The First Legal Blow against Patriarchy

In Independent India the first legal blow against patriarchy was sought by the great Dalit leader Dr B.R. Ambedkar in the form of the Hindu Code Bill which was to ensure the right to divorce and right to property to women. However, the obscurantist upper castes prevented this and so the Bill failed to be enacted and had to be jettisoned in 1951. This led to the resignation of Ambedkar as the Law Minister and in his resignation letter he clearly accused the other members of his party Indian National Congress including the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of being against the bill and against women’s emancipation. Ambedkar then resigned from the Congress party also and formed a new party. Even though later the Hindu Code Bill was enacted into law in bits and pieces even today women are deprived of property rights and it is not easy to get divorce either.

The Tribals are governed by their Customary Laws

In an article, “Does Hindu Marriage Act cover ST ?” in the Indore daily news paper, Hindustan Times, Sunday , 1 July 2012 it is stated that, “tribals are governed by no law as far as their marriage and divorce are concerned”. This is a gross travesty of the truth. The Bhil and Bhilala tribals of Madhya Pradesh, India, may not have a written law but they do have their own customary law in this regard. In disputes regarding marriage there is a system in which the contending parties sit down along with other tribals of their community in open panchayat meetings for resolution. Once the resolution is reached then those attending stand witness to the agreement and even if this is not written down it stands as a ruling that has to be obeyed. In the case where the couple decides to separate the decision of the panchayat is the decree of divorce . These days with the increase in literacy among the tribals, the agreements reached are often written down and signed by some of the panches and the contending parties and this becomes the decree of divorce. The article discusses the law of marriage in the case of divorce between one male tribal Sujit Baghel and his wife Meenakshi Gawli. This was first considered in the community panchayat in Kukshi in Dhar district from where Meenakshi hails. But the Baghels, who are a powerful political family, refused to accede to the demand of Meenakshi for divorce on the grounds of domestic violence being perpetrated on her by Sujit. The Baghels tried to use their political influence to overrule the tribal community panchayat. This was not acceptable to Meenakshi’s family and so they were forced to approach the court. Thus, this is not a case of tribals not having marriage laws but that of a politically powerful male tribal disobeying the traditional tribal marriage laws which stand up for the rights of tribal women. The tribals have many customary laws that govern their lives and livelihoods but it is the tragedy of modern India that these have been systematically ignored by the government and the courts. The case is now being heard in the High Court of Indore and the Baghels are opposing divorce on the ground that the Indian marriage law does not cover tribal marriages. There is a clear mala fide intention to deny justice to Meenakshi in both the traditional and modern legal forums. Ideally, in this case, the High Court should send the disputants back to the tribal panchayat upholding its supremacy under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution which gives cognisance customary tribal laws.

The Ford Foundation and India

I return to my journal after a long hiatus of over a year and a half in which I was very busy in the field and also doing some research to understand the problems that the poor in my country face. Why is it that despite so much effort the poor still remain oppressed. Researching into this I came across literature on the role of the Ford Foundation and the USA Government in the immediate post World War II era in preventing true emancipation of the poor in India. The fear of the spread of communism from China to India led both to advocate rural development without radical social change. Here is a note that I have written based on an article by Sunil Babu – THE FORD FOUNDATION AND INDIA The young Henry Ford II reshaped the Ford Foundation in 1945. Earlier there were three members as the trustees of the Foundation. Ford resolved to broaden the board and gave a new shape and direction to the institution with the concern being national and international policy work instead of just local philanthropy. Thereafter from 1948, Henry Ford II began to scale up the Foundation’s work nationally. Mr. Rowan Gaither was the first person who took responsibility to find out the possibility of scaling. According to his report he suggested that America’s main policy goals should be to remove poverty, disease and racial conflict as these conditions produce unrest and social instability. He was more concerned about the spread of the communist movement in the World. He said that such miserable conditions of the masses contribute to the spread of communism. The Foundation worked on the basis of his report in the following decades. When India got freedom in 1947 the Ford Foundation was not an International organisation. A massive change had come in world politics after the Second World War. The breakdown of the European colonial powers gave the USA an opportunity to consolidate its hegemony and make it permanent. On 20th January 1949 President Harry S Truman declared South Asia as an under developed area and launched the era of development. He advanced the idea of development as a strategy for the USA to lead the world. This was the political context in which the Ford Foundation entered South Asia. Ford Foundation’s Staff was recruited from high government, business and academic positions for easy interchange of ideas between the Foundation and high level American government officials, academicians and business figures. The Foundation was organised for its operations to keep in touch with leading American figures and government officials for their advice on international operations. The Foundation selected countries such as India and Pakistan for its wider international role. India was a newly Independent poor country and it lacked financial support for its development programmes. Thus, this country which was on the rim of China could get affected by communism. Ford Foundation staff discussed the possibility of a long term, well financed and wide ranging programme of rural development with the US State Department and the Government of India. Finally it got the permission to enter India and its staff visited various development projects under way in India including the Etawah rural development project in Uttar Pradesh. This visit was to provide a vision for South Asia’s future development, the appropriate American policy in India and the Foundation’s role. More than $55 million of American aid was given to India. A joint programme was signed on 4th January 1955. This programme was launched on Gandhi’s birth day on 2nd October 1955. It was clear that the Ford Foundation and the American Governmnet funded the Indian government not for their commitment to the Indian people but to reduce the spread of communism in South Asia. The Ford Foundation sponsored not only the community development programme (CDP) but also sociological research on rural areas called Village Studies in India and this became a new tradition in Indian sociology. The Ford Foundation rushed to implement the programme and foreign representatives of the Foundation kept a direct watch on all villages. Thus, the exact picture and policy goals could as a result be drawn from the project. Most of the village studies were in the Structural-Functionalist framework with rich descriptions about the villages of India. The village studies in different areas had given the clear-cut picture of Indian villages that was essential for the Ford Foundation and the USA. Village studies provided an idea of what actually was going on in different villages. This picture helped the US to assess the possibilities of the development of the communist movement in India. The USA realised that the South Asian villages could become a cradle of communism and revolution could occur with the help of the Chinese. The agenda of the Ford Foundation and the USA, therefore, was to resist the spread of communism in Asia because they were thinking that India is an ideal place where they have to work for resisting communism. Structural-Functionalism is not simply a theoretical frame work, but also has a methodological and ideological character which had been the most accepted methodology for sociologists in the USA. As it is well known the functionalist theories of the sociologist Talcott Parsons, which flourished in American sociology in the post World War era papered over class differences and stratification of society as major causes of conflict and oppression. Those who did the village studies based on structural functionalism became popular in India and abroad. Thus, totally ignoring the deep stratification and the resulting oppression of the poor in rural areas and advocating rural development without addressing these deep inequalities and injustices. The Ford Foundation, therefore, had funded the village studies and community development programme to further the American agenda of stalling peasants revolts in South Asia because India is on the rim of China and could have been affected by communism. The consequence is that even today the vast majority of the masses in rural South Asia still remain oppressed by deep class and caste based inequalities and injustices.

Correct Diet for Maintaining Health

The ancient system of medicine in India called Ayurveda or knowledge of life, lays great stress on following a correct diet for maintaining health. Here I will briefly detail the various principles of Ayurvedic diet. The various characteristics of food can be identified by their tastes. Food can be classified according to tastes. Taste is the most important characteristic of any food substance. The nutritional and medicinal value of food is known by its tastes. There are six tastes in nature: Sweet, Sour, Salt, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent. All food substances are contained in these six tastes. For example – Milk and Ghee (clarified butter) are Sweet, Curd is Sour, Salts are Salty ,Bitter Gourd is Bitter, Pepper is Pungent (hot), Indian Gooseberry and Betel Nuts are Astringent. The first three tastes – Sweet, Sour and Salt are mostly in common food substances and Bitter, Pungent and Astringent tastes are mostly important for medicinal substances. All these six tastes have a close relationship with the three Doshas or factors of health – Vata (wind), Kapha (water/cold) and Pitta (fire/heat) which if vitiated cause disease. Vata is increased by Pungent, Bitter and Astringent tastes. Kapha is increased by sweet, Sour and Salt. Pitta is increased by Pungent, Sour and Salt. These are hot in nature. Consuming cold substances increases Vata and Kapha but they decrease Pitta. Conversely, consuming hot substances increase Pitta but decrease Vata and Kapha. All substances, are either heating or cooling depending on their action. This is termed efficacy of the substances according to Ayurveda. Traditional Indian cooking is based on the principles of Ayurveda. It is according to specific areas. If we are affected by a disease due to vitiated Vata, the food ought to be Sweet, Sour and Salty in taste and hot in efficacy. This helps to reduce the vitiated Vata. For reducing the aggravated Pitta, we should eat Sweet Bitter and Astringent food. If we are affected by vitiated Kapha then we should eat Bitter, Pungent and Astringent food which is hot in efficacy. This diet plan is called Pathyam by Ayurveda. There is need to adopt a diet according to the change of seasons. It is most important for digestion. This is essential for maintaining health. Sweet tastes are the ones which nourish the body the most .The way to good health is through adopting proper food habits based on factors which interfere with digestion, different food substances and their properties, rules of dietetics and the concept of incompatible food. It is common sense that we consume food which is cold in efficacy in summer and we eat food which is hot in efficacy in the winter season. If food is consumed in accordance with instructions of Ayurveda then the life of living beings will be balanced. Therefore, one should plan one’s diet according to one’s own situation and the seasons. Here is a website that classifies all food according to its effect on the Doshas –

The Rise of Asia

The historical rise of Asia in the late twentieth and early twentyfirst century is due to three reasons – 1. The result of the Second World War altered the role of major political powers in World politics especially in Asian politics. 2. The experience of the War reformed the approaches and ideas of the leaders across the World on how to maintain peace and promote development. 3. The outcome of the War determined the features of the international relations in the next century. The weakening and decreasing power of Europe, America and Japan in Asia after the end of Second World War created room for the emergence of independent Nation States. Also at the end of the Second World War the US and the Soviet Union emerged as the rival super powers in the World. The ideological differences between these superpowers immediately led to the onset of the Cold War. They competed with each other to get support from the newly formed Asian Nation States as assets for their power blocs. This struggle was only for power within the US led capitalist bloc and the Soviet Union led communist bloc during the Cold War. It was ironically complemented with a parallel commitment towards the Westphalian Notion of Sovereignty without any outside interference by super powers. But most of the Asian Nationalistic leaders made a clear choice to take an independent stance while adopting a neo- liberal path of industrialisation and high growth. The super powers nevertheless presented restrictive choices before the Asian Nation States while the Cold War was in progress. The Cold War produced a two- way -tussle between the nationalistic leaders and the superpowers resulting in an extremely volatile situation in the case of three divided States in Asia – Korea, China and Vietnam. The end of the Cold War proved to be a dramatic turning point for rising Asia. The bipolar struggle terminated and after this Asian International relations followed a new course which was marked by the following events – • The reduction of the geopolitical tensions between Asian Nation States and the World . • The rapprochement of the US and China. • The End of the Vietnam War. • The rise of Japan as an alternative pole of economic power. • The economic take off in South Korea. • Taiwan and the South East Asia tigers emerging as economic powerhouses. • The rise of China as a sophisticated player in global affairs. • The evolution of India as a major power in the Indian Ocean area. • The democratisation of authoritarian regimes in South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia. • The steady advance in Asian Multilateralism on regional and broader issues. These dramatic shifts in economic and political power has resulted in Asia cumulatively emerging as the area to watch in the geo-political evolution of humanity towards a more peaceful and secure future.

International Women's Day

We women of Indore took out a rally in defense of women’s rights and security and submitted a memorandum to the Government through the Commissioner. The focal point of the memorandum was the demand for security for women in the light of the increasing instances of gang rapes against women. The memorandum was written and then given to a professional typist to type out and print. This typist who is a male did not write the word rapist and instead watered down our memorandum. We then had to rewrite the memorandum with a pen to restore its militant demand for the hanging of rapists. This incident brings to the fore how deeprooted patriarchy is in society and the long way to go before gender justice can be ensured.

Information is Power

The Right to Information Act 2005 in India sets out a practical regime for providing information under the control of public authorities to citizens. This is in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. The R.T.I Act was enacted as a result of a long process of public mobilition and litigation for greater transparancy. In the 1990s The mass organisation ” Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan ” began a movement for disclosure of Panchayat records to curb corruption in the state of Rajasthan. After a long struggle the MKSS succeeded in gettingthe government to pass orders for disclosure of Panchayat records. The MKSS then scaled up its efforts for a wider disclosure law to cover all aspects of governance at all levels. Many citizens aggrieved by the non-disclosure of crucial government information had got direction for disclosure of such information from the courts. Over the years the Courts have established that the right to information is an integral part of the fundamental right to freedom of speach guaranteed under article 19 of the Constitution of India. These public and legal pressures finally led to the RTI Act being enacted. Section – 4 of the RTI Act mandates that public Authorities will reveal as much information as possible voluntarily to the public. Section – 5 provides for the designation of public information officers. Section – 6 details the way in which citizens can apply for information. Section – 7 provides the procedure for disposal of a request for information. Section – 8 gives details of that information that is exempt from disclosure . Section 19 provides the procedure for appeal in cases where public Information officers do not disclose information within 30 days of application . This Act has brought about a great ferment with the common citizens both individually and through organisations delving out sensitive information that has improved governance. The impact of the legislation can be gauged from the fact that close to twenty RTI activists, including one woman, have been killed by vested interests affected by their information seeking. The government has also tried to amend the Act and weaken it. Failing to do so it has packed the Information Commissions with corrupt retired bureaucrats who do not penalise the offending Public Information Officers for not giving information. So the initial cutting edge of the legislation has been considerably blunted. There is now a need for another round of mass and legal action to give the Act more teeth.

The Bane of Alcohol in India

Strong alcoholic drinks and spirits are called liquor. The origin of liquor and its close relative liquid was the Latin verb liquere meaning to be fluid. According to the Oxford English Dictionary an early use of the word in the English language means simply a liquid. The term spirit in reference to alcohol stems from Middle Eastern alchemy. These alchemists were more concerned with medical elixirs than with transmuting lead into gold. Distillation comes from Greek alchemists in first century A.D. and fractional distillation was developed by Tadeo Alderotti in the 13th Century. People had started drinking it in the 14th Century and Paracelsus gave the modern name alcohol that means finely divided. It is an Arabic word. The basic process of distillation that had been discovered by Greek alchemists did not change for a long time. In fact many people prefer traditional methods of distillation to their modern counterparts. For example – different countries use different things to make liquor … like Fruits, Rice, Potatoes, Wheat, Barley, Mustard, Apple, Sugarcane and Grapes but Tribal in India traditionally make liquor from Mahua (one kind of flower). Around 1400 distilled spirits had been discovered from Wheat, Barley and Mustard beers. It is a cheaper option than Grapes. Most of all marketing had developed a world wide market for distilled beverage among the population. The local industry has introduced flavoured alcohol drinks to attract previously non-drinking young men and women. Although, alcohol advertising is banned in electronic and print media in India but Bollywood films now glorify alcohol which the good guys drink. There has been a rapid change in patterns and trends of Alcohol use in India. People are beginning to drink at younger ages. The percentage of the drinking population aged under 21 years has increased from 2% to more than 14% in past 15 years. One recent study in the Southern State of Karnataka found young women consumed similar amounts of alcohol as young men. For the whole of India it is estimated that the total alcohol revenue for 2003-4 was 216 billion dollars. However this falls far short of the total cost of managing the bad effects of alcohol addiction. Selling of liquor is regulated by the State governments and the Central government can’t object to this. There are no studies that estimate the large sale of alcohol from illegal liquor shops which often lead to the death of consumers due to poisonous admixtures. It is also well known that alcoholism of men is the main cause of all kinds of gender based violence within and outside the home.

The Tragedy of AIDS in India

AIDS ( Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome ) is a disease caused by HIV ( Human Immuno Deficiency Virus) . After HIV infection the body’s capacity to fight diseases, is weakened .When the body’s immune system is weakened then it is overcome by many diseases at the same time. At the beginning of 1986, there were 20,000 reported AIDS cases world wide. It had been known as a disease since 1981. But India had no reported cases of HIV / AIDS in 1986. After some time HIV / AIDS cases started to emerge. India’s first cases of HIV were diagnosed among sex workers in Chennai in the State of Tamil Nadu. It was noted that contact with foreign visitors had played a role in initial infections among sex workers. As HIV screeing Centers were set up across the Country, there were calls for visitors to be screeined for HIV. The spread of HIV/ AIDS takes place first – when an HIV / AIDS infected person has sexual intercourse with another person , second – HIV infected blood is given to an uninfected person and by use of a syringe infected with HIV, third – HIV infected mother giving birth to a baby. Therefore the best way to prevent spread of the disease is to avoid all of the above causes. For safe sex contraceptives should be used and an awareness campaign to educate people must be conducted. There are three types of tests which ascertain HIV infection. The first – Alisa test, second Rapid test and third CD -4 test. Only if all these tests are positive is a person deemed to be infected. The treatment for AIDS is through Anti Retro Viral Drugs which are very expensive due to the seriousness of the ailment. A stigma has come to be attached and so those suffering from the disease face discrimination. There is an irrational fear among people that even touching HIV infected people will cause spread of the disease. Most of initial cases had occurred by heterosexual sex but at the end of the 1980s a rapid spread of HIV was observed among injecting drug users. At the beginning of the 1990s, as infection rates continued to rise the government set- up National AIDS Control Organisation in 1992 to oversee the formulation of policies for prevention work and control programme relating to HIV and AIDS. In the same year, the government launched a strategic plan, the national AIDS control programme for HIV prevention and also set up the State AIDS control Societies in 25 States and 7 Union territories in India. The second phase was from 2001-2006. The prevention of mother to child transmission programme and the prevention of free anti retro Viral treatment were implemented in Indore and Jabalpur for the first time. Each State had its own AIDS prevention and control society. It granted funding for youth campaigns, blood safety checks and HIV testing. The various public platforms were used to raise awareness of the epidemic like – Radio Dramas, voluntary blood donation day and TV spots with popular Indian film Stars. The third phase was from 2006 – 2011. The highest priority given to targetting high risk groups like sex workers, homosexuals and injecting drug users. The programme has a budget of around 2.6 billion $ . This money came from Non – Governmental Organisations , Companies and International Agencies such as the WorldBank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The government has founded a national campaign to spread awareness about HIV / AIDS . the seven Coach Train called the Red Ribbon Express travelled to 180 Stations in 24 States in the India and educated around 6.2 million people accross the country . Following the success of the campain the Red Ribbon Express took off again in 2009. It had educated 3.8 million people and now it has travelled 26 States in India. In 2009 HIV / AIDS patients were estimated at about 2.4 million people in india. According to the “Visvash Clinic” ( an NGO ), Indore has nearly 5,500 AIDS patients while there are 9,500 AIDS patients in the State of Madhya Pradesh. But 29,000 are known to be HIV Infected in Madhya Pradesh of which 37% are women and 63 % are men. Only this Organisation is working for them to treat the HIV/AIDS patients and it is providing 500 rupees for nutrition in a month to the children , 2500 for education for them in a year and 5000 to start a small business to each family. There is an association of AIDS affected people named M.P. Network of People Living with HIV/ AIDS.

A Body of My Own

The feminist historian Gerda Lerner has written in her book “The Creation of Patriarchy” that in the neolithic age in tribal wars the winners used to take the women captive and then make them pregnant as this was an easy way to add to the labour force given the low life expectancy at that time and the difficulty of keeping men as prisoners due to the low level of technology. Thus, began the control by men of women’s bodies which continues to this day as even in marriage a majority of women have to subject themselves to the sexual whims and fancies of men and produce children in large numbers. This adversely affects the reproductive health of women and in the absence of cheap and quality safe motherhood and gynaecological services women suffer silently. I say this from the experience of two decades of work for the reproductive and sexual health and rights of poor women in rural and urban slum communities. Even though my work has resulted in some relief for the women I have worked with, in the absence of a strong policy framework for the prevention of sexual violence within the home and the provision of cheap quality diagnostic and treatment in reproductive and sexual health for poor women. Therefore my recommendations are – 1. Sexual violence within the home should be expressly banned and women should be facilitated to assert control of their own bodies. 2. Cheap and quality reproductive and sexual health services should be mandatorily provided to women. ————————————————————————————————————————————————- In partnership with the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), World Pulse is collecting personal stories outlining women’s experiences and recommendations on sustainable and equitable development for presentation at the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. All stories submitted on our community platform between now and June 3, 2012 will be presented at the Rio+20 Conference. Additionally, selected entries will be published in World Pulse’s digital magazine and distributed widely to international media partners.