These men are bitter. Very bitter. In last one year, due to a severe slowdown in automobile sector, many of them have lost their jobs and are forced to make ends meet as daily-wage workers in Gurgaon-Manesar.]]>
Amidst India’s current economic slowdown — from aviation to biscuits to cars – the ‘desi’, or the native, is defying the depressing trend.
Rooted in soil and traditions, khadi or khaddar, the hand-spun, hand-woven fabric and an array of home-made products of daily use in drawing room, kitchen and toilet are selling better than the branded domestic and multinational stuff.
This is no mere patriotic song; it means jobs and money. And it’s voluntary and now, market-driven.
The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) ought to be on the national and global bourses except that it is a statutory government corporation established by an Act of parliament.
After long years of neglect and charges of bad performance despite being heavily subsidized, it has entered the profit trajectory.
Its annual turnover of Rs 75,000 crore in 2018-19 is more than double of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL). India’s largest corporate manufacturer/marketer, the British-Dutch MNC accounted for Rs 38,000 crores in that year.
KVIC’s growth has been phenomenal in the last five years. From relatively low Rs 33,000 crores during 2014-15, it jumped to Rs 50,000 crores two years later, growing at 25 percent annually. Buoyed by the latest performance chart, the target for 2019-20 is 20 percent higher, at Rs 80,000 crores.
Proportionately, others do make greater profits. But KVIC, more than just a corporate success story, should be viewed for depth and extent to which half-a-million people work for it directly, making it one of the largest employers. And indirectly, another 15 million collaborators are spread across individual homes and farms and small and medium manufacturing units.
This defies the current phase of growth without producing jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector.
This is the India that has grown over a century since M K Gandhi launched khadi or khaddar in 1918. Before he involved the masses in the fight for political freedom, this was his first mass-based venture bringing the rural India under the spell of productive self-reliance that meant work and gave a sense of dignity. Thus, khadi was not mere a piece of cloth but became a way of life.
It’s an unlikely story that explains why and how India sustains despite poverty and vagaries of nature.
Gandhi started spinning himself and encouraged others. He made it obligatory for all members of the Indian National Congress, then in fore-front of the freedom movement against the British, to spin cotton themselves and to pay their dues in yarn.
He collected large sums, including from industrialists and thus involving them directly, to create a grass-roots network to encourage handloom weaving. Ironically, handloom thrives today even as many textile mills have closed.
Charkha (spinning wheel) was the symbol of Gandhi-led movement. It became part of the Congress flag, eventually to be replaced by the Ashok Chakra in the national tricolor.
Tragically, people in the present century need to be reminded of all this. The political class has discarded khadi. Economic reforms have pushed urban India away from this cost-effective, climate-friendly fabric.
The other reminder is to people discarding khadi. The white cap that carried Gandhi’s tag is fast disappearing with the ebbing of the Congress party and its political culture.
It began early: Babu Jagjivan Ram who swore-in 400 Congress winners in 1984 Lok Sabha polls lamented before senior journalist Vijay Sanghvi that leave alone Gandhi cap, none was even clad in khadi. Today, the party has moved farther way from the common man it once represented.
This has naturally opened space for political appropriation and re-branding by the present dispensation that was not part of the Gandhi-led movement. Last century’s “Nehru jacket” is now popularized and marketed as “Modi jacket”. The current premier patronizes khadi in its multiple hues and textures. He has also clothed several world leaders in khadi.
Modi has lent glamour to the fabric and contributed to its popularity and profitability. This is evident from the KVIC’s balance sheets in the last five years. The sale of khadi products has reached USD 1.56 billion in the last five years.
Modern textile technology has helped immensely in softening khadi’s cotton yarn and its bleaching and blending. KVIC is collaborating with top textile brands Arvind for denim and with Raymond.
Helped by fashion designers, khadi helps the elite make fashion statement if only to help them to “rise above” the class that chases the easy-to-maintain global brands or their local imitations which are mass-manufactured and hence relatively cheaper.
It has gone digital. A pair of trendy Western wear is available for a modest Rs 2,000. The high range could be a few hundred rupees for a meter of fabric.
The challenge lies in marketing. Leaving out main markets in major cities where it is given peppy look, Khadi Bhandars across India wear traditional, desolate look.
Yet, marketing of khadi and other products, even their exports, remains a unique example of public-private participation (PPP). Private entities buy from KVIC-affiliated and state government-run cooperatives. Encouraged, KVIC is looking for export markets after a survey in 21 overseas markets showed that khadi was the most recalled Indian brand, along with yoga. Its success could build on India’s ‘soft’ diplomacy.
Having credited khadi for generating the overall ‘desi’ revolution, it must now be conceded that the fabric that sold for Rs 2,005 crores forms only 4.3 percent of the total KVIC turnover. Fuller credit is due to numerous items like papad, soaps and shampoos, herbal medicines and cosmetics, honey, handicraft material, brassware, vegetable oils and organic grains and pulses.
They are produced by nameless housewives, rural artisans including cooks, potters and painters and small entrepreneurs in both public and private sectors. They make and market goods with or without the KVIC supervision and umbrella and form a unique network that probably exists nowhere else.
Industry experts attribute the organisation’s success to many domestic and international fashion designers preferring to work with sustainable and natural fabrics. There is also a buzz among millennial shoppers, who care about whether the clothes they wear or the products they use create jobs. Since khadi cloth is handspun and its products are mainly created by artisans in rural areas, the brand invokes good vibes in consumers.
In the last five years, the KVIC has promoted new schemes under Prime Minister Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) that have created 2.17 million new jobs. They include Honey Mission and Kumhaar Sashaktikaran Yojana (for potters’ empowerment). This includes distributing bee boxes and electric chaaks or potter wheels in the troubled Kashmir Valley and in Ladakh.
Such a massive exercise cannot be a top-down process from capital cities without involvement of the makers-cum-beneficiaries. There is need for debate. For instance, where does one draw a line between preserving cultural heritage and industrial/commercial pursuit?
Handloom, for one, should be revived as a skilled occupation that offers livelihood with dignity for both the weaver and the physical environment around, says B. Syama Sundari, coordinator, policy research and advocacy at Dastkar Andhra, an organisation that promotes handloom weaving as a viable rural livelihood.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com]]>
I am a black belt in Taekwondo, a martial arts form that originated in Korea. I have participated in many national level competitions and earned gold medals as well. I have spent years practising the technique and these skills were the most obvious choice of career for me. However, opportunities are hard to come by. So when my mentor told me about a certified instructor course programme in self-defence under Skill India initiative in Noida, I grabbed the opportunity and went to the office of Strike Self-Defence to check out what was happening.
A government certification for instructors is like golden recommendation in one’s resume. I immediately enrolled for the course and successfully completed it in six days. Usually, a Karate or Taekwondo teacher is hired by the schools as a self-defence instructor and this certification course has increased my chances of getting a good job.
I learned real life situations under the training, which changed the perspective of self-defence for me. Taekwondo laid a foundation of self-defence instructor in my life and this training has catapulted it further.
Unlike the oriental traditional martial arts, this self-defence programme in based on real life situations, real life threats, which include weapons, such as, knives, pistols, sticks and others. I was amazed to see how the level of training has changed. The programme is inspired by Israeli technique of Krav Maga and the first batch of instructors were trained with dummy knives, guns and sticks.
Now I can confidently thwart any attack by knife, stick or firearm. The training is very scientific. The instructors told us practical solutions, like not to engage with a person, who has a gun. The first option is to flee.
The regime is wonderful in terms of women’s safety, which is the need of the hour. After the course, I have become more confident and can now train people with a more scientific approach. This programme doesn’t require any costumes, demos for breaking ice and bricks, or bending iron rods, which are some of the many demonstrations common in oriental martial arts. These demos can cause injury. The training is focused on maximum utilization of force with minimal effort. One needs to train there to understand how the field of self-defence is being revolutionised.
I come from a middle class family so a sound source of income is important to us. I am confident that my future is secure after enrolling for this course. With this experience, I can be a helping pillar not only for my family but for the women of the country, who are in desperate need of a self-defence training like this.]]>
In the remote Satpuri village of Naintial district in Uttrakhand, Shobhan Singh Rawat, 50, an electrician and a farmer, says if job opportunities are not created in the hills, all literate youth will migrate to bigger cities eventually
I am an electrician. It is a vocation that my family is well equipped with. And that is why my sons also chose to be electricians. Both my sons are in Haldwani — one is pursuing an ITI course to become a technician/ electrician, and the other is running a shop of electrical goods. We have an ancestral orchard in our village, but the money from the yield is not enough for our family.
We could benefit from an initiative like Skill India, but we don’t know much about the scheme, nor do we have any idea about how to avail it. The nearest high school is nine kilometers from our village. Most villagers are forced to send away their kids for better education. So it is highly unlikely that a programme like Skill India can make its way to our village any time soon. I personally did not pursue any formal course to become an electrician. There were no institutes nearby for training. I just watched and learned.
Due to lack of higher education, job oriented courses and industries in the area, the village youth of the entire region are lagging behind. This region has been blessed with plenty of fruits and an enviable weather. But there’s not much to do here. Either we work relentlessly in the fruit orchards, which pays only in one season, or we earn money locally, working as electricians. Since the village has merely 300-350 people, there is not much scope left for our children here. My sons, like most other youngsters here are not interested in farming.
If sources of employment are not increased, then all the literate youth in the village will eventually migrate to bigger cities. I seriously doubt that my sons will ever come back to the village. Moreover, I fear that I might have to shift to Haldwani as I get older. I don’t want to leave my orchards, but do I have a choice?
It’s official. And it is also shocking. By 2020, which is next year, as many as 21 major Indian cities are likely to run out of their groundwater reserves. This, incidentally, is a finding from a report by the Indian government’s think tank, NITI Aayog, which was established to replace the erstwhile Planning Commission. The 21 cities include India’s capital city of New Delhi, its satellite growth centre, Gurugram, and several others smaller cities in northern India. But it also includes important southern cities such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and the seaside city of Chennai, which has been in the news now because of the severe water crisis it is facing currently.
Chennai’s four reservoirs that supply water have gone dry leading to an unprecedented crisis in India’s sixth largest metropolis, home to more than 10 million people. Images, videos and news items of the scale of suffering on account of water scarcity in Chennai have rung alarm bells not only across India but also around the world. Coupled with the fact that the monsoons this year are running at a 43% shortfall, Chennai’s water crisis has been unprecedented in a city that chronically suffers on account of lack of that vital resource. It has resulted in long lines for tanker supply of water—which are not only inadequate but also expensive and can be afforded only by the very rich—and violent protests that could quickly turn into water riots.
The situation in Chennai could be a foretaste of things to come across India as an estimated 600 million Indians face water shortage. More than 40% of India’s water requirements come from groundwater reserves and these are fast depleting in its cities but also in rural India. In Gurugram and Delhi, part of the heavily populated National Capital Region, daily dependence on water shipped by tankers to condominiums, buildings and well-off neighbourhoods has become a routine affair. However, the prices for water delivered via tankers is soaring and only the affluent can afford to pay for it. In Chennai, for instance, A government water tanker costs Rs 700-Rs 800 for 9,000 litres, but supplies are scanty and private operators are making merry. Private tanker water prices have soared to Rs 4,000-Rs 5,000 for 900 litres, prices that are way beyond what an average Indian household could afford to pay.
At the root of India’s water crisis are several key factors. First, the increase in population and, hence, the soaring demand for water. India’s population runs at over 1.3 billion and is likely to soon overtake China’s. This has created tremendous pressures on cities and smaller towns where people migrate in search of earning a livelihood. Cities have been growing because of relentless building of legal as well as illegal settlements. This leads to unabated pumping out of groundwater and the water tables across the country are being depleted. Second, there is a combination of factors such as drying up of tanks and lakes because of increased demand and successive years of rainfall shortages. Desalination efforts by which seawater in coastal areas can be converted to potable water have been hopelessly inadequate and ineffective. Third, the governments and local administration, particularly in highly populated areas, have been short-sighted and their plans to mitigate or be prepared for water crises of the kind that is afflicting India now do not match the growth in demand.
What could this mean? Besides widespread suffering (in some cases, life threatening ones) it could be just a matter of time before water riots break out on the streets of Indian cities and towns. Last Friday, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council cited reports and estimates to describe what it termed as a “climate apartheid” where only the wealthy would be able to afford to counter and survive the effects of drought, overheating, and hunger. And a World Bank estimate suggests that climate change could push at least 120 million more people into poverty globally by 2030. In India, the situation is already hurtling towards that.
India’s Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, recently called for greater measures for rainwater harvesting and more efficient ways of limiting water wastage. However, even if adopted, such measures could already be too late. A scenario where water becomes exorbitantly costly and leads to protests and violence is neither difficult to imagine nor unrealistic. And that could lead to civil strife of proportions that the authorities may not be equipped to handle.
A major cause of the crisis that Indians face with regard to basic infrastructure and resources such as water, electricity, and proper housing stems from the runaway surge in population. But it also has to do with the government’s lack of long-horizon planning. In most growing urban agglomerates in India, growth has been lop-sided and haphazard. Take the case of Gurugram. Touted as the “Millennium City”, it is the base for several Fortune 500 companies and has emerged as a go-to destination for wealthy Indians who can afford the sky-rocketing property prices and rents. However, in terms of basic infrastructure such as electricity, water, policing, and roads, it lags far behind what is required. When builders and real estate developers zeroed in on Gurugram, it was not matched by urban planning that would have to be commensurate with the growth that would come.
Today, Gurugram and several other Indian cities are in the throes of a crisis, teetering on the brink of a manmade disaster. The problem is so acute that solutions at this stage could be difficult to envisage. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that 65% of India’s population is below the age of 35, and 50% below the age of 25. Millions of them are workforce eligible people with aspirations, longevity, and demands that need to be met. For any government, it is a Herculean challenge to face.
One solution could be to involve the private sector in collaborative strategies to fight the crisis. In areas such as water supply where the government’s wherewithal is limited and often inadequate, partnering with private enterprises and local communities could be one route towards solving the problem. If companies are provided incentives to partner the government in areas such as large-scale rainwater harvesting; distribution network for tanker water supplies; and limiting the surge in migration to cities (by making available livelihood opportunities in rural areas), things could take a turn for the better, or, at least, it could stem the spiralling fall towards disaster.
But even if such initiatives are adopted, they would be slow-burn processes that could take years, if not decades, before their effects are perceived. Meanwhile, in the short run, India’s cities—the situation in Chennai is a rude awakening—could be facing a doomsday-like situation.]]>
Water crisis is no longer limited to arid patches of remote India. Bustling metropolitan cities, like Chennai and NCR, reel under shortage of potable water. LokMarg visited Seemapuri at Delhi border to record these hardships.]]>
I shifted from Mumbai to Chennai last year and was shocked to see the stark contrast between the two cities with regard to water supply. In Mumbai I was assured of running taps 24×7, but here, water is rationed. So, every day, water is supplied during fixed hours. We get water thrice a day: from 6 am to 9 am, 12 pm to 2 pm and finally from 6pm to 9 pm.
I thank my stars that I work from home, and I am there to store water, whenever it is supplied. However, I have many neighbours and friends, who don’t have the option to be able to work from home, and I see them suffer. Either they miss out on the precious water supply or they have to wake up early to fill up buckets and whatever utensils they can get their hands on. After working late at night, they end up compromising on their sleep. If someone has to go on a school run to drop their children, or is engaged in some other errand, they lose out on precious time.
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We are a family of only two people, so we don’t face as many difficulties. My heart goes out for larger families, especially the households that take care of the elderlies or the sick. The water crisis has hit them hard.
People here are thirsty for solutions to solve the crisis. While many people have become a pro at time management, there are some who are failing miserably at it. My husband often shares stories of how, many of his friends in the IT sector are being asked to work from home because the offices are unable to handle the water shortage.
ALSO READ: Hurtling Towards A Dystopian Urban Crisis
Rainwater harvesting, however, has shown some promise in mitigating the crisis. As per news reports, the Sabari Terrace Complex in Sholingannallur in Chennai managed to collect 1 lakh litres of water in just three hours of rains spread over three days. According to the residents, rainwater harvesting has considerably reduced their dependence on water supply from the authorities.
Just imagine how much more we could do if we put our heart and soul into rainwater harvesting and other ecological solutions! These residents used a very simple method of collecting water, which means that any society or group of people can do it. It is much cheaper than buying water from tankers. Besides, the water from rainwater harvesting is clean and free from waterborne diseases.
This is a citizen’s initiative, with a little push from the government, things can get much better. This is my first Chennai summer, I hope the next one is better.]]>
Akhtari was married to Rizwan in 2015. When her husband could not find work, he asked Akhtari to arrange money for a taxi. Soon the heated arguments turned into brutal physical torture. When her brother tried to sort out the matters with elders’ help, things only went worse. Akhtari’s in-laws locked her in a room without food and water for days as punishment. They also told Rizwan that if he divorced her, they will get him a new wife and dowry. Akhtari was kicked out of the house with her one-year old in arms. She waited outside the house, begged her husband to let her in. But it didn’t happen. She is enraged at how women in Indian families are treated like dirt. She wants justice and has approached UP Police: I belong to Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh. My parents fixed my marriage in 2015 when I was 24. I was told that my prospective husband worked as a chhota doctor in Delhi. My family believed that he was probably a Unani medicine practitioners or maybe an assistant to a doctor. My parents felt lucky for me and spent beyond their reach on the marriage and dowry. But when I moved to Delhi with my husband, Rizwan, I found that he drove a taxi. He told me there was more money in this ‘business’ and soon he will be running a fleet of taxis. I didn’t believe his words but accepted it as my fate. Less than two years after the marriage, Rizwan shifted back to Meerut since he was barely able to make two ends meet in Delhi. I was pregnant at that time. Unable to find any work in Meerut, Rizwan began pressing me to arrange money and a car for him so that he could runs his own taxi in Meerut. Every time I told him that my family was unable to meet these demands because my father was no more, there will be heated arguments and he would beat me with fists. His mother, father and brother, instead of intervening, further incited him to punish me. They had little concern for my condition. I gave birth to a girl child in 2017 and my brother and sister-in-law came to visit me. When they saw the bruises on my body and heard about the torture I had suffered, they tried to reason with Rizwan. After several rounds of talks, when my brother realized Rizwan was not going to budge, he agreed to arrange the money for the vehicle. This cooled down things for several months. But, when my brother was unable to arrange the promised money, thing went from bad to worse. My in-laws told Rizwan that if he divorced me they would find him a girl which will bring enough dowry for a car. When I countered them, they locked in a room for days without food and ensured that I was could not speak to my family. They probably wanted to starve me to death. But with some outside help, I managed to convey my condition to my brother, who immediately arrived at our home with some relatives. The elders in both the families sat together and decided that the matter must be settled within the confines of family and there should be no domestic violence. It had an adverse impact on Rizwan. My beatings only increased and got more brutal. On July 18, there was another argument in the house. My in-laws began thrashing me up and calling me names for making the family matters public. Rizwan told me that he was leaving me for good and uttered the dreaded talaq word thrice. I was kicked out of the house with my one-year-old child in arms. I waited outside the house for several hours, hoping that they will accept me back once their anger subsided. All this time, I kept begging them to forgive me and let me in. Several neighbours came to my help but Rizwan’s family told them that I had been given talaq. The neighbours could do little after that but they arranged my journey to my brother’s house later in the day. My brother tried to speak to Rizwan’s family but they just didn’t listen. Some elders in the vicinity advised us to approach police. Some said the government has brought a law which makes verbal triple talaq illegal. We went to police to file a case against the talaq but the police told us there was no law against triple talaq. However, they filed a case against my husband and his family under sections of domestic violence. SSP (Rajesh) Pandeyji himself heard out matter and has assured us of safety and other assistance prescribed under law. I have studied only Urdu at a madrasa only for one or two years but I have heard Muslims women speaking against talaq on TV. My question to powers-that-be is not about religion, but justice. Hindu women are also troubled for dowry and sometime burnt alive. Muslim women also face such harassment but they burn for life. I want most stringent laws against those who torture their wives and daughters-in-law for dowry and leave them at will.
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Shazia Khan was just 26 when the word talaq uttered three times tore her life apart thirteen years ago. She is one of the many Muslim women who came forward last year when the government took up the issue of this instant form of divorce. On December 28, 2017, the Lok Sabha passed The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, making instant triple talaq in any form – spoken, in writing or by electronic means such as email, SMS and WhatsApp – illegal and void, with up to three years in jail for the husband. The Bill remains to be passed by the Rajya Sabha, with the NDA committed to getting it through and the Opposition adamant on referring it to a select committee. Meanwhile, here is Shazia’s story: I was a teenager when my nikaah took place with a complete stranger from Pilibhit at my hometown Aligarh in 1993. I had no choice in this matter; destiny took me to Delhi. My husband, Aslam Khan, ran a small watch shop in Karol Bagh. We stayed with my husband’s aunt for some time and later bought our own house in East Delhi, after selling the village house. A month into my marriage, I got to know my husband was an alcoholic who would frequently pass out in public and would have to be carried home. Life went on, however, and I got pregnant less than a year into the marriage. I had a son, and my in-laws also moved in. We had another son later. One day, my husband sold the house and took a ₹36,000 advance from a buyer, a known bad character of our locality. I intervened and made sure the advance was returned. Later, I bought a plot in Mustafabad and built a house there. It was the turn of household items then. One day Aslam and I had an argument after he sold my mixer-grinder. It ended in silence with Aslam saying talaq three times. Our neighbour, Islam bhai, came and told me that I can’t live in the same house with my husband. “Aap yahan nahi reh sakte ho bhabhi (You cannot live here any longer),” he said. Just like that, I was homeless. I moved in with a cousin in Shahdara, Delhi, and called my brothers. We then filed a report of domestic cruelty against my husband, in-laws, my husband’s aunt and her son. Soon enough, my husband apologised and I agreed to go back. My first question, however, was, “How can we live together after talaq?” The answer was, “Marry him again”. This was my encounter with halala, the wedding of a divorced woman to someone else before she can remarry her first ex-husband. My halala husband was Rizwan, my husband’s friend. He was paid ₹1,000 for this deal. My only condition was that Rizwan would have no physical contact with me. As soon as I got back with Aslam, there was another shock waiting: the Mustafabad house had been sold. I was shattered, yet again. Somehow, I found the will to sort out this problem too. The property was registered in my name, so I took over the sale and took about ₹150,000 from the buyer. And ran, leaving even my kids with Aslam. I left for Aligarh, and from there Meerut, where I got a job at a doctor’s clinic. Years passed, till one day my younger son’s ill-health brought me face-to-face with Aslam again. He convinced me into living together again. We rented a flat in Delhi. It wasn’t over, though. One night I woke up to find my husband having sex with a eunuch. No words were exchanged this time, and it was really the end. I’ve been on my own since then, working one job after another to get by. The triple talaq bill is for women like me who’ve fought a losing battle against this practice all their lives.
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The Opposition raised strong objections at the introduction itself. After a brief discussion, the motion for tabling the bill was put to vote. 156 members voted for introduction and 74 against.
Speaker Om Birla then allowed Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to introduce the bill. Earlier he put up a stiff defence of the government move saying the issue was not of religion but of women.
“The rights of Muslim women will be protected. It is about justice & empowerment of women,” said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
“People have chosen us to make laws. It is our work to make laws. Law is to give justice to the victims of Triple Talaq,” he added.There was commotion in the House when the minister sought to introduce the bill. The Speaker had to intervene to let the Minister speak on the bill amidst the ruckus.
“The bill does nothing to improve the status of Muslim women,” said Congress member Shashi Tharoor.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that the bill places burden of proof on women.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 seeks to replace an ordinance by the government in February.
Last year, The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018 was passed in Lok Sabha but it lapsed after the dissolution of previous Lok Sabha with the bill pending in Rajya Sabha.