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Archives for : November2017

It was a nightmare to appear for PSC exams as a transwoman: Anu Bose

Deepa Soman

…says Anu Bose, who recently won a legal case to write the exam as a transgender

Kochi-based Anu Bose was an excellent student at school and college. She completed her M.Sc from a science and technology institute in 2007 and had also been working with various colleges as an assistant professor, till 2016. A transwoman, Anu had to however give up her job as she couldn’t bear the discrimination from fellow women faculty in private-sector colleges. When she learnt that the public-sector also discriminates strongly against transpeople, the Maths teacher decided to do what it takes to `solve the problem’. She went to court with the request to allow transpeople to apply for Kerala Public Service Commission (PSC) examinations.Anu speaks about the favourable verdict from the court and why the battle is only half won.“In 2015, I had applied for a job via PSC, under male category . At the examination centre, the male teachers would frisk us to ensure there is no malpractice. Also, the exam had separate centres for men and women. Everyone around suspiciously checked me out from head-to-toe, as I was dressed as a woman. I felt very uncomfortable and decided that never again will I allow myself to be in such a situation,“ Anu recalls. She wrote letters to the PSC in June 2016 about this, but didn’t get a reply . She went to the PSC office again in August to ask what she can do in the current scenario. “They asked me to give a complaint in writing and I did.The response, which I got in September last year, was extremely frustrating. Apparently , to let me write the exam, there should be an amendment in the PSC rules which had only `man’ and `woman’ categories. As an Indian citizen, I felt that it’s a violation of my fundamental rights,“ says Anu.

On her behalf, trans-activist Vijayaraja Mallika had approached the Social Justice Department in October 2016, but was advised to wait till PSC amends the rules. She was later introduced to a lawyer, Sandhya Raju, in October 2017, and that’s when she moved the court. “I tried my best to not take legal action as I don’t have the required financial support. However, as there was no other option, I had to do it,“ says Anu, who stays with her mom and brother.

She started her sexual realignment process in 2015 and got her legal identity changed, last year. “I had a tough time finding money for my surgery without a job and financial assistance. Even my medical insurance didn’t come to my aid, as I am neither male nor female. They say they don’t cover transgenders. Apparently , the sex change surgery comes under cosmetic section,“ she says.

In an interim order, the court said that she can apply for PSC by choosing female as her gender, but Anu can’t apply for jobs yet. “PSC is yet to update my gender on its online profile, which was previously given as male. They say they have not received the order yet. I have to wait till it is changed,“ she says.

The Maths scholar doesn’t blame the public-sector unit entirely for the issue. “We are not given consideration anywhere.Even if they provide transgender as a column for exams, we will have issues as we don’t even have separate toilets in examination centres. I usually go for exams in an auto, spending `300 to `400, as people misbehave with us in buses and public transport. This is something faced solely by the transgenders here,“ she says.

As per the interim court order, Anu is the only transgender eligible to apply for the exam, as of now.Her advocate Sandhya Raju says, “Once the final order comes, probably in two or three months’ time, all transpeople should be able to apply for PSC jobs. They should increasingly bank on this opening and make the best use of it as a community .“

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SC for decriminalisation of politics, asks Centre to constitute special courts for cases against MPs, MLAs

The Supreme Court also asked Centre to apprise how many of 1,581 cases involving MPs and MLAs, as per 2014 data, have been disposed of within one year.

supreme court, mps, mlas, politicians involved criminal cases, Indian politicians involved criminal cases, Supreme Court, SC on politicians involved in criminal cases, indian express newsThe apex court told the government that decriminalisation of politics has to be done and asked for the estimated expenditure on constituting special courts for cases against MPs and MLAs.

Strongly pitching for decriminalisation of politics, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to constitute special courts on lines of fast track court for speedy disposal of cases pending against MPs and MLAs. The apex court told the government that decriminalisation of politics has to be done and asked for the estimated expenditure on constituting special courts for cases against MPs and MLAs. It also asked Centre to apprise how many of 1,581 cases involving MPs and MLAs, as per 2014 data, have been disposed of within one year.

The apex court asked the government to place these details before it within six weeks and fixed the matter for hearing on December 13.

The court was hearing a PIL seeking debarring of convicts for life from contesting polls and stopping them from entering judiciary and the executive. A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha also sought the details of criminal cases lodged against politicians from 2014 till date as well as on the disposal of these matters.

During the hearing, the Centre told the apex court that recommendation of the Election Commission and Law Commission, favouring life ban on politicians convicted in criminal cases, is under active consideration. It also said the bench that decriminalisation of politics has to be done and it was not averse to the setting up of special courts to deal with cases involving politicians and speedy disposal of these matters.

The ECI supported the plea seeking life ban on politicians convicted in criminal cases and said they have already made recommendations on this to the Centre.

The apex court had on July 12 pulled up the ECI for not taking a clear stand on a plea seeking barring of convicted politicians for life. The Centre, in its affidavit, had said the prayer sought by the petitioner seeking life-time bar on convicted lawmakers was not maintainable and the plea should be dismissed.

The petition has also sought a direction to the Centre and the EC to fix minimum educational qualification and a maximum age limit for persons contesting polls.

(With PTI inputs)

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Sexual Harassment: 4 Psychological Traits of Perpetrators #Vaw

From Clarence Thomas to basically all of Uber to Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment is as rampant as it is repugnant. This week, Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen examines the psychology of sexual harassment.


Ellen Hendriksen, PhD,

sexual harassment at work

In recent weeks, revelations about sexual harassment and its devastating effects have flooded the news and social media. But aside from a few legal-team-filtered statements, we don’t have an insight into the mindset of the accused harassers. So what are they thinking? How could they think this was a good idea? What makes someone prone to harass others?

Before we get into the psychology of sexual harassment, let’s define exactly what we’re talking about.

What is sexual harassment?

A common myth is that sexual harassment is just a few steps down the continuum from sexual assault. But it’s not that simple.

What specifies sexual harassment is that it is tied to power structures in employment and career advancement. The harasser holds the keys and creates a catch-22 for the victim: either submit and be exploited or resist and be punished. It’s a no-win situation of power, control, and intimidation.

Therefore, sexual harassment can and does include demeaning comments, requests for sexual favors, unwanted sexual advances, but importantly, can also include sexual assault, which is any non-consensual or coerced sexual act, including sexual touching.

Harassment is also different than unwanted sexual attention, which consists of unwelcome come-ons and comments that are not primarily designed to demean and intimidate. Think terrible pick-up lines. Therefore, “Do you work at Subway? Because you just gave me a foot-long!” from a guy at the bar is unwanted sexual attention, but from your boss, it’s sexual harassment.

To be sure, it’s not always women as victims and men as perpetrators, even though that is the vast majority of the cases. In 2016, of the almost 13,000 charges of sexual harassment logged by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (widely regarded as the tip of the iceberg), 83% of them were filed by women.

And women who face sexual harassment by bosses and supervisors aren’t just rising Hollywood starlets or Yale-educated lawyers who once worked for Supreme Court nominees. They’re restaurant workers, clerks, flight attendants, students, health care workers, programmers, and any of millions of other everyday workers whose bosses control scheduling, raises, promotions, and references.

So who are these bosses? Who sexually harasses? I dug through the research and found four common characteristics of the (mostly) men who sexually harass (mostly) women. Here they are.

The 4 Characteristics of Sexual Harassers

  1. Characteristic #1: The Dark Triad
  2. Characteristic #2: Moral disengagement
  3. Characteristic #3: Working in a male-dominated field
  4. Characteristic #4: Hostile attitudes towards women

Let’s explore each a little further.

Characteristic #1: The Dark Triad

With a name like “the Dark Triad,” you can bet this is a doozy of a personality trait. Actually, it’s three in one: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.

You’ve definitely heard of the first two: narcissism is a grandiose view of one’s own talents coupled with a lack of empathy and a deep need for admiration. Narcissists don’t care if you like them, but they do need you to think they’re powerful and impressive.

Narcissists might justify sexual harassment if they think they’ve been deprived of a sexual experience they “deserve.” They can’t fathom that someone just isn’t that into them.

Next, psychopathy revolves around two things: fearless dominance and aggressive impulsivity. In other words, psychopaths are bold, manipulative exploiters. They also have no empathy, but are good at mimicking it in order to exploit their victims.

Psychopaths sexually harass simply because they want to. If the opportunity presents itself (or they create the opportunity), they’ll take full advantage.

Finally, there’s Machiavellianism, named for the Italian Renaissance politician Niccolo Machiavelli. His masterwork, The Prince, describes an unscrupulous, deceptive political philosophy with an eye on long-term goals at any cost.

Put it all together and you essentially get a gleeful enthusiasm for exploitation, deception, and manipulation combined with a callous blindness to the feelings of others, all tied together with a bow of grandiosity. In other words, a perfect recipe for sexual harassment.

Indeed, in a study of almost 2,000 everyday community members, researchers found that—unsurprisingly—each of the three Dark Triad characteristics added to a tendency to sexually harass others.

Characteristic #2: Moral disengagement

This is another doozy. Moral disengagement is a slippery slope by which people justify their own corruption. It’s a cognitive process by which individuals create their own version of reality where moral principles don’t apply to them.

The mind is a tricky thing: often we choose our behavior to match our values, but sometimes, through moral disengagement, we change our values to justify our behavior.

Moral disengagement was first proposed by the psychologist Albert Bandura, who is often called the greatest living psychologist. His theory, as applied to sexual harassment,has several parts:

  1. First comes moral justification, or portraying harassment as acceptable. Think Harvey Weinstein’s line, “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different.”
  2. Next is euphemistic labeling, or using sanitized substitutions for naming their behavior, like Bill Cosby’s characterization of his sexual assaults as “rendezvous.”
  3. Third is displacement of responsibility, which attributes the harassment to outside forces (like Weinstein’s “that was the culture then.”)
  4. There’s also advantageous comparison, which is the assertion that their behavior could have been worse, and distortion of consequences, where individuals minimize the harm wrought by their actions.
  5. And finally, there are dehumanization and attribution of blame, which respectively eliminate concern for the victim and blame her for the incident. Bill O’Reilly did this when he commented that a woman who was raped and killed was “moronic” because she was wearing a miniskirt and a halter top, and that ”every predator in the world is gonna pick that up.”

The end result? Harassers sleep well at night because, through moral disengagement, they rest assured that what they did was within the realm of normalcy, deserved, and didn’t cause any harm.

The mind is a tricky thing: often we choose our behavior to match our values, but sometimes, through moral disengagement, we change our values to justify our behavior. This is how sexual harassers can maintain their view of themselves as decent, even morally upstanding, people.

Characteristic #3: Working in a male-dominated field

Sexual harassment is well-documented to be more prevalent in traditionally masculine fields, like the military, the police, surgery, finance, and more recently, high tech and the upper echelons of the entertainment industry.

This goes back decades: a classic 1989 study of 100 female factory workers found that women who worked as machinists, a position dominated by men, reported being harassed significantly more often than women who worked on the assembly line, which was more gender-equal.

Characteristic #4: Hostile attitudes towards women

Even though psychology is a science, it’s not a totally objective field, in most part because research is done by people, and people are a product of their culture and the biases of a given place and time. Interestingly, while researching this episode I found a study on sexual harassment from the early 1980s—almost a decade prior to Anita Hill’s testimony at Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings—that stated that most male sexual harassers had no idea that their advances were unwanted. The conclusion was that people who engaged in sexual harassment were simply clueless and lovelorn. But now we know better

A 2012 study out of the University of Bielefeld in Germany tested whether harassment was driven by what the researchers called a “short term mating orientation,” which is basically an academic euphemism for love ‘em and leave ‘em, or was driven by something called hostile sexism, and therefore served less as a way to get sex and more as a way to intimidate women.

The researchers asked 100 heterosexual male college students to chat online with “Julia,” an attractive 23-year-old woman. With each chat exchange, participants were asked to choose among three different pre-written messages to send to Julia.

The men were also told that this was a memory test, that Julia would later be quizzed on recalling the messages they sent to her, and that previous studies had found gender differences in memory performance, thus creating an atmosphere of competition.

For each message, the men chose among a joke, a personal comment, and a neutral statement. Now, some of the exchanges were carefully calibrated to include opportunities to harass. For example, in one combination, the choice included a sexist joke not specifically about Julia: “What’s the difference between a woman having her period and a terrorist? With a terrorist you can negotiate.” It also included a sexist remark directed specifically toward Julia—one of those terrible pickup lines: “You’re a sweet chocolate and I’ve got the filling for you.” Thankfully, there was also a neutral statement, simply: “You seem like a cheerful person.” Participants chose one of the messages to send, and then repeated this over 20 different trials.

The results found that the choice to send the pickup lines hung together with approving attitudes about short-term sexual encounters. The men who were more likely to send the bad pickup lines were also more likely to agree with statements like “sex without love is OK,” or “I would consider having sex with a stranger if it was safe and she was attractive.”

The guys who chose to send sexist jokes also scored highly on the short-term sexual attitudes questionnaire. But there was something else: they scored highly on a questionnaire of hostile sexism, endorsing items like, “Women are too easily offended,” and “The world would be a better place if women supported men more and criticized them less.”

In other words, sexual motives predicted unwanted sexual attention but hostile motives predicted both unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment. The researchers concluded that choosing to send the jokes wasn’t about sex at all; instead, it was about creating a disparaging, hostile climate for Julia in the context of a competitive atmosphere.

A good litmus test for whether comments are sexist or just a joke is to ask, “Would I say this to a man?” This is a good test for statements that might get defended by a harasser as “harmless fun,” or “What, I can’t even give a compliment?” For instance, a male supervisor wouldn’t tell a man he should smile more, comment on the attractiveness of his body, or say, “You don’t have to get all emotional about it.”

To sum it all up, harassment indicates a willingness to exploit and manipulate as a way to maintain or gain power. It indicates callousness toward the victims and aims to “keep them in their place.” Hopefully, with all the attention given to sexual harassment, more victims and more bystanders will speak up and speak out, and someday, the place for sexual harassment will be exactly nowhere.

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90% disabled Prof G . N Saibaba from Jail – ‘I am living like an animal taking its last breaths’

In Nagpur Central Jail’s ‘Anda Cell’ languishes a 90% disabled, ailing, professor, sentenced to life imprisonment for Maoist links, reports Jyoti Punwani.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

As the harsh Nagpur winter approaches, the inhabitants of the city’s Central Jail brace for a period of discomfort.

One among them will find it particularly hard to cope. Diagnosed with permanent post-polio paralysis of the legs, he is 90% disabled, dependent on a wheelchair and needs help to perform necessary bodily functions.

Additionally, he has high blood pressure, spinal pain and a heart problem.

Professor G N Sai Baba of Delhi University was convicted in March under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for having links with Maoists, and sentenced to life imprisonment by a sessions court in Gadchiroli.

He is currently in solitary confinement in the notorious ‘Anda Cell’.

The jail authorities have made no allowance for his disability.

They do not allow him to wear a lungi brought by his wife instead of the pyjama given by the jail, which he cannot tie as his left hand is paralysed.

Neither do they give him bland food. His inability to digest the spicy jail food has made him cut down on intake, thereby affecting his health further.

From childhood, the professor has been extra sensitive to the cold, which causes him severe muscle pain, said his brother Dr Ramdev.

In a letter to his wife Vasantha Kumari written on October 17, which she received on October 27, Professor Sai Baba writes: ‘Already I am shivering with continuous fever. I do not have a blanket. I do not have a sweater/jacket. As temperature goes down excruciating pain continuously in my legs and left hand increases. I am living here like an animal taking its last breaths.’

On Saturday, October 28, the jail authorities finally agreed to give him a small blanket brought by Dr Ramdev, after twice declining one brought by Vasantha and again by his lawyers.

While the authorities refuse to provide him any attendant, two Adivasis who were also convicted along with him, are voluntarily helping him.

When he was sentenced in March, Professor Sai Baba had just emerged from the ICU in a Delhi hospital and was due for pancreatic surgery in three weeks.

The doctors had then said that a delay in surgery would cause infection in his pancreas.

A recent report by the Nagpur Government Medical College and Hospital showed stones in Professor Sai Baba’s kidneys and gall bladder. No treatment, however, is being given to him.

His brother said that the medicines they bring for him were prescribed in March and may not be appropriate for his present ailment.

In his letter, Professor Sai Baba has complained that lifesaving medicines supplied by his family are not given to him regularly, hence he frequently becomes unconscious.

Every trip to the hospital is excruciatingly painful for Professor Sai Baba.

According to his wife, the jail authorities do not provide a vehicle with a low chassis, and the security guards accompanying him lift him roughly in and out of the vehicle.

In the hospital too, there are no attendants for him.

Now, he has refused to go to the hospital unless the authorities inform his lawyers whenever he is taken there, so that a family member can accompany him.

The Government Hospital where he is taken had treated him during his earlier stints in jail as an undertrial.

The hospital had then given in writing that they did not have the facilities to treat him and that he should be treated in a super speciality hospital like AIIMS.

Professor Sai Baba was first arrested in May 2014 and spent 14 months in Nagpur Jail before being released on bail on medical grounds by the Bombay high court, after the sessions court had denied him bail.

In December 2015, the sessions court ordered that he be arrested again. This time, he had to go to the Supreme Court for bail, which he got after three months.

When he was first arrested, he could move around on his own on his wheelchair. Both his stints in jail worsened his health and his mobility, making him totally dependent on others.

All his time outside jail was spent in and out of hospitals.

A known opponent of the Centre’s policies in Bastar, where tribals are being forced to give up their land and forests so that corporations can use the area’s mineral resources, Professor Sai Baba was convicted on the basis of evidence found on his computer.

However, said his wife, his computer and other material from his house were taken away in an open bag, not a sealed one, as per rules.

The appeal against his conviction has yet to come up for hearing.

In an earlier interview with, Vasantha had said that her husband had turned down two offers by the police to compromise and be set free by signing on some papers, the contents of which he did not know.

The professor had told, on being asked whether he would stop fighting for Adivasi rights after his two jail experiences: “How can any democratic-minded person not speak out against the genocide of Adivasis? How can we be silent when we see millions of Adivasis being displaced? Do we have a choice whether to speak or not?”

His family — wife, college going daughter and old mother — survive on the half-salary he continues to receive from his college, and on donations by his friends and colleagues.

Says Vasantha: “I have visited him only thrice in these eight months. In prison, we get permission only to talk on the phone to each other for 15 minutes. Between us are an iron grill and a stained, dirty fibre glass barrier.”

“Beyond these, all I can see is a shadowy figure in a wheelchair. It’s not just us; the families of all convicts face this. We all come from very far to meet our family members, and such meetings leave both sides traumatised.”

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Kerala – How Re-Thinking Poverty & Gender Changed 5 Million Lives


Today, nearly 5 million women are a part of Kudumbashree, making it the world’s largest women empowerment project. And all this in a state one-tenth the size of California.

The countryside of Thrissur is paddy rich and filled with gangly coconut trees. If you glance up such a tree, a seemingly out of place device might be seen on its narrow trunk. But most stark might be what, or who, is atop it – a woman plucking the coconuts!

A sight nobody beheld a decade ago, and one that addresses a crucial problem, in fact.

A family of five in Kerala consumes at least one coconut every day. Be it as oil, pulp or milk – the coconut’s versatility is incredulous! To feed this obsession, Kerala has 180 million coconut trees, most of which grow in the front and backyards of its residents.

However, it is not always easy to get your hands on a coconut despite the tree’s abundance, thanks to the acute shortage of climbers.

Ideally, Coconuts have to be plucked every 45 days, and for this, the state needs at least 50,000 climbers for the trees, according to Kerala’s Economics and Statistics Department data.

Ten years ago, the state realised the want of climbers could slowly be fulfilled by opening the job market to (whom else) women.

Women from districts like Kozhikode, Thrissur, and Malappuram were trained to climb the trees with the help of a device and also given subsidised two-wheelers and mobiles. These devices prevent chest pains and scars usually associated with climbing trees sans any help.

Many women in the district now earn up to Rs. 650 a day by climbing coconut trees – something no one would have imagined possible just a few decades ago.

Coconut climbing made easier thanks to this device!

Women, who were once relegated to society’s backwaters, are now (literally) scaling new heights!

So who helped bring this, and so many other, revolutions in the lives of Kerala’s women? It was all thanks to the country’s, if not the world’s, most successful anti-poverty and gender equality movement – The Kudumbashree.

Kudumbashree women at a meeting.

To be poor, from a backward caste, and a woman are a triple blow in Kerala. Any attempt at alleviation requires patience, time, and a comprehensive program that goes beyond just handing over some money or food as charity. What it requires a transformation from the ground up.

And so, nearly two decades ago, the state began the Kudumbashree, a path-breaking venture that has considerably helped eradicate poverty in the region.

Kudumbashree translates to ‘prosperity of the family’. ‘Kudumb’ in Malayalam is family, while ‘shree’ means prosperity. The solution is simple – successful familial units contribute to a healthy society.

Words that describe Kudumbashree’s mission include holistic, participatory and woman-oriented.

It organizes poor women at the grass root level and enhances their socio-economic standing through micro-credits and women empowerment initiatives via vocational training, education and healthcare. Its innovative poverty reduction approach is implemented through local self-government (LSGs).

Today, nearly 5 million women are a part of Kudumbashree, making it the world’s largest women empowerment project. And all this in a state one-tenth the size of California.

So, how does it work?

Kudumbashree forms small groups of economically backward women and provides them with a mix of microfinance, state support and dynamic community action.

The backbone of Kudumbashree is the Neighbourhood Group (NHG), which comprises of no more than 20 women from a ward in a district.

Kudumbashree women at a neighbourhood group meeting

The idea behind this is that neighbours or people in a similar socio-economic community are more likely to understand each other’s problems than an arbitrary grouping of women, in spite of similar economic backgrounds.

Meetings occur on a weekly basis in the houses of NHG members where schemes and other issues are discussed.

Joining Kudumbasree means that women have to go for weekly meetings, where they meet other women and socialize. This makes them confident about themselves, and also ensures a steady monthly income.

“More than anything, it has liberated women to get out of the house and go to work. In a traditionally male-dominated society, women participating in the polity, going to vocational training programs and starting small businesses was not the norm. Kudumbashree helped changed this, “says K.J Sohan, former mayor of Kochi.

What does this translate into on the ground? Take the Kudumbashree kitchens, for example. Community kitchens have been set in almost every district, and some even promote traditional food habits of tribal people which involve the consumption of locally-grown foodgrains and vegetables.

“I have to work in shifts only for 15 days of the month. I was trained by Kudumbashree members to cook and perform other service-oriented jobs in the cafeteria. The skill, money, and time it gives me are so beneficial. Life has changed after I became a member of the Kudumbashree,” says Kumari Saju, a cook at a Kudumbashree cafeteria in Kottayam.

The advantage of being apart of this network is it also encourages small-time enterprises. So Kumari and a group of women from her ward – Edamula in the Akalakulnnam district in Kottayam – are also able to grow their stitching business, where they tailor blouses and salwar-kameez suits for women in the area.

But most crucially, at these weekly meetings, all members bring their thrift or savings, which can be as low as Rs 10.

Thrift, or small savings, can help alleviate poverty and decrease risk more than debt. Kudumbashree women have demonstrated that the poor can and will save if given proper opportunities and incentives.

“The idea behind small savings is to encourage women, even those below the poverty line, to save. Savings are collected and recycled in the system by way of sanctioning loans,” says Priya Paul, project manager with Kudumbashree for more than ten years.

Each NHG opens a joint account in a local bank, while each participant is given a separate passbook. Once trained to make simple banking transactions, these women become more empowered.

Once savings are generated, heavily subsidized loans are granted to these women and they can go upwards of Rs. 10 lakh.

How much could small savings by economically backward women possibly be? Most recent public figures (in 2014) said the group saved to the tune of Rs 2200 crore!

The Structure Of The Organisation

The Involvement of Local Governments or Panchayats

ADS members at a meeting

“One of the peculiarities of Kudumbashree is the extensive involvement of the local and state government, which has resulted in the success of the scheme,” says Priya.

Women do better in local government since they identify with the family more easily — and at the village panchayat level, you are dealing with families.

Kudumbashree, hence, was a turning point for the life of women in Kerala – an entry point into public life.

One of the central themes within the Kudumbashree idea has been the smooth unity between the Kudumbashree’s NHGs and CDS, which is the representative group at the district level, and the local panchayats within whose jurisdictions they operate.

In theory, the CDS and the local panchayat are independent. This is because their elections are held separately with completely different electorates.

Kudumbashree women at a local meeting in Wayanad.

But in reality – they cannot exist without the panchayats. It’s an active collaboration. The CDS representative even has a room in the panchayat.

When political parties want candidates (In Kerala, 50% of panchayat seats are reserved for women), they select them from the Kudumbashree because of the leadership opportunities that are given to local women.

“Even though the leadership program is not very systematic, it still gives these women exposure to microfinance, bank processes and other vocational programs and this enables a sense of leadership,” says Aleyamma Vijayan, the founder of an NGO called Sakhi in Kerala.

“There have been versions of this in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka – but what makes it different here is the involvement of local panchayats. The decentralisation of the panchayat plays a crucial role, and understanding Kudumbashree’s success without understanding the part of the panchayat is impossible,” says Aleyamma.

Kerala has development indicators that are comparable to developed countries and has been experimenting with decentralisation and participatory local democracy.

Local governments were vested with the powers and responsibilities of economic development and social justice in their respective regions.

Kerala Panchayats are also comparatively rich in India.

“They have lakhs of rupees and must allocate at least 10% of that for the women’s component plan (WPC). They cannot their budget sanctioned from the state govt it that do not have a solid idea for the WPC,” Aleyamma says.

And in all of this, Kudumbashree is a crucial cog that keeps the wheels of the Panchayat running, allowing them to meet their goals, year on year.

This includes matching up programmes between the two and co-operation when using institutions run by the panchayat.

Indeed, a crucial integration is the sharing of resources from both sides. How it works is that Community Development Societies present a ‘mini plan’ to the local panchayat, which folds in the ideas with their governing policies and decisions.

Who can join the Kudumbashree?

Poverty is more than the lack of income. In Kudumbashree, to identify the poor, a nine-point non-monetary risk indicator index has been developed. The indicators’ are simple, transparent, easily understood by the community and include various manifestations of poverty.

Therefore, Kudumbashree members are not identified only by absolute poverty or income levels.

Sucess In Numbers

It’s hard to find a single area of work Kudumbashree’s efforts have not penetrated. Be it higher education, the flowering of small-scale businesses or even in healthcare, Kudumbashree women have been able to leverage their opportunities to work in various fields.

Perhaps Kudumbashree’s most successful endeavours have been in agriculture. Farming has taken off in a big way among women in the Kudumbashree’s collective farming and ‘Samagra’ projects, implemented with active participation from Panchayats, supported by a farming subsidy.

Not only has the project increased agricultural production, but it has also brought considerable fallow land back under cultivation and financially empowered thousands of women.

Agriculture has been one of Kudumbashree’s most successful sectors

Kudumbashree volunteers are already cultivating all major food crops, including rice, vegetables and fruits in select areas through more than 60,000 Joint Liability Groups (JLG).

Some 2,50,000 Kudumbashree women throughout Kerala have come together to form farming collectives which jointly lease land, cultivate it, use the produce to meet their consumption needs and sell the surplus to local markets.

To keep the cultivation ball rolling, a handful of measures have been further adopted. These include seed banking, soil testing facilities and a steady credit flow by linking the JLGs with banks. And taking the solution from end-to-end, marketing facilities have also been provided through the creation of weekly and monthly markets through Community Development Societies (CDSs).

And that is just farming. Kudunmbashree’s ripple effects spread to nearly every aspect of Kerala society, and its rejuvenating vision continues to grow daily.

The Road Ahead

“While encouraging savings and entrepreneurship is what the Kudumbashree has always strived to do, right now we want to include other marginalised people into the organisation like tribals and transgenders. We hope it will benefit them as it has to the lakhs of women who were and are a part of it,” concludes Priya.

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One Pollutant Alone Killed 5 Lakh Indians In 2015: Lancet

A study by the medical journal Lancet said the leading killer in India was household pollution. Burning ‘dirty’ solid fuel for cooking releases the pollutant PM2.5, leading to premature deaths

One Pollutant Alone Killed 5 Lakh Indians In 2015: Lancet

Pollution from factories, coal power plant emissions and transport are other leading PM2.5 sources



  1. Report gives number of deaths caused by each source of pollutant PM2.5
  2. Pollution from factories, coal plant and transport other leading sources
  3. India has tripled its energy output since 1980

A new report published in the medical journal Lancet says that the pollutant PM2.5 alone killed five lakh Indians in 2015. For the first time, the report gives the number of deaths caused by each source of the pollutant, usually measured by levels of particulate matter or PM.

The leading killer, according to the study, was household pollution. Burning solid fuel for cooking remains common in India, and PM2.5 produced by this form of “dirty” combustion led to the premature deaths of 1,24,207 Indians in 2015.

“There are somewhere between 60 and 65 per cent household still using solid fuel for some portion of their cooking,” said Radha Muthiah, Chief Executive of International Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. “We are actually seeing close to a million deaths in India as a result of prolonged exposure to household smoke. That’s not just the woman, but also her children and others in the family.”

Thirty times smaller than the width of a human hair, the size of the PM2.5 pollutant makes it dangerous for the human body. Another pollutant, PM10, may get trapped in the throat, but PM2.5 is fine enough to pass these natural barriers and enter the lungs and the bloodstream, doctors say.

Experts, however, are encouraged by the government’s scheme, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which gives subsidised cooking gas, a much cleaner fuel than wood fire, burning charcoal and chulas.

“In the last one-and-a-half years, because of the initiative of the Indian government, the Prime Minister’s Ujjwala [scheme] has reached the homes of more than three crore women,” said Dharmendra Pradhan, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister. “We are looking for different ideas for clean fuels.”

Pollution from factories, coal power plant emissions and transport were the other leading PM2.5 sources that killed many Indians in 2015, the Lancet report said. India was the fourth-highest emitter of CO2 or carbon dioxide, and its growing population are getting exposed to a high level of pollution.

According to the report, India tripled its energy output since 1980. During this period, the contribution of coal in India’s total primary energy supply or TPES doubled from 22 per cent to 44 per cent.

Experts say that better enforcement can pave a way around this problem.

“Coal is not always bad. You can also burn it properly,” said Sarath Guttikunda, Director of Urban Emissions, an organisation that collects data on air pollution. “For example, power plants have a new set of environmental regulations in place that have to come in action in December 2017, in a couple of months, but there is a lobby to delay that.”

The Lancet report also said India contributed significantly to the global increase in solar power capacity. It was among the countries which saw an increase in media coverage of health and climate change issues.

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India – 40 percent seats on Mumbai-Ahmedabad trains go vacant: RTI reply

As the Narendra Modi government proceeds with the grandiose plans for a Bullet Train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, a RTI query has revealed that over 40 percent of seats on all the trains on this sector go vacant causing huge losses to Western Railway.
According to RTI replies received by Mumbai activist Anil Galgali, only in the past one quarter, the Western Railway’s staggering losses on this sector is nearly Rs 30 crore, or around Rs. 10 crore per month.
“The Indian government is over-enthusiastic and plans to spend more than Rs 1 lakh crore on the Bullet Train project, but it has not done its homework properly,” Galgali said, adding it raises serious question marks on the viability of the Bullet Train project, whenever it comes up.
The Indian Railways have also admitted that they have no plans to introduce any new trains on this sector which is already in the red.
Replying to Galgali’s query on seats occupancy on all the trains between the two cities, the WR revealed that in the past three months, 40 percent all seats went vacant on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector and 44 percent empty on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route.
WR’s Chief Commercial Manager Manjeet Singh said that between July 1-September 30, there are 32 mail/express serving this sector with a total seating capacity of 735,630 seats on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector.
Of these, only 441,795 seats were booked during that period generating a revenue of Rs 30,16,24,623 against the total estimated expected income of Rs 44,29,08,220 – incurring a huge loss of Rs 14,12,83,597 in the past quarter.
Similarly, on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route served by a total of 31 mail/express trains with a seating capacity of 706,446, only 398,002 seats were booked, resulting in a revenue of Rs 26,74,56,982 against the estimated expected income of Rs 42,53,11,471, spelling a massive loss of Rs 15,78,54,489.
The WR provided the data of all the major trains plying on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Mumbai route like the Durantos, Shatabdi Expresses, Lokshakti Express, Gujarat Mail, Bhavnagar Express, Saurashtra Express, Vivek-Bhuj Express and others.
Faced with the vacancies on existing trains, the WR Divisional Engineer, Ahmedabad informed that there is no fresh proposal to introduce any new trains on this sector.
In fact, Galgali said that the most popular train, 12009 Shatabdi Express with a capacity of 72,696 seats sold only 36,117 during the July-September period on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route and in the return direction of the total 67,392 seats, only 22,982 were sold.
This train, which once always ran packed in all seasons both ways has now proved to be a loss-maker, and the executive chair car with 7,505 seats was practically deserted with just 1,469 seats booked, plummeting revenues from the estimated Rs 1,45,49,714 to a paltry Rs 26,41,083 during the last quarter.
The position in all other trains was similar and though there is a higher demand for sleeper class compared to seats, the WR has not done enough to augment its capacity.
Galgali pointed out that given this current alarming scenario, coupled with growing preference for flights and improved road travel, the Central and Gujarat governments must review the expensive option of the Bullet Train before it becomes a white elephant for the Indian taxpayers.

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Kathputli, Artist’s Colony Demolished In Delhi: Thousands Rendered Homeless, Death Of Democracy


In the two days demolition drive by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in assistance with Delhi Police demolished more than 1000 houses at Kathputli Colony, in West Delhi on October 30th and October 31st 2017. During the demolition, Police lathicharged on the residents mercilessly and also shot some Tear gas on them. On the basis of a Public Notice served on October 25th to evict the place in 5 days, they carried out this drive. They demolished some 100 houses on day one with 5 Bulldozers on place and they came with greater force on next days to brutally demolishing the rest. The gross Human Rights Violation was done by Delhi Police in two days where they just behaved like they are meant to Peace and Tranquility but they have been brought by DDA to bring as much fear they can create through their Lathis and Abusive Languages. They beat anyone who tried to say a word, they pushed anyone, they grabbed the collars of anyone who resisted, be it man, woman or a child.

People from different communal groups living in the vicinity of each other for decades now. In the early 1970s, a handful of performers from Rajasthan settled in West Delhi’s Shadipur region. Artists who were primarily puppeteers and musicians often moved throughout the capital to perform and over a period of time Shadipur became a convenient location for the same. Over time, they were joined by a variety of artists and people from states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand and together they formed a single settlement known as Kathputli colony (The term refers to string puppet theatre).

Raheja Plan
Raheja Plan

The Actual Case:

Kathputli Colony was planned for the In-Situ Slum Redevelopment under Rajiv Was Yojana in 2009  through Public Private Partnership where contract was given to Raheja Developers (Can also be read Builders at many places) for this at Rs 6.22 Crore. Raheja developed a plan of 170 Premium and 2800 EWS Flats for the area. People were happy with the project initially when the first survey was done. There were some 2631 eligible beneficiaries as per the first survey. To which the builders slyly added an Office Complex and Mall on his “share” of 35% of the land, while They were allotted only 18% in the contract. This then raised the height of the 2800 EWS flats to 15 stories. It enraged the residents as they didn’t want such a tall dwelling unit and such change in plan.

Secondly, The survey was done after the plan where Raheja developed a plan for 2800 families and families in Survey came out to 2631. It also raised the questions that how was it possible that Raheja with the numbers and planned the units for such exact families.

Thirdly, People were sent to the Transit Camp for a duration of 2 years by Force, by Greed or By Fear to Anand Parbat whereas many people refused to go and after a long struggle they go a High Court Order in their favour in March 2014 for a Resurvey where DDA accepted that there are more families than the last survey and they planned to shift them to Narela till the Project is completed. Narela is situated on the outskirts of Delhi and is more than 30 KMs from their current location which lacks the basic services for living.















The Current Situation

As of now, after the two days of demolition just 50 or 60 houses have remained in Kathputli Colony till the article was finally drafted. The notice for this demolition was served on October 25th but people didn’t know about it as there were no Public Announcement or Individual Notification done. People were forced out from their houses and anyone who refused to go were beaten by Police. By the afternoon all the nearby shops were closed, the entry and exit points were seized by Police. No one was allowed to enter in to the colony. Looking at such scary scenes, People were very scared. One elderly woman hung herself as her house was demolished. She is still critical in hospital, some social activists (Ex MP Annie Raja and others) were also thrashed and manhandled by Police.

One of the residents said that their children are missing from afternoon and they didn’t return till late evening. A father in 60s was performing the post death rituals of his son when he was thrown out from his house and he was wandering with those stuff to perform the ritual. There are many such stories in the Colony from two days. Police didn’t let people sleep in nights as they came every hour to ask them to leave or they will throw them. The Police from Ranjit Nagar Police Station were the main culprits here. They also open fired in night whose evidence (A Bullet) was produced by residents in the morning when I was interacting with them and they also brought it to the Press Conference organised by National Alliance for People’s Movements and Delhi Solidarity Group. Other Organisations like Basti Bachao Sangharsh Smiti is also working with people to help them to face this hard time.

In a Public Interest Litigation filed for the case, High Court has ordered a Stay for ten days and has asked the SHO of Ranjit Nagar to maintain the Status Quo strictly. A bigger struggle on the violation of Human Rights is still to be fought.

Ankit Jha is a Social Worker who has done Masters in Social Work from Delhi School of Social Work, University of Delhi and now working on urban housing rights issues.

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Haryana education dept asks teachers to work as priests #WTFnews

The order, issued by the state education department, asked teachers to perform religious duties during the Kapal Mochan Mela.

Haryana Chief Minister M L Khattar said the order has not been issued by the government.

Haryana Chief Minister M L Khattar said the order has not been issued by the government. Photo: PTI.


An order asking government teachers to work as volunteers during the Kapal Mochan Mela in Yamunanagar district of Haryana has created a row. The Haryana government has allegedly asked teachers to perform the duties of a ‘pujari’ or priest during the festival.

The teachers association has protested against the decision. State advisor to the Haryana Teachers Association Jaidev Arya called the order a “Tuqhlaki farman” (diktat). “It is not a teacher’s job to work as priest,” he said, adding that if the state decides to act against teachers, the association will launch a protest.

The order, issued by education department officials, asked teachers to perform religious duties during the festival. Haryana Chief Minister M L Khattar, however, said the directive has not been issued by the state government. “This could be a directive of the local administration, not our,” he said.

The Yamunanagar district education officer, in a noted dated October 29, sought an explanation from teachers who failed to turn up for the training ahead of the Kapal Mochan Mela.

चोंकिए नहीं, यह सच है!

खट्टर सरकार की नई कारस्तानी-:
अब अध्यापक बनेंगे पुजारी,
और बच्चों का भविष्य भगवान भरोसे!

A section of the teachers, protesting against the order, accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of pursuing a “Hindutva agenda”. Jawahar Yadav, former OSD to Haryana CM and chairman of Haryana Housing Board, said teachers were not asked to perform the duties of a priest and denied any Hindutva agenda behind the move.

He said the order asked teachers to help make arrangements for the festival at the district level, and it would not hamper regular classes as duties were assigned during holidays.

(Inputs from agencies)

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Let ‘No one killed Sikhs’ be our banner for every anniversary of 1984

It’s time to put an end to the illusory probes.


Let’s conclude Sikhs looted their own properties, burned them down and slashed, bludgeoned and immolated themselves in the days after the assassination of the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, on October 31, 1984.

Let no one in the community now complain their women were raped, men killed and children brutalised in their modest homes, stores and factories for almost four days in a number of cities and towns across India, the national capital included.

I was probably dreaming when I, as a 10-year-old, saw plumes of smoke 360-degree in the horizon from the rooftop of my home back then.

The horrific images of charred bodies being trucked away for mass cremations, relief camps, mourning and wailing of survivors is no more than an idiosyncratic hallucination. Nothing of that sort ever happened because that’s what the system wants us to believe.




sik_103117061719.jpgImage courtesy: Amnesty International India

For a human slaughter of this scale to have taken place, it either has to be a stateless regime or a state-authored pogrom. But we have been consistently told none of that unfolded in independent India when power transferred to Rajiv Gandhi.

“We know the people were very angry and for a few days it seemed that India had been shaken. But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little,” India’s new leader saidpublicly 19 days after Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

As Sikhs, we should have withdrawn the 1984 case then and there because that’s what Rajiv Gandhi suggested to us in so many words. If anything “little” – as the then PM suggested – had happened at all, it was nothing more than a street crime. Remember, there’s a reason why the term “riot” has been smartly attached to 1984. In the larger official narrative, picked up by the national press, no one describes those events as a “pogrom”.

There’s a reason why our powerbrokers, and even some colleagues in the media fraternity, despise the word “genocide” for 1984. They will quickly pull out the international law lexicon to reject any such depiction because of the official number of 2,733 killed. Too “little” to qualify for a genocide, isn’t it?

Rajiv Gandhi is no more, but his narrative about 1984 has lived thus far.

And didn’t you ever notice how proponents of this narrative attack international human rights organisations whenever they raise some troubling questions?

“Over the last three decades, at least 12 inquiry commissions and committees have looked into the 1984 killings. Some of them reported that political leaders from the then ruling party were involved in the attacks. However, only a tiny fraction of those responsible have been brought to justice,” wrote Amnesty on Tuesday.

As early as February 2015, the Modi government constituted a three-member special investigation team (SIT) to reinvestigate criminal cases in connection with the 1984 Sikh massacre in Delhi.

That SIT, Amnesty noted, closed 241 cases and filed charges in just 12.

“The failure of the SIT follows those of its predecessors, and raises questions about whether authorities are genuinely committed to deliver justice,” said Sanam Sutirth Wazir, a senior campaigner at Amnesty International India. “Until those responsible are punished, there will be no closure for the victims of 1984.”

Let’s disagree with Amnesty because no one at the helm will take it seriously. Nobody has so far, more than 30 years on.

Almost a dozen probes have looked into 1984. Some even named several senior Congress politicians.

Three politically prominent names figure in many of the descriptions by witnesses charging incitement.

But no leader has been brought to justice.

”I realised for the first time what it was to be a Jew in Nazi Germany,” writer Khushwant Singh said famously in an interview, remembering how he was rescued by the Swedish ambassador in a diplomatic car. ”I could understand what the Jews must have felt, to be a refugee in your own home country,” Singh said.

Now, let’s learn to live with this sentiment. Let “No One Killed Sikhs” be our banner on every anniversary of 1984.

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