Monday, 14 July 2014

Muslims face issues of 'inclusion' in police force

By Gajanan Khergamker

The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report indicates during the UPA regime, the police force registered a dip in the number of Muslim policemen across the nation. This, after the UPA regime claimed its government was committed to implementing Sachar panel’s recommendation for better representation of Muslims in the police forces.

Gujarat ‘includes’ most Muslims in its police force
Ironically, Gujarat, a state often pegged as an anti-Muslim state ever since the 2002 Godhra riots, revealed a completely different picture.

An RTI application filed in 2012 revealed that Gujarat, which faced one of the worst anti-Muslim riots in the country, had emerged as the state with the largest number of Muslims posted in police stations, higher than states with larger Muslim populations.

The data, shared by the Home Ministry after an RTI application was filed, revealed that 10.6 per cent of Gujarat’s cops posted in police stations were Muslims. This, in 2012, was higher than the proportion of Muslims in the state’s population, which was 9.1 per cent according to 2001 census. According to the details provided by the Home Ministry, the state had 5,021 cops from the community out of a total of 47,424 in its 501 police stations. Based on this data, on an average, Gujarat accounted for 10 Muslim cops per police station.

Instead of ensuring a minimum number of Muslim policemen in the force across the nation, the share of the minority community has fallen to an all-time new low of 6.2 per cent in 2013.

This marks a decline in the total percentage of Muslim representation in the force from the 6.5 per cent Muslim component in all-India police in 2012, 6.52 per cent in 2011 and 6.9 per cent in 2010. The 2005 Rajinder Sachar Committee had recommended deploying at least one senior Muslim officer in each police station in Muslim-dominant areas along with few other suggestions.

In definitive numeric terms, the number of Muslims in police forces across the country dropped down to 1,08, 602 in 2013 from 1,08,975 in 2012. This is according to latest data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Monday, 13 January 2014

Should there be ramps outside ATMs for the disabled?

“Being disabled due to age or infirmity is a curse. Worse still is if there is nothing to make daily life any easier. Isn’t there a law or rule providing aid for the disabled to bank or use ATMs? What is the solution to an issue that makes life miserable for the disabled?”

- A disgruntled senior citizen, Colaba

For one, I feel, India has failed to tap the resources of seniors and/or the disabled who are empowered with colossal experience and wherewithal to tackle situations in a way few younger could. However, the very basics associated with urban life, such as banking and communication are almost out of reach for the senior and/or disabled.

While almost all Mumbai banks are swift to insist on Know Your Customer (KYC) norms and force customers to update their records vis-à-vis providing latest documents, proofs and the works, none of them adhere to a Master Circular issued by the RBI with regard to making their branches and ATMs disabled friendly.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Tapping Into Age-Old Resources

Supported by DraftCraft Connect

“All our policies, all our plans for future development, most of them are aimed at the youth. We talk of employment opportunities for the young, education for children, health reforms for the young and middle-aged…while all these are commendable, we are consistently ignoring a big group of people. Senior citizens today are living longer, their health is comparatively better than what it used to be, they are more aware of their rights, they are travelling more and spending well. And yet, we are refusing to take them into account,” says founder editor of The Metrognome  Vrushali Lad.

The Metrognome  has “always believed in inclusivity, especially in covering news.” Senior citizens are a part of society in Mumbai, and a vulnerable group of people against whom crimes are on the rise. They are also under attack from such disorders as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which Mumbai’s unhealthy lifestyle and stress seek to exacerbate. “We’ve always had a special place in our hearts for our senior citizens, which was why, we devoted all of September 2013 to Alzheimer’s and Dementia awareness through sustained coverage and events,” says Vrushali.
Old age is not just about loneliness, heartbreak and the dealing with aching joints – it is also a time to share valuable experiences, impart lessons, and sit back and enjoy a life well lived. It is also about being included in conversations and activities with younger age groups. It’s this thought that prompted The Metrognome and Silver Innings to devise a storytelling programme for seniors and youth - ‘Koffee With Kahani’.
“At its core, ‘Koffee With Kahani’ had a very simple idea – our grandparents were the first source of stories in our lives. They would not only recount the classics, but make up stories on the spot to amuse and engage us. But, with time, and with families going nuclear, the grandparent is often missing from urban homes. If present, we find both grandparents and grandchildren jointly watching television and not communicating with each other at all,” says Vrushali.

The Metrognome  decided to go back to the storytelling tradition. After all, who doesn’t like to hear a good story? But the emphasis would be on storytelling by engagement with the youth. Vrushali Lad says, “We devised a format where a senior citizen would write the story, and team up with a young person to recount it. This automatically ensured two things – seniors and the youth would work together on the story and bond while doing so, and both would get people from their age groups to watch them present the story, so even the audience for the event would be a mixed one.”

Pics courtesy: Sailesh Mishra, Silver Innings

The Metrognome  and Silver Innings decided to test the viability of the programme with a pilot event in Borivli, which has a thriving senior population associated with clubs and parks in the suburb. “When we floated the idea of seniors writing a love story, we did not anticipate such a good response,” says Sailesh Mishra, founder president of Silver Innings. “Since we had decided to keep the event small, with coffee and snacks being served as the stories were recounted, we selected three stories for presentation.”
The event was held at Veer Savarkar Udyan in Borivli, which saw a good audience turnout. A real life love story by 75-year-old Jimmy Dordi, in which he recounted his hilarious honeymoon 45 years ago, won the audience vote. After the event, seniors and youngsters both asked for such a programme to be held again.
The Metrognome  and Silver Innings are now planning their next storytelling event. This year, the event will only be hosted in Mumbai, at various spots.
Apart from ‘Koffee With Kahani’, the two will also be working on events aimed at senior citizens’ participation throughout 2014.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Urbanisation is an opportunity...Tap It: Narendra Modi

By Gajanan Khergamker

Issues of trans-state migration and the influx from rural segments to urban cities create lop-sided development and threaten to polarise India into two distinct parts. But, even as most of the nation’s polity battle with the scourge, day in and out, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi sees it as an opportunity and not a problem.

Spearheading the National Summit on Inclusive Urban Development at Maratha Mandir in Gandhinagar on October 17th providing the perfect foil to the bane of urban misery, Mr Modi said, “instead of cribbing, had steps been taken from Day One to handle urbanisation, it would not have become a problem.”

The summit, a brainchild of Mr. Modi, was attended by more than 5,000 planners, delegates, government officials, mayors, urban planning experts, administrators from 132 Indian cities, 26 states, 411 districts even city municipal corporation staff from Japan, Bhutan, Colombia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The National Summit on Inclusive Urban Development at Maratha Mandir in Gandhinagar

Spearheading the National Summit on Inclusive Urban Development at Maratha Mandir in Gandhinagar, Mr Modi said, “instead of cribbing, had steps been taken from Day One to handle urbanisation, it would not have become a problem.”
“There is no need to think of urbanisation as a challenge. It is an opportunity. Therefore, we need to provide infrastructure in a well-planned manner and only then, can we have results,” he insisted. However, he maintained, that it was not possible to bring about a transformation in a system with old standards. “We need to adopt new and state-of-the-art technology. We need to stress on new urban planning, explore new concepts for providing infrastructure,” he said.

The need for a balance in urban and rural growth is felt more now than ever, added Mr Modi. He stressed on the need to improve the quality of urban life for Scheduled Castes, oppressed, persecuted and have-nots to realise the Mahatma’s dream of clean cities.

Members of the Rajasthan delegation at the National Summit
The concept of town planning had changed from providing basic roads, drinking water and sewer lines to setting up townships within towns, he said. At the same time, Mr Modi cautioned against unplanned development leading to haphazard growth. Town planning should be considered as an opportunity and not as a crisis. He said he had sent a proposal to the Centre for developing 500 self-reliant clean cities, recycling solid wastes generated into organic fertilizers for horticulturists to grow fruits and vegetables. Gujarat, on its part, has already initiated the scheme in 50 towns as a pilot project. India, he said, has fine specimens of town planning in the ruins of 5,000-year-old Indus Valley Civilization sites at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, Dholavira and Lothal.
Members of the Himachal Pradesh delegation at the National Summit
“Over nine crore people have migrated from villages to towns in India during the last decade. One-third of India lived in towns, which are job centres and hubs of economic activity. Another 25-crore people will flock to towns by 2035. A genuine attempt should be made to use homegrown men, materials and machinery. Civic bodies should be sensitised to the problems of the citizens,” said Mr Modi adding, “I hope that town planners and elected representatives fulfill their social responsibility.

Members of the Tamil Nadu delegation at the National Summit
Japan, the partner country in Vibrant Gujarat 2013, wants more and more Japanese industries to set up their manufacturing bases in the state because of the industry friendly approach of the government. “Gujarat will be Japan’s manufacturing hub,” said Japanese ambassador Takeshi Yagi at the summit. Mr Modi met a 35-member Japanese delegation led by their Ambassador Takeshi Yagi and Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industries President Masakazu Sakakida. Japan, incidentally, was the Country Partner in the Summit.

Members of the Kerala delegation at the National Summit
Others who held one-one-one meeting with Mr. Modi included mayors of different cities in India and abroad, city administrators, bureaucrats, town planners, technologists and environmentalists.

Mr Modi, also BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, took a dig at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh without naming him. The former said he had suggested to the PM to use the public-private partnership model to convert waste into fertiliser in 500 cities of the country. “Although I did follow up on the proposal, no progress has been made in this direction at the Centre. Anyway, nothing is expected of him,” said Mr Modi. So, he decided to run a pilot project in 50 cities to generate power, fertilizer and reusable water by setting up solid waste management plants. Power, reusable water and fertilizers generated by these plants will be provided to rural areas for usage in agriculture. The CM also announced implementation of the waste to fertiliser project in 50 villages of the state. He asked to remove manual scavenging from the country to mark Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary and convert cities into Nirmal Nagar and also build a Model City by 2022 to mark the diamond jubilee of India’s Independence.

Addressing the City Leaders’ Conclave at the National Summit on Urban Development, Mr Modi asked them to take adequate steps for planned urban development to preempt an urban crisis. It is difficult to provide good delivery system in the traditional ways. He asked them to take the mantle of providing ‘techno savvy leadership’ rather than ‘political leadership’. He strongly urged for the use of 4Ms as the formula for optimum utilisation of money source, manpower, machine technology and maximum mobility. He also called for redressing citizens’ grievances to solve their problems, evolve good delivery system, involve people’s participation, save the towns from pollution and build green canopy.

As for water harvesting, which is being promoted heavily throughout urban India, Mr Modi said, the practice has been in vogue in Gujarat for the last several centuries. On Gujarat, he said, we have extended 24-hour electricity and Internet connectivity to every village. He recalled that Gujarat has built the Mahatma Mandir, the venue of the summit, in a record time of 182 days with soil and water brought from all corners of India. At the summit, Japan’s Ambassador to India Takeshi Yagi spoke of how Gujarat has become Japan’s new manufacturing hub in India, as well as a global business hub, attracting investment, thanks to good governance and transparency. He provided details of Japan’s share in developing urban transport, Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail and Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industries President Masakazu Sakakida said Japan has identified Gujarat as the best place for growth. A number of Japanese companies are coming over to India with over 60 such Japanese companies already having set up their offices in Gujarat alone to spread business.

Former Urban Development Secretary of Government of India Dr M Ramchandran said there is need to create an appropriate strategy for balanced slum-free urban growth by providing basic civic amenities like affordable houses and public transport, clean and hygienic surrounding.

Urban Development Minister Anandiben Patel said Gujarat has earmarked adequate budget allocations for a strong urban sector as it rose from Rs 127-crore in 2000-2001 to Rs 6,650-crore now. About 42 percent of population lived in 160 municipalities in Gujarat.

Monday, 4 November 2013

'Criminal' Tribe Continues To Face Brunt Of Ostracism

A recent Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) study found little evidence to support the popular belief about organised Pardhi gangs engaging in robbery and theft in the city. The most recent study’s findings don’t come as a surprise, as it’s only the latest among a string of studies quashing a popularly-doled-down-generations urban legend triggered by the pre-Independence legislation branding the tribals as criminals. The study also revealed how almost 90 per cent of the Pardhis living in Mumbai for the last three decades are left struggling for a caste certificate or a voters’ card.

That’s probably the reason for the 100-odd Pardhis living in and around the streets of Gateway of India, eking out a day-to-day existence by selling gajras, toys and flowers to tourists. Even after three decades of living on the streets of Mumbai and having applied for an Aadhar Card, flower-seller Leelabai Pawar rues being picked up off the streets in the night and packed off to a shelter in Chembur on several occasions.

The stigma towards Pardhis can be traced back to the last century, when India’s ‘criminal tribals’, affected adversely by deforestation and anti-hunting laws as well as the imposition of a tax on salt that most traded in, found themselves on the brink. A few of the nomadic tribals even indulged in petty crimes, which led to the British swiftly adjudging the lot as preordained criminals. In fact, according to an 1880 report of the Bombay Presidency, an area dominated by the modern states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, members of a Pardhi sub-tribe are “always ragged and dirty, walking with a sneaking gait”. The Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 was created to ensure that members of about 150 tribes registered with the police were banned from moving around freely and, often, cordoned off into wired camps.

The tribes were formally ‘de-notified’ in 1952, after India won her Independence, but sadly, with the exception of a few like the Meenas in Rajasthan, the fortunes of many de-notified tribes (DNTs) have scarcely improved. “Kya jail mein sab ek hi jaat ke hote hain kya,” quips Pardhi toy-seller and Gateway resident Raju Kale when asked about their criminal background. Despite the logic being as skewed as the caste system itself, a lot of Mumbaikars tend to treat the Pardhis with acute contempt.