Edit/Op-Ed

We are not ashamed…

Dr. Rameeza A. Rasheed for BeyondHeadlines

The Indian government and the Indian citizens have been aping the west in many matters in an attempt to project themselves as a very trendy nation.  It is true that India is an emerging economy and has a pride of place at the global level.  But, we as a nation have to be ashamed of certain undesirable factors which exist in this country. They are related to the treatment of women, senior citizens, children and the disabled, the indifference to environmental cleanliness and the high level of corruption prevailing at all the levels of governance.

Position of women In India

Indian women are denied justice in matters of economic, social and political equality in spite of constitutional guarantees and legal protection. The very bad treatment of women in this country is  indicated by the result of  Expert polls conducted by Thompson Reuters Foundation  i.e., “India is the world’s biggest democracy, but is ranked fourth most dangerous country for women  in the world due to a combination of violence, dangerous customs, lack of education and poverty affecting Indian women.”

It is not an exaggerated finding, because not a day passes without news report of rape incidents happening in different parts of the country and Delhi proving to be the rape capital of the country. Even four year old girl and old women are subjected to brutal form of sexual violence. The PM, the President and the leaders of the ruling party and the opposition parties expressed shock and concern over the raping of five year old Delhi girl child. But what is the use of their reaction when rape incidents happen unabated in spite of the recent, “anti-rape law” which has put in place a slew of new provisions and tougher punishments? The recent rape reports prove the point that the   solution to sexual assault on women can not be solved by laws alone. Laws have been ineffective in the face of a patriarchal culture. A combination of several measures have to be attempted urgently, if we are really ashamed of the poll result of 370 gender specialists around the world that voted  India, as the worst place for women among  all the G20 countries.

What is the use of death sentence, sacking of the police commissioners or advising girls to be careful in several matters?  These incidents mostly happen within homes. It is the mind set of boys and men that has to undergo drastic changes. The responsibility for correcting this situation lies on the parents, teachers and film makers. It is true that it will take a longer time. Till then the quick solution is to sensitise the lower level police personnel who are slow in filing FIR and speedy justice system. More over, the sexual assault crimes must be declared as non bail able offence. The son preference attitude which is dominant among even rich and educated families results in higher level of feticide resulting in skewed sex ratio i.e., 940/1000 as per 2011 census. The missing women of 60/1000  have disappeared from this world due to feticide, infanticide, higher female child death rate, higher maternal mortality, dowry death,  honour killings and  suicides which is due to rape, acid attack, sexual harassment, dowry harassment, domestic violence etc.,

In no other country the teachers, religious preachers, policemen and politicians indulge in raping  girl children. The culprits are selected to contest election without any political morality and win the elections too and then try ever Method possible to escape punishment. Even female tourists become victims of rape and this has compelled few countries to declare India as an unsafe country for women travelers.

In the three months since that attack, the number of foreigners traveling to India has dropped by 25 per cent, according to the study by the New Delhi-based Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The number of women tourists has dropped by 35 per cent, the study released said. A poll of 370 gender specialists around the world that voted, India, as the worst place for women among all the G20 countries caused ripples in India. It stung – especially as Saudi Arabia was at the second-worst. But the experts were resolute in their choice.

“In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave.”

Yet, we are not ashamed of the unsafe conditions prevailing in India for girls and women in spite of the existence of so many laws.

Position of disabled persons in India

As per Census 2011 results there are 21 million people in India as suffering from one or the other kind of disability. It is equal to 2.1% of the population as per 2011 census data. This meant that while the government officially recognises 20-30 million disabled people, 50-60 million are invisible. The constitution of India ensures equality, freedom, Justice and dignity for all the individuals, including persons with disabilities through the policies of the Government of India. But there is total indifference to need of the disabled persons in this country. For example, the railway stations are not accessible. Ramps are rare and that too limited for entry into the foot over–bridges. Platforms are inaccessible. The gap (height) between the platform and the coach varies from station to station. India is noted for lack of resource allocation for facilities and opportunities for the disabled. The toilet has been made, but sadly it does not follow the international standards. The height and space are not made according to the requirements.”

Negative attitudes held by the families of the disabled, and often the disabled themselves, deter disabled persons from taking an active part in the family, community or workforce. Those suffering from mental illness or mental retardation face the worst stigma and are subject to severe social exclusion. In fact, employment of people with disability actually fell from 43% in 1991 to 38% in 2002, despite the country’s economic growth. In the public sector, despite a 3% reservation since 2003, only 10% of posts have been identified as “suitable”.

The situation is far worse in the private sector. The sector has few incentives for hiring disabled people. In the late 1990s, employment of people with disability among large private firms was only 0.3% of their workforce. Among multinational companies, this was a mere 0.05%. Financial assistance too has hardly reached those in need. The quota policy is also covers just three types of disability – locomotors, hearing and visual. The equipments needed to assist the disabled in their daily tasks are not mass produced and are costly.  The Indian disabled persons are subjected to deprivation in many dimensions of their lives. Yet, we are not ashamed   of the inhuman attitude and indifference towards them.

Dirty cities of India

India cannot claim to be the world’s leading economy when its urban areas pose a major public health hazard. We might have reduced the number of poor people thanks to the benefits of planned economy. But the Indian government has failed to instill in urban and rural Indians, a civic sense and respect for public spaces. Many people are still defecating and urinating in the open, like they did centuries ago – not just in villages, but in urban areas as well. Forbes has rated Delhi as the 24th dirtiest city in the world with the filthy waters of the Yamuna and its unhealthy surrounding being cited as one of the chief factors. The arrangements made to improve the basic facilities like sanitation, drainage or infrastructural facilities by our government are not sufficient to meet the growing expectations of ever-growing population of the developed or developing cities. A Chinese tourist made a comment about Indian environment in one of her travelogues as, “All the places in India where there are human dwellings have three things in common—they are dirty, smelly and messy.”

Indians seem to lack civic sense when it comes to cleanliness of our public spaces  It is true that, it is difficult to expect the slum dwellers to maintain cleanliness since they are not provided with toilets and  regular supply of water. What about the well off sections? We often see people traveling in busses and trains and walking on the roads, spitting, urinating and throwing garbage any where and every where. The beaches and parks and other public places look dirty because of the lack of civic sense among the Indians. The conditions of some bus-stands and railway stations are a direct reflection of national attitude towards cleanliness. Some government offices look very dirty. Indian city roads and lanes are filled with uncleared garbage and stagnated water. According to some survey report, half of the households in India do not have access to toilets. Many government schools do not have toilet facilities. The lack of clean   toilets in the tourist spots and national highways is driving the foreign tourists mad. We are not bothered about environmental degradation and pollution caused by some of our activities. Is it because Indians in general have no regard for cleanliness?  No, India is so dirty because people prefer to live in that dirty environment than to clean things. . The government departments and the individuals lack sense of cleanliness. Yet we are not ashamed and talk about Incredible India.

Status of children in India

The children of today are the future of tomorrow and they constitute one third of our population. Hence their needs are to be addressed immediate. But the statistics available on their status in India is very shocking.

One out of 16 children die before they attain the age of 1, and one out of 11 die before they are 5 years old.

35% of the developing world’s low-birth-weight babies are born in India. Out of every 100 children, 19 continue to be out of school.

Of every 100 children who enroll, 70 drop out by the time they reach the secondary level.

Of every 100 children who drop out of school, 66 are girls.

65% of girls in India are married by the age of 18 and become mothers soon after.

India is home to the highest number of child labourers in the world.

India has the world’s largest number of sexually abused children, with a child below 16 raped every 155th minute, a child below 10 every 13th hour, and at least one in every 10 children sexually abused at any point in time

The very survival of the Indian child is a matter of concern. Around 2.5 million children die in India every year, accounting for one in five deaths in the world, with girls being 50% more likely to die

According to a report on the state of India’s newborns, the health challenges faced by a newborn child in India are bigger than those experienced by any other country. One in every three malnourished children in the world lives in India. (40% of child malnutrition in the developing world is in India) Child malnutrition is generally caused by a combination of inadequate or inappropriate food intake, gastrointestinal parasites and other childhood diseases, and improper care during illness.

A new report by the Naandi Foundation concluded that around  46% of all children below the age of three are too small for their age, 47 percent are underweight and at least 16 percent are acutely malnourished, or wasted.

India does have welfare systems aimed to aid millions of the hungry; school meals theoretically feed poor children across the country, and the Anganwadi services provide support to mothers in every district. Yet the services are plagued by mismanagement and corruption, Al Jazeera reports, that the school meals carry worms and insects in them, and the Aganwadi centers are often closed and  dysfunctional.

Many of the street children who have run away from home have done so because they were beaten or sexually abused. Tragically, their homelessness can lead to further abuse through exploitative child labour and prostitution. Not only does abuse rob runaway children of their material security, it also leaves them emotionally scarred. Many of the abused children are traumatised and some refuse to speak for months. The facts and figures about the Indian children should cause some concern to the government. Yet we are not ashamed of the plight of the children.

Corruption

Corruption is a social evil. It spreads like cancer .Corruption in India is a consequence of the nexus between bureaucrats, politicians, corporate and the law offenders. Today, the number of ministers with an honest image can be counted on fingers. It looks as though entry into politics is to earn illegal money. At one time, bribe was paid for getting wrong things done but now, and the citizens are used to bribing for getting right things done at right time. It has become so widespread and deep rooted and the result is for everyone to see i.e., India is ranked at 95th position and 96th among   183 countries in 2011 and 2012 respectively as per Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

Most of the government offices are the places where corruption is most evident. Police are supposed to be the symbol of law and order and discipline. Even they are indulged in wide spread corruption. This is more so because, they enjoy unlimited powers and there is no action against them even on complaints. It is very distressing to note that   even the judiciary is not free from corruption. No one is made accountable for the various scams, involving several thousand crores of rupees .The process of law dealing with them is very slow. Hence, the influential law offenders are not really scared of punishment.

Currently, the nation is rocked by exposure of scam after scam at the government level.

Major corruption cases uncovered in 2012 include: the Karnataka Wakf Board Land case, at US$36.4 billion; the 2G Spectrum telecommunications case, involving the alleged misappropriation of US$32.15 billion; the Indian Coal Allocation case, a major issue as India faces energy scarcity, involving US$33.78 billion. With a total value of over US$100 billion, the corruption cases represent 5.5 per cent of India’s gross domestic product for 2011. If it is not controlled in time, it will eat up all the good work done far. Even the safety of our nation is jeoparadised due to corruption in defense deals.

According to the World Bank, India has a poor rating on business climate. “One of the reasons is related to bribery and corruption resulting in lower FDI flow. “It is difficult for foreign companies to operate in India without being touched by the issue of corruption in some shape or form. India slipped to the fourteenth spot from the eighth position in the list of countries that attracted the highest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) last year. The FDI   Inflows into India declined by about $10 billion to $25 billion, according to the “World Investment Report 2011” released by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) According to the investment report, India ranked way below its competing neighbor China, which saw FDI inflows to the tune of $106 billion in 2010. India was in the eighth place in 2009. The major reason is corruption, yet we are not ashamed of our global image in this matter.

(The author is a Chennai based academic and a retired Professor of Economics with specialization in gender and Indian economy.)

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