It is time – break the silence

“We use cloths during our menstruation period which we have to recycle but because of shortage of water, it is not possible,” says Deepali Balote a 14-year-old girl from Dolasne drought hit village of Ahmendnagar city in Maharashtra. But that is not all. The girls in rural India are not allowed to touch water taps or vessels because it is believed that they will pollute it. “We cannot cook for four days, cannot touch idols and cannot touch pickles or other cooked food while menstruating,’’ she adds.

This is a common scenario in the villages across India. Menstruation is still considered a taboo causing a real harm especially to girls who have just reached their puberty. The girls feel shy and avoid talking about the problems that they face.  Many women and girls in this village are found to use materials such as old rags and newspaper every month due to unavailability of sanitary products and water during the time of periods.

Government of India has been promising sanitation infrastructure for quite some time. With the approval of the National Urban Sanitation Policy in December 2008, the Indian government seeks to address the gap of sanitation in rural areas and organize a systematic sanitation programme. However, in Dolasne, Darewadi and many other villages the gap of sanitation still exists.

“It is difficult to get water from the tankers,” says Aruna Ganesh Shivsagar . She despite being eight months pregnant carries about five buckets of water every day. Like Aruna there are many other women who face similar problems.

These women are also told not to cook food when they menstruate because they will pollute it. They are also not allowed to touch idols as it is believed that they will defile them. Pickles are also not allowed to be touched as they will go rotten by their touch.

The health related problems is one of the main issues the girls and women face during the time of menstruation. Lack of proper hygiene during menstruation also attracts lot of infections.

Ahemadnagar being one of the 19 pilot cities of Maharashtra is yet to come up with a proper sanitation plan. “There is no toilet in my house and it is really painful to always go to the fields,” says Laxmibai Baban Jadhav. The situation worsens during the drought season. “Forget washing clothes, there is no water even to wash ourselves during the time of drought,” she said.  There are hundreds of these villagers who defecate in the open because of the lack of access to toilets. It is because of this that there are a lot of health related problems such as infection of the small intestine and lack of nutrients for proper growth and development.

Beyond superstition and discrimination, many Indian women face lack of clean, safe and proper lavatory facilities. Sanitation is among the most dismal and depressing topics in Ahmednagar. It is stuck at a primitive stage and very few people have access to toilets.

Even for the people who want to adopt proper sanitation by constructing a toilet near their house are unhappy. The water shortage has affected them a great deal in achieving proper sanitation facility as their toilet construction has been on hold. “I am regretting my decision to construct a toilet as it has been kept on hold for two years now. I am still going to the fields,” says Savita Roy Das Pawde, resident of Dalewadi village.

Water shortage has heightened the problem of menstruation and sanitation. It is indeed a trying time for women to bathe during the time of menstruation because of the scarcity of water. Forget about proper disposable methods, these women do not even have any privacy when they have to change their sanitary cloth. It has also been observed that there has been a drastic drop in the number of girl students after they reach puberty. “There is no toilet facility in my school and I have nowhere to change or dispose of my pad. My family insists on me to stay at home and get married,” says Dipali Arun Auti class 9 student of Bhairavnath Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Dolasne.

These girls and women do not bathe during menstruation and most of them reuse previously used cloths for absorption. Without any accurate knowledge about menstrual hygiene, the girls adhere only to cultural practices and taboos. In fact, bathing restrictions is just one example from the wide range of menstrual taboos that they go through.

It will take several years or probably generations to bring in systematic sanitation in rural India. Apart from having a proper lavatory it is education also that matters. The taboo needs to be changed. Anecdotally, it is observed that only those girls in India who do not believe in any superstitions regarding menstruation are those with educated mothers. The best way to change the minds of all the future women in Ahmednagar is to keep the girls in school today and to have basic lavatory facilities are one of the easiest way to do that.


It’s all about loving your country

images (1)
Movies keep the spirits high | Image source: HT

Mangal Pandey – The Rising. Chak De India! Peepli (Live). Mumbai Meri Jaan. Aarakshan. D-Day. Satyagraha. What is common among these movies? All these films are about nationalism, patriotism or highlight a social and economical issue of our country during the time period shown in the movie. Another important thing which is common about these films is that all of them were released in August; most of them during the week of 15th August.

Indians celebrate Independence Day on August, 15 every year, film makers and producers use this date to release their films during this season when the feeling of love for ones country in high.

Mangal Pandey – The Rising was released on 12th August, 2005. The movie was not without its flaws but it was one of the first in depth movie made on a lesser known freedom fighter who had an influence on both, the Indians and the British. Scenes such as the fight between an English officer and Aamir, when the former forcibly tries to molest Rani soon after the mujra and the climax of the film, when Mangal Pandey (Aamir Khan) is publicly hanged are some of the scenes which are made to make the audience feel extremely patriotic and very often successfully do so.

Chak De! India was released on 10th August, 2007. When the women’s hockey team wins the world cup; when a foreigner is hoisting the Indian flag one is spellbound and feels the love for his/her nation more than ever before.

Aarakshan was based on the reservations in India and social and political upheaval it caused in India. Though not appreciated by everyone, the movie did well in select cities and amongst select audiences.

These movies are very strategically released around Independence Day as the common Indian is exposed to patriotic messages during this season. These messages are of various kinds and are delivered in several ways. Schools are celebrating Independence Day. Politicians and political parties are sending out messages about freedom and independence. Advertisers also use diversity of our culture, patriotism as their central theme in the advertisements they make. Reality shows on TV like Indian Idol and Jhalak Dikhla Jaa also have Independence Day specials; episodes in which the contestants are made to sing and dance on patriotic songs or have the central theme of their act related to independence and freedom. As the audience is already on a high dose of patriotism, these movies do extremely well in the box office.

These films also do extremely well with the NRI audience as they are away from home and these films make them feel closer to their homeland. They feel a great sense of pride when an Indian wins in a match or defeats the British or simple celebrates Karva Chauth.

This year, there are two major releases D-Day and Satyagraha. While D-Day has already released and done well on the box, Satyagraha is yet to release.

D-Day which seems to be the desi version of Zero Dark Thirty was highly appreciated by the audience as well as the critics. However, D-Day maybe more than just being a film showing love and loyalty to the country. It would not be too wrong to call D-Day jingoistic in its script and execution. However, one could see numerous praises for the movie on twitter and facebook. According to most of the people, the movie was a “must watch”.

Satyagraha which is yet to be released (on 30th August, 2013) is about an uprising of the middle class against corruption and injustice prevalent in the system of the country today. It is about a spontaneous movement to challenge the status quo of the society.

Patriotic films in India have always told their audience about the hardships and the sacrifices of the freedom fighters and national heroes of the current times. They have inspired people time and again to do something good for their nation.

The top ten patriotic films** of the last decade in Indian cinema are:

  1. Border
  2. LOC Kargil
  3. Chak De! India
  4. Mangal Pandey – The Rising
  5. Rang De Basanti
  6. A Wednesday
  7. Lakshaya
  8. Lagaan
  9. Swades
  10. The Legend of Bhagat Singh

A bumpy ride for Punekars

Potholes, like these on FC Road, are causing major traffic snarls all across Pune. Photo: Nayan Das
Potholes, like these on FC Road, are causing major traffic snarls all across Pune. Photo: Nayan Das

If you think the traffic all over the city is crawling because of the rain, you are wrong. Gaping potholes on the roads have slowed down vehicles simply because their drivers do not want mechanical breakdowns when they go over the potholes. The city roads have been left with a lot of defects these days with the steady drizzle interspersed with a few heavy showers. The potholes are the biggest nuisance for pedestrians as well as the citizens using vehicles.

Hitting a pothole is really dangerous for a motorcyclist. “It’s extremely difficult to know the depth of potholes during rains while you travel. This can lead to serious casualties,” says Bishal Paul, a student who uses his motorcycle to commute daily.

The PMC every year spends crores of rupees in building the road and later on repairing them, but during monsoons all their efforts go in vain. These water-filled and slushy potholes at Sus goan road are a nightmare. Citizens say that the officials showed no urgency in filling up the craters. Not only Sus gaon, there are other areas such as Karve Road, Viman Nagar and Paud road where a rash of potholes has made the lives of many people miserable.

Pallavi Roy a resident of Viman Nagar complains about the increase in the number of accidents happening due to the bad condition of the roads. “For pedestrians like us it has created a lot of mess t walk in the footpaths as the roads are full of traffic and we reach college almost an hour late”, says Roy.

Pune city has received a very good amount of rainfall this year and with two more months for monsoon to end; the conditions of roads are going to worsen. The civic body does attend to potholes on days when the rain hold sup, but filling them up with bricks and rubble worsens the problem.

Sharat Prakash, an employee of Tata Mahindra feels that the term ‘potholes’ should be swapped with ‘death-holes’. He also adds that these ‘death-holes’ not only makes the driving experience horrible but also provides a difficult time to the pedestrians. “ Some heavy vehicles speed over these potholes sloshing dirty water on people on their way to work, attending job interviews, etc leaving them stranded and helpless,” says Prakash.

There were plans to use a tough terrain road building technology for potholes where cold mix technology will be used since it can be laid even when it is raining but when the PMC officials were contacted, they refused to comment on this.

“The potholes are not only making holes in pockets due to increased repairs but also killers! The traffic chaos due to potholes wastes fuel and only escalates pollution. But who is accounting?  asks Hema Royde, the manager of an NGO in Pune.

Maruti’s Manesar plant has no plans of closing down now

Safe, for now | Image Courtesy: The Hindu

The Manesar plant, one of Maruti Udyog’s  most modern facilities, which was on the verge of shutting down is finally going to function like before. At a time when Maruti is gearing up for a massive manufacturing unit in Gujarat, the plant at Manesar had a lot of issues.There were plans to close it down as it was facing the prospects of paying an additional amount of over Rs 500 crore for extra piece of land.

The plant sits on a massive piece of land which is around 600-odd acres. The Haryana government had realized that the threat given by the company would turn out to be a problem for the people because not only does the plant manufacture hatchbacks like Swift and sedans like Dzire, but is also the sole base for making engines for all the diesel models. This plant was also a big source of employment for the people out there.

The management is now happy because of the support received from the Haryana government and now that their demands have been met and they have been granted this rebate. Had the plant been closed, there would be around 20,000 workers who would have been jobless and Haryana would have suffered a loss of revenue which would be around Rs.8,000 crore. The Manesar plant is one of the most crucial facilities for the company as well as for the global operations of the Japanese company Suzuki. As compared to Maruti’s first plant in India which is at Gurgaon, Manesar is relatively new but has all the modern methods and techniques of making cars.


Rupee tumble makes petrol dearer

Illustration Courtesy: Manoj Kureel
Illustration Courtesy: Manoj Kureel

Petrol price hikes are a matter of concern for everyone today. The prices of fuel all over the country have increased by 1.86 per litre because of the deteriorating exchange rate and increasing international oil prices. According to Indian Express, an official directly related to this matter said, “the Cabinet has restricted oil companies from raising diesel prices by more than 50 paise per litre in a month. This cap is expected to be relaxed as oil companies are losing more than 9 per litre revenue on the fuel.”

People are furious by the hike this time. There is certainly a sense of panic as the government issued four hikes in just six weeks. The current price is the fourth consecutive hike after May. Only the Union Cabinet has the authority to raise the fuel price by more than 50 paise in a month.  Though the price of petrol has been raised by 1.55 per litre, it will differ in different cities because of the local taxes.

If the value of rupee keeps on falling, the companies would have to increase the oil prices yet again. According to Indian Express, the movement of prices in international oil markets and INR-USD exchange rate is being closely monitored and developing trends of the market will be reflected in future price changes. Since last price change, the downward spiral of Rupee against the US Dollar has continued to reach a low of 60.03/USD as against 58.94/USD during the previous fortnight. Further, international petrol prices have also shown an uptrend and increased from $115.29/bbl to $117.19/bbl. The combined impact of deteriorating exchange rate and increasing international oil prices has resulted in the need to increase petrol prices by 1.55/litre (excluding VAT).

It remains to be seen what the UPA does with tremendous pressure already being exerted by the Opposition. The Reserve Bank and the State Bank of India were pressed into action last week to rescue the rupee from tumbling any further, but so far they, too, have been ineffective.

The Political Game Show

20th Asian Athletics Championships in Pune, July 3 – July 7.

The game of politics has never remained a constant theory to make accurate calculations and assumptions. In India, it seems to be even more complex. In a move which looks like a step of her campaign against the Sri Lankan government after the emergence of probable new evidence of war crimes, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa took the decision that her State would not host the 20th Asian Athletics Championships this year. In a statement, she said that the participation of Sri Lankan athletes would hurt the feelings of the Tamils. Ms. Jayalalithaa also said that her government wrote to the AAA, seeking the exclusion of the Sri Lankan contingent from the event. This was in view of the Sri Lankan government acting repeatedly against Tamils.

Such game of politics is not new in our country and the Central government should have kept in mind the regional aspirations of the State government before asking them to host the event. Similarly, the State government should also think about the international image of the country especially when we talk about India emerging as an Asian Giant. While it is always credible to have a stand on serious issues, at times we must have the sportsman spirit as well. Interestingly the event was not only rejected by Tamil Nadu but also by Jharkhand and Delhi for reasons better known to them.

Amidst months of uncertainty and indecisiveness, the Asian Athletics Championships was finally decided to be held in Pune’s Balewadi Stadium from July 3rd to 7th. Citing the difficulties the AFI faced all along, its secretary-general C.K. Valson said, “Of course, it would have been terribly shameful for the whole country had we been forced to back out of our commitment. But thankfully, all our worries are almost over as we have now that the Maharashtra Chief Minister has cleared our proposal to have the championship in Pune.”

The AFI, compared to the comfortable budget of over Rs. 40 crore allotted by the Tamil Nadu Government, would be working with a scaled-down allotment of around Rs. 12.75 crore to be made by the Maharashtra Government for conducting the meet in Pune. Later on the Maharashtra Government has also provided another Rs. 4 crore for sprucing up the stadium in Balewadi. There is no doubt that Maharashtra is the financial capital of the country and this time it acted as a very strong face-saver. The Congress-NCP led government under the leadership of Prithviraj Chavan once again proved that they are the ultimate master of all games.


After much political drama, Pune to host the Asian Athletics Championship

Balewadi sports complex

After much controversy, Balewadi Sports Complex at Pune will finally be hosting the 20th edition of the Asian Athletics Championship. This championship was originally supposed to be hosted in Chennai, but due to various political reasons was handed over to Maharashtra.

Preparations for the event are at full swings and the championship is supposed to start from the 3rd of July till the 7th of July. The event will see participation of 45 countries and a total of 578 athletes will be a part of this championship. This event will be a good platform for India to build good relations with the neighboring countries. During these five days, a total of twenty-one events would be covered.

 There are a total of 150 players thereby making it the biggest contingent in the championship. Many athletes who were a part of the 2012 London Olympics such as discus thrower Vikas Gowda, Krishna Poonia, triple-jumper Renjith Maheshwary, 3000-m steeple chase runner Sudha Singh and 800-m sprinter Tintu Luka will all be a part of this tournament.

The previous edition of this championship was held at Kobe, Japan in 2011 and India had managed to win 12 medals. this time, our country is looking forward to winning more laurels. Balewadi stadium has been in full swing to leave no stones unturned to impress the athletes.