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Delhi government plans bill to save Yamuna

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New Delhi: There seems to be hope yet for the dying Yamuna river.

Delhi’s AAP government is planning to bring new legislation to eliminate multiplicity of authorities that has contributed to the Yamuna, once northern India’s pride and lifeline, turning into a hugely polluted waterway.

The legislation will enable the Delhi government to create a separate agency to revive the river which runs for 48 km through the eastern fringe of the national capital.

The trouble is the river, venerated by Hindus, is maintained by different departments, working at times at cross purposes, just like more areas of governance in the capital.

The proposed bill is likely to be named the Yamuna River and Flood Plain Development Bill, a government official told IANS.
The purpose of the bill is to set up one single authority, and it could be named the Yamuna Development Corporation Ltd.

A note pertaining to the legislation says the bill will “make special provision for securing, cleaning, rejuvenation, conservation and floodplain and development of the river”.

At present, multiple agencies are engaged in maintaining the river, which is the source of water for over 70 percent of Delhi’s population.

The Delhi Development Authority, a central government agency, looks after 22 km of the floodplain of the river. It is one among a dozen authorities engaged in the task.

Among the other agencies which have a say over the Yamuna are the Delhi Jal Board, the irrigation department, the revenue department and the flood control department.

“The proposed agency is a good step,” the Delhi government official said. “Multiple agencies have made the tough task of cleaning the Yamuna more complicated.”

The Yamuna originates at Yamunotri in the Himalayan range. It flows a total of 1,376 km before merging with the Ganga at Allahabad — to form the holy Triveni.

The river passes through Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. It is considered relatively clean until it reaches Delhi where a combination of municipal, household and industrial waste begin to choke and kill the river.

The river is considered virtually dead in much of Uttar Pradesh.

Since setting up a separate authority will have financial implications, the proposed bill has to be ratified by the central government once it is passed in the Delhi assembly where the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has a good majority.

Asked if the bill might get stuck due the rivalry between the central and Delhi governments, the official said both sides were on the same page on the Yamuna.

“In fact, the decision to bring the bill was an outcome of a meeting between the central and Delhi governments,” the official added. It is learnt that the proposed authority will have officials from both the central and Delhi governments.

A whopping Rs.1,500 crore has been spent since 1993 on sprucing up the Yamuna but critics say the money seems to have gone down the drain. Cleaning up the Yamuna was one of the election promises of the AAP, which rode to power in February. The Yamuna also figures on the agenda of the Narendra Modi government.
(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at gaurav.s@ians.in)

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India Can Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?

A total of 548 global experts on women’s issues , 43 of them from India

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BJP Leader Asks Parents Of A Rape Victim To Express Gratitude To Them
Can India Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?. Flickr

-By Deepa Gahlot

You read with a mixture of alarm and scepticism, the poll report by the London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation that India is the most dangerous country in the world for women, beating Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

According to reports, a total of 548 global experts on women’s issues — 43 of them from India — were asked about risks faced by women in six areas: healthcare, access to economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, and human trafficking. And shockingly, India comes out as the worst!

We see women progressing in every field in India, but, there is also the increasing violence against women and young girls reported every day; not long ago, female tourists felt safe in India; but now, women travelling solo are constantly targeted. Everyday there are reports of the rapes and murders of minor girls, often accompanied by unimaginable torture and mutilation.

There has been outrage in India, and also holes punctured in the survey that has such a small number of respondents, but can we really take an ostrich approach to the condition of women? Even as education and healthcare improve for women — at least in metro cities — the contempt for women is socially and culturally ingrained in the Indian psyche. In a city like Mumbai considered progressive and relatively safe for women, the girl child is unwanted even by many educated and wealthy families. In spite of laws being in place, female foeticide and infanticide is rampant, to the extent that there are large territories where there are no girl children and brides for the men have to be ‘imported’ from other states.  As dowry murders and rapes rise, the more unwanted the girl child becomes.  The fact is that India’s gender ratio is deplorable.

And if the male child is valued over the girl child, he grows up believing that he is special and if he is thwarted in any way, he can resort to violence. In spite of education and exposure to progressive ideas, in the case of rape or sexual violence, the tendency to blame and shame the victim persists.

To give just one small example, in the West, accusations of sexual harassment resulted in united shunning of a man as powerful as Harvey Weinstein and many others in the wake of the #MeToo movement, that helped many women speak out about their experiences.

In India, Malayalam actor Dileep, who has been accused in the abduction and rape of an actress, and was boycotted by the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), was recently reinstated. This caused shock and dismay among women in the film industry.

A statement by a group of over 150 women film practitioners says it like it is, “A body that is meant to represent artistes of the Malayalam movie industry showed complete disregard for its own member who is the victim of this gross crime. Even before the case has reached its conclusion, AMMA has chosen to validate a person accused of a very serious crime against a colleague. We condemn this cavalier attitude by artistes against women artistes who are working alongside them. There is misogyny and gender discrimination embedded in this action.

“We admired and supported the Women in Cinema Collective that was formed by women film artistes in Kerala in the aftermath of the abduction and molestation of a colleague, a top star in the industry. We applaud the WCC members who have walked out of AMMA to protest the chairman’s invitation to reinstate the accused. We pledge our continued support to the Women in Cinema Collective who are blazing a trail to battle sexism in the film industry.

“Cinema is an art form that can challenge deeply entrenched violence and discrimination in society. It is distressing to see an industry that stands amongst the best in the country and has even made a mark in world cinema choose to shy away from using their position and their medium responsibly at this important moment. Today, women form a significant part of the film and media industries, we reject any attempt at silencing us and making us invisible.”

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Indian women. VOA

The preference for male children has had some unexpected ramifications. In a working paper published by the American non-profit, National Bureau of Economic Research, by Northwestern University’s Seema Jayachandran and Harvard University’s Rohini Pande (quoted in Quartz Media), finds that stunting in Indian children could also be blamed on the cultural preference for sons.

“In India, on average, the first child — if he is a son — doesn’t suffer from stunting. But, if the first — and so the eldest — child of the family is a girl, she suffers from a height deficit. And, then, if the second child is a boy, and hence the eldest son of the family, he will not be stunted. This happens because of an unequal allocation of resources to the first child”.

According to the report, “When Jayachandran and Pande compared India and Africa results through this lens, they found that the Indian first and eldest son tends to be taller than an African firstborn. If the eldest child of the family is a girl, and a son is born next, the son will still be taller in India than Africa. For girls, however, the India-Africa height deficit is large. It is the largest for daughters with no older brothers, probably because repeated attempts to have a son takes a beating on the growth of the girls.”

Also read: Has Legal Framework Turned a Blind Eye towards Under-representation of Women in Indian Politics?

In spite of all the Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao rhetoric, the required shift in the male-centric attitude towards a more egalitarian one is simply not happening; or, it is a case of one step forward, two steps backward. The Thomson Reuters Foundation report may be unfair and skewed, but being known as the rape capital of the world does nothing to improve the image of India in the world or even in its own eyes. (IANS)