Tuesday October 24, 2017

Education in rural areas – Only schooling and no learning

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By Harshmeet Singh

“I would say that if the village perishes, India will perish too. India will be no more India. Her own mission in the world will get lost. “

– Mahatma Gandhi

When we think of our villages, we usually think about farmers, lack of infrastructure and, maybe, about social backwardness. But rarely do we associate the word education with villages. Our evident neglect towards the education system in rural areas is perhaps the root cause of the several of problems that it faces.

Most of our statistics related to the school system in India are concerned with the enrollment ratio in schools. There is no denying the fact that with legislations such as the Right to Education and Mid Day Meal program coming into force, the overall school enrollment ratio has gone up dramatically. However, we give minimal to absolutely no thought to the increasing dropout rate from the schools. It may be because this problem is usually associated with schools in villages and smaller areas. With acute poverty a common phenomenon in these areas, most parents prefer considering their kids as earning members of the family who usually find employment at small time dhabas, rather than sending them to school.

There are many kids in the rural areas who are on track to becoming the first ever literate from their families. Illiteracy of the parents is a major roadblock in the child’s learning. On top of the financial hardships, the kids are, all of a sudden, burdened with a new language and skills to master with zero help from the parents. In some cases, the parents encourage their kids with all the possible resources at their disposal since they see it as a chance to come out of their caste hierarchy. But in most cases, the parents are guided by false religious beliefs which they interpret as being opposed to education. Such beliefs are majorly responsible for a lower literacy rate in Muslims, as compared to the national average.

Today, most of the rural population has easy access to schools. The problem lies in the lack of infrastructure in these schools. Leaky roofs, no toilets, unfinished floors and no electricity are common sights in most schools running in the rural areas. The students sit on the floor with the brightest ones getting to sit in the front row.

The absolute best teaching scenario inside these classes is teachers asking the students to copy from the board (if there is one) and reciting from the textbook. The worst can range from no teachers at all to one teacher running the entire school. Words like ‘creativity’ or ‘joy’ hold no meaning in these schools.

Our education system is a classic case of choosing quantity over quality. In our bid to inflate our literacy rate at any cost, we hastily adopted the slogan ‘Schooling for all’ when we should have adopted ‘Learning for all’.

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Prostate cancer, the second most common cause of cancer rises in rural India, according to experts

The rural masses need to be made aware of the treatment, drugs and technologies to combat the disease

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Prostate cancer
Sarcomatoid prostate carcinoma, abbreviated SPC. Wikimedia
  • Prostate cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths among men worldwide
  • Experts claim, that the second most common cause of cancer, is rising in rural India 
  • The rural masses need to be made aware of the treatment, drugs and technologies to combat the disease.

New Delhi, September 22, 2017: Prostate cancer, the second most common cause of cancer and the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths among men worldwide, is rising in rural India, experts claim.

Cancer projection data shows that the number of cases will be doubled by 2020.

“Most of the metastatic prostate cancer cases are from rural areas. Therefore, it’s a challenge to government and doctors to decrease the risk factors and take prostate cancer risk in the rural areas very seriously,” P.N. Dogra, Professor and Head of Urology at AIIMS, said in a statement on Thursday.

The rural masses need to be made aware of the treatment, drugs and technologies to combat the disease.

“There is an urgent need to create awareness about prostate cancer threat amongst the rural population,” said Anup Kumar, Head (Department of Urology and Renal Transplant) at Safdarjung Hospital.

Also read: Abdominal fat drives cancer in postmenopausal women: Study

Safdarjung Hospital sees more than one lakh patients every month from all over the country.

Of these, 20 per cent are prostate cancer patients, in which 40 per cent are clinically localised, 30 per cent are locally advanced and 30 per cent are metastatic prostate cancer cases, Kumar said.

“Prostate cancer has become a major health problem globally during the last few decades. This disease is the second most common cause of cancer and the sixth leading cause of cancer death among men worldwide,” Dogra said.

According to the Population Based Cancer Registries in Delhi, the disease is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer among men in the national capital, accounting for about 6.78 per cent of all malignancies. (IANS)

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Triple Talaq verdict is a small victory. But there are more battles to be won

Are the divorced Indian women getting their due?

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Triple Talaq was a harmful practice faced by Muslim women
Triple Talaq was a harmful practice faced by Muslim women. Pixabay
  • Women are asked to compromise for the sake of family honor, children, not being financially independent and many such reasons
  • It’s a tough decision for Indian women to file for a divorce even if their marriages have been exploitative, oppressive or unhappy
  • The problems are most dreadful for women whose marriages have not been formally ended

 New Delhi, September 3, 2017: Supreme Court’s verdict on Triple Talaq case is like a ray of sunshine. The verdict has been welcomed, applauded and celebrated all across India by the people who advocate for women’s rights. Judgement on Triple Talaq has been possible because of courage shown by strong Muslim women to change the course of their lives and a long struggle of groups such as the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan who did not put their foot down in spite of having to face pressure, threats from the Muslim community and outside of it.

Reactions women in country face when they consider getting a divorce

There are many other societies where higher rates of divorce are often equated with an expression of choice that women possess and the liberation of women. But, sadly this is not the case with India as divorce evokes dark, shameful reactions, taunts, rage, and pity from the society, often a woman is blamed for it. It is not considered as a suitable option for women suffering from unhappy marriages, they are asked to work it out, to solve the differences even if there’s no easy solution to it. They are asked to compromise for the sake of family honor, children, not being financially independent and many such reasons.

Why do Indian women hesitate from taking a Divorce?

It’s a tough decision for Indian women to file for a divorce even if their marriages have been exploitative, oppressive or unhappy. One reason for this could be the low status of women or not enough respect and value given to them in the society, especially rural India. Another reason is that the women who have low income don’t spend their independent share on themselves out of guilt, they utilize most it in taking care of their homes and save the rest. Also, some regressive and unequal practices are still going on like inheritance, asset ownership which means that no matter which religion a woman belongs to they are denied access to owning assets.

It means that most often than not an end of marriage leaves women with a financial crisis, along with emotional pain, on top of that they not only have to manage their own life but also their children’s without much financial aid.

Divorce Percentage

According to 2011 census on Indians marital status, “among divorced Indian women, 68% are Hindu, and 23.3%, Muslim.” This implies that more Hindu women are getting divorced than Muslim women.

The State governments have failed to empower Muslim women, issues related to their rights and needs are hardly addressed by politicians. Thus their social and economic conditions are degrading- they have unequal access to job, education and other opportunities in life.

More failed marriages were recorded in rural India with 8.5 lakh divorced persons and in urban India, the number is 5.03 lakh divorced persons. Maharashtra has the highest number of divorced citizens which is 2.09 lakh persons. The state which holds the record of lowest failed marriages has 1,330 divorcees.

Negatives of Triple Talaq

A Muslim man being able to end a marriage by a means of disrespecting and utterly irresponsible manner of triple talaq (uttering the word talaq 3 times, it can be oral, written or electronic). The practice of triple talaq was gender biased and gave unequal rights to Muslim women. So, it’s a victory worth celebrating that this shameful practice has culminated legally.

Why is Separation more harmful?

More dissolved marriages in India happen through separation and not a formal divorce. It’s a growing concern as separation (abandonment by a husband) is more common for women in all religions than a divorce. It puts women in a more dangerous spot as they can’t ask for alimony as there is no legality connected to it, which further weakens their financial status. Also, their husbands take away their freedom to remarry. According to census data, “More women than men in India are separated (out of a marriage without a formal divorce).”

So, though triple talaq was definitely a truly intolerable practice, it is only one of the ways through which married women could be abandoned. There are women across different communities who continue to face problems of abandonment, also called separation without having a proper means to survive or lead a decent life.

Also Read: Ishrat Jahan, a Triple Talaq Petitioner Writes to West Bengal CM Seeking Security After Supreme Court Verdict

Effectiveness of Divorce Laws

Marital dissolution in India comes under various laws but more often than not, the decisions don’t benefit women in a big way.  No matter how strong or secure is the legal framework, the single legal right that an Indian woman has after getting a divorce- the right of maintenance from her spouse or alimony. But maintenance or alimony reaches them much late due to the ‘prolonged legal processes’ and they are sometimes provided with very small and negligible amounts. Another loophole is that the court doesn’t ensure regular payment from their husbands.

Obviously, the problems are most dreadful for women whose marriages have not been formally ended, who are separated and not divorced from their husbands. Even for those women who have a formal divorce, the courts (be it family courts or formal courts) turn out to be grueling and intimidating places to seek justice, especially for the ones who are illiterate, not much educated, or belong to poor families.

Struggles faced during and after a divorce

Taking Divorce is a tedious process with repeated court trips, cases getting postponed, and lawyers charging heavy fees and most important but sidelined factor- to deal with patriarchal attitudes shown by lawyers as well as judges. All these reasons contribute to women feeling helpless with wasted efforts, and even lead to dissuasion of women (by family, relatives, friends, lawyers) to pursue the cases after a point.  Those women, who have taken up employment (for financial security) after the end of marriage, even if their employer pays them very less, they get little sympathy from the courts regarding alimony.

This should be the focal point in viewing the triple talaq judgment by the court. Muslim women have been successful in getting triple talaq scrapped by law but the war is not over yet. Indian women still have to face difficulties in getting some alimony or maintenance which is due to them, on which they have a deserving right.

Also Read: Namaz Offering Mamata Banerjee Remains Silent on Triple Talaq Verdict

Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act

But, there has been a setback for Muslim women, we are talking about the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986, also known as MWA. This was widely seen as a patriarchal response in response to the clamor by the Muslim men to the Supreme Court judgment in the Shah Bano case in which her former husband was forced to pay continued alimony to her.

“The MWA drastically limited the husband’s liability to his former wife. It stated that once a woman’s iddat expenses (covering three months’ subsistence) had been paid and she had received her mehr (dowry) and any other money or property that had been gifted to her at the time of marriage, the husband had no further financial responsibility towards her.”

This law came was criticized by women activists and others who were sensitive towards women’s rights. It was called a discriminatory law that singled out Muslim women and deprived them of maintenance rights which are available to all the other divorced Indian women. They were taken for granted and the act had some harmful consequences. It encouraged a higher rate of divorce in Muslim community as it allowed Men to get away from the marriage without providing any maintenance for their wife’s survival.

Revision of Act

As per MWA, the husband should provide “reasonable and fair provision” during the 3 month iddat period. A clause was further added in 2001 by a Supreme Court judgment that “during the iddat period, a Muslim man is liable to make a payment to his ex-wife that will secure her ability to sustain herself in the future. As a result, courts began to require men to give their ex-wives substantial lump-sum amounts or to transfer some material assets such as land, a house, or gold and jewelry.”

The implementation of the law made divorced Muslim women heave a sigh of relief and will force the ex-husbands to give a substantial lump-sum amount to their wives. This would thus release the divorced Muslim women from worrying over the unreliability and uncertainty of periodic payments (by law) for maintenance.  This might make them even better off than non-Muslim counterparts. But in most other cases of divorce, lack of financial support from husbands remains a big concern for them.

The war is not over

The point we are trying to make is that the problems faced by divorced Indian women are plenty, and they are because of the social, cultural, economic and legal practices that are still present in all religions. This Supreme Court verdict should be reminders for all of us to take note of this small victory, to keep in mind the loopholes present in Divorce rights still and should also motivate us to take up more such battles in future in order to make our country more gender sensitive. So, that both the genders can live a life of peace and dignity.


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Tackling Patriarchy in India: Rural Women Challenge Ban on Calling Husbands by their First Names

When nonprofit Video Volunteers launched a campaign to tackle patriarchy in rural India, several women mentioned a seemingly innocuous custom: not being allowed to call their husbands by their first names.

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FILE - A woman helps another in carrying metal pitchers filled with water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. VOA

Mumbai, August 4, 2017: When non-profit Video Volunteers launched a campaign to tackle patriarchy in rural India, several women mentioned a seemingly innocuous custom: not being allowed to call their husbands by their first names.

Women, particularly in villages, are taught from a young age to never address their husbands — or older male relatives — by their names, as a mark of respect.

But the custom, which is less common in the cities, is deeply patriarchal, said Stalin K., director of Video Volunteers, which is based in Goa.

“At first glance, it seems like a small, harmless custom,” he said.

“But even these seemingly inane practices matter, as they are as much a power play as sexual assault or violence against women,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Video Volunteers trains men and women in rural areas across India to report on everyday issues that concern them.

The volunteers record short video clips on their tablets, which are then screened and discussed in the community.

About 70 volunteers in more than a dozen states were trained to report on patriarchy, sexism and violence against women.

More than 327,390 crimes against women were registered in India in 2015, an increase of more than 50 percent since 2010.

Many crimes go unreported, particularly in villages, because women fear bringing shame to their families.

Women’s concerns

The Video Volunteers reports included women talking about their limited freedom of movement compared with that of men, biases against widows, the practice of covering their heads in the presence of men, and the prejudice faced by women doing jobs considered to be men’s work, such as driving tuk-tuks, or three-wheeled taxis.

Several reports were about women not being able to call their husbands by names because they were told it was disrespectful and inauspicious to do so. Instead, a woman would address her husband as the father of their child, by his profession, or simply with “please listen.”

In discussions held afterward, women practiced saying their husbands’ names aloud for the first time, said Stalin, who goes by his first name.

The women were then encouraged to talk to their husbands about the practice.

In many cases, the men did not allow their wives to address them by name, and one woman was ostracized by her village for referring to an older male relative by name, Stalin said.

But some women were told they could call their husbands by name — in private.

“That is still a step forward,” Stalin said.

“Our experience with this campaign is that these women are not passively accepting of patriarchy. They are very aware and just waiting for an opportunity to push back — in a thoughtful and considered manner, which perhaps has a greater impact.” (VOA)


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.