Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fasting Feasting

Politicians in our country i.e. "Humara Bharat" are on a fasting spree. Everyone wants to fight for a cause, go on a fast-unto-death (Though I never understood the concept behind this theory) Damn! The very concept of democracy which the Indian constitution is based on, justifies fasting, protests or any other form of expression under Article 19 which states the right to freedom of speech and expression, while clause (2) of the article has few limitations. (Let's not get into the law here)

In a democracy, every citizen has the right to express his or her views through different means (unless they are not a threat to the state or incite violence, etc). Fasting (in Indian politics) has been a tradition of the past that has crept into the present and still continues to be. 

Fasting for a separate state of Telangana was brought to the public domain by K. Chandrashekar Rao, (Mostly known as KCR in Andhra Pradesh), founder of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), a political party fighting for a separate state within Andhra Pradesh. Iron Sharmila is the best live example for anyone to know what fighting  for a cause means in India. She has been fighting for almost a decade now for the repeal of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) but is unheard. For almost ten years, she has been force-fed  through an IV line Similarly, many unheard voices go unnoticed in this country,

The purpose of writing this article is not to underestimate the whole concept of fast-unto-death or overestimate it. The point is that the "fasting syndrome" is not serving the purpose. 
For example: During the Telangana Bandhs in Hyderabad, many people who were in favour of a separate state were "fasting" by having bananas, snacks, soft drinks and sometimes, having had breakfast at home (early in the morning) and pretending to fast amidst the public's presence. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. were the timings decided by the members who were on a "fast". It was like a regular 9 to 5 job, with a few tea breaks and snacks time included in the fasting period or rather feasting time. To feast on so many things during fast became a trend. One member fought with the other on who would pay the bills for snacks, soft drinks and other food items purchased. For being a part of the "united fast" (throughout the state), women were given Rs.250 and a Biryani packet and men were given Rs. 150 with liquor and Biryani packet. 
KCR was made to drink lime juice during his fast while the media claimed he was "fasting" through an IV line. (Did you know: IV line is provided when a patient cannot take solid food and nutrients are provided through this line)

Another example: Recently, when I was covering an event in Bangalore, one of my colleagues told me that a group staged a protest against some accident that took place a day before the protest. Similarly, when I was asked to cover a BJP (bharatiya Janata Party) protest in Bangalore against fuel prices hike , I was contemplating on how to go about it.  But, when my friend and I got there to cover it, I heard nothing but the members of that party blaming the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government which is in power at the central level. I realized that it was absolutely NOT newsworthy. But, had to dig a story out of it and managed to do it.

The whole purpose of a cause is lost if people take to such despicable activities in ubiquity. Every corner, every street, every city is full of protests (not that it is wrong to protest) but, the reason for which the protest is staged becomes secondary in such cases. 

Therefore, one needs to be aware of the cause and fight for it (may be through fast or otherwise) rather than feasting on cakes, pastries, soft drinks during fasting.

(P.S. If you cannot fast ...have food and protest...No one is STOPPING you from having food)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"It is over-consumption related to over-population that matters"

With the population increasing rapidly in the world, one must be aware of the dangers associated with it. Some say: “the more the human resources the more is the productivity”. But, this notion doesn’t seem to work in today’s world. As the population increases, the demand for resources also eventually increases, which in turn increases the dependency of humans on various resources.

Overpopulation is not a myth, but, steps should be taken to control population.  As a result of controlling population, intra-uterine devices (IUD), Norplant (Sub dermal contraceptive), condoms for women and birth control pills or operation is done to sterilize men.

The population in India is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2040 (an increase of 500 million in 50 years)                                                 

Before stating any points on birth control methods, one needs to look at the causes for overpopulation. For example: If a developing country like India is considered in terms of population, there are many other factors which should be considered in order to study the population growth which has increased manifold times in the past few decades.

The factors which directly or indirectly affect the population are:
1.       Women and child health
2.       Poverty and hunger
3.       Environmental sustainability
4.       Education
5.       HIV and other diseases

Now, consider women and child health. Apart from looking at schemes like ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) which includes providing supplementary nutrition to mothers and children, vaccinations, mother’s meetings, pre and post-natal care and pre-school for children below six, infant mortality rate (IMR), maternal mortality rate (MMR), child marriages, female infanticide, feticide, human trafficking and sex work also affect population.

According to a report by International centre for research on women (ICRW) India ranks 11th in top 20 “hot spot” countries for child marriages in the world with 50 percent  of girls less than 18 being married. The present IMR in India is 52 deaths per 1000 live births and MMR is 230 according to WHO statistics. Human trafficking and abduction top the list of crimes committed in the country. According to Child Rights Trust, 50 percent of women between 15 to 49 years of age suffer from anemia in India.

Poverty and hunger has been a major problem in India. The gap between the poor and the rich is increasing day by day when it should happen the other way round. According to WHO report, 43.5 percent of children under five are underweight.  And, farmers who produce crops go hungrier and poorer day by day.

Environmental sustainability is a major challenge globally. But, in India, with many burgeoning industries trying to establish their base in our country, environmental damage has been happening. For example: SEZ’s was called as the National Land Loot Act by Aridham Chaudari (Source: Blood Billionaires, Scam Billionaires in The Sunday Indian). In places like Singur, Nandigram, Kalinga Nagar, etc. people have been promised rehabilitation and have been displaced from their lands which has converted them into ecological refugees from ecosystem people. Proper water and sanitation facilities are accessible only to a handful of people in our country.

Though Right to education (RTE) act is brought into force, many children lack access to good education from the very basic level.

 India tops the list in the world with highest number of HIV cases in the world. In fact, many diseases are caused because of sanitation, poverty and lack of proper health care systems.

Apart from these factors, we should also look at how China has been successful in implementing one-child policy as a drive to control population. Though India had a policy of hum do humare do in the 1970’s, it was largely criticized because of sterilization techniques which were proved fatal to many in the country.

In the film “Something like a war”, doctor speaks about the three lakh operations he did in 13 years. He makes it appear as if it is something very normal, but with hindsight, those operations did not benefit many women as they had side effects and had to suffer from many other diseases. Especially diseases related to hormonal imbalance in women.

As India and China are compared to each other in terms of population or development, when we consider population, India’s population is said to exceed that of China’s.  But in terms of development, India is far behind, violating basic human rights like right to water, food and proper sanitation. But China has managed to tackle these problems with proper planning and implementation of programs.  Also China’s research and development sector has 4000 people working under a single project in the sector while India has hardly 40 people working under one project in this sector.

In terms of technology, sustainability and economic development, China is far ahead of India. What one has to look at is not China or India’s technological advancement, but development with inclusive growth.

 According to Ramchandra Guha, development means "economic efficiency, social inclusion and environmental sustainability". Another definition he quoted was, "Minimization of suffering and maximization of welfare".

But this concept of development can be followed through proper implementation of programs/ schemes on birth control, educating people about family planning. In the process, many uneducated people who are unaware of safe birth control methods take to sterilization processes, contraceptive pills which adversely affect their health worsening their condition.

Though fertility rate has dropped in the past decade, the existing population has to be aware of family planning and birth control methods in order to spread the word to the coming generations. Also, the existent population should use the available finite resources very carefully in order to survive on this planet.
For Example: A woman in rural Ethiopia can have ten children and, in the unlikely event that those ten children all live to adulthood and have ten children of their own, the entire clan of more than a hundred will still be emitting less carbon dioxide than you or me.

Like Fred Pearce says “The truth is that the population bomb is being defused round the world. But the consumption bomb is still primed and ever more dangerous. It is over-consumption related to over-population that matters”.