a curious glance

(little bit of what I see)

Tag: Social Issue

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)


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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