Why ‘PadMan’ is only a ‘Means’ to the ‘End’…

As an issue which continues to plague the country for as long as we can recollect, the taboo around periods and sanitary pads seems to have mustered some kind of support from  cinema. The Super Star Stunt-Man of the Indian Cinema, Akshay Kumar, has turned into a Pad-Man to reflect upon a key issue as he puts on the domino of a man with a mission- a mission to perish the perils associated with menstrual menace in India.  With Pad-Man not being a first to highlight periods in the cinema, Phullu was another movie which got released in 2017 but failed to induce dialogue or provoke thought. PadMan on the other hand, is based on true events, the upcoming movie is a fiction on the story of Arunachalam Muruganatham who in 1988 embarked upon a seemingly impossible journey of making sanitary pads easily available for women after he saw his wife using old rags as substitute for the essential commodity.

WHEN AEONIAL LAXITY CALLS FOR ACTION​

Since decades, there has been a complete state of denial and stigma attached to confronting the menstrual troubles of women or even discussing periods for that matter in our country. The societal taboos have pervaded reality where Barely 12% of India’s menstruating women use sanitary pads. While most women are not allowed to visit temples during their periods, others are treated as untouchables within the premises of their own houses.  While stepping inside the kitchen (which is considered to be the most pious spot of a house) during periods is forbidden for most of them, it is men on the other hand who refrain from acknowledging the various medical ailments and problems their counterparts tend to go through.

While nobody forgets to expect a baby out of a woman, what they forget is that she too is a human and needs proper care for maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle which will eventually lead to the birth of a healthy baby.

Substandard state of menstrual hygiene over a long stretch of time, has led to worsening health conditions. Women in our country now suffer from reproductive tract infections, urinary tract infections which in most cases leads to cervical cancer which itself kills around 72,000 women in India every year, more than anywhere else on the globe.

MENSTRUAL WOES BREAK WALLS- IT’S HYGIENE VS EDUCATION

So far, there has been an immutable trade off between women trying to educate themselves and women on going through their menstrual cycle. This grave situation has been on the rise due to lack of basic facilities and hygienic access to women during menstruation. In India alone, 1 girl out of every 5 girls drop out of schools because of something as natural and basic as menstruation. A total of 28% girls in our country end up abstaining from school and the ones who attend tend to perform poorly owing to the stigmatized perceptions and hesitations their minds are preoccupied with. As unfortunate as it may sound- in a country which envisages itself as one of the major global fore-runners when it comes to technology and power, at least 1 in every 5 girls drop out of the schools due to something as basic and natural as menstruation.

BIG SCREEN VS SMALL AUDIENCE?

Though the movie carries forth a message as strong as that of promoting menstrual health, the question is, how many people in our country will be able to visit cinema halls to watch it?

India accounts for the largest number of people living below international poverty line, with over 30 per cent of its population under the $1.90 (Rs.121.28) a- day poverty measure. While a movie ticket costs way beyond what the daily poverty limit is, it is clearly not something which 50% of the rural Indians- Indians who indeed need the maximum awareness regarding menstruation will be able to afford. So, then it again boils down to what more do we need beyond a star studded and intensely promoted movie to sensitize the masses?  Certainly, a lot of active campaigning, and counselling by the renowned celebrities along with ‘free’ access to sanitary napkins to people who certainly cannot afford.

What our governments fail to realize is that, while we can certainly manage without ‘free’ laptop distributions (SP Govt in UP distributed free laptops to to the people of the state), what continues to be a dire need of the hour is free sanitary napkins to the ‘betis’ of the nation.

DISCUSSIONS IMPERATIVE. PERIOD

And, here we are, selling sanitary pads as a blotted commodity enclosed in black wraps. Irony lies in how we don’t shy away from yelling while we purchase cigarettes or alcohol but when it comes to buying sanitary pads, our voices can barely be heard as the chemist wraps up the sanitary napkins in a black polythene, only to depict how dark and blocked the mindset of the so-called progressive India is.

On the other hand, as the men in our country continue to have the privilege of not being questioned, there lies a larger onus of responsibility on them. More men need to come up and speak for those millions of women while they succumb to the societal mindset. The discussion which needs to be striked is- ‘If, a menstruating woman’s blood is impure, isn’t so the entire human existence?’ ….. Definitely, while movies like ‘PadMan’ can act as catalytic initiator, it is imperative discussions, acceptance, receptivity and campaigns by the masses which need to take the lead in the long run. PERIOD…..

Advertisements

From ‘Disabled’ to an ‘Enabled’ India: Transforming towards inclusion…

Today, as India celebrates the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, there lies a stark reality in the form of an alarming statistical account which continues to haunt the country. According to the 2011 Census (2016 updated), 2.21% of India’s total population, that is, 21 million people are disabled, out of which 45 percent are illiterates. Despite the passage of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2012, the rate of exclusion is far away from improvement as 79% schools across the country still do not adhere to  inclusive education for the disabled children.  

While the disabled population of India already faces an immense degree of exclusion, being illiterate just adds to the pre-existing predicaments, resulting in increased dependency and barrred inclusion. Just as for any other human being, employment and education are correlatedly significant essentials for the disadvantaged section as well. Thankfully, there are stratum of people who do not depend on the state alone but do believe in bringing about the anticipated transformation at hand. 

ATULYAKALA- EMPLOYING THE DEAF COMMUNITY…  

Atulyakala is one such step towards  evolution. It is a Non-Profit Organization in the Indian capital of New Delhi which was founded in 2013. It is among the select few establishments which solely cater towards generating employment for the deaf community.  

 

(Pictures: Atulyakala)

“Employment opportunities for deaf are less because of lack of proper education, there is a lack of proper education because there are no inclusive schools. We at Atulyakala, focus on generating employment opportunities for the deaf community. Our organization produces lifestyle products all of which are designed by our deaf artists.”, says Oshin Dhawan, the Communication Head at Atulyakala. 

70% of employees at Atulyakala are deaf and within just 4 years of its foundation, the NPO has initiated a desire to create something different, with an extraordinary set of people. 

DISHA- GIVING DIRECTION TO THE MENTALLY DISABLED

Founded in 1994, ‘DISHA’ is a school of special education for mentally disabled children aged above 5 years. Based in a small city like Meerut, Disha is one of the first schools to have been set up in Uttar Pradesh, with a desire to take care of the mentally challenged children lest they are crushed by the juggernaut of the society. 

“Our son was born in 1983. For years we took him to Delhi for treatment and therapy but soon realised that we must usher something at a local level in  our very own city to help more like him”, says Poonam Bansal, wife of one of the founders at Disha. 

According to Dr. Anil Bansal, President  of the Management Committee at Disha, “One of the biggest and recurring hurdles which we face is that of making the disabled students commute to the school. For this, we have especially recruited staff which would support each child and patiently carry them from one doorstep to the other. We also have vans of our own because no transport companies are willing to collaborate with us”.

At present, Disha has over 120 students who, are given prevocational training in terms of increasing their employability. 

EXCLUSIONARY vs RESILIENT SOCIETY

While most of the existing special institutions and NPOs do not fall under the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, India needs broader initiatives with similar intentions like those of Atulyakala and Disha. This resilience will be an encouraging advancement  towards re-defiining the word ‘Disabled’as ‘Differently-Abled’, thereby adhering to the this year’s United Nations theme on International Day for Persons with Disabilities, that is, Transformation towards sustainable and resiliensociety for all.
Feature Picture Courtesy: Better India

‘Alzheimer-free’ India: A must for Developed India

He begins his day with flipping the newspaper pages, going for fresh walks and  spending time with his grandchildren, only to forget all these memories by the next day. Mr. Narayan Mehta* , an 83 year old man who lives in CR Park, Delhi, not only forgets what he had in lunch but there is more to it as he quite often doesn’t recognize his children. He is an Alzheimer patient who caught the disorder 4 years ago post a brain surgery.

“I always accompanied my father to the bank. I had to because he would forget the way back home from the bank which was hardly at a straight stretch of a few yards”, says Amita Sharma, daughter of late Ramprakash Sharma*, an Alzheimer patient who died 3 years ago in Meerut.

“Quite often he complained of the caregiver not giving him food. He would also leave the house out of anger, irritation and protest. Altogether, it was extremely difficult to assess whether he was being troubled or abused by the caregiver because of his disease and the forgetfulness which comes with it“, she adds.

Research has indicated a huge lapse between the actual number of elder abuse cases and the legal help sought. When an elderly patient who is suffering from Alzheimer disease is abused, it is almost impossible to identify the source due to the forgetful tendencies of the patient who fails to communicate the same.

“Obviously caregivers are aware of the memory loss issues associated with elders suffering from Alzheimer. This is mostly why all the doctors treating Alzheimer patient advise their family members to be extra cautious while appointing caregivers. It is equally important to request investigation of nursing homes before making a selection”, says Dr. Sudeep, a practising doctor based in Delhi.

A report jointly brought out by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Help Age International says: India has around 100 million elderly at present and the number is expected to increase to 323 million, constituting 20 per cent of the total population, by 2050.

More than 20% of people across the globe suffer from mild dementia above the age of 80. India alone, is home to more than 3 million suffering from dementia in its different forms including Alzheimer. In 20 years alone, the number of the afflicted are believed to doubly multiply.  Of the 100 million elder people who live in India, more than 39% are abused in more ways than one. This World Elderly day, it is important to pay heed to the fact that India has the highest number of Alzheimers cases after US and China and hence there lies a pertinent need to battle it.

 

(*: names have been modified)

‘Happy’ and ‘Independence’ Day, is it?

On the grand day when  the entire nation is enthralled with feelings of celebration, oozing with patriotism and enjoying a day off, there occurs an incident which questions the entire conceptual privilege around the feeling of being ‘free’ or ‘independent’ in India itself.

I am talking about the gruesome rape of a 12 year old girl in Chandigarh, on her way back home after having attended the Indian ‘Independence Day’ celebrations at her school. Not something new to have happened in our country, but on a day like this when social media, phone texts/ messages  are filled with talks of patriotism, of freedom struggle, there lies an under shadowed reality where the struggle continues. It was in Sector 23 where a man  stopped her, pulled her aside and raped her. He also held a knife to scare the little girl.
Sadly, being a multi-party country, what we are best at are talks, lengthy speeches, but no serious execution. The Union Home Ministry recently held a candle-light march to assert the right to safely access public spaces but where does this end? The march was preceded by nothing but a similar incident just days later.

“According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2015, 8,800 cases of rape on children were registered across the country under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). In 2,227 cases, or 25.3 per cent, the offenders were found to be employers or co-workers”- source: NCRB

These statistics  raise a few questions in mind about How free are we?

Are we free to stroll alone outside our homes?

Are we free to travel alone during the day, let alone night?

The answer is Yes, we are free- but sadly at our own risk! So, what use is this dreaded freedom’ of?

This news neither made me happy nor did it make me feel independent- 70 years down the line, even small children, let alone women, continue to face the same forms of sexual assault and plight which they faced during the British rule and partition.

We indeed are slaves unless freed from crime and the perpetrating criminals. We need to ponder and so do executive, legislature and judiciary- not just for formulations and implementations but also for severe deterrent measures of punishment. By the way, Happy India Independence Day?

 

How much ‘Milk’ to be wasted at this Mahashivratri festival in India?

A print release by the Government suggests- “India ranks first in milk production, accounting for 18.5 per cent of world production, achieving an annual output of 146.3 million tones during 2014-15 as compared to 137.69 million tonnes during 2013-14 recording a growth of 6.26 per cent.”

While milk production is on a steady high, so is milk consumption. Though research suggests a huge disparity between the amount of milk consumed in rural areas and the urban areas, an average consumer in north western states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana spends more than Rs. 500 per month on milk. Undoubtedly, milk is the nation’s favorite since it is not only associated with being a source of nourishment and protein, but also as a means of displaying appreciation and dissent.

GENERIC OBLIVION NEEDS STATISTICAL WAKE UP CALL – TEMPLES AND ACTORS EARLIER, ROADS NOW!

The tradition of offering tonnes of milk to the ‘Shivling’ (during Mahashivratri which is almost on the cards) and other idols of Gods and Goddesses has long been under the baits of discussion. Reports are suggestive of how gallons of milk is wasted in the name of offering it to Gods while millions die of hunger each day. The World Bank estimates India as one of the highest ranking countries in the world in terms of malnutrition statistics.  Another startlingly alarming fact is that 10 million people succumb to death every year, owing to chronic hunger and various other hunger-related diseases. And to put facts under a clearer slate of reasons, 92% of these deaths are a result of hunger prevailing under normal and ‘celebratory’ circumstances of the land of festivals. Only eight percent are the victims of hunger due to calamities such as high-profile earthquakes, floods, droughts and so on.

When temples weren’t enough, we jubliated towards decorating milk on the posters of God-like celebrities such as Rajnikanth just prior to his film release. And still when our obsession with milk didn’t seem enough, we came up with downpour of gallons of milk all across city roads like those of Ahmedabad on 6th July since a bunch of farmers wanted to protest.

dsc9142

MERE HYPE OR CAN MILK INDEED TREAT MALNUTRITION? 

According to experts, carbohydrates, protein, fats and vitamins are the 4 essentials which save us from mal-nourishment. Surprisingly, just 250 ml cup of milk per day contains 8.38 g fat, 11.65 g carbohydrate, 8.3 g protein and is an excellent source of Vitamin B12, has 5% Vitamin A and 29% Calcium. Furthermore, 87% of milk is water and hence a vital indirect source of nutritional solvents.

I can now quite confidently say that my argument is not just another plain one hanging in the thin air, but yes, even a cup of milk per day can facilitate the inherent battle of the internally plagued and malnourished India.

A single metric tonne of milk is equivalent to 1,000,000 ml. This quantity is sufficient enough to feed 4,000 people Below the Poverty Line. Though there isn’t a confirmed statistic on the number of tonnes of milk wasted annually in the name of Mahashivratri season and protests, the fact that there are thousands of huge temples across the country, reassures that the milk wastage is definitely beyond a single unit of metric tonne. Just imagine! How many malnourished children can be treated with this amount? 4,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 or more?

WHAT’S BEEN DONE ISN’T ENOUGH!

In 2014, Madras High Court had passed an order over a PIL that sought to hold the wastage of  milk. The court bench said: “The commodity should be used for the benefit of young children besides offering to the deities.” The bench however, conceded that it could not put restrictions on the rituals under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department.

On the other hand, some are not willing to give up. Care takers of Saketri Shiv Temple in Chandigarh came up with an initiative to utilize the offered milk in 2015.  The officials stated that people usually got milk in pouches. The temple collected these pouches only to distribute after heating the milk. The temple volunteers collected 170 quintals of milk at the rate of Rs 38.35 per kg for offering. About the same quantity of milk is donated by the devotees which comes up to be 350 quintals. Besides this, 60,000 bananas were also arranged for devotees.

Though an impressive step, it hasn’t been replicated by many. The stress must lay on prohibiting the wastage of milk, it can save lives and it has been validated enough. Ours being a progressive society, must save its millions of kids who die of hunger, when its completely in our hands to move beyond our religious obsessions. How progressive is our India where 10 million hungry people die annually? And, how much milk do you plan to offer to idols this Mahashivratri?

Death by Intoxicated Food vs Affordability: An Indian Dilemma

By Naina Sharma

“An Act to consolidate the laws relating to food and to establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” This is the Food Safety and Standards Act of India framed in 2006. An Act dedicated towards ensuring healthier food consumption for people, stands helpless in front of the junk food packets or even the street food stalls serving across the country.

An inquiry by the KABP (Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs and Practices) study on food and drug safety in India surveyed 20,719 households from five regions spread over 28 states.
About 13.2 percent households reported that at least one person in each household
suffered from foodborne illness during the previous 15 days of the survey. At
community level 3 percent of the villages surveyed indicated that there was at least one
foodborne disease outbreak in the community during previous one year. It is reported
that distribution (%) of foodborne diseases according to food safety awareness and
practices by region wise (North, South, East, West and North East) indicated that
occurrence of foodborne disease was high in the western region (24.2 percent) from the
nearest region i.e. North East (10.9 percent).

 

The reasons are plentiful. There are innumerable bacterial pathogens which can be commonly found in street eateries. Many of these cause vomiting, diarrhoea, vomiting, appetite loss, typhoid, food poisoning, clostridium perfringens, abdominal cramps and in most severe cases, death. The presence of coliform in surveys conducted across the markets of the Indian Capital (New Delhi) over the past few years, indicate the absence of clean water giving way to unhygienic conditions during the food preparation. 

The fact that 22% of the Indian population lives below its official poverty limit of less than $1.25 dollars a day is quite an alarming peek into the reasons why the slum dwellers are forced to feed on food reminisces dumped as the street garbage. This is a reality which substantiates the reports by WHO (World Health Organization). WHO reports suggest that is mainly African and South-East Asia Regions which have the highest burden of food-borne diseases where 1 in 10 people fall ill every year from eating contaminated food and 4,20,000 die as a consequence.

While schemes providing free and healthy meals to the poor is one of the keys to the problem, the numerous deaths of school going children due to intoxicated mid day meals puts a question mark on the credibility of the same. How I wish- food being a basic prerequisite to survival wasn’t something the Below Poverty Line Indian population required to ‘pay’ for to ‘buy’ a living!

This Actor turned into a ‘Gifting Angel’ for Victims

By Naina Sharma

More than 60 soldiers are martyred annually in India as they leave behind their families, mostly unattended. Besides, an average of 300 Indians are victimized by acid attacks. These victims then undergo a difficult life- full of abandonment, accuses, social exclusion, inferiority and societal indifference.

Meanwhile, the recent gestures by Bollywood Actor, Vivek Oberoi have come as a pleasant surprise for the recently martyred soldiers’ families and acid attack victim, Lalita. Vivek Oberoi has ended up gifting flats to the families of the CRPF men killed in last month’s Maoist attacks in Sukma along with another flat to Lalita and her husband.

Out of the 25 flats for the martyrs’ families, 4 have already been allotted to the family members while the registration for the remaining 21 is still underway.  Earlier, it was Actor Akshay Kumar who donated a sum of 9 lakhs each to the families of the 11 CRPF soldiers martyred in Chattisgarh. Apart from this, Vivek Oberoi, the actor who had met acid attack victim Lalita at a social awareness campaign decided to gift her and her husband a flat in Mumbai.

The point is not about donation or gifts alone, but since our Bollywood actors are quite popular and are often treated as ideals and icons, it is their actions which set examples in front of the society for others to follow a pattern. While the youth does follow the Bollywood trends of smoking and fashion, it will be quite delightful to see the society learning from the apathetic side of their favorites.

While the family members of the martyrs are an equivalent warrior in terms of being brave enough to bear the sacrifice of their near ones, acid attack victims (who quite often commit suicide), on the other hand, end up being victims of a social evil for which they aren’t to be blamed. In this light, such gestures are quite an important element to assist the socially deprived people in the society. And quite truly, Vivek Oberoi has indeed turned into an angel in disguise for these people.

 

 

(Inputs from ANI)