delhi between January and December 2012.
“Most of the vulnerable girls were lured with the promise of jobs by trafficking agents. Once trapped in the racket, they are sold to agents of brothels in West Bengal, Mumbai, Goa and Hisar in Haryana. The number of cases is actually more than the registered ones as many trafficking victims get stuck in the flesh trade and are unable to escape,” says a police official.
According to Bachpan Bachao Andolan, an NGO working to spread awareness on human trafficking, the low conviction rate encourages traffickers to spread their tentacles. “During 2007-11, 17,558 inspections were made by the Assam government; they led to only 58 prosecutions and just nine convictions. In the NE, a total of 26,553 inspections were made, of which 64 prosecutions were completed and just 15 of the accused were convicted,” said an official of the NGO.
The Times of India, December 23, 2012
Posted on: December 23, 2012
By Andrew MacAskill and Mehul Srivastava
The three untended child-sized graves, a few minutes’ walk from the village of Paltupur, bear witness to what happened when the trucks loaded with nutritional powder stopped coming to this desolate corner of eastern India.
Great Value Foods Ltd.’s deliveries of the tasteless yellow substance, funded by a $2 billion program for India’s youngest and poorest, were cut off in August. All 2-year-old Jialal’s mother had left to give her son was boiled rice, the only food she could afford on a yearly income of about $75.
As the days stretched into weeks, the boy kept losing weight. His crying grew feeble. He ran fevers. He’d fall as soon as his mother, Kalavati, let go of his hand.
On Sept. 23, Jialal died, strapped to his mother’s chest as she searched the countryside for help. He wasn’t the first victim in the village, nor the last. On Aug. 20, Archna died. She was two. On Oct. 2, Anjali died. She was two.
In a neighboring village, graves also were dug for Karishma, who died on Sept. 10 at the age of one. And for Raj Kamal, who was two when he died on Oct. 4.
India’s only government program to nourish as many as 160 million children under six has failed those from Kaushambhi district in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and tens of millions of others around the country. The billions India budgets for feeding children—4.4 cents for each per day—have barely dented one of the world’s highest rates of child malnutrition.
Instead, the program has allowed a web of private firms to take over distribution, in defiance of orders from the Supreme Court of India. For almost a decade the firms have delivered—or not delivered—a supply of unpalatable powdered rations of dubious nutritional value, according to interviews, court documents and a confidential report showing one state government has known about the theft and corruption for more than a year.
In Uttar Pradesh, those rations are produced in an old flour mill about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the border with Nepal. There, paint peels off the walls, sacks of food are stored in the open and a mustachioed security guard waves a loaded shotgun at a reporter to deny him entry. More than 1,000 kilometers to the west in Bhilkera, in Maharashtra state, villager Ganesh Bilikamkale feeds powder meant for the children to his cows because it is so bad humans won’t eat it.
“It is an appalling situation that says so much about the problems in our country,” said Gurcharan Das, the former chief executive of the Indian unit of Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) and the author of “India Grows at Night” (2012), a book about government shortcomings. “There is a moral failure here, but the failure of governance has allowed it to happen.”
The dysfunction in India’s child food program, called Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), is just one example of how malnutrition ravages the country. More than three-quarters of the 1.2 billion population eats less than the minimum targets set by the government. The ratio has risen from about two-thirds in 1983.
Corrupt politicians and their criminal syndicates have looted as much as $14.5 billion in food intended for public distribution to families in Uttar Pradesh alone. Food Minister K.V. Thomas cut short an interview and asked a Bloomberg reporter to leave when asked about corruption in the nutrition- distribution system.
When it comes to the children’s program, the national government and six state governments have failed to act even after repeated warnings that the relief food was failing to arrive or was substandard. A government-commissioned study said in 2011 that about 60 percent of the food meant for children was being siphoned off along the supply chain.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was told of defects in the program in a 2007 letter from a Supreme Court investigator and in a 2009 meeting with commissioners to the court, according to two people present who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The Supreme Court has ordered the government of India to fix issues with the food program three times since 2004.
In response to questions, the prime minister’s office provided details on how the government is working to improve the program. An October 2012 plan calls for restructuring the ICDS over three years, increasing focus on children under three. Higher daily allowances for each child will boost expenditures for the nutrition part of the program to $7.8 billion from the central government over the next five years. State governments usually match that.
The restructuring document didn’t clarify whether private firms should be banned from the process, suggesting that various models, including self-help groups or centralized kitchens, be considered, in addition to “bona fide manufacturers.”
The program has been “well-conceived,” the plan said. “The real problem lies in its implementation, which arises out of inadequate funding, lack of convergence, accountability of those managing and implementing the programme.”
“If these inadequacies are addressed appropriately, the scheme has the potential to give satisfactory nutritional and child-development outcomes.”
One of the few government bodies to have had any success improving the system is a special agency created by the Supreme Court. For 10 years it has struggled to ban private firms from the feeding program.
The court push is part of a tradition of activism at India’s highest judicial body. Last year it ordered companies to stop mining in areas of mineral-rich Karnataka state to protect the environment, and earlier this year it scrapped phone licenses that were allegedly rigged to favor certain companies. By encouraging public-interest litigation, similar to class- action lawsuits in the U.S., the court has helped empower marginalized Indians to claim their rights, including to government information.
While the court’s commissioners on the Right to Food Campaign helped provide evidence that led to the bust of criminal syndicates in the state of Karnataka, the three orders from the court over five years against hiring private contractors have been ignored in Indian states including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan and Meghalaya.
“It speaks volumes about the nature of administration in India that court orders are blatantly violated,” said Raj Kumar, a law professor and vice chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University in Haryana. Until India delivers on the promise of economic justice made in the constitution, “our democracy will have little meaning for the vast number of people who are living on the margins.”
India has the highest percentage of malnourished children in the world except for East Timor, according to the 2012 annual Global Hunger Index. The report said 43.5 percent of Indian children are underweight. It is compiled by a group of non- governmental organizations including the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute.
About $540 million of food meant for children was stolen or registered as delivered via faked paperwork in 2009, according to a 2011 internal review of the program by the New Delhi-based National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). In Uttar Pradesh state, so much was siphoned off that each severely malnourished child received food worth less than a penny a day.
In both Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, India’s most populous states, most of the money has gone to private firms.
Great Value Foods has held the largest ICDS contract in Uttar Pradesh for the past seven years, according to a program document obtained under India’s Right to Information Act. The biggest stake in Great Value Foods was owned by a company belonging to a liquor baron named Gurdeep Singh Chadha—until he was shot and killed by his brother last month.
In Maharashtra, private companies have exploited a loophole, intended to increase the participation of women’s groups, to take over feeding contracts for the entire state.
The food in both states failed to meet all but one of the government’s prescribed nutritional standards, samples of the powder tested by the Supreme Court commissioner’s office found, according to court records. In Uttar Pradesh, one of the two samples had no vitamins, the other had no iron. In Maharashtra, none of the packets contained any vitamin A or C. All the packets tested were between 15 percent and 35 percent short of the required calorie content.
The Maharashtra government was made aware of the program’s shortcomings in late 2011, when an investigation carried out by the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights found an “unholy nexus” between business and government. There were wide discrepancies in how much food the providers said they were distributing and how much the children were receiving, according to a copy of the confidential report made available to Bloomberg News.
The food being produced was inedible—and even cows appeared to refuse to eat it, the report said. The Supreme Court’s orders on banning contractors from the tender process were being violated, and a full investigation should be carried out by the state government, the report concluded.
Maharashtra Chief Secretary J. K. Banthia wasn’t available to comment because of a busy schedule, a person who answered the phone in his Nagpur offices said. His public-relations officer, Ajay Jadhav, said by phone he couldn’t comment.
Nationally, the ICDS program is under the auspices of the Ministry of Women and Child Development in New Delhi. In a Dec. 13 interview, Minister Krishna Tirath said private contractors weren’t involved in the program.
In almost every state, the program is working “very nicely, properly,” Tirath said in her office, estimating that at least 90 percent to 95 percent of the food is delivered. “There are no contractors now, contractors are not there.”
When questioned about the failure of food to arrive in Kaushambi, she blamed it on “one or two” ICDS workers. This isn’t a “true” picture, she said. As for Gurdeep Singh Chadha, the late liquor magnate whose company was involved in the Uttar Pradesh contract, she said she hadn’t known that.
Tirath’s deputy, joint secretary Shree Ranjan, said that viewing the ICDS only as a feeding program distorts its achievements, which include high rates of immunization for children, education of mothers in how to take care of their children and encouragement for school enrollment.
Ranjan also said the ministry rejects the NCAER’s findings that 60 percent of the food for children is siphoned off. The report’s sample size was too small and its methods were flawed, he said.
When first implemented in 1975, the ICDS was intended to give poor children a daily nutritious meal on the premises of their schools. They would be overseen by a trained supervisor who watched their weight, provided their mothers with nutrition advice and watched for especially needy cases, program documents from the period said.
Until the early 1990s, the program worked as planned, although it hadn’t spread to include all of India’s children, according to a World Bank review done in 2001. By the mid-1990s, though, private contractors were beginning to get state contracts to provide food. They provided nutritional powder or biscuits, not meals.
The first of a series of lawsuits challenging the Indian government’s delivery of food to its people came in 2001, when an advocacy group, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, sued. In 2004, 2006 and 2009, the Supreme Court responded by banning private contractors from participating in the ICDS food program.
Uttar Pradesh has entrusted Great Value Foods to provide nutrition for the state’s children since 2005. The company holds two contracts with the state government under the ICDS program, according to a January 2011 ratings report by India’s credit rating agency, ICRA Ltd. (ICRA) The company was to provide 7,200 tons monthly of enriched food for adolescent girls and pregnant mothers and 6,400 metric tons monthly of weaning food, which is given to children under the age of three.
Based in New Delhi, Great Value Foods was described in a 2009 credit-agency document as being almost 60 percent owned by a group of companies called Chadha Group, now named Wave Group.
Chadha, known as Ponty Chadha, was killed in a 15-minute gun battle at one of his luxury farmhouse residences near New Delhi by his brother over a property dispute on Nov. 17. The brother was then shot dead by Chadha’s security guards, the New Delhi police said in a statement.
Chadha traveled with armed guards and courted political leaders across party lines. In 2009, he received a state monopoly on liquor deals, Uttar Pradesh Excise Commissioner Mahesh Kumar Gupta said in a Dec. 14 phone interview. Chadha also bought sugar mills from the Uttar Pradesh government at half of market prices, according to a 2012 audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
“It is obvious that the contract was not given for benevolent reasons, why would you give it to a businessman with such a questionable reputation?” said Jagdeep Chhokar, a former professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and the Association for Democratic Reforms, which has campaigned for better governance since 1999. “This is the way that politics is done in U.P. and all over India.”
Chadha’s other brother, Rajinder Singh Chadha, succeeded him as head of Wave Group, formerly Chadha Group, which owns the Great Value Foods stake.
Great Value Foods has a factory about 11 hours’ drive from Kaushambhi, the district where the toddlers died. In early December, the factory, which sports the Great Value Foods name in foot-high blue letters on a wall and the entrance, could be seen to have a storage unit and a production facility inside a walled compound about 300 meters by 100 meters.
No management officials were available to meet with visitors, said a man with a holstered revolver who gave his name as Ramesh Bali. He had been summoned by the security guard with the shotgun. Behind the barred gate, about 800 50-kilogram (110- pound) sacks of grain were stored in the open.
In February 2011, an investigator for the National Human Rights Commission was granted entry to the factory during a surprise inspection. The investigator, whose name wasn’t released in his final investigative report, didn’t mince words as he noted that at the factory that day there weren’t enough grains to meet daily production targets.
“There is an apology of a laboratory which only checks moisture content,” he wrote. “It has none of the cleanliness and attention to hygiene that one would expect in such a factory. The factory is supposed to be regularly inspected, but the supplier has too much clout for officers to want to meddle with him. On the whole, a most unusual place in which to produce what six-month-olds will be consuming.”
The human rights commission investigation found through a chemical analysis that the powdered food being given to the children didn’t contain the ingredients required by the government in its initial contract.
Children between six months and three years were supposed to get 125 grams daily of a micronutrient-fortified weaning food that had at least 500 calories and 16 grams of protein. The proportions to achieve that, listed in the document released by the Uttar Pradesh government: 34 percent wheat, 18 percent soya powder, 5 percent corn flour, 12 percent rice, 25 percent sugar, 5 percent oil and 1 percent of additional vitamins and minerals.
Bloomberg News e-mailed Barbora Delinic, spokeswoman for the Wave Group. A person representing Perfect Relations, a New Delhi-based public relations company, who asked not to be named because she wasn’t a spokeswoman for the company, said Dec. 14 that she would speak with Wave Group officials to provide comment. On Dec. 17, the person said Wave Group doesn’t own Great Value foods, and thus couldn’t provide comment.
An undated company description on a Wave Group website says it has a “partnership” with Great Value Foods and the credit agency put Great Value Foods on rating watch because of “the demise of the promoter of the group Mr Gurdeep Singh Chadha.”
While Great Value Foods doesn’t have a listed phone number or website, a freedom of information act request showed it is headquartered in an upscale residential area of south Delhi. The building is a four-story apartment building with balconies on each level at the front and back. In the basement, filing cabinets sat behind a meshed fence as 10 to 15 people worked.
A man who said his name was Bidesh Gupta confirmed the building was an office of Great Value Foods and asked a Bloomberg News reporter who visited his office on Dec. 17 to return the next day. When two reporters did so he wasn’t there.
Shree Sadakanth, the director of the Uttar Pradesh Women and Child Development Ministry, which runs the program at the state level, declined a request for an interview. His deputy, Brij Mohan, initially agreed to an interview with Bloomberg News, but didn’t allow reporters into his office after they had provided a list of questions at his request.
The chief coordinator for the Uttar Pradesh ICDS, Shambhu Nath, said he was too busy to meet with reporters, and didn’t answer a set of questions that were faxed to him. Sadakanth and Nath didn’t return phone calls on Dec. 14.
The district of Kaushambhi, where Great Value Foods holds the ICDS contract, is two hours’ drive down a bumpy road from the holy city of Allahabad. The villages here are clusters of small, mud huts. Open sewers run alongside the road, and the smell of feces is thick. Villagers defecate in the fields, and their animals—cows, pigs and goats—defecate everywhere.
In Jialal’s village, none of the dozen mothers interviewed had heard of Great Value Foods. Jialal’s mother, Kalavati, can’t read, and has never traveled more than two hours’ drive from the nearby village that she was born in.
In late July, Jialal had weighed about 6.8 kilograms, about half the weight of a healthy baby of that age, according to a field survey carried out by a local nonprofit group that was looking for signs of malnourishment in Kaushambhi. Jialal, and the four other children who died in the months after the powder deliveries stopped, all weighed too little for their age, according to data the group collected.
While supplies had been erratic all year, deliveries stopped entirely in August, ICDS central block development project officer Saritha Rai said at her office Dec. 7. Her superior, district project officer Santosh Srivastava, confirmed the three-month stoppage in a phone interview on Dec. 17.
Kalavati wasn’t counting. What she did know back in September was that her child was sick. Her husband was away in a nearby village looking for work the night Jialal was running a fever whose origin she couldn’t determine.
On the evening of Sept. 23, she picked up her child and went to seek help. She walked two kilometers through the wheat fields, then across a small bridge over a river. Jialal, his breath shallow and his brow hot, was wrapped in a cloth against her chest. By the time Kalavati reached the small clinic, the skies were growing dark. She had walked just over five kilometers.
The rudimentary clinic has a temple to Hanuman, a Hindu monkey god, in the front yard and six cots in the back. In the small examining room during a reporter’s visit Dec. 7, a bare bulb shone on cigarette butts and red stains from betel nut that people have spat out. Empty bags of saline drip dangled from metal hooks above the bed, the only visible medical equipment in the entire clinic other than a rusted blood pressure monitor.
The clinic is run by Suresh Kumar, whom the villagers call doctor. He isn’t. He has a degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Lucknow, a sign in English says on the back of a door. When asked about his degree, Kumar said the sign was mistaken, and that his degree was from a local institute that lost its accreditation.
The clinic is the only medical facility near the village—a government-run hospital is 17 kilometers away.
“The child was very weak, almost dead,” he said of Jialal, sitting straight in his chair and fiddling with the blood pressure monitor. “This is a very small clinic. We don’t do much here other than diagnose coughs and colds. So I told her to take him to the hospital in Allahabad.”
Kalavati remembers Kumar examining Jialal.
“He said to me that I should bring all my money, as much as I can, two or three thousand rupees ($35-$55) and take him to the city,” said Kalavati, weeping in the small courtyard of her mud hut. Two pigs—the family’s sole source of income—ate chaff near the entrance. Last year, she and her husband earned no more than $75 raising pigs, she said. Her life savings of about $73 had been spent the previous January when her three- year-old daughter fell sick.
And so, she picked up her son, wrapped the cloth that held him to her and started the walk back to her village.
“Suddenly,” she said, “he felt lighter.”
Jialal was dead.
Before the sun came up on Sept. 24, the boy’s body was wrapped in cloth and lowered into a grave under a tree in the field near Kalavati’s home, according to Rehaan, a worker at the nonprofit group who attended the prayer ceremonies. Hindus bury, rather than cremate, small children. Their souls are believed to be sinless, and don’t need the purifying funeral pyre to start the cycle of reincarnation.
“The job of the ICDS is to keep these children healthy and it failed completely,” said Parvez Rizvi, secretary of the nonprofit, Doaba Vikas Evam Utthan Samiti Ltd., which carried out the survey of the children’s weights and mortality. “If the program was working, if the food was reaching the children, would these babies have died? No.”
Not only has the child-food program failed to deliver food for Jialal and tens of millions like him, across large swathes of India the program doesn’t function at all. Only 79 million of the nation’s 160 million children are officially enrolled, according to figures from the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
The poor northern states, including Uttar Pradesh, that account for nearly half of India’s population and suffer from the highest rates of child malnutrition have the lowest levels of funding, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from government reports.
One in every three malnourished children lives in India and about 50 percent of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition, according to Unicef. In 2011, 1.7 million children under the age of five died in India, about 5,000 a day.
Of those 5,000, at least half die of malnutrition-related causes often associated with infectious diseases, according to Child in Need India, a London-based charity. Another 11 percent die from diarrhea, which further weakens children as their body is unable to absorb nutrition.
In only a few places in India does the feeding program provide hot meals. In the Maharashtra district of Melghat, children eat steaming rice and dal in a feeding center in the village of Semahado. Before a 2011 state court order, they were fed daily fistfuls of nutritional powder.
For many of the 40 children, this is the only time they will get any vegetables. It’s one of their two meals a day.
Aethi Sanjil Dhinkal, 22, who has three daughters and earns money collecting firewood, says the program helps her stretch the family’s $18.40 budget through the month.
The children have no toys and they live in a one-bedroom hut without any beds and a leaky roof. On the wall hangs a picture of Lakshmi, the Hindu god of wealth.
“If the program closed, our children may have to go without food,” said Dhinkal.
Vandana Prasad, a doctor who is a member of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, said it is one of the better programs in India.
“The court case has made a big difference,” said Prasad, who visited the program in Melghat last month. “With proper supervision it shows you how the program can be run.”
That feeding program is now being tested in the Supreme Court, where private contractors are challenging the Melghat state-court decision. The lawsuit may help decide whether India will continue to use private firms to feed children the pre- cooked mixtures, or whether government distribution channels will provide them with hot meals cooked in local centers.
A Bloomberg News review of thousands of documents shows how politically connected families in Maharashtra repeatedly violated the Supreme Court’s 2004 order that private contractors be excluded from ICDS contracts.
The loophole comes through a state government decision to encourage women-run organizations. A change to the definition of women-run in 2009 for purposes of the children’s program allowed any private firm that has female leadership to bid. That year 100 percent of the state contracts to feed children take-home rations were won by three such organizations.
After the contracts were awarded, the boards of each of those organizations became dominated by the wives and other female relatives of politically connected Maharashtra men, according to documents filed in the case.
Six of the 13 women directors of one of the companies, Venkateshwara Mahila Audyogik Utpadak Sahakari Sanstha Ltd., were members of two families, according to voter records filed with the case.
Satish Munde, the husband of one of the directors, is the cousin of Gopinath Munde, a political leader at the state level with the Bharatiya Janata Party, according to a news report by Indian website rediff.com. Gopinath Munde was a member of the Maharashtra state legislature from 1990 to 2009.
Munde, in a short phone conversation, denied Satish was his cousin and said he was a friend.
Venkateshwara subcontracted the work out to two companies, one of which lists Munde as its managing director, and another that is owned by the husband of another committee member, according to documents in the case. Under the Supreme Court’s orders, these companies wouldn’t have been allowed to win the contract, according to arguments by the Supreme Court’s commissioner’s office.
The two other women-led firms that won Maharashtra state contracts entered into similar subcontracting agreements, according to court documents.
The discrepancies in how the three firms carried out the contracts caught the attention of the Maharashtra Co-Operative Department, which investigated one of the companies. In the 13- page confidential report filed with the Supreme Court, it listed violations including transgressions of financial record-keeping, not keeping inventories of food and hoarding profits.
“Despite seven years having passed since the Supreme Court banning contractors from the ICDS program, this politician- bureaucrat-contractor nexus has managed to violate the orders of this court with impunity,” Biraj Patnaik, a principal adviser to the Supreme Court’s right-to-food campaign, wrote to the court. “That this system continues shows the level of influence that private contractors have on the levers of power in the state.”
Venkateshwara holds the contract to supply food to the villages of Bhilkera, two hours’ drive from Melghat. Unlike the children of Melghat, Bhilkera’s toddlers get powdered rations.
The powder is so bad, villagers say, that it isn’t given to the children because they get stomach cramps and diarrhea. The results are visible: swollen bellies and ribs that can be counted.
By the village entrance, next to a shrine to Lord Shiva, the Hindu deity of destruction, Ganesh Bilikamkale is feeding the powder to his cattle. As the brown cows lick the powder, stick-thin children play nearby.
Bilikamkale, who says he receives about 20 kilograms of the food a month for free from the ICDS center, says it is better not to waste it.
“The cows love it but then they will eat anything,” said Bilikamkale. “No human should be made to eat this stuff, particularly not children.”
Back in the cluster of villages where Jialal lived, 1,200 kilometers away, the rations Great Value Foods has restarted delivering for 10,092 children sit behind a padlocked door. The trucks brought 524 50-kilogram sacks of weaning food, meant to last a month. But there were no morning snacks or enriched food.
Total supply should have been almost 2 1/2 times larger, said Saritha Rai, the child-development project officer of that block of villages.
In her village, Jialal’s mother holds out the small bowl of uncooked rice that she will boil over firewood to feed her two remaining children and crippled husband. She had also borrowed money from a neighbor to buy a few potatoes and an onion.
A few houses down, not far from the unmarked patch of earth where the toddlers are buried, 13-month-old Mohit cries against his mother’s chest. He weighs just over five kilograms, about half what a child his age should. His head is too heavy for his neck; his legs are too thin for him to crawl.
“He needs help now, some food, anything,” said his mother, Shanti Devi, wrapping Mohit up in a borrowed sweater and a woolen hat against a cold breeze. “And soon.”
Bloomberg Business Week, December 18, 2012
Posted on: December 18, 2012
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court has taken suo motu cognizance of the scourge of untouchability because of which a female teacher from the dalit community was denied residence in Kutch. The local residents’ prejudice and the government’s apathy forced her to quit her job.
Jetal Rushi from Bharuch was appointed as Vidhya Sahayak in Gelda village near Bhuj. But since she belonged to the Valmiki community, villagers in and around Gelda refused to give her accommodation. The girl made a representation to the state government and requested that she be transferred to another place.
Since the government did not respond, Jetal resigned and went back to Bharuch. Perturbed by the girl’s agony, her grandfather wrote a letter to the high court narrating how the girl was forced to give up her job. He complained that the girl was posted in a village where she could not secure help from any government office because none existed there. A bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala filed a public interest litigation on its own on perusal of the letter. Advocate Hemang Shah, who is part of this proceeding, said that the Article 17 of the Constitution provides for the eradication of the practice of untouchability and denying residence to a member of the Valmiki community — which is in the profession of scavenging — was nothing but violation of the constitutional provision.
Shah said that in 2008, a PIL was filed on the problems faced by the Valmiki community — people do not allow them to live in their vicinity.
The state government then took a stand that it would give priority to the community in providing housing facilities and a resolution too was passed. The high court has sought explanation from home secretary, director of primary education and the secretary of social justice and empowerment department asking them to file answers by December 27.
Times of India, December 14, 2012
Posted on: December 14, 2012
By Iftikhar Gilani
Despite a plethora of laws and schemes aimed at providing social services, the human rights situation continues to deteriorate in the country with the government failing to succeed in realising the economic, social and cultural rights for the majority of the population.
On the eve of the World Human Rights Day, the working group on human rights in India and the UN (WGHR) records that during the high economic growth period averaging 8.2% between 2007 and 2011, poverty declined marginally by just 0.8% and three-fourth of the population faced further marginalisation.
India also houses the largest population of internally displaced persons, either due to armed conflicts —numbering 5.06 lakh — or, as a result of development projects since Independence — 60 to 65 million population (80% Dalits and tribals). This amounts to around one million people being displaced every year.
While lobbying hard for a deserving permanent seat at the UN Security Council, the country has failed to ratify 12 international treaties and conventions. During the seconduniversal period review (UPR) undertaken by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) few months back in Geneva, the official delegation led by attorney general GN Vahanvati refused to entertain 184 recommendations out of a total of 349 related to social, cultural, educational and health rights to its population.
While the Indian delegation accepted the general UN recommendations like introducing a curriculum on human rights, it rejected specific recommendations like allocating 2% of GDP to health or to strengthen the process for ensuring independent and timely investigation to eliminate corruption or increase accountability and transparency or establishment of a national human rights plan, among others.
The report says the central government’s proposed Land Acquisition Bill also falls short of many promises.
“The Bill does not aim at minimising evictions, does not have a rights-based definition of public purpose and does not include adequate human rights safeguards for rehabilitation. It is also weak with regard to urban eviction and displacement issues,” says Miloon Kothari, convener of WGHR and former UN special rapporteur.
Shockingly, in a country where an estimated population of 23.1 crore goes hungry every day, 67,000 tonnes of food grains were rotting in the godowns. The report says the public distribution system (PDS) excludes many genuinely poor households through targeting errors.
It also calls for tweaking food security legislation to look beyond welfare schemes to include protection to natural resources, promote land reforms and support production and utilisation of coarse grains grown by local communities.
It further says India was perhaps the only country where 1,600 people died between 2008 and 2010 during clinical trials of drugs by multinational pharmaceutical companies.
The compensation was paid only in 22 out of 668 cases. It also has the highest number of people —51% of the population—who defecate in the open and has a dismal record of access to clean drinking water and sanitation.
While Parliament recently approved the government policy on FDI, the report saysthe policy, along with foreign trade agreements (FTAs) currently under negotiation, have potential to violate human rights to food, water, work, livelihood, housing, land and development, especially of vulnerable groups.
DNA, December 10, 2012
Posted on: December 10, 2012
Economic growth of the past two decades has transformed the lifestyles of many families in the country. Now, almost 30 percent of the country’s over 1.2 billion people are middle class and this number is expected to surge to 45 percent by 2020.
Yet as people get wealthier, more women go out to work and more and more families live on their own without relatives to help them, the voracious demand for maids has outstripped supply.
The surging demand for domestic help in such families is fuelling a business that largely thrives on human trafficking by unregulated placement agencies.
Often from poor and rural backgrounds, women were given false promises of a better life.
Last month, police carried out a raid at a suspected placement agency in a residential area in New Delhi, rescuing around 20 women, mainly from West Bengal.
“These domestic helps are here just like slaves of the eighteenth century. No one cares about them. They are assaulted, they are physically abused, their wages are withheld, they are not allowed to talk and meet their parents even if they come. This is the condition of the girls,” said R. S. Chaurasia, chairperson of Bachpan Bachao Andolan.
Forty five-year-old Theresa Kerketa moved to New Delhi to find work in the hope of sending her earnings back to her impoverished family in Chhattisgarh.
But for four years, she was forced to live like a slave. Used by a placement agency, she was sent to countless middle class homes where she was beaten, fed scraps and didn’t receive a penny of her salary.
Three months ago, Theresa was rescued after a concerned relative went to a local charity, but she is near to tears as she recalls her time at one house she was sent to by her former agent.
Activists say they have also come across cases in which women and children had been sexually abused.
Abuse of migrant maids from Africa and Asia in the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia is commonly reported.
But now similar crimes against domestic maids are on the rise in India.
The abuse is difficult to detect as it takes place behind closed doors and victims are often too scared to go to the police. When it is reported, police investigations can be shoddy because of a lack of training and awareness about the seriousness of the crime.
But over the past few years, the authorities have begun to pay more attention. Specialized anti-human trafficking units in police stations have now been set up across the country to collect intelligence, maintain a database of offenders and to carry out raids to rescue victims.
Unofficial estimates put the number of domestic workers in India at 90 million, and with an expanding middle class with more disposable income, this number is expected to rise.
Groups like ‘Save the Children’ and ‘ActionAid’ estimate there are over 2000 placement agencies in New Delhi alone, and only fractions are legitimate.
Often they operate from rooms or flats in slums or poorer neighbourhoods in which maids are housed until a job is found.
Earlier this year, the Delhi Government drafted a bill to help, regulate and monitor agencies, but activists say in its current state the legislation fails to offer welfare measures and completely ignores the fact that thousands of children are hired.
“This bill, I feel, is drafted from the employer’s viewpoint to make them feel safe from hiring a domestic help from an agency which has accreditation from the government. It is not looking towards the issues and problems of the domestic workers that they face, be it abuse, be it beaten up or maybe their wages are not paid. And it is not even acknowledging the fact that there are thousands of children working in homes as domestic help,” said Avinash K. Singh, programme co-ordinator at Save the children.
The legislation would specify minimum wages, proper living and working conditions and a mechanism for financial redress for unpaid salaries. It would also specify that placement agencies keep updated record of all domestic workers, which would subject to routine inspection by the labour department.
There are no reliable figures for how many people are trafficked for, but activists say if women over 18 years were included, the figure could run into the hundreds of thousands.
The government says 126,321 trafficked children were rescued from domestic work during 2011-12, a rise of almost 27 percent from the previous year. (ANI)
Newstrack India, December 5, 2012
Posted on: December 5, 2012
By Nita Bhalla
NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) – Inside the crumbling housing estates of Shivaji Enclave, amid the boys playing cricket and housewives chatting from their balconies, winding staircases lead to places where lies a darker side to India’s economic boom.
Three months ago, police rescued Theresa Kerketa from one of these tiny two-roomed flats. For four years, she was kept here by a placement agency for domestic maids, in between stints as a virtual slave to Delhi’s middle-class homes.
“They sent me many places – I don’t even know the names of the areas,” said Kerketa, 45, from a village in Chhattisgarh state in central India. “Fifteen days here, one month there. The placement agent kept making excuses and kept me working. She took all my salary.”
Often beaten and locked in the homes she was sent to, Kerketa was forced to work long hours and denied contact with her family. She was not informed when her father and husband died. The police eventually found her when a concerned relative went to a local charity, which traced the agency and rescued her together with the police.
Abuse of migrant maids from Africa and Asia in the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia is commonly reported.
But the story of Kerketa is the story of many maids and nannies in India, where a surging demand for domestic help is fuelling a business that, in large part, thrives on human trafficking by unregulated placement agencies.
As long as there are no laws to regulate the placement agencies or even define the rights of India’s unofficially estimated 90 million domestic workers, both traffickers and employers may act with impunity, say child and women’s rights activists and government officials.
Activists say the offences are on the rise and link it directly to the country’s economic boom over the last two decades.
“Demand for maids is increasing because of the rising incomes of families who now have money to pay for people to cook, clean and look after their children,” says Bhuwan Ribhu from Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), the charity that helped rescue Kerketa.
Economic reforms that began in the early 1990s have transformed the lifestyles of many Indian families. Now almost 30 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people are middle class and this is expected to surge to 45 percent by 2020.
Yet as people get wealthier, more women go out to work and more and more families live on their own without relatives to help them, the voracious demand for maids has outstripped supply.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
There are no reliable figures for how many people are trafficked for domestic servitude. The Indian government says 126,321 trafficked children were rescued from domestic work in 2011/12, a rise of almost 27 percent from the previous year. Activists say if you include women over 18 years, the figure could run into the hundreds of thousands.
The abuse is difficult to detect as it is hidden within average houses and apartments, and under-reported, because victims are often too fearful to go to the police. There were 3,517 incidents relating to human trafficking in India in 2011, says the National Crime Records Bureau, compared to 3,422 the previous year.
Conviction rates for typical offences related to trafficking – bonded labor, sexual exploitation, child labor and illegal confinement – are also low at around 20 percent. Cases can take up to two years to come to trial, by which time victims have returned home and cannot afford to return to come to court. Police investigations can be shoddy due to a lack of training and awareness about the seriousness of the crime.
Under pressure from civil society groups as well as media reports of cases of women and children trafficked not just to be maids, but also for prostitution and industrial labor, authorities have paid more attention in recent years.
In 2011, the government began setting up specialized anti-human trafficking units in police stations throughout the country.
There are now 225 units and another 110 due next year whose job it is to collect intelligence, maintain a database of offenders, investigate reports of missing persons and partner with charities in raids to rescue victims.
Parveen Kumari, director in charge of anti-trafficking at the ministry of home affairs, says so far, around 1,500 victims have been rescued from brick kilns, carpet weaving and embroidery factories, brothels, placement agencies and houses.
“We realize trafficking is a bigger issue now with greater demand for labor in the cities and these teams will help,” said Kumari. “The placement agencies are certainly under the radar.”
The media is full of reports of minors and women lured from their villages by promises of a good life as maids in the cities. They are often sent by agencies to work in homes in Delhi, and its satellite towns such as Noida and Gurgaon, where they face a myriad of abuses.
In April, a 13-year-old maid heard crying for help from the balcony of a second floor flat in a residential complex in Delhi’s Dwarka area became a national cause célèbre.
The girl, from Jharkhand state, had been locked in for six days while her employers went holidaying in Thailand. She was starving and had bruises all over her body.
The child, who had been sold by a placement agency, is now in a government boarding school as her parents are too poor to look after her. The employers deny maltreatment, and the case is under investigation, said Shakti Vahini, the Delhi-based child rights charity which helped rescue her.
In October, the media reported the plight of a 16-year-old girl from Assam, who was also rescued by police and Shakti Vahini from a house in Delhi’s affluent Punjabi Bagh area. She had been kept inside the home for four years by her employer, a doctor. She said he would rape her and then give her emergency contraceptive pills. The doctor has disappeared.
ONE ON EVERY BLOCK
Groups like Save the Children and ActionAid estimate there are 2,300 placement agencies in Delhi alone, and less than one-sixth are legitimate.
“There are so many agencies and we hear so many stories, but we are not like that. We don’t keep the maids’ salaries and all are over 18,” said Purno Chander Das, owner of Das Nurse Bureau, which provides nurses and maids in Delhi’s Tughlakabad village.
The Das Nurse Bureau is registered with authorities – unlike many agencies operating from rented rooms or flats in slums or poorer neighbourhoods like Shivaji Enclave in west Delhi. It is often to these places that maids are brought until a job is found.
There are no signboards, but neighbors point out the apartments that house the agencies and talk of the comings and goings of girls who stay for one or two days before being taken away.
“There is at least one agency in every block,” says Rohit, a man in his twenties, who lives in one of scores of dilapidated government-built apartment blocks in Shivaji Enclave.
With a commission fee of up to 30,000 rupees ($550) and a maids’ monthly salary of up to 5,000 rupees ($90), an agency can make more than $1,500 annually for each girl, say anti-trafficking groups.
A ledger recovered after one police raid, shown by the charity Bachpan Bachao Andolan to Thomson Reuters Foundation, had the names, passport pictures and addresses of 111 girls from villages in far-away states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Assam and Chhattisgarh, most of them minors.
The Delhi state government has written a draft bill to help regulate and monitor placement agencies and has invited civil society groups to provide feedback.
But anti-trafficking groups say what is really needed a country-wide law for these agencies, which are not just mushrooming in cities like Delhi but also Mumbai and other towns and cities.
The legislation would specify minimum wages, proper living and working conditions and a mechanism for financial redress for unpaid salaries. It would also specify that placement agencies keep updated record of all domestic workers which would subject to routine inspection by the labor department.
In the meantime, victims like Theresa Kerketa just want to warn others.
“The agencies and their brokers tell you lies. They trap you in the city where you have no money and know no one,” said Kerketa, now staying with a relative in a slum on the outskirts of south Delhi as she awaits compensation.
“I will go back and tell others. It is better to stay in your village, be beaten by your husband and live as a poor person, than come to the city and suffer at the hands of the rich.”
Terra, December 4, 2012
Posted on: December 4, 2012
NEW DELHI: India has recorded a 57 per cent drop in number of new HIV infections during the last decade, say latest figures from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
India has demonstrated an overall reduction of 57 percent in estimated annual new HIV infections (among adult population) from 2.74 lakh in 2000 to 1.16 lakh in 2011, said a NACO report released Friday.
“Major contribution to this reduction comes from the high prevalence states where a reduction of 76 percent has been noted during the same period. However, rising trends of new infections are noted in the some of the low prevalence states,” the report said.
The report, released by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, also says nearly 1.5 lakh lives have been saved due to free ART medicines provided to HIV/AIDS patients.
“The latest round of HIV Sentinel Surveillance was completed in 2011. The data generated there has been used for estimation of HIV burden and projection of HIV epidemic trends in the country,” a statement said.
“The HIV estimations 2012 indicate an overall continuing reduction in adult HIV prevalence, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in India”.
Released on the eve of World AIDS Day, the report says adult HIV prevalence at national level has continued its steady decline from estimated level of 0.41 percent in 2001 through 0.35 percent in 2006 to 0.27 percent in 2011.
The estimated number of people living with HIV was 20,88,642 in 2011, the report said. It is estimated that about 1.48 lakh people died of AIDS related causes in 2011 in India. Deaths among HIV infected children account for 7 percent of all AIDS-related deaths.
It is estimated that around 1.16 lakh new HIV infections among adults and around 14,500 new infections among children occurred during 2011.
The Times of India, November 30, 2012
Posted on: November 30, 2012
By Ankita Chakrabarty,
India, as a nation usually performs worse than its South Asian neighbours when it comes to basic healthcare parameters – the infant mortality rate of Bangladesh (37) and Sri Lanka (11) are lower than India’s – but there’s one disease that the country has been battling successfully – HIV/AIDS.
According to the latest UNAIDS report, India managed to reduce its HIV count by a staggering 56% while both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka saw an increase in HIV cases by 25%. This has led to various international figures likepraising India’s HIV/AIDS prevention model
India is not alone though in reining the overall spread of the disease. Worldwide, the number of people newly infected continues to fall: the number of people (adults and children) acquiring HIV infection in 2011 (2.5 million) is 20 percent lower than in 2001. In 2011, 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related causes worldwide. This represents a 24 percent decline in AIDS-related mortality compared with 2005 when 2.3 million deaths occurred.
In India, according to the health ministry (National Aids Control Organization-NACO) approximately 2.4 million people are living with HIV. Globally, according to the UNAIDS report, 34.0 million people have been estimated to be living with AIDS in 2011 and about half of them do not know their HIV status.
In South and South-East Asia, the estimated 270 000 [230 000–340 000] new HIV infections in 2010 is 40 percent less than at the epidemic’s peak in 1996.
Concurring with the view that the world might have seen off the worst phase, Dr K K Aggarwal, consultant, medicine and cardiology at Moolchand Heart Hospital, New Delhi, reiterates, ‘During the last decade there has been a reduction in HIV infection cases because of an increased level of awareness among masses and effective government initiatives by timely recognising the magnitude of the epidemic and decentralising the programme at the time of the implementation of National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) to the State AIDS Control Societies (SACS).’
The efforts to tame the overall spread of the disease have, however, yet to make a significant dent in the worst affected high risk category. According to the latest Technical Report of India’s HIV estimates, at the national level, HIV prevalence is highest amongst the injecting drug users (IDU) at 12.22 percent followed by men who have sex with men (MSM) at 6.82 percent and female sex workers (FSW) at 5.92 percent respectively.
Throwing spotlight on the worst-affected categories in India, Dr. Aggarwal at Moolchand warns, ‘According to a recent study more men are HIV positive than women. Nationally, the prevalence rate for adult female is 0.29 percent, while for male it is 0.43 percent. This means that for every 100 people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHAs), 61 are men and 39 women. Prevalence is also high in the 15-49 age group (88.7 percent of all infections), indicating that AIDS still threatens the cream of society, those in the prime of their working life.’
Globally, the biggest gain has been made in reducing new HIV infections among children. Half of the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children. The new HIV infections in children have dropped by 24 percent in the last two years. The break-up of the category in India is not readily available.
Rapid increases in Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) coverage are helping more countries achieve universal access to treatment, care and support. Antiretroviral therapy has emerged as a powerful force for saving lives. In the last 24 months the numbers of people accessing treatment has increased by 63 percent globally. In India approximately 40 -59 percent of eligible people were receiving ART at the end of 2011.
UNAIDS latest says to achieve universal access to HIV treatment, prevention, care and support by2015, and to maintain it, HIV programme funding needs to be scaled up from US$ 16.6 billion in 2011 to US$ 24 billion in 2015, before declining to US$ 19.8 billion in 2020.
Emphasising on continuing the prevention activities in full swing, Anjali Gopalan, executive director at Naz Foundation, a non-profit organisation working on sexual health, asserts, ‘If we look around we would see that the prevention activities are not happening very actively. It is high time that one should be aware of the fact that care and prevention are part of the same continuum to control the spread of the infection.’
Health India, November 30, 2012
Posted on: November 30, 2012
By Anuradha Mascarenhas
Ahead of the World AIDS Day (December 1), officials say there has been a significant decline in the number of deaths due to AIDS, but the new challenge for state health authorities is to step up treatment facilities to tackle the increasing list of people living with HIV.
Ramesh Deokar, project director, Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) told The Indian Express that 1,243 AIDS deaths have been registered from January till October this year. Last year, there were 1,580 deaths due to AIDS. While there were 10,750 AIDS cases last year, till October this year the number was 7,832. In 2010, there were 13,182 AIDS cases.
“At present, 55 anti-retroviral treatment centres are functioning across the state and nine more 9 have been planned in Pune near Shirur to provide access to more HIV patients,” Deokar said. AS many as 1.3 lakh people living with HIV are on anti retroviral treatment (ART) in Maharashtra. The link ART centres will reduce the distance that such patients have to travel to avail of treatment, Deokar added.
A total of 1,250 people who have failed to respond to the first line of treatment are now on second line ART, Dr Asha Hegde, Joint director, MSACS said.
According to Deokar there are four centres that are offering second line drugs at J J Hospital, Mumbai, B J Medical College, Pune and others.
The MSACS director was also optimistic that the transmission of HIV from parent to child has reduced and according to the HIV sentinel surveillance data, of 8.35 lakh ante-natal care (ANC) women tested for the disease, 1,421 were found positive with the virus. The prevention of spread of HIV from parent to child reduced from 1.1 per cent in 2005 to 0.17 per cent till October this year.
WORLD AIDS DAY: Open house at NARI on Dec 1
An open house will be held on World AIDS Day, December 1, at the National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) in the city. Dr R S Paranjape, director, NARI, said this day reminds people that HIV has not gone away, and that more efforts still need to be done. “Every year to mark World AIDS Day, facilities at NARI are opened for public viewing. This is our effort to educate people about the work carried out by our scientists and to provide access to view our state of the art facilities and hear about advances in the field of HIV AIDS from experts.” On an average, 1,000 students and other members visit NARI on this day. There will be guided tours to NARI laboratories and HIV museum.
Express India, November 28, 2012
Posted on: November 28, 2012
Sex worker Akram Pasha remembers when his hometown of Mysore, India—an idyllic southern tourist hub known for a Maharajah’s palace and its many universities—stood on the brink of an explosive epidemic.
In 2004, a new community-based organization in the city, called Ashodaya Samithi, conducted a first-ever survey of local sex workers and found an HIV prevalence of 25%.
“We were shocked,” said Pasha, who now serves as director of Ashodaya Academy, which trains sex workers in HIV prevention, leadership and community mobilization. “It could have been any one of us. We knew we had to do something to protect that 25% and prevent it from spreading to the other 75%.”
At the time, Mysore had no HIV prevention programs in place, and there was only one HIV testing and counseling center at the district hospital. Services simply weren’t reaching those who needed them most.
“There wasn’t a condom to be seen,” said Dr. Sushena Reza-Paul, an assistant professor of public health with the University of Manitoba, who helped start Ashodaya Samithi. “I remember walking several kilometers before finding one medical shop with a handful of condoms, and they were all expired.”
Today, India has averted at least 3 million HIV infections in large part through empowering key populations at highest risk—including sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and migrants—to take control of the epidemic through providing counseling, care, support and treatment to their peers, and advocating for their own needs. Some programs targeted to sex workers also provide training for alternative income-generating activities, such as tailoring, with the aim of reducing exposure to HIV.
Ashodaya Samithi is one example of this community ownership approach, which was significantly scaled up—with the help of community-based and nongovernmental organizations —during phase III of India’s National AIDS Control Program (NACP III), from 2007 to 2012. The World Bank has worked closely with the Indian government to develop a national response to HIV and AIDS that emphasizes targeted interventions for those most at risk.
Led by its 8000-plus female, male and transgender sex worker members, Ashodaya Samithi has played a critical role in reversing the epidemic in southern Karnataka state, one of four high-prevalence states that account for 55% of all HIV infections in India. Its members promote condom use, provide HIV testing and counseling, link HIV-positive sex workers to antiretroviral therapy centers so they can receive treatment, and volunteer in hospitals to ensure fellow sex workers receive adequate services and aren’t discriminated against.
To expand its services, the group has taken a social enterprise approach; it runs a local restaurant, originally funded by a World Bank Development Marketplace grant, as well as serviced apartments. Profits go to support a community care home for HIV-positive sex workers.
Attacking the epidemic on all fronts has paid off: A 2009 survey (the latest available) found HIV prevalence among all sex workers in five districts around Mysore to be 11.1%, down from 25% in 2004. Condom use with sex worker respondents’ last client was 93.8%, up from 64.8% in 2004.
A national HIV Sentinel Survey from 2010-2011 found HIV prevalence among sex workers across Karnataka state to be 5.35%.
“We’ve provided long-term access to services, reduced stigma and created an enabling environment, so that the increased utilization of HIV services we’ve seen does not get undermined,” said Prathima Ramaya, an HIV-positive sex worker and Ashodaya Samithi manager.
The group has been so successful at building capacity to provide HIV and AIDS-related services, it’s now training sex worker groups from other countries, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Mozambique.
“It was a bottom-up process” said Dr. Reza-Paul, referring to the group’s early mobilization to address the HIV epidemic. “We’ve moved from being ‘for’ the community, to being ‘by’ the community.”
India is home to 2.4 million people living with HIV, with national adult prevalence at 0.31%. Among groups at high risk of HIV infection, 2010 data show national prevalence at 2.61% for female sex workers, 5.01% for men who have sex with men; 5.91% for injecting drug users and 18.0% for transgenders. As with Karnataka state, some regions report much higher prevalences.
By keeping key populations at higher risk at the center of designing and leading HIV and AIDS programs, India’s NACP has achieved 80% coverage of services in these populations. Phase IV of the program, launched earlier this year, will continue to scale up services and community engagement with these groups to prevent new HIV infections.
A new World Bank report, The Global HIV Epidemics Among Sex Workers, undertaken in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), confirms that a targeted approach can significantly curb progression of the epidemic. Mathematical models developed for the report show that expansion of community empowerment-based, comprehensive HIV prevention among sex workers demonstrates significant impact on HIV among sex workers as well as in the general population, across different settings and epidemic scenarios.
“We found that interventions targeted to sex workers are cost-effective and provide significant return on investment,” said Robert Oelrichs, World Bank senior health specialist and one of the report’s authors. “Those that are rights-affirming and community-empowering are most successful. AIDS spending decisions should reflect this.”
India’s experience bears this out: A 2011 Bank impact evaluation found a significant decline in HIV prevalence among female sex workers in four high-prevalence southern states where the number of HIV interventions tailored to them had increased dramatically—from 5 to 310 between 1995 and 2008.
“The Bank will continue to provide support for India’s NACP Phase IV, through US$255 million in financing, analytical work and sharing of India’s best practices in HIV and AIDS prevention, care, support and treatment across the world.” said Sameh El-Saharty, World Bank senior health specialist and project team leader.
The World Bank, November 28, 2012
Posted on: November 28, 2012
By Rajesh Roy and Romit Guha
India is planning to start giving cash directly to its poorest citizens starting in January, in a bid to reduce massive corruption that prevents subsidized goods and welfare benefits from reaching those who need them.
The project would affect at least 720 million people – a population almost the size of the whole of Europe – making this the world’s biggest program of giving money directly to the poor. The program is open to families who live below or just above the government-set poverty line.
The government expects to transfer up to 40,000 rupees ($720) a year to each poor household, according to a government official.
Cash handouts would replace the money the government currently spends on subsidies on goods like fuel, fertilizer and food, which would be abolished. Critics say only a fraction of subsidized goods reach the poor as corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies lead to wastage.
Government spending on welfare programs – ranging from subsidized fertilizers to guaranteed employment for rural dwellers – will remain overall unchanged at roughly 4 trillion rupees ($71.9 billion) a year.
With elections due in 2014, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government is looking for a way to make its large welfare programs more targeted. “Direct cash transfers, which are now becoming possible through the innovative use of technology and the spread of modern banking across the country, open the doors for eliminating waste, cutting down leakages and targeting beneficiaries better,” Mr. Singh said earlier this week after meeting with ministers and bureaucrats who are part of a panel set up to develop and implement the cash transfer program.
India plans to launch the ambitious program from Jan. 1, 2013, to cover 18 states by April and the whole country by December.
To start with, only subsidies and benefits related to 29 welfare programs such as scholarships and healthcare, will be covered. These will be gradually expanded to cover subsidies on food, fertilizer and cooking gas. In some cases, like subsidized cooking gas, the cash transfers intended for that purpose will only be given to households that use it.
Some development economists say giving poor people cash rather than subsidized services cuts down corruption as there’s no opportunity for bureaucrats or businessmen to pad contracts to deliver food or other services.
Because if the poor get the money directly, they can decide how best to spend it, which means its more effective than a government functionary deciding what they need. Analysts say that if the program is successful, more cash in the hands of people could lead to a higher demand for goods, thus spurring manufacturing and eventually boosting economic growth. Government officials say it shouldn’t be inflationary.
Several countries have introduced conditional cash transfers to the poor. One of the most successful cash transfer programs has been Brazil’s Bolsa Família, which has contributed significantly to the drop in poverty in the country in the 2000s. Other countries that have implemented similar schemes include the Philippines, Turkey, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia and South Africa.
A senior official from the Prime Minister’s office told India Real Time that the roll out of direct cash subsidy will not lead to any additional burden on the government’s exchequer. “We are already bearing subsidies on welfare schemes be it for food, fertilizer, education or oil. Through the new way of cash transfer, we will eliminate middlemen, check leakages and ensure the actual beneficiaries are benefited,” he said.
The cash transfer will be enabled through Aadhaar, a numerical biometric identification that is currently being given to everyone in the country. The ID plan – officially called the Unique Identity Authority of India project– will help people access services like banking and benefits. Aadhaar card holding families who qualify for the cash transfers will get funds directly into their bank accounts.
The government expects that better targeting of beneficiaries will help prevent money intended for subsidies from being wasted.
“We expect considerable savings to the exchequer with the roll out of direct cash transfer as the Aadhaar-enabled system will put to an end any duplication and falsification,” Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters Tuesday. He didn’t specify how much the government hopes to save through this program.
The country is grappling with a wide budget deficit as revenue falters amid a global and local economic slowdown but expenditure, especially on subsidies related to fuel, food and fertilizer, remain high. New Delhi aims to restrict subsidies to under 2% of the gross domestic product in the fiscal year through March, down from 2.16% in 2011-12. The government’s intention is to keep subsidies under 1.75% of GDP in the next three years.
However, possible hurdles to the success of the program could come from the lack of penetration of Aadhaar cards, bank accounts and even bank branches. An estimated 300 million people in the country of 1.2 billion have no official identification documents, according to UIDAI. This prevents them from opening bank accounts or getting work. Only 210 million people have Aadhaar cards, while many poor families don’t even have bank accounts. The government has plans to guarantee simple bank accounts to the poor.
India Real Time, November 28, 2012
Posted on: November 28, 2012
By Ana Steele
When the Orlean Council and Children Slavery Task Force convened leaders from various organizations and faith communities this week to discuss the important role the faith community has in the fight to end child trafficking, surveying the room was like spanning the globe.
It was readily apparent that this meeting brought together not only religious leaders but people of differing ideologies, life experiences, and careers. Yet, solidarity prevailed through one overarching message: nothing but a concerted global effort on the part of all stakeholders will defeat this atrocity called human trafficking and modern slavery. The panel emphasized the urgency for a “universal voice” in and from faith communities that are by definition predicated on a spiritual mandate to end suffering. Regardless of one’s religion, we can all recognize that slavery is a sacrilege that needs to be eradicated.
The panel called for a change in the current discourse on trafficking and slavery—this atrocity is not just a human rights violation; it is the third largest form of organized crime in our world, after drugs and guns.
Speakers included Imam Yahya Hendi, Director of Muslim Chaplaincy at Georgetown University and founder of Clergy Beyond Borders, a global multi-faith itinerant teaching group whose past focus has been conflict resolution and whose future aim is to be a voice of ‘inclusivity and respect,’ especially for those who have abused by religion. He believes interfaith communities must shift to becoming part of the solution to human trafficking and not creators of these crimes against humanity.
Dr. Helga Konrad, former Austrian federal government minister and executive director of Anti-Trafficking, participated in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) first conference on the rights of children, which opened her eyes to the importance of establishing international children’s rights laws. She advocated for practical techniques to prevent trafficking before it begins and called for global interfaith communities to collaborate and cooperate in the implementation of prevention measures. She also advocated for more international laws and conventions.
The third speaker, Dr. Joseph D’souza, international president of Dalit Freedom Network and president of the All India Christian Council, urged all faith communities to begin a journey to create “spiritual democracies within their own religions that ensure equal rights for all.” He explained there is no place in today’s world for undemocratic religions that abuse children and women with impunity. D’souza shared an important insight: there is a distinct nexus between human trafficking and money, power, and religion. We must go beyond dialogue to engage in “dia-practice” in order to eradicate global modern slavery.
We must also learn to recognize victims of trafficking within our own communities. The fourth speaker, Jim Gamble, former head of Counter Terrorism in Northern Ireland, stressed that people of all faiths can play their part against human trafficking by looking for warning signs of potential abuse in their own communities. He listed six indicators of a trafficked child—including erratic behavior, poor health, a tense and depersonalized relationship with the adult accompanying them. Gamble urged that we must alert local law enforcement if we see a potential victim in our own community.
Armed with new knowledge and practical solutions for combat, the conference came to a close, but the discussion is far from over. People of diverse faiths, backgrounds, and ethnicities, cannot solve this problem from their own silos. They must now come together, in the unity and bond of peace, forsake their differences, and fight as one to end human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery in our world.
The Washington Post, November 16, 2012
Posted on: November 16, 2012
Civil society groups of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians protested in New Delhi on Thursday demanding that the “discriminatory” 1950 Presidential Order be amended. The Order held that only Dalit who professed Hindu religion could be treated as Scheduled Caste (SC).
Addressing the protesters, Samuel Jayakumatr executive secretary, Commission for Policy, Governance and Public Witnesses, argued that “given the fact that the SC status and the benefits that go with it are aimed to address historical caste-based socio-economic deprivation, the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims have more compelling case for SC status than many others”.
“Because of being deprived of SC status for more than half a century, the two minority communities are worse off in terms of major socio-economic indicators, than many of the so-called ‘Hindu’ Dalits. Not only that they are denied reservations in jobs and elected bodies but they are also not protected from anti-SC atrocity legislation,” he added.
Highlighting what he termed “double standards of the democratic India”, Hafeez Ahmad Hawwari, a leader of the Hawwaris, who have historically been engaged in the vocation of washing clothes argued: “Soon after the country got freedom Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians were deprived of the affirmative action in 1950. The Indian State extended the SC status to Sikh and Buddhist Dalits in 1956 and 1990 respectively. Yet, it continues to deny the same to Christian and Muslim and Dalits which is a clear violation of the Constitutional rights of millions of backward people.”
Saleem Mansoori, a backward leader from Bihar, questioned the logic of the denial of the SC status to the two minority groups. “We are unable to understand that if religion cannot be the basis of providing reservation, how can it be made the basis to deny people their SC status?”
Fr. Z. Devasagayaraj, a representative of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said the continued denial of SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims makes “complete mockery” of the Indian State’s credentials of being democratic and secular. He highlighted that a petition for the amendment in the 1950 Presidential Order is currently pending in the Supreme Court. “The Apex Court has been repeatedly asking the Government to file an affidavit about its stand on the issue but the Government’s false credentials about minority welfare has been betrayed by the fact that it still has not filed its reply.”
The Hindu, November 16, 2012
Posted on: November 16, 2012
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM A survey on the scheduled castes (SC) in Kerala has revealed that of the 558,000 families, 25,408 have no home or land of their own.
Out of the SC population in the state, 12,03,000 are females and 11,00049 are males.
The survey under the guidance of SM Vijayanand, now additional secretary, ministry of rural development, was conducted by K Sukumaran and his team with the state owned Kerala Institute of Local Administration as the nodal agency.
The elaborate field survey which took over two years also revealed that 15,984 families had land in their name but no home to claim theirs.
With regard to basic living conditions, it was found that while 172,000 families was huddled in a one room house, some 372,000 had a home with more than one room.
The age profile of the SC revealed that in the age group between 22 to 59 there were 13,60,000 people, while above 60 age there were 2,35,000. When it came to use of electricity, in 2,262 villages, some 88,000 homes had no power.
Oman Tribune, November 10, 2012
Posted on: November 10, 2012
By Shailvee Sharda,
LUCKNOW: The recently released Sample Registration Survey shows but only a marginal decrease in the state’s infant mortality rate (IMR). The number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births has come down to 61 from 63. Though this has contributed to bringing down the national average, the state is far below the target it fixed at the onset of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). In 2007, when NRHM began, the government declared it would bring down IMR to 36 per 1,000 live births. But, the target is a distant dream. What is worse is that considering the present pace of progress, UP needs another 10 years to achieve the target.
An infant is a child aging between 4 to 52 weeks old while infant mortality rate (or the number of infants dying among every 1,000 live births) is an important health and development indicator. Despite the ‘good news’, there is a long way before the state can heave a sigh of relief. The reason is that even now, UP reports the maximum number of infant deaths in the country. Estimates indicate that close to a thousand infants are dying every day, making UP account for over 25 per cent of total infant deaths reported across the country.
Infant mortality is a vicious problem in the state. It has reined problems of early marriages, inherent malnutrition, poor access to health services and prevention of diseases into one. A study undertaken by community medicine department of Aligarh Muslim University’s medical college has proof. Its paper titled causes of death among infants of rural cluster-a research based on verbal autopsy that was published in the current paediatric research volume 15 issue 1-concluded that birth asphxiya, pneumonia, prematurity and malnutrition were the chief reasons for death of children.
“The reduction is not sufficient at all if UP and India were to achieve the millennium development goal (MDG),” says Jashodhara Das, a health activist. The state has promised to reduce IMR to one-third by 2015 to achieve the MDG. More over, the state is far behind the targets it thrived to achieve in the five-year term of the national rural health mission (NRHM) of 36 per thousand live births. Of the total infant deaths in UP, close to 64 per cent are neonates or children up to an age of four weeks. Health experts are of the view that over 80 per cent of the neonates can be saved. Unfortunately, these babies die mainly due to lack of timely intervention.
Health activists said neonatal deaths were the main factor that lead to a high IMR for UP. “Once it is controlled, half the target is accomplished,” they stated. Dr Vishwajeet Kumar of Johns Hopkins University, whose team has worked in the Shivgarh block of Rae Bareli and brought down the neonatal death rate by 54 per cent, maintains the same. What’s the key to success? Dr Vishwajeet said, “Public participation and strengthening of health services is required.”
The Times of India, October 23, 2012
Posted on: October 23, 2012
NEW DELHI: Rising food prices during 2010-11 may have pushed three million Bangladeshis into poverty, and kept eight million Indians from getting out of poverty bracket, finds a UN report released on Thursday. In Asia and Pacific region, food inflation pushed nearly four million people into poverty.
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific ( ESCAP) report on regional cooperation for inclusive and sustainable development says food prices have gone up primarily due to pressure on a shrinking and neglected agriculture sector, while consumption has risen significantly.
It cites supply-side factors than demand as the key that drove food prices. Increasing cost of fertilizers, competition for arable land, water resource and high oil prices are all responsible for the spike. Commodity market speculation has also been a growing factor behind high and volatile commodity prices.
The report says that the rising food price, which contributed to food insecurity, adversely impacted household budgets. Recent estimates by UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that over 65% of the household income of poor across the world is spent on food. “In Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, for example, common response to food price rises have been to switch to less expensive food items, reduce savings to spend on food and sell assets to buy food,” the report says.
Raising concern over the poor’s access to food in the region, it says that children are the first to feel the impact of hunger. For instance, in Bangladesh and India, more than 40% children are undernourished. It explains that the root cause of hunger across the sub-region is not lack of food rather the socio-economic and social distribution is responsible for this evil.
Pointing out the serious flaw in food distribution, the report claims that at national level, “hungry population live side-by-side with people who have easy access to food.”
Advocating a robust mechanism for food distribution, it says food insecurity disproportionately affects women, rural folks, migrant workers and tribals. “Children are more likely to be undernourished, but there is also a gender difference as girls far more likely to be hungry than boys,” it adds.
The UN body’s report is only underlining what should be obvious — the most anti-poor measure that any government can take is to allow inflation to go out of control. This is particularly true of food inflation, which hits the poor much worse than it hits those who are better off. When we try to judge reform measures — like allowing FDI in retail or curtailing the subsidy bill through better targeting and a more efficient delivery mechanism — this should be taken into account. If these indeed help keep prices in check, through cutting out the middleman in one case or reining in the fiscal deficit in the other, they can hardly be termed anti-poor as critics of the reforms are prone to do.
The Times of India, October 20, 2012
Posted on: October 20, 2012
By Julie McCarthy
The humanity of India washes up at its train stations. Passengers sprawling among vagrants wait for trains, while sweepers halfheartedly shuffle brooms in the heat.
It’s Sunday, Day 1 of Immunization Week. During national campaigns, which occur twice a year, 2 million volunteers fan out to India’s train stations, bus depots, temples, churches and mosques, armed with vials of polio vaccine.
Checking progress at a city slum, Delhi’s Polio Eradication Program chief, Dr. C.M. Khanijo, says the vaccine must be kept at around 35 degrees Fahrenheit — even when the temperature outside is 109 degrees.
“The quality of the vaccine remains better if it is maintained in the cold chain,” he says. “And the cold chain is maintained by keeping ice or ice packs.”
Khanijo says that in just 30 minutes, enough vials to cover a large area of Delhi’s old, walled city are distributed and in place. By 9 a.m., an army of vaccinators is dropping medicine into little mouths.
Families bring their squirming children to the booths, where they are given oral polio drops, containing a weakened form of the wild polio virus, which only humans carry.
A Massive Challenge
India has 175 million children aged 5 and younger, and all of them are tiny targets in this massive national immunization project that, since January 2011, has made India free of a disease that has afflicted it for millennia.
It must remain polio-free for three years before the WHO will certify that India has eradicated polio.
Dr. Kiran Kathuria (left) and veteran volunteer Santosh Sharma (front right) make the rounds with a team of vaccinators in Nehru Nagar, a middle-class area of Delhi. India’s nationwide polio eradication program, begun in 1995, was modeled after Delhi’s.
“This is kind of a mission. But ultimately the purpose is that we need to reach each and every child,” says Dr. Ajay Khera, the deputy commissioner of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, who directs the country’s polio eradication program.
“In 1995, when we started the program, we used to get roughly around 50,000 polio cases every year. And every village, everywhere, people used to find a polio child,” Khera says. “So people … imagine kind of a disabled child, and nobody wants that disabled child to be there in the community.”
Trucks blast messages encouraging families to vaccinate their children, part of India’s mass public-awareness campaign. The nation’s polio chief says the aim is to vaccinate as many children as possible on Sunday, the first day of the campaign, and then have vaccinators go house to house for the next five days.
Dr. Kiran Kathuria oversees 127 teams that go house to house in central Delhi during National Immunization Week and during supplementary or “Sub-National” weeks. The poorer, less developed north of India, which includes Delhi, is more prone to polio than the richer south, and so vaccination weeks are more frequent there.
Kathuria recalls working as a young doctor in the country’s disease-afflicted slums. The suffering she saw made eradicating polio her passion.
“Every second house had a … polio-affected child. They were roaming around on the road, limping legs — I have seen lots of deaths due to polio,” says Kathuria, who has been working against the disease since 1986.
Back then she mapped the slums for the vaccinators, noting down any “landmark” she could find — from temples to pigsties.
“I had put in my map that from [this] pigsty to this mosque, the team will travel and cover 300 houses in two days. That’s how I made my maps. That was the beginning,” she says with a laugh.
Fear That Polio Will Jump The Border
Today, Kathuria calls herself a “general” in a war on polio. One of the biggest worries health officials have is that the virus will jump across the border from Pakistan, where the disease is endemic. Extending her war analogy, Kathuria compares India’s polio campaign to the 1999 fighting between India and Pakistan in Kashmir.
“That time we did not allow [the] Pakistani army [into India]. This time we will not allow [a] Pakistan virus to come to India. In fact, I call all my team members, I call them soldiers,” she says.
Her troops — mainly women — cover a middle-class district where families have just one or two children, and she closely monitors their work. Santosh Sharma, a stout 52 year old, has gone door to door in Delhi since the program began in the 1990s.
At this door she’s told that the mother of the house is bathing. Santosh says she’ll be back and moves to the next apartment. This immunization in September was the sixth this year for Delhi, and like most of the ones preceding it, Santosh finds 4-year-old Jasmit Singh at home with his mother, Rupinder.
When Rupinder says her child was not vaccinated Sunday, the veteran volunteer reaches for the vaccine. Santosh has administered many of the polio drops young Jasmit has had, which amount to dozens over the years.
Kathuria translates for Rupinder, saying the mother is proud that India is now gaining a good name in the world because it is polio-free.
Kathuria translates for Rupinder, saying the mother is proud that India is now gaining a good name in the world because it is polio-free. Santosh, a foot soldier in that effort, interjects: “A dangerous disease is being thrown out of the country. A dangerous disease attacking our children is being eradicated.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has advised India’s polio program, providing money and expertise. (The foundation also supports NPR.) Bill Gates notes that with India’s success, the world has never been closer to eradicating polio, and he says that the remaining hot spots should draw on India’s experience.
“India’s success is really phenomenal,” Gates says. “You probably would’ve guessed they would be the toughest country because of size, the number of kids who move around, the sanitation challenges up in the north, migratory populations. And so absolutely, the lessons from India can now be applied in the two toughest countries that remain — Pakistan in Asia and Nigeria in Africa.”
Pakistanis Take Notes On India’s Success
When a Pakistani delegation traveled to India this summer to see how its archrival had defeated polio, it saw a level of detail and logistics it had not seen before.
The presence of Pakistanis in India usually sparks a media buzz, and this was no exception. When a zealous minder steps in to end an impromptu news conference, the Pakistani delegation leader, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, gently brushes him aside.
“We appreciate what you are doing,” Shahnaz Wazir Ali tells him before turning back to the reporters. “We have also greatly appreciated the monitoring system that [the Indians] have. Monitoring and monitoring of monitors. And the surveillance system.”
It is polio as diplomacy: two foes that have fought three wars finding new common ground.
Michael Galway, Gates Foundation senior program officer, says bridging India and Pakistan over polio knits together not just program strategies but the chance to seize a historic moment for global health.
“Polio eradication is not going … to keep coming back as many different opportunities. This is our time. The world has only ever really gotten rid of one disease that affects human beings, and that’s smallpox,” he says.
Back in her clinic, Dr. Kathuria expresses the belief that India’s success will spur Pakistan.
“I’m sure Pakistan will have the courage that they can eradicate polio, after seeing us,” she says. ”’If India can do it, why can’t we?’ I’m sure they will have that feeling.”
NPRShots, October 18, 2012
Posted on: October 18, 2012
By Kirthi.V.Rao Mail Me
New Delhi: India has performed poorly in reducing hunger, especially among children, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2012 report.
“Given that the government of India has failed to monitor national trends in child undernutrition for more than six years, any recent progress in the fight against child undernutrition cannot be taken into account by the 2012 Global Hunger Index,” the International Food Policy Research Institute said in its report released on Thursday.
Even without information on the recent advances made in dealing with hunger, India’s track record is disappointing, the GHI report said.
The country’s hunger index value has improved from 24.2 in 1990 to 23.5 in 2011 and 22.9 in 2012, but it still remains among countries with an “alarming” level of hunger. All other countries in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping have performed better than India in dealing with hunger, with Brazil and Russia having a “low” hunger index and China and South Africa placed among those with “moderate” hunger.
Further, India ranks below neighbours Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal. These relative rankings have remained unchanged since last year’s GHI report.
India, ranked 65th among 79 countries, alongside Bangladesh and Timor-Leste, which are ranked 68th and 73rd, respectively, as countries with a high proportion of underweight children.
LiveMint, October 12, 2012
Posted on: October 12, 2012
By Pratul Sharma
The latest report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has punched holes in the tall claims made by the central government about addressing malnutrition in children .
According to the report – Children in India 2012 – 48 per cent children under the age of five are stunted (too short for their age), which indicates that half of the country’s children are chronically malnourished.
The data challenges Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s optimism on the “improving” state of children’s health in the country. “There has been 20 per cent decline in malnourishment in the last seven years. This is better than the rate of decline reported in National Family Health Survey-III,” he had said in January this year.
The Prime Minister had also promised that the government would launch a restructured Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) for 200 high-burden districts (where maximum cases of malnourished children were reported) and initiate a nationwide communication campaign against malnutrition.
The restructuring of the scheme is still in process even as the number of ‘wasted’ (acutely malnourished and stunted) children has been put at 19 per cent. This means that one of out of every five children under five is not getting adequate nutrition.
The report says malnutrition is higher among children whose mothers are uneducated or have less than five years of education. Similarly, the percentage of underweight children in lowest wealth index is three times higher that higher wealth index.
The worst performing states with underweight children under five years of age are Madhya Pradesh (60 per cent), Jharkhand (56.5 per cent) and Bihar (55.9 per cent). Similarly anaemia prevalence among children (6-59 months) is more than 70 per cent in Bihar, MP, UP, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Jharkhand.
The figures are even starker when it comes to the girl child. Child sex ratio has slipped from 945 to 927 girls for every 1000 boys, exposing the government’s claims of checking female infanticide. The problem is more acute in North India, where barring Himachal Pradesh, no state has a child sex ratio above 900:1000. Jammu and Kashmir has seen the most severe drop of 82 points making it the third state with poor child sex ratio after Haryana and Punjab, in 2011.
The report further states that 40 per cent of the children do not complete their vaccination cycle. In terms of immunisation, 62 per cent male children between 12-23 months received full immunisation in 2011. In contrast, 8 per cent children never received any vaccination, the report adds.
Even in case on immunisation, mother’s education plays a role. According to the report, 76 per cent of fully immunised children had educated mothers.
“It’s a national shame that we continue to have so many malnourished children. This is an issue that the government is also deeply concerned about,” said Shantha Sinha, chairperson of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. “Hopefully, restructuring of the ICDS as a programme which will be rolled out in a mission mode will help address the problem,” she added.
-With inputs from Ritika Chopra
India Today, October 8, 2012
Posted on: October 8, 2012
By Kounteya Sinha
India is in the bottom of the world’s maiden nutrition barometer along with countries like Angola, Cameroon, Congo and Yemen.
The barometer — announced by Save the Children on Thursday — has analyzed the governments’ commitments and outcomes in improving nutrition in 36 countries, which are home to 90% of undernourished children. The study has also compared the governments’ performance in tackling under nutrition and child mortality.
It has found that India’s spectacular economic growth has not translated into better nutrition outcomes for many of her children.
The data shows that almost half of Indian children are underweight and stunted, and more than 70% of women and kids have serious nutritional deficiencies such as anemia.
The report says that children in poor households are more than twice as likely to be stunted as those in affluent ones.
However, even in the wealthiest 20% of the population, one child in five is undernourished. India’s performance in the barometer indicates both “frail commitments and outcomes”.
The number of children dying before their fifth birthday declined from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011 globally.
In contrast to this overall positive trend, progress in reducing childhood under nutrition has been tardy.
It remains the underlying cause of more than a third of all child deaths worldwide at around 2.3 million in 2011.
India’s neighbours like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal are also part of the report, but they fare better than the big brother in dealing with malnutrition.
Save the Children India’s CEO Thomas Chandy said, “We know the geographic areas and the social groups where malnutrition levels are the highest. We also know the reasons. The report is a pointer to the need to back political commitment with adequate resources and effective mechanisms.”
He added, “In India, states that have supported their policies and schemes with adequate resources and political will have done much better in dealing with malnutrition and child mortality and maternal mortality.”
India’s spending on health is abysmally low, only 1.67% of the GDP has been earmarked in the 12th Plan.
The report warned that India is likely to miss the Millennium Development Goal on child mortality.
While under-five mortality declined from 107 in 1995 to 64 in 2009, at the present rate India will reach 54 against the target of 42 by 2015. Malnutrition is one of the biggest underlying causes of child mortality in India. According to the report, maternal under nutrition, long-term exposure to a poor diet and repeated infections have also left 165-170 million children under-five stunted, preventing them from reaching their full potential.
“Stunting is a ‘hidden’ problem in many populations, and children may not appear undernourished. However, stunting indicates impairment to both physical and cognitive development, which can have lifetime consequences for a person’s health, educational attainment and economic productivity. Alarmingly, the proportion of wasted children (suffering acute weight loss) actually went up in the second half of the 2000s,” the report added. It cited that growth has lifted millions out of poverty but it has also been largely unequal, with the benefits accruing to a small segment of the population.
The report quoted PM Manmohan Singh, who recently referred to under nutrition levels as a “matter of national shame” with enormous costs in terms of health, well-being and economic development.
Save the Children recommends that countries revising or drafting nutrition plans should include national and sub-national targets for improving nutrition and reducing stunting.
This year has been a critical year for action on nutrition. In May, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on maternal, infant and young child nutrition, including a target to reduce the number of stunted kids by 40% by 2025.
The Times of India, September 21, 2012
Posted on: September 21, 2012
By Manu P Toms
The DICCI SME Fund, a venture capital fund initiated by the Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (DICCI) to aid entrepreneurial ventures by people from disadvantaged sections of society, is likely to be operational soon.
The Rs. 500 crore-fund expects to raise money from banks and high networth individuals, said Prasad Dahapute, MD of Varhad Capital, which manages the fund. Varhad Capital has applied for registration under the new alternative investment fund of the Securities and Exchange Board of India and awaits approval.
This fund for Dalit entrepreneurs follows the new public procurement policy of the government which mandates that 4% of all procurement by public sector undertakings and government departments must be from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) owned by scheduled caste and scheduled tribe entrepreneurs.
According to Dahapute, the procurement by 40 central government departments is about Rs. 100,000 crore.
“Procurement by the five maharatna PSUs alone is several thousands of crores. There are 15 navaratna and 68 miniratna PSUs. The 4% mandatory procurement from Dalit and Adivasi entrepreneurs will be around Rs. 7,000-8,000 crore.”
Hindustan Times, September 16, 2012
Posted on: September 16, 2012
By Syed Rizwanullah
AURANGABAD: Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia said on Saturday that poverty was the violation of basic human rights and that concerted and systematic efforts were needed to tackle the issue.
He expressed the view while delivering a lecture on Constitutional ethics, organised jointly by the Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University (Bamu) and V R Savant Memorial Trust. Bombay high court Chief Justice Mohit Shah presided over the function held on the Bamu campus.
Kapadia underlined the need to introduce the study of the Constitution as a subject in schools and said that everyone should read and follow the Constitution.
He said that the tendency to expect everything from the government was a wrong approach. “We expect government to do so many things. Our population is over 120 crore and 40,000 children are born every minute. Of the total population, only 3% people pay personal income tax. Of these, 2% are salaried employees. Where do we have the resources to feed the population? In such a scenario, we must also speak of our duties while taking about our rights,” he said. He said many people were unaware of their rights and duties. Both these things have to go together, he said.
Kapadia said he has to consult the Constitution each day at the Supreme Court. “The more I read it, the belief in it and the respect towards its architect B R Ambedkar is strengthened. I owe my growth and the present position as the Chief Justice of India to the Constitution,” he said.
“I belong to a minuscule minority and I firmly believe that in no other country than India
would I have expected to become the chief justice. It happens only in India,” he said.
He urged students, lawyers and judges to pay more attention to acquiring knowledge, especially that of regulatory law. He urged judges and lawyers to learn economics, so that they are not misled.
Justice Shah said that the Constitution was not merely a legal document, but a living document. He urged judges to be fearless while delivering judgments. Fear of failure holds the keeper of public offices from taking decisions, he said. He also agreed with the suggestions that judges should deliver lectures for law students.
Justice Sharad Bobade, Justice (retd) Arvind Savant, vice-chancellor Vijay Pandharipande, school education minister Rajendra Darda, minister of higher education Rajesh Tope, Bamu registrar Dhanraj Mane and lawyer Pankaj Savant were also present on the occasion.
Earlier, Justices Kapadia and Shah paid tributes at the statue of B R Ambedkar on the university campus. They also unveiled a plaque to mark the construction of the building for the proposed department of postgraduate studies in law.
The Times of India, September 2, 2012
Posted on: September 3, 2012
India has the second highest percentage of underweight children below the age of five years, Health and Family Welfare Ministry told the Rajya Sabha today.
Referring to the World Health Statistics report 2012, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Sudip Bandyopadhyay said, “India stands second in the field of underweight children below the age of five years.”
In a written reply to a question, the Minister said that malnutrition is multidimensional and intergenerational which requires intervention through various ministries to address its many underlying causes in different stages of life cycle.
In reply to a separate question, he informed the House that pneumonia and diarrhoea are the leading causes of death among the children below five years of age.
“As per report Countdown to 2015, Pneumonia contributes to 11 per cent of deaths and diarrhoea accounts for another 11 per cent of total under-five deaths in India.”
For prevention and control of these diseases, he said awareness is being created amongst mothers on sanitation and hygiene and in the communities about causes and treatment of diarrhoea through health education.
“Antibiotics for treatment of pneumonia and dysentery are made available through the public health system,” Bandyopadhyay added.
To check high infant mortality rate, he said under the universal immunization program, various vaccines such as DPT, Measles and BCG are provided to children to protect them against diphtheria, pertussis, measles and tuberculosis.
He also tabled reports on steps taken by the government to decrease prevalence of malnutrition among children of various age groups and their impact.
A recent survey shows that in the 100 focus districts, the prevalence of child underweight has decreased from 53.1 per cent in 2002-04 to 42 per cent in 2011, the Ministry said.
Press Trust of India, August 21, 2012
Posted on: August 21, 2012
BAITADI: More than 65 per cent Dalits living in Baitadi’s Dasharath Chand Municipality are deprived of the basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, education and health facilities.
Dalit activists say that there are more than 180 Dalit families residing in Dasharath-1 alone are deprived of drinking water and electricity. Dalit rights activist Saraswati Nepali said that there are 5,500 Dalit families in 13 wards of the municipality and among them 65 per cent have a shelter while others are deprived of all basic needs.
She said that the only alternative for Dalits was to spend their life working on others’ farm as labourers. Dalits in the district have been working as haliyas for the rich people as well.
Nepali said that though the government declared the Haliyas free but only few haliyas have received identity cards and most of the them have been compelled to return to their old profession. “The declaration has stranded many haliyas as it was made without thinking of alternatives,” she added.
There are 4,436 haliyas in Baitadi alone as per the figures from the Peace and Reconstruction Ministry. Among them, only 301 have received identity cards.
The Himalayan, August 10, 2012
Posted on: August 10, 2012
By Andrew North
Deshraj reaches out for his mother’s breast as she balances him on her knees, sitting outside her low, mud-walled home.
The little boy cries, but with no strength.
Deshraj is two years old but barely larger than a newborn and crazed by hunger.
His hair is patchy, his eyes are sunken and his legs like twigs – he is so weak he can’t even walk.
But his mother turns him away; she has nothing left to give.
“We can’t get him to eat bread,” she says in an irritated tone, clearly annoyed at being asked questions, and walks away.
Deshraj is one of millions of Indian children suffering severe malnutrition, an enduring problem Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a “national shame”.
Yet despite supposedly spending billions of rupees on poverty and food-relief programmes – and during a period of sustained economic growth – the government has made only a dent in the problem.
It is estimated that one in four of the world’s malnourished children is in India, more even than in sub-Saharan Africa.
Weakened by hunger, they are more vulnerable to disease, with tens of thousands dying every year. Millions more will be physically and mentally stunted for life because they don’t get enough to eat in their crucial early years.
India has fallen in child development rankings, putting it behind poorer countries such as neighbouring Bangladesh or the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a new study by the Save the Children charity.
So when UK Prime Minister David Cameron hosts a summit this weekend on child malnutrition worldwide, India is one of the countries of greatest concern.
Yet this is hardly a new problem. India has been arguing over what to do about hunger and the poverty that underpins it for years – while its farms produce ever more food.
On paper there is already a multi-billion dollar network in place to look after children like Deshraj.
But too often, corruption and mismanagement mean it doesn’t work.
Deep in the so-called “hunger belt” of central India, Deshraj’s village, Markheda, has a government-subsidised food shop funded by the Public Distribution System (PDS).
It entitles every family living below the official poverty line to 35kg of grain or rice a month.
His extreme case is known too: he has been identified as one of 19 “dangerously malnourished” children in the village, making him eligible for emergency help from the local “nutrition rehabilitation centre” in the nearby town of Shivpuri.
But here it gets even more complicated.
“His family won’t agree to send him,” complains one of the health workers who suddenly arrive in the village while the BBC is there.
It is true that Deshraj’s mother does not appear overly concerned about his condition. Like most people here, she’s illiterate and doesn’t seem to understand many of the questions she is asked before walking away.
“Sometimes the mothers don’t know how best to look after their children,” says the health worker.
There are other boys and girls in this settlement of about 600 families who appear in better, although far from perfect, health.
But it’s questionable too how committed the local authorities are to helping remote villages like this.
Markheda’s residents are all tribals, on the bottom rung of India’s complicated social ladder and largely out of sight. No one would find this place by accident, a half-hour drive through scrub and forest from the nearest road.
Villagers say the government PDS store is usually closed. It just happens to be open when the BBC visits, but inside it is empty apart from a few small sacks of emergency food left in one corner.
“I can’t remember when we last saw someone from the government here,” says one villager.
And Om Prakash, the government team leader, admits they came to the village because “we wanted to see what you were doing”.
In another hut, Dineshi and her husband Brijmohan are still mourning their four-year-old son, Kalua, who died a few weeks ago.
“He got sick and stopped eating,” says Brijmohan.
“We’d taken him to the doctor once before but we couldn’t afford to go again and he got weaker and weaker.”
There is no doctor nearby, and they have no transport. The family’s only income is from selling baskets Brijmohan makes from tree saplings.
Blades of light pierce the gloom through holes in the thatched roof, catching their three-month-old son Mukesh as his mother Dineshi rocks him in a small hammock to relieve the thick summer heat.
He is still being breast-fed: the problems for children usually begin after six months, once they should start on solids.
The family gets food from the government PDS store, but sometimes “there’s not enough, or it’s bad quality”.
“We’re often hungry,” Brijmohan says.
But there are plenty of people committed to tackling the problem.
At the nutrition rehabilitation centre in Shivpuri, Dr Raj Kumar is checking on a two-year-old girl called Anjini, brought in about a week earlier weighing just 3.8kg.
Many children are born heavier than that. Anjini has also picked up TB and pneumonia – common conditions among malnourished kids.
She is still in a dire state, barely able to lift her stick-thin limbs, but with constant feeding at the centre she has put on weight.
Dr Kumar says she will survive, but “she will be stunted for life”.
Under pressure, India’s ruling coalition introduced a Food Security bill last year, supposed to enshrine the right to food for all. But no one is betting on when it will be passed amid the country’s current political deadlock.
And some critics say there is still not enough political will to tackle the hunger problem.
Other more free-market oriented voices argue that the whole approach of subsidising food and providing guarantees is wrong, simply creating a dependency culture.
Grain warehouse in Madhya Pradesh India has had yet another record harvest
What is really needed, suggests Arti Tivari from the nutrition centre, is for existing programmes to be “implemented properly and for people to do their jobs properly” – a polite way of saying that graft and corruption still infect the system.
It is a simple fact that no Indian child needs to go hungry.
A short drive from the nutrition centre is a massive grain warehouse, sacks of wheat piled nearly to the ceiling – part of a network of government food stores across the country.
For years now, India has been producing more food than it needs. Yet every year large quantities simply rot in these warehouses.
The situation is much better than a decade ago, insists government minister Sachin Pilot, whose portfolio is officially telecoms but who has become closely involved in food policy.
But he admits “it’s unacceptable having so many children with pot bellies and stick legs”.
India still has a very young population, and politicians often talk of this future “demographic dividend”.
But there will not be much of a dividend if so many Indian children continue to be held back and stunted in their first years of life.
BBC News, August 9, 2012
Posted on: August 9, 2012
By Mahendra Kumar Singh
NEW DELHI: In what could turn out to be its calling card for the 2014 general elections, the government is finalizing a Rs 7,000 crore scheme to give one mobile phone to every family living below the poverty line.
Sources in the PMO said the scheme—Har Hath Mein Phone—expected to be announced by PM Manmohan Singh on August 15, will not only aim to give away mobiles to around six million BPL households, but also provide 200 minutes of free local talk time.
Top government managers involved in formulating the scheme want to sell it as a major empowerment initiative of the UPA 2. While the move will ensure contact with the beneficiaries of welfare programmes worth thousands of crores, there is also a view the scheme will provide an opportunity for the UPA to open a direct line of communication with a sizable population that plays an active role in polls.
The scheme may be funded from the telecom department’s universal service obligation (USO) funds. According to a source, 50% of the cost is likely to come from the bidder who gets the right to provide the service and the remaining from the USO fund. The fund is meant to be used to meet USO aims by providing access to phone services to people in rural and remote areas at affordable prices. The resources for its implementation are raised through a service levy fixed at 5% of the adjusted gross revenue of all telecom service providers except the pure value added service providers like internet, voice mail, email etc.
According to estimates, the scheme will involve a monthly expenditure of Rs 100 per cellphone. The government is also exploring the possibility of getting service charges subsidized through competitive bidding.
The PMO is directly involved with the Planning Commission and telecom ministry in giving a final shape to the scheme. The government has already launched a national infrastructure initiative under the PM’s advisor Sam Pitroda that aims to link 2,50,000 panchayats across the country within 16 months through internet so that basic communication facilities can be provided to the rural masses.
The Times of India, August 8, 2012
Posted on: August 8, 2012
By Thomas Ponniah
Struggles against racism and discrimination get a lot of publicity when they are oriented in terms of white Northerners subordinating another group within or outside the Global North. The attention is predictable in light of the history of imperialism, the global political and economic power of North America and the European Union, and the racism experienced by various groups within those regions. The case of the Dalits in India—historically known in the USA and Canada as the “untouchables”—opens up the categories of discrimination to an integral analysis that includes caste, class and race. The Dalits understand that not only does the Global South need to prevent the encroachment of the Global North, but the South itself has to be decolonized internally: the difference within difference must be protected.
Historically, it is well known that India has been a prominent Southern country—not only in terms of its current economic eminence, but also in terms of its past political solidarity. The country has an admirable history of convening Third World liberation forces, as in the case of the 1955 Bandung conference. India has historically supported anti-racist causes as well, such as the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Yet, India, despite its anti-discrimination laws, affirmative action policies and social movements of Dalits and non-Dalits against casteism faces its own form of apartheid—though this is rarely recognized as such.
The Dalits are, quantitatively, the largest oppressed group in the world. There are over 200 million “untouchables” in South Asia and they are discriminated against in a variety of ways. The Dalits are relegated to the most menial jobs. Although it is technically illegal to discriminate against the Dalits, in practice the “Scheduled Castes,” their legal designation, are the group that suffers the harshest prejudice. Ninety per cent live as landless labourers in the rural areas and casual labour in the urban. They are reduced to the most demeaning forms of work such as cleaning and clearing human excreta by hand, carrying dead animals, and sweeping the streets. They are not permitted to marry across caste lines nor are they allowed to use the same wells, visit the same temples, or drink from the same cups at tea stalls. One half of the Dalits live below the poverty line, 90 per cent do not have access to sanitation and over 80 per cent of their children are not enrolled in primary education. As well the Dalit community has had to live in a constant state of fear due to threats from upper-caste militias. The Dalit situation embodies the violence of imperialism, not simply from North to South, but within the South itself.
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights interprets the situation of the Dalits as one of status subordination. Recognizing that they have been prevented from acting as equal members in social life, their solution is not merely a cultural or economic one, but a strategy of facilitating their members’ entry into society as citizens with equal rights to all other citizens. The policies proposed by the Dalits depend on state intervention. For example, they call for the consolidation of constitutional, legislative and administrative procedures including affirmative action programs to prevent and redress prejudice based on work and ancestry related to caste. They also seek a guarantee that all of the country’s human rights and judicial institutions will include representation from the Dalit community.
There is a historical precedent for this belief in the state: public recognition of the situation of the “untouchables” accelerated during India’s Independence struggle. It was precisely at the moment of assertion against British imperialism that the Dalit struggle emerged into public awareness. Thus their advance was made within the anti-imperialist call for an independent Indian state. The Dalits most recently emerged into prominence at the World Conference Against Racism held in South Africa in 2001. At that conference the Dalits aligned with various anti-discrimination forces in acknowledgement of their common local and global forms of subordination. The Dalit call for another, better world depends on decolonization—not only from the Northerner colonizer but from the decolonized South as well.
rabble.ca, August 8, 2012
Posted on: August 8, 2012
RANCHI: The state home department will launch a special website dedicated to tackle human trafficking. The website will have information of Acts and amendments along with the latest orders of courts.
Principal secretary home JB Tubid said trafficking has become a serious problem and the state government wanted to tackle it very effectively. “In our endeavour to effectively tackle the menace we are going to launch a website which will have all details which will be useful for victims, prosecutors and NGOs,” said Tubid at the concluding function of three-day training programme for lawyers on human trafficking from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh.
Speaking on the occasion, National University for Study and Research in Law (NUSRL) vice-chancellor AK Koul said the need of the hour is to break the nexus between police, politicians and administrative officials to tackle human trafficking.
Sharing his experience of a project in which he worked with Delhi police in red light areas, Koul said hundreds of trafficked girls from Nepal and Bangladesh were brought to the national capital by agents. “Out of every 10 girl that reach the red light area, six are taken to foreign countries. Delhi is just a transit point. During the project I also came to know that the officers of local police station are involved in the crime,” he said.
Koul said he came to know of a similar nexus of politicians and traffickers in a case in Uttar Pradesh. “I was surprised that the district magistrate was not willing to issue arrest warrant against the accused. When he finally issued the warrant only middlemen were arrested who were just scapegoats,” Koul added.
The VC, who had also practiced in the Supreme Court, criticized the Union government for not taking action against officials who are guilty of keeping trafficked girls as domestic help. “Recently an Indian Foreign Service officer posted in the US admitted before the court of law there that he had kept a trafficked girl as domestic help. I was surprise that the government did not take any action against the officer even after he admitted to the crime,” said Koul.
The Times of India, August 7, 2012
Posted on: August 7, 2012
By The Associated Press
SEHORE, India (AP) — It’s 43 degrees Celsius (110 F), and Prof. Anil Gupta has been hiking the scorched plains of central India for hours. But he smiles widely as he enters a tiny village in search of another unsung genius.
“If you have any new ideas or you have any new inventions, I’m here to promote you,” he tells farmers squatting beside a dusty roadside shrine to the Hindu god Shiva.
For more than two decades, Gupta has scoured rural India for its hidden innovations, motivated by the belief that the most powerful ideas for fighting poverty and hardship won’t come from corporate research labs, but from ordinary people struggling to survive.
Gupta and his aides have uncovered more than 25,000 inventions, from the bicycle-mounted crop sprayer to the electric paintbrush that never needs to be dipped in a paint can.
Many of the cheap, simple ideas he spreads for free from one poor village to another with the inventor’s blessing. Some he is working to bring to market, ensuring the innovator gets the credit and the profit that will spur others to create as well. Many ideas are simply documented in his database waiting for some investor to spot their potential. He routinely dispenses tiny grants, either from a government fund or his own web of organizations, to help poor innovators finish their projects.
The 59-year-old management professor with a thick graying beard reminiscent of an ascetic holy man says he gets no financial benefit from his finds, reveling instead, with almost childlike joy, in the process of discovery itself.
“Every time we walk in a place we discover a solution that we would not have imagined, and we find that eagerness,” he said.
Many finds focus on agriculture: a more productive strain of peppers, a makeshift seat that lets coconut harvesters rest high up in trees, a hollow spear that pierces a hole in a field and drops in a seed.
There are traditional herbal medicines for cracked heels and sore muscles, stoves and engines modified to be more efficient, and a rice cleaner designed by a 13-year-old after he watched his mother wearily picking pebbles from yet another sack of grain.
And there are the eyebrow-raisers: the washing machine mounted on the back of a scooter and powered by its engine, the bulletproof vest packed with herbs that absorb the concussive force of the bullet, the amphibious bicycle.
Gupta has received the Padma Shri, one of the Indian government’s top honors. He works with India’s president to fete the innovators. He helped found the government-sponsored National Innovation Foundation, routinely addresses top business conferences and recently linked up with one of India’s largest retailers, Future Group, to bring some of the most promising finds to market.
Consumers will be attracted to the products — everything from all-natural cookies to a toothbrush that adds its own toothpaste — because the profits go to a good cause and because of the subtle simplicity of the inventions, said Ashni Biyani, a top Future Group executive.
“These are ideas that are rooted within the context of India,” she said.
Gupta’s explorations have boosted inventors throughout rural India who, much like the “mad” uncles tinkering away in garages around the world, are dismissed as nuts by their neighbors until he arrives and declares them geniuses.
Take Nattubhai Vader, a farmer from the state of Gujarat, who watched women and children harvesting an especially troublesome variety of cotton and figured there had to be a better way.
Vader designed and then obsessively tweaked a massive apparatus of spinning rubber hoses and vacuums that fits over a tractor and can pick as much cotton in one hour as 10 people can in two days, he said.
He sank more than $20,000 into the harvester before his wife threatened to divorce him if he didn’t save the family’s remaining money for their kids’ education. A few years later, Gupta found Vader, gave him the funding to restart and now plans to bring in a team of engineering students to refine it.
At the heart of Gupta’s mission are his grueling weeklong Shodh Yatras, consisting of 20 kilometer (12 mile) daily hikes in the searing summer and frigid winter, nights spent sleeping in school courtyards, meals of watery lentils. The idea is to scare off uncommitted “tourists” and give participants a taste of peasant life.
“Your eyes will open and you will see things you’ve never seen before,” Akash Badave, a 23-year-old preparing to be rural administrator, says Gupta told him before the first of his three Shodh Yatras. “And that was the case.”
On one recent trek along parched hillsides in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, Gupta was accompanied by dozens of followers: young urbanites curious about rural poverty, an engineer who came to find herself, a team of inventors he collected from his previous journeys.
He began the hike after arriving on an overnight flight from China, marched in rubber sandals, drank little water despite the heat and even fasted for a day.
His arrival at a village rarely visited by outsiders was an event akin to the circus coming to town.
He handed out colorful magazines and pamphlets showing farmers how to make natural pesticides out of local plants, to treat cattle diseases with spice mixtures, to prolong the life of their water pump by sticking an old tire under the handle. And he appealed to them to come up with ideas of their own.
“Solutions to our problems are not so scarce,” he declared.
As an example, he introduced Amrit Agrawat who more than two decades ago was watching women in his village struggle to pull heavy water buckets from a well. Agrawat made a pulley with an automatic brake so the women could rest without the bucket plunging back down. It costs $7.
Wonderful, one man said, “now my wife can answer her cellphone while she gets water.”
Agrawat has sold 5,000 of his pulleys, but donated one to each village along the way and encouraged the farmers to copy it for themselves.
In Dhaboti, Gupta was escorted through the streets by a drummer calling out the villagers, Murali Dar, 80, hobbled over on a cane, holding twigs from a tree. A powder made from these can cure a fever, he said. Another man brought herbs to cure jaundice, yet another a wild lemon for animal cramps.
Kanhiaya Lal, 62, brought branches he uses to make an antidote for snake bites.
“If I die, the secret will die with me of how to cure people,” he said.
The offerings were documented by assistants with notebooks. Then, in a simple ceremony that reduced its participants to silent awe, Gupta gave each man a certificate and draped a shawl on his shoulders.
In the village of Moghra, a truck halted in a cloud of dust in the courtyard where Gupta and his team had spent the night. Abdul Rahim Khan had rushed over when his brother told him of the arrival of a man who might finally appreciate his work.
The farmer unloaded a miniature cotton gin that cost less than $4 to make and saved 10 times as much each year in processing fees. “A very good idea,” Gupta pronounced. Next was a wooden fodder cutter he made for a fraction the cost of the metal ones on the market.
Any more ideas? Gupta asked.
Khan had been toying with a design for a more efficient soybean harvester, but he didn’t have the 8,000 rupees ($150) for a prototype, he said.
Gupta promised him the money.
Khan’s obsessions had made him an object of ridicule. Now, “I’m feeling very happy that someone has recognized my ideas and is trying to take it forward,” he said.
Gupta was pleased as well. Out-of-the-box thinkers need to be encouraged, not insulted, he said.
Gupta insisted every one of his 29 treks had yielded innovations. If the men didn’t bring him inventions, he called on the women to bring recipes — “chemistry,” he said. He interviewed every centenarian he met, documenting their secrets of longevity and dismissing doubts they may not be anywhere near as old as they claimed.
He carried a spoon and small plastic bags to dig up dirt — “microbial memories” — for later analysis, and photographed anything that caught his eye, such as an interesting paint job.
Gupta ran excitedly to a field being plowed and stepped through a barbed wire fence. He had heard tractor owners in the area were filling their tires with water to make them heavier for digging into the hard soil.
He located Ghanshayam Yadav, the man credited with having the idea in 2004. Farmers were having trouble plowing the increasingly dense fields and the tractor company was charging 10,000 rupees ($180) for 80 kilogram (175-pound) weights, Yadav said. Instead, he pumped 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of water into the tires for just 200 rupees ($4).
Cheaper, better, longer lasting, more efficient. “This is an amazing experiment,” Gupta said. He gave Yadav a shawl.
Gupta’s most successful finds include more productive varieties of rice, wheat and other crops that have been widely adopted. He has licensed out pest control mixtures, pet medicines and a psoriasis cream and is looking for partners to market crop growth promoters, a treatment for animal diarrhea and a natural mosquito repellant.
His team helped A. Muruganantham sell hundreds of his machines for making cheap sanitary napkins from wood fiber. And he takes pride in his most successful discovery, Mansukhbhai Prajapati, a once struggling potter who parlayed a clay refrigerator that cools by evaporation into a kitchenware company employing 30 people.
Gupta began as a bank loan officer before working in the 1980s with farmers in Bangladesh, where he was amazed at the creativity of the poor.
When he came home to India, he dedicated himself to fostering that creativity and ensuring poor innovators got properly compensated. He founded his Honeybee Network in the 1980s to connect people and ideas, lobbied the government to create the National Innovation Foundation and set up a network of related organizations to encourage inventors. He soon began touring rural India searching for inventors and spreading ideas.
“Before he came we never really thought about innovation,” farmer Hari Singh, 85, said after Gupta presented ideas for harvesting rainwater and making a natural pesticide with local leaves that animals shy away from. His son Kunwar said he was inspired to develop experiments of his own.
Gupta dreams his ideas will expand beyond India’s borders, with treks for knowledge spreading to the unexplored corners of the globe.
For now he presses on, jumping over a ditch in a dried up lake bed on his way to the next village.
“There’s so much to see,” he says. “You would need several lifetimes.”
Websites relating to Indian innovation:
Gupta’s talk for the nonprofit TED organization: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHk9YVjhk7c
NPR, July 29, 2012
Posted on: July 29, 2012
By Himanshu Kaushik
AHMEDABAD: Disasters are known to unite people and the centipede attack in Lavad village is nothing short of a calamity for its folk. But there is a bright side to this unnerving situation: the village where crawlies struck, and where caste and gender discrimination were rampant, has today buried its differences and the people are united in the face of the hundred-legged adversity.
Villagers who would not share water are now sharing rice, dal and ladoos prepared in a community kitchen, operational for the past three days. The sole primary school in Lavad has declared mid-term vacation and nearly half its 6,000 population has migrated due to insects invading kitchens, homes, schools and fields.
People forced out of their homes were living in open areas until fear of animal attacks made them join hands and start a community kitchen. A decorator erected a make-shift kitchen and gave required utensils free to the villagers.
“Usually, men here are never seen in kitchens, or cleaning utensils, but today women are cooking while men are doing the dishes,” said Fatehsinh Chauhan, a villager.
Folk from areas like Rawal-vaas and Harijan-vaas – names suggesting segregation – have been having their meals with upper caste people in the community kitchen. And nobody seems to mind.
“Even paan shops have been forced to operate from a tractor. Many people prefer to sleep on tractors rather than on the ground,” said Jagatsinh Chauhan, another villager.
“In this crisis, the entire village is united. It’s becoming difficult to stay in the house and hence people are staying away from the village. Meanwhile, the villagers are trying to hold fort by sprinkling tobacco powder to keep the insects away,” said Chandrasinh Solanki, another villager.
Ushaben Chavan, the village sarpanch, said a team of government officials visited Lavad, but they too have not been able to solve the menace. “They are asking us to sprinkle tobacco which we have been doing regularly,” she said.
Times of India, July 24, 2012
Posted on: July 24, 2012
The Moga administration has ordered an inquiry into the drinking water shortage being faced by Dalits in Mehna village of district Moga for the last few days. On July 18, HT had reported the issue and how the water supply and sanitation department was ignoring the plea of more than 1,200 Dalit residents of Mehna for regular water supply and repair of pipes, which were leaking at various places.
Deputy commissioner Arshdeep Singh Thind said senior officials of water supply and sanitation department visited Mehna on Thursday and found that water supply connections were not given according to the rules.
“The officials told me that the problem in the Dalit localities will be solved in the next two days,” Thind said. “I have made it clear to the officials concerned that if any employee was found guilty in this matter, the administration will not spare him.”
Mehna sarpanch Harpal Singh said the gram panchayat and the water supply department had assured the villagers that drinking water would be provided to them. “But we also told the villagers that if they want water supply, they should clear their pending bills soon.” he said.
“The pipes will be repaired soon, but the administration will not allow wastage of water,” Thind said. “The common water supply points will be covered by taps and illegal pumps will be removed immediately.”
The deputy commissioner said a few days ago the main pipe of the waterworks had broken.
“Due to this water supply was affected for some time,” he said. “Now I have ordered the department concerned to ensure that drinking water was available regularly in the village in the next two days.”
Posted on: July 21, 2012
Madhya Pradesh Council of Employment and Training (MAPCET) has blueprinted a programme to impart self-employment training to 2000 students belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the state. Free of cost lodging facility will also be made available to selected candidates during the training at Mumbai, Bhopal, Indore, Dewas and Aurangabad. Applications for training can be submitted till August 5, officials said.
Training in garment manufacturing industry will be imparted to 1000 youths at Indore while arrangements have been made here for training in computer repairing, networking, advance animation and film-making. Training in computer repairing will be imparted to 174 scheduled caste and 116 tribal youths, they added.
Arrangements have been made to impart training in tourism sector to 210 youths. Training will be imparted to 100 youths at Central Institute of Plastic Engineering (CIPET) at Bhopal and 200 youths at Tata Leather Shoe and garment manufacturing at Dewas.
Arrangements have been made for training of 200 youths at Indo-German Tool-room at Indore and Aurangabad with a view to helping them get jobs in automobile industry.
All the trainings are free of cost. Lodging and hostel facility during the training period will also be free of cost. For details, candidates can contact office of the MAPCET, Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, Shymala Hills, Bhopal or phone number 0755-2661215, officials said.
The Times of India, July 21, 2012
Posted on: July 21, 2012
By Rupa Viswanath
A commission led by S.K. Thorat, and charged with reviewing NCERT political science textbooks in the wake of the cartoon controversy, has singled out a specific word in the text for removal. All instances of the word “Dalit”, it is recommended, should be replaced with “Scheduled Caste” (SC). The blogosphere is rife with speculation on the motivation for this move, and with heated debate on the politics of naming that attend the terms to identify these members of Indian society: from untouchable to Harijan to Dalit. But there is a more prosaic matter that should first concern us here: accuracy.
“SC” and “Dalit” simply refer to different sets of people. Where “Dalit” refers to all those Indians, past and present, traditionally regarded as outcasts and untouchable, “SC” is a modern governmental category that explicitly excludes Christian and Muslim Dalits. For the current version of the President’s Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, which tells us who will count as SC for the purposes of constitutional and legal protections, is entirely unambiguous: “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.”
This was not always the case. The SC category was first created in 1931 to specify a subcategory of the “depressed classes” — a portmanteau term that referred to “untouchables” most often, but in British colonial usage also included those who were then called “hill tribes” and “criminal tribes”— who were to be listed, or “scheduled” as the beneficiaries of more comprehensive state provisions. The British made welfare provisions for all castes traditionally treated as untouchable, irrespective of whether those castes chose to call themselves Hindu or to follow Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. It was only under Congress rule, in 1950, that the President’s Order redefined SC on the basis of religious criteria. From that point onwards, Dalits who had converted out of Hinduism lost not only reservations, but also, after 1989, protection under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Later, SC was expanded to include Sikh and Buddhist Dalits, but official discrimination against Muslim and Christian Dalits remains.
As students of colonial history know, Dalit mobilisation in the pre-Independence decades caused considerable anxiety among India’s upper-caste nationalist establishment. Were Dalits a distinct group? Were caste Hindus their natural leaders? The response to these questions, embraced by elites of every political stripe, and best exemplified by the Gandhian programme, was to insist on the Dalits’ Hindu identity — even as Dalits from across the country denied just that. The adoption of the term “Harijan” epitomises this political move by seeking to represent Dalits as a disadvantaged population within the Hindu fold, and not the victims of systematic and society-wide discrimination. The President’s Order of 1950 completes this political project administratively by limiting welfare and reservations programmes to those who have remained faithful to what Indian personal law defines as their default religion, Hinduism.
After half a century of struggle against this injustice, a major moral victory was achieved by Dalit activists when the Ranganath Mishra Commission Report (2007) officially admitted — in light of overwhelming social scientific evidence and testimony — that Christian and Muslim Dalits suffer the same forms of discrimination as their Hindu counterparts. Recognising that Dalits do not cease to be Dalits when they convert to another religion, the committee recommended that the official discrimination against Christian and Muslims Dalits be ended by restoring to them, without delay, their SC status. However, this moral victory remains a dead letter. Half a decade has passed and the commission’s recommendation continues to be ignored by the Congress leadership, and by politicians across the spectrum.
Until the Mishra Commission is implemented, the equation of Dalit and SC is false. In the Class X textbook, students are informed that “In our country Dalits tend to be poor and landless.” Rewriting “Dalit” as “SC” in this case, as the Thorat committee recommends, would imply that Dalit converts have escaped deprivation, and literally erases Christian and Muslim Dalits from the pages of history.
Of course, it matters that some prefer the connotations of Dalit to SC, that Dalit is the only name to have originated from members of these groups, and so on. And yet Dalits can be found who will agree or disagree with any term one can think of, including “Dalit”. The fact remains, however, that “Dalit” is the only term currently available that can refer accurately to what the textbook itself defines as “those that were previously regarded as ‘outcaste’ and subjected to exclusion and untouchability”. Discrimination against Dalits spans all religious communities. It is not a Hindu problem, it is an Indian problem. By adopting language that excludes Christian and Muslim Dalits, the proposed textbook whitewashes this reality.
The Indian Express, July 13, 2012
Posted on: July 13, 2012
By Sara Sidner and Harmeet Shah Singh
Shazadi, a mother of six, scrubs her thin steel dishes as hard as she can with as little water as she can. The only way she gets water is by filling up heavy buckets from a neighborhood spigot and lugging them home.
But once she gets it home she worries whether it is even safe to drink.
“We get sick two to three times per month,” Shazadi said. “I cannot afford bottled water.”
Her seven-year-old daughter, Moazmin, smiles and waves at us. She wants to play but isn’t feeling good.
“My stomach aches and gurgles,” she said, before talking about the many times she has been to the hospital. She made clear she was not fond of the injection she is often given there.
There are about 100,000 people living in this neighborhood on New Delhi’s outskirts. None of them has ever had water piped into their homes.
Instead the government turns on one tap three times a day. This is how the vast majority of the neighborhood gets access to water.
People line up to fill their bottles and buckets, and children take showers under the flowing water. The tap juts out inches from a drain littered with garbage and sewage and clumps of bright green algae.
There are a few people in the area who have installed ground water pumps, but these are illegal.
Some others get their drinking water from Prakash Sahoo. He has made a business of providing water to residents and businesses. He rides his bicycle around the neighborhood every day in the baking hot sun, making five or six trips to fill a large water container strapped to the back of his bike. He is pouring with sweat as he makes his deliveries.
“There is no sanitation here, just so many complaints. So I thought: ‘Let me get a water filter and supply clean water to these people, in order to help them and make some money’,” Sahoo said.
He charges 10 rupees—about 18 cents—per container, a price business owners but few others can afford to pay, as most in the neighborhood make less than $2 a day.
Getting clean water to drink is a struggle every day of their lives.
India’s government has long fought to provide enough clean drinking water for the masses.
The country has 18 percent of the world’s population but only 4 percent of the world’s renewable water sources. And demand is growing.
At the same time major problems with leaks and pollution strip away the supply further.
T.M. Vijay Bhaskar, an official with India’s department of drinking water and sanitation, said rural India has a whole range of issues depleting its water.
“Because rural drinking water is dependent on ground water, ground water levels are going down because of exploitation by irrigation, by farmers and by industries, we are forced to drill deeper and deeper for drinking water,” he told CNN.
“And as we go deeper and deeper we find more and more contaminants. It may be arsenic. It may be fluoride. Now we are finding nitrate, iron, and salinity. Uranium is also involved in some places.”
India has put in place a national river conservation plan aimed at pollution abatement in its rivers. That plan includes interception, diversion and treatment of sewage, low-cost sanitation works on riverbanks, and electric or improved wood crematoria for funerals.
Authorities admit India is facing what they call “water stress” because of urbanization, industrialization and rising population.
According to the 2011 census, the nation’s per capita water availability stands at 1,545 cubic meters, down from 1,816 cubic meters in the 2001 population count.
This year an acute water shortage hit the capital, New Delhi. The city relies on other states for much of its water supply but has found itself in a tug of war to get it because other states are dealing with shortages too.
There are still entire neighborhoods in the city where large trucks bring in the only water supply.
Thirsty crowds emerge as soon as the truck becomes visible. Mother Bimla fills as large a bucket as possible because the truck only comes to her neighborhood three times a week.
Underneath the water truck children squat to put little buckets which collect the drops of water spilling from the undercarriage.
“At times there are scuffles and we have to return empty handed,” said Bimla.
When every drop of water matters, the fight for it is ultimately a fight for survival.
CNN, July 12, 2012
Posted on: July 12, 2012
By Shobhan Saxena
Making a strong pitch for removing poverty in India and reminding the developed world of its commitment to sustainable development, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday called for setting up a global system that allows each country to develop according to its own priorities.
“For developing countries, inclusive growth and a rapid increase in per capita income levels are development imperatives,” the Prime Minister said in his address to more than 100 world leaders at the UN summit on sustainable development, popularly known as Rio+20.
In a brief but focused address to the gathering that included Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, the Indian Prime Minister reminded the developed country the commitments they made 20 years ago. “The 1992 Rio Summit correctly acknowledged that poverty eradication must remain the over-riding priority for developing countries. Those living at the subsistence level cannot bear the costs of adjustment and their livelihood considerations are important in determining how scarce natural resources such as land, water and forests are used,” Manmohan Singh. “Moreover, current consumption patterns in the industrialized world are unsustainable. We need to find new pathways for sustainable living,” said the Indian leader, who was invited to speak by Rousseff amid a loud applause.
In the past 24 hours, since the summit was kicked-off, the leaders of Brazil, India and China have raised the same issues and used identical language in their support to eradicating poverty. “The outcome document clearly recognizes poverty eradication as the greatest global challenge. In doing so, it places this squarely at the centre of the global development agenda,” India’s environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan said while addressing a group of Indian mediapersons. “We have also recognized green economy as one of the means to sustainable development and poverty eradication, and have firmly rejected unilateral measures and trade barriers under the guise of green economy,” the minister added.
On India’s stance on green economy, the Indian minister left nothing to imagination with her scathing criticism of rich nations. “When we talk of the green economy, India is committed to a green world economy but, I must hasten to add, a real green economy—not a green washed greed economy,” Natarajan said.
On Thursday, going along with the spirit of the conference, where the developing nations have managed to keep focus on poverty despite enormous pressure from the developed nations to give more priority to green economy, the Indian Prime Minister said the problem should be guided by equitable burden sharing. “It is for this reason that the first Rio Summit enshrined the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. I am happy we have reaffirmed this principle as well as the principle of equity during this summit,” the Prime Minister said.
Unlike the Chinese premier, who in his address on Thursday pledged to give $6 million to a United Nations Environment Program fund for work in developing countries with environmental protection and another 200 million yuan for a project to help small island countries, least developed countries and African countries tackle climate change, Manmohan Singh didn’t make any announcement on funding.
However, the Prime Minister did address the issue of financing the green economy projects, something that caused a wedge between the developed nations and G-77 countries led by India, China and Brazil during the drafting of the text ‘The Future We Want’, which will be adopted by the summit tomorrow. “Many countries could do more if additional finance and technology were available. Unfortunately, there is little evidence of support from the industrialised countries in these areas. The ongoing economic crisis has made matters worse,” the Prime Minister said, again reminding the rich nations to pitch in more for sustainable development without pressuring the developing countries to adopt green economy.
Earlier, speaking at the opening of the meeting, President Rousseff too had asked the developed countries to fulfill the promises of financing of sustainable development objectives 20 years ago in Rio 92. The Brazilian President defended the text presented and approved by the Brazilian delegation on Tuesday and said it was necessary that the world leaders deem most courageous steps to achieve the goals of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection, and stressed that “time is the resource the highest lack”.
The Times of India, June 22, 2012
Posted on: June 22, 2012
By Jim Yardley
Men and women here in India’s largest city, a congested, humanity-soaked metropolis of roughly 20 million residents, would seem bound by at least one common misery: far too many people sharing far too few toilets.
But there is a difference — unlike men, women often have to pay to urinate. So for months, social advocates like Minu Gandhi have canvassed the city, arguing that this disparity amounts to blatant discrimination and asking women to start demanding a right most of them had never contemplated: the Right to Pee.
“We all feel this is a basic civic right,” Ms. Gandhi said, “a human right.”
India has long had a sanitation problem. Recent census data found that more than half of Indian households lacked a toilet, a rate that has actually worsened in the past decade despite India’s growing wealth, as slums and other substandard housing have proliferated in growing cities. Yet what is unique about the so-called Right to Pee campaign — whose catchy title was coined by the Mumbai media and which now appears to be on the verge of achieving some of its goals — is the argument that the bathroom in India is governed by a double standard.
Like men, women in villages often must urinate outdoors, in fields. But unlike them, they sometimes endure taunting and even sexual assault. Many rural women relieve themselves in small groups, before dawn, to protect against harassment.
In Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, millions of people depend on public toilets, which are usually in dark and filthy buildings that operate as male-controlled outposts. The municipal government provides 5,993 public toilets for men, compared with only 3,536 for women. Men have an additional 2,466 urinals. (A 2009 study found an even greater imbalance in New Delhi, the national capital, with 1,534 public toilets for men and 132 for women.)
Almost always, a male attendant oversees these toilets, collecting fees. Petty corruption is rampant in India, and public toilets are no exception: Men must pay to use a toilet but can use urinals free (based on the premise that urinals, usually just a wall and a drainage trench, do not need water). But women are regularly charged to urinate, despite regulations saying they should not be.
“Even if you say you are only urinating, they say, ‘How do we know?’ ” said Yagna Parmar, another social activist involved in the campaign. “So they ask for money.”
At the northern rim of the city, inside a slum known as Shivaji Nagar, at least 350,000 people — perhaps twice that many by some estimates — live pressed together beside one of the city’s largest dumps. The exact number of public toilets is unclear but, by one estimate, the ratio is no better than 1 toilet for every 300 people. Women must adapt their daily routines: Many visit the bathroom early in the morning to avoid lines and leering. They avoid drinking much water. And they carry change.
On a recent broiling morning, Mohammad Nasibul Ansari sat at the counter in front of a decrepit public toilet, gripping 10 rupee notes in his hand. A salaried attendant, Mr. Ansari said he did not charge anyone in the neighborhood — only outsiders — yet even as he spoke, a local woman walked up, wordlessly placed a 2 rupee coin on the counter and stepped into the women’s side of the small building.
“We’re just poor people,” Mr. Ansari said. “We have to take care of our families.”
Mr. Ansari said the city government provided no money for maintenance and that he collected about 1,200 rupees, or $22, every day in toilet usage fees, from which he paid for electricity, water and cleaning. Yet inside, there was little evidence of cleaning or water. Cobwebs dangled from the ceiling; dirt and dried spit smeared the walls and floor. The ceramic squat toilets were stained and squalid. The stench was overwhelming.
“Do you really think what they are saying is true?” Usha Deshmukh, one of the Right to Pee advocates, derisively asked later. “They are cheating. They are eating all the money.”
Separately, a miniscandal erupted in New Delhi last week when it was disclosed that the country’s Planning Commission had spent roughly $54,000 to refurbish its toilets. Reflecting the sensitivity in India over the issue, at least one critic argued that the money could have been better spent on public toilets.
The campaign began last year when a coalition of social advocates gathered from around the state of Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai. Organizers in each city chose different issues, including domestic violence and equal access to water. The Mumbai group considered campaigns on housing, water or sanitation — all big problems in the city — before deciding on the Right to Pee.
“Initially, this was considered a little frivolous,” said Mumtaz Sheikh, one of the organizers. “But we told people, ‘No, this is an important issue, and we want to work on it.’ ”
Ms. Sheikh and other advocates saw an opportunity to raise awareness among women. Women now constitute almost half the city’s work force, yet many of them work in jobs with no access to a toilet. In various parts of the city, including slums, activists have gone door to door, collecting more than 50,000 signatures supporting their demands that the local government stop charging women to urinate, build more toilets, keep them clean, provide sanitary napkins and a trash can, and hire female attendants.
Dr. Kamaxi Bhati, a physician and a researcher, linked the toilet situation in Mumbai directly to female health problems, especially a high incidence of urinary tract and bladder infections. Dr. Bhati said drinking water was vital to stave off such infections, yet many women tried to reduce water intake to limit how often they had to urinate. Not drinking enough water is doubly dangerous, given that temperatures can reach triple digits in Mumbai.
“It’s the responsibility of the government to provide toilets,” she said. “Suppose my child has diarrhea. What do I do if I can’t pay?”
Municipal officials were willing to release statistics on the number of public toilets in the city but otherwise refused to comment on the issue, despite scores of requests made to three city departments.
The toilet fees might be considered nominal, ranging from 2 to 5 rupees (about 4 to 9 cents). Yet in India, the poverty line is so low that the government recently defined the urban poor as those living on less than 29 rupees a day.
“It’s expensive for me,” Shubhangi Gamre said of the cost to visit the toilet. She lives in Shivaji Nagar and earns about $27 a month working in a tiny drugstore. “It cuts into our food money. How can we afford everything?”
Perhaps the months of canvassing and campaigning will pay off. Last week, social advocates met with city officials who told them of new plans to build hundreds of public toilets for women across the city. Some local legislators are now vowing to build toilets for women in every one of their districts.
Nothing is official yet, and promises often do not become reality in Indian politics. But the activists feel momentum is now in their favor.
“Of course it’s a good feeling,” said Supriya Sonar, a member of the campaign, saying that the Right to Pee group is now lobbying for women to be hired in the proposed projects. “Our actual work starts now.”
The New York Times, June 14, 2012
Posted on: June 14, 2012
By D Madhavan
Eight workers, including two children, belonging to three dalit families were rescued on Thursday from a farm near Arakkonam where they were said to be working as bonded labourers.
On a tip-off from the International Justice Mission (IJM), which works on rescue and rehabilitation of bonded workers, a team of revenue officials, police, a doctor and IJM members made a surprise check on the 20-acre-farm in Ambarishapuram village around 11am.
Officials said they saw signs of physical abuse on a few workers and all were under-nourished. After an inquiry on the farm’s labour practices, the eight were issued certificates — which identifies them as victims of bonded labour and entitles them to government rehabilitation funds of Rs 20,000 a person. “The raid followed instructions from Vellore collector Ajay Yadav,” said Ranipet revenue divisional officer in-charge G Kumar.
Twelve years ago, officials said, one of the workers borrowed Rs 30,000 for his daughter’s marriage from the farm owner but couldn’t repay it. Since then, he, his family and relatives have been bonded labourers. They were put in two tiny rooms without ventilation and forced to work 15-18 hours a day in fields. There were no basic amenities and they were each paid Rs 8 a day against the mandatory Rs 113.50 a day under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. They weren’t allowed to go outside the farm either.
“Last week, one worker, Chinna (33), was beaten by the farm owner and has been missing since then,” said P Ramaswamy (58), one of those rescued.
The Times of India, June 8, 2012
Posted on: June 8, 2012
By Kalpana Sharma
In South Mumbai’s upscale Malabar Hill, a neighbourhood of 6,000 people share 52 toilets, 26 for men and 26 for women. That works out to around 115 people per toilet. Nearby live some of the oldest and richest families of the city with homes where one person may have a choice of many toilets.
But this is Simla Nagar, where 720 households are precariously perched on a not so wealthy slope of Malabar Hill. The path to the two-storey toilet block in the slum is like an obstacle race that only the able can undertake. Depending on which part of the slum you live in, it can take you anything from five to 20 minutes to reach the toilets. On the way you climb steep, uneven steps, walk uphill through narrow lanes barely four feet wide that are slippery with soapy water as scores of women wash clothes and utensils, then downhill through equally treacherous lanes to finally reach the destination.
If you get there before 10 a.m., you are lucky. There is water in the taps; hence the toilets are reasonably clean. If you wait longer, the water stops; you carry your own mug of water, just enough for your personal needs but not enough to flush the toilet. By mid-afternoon, all 52 toilets are rendered unusable. People wait in resignation till the evening when the toilets are cleaned. At night, although the toilets are lit, the path leading to them is not.
Some enterprising people have built their own toilets inside their tiny homes. But there is no sewerage. So the waste pipe dumps the human waste in the open drain outside. If you are the unfortunate neighbour of one of these inventive souls, you live with the stench and the flies and mosquitoes. No one complains. You just curse your luck that you do not have the resources, or the space, to copy your neighbour.
For old people, especially old women, getting to the toilet is virtually impossible unless your jhopdi is next door. And children? Mothers say they use the open drain. Who has the time to drop everything and run with the child to the toilet?
So Bill Gates’ idea to launch a global quest to “reinvent the toilet” is certainly timely. India has been given the singular honour of hosting the “Reinventing the toilet” summit in 2013. Very appropriate given over 60 per cent of Indians are forced to defecate in the open because they have no access to toilets. If nothing else, the conference will draw necessary global attention to a problem that is often relegated to the bottom of the endless list of challenges poor countries face.
Technological innovations are needed as in rural areas, and even in some towns, where capital-intensive underground sewerage systems might not be feasible. Also flush toilets waste too much water and are unsustainable given the growing scarcity of water. But coming up with new ideas for toilets should not be rocket science. As Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh stated recently, “We can launch missiles like Agni and satellites but we cannot provide sanitation to our women.”
The real challenge for India is dealing with the sanitation needs of cities and towns, particularly the areas where the urban poor live. Having failed spectacularly all these years to provide affordable housing in cities — Mumbai is now constantly referred to as “Slumbai” — the least governments can do is to put the sanitation challenge within slum settlements top of their list of priorities.
In cities like Mumbai, the problem is partly compounded by the carrot of redevelopment that is dangled before many notified or regularised slums such as Simla Nagar. Because they are designated for redevelopment at some future date, not much attention is paid to their immediate needs. As a result, you have toilets that are nowhere near enough for the colony, yet new toilets will not be built. And you have a water supply that comes for just four hours every evening thereby making the hand-flush toilets unusable for a significant part of the day. Appeals to augment the supply fall on deaf ears. In the end, not out of choice but out of compulsion, many residents of such slums are compelled to defecate in the open at the cost of their own sense of dignity.
There have been efforts, often half-hearted. Funds are allocated but lie unused for years because no one really cares. And the majority of toilet schemes in slums fail for precisely the same reasons: not enough water, zero maintenance and an unresponsive administration.
Even if people come up with innovative ideas, there is little encouragement. Many people from outside government who have tried to intervene in the sanitation sector end up hitting their heads against a brick wall: the unwillingness of much of the bureaucracy to be flexible and open to new ideas, to design adaptations and to the beneficiary community’s views. To meet the toilet challenge, it is this mindset that has to be reinvented.
The Hindu, June 7, 2012
Posted on: June 7, 2012
By Dean Nelson
Pinki Rajak, a 22-year-old member of the Dhobi community, which traditionally washes and irons clothes, caused outrage among her group’s elders when she accepted a lowly sweeper’s job at a local school near Raipur, Chhattisgarh.
Ms Rajak’s plight has highlighted the continuing power of caste in rural India where strict segregation is maintained between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ castes.
Sweeping work in India, including shoe polishing, is reserved for members of the Chamar ‘untouchable’ caste, along with other ‘dirty’ jobs like ‘night-soil carrying’ of human waste and tannery work. The Dhobis however are regarded as a ‘cleansing’ caste, said Dr Vidhu Verma, a caste expert at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Ms Rajak broke her community’s strict caste rules because her elders believed she had stigmatised them by associating them with one of India’s lowliest and most shunned castes. Some higher castes still believe it is polluting to even lay eyes on a chamar while others insist on calling a priest to ‘purify’ their homes if a Dalit has crossed the threshold.
Violence against Dalits or untouchables remains common in India. Despite government policies to reserve government jobs and college places for Dalits and other ‘backward’ castes, many lower caste students face abuse from higher caste students and teachers.
The discrimination and persecution suffered by India’s 65 million ‘untouchables’ was declared an abuse of human rights in 2011.
Ms Rajak and her family, including her father who is himself a Dhobi community elder remain determined to defy the elders’ order and have defended her right to make a living as best she can.
The first villager to obey the community or Samaj’s order was her violent husband, she said, after the elders said he could no longer live with her while she was working as a sweeper.
Her father, who owns a small bicycle repair shop and is himself an elder of the Dhobi community told the Hindustan Times he was standing by his daughter. “Instead of appreciating her efforts to find a job, the community is punishing us,” Budhulal Rajak told the Hindustan Times.
Ms Rajak remains defiant and insists she will not give up her job however great the ‘stigma.’ “No one can live without money. Why should the caste system be tied to employment?” she asked.
The Telegraph, June 4, 2012
Posted on: June 4, 2012
With an aim to make most of rural India defecation-free in ten years, the Government is planning to double the money it provides for the construction of toilets in villages under its campaign for total sanitation.
Drinking Water and Sanitation minister Jairam Ramesh said this today and added that the programme Total Sanitation Campaign will now be renamed ‘Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan’.
“Presently the cash incentive for toilets that are being constructed in the country is Rs 3,500, out of which the centre contributes Rs 2,200, the state government Rs 1,000 while the family benefiting from the scheme pays Rs 300”, Ramesh said giving details.
He added that an additional Rs 1200 can be provided through the NREGA scheme and a toilet can be constructed at Rs 4,700 under the government programme.
“I have believed this is insufficient and the norms have to be made liberal. We will soon go to the cabinet with a proposal, which the Finance Minister has already approved, as per which the central government’s cash assistance would increase from Rs 2,200 to Rs 3,100”, Ramesh said.
“The contribution of state governments would increase from Rs 1000 to Rs 1,400, while the family would contribute Rs 900. Now another Rs 4,500 can be added under NREGA”, he added.
At Rs 9,900, the amount available for construction of a toilet under government schemes has been doubled, Ramesh said.
He said that the Government had also decided to focus on Gram Panchayats in its sanitation programme rather than on the needs of individual households which was done earlier.
Ramesh congratulated Sikkim for becoming the country’s first open defecation free state and said that he hoped that during 2012-13 Himachal Pradesh would become the second such state along with Kerala, where only 19 gram panchayats were yet to be declared open defecation free.
The Economic Times, May 25, 2012
Posted on: May 25, 2012
By Bijay Kumar Minj
A book highlighting the plight of dalits in the country was released in New Delhi yesterday.
Penned by Ulahannan Thoppil, a lay catholic, ‘God’s Own Untouchables’ was released by Federal Minister Kuruppasserry Varkey Thomas at a function in the Press Club of India.
Thoppil said in his 312-page book he has attempted to bring to the fore the below-the-surface caste tensions prevalent among the Syrian Christians of Kerala.
The author, a product of Faculty of Management Studies Delhi, explains how Aaron Micah of the Pulaya (untouchable) community is elevated to the rank of bishop.
In a brilliant narration, which goes back and forth, the author keeps the reader firmly engrossed in the twists and turns which occur in Micah’s life and in the lives of his ancestors.
The conflict between Rome and local Church authorities in making the lower caste a bishop is well brought out.
Thomas, Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Minister of State in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, said “I hope this book will help the dalits to some extent”.
John Dayal, a member of the national integration council and one of the panellist said this book is a “wake up-call” to the Church in the country.
Lauding the initiative, Dayal, who is also a member of the All India Christian Council (AICC), said “it will lead to some reform in the church toward the dalit community”.
Fr George Plathottam, another panellist and secretary of the Media Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, described the book as a “power breaking passage”.
The Salesian priest said “to bring changes in the lives of dalit community we have to change the mindset of people and literature can do a lot.”
Dalit is a designation for a group of people traditionally regarded as “untouchable”.
Dalits are a mixed population, consisting of numerous castes from all over South Asia; they speak a variety of languages and practice a multitude of religions.
In 2001, the proportion of Dalit population was 16.2 percent of India’s total population.
UCAN India, May 19, 2012
Posted on: May 19, 2012
About 60% of India’s rural population live on less than Rs. 35 a day and nearly as many in cities live on Rs. 66 a day, reveals a government survey on income and expenditure. “In terms of average per capita daily expenditure, it comes out to be about Rs. 35 in rural and Rs. 66 in urban India. About 60% of the population live with these expenditures or less in rural and urban areas,” said Director General of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) J Dash in his preface to the report.
According to the 66th round of National Sample Survey (NSS) carried out between July 2009 and June 2010, all India average monthly per capita consumer expenditure (MPCE) in rural areas was Rs. 1,054 and urban areas Rs. 1,984.
The survey also pointed out that 10% of the population at the lowest rung in rural areas lives on Rs. 15 a day, while in urban areas the figure is only a shade better at Rs. 20 day.
“The poorest 10% of India’s rural population had an average MPCE of Rs. 453. The poorest 10% of the urban population had an average MPCE of Rs. 599”, it said.
The NSSO survey also revealed that average MPCE in rural areas was lowest in Bihar and Chhattisgarh at around Rs. 780 followed by Orissa and Jharkhand at Rs. 820.
Among other states, Kerala has the highest rural MPCE at 1,835 followed by Punjab and Haryana at Rs. 1,649 and Rs. 1,510 respectively.
The the highest urban MCPE was in Maharashtra at Rs. 2,437 followed by Kerala at Rs. 2,413 and Haryana at Rs. 2,321. It was lowest in Bihar at Rs. 1,238.
The median level of MCPE was Rs. 895 in rural and Rs. 1,502 in urban India, indicating consumption level of majority of population.
According to the study, food was estimated to account about 57% of the value of the average rural Indian household consumption during 2009-10 whereas it was 44% in cities.
The study reveals that the average monthly per capita consumption of cereals was 11.3 kg in rural areas and 9.4 kg in cities.
Based on NSSO estimates, the Planning Commission had pegged that poverty line at Rs. 28.65 and Rs. 22.42 daily consumption in urban and rural areas respectively in 2009-10.
As per the Commission’s estimates the number of persons living below poverty line was 35.46 crore in 2009-10, as compared to 40.72 crore in 2004-05.
Hindustan Times, May 3, 2012
Posted on: May 3, 2012
These past months have seen a flurry of activity to support the struggle to end the abhorrent practice of Dalits being employed to remove human waste from dry latrines manually which persists despite having been officially abolished by law in India since 1993. In India, the ILO has organised a conference to address this problem, a National Public Hearing has been held by the National Campaign for Dignity and Eradication of Manual Scavenging, reports have been released and media have reported widely about the persistence of the practice.
In February the International Labour Organization (ILO) organised a National Conference on Elimination of Manual Scavenging. Participants at the Conference included a broad spectrum of agencies involved in the elimination of manual scavenging, including Government representatives, trade unions, academia, judges, and representatives from the manual scavenging community. The conference was organised to make and scale up strategies to address manual scavenging and to develop a roadmap for the total elimination of manual scavenging and the rehabilitation of manual scavengers.
On the 28th of March a National Public Hearing on “Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers and their Children in India”, was held by the National Campaign for Dignity and Eradication of Manual Scavenging at the Indian Social Institute in New Delhi. Ahead of the hearing the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment was approached and following the hearing a report on the “Uncompleted and unsuccessful rehabilitation of manual scavengers and their children in India,” was released.
The hearing generated a good amount of media attention to the issue with articles highlighting the persistence of manual scavenging in several states in India and the lack of rehabilitation of scavengers. The Times of India reported on Manual Scavenging in Uttar Pradesh, The Indian Express from Gujarat, and DNA from Madhya Pradesh, while The Hindu reported on the hearing in their article entitled “A blot upon the Nation.”
In a book released by the UN Special Rapporteur on Water and Sanitation, who also paid a visit to India in March 2012, manual scavenging is also highlighted and it is stated that,
“The degrading nature of this work is an extreme case and is very much tied up with the inequalities of a deeply ingrained caste system and the lack of choice in finding other types of work. In many settlements, the practice was so prevalent that even government offices inevitably employed manual scavengers in areas where there was no sewerage connection.”
These initiatives, alongside the many that have gone before them, are an important part of building pressure on authorities to finally put an end to this dehumanizing practice.
International Dalit Solidarity Network, April 27, 2012
http://idsn.org/news-resources/idsn-news/read/article/manual-scavenging-highlighted-by-ilo-a nd-others-in-conferences-reports-and-a-hearing/128/?utm_source=IDSN+Newsletter&utm_campaign=24ae 31d060-IDSN+Ja-Feb+2012+Newsletter&utm_medium=email
Posted on: April 27, 2012
In the European Parliament’s resolution on the Annual Report on Human Rights in the World and the European Union’s policy on the matter, the European Parliament highlights caste discrimination and, “Recommends initiatives for EU legislation to ensure that attention is paid in EU human rights policy and cooperation instruments to eliminating caste discrimination, and action in caste-affected countries, including Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Yemen.”
Over the past years MEPs have spoken out against caste discrimination, which has also been the topic of several hearings in the Parliament. IDSN welcome this focus on caste discrimination in the resolution on the Annual Report. It is imperative that EU institutions follow up immediately on these recommendations so that caste discrimination does not risk being overlooked or side lined in EU work on human rights, development, humanitarian aid and trade in future.
The European Parliament resolution of 18 April 2012 on the Annual Report on Human Rights in the World and the European Union’s policy on the matter, including implications for the EU’s strategic human rights policy includes the following text:
111. Condemns all forms of human rights violations committed against people discriminated against on the basis of work and descent, and the limited access to justice for victims; calls on the EU and its Member States to endorse the draft UN Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent;
117. Recommends initiatives for EU legislation to ensure that attention is paid in EU human rights policy and cooperation instruments to eliminating caste discrimination, and action in caste-affected countries, including Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Yemen.
International Dalit Solidarity Network, April 24, 2012
http://idsn.org/news-resources/idsn-news/read/article/the-european-parliament-recommends-eu- legislation-and-policy-measures-to-eliminate-caste-discriminat/128/?utm_source=IDSN+Newsletter&u tm_campaign=24ae31d060-IDSN+Ja-Feb+2012+Newsletter&utm_medium=email
Posted on: April 24, 2012
By Hari Kumar
India is lagging in its effort to reach United Nations goals to reduce poverty and improve health and sanitation, but has shown significant progress boosting education, treating AIDS and addressing environmental concerns, a U.N. official said.
“We are in a race against time with just three years left” to achieve Millennium Development Goals, Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said last week. “The good news, though, is that our analysis shows many of these goals can still be reached with a redoubling of efforts.”
The Millennium Development Goals are eight objectives that U.N. member countries and various international organizations have agreed to achieve by 2015. The goals focus on areas such as eradicating poverty and fighting disease. The Asia Pacific MDG Report, released last week, graded the progress of the eight millennium goals using 22 socio-economic indicators. India has reached goals set in seven indicators out of 22 and is on track to achieve three others, but is lagging behind in 12 others, the report said.
Even Bangladesh, with lower per capita income, is showing better results than India in poverty reduction and health improvements.
India has already achieved the targets in boosting primary education, reducing the prevalence of H.I.V., improving forest cover and providing safe drinking water, the report said. The country’s record is continues to be poor in reducing poverty. An estimated 41.6 percent of the workforce earned $1.25 a day in 2005, down from the 49.4 percent in 1994.
Additionally, the country has performed miserably at improving the nutritional status of children, the report said. An estimated 50.7 percent of the country’s children were underweight in 1992, but the figure had dropped only to 43.5 percent in 2005, the report said. The millennium target was to reduce the number to 25 percent by 2015.
Recently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his serious concern about India’s child malnutrition problem while releasing a survey on hunger and malnutrition. “Despite impressive growth in our G.D.P., the level of undernutrition in the country is unacceptably high. We have also not succeeded in reducing the rate fast enough,” Mr. Singh said, calling it a matter of “national shame.” As per the survey Dr. Singh cited, in 100 focus districts, 42 percent of children under five are underweight.
In one indicator, tuberculosis prevalence, the situation is deteriorating in India rather than getting better, the Asia Pacific MDG Report said.
Jairam Ramesh, the country’s minister of rural development, said virtually no improvement is taking place in nutritional levels, despite high economic growth in recent years. Speaking of better performance in Tamil Nadu and Kerala than the rest of the country, he said the political class was to be commended for making “these issues part of their agenda for political mobilization.”
He said more public resources are needed to improve standards in health, water and sanitation. He promised that in coming budget for 2012-13, the central government will enhance the allocation for health, water and sanitation substantially.
New York Times – February 22, 2012
Posted on: February 22, 2012
“Incredible India” is the brand this country’s Ministry of Tourism has been pushing in a global marketing campaign launched in 2002, and it couldn’t be more fitting. Over the last decade, India has witnessed a stunning acceleration of rapid changes, both good and bad, that it began in the 1990s.
The most widely noticed metamorphosis is economic. Over the last ten years, India’s GDP has grown between 7-9% per year, second only to China’s sustained growth rates. In 2011, Forbes counted 57 Indian billionaires, up from only four a decade before. The same period saw Indian corporations vaulting onto the international stage. Tata Motors shocked the automobile industry with an acquisition of the British Jaguar Land Rover business in 2008. India’s famed business-process outsourcing industry has expanded beyond call centers and software development to medicine, law, tax preparation, animation, and even music-video production. And, several IT giants have turned the tables on offshoring: No longer are jobs only “Bangalored.” Today, Indian companies employ thousands of Americans on U.S. soil.
All of this is striking for an economy that languished for decades. From 1947, when India won its independence, through the 1980s, annual per-capita income grew at 1.3% per year, a snail’s pace oft-derided by the Indian elite as the “Hindu rate of growth.” Today, though, any social theorists walking the bustling streets of Mumbai might be tempted to revise Max Weber’s classic treatise: The Hindu Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Economic change has been accompanied by a less noted, but no less significant, political inflection point. Alongside the enthralling Arab Spring and China’s stillborn Jasmine Revolution, something that might be called the “Turmeric Revolution” has been bubbling over in India.
Though theoretically a democracy, India’s governance has resembled something of a feudal system in practice. Politicians and bureaucrats often act like dukes and barons with term limits. They routinely apply a corrupt layer of graft for their personal benefit.
A self-confident educated class, however, has risen up to say “No more!” Last year, hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied around a series of hunger strikes by social activist Anna Hazare. The movement shined a spotlight on the terms of an anti-corruption bill that many criticize as being too weak. In West Bengal, May elections saw an end to the 34-year reign of the communist Left Front alliance. It lost to the Trinamool Congress party, which made corruption-free governance the pillar of its campaign.
Meanwhile, the bar for being above the law appears to be rising, as high-profile culprits in corruption cases are brought to account. Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa was arrested over accusations of illicit land and iron mining deals that benefited his family. And, the headline-dominating “2G scam” was partially resolved this month with a Supreme Court decision to nullify all 122 2G wireless spectrum licenses issued under the tenure of former Telecommunications Minister A. Raja. Raja, who is believed to have personally pocketed $600 million at a cost to the government treasury of $39 billion, has been arrested and charged, along with several others implicated in the scandal.
These successes are far from being universally shared, however. Though rates of poverty are declining, in 2005 the World Bank estimated that 42% of India’s population still lived at under $1.25 a day (PPP), and nearly twice as many under $2. Thus, 800-900 million Indians live in conditions that most developed-world citizens would consider destitution.
The challenges for this vast, voiceless majority are multidimensional and stark. Discrimination by caste, religion, and gender remains pervasive. Low literacy blocks meaningful social mobility. India’s rate of child malnutrition is greater than in any other country in the world. In many communities, the sick and the elderly are left to die for lack of means to support them, and bonded slavery is not unheard of.
What’s worse, there is some evidence that conditions for the least privileged are deteriorating. A paper by public policy researchers Anirudh Krishna and Devendra Bajpai points out that rural incomes are declining in absolute terms, likely due to systemic stresses to agriculture and differential access to markets and education. It is common to speak of “two Indias,” and the widening canyon between them is the greatest threat to the nation’s well-being.
What does the future hold? Much depends on how energetically the fruits of the country’s success are applied towards greater equality of opportunity. The government’s rural employment guarantee act is a start, despite its flaws. Healthcare, agriculture extension, and other government services that accrue to poorer communities deserve far greater resources and attention. Outdated constraints on industries that employ low-skill labor must be relaxed. The country’s vibrant civil society should continue to give voice to the marginalized. Most importantly, public education could use a budgetary boost and a management miracle.
The next ten years may hold a lesson for developed countries, as well. With the world’s largest democracy in the embrace of a freer-than-free market capitalism, India may prove a bellwether for liberal societies everywhere.
The Atlantic, February 20, 2012
Posted on: February 20, 2012
By Rani Hong, UN.GIFT Special Advisor
Every day, in every nation on the planet, children are sold and bonded into slavery. Thousands of children. I know, I was one of them.
When I was seven years old, a woman approached my family promising to give me a good education and a better life. My mother agreed because, she was told, she could visit me on a regular basis close to our home. But instead of giving me a better life, this well-respected woman in our community turned around and sold me to a man in a bordering state.
I was taken from my family in India to a place I didn’t know. A place with strange people and a strange language. My trafficker, Paul, was in the business of children. He bought and sold us, exploiting our vulnerability and innocence, forcing us to work as maids, servants, and in brick and cement factories. He ran an “orphanage” that was registered with the government as a humanitarian charity, but which instead served as a barracks for children he trafficked, including me.
I remember crying for my mother. Paul told me that I never would see her again. “She is dead,” he said.
My home, my identity, and, most importantly, my dreams and aspirations were lost. The world around me was shattered into pieces. My small body endured beatings and torture. Day in and day out, in that poverty stricken village in Southern India, I cried for someone to rescue me. Despite all of my tears, no one answered my cry.
By the time I was eight, my physical condition and emotional state were dire. I was near death. No longer of any value to Paul, he sold me into illegal adoption. I was adopted by an American woman who thought she was getting a legitimately orphaned girl. She brought me to live with her in Washington, where I had all the privileges of American life. Through her love, I began to find stability, healing, and a sense of personal freedom.
Today, at least 27 million men, women, and children are enslaved across the globe—m ore than at any time in history. Modern-day slavery and human trafficking manifest themselves in many forms, from forced labor to sex trafficking, but each is alike in that it strips a person of their fundamental and inalienable right to human freedom. Sometimes hidden in the dark corners of our globalized world and at other times occurring in plain sight, modern-day slavery and human trafficking are legal nowhere but present in every country across the globe.
Twenty-one years after being trafficked, I traveled back to India. There, I saw my birth mother in a hotel for the first time since we were forced apart. I listened to her tell the story of losing a child. I heard her pain and devastation. And I resolved to dedicate my life to stopping the modern-day slave trade.
President Barack Obama has proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. It provides all of us with an opportunity to look within and beyond our own lives. But the issue of human trafficking is massive in scope and often overwhelming to consider. How can one person possibly impact such an immense, seemingly intractable global problem? You can start by becoming educated about the issue—including in your own community. Next, be willing to say something. Ask Congress to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Fight for anti-trafficking legislation in your state. And simply be willing to stand up and use your voice to say that slavery is wrong. If thousands of voices rise up the same way, they will surely be loud enough to end this tragedy in our time.
Huffington Post, January 12, 2012
Posted on: January 12, 2012
New Delhi, Dec 29 (ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on Thursday said the dalits, tribals and minorities have become the victims of disparity in many parts of the country regardless of the large measures being taken by the government.
Dr. Singh, who inaugurated the International Conference to discuss the issues and problems of the dalits and minorities here today, said: “Our constitution provides safety to our citizens from any kind of disparity. But still it’s also true that in spite of legal safety and government help, in many parts of our country, dalits, tribals and minorities are being victims of disparity.”
The Prime Minister said the government has introduced plans for the upliftment of minorities following the recommendations of the Sachar Committee.
“I have heard people saying that the government has not yet implemented the recommendations of Sachar Committee; I would like to tell you today that this is not true,” said Dr. Singh.
“Following the recommendations of Sachar Committee, we have introduced many plans and because of these plans, there have been changes in the situation, but I feel that we need to take some more speedy steps,” he added.
Dr. Singh illustrated that to empower the Scheduled Castes, the government has introduced Forest Right Law, under which the tribal communities have their rights over the forest land.
“To empower the scheduled castes, our government has introduced forest rights law. With the help of this law, the tribals have the right to own the land and we want that this law should be strictly implemented,” he noted.
Emphasising that weaker sections and minorities should be imparted good education, Dr. Singh said: “Education is the best way to empower every citizen of this country and help them get their rights. So, our government has stressed on the point that weaker sections and minorities should be imparted good education.”
A large number of foreign delegates were also present at the conference, which was hosted by Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan, who is also the chairman of the Dalit and Minorities International Forum.
Noted film director Mahesh Bhatt was also present at the function.
This conference is organized once in two years. (ANI)
News Track India, December 29, 2011
Posted on: December 29, 2011
MUMBAI: On the face of it, entrepreneur Ashok Khade is just another one of India’s growing wealthy, heading a successful $27 million infrastructure and oil and gas business group that employs 4,500 people.
But the 56-year-old is a rarity, as he belongs to India’s dalit, or “untouchable” classes, who for centuries have been anchored at the bottom of Hinduism’s caste system and remain among the most exploited and despised.
The opening up of India’s economy has helped bring in some mobility in the rigid social hierarchy, leading to a gradual rise in jobs and opportunities for India’s poorest and even created a new breed—the dalit millionaire.
Khade, a first-generation businessman who now drives a BMW, battled poverty and discrimination as a child in a village near Sangli in Maharashtra state, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) from India’s financial hub, Mumbai.
After graduating in mechanical engineering, he came to Mumbai to work at Mazgaon Docks, a leading shipyard that makes warships and submarines for the Indian Navy.
He acquired technical skills and, after a stint in Germany, came back to India in 1995 to set up the DAS Offshore group, which has built offshore oil platforms as well as worked on transport infrastructure projects.
As growth opportunities improve across India’s hinterland, dalits are starting to seek senior jobs and set up businesses, said Khade.
“The biggest problem for dalits today is that they have no godfather,” Khade told AFP, citing the lack of role models in contrast to India’s Hindu, Jain and Parsi communities.
“There is an opinion that dalits cannot take one step without others’ help,” added Milind Kamble, chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI), a lobby group to promote the cause and interests of dalits.
“And we want to change that, show that we can do it,” he told reporters last week.
DICCI held its first all-India trade fair last weekend in Mumbai, where dalit entrepreneurs from 200 companies met to discuss how to boost business opportunities for their community.
India has an estimated 165 million dalits, who are shunned by higher castes, often forced into the lowliest occupations and are the poorest in terms of income, literacy and land.
Caste discrimination is officially illegal in India but still pervades many aspects of daily life, especially outside cities.
However in recent years, several dalit entrepreneurs have emerged, setting up companies in manufacturing, engineering, and food processing, Kamble told AFP.
Two of India’s prominent politicians, Mayawati, the chief minister of India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh, and Ram Vilas Paswan, a parliamentarian and former minister, both belong to low castes.
The architect of India’s constitution, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, remains a hero and an inspiration for millions of poor Indians for having risen above his lowly birth.
India’s government is considering making it compulsory to buy a percentage of its annual purchases from units set up and operated by dalits and tribal people, which are both major electoral constituencies in India.
But Kamble says the biggest hurdle for dalits is to raise collateral to obtain loans from banks and institutions.
“They are thus unable to raise any equity,” he added.
DICCI is planning to set up a venture capital fund next year with an estimated worth of five billion rupees (nearly $100 million) to help needy and potential dalit entrepreneurs.
“We have to stop fighting capitalism and secure our share in India’s wealth,” Kamble said.
The Economic Times, December 21, 2011
Posted on: December 21, 2011
AHMEDABAD: It was convocation with a difference. For, the 2,138 girls who passed out of Dalit Shakti Kendra on Sunday beamed not just with a sense of pride but the knowledge of power to fight the discrimination when they go back to their villages. Decked in chaniya cholis and traditional dresses, they sat through the last day of their three-month vocational courses where they were awarded degrees and also prizes for participating in numerous competitions held towards the end of their courses.
“I never thought I could speak in public, forget speaking up for myself. But after spending three months here, I am ready to earn a living, take a stand for my family and fight for my rights,” said Dhaval, a student who won three awards, including those for reading and diary writing.
The girls were awarded certificates in the presence of international experts on minority rights. The chief guest, Mallika Sarabhai, exhorted each girl to become a force unto herself and ensure that nobody practises or suffers discrimination.
Founder of Dalit Shakti Kendra Martin Mcwan said his biggest achievement has been to witness empowerment among girls after the course completion. “They may be learning anything from tailoring to beauty course, but what they also learn is to respect themselves, that being a dalit does not make them inferior. In the next 10 years, there will be more than 10,000 girls passing out of this institution.”
Past students who have found their feet in the society also shared their experiences. One of them Praveena Purabiya talked about how she had learnt embroidery from her Muslim neighbours but could not get work due to her caste.
Raji Siruka, who did her course in basic computers, now works with a corporate in Mithapur as an operator. “I have learnt that one has to make one’s own place in society”, said Siruka.
Posted on: December 2, 2010
A VICTORY Day for Dalits!
President Obama honors Dr. Ambedkar and the Dalits in his speech before both Houses of India’s Parliament.
Posted on: November 22, 2010
Bhubaneswar, Nov 20 (IANS) A Dalit woman leader, who fought on behalf of two Dalit cooks who were sacked due to upper-caste protests, hanged herself late Friday, an organisation working for Dalit rights said Saturday.
Saraswati Sethy, 28, was a resident of Sanamarichapalli village in the coastal district of Kendrapada, some 150 km from here.
‘She was repeatedly harassed by local officials and upper-caste villagers,’ Tapan Samal, general secretary of Ambedkar Lohia Vichar Manch, told IANS.
Sethy had protested the removal of two Dalit women cooks from a local school few months ago after some upper-caste students refused to eat meals cooked by them, Samal said.
‘She had approached the police, court and human rights commission, but did not get justice,’ Samal said, adding that she was boycotted by the villagers due to her protests.
‘We have registered a case, and investigations are on,’ a police officer said.
Posted on: November 8, 2010
Bikaner: In a shocking incident in Rajasthan, three Dalits were fined Rs 45 thousand ($1,013) by a Panchayat for daring to drink water from a public tap. A case has now been registered against the accused.
These Dalits have been discriminated against not just by the upper castes, but also by Muslims. The three of them from Randhisar village near Bikaner were fined Rs 15,000 ($338) each by their Muslim sarpanch Gope Khan. Their crime was drinking water from a public tap.
One among the three victims, Birbal Meghwal said, “We have been fined Rs. 45000 for drinking water from a public tap.”
When the Dalits protested against the decision, they were allegedly roughed up by Gope Khan’s henchmen. Police were then deployed in the village to defuse any tension and an FIR filed against the attackers.
SP, Bikaner said, “The injured man has registered a case.”
But shockingly the sarpanch who perpetrated this discriminatory act continues to be off the hook.
Posted on: October 25, 2010
Originally published as “Shampoo & social equality”, By Ila Patnaik, The Financial Express, Aug. 15, 2010.
Economists have tended to focus on expenditure patterns, consumption and income to assess poverty and inequality in rural India. Within these categories, the debate among economists normally focuses on the average consumer or the one living below the poverty line. This approach fits well with methods for studying changing inequality in most countries. However, it ignores the most important aspect of rural India—the inequality created by the caste system. A focused study of Dalits finds that the growth of the market economy has ushered in a reduction in caste and social inequality with an impact more fundamental and far reaching than the changes in average income or expenditure patterns. Dalit well being, when measured by personal consumption patterns, practices around social events, personal relationships across castes and expansion into non-traditional economic activities and occupations, shows rapid improvement in the market reform era in contrast to previous decades.
A study by Devesh Kapur, Chandra Bhan Prasad, Lant Pritchett and Shyam Babu, titled Rethinking Inequality: Dalits in Uttar Pradesh in the Market Reform Era, presents results from a study of Dalits in two blocks of Uttar Pradesh— Azamgarh district in east UP and Bulandshahar district in west UP. The survey was designed and implemented by members of the Dalit community and all Dalit households in the Block responded to questions about social practices and conditions important to them currently and in 1990.
The study finds that there have been major changes in the grooming, eating, and ceremonial consumption patterns of Dalits, signaling their higher social status by adopting higher status consumption patterns. The study starts the analysis of social changes with what might seem not social, but apparently trivial consumer items: the use of personal grooming products such as toothpaste, shampoo, bottled hair oil. When Dalits are treated as social inferiors, then they also can appear in society with lower standards of personal appearance. Change in grooming is seen as an assertion of social aspirations. The study finds massive shifts in the use of the three personal grooming products. Almost none of the respondents recalls using these in 1990, while today over half of the people in both blocks report someone in the household using each of the three items. Dalits who used none of these three items went down by 80%. The use of toothpaste and shampoo rose from near zero levels to over half the respondents using these products today.
The study shows the shifts in diet among Dalits, as some foods with low social markers, which were the community’s main sources of calories, have practically disappeared and new items—spices and vegetables —have appeared. One example is drinks made from sugarcane or hardened molasses. These are high-calorie drinks that provide energy for manual labour. As these were often provided by landlords for their workers in the field as part of the wage, they came to be associated with agricultural labour and low social status. This has mostly disappeared from Dalit consumption baskets in these two blocks. Tomatoes and packaged salt, which were uncommon in Dalit diets in 1990s, are now part of regular consumption items.
Second, respondents report changes in the accepted behaviors between castes, with rapid erosion in discriminatory processes. By and large in these blocks, Dalits are less likely to be seated separately at weddings, they no longer are expected to handle the dead animals of other castes, there is a noticeable increase in births in Dalit households that are attended by non-Dalit midwives, and non-Dalits increasingly accept hospitality in Dalit homes.
None of these practices were common in 1990s.
Third, there have been large shifts in the pattern of economic life, both away from and within the villages. There has been a considerable increase in migration to distant cities to work. Nearly half of Dalit households have a member working in the cities. In the villages, Dalits have shifted into professions such as tailors, masons, and drivers, and businesses such as grocers, paan shop owners. Agricultural relations have changed such that almost no Dalits participate in bonded economic ties (halwaha) and fewer Dalits work as agricultural labourers on upper caste lands. Dalits now are much more likely to contract in factors from high caste groups (say tractors, land) than sell their labour to them.
Many other dimensions of social practices have also seen impressive improvement. In the 1990s, it was almost unheard of for non-Dalits to accept drinks or snacks if they visited Dalit households, which, in a culture of hospitality, excludes Dalits from reciprocal relationships. By 2007, in more than half of the villages, non-Dalits would accept drinks or food on visits. Another traditional practice was that only Dalits would lift the dead animals of the non-Dalits. Enumerators recorded whether dead animals of non-Dalits were lifted by ‘only Dalits’, ‘mainly non-Dalits’, ‘equally’, or ‘no one’. In the western block in the 1990s, in three-quarters of the villages only Dalits lifted the dead animals of non-Dalits. By 2007 this was only true of 5% of villages.
Social inequalities based on caste still remain an important aspect of Indian reality. But the changes accompanying the growth of a market economy offer a growing sense of empowerment and opportunity that can help change the face of rural India.
—The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi
Posted on: August 16, 2010
“The rise of ‘Dalit lit’ marks a new chapter for India’s untouchables”, By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent (UK), June 30, 2010.
Ajay Navaria, a writer of novels and short stories, cannot help but laugh as he reflects on the nature of his “other” job teaching Hindu ethics and scripture at a leading university in Delhi. The 39-year-old is a Dalit, a so-called “untouchable”, and little more than a generation ago, for him to have even been discussing Hindu texts would have been an offence that could have cost him his life. The fact that he now teaches them brings a smile to his face.
“Fifty years ago it would have been a crime. I think about this and think that if I had touched those scriptures I would have been killed,” he says, perched in a booth in a decaying coffee house in Delhi’s once grand Connaught Place. “But democracy has given me power. It has given power to the depressed classes and helped to make a more modern society.”
In his own way, Navaria is at the spearhead of a quiet cultural revolution sweeping India’s literary establishment. Having long been confined to writing only in their own, local languages and largely ignored by the literary mainstream, Dalit authors are now being swooped on by some of the country’s biggest publishers, such as Radhakrishna Prakashan which is translating their work into Hindi, the lingua franca of northern India and beyond.
Novelists, poets and writers of short stories are receiving both exposure and opportunity in the market-place that they have never before received. There are Dalit magazines, Dalit literary forums (there are two competing groups in Delhi alone) and Dalit workshops. And as further proof of the rising importance and clout of “Dalit lit”, Mr Navaria was this year a guest at the influential Jaipur literary festival, an annual gathering and networker’s paradise of Indian and international air-kissing types.
Indian society can sometimes seem harsh or even brutal. Nowhere is this more evident than in its caste system, a centuries-old hierarchy of categorisation based on ancient Hindu teachings that groups people into one of four main castes (and thousands of sub-castes). Traditionally, the caste someone belonged to decided where they would live, what job they would do and even what they would eat. People outside of these groups were considered unclean and not true Hindus, fit only for tasks such as cleaning toilets, making leather and sweeping the roads.
Dalits have suffered centuries of abuse and even today, despite legislation to protect them and an increasingly urbanised society, they are still the victims of widespread prejudice, discrimination and violence. A recent report by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, a coalition of human rights groups in southern India, revealed a bewildering degree of discrimination, both in scale and form.
Among the various abuses detailed by the authors of the report, Dalits were not allowed to use a mobile phone in the presence of upper-caste people. They were also prevented from having their clothes washed, permitted only to drink tea from coconut shells while squatting on the floor, barred from entering temples, forced to eat faeces, raped and burned alive.
Yet Dalits total more than 150 million people – around 20 per cent of India’s population – and the realisation has slowly come that with such critical mass, this community could have considerable leverage. In India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, low-caste voters have on three occasions elected a Dalit chief minister, Mayawati Kumari.
The size of the population has also been a factor in the emergence of Dalit literature as publishers have woken up to the potentially massive market. As Navaria says: “They are doing their business, they are not missionaries. If they get a profit, they will do it. If they do not, then they won’t.”
A key figure in the emergence of low-caste writing is Ramnika Gupta. She is not a Dalit but she produces a quarterly magazine, Yuddhrat Aam Aadmi, devoted to previously marginalised writers. She estimates that she and her team of just three full-time assistants have published around 1,500 Dalit writers from across India over the last two decades. Large publishers regularly go to her for information about new talent. She helps on the condition that the publishers agree to produce a paperback edition that is affordable for ordinary people, in addition to the standard hardback run.
In the first-floor drawing room of her home, which also serves as her office, she noted that Dalit writers never lacked subject material. The highly influential writer and Dalit leader, B R Ambedkar, she explained, had said it was essential that low-caste people had their own literature and that they wrote about their own lives.
Mrs Gupta, who has herself written dozens of books on Dalit and tribal people’s issues, said of the caste system: “India’s culture discriminates. It’s a state of exploitation. Everyone thinks ‘He is lower than me’ or ‘I’m superior’. What we are trying to say is that we are all equal and if anyone is weak, we can help them to rise.”
Dalit writers say the emergence of low-caste literature has taken place alongside a broader growth of consciousness and activism, particularly in urban India. While in rural India, caste remains all-pervading, in cities many of the signs and signals that identify a person’s caste have vanished. In cities, too, Dalits are better organised to stand up for their rights.
“There is a growing consciousness that is emerging. People are now better educated and they all get to know about their rights,” said Anita Bharti, a long-time writer and activist who heads a Dalit literary forum that meets every month in Delhi.
Literature, said Ms Bharti, has an important role to play in the ongoing struggle by Dalits to end discrimination. While abuse of low-caste people still happens, “they can now write about it. Also, people realise that Dalits have been mistreated in the past and that there is a need to bring Dalit literature to other people.”
Navaria, who is now working on his second novel, agrees. When he wrote his first novel, Udhar Ke Log (People From That Side), he had no doubt that the main antagonist would be a middle-class, urban Dalit. The story tells of the various ways in which his low caste affects his life, including being rejected by his lover – herself a sex-worker – when she discovers he is a Dalit. “I chose to write about Dalit consciousness. I have felt myself treated like this many times,” he says.
One of his most painful, burning experiences was as a schoolboy of 12 or 13 when scholarships were being offered to Dalit pupils. His teacher walked into the classroom and asked any low-caste pupils to stand up so that their names could be taken down. “I never stood up. I went to the head teacher later [to apply for the scholarship],” he recalls. “You feel so ashamed. One friend said to me ‘You don’t look like a Dalit’. I asked him, ‘What do you think a Dalit looks like?’”
Navaria rejects the suggestion that by writing about purely Dalit issues and by knowingly organising themselves as Dalits, this new generation of writers is actually reinforcing caste divisions, rather than breaking them down. “If there are divisions in society, how can there not be divisions in literature? Publishers are not promoting these divisions but are reflecting them,” he says. “Caste is very important. You cannot imagine India without caste. If a person says they are a Hindu, then they will have a caste.”
One breakthrough these writers have yet to make is getting published in English. Partly that is because the writers prefer to work in a medium that their main audience can understand. But Ms Bharti and others say that getting the attention of the “elite” English-language media is still a challenge.
Navaria says he sees many obstacles ahead, but that he has the energy to overcome them. “Writing is not my profession, it’s my passion,” he says, as he finishes his coffee, Delhi’s warm yellow sun slipping from the sky. “I cannot even sleep if an idea is in my head. For two or three nights, I cannot sleep until it’s completed. It’s a duty to the society.”
Posted on: August 4, 2010
Originally published as “Dalit girl paraded naked in Mumbai”, Times of Inda, July 10, 2010.
MUMBAI: Cases of attacks on dalit women aren’t confined to rural India. Last month, a young dalit girl was stripped and paraded in a southern Mumbai locality. The local police has arrested 10 women and two men and slapped them with cases of atrocities. However, Sharada Yadav, the main accused, is out on bail.
Said senior police inspector Rajan Bhogale: “All the suspects named by the victim, including Sharada Yadav, were arrested in the case. We charged them under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. But Sharda Yadav was granted bail by the court.” The 22-year-old dalit girl Mita Kamble (name changed), who was stripped and dragged out of her house at Darukhana, Reay Road, by a mob of mostly women, said: “They all shouted that dalits like me should not live in this area. They kept hurling abuses on me.”
What led to the incident was Mita’s brother allegedly abused a five year old girl.
Posted on: July 15, 2010
Caste in doubt: The perilous arithmetic of positive discrimination
Jun 10th 2010 | Delhi
Asking some uncomfortable questions
Sixty years after India’s constitution banned caste discrimination, Hinduism’s millennia-old hierarchy retains a tight grip. Lonely-hearts ads in the newspapers are classified by caste and sub-caste. Brahmins, at the top, dominate many professions. There are still hundreds of “honour killings” by which families avenge inter-caste marriages and liaisons. Caste discrimination is still drearily evident in the wretched lives of dalits, formerly “untouchables”, who remain India’s poorest and least educated people. It is not surprising, then, that India is considering the inclusion of caste in its ten-yearly census, the next of which is due in 2011.
The proposal has caused a storm of controversy. India has not counted caste in its census since 1931. Many argue that its inclusion would buttress a system that independent India’s first leaders railed against. The Congress party, which led the independence struggle, struck caste from government forms and has resisted calls for a nationwide caste count.
However, now heading a coalition government, Congress needs the support of smaller parties, including a number of caste-based groups that have sprung up in recent years, to push through important legislation. A system of affirmative action has given caste greater potency. In 1990 “reservations” in government jobs and university places for dalits were extended to a group of castes slightly higher-up the pecking order, the “Other Backward Classes” (OBCs). Reservations are based on data from the 1931 census. Caste politicians are not alone in arguing that this makes a nonsense of the system.
Counting caste in the census, however, would be difficult, or even impossible. Besides the four main varna, or castes, India has uncounted thousands of sub-castes, few of which census officials will recognise. More worryingly, the count would surely lead to a flood of demands for more reservations; already, the government is battling quota demands from non-OBC castes, Muslims and Christian converts from Hinduism—and a call for reservations to be extended to India’s private sector.
Six decades of reservations have done little to better the lot of low-caste Indians. But recent economic growth has been more transformative. As millions have moved to urban areas in search of work, they have left the rigid social groupings of their villages for the relative anonymity of cities, and swapped hereditary trades for jobs in which family background is largely immaterial. Many Indians are becoming caste-blind, and marrying across caste lines. Anidhrudda, a 30-year-old software engineer in Kolkata (Calcutta), says his inter-caste marriage was no big deal. But even he concedes there are limits. If he had married a dalit, he says, “my family would not have been able to face society.”
Posted on: June 23, 2010
LUCKNOW: The post of the gram pradhan at Malasa village of Bhognipur block in Kanpur Dehat has been lying vacant for decades. Though reserved for
the Scheduled Castes (SC), no Dalit could ever muster courage to contest panchayat elections here, fearing backlash from the dominant Thakur community for whom a Dalit village head is intolerable. Last year, when two Dalits dared do the impossible, their candidature was rejected. Reason: No one, including from their own caste, came forward to propose and second their candidature, as required for filing nomination papers.
In Rajpur tehsil, 60 km from Kanpur, Thakurs have withdrawn their children from the Banwaripur Basic Primary School after a Dalit cook was appointed to prepare mid-day meal here. When TOI team visited the school early this week, only 26 out of 62 students were attending classes and having the mid-day meal. All of them were Dalits. The remaining—mostly Thakurs—have stopped coming to school in order to avoid food prepared by a Dalit cook.
These are only two examples of different manifestation of untouchability still prevalent in UP. In every village one can find a “chamrauha” or “chamar toli”, a segregated place for Dalits. Their wells and handpumps are separate and so are their temples. Even in the schools, Dalit children are made to sit separately. And what is perhaps unique to north India, particularly UP, is that untouchability is not only practised by the upper castes but has percolated down to Dalits as well. There are various sub-castes among Dalits and higher ones in the hierarchy do not share `roti-pani aur beti ka rishta’ with those in the lower category.
At Haddiganj in Barabanki, 30 km from the state capital, `Hadbinnas’ face discrimination within their Dalit fraternity. Considered lowest sub-caste among Dalits, Hadbinnas make living by collecting bones and flaying hydes of dead animals. Dalit communities like cobbler, which enjoy higher position in the sub-caste hierarchy, do not share table with `Hadbinnas’, forcing them to make separate arrangement for their children.
Says Prof DM Diwakar, Giri Institute of Development Studies, “The condition of Dalits will not change till they stop untouchability among themselves.” In fact, he added, UP’s problem is the deep-rooted feudal mindset which does not allow social democracy to germinate, leading to discrimination at all levels. “But changes, though superficial, have generated some awareness among dalits, as a result they have started asserting themselves, resulting in the backlash from upper castes. Hence, what is visible as rise in incidents of atrocities on Dalits is actually the outcome of friction between lower and upper castes,” he said.
In the past six months alone, according to police records, over two dozen cases of Dalits being targeted by upper castes for violating `old social order’ have been reported from various parts of the state. Last month, one Jagrup, a Dalit at village Naheli in Kanpur, was thrashed by the upper caste men for drawing water from public pond. Sudhir, a Dalit, was assaulted by the priest when he entered a temple in Auraiya. Dalits in Behrampur were assaulted when their cattle strayed into the fields of upper caste. In Kathawara village, Lucknow, Dalits cannot hold marriage celebrations and festivities like upper castes.
The problem in urban areas and educational institutes is found in a different form. Dalit students were attacked by upper caste counterparts for allegedly taking admission in a `vedic learning’ course in the Sampoornanand University in August 2008. A survey conducted by All India Democratic Women Association (AIDWA) in Lucknow revealed that 80% Dalit women faced discrimination while working in upper caste households. “They admitted that though upper caste families employ them as house maids, they are served on different plates which they have to wash separately after eating,” said AIDWA secretary Madhu Garg.
Posted on: August 17, 2009
SC objects to states’ anti-English policy
July 21: The Supreme Court on Tuesday took exception to those state governments which were trying to impose the mother tongue as compulsory medium of instruction in schools, and warned that this could be counter-productive for students. It said teaching the mother tongue to children should be left to their parents.
The remarks of the three-judge bench — comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan — came while it was hearing the Karnataka government’s appeal seeking a stay on the state high court’s order quashing its decision to make Kannada the only medium of instruction in government and private schools from Classes 1 to 4.
The bench said if the mother tongue was the only medium of instruction, they (students) will be “ineligible for even clerical jobs.” It rejected the argument of senior state government counsel P.P. Rao, who quoted experts to claim that teaching the mother tongue at an early age was essential for intellectual and cultural development of the child.
“Parents are ready to pay Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 to get their children admitted to English-medium schools. This is the real state of affairs. They do not want to send them to schools (teaching) their mother-tongue,” the bench observed.
Further, the court held, if the mother tongue was imposed on students, it would worsen the problems of those in villages. “Students from villages (won’t be able to) compete with their peers in urban areas,” the bench said.
Posted on: July 22, 2009
Originally published as “It’s Time for India to Teach in English”, by Paul Beckett, Wall Street Journal (online only), July 1, 2009.
[Editor’s note: The article refers to Operation Mercy India Foundation. This is the same as OMCC (Operation Mercy Charitable Company). OMCC is the title more widely known in the communities of India and OMIF is simply the official registered name in India’s government records.]
By the middle of next month, almost 90 schools across the country will open their doors for a new year of teaching to about 18,000 predominantly Dalit schoolchildren. Their parents will pay tuition of 100 rupees a month to get their kids – and this is the key – an education in English.
The organizers, known as the Operation Mercy India Foundation, have been expanding the program since the mid-1990s. Earlier this year, their Good Shepherd English Medium Schools reached a major landmark: The graduation of the first 45 Class 10 students – nine from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, 17 from Jeedimetla near Secunderabad in Andhra Pradesh and 19 from Agasand near Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.
There’s also a training program in Hyderabad to ensure a steady supply of qualified, English-speaking teachers. The dropout rate of students in the schools is just 0.7%.
Yet, inexplicably – or perhaps all too explicably—no prominent, elected Dalit politician has championed this cause. “Dalit politicians should have and could have taken a lead on this issue but they have not,” says Joseph D’souza, international president of the Dalit Freedom Network, one of the organizations involved in the program.
In fact, much of the political class remains opposed to English medium education supposedly because they fear the loss of local culture and language. It’s more believable that it’s because an ill-equipped population of voters is a malleable population of voters.
Let’s take the cultural argument. India has taken countless outside influences and made them her own by imprinting on them her unique and wonderful stamp. There is no reason, aside from a misplaced post-Colonial chippiness, that prevents India doing the same with English on a national scale.
Consider India’s flagship outsourcing and information technology industry. Does anyone say we should discourage the industry because its management practices, corporate culture and clients are American? No, because it has become a distinctly Indian business, admired around the world, that is now being replicated by other countries that want to make it their own. It is an industry that doesn’t just use English but depends on it for its very survival. Are the people who work in call centers who are fluent in English but may converse in a local language outside the office any less Indian as a result?
Moreover, there already is a strong tradition of English-medium education in some parts of India – in many of its private schools, Catholic schools, military schools and colleges. So to suggest that there is some cultural imperative that says local language must be the only medium for teaching, in effect, poor children sounds like the kind of patronizing attitude that can sometimes be heard in the (frequently English-speaking) drawing rooms of New Delhi.
It’s akin to saying that India’s villages are full of “poor but happy sons and daughters of the soil” who shouldn’t be “corrupted” with the vulgarities of satellite TV. Of course, for everyone else to be so corrupted with the joys of Twenty20 cricket and 24-hour news is absolutely fine.
Lest anyone doubt the benefits of learning English fluency, it was telling last week that Pearson, the London-based media and education company, invested $30 million as part of a push into vocational training in India. A big part of it, said Vivek Govil, CEO of Pearson Education in India, involves teaching English “because it increases employability.”
“People who know English get better paid, better jobs and progress faster,” he added. That is something parents might take as a motto in deciding on a school for their children.
If for no other reason, English should be widely used as the chief teaching language because it is the language chosen by the elite for the education of their offspring. A decent definition of inclusion – the new government’s mantra – might be: To provide the same opportunities for the masses that are enjoyed by the rich. English-medium education fits that bill. It would have the added benefit of filling up all those seats set aside in universities for the underclass which now are vacant because there aren’t enough candidates with the English skills to occupy them.
Indeed, not widening access to education in English risks highlighting the hypocrisy among those responsible for setting education policy – something that Mr. D’souza notes was a motivating factor in the Good Shepherd schools.
“We have been articulating that India and its power brokers, consciously or unconsciously, deliberately or not, have a double standard policy in education,” Mr. D’souza says. “The upper castes and the powerful and the rich have no problem getting westernized and English-educated.”
Fortunately, there is already some movement in a positive direction in some states. Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh in particular have made recent strides in making English the language of school, or at least one of the languages that school is taught in from an early age. Tamil Nadu may follow suit. Others should do the same and fast.
If there was lesson from the last election, it is that India’s voters want politicians to push development and provide them with prospects for moving up and out. The success of the Good Shepherd schools shows there is so much demand for English-medium education that those with almost nothing will pay what little they have to give their kids a chance. (Note: despite their rather Christian-sounding name, the schools run state-approved curricula and open only in areas where they are invited by local Dalit leaders.)
New Delhi can’t issue an edict to compel the states to enforce English-language teaching in schools. But Kapil Sibal, the government’s point man on education, has spoken loudly of his determination to shake up the system. Providing incentives for states to adopt English—and disincentives for states that don’t—would be a good place for him to make his mark.
—Paul Beckett is the WSJ’s bureau chief in New Delhi
Posted on: July 1, 2009
Originally published as “In son’s death, Dalit couple breaks an ancient taboo”, by S. Raju, Hindustan Times, 28 June 2009.
Badheri Ghogho (Saharanpur): The parents of a dead dalit infant in a remote Uttar Pradesh village donated his eyes, making him the youngest such donor in the country.
Lucky, the four-month-old son of Satyapal Singh, 28, a tailor, and Meenakshi, 25, of Budheri Ghogho village, 140 km north west of Delhi, died from high fever late on Tuesday night.
The Dalit couple was overcome with grief, but at the insistence of Satyapal’s elder brother Harpal, 30, they immediately got in touch with Dr Ashok Jain and his wife Kusum, who run the Roshni Eye Bank in Saharanpur, about 100 km away.
“It was a difficult moment for us but we decided to keep our son alive by donating his eyes,” said Meenakshi, who had studied up to Class 10.
Apprehending controversy and opposition from other villagers, the family requested Dr Jain to remove Lucky’s corneas before daybreak.
In doing so, they not only gifted vision to an eight-year-old girl and a 55-year-old man, but also helped break several centuries-old social taboos.
In caste-conscious UP, Dalit organ donors are still a rarity. Then, there is a widespread belief among villagers that cornea donors are born blind in their next birth.
“I extracted the corneas in the wee hours of Wednesday and transported them to the Meerut Eye Bank,” said Dr Jain.
“It was really difficult to extract corneas of such a small child,” said Kusum, a paramedic trained to extract corneas from donors. Before Lucky, the youngest cornea donor was a two-year-old child in Pune.
Thereafter, Dr Sandeep Mittal, principal and head of the department of ophthalmology at the Meerut Medical College, and his team successfully transplanted Lucky’s corneas to Khushboo, 8, a student of Class 3, and Ram Prakash, 55, a farmer. They had both an eye each.
In Meerut, both the recipients struggled for words to thank Satyapal and Meenakshi. “I’ll remain in their debt all my life. I want to meet them personally to express my gratitude,” said Khushboo’s mother Meera Sharma, a homemaker.
Ram Prakash, a farmer, too, wants to do something for Lucky’s parents.
This is second time in five months that the extended Singh family has donated eyes. In February, Harpal, a social activist, had convinced his in-laws to donate his mother-in-law’s eyes after her death.
Posted on: July 1, 2009
Excerpts from “Malgudi Coffee Shop and other stories”, by Mari Marcel Thekaekara, Infochange News & Features, June 2009.
Twelve dalit girls are baking bread and cakes at a Mysore café. At La Boulangerie in Chennai, dalit youth are baking French delicacies and supplying them to 5-star hotels. These ‘tasty’ experiments are about breaking the vicious circle of oppression and making a political statement.
If you work among or even merely read the reports on the current status of adivasis, dalits, sanitation workers or street children they seem pretty bleak and hopeless.
Nevertheless, change has happened. In this column I want to talk about a few experiments which lifted my spirits and are, to me, a sign of hope in a generally bleak scenario. A sign that the tide can turn.
The first is a project with young girls from the safai karmachari community. The safai karmachari, or balmiki community, is at the very bottom of the caste hierarchy. Even other dalits practise untouchability towards this group. They are condemned by birth to do the lowliest of tasks—clean human excrement, move animal carcasses, work in morgues.
The odds against them are daunting. Also, centuries of oppression and discrimination have led the community to believe they are only capable of sweeping, making and selling brooms, and similar traditional occupations that society has allowed and expected them to undertake. In most cases, this attitude stems from bitter experience. In rural areas, villagers who know their caste origins will not buy anything from them. So they fall back on safe, traditional occupations.
In Mysore, my husband Stan and I were on the board of the Green Hotel, a beautiful hotel that employed a lot of staff from underprivileged backgrounds. The profits went into supporting local charities. The idea of a coffee shop had been on the agenda for a while. Why not get balmiki girls to run it? And so we did. It was not easy. There was suspicion and mistrust.
Training began, and within a week these balmiki girls who lived in the Mysore [Karnataka state] slums and knew barely a smattering of English were reeling off words like ‘cappuccino’, ‘café latte’, ‘quiche’ and ‘croissant’ with panache.
The Malgudi Coffee Shop opened on February 2, 2009, with much fanfare. The press was extremely supportive of the idea and gave us wonderful reviews. The girls were nervous on opening day, but they charmed the guests nevertheless. They were a visual treat, dressed in traditional Mysorean long flowing skirts in burgundy and sunshine yellow. And the girls were delighted to be on local television and on the front pages of the major dailies.
What’s really interesting though is that in barely three months, several of the girls can bake bread and cakes. They’ve learnt by helping and watching the baker. No theory, no tests. They’ve made bread without supervision and it’s the best in Mysore. They have proved that, given a chance, anyone is capable of anything.
Employing 12 dalit balmiki girls is no big deal. What’s important here is that the girls become role models. That they show others that anything is possible. And that they will never clean toilets like their mothers and fathers did. We’ve broken the mould.
Another story about breaking barriers is the La Boulangerie school in Chennai [Tamil Nadu state]. Alexis de Ducla, a 20-something-year-old French lad, was inspired by Fr Pierre Ceyrac, a legendary French Jesuit who has lived in India for most of his 92 years. “Do something useful with your life. Come to India and work with the poorest of the poor, with dalit youth,” Fr Ceyrac urged Alexis in Paris. Mesmerised, Alex obeyed. He came to Chennai and started the La Boulangerie school to train young dalit boys to bake the French way. Their products are bought by five-star hotels and Chennai’s more discerning foodies. Tucked away several twists and turns off the main Anna Nagar Road, it attracted people who drooled at the thought of genuine French patisserie, authentic croissants, melt-in-the-mouth quiches, real French vol-au-vents. The shop has moved since, to a more accessible place, and its popularity has grown.
The recruits, mostly dalits because this school is for the poorest of the poor, are given intensive training beginning with basic classes in English, Tamil and general subjects before proceeding to baking and pastry-making. Many of the trainees are absorbed in five-star hotels.
One of the boys was sent to France after 18 months to fine-tune his patisserie skills. He was so good that he was offered a job at a five-star restaurant in Paris. He turned it down. His heart was in Chennai, and his loyalty to La Boulangerie came first. Imagine a young dalit boy from Tamil Nadu baking croissants and pastries in Paris for the French! To me that is the height of perfection. And it excites me that someone finally provided an opportunity for dalits to strive for excellence and achieve it. To prove they are capable of anything.
In all these places, it’s the spirit, the determination that makes them more than just another eating place. If change is to come, we must continue breaking barriers, creating new spaces for the oppressed and the socially excluded.
These new ventures are, of course, a drop in the ocean. But many drops do an ocean make.
Posted on: June 26, 2009
Originally published as “Dalit kids cannot use school loo but have to clean them”, by Akshaya Mukul, The Times of India, 25 Jun 2009.
NEW DELHI: The study conducted by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights-Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan and supported by UNICEF shows that discrimination of various kinds plays a big role in the high dropout of Dalit children from schools. The report was given to UNICEF on Wednesday.
The study conducted in 41 primary schools, 36 middle schools and 17 secondary schools in Nalanda district of Bihar, Hardoi in Uttar Pradesh, Jodhpur in Rajasthan and Beed in Maharashtra examined various facets of discrimination, right from going to school, in the classroom and in the mid-day meal.
The report says physical access to schools is the biggest problem for Dalit children. In Bihar, UP and Rajasthan, most of the schools are situated in the dominant caste localities and Dalit children have to travel on an average half-an-hour to reach school. In the case of middle and high schools, Dalit children have to travel almost 3-4 kilometers in all the states. It is only in Maharashtra that Dalit children do not have to travel that far. But here too, the schools are located in dominant caste areas.
Asked why they came late to school, Dalit children gave various reasons including household chores, school distance, inability to keep track of school time and also the fact that they had to wait for other friends to go in a group due to fear from dominant caste children. In the school, it was found that participation of Dalit children was minimal. The morning assembly was invariably always conducted by upper caste children. In the class, Dalit children were made to sit at the back and in some schools of Bihar on the barren floor while mats were given to upper caste children. Even the notebooks and homework of the Dalit children were not checked by teachers.
As per the report, Dalit children in UP [Uttar Pradesh] were also assigned menial caste-based tasks like cleaning the yard, filling up water buckets and cleaning the toilets. This led to other children treating them badly and considering them inferior. And what was shocking was that Dalit girl children were seldom allowed to use toilets. Dalit children are kept out of even functions like Independence Day.
In Maharashtra, the dalit children look up to B R Ambedkar as their role model but schools does not have his photograph though there are photos of other national leaders.
In secondary and higher secondary school, the survey found that teachers promote private coaching. But many Dalit
children dropped out as they could not afford private classes. The report said that many Dalit children were beaten up because they were always late and ‘don’t behave properly’ in the class.
Posted on: June 26, 2009
Originally published as “Dalit teenager dies after hospital refuses treatment,” IANS, June 15, 2009.
Lucknow, UP: A Dalit teenager in Uttar Pradesh died Monday after a government-run hospital allegedly refused to admit him, police said.
“Anil Kumar, 18, who had suffered burn injuries after being electrocuted was reportedly denied treatment by the doctors in a hospital in Hamirpur district Monday,” Superintendent of Police Suryanath told IANS over phone.
The kin of the deceased alleged that the doctors asked them to take away Kumar, as the hospital was not meant for treating “lower caste patients”, he added.
A high-level enquiry has been initiated into the case to probe the role of doctors, who have been accused of denying treatment to the Dalit teenager.
“A three-member committee, including the Hamirpur chief medical officer (CMO) has been constituted following the directions of the district magistrate,” Suryanath said.
“The committee members have been directed to submit the enquiry report within two days on the basis of which necessary action would be taken against the hospital staff,” he added.
Hamirpur is some 300 km [186 miles] from Lucknow.
Posted on: June 23, 2009
Originally published as “Brilliant boy brings electricity to village”, By Rajesh Behera, Daily Pioneer, 8 June 2009.
Kendrapara, Orissa: Though it may seem hard to believe, residents of a far-flung seaside village in this part of the State are now poised to reap the benefit of electricity. Courtesy: The academic brilliance of a poor Dalit boy.
The State Government goaded by academic success of Ramakanta Sethy has drawn up a project to electrify Talachua village under Rajnagar tehsil.
Since the dawn of the Independence, electricity has always eluded Talchua, a predominantly fishermen-inhabited village and a prominent marine fishing hub of the district.
Ramakanta, son of a daily wager, had made the village proud after he had ranked 16 in the Class XII examination.
A drop-out from the local school, he had taken a break from studies to take up cattle grazing to support his parents. His fish trader uncle however spotted his talent and took him to Balasore. His academic hiatus ended. Since then he never looked back. He excelled scoring nearly 80 per cent marks in Class XII exam, the result of which was published recently.
Ramakanta is a native of Talachua village under Rajnagar Block in Kendrapara. His father, Arabinda Sethi, is a farmer and mother Subhadra is a home-maker. He has three siblings.
Overwhelmed by the success of the Dalit boy, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had recently felicitated him at the State Secretariat.
Later Energy Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak evinced personal interest in the electrification of Talchua after the boy made a fervent request before the CM for electrification of his village.
CESU authorities are going to electrify the village in a month, said Nayak.
The electrification of the said village was on CESU’s agenda. But the success story of the Dalit boy has definitely spurred the Government to take up the project on a priority basis, Nayak added.
A task force constituted for the project has already submitted its estimate. We are planning to electrify the village by June-end. Over 300 families would be benefited once the project gets complete, Nayak, who represents Mahakalpada Assembly seat of the district, concluded.
Posted on: June 19, 2009
Orginally published as “Dalits still at the receiving end in matters relating to temples: study”, By D.Karthikeyan, The Hindu, June 15, 2009.
MADURAI: Temples continue to be spaces for oppression and resistance and remain a major source of caste clashes, a study has found.
Dalits are at the receiving end in issues like entry to temples and right to participate in festivals and they face stiff opposition and attack from caste Hindus, according to the study conducted recently by Evidence, a Madurai-based non-governmental organisation, in the southern districts of Madurai, Tirunelveli, Virudhunagar, Sivaganga and Dindigul to unearth discriminatory practices in temples.
The various forms of discriminatory practices that are reported to have taken place in these sacred spaces include clash over serving of annadhanam to a Dalit and untouchability in cattle donation; Dalits were prevented from donating cattle.
Eighty-five panchayats were chosen for the study, which found that 69 temples among them remained inaccessible to Dalits.
In 72 temples, Dalits were allowed to enter but prevented from entering the common place of worship.
Fifty-four temples did not allow their temple cars to enter the streets of Dalit colonies and areas.
In 52 temples Dalits were not given the equal honour of having the headscarf. Thirty-three temples did not allow them to pull the temple car. In 64 temples Dalits were not allowed to perform rituals and also denied chance for cultural performances during festivals. In the recent past, temple clashes were the starting point for attacks and murder of Dalits.
In Senthatti village near Sankarankoil in Tirunelveli district, it was over the celebration of Muppidathi Amman temple festival. During the Paramakalyani Siva Saiva Nathar temple festival, three Dalits of Keezhambur near Ambasamudram in Alwarkurichi police limits were killed.
In its recommendations, the NGO said that Section 3 (1) (14) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act) 1989 should be invoked in cases of atrocities such as denial of worshipping rights and temple entry. The State government should present a White Paper on the attacks against Dalits during festivals.
District-level monitoring committees should be formed to take preventive action.
A mechanism should be worked out to abolish caste-based discrimination under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department.
Posted on: June 19, 2009
Originally published as “Vienna clash may put caste in global spotlight”, by Subodh Ghildiyal, Times of India News Network, May 26, 2009.
NEW DELHI: Caste fingerprints on the sensational Vienna shootout among Sikhs could result in renewed international pressure for recognition of caste-based discrimination as a global concern, with many hinting at a revived clamour for treating casteism as racism.
The ghost of Durban conference in 2001, where India fought back a determined and coordinated bid by NGOs to recognise casteism as racism, may raise its head again. Only this month, Indian government is said to have rebuffed a fresh offensive from Scandinavian countries underlining their stand on caste-race parity.
The move came in the run-up to two-day review of Durban racism conference last month, taking India by surprise. The Indian stand on the controversial issue has been that while caste system is a form of discrimination, it could not be equated with racism. It has cited its constitutional commitment against casteism as proof of its credentials.
But dalit lobbies say that Vienna bloodshed has blown holes in the argument that caste was an Indian phenomenon, firmly showing that it had spilled out on global platform along with the diaspora. Says Vivek Kumar, who teaches sociology in JNU, “Caste has moved beyond India with Indian diaspora as the latter does not move as individuals but takes its cultural baggage along. There is growing evidence that caste is showing its face in other countries.”
Dalit groups concede that not much may change on the issue immediately as Indian voice is influential in global fora. But, they add, growing evidence of presence of caste on global platforms, like incidents in Vienna, would put pressure on India. “We will raise the issue through NGOs across the world,” said Ashok Bharti, who runs National Conference of Dalit Organisations.
The intra-Sikh violence is reported to be a perennial point of conflict as Ravidasi Sikhs have floated their own gurudwaras, attracting hostility from upper caste Sikhs. The hotbed is Europe, Canada and UK. The problem could be serious in future owing to sheer numbers. An estimate puts Sikh population in UK between four to five lakh [400,000-500,000], of which one-third are said to be dalits.
Sources said caste was getting recognition as an issue outside India. There is a strong demand from sections of dalit diaspora in UK, Canada and US that governments enact laws to deal with caste-related crimes as with race-related crimes. These are countries with huge Indian-origin population, including Sikhs. In UK, Caste Watch has been formed to detail cases of caste-related crimes.
For India, the pressure from Vienna could be serious in the wake of post-Durban Conference pressure that casteism falls in the category of work and descent and was akin to racism. Massive pressure from NGOs in Durban Conference on Racism in 2001 was resisted by India. However, the UN Council on Human Rights appointed special rapporteurs to report on caste discrimination in India.
Posted on: May 27, 2009
Originally published as “Dalits desperate for drinking water, uppercastes monopolise well”, Deccan Herald, May 24, 2009.
Hundreds of dalit families in Salgunda village, Sindhanur taluk [Karnataka state], are desperate for water as untouchability is still in practice in the village.
The common wells in the village are reserved only for the upper castes and the dalits are forbidden from drawing water from the well.
The dalits have to wait for long hours before a member of the uppercaste takes pity and pours out a couple of pots of water for them. That too it can happen only if the dalits beg them with all humility and not otherwise.
Sometimes the dalits have to sit for the entire day before someone takes pity and pours out a pot of water and sometimes we go without a single pot of water says Durugamma.
Though untouchability is banned, it is only on paper as the tahsildar [tax officials], social welfare officials and even the police officials have turned a blind eye to the inhuman attitude of the uppercastes in this village.
Many a conscientious citizens do express the negligent attitude of the village administration in taking action against such practices. But nothing has been done so far to eradicate it.
Four months ago there was an outbreak of gastro-enteritis in the village and the entire population had to be treated at the Salagunda primary health centre, public and private hospitals. The gram panchayat and Panchayat Raj officials made temporary arrangements to supply water and did not bother to think of permanent solution to the problem.
Rs 8 lakh in bank
Under the Employment Guarantee programme, an amount of Rs 8 lakh [800,000 rupees or $16,000] has been reserved for providing drinking water to the village. The Gram Panchayat officials announced a year ago that a piece of land has been purchased for the construction of a tank. However there is no progress on the project till now.
The villagers are of the opinion that the in-fighting between the leaders and their selfishness is the reason for the project not taking off.
A group of youth and organisations have come together to stage a protest against the negligent attitude of the officials on May 25. They are planning to gherao the gram panchayat office, demanding immediate action.
Posted on: May 25, 2009
Originally published as “12 yrs on, justice for Mumbai Dalit colony”, Hindustan Times, 8 May 2009.
Nearly 12 years after the controversial police firing in a Mumbai suburb, a fast track court on Thursday sentenced the then State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) Platoon Commander Manohar Kadam (56) to life imprisonment for causing homicidal deaths of 10 Dalits in the firing.
The Dalits were part of a mob protesting against desecration of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue in Ramabai Nagar in Ghatkopar, a northeastern suburb of Mumbai on July 11, 1997.
Ad-hoc Judge SY Kulkarni handed the maximum punishment, considering the large number of victims, and that the firing was ordered without assessing the situation and violated mandatory norms.
Judge Kulkarni found that Kadam had ordered firing within 10 minutes of his reaching the scene and did not try to resort to a cane-charge, teargas shelling or firing in the air.
The impact of the killing was such that Dalits, who form roughly 12 per cent of the state’s population, voted to defeat the Sena-BJP alliance government in the 1999 elections. The alliance has not returned to power since.
What incensed Dalits was the way the then Chief Minister Manohar Joshi (Sena) and Home Minister Gopinath Munde (BJP) had defended the firing — arguing that the police resorted to firing as the mob was about to torch a nearby oil tanker.
“It is delayed justice but it will surely help the Congress-NCP build faith among the Dalits,” said Ratnakar Mahajan, Executive Chairman of the State Planning Board.
BJP leaders Munde and Nitin Gadkari did not comment on the verdict.
The court discarded the ‘gas tanker’ theory put forth by Kadam and the then ruling Shiv Sena-BJP combine. According to the officer, the mob, which had already set some vehicles on fire, was moving towards the tanker standing on the Eastern Express highway. Kadam said it was at this moment that he ordered his platoon to open fire, sensing danger of the mob setting the tanker ablaze and affecting the entire area within 10 km of the tanker’s periphery.
Posted on: May 21, 2009
Originally published as “Apartheid funded by the Indian tax-payer”, Hindustan Times, by Salil Mekaad, May 5, 2009.
In an era when one set of Indians is manning the world’s knowledge back-office with distinction, another set of children — in Madhya Pradesh, which the ruling BJP often showcases as a “model state” – has to face such discrimination and humiliation. Everyday.
This Indian version of apartheid is taking place in schools and childcare centres run by the government, and in schemes funded by the tax-payer’s — in other words, your – money.
They are forced to sit in separate rows, bring utensils from home or given food in plates marked boldly with permanent ink to distinguish them from the rest. According to a survey on social discrimination conducted by Jansahas, an NGO, and Unicef, in 24 villages across four districts – Ujjain, Sheopur, Katni and Jhabua – in Madhya Pradesh, more than 63 percent of Dalit children are subjected to caste discrimination while being served mid-day meals in government schools.
They are forced to sit in separate rows, bring utensils from home or given food in plates marked boldly with permanent ink to distinguish them from the rest.
The Mid-Day Meal Scheme, funded by the government, is the world’s largest school lunch programme and covers 120 million children. Ironically, one of the key objectives of the scheme is to increase socialisation among children of different caste groups.
“As many as 40 percent of Dalit students facing discrimination were given mid-day meals in plates specially set aside for them,” Jansahas activist Ashif Sheikh told Hindustan Times.
While some were asked to bring utensils from home, most were served their mid-day meals on leaf plates. Non-Dalits, however, were served on metal plates.
The survey found that most teachers were insensitive to the discrimination against Dalits because of caste-based traditions being followed in rural areas, he said.
In a majority of the schools surveyed, Dalit students were not allowed to sit in the front row. As many as 78 percent of school-going Dalit students were backbenchers or forced away from the front row and subjected to casteist abuses.
And 79 percent of such students were compelled to clean the schools. In some schools, this chore was given only to Dalit girls.
The survey found that the Anganwadi scheme, a government-sponsored mother and childcare scheme catering to children in the 0-6 age group, also discriminates against Dalits. About 59 percent of Dalits said they desisted from sending their children to the local anganwadi facilities.
The victims claimed that Dalit children were not allowed to enter the anganwadis and were forced to accept nutritional supplements outside the building.
The survey concluded that caste discrimination is one of the prominent reasons for the absence of Dalit children from school.
Posted on: May 6, 2009
Originally published as “Dalits, STs vote for first time”, The Hindu, April 24, 2009.
HYDERABAD: Thanks to the strict enforcement of law by the electoral and police officials, Dalits and Scheduled Tribes [ST] in 49 villages in Chittoor district [of Andhra Pradesh state] exercised their franchise for the first time since Independence on Thursday.
Disclosing this to reporters here, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) I.V. Subba Rao quoted a report sent by Chittoor Collector in this regard. Five villages—Kalicherla, Patooru, Siddavaram, Kothkaadapalli and Paapepalli—under Chandragiri Assembly segment were among those in which Dalits and STs exercised franchise for the first time.
In another incident at Koratamadi village in Nandyal Parliamentary constituency, the CEO intervened and ensured that Dalits, STs and other weaker sections cast their votes following a complaint that they were being prevented from doing so.
Following yet another complaint to the electoral authorities, police arrested some persons and booked cases against them for assaulting and preventing 400 Dalits from voting at Thundur in Bhimavaram constituency.
The CEO said that a similar case was also reported from Kadapa district.
Posted on: April 24, 2009
Originally published as “IJP candidate’s murder a mystery”, by Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui, Times of India, April 18, 2009.
[Editor’s note: The dead politician was running for election under the Indian Justice Party. This party was formed by Udit Raj, a Dalit leader who has worked with DFN, as a platform for social justice for Dalits. It is one of the few competitors to Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party which is currently in power in the state of Uttar Pradesh.]
LUCKNOW: On March 30, Indian Justice Party (IJP) candidate from Jaunpur Bahadur Sonkar informed the district magistrate (DM) Aparna Upadhyay of being threatened to withdraw from the elections. With no help from the authorities, he produced evidences at a press conference on April 6 claiming that circle officer (CO) Ditendra Chowdhary was pressurising him to skip the fray. On April 13, his body was found hanging from a tree near his house. Within the next 24 hours, police said Bahadur committed suicide. However 72 hours later, police are yet to answer some basic queries which question their suicide theory.
This despite ample evidence to strongly suggest that not only Bahadur was murdered but an intelligent attempt was also made to plant evidence which could portray victim’s younger brother Suresh as the prime suspect. But the police appear to have conveniently overlooked this evidence for reasons best known to them.
For a quick recap: Bahadur’s body was found hanging from a babool tree, nine feet above the ground, about a furlong from his house. Ante-mortem injury on the head and a ligature injury on the neck were found during autopsy. The post-mortem report deduced the cause of death as “asphyxia as a result of ante-mortem injuries”.
Neither circumstantial evidences, nor the post-mortem report remotely suggest that Bahadur hanged himself to death. On the contrary, there are a series of elements which suggest that he did not.
Firstly, despite Bahadur having named the CO who was supposedly pressurising him to quit elections, no efforts have been made yet to confirm if the allegations hold water.
Next, Bahadur’s body was found hanging from a tree nine feet above the ground. Why would a person planning suicide hang a loop 14.5 feet (9 feet plus his own height 5.5 feet) and then climb up all the way to hang himself instead of choosing a lower branch to hang the rope from. Next, there was nothing at the scene of crime which could have been used by Bahadur to reach the 14-feet-plus-high knot. So, how did reach there?
When confronted with the query, SP Jaunpur V K Dohre instead came up with a question. “Why wound anyone hang him 9 feet above the ground even if we assume that he was murdered?”
Thirdly, the post-mortem report clearly states that the victim had suffered ante-mortem injuries on his head and a ligature injury on the neck — a common factor in suicide cases.
Posted on: April 20, 2009
Originally published as “Dalit poll body to ensure Dalits cast their vote” in The Times Of India, April 15, 2009.
PATNA: In its bid to ensure justice to the Dalits and their participation in the election process, the National Dalit Human Rights Campaign, is collaborating with other human rights groups to launch and run the National Dalit Election Watch to monitor through independent volunteers whether the Dalits are being allowed to cast their votes or not during parliamentary polls in Bihar.
Bihar is among 13 states in the country where the state level units of the National Dalit Election Watch (NDEW) is functioning having already identified the super sensitive booths where its volunteers would ensure that there is no encumbrance in Dalits’ casting their votes, said convener of Bihar unit of NDEW Mahesh Prasad (retired IAS).
Prasad along with social activist Sudha Verghese and others told mediapersons here on Tuesday that NDEW’s 648 independent observers are working in 35 parliamentary constituencies in 28 districts, 137 blocks and 578 panchayats to keep a tab on 750 super sensitive booths in Bihar.
On election days, during four phases of parliamentary polls, the NDEW’s observers would inform the state level control room on phone regarding the incidents of Dalits being stopped from casting their votes. They said that for the first phase of the poll, 245 volunteers have been given training to keep a tab on 227 booths. For the rest three phases in the state, volunteers have been selected and they would be given training to keep a tab on all the polling booths to ensure casting of votes by all the Dalit voters, Prasad said.
After the elections are over, the NDEW would send suggestions to the Election Commission for bringing out amendments in the electoral process to ensure casting of votes by the Dalits, he said.
Prasad said that the NDEW had in its survey found that in the past, 18 per cent of the Dalits were stopped from casting votes at polling booths in rural areas, 50 per cent of them were influenced to vote for certain candidates and eight per cent were made to stand in separate queues to cast votes.
Posted on: April 15, 2009
Originally published as “Court ruling challenges India’s caste system” by Dean Nelson in the Telegraph, , March 17, 2009.
An appeal court judge in Jammu and Kashmir decided that all Indians were worthy of respect and entitled to a good reputation regardless of their wealth or social status.
The ruling amounts to a direct challenge to India’s caste-focused society in which attacks on ‘untouchables’ or dalits because of their ‘polluting presence’ are common.
There are cases of dalits killed for daring to drink water from the same well as their caste ‘superiors’ or to complain when their daughters are raped.
Against this background, the ruling has been hailed as revolutionary.
Mushtaq Ahmed Mir, an unemployed man from Kupwara, decided to sue the Kashmiri newspaper Tameel-i-Irshad after it published a false report claiming he was a defendant in a murder case. He had asked the judge to waive the court fee in the case because he was too poor to pay it.
The judge threw out his case with a ruling that the poor did not have reputations which could be damaged in newspaper reports.
“When the plaintiff is not even in a position to pay the lawsuit fee, he cannot seek damages for defamation, ” Judge Nazir Ahmed Fida said. “The dignity of a person of low integrity will not be lowered further in case his name appears in a defamatory piece of news.”
Mr Mir’s lawyer said he was shocked by the decision, made despite the judge’s acknowledgement that the news report was untrue, and launched an immediate appeal.
In his appeal ruling, High Court Judge Muzaffar Hussain Attar reprimanded the original trial judge and said his ruling had been “offensive to conscience.” “The respect and reputation of a person is not dependent upon how much wealth he has accumulated,” he said. If only the rich were entitled to respect “a great disservice will be done to society,” he added.
Supreme court lawyer Zafar Shah last night welcomed the ruling which he said had narrowed the gap between the equal rights promised to every Indian in the country’s constitution and the reality where “the respect and dignity of a person is determined by [his] economic and social status.”
Leading social commentator Pavan K Varma said the ruling heralded “the beginning of change.” “To say that someone who is poor can’t have status reflects the mindset of another century, but old attitudes die hard. That the appeals judge threw out the ruling means there’s a beginning of change. I’m not surprised that [the judgment] was overruled. That’s the significance. Caste is now standing on its head,” he said.
Dalit leader Dr Udit Raj however said while the ruling was “revolutionary” and a “symbolic victory” for the poor and low-castes, the reality in India was closer to the original trial judge’s ruling.
“It’s impossible for the poor, minorities and low castes to get justice. The trial judge should be dismissed, but his ruling is closer to reality. There is some way to go before dalits get the respect they’re entitled to under the constitution. Our people are hypocrites,” he said.
Posted on: March 25, 2009
Originally published as “Grain Banks”, By Kanhaiah Bhelari, The Week, March 22, 2009 issue.
Six years ago, some Dalit women in Maner Telpa village in Bihar were discussing a way out of their plight. They were being tortured and humiliated by the rich and feudal lot for failing to return food grain they had borrowed in times of desperation. All of a sudden, an idea struck them—save food grain during harvest season and distribute it among the needy during September and October, the months of acute food shortage.
Thus was born Grain Bank. And at age six, the concept has spread to 60 villages in five districts-Patna, Bhojpur, East Champaran, Muzaffarpur and Samastipur. “They happen to be Laxmis as well as ‘home ministers’,” said a man, appreciating the women who operate these banks.
Deokali Devi had an ugly experience with some people, who hurled vulgar abuses at her when she failed to return five kilos of rice. But that was three years ago, before she joined the bank. Those bad days are over. Deokali last September borrowed 40kg of rice from the bank. She has to return it in March 2009 with an interest of eight kilos. “There is a one-kilo interest on every five kilos,” said Sudami Devi, secretary of the bank. This year, 14 women have borrowed from the bank in Maner Telpa.
Starting with a small stock, the bank turned wealthy in October 2004 when the NGO Pragati Gramin Vikas Samiti donated Rs 5,000 to purchase food grain and two steel containers. “We began with 55kg in 2002. With the help of the samiti, the bank got a stock of 711kg in 2004. And now it has 1,560kg of rice as capital,” said Punam Devi, one of 26 members of the samiti in Maner Telpa. One container is kept at Sudami Devi’s house and the other at the house of Fulwanti Devi, the president of the samiti’s local unit. Each container can hold 920kg.
Some 50 families belonging to Musahar caste in Nisarpura village used mud containers to store rice. The samiti in 2004 donated two containers and 700kg of rice. “It had already accumulated 70kg,” said Deo Kumari Devi, president of the samiti’s unit in the village. “This year, the bank distributed 1,300kg of rice among 39 families.”
The bank has emboldened the villagers to fight injustice and keep off the fields of landlords who pay them very low wages. “We were being paid a mere 3kg of rice for 10 hours of toil. Our demand was only for 5kg, which they denied, forcing us to stop work,” said Siyamati Devi, secretary of the samiti in Nisarpura village.
Pradeep Priyadarshi, chief of the NGO, said the Dalit women no longer had to go from door to door begging for food. “They just need to come to the bank,” he said. But he does not take all the credit for the good times. “The bank was their idea. We just motivated them with financial assistance.”
The bank is helping the women settle a few old scores, too. Vinay Singh, who borrowed 40kg of rice last year, was asked to return 60kg. “We charged him 50 per cent interest because he used to charge us the same rate when he was financially sound,” said Deokali. But it does not charge even a grain from extremely poor women. Besides, the bank has been donating food grain to needy families in the event of death. Those with physical disabilities are given rice free of cost. “I feel proud that the women in my constituency have started such banks,” said Ramkripal Yadav, MP from Patna, who belongs to the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
Most remarkably, the state government is considering adoption of the concept. Said Pradeep, “An IAS officer approached me recently to know the details.” If the government sets up such banks, the downtrodden will never have to beg the rich for a square meal.
Posted on: March 20, 2009
Originally published as “Change Makers Inc” by Shobhita Naithani in Tehelka Magazine, Vol. 6, Issue 10, March 14, 2009.
By the time Benjamin Kaila had turned 10, experience had taught him what it meant to be a dalit: that touching an upper caste was sacrilege. As a student of Class 5, Kaila had accidentally tapped the hand of an examiner who had come to inspect the school. What followed was severe cane-whipping by the inspector.
Three decades later, Kaila’s elder son, Paul, is the lead designer for the Robotics team in his school in Los Angeles and his younger son Andrew, wants to be a paleontologist — career prospects unheard of at a time when Kaila would have to walk for miles, through passages used for defecation and dumping of dead animals, to reach his Telugu-medium school in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district.
So when Kaila, 47, moved to the US in 1999 with his family, the software consultant decided to help students who were bright but belonged to socially, educationally, and economically backward communities (especially dalits). In 2003, with the help of two friends in Hyderabad, he started the Ambedkar Scholarships in the memory of his parents.
To begin with there were two scholarships of Rs 5,000 each, for Dalit students who passed class 10 with first class marks. The following year, the number of scholarships went up to 23. In 2007, 99 students were awarded the scholarship. This year, the number will cross 100. Applicants are judged on the basis of merit, economic status and an essay, with a preference for children from government schools and a 50 percent reservation for girls. For students, the scholarship offers not only financial, but moral support as well.
Panga Ramesh, 20, the son of a daily wage labourer is now studying medicine at Osmania Medical College, Hydera – bad. “My mother earns Rs 200 a day. It was with the scholarship that I could afford my Class 12 books,” says the 2005 awardee.
Like his parents, both elementary school teachers, Kaila, as a child, decided to be an educator. “I had seen that, as teachers, my parents were respected — however little — despite being dalits,” he says. So after a BSc from a Guntur college, Kaila enrolled himself for a Bachelor in Education diploma. At 26, Kaila moved to Hyderabad for a computer course. “It was this trip that turned my life around,” he recalls. A relative gifted him a copy of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar’s biography. Prior to that episode, Ambedkar was known to Kaila as only the ‘Father of the Constitution’. After reading Ambedkar, Kaila says he became “selfless”. An association with the Bahujan Samaj Party followed. He met Kanshi Ram and started a Telugu Bahujan Welfare Society while working in the IT industry. He quit and moved to the US in 1999.
Since 2003, Kaila has added several small projects to the ongoing scheme. Scholarships have been extended to children from scavenging families, microloans to those looking to start a small-scale business, financial help to victims of caste atrocities and awards to Dalit trendsetters. In 2007 Kaila registered an NGO, Friends for Education International in US.
As Kaila prepares for the sixth Ambedkar Awards ceremony, scheduled for April 2009, he recalls: “My grandfather used to burn dead bodies at the cremation ground. I tell my children that had I not educated myself, I would have done the same and it would have been passed down to them.” But the reality is that Kaila is a changemaker and will continue to transform lives.
Posted on: March 16, 2009
Orginally published by Daily News & Analysis, March 7, 2009.
Mirzapur: Recently floated political coalition National Dalit Front has roped in eight-year-old Pinki Sonakar, protagonist of the Oscar winning documentary Smile Pinki, as their election “mascot”.
The eight year old will campaign for the coalition that includes the Indian Justice Party (IJP), the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) the Gondwana Party and the Republican Party.
The coalition feels that Pinki would prove to be a perfect representative for the marginalized sections of the society, and wish that her Oscar-wining-luck would rub upon them.
“She is famous now and that will benefit the party, no doubt. Also, we want to promote her, we want her to have a bright future. Otherwise like other children of award winning films and films like ‘Salaam Bombay’, she would be left to live a pathetic life,” said Udit Raj, president of Indian Justice Party. [Editor’s note: other news reports said that Pinki is from the same Dalit sub-caste as Dr. Udit Raj and that he gave her a cash gift during his visit to her home.]
The National Dalit Front (NDF) will hold a function in New Delhi on March 15.
Megan Mylan’s short film Smile Pinki, which won the Oscar for the Best Documentary Short Subject, is tale of a six-year-old girl who becomes a social outcast because of a cleft lip.
The 39-minute documentary traces Pinki’s journey from being ostracized to being surgically treated in a bid to lead a normal life.
Posted on: March 9, 2009
Originally published by CNN-IBN, March 7, 2009.
Sankarankoil (Tamil Nadu): Two Dalits were hacked to death by unidentified assailants following a dispute apparently over offering worship in the local Muppidathy Ammam temple in Tirunelveli district.
The group of unidentified persons hacked one Dalit, K Paramasivan (27), when he was going to his village on Friday night, police said on Saturday.
Another Dalit, E Easwaran (55), who was coming in a motorcycle with one more Dalit Suresh, was also found hacked to death.
Suresh somehow managed to escape from the scene.
The dispute started over offering worship in the temple, belonging to Konar community, started last year, officials said.
Posted on: March 9, 2009
Originally published as “6 Gujarat teachers get life term for gang raping Dalit student”, Press Trust of India, March 6, 2009.
Ahmedabad, Gujarat: Six teachers of a college in Patan near here were awarded life terms by a special court for gang raping a 19-year-old Dalit student today, a year after the incident had led to public outrage in Gujarat.
Manish Parmar, Mahendra Prajapati, Ashwin Parmar, Kiran Patel, Suresh Patel and Atul Patel were pronounced guilty by Additional Sessions Judge S C Srivastava at Patan, about 125 km from here in north Gujarat.
The judge imposed a fine of Rs 4,000 ($77) on each of them and said failure to pay the amount would invite additional six-month imprisonment.
The court also directed the convicts to pay Rs 10,000 ($192) each to the girl, a student of the Primary Teachers’ Training College (PTC), as compensation.
The incident at the state government-run college in Patan came to light on February 4, 2008 after the victim told her parents and relatives that she was repeatedly raped by the teachers over a period of six months.
The girl comes from a poor background and was a resident-student of the college.
She was threatened by the teachers that they will not give internal marks to her and fail her if she did not give in to their sexual advances, police had said.
Posted on: March 9, 2009
Originally published as “Ahead of polls, attacks on Dalits on the rise”, By Shubhangi Khapre, Daily News & Analysis, Feb. 25, 2009.
Mumbai: The recent attacks on Dalits and other backward classes (OBC) [in Maharashtra state] is being seen as an attempt by the dominant Maratha caste to suppress the voice of Dalit/other backward classes for having opposed reservations for the Marathas.
In Beed, two women were paraded naked in their village while an activist was brutally beaten up for raising his voice when talking to so-called upper caste leaders. In Parbhani, an old dalit woman was killed over a land dispute and on Tuesday, a young Dalit boy was killed in Aurangabad for allegedly teasing an upper caste girl.
The Bharip Bahujansamaj Party (BBP) chief, Prakash Ambedkar, blamed the rise in attacks on the Maratha’s demand for reservations. “The police’s inaction in the Marathwada region is promoting attacks against the Dalits,” he claimed.
He charged the state government of deliberate inaction against those committing the atrocities. “At Shrirampur, OBC activists who merely attended a political rally were arrested for promoting caste conflict, but when Maratha activists pelted stones at the chief minister’s aircraft, the police did not arrest a single person. Such administrative prejudice encourages further attacks,” he added.
The Congress is banking on the support of the Dalits, who form 10.5% of the electorate, to win the elections, and such attacks might hurt the party. Congress leaders are quick to blame the NCP, whose member is the home minister that is responsible for law and order, for failing to curb the attacks.
Arjun Dangle, a Dalit writer who is associated with the Republican Party of India (RPI), said, “The state has set up the Atrocities Committee to tackle attacks against Dalits after the Khairlangi killings in 2006. But till date, this committee has not been empowered.”
Posted on: February 27, 2009