Sunday, June 14, 2009

Invisible Children & Indian Slums

Early this year, Indian government has released- first of it’s kind- the Urban Poverty Report 2009, which estimates over 25 percent of urban population i.e. above 80 million lives in slums on poverty level. Among these 80 million, the worst sufferers are children.

US-based writer Shelley Seale has come up with her own experience with Indian slum children with a difference. Her book The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India, is aim to create awareness for these invisible children.

“Amidst the growing prosperity of India, there is an entire generation of parentless children growing up. They are everywhere. They fill the streets, the railway stations, the shanty villages. Some scrounge through trash for newspapers, rags or anything they can sell at traffic intersections. Others, often as young as two or three years old, beg. Many are homeless, overflowing orphanages and other institutional homes to live on the streets where they are extremely vulnerable to being trafficked into child labor if they’re lucky, brothels if they’re not. They are invisible children; their plight goes virtually unnoticed, their voices silenced,” Shelley wrote.

In Indian capital of Delhi, around three million people live in 1,500 slums. In these children hundred of thousand children daily survive the hardship of their life. Despite of their tough life, many of them has succeeded in showing ray of hope to others. Some of the examples from Delhi’s slums are

Community Newspapers
Slum children of Lal Quan and Haiderpur are engage in community publishing for spreading awareness. They publish wallpapers ‘Haiderpur Darpan’ and ‘Lal Quan Darpan’ respectively.

Children’s Bank
Bal Vikas Bank (Children Development Bank) is a bank for street children. It is owned and managed by children as a cooperative.

Slumdog Guides
Like Jamaal Malik, Slumdog Millionaire’s key character who rose from slums to become a millionaire despite all odds, there are an informal group of street children in Delhi who turned up as guide for foreign tourist for showcasing life in Delhi’s Slums.

Children Puppeteers
Child puppeteers belonging to low-income artist families keep alive their artistic traditions despite economic hardship. Kalakar Vikas School, an NGO, is training nearly four hundred children into their traditional arts.

Even Shelley inspired from spirit of Indian slum children as she puts: “Little did I know how much they would change my life. Their hope and resilience amazed me time and time again; the ability of their spirits to overcome crippling challenges inspired me. Even in the most deprived circumstances they are still kids – they laugh and play, perhaps far less frequently than others; they develop strong bonds and relationships to create family where none exists; and most of all they have an enormous amount of love to give.”

In her book, shelley combines hardships of vulenerable Indian children with her feelings. This book is a moral reponse of a concern human being.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hungry Bharat Vs Fatty India

Five year old Rajju never forget to take her severely malnourished younger brother, 2, to village’s nutrition Center, locally known as Aaganwadi, for taking afternoon food.

Feebleness, pale-colour, dull-eyes and light yellow hairs are some features of Rajju’s brother, who is facing severe malnutrition.

He is one among the more than hundred malnourished children of Dagarkot village in Madhya Pradesh, located in Central India.

Madhya Pradesh, known as heart of India, has ‘extremely alarming’ level of hunger comparable to Chad and Ethiopia.

In larger picture, the world’s second largest growing economy’s ranking on Global Hunger Index is worse than two-dozens Sub-Saharan countries.

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which scales Global Hunger Index, estimates forty percent of world’s malnourished children live in India.

Meanwhile, Indian government’s response to crises looks malnourished.

Government is running nutrition centers all over the country under world’s largest supplementary nutrition programme for children. But, situation on the ground is becoming bad to worse day by day.

A child right activist Razia Ismail declares this programme as ‘failure’.

“Eight out of ten children are underfed. Children deserve more attention from policy makers,” Ismail said during a function on Child Right last week.

A recent United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP)’s report reveals that most rural Indians are victims of malnutrition. It indicates a rural child is facing more risk of life than urban child.

“Even Slumdog Millionaire’s Zamal Malik is luckier than his counterpart in village,” rural development expert Rahat Hasan says while pointing towards more challenge face by rural India, which account for 76 percent of India’s total population.

Instead of taking more concrete steps, government is reducing spending on food security as it put 1.12 percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 2008-09, significantly less than 1.35 percent of GDP in 2006-07.

“Ruling alliance has to face elections in coming months therefore it is more focussing on schemes with political potential,” says Nitin Singh, a political researcher in Indian Parliament while explaining reason behind reduction in government spending on food security despite chronic picture.

Mohan Katara, who works in severely hunger-affected district of Madhya Pradesh, says, “See this village (Dagarkot) has full mobile network and road connectivity but forty percent of villagers are still facing hunger.

“Government needs to focus on food security and health first,” he further explains.

“These children can’t vote therefore they are dieing,” says social worker Prakash Michael while criticising vote-hungry political class for lacking social commitment.

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Jai Ho!

Policemen on Saturday put barricades on a road passing through 24, Akbar Road in New Delhi, Indian capital, in order to manage crowd of political workers and media persons.

This address again becomes powerhouse of India after the announcement of election results. It is head office of country’s grand old Congress party, which has ruled South Asian giant over four decades in post-independent period.

Congress emerged as single largest party with 201 seats in 543-seated Lok Sabha or Lower House of Parliament. It is a best performance by an Indian political party in last two decades.

It got 56 more seats than 2004, in an indication of people’s clear mandate to party-led alliance, which beat anti-incumbency. Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) got 260 plus seats, slightly away from magic figure of 272.

The alliance is likely to muster support of some small parties and independents to achieve half-way mark. Congress is likely to stake claim on Monday.

“We got this mandate due to leadership of party chief Sonia Gandhi, work done by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and effective election campaign by Rahul Gandhi,” Janardhan Dwivedi, a senior Congress leader, said.

Congress’s splendid victory is significant in two ways. One is it indicates drift in India politics again towards national parties. In last two decades, India witnessed rise in regional parties, which used their small numbers for seeking larger share in power.

The other significance of verdict is rejection of divisive politics of right-wing Bhartiya Janta Party.

Opposition Bhartiya Janta Party (Indian People’s Party) or BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, got 121 seats, 16 less than it’s 2004 tally, and accepted defeat. Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 160 seats.

NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani, who ran a Presidential-type campaign, offered to quit as leader of opposition and likely to retire from active politics.

“The results are on expected lines. Congress is more acceptable to people than Bhartiya Janta Party, which has nothing to offer to people except riots,” says Raghuveer Chandel, a Congress worker from neighboring district of Faridabad.

Thirty two year old law graduate Pawan Kumar, who joined over a hundred party workers at Congress head office for celebrating victory, said: “Youth across the country posed faith on Rahul Gandhi. In last election Sonia Gandhi led party to victory and in this election all credit goes to Rahul Gandhi.”

Thirty eight year old Rahul Gandhi, a scion of Nehru-Gandhi family, is expected to take an important assignment in new government. Even, there is possibility of him becoming Prime Minister after two-three year of new government.

“Today is Diwali for me. I’ll lit lamps at home tonight and distribute sweets in my locality,” said Ganga Bai, an overjoyed member of party’s women wing.

In her forties, Ganga Bai is typical Indian women political worker. She lived in a Delhi’s slum with her husband and three children.

“I’m proud to be associated with a party led by a woman,” she hurriedly replied when asked about her strong dedication towards party.

When asked about their opinion on party’s splendid victory, a group of youth Congress worker from Uttar Pradesh state responded in one tone: Jai Ho!

Congress party had taken right of Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire’s song for election campaign. Verdict proved that Congress’s decision wasn’t wrong.

Salient Points of Verdict

01. Congress-led UPA gets 261 seats, while opposition BJP-led NDA gets 160 seats.
02. Congress’s tally of 201 seats is a best performance by an Indian political party in last two decades.
03. BJP’s 121 is worst performance since 1991, a year when saffron party witnessed a remarkable rise from it’s tally of only two seats in 1984.
04. Manmohan Singh, a globally respected economist who led Congress to victory, becomes only Indian Prime Minister since Jawahar Lal Nehru, first Prime Minister, in 1961 to be voted back after completing five year term.
05. Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM, India’s biggest left party, gave it’s worst performance by winning just 16 seats. In 2004, CPM-led Left Front won astonishing 59 seats giving it’s best ever performance. Now, Left Front won only 24 seats.
06. In political important state of Uttar Pradesh, which send largest chunk of MPs in parliament, low-caste leader and one of aspirant for the post of Prime Minister Mayawati failed to perform on expected lines and got only 20 seats while Congress has put it’s best performance in state, winning 21 seats, after 1984.
07. Congress-led alliance put almost sweep in metro cities including Delhi and Mumbai
08. Some of the big losers of this election are former Union Ministers Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan, Mani Shankar Aiyer, AR Antulay and Renuka Choudhary.

From Research Store: 16 May, 2009

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V Prabhakaran

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was formed in 1975 with the motto of achieving separate Tamil Eelam state, consisting Tamil-dominated north and east of Sri Lanka.

It’s leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was inspired by Chola King, which ruled South India between 9th-13th century, because they fought with Sinhalese rulers. He borrowed the Chola King’s symbol i.e. tiger for his rebel outfit.

Interpol charged him with crimes against life and health, organised crime, terrorism and terrorism conspiracy. He has arrest warrant against him in Sri Lanka and India.

‘Very alert’ and ‘stout build’, as per Interpol, Prabhakaran had lived as a military dictator and wanted to achieve his goal of ‘Tamil Ealam’ by using military power.

“I wanted to achieve something through action rather than waste time in idle fancies,” Prabhakaran was quoted as saying in his biography, Inside an Elusive Mind.

Born on November 26, 1954 to a middle-class Tamil family in Jaffna, he took arms in his teen age against the official security forces to take revenge of exploitation done to Tamilians in the Jaffna.

His first victim was mayor of Jaffna. It was first assassination carried out by LTTE. Since than, Tamil Tigers were involved in assassination of many leaders of Sri Lanka, including President Ranasinghe Premadasa (1993) and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar(2005) and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi(1991).

He had made LTTE a conventional military force having all three wings. He had enforced a strict code of discipline among his cadres, banning smoking and drinking.

He had directed his cadres to commit suicide rather getting into hands of security forces. Therefore, all rebel guerrillas carry cyanide capsule with them.

His used of ‘suicide bombers’, especially those of ‘bra bombers’ and ‘child soldiers’, put him among the world’s most ruthless guerrilla leaders.

From News Store: 19 May, 2009

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Bangla Burma Oil Row

Myanmar removed its two naval warships Thursday from ‘disputed’ oil exploration site in hydrocarbon rich Bay of Bengal after Bangladesh sought help of China for defusing tension.

Myanmar’s decision came after four-days of standoff with Bangladesh over its exploration adventure in territory, claimed by Bangladesh also.

Citing security concerns, South Korean company Daewoo on Wednesday suspended 200-man exploration project, employing Indians, Americans and Australians and withdrew three ships. Earlier, Dhaka urged Seoul to ask Daewoo to withdraw its vessels from territory, claimed by both countries.

“We came to know Korean company Daewoo had suspended exploration in view of security problem and, maybe, the Myanmar authorities had accepted the suspension of exploration,” a top Bangladesh official quoted by New Age newspaper as saying.

Tensions between Rangoon and Dhaka began after Yangon sent an oil-exploration vessel escorted by two naval warships for drilling in undecided territory, located some 30 miles south of Bangladesh’s Saint Martin Island in Bay of Bengal.

In response, Bangladesh immediately deployed four naval warships in region and later sent a three member delegation to Myanmar for solving crises diplomatically.

Some media reports claimed that United States was behind the tension between military-ruled countries. Meanwhile, US Embassy in Dhaka denied American hand into crises.

Both improvised nations have been in talks for many years for demarcating their boundaries in Bay of Bengal but talks were failed so far.

Experts from both countries are scheduled to meet on November 16 and 17 on this issue.

From News Store: 09 November 2008

Nepal's Maoist Rulers and Their Belief

Nepal’s ruling Maoists retains the centuries-old religious ritual of Kumari or Living Goddess by appointing Kumaris for two cities of Kathmandu Valley. President Ram Baran Yadav appointed three-year-old Matina Shakya as Kumari of Kathmandu on Tuesday and six-year-old Shreeya Bajracharya as Kumari of Bhaktapur last week.

USA-based Nepalese columnist Bhumika Ghimire feels appointment of Devkumaris by government is against the secular nature of newly-crafted republic.

“The tradition of Kumari is very dear to all Nepalese, especially to those in the Kathmandu. I am all for community effort to preserve our traditions, but government-backed Kumari tradition is not the right thing,” she says.

Last month, Maoists have burned their fingures by cutting down state-funding for religious activities in much-publicised ‘secular budget’. Conservative Hindus, constituting major population of country, forced government to change it’s decision.

Maoists, who fought against Hindu Kingdom and Hindu religious institutions for more than a decade, are seem to fill the vacuum created in religious sphere after transformation of Nepal from a Hindu Kingdom to Secular Republic.

The unexpected shifting of Maoists from their strict secular ideology to King-like religion regulator indicates that former guerillas learning art of ruling.

Seems inspire from Mao’s cultural revolution, several untra-leftist outfits have started moral cleansing drive in country. Recently, Miss Nepal contest has been put off indefinetely due to protest of women wing of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Protestors feel that such event promotes use of women as commercial tool, which is completely against the Nepalese culture.

Maoist-led coalition is also cracking down against massage parlours, dance bars and casino located in Nepalese capital of Kathmandu.

“Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam has declared a ‘War on Sex & Liquor’ in Kathmandu,” blogs Jude West, a University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service student carrying research in Nepal.

Recently, Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, popularly known as Prachanda, said that political transformation could not be sustainable without cultural transformation. His remarks are indication of Maoists long-term game plan on cultural transformation of Nepal.

From News Store: 08 October, 2008

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Indian Cricket League

The ‘rebel’ Indian twenty20 tournament, Indian Cricket League (ICL), got major relief on Tuesday when Indian Cricket Board agreed to meet with its representatives.

Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) chief Shashank Manohar gave commitment to ICC Board for holding talks with ICL officials.

World Cricket body is under pressure to prove its power as strong Indian Cricket body has threatened its legitimacy in global cricket order.

Recently Sri Lanka Board has decided to not go ahead with a test tour to England and committed it’s international players for IPL in return of a ‘bailout’ package offered by Indian Cricket Board. Sri Lanka’s decision shows growing clout of Indian Cricket body.

Experts consider BCCI’s acceptation of talks with ‘unofficial’ league is first step towards official recognition of ICL.

The battle of recognition of ICL gained momentum last month when its official met with ICC chief David Morgan last month in London. It was first meeting between rebel league and world body.

Last year, BCCI has opened its lucrative twenty20 tournament, Indian Premier League, following the launch of ICL. It banned cricketers associated with ICL for playing all form of official matches and impressed upon other cricket boards to follow.

Indian Cricket League is getting reasonable response from fans in subcontinent due to presence of international players from several countries, including Australia. Daniel Martyn, Staurt Law and Jason Gillespie are among the Australians cricketers associated with it.

It has nine teams. It added Dhaka Worriers, compromising almost ex-national team of Bangladesh, as ninth team this year. More than 100 million people from around the world (expect South America) will enjoy this ICL 20s tournament.

From News Store : October 15 2008

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