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By Harshmeet Singh
When they said no job is too small or derogatory to perform, they certainly left out the practice of manual scavenging. Almost exclusively performed by people belonging to the Dalit community, scavenging is the practice of cleaning human excreta from dry latrines (without flush system) manually.
Every day, the manual scavengers are required to reach out to all the dry latrines in their area, use their bare hands to pick up the human excreta, fill it in a broad hand held bane basket, place it on their head and take it to the a nearby bin to dispose it off. If you are searching for an example of lower caste abuse in this ‘modern Indian society’, there can’t be a better example than manual scavenging.
One of the biggest employers of manual scavengers in India is our very own Indian Railways. The outdated toilet systems in our trains drop all the human excreta on to the tracks which are later cleaned by the scavengers employed by the Railways. Railways operate more than 172,000 dry toilets as a part of over 43,000 passenger coaches. Still in denial about violating the law against manual scavenging, Indian Railways has been pulled up by the courts multiple times.
The practice of manual scavenging is passed on as a ‘hereditary’ profession in a number of Indian villages. The task is mostly performed by females since men do not want to get their hands ‘dirty’. The scavengers are considered as ‘untouchables’ in the village, with people from ‘higher caste’ keeping a safe distance from them. They are usually asked to enter the home from the rear gate, collect the human excreta and leave without touching a thing or speaking a word.
Rachna, who cleans more than 25 dry toilets a day in the Mainpuri district of Uttar Pradesh says, “Most of them do not pay me anything. They just keep their leftover food outside their home for me to pick up. On some days, even that food gets eaten by the stray dogs. When I ask for money, they threaten me that they will boycott me from the village or restrict my buffaloes from grazing on their land. What can I do? I do not like touching dirty things but I have no option but to go their homes every day.”
A number of villages in different parts of the country have earmarked people from certain castes to carry out the work of manual scavenging. Prabha Devi, from Babatpur area, near Varanasi in UP, cries when she says “I belong to the Musahar community. Cleaning dry latrines is our job. Even if I do not want to do this, I can’t leave it. Whenever any toilet in the village needs cleaning, people call me up to do it. My body stinks badly every day. I am even scared to touch the idols of God with my hands. I don’t remember the last time when I prayed.”
According to the 2011 census, over 750,000 families in India are involved in manual scavenging. Most estimates peg the number of manual scavengers in India at over 1.3 million. This number is close to the entire population of cities such as Nashik, Agra, Faridabad and Meerut.
What does the Law say?
The Supreme Court, in March 2014, called manual scavenging “a practice that violates international human rights law”. The SC further directed the government to come up with a permanent solution and take measures for rehabilitation of the people involved in this menial practice. In 2011, the Delhi High Court directed the Indian Railways to expedite the process of setting up bio-toilets in railway coaches to eliminate manual scavenging. Unsurprisingly, the High Court’s direction fell to deaf ears.
In the Union budget of 2011-12, the Government allotted a sum of Rs 100 crore in order to execute ‘Self Employment Scheme of Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers’. After much applause, the grant was reduced to Rs 35 crore. The same thing happened in 2012-13 when the budget grant of Rs 98 crore was cut down to Rs 20 crore.
In September 2013, the Parliament passed ‘The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013’. Though all the Government departments were soon issued the notifications regarding the same, it is not difficult to conclude that this legislation had no impact on the condition of manual scavengers in the country.
Renowned feminist activist, author, and a face of the women's rights movement in India, Kamla Bhasin, passed away today morning at the age of 74.
The news of the same was shared by activist Kavita Srivastava on Twitter. The tweet said, "Kamla Bhasin, our dear friend, passed away around 3am today 25th Sept. This is a big setback for the women's movement in India and the South Asian region. She celebrated life whatever the adversity. Kamla you will always live in our hearts. In Sisterhood, which is in deep grief."
Bhasin, since the 1970s, has been an advocate of women's movement not just in India but other South Asian countries as well. In fact, in 2002, she founded a feminist network named as 'Sangat', which only motive was to work with underprivileged women from rural and tribal communities, often by using non-literary tools like plays, songs, and art.
Having a Master's degree in literature, Bhasin has written many books on gender theory and feminism, and interestingly, many of them have been translated into more than 30 languages. Another quick fact revolving around Bhasin is that the chant of 'Azadi', which is often heard at protests and rallies, was first popularised by her as feminist slogan against patriarchy.
Bhasin was awarded with the "Laadli Life Time Achievement Award" in the year 2017 for her commendable work.
Keywords: Kamla Bhasin, Feminism, India, Patriarchy, Literature, Feminist, Women, Rights
The 76th United Nations General Assembly session opened discussion on 14th September. The high-level General debate began on 21st September and it will continue till 27th September. The agenda of this year's UNGA session is 'Building Resilience through hope to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalize the United Nations'. Only 109 heads of state and government will attend the session in person and approximately 60 other speakers will address the debate via pre-recorded video statements due to the ongoing pandemic.
PM Narendra Modi is the first world leader who has been scheduled to address the General Assembly. He landed in New York at 6:00 AM (IST). "Landed in New York City. Will be addressing the UNGA at 6:30 PM (IST) on the 25th," he tweeted. He was received at the airport by India's permanent representative to the UN ambassador Mr. T S Tirumurti and ambassador of India to the USA Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu.
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Before leaving for US PM Modi said, "I will be visiting the USA from 22-25 September 2021 at the invitation of His Excellency President Joe Biden of the United States of America. During my visit, I will review the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership with President Biden and exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest".
During his 5-day visit to the US PM Modi held his first bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden in the oval office of the white house. It was their first in-person meet-up after meeting on virtual mode on three different occasions. He also held a meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris joined by the Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga. He held one on one meeting with the CEOs of some top companies like Qualcomm, Adobe, First Solar, General Atomics, and Blackstone. PM Modi participated in the Quad Summit held on Friday, in which the fight against Covid, climate change counterterrorism, along free and open Indo-Pacific, were the key concerns of the discussion. He also took part in Covid-19 Global Summit hosted by US President Joe Biden. Pakistan's role in terrorism was also heavily discussed
PM held a meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris joined by the Prime Minister of Australia and Japan. Twitter
Today, 25th September 2021 PM Narendra Modi will address the 76th UNGA session at 6:30 PM (IST) which will be live-streamed on various social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. PM Modi will talk about issues concerning pressing global challenges which will include the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to combat terrorism, climate change, and other important issues. It was in 2019 when PM Modi addressed the UN General Assembly physically as the pandemic went global in 2020, the 75th UNGA was held online where the speakers pre-recorded their speeches. In 2021, the option to pre-record statements has been kept open for the world leaders as the pandemic is worsening in some countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fly back to India after addressing the United Nations General Assembly.
Achieving soft, beautiful and happy skin is a dream for most of us or at least a long-pending item on our wish list. While there are lot of suggestions, a laundry list of do's and don'ts to follow, there are some basics that don't change. We have to understand that happy skin is a holistic process that requires one to work on building healthy habits combined with good skincare.
Here's a ready reckoner by ITC Fiama of tried and tested skincare habits that will serve as a reminder that skincare doesn't need to be complicated, it just needs to be consistent.
* Cleanse & Moisturise -- The first and the simplest step towards healthy skin is regular cleansing and moisturising, it is advisable to use a moisturizing body soap that ensures your skin gets the right nutrients and remains supple and nourished. A great product suited to this requirement is Fiama Gel Bathing Bar, which is enriched with nature's goodness. Fiama's bathing bars come in 5 variants and they help moisturize the skin making it appear soft, happy and bouncy.
The first and the simplest step towards healthy skin is regular cleansing and moisturising. | Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash
* Balanced Diet -- Healthy skin is an outcome of a balanced diet. The food we eat provides the building blocks for healthy functioning of our bodies. Our diet has everything to do with the health of our skin. The nutrients, minerals, and proteins found in food support collagen production and healthy cell membranes, and protect skin from harmful stressors, such as UV exposure.
Healthy skin is an outcome of a balanced diet. | Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash
* Smile -- While most of us hate the idea of having crow's eyes and lines while we smile. We rarely realize the benefits of a simple smile. When we smile the blood flow gets better, and the skin receives more oxygen and nutrients. This can help you develop a healthier complexion alternately it also leaves you stress free making you look happy and radiant.
When we smile the blood flow gets better, and the skin receives more oxygen and nutrients. | Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash
* Drink Enough H20 -- With our bodies comprising of 70 per cent water, drinking sufficient amount of water is the easiest way to keep your skin healthy and hydrated. Drinking adequate water helps flush out toxins from our bodies, preventing pimples and acne and boosting the skin's elasticity. No wonder, water is called the elixir of life.
Drinking adequate water helps flush out toxins from our bodies, preventing pimples and acne and boosting the skin's elasticity. | Photo by Bluewater Sweden on Unsplash
* Move Your Body -- Along with cleansing and proper nutrition, another aspect which is important for happy skin is movement. When we move or burn calories, the body produces chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in the brain and trigger positive feelings and happy thoughts. This feeling of pure happiness and joy reflects on the skin, thus having the power to completely change your mood and keep you and your skin beaming. (IANS/ MBI)
When we move or burn calories, the body produces chemicals called endorphins. | Photo by Joanna Nix-Walkup on Unsplash
Keywords: Skin, soft, happy, healthy, food, move, calories, water, smile, moisturise, water, cleanse