Reforming Education Part 3: Teachers and Shortage

We have observed and known that our teachers are paid meagre compensation. This is one of the reasons for not getting talent to train the future generation of the country. It is not that we don’t have talent. We have few best brains teaching world in few of the best Universities across the world. We have failed miserably in retaining the talent which can redefine our nation. We make lot of fuss of having biggest pools of doctors and engineers but equal fuss should also be of not being able to train this pool by the best brains. The meagre salary which we pay to our teachers from primary to higher education leads to brain drain and private teachings. This is one of the reasons of the boom of coaching institutes.

This is worrying trend because the advantage which we have in terms of youth may become our biggest disadvantage if our students fail on bigger stage or lose out to other students of the world. Quantity and quality of highly specialized human resources determine their competence in the global market.

  • Why is that we don’t have any Nobel prize after CV Raman?
  • Why is that our best institutes fail to deliver world class researches and papers?
  • Why is that there has been perhaps no reckonable contribution from our country in any stream of education in past 3-4 decades?

The simple reason is that our students don’t get requisite guidance and support which is quintessential for them to do research and other things. India needs to wake and pump in funds to retain the best talent in teaching and creating world class infrastructure.

An idea of having Indian Teaching Services (ITS) on similar lines of IAS/IPS is also worth giving a thought. If we can have ITS on similar lines of civil services then we can attract best brains and teach them to deliver a punch to growth of the country. This also can solve the case of paying low salary to our teachers. The idea may appear naive but if worked out properly is very much possible and can set a trend of attracting and retaining the talent to our educational institution. It may take some time to give results but we should make a start at the earliest. This can also be one of the solutions to the problem of having uneven teacher student ratio in our colleges. The shortfall of teachers can also be countered by investing more money into education. The biggest challenge faced by higher educational institutions in India is the acute shortage of qualified and competent faculties. “Lamenting the shortage of high quality faculty for prestigious management and technical educational institutions in the country, a mechanism should be devised to enrol and retain quality faculty by providing them more incentives and research facilities. (N R Narayana Murthy).” The returns of the educational investment are may be late but it is cute and best for the nation building process and personal development also.

I would like to end with a line by MK Gandhi-

“Hesitating to act because the whole vision may not be achieved or others do not share it is an attitude that only hinders the progress.”

Sex education for Children, education for Politicians.

I still feel dazzled by the recent drive of politicians across all spectrums, stuck in an age when the change of thoughts could be near impossible, to ban sex education in schools. Even the likes of Baba Ramdev speak boastfully about the need to have yoga than sex education in schools. But Mr. Baba is almost 50 years old, went to school till 8th and then to ‘Gurukul’. He doesn’t even have the slightest of idea of the s**t going on in schools today and speaks like a top-level marketing man on a role to promote his product/service. Sure yoga is great for an individual. But letting it be a substitute for sex education is like trying hitting a six with a plastic bat.

Just the thought of not having sex education in schools in this age, filled with negativity in the digital air and one click access to mind corrupting pleasure moments on the Internet, sends me in the state of excessive jadedness and paramount tension. India, with people high on the thought of sex and eve-teasing (not all), cannot be safe or even think of reducing the rise in no of cases of molestation, rapes (indignity towards women) or in young (below 16) people indulging in sexual encounters (a view supported by the SC).

Over the past 5 years, with the high intensity in the sales of video and camera enabled devices, there has been a huge surge in the exposure of privately held sexual proceedings, watched by millions worldwide quite to the embarrassment of the victims and their families. Curbing these exposures has been almost impossible for mostly it’s the victims themselves taping the exotic times, sure to be leaked. But the waves of curiousness generated to watch this brain triggering moments has seemingly surpassed the encouragement to be morally educated and professionally thoughtful. Sex, as a thought if imbibed in a child at a young age, could hamper his growth in being socially matured and his stance in differentiating when placed with options.

The stand that these politicians take to ban sex education is first that it will teach and encourage students to have sex when they are in schools. Gosh! I had sex education in my school when I was in the 10th grade. All we boys in that grade were simply bored by the biological terms that the educators were using. The reason! We all knew what sex was. It just shows the degree to which these politicians are ill-informed and are going ahead and ill-informing the society. The only good thing that apparently happened, is that we actually happened to see a condom and know the importance of it. Imagine. You are high in those last 3-4 years of your school with the thought of girls & sex and you do not know what a condom is. During my time (I graduated from school in 2002), sex was known to most of the boys right from the 6th grade. When I say sex was known, I do not mean all the technicalities and all the right-wrong stuff, but sex in its basic sense is. It was a knowledge shared even amongst the girls. And today in this high bit-rate internet generation, we are talking about introducing it in 8th grade. More than 90% (could be an understatement) of the students in that age would know what sex is. The only thing remains is to tell them whether their full knowledge about it is factual or not.

World Health Organization(WHO), way back in 1993, had carried a survey in which it found that the people who have been imparted with sex education in the school are more likely to delay the indulgence in sex compared to those not given sex education in schools.It also found that it reduces sexual activity among  young people and encourages the one who have already indulged in sex to have safer sex.Researchers found “no support for the contention that sex education encourages sexual experimentation or increased activity. If any effect is observed, almost without exception, it is in the direction of postponed initiation of sexual intercourse and/or effective use of contraception.” Failure to provide appropriate and timely information “misses the opportunity of reducing the unwanted outcomes of unintended pregnancy and transmission of STDs, and is, therefore, in the disservice of our youth,” the report called Effects of Sex Education on Young People’s Sexual Behavior says. This report was commissioned by the Youth and General Public Unit, Office of Intervention and Development and Support, Global Program on AIDS, and the WHO.

So the basic argument about sex education through this political mindset tends to be so misguided.

The other argument they make is that our cultural values and heritage cannot allow sex education to be part of the curriculum. Let me get this straight. So according to these politicians, killing people on the basis of religion, hating people on the basis of caste and differentiating them on the basis of region and language fits our culture, but educating the kids of this nation with proper knowledge so as not to allow them to be victims of HIV and STD’s is disgraceful to this culture,especially in this land of ‘Kamasutra’, whose drawings and sculptures one would find around the caves and temples in India. The height of narrow-mindedness of these politicians is evident and as much as I hate saying this, I do not think I would even respect such a ‘Indian culture’, described by these politicians, let alone follow it, which puts the life of its own kids on the edge, especially being in a society where sex is given such a negative posture and sex talk is avoided as much as one would avoid standing on the edge of a 1000 ft cliff. Even the rape victims here are blamed for being raped, rather than the person who raped her and socially isolated(in a way tortured), not able to find a husband (those bloody man’s always want a virgin,no matter how much they f**k other women before marriage) and physologically disturbed(they have to accept  rape as an unfortunate event instead of a crime). I still do not know what ‘Indian Society’ these politicians keep babbling about.

“Message should appropriately be given to school children that there should be no sex before marriage which is immoral, unethical and unhealthy,” said the parliamentary committee report. So having sex before marriage is immoral and unethical? Who are these politicians to decide what’s immoral and unethical. These are the same group of corrupted, extremist, vote-bank gamers who have made the culture of Divide and Rule thrive. Morality is an individual’s virtue and not a guideline to be labourously followed. And talking about health, I have never heard the issue of hygiene being raised and pushed by these politicos in this land where diseases flow as easily as a fly by the wind of a storm. This should not be a country where everything has to be decided by ethics, morality and traditional thoughts. The moral police that guard’s the behaviour of people are the same that takes bribe in huge amount. Rather truth needs to have a dictatorial stand. Truth needs to be embraced and put into effect. Only than can we expect desired positive results.

Whether sex education is important or not is not a debate which should involve the politicians or their survey,but the youngsters and their experiences (there are issues the youth can address better and clearly). Its the youth which has to address this issue,while the media being responsible and approaching and addressing their concerns.I am a youth and I know the importance of sex education,something which i have tried to express in this article. I can just hope that reality makes its present felt, and our kids would have a better and healthy life in the coming times.

Poverty has killed all dreams in this young heart

Slumdog Millionaire has received tremendous international recognition and highlighted Mumbai’s  underbelly. While some hail it as a grand endorsement for the city, others think of it as a sorry stereotype. correspondents met children in India’s slums to find out what life really means for them.

Kiran Birju Vaghela, 17, was squatting on the promenade, watching the tide go out. He turned lazily and looked disinterestedly with his dark, passionless eyes.

Kiran was born in Mumbai and lost his mother to an illness when he was seven years old. Since then, he and his elder brother have been doing odd jobs to support themselves and their father. They live on the pavement between Carter Road and Khar Danda in north-west Mumbai, which separates a prosperous enclave from a fisherman’s colony.

“Humara baap kuchh nahi karta, daru peeke pada rehta hai. Aur khaata hai.(Our father doesn’t do anything — he drinks, eats and sleeps),” says Kiran, a spark of anger flashing in his eyes.

The brothers had to give up their education after their mother’s death to become the family’s breadwinners. Kiran works as a helper with a caterer who organises weddings, but hardly earns enough to sustain his family.

His brother also works with the same caterer. However, they don’t have a fixed income — what they earn depends on the number of catering contracts, and as and when they are needed. Often, when work is difficult to come by, Kiran says his brother and he have to forego dinner in order to provide for their father’s demands for alcohol.

Kiran does not have any big dreams of his own. “Kya kar sakte hain? Kuchh bhi. Ghar mein kaam mil jaaye to achha rahega. Ab padhe nahin hain, to kya sapne dekenge? (What can I do? If I find work in someone’s house, it will be nice. Since I haven’t studied, what dreams can I have?)”

While he does feel that being uneducated has ruined his chances of making a better life, Kiran believes it is too late now and doesn’t indulge in either self-pity or regret. His focus is to get from one day to the next. Between his job and his father’s condition, there is no place left for dreams and hopes in this young heart.

Despite the hard life, Kiran makes time for his one passion — the movies. He just saw Chandni Chowk to China , which he says he enjoyed very much.

As the sun sets, Kiran leans against a parked autorickshaw and looks out towards the sea. I don’t know what he sees, but once can hope there’s a dream locked away in those young eyes, and that the big bad world hasn’t killed his spirit completely.

Kiran Birju Vaghela
C/o Kanchan Vaghela
Danda Shopping Centre
General Chemist and Druggist
3, Dev-Ashish Building
C D Marg
Danda, Khar West, Mumbai 400052

Text: Insiyah Vahanvaty; Photograph: Satish Bodas

Source: Rediff

Taare Zameen Par: India’s official Oscar entry

The film federation of India jury has chosen Aamir Khan’s directorial debut venture ‘Taare Zameen Par’ to represent India at the 81st annual academy awards to be held in February in the foreign language film category.
Apart from winning several awards in India, Taare Zameen Par had done great business overseas as well. Though Aamir had not releases the movie in several theatres as the word of mouth spread, several new shows were brought to cater to the needs of the moviegoers. Internationally too the movie received great critical acclaim and commercial success as well. The movie reportedly did business of more than Rs.130 crores at the box office. Aamir Khan had proved with his debut venture itself that he was a great director.
The announcement was made by filmmaker Suneel Darshan, who was the head of the film federation of India (FFI) jury that was to decide the official nomination for the Oscars. This will be the second time Aamir Khan’s movie will be representing India at the Oscars. Lagaan in 2001 had been chosen as the final five nominations for an Oscar. Though the entire country was waiting with baited breath for the final announcement to be made, Lagaan narrowly lost out to No Mans Land, the film which went on to win the academy award for the best film in the foreign language category. But this time, the entire country would be hoping that Taare Zameen Par can achieve what Lagaan could not.
Indian films have been widely appreciated but have failed to make a mark at the Oscars. Only two Indians have won an Oscar till date. Bhanoo Atthaiya had won the award for Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi whereas Satyajit Ray had won the Oscar for lifetime achievement. Mother India, Salaam Bombay and Lagaan all made it to the final nominations list but failed to win the coveted trophy. Hopefully Taare Zameen Par will be able to change that and get us the Oscar and make the entire Indian film fraternity proud.

The other films which were present in the selection list were Nishikant Kamat’s ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’, Neeraj Pandey’s ‘A Wednesday’, Marathi films Vayu and Tingya, Subhash Ghai’s ‘Black and White, Farhan Akhtar’s ‘Rock On!,Ashutosh Gowarikar’s ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ and the Telugu film ‘Ghanyam’.

Aamir Khan has walked the red carpet of the academy awards and knows what the Oscar committee are looking for. If Taare Zameen Par can make it to the list of the final five nominations, it will surely have a great chance of bagging the academy award. For its theme is universal, we have students suffering from dyslexia all over the world and the manner in which it is portrayed in the movie is really heart warming.

The Oscar awards ceremony will be held on February 22,2009. Here is hoping that Taare Zameen Par bags the nomination for the final five foreign language film category. Just to see an Indian at the Oscars is fantastic and if this film can go on to win the Oscar, it would have done what no other Indian film has done before.

How Cool is “Being Cool”?

A DANGEROUS trend is engulfing the country’s youth. This trend can be attributed to the technology, influence of west, lack of morality, etc. This dangerous trend is being ’cool’. This word is very subjective and its meaning has changed over the years. What was not considered ’cool’ few years back is the only ’cool’ thing today.

If I ask you when is a game not a game? The logical answer would be – when it can lead to death. But there are so many incidents that prove that teens seem to be losing their grasp of logic at a breakneck pace. The death of Bombay Scottish student – Gaurang Dalvi – a few months back, has brought into focus the risky pastimes that children indulge in.
Youngsters say that the choking game, in which they become semi-asphyxiated, enables them to achieve a hypoxia-induced euphoric state. They undergo a partial or complete loss of consciousness brought about by the intentional deprivation of oxygen to the brain for a short period. There are other games as well, in which children indulge for thrill. A travel writer who indulged in such game while in school says, “We used to stand by the side of the road and wait for a fast-moving car, and cross the road just as it was approaching. We did it for the thrill. But now I realise the mistake I made.”

Its not just about the choking games, but also with the latest mobile phones, branded clothing, apparels, gaming consoles, etc. Even television commercials focus on this aspect of ’coolness’ in today’s youth. That’s why you see Mahendra Singh Dhoni saying, Aajkal aadmi ki aukaat kapdon se pata chalti hai.” Parents also try to fulfil all the demands of their kids, which can not be justified all the times. This race to look ’cool’ does not end here. Youth wants to try everything available in the market for ’cool’ people today. Smoking and drinking is the next thing available. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas’ School of Public Health concluded that in urban India, kids as young as 11 are smoking and drinking. The principal investigator of the study, professor Cheryl Perry said, “As India becomes more westernised, more teens will use tobacco.” The Internet also promotes smoking and motivates the young people to smoke with catchy punchlines. One such punchline I came across was for the girls, which read – ’Kissing a non-smoker is like licking a rotten potato’.

In the world of young Indians, there is nothing proscriptive. They are open to everything from late night rave parties, body piercings, going around with the opposite sex, sexual relationships with multiple partners, sitting idle outside the classroom in the college, etc. These things define the ’cool’ culture today. The drug addiction has also gripped the youth. Most drug addicts are male, but there are several girls hooked on to drugs too. Most girls addicted to drugs are persuaded by their boyfriends to try them. Few get into it out of frustration. The ratio is 1:25. One must avoid friends who call you a ’sissy’ or ’chicken’ for not indulging in their ’pastimes’. You may say that it is an individual’s right to do whatever he/she wants to do. I agree but then there should be some thoughtful process involved in what one does.

This race to be ’cool’ is also taking its toll on children and youth as well. There is an increase in the number of cases of depression, stress, insomnia, anorexia among the children in the last few years. The prime reason being pressure from parents, teachers and especially the friends who want them to be cool and look cool. For a child, who does not believes in such nonsense, life is more tough. He is neglected by the classmates, teased all the time with lewd comments, humiliated and soon he finds himself under depression. He is made to believe that his thinking, values, traditions etc are very primitive and they find no place in today’s world. This, sometimes, leads them to take extreme step. To help them commit suicide there are host of websites, which promote the same. And, unfortunately, there is no control over these websites!

This race of being ’cool’ is very new in the country but is already a hit. In a fast-changing world accelerated by new advances in electronic technology, only a dynamic exuberant generation can put India on a strong footing. Thus, it is very essential for the youth to understand what is right and wrong and not to fall prey to the ’cool’ race. A strong religious base combined with strong family ties and high morals can help the youth if they find these things ’cool’.

Six year old’s family devastated in Ahmedabad Blasts

Every time there is a Blast, hundreds of innocents are left dead. Whenever there is an act of terror, it is the common man that faces the brunt. Here’s a story of a six year old in Ahmedabad whose family has been devastated in the blasts tragedy.
At the blast outside the Civil hospital in Ahmedabad, two brothers Yash and Rohan were gravely injured. Yash is a six year old who is too young to understand the terror that has hit his family. On Saturday evening, Yash’s father Dushyant Vyas had planned to teach him how to ride a bicycle. Yash had been bought a bicycle a day before by his father who was a X ray technician at the hospital. Yash now lies in the ward of the civil hospital having multiple injuries on his body. Next to his bed lies his elder brother Rohan who is in a much graver situation then him. Doctors presume that he might not see light at the end of his misery. Every now and then when Yash yelps in pain, the entire hospital wants to question as to what this young boy is doing there. He should have been riding the bicycle as was planned. But the terrorists had other plans. Dushyant vyas’ body has just been brought home from the mortuary. The news of his father’s death has not been told to Yash yet. His mother does not have the strength to convey this to him. Meanwhile in the hospital doctors and medical staff attend to this young boy who is in excruciating pain. Yash has lost his father and his brother is in critical situation. His is one of the several families that have been devastated in the serial blasts that rocked Ahmedabad city. It seems a terrorist group is behind this blast but surely no human can take this responsibility of brutally killing innocent people.
Every time there are blasts in India, it is covered by the major newspapers and media channels. After a few days the news dies away. India has been on the terrorist’s radar for a long time with serial bomb blasts having rocked all the major cities in India. After Iraq and perhaps Afganisthan, India is the most terror prone zone in the world. These blasts are nothing but a cowardly act of terror from a group of insane fundamentalists. The perpetrators of these blasts will have answers to give on judgment day.
To say that India is a soft target would not be over exaggerating. The Indian police have done nothing to catch the criminals who have hands in these blasts. Imagine if a terrorist attach would hit US, it would rather go on war with every nation that had terrorists in order to protect the security of its people. But in India blasts have become a common thing now and the intelligence authorities can do nothing about them.
We need to get over the tragedy that struck Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Try telling this to young Yash, who would not understand why he was on the receiving end of this dastardly act. His hopes of learning how to ride a bicycle were devastated and he cannot even mourn his fathers death for he is not aware of it. Every time there is a blast, we move on with our day to day lives after a few days keeping the horrifying sequence of events behind us. But the police and the intelligence authorities should not forget and forgive, catch the perpetrators and deal with them in the harshest manner possible.

Rag pickers in modern day India

THE RAG pickers are as much a part of our society as we are. Just that they do not have the most respected or a dignified nine to five job. It’s a rag picker’s pride that he is not a beggar or a thief. You will find them almost every where scavenging the garbage cans and the garbage dumping grounds. No, it’s not food that they are after, though if they find a half eaten apple or two, it would well be a bonus for them. And it is not just rags that they are after. But they are on a constant look out for plastic, clothes, metal pieces, boxes and a host of other things that you and I throw away nonchalantly every day.

Most of these rag pickers are young children. As they have no source of income of their own and are often orphans or street dwellers, rag picking seems to be their favourite pastime and their main source of income as well. They scrounge around every day as soon as the waste gets deposited early in the morning at the main garbage centres. But it is not as simple as just finding the stuff and selling it to the ‘kabaadi walla’ shops. The garbage picking industry has a hierarchal format with there being several middlemen who make the most of these innocent children, much like the organised retail industry.

Rag PickersIn the capital Delhi itself, there are more than one lakh rag pickers with most of them being young children. Young children for whom education has been promised from time to time, but this promise is never kept. Forget education, these children have to work incessantly in the most harshest of environments and yet find it difficult to make ends meet. The rag picker earns at an average about Rs 10-50 a day. And it is because of several middlemen that they lose out big time.

The government has tried to do a lot for the young children. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the free mid-day meal programme and many other initiatives. But how successful have they been. The metro cities have the largest number of rag pickers in the country. They are not people belonging to any specific caste but are there because they suffer from poverty and the options that may choose from in order to survive are either theft, begging or rag picking. But the begging industry is a much more organised one, not giving enough scope for survival.

It’s often that these rag pickers go down drains and nallahs in search of the precious wastes. You may not often see them, because they aren’t really a part of your world. They are the people of a side of India that is truly incredible. But the government’s initiatives to get these people out of this life that they are a part of haven’t really created an impact. Some serious thoughts need to be put into this by the government for this concerning the futures of lakhs of children who might otherwise have had great careers ahead but because of the wrong choice of profession, it was nipped in the bud.

It is high time to stand up and demand action. It is time to engage the disengaged. In all the name of modernity and development, let us not ignore the harsh realities that are a part of our society and do affect us in some way or the other. We are already losing thousands of these children to terrible diseases every year. At the age where they should be playing in the open, they are made to work in the most inhumane and suffocating atmospheres. The time is now to take action for the betterment of these rag pickers, else many of them will continue to sacrifice their lives.

The demise of Appu Ghar

All good things must come to an end and so did the Appu Ghar. The 15.5 acres amusement park is being brought down to be replaced by the Delhi Metro. Appu Ghar maybe no more, but the nostalgic memories of this magical park will last forever.

In the evergreen debate between the Mumbaikars and the Delhiites, Mumbaikars used to score over their counterparts thanks to the presence of the glittering stars of Bollywood and the safety tag of the Island city. Having passed through the phases of living in both the cities, it used to be a tough choice for me. For having grown up in Delhi, my heart was still in the calmness of Delhi, though Mumbai has become my Karma Bhoomi and I shudder at the thought of leaving it. Visiting my previous home has been on the cards for a very long time, but in the tough schedule that a student has to follow, the dream could not materialize. But in all the Metros and the Development plans being executed in the capital, it has lost something which was closest to the heart of its citizens- Appu ghar.

And in the host of management entrance exams that I had been giving, I lost the chance of visiting this place as it opened its gates for the last time on the 18th February, 2008. A feeling of nostalgia overcomes me whenever I think of this place. Even before I visited the Qutab Minar or the India Gate, I had made three round trips to Appu Ghar. And visiting any trade show or exhibition at Pragati Maidan was incomplete if you didn’t flock to Appu Ghar in the evenings.

The house of horrors, the bumping cars, mini Disneyland, the eerie tunnel were the places I used to frequently visit. Those were the days when you didn’t have any worries and could soak in the excitement of the place. It has been more than seven years since I last visited it, but the park is etched in my memory. Away from the commotion and the traffic snarls of the city, it was one place that despite all the noise that the children would be making would offer a sense of calm. America would boast of the Disneyland, but Appu Ghar for its citizens wasn’t far behind.

February 18th, was the last chance for people to say goodbye to this amusement park. As the number of tickets sold touched 5,000 and the timings extended by an extra hour, people flocked from all the parts of the city as well as the outskirts to visit this magical place. Many children who had grown playing here would have got their children to share the same experience. But, there are many of us who missed that last opportunity would lament this miss for a long time to come. But, as they say all good things must come to an end because that is the nature of life.

It seems that the Appu ghar has been shut down for the development of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. The Metro has been a huge boost for Delhi and now it can compete with the like of Mumbai and Kolkatta in offering good commutation means. But whatever the purpose be, was their not a way of building at some other place? Maybe im being a bit irrational for Appu Ghar meant more to me than any other landmark in Delhi.

The place might have been losing its charm, for children nowadays prefer computer games and gaming consoles to a visit to the park. And with malls, supermarkets, gaming centres opening up in all parts of the city, where is the place to have an Amusement Park. Im disappointed that the next generation in my family could not visit this place but hopefully by the time they grow up there would be something better to visit. Appu Ghar may be no more but it will be missed for ever. I don’t really have much to look forward to the next time I visit the capital. And if I were the Supreme Court of India and had to make a choice between the Metro and the Appu Ghar, the choice would have been a fairly straight forward one.

Punjab, Haryana finally wake up to female infanticide

THE HAND that rocks the cradle, rules the world! Marilyn Monroe was asked how does she feel being a part of a man’s world. She said as long as I am a woman in it, I don’t see a problem. Alas, if she were an Indian girl, her reply would have been different.

Welcome to ‘Incredible India’. Our Constitution grants equal rights and privileges on the basis of sex. But as Amartya Sen had written in ‘Argumentative Indian’, the biggest crime begins against women, at the place where they are meant to be the safest, in their mother’s wombs. Women don’t go missing as young girls, wives or mothers but they go missing even before they are born. And it is the society that is to blame for this, for the real perpetrators of the crime are amongst us and they go scot-free every time.

Female FoeticideThe states of Punjab, Haryana and Jharkhand have the worst sex ratios in the in the country. According to the 2001 census, there are only 874 women with respect to 1000 men in these states. The national average was 933. In fact, the sex ratio of Punjab has never gone above the national average. According to the 2001 census, the worst sex ratio in any state was Haryana’s. It had only 861 women per 1000 men in the state. What is shocking is that at the time of Independence the sex ratio stood at a healthy 946, but over the last 60 years it has fallen to 933. Thus, instead of improving it is becoming worse.

Finally the states of Punjab and Haryana have woken up to this crime. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee called for a Samaj Chetna Lehar (Social Awareness Campaign) to encourage young couples to have a girl child. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee had earlier announced that they would be putting up cradles outside the Gurdwaras, so that people could come and leave their girl children instead of killing them or abandoning them in the open. Chandigarh, which is one of the richest cities in India, has one of the most skewed sex ratio that you would ever see.

The figures are shocking to say the least. It is 777 females for a thousand males. In these states, female infanticide has been on the rise and drastic steps have to be taken to curb this crime. In temples and Gurdwaras in Chandigarh, after the morning prayers the priest will have the job of preaching to the devotees about saving the girl child. Being done at religious places, it will definitely have an impact on young couple’s minds.

The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act (PNDT) was implemented in the year 1994, but is misused in all parts of India. Abortion rates are increasing by almost 80 per cent in some states like Punjab and Haryana. Figures by United Nations say that about 7,50,000 female foetuses are aborted every year in India. And these figures only constitute cases, which come out in the open, otherwise female infanticide continues unabated in the dark by bribing taking doctors.

The government has also thought of chipping in by trying to bridge the gap between the two sexes in parts of Punjab and Haryana with the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme as it is followed in many other Latin American and Central American countries. In districts, where the sex ratio is really poor, the government will be offering cash incentives to families that have a girl child. Every newborn girl who has been registered will be given Rs 5000. And this won’t be the end of the largesse, at various stages of her education also, she will be given incentives. This scheme may work for the poor, but alas! Illegal sex determination happens among the affluent as well. This is where one believes the society needs to make a change. Some of the richest couples in Punjab and Haryana are guilty of killing their girl children. This is the mindset of the people, which only we can change.

India as a country reveres more goddesses than any other in the world. Even when female infanticide occurs right in front of our eyes, we stand mute and indifferent. We say ‘Vande Mataram’, we award movies like Mother India, but when it comes to having a girl child, even some of the richest couples refrain from doing so. It is really tough being a girl in a man’s world in India because her very right to live or be born is not granted to you.

Uttar Pradesh: The epicentre of Polio in India

Pulse Polio, an immunization campaign was established by the Government of India in 1994 to eradicate poliomyelitis (polio) in India by vaccinating all children under the age of five, against polio virus. However, a sharp rise in polio cases in India’s largest state has raised fears of the return of a disease that the country was close to wiping out, just three years ago. The health outlook for millions of Indians for 2008 may not be all that bright as experts say that the country will continue battling major diseases like AIDS, polio, malaria and tuberculosis besides concerns like infant and maternal mortality. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Union Health Ministry were optimistic about curbing the polio virus. However, as the year 2007 drew to an end, India continued to be the hot bed for polio, with 590 cases as against 676 cases in 2006. This has dealt another blow to the already crumbling public health infrastructure and delivery. There have been no polio cases reported from Kerala and Punjab in 2007. On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar top the list of the polio affected states in India.

PolioThe World Health Organisation (WHO) has described Uttar Pradesh as the “epicenter of the polio epidemic” in the world. As per WHO estimates, the State accounts for 64 per cent of all polio cases reported worldwide. The increase has not just been due to mismanagement at the Government level; there are also other factors responsible for it. One such factor is the people’s apathy to such campaigns, which lack credibility. Besides, lack of information about the polio vaccine being administered and its availability is also greatly responsible for the increase.

An alarming factor is the resistance of people belonging to the minority community, especially those from the lower income groups, to vaccinate their children. Apparently, there is a belief that the polio vaccine causes impotency. Other factors responsible for the resurgence of the epidemic in Uttar Pradesh are the high density of population and the lack of awareness about the pulse polio campaign. Extensive publicity campaigns, involving film and cricket personalities, have mitigated the opposition to a great extent but still the cases are on the rise. It is very important for the Government to now formulate a proper strategy with the political and religious leaders alongside, to counter the rising cases of polio in Uttar Pradesh. Dispelling superstition should be accomplished by roping in local health workers to convince clerics who propagate against the vaccination drive. To control the menace from spreading its tentacles any further, we need to adopt a need-based approach and more scientific methods.