Monday, 26 January 2015

RK Laxman - A tribute to the original commonman

Born on 24 October 1921, he was the original author and illustrator of the common man who caught the fancy of the Nation since 1951.  He passed today on 26 January 2015 and the Nation is saddened by the loss of a great Man who used subtly humour to convey complex and critical issues.

Goodbye dear Common Man - May you have a heavenly abode.

Major Mukund Varadarajan

His supreme sacrifice was honoured with an Ashok Chakra today.  Saw the interview of his Wife on NDTV today.  I think the lady had conducted herself with such pride and dignity that I felt that the sheen on the supreme sacrifice of the young Major was enhanced by her conduct and the way in which she expresses her views.  The way she kept her balance and did not lose faith in the system is a lesson for many people who just keep indi-bashing at the drop of a hat.

I stand up to salute her too - for today i felt that she was also a real Hero!!  May God look after the family well.

Ashok Chakra - A salute to our heroes

Two of the brave sons of our country who have been martyred were honoured with the highest peace time honour i.e Ashok Chakra.  We stand up and salute these heroes.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao

Hello everyone - Wish you a avery happy New Year and these wishes could not have been more happier - thanks to the wonderful initiative i,e BETI BACHAO BETI PADHAO (BBBP), announced by the Union Minister for Women and Child Welfare - Smt Maneka Gandhi.  As per the Minister, the scheme is set to be launched on 22 Janaury 2015 by the Hon Prime Minister,

The Minister requested the local administration to focus on registration of pregnancies, institutional deliveries (to avoid abortions), registration of births and celebration of the birth of the girl child & felicitating the mothers.  

Smt. Gandhi encouraged the DCs to develop a mechanism through informers and community watch groups to keep a vigil on the ultrasonography centres or persons indulging in unfair or illegal practices. She told DCs to ensure that Gudda-Guddi boards should be displayed in every panchayat office providing the details of number of boys and girls born in a month. She also requested to provide incentives and to recognize individuals, villages, gram panchayats supporting the cause of BBBP. 

We cant agree more with everything she directed.  We only have a little more to add.  Most of the current measures (the ones which are actually working) are directed at the symptoms and not the actual disease.  In elaborating, I am going back to an old post of mine but it is worth re-visiting the same in the present scenario.

What we are trying to stop is "Infanticide" which is only the symptom!!! Surely, no amount of Govt legislation to ban these tests would help because we Indians are very innovative at finding alternate means.  Therefore to counter it effectively, apart from the measures being instituted by the Govt, there needs to be a fundamental change in the perception of the people and the social customs in our country. 

At the moment, the birth of a girl is only taken as a double blow to the family, i.e - 
1.  She doesn't continue the family lineage 
2. She has to be married off by spending a huge amount of money.
 Apart from the two above major reasons, the others are:- 
3.  She cannot look after her parents in their old age
4.  Some of the Parents with girl children feel inferior
5.  Traditionally, she cannot light the pyre of her parents
6.  A lifetime committment is required to look after the girl even after the marriage
7.  She has to be protected and looked after wherever she goes unlike a boy

If we objectively analyse each point, we can see that all of them are imposed on the girls and their parents by the social customs and not by their choice.  It is the normal society which is enforcing all the above points on the girls & their parents in the name of our established 'customs and traditions'.

Therefore, female infanticide as we see it now is only the end product. There are a lot of social factors that are driving people to engage in this dastardly act and to really make a difference, these social factors need to be addressed first.
With regards to the 7 points mentioned above, let us examine the role of the society.

1.    She doesn't take the family name forward. - It is widely accepted that a girl drops her father's  name on marrying her husband i.e she merges with her husband's family and is no longer considered a part of her father's family.  But, is it really neccessary? There are many women who maintain both their father's and husband's name. Take for example - Ms Sulajja Firodia Motwani, Aiswarya Rai Bachan etc but these are limited to the high societies only.   The society could easily form a custom of retaining the family names of both father and husband with a girl's name.

2.    A lot of money is required to marry off a girl.  Well it does take a lot of money to get a girl married.   While the expenses to conduct the marriage depend on the affluence of the father of the bride, it is the aspect of dowry that is back breaking for many a parent.  This is the single most issue critical for the increase in female foeticide.  A boy only brings home money (in the form of dowry) whereas the girl takes away a lot of money from her parents (often all of it). 
The problem doesn't end there as the parents also have to look after the girl during several occassions such as festivals, family functions etc.  whereas, in the case of a boy, one just needs to give birth and he will surely get married and bring home some money even if he is handicapped.  Though the Govt banned dowry as illegal, it is common knowledge that dowry is given and many times photographs are also taken of money being handed over. 

3.   She cannot look after her parents in their old age.   In the present setup, a girl quite obviously cannot look after her parents in their old age.  Not because she doesn't want to, but because her husband/in-laws would not let her do so.  The same husband would instantly drop her at his parents place if they fall ill.  So, whose fault is it? it is definitely not the girl child's!! It is the society that accepts in an unwritten code that a girl (after marriage) need not go to look after her parents but must look after her in-laws.  This again requires only a change in the mindset of the society and bring in new thought.

4.   Some of the Parents with girl children feel inferior.  This again is a creation of the society only.  Every elder blesses a couple/woman to have a baby boy only and it is widely reported that if you tell lies, you will have girl children (as a punishment).  I heard this saying for the first time while in class 6 and  you can imagine its effect on young minds. Many people also take it a curse to have girl children (like in the movie devdas - in which kiron kher curses shah rukh khan's mother that they will have girl children in their house) and men are considered macho only if they have boys. This not withstanding the fact that Bill Clinton, George Bush, Michele Obama, Manmohan Singh etc have only girl children.  These feelings create an inferiority complex and often there is a discussion of 'ladki walein' (girl's side) and 'ladke walein' (boy's side) even among friends and relatives.  And we do notice that that 'ladke walein' are often insensitive to the needs of the 'ladki walein'.

5.     Traditionally, she cannot light the pyre of her parents.   Why not? Gone are the days when women were too weak hearted to light a pyre or needed to be stopped from jumping into the pyre themselves.  In the modern day era, where women have reached the moon and are heading the biggest of corporates, cant they light a pyre in the absence of any male child in the family? The present custom is archaic and needs to be changed.

6.      A lifetime committment is required to look after the girl even after the marriage.     A lifetime committment is indeed required with a Girl due to the present social conditions.  For example - a pregnant girl is taken to her home in the final months to provide her care and comfort.  But the reason for this custom is that she may not be looked after well in her in-laws house.  Similarly, the girl's parents pay for the hospitalisation expenses and delivery of the child. Doesn't the child belong to the husband also? Then why doesn't the boy's side pay?  Similar are the cases during many festivals and family functions!!

7.   She has to be protected and looked after wherever she goes unlike a boy.    She has to be protected in the present day world where even 2 year old babies are not spared from rape.  That is the subject of my next blog post.

In olden times when families and the number of children were large, it was an extremely remote possibility for a couple to have only girls. Sometimes they had a boy after 4 or 5 girls (in extreme cases)  This resulted in every family having a mix of both boys and girls.  This permitted easy implementation of most of the customs as families were balanced.  For example if a girl in a family was married off and dropped her father's name, there was another girl (as daughter -in-law) entering their house after dropping her own father's name.  However with the families becoming nuclear and smaller (with only 2 or 3 children), the balance is getting skewed against girls and with this all the attendant problems are also on the rise.

Couple this with the 'objectification' of women in the movies,T.v and the internet - we have a recipe for disaster in the name of female foeticide.

So, we need a coordinated effort to remove these thoughts/obstacles which are in the minds of a majority of parents of girl children.  Only then will wonderful initiatives such as BBBP will fully bloom and better still - such initiatives may not be required even if the overall mindset changes!!!!
(p.s:- i would also write to the ministry with my humble suggestions and I hope they will be of some use to them)