a curious glance

(little bit of what I see)

Category: Social Issues

How Will Her Soul Rest In Peace?

Supreme court upholds the death penalty of those accused in Nirbhaya’s rape case, the headline that let a lot of people breathe a sigh of relief. Sadly, within a few days, a horrid gang rape in Rohtak, sends shock waves throughout the country again. The list of brutal gang rapes is miserably high (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/after-nirbhaya-the-rape-cases-that-shook-india/article18404268.ece) and I have written this verse with a hope/plead so as to eliminate this heinous crime completely. I am sure there could be a solution, or am I hoping against hope here? There has to be a way and let us together find that way..

How will her soul rest in peace?

More women face same agony and grief

Highest court upholds death penalty

Other barbarians still propagate cruelty

If death can’t deter a rapist’s mind

What could be done to eradicate such kind?

Sexual desire to be killed by immediate castration

Or cultivating better minds by compulsory education

There has to be an answer, there must be a way

Dare not treat her as an object for pleasure & play

How will her soul rest in peace?

More women face same agony and grief

Just imagine the pain she had to bear

It shakes me with such disgust and fear

We can’t allow her to be in such a plight

We must come forward, we ought to fight

Let’s make this world a safe place to reside

Be it day or night, she does not have to hide

Please tell me there is a way, there must be way

“Do not give birth to girl child”, no mother shall say….

(Image from an article in Indian Express)


Nation Without Feminism?

Sakshi and Sindhu win medals at Olympics; yes, they make us proud; India India is the chant all around… Amongst all this celebration, what disturbed me was the tinge of sexism added to the glory. Social media was pervaded with comments and posts like “Indian Women bring us the glory”, “See, Women did it for India” and “Indian Women make history”. Now, let us understand that these posts in no way meant to demean the Indian men. However, inequality and exploitation of women is so prevalent in our country, that feminism gets promoted at every possible platform. Why was I disturbed? Because, I hope for a nation where there would be no need to cry aloud the word “feminism” persistently. Where “Indian athletes bring glory to the nation” would be the posts irrespective of whether women or men bring us the medals. I hope for a nation where the need to advocate feminism is no more required.

I guess my idea of such a nation is far from reality as of now. Although the contemporary urbane men admire and recognise what a woman is capable of, the overall situation in India and some other parts of the world is reprehensible. Well, some people think, the concept of feminism is misused and the women are trying to overpower men and want to rise and shine above them. I do not think the raging battle is to compete with men; it is in fact to let us be, for us to be born, for us to be accepted, for us to be respected, for us to be free, for us to be equal…The fight for feminism would continue as long as the following ideology/practice exists:

  • Female fetuses are killed
  • Parents consider son as old age support
  • Parents spend more on son’s education
  • Restrictions on girls in the name of security
  • Man expects his would-be wife to be a virgin
  • Girl’s family sponsors the wedding ceremony
  • Dowry and Domestic Violence
  • Man is the bread earner
  • Woman is the family care taker
  • Women should know how to cook
  • Use of words like slut, whore and mother/sister fu_ _er

Yes, the list is long… Until the time women get their due, India will have to accentuate that women got us medals in Olympics, Sania wins Double Grand Slam Tennis title again, leading female actors will feature in Baywatch and XXX, and many more such facts. Until then, the shout to promote feminism will continue. Until then, the India I hope for will only be a dream…Yes, even when men have been achieving the same, we will have to glorify the success of the other gender to make the entire nation acknowledge the strength of a woman.

There is no denying the fact that men are physically stronger, but I do not think God intended it to be used as a weapon to exploit women. Do not call us the “weaker sex” based on our physical strength; mentally we are strong beyond men’s understanding (well, men are right when they joke, “We can never understand women” ).. Do pardon me, for ending on a sexist remark!

(Picture from Huffington Post)


Killing For Honour: What a Disgrace!

Qandeel Baloch brutally strangled by her brother in Pakistan; a 22 year old Dalit man murdered with machetes in Tamil Nadu, India and two sisters shot by their brother a day before their wedding in Pakistan are a few horrid headlines hitting the press in the recent past. What was common with all these cold-blooded murders? They were all in the name of “Honour”. Killing your own family members and gaining satisfaction out of it is atrocious and immensely condemnable.  How can the justifications to kill on a premise “he/she brought defamation to the family” ever be sane?

A brother strangles his sister to death and shows no remorse. The reason for murder being her views were too liberal for their society and her provocative presence on social media caused dishonour to the family. What an irony, he is a callous murderer, and she is the one who brought ill fame to the family? Whatever she did, it was her choice and you, another mortal, had no bloody right to take her life away.

Then there are cases where love, maybe the most beautiful feeling in the world, becomes lethal.  Is it not said that lucky is the one who loves, and receives that love back from the same person? However, in many parts of India and Pakistan, one could die for being in love, especially if the partner belongs to a different caste. That is what recently happened in Udumalpet, Tamil Nadu. V.Shankar, a Dalit brutally murdered in daylight on a crowded crossing because he dared to love and marry Kausalya from a higher caste. Kausalya was severely injured and Shankar died when attacked with machetes by men hired by Kausalya’s father. Yes, her own father directed their killing, ignoble, is it not? In another despicable incident in Pakistan, Naseer shot down Kosar and Gulzar, his sisters because they chose to marry men of their own choice.

Why am I stressing more on India and Pakistan? Because as per a study, out of approximately 5000 cases of honour killing reported around the world, more than 1000 killings occur in India and Pakistan. These numbers are highly underestimated, as there is no separate section or law to report honour killings. Shocked, are you? In the records of National Crime Bureau (India), no such crime head exists. (You can check for yourself, go to http://ncrb.gov.in/, and click on crimes in 2014.) In 2011, Supreme Court stamped these acts as barbaric and issued directives to state/trial courts to award death penalty to convicts. However, the central government, current or the one in past, has not taken any initiatives to pass a separate bill to recognise this violent crime independently. A few former ministers have been of the opinion that if considered separate from murders, it could be misused. Well in that case, why do we have different heads for any kind of murders?

What is even glummer, many such cases do not even get a fair trial. Do you know why? The family members of those murdered plead for acquittal of convicts. Yes, because they are family to the murderers too. In some rural areas, Panchayats resolve such issues or rather they order such killings.  What an obsolete state of affairs. Stringent laws are required to protect those who love or love beyond caste system, which is sadly still prevalent in many parts. And the perpretators should not be set free.

I do not know what is happening to the world. Why do you kill in the name of God, honour or any other rationale? Why do you kill at all? Who are you to kill? Why is your heart so irascible and dark? Why is there dearth of endearment in you?? Why and Why?


Farmers’ Distress: The Tragic Indian Story

He, who reaps the harvest, shall not die

Let him out of the agony, we must try

He, who nurtures the land, shall not suicide

Remunerate him fair, we must abide

Supply water, his farm shall not wither

Fulsome, the produce he must garner…..

How is it fair that the one, who harvests the food we eat, dies because of lack of food and sustenance? Farmers in India are resorting to suicides due to indebtedness and crop failure. As per National Crime Records Bureau, 5560 farmers committed suicide in 2014, out of which 2568 were from Maharashtra alone. The state recorded a grim number of 3228 suicides in 2015, reports Hindu. Drought has drastically affected Maharashtra and farmers commit suicides, as they are unable to aid their families.

I raised this question when I wrote about India’s Hunger Story and I would ask again. How does one justify the economic growth when certain groups of society are dying due to deprivation of basic necessities? Is it not disgraceful for the nation? If there can be Special Economic Zones, then there is an urgent need for Special Agricultural Zones as well. Agricultural sector needs to be organised and there is an exigency for elimination of intermediaries. I cannot understand why our government (current or former) lacks in proper management of rainwater harvesting or storage.

There are numerous schemes like Drought-Prone Area Programme, Indira Aawas Yojana, Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana amongst others to assist the rural populations. However, if such worrisome is the agrarian state of our country, revamping of these schemes is the need of the hour. As per the budget of 2015-16, planned outlay for rural development is INR 71,642 crore.  In addition, for agriculture programmes exclusively, the budget allocation is INR 5845.45 crore.  If the troubled plight of farmers continues, we all know the reason could only be non-judicious use of funds!

IndianExpress published an article on Marathwada (Maharashtra) recently, it quotes Marathwada as the suicide capital of farmers. It features an interview with a farmer who mentions, that from 10 years ago, there is only a marginal increase in the price he gets for his produce while the cost of labour and fertilisers have grown manifolds. Even water is not free now, they use paid tankers to water the crops. He unhesitatingly blames the government for importing onions whenever onion price rises in the country. They have lakhs and lakhs of debt to repay with no just price for their yield. Farmers are in distress, they are helpless and they kill themselves, as there is no way out of the webs of polity and financial liabilities.

Farmers are abandoning their farms and migrating to cities with a hope of survival. How does one help them? The veteran actor Nana Patekar actively involved in farmer welfare programs pleads not to consider them as beggars. He suggests that we should adopt a farmer each to provide him with food, water and access to toilets. If you want to help the drought affected farmers and widows of farmers who committed suicide, please make a contribution to NAAM Foundation, started by Nana Patekar in 2015.

I would urge you to not just sympathise, but take actions. If you cannot help them monetarily, make others (who can) aware of the grave situation. Let us compel the government to come up with lasting remedies. Sending gallons of water through trains is okay, but that is just a temporary relief. This would not bring farmers out of the miserable conditions. “Jis Desh ki Dharti sona ugle, ugle heere moti,” that Dharti should not be allowed to lay parched. Drought is here to stay; planned initiatives are required to overcome the disaster. Technological advancements in the field of agriculture is more than necessary. Do not sit comfortably and let that grain go down your throat when the ones who sow those seeds are dying……

References: http://indiabudget.nic.in/

http://gov.bih.nic.in/

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/marathwada-indias-emerging-farmer-suicide-capital/


Vision Beyond Eyesight- My Learning From A Visit To Blind School

“It is better to have a vision without eyesight than to have eyesight without any vision”, the words on the walls of National Association of Blind (NAB) put me into a state of wonder for a few minutes. I along with a group of colleagues visited the blind school at RK Puram (Delhi) to represent the Community Impact Month at our organisation. I underwent a plethora of emotions, from being cheerful to sad to being motivated within a span of 4 hours. We met around 20 blind children who were so full of life, that they made me question my ability to be content in life.

We played a few games with them, sang songs and ate lunch together. A few of them were great actors, a few great singers and almost all of them were super intelligent. I do not think that at the age of twelve, I knew the name of the heaviest flower along with its weight or the name of the smallest bird and its weight. They were not just geniuses with science, but also had knowledge of cricket, movies and history. They took super pride and fun in bombarding us with such questions to which we hardly had any answers. I am mostly a bad loser but I would love to lose to them repeatedly in such quizzes for the sound of their euphonious laughter.

While I was distributing chocolates to them, a couple of girls asked my name and after we introduced ourselves to each other, Usha with a big smile said, “Didi, you have a nice name”. Babita joined and said, “Didi you have a really nice name”. Now, look at the politeness and their efforts to make others smile. There is a lot to learn from these children; primarily, one does not always need a reason to be happy.  Secondly, to be satiated with whatever you have in life. Whenever I crib and cry for things I do not have in my life, my mum always tells me, “Look at those who survive with so much less in life and you will realise you fret unnecessarily”.  This may sound cliché, but when you visit such a place and absorb all the positive vibes, you would believe in it for some time at least.

Let me talk a bit about Anil, he is himself visually impaired and comes to NAB every weekend to help these children in whatever means he can. He has a classic sense of humour. He in a light note mentioned, sometimes people ask us “You must see everything as black and dark”. To which he usually replies, “I don’t know what is black or dark, never seen it.” He also gave us mobility training, wherein with our blindfolds on, we had to use a stick to walk from one building to another. Trust me, as soon as you wear those blindfolds, your mind will be full of fear. Thoughts like, what if I fall, what if I hit a tree, hit someone else with my stick, or even worse collide with another person, passed through my mind. The pavement included special tactile paths so that when their stick touches that path, the sound is different from that of a normal road. (You would notice the same path in all metro stations) Through touch and sound, we had to follow that path to the other building. It was difficult for me to trust my power of hearing and I continuously used my feet to know if I could feel something different underneath. Their sense of touch and sound is much stronger than ours can ever be. As soon, as the drill was over, the first words that Anil said touched my heart, “How did it feel to be like us for five minutes?” and he laughed out loud after this.

Now, do not feel sad about these kids. God has made sure to gift them in one way or the other. Let me put it in simple words- Do not ever make them feel that they are disable, it hurts them the most. A colleague mentioned to me beforehand that we should not try to help them unless they ask for it. I made a mistake and I regret it. I accompanied a boy for lunch, and while we were walking towards the dining hall on first floor, I thought he would hit a pole and instinctively put my hands on his shoulders. He very sternly said, “I know, I can walk.” My intentions were not to make him feel him incapacitate in any manner, but I did offend him unknowingly.

They are an exuberant bunch of children and true warriors who need encouragement. Let us applaud their strength and courage. If you want to participate to keep their ebullience alive, help them with their education. You do not have to donate money; NAB has recording studios at its office in RK Puram, Sector 5. All you have to do is lend your voice and audio record the books. You and I have the eyesight but let us all have the Vision…

He is the true hero, real brave heart

Master from him, the undismayed art

Gifted he is, with superlative geniuses

Make sure you nurture his finesses

He may not see, can definitely intuit

Bring him hues, he was unable to sight…

 


India’s Hunger Story

“I finished my tea and threw the mud glass on the railway track, I saw a few children run towards the broken pieces of glass and lick the leftover drops of tea”, says Dr. Hari Om Pawar in his soul stirring recitation of hunger and poverty in India. He through the means of his poetry demands justice for all the deaths due to starvation. His poetry moved me and made me do some research on hunger statistics-

Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 2014 classifies India’s hunger status as “Serious” and ranks it at 55th position (lower number implies better position). There has been an improvement from the rank of 66 (out of 88 countries) from GHI of 2008. India’s hunger status was classified as “alarming” then. India is still home to highest number of chronically malnutrition children under the age of five. According to the UNO report (2014-15), India has an unnerving 194.6 million under nourished people, representing 15% of its population, highest in the world.

As per Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations, India produces ample quantity of food to meet the calorie requirements of its population. Then, where is that we lack? There is uneven distribution of food and the public policies focus more on quantity than quality of nutrition. There is a pressing need to improve quality of diets, sanitation and supply chain management of food. Under the MLA constituency development scheme, INR 2 crores is allocated per constituency per annum. Then why 3000 children die every day due to malnutrition?* Yes, 3000, the number is abominable. Thus, Dr. Pawar’s demand to enforce law to penalise the MLA’s for such deaths in their constituencies seems reasonable.

I am a tax paying citizen and I have every right to question whether the funds are not used judiciously or is it the allocation that is not enough? What is the point of spending crores and crores to improve the infrastructure for the sake of development when crores of people are starving? Food is the basic need and if a nation fails to provide the basic sustenance to its people, it fails in its entirety. How can the economic growth be justified if the food consumption is higher only within certain groups of society?

There is also this contrasting side of the country to which you and I belong.  We, who have sufficient means to satisfy our hunger as per our moods and fancies. We, who are guilty of throwing away the leftover food. How many times have you carried lunch to your work and not eaten it because of sudden plans with your colleagues to order/lunch out. Remember the last time, you could not finish the entire meal in the food court and left that food on the tray over the trash bin. Some throw away the food while others seek to feed on that thrown food. Such is the growing inequality across different economic groups in our country. The biggest irony- some die of malnutrition while others incur large sums of money to lose the extra kilos of weight.

We live our lives ignorant to the harsh realities of the millions of people. Let me narrate to you a story I read about the boy who lived, Subhash. He was a year old, severely dehydrated, unconscious and barely weighed two kgs when brought to the Malnutrition Intensive Care Unit of Darbhanga Medical College in Bihar. Only when fed on glucose, therapeutic milk and antibiotics for 40 continuous days, could he open his eyes and cry heartily. Now, not every under nourished child gets the timely treatment and survives. Children die, they are dying and initiatives are required so that they do not continue to die. We need more community-based programs like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to manage malnutrition in India. MSF- Doctors without Borders are fighting malnutrition in Bihar since 2009. Not all cases are critical so as to require treatment in a medical facility. If sufficient supplies of nourishment reach them until they gain adequate weight, they might smile, cry, play and more importantly live their childhood.

My purpose is not to evoke the feeling of charity in you. It is rather to make you aware that at this particular second some took their last breath because they could not get a mouthful of nourishment. Maybe the next time, when we are not able to finish the food we order, we can get it packed and pass it to a deprived child on a red light. Maybe, just the thought that someone somewhere is dying because of food deprivation would never let us pile up food in our refrigerators and let it stale. If you organise a party or a corporate event and there is food in excess, please call Feeding India, they will redirect the excess food to the destitute. You could also spare your 5 seconds and go to bhookh.com, and click on “feed a child with a click”. How does it work? The money comes through the advertisements on the site. Sponsors pay for the daily click and make it possible for this non-profit organisation to donate to UN Food Program for chronically hungry children. I would like to share a few lines I penned:

Festivities and Revelry keep us alive

While there are others who barely survive

Luscious food as per our mood and flavour

Why not bestow parts to needy who’ll devour

Endless creation of lavish superstructures

And the hungry yearns and disappears

Let there be laws to punish that state leader

He who could not dispense meals to the poorer

But no one should die due to hunger

No one should die due to hunger……

 

*As of 2012, I could not confirm the exact recent number of deaths; one may have to file an RTI for it.


The Rule That Is Evenly Odd?

Delhi is the most polluted city in the World, declared WHO in May 2014. Central Pollution Control Board of India rejected the study, claiming WHO has over estimated the levels of pollutants in the city. Rather than rejecting such reports and debating whether Delhi’s air is better than Beijing, it would have made sense to work on schemes to combat the pollution. Did we have to wait for the situation to become worse? The drastic rise in the pollution levels should have been enough to ring the warning alarms.

In 2012, there were 7 million deaths in the world due to air pollution, revealed WHO. Air pollution has become the most dreadful environmental health risk. It is the fifth leading cause of death in India. The pollutants, PM2.5 and PM 10 are way above the admissible levels in Delhi. These pollutants cause respiratory diseases, cardiac problems, ENT issues and lung cancer. As per the study conducted by Heal Foundation in 2015, 41% of Delhi school students (sample of around 735 students) failed the lung capacity test.

Why am I attempting to bring these facts to your notice? Well, it is better Late than Never. For all those who are against the Odd-Even Rule in Delhi, please understand the gravity of situation. If Delhi’s government is now attempting to fight against the deadly pollution, the least we can do is to cooperate. It is not just the government’s responsibility to bring down the pollution levels. I think we need to act as responsible and informed residents too. Akshat Mittal, a 13-year-old boy came up with a solution in the form of “odd-even.com”. It matches car owners with ride seekers through personal details, car types, frequency of rides etc. (It has been acquired by Orahi, check their site for further details, it might be of help to you.) I think more ideas and platforms to assist the scheme will be appreciated.

There are of course a few faults in the scheme, the first and the most talked about being the lack of robust public transport. Beijing had an extensive public transport to support its initiative. It also had an automatic surveillance system to track the implementation. Therefore, we cannot really plan to create the replica of Beijing’s scheme. But, considering the pollution levels, let us also agree that we have no time to improve the transport first and then implement the scheme.

In addition, there is a gender and class bias in the implementation of the rule. Do not women and two wheelers contribute to the pollution? Should not the enforcement of the scheme be more equitable? As per the study by IIT Kanpur, Two wheelers account for more than 30% of the air pollution in Delhi while Four wheelers account for only 10% of the pollution. Delhi Statistical Handbook* of 2014-2015 discloses 56.8 lakh registered two wheelers, almost double of the 28.7 lakh registered four wheelers. Out of the total vehicles that ply on Delhi roads, two wheelers account for 64% of the vehicles. Would not the entire purpose of odd even be defeated with the exemption of two wheelers? Arvind Kejriwal says that the public transport is not sufficient to handle so much load of passengers. Then, why not impose the rule on the two wheelers on different days?

The dialogue on feminism is doing many rounds these days. If we stress on the establishment of equal political, economic and social rights for women, then why not equally participate in the provisions of clean air. By exempting women from the scheme, Delhi government is actually propagating the idea that public transport is unsafe for women. Many women commute through metros, buses and autos on a daily basis, some for the cost factor and some to avoid the traffic hassles. I am sure others can do so on seven alternate days.

A lot of people did support the initiative last time around. Metros and Car Pools became the saviour for many people. Some left for office early and came back after 8 pm; others exchanged cars with their female relatives or friends on a day-to-day basis. A few of these steps did not to reduce the pollution but to some extent decreased the traffic congestion on roads at peak hours.

Now, did the phase one of odd even rule give us the desired results? The IndiaSpend’s Breathe air-quality monitoring devices detected an increase in pollution levels during the period. However, Delhi government claims inner circles of Delhi witnessed a positive impact while the border areas were not affected that much by the scheme. It further asserts that, had it not been for the scheme, the pollution levels had been much worse as January has the most negative weather conditions.

A message to the Delhi government: If the results are indeed effective, we will stand by you, but please reconsider your exemption list. Also, please try to focus on other solutions to curb the air pollution. A word of caution for you, Mr. Kejriwal, do not try to impose it too often. If you are seriously considering enforcing this once every month, think again. Let us be practical and acknowledge that in the absence of a comprehensive public transport support, the scheme would be inconvenient and unmanageable. You also do not want to encourage people to buy a second car as an alternative. Otherwise, you will have to impose a quota on license plates too as was done in Beijing.

An appeal to Uber, Ola and the likes (commercial vehicles are also exempted), please do not surge prices on odd even days. Your car pool option is a boon for those who do not have a direct access to the public transport, do not change it to a bane….

*http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/doit_des/DES/Our+Services/Statistical+Hand+Book/

Please refer to the link, http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/doit_transport/Transport/Home/Pollution+Control/Steps+Taken+by+Delhi+Govt.+to+reduce+the+Pollution+in+Delhi, to know more about steps taken by the government to reduce the air pollution

A note on the scheme: The second phase of odd-even rule will commence from April 15 and will last for fifteen days. It involves the rationing of private vehicles on Delhi roads to reduce the air pollution. As per the rule, cars with license plates ending with even number can ply on the roads on even dates only and similarly cars with odd plates will be allowed on odd dates. There is a fine of INR 2000 for non compliance.



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