19-year-old Ramzan Sheikh from Maharashtra is a second-year student pursuing Bachelor of Arts. Born in a lower-middle class family, Ramzan’s life has been about struggle and compromise. His father is a daily wage laborer while his mother is associated with a non-profit organization ‘Saryjani Mahila Utkarsha Sanstha’ engaged in TB control and Family Development programmes in the bastis of Bhiwandi. Having lived a life full of struggles, Ramzan is empathetic towards other young children and works towards supporting them through their challenges.
How do we measure merit and accomplishment? Why is the applause reserved only for the rank holders and successful students? Is academic success the only criteria of meritocracy? When you meet the 17-year-old Fiza Yusuf Sheikh from Bhiwandi you realize the unjust system of merit which is often a product of privilege. This teenager has done commendable work in her community, from stopping child marriages to persuading parents to seek immunization for their children but has failed to crack the Secondary School Certification (SSC) exam.
Did you know that Jammu and Kashmir have a very important place in power generation? Well, the estimated hydro power potential of the UTs are around 20,000 Megawatts (MW), of which about 16,475 MW have been identified. This comprises 11,283 MW in Chenab basin, 3,084 MW in Jhelum basin, 500 MW in Ravi basin and 1,608 MW in Indus basin. One can pretty much imagine how many benefits it can bring along with it. Undoubtedly, an increase in demand for power suggests growth of the economy i.e. industrialisation, modernisation and improvement in basic amenities, further creating countless opportunities for the people of the region.
A few years ago, the residents of Mumbai were barely aware that a forest existed within the city, let alone the fact that Adivasis lived in it. One can only imagine the problem of identity that young Adivasis would face living in a city. With one part of life enveloped within forests and another amidst the chaos of a city, the Warli tribe has spent their life navigating this identity. Life of Manisha Dhine, a local Adivasi girl from this tribal community in Aarey, is a reflection of their struggles to fight for the right.
Currently a student of Mass Media, Manisha is the sole Adivasi girl in her class. She is often confronted with the notions that students from relatively urban sectors have about the Adivasi life and culture. Manisha was once asked by her professor about why an Adivasi would pursue a career in the field of mass media. She gracefully explained her motivations for choosing the field. Like this, she has to burst many myths around the tribal life. It was in 2019, when her fight for her identity took a different turn.
Western Rajasthan is known for its beautiful sand dunes. But harsh climate, formidable distances and water scarcity pose a lot of hardships and challenges for the people living in this part of the state. The limitations, however, are not just limited to infrastructure deficiencies or climatic conditions alone. There are a lot of traditional barriers as well specially when it comes to girls’ rights.
The Osian block of Jodhpur district is no different from many other Rajasthan villages deeply steeped in old mindset. To cultivate a change is not easy but ‘if winter comes, can spring be far behind’! At least 13 villages of the five panchayats falling in the Osian block have started witnessing a breakthrough, thanks to an initiative launched by Save the Children in association with a local NGO the URMUL Trust. This initiative seeks to improve ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.
Hailing from a rural area in Bihar, Kusumlata had to have her breasts removed due to breast cancer, as otherwise it posed a high risk to her life. Though she was saved, her life became more traumatic after the mastectomy. After the breasts were removed, her husband stopped caring for her, because he no longer saw his wife attractive enough.
Well, it wouldn’t be wrong to state that India is one of the fastest developing nations today, be it in terms of industrialisation, education, health or fashion. However, there are still certain ‘basic’ domains where the country is lagging behind. The Border Roads Organisation was established a long time ago to secure India’s borders and develop infrastructure in the remote areas. Undoubtedly, BRO has done commendable job in connecting remotest of places to the rest of the country but away from highways, there exists a world where there is no road connectivity. Villagers in these nondescript hamlets are till date deprived of access to all-weather roads. They have been migrating to other cities due to cross-border firing and shelling.
On a cold December morning, the family of 65-year-old Noor was mourning the death of their 21-year-old daughter who had been abducted from a marriage party by two men in October and then raped. After the incident, she was admitted to a hospital in Srinagar where she fought for almost a month before succumbing to multiple-organ injuries. In the last week of October, Noor’s daughter, a final year Arts student, had gone to their relatives’ house to attend the wedding of her cousin, in the Akhal hamlet in the same district. On October 31, at around 10 am, the young woman had left to collect the wedding dress of the bride. As she was returning, two men abducted her. “After they kidnapped her, they took her to a dense orchard where they raped and brutalised her,” recalls one of her relatives.
As an immediate response to the intensifying water crisis in the country, a unified Ministry of Jal Shakti was launched in May 2019 by the Central Government — soon after attaining power for the second term. The previously existing departments and ministries were brought under this new ministry and within a month, on July 1, the government had launched Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA), an intensive campaign aimed at making water conservation a JanAndolan (people’s movement) through asset creation and extensive communication. It focusses on five aspects — water conservation and rainwater harvesting, renovation of traditional and other water bodies, reuse of water and recharging of structures, watershed development, and intensive afforestation.
According to reports published in different national newspapers, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to announce a three trillion electricity distribution reform programme in the Union budget. As per the report, the objective is to help reduce losses and improve the efficiency of power distribution utilities. The reliability and quality of power supply will also be improved as part of the reform. This step certainly brings hope for the people residing in rural and remote areas of the country awaiting to receive power supply for decades now.
Kohiti Bai, a resident of Dhaneli village in the Naxal-affected Kanker district of Chhattisgarh, was at the mercy of quacks for her treatment of an unknown ailment. It was during a random health check-up at the Haat Bazaar (local market) Clinic at Tarandul, where she was diagnosed with high sugar levels. Hailing from a pahunch vaheen (inaccessible due to Naxal activism) village, the former sarpanch Kohiti was initially reluctant and insisted on continuing her treatment with a local quack.
Born into the most ordinary circumstances, 16-year-old Zosha Khan’s story is full of strength and spirit. This young girl from Goregoan, Mumbai city in Maharashtra trying to make a difference by advocating for Child Rights. Her father is a salesman in a furniture shop and mother, a home maker. She has three siblings. The family finds it difficult to make ends meet with meagre salary that the father gets. But that is no deterrent to Zosha who thinks ‘will assumes more power than money’ and is herself a living example of this adage.
In a widely acclaimed interview with the Science Times in 2011, Stephen Hawking famously advised people with disability to focus on things which their disability does not prevent them from doing. He said, “Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically”. It is a piece of profoundly powerful advice from one of the greatest thinkers ever lived. Rutuja Raorane, an 18-year-old from Kankavli, Maharashtra, India embodies this advice. This is an account of a young change-maker who has been channelling her life experiences in creating a positive impact around her. It is her story of determination and a yearning to be independent. Rutuja was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 3. It is an incurable genetic disease that causes loss of muscle mass and progressive weakness. Rutuja’s parents – Deepak and Shweta Raorane, did not realize the specifics.
Last week on November 25, people from across the world protested violence and abuse against women on International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women. In the context of the ongoing pandemic, a United Nations report suggests that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic, has intensified. Several women’s rights organisations across the world are demanding their respective governments to take effective measures to safeguard young girls and women caught in the cycle of violence. Considered to be the ‘Shadow Pandemic’, growing amid the COVID-19 crisis, the UN has stated that to stop the same, global collective efforts are needed. “As COVID-19 cases continue to strain health services, essential services such as domestic violence shelters and helplines have reached capacity. More needs to be done to prioritise addressing violence against women in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts,” highlighted the report published by the UN.
In 2018, the Indian Government had announced electrification of all inhabited villages in the country. This massive accomplishment had filled new hopes in lives of millions of people residing in the rural and remote areas. After waiting for several years, a power line had finally reached their area. After completing the first most important process of electrification, the task at hand for the Government now was to connect each household with the power line. Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or Saubhagya aimed at achieving exactly this by ensuring electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban areas.
In November this year, villages in some of the most isolated regions of Jammu and Kashmir which were deprived of electricity since independence finally received electricity connection under the Saubaghya scheme. Now, the third step for the Government is to ensure uninterrupted electric supply. In J&K’s border district of Poonch, villagers are waiting to get continuous supply of electricity for several years now. Shendra village in Haveli tehsil of this district consists of two panchayats and is inhabited by a population of about 10,000 people. One of the prime concerns of this area is the severe shortage of power supply.
Joe Biden, the newly elected President of the USA had vowed to enact the Equality Act in his first 100 days of commencing the office. The said Act would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protection for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, federally funded programmes and jury service. In India, after decriminalising homosexuality in 2018, the legality of same-sex marriage is now being raised in our courts.
Saloni Todkari, a class 10 student, immediately after joining her new school at Kalyan was informed by her teacher that bindi and bangles were mandatory for girl students. Saloni and her friend Rekha (name changed) who wore neither the bindi nor the bangles, failed to understand the teacher’s insistence while the rule book of the school didn’t mention it. The overzealous teacher would often reprimand them and would offer these two ‘erring’ students the accessories from her stock – only to be rejected. Their behavior was soon reported to the principal who summoned the duo and asked for an explanation for not following the dictate of the school. She attempted at brainwashing the girls into conforming to the ‘good practices’ of the school and explained how ‘bindi’ is part of our culture with proven scientific benefits but the girls were not convinced.
Instrument of progress
In 2011, Panchayat Elections were held in the then state (now a Union Territory) of Jammu and Kashmir after a long gap of 33 years. The event promised hopes to the residents of J&K who were more than eager to participate in the democratic process of electing their local leaders. But the hopes died within the next five years as the representatives of local self-government — sarpanches and panchs — felt demoralised and saddened by their experience as they demanded 73rd amendment prior to the 2016 elections. It is important to note here that the 73rd amendment of the Panchayati Raj Act that advocates decentralised planning and offers more powers to panchayats, is not applicable in J&K. Now, a frontline organisation of elected panchayat members — The All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC) — has reiterated its demand for complete empowerment of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in the Union Territory by implementing this amendment in entirety.
Himachal Pradesh, the scenic Himalayan state in Northern India, is known across the world for its natural beauty, adventurous treks and fascinating cultures and traditions. The state also flaunts a rich heritage that includes a wide variety of arts and crafts that dates back to second century B.C. Over the years, while some of these art and craft forms have flourished, there are some almost on the verge of extinction.
Raksha, a Gramin Dak Sevak posted at Sarsoo Post Office in the Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh, walks 10 to 12 kms every day — trekking on the meandering trails in the mountains to deliver mail to people residing in some of the most far-flung villages. Travelling to some of the backward villages means passing through dense jungles on foot – be it summer, winter or monsoon. During the rainy season, especially, the risks increase many fold. Poisonous insects, snakes and other animals hiding in the wild growth pose a huge danger as she walks through the forest to deliver letters.
Around this time of the year, in October, the Chopans make their way down from high altitude pastures, with sheep that they will hand over to their respective owners. Once they do that, they will retire to a life of stillness in their little huts and wait for the summer to come around again.
The Chopans are a nomadic community, scattered across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). They usually own no livestock of their own, but take care of sheep belonging to local farmers. It is not uncommon to see these shepherds dotted across the hilly pastures of J&K, in the summer months negotiating treacherous mountain roads to reach high flung meadows where they graze the sheep till the onset of winters. The farmers pay them to look after their sheep.
In August last month, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam shared that with the help of the centre, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh UT administration are planning to connect all picturesque tourist resorts through a new 600 km-long highway circuit. The `8,000 crore road project will aim at connecting Gulmarg with Kargil and Drass in Ladakh making it favourable for the tourism industry in the region. The news certainly brings hopes for the residents of the two newly-announced UTs, especially the ones dependent on tourism for their livelihood. He also shared that the Jammu & Kashmir administration has intensified construction of rural roads. This statement, in particular, brought back hopes for thousands of residents of a distant village in J&K’s border district Poonch who have been waiting for a road for almost eight years now.
Mohammad Saeed Bhat, a resident of South Kashmir’s Dialgam area in the newly announced Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, had enrolled his daughter, Iflah Saeed, in one of the schools in Srinagar’s Solina area meant for disabled children. After passing Class 8 examination, 15-year-old Iflah was looking forward to continuing her education. However, a week later, nationwide lockdown was imposed in the wake of global pandemic Covid-19 and all her hopes were dashed. 7 months have passed and Iflah has been sitting idle at her home in Anantnag district. Unlike other students who can study online, Iflah is hearing and speech impaired. She is the eldest among three siblings. Her 14-year-old brother Mehran Saeed, who is studying in class 8th, is also hearing and speech impaired. Only their 12-year-old sister is without any disability.
The life of migrant workers in Maharastra’s sugar plantations is hard, working logn hours with no child care support or social benifits, only to fall deeper into debt. Thousands of children of such workers are bereft of an ideal nurturing enveronment as their parents struggle to keep the famiilies afloat.
It’s 7 am on a chilly December morning. The sugercane fields of Someshwar in Pune District’s Baramati reverberate with the sound of powerful hacks. Meera Gade, her sister-in-law, Pushpa and their fellow agricultural workers have already been hard at work for three hours straight, since the crack of dawn, cutting sugarcane.
The law of love could be best understood and learned through little children,” believed Mahatma Gandhi who always had a special place for children in his heart. His immense belief in children has, undoubtedly, inspired generations and the values he had advocated continue to guide the young minds even today. One such young mind following the teachings of Gandhi is Maharashtra’s 16-year-old Saloni Todkari.
“Non-violence is a successful strategy. It is a tool that we use to fight for our rights such as right to education and right to healthy childhood,” believes Saloni who has been protesting against injustice using Gandhian methods since she was just 12 years old. Saloni’s journey into “activism” began when she had started attending the Baag Shala (garden school) of Maitrakul — a residential study centre for students run under the aegis of Chhatrashakti Sanstha. Maitrakul is an abode for children from the weaker sections who find it difficult to pursue school education due to challenging circumstances at home.
The efficacy of any government is often measured by the successful execution of the social welfare and infrastructural schemes launched during its tenure. Money is invested and resources are utilized to conceptualize, design and implement these schemes on the ground
Farmers across several states are opposing the Centre’s agriculture-related ordinances. In Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana, protests have been staged against the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection)
Vinayak Sonar is 14-year-old. Every day his friends visit his home to invite him for an evening stroll around the village — a regular ritual for this young group of boys. One day when the boys asked Vinayak to come along, something was different. His mother Chandrakala Sonar told them that he was washing utensils and will join later.
Covid-19 – the global pandemic has exposed the lack of basic health care facilities not only in developing countries, but many first world countries have also faced criticism for lapses in their health services. As per a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), developed countries like the USA spends 16.9% of its GDP on healthcare (out of pocket and public) while India, on the other hand, spends only 3.6% on its total healthcare – the least among BRICS countries. Despite spending a good percentage of GDP on their healthcare, the US witnessed a nightmare.
Be it the occurrence of a natural hazard or a human-induced event, it is the people belonging to the lowest strata who suffer the worst consequences. The vulnerabilities even in these disadvantaged groups are not homogenous, the challenges faced by sub-groups are also different. Women and children, for example, are the ones who suffer the most. The impact of the ongoing pandemic, COVID-19, on the lives of several women is heart-wrenching.
Muhammad Ayub Kataria As the nation celebrated Teachers’ Day on September 5, teachers across the country couldn’t help but wonder how Covid-19 pandemic has changed the education scenario in the last few months. It transformed the space in which the teachers and students operated – conducting classes online became the new normal. One would believe that the struggles have been similar across states for the entire teacher.
On July 29, 2020, the Union Cabinet approved a New Education Policy (NEP) that has proposed drastic changes in the school and higher education. The Union education minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal, while announcing the NEP, described it as the beginning of a new era in the field of education and said it would be uniformly implemented across all Indian schools keeping the ‘diversity’ in mind. This new education policy has come after a long gap of 34 years. India has been following the National Education Policy of 1986 until now.
Farmer Rati Ram Kumeti of Mungwal village in Bhanupratappur development block in Kanker district does not own any cattle. But, she’s making money by selling their dung. She’s a beneficiary of the Chhattisgarh Government’s Godhan Nyay Yojana, under which cow dung is procured from livestock rearers and converted into organic fertilizer. “After completing my farming chores, I walk around the village collecting cow dung. This way, I am able to sell about 70-80 kilogrammes (kg) a day to the committee that comes to collect it,” she said.
Geeta is 13 Living in one of Jaipur’s urban slums she attends a nearby government school. She enjoyes school but often has to skip classes to help her mother, Malti, a domestic worker, employws in several houses. Malti, a widow from Bengal’s Cooch Behar ,needs to work to bring up her three chidren – all girls.With the pandemic and fear of coronavirus infection, She now wants Geeta to droop out school and get married so that she will have one less mouth to feed.
In early April a tweeter user had put up a post saying that his children have given away all their savings towards Prime Minister Care Fund. A number of children have joined hands with citizen’s groups and NGOs to reach out to the communities who had lost their livelihood due the lockdown.
In June, people in a village in Rajasthan’s Jaipur were protesting the establishment of an English medium Government school as it would mean that the existing girls’ school is converted into a co-ed.The reason for the protest was the fact that the parents of girls do not feel comfortable ‘allowing’ their daughters to study with boys. Not just in rural Rajasthan but parents in even metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Surat etc.
Rampuriya, a small hamlet in Rajasthan’s southern hilly district Pratapgarh, has been able to largely escape the Coronavirus onslaught. Till last month, there were around 182 reported cases, out of which 160 had recovered while three lives were lost. Had there been cases like the rest of the country, the total lack of basic health care services in this remote region would have made it challenging for the administration to control the situation.
As all education institutes had to be shut in the wake of Coronavirus, a programme Har Ghar Pathshala was recently launched by the Himachal Pradesh Government. For the last few months, the programme is being implemented by holding digital classes, forming WhatsApp groups
It was the third week of March. The teachers had almost completed the syllabus and the schools were busy preparing for the final exams. Computation of the average of the unit test scores of each student was being done. At that juncture, the novel Coronavirus had advanced and bared its fangs in India.
Barack Obama once said, “You know, we’re in a sports centre. Imagine if you have a team and you don’t let half of the team play. That makes no sense. Isn’t it?” Similarly, the communities that don’t give their daughters the same opportunities as their sons, they are most likely to lag behind.
Reverse migration of the workers and the distressing visuals of their hardships while returning to their villages during and after the lockdown have raised some important concerns. Be it the video of a migrant worker improvising a wooden cart and pulling his pregnant wife
It is rightly said for Jammu and Kashmir that it has always been more than just a mere place. The state, now UT, breathes within its locals and visitors alike with a pulse that they can sense, a heartbeat that they can feel and an expression that they can personify.
Earlier this year, in April, as Asia’s largest slum reported its first Corona positive case, everyone had predicted that it might soon become one of the largest containment zones as it was already an overpopulated area.
A total of 12 Gram Panchayats of Talera block in the Bundi district of Rajasthan collectively represent the Barad region, which shares its border with the Chittorgarh and Bhilwara districts in far south-west direction.
A collective effort by a local organisation and an international organisation has led to adolescents in villages breaking taboos by openly discussing and spreading awareness about periods, sexual and reproductive health and rights.