February 25, 2013


- Aakriti Raizada, [ ]
- Jinal Chheda, [ ]


"There are several ills plaguing the country. Unless we make a collective effort to fight them, the country cannot go that extra mile from being a developing nation to a developed one."

Constructing monorail bridges and tall towers alone will not help India develop. We can truly call it ‘India Shining’ only when every woman and child is safe, happy and can exercise their right to freedom and basic equality. Needless to say, we have miles to go before we can truly say India is shining.

For starters, Indian women are not safe. Rigid laws have ensured crimes against women are increasing day by day. A case in point is 498A, which is a law that is badly formulated and gender-biased. Anyone who is educated and reads the guidelines of this law can see how vicious it is and what are its social implications. Cases of rape, domestic violence, eve teasing, sexual abuse and sexual harassment are on the rise. 65 years of independence as there are no effective laws to curtail these acts.

The accused in such cases either never come to book or are bailed out. Helpline 103 is available but the fact is it is never answered by anyone, whether Indian or NRI women in India are treated harshly. In ancient times, women underwent sati, dowry, child marriage and killing of the girl child. While sati and child marriage may have been legally abolished, we still hear of dowry deaths and cases of female foeticide. Take the instance of the doctor from Beed in Maharashtra who was running a racket of killing female foetuses and even feeding them to his pet dogs. With the kind of media coverage the case got, no wonder the powers that be have woken up to the skewed gender ratios across the length and breadth of the country.

As society evolves, newer atrocities and crimes against women are surfacing even as the old ones die a natural death. For example, cases of sexual harassment are on the rise. Sample the cases that have come up for hearing before the courts in the past few years: Bhanwari Devi, Aarushi, acid throwing by jilted lovers, and so on. Are the laws effective in safeguarding the interests of women in the country. For example 498A is an ineffective law. Statistics show that every hour, two women are raped, three kidnapped, four molested, one is the victim of a dowry death, one of sexual harassment and, of course, there are umpteen number of domestic violence cases, some never even brought to light. One can safely say: “All Law is not Justice and All Justice is not Law."

In rural India, families are known to kill the new born child if it is a girl and this happens in several states across the country. Else there are cases of child marriage where girls who are too young to understand the meaning of life are forced into wedlock. What is surprising is even the educated class is not for the girl child in most cases.

Then there is the Women’s Reservation Bill, which has been a political raw nerve for nearly a decade now. It has always triggered heated debates in Parliament and outside. Its advocates say the Bill is essential for active political participation of women. Opponents argue that reservation would only help women of elitist groups gain political power, aggravating the plight of the poor and deprived sections. Its proponents say it would lead to gender equality in Parliament, resulting in the empowerment of women as a whole. Historically, the Bill’s supporters say, women are deprived in India. Increased political participation of women will help them fight the abuse, discrimination, and inequality they suffer from. Various political parties have staunchly opposed it because they fear many of their male leaders would not get a chance to fight elections if 33.3 per cent seats are reserved for women. The Bill has also been opposed by politicians from the socially and economically backward classes. They argue that reservation would only help women of the elitist groups to gain seats, therefore causing further discrimination and under-representation for the poor and backward classes.

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 is a shameful law.Why am I saying this? Firstly hats off to the Indian population. A country where there is shortage of food and shelter has a population running into billions. So a majority of children are deprived of their childhood, forced to work at a very young age instead of studying So child labour is rampant. Add to it runaway inflation, abject poverty where people are not able to fulfill their basic needs and the lack of basic necessities. No wonder the economy is floundering.

Now let’s take child labor-this will never come to end. I will share my experience with you: There is an NGO named Pratham for which I used to work. We were fighting against child labour. We visited a cracker and zari factory to rescue all the children working there. When I saw the condition of the children who work day and night without food and sleep, I felt sorry for them. Our team had a police constable and letter from a corporate, with the help of which we arrested the owner of the factory and rescued thechildren We took them to the Pratham shelter, where they were given medical aid and IQ tests. We came to know that the children had come from small towns and villages and there had been cases of child abuse, poisonous food, skin and other diseases. When we tried to trace their parents, we realised many of them were orphans while many parents didn’t even know of the condition of their children. While we sent some of them back to their homes, the remaining stayed with Pratham which provided them with food, shelter and education.

"Why talk about the country, talk about our very own city Mumbai. The BMC is already facing a lot of flak for its treatment of various issues affecting the city "

Right to free and compulsory Education (RTE) 2009:It may sound very important but doesn’t have enough teeth to be truly effective. I don’t know whether people framing the law are confused to the extent they cannot define RTE. This has two sides. RTE exists only in India and not in Bharat. Only govt aided schools provide free and compulsory education and not private schools. In rural India, this law is not at all effective. Though education is free, it is not compulsory. No education implies illiteracy and unemployment. Though we have RTE, we still have a high illiteracy ratio in India.

The other big problem is majority of educated Indians go abroad for higher studies and build a career there. Save to say, India is deprived of their contribution to its economy. People keep blaming the politicians but no one is ready to enter the political arena and do good for the country. If people do not look beyond themselves, it is difficult for the country to develop. With education, fewer births are taking place, the mortality rate is low and as a result, the older population is increasing. And so are their problems: with children settled in other cities and towns or countries and no one to take care of them, insecurities are on the rise.

The older section of the population is an important segment of society. They form twin strengths as voters and consumers. Needless to say, strong measures have to be taken to ensure they live a comfortable, safe and happy life. With this in mind, the Government enacted the Senior Citizen Act in 2007. Currently, 11 States have notified this Act including Nagaland, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam, Kerala, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Orissa. Other states are in the process of framing appropriate Rules for this Act. We sincerely hope the act is implemented in all states of the country.

Why talk about the country, talk about our very own city Mumbai. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is already facing a lot of flak for its treatment of various issues affecting the city be it pot-holed roads in the monsoons or garbage disposal or infrastructure that is bursting at the seams. Coming to the problems affecting our cultural milieu, untouchability, that curse on our society was abolished way back in 1950, but the shocking truth is it is still alive and ticking in many pockets of rural India.

Then again, the kind of reservation set aside for the backward classes has created a kind of reverse impact where the higher classes are now beginning to feel alienated and deprived of their basic rights.Any talk of the ills affecting India is incomplete without reference to the runaway double-digit inflation that is plaguing the economy for the past many months. The rupee’s free fall against the dollar has made daily living unbearable for the aam aadmi (common man), who is worst affected by the economic situation. Given this scenario, it isn’t really surprising that as India enters its 66th year of independence, it is still a developing and not a developed country. It is sad because this is one country that has the potential to be counted among the developed countries and soon...

There are a number of questions at the back of our minds.

Why is there illiteracy and poverty? Why are people dying of starvation? Why are the taps running dry? Why are there frequent power cuts across the country? Why do women and children continue to be kept away from basic hygiene? Why do the pot holes on Mumbai’s roads not diminish?

Mumbai is the financial capital of the state of Maharashtra as well as the country. Mumbaikars pay the highest taxes that go to the exchequer. So why we don’t get even one tenth of the benefits is something the Government needs to do some self introspection about.

And where does all the money go? To politicians for their frequent foreign trips and to beautify roads whenever VIPs visit major metros. We have a right to question governments and be informed. The Parliament of India has passed Right to Information(RTI) laws, which empower citizens to question the Government, inspect its files, and take copies of government documents and inspect government works. So we can use RTI as a weapon to fight corruption, fight against government, but people should take an initiative. One Anna Hazare isn’t enough. This country needs many more crusaders who can fight for a genuine cause: that of the people’s welfare.

Then again, we citizens must take initiative together to help India go that extra mile from developing to developed. Only then can our Vision 2020: India Shining come true...

Disclaimer–The views expressed in this article are purely informative in nature.

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