Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ten Movies About Alzheimer's Disease You Shouldn't Miss

The 2008 Oscar nominations include two Best Actress nods for performances in movies that deal with Alzheimer's disease. Here are ten movies you shouldn't miss that handle the difficult subject of Alzheimer's with grace, dignity, and realism.

1. Away From Her (2007)
In Away From Her, Julie Christie is Oscar-nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Fiona, a woman with Alzheimer's who voluntarily enters a long-term care facility to avoid being a burden on Grant, her husband of 50 years. After a 30-day separation (recommended by the facility), Grant visits Fiona and finds that her memory of him has deteriorated and that she's developed a close friendship with another man in the facility. Grant must draw upon the pure love and respect he has for Fiona to choose what will ensure his wife's happiness in the face of the disease. Christie has already won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) for her performance in this movie.

2. The Savages (2007)
Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman play siblings in this tragic comedy about adult children caring for a parent with dementia. Laura Linney is Oscar-nominated for Best Actress, and Tamara Jenkins is Oscar-nominated for best original screenplay. A rare combination of humility, dignity, and humor, Philip Seymour Hoffman was Golden Globe-nominated for Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) for his performance as the neurotic professor who begrudgingly unites with his sister for the sake of their father.

3. Aurora Borealis (2006)
Donald Sutherland and Louise Fletcher steal the show in this movie about relationships and difficult choices. Sutherland plays a grandfather with dementia who requires more care than his wife (Fletcher) can handle. They enlist the help of a home health aide (Juliette Lewis) and their grandson (Joshua Jackson), who forge a friendship as Sutherland's character -- who insists he can see the Northern Lights from his window -- becomes increasingly impaired. It was considered a well-crafted independent film that was released under the radar.

4. Sundowning (2005)
Sundowning follows the rivalries and bonding of three generations of lobstermen on Little Stone Island, Maine. When the grandfather and patriarch, Tobey (Minor Rootes) develops dementia, his son and grandson must learn to care for him while maintaining their livelihood. As they both fall for the female neighbor who cares for Tobey, they must let go of their deep-rooted rivalries and accept that her closeness with Tobey is actually a blessing. This little-known movie has received excellent customer reviews.

5. The Notebook (2004)
Based on Nicholas Sparks' best-selling novel of the same name, The Notebook features James Garner as Noah, the loving husband of Allie (Gena Rowlands), who is in a nursing home due to Alzheimer's disease. He attempts to rekindle her memories of their long history by reading to her from his notebook. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams play the couple in their younger years. Described as a true romance, the movie was directed by Nick Cassavetes, son of Gena Rowlands.

6. A Song For Martin (2001)
Sven Wollter and Viveka Seldahl -- married in real life -- play married couple Martin and Barbara in this Swedish movie with English subtitles. Martin is a conductor and composer; Barbara, a violinist. They meet and marry in middle-age, but soon after, they find out that Martin has Alzheimer's disease. This moving story is considered one of the most realistic depictions of caregiving on film.

7. Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (2001)
Based on the book Elegy for Iris by John Bayley, this movie tells the true story of English novelist Iris Murdoch's descent into Alzheimer's disease and the unconditional love of Bayley, her partner of 40 years. Jim Broadbent won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Bayley in his later years; Judi Dench and Kate Winslet received both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, for their portrayal of Murdoch in her older and younger years.

8. Firefly Dreams (2001)
This Japanese film with English subtitles won several international film festival awards. It tells the story of Naomi (Maho), a troubled teenager sent to the country for the summer to work for her aunt and uncle. She's asked to care for an aging neighbor with Alzheimer's disease; Naomi is initially unhappy about the arrangement, but soon connects with the woman in a transformative way.

9. Age Old Friends (1989)
Hume Cronyn achieves another great performance as John Cooper, who chose to live in a retirement home instead of live with his daughter (played by real-life daughter Tandy Cronyn) as a symbol of maintaining his independence. He befriends Michael (Vincent Gardenia), who starts showing signs of dementia. When John's daughter extends her offer to live with her again, he must decide between leaving the rigid structure of the retirement home and staying to help his friend cope with his disease.

10. I Never Sang For My Father (1970)
This intense story about family conflict stars Gene Hackman as a New York professor planning on starting anew by marrying his girlfriend and moving to California. When his mother dies and his father develops dementia, he must choose between living the life he's dreamed about or abandoning his plans to care for his father. This moving film was based on the Robert Anderson play.

By Carrie Hill, PhD


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

The Arithmetic of Poverty

A few months after taking over in my new post as Vice President of the South Asia region, I spent a few days and nights with Bhavnaben and her young family of salt workers on the edge of the desert in the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India. Since that time, Bhavnaben has become my touchstone of progress in India’s booming economy, and I return every year to visit them. I go to see first hand the life of India’s poorest citizens, to learn about their hopes and dreams, and to trace the small changes in their lives amidst India’s rising prosperity.

In the four years that I’ve known the family, they have made many efforts to improve their circumstances. When I first met them in 2003, they farmed just one salt pan, barely enough to sustain their family of seven - two sons and three daughters. By the time I returned a year later, they had taken on another pan. They were now producing twice the quantity of salt, and that too of better quality. They should be much better off now, I thought.

But escaping the clutches of poverty is never easy. Little did I realize how vulnerable the poor are to exploitation. Now that the family farmed two pans, the water vendor had doubled his charges! As the sole seller of a vital commodity -albeit of dubious quality - he charged whatever he pleased, in this case based on the number of salt pans they owned, instead of the amount of water they bought! Frustrated that others were benefiting from his hard labor, Mangabhai, Bhavanben’s husband, said he didn’t see any incentive to expand his salt business further.

The cost of diesel - their major expense - had also gone up, while the price of salt had remained the same. In Ahmedabad, the state’s major city, I had heard talk about introducing solar or wind power on the salt flats since both have good potential in the desert. But, I saw no evidence of anything being installed so far.

One encouraging sign was that the family had begun to diversify their sources of income to reduce their dependence on their backbreaking ancestral occupation. They had set up a small shop selling basic supplies to others on the pans. The shop - looked after by the oldest son - also sold flour which they now ground themselves using a new machine. In addition, they had begun to produce industrial salt which fetched a much higher price than the consumption salt they produced earlier. And, the four older children – none of whom went to school when I first met them – were now in school. They had learnt to read the vernacular alphabet and rattled off the names of plants and animals pinned up along the walls of the makeshift tent that served as their classroom. Things were looking up, I thought.

On my third and most recent visit in October 2007, the family had diversified further. They had leased a small piece of land to farm for five years. On this, they had grown the staple food of millet and lentils. This was a wise move as it would reduce their expenses on food and ensure that the family’s granary was full for the coming year.

But, there are many pitfalls in the climb out of poverty. Fourteen year old Chandrika, the eldest daughter, had been pulled out of school so that Bhavnaben could spend more time at work alongside her husband. And the eldest son was needed to man the shop. Although the three younger children were still in school, how much they were actually learning was another question. I strongly suspected that Kumar, the second son, was being taken out to work on the salt pans. All parents dream of giving their children a better future. But poor families’ inability to cope without their children’s labor invariably compromises the one thing that can make a real difference - education. The question continues to nag me: Will Bhavnaben’s children ever be able to avail of the new opportunities provided by India’s booming economy?

Health services also remain a huge problem, causing many poor people to slip back into poverty despite their best efforts. An illness means the loss of precious work days, and a consequent set-back in income. Medical care is not easy to come by, local doctors are not particularly qualified, and it is both expensive and time-consuming to go to the bigger towns for attention.

What, then, can their future hold? When I tried to talk to Mangabhai about his financial planning for the time he can no longer work, he looked at me with glazed eyes. He had absolutely no idea. “The poor don’t have the luxury of looking into the future,” Bhavnaben said to me.

Standing next to Bhavnaben I feel small - her ability to cope under extreme conditions is remarkable. Some of us with far more resources and privileges would not be able to survive the way she does – shouldering equal responsibility alongside her husband in the backbreaking work of the salt farm and still managing to look after every little need of the family with good cheer.

There is also an enormous dignity, both within the family and the community. They display great respect for each other and share what little they have with a disarming openness. Yet, they are subjected to a lot of indignity, mostly by outsiders who look down upon them and treat them as fodder for exploitation.

All in all, I came away feeling that although things were looking better, life was still very tough for Bhavnaben and her family, and progress on the ground was painfully slow. Yet, I am optimistic. Given the right kind of support in terms of health, education, and training for a life outside the grueling salt pans, families like Bhavnaben’s can indeed escape the only life they have ever known - a life of constant deprivation and untold poverty.

Posted by Praful


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Retired, Not Tired: Just Go For It!

Congratulations, you have retired. But what next? Have you given a thought to how you are going to spend the next 25-30 years of your life in retirement?

You may have choices: enjoy life to its fullest, relax, watch TV, read the newspaper from start to end, chat with friends, eat and drink what and when you want, play cards, window shop, go to exotic places. But you can’t spend all your retired life like this. You won’t enjoy them forever. You need to engage in other activities also that provide you purpose, challenge, adventure, and a feeling of accomplishment, happiness, and satisfaction.

Retirement is not resignation from life, but an opportunity to live a full, dynamic life. It is not a time to sit and wait for destiny to show you the door, but to do something that would make things better. And in doing so, you also enrich your own life. This way, you won’t get into the habit of debating the meaning of life.

Purpose is the engine that powers and drives life. Without purpose, you would get bored and depressed. Wilfred Peterson summed up the art of retirement thus: “Don’t retire... aspire”. Aspire to work for those causes you’ve always believed in. Practise the art of filling your moments with enriching experiences that will give new meaning and depth to your retired life.

As a student, you wanted to become a professional. During employment you were too busy in earning money and accomplishing career-oriented goals. As a parent you were busy raising family and providing for your child’s education. Perhaps you did not have time or even the aptitude to understand questions like who you were, what the real purpose of your life was, what your real interests were. Retirement is the time to ponder over all these questions and accomplish what you really want to do from the core of your heart. Retirement gives you ample opportunity to discover the real purpose of life and pursue activities that express your true self.

To fulfil only personal and selfish interests is restrictive. You need to reach beyond, to serve a higher purpose that benefits all. All your working life you have taken so much. You exploited natural resources and degraded the environment to make life more comfortable. May be you harmed others in furthering your own selfish interests. What have you done or given in return? Perhaps nothing! Retirement is the time you could give something back to society.

Work now for those causes you’ve always believed in. There is an endless number of ways we can help make this world a more beautiful, lovable and peaceful place. Pursue one or more of these purposes in your retirement: helping the needy, doing social work and community networking, promoting an environmental cause, starting a home for the elderly, conserving heritage, fighting corruption, writing a book, inventing something useful and translating inspiring literature from one language to another.

These pursuits may not be very rewarding financially. However, they are a source of immense happiness and fulfilment, which is the core desire of all human beings. Sometimes you may even spend some money from your own pocket to benefit others. Remember: There is no joy like the joy of serving others.

By B K Trehan


I remember a quote 'Who's afraid of Ageing'

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Basketball without Borders comes to India

A bunch of officials from the National Basketball Association (NBA) had a fruitful visit of the Capital in pursuing their task of holding a special programme, Basketball without Borders, at the American Embassy School here from July 3 to 6.

It will be the first time such a camp is held in a country other than China in Asia. Beijing and Shanghai have hosted three such camps in all in the past.

“The event is part of the league’s global social responsibility with emphasis on social issues like education, youth and family development and health related issues,” said Akash Jain, Director, International Development of the NBA, in an informal chat with the media on Monday.

There will be five slots for India among the 50 players selected to attend the camp, with the rest coming from China, Chinese Taipei, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Singapore, Qatar, Uzbekistan and Syria.

There will be two other such camps this year in Moscow, Russia from June 4 to 7 and in Johannesburg, South Africa, from September 3 to 7.

The boys attending the camp will be in the under-19 age group, and live together during the camp, participating in daily seminars that promote education, leadership, character, healthy living, apart from the game itself.

“The impact has been great. The programme serves as a springboard for the athletes to make it to their national teams,” said Todd Jacobson, vice president, Community Relations, of the NBA.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

350 NGOs sacked in mega clean up drive by Naodal Agency for AIDS

The National AIDS Control Organization (Naco) has discontinued almost 450 of its intervention programmes and sacked 350 non-government organizations (NGOs) as part of a massive clean-up and crackdown on non-performing partners in India’s battle against the disease.

The main agency in India’s AIDS and HIV prevention efforts evaluated the programmes—known as “targeted interventions” (TIs)—and the NGOs administering them in an internal survey in 2007. Another survey is scheduled for next month as Naco tightens quality control and scrutinizes effectiveness. Experts in the field have expressed concern over the presence of substandard grass-roots-level organizations—and say they are relieved by Naco’s resolve to eliminate them.

“We have discontinued almost 450 TIs. We had 1,200 interventions and these have been brought down to around 756,” said Sujatha Rao, director general of Naco. The axed interventions constituted 37% of the whole programme, which is now supervised by 800 non-profits aiming to specifically reduce infection rates among high-risk groups such as prostitutes, drug users and men having sex with men.

“These organizations either had composite programmes that included street children or some of them were bogus while others were without relevant experience,” said Rao.
With an adult prevalence rate of 0.36%, India has the third largest HIV-positive population of 2.47 million, trailing South Africa and Nigeria.

“It is indeed a concern that the NGOs working in the prevention area were not effective enough. But this exercise has also indicated that Naco is taking quality seriously, which is good news,” said Denis Broun, country coordinator for India at UNAIDS. Broun pointed out that while the Indian government had a “good measurement of inputs” going into the HIV/AIDS programme, there was “a need for good measurement of output as well” that could tally efforts with outcomes as considerable resources were being spent on the initiative.

The third phase of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) calls for Rs11,585 crore to be spent between 2007 and 2011 on HIV awareness, prevention and treatment for those afflicted with the virus—an allocation that is five times the outlay proposed under the second phase. Under the current structure, Naco works through 38 state AIDS control societies which, in turn, assess and approve project proposals from NGOs found suitable by their technical advisory committees. Naco provides the funding to the societies, which oversee these organizations’ management.

A Naco official, who didn’t wish to be identified as he is not officially authorized to speak to the media, said Naco’s first independent survey was conducted in 2001-02 and resulted in no action against NGOs because it simply gauged the “processes” under which the societies were working. Thus, the 2007 survey began the real crackdown on non-performing NGOs, added the official, who will be part of the third survey next month to assess whether the guidelines of the third phase have been adopted.

There are 118 districts with HIV prevalence greater than 1%, according to the latest Annual Sentinel Surveillence Country Report 2006, and 81 districts in which prevalence among high-risk groups was greater than 5%.

The report also notes that although HIV prevalence had decreased among injecting drug users in Manipur, the rates in all its surveillance sites remained above 10%. Moreover, rates among female sex workers in Nagaland and Mizoram were increasing; at sustained levels of 10%, infection remained “uncontrolled among men having sex with men”.

Broun, in an earlier interview with Mint a month ago, had said there is need for research and investigation into whether the AIDS programmes were missing out on some portions of the target population.

Rao said its stringent action was not evidence of Naco’s ineffectiveness, saying the agency was merely streamlining interventions and weeding out ineffective organizations to stick to the objectives of the new AIDS policy, which include expanding focus to include truckers and migrants.
“Wherever we have done a TI, we have seen good results and prevalence rates have come down,” she added.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

'Creative liberty cannot absolve Shah Rukh' -The Bollywood Badshah

An anti-tobacco organisation has rubbished mega star Shah Rukh Khan's justification of on screen smoking in the guise of "creative liberties" stating that "creativity just cannot escape public scrutiny."

"Creativity just cannot escape public scrutiny and even admonishment, if it tantamounts to social evil. In this case, it is an unadulterated invitation to death itself," Shekhar Salkar, General Secretary, National Organization for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE), said reacting to Shah Rukh's contention.

Shah Rukh, had earlier on Monday responding to Union health minister Ambumani Ramadoss's appeal to Amitabh Bachchan [Images] and Khan to stop setting bad example by smoking in public and in films citing that children have their first puff due to celebrities, said that actors could not be asked to curb their "creative liberties".

"We strongly object to the statement of reel life hero Shah Rukh Khan. It's a pity that Khan had to hide behind the garb of creativity to defend his penchant for smoking unabashedly in the public," Salkar said.

NOTE, a national level anti-tobacco NGO, had earlier sent a legal notice to the actor for smoking in public places including a twenty20 match in Mumbai and Hindustan Times Summit in Delhi.

The NGO had also served legal notice to Amitabh Bachchan taking objection to the huge billboard showing the actor smoking a cigarette.

"Shah Rukh should know that lakhs of Indian youth, who do not think twice before emulating their idol, invariably fall prey to the ill effects of tobacco consumption," the General Secretary said.

"In fact, he should proceed on an unannounced tour of Tata hospital in Mumbai to personally witness the pitiable plight of young and unsuspecting smokers, waiting for the inevitable," he added.

The NGO lauded Aamir Khan for his decision on smoking.

"Aamir, like Shah Rukh was a habitual smoker. However, his latest film Taare Zameen Par [Images] has admittedly helped him realize the after-effects of his senseless addiction," Salkar said.

"Aamir has worked with young kids in this film, which deals with learning disabilities, he was gracious to admit his follies in the past and quit smoking. Shah Rukh should realize that small things such as this make man great", he added.

Taking a dig at Shah Rukh, NOTE said that mere mention of creativity cannot absolve him, because he remains a compulsive smoker even in his off screen life, often unconcerned about the fact that even these private aspects are subject to constant media glare and thus, public viewing.

Salkar said that today cinema with its advanced techniques and imagery can convey meaningful emotions in a very subtle manner without resorting to crude symbolism. The penchant for creativity can find several non-violent avenues for its release.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

A Global Partnership in the Fight against Corruption

Speech by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,Managing Director, World Bank Group

Countries, just like individuals, are shaped by the significant events they go through. These events usually trigger thoughts about the past, ways to seize the present, and how we look at the future. The death of former President Suharto may well be one of those defining moments for the people of Indonesia. To them, and to the Suharto family, I want to convey, on behalf of myself and the World Bank, my deepest sympathy for their loss. To the entire country, my appreciation for hosting this conference and for making good governance a fundamental goal of this administration. My strongest support in successfully achieving this goal.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to use this opportunity to outline the key lessons we have learned in the fight against corruption. These are based on my experiences, both as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and at the World Bank.

Corruption as a serious development problem.

The first issue I would like to note is how far we have come in such a short period of time. Today there seems to be unanimous consensus regarding the development cost of corruption.

We know that corruption:

Takes a disproportionate toll on the poor, by undermining the delivery of public services, such as health, education, and infrastructure;
Creates macroeconomic uncertainty, taints the financial sector, and worsens the investment climate.
Studies show that moving up from the lowest end of the corruption perception distribution to a position right the middle of the pack may result in an increase in investment by as much as 8% of GDP. Similarly, the per capita income growth may rise by over 1 per cent.

But these are cold numbers . The real cost of corruption should be measured by the effect it has on human lives. Every $100 million of stolen assets restituted to a developing country could fund:

Full immunization for 4 million children
Approximately 250 thousand water connections for households
50-100 million Artemisin based treatments for malaria

Over the five-year period of President’s Abacha misrule, an estimated US$3 to US$5 billion of Nigeria’s public assets were looted and sent abroad. Five billion dollars is more than what Nigeria spent in 2006 on education and health. This money could have provided anti-retroviral therapy for 2-3 million Nigerians infected with HIV–AIDS for ten-years. A small fraction of this amount could have supplied insecticide treated bed nets for all pregnant women and children in Nigeria.

Instead it was laundered through a complex network of over 70 shell companies and 32 banks in major offshore financial centers ending up in the personal bank accounts of what Swiss courts labeled a “criminal enterprise.”

The high development cost of corruption is something almost everyone agrees on today. However, as obvious as it may sound...
We shouldn’t forget that until 10 years ago, the bribery of foreign officials was considered a business expense.
We shouldn’t forget that it wasn’t until 1995 that Transparency International issued its Corruption Perception Index for the first time.
We shouldn’t forget that not long ago, some scholars thought corruption was nothing but a way of “greasing the wheels of public administration”.

I am not trying to preach to the converted. On the contrary, I want to highlight that despite the fact that corruption has been around for ages, it has been only during the last decade that it has climbed to the top of the international development agenda.

In 1996, World Bank President Jim Wolfenshon referred to corruption as a ‘cancer’ of development and it remains so today. Under the leadership of President Bob Zoellick, the World Bank remains deeply committed to tackling this major constraint to development.

Now that there is widespread recognition of the development impact of corruption, the fundamental question has become: How do we go about solving this problem?

There is no silver bullet. There are, however, lessons the World Bank has learned during the last decade.

First lesson: Good Governance is a Global Public Good that requires Collective Action.

A few weeks ago, Bali hosted a major conference on another public good—climate change. Good governance is also a global public good. Poor governance in one country inevitably spills over to others, and like a disease, infects it.

The landmark UN Convention against Corruption is the single most important international agreement reflecting this idea. The Convention provides an unprecedented step forward in recognizing the global responsibility in fighting corruption. For example, it includes provisions:

To help prevent corruption at home, by strengthening transparency in public financial management, including in procurement; meritocratic hiring of civil servants; open and participatory rule-making; right to information; and other measures.
To tackle transnational aspects of corruption, most notably by making it easier for countries to freeze and recover the proceeds of corruption located in foreign jurisdictions.

The delegations coming from all across the globe should have but one goal in mind: COLLECTIVE ACTION AGAINST CORRUPTION. Collective action against corruption requires the need to balance the burden of responsibilities. This is another fundamental point in the fight against corruption that has been overlooked. For too long the focus of anticorruption efforts has targeted developing countries.

Developing countries get named and shamed.
Developing countries are rewarded or punished based on compliance with standards set in the developed world.
Far too often, the public opinion in developed nations seems to forget that corruption is not a developing country problem only.

By no means do I want to relieve countries that suffer endemic corruption from their responsibility. However, corruption in developing countries is also the result of an enabling and permissive global environment. All countries are responsible for this environment, particularly those with greater economic and political leverage.

Developing countries might have a long way to go in improving transparency, accountability, and good governance. However, progress made by these countries will be deemed insufficient, as long as the international financial architecture provides a risk-free alternative for the concealment of stolen funds.

As long as kleptocrats think that they have a good chance of getting away with their theft, they will be looking for opportunities to steal. Viewed in this way, the failure of the international community to solve this situation actually sabotages (undermines) the efforts undertaken by developing countries.

At the World Bank, we realize that there are two sides to the corruption equation.

There is not only a bribe taker, but also a bribe giver. And this giver is often a foreign company, especially when the scale of the bribe is large.

We have learnt that the kleptocrat would not be able or willing to steal if it weren’t for the security provided by the convenient and anonymous international financial architecture.

The World Bank undertook a serious listening exercise in our partner countries. We visited nearly 50 countries and consulted with more than 3,200 people, and organizations including the private sector. A remarkable consensus emerged not only about whether but also how development organizations, such as the World Bank, should help combat corruption.

The Result?
The new Governance and Anticorruption, or GAC, Strategy of the World Bank. This participatory strategy has helped us identify a new business model for our governance work focused on:

Engagement at the country level tailored to country context.
Assistance to countries for the creation of capable and accountable states that deliver better services and results for poor people.

Systematic engagement with a broad range of stakeholders in government, business and civil society.

Strengthening anticorruption in our own World Bank policies and programs.
Supporting regional and global processes that help set standards in tackling transnational aspects of the problem.

As part of this last dimension of the Governance and Anticorruption Strategy, the World Bank launched, jointly with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, or StAR. We thank Mr. Costa and the UNODC team for their excellent colaboration in this endeavor.

The main goal of StAR is to help developing countries recover assets stolen by corrupt government officials and hidden in foreign jurisdictions.

This is a very serious problem.

Though numbers are hard to come by, an estimated $20-40 billion each year leaves developing countries as illicit flows of which a significant portion is corruptly stolen funds.

StAR will seek to assist countries in four possible ways:

Providing targeted technical assistance to countries seeking the recovery of stolen assets.
Working with major financial centers in lowering the existing barriers to asset recovery.
Generating knowledge management tools that would help raise awareness, inform policy makers, and promote best practices.
Monitoring on a voluntary basis the use of assets once repatriated.

I am very pleased with the progress that has been made on StAR. I would like to repeat the invitation made by Mr. Costa for tomorrow’s Ministerial Roundtable and for Thursday’s Technical Side Event on the StAR Initiative.

The Second lesson we have learnt is that there can be no free-riding in the fight against corruption.

Governments, the private sector, civil society groups, the international media, international organizations need to live up to their commitments. They can’t wait for the action of others as a precondition to start fulfilling their duties.

Allow me to use a real life example to illustrate this free-riding problem. Say Switzerland starts tightening its regulatory framework in the area of money laundering and lowering existing barriers to asset recovery, as it has been doing during the last years. What good would that effort be in itself if other jurisdictions don’t follow a similar path? Wouldn’t corrupt money simply fly to where it’s safer?

The international community gathered here today needs to avoid the trap of the lowest common denominator.

For instance, the Compliance Reports issued by the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) show that parties to the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption have either “partly implemented” or “not implemented at all” nearly 50% of the recommendations made by the Evaluation Team. The difference across countries is significant with some countries falling short in as much as 75% of the recommendations.

The picture is no better when analyzing the same data for the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The 15 Follow-up Reports to the Second Evaluation Round show that countries have fallen short in over 50% of the recommendations. The difference across countries is even more dramatic.

The statistics highlighted above pertain to those developed countries whose leadership has ratified these conventions and also accepted to subject themselves to a peer review process. I can help but wonder what countries that have not ratified these conventions are actually doing.

There are still several developed countries that have not ratified UNCAC. For example, only 15 of the 54 jurisdictions classified by the IMF as offshore financial centers are parties to UNCAC. I would like to use this opportunity to call on all countries to ratify and implement the UNCAC. In particularly I would like to call on developed nations to exercise their leadership in this regard.

The previous examples highlight the fact that we cannot rely only on good will to overcome the free riding problem. If everyone must play its role then I would like to encourage the Conference of State Parties to adopt a comprehensive and independent third party review mechanism. I would like to encourage the Conference to provide the necessary means to the Secretariat so that it can help the international community overcome the free-riding trap. If we want countries to be serious about tackling corruption then a strong signal needs to come from the Conference.

If good governance starts at home then the Conference should provide the first example. The Conference needs to push countries to do their best. UNCAC needs a strong third party review mechanism.

Only this way we can help ensure that the rhetoric becomes a reality;
Only this way we can be certain that countries will live up to expectations;
Only this way we can avoid the trap of the lowest common denominator.

What can be done?

Developed countries can step-up the pace and undertake decisive and creative measures to facilitate the recovery of stolen assets. They could:

Facilitate non-conviction based forfeiture mechanisms;
Strengthen guidelines regarding the due diligence of Politically Exposed Persons;
Reduce the overly burdensome freezing process, for example by allowing a short preventive freezing period;
Pro-actively respond to mutual legal assistance requests.
Developing countries can also make substantial progress. They can:

Implement article 6 of the Convention regarding the establishment of independent anti corruption bodies.
Implement article 8 regarding public asset declarations for government public officials.
Implement article 9 regarding the establishment of transparent, competitive and objective procurement systems.

The way in which we thinking about corruption in World Bank projects is shifting significantly. We recently commissioned a Panel led by Paul Volcker, to review the operations of the department which investigates allegations of corruption, and are now in the process of implementing its recommendations to tighten the design and supervision of projects to take upfront account of the fraud and corruption.

Make no mistake, corruption undermines development. We at the World Bank do not see governance and anticorruption and development as separable agendas. They are a single agenda. It is the agenda based on the public being served by government. We need to do everything possible to help countries to fight poor behavior by building strong institutions. But this effort must be matched by actions in developed country financial centers to make bad behavior easier to detect and easier to rectify.

We call on the global community to work aggressively and in global partnership to achieve the full promise of UNCAC. Let’s hope that this Bali meeting will be a turning point in our common efforts.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you. has launched: Village portal of India -

Everyone says India lives in villages.

How many ?
638387 - remember as 6 3838 7 is pleased to announce the launch of our village portal,, which gives opportunity to you to share
and see the work of multiple stakeholders, village by village.

To start with, they are sharing the wonderful work being done by Byrraju Foundation in 6 districts of India, a replicable examples of how a village in Maharashtra Hiware Bazar has helped itself, a couple of modules to sensitise you on the canvas of India and a quiz ( with answers ) on just how India's population is spread over its states and union territories. is a serious site with a great fun and creative element. Because it is not targeted just at traditional audience of NGOs, corporates, funding agencies, media....

This site is for every citizen of India and therefore this site will use the people who have power to influence to influence you and help you participate in India's roadmap to 2020

Some important content:

Quick links on Developed Nation:
Vision of a developed nation by Mr Amitabh Bachchan
Vision of a developed nation by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Dr Pachauri's model of development

Quick links on list of villages- district wise, alphabetical wise:
District wise coverage of villages
Alphabetical coverage of villages
Byrraju Foundation programmes in over 100 villages

Tracking work in villages
Village visioning
50 parameters to track village development

Success stories
54 millionaires in a village

Sensitising India. And take a quiz
Free modules on sensitising India on social and developmental issues
250 questions and answers on population of India

Tracking former president Kalam's PURA

DO visit: and know more about India.

To share your work in village and For more detail contact:

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

NGO Jobs in INDIA as on Jan 2008


Sector Specialist (Civil Society) Mainstreaming Cell
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: February 1, 2008

Project Coordinator
Naandi Foundation
Location: Hyderabad
Last Date: February 28, 2008

Documentation – Consultant
Population Services International (PSI)
Location: Bangalore
Last Date: February 28, 2008

Staff Members
Ashoka:Innovators for the Public
Location: Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore
Last Date: February 29, 2008

Population Council
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: February 8, 2008

LEPRA Society
Location: Orissa
Last Date: February 8, 2008

Medical Officer - 3
LEPRA Society
Location: Orissa
Last Date: February 8, 2008

Senior ICT Assistant
Location: Patna
Last Date: February 8, 2008

Human Resources Officer (Staff Development)
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: February 8, 2008

Health & Nutrition Specialist
Location: Hyderabad
Last Date: February 8, 2008

WES Specialist Hub
Location: Chennai
Last Date: February 8, 2008

Communication Specialist, Patna
Location: Patna
Last Date: February 8, 2008

Communication Specialist, Bhopal
Location: Bhopal
Last Date: February 8, 2008

Programme Manager, Bhopal
Location: Bhopal
Last Date: February 8, 2008

Programme Manager, Patna
Location: Patna
Last Date: February 8, 2008

Sub Regional Training Coordinator (SRTC)
IPE (A UNICEF Initiative)
Location: Bihar
Last Date: January 31, 2008

Program Manager
An International Non-Governmental Organization
Location: East Delhi
Last Date: February 4, 2008

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Specialist Supervisor
IntraHealth International
Location: India
Last Date: February 23, 2008

Programme Manager
Sight Savers International
Location: Bhopal
Last Date: February 23, 2008

Finance Director
Location: Bangalore
Last Date: January 31, 2008

Linkage Officer
Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
Location: Ranchi, Jharkhand
Last Date: January 31, 2008

Technical Officer (Statistics)
Family Health International
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: January 31, 2008

Administrative Assistant
Location: Raipur, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Patna, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar
Last Date: February 4, 2008

Finance Manager
An International Non-Governmental Organization
Location: East Delhi
Last Date: February 4, 2008

ART Consultant
Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative
Location: Hyderabad
Last Date: February 18, 2008

Senior Business Development Manager
Feedback Ventures
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: February 17, 2008

State Coordinators
BBC World Service Trust
Location: Orissa and West Bengal
Last Date: February 3, 2008

Project Associate
BBC World Service Trust
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: February 3, 2008

Veterinary Trainer
Brooke India
Location: Any of the operational districts of Brooke India
Last Date: February 10, 2008

Project Director - Palliative Care
HelpAge India
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: January 31, 2008

Senior Manager – HR
International Development Enterprises India
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: February 10, 2008

Doctor in the Himalayas
Location: Village Satoli, Dist. Nainital, Uttarakhand
Last Date: February 16, 2008

Experts - Engineering & Project Management Consulting Services
Location: India
Last Date: February 16, 2008

Executive Head for Aarohi
Location: Village Satoli, Dist. Nainital, Uttarakhand
Last Date: February 16, 2008

Senior Manager, Human Resources
CRY - Child Rights and You
Location: Mumbai/Bangalore
Last Date: February 16, 2008

Assistant Manager / Manager, Volunteer Action
CRY – Child Rights and You
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: February 16, 2008

State Representative of Uttaranchal
Constella Futures
Location: Dehradun
Last Date: January 31, 2008

Disability Coordinator (2 Positions)
Handicap International (HI)
Last Date: January 31, 2008

Knowledge Management and Communication Officer
Handicap International (HI)
Location: Delhi, India
Last Date: February 8, 2008

Program Development Manager
Brooke India / Third Sector Partners
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: January 31, 2008

Program Associate
Location: New Delhi
Last Date: February 9, 2008

You can search this jobs and others at :

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.


“Employment and Unemployment Situation in India: 2005 –06”- Report No.522 based on the data of 62nd round survey of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, has been released.

The field work of the survey was carried out during July 2005-June 2006.This report provides some broad features of employment and unemployment situation in India and some characteristics associated with them at the national and state levels. Information regarding participation in public works was collected for the first time in this round for persons of age 15 years and above in the rural areas. No separate estimate is provided for small States & UT’s due to small sample size, instead, in such cases the estimates have been provided for a group of States/ UT’s.

The survey covered the whole of the Indian Union except (i) Leh (Ladakh) and Kargil districts of Jammu & Kashmir, (ii) interior villages of Nagaland situated beyond 5 kilometres from the bus routes and (iii) villages in Andaman and Nicobar Islands which remain inaccessible throughout the year. The survey was spread over 4,798 villages and 5,125 urban blocks covering 78,879 households (37,975 in rural areas and 40,904 in urban areas) and enumerating 3,77,377 persons (1,86,571 in rural areas and 1,90,806 in urban areas).

The earlier survey on the same subject was the NSS 61st round quinquennial survey (2004-05) spread over 7999 villages and 4602 urban blocks covering 1,24,680 households (79,306 in rural areas and 45,374 in urban areas) and enumerating 6,02,833 persons. The main characteristics associated with employment, unemployment are broadly comparable at the national level. However, at State/UT level comparison of the results of this round with the quinquennial round on some of the characteristics needs to be attempted with due caution.

Some of the important findings of the survey contained in this report are given below:
· About 74 per cent of the households belonged to rural India and accounted for nearly 76 per cent of the total population.

· In rural areas, about 79 per cent of the households possessed some kind of ‘ration card’. This percentage was lower at 68 in urban areas.

· Literacy rate for population of all ages was about 66 per cent for male and 47 per cent for female, in the rural areas. The corresponding literacy rates for urban areas, were 82 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

· About 50 per cent of the persons in the age group 5-29 years were currently attending educational institutions – 49 per cent in rural areas and 53 per cent in urban areas.

· According to the usual status (ps+ss), about 56 per cent of rural males and 31 per cent of rural females belonged to the labour force. The corresponding proportions in the urban areas were 57 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.

· In rural India, more than half of the usually employed (‘all’ workers) were self-employed – 57 per cent among males and nearly 62 per cent among fe­males. The corresponding figures in urban India were 42 for male and 44 for female.

· The percentage of regu­lar wage/salaried employees was relatively lower among females as compared to males in both rural and urban India ( figures being 10 for male and 4 for female in the rural areas, and 42 for male and 40 for female in the urban areas ).

· The proportion of female casual labourer was about 1 percentage point higher than that of male casual labourer in both rural and urban areas.

· In rural India, among ‘all’ usually employed, about 65 per cent of the male and 81 per cent of the female were engaged in the primary sector (excluding mining and quarrying), the proportion in the ‘secondary sector (including mining and quarrying)’ being 17 per cent for male and 12 per cent for female while the proportion in the ‘tertiary’ (NIC-2004 industry division: 50-99) sector –is 18 per cent among male and 7 per cent among female.

· In urban India, the ‘tertiary’ sector engaged about 59 per cent of the male workers while the ‘secondary’ sector accounted for about 34 per cent of the usually employed males. For female, the corresponding figures were lower: 52 and 33, respectively. Proportion of urban male and female employed in the primary sector was 6 percent and 15 percent respectively.

· The average wage rate for regular wage/salaried employees in rural areas was Rs. 138.74 for male and Rs. 87.71 for female. The corresponding wage rates in the urban areas were Rs. 205.81 for the male and Rs. 158.23 for the female.

· In the rural areas, on an average, Rs. 59.29 was earned in a day by a male casual labourer whereas a female casual labourer earned Rs. 37.97 in a day, in the urban areas male casual labourer in earned Rs. 80.70 in a day and a female, Rs. 44.57 in a day.

· According to the usual status approach, the unemployment rate in the rural areas was around 2 per cent (for male nearly 3 per cent and for female nearly 2 per cent) . In urban area the unemployment rate was 5 percent (for male nearly 5 per cent and for female nearly 8 per cent).

· The unemployment rate obtained by any of the approaches, was higher for females than that for the males in the urban area but it was lower than that for males in the rural area.

· Among educated persons, (with education level secondary and above), in the age group 15 – 29 years, the unemployment rate in rural and urban area was 12 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

· The proportion of usually employed male who were found to be not employed during the week preceding the date of survey, termed as visible underemployment rate, was 5 per cent in the rural and 2 per cent in the urban area. Compared to male, the problem of underemployment was more serious among the usually employed female, particularly in the rural area. Among them, the underemployment rate was as high as 18 per cent in the rural and 8 per cent in the urban area.

· The proportion of person-days without work of the usually employed was about 35 per cent and 18 per cent for female in rural and urban India, respectively as against 11 and 5 per cent for male in rural and urban India, respectively.

· The percentage of person-days on which persons with some work during the reference week (according to current weekly status) were without work was about 6 for rural male, 21 for rural female, 3 for urban male and 11 for urban female.

· The rate of under-employment was thus found higher in rural than urban, and higher for female than for male under the three approximations.

· Among the persons of age 15 years and above in the rural area, only 5 per cent got public works, 7 per cent sought but did not get public works and nearly 88 per cent did not even seek work in public works. For male, nearly 6 per cent got public works, 8 per cent sought but did not get public works and 85 per cent did not seek work in public works. The corresponding figures for female were, 3, 6 and 91 respectively.

· The average number of days worked in public works, during the last 365 days, by male and female was almost the same- 17 for male and 18 for female.

· Average wages received per day, for work in public works, was Rs. 56 for male and Rs. 54 for female.

To have an idea about the type of information presented in this report, per 1000 distribution of persons by broad usual activity (principal + subsidiary) status for major States, Group of U.Ts. and Group of North-Eastern States is given separately for male and female in the Annex.

This report is also available in the website ( of Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

UN intervention sought to save Yamuna

AGRA-BASED social and environmental activist Brij Khandelwal expressed concern that Taj corridor was the biggest threat to river Yamuna, which needed water. He deplored that Agra had been denied its share of river water that was held up in four upstream barrages, which needed to be opened to let out fresh water.

In a memorandum submitted to the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, he said, “The lifeline of the city river Yamuna has been rendered unfit for human beings. The poisonous and toxic water, flowing down the river without treatment and neutralisation, constitutes a grave danger to the aqua life and agriculture.” Almost 40 to 50 per cent of Delhi’s sewage is drained into Yamuna untreated.

According to him, “Despite repeated requests and reminders to various government agencies, nothing concrete has been done and no remedial measures initiated to contain the pollution in the river.” The chemical effluents and other toxic contaminants from industries in Delhi, and cities of Haryana are being directly released in the river and despite instructions from the courts, the concerned authorities have failed to take any preventive steps.

“The ill-conceived and incomplete Taj corridor project – nobody’s baby right now and used more as a political football by various interest groups – is another major source of pollution in the river, as the site is being callously used to dump solid wastes which during the rains, find way to the river that is already saturated with pollutants,” added Khandelwal.

In the past few years, there have been half a dozen cases of lakhs of fish dying in the river. The water that people in Agra drink is hazardous to health. A decade ago, 17 people in Khatikpara area died of drinking water supplied by Agra Water Works.

Khandelwal expressed concern that the Supreme Court of India had no time or inclination to dispose off the case pending before it, nor did it respond to demands to dismantle and clear the debris from the corridor. All the bodies are simply passing the buck, citing resources crunch as the excuse for not doing anything to resolve the imbroglio.

He strongly feels there is a conspiracy of state government agencies and perhaps the Delhi government agencies to use the river as an agent of Yamaraj to finish off the "unwanted population." Otherwise, how can one explain such dilly-dallying and insensitivity on the part of those at the helm of affairs?

Therefore, he sought the UN commissioner for Human Right’s intervention. He felt that it was a fit case for trial as the fundamental right to dissent and safe living conditions was being denied to the millions of people.

Corrupt people in the government have been overlooking demands of the locals to restore original ponds and streams and clean up rivers. High-rise buildings have come up on public ponds. Even the high courts have begun dragging their feet on such vital issues.

The water crisis in Agra is greatly compounded by the construction of four barrages upstream of Agra. River Yamuna has been reduced to a virtual drain, and for most part of the year, there is no water.

The dry riverbed is a serious threat to the heritage monument, the Taj Mahal. Government’s attention has been repeatedly drawn to this problem, but unfortunately the concerned agencies have shown utter insensitivity.

“Since the state government and its agencies have proved incapable and ineffective and the political bosses have shown utter lack of sincerity and determination, the International Human Rights Organisation must act in the matter and pull up those responsible for violation of right to good living. Concerned authorities have to be hauled up and tried,” emphasised Khandelwal.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Schools to start online counselling to curb child abuse

Schools in the national capital region (NCR) would take the help of experts and start online counselling to curb child abuse and corporal punishment, Women and Child Welfare Minister Renuka Chowdhury said here Friday.

'Corporal punishment and child abuse needs to stop in schools. Children are now under tremendous pressure and we must try to de-stress them,' Chowdhury said in a conference of school principals and administrators here.

Taking note of the increasing violence and sexual abuse in schools, Chaudhury had called a meeting of principals and administrators of the NCR region to discuss and 'ensure safe environment for children in schools'

Principals of 55 schools, members of child rights organisations, Kendriya Vidyalayas, child psychologists, NGOs working for the children cause and representative of the United Nations were part of the workshop.

She said her ministry is in consultation with the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry to start online consultation in schools, so that students can express themselves 'without any fear and inhibition'.

Chowdhury said sexual behaviour experts like Prakash Kothari should be consulted in schools to know the mind of students. Psychologists can really help a school in unravelling a young mind and thus helping him grow in the right direction.

She advised all government and private schools to form parents-teachers core group, which will help in tackling situations. She said corporal punishment in play school is also not acceptable.

'A problem child should not be given corporal punishment. No one is violent by birth and both teachers and parents must understand the problem rather than blaming him or her.

'We need to de-stress our kids,' Chowdhury emphasised.

The minister and participants also discussed the recent incident in Euro International School in Gurgaon, where two students shot dead one of their friends.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Feast awaits book lovers at World Book Fair

Book lovers from across India will get an opportunity to browse through millions of books and broaden their horizon of knowledge at the 18th New Delhi World Book Fair beginning Feb 2.

Organised by National Book Trust (NBT), an autonomous organisation under the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry, the nine-day knowledge extravaganza would be held at Pragati Maidan.

'The New Delhi World Book Fair is one of the best books shows across the globe. This year around, 1,300 publishers are taking part in the mega biannual event,' a senior NBT official said.

A total of 23 countries including Germany, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and Vietnam will participate in the 18th edition of New Delhi World Book Fair.

'The year 2008 has been declared as the 'Year of Russia' and Russia is the guest of honour in this edition of book fair. There will be separate panel discussions, literary programmes, and special activities related to Russia and its book culture,' the official added.

Authorities said in commemoration of 60 years of Mahatma Gandhi's martyrdom, there would be an international rights exhibition on books written by Gandhi and books written on him.

There will also be a number of programmes dedicated to youth and children.

'The fair provides a wonderful opportunity for book lovers to buy books related to their interest and hobbies. It will offer an opportunity to meet their favourite authors as well,' the official added.

From business point of view, the fair will be a podium to exchange ideas and business networks for publishers and booksellers.

'I am sure, we will get a wide range of books from across the world to choose from. I want to purchase some good books by Tolstoy,' said Sabitri Das, a book lover in the capital.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

President of India wants 70% rural people taken on board development

India's President Pratibha Patil has asked the nation to take on board 70 percent of its people living in rural areas in its march towards progress to make it meaningful.

She underlined the need to accelerate India's pace of development process to match up with the rapidly developing world and needs.

Patil was addressing a two-day national conference of the Project Directors of District Rural Development Agencies(DRDA) organized here by the union Rural Development Ministry.

The President was confident that if the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's novel National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was implemented in letter and spirit, it would bring about a revolution in rural areas, leading not only to immediate wage-employment generation but, n the long run, also to the rejuvenation of land, water bodies and bio-diversity.

She called for sincere and prompt efforts to implement employment generation schemes in the rural areas and exhorted the implementing agencies to plan and monitor the schemes so as to realize the objective of rural development.

Patil referred to the various ongoing schemes of the rural development ministry - namely, the Bharat Nirman, Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY, the swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) - and emphasized how these can benefit the rural poor and cause allround development in rural areas.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia called for better convergence at district level between various stakeholders, departments and ministries so that the funds provided for developmental schemes are utilized in a proper, systematic and transparent way and there is no overlapping of any kind.

Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, hosting the two-day conference, stated that combined with the NREGS, the SGSY has the potential to wipe out unemployment from rural India.

'In view of this, the ministry proposes to bring at least one member from each BPL family under the ambit of SHG movement by the end of 11th Plan period,' Singh said.

This conference will have presentations on NREGS and SGRY, SGSY, IAY and DRDA administration. The issues related to monitoring and evaluation of schemes, area development programmes, drinking water supply and total sanitation campaign and measures related with HIV prevention and control in rural areas will also figure in the presentation process.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Monday, January 28, 2008

WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: Mumbai Marches on Against Globalisation

There was grim determination on the faces of the 500-strong crowd that marched through the streets of this western port city for the World Social Forum’s Global Day of Action on Saturday 26th Jan 2008.

Defiantly, they carried banners that read ’Another World is Possible’. The slogan -- familiar enough in this city which hosted the WSF in 2004 -- has a special ring to it because memories linger of a year-long strike in 1982, by some 250,000 textile mill workers, which failed.

Since then most of the workers have been squatting in and around the mills hoping to get adequate compensation from their employers, their perseverance attracting much attention from activists who descended on Mumbai from around the world for WSF-2004.

But the final blow for the workers/squatters was to come two years later in March 2006 when a court ruling allowed the 60-odd textile mills to sell away the 600 acres of land they stood on for ‘development’ in the shape of shopping malls, luxury residential towers and commercial buildings. The stated policy, to turn Mumbai into another Shanghai, has no room for marginalised workers.

"With the closure of the mills, thousands of workers have been rendered destitute and forced to return to their villages or end up as hawkers and contract workers,'' said one of the marchers, Datta Ishwalkar, leader of the GKSS (Textile Workers’ Struggle Committee). "The manufacturing process has shifted from factories staffed by the organised working class to sweatshops in the unorganised sector run by contract labour who are denied all union rights."

Prominent among the marchers was Shanti Patel, trade unionist and a former mayor, who pointed out that most of Saturday’s marchers were young industrial workers who were taking the brunt of globalisation. ‘’If unions in the textile industry were responsible for basic workers’ rights such as an eight-hour day, today’s young labour force has been deprived of all such rights,’’ Patel said.

As the demonstrators wound their way through localities associated with the city’s history, and their route took them past monuments to the country’s struggles, the significance of the chosen route was inescapable.

The procession started at Shivaji Park, a stronghold of the Shiv Sena, a chauvinistic rightwing ‘Mumbai for Maharashtrians’ political party, formed in the 1960s by the Congress party to break the Left trade union movement. It marched southwards through Girangaon or ‘city of mills’, birthplace of the same Left movement which thrived in the textile industry that defined Mumbai as an industrial city in the 19th and 20th centuries.

A final rally at Chowpatty beach was ironical because it was the site of many public meetings organised by the ruling Congress party during the freedom movement it led against British colonial rule. It was the same monolithic Congress party that broke the Left movement in Mumbai and is today backing the sale of mill land and the evictions of unemployed mill workers.

Saturday’s demonstrators walked alongside floats depicting the crises facing Indian people today: the foreign onslaught on the local retail sector, the conversion of textile mill land into a real estate windfall, the evictions and the demolition of slums and the spate of farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra, the state to which Mumbai is capital.

‘’At the very least the workers rendered jobless should be given housing as the mill land that has been sold to the real estate lobby does not even belong to the mill owners," said Ishwalkar. ‘’It took years of struggle for the government to promise housing for dishoused former mill workers. But the land that they have assigned is not enough to accommodate all of them. They have also promised that unemployed mill workers will get jobs in the malls coming up on this land. But they are dragging their feet; we don’t know when this will be implemented."

The government policy of encouraging "hire and fire" contract labour in the name of labour reform is exemplified by the "special economic zones" being set up to compete with China's industrial boom.

The adverse impact of globalisation and the primacy of the market are visible in the struggles by farmers, workers, Dalits (low caste people) and tribals across the country as they fight to protect their lands, livelihoods and resources. They have opposed the government’s stamp of approval to over 600 special economic zones (industrial islands free from all trade unions, tax and other requirements) across the country.

"India’s retail sector is facing the onslaught of national and multinational corporations which will lead to the destruction of livelihoods of over 40 million people in the country," said V. Shetty, lawyer and coordinator of India FDI Watch, an organisation spearheading a national campaign against foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector, and the Vyapar Rozgar Suraksha Samiti (Committee for Protection of Livelihoods and Retailers), a coalition of small traders, hawkers and workers.

"Multinational chains have started selling vegetables at predatory prices, threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of hawkers who make a subsistence income on this work. And Indian companies like Reliance, Godrej and the Birlas open retail outlets and lure middle-class customers with prices that are below cost, running ‘mom and pop’ stores out of business after which they can hike their prices sky high,’’ said Shetty. ''The ground realities are in complete contrast to stated government policies of not allowing FDI in the retail trade. Walmart, the largest company of any kind in the world, is slated for entry into India in 2008, in a joint venture with an Indian company."

The national policy for farmers was announced in November 2007 in response to a spate of suicides in Maharashtra when faced with mounting debts and an agrarian crisis as r small and marginal farming became unviable. "Will the national policy help farmers and save farming?" economist S.P. Shukla, a former member of India's Planning Commission, asked sceptically.

"More than half the population of the city lives on just eight percent of its land," said P.K. Das of the Nivara Hakk Suraksha Samiti, a housing rights organisation. "They live in abysmal conditions, without clean water and other basic amenities. Instead of improving their conditions, the government of Maharashtra has been demolishing slums and handing the land over to builders through various corrupt schemes."

"Slum dwellers’ insecurity about their rights to this housing makes them vulnerable to the promises of political parties," said K. T. Suresh of the Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action.

India boasts the world's second-fastest growth in high net worth individuals, but the same country also has some 300 million people earning less than a dollar a day. And nothing can be more telling than the fact that for all the vaunted economic growth India actually dropped from 126 to 128 in the United Nations latest human development index.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

How Some Plants And Animals Appear To Defy The Aging Process

The inevitability of the aging process and the onset of senescence - the process of deterioration with age - is a fact of life for most plant and animal species.

Some, however, live to extreme ages, such as the English yew, of which at least one alive today is recorded in the Domesday Book; while a few organisms seem to defy current evolutionary understanding altogether, by appearing to have indefinite generation lengths with negligible senescence. For example, the Rocky Mountain Bristlecone Pine is known to produce viable cones at over 4000 years of age.

New research by ecologist Dr Patrick Doncaster from the University of Southampton, and mathematician Professor Robert Seymour from University College London demonstrates the principle by which some organisms can indefinitely postpone the onset of senescent aging.

'Our analysis indicates that sedentary organisms, including some types of tree, are particularly likely to achieve this postponement of the onset of senescent aging,' comments Dr Doncaster. 'It evolves through many generations of ancestors "crowding out" young individuals of the same species that attempt to grow to adulthood alongside them.'

He continues: 'The inevitability of senescence amongst organisms with repeated reproduction has well-developed theoretical foundations. In essence, since reproduction carries physiological costs, natural selection favors reaping early benefits, and delaying the cost in physiological decline until later in life when there is a greater chance of being dead anyway from environmental hazards.

'But some organisms show negligible senescence and a few, such as Hydra, which is a very simple freshwater animal, and the Bristlecone Pine, appear to have indefinite generation lengths. We have now answered the question of how they could have evolved from ancestors with senescent life histories. Mathematical analysis shows that the crowding out of young individuals favors selection on ever-reducing senescence. Our computer simulations indicate that this runaway process could even lead to immortality.'


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Indian Medicinal Plant May Combat Liver Cancer

Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the world with a poor prognosis. About three quarters of the cases of liver cancer are found in Southeast Asia, including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, India, and Japan. The frequency of liver cancer in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa is greater than 20 cases per 100,000 population. Moreover, recent data show the frequency of liver cancer in the U.S. overall is rising.

With the increasing trend in the incidence of cancers in our country, biomedical research directed at early detection and diagnosis, prognosis and survival, as well as prevention of progression of malignancy, is of prime importance. The aim of cancer chemoprevention is to circumvent the development and progression of malignant cells through the use of non-cytotoxic nutrients, herbal preparations/natural plant products, and/or pharmacological agents.

Encouraging dietary intake with herbal supplements may therefore be an effective strategy to limit DNA lesions and organic injuries leading to cancers and other chronic degenerative diseases.

A research team led by Prof. Malay Chatterjee from Jadavpur University investigated the primary chemopreventive mechanisms of Acanthus ilicifolius in an in vivo tumor-transplanted murine model. A. ilicifolius, popularly known as ¡°Harkach Kanta¡± is distributed widely throughout the mangroves of India, including Sunderbans in West Bengal, west coasts, and the Andamans, and in other Asian countries like Singhal, Burma, China, Thailand etc.

The results showed the aqueous leaf extract (ALE) of the plant was substantially effective in preventing hepatic DNA alterations and sister-chromatid exchanges (a type of chromosomal damage) in tumor-bearing mice. The study further demonstrated that ALE treatment was able to limit liver metallothionein expression, a potential marker for cell proliferation, and lengthen the mean survival of animals to a significant extent. The findings suggest that A. ilicifolius may be used as a potential chemoprotector against hepatic neoplasia.

This research from Prof. Chatterjee¡¯s laboratory opens up a promising avenue in cancer chemoprevention with the use of indigenous plants. The results obtained from this in vivo study seem interesting and encouraging. Lack of toxicity favors further preclinical evaluation of A. ilicifolius in a defined chemical carcinogenesis model. Elucidation of its anticarcinogenic mechanisms of action at the intricate molecular circuits, and isolation and characterization of its active principles, will provide a better understanding of the anti-cancer/chemoprevention strategy of A. ilicifolius. If these studies are found to be really functional, we will have the beginning of a new chemoprevention program with herbal supplements that could have the broadest implications for the well-being of society.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Music Therapy : Hope For People With Depression

A therapist may be able to use music to help some patients fight depression and improve, restore and maintain their health, states a Systematic Review from The Cochrane Library.

About 121 million people world-wide are believed to suffer from depression. This can be seen in disturbed appetite, sleep patterns and overall functioning as well as leading to low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness and guilt. It can lead to suicide and is associated with 1 million deaths a year.

Drugs and psychotherapy are common treatments, but a group of Cochrane Researchers set out to see whether there was evidence that music therapy could deliver benefits.

After searching the international literature, they identified five studies that met their criteria. Four of these reported greater reduction in symptoms of depression among people who had been given music therapy than those who had been randomly assigned to a therapy group that did not involve music. The fifth study, however, did not find this effect.

"While the evidence came from a few small studies, it suggests that this is an area that is well worth further investigation and, if the use of music therapy is supported by future trials, we need to find out which forms have greatest effect," says lead author Anna Maratos, an Arts Therapist who works in the Central and Northwest London Foundation NHS Trust, London, UK.

"The current studies indicate that music therapy may be able to improve mood and has low drop-out rates," says Maratos.

"It is important to note that at the moment there are only a small number of relatively low quality studies in this area, and we will only be able to be confident about the effectiveness of music therapy once some high quality trials have been conducted," says Maratos.

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Laughter is the best medicine. We’ve heard the expression time and again. For decades, researchers have explored how humor helps patients relieve stress and heal. Melissa B. Wanzer, EdD, professor of communication studies at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, has taken it one step further, with her research on how humor helps medical professionals cope with their difficult jobs. She also looked at how humor affects the elderly and how it can increase communication in the workplace and in the classroom.

She wondered, how do health care providers care for terminally ill people and manage to come back to work each day? So she asked them, in large-scale studies. Their answer? Humor. Wanzer has found humor to be beneficial in other areas as well.

“If employees view their managers as humor-oriented, they also view them as more effective,” notes Wanzer. “Employees also reported higher job satisfaction when they worked for someone who was more humor-oriented and used humor effectively and appropriately.” Wanzer and her colleagues found that humor is an effective way to cope with on-the-job stress – again, when used appropriately.

Wanzer also recently collaborated on research that found aging adults who used humor more frequently reported greater coping efficacy, which led to greater life satisfaction. This was the third study she conducted, with three different populations, where the conclusion was the same.

But what if you don’t consider yourself to be particularly funny? Wanzer says that while you can’t change your personality, you can find ways to integrate humor into your day-to-day life and change your communication patterns.

“Self-disparaging humor, making fun of oneself, is a very effective form of humor communication, as long as it is not done excessively,” says Wanzer, who adds that telling jokes is just a small portion of humor communication.

“I also tell people to use what is around them; ‘props can be humorous too, so long as they are used appropriately and are not perceived as distracting.”

Wanzer teaches a course in “Constructive Uses of Humor,” at Canisius College, which always fills to capacity. Students are required to prepare and perform a stand-up routine in front of the class. But the class is not all fun and games. Students read through journal articles and interpret factual studies on humor. One such case involves Southwest Airlines’ strategic effort to integrate humor into the workplace, in order to create a positive environment for employees and customers.

Wanzer’s research also shows that students report learning more from teachers who use humor effectively.

“Regardless of the content, humor seems to be beneficial and productive,” says Wanzer about the importance of the constructive uses of humor. “It helps to get the point across in about in almost any situation.”

Wanzer’s findings have been published in multiple journals, including Communication Quarterly, Communication Research Reports, Communication Education, Health Communication and Journal of Health Communication.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Being the Change: In Gandhi's Footsteps

After trying for years to achieve social change through mainstream institutional activism, I have turned to an approach deeply rooted in my own culture and history. I have spent the past nine years trying to understand how to live my values today rather than waiting for the system to change. My search for the roots of deep transformation have led me to re-engage with the seemingly mundane, the small, the slow, the inefficient, the unorganized, the invisible.

I became involved in activism in college. I focused on stopping discrimination against marginalized groups. I thought we could make the system work by reforming it to give equal rights to all. We signed petitions, held protests, issued policy reports. But despite minor gains, I felt we were losing our dignity, being made into beggars. I started to learn that the price for “redistributed benefits” to people in North America was being paid by people and nature in so-called Third World countries.

After college, I spent eight years in the belly of the beast—Wall Street, Harvard, the United Nations, NGOs—seeking to change the system from within. But I discovered that the problem was bigger than just removing a few bad apples or making some clever policy declarations. I started to question the labels we use, such as “under-developed,” “poor,” or “illiterate”; the manic logic of unlimited growth and obscene profits over all other values; and the reliance on experts and technocratic solutions, rather than on the people.

During this time I came across Hind Swaraj, a booklet written by Mahatma Gandhi in 1909. In it, he explores the nature of India’s freedom struggle. He says, “It is not about getting rid of the tiger [the British] and keeping the tiger’s nature [tools, systems, worldview, etc].” He calls for swaraj (rule over the individual and collective self) and urges us to look beyond “modern” colonizing systems of health, justice, and technology. I learned that non-violent political strategies require tremendous self-discipline and the courage to challenge our own comfort zones.

Gandhi’s insights helped me transcend such false polarizations as capitalism vs. communism, Left vs. Right, and East vs. West. I found the courage to move beyond playing “big” power games to fix the state and market systems which, no matter how clever they were, only fueled the monster.

I started to reorient myself to a practice of honestly questioning my own complicity, fear, and insecurity, as well as searching for my own real sources of organic power. I resigned from UNESCO and moved back to India. I have been experimenting with hands-on alternatives—from self-healing to community media to urban organic farming—which reduce dependence on institutions and revalue physical labor as an essential part of intellectual growth, political activism, and spirituality. Much of my own unlearning has resulted from our family decision not to send our daughter to school.

I have met people from around the world who are working to regenerate their communities—many of whom do not call themselves activists and would never think of doing so. One is my “illiterate” grandmother, who is one of the greatest environmentalists I have ever known. She is not a member of Greenpeace, nor an environmental scientist. But she is an amazing up-cycler, taking responsibility for her own waste by finding new uses for everything from mango pits and peels to old toothbrushes. She cares for the people, creatures, and place around her, giving concrete meaning to “localization” and “zero waste” living.

For me, the most exciting change movements seek to re-legitimize and reconnect to the knowledge, imagination, and wisdom of traditional communities. Giving top priority to regenerating diverse local languages, ways of seeing, and systems of natural learning is urgent if we are to co-create our way out of the massive crises that face us today. Equally important is finding the courage to walk out of institutions and structures that reinforce violence, injustice, and exploitation. Through an active practice of non-cooperation, we can withdraw the legitimacy that they have in our minds and open up spaces of calmness from which to explore new possibilities.

It is critical that we search for real expressions of our nature, not the tiger’s. Only then can we reclaim the dignity of our lives on our own terms.

By Manish Jain


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Economy benefits have not reached all sections: Pratibha Patil

President of India Pratibha Devisingh Patil, in her first on-the-eve-of Republic Day address to the nation, said “the underprivileged and the disadvantaged sections” should also find a place in the new sunny story of growth and development.

In the televised address on Friday, she noted that “the benefits of the upsurge in the economy have not reached all sections of our population.” She said that “in good faith we could not be indifferent” to the needs of the weaker sections. “We must ensure that they too should find a place to enjoy the sunshine of the country’s growth and development.”

Recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of wiping “every tear in every eye,” Ms. Patil said while “the goal of high growth rates” should be pursued, it was important that “all people of our country benefited from it.”

While enormous resources were being made available for the various socially-oriented programmes, “how effective are our delivery mechanism and what are the weaknesses?” She indicated a preference for the people’s involvement as a “key to the effective implementation of programmes and projects.”

Corruption evil

Acknowledging that “corruption is an evil that afflicts our system and we have to eliminate it,” the President called for “greater transparency” in the government’s functioning.

Rights and duties

However, citizens had both rights and duties, Ms. Patil reminded the country. “Each one of us is responsible for the progress and the future of India as also each one of us will have to bear [the] blame for the shortcomings and deficiencies. I have often said that the government, civil society, NGOs and every citizen will have to work collectively for the growth of society. We must recognise that just as we ask for our rights, we have an obligation to perform our duties.”

Pluralistic character

Expressing satisfaction with various innovations in deepening the democratic institutions, the President stressed the country’s pluralistic character. “Today, as a nation and as individual citizens, we must pledge to uphold this spirit of solidarity and respect for the multicultural, multireligious and multiethnic character of India.”

Ms. Patil pledged that “India will continue to work with the international community to create a better world — a world free of terror, poverty, disease, ignorance and inequality.”


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Case of the missing daughter

There are just 927 girls for 1000 boys in the country. And in some states like Punjab (798) and Haryana (820), the sex ratio has sunk to frighteningly low levels. The cash scheme being launched today to correct this unhealthy situation may meet with a measure of success in rural areas, but something more drastic would be required to check this trend in urban India, says Aditi Tandon

THE girl child of India never ceases to be in the news. Earlier this week, a two-year-old was killed by her father Lakhwinder Singh Kahlon, a construction worker, in suburban Vancouver. The father detested having a third daughter so decided to slit her throat when his wife was away to drop the other two girls to school.

Unwanted — that’s the plight of the girl child in many parts of India. It doesn’t quite matter where she lives — in a shanty or mansion, a village or city, India or Canada — she’s often a minority, perched precariously between life and death. In other terms, the crisis is called "sex ratio imbalance".

The trend might just have worsened, considering that the Government of India has come up with fresh initiatives to save India’s dying daughters. Last year alone, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) framed several schemes like the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) to protect girls, among all children. It also set up the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to implement child-related legislations, and now it has announced a radical new "cash transfer scheme" for families to allow their daughters to live and flourish.

To be launched today, the scheme seeks to arrest a plummeting sex ratio (now 933), particularly the child sex ratio (CSR), which stands at a meagre 927 for the country. Add to that the alarm caused by a recent UNICEF report, which says about 50 million girls are missing from India’s population. The study blames systemic gender discrimination for the vacuum in society — a trend reflected by the country’s census data as well.

Decline in child sex ratio

More worrisome however is the drastic fall in the CSR for the age group zero to six years. A recent study by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), India recorded more than 50-point decline in the CSR in 70 districts in 16 states and UTs between 1991 and 2001. The overall sex ratio is, naturally, no better. As per the 2005 data, India had 107.5 males per 100 females; the highest girl deficit being reported from northern states, many of which have high female literacy levels and are in the frontline of economic progress.

Punjab continues to sit at the top of India’s female foeticide map, with a sex ratio of 798, then come Haryana 820, Chandigarh 845, Delhi 868, Gujarat 883, Himachal 896, and Uttarakhand 908. Although some of these states improved their sex ratios marginally, they’ve a long way to set the imbalance right. The worst are Punjab and Haryana, which account for the 10 districts with the lowest sex ratio in India. That’s not all. Nine of the 10 districts identified for their abysmally low CSR also fall in Punjab and Haryana. Just one — Salem — is in Tamil Nadu; three — Sonepat, Ambala and Kurukshetra — are in Haryana; the rest — Amritsar, Mansa, Gurdaspur, Fatehgarh Sahib, Bathinda, Kapurthala and Patiala — are in Punjab. It is a matter of concern for policy-makers that all these districts are located close to urban centres.

In fact, the lowest CSR has been reported in Kurukshetra. Here, Shahabad and Thanesar blocks continue to be vulnerable, with rural and urban Shahabad reporting shockingly low CSR of 743 and 718, respectively. Rural Thanesar’s CSR is 771 as against the urban 768. The health authorities are troubled over another reason — Haryana’s total fertility rate is falling drastically. It declined from four during NFHS I (National Family Health Survey) to 2.69 in NFHS-III.

This is a dangerous situation, says Sunil Gulati, Director, Census Operations, Haryana and Chandigarh. He quotes a 1997 study which shows that women’s future decisions to accept contraception are linked to the number of living sons among her surviving children.

Drive against foeticide

It was to target these negative attitudes towards the girl child in Haryana that the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD), New Delhi, recently launched its campaign against female foeticide from Kurukshetra. Sulochana Vasudevan, joint director with the NIPCCD, says, "The fertility rate decline appears to be affecting the girls more. Also, the assumption that the sex ratio will improve with improved literacy appears fallacious. In Haryana, for instance, Panchkula has a very poor sex ratio but is on the top in terms of literacy."

But the Centre realises this is easier said than done. Waking up to the stark links between poverty and female foeticide, the WCD Ministry has decided to offer cash and insurance incentives to poor families, which view girls as ‘perpetual debts’. The scheme is likely to benefit, if the findings of a 1983 study by Dyson and Moore are anything to go by. This study links strong preferences for sons in India to relatively low social status and limited autonomy of women.

Few convictions

With these findings as the base, Sunil Gulati recently examined the economic aspects of sex ratio and found that there was a positive correlation between amenities affecting the status of women and sex ratio. "Amenities data for 46 districts in North India and 593 districts of India was subjected to co-relational and regression analysis. We found that villages with lack of amenities like rooms, drainage, bathrooms, telephone, proper cooking fuel, clean drinking water source, bank account, etc, had very poor sex ratio. Seventyeight per cent stoves in Haryana’s rural households haven’t been cleaned in ages," says Gulati, stressing the need for government policies that enhance the status of women. "That coupled with strict implementation of the PCPNDT (Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques) Act, 1994, can help," he says.

If only the Act could be implemented in the right spirit. So far, only 430 prosecutions have happened under the Act in India, says Dr I.D. Kaur, in charge of the PNDT, Ministry of Health. Of these, 97 prosecutions have taken place in Punjab and 35 in Haryana. Up to December last year, only 33,180 bodies were registered under the Act; of these 64 per cent were ultrasound clinics and imaging centres — the trouble-makers which continue to conduct sex-determination tests on the sly.

Recently, the Nayagarh police in Orissa recovered 30 foetuses, stunning the nation into silence yet again. The NCPCR immediately sent its team to raid ultrasound clinics in the area. Sandhya Bajaj, member NCPCR, who headed the committee, says, "We found that doctors in the area had even been aborting male foetuses in their greed for money." In an unprecedented move, the WCD Ministry got the licences of 10 erring Orissa doctors cancelled. But such implementation is rare. In Punjab and Haryana, only eight and four convictions, respectively, under the Act have happened so far.

Statistics say one-third of the 12 million girls born every year in India die in their first year; 25 per cent don’t survive beyond 15 years. These figures are also mirrored in the recent brutal attacks on girl children. The spine-chilling news of members of Lambada tribal community in Ranga Reddy district (Andhra Pradesh) starving 11 newborn girls to death is still fresh in public memory. The girls were wrapped up in cloth pieces and left to die. Most of these were the third or fourth daughters of their
parents, who couldn’t afford to pay dowry.

Expectedly, the NCPCR demanded an inquiry into the incident. But chairperson Shanta Sinha agrees, "Such killings indicate a collapse of institutions designed to protect children. We need better policies and sincere programmes to save girls. To begin with, we will ask the Medical Council of India to cancel licences of medical practitioners caught conducting sex-determination tests. We also plan public hearings and regional conferences across India to frame new strategies to correct sex-ratio imbalances."

Cash incentive

Last week, the NCRPR held its first conference on female foeticide in Chandigarh. The idea was to target the worst-hit areas first. But the point is whether conferences can change mindsets where the son is viewed as a "profitable proposition" and the daughter as "lifetime expense". May be the WCD Ministry’s condition cash transfer scheme has answers.

A sequel to the non-starter Balika Samriddhi Yojana of 1997 in which cash payments to poor families were taking long to be disbursed, the new scheme offers money to parents who fulfil four conditions linked to a girl’s survival and welfare. These are — ensuring her birth and registering it, completing her immunisation, educating her and delaying her marriage till 18 years.

The scheme will be launched as a pilot in 10 economically backward blocks of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa. One prosperous block (Punjab’s Sirhind in Fategarh Sahib, with the lowest female ratio in India) has been included to compare results of cash offers in poor and rich areas vis-`E0-vis impacts on sex ratio. The Eleventh Five Year Plan has already provided Rs 9.11 crore to benefit 99,000 girls in the current year under the scheme.

Besides, the Centre is developing a group-housing scheme worth Rs 1 lakh with the LIC. "We will have different premium rates depending on whether the girl’s mother is dead or disabled. One lakh will be given to a girl only after she attains 18 years. Every girl entering secondary school will also get a solar lantern from the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy," says Nandita Mishra, Joint Secretary, WCD Ministry.

Aim to change mindset

The first of its kind in the country, the conditional cash transfer scheme seeks to achieve two objectives – the tangible aim of providing staggered financial incentives to families to retain the girl child and look after her; and the intangible aim of changing mindsets by linking cash to the girl’s well-being and projecting her as an asset. The WCD Ministry will monitor the scheme with the help of the World Bank.

While this might work for poor India, urban India might well require something even more drastic given its aversion for daughters. Census data shows how the CSR in urban areas is lower (903) than rural (934); overall being 927. The ratio is better in backward communities — 938 among SCs; 973 among STs and 947 in backward districts. Among communities, Sikhs have the lowest sex ratio at 786, followed by Jains 870, Hindus 925, Muslims 950 and Christians 964.

The data clearly suggests complex linkages between sex ratio and socio-economic factors. It further reflects the need for wider strategies to balance the male-female population. There already is growing evidence of higher rate of crime against women in areas with low sex ratio. The WCD Ministry’s records are replete with case studies involving girls trafficked for sex, marriage and polyandry. And yet, allocation for children was reduced in the current Budget. HAQ, an NGO working with children, estimates that for every Rs 100 in the Budget, a paltry Rs 4.80 has been promised for children. It’s time perhaps for serious soul-searching.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.