Developmental Journalism

Top 10 problems of India summarized in videos

June 12, 2013 by 

India is a vast country with a diversified crowd and cultures. It is a mosaic of different traditions, religions and problems. So to make a larger audience aware of these issues and to showcase concerns online, journalists, photographers, bloggers, video bloggers…so on, regularly write about the various problems that are faced by India. And here I have complied a set of 10 videos, that can intrigue you to make India a better nation.

1. Nitin Gupta, a stand up comedian gives a hilarious but a very true speech about increasing number of Rapes in India.

2. Vajpayee stands up during a parliament session to give an inspiring speech about how India still lags behind, even after years of independence.

3. A Al Jazeera reporter travels to New Delhi slums, to report about the pathetic sanitation system in India.

4. Dr. Kiran Bedi stand on the TED podium to talk about the corruption in India. She later talks about how she changed the mindset of prisoners in the most toughest prison of India, through education.

5. We have P. Sainath giving a speech at Pondicherry University about the agrarian crisis and the increasing rate of farmer suicide in India.

6. We have P. Sainath again, giving an interview with Reuters, about the increasing inequality in India.

7. One of the most talked about talk shows in India was Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan. In this particular episode the entire team discusses about the idea of a better India. The team goes to different places and asks people of different region, origin, cast, religion- about what is their opinion of a better India?

8. The multi-billionaire man, Bill Gates traveled to India a year back to see how new investments by the Indian government are improving medical care in poor communities.

9. Deepak Sharma, a YouTube subscriber made a small documentary highlighting the amount of poverty in India.

10. Lastly, the team of Beyondtv, shows us around India in terms of cast discrimination.

 

 

“Give me a job, I will work for anything!”

June 12, 2013 by 

Give Me a Hammer

Put a hammer in my hand,
one that’s heavy and firm.
Let me feel its weight.
Let me swing it down with my strength.
So I can feel the power.
So I can feel the pride
to be working again.

Put a check my pocket,
one that’s earned with sweat and toil.
Let me feel its edge.
Let me see its numbers.
So I can take it the bank.
So I can feel the pride.
to be working again.

Put a little hope in me,
one that’s steeped in pride.
Let me have a future for me.
Let me have a future for my family.
So I can stand tall
So I can feel the pride
to be working again.

It’s not much I ask for.
It’s not the dream of dreams.
But it is a start
to feel alive again
as I bring that hammer down
and realize I’m working once again.

                                                  – Dean Traylor

Another issue that is prevalent in India that really hunts me is – Unemployment.

The unemployment scenario in India has always been quite acute. With a huge population and slow growth of job opportunities, unemployment has been widespread in India. Large scale unemployment has led to several socio-economic problems like poverty, malnutrition, antisocial and criminal activities, drug and substance abuse, etc. The lack of proper unemployment insurance schemes has further aggravated this problem.

In the early 1990s, major economic reforms were undertaken in India. One of the major objectives of these economic reforms was to boost employment in the Indian economy. However, though the economic reforms were successful in raising productivity and attracting FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), the growth in job opportunities was not as high as had been expected.

Types of Unemployment:

10 june 23-july 27 editorial cartoon UNEMPLOYMENT

  • Seasonal Unemployment

Isn’t the farmer going to be busy tilling his land in the off season? Not if you’re part of the 70% of farmers who own so little land that they’re done with all of their off-season duties regarding in under a month.

That means that in order to support their family, they often have to work as seasonal employees on other people’s farms or as daily wage laborers, often at remuneration that is far lower than what they would have earned had they owned more land.

  • Disguised Unemployment

Unless you skipped a week’s worth of Indian Social Studies classes, this is probably the most well know form of unemployment in India.

What many of us weren’t taught was that despite the reported rate of disguised unemployment going up, there is a rising number of people who’re inefficiently employed in rural India who aren’t factored in the reported numbers.

For the uninitiated, disguised unemployment is when on a field that can adequately be farmed by 2 people, 4 are employed. In most cases, the 4 usually belong to the same family and since they have an idle pair of hands, they all go to work on the same field.

  • Cyclical Unemployment

The import duty on tractors just got cut by half! The price of diesel and electricity is going to be subsidized for farming next month!

What do the bigger farm-owners do now? Buy a Rs. 50,000/yr. tractor or keep aging twice of that amount to the laborer? It is obvious where this is going, but why this would contribute to unemployment without adversely affecting production is a different story altogether.

Remember, the 70% farmer who was burdened by seasonal unemployment? Well, he just lost his off-season job!

Of course, policy changes and technological improvements are inevitable and they have been ‘taking away jobs’ since the industrial revolution began. However, developing a fail-safe for the willing-to-work will require a few tricky policy maneuvers, for example, SEZs.

The reason that this kind of unemployment is known as cyclical unemployment is because it is caused by macro-scale cycles that are outside the control of the individual and in many cases, entire industries. These cyclic iterations include policy changes, technological innovation as well as the bane of the small farmer – rainfall.

  • Structural Unemployment

While this might be considered a part of cyclical unemployment, it merits its own category because it is something that is easier to tackle.

For example, the use of synthetic cotton blends with rayon are becoming popular, which means that a big consumer of the cotton production – the clothing industry would be changing the factors involved in the production of their goods.

While the farmers will face the brunt of the decreased demand, many of the individual doing manual labor on the farm itself can be retrained for production level jobs in the garment industry quite easily. Combine that with a few policy based incentives and tax cuts to corporations and you’ll see a perceptible jump in the general welfare of the local community.

Causes of unemployment:

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Some of the important aspects related to the unemployment scenario in India are:

  • The growth in labor force in India is much higher than the growth of jobs.
  • Actual employment figures in India have mostly fallen short of estimated figures, as per the five year plans. The unorganized sector in India accounts for 90% of the employment.
  • The unorganized sector consists of agricultural workers in the rural areas and contract and sub-contract laborers in the urban areas.
  • Self-employment accounts for more than 60% of the employed population of India. Casual workers, who get jobs only at times and remain unpaid when they don’t have work, constitute 30% of the workforce, while only 10% are regular employees. Merely two-fifth of this 10% is employed in the government sector.
  • Around 70% of the labor force in India has education below primary level or is illiterate.
  • Another important factor in the unemployment scenario in India is underemployment. There exists very high underemployment in various sectors of the labor force in India. Disguised unemployment also exists in various sectors of the Indian economy. Regional imbalances in the unemployment scenario in India are another important factor. While some areas have higher employment opportunities, some areas have very low opportunities of employment. This has led to inter-state labor migration in the Indian economy.

Causes of unemployment in the agricultural sector:

Recent studies have revealed the fact that growth of unemployment in India at current rates can lead to devastating results. At this rate, India is expected to have a 30% unemployment rate by 2020. This would mean that there would be 21 Crore jobless people in India. The decline in job creation in agriculture has been identified as one of the important reasons behind the increasing unemployment in India.

The lack of unemployment in the primary sector has a different root altogether. During the 1990’s when the economic reform was under taken by India under Narasimha Rao, majority of the primary sector workers lost their jobs. The reason being, under the economic reform by the World Trade Centre (WTC), a nation adopting the economic reform has to:

  • Liberalize the imports of agriculture
  • Cut back on agricultural subsidies
  • Restrict easy and low cost loans
  • Cut back on government investment in agriculture
  • Restructure the Public Distribution System
  • Create and promotes Special Economic Zones

Due to the coming of such stringent laws and regulation on the agricultural sector, the gap between the employed and the unemployed started to rise.

Ways to eradicate unemployment:

  • Right to Work: The Constitution of India, under Article 41, provides that »the State shall within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want«. Article 38 states that the state shall strive to promote the welfare of the people; Article 43 states it shall endeavor to secure a living wage and a decent standard of living to all workers. These promises are part of the Directive Principles of state policy of the Constitution of India.
  • Employment Exchange: The Employment Exchange organisation, operated by the Federal Ministry of Lab our, runs more than 900 individual employment exchanges in order to better match demand and supply with regard to work opportunities. Job seekers register with these employment exchanges and are notified as soon as any vacancy in the government sector matches their profile. According to the Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act of 1959, in any State or area thereof, the employer in every establishment in the public sector in that State or area shall – before filling any vacancy in any employment in that establishment – notify that vacancy to such employment exchanges as may be prescribed. Employment exchanges play a significant role in assisting young people in finding employment. They also assist them in starting self-employment ventures through vocational guidance activities. Registering the applications of job seekers and notifying them about vacancies, collection and dissemination of employment market information, vocational guidance for students and young people are the major functions of employment exchanges.
  • Vocational Training: India needs to train 70 million people in vocational skills over the next five years. In addition, there is a need to retrain another 360 million workers. The government’s target is to train 500 million people by 2022, also by encouraging the participation of entrepreneurs and private organisations. The target is high. The workability of the structure that India has developed would depend on the capacity of the people who are responsible for reaching the objectives. Efforts over the past few years have not yielded satisfactory results with regard to the achievement of the objective in a defined period. Against the background of a huge gap between skills demand and supply, India has taken the initiative to develop a system of vocational training. Under the system, young people are provided with skills-related training. The Directorate General of Employment and Training under the Ministry of Labor of the GOI formulates policies, laying down norms and standards and conducting trade tests and certification of vocational training under the aegis of the training advisory body, the National Council of Vocational Training. The main objective of the scheme is to provide employable skills to school leavers, existing workers and IT graduates. Youth employability must be increased through skill development and vocational training. The GOI has realized the importance of skills. A Coordinated Action Plan for skill development has been approved by the Cabinet to have a target of 500 million skilled persons by 2022. »A three-tier institutional structure consisting of: (i) the Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development, (ii) the National Skill Development Coordination Board and (iii) the National Skill Development Corporation, has been set up to take forward the Skill Development Mission (GOI 2010: 205).This is an important initiative (S. Manhendra Dev 2011).
  • Employment Generation Programmes: In recent years, Employment Generation Programmes (EGP) have emerged as an important employment policy tool, particularly in developing countries such as India. This policy package includes a wide range of activities intended to increase labor demand (for example, direct job creation); to increase the quality of labour supply (training and retraining); or to improve the matching of workers and jobs (job search assistance). Significant economic and social benefits are expected to accrue from these measures. More recently, the case for EGPs has also emphasised the potential social benefits in the form of inclusion and participation that comes from productive employment. EGPs can serve equity objectives as well, most obviously when programmes are targeted at vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. The major programmes that are currently in operation in India are: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) and the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP). The MNREGA provides for 100 days of unskilled manual labor per year on public works projects for any rural household member who wants such work at the stipulated minimum wage rate. The aim is to dramatically reduce poverty by providing extra earnings for poor families, as well as empowerment and insurance. If the programme had worked the way it was designed to, then anyone who wanted work would get it. However, an analysis of data from India’s National Sample Survey for 2009–2010 reveals considerable unmet demand for work in all States. The extent of the unmet demand is greater in the poorest States – ironically, where the scheme is needed most. Labor-market responses to the scheme are weak. The scheme is attracting poor women into the workforce, although the local-level rationing processes favor men.

So many out there sleep every praying to God each night, hoping they get the job as a cleaner of a huge Media company or as the chai wala of a big BPO, and wishing their lives change forever.

 

Education is not an ‘OPTION’

June 11, 2013 by 
illiteracy

What is the definition of Illiteracy?

Illiteracy means when a person cannot read or write. UNESCO defines functional illiteracy as “measured by assessing reading, writing and mathematical skills in the various domains of social life which influence individual identity and insertion into society. From this perspective, literacy involves not only reading and writing but also the acquisition of the skills necessary for effective and productive performance within society” (UNESCO 2011). Of equal relevance is the concept of functional illiteracy, which means an individual may have basic reading, writing and numerical skills but cannot apply them to accomplish tasks that are necessary to make informed choices and participate fully in everyday life. Such tasks may include:

  • Reading a medicine label
  • Reading a nutritional label on a food product
  • Balancing a Cheque book
  • Filling out a job application
  • Reading and responding to correspondence in the workplace
  • Filling out a home loan application
  • Reading a bank statement
  • Comparing the cost of two items to work out which one offers the best value
  • Working out the correct change at a supermarket

Illiteracy is a major problem in a nation like India. Where each day we are calling ourselves ‘developing’ but various aspects of our region are still at level zero. As per 2013 Census, the overall literacy rate of India is 74.04%. But the difference between the highest and the lowest literacy rate in India still remain very high. For example in the state of Kerala the literacy rate is 93.9%, while in the state of Bihar the rates are as low as 63.08%.

Causes of illiteracy:

A problem as grave as illiteracy has deep-rooted causes:

  • Economic conditions of the people: The economic conditions of India are, as known, is very poor. People have acute shortage of money to even, buy a day’s meal, and illiteracy is a much further concept.
  • Ineffective implementation of educational program in rural areas: It is not like educational facilities are not there, it is just that they are not properly implemented in the rural sector. And even if they are implemented they are not maintained properly.
  • Lack of entrepreneurship by the educated to share and spared knowledge: Most of us surfing the internet and reading different blog and updating our facebook have clearly passed high school. And a high school graduate is all that is required to make an illiterate, a literate.
  • Preference to work rather than to study (no internal economic incentives): It is a rather common concept in India (rather among Indian parents, educated or not,) that if one doesn’t want to study, one should better work. And this logic is abused among the rural families, as they feel that it is easier to gather money by working than by studying for years and then working.
  • Emigration of educated individuals (external economic incentives): As mentioned India lack entrepreneurship. One because people don’t care and second because most of the young entrepreneurship, migrate to foreign nations looking for better jobs and better pay. Although that is good for them, but the effects are faced by India.
  • No family support: One major drawback in our Indian society is that, we lack family support. Only a very few of us are lucky enough to get cent per cent family back up. And when this mentality is used in case if education in the poor households, the youngsters of those household feel unmotivated to go to school.
  • Many siblings: Goes without saying that the population of India has been on a climb for quiet sometime now. And the families that have more than three children in a household is the rural section. And because they have so many siblings, it becomes more costly for the family to send each of them to school, so finally resort to making them work, to increase the household income.

Impact of Illiteracy:

  • Health: Reports say that illiteracy significantly limits a person’s ability to access, understand and apply health-related information and messages. This results in poor household and personal health, hygiene and nutrition. Illiteracy increases the likelihood of high-risk sexual behavior for the lack of awareness and inadequate or no use of contraception. One study showed illiterate women are three times more likely than literate ones to know that a person in seemingly good health can be infected with HIV.
  • Crime: In various countries around the world, studies show that a majority of prison inmates have poor literacy skills. Also, up to 85% juvenile delinquents are functionally illiterate.
  • Welfare: Illiterate people are more likely to be on unemployment benefits having dropped out of school or being unable to find work. High school dropouts are more than three times likely to receive welfare than high school graduates. Low earning potential due to illiteracy also makes a higher number of welfare dependents, which puts a heavy burden on the social security system of any nation.

Eradication of illiteracy:

Eradication of illiteracy has been one of the major national concerns of the Government of India since independence. A number of significant programs have been taken up since Independence to eradicate illiteracy among adults. Some of the important programs included:

  • Social Education: implemented in the First Five-Year Plan (1951-56).  The program gave importance to literacy, extension, general education, leadership training and social consciousness.
  • ‘Gram Shikshan Mohim’: a movement for literacy in the rural areas started first in Satara district of Maharashtra in 1959 which was later extended to other parts of the state.  The program aimed at imparting basic literacy skills within a period of four months.
  • Farmer’s Functional Literacy Project (FFLP): started in 1967-68 as an inter-ministerial project for farmers’ training and functional literacy.  The project aimed at popularization of high yielding varieties of seeds through the process of adult education in 144 districts.
  • Non-formal education (NFE): launched in the beginning of Fifth Five Year Plan for the age group of 15-25 years.
  • Functional Literacy for Adult Women (FLAW): started in 1975-76 in the experimental Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) project areas.  The scheme included a component which enabled illiterate adult women to acquire functional skills along with literacy, to gain better awareness of health, hygiene, child care practices and in the process facilitated attitudinal changes.
  • National Adult Education Programme (NAEP): launched on October, 2 1978.  This was the first program in India taken up at macro level to eradicate illiteracy through project approach.  It was a massive program aimed at educating 100 million non-literate adults in the age-group of 15-35 years within a time frame of five years.
  • Rural Functional Literacy Project (RFLP):  the objectives of the scheme were: to impart functional literacy to all illiterate persons in 15-35 age group who are living in the rural areas by organizing specified number of literacy centers in accordance with the norms and guidelines issued by the then Department of Education, Ministry of HRD from time to time.
  • Mass Program of Functional Literacy (MPFL): launched on May 1, 1986 by involving National Service Scheme (NSS) and other students in colleges and universities.  During 1987-88, NCC Cadets from senior division were also involved in the program.

Teach India

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In my opinion Teach India is one of the most brilliant and fresh start to educate the underprivileged in India among the many.

The Times Group launched Teach India (2011) as an initiative to teach spoken English to the youth belonging to the underprivileged sections of the urban society. British council has been brought on board for designing the curriculum and for training the volunteers and teachers who will be imparting the curriculum to the learners. The curriculum for the course has been designed keeping in mind the present language levels of the target segment and the spoken English requirements of potential employers. The Times Group pro-actively attempts to build a bridge between the learners and the potential employers and connect the two. On completion of the course, the learners get a certificate which is jointly certified by both The Times Group and British Council.

Yes, the government of India does a lot to make sure that, the majority of the nation’s population gets basic education, but there still lies loop holes which has too be fixed. And the only hope in that matter is us. Just like it is said in the movie Rang de Basanti “Koi desh perfect nehi hota, usse perfect banna na paad ta hai…” so we are the hope for a better nation, because we make our nation.

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From beggars to artists

June 8, 2013 by 

Away from the bustling city of Kolkata, traveling to the North, there is a village called Pingla, Mednipore. The area of Pingla is such, that it will immediately transport you back to the time when Kolkata was all about broken roads, small huts, banyan trees stopping down to provide shade…so on…This small village has precisely 36 huts and the villagers have a hereditary talent of painting called – Patachitra.

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Paintings done on curtains

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Some of their at hung on wall of the resource center

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Decorations of the windows of the resource room

Distress

Patachitra is the ancient art of  depicting folk stories and characters in a tribal fashion. In the initial days the village was rather dysfunctional. They were poverty-stricken and traveled kilometers everyday to the city of Kolkata just to earn some money. They took up odd jobs like tailoring, cleaning, cooking, and even went door to door with their paintings and begged for money. While this is was situation of the men in the household, the women were in more distress. There was acute water shortage, there was no electricity and they had no designated bathrooms for each household. So the women had to wait till the next dawn, to go to the nearby pond and freshen up.

The area of Mednipore is a hardcore Naxaltie area, and the added disadvantage, was that the entire village of Pingla consists of Muslims. So, situations were such that the villagers of Pingla had to be careful of the rampant naxalite attacks and to avoid discrimination they had to change their names to sound more Hindu. Even till date, when the villagers go out for work, they are discriminated on the basis of their religion.

Changing situation

The situation of Pingla drastically changed from the beginning of 2004.  An organisation called Bangla Natak.com initiated to help developing the situation of Pingla. The main motive was to make them realize that, they did not have to take up odd jobs to make a good living, rather they could commercialize their art culture. The organization has worked tirelessly to make the villagers understand the value of their talent and have helped them to take their talent to the next level.

Today, these villagers get to go to places like Italy, France, Germany, Sri Lanka, to promote and sell their talent. These people today have a minimal understanding of how to communicate or reciprocate in English.  This was the village in which each household (consisting of a minimum 4 individuals) survived on a monthly wage of Rs. 30/-, and today they earn a minimum of Rs 3000/-.

Due to the help from Bangla Natak.com, these villagers have access to clean water and electricity. They are doing so well, that some of the people have started constructing concrete houses for themselves. Out of the many artists in the village, Anwar Chitakar and Gurupodo Chitrakar have been awarded with the Rashtrapati Award, for their remarkable contribution to maintaining and promoting India’s culture and heritage.  In fact, the West Bengal Government is working on a deal to open an art museum within the village.

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One of the artists at work

Patergaan

The residents of the village don’t just stop at painting folk tales, they also sing.

They don’t sing songs that we have already heard of, rather they create songs. The oldest member of the village, Dukhushyam Chitrakar, composes and writes, while the villager sing the tunes. Mostly the tunes are about various incidents that have happened in the past  or are happening in the present. They sing about issues like women empowerment, to the attacks of 9/11, to the gang rape in Delhi, to folk tales.

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Dukhushyam Chitrakar, the oldest man in the village composes patergaan

Not only do they create songs but they also make illustrations about what they sing. And due to the intervention of Bangla Natak.com, the talent of many singers have been put together as a CD and are being heard all around.

Patachitra

As I mentioned before, this art is not contemporary, it is medieval in its own ways. And it is because of its medieval nature, why we as an audience love it. This art is actually practiced using natural colors, i.e. the colors are extracted from seeds and leaves of plants (now they have slowly started to use acrylic colors.)

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Seeds of the tree called “Lotcom”, its seeds provides a natural red color

Initially painting was restricted to walls of their houses and occasionally on paper. Now with the help of Bangla Natak.com they get to paint on various items, like canvas, sarees, duppatas, jewelry boxes, curtains…to name a few. Then these items are sold in places like exhibitions or at times even shops like P.C. Jewelers may buy these products in bulk.

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Painting being done on curtains

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An artist doing what she does best

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Amit Chitrakars painting of a Hindu folk tale

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An artist holds her artistic work on a saree

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Design on a jewelry box

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Design on a pair of shoes

In conversation

“Do you ever feel that your art is being imitated and been sold at a cheaper cost that it is supposed to reap?

To that Guropodo Chitrakar says

“See at the end of the day this is my art. We are its original bearers. So it doesn’t bother us that someone out there is imitating our art. Because he is just imitating it, he has no new idea, but we are the ones creating it and coming up with novelty material. So it is not our loss, it is his loss because he as an artist has the potential to come up with something original, but he is not utilizing his ability.”

“How was the situation in this village before the help?”

To that Anwar Chitrakar’s family replies

“Life was very bad! There were days where we could not gather two meals a day. We didn’t have water or sanitation. My husband begged for money, and even that was so less for all of us. But once help was provided we have a proper shed over our head. We are happy. We now know the value of our talent.”

“Do you ever feel that you want to go to the city and settle down?”

To that Swarna Chitrakar explains

“We are happy here. All of us in the village is our family. And we are used to it. Yes, city does offer more benefits, but that is not for us. This village is our world, and our art is the essence of our world. So leaving our world is not even an option.”

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A family in the village sits down to make their afternoon meal

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The oldest man of the household smiles, reviling the joy that Bangla Natak.com has brought to their faces

The Kolkata problem

May 31, 2013 by 

The ever busy Kolkata

The ever busy Kolkata

As a kid I have always loved going to India and spending a wonderful summer vacation in my mother land Kolkata, West Bengal.  Till date, when I land in Kolkata and get into the taxi from the airport to home, I sit by the window looking at the view and somehow it leaves me intrigued.

Somewhere at a distance a mother is yelling out to her kid while she is cooking. A stray dogs seems to be barking in front of the meat shop, while the shop’s owner enjoy’s his morning tea. The traffic police is taking care of the busy morning traffic. School kids walking in groups. The street vegetable and fish market is ready to start their daily business. And among all the commotion, the municipality tap in the corner of every street, runs tirelessly, day in and day out.

Kolkata to my eyes is a fast changing state. But somethings never change. Like I said, I have been visiting Kolkata from time memorial, and the landscape of Kolkata has drastically changed over the 20 years, but there is one aspect that remains the same year after year.

We all know that the hand-pumps and the tube-wells near our homes in India are constructed by the municipality for regular supply of water when needed. These were mainly constructed for the poor, so that they can avail water for free. Though this initiative is remarkable on various levels, but I have one question to ask, ‘Why don’t these taps have a knob on them?’

A picture clip form the Bangla newspaper Ei Samay

A picture clip form the Bangla newspaper Ei Samay

To the research that I have done, I hear that the water that flows through these taps are pumped from The Ganga on scheduled time, specifically when there is a high tide. But what I fail to understand is that even if the water is pumped at specific time periods, why can’t these taps have a knob attached to them, so that anyone who needs water can use it and close the tap, instead of recklessly wasting water.

When I was looking for articles regarding this topic I came across a website, where a concerned citizen had posted:

Kolkata Municipality’s free-flowing Water taps (May 14th, 2013)

Hello everyone. I am new to this forum and wanted to ask the senior members a question about Kolkata. I have seen some water taps in North kolkata as seen in the image below (Which I got from The epaper Ei samay) from which water keeps on flowing and there is no means (or Knob) to stop the water. I asked a friend of mine that why so much water is wasted… then he said that this is Ganga river water which automatically comes to these taps, when there is high tide in Ganga. I am not sure about this answer of his so can anybody throw some light on this? Thanks in advance.

And in reply another citizen posted:

Water is pumped from the Ganges at fixed scheduled times of the day… it is unfiltered raw Ganges water, so water is not wasted in a sense, its just the electricity bills!This is to the best of my knowledge, someone may enlighten us better.

On reading this comment I was totally applaud. Because according to the statistics provided by water.org, out of the total 1.2 billion people living in India, nearly 128 million lack safe water. And our citizens think it is alright to let water flow, because it is unfiltered raw Ganga water.
According to an article by The Hindu:

India has about 16 per cent of the world’s population as compared to only 4 per cent of its water resources. With the present population of over 1,000 million, the per capita water availability is around 1.170 cu m/person/year. Severe water shortages have led to a growing number of conflicts between users in the agricultural and industrial sectors, as also the domestic sector. The lack of water availability and poor management practices have also manifested in poor sanitation facilities, one among the biggest environmental and social challenges India faces today.

In my recent short visit to Kolkata in April, I was coming back from a gettogether at 12 am. I saw a women washing vessels using the municipality taps. On asking the women as to how often do these taps run, she replied saying that, they run 24 x 7. And that she could avail water anytime she wanted.
A women washes her vessels, using the free flowing water provided by the Kolkata Municipality

A women washes her vessels, using the free flowing water provided by the Kolkata Municipality

Which means that these water taps run the entire day and night without a pause. So, one can just imagine the amount of water that goes waste!
I just don’t understand, on one hand we try to educate our farmers and urban dwellers how to reduce the usage of water, and we do not take care of something as simple as putting a knob on a tap. According to The Water Crisis Project:
India’s water crisis is often attributed to lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, industrial and human waste and government corruption. In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by year 2050. To that end, global water scarcity is expected to become a leading cause of national political conflict in the future, and the prognosis for India is no different.
And yet we are here (ab)using water, thinking to ourselves that, “meh…I am not wasting so much!”  Less do we know that millions of others are probably saying the same thing to themselves.

Peepli Live under the microsope

April 6, 2013 by 

Two brothers in a village work hard to survive by farming in India. But don’t have sufficient money to pay their previously owed debts, or to buy new crops or to even buy a good staple meal. While in the frenzy to figure out how to survive, the farmers over hear that the government is ready to pay a sum of one lack to the farmers family for support, if the farmer commits suicide due to his inability to pay his debts.

So the brothers decide that one of them will commit suicide in order to obtain funds from the government. And through various channels this decision of Natha, the youngest brother of the household, to commit suicide reaches the media. And the media hovers all around Natha’s house to cover his suicide live, in order to gain more viewers for each television channel. Finally, the media gets mad when they are unable to locate Natha and concludes that he is missing. And at the end, Natha is claimed to be dead in an accident and the government refuses to pay them the sum promised, whereas Natha quietly escapes his old life and now resides in the city working as a labourer.

This is the story of the nationally acclaimed movie, Peepli Live.

The main story of this movie that is the ‘Farmer suicide’ forms an important part of our course, Development journalism. For quite a long time now farmer suicides has been a grave issue, that the government seems to not have been taking proper care of. To be honest it is not about the farmer suicides, the central issues to be addressed here is about the fact that the government of India is aware that India is an agrarian country and its wealth of the nation lies in agriculture. But the government doesn’t do the needed be to help farmers develop their farming techniques in order to gain a greater produce.

The government has schemes like, ‘if a farmer commits suicide due to his inability to pay back his debts then the government is ready to pay the family a sum of 1 lack or so.’ But in my opinion if the government is willing keep a 1 lack provision for the farmers who commit suicide due to debts, then why not use the same money to educate them and help them better their farming techniques? The government is able to have a tax write off, of the sum of 2,673 cores, then why is our nation unable to help our farmers to get more educated?

Hence, the movie Peepli Live is able to depict the actual realities of the Indian farmers and their grave situation. It also shows how media neglects issues like, -‘why government is doesn’t do enough to help farmers do better agriculture?’ ‘Why the agriculture minister himself is convinced that India should be more industrialised?’ and instead focuses on covering a suicide live!

All in all this movie was an eye opener and a reality check for all of us! Because we as journalist we try to improve the TRP of our organisation by being least sensitive to the issues that should be attended to. We try to sell rather than make stories be heard. We try to mint money more than being able to empathise with the grass roots and their issues, to which no one ever seems to have a solution.

Even if I were to be a journalist who was informed about this issue, I would also initially not heed to it because we all are desensitized about issues like ‘farmer suicide’ ‘infant feticides’ ‘poverty’ ‘corruption’ and many more. We consider it a part and parcel of India. We do talk about it among ourselves but yet we don’t want to make a difference by being the wave of change.

But if we were in an ideal world and this issue came up and I was one of the journalist who was tipped off about this issue. I would camp in front of the parliament or the agricultural ministers’ house, asking the men in charge as to, why are so many farmers killing themselves just to obtain some money to support what is left of there so called family?, I would ask them if industrialization really is the key to development then why do various countries still obtain food resources from us?, I would ask them why is it so difficult for us to educate our fellow countrymen, when in return we can be called a developed nation?….But then again if we were in an ideal world, film makers would not make a film like Peepli Live.

My views on India

February 25, 2013 by 

No nation is perfect! As a part of the nation, don’t just stand there and point out the mistakes, rather take a step forward to correct them.
Just like every country, India also has its flaws. Yes, I believe they are more deep rooted than the problems of other nations. But a problem is a problem.

Our country has always drawn visible line, pushing the poor to one side and the rich to the other. And ultimately in today’s century this line is the reason why corruption has mushroomed all over the country. Let’s take for example; a ‘temple’ is a mode of corruption today, in most parts of India.
The Hindus of India are superstitious and God fearing by nature, and they do all sorts of things that make their conscious feel content. No, I am not saying that I have a problem with what they believe; because I myself at some point of time have been superstitious. But where the problem lies is when the poor or let’s say the middle class people approach the temples to pray, and the priests convince them to donate gold or money in order to be blessed. And these people faithfully spend their entire fortune, thinking and hoping things will turn around.

The issue is not about money. These priests also convince these people that, they should shave their heads and offer their hair to God for prosperity. But  what the devotees don’t know is that, this hair is sold and each day a priest makes approx. 4 lakh or more. When I say priests I am not pointing out only to the ones in small temples, this happens in temples like Tirupatti, which is a government owned, and the profits they make per day, doesn’t go to the government treasury, rather in the Swiss accounts of the ministers and priests.

Then there are problems like, the government announces that they will build houses for the BPL population and after its construction, 50 per cent is allocated by the ministers, 20 per cent by government associates (like air force, navy…etc.) and the rest, I don’t think the poor people stay in it, because the maintenance costs are too high so they sell it.

Then there is the whole child labor issue. Well can’t blame the poor, those people need the money, hence resort to such means. But I wonder do they really send their kids to do jobs for money, or because they choose the easy way out.

There is the whole lack of respect for women hood also. Rapes after rapes keep happening, and the rapists still roam the streets like it’s their property. And even if they are caught, and if they are remotely related to the ministers they are bailed out, or if they are just normal people they are given just 7 years of sentence.

Why I feel surprised when it comes to India is that, the authority figures have so much of hard money to go to the US and give speeches or to send their spoilt kids to foreign countries for what they call ‘education’, but when it comes to the development of their own country, they act stingy, for example the whole Common Wealth games fiasco.

The solution to any nation related problem is the willingness to change of the old mind set and keeping pace with modernization  To understand today’s way of life and to learn let go of the traditional means and to broaden ones perspective. The reason why people don’t give a damn about our Indian authoritative figures is because; they know that this country is based on child’s rule. That, if they break the rules there are always ways to mend it for their benefit. I repeat again, to change the mind-set of the people living in India, one cannot just stand at a podium and crib, one has to take a step forward to change. Yes, I know it is easier said than done but India is in need of a dire revolution.

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