Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The lower odds for female births in India

India's 2011 census report has many heartening things to say. More educated men and women indicate a surge in literacy. People are living longer than ever before. Stability can be seen in the size of family; couples are having fewer children.

One exception to this hunky-dory picture is the steep fall in the number of girls. There are only 914 girls, 6 years old and under, for every 1,000 boys­ — not shocking if one considers that as many as 60,000 girls go missing every year. To use the word missing is a misnomer: The girls are killed often as soon as they are born in a society obsessed with boys. Many are aborted in the womb.

According to statistics, the sex ratio in India may be less slanted than it is in China. But while China's ratio has stabilized, India's is showing a disturbing trend. The gap between the number of boys and girls is widening alarmingly.

Social activist Sabu George, who has been working on gender issues for a quarter century, says that the murder of girls is nothing but "gendercide." More than 8 million girls have been killed in the last decade alone, pulling the sex ratio from 927 in 2001 to 914 in 2011.

"We will soon have the dubious distinction of being the nation eliminating the largest number of girls every year — along with being a place that has the largest number of starving children and the highest maternal mortality," George said. "In the coming decade, over 10 million girls will be killed if something is not done immediately to stop this massacre."

Although the government is well aware of the problem, it has done precious little to curb gendercide. And what is scary is that the economically well-off states like Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat have been in the forefront of murdering the girl child.

Equally frightening is a widely prevalent misconception that sex selection will check population explosion. However, the truth is something else. Of the 5 million fetuses aborted in the last decade, 3 million were girls and 2 million were boys. So, it was a clear case of going in for a sex determination test merely to have a boy. Limiting the size of the family appears to have been the second priority.

Unlike in China, where the one-child policy has been ruthlessly enforced by the dictatorial regime, India's democracy — except during the Emergency in the 1970s — has never involved coercing its population to go in for smaller families.

Of late, though, educated, elite Indians have been voluntarily having fewer children. They also have the money to get expensive scans done. If a couple already has a girl, they tend to get rid of the second child if the fetus happens to be a female. Sometimes, several female fetuses are aborted in this way.

In the impoverished regions of India and among the poor, the birth of a girl is not welcome. It is looked upon with not just trepidation but a sense of doom. To start with, girls cannot be married without huge dowries or bride prices, and they are of little use to their own parents once they leave home. Girls once married are hardly expected to take care of their parents. Boys do, and their brides could bring home dowries — an attractive proposition in a nation of 1.3 billion people where 75 percent live in abject or semi-abject poverty.

In the final analysis, such a warped sex ratio can have serious repercussions. Rape, for instance, tends to increase in a community that has an unusually large number of single men. Other social maladies also rise.

The 2003 Indian film "Motherland: A Nation Without Women" examined the impact of female feticide and female infanticide on the gender balance, and consequently on the stability and attitudes of society. Its plot bore some resemblance to real-life instances of gender imbalance and economics resulting in fraternal polyandry and bride-buying in some parts of India. The picture was grim and disturbing.

Yet, there is hope. With rising female literacy and employment, girls are not considered as burdensome as they once were. There is some societal reflection on the issue.

The government needs to encourage more girls to attend school and provide financial incentives to those willing to bear and nurture girl babies. State subsidies for their education may be an added motivation to cherish girls.

By Gautaman Bhaskaran ,a freelance journalist based in Chennai, India.



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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Japan nuclear crisis fuelled stir against Jaitapur nuclear plant

For the past five years, activist Pravin Gavankar had been trying hard to sensitise the villagers of Ratnagiri to the risks associated with having a nuclear plant in their backyard.

The agitation against the project, however, underwent a sea change after the tsunami-triggered Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan on March 11.

Today, everyone in the area - from the mango orchard-owning farmers in Madban village, to the fishing community in Sakhri Nate - has joined hands in the anti-nuclear power plant protest. Gavankar, who heads the NGO Janhit Seva Samiti, found it difficult to convince locals earlier because the focus of the stir was their displacement from the site chosen for the project.

Many villagers were too terrified to raise their voice after being allegedly threatened by local government officials. All they wanted was to accept whatever compensation they were being offered and hand over their land for the nuclear plant. But now the issue is finding loud resonance in the entire stretch of the coastal belt.
A mere land conflict has metamorphosed into a battle for survival.

"The primary opposition to the project in the initial days of the agitation was because the villagers did not want to part with their tracts. Some were not happy with the compensation and others simply did not want to shift as they were apprehensive of where they would be rehabilitated," a local administration official in Jaitapur said.
"The mindset of the protesters has dramatically changed after the Fukushima tragedy. Villagers are now ranged against the very idea of a nuclear power plant in their area. What this means is that even if we manage to acquire land from them, they will not allow the project to go ahead," the official added.

Another stark contrast is the political undertones the stir has taken. The Shiv Sena, which joined the protest only a few months ago, has now gone full steam ahead by exploiting the Fukushima incident.

The party has put up huge posters in and around Ratnagiri that whip up doomsday fears in Jaitapur.

The slogan on one of the posters is: 'Japan has been destroyed and now Konkan will be destroyed. We will not allow the destruction caused in Japan to take place in Konkan'. Another Sena poster shows a huge ball of fire superimposed on a supposed nuclear plant.

The message being conveyed is: 'If a nuclear disaster can occur in a highly developed country like Japan, what about India?' The parallel being drawn by the party appears to have made a huge impact because many villagers are now saying that they would lay down their lives rather than allow the project to be implemented. "This project is a risk not just for the livelihood of the people, but a threat to their very existence," Gavankar said.

"We don't want a nuclear project. The issue is no longer about giving away the land or rehabilitation. We don't want a nuclear project to harm us as it has done in Japan. We are particularly at risk as Jaitapur, too, sees a lot of seismic activity," he pointed out.

The fear of Ratnagiri becoming another Fukushima is so palpable that even diehard Congress functionaries are going against their party's line of thought. A case in point is that of Sharifuddin Qazi who is the Rajapur taluka Congress committee secretary.

He says he is against the nuclear project because it could hurt the people and was also not safe for the environment in the long run.

Amjad Borkar, who heads the fishermen's organisation in Ratnagiri, said the state government's claim of rehabilitation defied logic.

"They are saying they would resettle us. But what happens if there is a disaster and the whole environment and ecology is destroyed? Would they be able to get another ocean like this? This is a question of the livelihood of thousands of villagers in Ratnagiri and we are not budging," Borkar said.

As the agitation gathers steam, it is not just the Fukushima incident that is being exploited. NGOs from Ratnagiri have now invited villagers near the Tarapur atomic power plant in Mumbai to visit Jaitapur and explain why the Maharashtra government's claims on safe nuclear energy should be taken with a pinch of salt.

"We are holding a two-day rally that would start from Tarapur on April 23 and end in Jaitapur on April 25. Villagers from Tarapur will talk about how the nuclear project has affected them and their livelihood. They will also expose the government's false claims on compensation," Gavankar revealed.

If the march materialises and Tarapur's villagers do narrate their experience to the residents of Jaitapur, it would be a big blow for the project, local government officials felt.

"The government is clearly on the back foot after the Fukushima disaster. It had, all this while, been highlighting Tarapur as a model case. However if the people of Tarapur, too, lend their voice to the current campaign, the project could be a non-starter," the official said.

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

Hazare movement & the Delhi drama

The national capital is an excessively pampered city. Mindboggling amounts of money have been poured into it for improving infrastructure. This exercise has undeniably yielded dividends. Supreme among the additions to the average citizen's comfort is the metro built by Sridharan who, incidentally, is a phenomenon of sorts. The swanky new airport Terminal 3 is also something to crow about. Thanks to a judicial fiat a few years ago and the mandatory use of CNG for public transport buses, the quality of air has also improved. There is a constant attempt to beautify the city that has made Delhi really attractive. On the whole, it has become a more agreeable city than many others in the country to live in and raise a family.

It is an irony and tragedy, therefore, that Delhi is now polluted by the machinations of a small number in the polity who are hell-bent bent on destroying our faith in civilised living. This group of influential people with a somewhat shady past is scared of the critical mass that social activist Anna Hazare has picked up during the past few weeks. It would somehow like to derail his movement to promote ethics in public life.

Dismaying are the events of the past few days surrounding the circulation of a mysterious CD that contains scurrilous material against a few who are associated with Mr. Hazare. There are conflicting views on the genuineness of the CD. I wouldn't like to pronounce my views on this contentious matter. Let us wait for the opinion of a credible and reputed expert. The unfortunate feeling that has been generated is that there is possibly now an orchestrated endeavour to damn everybody who desires to inject some ethics into public life.

The vital questions that legitimately arise are: Has the battle between good and bad been again lost? Can we remain silent at the insidious adventures of some unscrupulous elements who are trying to scare away public-spirited men and women? These are the issues that are uppermost in the minds of a large number of people, who recently started looking upon Anna as a messiah, much to the discomfort of some inside the establishment and many outside.

I am no friends of the controversial personalities now being assailed for the alleged slander of a judge. I barely know them. I am, however, appalled by rumours that they are being targeted because of their closeness to Anna Hazare. Another rumour doing the rounds is that this is a masked operation aimed at persuading a senior judge to recuse himself from hearing a sensitive case. Both conjectures, irrespective of whether they have a basis or not, speak volumes of the quality of public life in the country.

No institution and no public official now seem exempt from calumny at the hands of those who themselves are unabashed violators of law. In such a miasmic atmosphere, the trend of good people shunning public office is likely to become stronger by the day. This development can be reversed only with the help of persons with a strong will and fire in the belly. It is nearly certain that it is not enough to be clean. It seems equally important to have the guts to hit back at detractors with a dubious agenda. Nothing else is likely to work in defusing persons with a questionable agenda, whose main strength is the sly support received from those who are close to power centres.

A somewhat specious argument, put forth by a few vested interests, runs along these lines. How can Anna Hazare and company stifle discussion on the format and future of the anti-corruption campaign? This is with a view to damning them as anti-democratic and fascist. Nothing can be farther from truth. The impression sought to be circulated is that the crusade against lack of integrity in high places is a brand new development and that a lot of time and opportunity need to be given to lawmakers to ponder over the subject and come to deliberate and calculated conclusions on how corruption should be fought through a foolproof law. This stand borders on the ridiculous considering that the proposed law has been debated for more than four decades.

If Mr. Hazare sounds impatient, and possibly irascible, it is because he is convinced he has waited long enough to see his lifetime objective fulfilled. It is not the ranting of a selfish old man who aims at self-glorification and is itching to embarrass the establishment. What his critics are trying to propagate, with unmistakable dishonest intentions, is that he is being exploited by vainglorious egotistic individuals who have jumped on the Hazare bandwagon just to settle scores with their adversaries.

I feel it is dangerous to ignore this ill-advised and vengeful group as inconsequential. We know that untruth repeated ad nauseam comes to be looked upon as the gospel. It is my experience that in modern India it is not enough for you to have a decades-long track record of honesty and goodness. In the past, an unsullied reputation for integrity and desire to help the common man stood by you when brickbats were thrown at you. The present situation is so ugly that every time somebody challenges your honesty of purpose and unwillingness to bend to those in power, you will have to prove that you have nothing to hide from society. There cannot be a worse time in Indian history for good people in public life. This is why I am worried about the future of the Hazare movement. If good people in massive numbers do not now come out boldly to express their solidarity with him, he will become just a footprint in the sands of time.

Mr. Hazare has announced that he will abide by the wishes of Parliament when it comes to passing a Lokpal law. He is being clever and correct so that he can carry all MPs with him. I, however, perceive a slight contradiction here. Mr. Hazare knows that across the political spectrum there is absolutely no will to install an omnipotent Lokpal who will fear no one. This absence of consensus on the subject among people who matter when it comes to law-making is the bane of the system. To expect Parliament to agree upon a strong ombudsman is a pipe dream. Hence, when Mr. Hazare says he will go by the wishes of our legislators, he is being unrealistic.

But then, does he have options? This is a real catch-22 situation. He has to carry Parliament with him. At the same time, he knows he will have no staunch backers on that forum for an effective Lokpal. Does this mean he should desist from asking for the moon and settle for mother earth? Not at all. Whatever he chooses to do, it is for the common man to continue to exert pressure on the polity for framing the most practical yet deterrent law. The media's role in maintaining public focus is crucial. Nothing else will help.

BY Dr. R.K. Raghavan is a former CBI Director


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

Monday, April 11, 2011

NGO’s plan state-wide agitation for the elderly

The joint action committee (JAC)formed by 23 organizations which work for the welfare of senior citizens in Maharashtra/Mumbai will be going on state-wide agitation from June 2011, against the non-implementation of 1999 National Policy of Older Person, (NPOP). The NPOP extends support to the elderly in the form of financial security, healthcare, shelter, welfare and other such needs.

“We are protesting against the continuous neglect and ignorance exhibited by both the central and the state government, despite giving to them our demands in writing. If our issues are not acknowledged, then we’ll be going go on a state-wide agitation in June 15th starting World Elder Abuse Day,” said Sailesh Mishra, coordinator of JAC & founder-president of Silver Inning Foundation (SIF).

Activists have claimed that has been no support or funds from the government, agencies, or corporate sector for the elderly, in the state that has around one crore senior citizens (60 +), out of which 66 per cent are poor, while 90 per cent lack social or health security. They further asserted that in the 2011-12 state budget the government has conveniently ignored the implementation of those policies which it had deemed as vital for the welfare of the elderly.

In the current central budget, provisions have been made for senior citizens in taxation and Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, with an increment for 80+ among other benefits, which the committee feels are not enough.

“Very few of our demands have been met. Last year, we had submitted a memorandum to Minister of State for Housing& Social Justice , Sachin Ahir, apprising him of the problems the elderly have to face due to the non-implementation of NPOP, but no action has been taken till date,” added Mishra.

He added, “Senior citizens need multi-service/disciplinary day care centres across major cities and towns in the country. The government should make provisions so that all the municipal corporations and panchayats provide day care and recreation centres across the state.”

The committee has also asked for health insurance and representation of schemes like Shravan Bal Yojana, Indira Gandhi Niradhar Bhoomiless, Vidhawa Mahila Anudan Yojana, etc., for allotting pension to senior citizens who are poor. Similarly, the organizations supporting JAC have also demanded a 50 per cent concession for the elderly across the state and city transport buses and an ultra modern special geriatric ward in district and municipal hospitals. “Free homes for destitute should be constructed in all districts in the state, and a comprehensive policy should be declared on Dementia and Alzheimer's,” said Sailesh.

Some of the demands of the joint action committee:
  • Declaration of State Policy for Senior Citizens, which the committee has claimed is lying unimplemented since 2002
  • Formation of State Council of Senior Citizens and Commission, under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Social Justice for effective promotion and coordination of the concerns of senior citizens
  • Establishment of multi-service day care centres, so that they can be utilized in social activities and for improvement in physical and mental health of the elderly

Monday, April 04, 2011

By Adnan Attarwala ,Afternoon Despatch & Courier , Mumbai , India

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

Friday, April 1, 2011

India Population Reaches 1210 Million as Per Latest Census 2011

 The population of the country as per the provisional figures of Census 2011 is 1210.19 million of which 63.72 million (51.54%) are males and 586.46 million (48.46%) are females. The provisional figures of Census 2011 were released in New Delhi today by Union Home Secretary Shri G.K.Pillai and RGI Shri C. Chandramouli.

The major highlights of the Census 2011 (Provisional figures) are as under ;-

  • The population of India has increased by more than 181 million during the decade 2001-2011.

  • Percentage growth in 2001-2011 is 17.64; males 17.19 and females 18.12.

  • 2001-2011 is the first decade (with the exception of 1911-1921) which has actually added lesser population compared to the previous decade.

  • Uttar Pradesh (199.5 million) is the most populous State in the country  followed by Maharashtra with 112 million.

  • The percentage decadal growth rates of the six most populous States have declined during 2001-2011 compared to 1991-2001:

-                      Uttar Pradesh (25.85% to 20.09%)
-                      Maharashtra (22.73% to 15.99%)
-                      Bihar (28.62% to 25.07%)
-                      West Bengal (17.77 % to 13.93%)
-                      Andhra Pradesh (14.59% to 11.10%)
-                      Madhya Pradesh (24.26% to 20.30%)

·         During 2001-2011, as many as 25 States/UTs with a share of  about 85%  of the country’s population registered an annual growth rate of less than 2% as compared to, 15 States/UTs with a share of about 42% during the period 1991-2001.

  • 15 States/UTs have grown by less than 1.5 per cent per annum during 2001-2011, while the number of such States/UTs was only 4 during the previous decade.

  • The total number of children in the age-group 0-6 is 158.8 million (-5 million since 2001)

  • Twenty States and Union Territories now have over one million children in the age group 0-6 years. On the other extreme, there are five States and Union Territories in the country that are yet to reach the one hundred thousand mark.

  • Uttar Pradesh (29.7 million), Bihar (18.6 million), Maharashtra (12.8 million), Madhya Pradesh (10.5 million) and Rajasthan (10.5 million) constitute 52% children in the age group of 0-6 years.

  • Population (0-6 years) 2001-2011 registered  minus (-)3.08 percent growth with  minus (-)2.42 for males and –3.80 for females.

  • The proportion of Child Population in the age group of 0-6 years to total population is 13.1 percent while the corresponding figure in 2001 was 15.9 percent. The decline has been to the extent of 2.8 points.

  • Overall sex ratio at the national level has increased by 7 points to reach 940 at Census 2011 as against 933 in Census 2001. This is the highest sex ratio recorded since Census 1971 and a shade lower than 1961. Increase in sex ratio is observed in 29 States/UTs.

  • Three major States (J&K, Bihar & Gujarat) have shown decline in sex ratio as compared to Census 2001.

  • Kerala with 1084 has the highest sex ratio followed by Puducherry with 1038, Daman & Diu has the lowest sex ratio of 618.

  • Child sex ratio (0-6 years) is 914. Increasing trend in the child sex ratio (0-6) seen in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram and A&N Islands. In all remaining 27 States/UTs, the child sex ratio show decline over Census 2001.

  • Mizoram has the highest child sex ratio (0-6 years) of 971 followed by Meghalaya with 970. Haryana is at the bottom with ratio of 830 followed by Punjab with 846.

  • Literacy rate has gone up from 64.83 per cent in 2001 to 74.04 per cent in 2011 showing an increase of 9.21 percentage points.

  • Percentage growth in literacy during 2001-2011 is 38.82; males : 31.98% & females : 49.10%.

Literates constitute 74 per cent of the total population aged seven and above and illiterates form 26 per cent.

Source:  Press Information Bureau 31-March-2011 14:5 IST

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