Category: contemporary social

History of Women empowerment through Nature conservancy

Leaders in the developing nations today can take many lessons from the environmental movement which started in the US in the  postwar decades. Active participation in conservation movement gave ordinary women an opportunity not only to break past their traditional roles in society but made them confident of their abilities and increased their determination to change the world. Women’s sense of responsibility to keep their home environment pleasant, found an expression in protecting the air, open spaces, water and  food supplies which were are being challenged by rapid urbanization in the US in the 60s and 70s.Women fought against water pollution by forming groups to save polluted rivers and lakes. Marion Stoddart of Massachusetts and Verna Mize of Michigan are famous women activists who showed that they could triumph even over powerful mining companies.  Women worked towards reducing air pollution in growing cities where large areas of pristine nature were being bull dozed every year. Hazel Henderson, a young women passed

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3 Burqa stories from 3 continents

A track from Lady Gaga’s recent album leaked on the internet has been causing quite a bit of stir among feminists, men and Muslim women. Lady Gaga has got critics wondering about the message of this particular track. Some are accusing Lady Gaga for sexualizing a garment that is a symbol of modesty.  Examples of disagreements about the utility and religious significance of the burqa even among the Muslim women and debates about facts and solutions for the “male gaze” are captured in the comments section of the associated article in WSJ. Voters in one of Switzerland’s districts (Ticino) approved the first ban on Burqa in that country. These voters claim that burqa is a barrier to integration. Activists, including Amnesty International, are claiming discrimination against the minority. Interestingly the Ticino district has a Italian speaking majority. In India, Digvijay Singh a spokesperson for the ruling party accused the main opposition party, BJP, of purchasing 10,000 burqas to supply to

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Pro-corruption forces go bolder :(

The Supreme court of India, in July, issued a ruling which disqualifies members of the Indian Parliament  if they are convicted by a court for crimes with punishment of two years or more.  CBI has been investigating corruption charges against Mr Rashid Masood, a member of the ruling Congress Party and it is close to issuing a verdict on him. The verdict is likely to unseat Mr Masood from the parliament if the Supreme Court ruling is respected. A similar case, that of  Mr Lalu Prasad, is also nearing a verdict in a week or two. Read the nice article in Economic Times – Conflict between democracy and its funding through corruption holds India in thrallThe ruling coalition had failed in its attempt to pass a law in the parliament to negate the Supreme Court judgement. On September 24th, the union cabinet met and approved a counter initiative which has now been signed by the President of India. It has

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A Politician’s 4 step Lets-Loot Scam!

Pic Credit Recent audits of the records from the previous administration of the state of Andhra Pradesh is establishing clearly the modus operandi of the nexus between politicians in India and their business interests. The signature aspect of such projects seem to be “no technical evaluation, no clearance requested from other Governmental agencies, no feasibility studies, and doling out advance money“. The four step to a successful scam is now understood to be Start a business Change hands – Once you achieve some success, hand the business over to relatives Action time! – Get directly into politics.  Make money from your political might for your business interest.  The Jalayagnam projects (read article in firstpost) , attributed to the calculated initiative of a single politician, YSR, drained more than US$10 billion from tax payer money instead of bringing water to the masses. Most of the MPs/MLAs linked to the Jalayagnam projects were once contractors, founders and promoters of their respective infrastructure companies. All

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Churches morphing into Temples?

Malaysia is a Muslim majority country. The catholic church in this country had earlier claimed the name Allah in its Church newspapers. The Government has now appealed Church’s earlier legal victory. Calculated steps to make it easy for conversions, as elaborated by the author Iain Buchanan in his book, tend to create fear in the majority community. Wall Street Journal article mentions a poster bearing the words “Save Allah”! Church morphing into Hindu Temples in South India Contrast this with the Hindu majority country, India. Any religion is free to use the Hindu name for the Supreme divinity. The Church has been using the term “Veda”, referring to the ancient knowledge books cognized by Rishis  to refer to the Bible for many decades. Indian society’s tolerance to new thoughts and ideas are founded on the Hindu belief that enlightened masters will continue to spread spirituality in the future just as many have done in the past. Forms of worship are merely an anchor to the

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Indian Villages to US households in a Century!

There were half a million small scale oil extraction facilities in India, almost one per village in the early 1900. Simple machines driven by animal power met the needs of the entire population. Housewives, then, relished the freshly pressed mustard, coconut, peanuts and sesame oils. During the British rule the number of units had fallen to 140,000 and then increased to 300,000 during Mahatma Gandhi’s Swadesh movement. Today India is the second largest importer of cooking oil. Indian housewives are marketed sophisticated, refined and heart healthy oils such as Canola oil while smart consumers in the US are moving away from it.  According to Cory McArthur, Vice-President, Canola Council of Canada “ India can benefit from the availability of heart-healthy canola oil. When used in the place of saturated fat, canola oil can reduce the risk of heart disease”. Canola has quickly claimed the title of the “wonder oil” – low in saturated fats, rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It is made from

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Food Security in a Kleptocracy?

Today’s Wall Street Journal article on Philippines says that tens of thousands of protesters turned out there for an anti-corruption rally after the country’s Commission on Audit found that $140 million had been questionably diverted. The story may be worse in India. An estimated 90 lakh, crore Rupees (1800 billion US$) of corruption money has been stashed away in foreign banks in the recent years according to RTI (Right To Information) reports filed by Indian activists. Food aid is an easy breeding ground for corruption. It can still be robbed at gunpoint by governments, criminals, and warlords alike, and sold for a profit. Corrupt officials pocket 80% of the subsidized food aid to poor in Bihar, a state of India, according to a Forbes report from 2007. The state run Food Corporation of India with its Public Distribution System, consisting of 50,000 fair price shops is notoriously corrupt. According to Inter Press Agency: August 13, 2013 article, 50% of the grain channeled through the PDS is sold in the open

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Flying High with Blinders on!

These days children of many wealthy citizens visit psychiatrists in New Delhi. Sanjay Chugh, one Delhi psychiatrist who sees 3-4 young patients a day says “these children are often brought up being told that they have nothing to worry about and that money can take care of everything”. Protecting children from hardship has been a trend in the developing world, but their interpretation of “hardship” may have taken a new meaning, for example, making children learn that there is more to life than fancy drinks, new toys and branded clothes.Super wealthy have always been part of the Indian city scene. The extended family structure in the past provided occasional opportunities for children to visit villages. Interactions with less fortunate members of the family brings a sense of being grounded. Radhika Borde, a social scientists compares her glamorous lifestyle as a college student to her childhood in Jharkhand and says “The India of dirt, danger and determination that I saw as a child was far more interesting. This

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Land grabbing in the land of Lakes!

Geographically the eastern half of the Deccan plateau, consisting mainly of Andhra Pradesh, slopes gently towards the ocean. The British survey of this territory, towards the end of eighteen hundreds, recorded 53,000 lakes, ponds and tanks which used to collect rain water for irrigation producing three bountiful harvests a year. Tanks symbolize an ancient tradition of harnessing local rainfall for replenishing ground water. The emphasis on tanks diminished during the 20th century and they experienced widespread decay and decline. Weakening of the community ownership of tanks such as those belonging to village temples is listed as the major reason for the decline. Other reasons include demographic pressure, and land encroachment issues. Tanks are functional and continue to be maintained today by informal community institutions. A 1995 survey lists only 98 small reservoirs, 2800 tanks, 32 medium reservoir and 7 large reservoirs in this area. One such lakes near the village of Narayanaraju Peta was under litigation for many years and a village

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Importing Thames or Exporting Ganga?

Two river rejuvenation projects recently brought up the hopes of Bangaloreans suffering from water scarcity. One takes the approach of copying the “Thames” model with an estimated investment of Rs 22 Crores. The British High commissioner has expressed his interest in the project and has promised to raise money internationally to fundthe program. It took 15 years to rid Thames river of industrial effluents feeding into it. Arkavati river too will become a source of drinking water to the city of Bangalore in a few years if money survives being siphoned away. The second initiative was launched six months earlier under the auspices of the Volunteer for a Better Indian (VBI) movement. This initiative will revive the now dried up Kumudvati river that once supplied drinking water to 200+ villages around Bangalore.  Over 2000 volunteers have already started working in villages, in and around the river basin, spearheaded by Geological scientist Dr. Lingaraju Yale and his team. The goal is

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