By Tong Niu:

As technological advancements propel the world into a more international age, cultural diversity becomes a common phenomenon…and a growing issue. Rather than an increasing tolerance for our culturally different neighbors, we have leaned more towards judgment and stereotyping. In part due to the recent rise of terrorist groups and suicide bombings, once cohesive communities, communities with different cultures and races, have begun turning on each other. Under pressure, we have begun to separate ourselves by religion, by nationality, by race, rather than joining together against the real enemy.

One example of growing cultural divide is the treatment of Muslims after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, located in New York City, the supposed “melting pot” of cultures. The anger and hatred felt by Americans towards the Muslim terrorists are understandable. But channeling this pain and directing it at the Muslim population of New York is wrong. The cultural profiling and discrimination against South Asian communities in New York City continued two years after the attack. Over one thousand reports of discrimination were filed, with some respondents filing more than one report, according to a 2003 census done by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Of the reports filed, 37% were bias-related harassment or violence and 26% were employment related discrimination. With over two hundred thousand Arabs and South Asians in New York City, this cultural intolerance can create tensions within local communities, pass down to future generations and teach children to become judgmental adults.

Looking across the Atlantic Ocean, similar cultural clashes occurred in London after the July subway bombings in 2005. The bombing of London public transit systems killed over 50 people and wounded over 700. This traumatic event can certainly cause tension between cultural groups, but it does not excuse one from being unable to distinguish who the real enemies are. In an ICM poll conducted on July 20, 2005, 20% of Muslims felt that they or their family had experienced hostility and violence because of their religion. Cases of discrimination in the workplace and at schools have continued into the following year. When we continue to allow cultural profiling, we are actively pushing away others, separating into isolated groups that battle one another as opposed to battling the common terrorist enemies.

“Islamaphobia,” or prejudice against Islamic or Muslim groups, have developed since terrorist attacks on western nations. It development can be attributed to the paranoia that has developed against the Muslim culture. We have misdirected our anger at innocent people. Instead of learning and appreciating foreign cultures, we have begun to judge and isolate them. We need to calm down, wipe the intolerance away from our eyes and look at foreign cultures in with a more open, accepting mind. Before we start passing around blame, we need to analyze the root of the problem. So long as we continue to divide ourselves amongst cultural or ethnical boundaries, terrorism will continue to gain headway.

Image courtesy: http://wallscometumblingdown.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/islamophobia-only-10-of-muslims-believe-discrimination-is-on-the-basis-of-religion/

By A M Radhika:

Looks like they took the ‘stepping forth for bringing about radical change’ part of the discussions too seriously because of the devoted login time that they spent in all forms of social networking consisted of bringing oneself over and above the strata.

The question for today is while on one hand, social networks anchor your weaker relationships for you to re-invigourate them at a later stage of life, does your activity on social networking sites affect your real life relations? The answer is hands down, a ridiculously gigantic YES. I remember seeing this animation video ironically on a social networking website where a child is coaxed by his friends to come on Facebook and following that, his father, classmates, neighbours and other random people turn his yet real world into a virtual kamikaze, when all he wanted to do was his homework and play on the grounds. Even workplace discussions and gossip grapevine which formerly consisted of subjective reconnoiter of bits and pieces of extremely relevant information with a ‘telephone effect’ (one whispers to the second, second to third…), indeed now consists of why was one particular person repeatedly commenting on another’s status message. Personally I may in its entirety, end my association (in reality or virtual space) with those who dare come online on chat and talk about how cool their status message is or how they want me to comment somewhere specific (unless relevant of course). That’s just gross.

Again, there’s the coveted throne, bearing physical form of a form text box. The throne that is lovingly named, ‘Relationship status’.  Usually applicable to the younger junta, God bless thy soul if you are one of those whose N number of friends keep dwindling from ‘Single’ to ‘Committed’ or ‘In a relationship’ every 10 days (almost always in an effort to gather attention/comments) or so while you stare at your computer and wonder dorkily, if you may, how your life yields a complete zilch concerning such dynamics or what their relationship status would be with Mr. Work. So much so, that people ‘hook up’ only because they want to change their status. Recently there was an apparently huge campaign of updating your relation status corresponding to a breed of alcoholic drinks as a codeword, just to keep the other side of the world wondering. Sure enough, that got its 15 seconds of fame, albeit forcing me to make a mental ignore list of the people who participated. Again, if your feeds are entertaining, there’ll be these underground highly such-and-such mushrooming breed of complete aliens with an ‘I wanna do fraanship with you’ board hung around their necks even in a workplace or educational institution, talking to whom is exact simile to summoning your personalized albatross to come hang itself around yours. Of course, among other things, these statuses are the best way to ‘break up’.

While all that might peg your so called social sensex at an all time high quite literally, you are very likely to disconnect with real world altogether, where you actually interact and participate in interesting, pointed and purpose-driven discussions be it formal or casual, and enjoy the process all the more to remember people forever. While we are at it, talking in terms of work relations, corporate organizations are banking on apart from advertising and internet marketing, the facts that a) employees or potential employees post everything on the internet, only to reveal their true personalities which may be used in favour or against them in the workplaces and b) associations on social networks with other employees of the same organization can actually boost productivity and be engineered, to enhance the concerned employee’s performance, especially if the association is with a superior or colleague of the same level.

Next time when you update your status, think about what all & who all are you going to affect, because the creepier it is, the shorter is your real life ‘friend list’ (Everyone on social networks is a friend. In real life, you have best friends, team mates, acquaintances, companions and levels so forth). And if you’ve seen ‘Social Network’, you’d understand that your real life is a different ball game altogether.

Image courtesy: http://www.4vf.net/facebook-wants-to-read-your-mind/

By Sakshi Abrol:

Let me start by just defining what a ‘Unique identification number’ is. Unique Identification Number (UID) is a recently finalized initiative by the Government of India to create and manage a centralized identification system for all the adult citizens and residents of India, which can be utilized for a variety of identification purposes. Well, this is just a typically bookish definition of the UID and can only satisfy the intellectual needs of a naive risen out of inquisitiveness to be up-to-date with the buzzword hitting the headlines. A more comprehensive look into the matter means to draw the roots of its present day manifestation in a historical perspective. The first phase of today’s UID was initiated in 1999 by the NDA government in the wake of the Kargil war. The NDA government decided to compulsorily register all citizens into a ‘National Population Register’ and issue a ‘Multipurpose National Identity’ (MNIC) card to all its citizens. This move can well be regarded as the base work for the UID of today. A nuanced approach to juxtapose the MNIC with the UID shows that the former was intended to act as watchdog on aliens and unauthorized people whereas the UID is more development-oriented.

In terms of its pragmatic implementation, be prepared to be stalked by somebody knocking at you door to take your fingerprints along with personal characteristics like age, sex, occupation and so on. The rationale behind this exercise is to build a National Population Register. In due course, your UID number or ‘Aadhaar’ will be added to it. This pie-in-the-sky dream will benefit the security agencies the most. Any suspicious person booking tickets or using any public facility requiring the UID no. will be on the radar. Further the benefits of the project in the social sector such as in the PDS further projects it as a boon.

However, the extent of euphoria or hype created by it is completely incompatible with the real-world problems. The promises made seem only rhetorical and allegedly half-true. The first delusion that it creates vis-à-vis the safety and confidentiality of the data can be attributed to the fact that this vast amount of personal data would be available to a number of agencies with fewer restrictions. As Amartya Sen would put it, ‘There is a clear trade-off between privacy and development.(The clauses related to individual privacy in the Citizenship act of 1955 was weakened through an amendment in 2003). Just think of it this way. The police or security forces if allowed access to the biometric database could use it for regular surveillance leading to gross violation of human rights.

Another veiled lie is that Aadhaar is not compulsory. The reason is quite intelligible to anybody with an average level of intelligence. The benefits and the services that are linked to the UID in the form of PDS and NREGA jobs will automatically create a demand for the number. It is like leaving no other options feasible and then claiming that there are options available. Also the concept of the UID is incompatible with the FPS. UID will enable a migrant to buy his PDS quota from anywhere across India but the FPS stores grains only for registered households and the lack of stock will see the workers come back empty-handed. I believe the above mentioned point establishes beyond doubt that the UID is mere eyewash to cloak the ulterior motives of the government tending to become an invasive state marked by the security dimensions of it rather than the developmental aspect.

Technically speaking, the problem of fingerprint quality in India has not been studied in depth. Also the process is not hassle free and is going to be a hit-or-miss affair with the various glitches in the BPL analysis providing glaring examples. There is also no proper mechanism in place to correct erroneous “identity information” by the citizens.

There are people like Nandan Nilekani completely enamoured by this enchanting idea but the reality is far deeper than meets the batting of the eyelids.

Image courtesy: http://www.niharsworld.com/2010/11/17/aadhaar-number-issuing-uidai-unique-identification-authority-india-uidai/

By Tejasvi:

Switch to the best service provider retaining the same mobile number. Sounds cool right! This will be the result of the flagging off of the services of Mobile Number Portability (MNP). This service would enable competition between service providers to give better services to attract more customers. Healthy competition is encouraged among the service providers. One of the benefits with MNP is that you don’t have to tell your friends about a new mobile number when you have changed your provider. Only thing you wouldn’t know if you are calling someone is their service provider, though the number series is that of the provider you can recognise.

Haryana was the first state in India to taste the launch of this new system. The MNP service would be available throughout India by January 2011. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has put a Rs. 19/- porting (switching) charge on the customer for availing this service. The money would go to the new service provider who gives service to the customer.

The time for porting would be seven working days for the entire country except Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and some North East licensed service areas; for these areas, porting would take 15 working days. MNP can be used by both post and pre-paid customers. Important thing to note here is that once you have switched to a new operator, you have to wait for a period of 3 months before switching to another operator/service provider.

The procedure to make the switch is very easy:-

  • Send an SMS to 1900 that reads PORT<space>mobile number from the mobile phone number you wish to port. For instance, if your phone number is 9876543210, type PORT 9876543210 and send it to 1900.
  • You will now receive an SMS that contains your 8-digit Unique Porting Code (UPC). Make a note of this number.
  • Approach the new carrier you wish to migrate to and ask for the prescribed form. You will need to make a mention of your UPC in this form.
  • Also, the UPC is valid for a period of 16 days and so you have to apply to the new carrier before the UPC expires.

For the implementation of MNP, India has been divided into two geographical zones consisting 11 service areas. The working of MNP follows the same procedure followed for MNP world-wide except a few countries, which is called Recipient-led porting. In this, the new service provider registers the user to its network and the network ID of the new service provider will be updated in the central database. The central or master database is controlled by a third party company and the two geographical zones have been allotted to Syniverse and Telecordia for issues relating to MNP and such. In the USA and some other countries, where this system has already been implemented, the service is free of charge. India has implemented it recently but it would take time to adjust to this change. So what, better late than never! Use it well India!

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

The latest leaks by the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks and the Guardian have caused what can be called the biggest diplomatic crisis in the last decade. The leaks, which have over 250000 dispatches reveal the US foreign strategies and more.

Few of the most shocking “secret” dispatches reveal that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN’s leadership.

According to the Guardian website,

Among scores of other disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail:

– Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme

- Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime.

- Devastating criticism of the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan.

- Claims of inappropriate behaviour by a member of the British royal family.

The cables names Saudi donors as the biggest financiers of terror groups, and provide an extraordinarily detailed account of an agreement between Washington and Yemen to cover up the use of US planes to bomb al-Qaida targets. One cable records that during a meeting in January with General David Petraeus, then US commander in the Middle East, Yemeni president Abdullah Saleh said: “We’ll continue saying they are our bombs, not yours.”

More highlights:

1) The materials have ‘pseudonyms’ of various world leaders, such as Vladimir Putin being called an “Alpha-Dog” and Hamid Karzai being “driven by paranoia”.

2) The cache of the cable contains specific corruption allegations on international leaders.

3) The view from Baku has been to target Iran

4) The cables name countries involved in financing terror groups, and describe a near “environmental disaster”.

5) Amongst other disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail how the US believes that China was behind the hacking of search engine Google and computers of western governments.

According to the news breaking on the Guardian, “The most controversial target was the leadership of the United Nations. That directive requested the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top UN officials and their staff and details of “private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys”.

Soon after the tweets by the WikiLeaks official twitter account the website was allegedly “under-attack” and was unaccessible.

You can know all about the issue here or read the original leaked documents on Wikileaks or at the Guardian website.

Image courtesy: http://www.topnews.in/usa/islamic-jihad-claims-responsibility-us-embassy-attacks-yemen-21294

By A M Radhika:

This actually happened. That kid couldn’t even reach out to the height of the counter at a local shop. I’d seen him coming by jingling chiller in his pocket, strutting in as if he was the local don all at the age of 6. He pushed to the counter, some change, and asked in his child-like native tongue, “Ek gutka halo ne…” (Give me a ‘gutka’, he actually named the brand). Both the shopkeeper and I stopped short. The next second surprisingly the shopkeeper said, “I won’t give it to you. Don’t buy those things ever again”. The child walked away disappointed. I appreciated the shopkeeper for his sensibilities & not thinking only about “selling”. The other day I saw a house-maid puffing out two ‘bidi’s (a raw un-filtered form of a cigarette) after the hurried lunch between the errands of two houses with the stubs thrown on the lane just beside the garden she sat in. She raged for not minding my own business when asked. Doing the dishes or washing clothes wouldn’t wash her yellow finger nails. Forgetting ‘some real action’ we are.

Take the above scenario. Combine it with reports malnutrition rate in India as 35.6%, of second hand smoking killing 600,000 people worldwide in a year (WHO), ignoring even the effects of pollution, untreated water consumption and appalling food situations and you have the perfect recipe for a deteriorating rural population. So after reading thus far, what would it take for you to stop one from buying another packet or from smoking? Tell me if you haven’t seen more of the working class women smoking. With gutka, they start at the very dawn, like a customary religious breakfast, to numb themselves out of a drone’s day ahead and leave their seemingly beautiful red trails of spit every 2 minutes everywhere, chewing aimlessly to work ignoring the burning, rash-cut tongues and ceaseless coughing. Else, they’ll pull in a mouth full and make shapes of smoke during their ride to work in a slow, chugging ‘chakda’ (the infamous seven seater that ends up with 15 humans smashed onto each other), while discussing animatedly with the rickshaw driver, national politics and business. The Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY) and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) conducted the survey among 5,300 people in the last 15 days inferring that maximum people wanted more graphic warnings on tobacco packets like the lung X-ray you may have seen on TV or better, the mouth cancer ones, to be effective from December 1. Will it create an impact on that woman or the kid? Of course, the revenue out of this industry is a strong counter opinion. But I guess health is universally accepted to be wealth isn’t it?

Well, moving on, on a much lighter note, living in the greener, the more beautiful outer parts of a city can also show you some sights not appealing to the normal eye. I mean, imagine what going to school all dressed up and forcefully motivated one chilly winter morning and sighting a mass public defecation event on the way could do to your day. The best part, you can’t stop and tell them to not do it at the very time. Plus, they have nowhere else to go. Clearly, 19 November, World Toilet Day, doesn’t hold much significance in their lives yet. A very queer phenomenon that I noticed: the entire village is divided into two (or three, including minors) ‘clans’ as participants of this grand event. The early riser clan; one that goes to work clean and the one seen during those avoid-the-window-seat rides to school. The minor clan is on display in the evenings, while the remaining, prefer the dark nights to get down to business. Of course, cattle, cats and dogs do not have preplanned appearance per se for they just do what they want when they want where they want. God forbid if you were unfortunate enough to have to walk by that road, you’d thank Almighty for not giving your olfactory senses the expertise of snouts. How does one make them realize that they’re only giving an open invitation to epidemics when all they’re worried about is where all they’ve to go and work today?

Well, the written reply to one of the Rajya Sabha questions did raise the point of National Rural Health Mission having raised bars on the augmentation of human resources and infrastructure in rural areas across the country that involves most aspects of the medical facilities. That is, definitely the ‘cure’ in place. But where is the ‘prevention’?

Image courtesy: http://gym09.hriday-shan.org/the-price-of-smoking-a-bidi/

By Varun Shrivats:

Firstly, I would like to give my sincere apologies to all physics enthusiasts who stumbled across this article and thought that the title would do justice to a rigorous write-up on the physics of wave motion or to an article rooted on similar grounds. This article does no such thing. Instead, it aims to look at events in our lives whose trajectories of progress glorify the concept of crests and troughs.

If simple and straightforward words were employed to define crests and troughs, they would read: Crest is a summit point, and trough is a depression point. So many aspects of our lives experience crests and troughs over regular intervals of time.

One clear-cut example that leaps to the mind is the share market of our country (Or of any country, for that matter). The Sensex hit the 21k mark for the first time on the 8th of January, 2008. Crest. Then, the economies of almost all the countries in the world plunged into a depression, the magnitude of which threatened to give it the privilege of being compared to the Great Depression of 1930.

Subsequently, the Sensex found itself wandering in levels almost half that of the Glorious days. Trough. Well, I bet that by now you can see what I am leading to. The October and early November period of 2010 witnessed another crest, thanks to shares like Mahindra & Mahindra, Bharti Airtel, and Coal India. But sadly, the day on which this article was written was also the third consecutive day in which the Sensex had shed over 0.7% of its index. (Signs of an approaching trough?) I am also pretty sure that if I were to write one more article on the same topic after a year, I would be able to cite at least 2 more instances of crests and troughs in the share market.

Such manifestations of crests and troughs extend beyond the territories of economies and share markets. Students’ academic performances witness crests and troughs (though some students stir envy among others by managing to keep a trough-free record. I myself have managed to avoid punches from fellow students, having never committed the crime), as do India’s performances in sports like Cricket and Hockey. The examples are too varied and many in number to be penned in this limited space.

The main reason for choosing the share market to demonstrate the inevitability of occurrences of crests and troughs is the fact that the share market is an important part of many of our lives, and the fact that we would be able to easily relate to the happenings in that field. And the main purpose of the article is to say this: Crests and troughs, or if you will, Ups and downs are inevitable in our lives. They are the results of the rhythmic pull of the strings of our lives by fate. Let me say one more thing at this juncture. Fate is a word ascribed by man to the “forces out of his control”. According to me, fate is nothing but the result of human nature and behaviour, and the only forces that are not in our–the human beings’– control are those of nature.

Hence, the important and logical thing to do is to hang tight and work your socks off during troughs, and to enjoy the harvests in the crests, for these are the fruits of your efforts during the harsh times. Full efforts must be made to prolong the time period of crests.

Allow me to finish this article with a note on troughs. Determination and hope are two traits which no human being can afford to part ways with, especially in times of troughs. Doing so is definitely not the solution to set us on an upward journey. So, let us hope that this viewpoint is agreed upon by one and all, and that the word depression is only used to define troughs, and not any of our lives.

By Jagmohan Parmar:

I told my friend that night, “Please don’t litter. It is our city, our country.” And the reply he gave me on my face was “Ye India hai. I will keep London clean”.

Global warming, soil erosion, habitat destruction, acid rains, electronic waste, water crisis … and the list never come to an end … and to be candid it will only increase. And the oddest thing attached to this is that whether we are educated or not, somewhere we are well aware of these problems … it is evidently all around us. Thanks to our media!

Chandigarh became the first city to say “No to plastic bags”. But still we find them everywhere around with people carrying them for just about anything. Now the question is – the government took the initiative, but then why do we people fail to fall in the bracket. There are regulations for pollution check as well. How many of us actually go out of our way to make sure that our vehicles are not polluting the environment if it was not for the traffic police.

Diwali is the color of lights, but from where has the tradition of burning crackers been initiated? And now, on top of everything, even crackers are considered to be a social status symbol. A race to crown the one who gets the best and the most expensive! People prefer burning their hard earned money on crackers rather than sharing and spreading the joy with friends and family. Does this at any level mean that Indians are classier, that they are capable of – bursting expensive crackers on the festival that in reality has nothing to do with crackers?

A lot of hue and cry was raised in the nation for botanically-treated vegetables. But what about the air we are inhaling at present while reading this? I see a lot of organizations raising their voice against environmental issues but what about the action at an individual level. I remember a friend who went to a shop to buy a pen of Rs.5/- but he never said no to the plastic bag the shopkeeper gave him for carrying that small pen he could have easily accommodated in his pocket. If we cannot understand this, then no scientist sitting at NASA or doctor sitting at Fortis can help the human race.

The Day The Earth Stood Still! What a brilliant way of requesting the human race to change. But after watching the movie, we (most of us) discussed the male lead and the camera movements and not what actually one should have discussed. Electricity-driven vehicles were treated as mock up articles to be made fun of. Solar cells are another example invented, but ignored by us. All these show that somewhere somebody is working to save the earth, to be nice and genuine towards the earth. But what we do is make fun and only contribute to the destruction.

Charity begins at home, but this is not meant to be practiced. It is difficult for us to travel in public transport whenever possible; it is difficult to carry things in our own handbags rather than in polythene bags. Schools and colleges cannot take assignments in electronic form, they still depend on piles of sheets and files. We cannot stop bursting crackers and cannot help keep our city clean. We cannot even appreciate the inventions made to support the environment; trying them is altogether a different thing. We cannot recycle and replenish. Why? Because now we have the purchasing power? Does this render us with power to do things that are ruining our home?

Small gestures and actions can lead to big differences! We can travel in public transports; it’s not about status but about our own habitat. It is only a matter of carrying a hand bag along rather than poly bags. Education makes sense only when we are applying it in the right direction. A lot has been said about saving the environment. It’s about “doing” now.

Image: http://www.tork.com.au/Pages/SimplePage.aspx?id=101489

By Ashita Kulshreshtha:

With 13 gold medals in their kitty, Indian sportspersons continue to showcase their spectacular performances in the ongoing 16th Asian Games at Guangzhou. Undoubtedly, the games brought various sports into limelight and provided them the much-needed attention. In a country where cricket still rules and cricketers are worshipped by fans, the dazzling performance in a sport other than cricket is a positive sign. It is an indication that the cricket no longer would reign supreme in Indian hearts in the years to come. However, the fact that such a populous and progressive India, being one of the biggest countries in Asia, had little to boast of its achievements as it continues to clinch the eighth spot in the medal tally. It should have ringed an alarm bell for the government to address the cause of promoting sports.

It is high time India shed the attitude which assesses their success only by technological leaps and considers sports as a deterrent to the academic progress of a student. Parents are still reluctant to encourage their children to take up sports as a full-time profession. Instead, they take pride in pressurizing them to become engineers and doctors. A sport is perceived as a relatively unstable profession. Consequently, aspiring sportspersons are compelled to take it up only to the extent of a hobby.

Inadequate sport facilities like shortage of sport training personnel, deplorable conditions of grounds, mismanagement of sport academies and financial hindrances ail Indian sports. There is an urgent need to segregate the management of sports from politics and entrusting the former to an autonomous body comprising competent sports personnel.

However, the role of government in overcoming these hindrances is pivotal in this regard. It should take up sports in every nook and corner of the country. There is a need to set the target of providing a certain minimum standard of sports facilities in every state. Being a national sport, hockey deserves special attention. How many of us actually know that it was the hockey team which brought laurels to India in the 1958 Olympics? Though it is understandable that sports projects require huge investment, it is here that the role of corporate sector becomes instrumental. Undertaking sports projects by means of an MoU between government and corporate is a viable option. Sport companies should look out to sponsor prospective sportspersons and help them tide over financial difficulties.

Indian sport also experiences dearth of training personnel and experts in sports science. There is a need to focus on helping the players to cope up with injuries and providing a physiotherapist and coach for every sport team. Visits by international players should be encouraged so as to foster interaction with foreign sports personnel. This would surely enhance the sporting standards in our country.

The role of media cannot be ruled out. Over the years, the media coverage has been partial as it has brought only few players to limelight. For instance, how many of us even know the names of women Indian tennis players except Sania Mirza? Inadequate media attention has largely left Indian public ignorant of sports like squash, table tennis, rowing, archery, and gymnastics. It is pitiable that most of us do not take interest in watching hockey matches which happens to be our national sport.

The 2012 Olympics are not far away and preparations are already underway. The coming years definitely hold promises of better performances provided that we take up the initiative to address the cause of sport promotion. It is only then that India can hope to lead the medal tally along with the likes of China and U.S.A.

By A M Radhika:

We have seen a humongous increase in the number of volunteer movements particularly after the year 2003-04 covering a wide range of social service arenas from blood donation and banking to providing shelter for the underprivileged, especially focused on child welfare. Quite a lot of them are entirely devoted to education. Some of the prominent organizations have a continuous development process, indicating very strongly that they are not just names. You can see their actual ground work everywhere here.

It is to be understood that as much as we all like to talk about development, initiative and education, there remains very little one can do without the right resources namely money and people. We are in times when the ‘charity’ angle doesn’t go well. Non-traditional sources of funding like local businessmen and employees, a diversified fund raising program for local, national as well as overseas donors, taking in mass, the college students to help out with their activities as a part of an internship, coalition with educational institutions for infrastructure, developing information kiosks and the outright marketing and publicity are the bigger steps in managing only a child’s primary education that costs little, but pays off so well in shaping an innocent life.

Yes, this does bring us close to ‘development’, but are we to believe this ensures that there would be no drop outs, or if the child’s future is taken care of? Moreover, in times of exceptional demands of skilled workforce, what is primary education going to provide for? How does one bridge the gap between seeking proper clothing/shelter for the winters and paying for school? If well off teens known to you and me alike can throw a ‘I’ll be what I want to be, not what you tell me to’ routine, will it be fair to the boy doing the dirty dishes and cleaning tables in that ‘local dhaba’? May be the answer lies in the pleasant smile of a kid who I just saw coming out of a painting event organized by, of course, an NGO, with blobs of color all over and the outline of a sunrise on the paper. May be this time, instead of applying to glamorous names, you could apply for an internship to change lives and see what actual ground work is all about. May be instead of taking long vacations abroad, you could take your kid for a show of ‘The Other Side of Us’.

Let’s look also, at the bigger picture of education per se moving to the higher education scenario. In ANY education system, the main motto is to bring up an individual capable of surviving well with an overall growth. However, even in normal institutions, we see a huge block of people having all the right education, resources and luxuries but lacking a direction, especially the new students’ community. Thus are created every year, a new breed of drones quoting (read ‘vomiting’) their books. And well, when you are dealing with kids who have little clue what the so called ‘real world’ is, it is very easy for them to be demoralized, distracted or lose interest in ‘trying to live well’ part of it.

We need teaching, but more importantly, we need mentoring. We need giving those kids, the students and the younger folk in general, the old school value system that was imbibed in us, to be there with them whenever they may face the most trivial of doubts, even concerning routine work. To lightly put it, we all need a ‘Will Schuester’ for this club. You’d happily step forth do it for a junior in school/college, a colleague or a junior employee or a good neighbor in need. The open to all question is, would you do it for them?

By Harleen Kaur:

Human rights describe equal rights and freedom for everybody without distinction of any kind on the basis of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions. However, many people have always suffered from the lack of them throughout history. In fact, the lack of human rights has had a lot of effects on people lives. Our constitution was founded on the basic idea that all men and women are equal with liberty and justice for all. We must respect and preserve the rights of all, for when the rights of one are threatened the rights of all are diminished. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is an expression of India’s concern for the protection and promotion of human rights. It came into being in October, 1993.

Since its inception, the NHRC has dealt with various complaints and taken initiatives relating to atrocities on SCs and STs, bonded labour, child labour, child marriage, communal violence, dowry death or its attempt, dowry demand, abduction, rape and murder, sexual harassment and indignity to women, exploitation of women and numerous other uncategorized complaints. However the most alarming complaints regarding violation of our human rights are against those very people who have been given the mantel of its protection. The NHRC has in recent years been handling major complaints in respect of police administration such as failure in taking proper action, unlawful detention, false implication, custodial violence, illegal arrest, other police excesses, custodial deaths, encounter deaths, harassment of prisoners, jail conditions, etc.

The NHRC’s initiatives have led to a debate and a number of law suits regarding the rights of the police as well as the prisoners. It has taken a number of steps like drafting guidelines to check misuse of the power of arrest by the police, setting up of Human Rights Cells in the State/City Police Headquarters, steps to check custodial deaths, rape and torture; accession to the Convention against Torture, Additional Protocols, systematic reforms of police, prisons and other centers of detention, visit to Jails, mental hospitals and similar other institutions, etc.

Despite state prohibitions against torture and custodial misconduct by the police, torture is widespread in police custody, which is a major reason behind deaths in custody. The police often torture innocent people until a ‘confession’ is obtained to save influential and wealthy offenders. A programme coordinator of the Indian branch of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in New Delhi once commented that the main issue at hand concerning police violence is a lack of accountability of the police. About 800 people die after being tortured to death in Indian prisons each year. In 2006, the Supreme Court of India in a judgment in the Prakash Singh vs. Union of India case ordered central and state governments with seven directives to begin the process of police reform. The main objective of this set of directives was twofold: providing tenure to and streamlining the appointment/transfer processes of policemen, and increasing the accountability of the police.

Though the NHRC has been rallying against the violation of rights all measures continue to be in vain. The main reason for this is the lack of awareness and concern of people who find it easier to condemn people in prisons rather than protest for their rights. Every day when we open a newspaper we find at least one case of unjust use of power by police officials which we are swift to ignore.

The next time you ignore such cases remember this story of Germany: they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.

By P. Asha Ritu:

Folk media is an effective means of communication in today’s world since it not only helps connect people with their cultures but also revives the lost culture of the society. Folk media forms the language of expression for the local populace and gives them a chance to voice out their opinions on various issues. It depicts the constantly changing face of any society along with its virtues and vices. It is a method to underline certain dominant ideologies of the society through its own people. If observed closely, traditional folk media is an excellent tool to enhance communication and promote dialogue at the grass root level of any society.

The most popular form of traditional folk media is the folk dance. Colorful, vibrant, melancholic, elegant, graceful — all these attributes form the core of folk dances. They attract audience since the tunes are generally feet tapping and very well liked by the local crowd. The folk dances vary in range from the mountains to the plains to the desert to the coastal areas. Every geographical area differs in the type of dances that it offers. For example, in India, Punjab has Bhangra as their folk dance which is energetic and colorful for it is a dance of celebration for them while down south in Kerala, their folk dance is Mayil Attam( the peacock dance) which is elegant and is performed at village get-togethers. Traditional folk dances are an excellent mix of traditional folk music and folk tales that help communicate messages in an effective manner.

Folk music is yet another popular form of folk media. Music is governed by the language, colloquial accent, and instruments used by the local people. Thus, each territorial area has a distinct folk music of its own. Folk music is especially admired since it does not require elaborate set ups or any preparation. Wherever a crowd gathers, people begin to sing and others gradually join. Lyrics of folk music are pretty striking since they echo the problems of the people with a satirical taunt to the government and the officials. Folk songs of Bihar, UP, MP are very satirical and are often used effectively before elections to keep the people from getting allured by false promises.

Students performing street theatre on GM Crops

Street theatre is one more form of folk media that is being used widely to propagate socio political messages and to create awareness for social issues. A group of people perform on streets, and gather crowds. The objective here is to make people a part of the play and thus convey the social message. Thus, even a common man identifies with the issue and becomes a part of the act. Street plays are short, direct, loud, and over expressive since they are performed in places where there are huge crowds. They are known to propagate strong social reforms and are considered as powerful tools to mobilize crowds towards a certain matter.

Puppetry is another form of folk media that is equally entertaining and informative. Puppets come in four basic types- glove puppets, string puppets, rod puppets and shadow puppets. Each type is found in a particular state like glove puppets are found in Kerala, Odissa, and Tamilnadu. Puppet shows follow a story, a popular legend or a folk tale and end in a moral or social message. Children, adults, aged — all enjoy puppet shows. Paintings and sculptures also form an integral part of traditional folk media. The paintings depict life and socio-cultural environment of local people. This is a form of expression without words or music. They are not just images but give us a clear idea of what the people face in a societal setup, their problems, their struggles etc.

Thus, traditional folk media is much more than mere song and dance. They are a medium of expression for the common man, and a way to vent out his feelings. Along with mainstream media, even traditional folk media must be encouraged so that our grass roots are as strong as the class on top of the pyramid!

Image courtesy: http://safefoodalliance.blogspot.com/2009/02/street-play-marathon.html for street theatre, http://www.worldofstock.com/closeups/PCU2352.php for lead pic.

By Tong Niu:

Lately, the news has been less than pleasant to read. With an unstable economy, an ever increasing amount of fossil fuels released into the atmosphere and obesity rates on the rise, it’s hard to see the positives in our world. Every, new technological advancement seems to bring an equal, if not greater, set back. Cell phones cause driving accidents and radiation-induced brain damage, social networks lead to constant distractions and a decline in face to face interaction and synthetic growth hormones are negatively altering child development, causing young boys and girls to go through puberty at a shockingly young age.

And while it is important to understand and acknowledge current problems, often times we take what we read too seriously and fail to see how much society has progressed. We are led to believe that the bad in the world is significantly greater than the good and that our efforts to battle economic, social and environmental problems are in vain. With the media focusing more on natural disasters, wars and national deficit, a general sense of hopelessness pervades our society, making us less hopeful and willing to change.

It took a rather off topic physics class to help me reconnect with my inner optimist.

The lesson was regarding power and energy. Since its invention in 1809 by Humphry Davy, an English chemist, the light bulb has been an integral part our lives. The first light bulbs were made using tungsten filament to conduct electricity. In a typical 60 watt light bulb, 60 joules of energy are emitted every second. However, these light bulbs are inefficient in that 90% of the energy is emitted as heat and only 10% is emitted as visible light.

Next came the compact fluorescent bulbs, shaped funnily like curlicues. These innovative bulbs not only use less energy to produce and power, but also last longer. To produce the same amount of light energy, a compact fluorescent bulb requires only 15 watts, compared to the 60 watts in an incandescent bulb. Unfortunately, these bulbs contain poisonous mercury.

With advancements in technology, even the fluorescent bulbs have become outdated. Now, the Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are the most popular source of lighting. Small and compact, these bulbs require only 5 watts to achieve the same effect as the 60 watt incandescent bulb. And these come mercury free.

While we may only read about America being the largest electricity consumer in the world, we need to also keep in mind the scientific progress achieved in the field of energy efficiency. To think that the damage, in whatever field that may be, is too great to be undone is factually incorrect. When we ignore the positive steps society has taken towards social, economic, and environmental reform, we discredit the work scientists and researchers have put in. Rather than always focusing on the negative, we must celebrate and encourage more of the positive. When we show others that there is still hope, that’s when people can truly begin to fight.

Image courtesy: http://www.nacgroup.com/HVAC-services-EnergyEfficiency.html

By Nitum Jain:

As chaos ensued on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, the world wondered what exactly is North Korea up to. The two nations have been at loggerheads since a long time; the war between them didn’t end in 1953 but just continues in the form of assassination attempts, torpedo attacks, cross-border firing and finally, air raids. 57 years since the first open battle, another one seems to linger in the near future as South Korea has decided to not let this one go without strong retaliation.

Mr. Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea said, “Hundreds of statements and meetings wouldn’t work. I think it’s a duty for the army to respond with action. We can never tolerate unconditional attacks against civilians.”

23rd November turned into a day straight from hell for the residents of this South Korean border village when fires engulfed residential areas and a military camp. Several buildings including Yellow Croaker History Museum, Haeseong Motel, the shrine of General Im Gyeong-up, and an ammunition dump were aflame and were damaged beyond repair. All it took was 20 minutes and 50 shells; result was the death of at least two civilians and two marines and not to forget, many people were forced to flee from their homes and watch their abodes burn down in front of their eyes.

This stunt by the notorious North Korea has attracted much condemnation from Seoul, Washington and Tokyo while China, which has been North Korea’s main benefactor, remains mum, and Pakistan seems to be emerging as a silent supporter. South Korean troops have been put on the highest level of non-wartime alert backed by firm US support; today the USS George Washington (American nuclear powered super carrier) left Tokyo to participate in a joint military exercise with South Korea in waters near the attacked area.

Explanation has been given by the North, saying that it was the South who fired first where actually the South had merely carried out a scheduled military exercise which residents nearby had been informed about beforehand.

What is more disturbing is that this has followed the recent revelation of the growing nuclear power of North Korea. Sig Hecker, a Stanford professor, had toured the Yongbyon nuclear facility in the country and had been astonished to see the rapid development, the construction of a 25 megawatt light water nuclear reactor and the thousands of gleaming centrifuges were plain evidence of nuclear progress. If the world didn’t have enough to digest, the bombing sure has everyone shaken badly.

Hecker was informed that they wished to get the construction of the reactor complete by 2012 , which Hecker did point out was an unrealistic goal, they remain resolute as the year marks the 100-year anniversary of former dictator Kim Il Sung‘s birthday; in fact all their projects are scheduled for completion by the infamous year. North Korea just says that it’s going to keep the nuclear toys and the world should just deal with it. Often is said that Earth will end a nuclear death and the calendar has been dog-eared on 2012 in many a predictions. Is North Korea going to play the Devil?

The writer is a Sub-Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz.

Image courtesy: http://www.debateitout.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/

By Ananya Mukherjee:

The concept of Big Friend has arrived from America wherein it’s known as the Big Sister and the Big Brother program. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with mentors that try to have a measurable impact on youth.

In India, this concept is very new and has come up recently with collaboration of a Delhi based NGO called Udayan Care and a New Jersey based NGO called New Path Foundation.

The programme is based on a long term one-on-one volunteer service. It is a voluntary and altruistic work without material payback. Unlike some other voluntary services (e.g. picking up garbage is a good service whether you do it once or you do it forever), there is a minimum time commitment of one year for this service. This is because it is believed long term and consistent caring is a very important factor in building confidence and happiness in people.

It is believed, in accompaniment, there is no purpose or expectation. Accompaniment neither necessarily means helping the other person in solving his problems, nor an intent to change the other person. Accompaniment shows itself through caring with equality.
Accompaniment without expectation is wonderful but it is also hard to achieve.  We can work towards not to expect appreciation from our beneficiaries, and not to expect approvals from the society, etc., and gradually, we will be closer to the state of accompaniment without expectations and closer to be ourselves freely.

Another capability of love is to be mindful (doing things with a caringly focused mindset) in whatever we are doing. Whether we are writing a letter, engaging in a conversation, working in the office, or playing soccer, we will enter a state of complete focus if we are mindful. Letting go (even just temporarily) of our fears and expectations of the future, letting go of our attachments and regrets of the past, and then we can approach whatever we are doing in a more wholly manner.

One usually will only strive for something one really wants (playing tennis well, having a nice car, etc.), and often it will take a persistent and hard effort before one can get it. The practice and growth in love is the same. The primary goal for our service is to be in a loving mindset consistently while doing our service, as we believe accompaniment in love over the long term is a good enough gift in itself.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of the oldest and largest youth mentoring organizations in the United States. Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors children, ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country.

Public/Private Ventures, an independent Philadelphia-based national research organization, conducted a study from 1994-95, monitoring 950 boys and girls nationwide to study the effects of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Out of the 950 children half were randomly chosen to be matched, and the others were put on a waiting list. According to the study the matched children were with their Big Brother or Sister about three times a month for a year.

After surveying the children at the beginning of the study, and again after 18 months, The researchers found that “the Little Brothers and Little Sisters, compared to those children not in our program, were:

* 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
* 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
* 52% less likely to skip school
* 37% less likely to skip a class
* 33% less likely to hit someone

They also found that the Littles were more confident of their performance in schoolwork and getting along better with their families.”
“We have known all along that Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring has a long-lasting, positive effect on children’s confidence, grades, and social skills,” affirms Karen J. Mathis, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s President and CEO, “and the results of this impact study scientifically confirm that belief.”

“These dramatic findings are very good news, particularly at a time when many people contend that ‘nothing works’ in reaching teenagers,” said Gary Walker, then-President of Public/Private Ventures. “This program suggests a strategy the country can build on to make a difference, especially for youth in single-parent families.”

Udayan Care’s Big Friend Program in India is a group of idealistic people providing this little platform mindfully. As we walk together on this path of joyous service, we wish we can happily be ourselves, loving companions for the people we serve, and caring teammates for each other. May we often walk in the path of love, and may this loving accompaniment brings peace, abundance, and joy to those around us.

Indeed it’s a joyous path and the Big Friend gets a chance to grow up once again with his Little Friend. And truly, we would all want to grow up once again!

Image courtesy: http://www.operationsmile.org/, an amazing NGO.

By A M Radhika:

A report from the Global Carbon Project published in Nature Geoscience states that the world carbon emissions fell by 1.3% in 2009, most likely due to global recession. Not quite a reason to be happy. We are still releasing gigatonnes of CO2 every year. Biofuels and social responsibility are jargons now. The round-table conference on ‘Decarbonizing Economy’ had the Greanpeace executive director highlighting a 2 % global emission on account of ICT sector. A heavy amount of this power is going waste. Many people do not even thing of shutting down their computers after using them and of course, power management tools are given a pass. Ashwini Kumar, president, Manufacturers Association for Information Technology (MAIT) mentioned in the conference that there are concerns within the government and industry to drastically reduce power consumption in devices. “Energy consumption on standby mode in PCs is costing the nation Rs 100 crore annually. We are working to bring down this stand-by power consumption down to 1 watt by using quality power supply,” said Kumar. [Ref: http://www.ciol.com/News/News/News-Reports/Going-green-in-a-tech-driven-world/143705/0/]

Coming right to the point, we need what I call ‘GreeHab’,  meaning GREEn reHABilitation, as a counter to the ‘Old habits die hard’ routine we all run here and complain about in spite of the knowledge that we are far from doing our part in it. We need a portion of the year extremely and voluntarily dedicated to, of course, eco-friendliness but keeping the major focus as complete abstinence from wastage of power because we all know there’s a dire need for some extra effort.

To be taken more as a lifestyle change than anything, GreeHab is say, a week/month off of social networks (yes, all social networks) & daylight power consumption, the use of only public transport, heavy participation in clean-drives and of course, our quintessential steps like using black wallpapers (or Blackle, the black Google) and other web pages to save lcd power or switching of mobile phones and all standby powered on devices. I myself have put to practice a lot of these steps. The idea is to start of with a day’s GreeHab, extend it to a week, a month and so on. Trust me when I say this is extremely doable, if you find cycling to work an exaggeration. Trust me when I say you must start right now. Usually one ends up with a lot of potentially productive time on the hands as well. Think about how less power you wasted/will waste today.

Image courtesy: http://another-green-world.blogspot.com/2008_01_01_archive.html

By Aashu Anshuman:

I was born and bred in Patna, Bihar.

I am too young to remember the details but can recollect the news flashes from when the legendary “fodder Scam” was uncovered. What followed was a mockery of the Indian political system. Rabri Devi, a woman the people of the state had heard little about now and then but never seen, succeeded her husband as the Chief Minister.

Years rolled by. The condition went from being bad to worse. Bihar was the most backward state in the country. Jokes were made out of the state of governance in Bihar. Every year floods claimed whatever little the state had. Crime was the only thing the state topped in. Fear was a phenomenon which gripped the entire state. In 2005, a friend of mine was kidnapped and then I saw the dirty face of my home state in the eye. I can never forget the day my classmates and I tried meeting the RJD “supremo”, Laloo Prasad Yadav at the airport, while he was about to leave in his chopper. But an election rally couldn’t wait and after seeing him take off, I remember asking God to end my state’s suffering.

Ten months later, Bihar finally saw the change in power it so desperately needed. After the five years of darkness, utter darkness, the state finally saw some ray of hope. But the fear remained. The people had, by then, lost faith in their state and a mere change of the name plate outside 1, Aney Marg was not enough to restore it. But things did change, for real. It was no longer unsafe to venture out alone in the middle of the night, even for women. The government officers were toiling to meet the demands of the new CM, who liked to arrive at his office before time and stay until midnight. Corruption was taking a beating and the roads and streets of Patna were now livelier and fuller than they had ever been. The new government was not flawless, far from it. But the people of Bihar were doing all they could to make it work, to rebuild everything and  bring back what the state had lost in fifteen years. I, after having lost all hope, was seeiing some. I believed that although progress was slow, my prayer would eventually be answered. This was the story back home.

When I came to college, I saw that the damage the previous government had done to Bihar was not confined to being within the state. Being called a Bihari was an insult. Actually being one was synonymous with being an uneducated villager with Laloo’s accent. Some jokingly refused to believe that I was from the state (“but you speak English!!!”). But even here, things are very different now. People see Bihar in a different light.

My friends and I have been following the Bihar poll results with a keen eye all day. Now when I see Nitish Kumar winning again, this time with a mandate bigger than any I have seen in my lifetime, I am filled with joy. This article was not written as a political commentary or a discourse of any kind, but to precede the following lines.

I have never, amidst everything, been ashamed of my state. And today, as I see the historical victory of not a political alliance but a state which was wronged, plundered for fifteen very long years, I feel proud of the people of Bihar. Today I, as a Bihari, feel vindicated.

By Aarti Kumari:

When Betty Friedan said “The feminine mystique lies buried in millions of women” little did she know that time will alter, if not change, her words. Yes it’s true that the road to know about a women has no end, but surely it provides lot of bends. And ‘time’ always comes to the rescue whenever the path seems to make one look lost.

Women, the word seems to exist from time of which we have no track from when, but that little word always remained cuddled, wrapped in layers of mystery. When we travel back to old times, with a little help from our friend called ‘Imagination’, one can see the various pictures of women right from Vedic period till the modern day. From what she used to be – an over-all champion -from medicine, management (both at home and kingdom), spirituality or even on the battlefield. Name any field, and women always had a place for themselves. They also took pride in showcasing their abilities and skills, and always equaled with men. Time took its tide and turns and during the rise of Medieval period, women completely lost this status. In fact, they were considered as things, which were used at the leisure of men and their freedom was curbed. This period was supposed to be considered as the most tragic period for her, as the system of child-birth, female infanticide, polygamy, Sati and Purdah system were given birth to. Their strength and spirit went for a toss and her own beauty became her enemy. During these periods, women were confined within four walls under strict supervision from men and even her freedom of thoughts was caged. But it was from this period that we can still names of Razia Sultana, Chand Bibi, Jija Bai, Durgavati and Noor Jehan who braved and fought against their basic rights and crafted a name in field of literature, politics, education and even religion. During the British invasion when Indians were looked down as downtrodden, women had to face the brunt of racism apart from their own struggles. But few of them braved to come out of the shell and actively took part in the freedom movement. The years of endurance and sacrifice at last paved the way to enjoy the dawn of an independent India, which was a ringing bell for her own freedom too.

But despite independence, women were still chained in the names of tradition and age old evil practices. She was free to move, but only within the four walls and any door beyond that was sealed. She was given the basic educational right. Yet the priorities of giving importance to home always remained top slot. She was thrust upon with the responsibility of looking after home and catering to the needs to the members of the household, putting aside her thoughts or wishes. The only focus she had to move her eyeballs on was home and only home. Women took up these challenges and was moulded as a perfect homemaker. But when she saw her male counterparts at times struggling with petty issues in their work life, there spurred a thought in her mind, igniting the passion to try and walk on that same path, which she knew would excel in better than her male colleagues.

And thus was fought a battle again, demanding more freedom to choose her own career, to try to break the chains of early marriage, that would hinder her growth towards her passion for the profession. There was a tinge of rebellious spirit in this fight and she just wanted one result of it – her win. Slowly, the trend changed and women, though hardly handful, started to venture into politics, medicine, aviation etc where the entry was usually available only for men in those days. As these areas demanded hard work and devotion, not many women could come forward and convert their dreams into reality.
It was liberalisation and globalisation that swung the doors open. The corporate culture, which encouraged women employees, were thronged with passionate women who were eager to make a mark for themselves. MNCs, unlike Indian companies readily took in women employees, as they proved to be more efficient than her male counterparts or atleast at par.

This positive response and a promising future evoked many a women to chase their dreams and make their wish list into reality. Soon women started to explore areas which had been thought best only for men. There was sharp rise in the educational percentage and women actively took up the courses in professional or niche courses. Photography, wildlife, journalism, army, environmental science, RJing/VJing, tourism and travel are some of the fields that women took to explore and create their impression. Knowing that the challenges would double if they tread his path and that their brave spirit will be jolted by her rivals to shake their confidence, women continued to stick to her decisions and made sure to achieve what was in her mind.

Despite facing stiff competition and tiffs within the family and in the world outside, she took it up as challenge and showed her results that silenced the voice against here. It was the entry of IT industry that took the world by storm. IT became a dream career of many as its career ladder was lucrative and promising too. This seemed to be inviting and tempted women too. She hopped onto this field, which apart from being challenging demanded working late night / odd hours. To climb the success ladder, women were ready to be flexible, but the sudden changes in her couldn’t be absorbed by the society.

The late night shifts in BPOs posed a threat to her safety and security. A sharp rise in sexual harassment at workplaces, eve-teasing, rape cases made her give a serious thought which at times restricted her steps to move ahead. Also with a complete shift of her concentration on her career, the home life became imbalanced and it began to be taken for granted. The sudden change of a homemaker to a professional was unacceptable and that’s why a few more obstacles were raised for her to maintain a balance between the two if not complete dedication to family-life. Women still juggle to manage both and at times she is forced to make decisions choosing between the two.

Yet she keeps her faith and somehow manage to squeeze time out for her passion along with imposed duties. And as Bill Copeland says, “Not only is women’s work never done, the definition keeps changing.” True to his words, a lot of words have been replaced to describe women in an nutshell. Yet at the end of it either words fall short or her responsibilities, dreams/passion are too large to be confined in words.

Image courtesy: http://delhiwithavinash.blogspot.com/2009/01/citys-working-woman.html

By Pallavi Murthy:

Well, before I begin let’s have a clear idea about what is investment. Investment is putting money or capital in an enterprise with the hope of getting profits on the money invested. Then who is an Investor? An individual or party who makes an investment is supposedly an ‘investor’. But being a mere investor is not enough. There are various strategies and rules involved in sane investments. There are two ways of making money — appreciation in the market price of the stock and dividends which the company pays to its share holders

Most people invest in a particular business without having much knowledge about the same. For example consider a person with bucolic roots who does not have much knowledge about the IT sector. Now, if he wishes to invest in the IT sector without knowing much about the businesses carried out by the company in which he proposes to invest then it is mere foolishness. On the other hand are speculators who make speculations i.e. they forecast the psychology of the market. They frequently make money. This is frankly gambling. Making speculations and betting on an uncertain outcome is simply gambling. If the market moves according to what you as a speculator have predicted then you make money. But if the coin tosses the other way you lose money. When the same thing is in done in derivatives and the coin tosses over (i.e. the market does not move according to your speculation) then you lose big money.

A true investor is one who knows the business well. He does not invest unless he has complete knowledge about the company in which he proposes to invest. It includes having knowledge of what the company sells, how it functions or operates, what is the competitive environment, what are the company’s strengths and weakness, the company’s balance sheet and also what are the threats, opportunities and the market share of the company in that industry. Also an intelligent investor invests for profits that are based not just on optimism, but also on fundamental investing. Benjamin Graham, the pioneer of value investing encourages investors to have confidence on their own decisions and not go by what others say. He says, “You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right [or wrong] because your data and reasoning are right [or wrong].” For good investment one should be more analytical rather than speculative.

When asked about his views on good investment, Shrey Sao, a National Stock Exchange certified market professional said, “Sane investment rests on sound fundamentals”. He also brings an analogy between Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar and a sane investor. It is not the number of runs scored by him in a match but the manner in which they were scored that matters, he says. Similar is the case with investments. The investor should foresee the risk return profile first. He should not invest in an industry about which he does not have good proficiency. If you are investing in the stock market for the long term, don’t invest when prices are overvalued and fundamentals are poor.

Take for example Warren Edward Buffett, an American investor widely regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world. In 1990’s he had not invested in the IT sector and thus did not incur any loss during the dot-com-bubble. No doubt, he made no profits then but at the same time he did not lose anything.

In the market there are 4 kinds of investors. The first ones are the bulls who have an optimistic view while the second ones are the deer who make money when the market value falls. The third ones are pigs who aim for short term profits and the fourth ones are the chickens who are generally scared about market future. The bulls and the deer survive in the market while the pigs and chickens get slaughtered.

As an investor one should always aim for a sane investment so that they can survive and not be slaughtered. Investment is all about making the right decision at the right time. It is not a gamble but a wise decision that needs to be taken. It is up to you to decide what u wish to be — An ‘intelligent investor’ or a ‘mere speculator’.

Image courtesy: http://www.onlinefinancialupdate.com/category/investment/

By Shruthi Venukumar:

They say there is no age to begin to learn. But are we raising the bar too much by lowering the admissible age? On one hand, the education system is being swept towards a mode wherein pressure of studies and board exams are being taken off a teenager’s mind into postponement. On the other hand, the said moves only seem to be a concession in return for the overload of knowledge that a child is supposed to spoon down along with his daily dose of Cerelac and Lactogen. This is the question which churned my agitated brain cells at the sight which greeted me inside the creativity cell of a learning centre for toddlers in affluent South Delhi.

Filled with tots no more than 18 months of age and no less than 6 months, the cell was supposed to imbue (in tots whose creativity had not yet made an appearance) and extract (from tots whose skills could do wonders given a little push) creativity in/from the ones on its rolls.

Armed with this preliminary information, my vision was of seeing nifty just-a-notch-over newborns on the go proving their worth with paperwork, the alphabet and the ever-effusive realm of drama (after all, child artistes have a lower threshold to cross when it comes to entering the world of cinema (read glamour) and world-class theatre later on. My sight parted ways with my visage. The dim lights coupled with jarring toned walls would have rustled up an image of an interrogation room had it not been the jazzy hint courtesy the baby-sized disco ball throwing out myriad kaleidoscopic mosaics on… oh! Not on tiny tots grooving to the beats but son now balled cotton balls of tiny jumpsuits rolled about in the dancy arms of mothers, young, old and a mix of the two. The medley of music played by the synchronisation of a keyboard, drums and guitar had nursery rhymes played to the last upbeat tone by the likes of the lookalikes of the members of a Goan music band on the sidelines of the show.

Take a closer look and you would find that they are the ones to actually run the show. The mothers swayed about, gyrated and shook a leg to the demands of the fast-changing tempo of the music, grabbing into awkward moves the limbs of their children too. Some found it not so difficult to go off the grip of place and time and dropped their bundles of joy into the pram bundles next to the ayahs to get into a dance party of their own. One would have thought, and prudently so, that the kids were being trained for night-out dances in discs (and that too in visual detail; after all this generation is all about watching and learning over rote-learning) rather than all the things advertised in the brochures of the centre. A cut into the fees structure page and it starts to seem all the more absurd. Then again, it justifies why the drill is taken seriously at all by parents. After all, a price tag of Rupees 19,000 per month shines out doubling up as a hologram for quality.

A learning centre is touted to be to schools what a health drink is to regular food – a supplement to normal school studies. It is no substitute but a top up. And just like a child need not take to health drinks till a certain age, his/her interests best served by mother’s milk, the foray into learning centres can be postponed to an age where comprehension skills are better developed in the child. 6 to 18 month olds belong in real home settings where fairy tales, toddler classics and lullabies sound and resound in the air. Observing boiling bubbles skimming up to the surface of a milk bowl kept atop a flame and telling apart bird sounds score a march over the lopsided creativity workshops that a learning centre boasts of.

To be fair to the centres as well as to their older-than-a-pre-schooler beneficiaries, learning centres do deliver. With their programmes and activities involving creativity, clarity of expression etc, they help build confidence, cultivate articulation and correct speech gesticulation. But only if the exposure is at an age where a performer on stage (and this refers to all performers without props as well) starts to become evenly remotely aware of the meaning of his/her antics. No wonder many top of the line high school debaters and orators are pass outs from innovative learning centres. But to learning lies the prelude of observation and comprehension.

The human mind is keenest at observing and grasping during toddlerhood. The sheer novelty and never-seen-before charm that comes haloed with every single childhood experience makes for exciting learning in itself. The saddest prospect would be for the experience to be lost under piles of forced fringe “knowledge”. The kids in the creativity cell were blank as to how they were supposed to react under the disco ball glare and some tens of dancing women. Their interaction with other heads of their age in the room was limited to the point of nil. How then was the activity any different from a parent carrying around their kid in delightful moves in the privacy of their drawing room with a nursery rhyme rhapsody CD playing? I say there is a difference. In the drawing room, the child is not overwhelmed with strange merry faces in a less-than-melodious merry-go-round.

He/she has the emotional security to do their own thing, to enjoy and display emotions other than a scared, glum or void look and also bond with their earthly creator which would be a tad tedious to achieve amidst over-comfortable co-roomers in a creativity cell. What is fast turning into a fashion accessory for the rich is also matching time with turning into a money-minting machine for those who believe in commoditising education. The best of pioneering visionaries and scientists have not always had the “privilege” of attending “blank” schools, simply because of the inability of their progenitors to fire away blank cheques to what goes down as nothing more than frivolous down to brass tacks.

Only timely education is timeless. Mistimed education in misplaced fields may have a reverse catalyst effect on general development of the child.

Doofus in distress or creative in calm – what do you want your kid to be? It’s your pick.

The writer is a Senior Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz. She is a student of Politics and a keen debater. Catch her tweet @ShruthiScribe

Image courtesy: http://www.bombielmedia.com/2010/08/play-school-machaldan.html

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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