‘Get Serious Over Population Control’

Saurabh Lata Singh, 65, a housewife from Jharkhand is staunch supporter of population control. She feels if Narendra Modi is serious about the issue, he must take concrete steps and not just deliver speeches to score political points.

The Prime Minister during his speech on 15th August, said population control is an act of patriotism. Many people felt he was targeting a  particular community with this statement. However, it is the mindset and ignorance that should be targeted and not a particular community. 

Irrespective of religion, a majority of the Indian population still believes that having a son secure their future ensuring happiness and prosperity. I have heard of mothers killing their own daughters soon after birth in the hope of a son. What kind of a society are we living in?

Women are forced to conceive several times in the hope of birthing a son. This has an adverse impact on not just the health of the mothers but also of the older siblings, who neither get adequate nutrition or attention. Many a times, in villages elder sisters end up as nannies for their younger siblings. 

Even in urban areas population control measures need a push. The Prime Minister should seriously think about this problem because it impacts the whole fabric of society and should not use it to score political points. One of our neighbours had seven children and they continued wither birthing spree, even after their first and fourth-born were boys. This is the 21st Century and we are still surrounded by people who look at contraception scornfully. 

The concept of adoption is still alien to Indians. Orphaned/ abandoned children (mostly girls) continue to grow up without a family in orphanages. 

 I recently read about a 74-year -old woman, Erramatti Mangayamma, from Andhra Pradesh giving birth to twin baby girls. She conceived the twins through IVF and the reason she gave for having babies at this advanced age was that she felt isolated from her peers. While I have my doubts about how they will raise the two girls, what bothers me the most is why did they wait for 57 years to give birth to their own two babies? Why could they not adopt?

If we sincerely want to work towards population control we also have to work towards proper communication between couples. Sex education, pre and post-marital counselling are the need of the hour. Young people must understand that as responsible citizens, they must contribute to the society and population control is one of those ways. A smaller family is a happy family.


‘Swachh Bharat Toilets Gave Us Dignity’

Mahavir Yadav, 30, a farmer living on the Yamuna floodplains of Delhi-NCR, says the pucca toilet structure built under Swachh Bharat mission has rid his family from the embarrassment of defecating in the open.

Forget about a toilet, a farmer in Delhi-NCR cannot even consider constructing a pucca house. After defecating in the open for about a decade, finally a new toilet has been constructed, which we can use free of cost. This has changed our lives. It is more than just a convenience. We can finally live with dignity, which especially holds true for the women living here.  

I came to Delhi 15 years ago from Badaun. I started farming on leased land at Yamuna’s floodplains. I grew vegetables and sold them to earn money. Vegetables are costlier in Delhi and there is a good profit in farming. However, it’s not good enough to own a house or construct a toilet. We still live in makeshift accommodations as no construction is allowed on the floodplains. Moreover, we shift to the relief tents every monsoon as our houses gets flooded. In such a condition, thinking about building a toilet was impossible. 

About five years ago, after the Swachh Bharat initiative was launched, a toilet was constructed on the Delhi-Meerut highway near our residence opposite the Millennium Bus Depot. Initially we hesitated to use the toilet as it looked very clean but to our surprise, it was free for all. 

We started using the toilet every morning and now it has become a habit. There were days, especially during rains, when the water level of Yamuna rose and women of our families faced a lot of difficulty in relieving themselves. Men too, had to travel around half a kilometre to look for a place for defecation. Children, often used to fall sick during monsoons due to poor hygiene. 

One toilet has not only enhanced our lifestyle but has also taught us a lot about hygiene. We carry our own soaps to wash our hands and make sure the toilet is clean after we use it. I am happy that our children have picked up these habits very fast. Though, there is just one toilet that can be locked, we are very happy with it. We would like to thank the government for this. There should definitely be more such toilets.


‘Happy To Serve Idlis At ₹1 For A Living’

Kamalathal, 82, has been selling idlis for just Re 1 for more than two decades now in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. She feels this is her way of contributing to society and these are reasons for her to continue.

I have been doing this for the past 20 years now and don’t know how long this will continue. I don’t have anybody in my family. I am alone. I earn Rs 200 daily. I don’t aim to earn money out of selling idli at this price. If I had aimed to become a crorepati by doing this, I could have done that in these many years. But, I decided, no, I only earn my small livelihood.

I go about preparing idlis after waking up before the crack of dawn, working from 5:30 am and continue till noon. Through out the day I sell about 400-500 idlis and earn about Rs 200, which, I believe, is a modest amount for me to live on. I am happy when people come to me and I serve them piping hot idlis.

I serve idlis with chutney and sambar which I prepare myself. if I had to go and earn for my livelihood, I could go out and earn Rs 200 daily, but the same amount I earn by doing this. I sell my stuff to earn the amount which I require.

I have been flooded with offers of help from across the country after a video went viral. I have been offered an LPG gas connection too. This is supposed to be issued by Bharat Petroleum Corporation.

But I find my true reward only when people appreciate my food. Many people who come here often find it difficult to believe that the idly cost Re 1. My answer to them is just a smile.


‘Hope To See Respect For Cyclists’

Harsha Paliwal, 39, a writer from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, loves to cycle. However, she feels Indian road users have no regard for cyclists and pedestrians. With steep fines for errant motorists, Paliwal hopes to see more discipline on road.

More than a decade ago, when I was preparing for my bank entrance exams, my coaching classes used to get over by 9 pm. One night while returning home with a friend, we hired an autorickshaw. The driver was drunk, the street lights weren’t functioning and there was a buffalo standing right in the middle of the road — a perfect recipe for an accident. Our autorickshaw skidded and the next thing I remember, we were lying on the road, helpless. People, who came to help us (mostly from lower income groups) got unnecessarily harassed by the police. 

Drunk and rash driving, poor infrastructure and harassment of people helping out accident victims — this one accident opened my eyes to the multiple maladies that ail Indian roads. More than ten years since, Indian roads continue to be unsafe, with incidents of rash and drunk driving, highly polluting vehicles, and people breaking traffic rules with impunity. 

Nearly 1.8 lakh people die every year in India due to road accidents. Most of those accidents are wholly avoidable. Once my father saw a whole family wiped out in an accident. For days he suffered the trauma. 

So, I am happy that the Motor Vehicles Act (1989) has been amended. India’s transport laws desperately needed an overhaul. 

The new amended Act has several provisions that I am happy about. Anyone who helps an accident victim will not be harassed and the first hour of treatment of accident victims will be cashless. This will take a heavy load off people who are wary of helping accident victims despite having the intention to help. The compensation to the next of kin of accident victims has been increased from ₹25,000 to  ₹2 lakh. 

Besides this, it is common to see minors driving rashly on the roads, especially in the metros. I am happy that their parents will be penalised. However, the penalties in other cases seem a bit too steep. Penalty amounts should have been increased, but the increase has been insane. Just penalties won’t serve the purpose, we need mass sensitization of people as well. 

Our political leaders need to lead by example. Their cavalcades cause huge traffic jams inconveniencing people. People follow their leaders, so the parliament members who have passed this act should make sure to behave well. Road infrastructure must also be improved ensuring connectivity to the remotest village.  

Another issue I would like to highlight is the total disregard our society has for cyclists and pedestrians. I am a cyclist and a marathon runner and every day I have to negotiate an insane amount of traffic. I am preparing for a mega athletic event known as Triathlon India (an athletic contest comprising three different events, typically swimming, cycling, and long-distance running). This requires me to be on the road for many hours doing long-distance running and long-distance cycling. On weekends, I cycle for nearly 75 kilometres (Ghaziabad -NH 24- Akshardham – Nizamuddin Bridge –  Pragati Maidan- Purana Qila – India Gate). For work and other daily chores, I use my scooty too. 

India is not a country for cyclists or pedestrians. Cyclists rank the lowest in the transport ladder and are accorded zero respect in our country. During my runs, I encounter incessant honking; vendors encroaching on footpaths meant for pedestrians; and bikers driving freely on footpaths and the space beside it.  I have to be on high-alert all the time. 

To conclude, I feel a person with integrity will not flout rules.  And no matter what acts are brought in, a person without integrity will find a way to break rules (in collusion with authorities). I will be an optimist though, and hope that people change for the better.


‘Reforms Must Among Bohra Muslims’

Yusuf Ali, 65, and thousands like him launched a reformist struggle in Bohra Muslim community. But for raising voice against practices such as female genital mutilation, Ali calls for govt help to keep the reformist struggle on.

There is a verse in Qur’an that says, ‘La Iqra Fid Deen’, which means there is no compulsion in religion. About two decades back, when we reiterated the verse, we were asked to leave the community. Carrying out a reformist movement among Muslims is not an easy task. It will probably take more than just one lifetime to make every person of our community understand what we stand for. 

There is a good youth population among Bohra Muslims in Udaipur, who defy the medieval laws of the head priest called ‘Syedna’. They have a more positive and humane approach towards religion. Twenty years ago, when we formed the Bohra youth community, we were despised and were asked to leave each and every place of worship. But we never left hope and kept fighting for our rights. We are proud Muslim Bohras, we just don’t follow the medieval laws. We don’t impose religion on our children, they are free to pursue any kind of study or profession. 

During initial years, we were threatened of dire consequences, but Allah has been with us. We are now a good thriving community who do not support practices such as, female genital mutilation (FGM), wearing skull caps, keeping beards without moustaches and most importantly paying taxes to the local Maulana and adhering to rules imposed on behest of the Syedna. The Maulana directs everything, right from the rituals that performed for welcoming a newborn to the last rites, the Maulana charges for everything. He even has a say in business dealings as well. 

The main mosque of the Bohras in Udaipur is still under the control of the orthodox Bohra community. It is unbelievable how they have segregated us from the rest. There is a special barricade for us in the mosque, which we are not supposed to cross. We offer Namaz before the barricade that has been put exclusively for us, despite of the fact that Islam doesn’t allow discrimination among its followers. 

Besides the mosque, there are a majority of religious institutions, in the city, which we are barred from entering as they belong to the orthodox group. We are a long legal battle away from gaining access to these places.  The orthodox maulanas want to oust us from the community, but we are thriving due to our honest values and liberal views.

Bohras have traditionally been a closely-knit business community, but the new generations of Bohras are now doing everything. We don’t discriminate amongst our sons and daughters and we raise them as per the modern society and not the rules of the Maulana. We practice modern Islam.

I have seen enough of this battle. This is the right time for the government to step in and support the reformists. Without the government’s support, our efforts to reform the community will be wasted.

We reformers, constitute a population of about 15,000-16,000 in Udaipur. There are more in other cities. But so far we have been used by the politicians as a vote-bank. None of the politicians have kept their promise. Why would they? After all, the orthodox faction is also a strong vote-bank.

We need Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attention. He promises to reform each section of the society. If he really wants reform among the Muslim communities in India, he must support us. The future generations will be grateful to him. We don’t want rights in the property. We don’t have financial greed. All we want is to be accepted in the community like we are. There must not be any compulsion to follow the maulana to remain in the community.


‘Thankful To Triple Talaq Bill Activists’

Farzana, (name changed), is a 40-something resident of Delhi who works as a household help. She has seen female members of her family suffer due to triple talaq. She welcomes the new law that criminalises instant talaq.

Several Muslim women have suffered endlessly due to triple talaq. A decision taken impulsively and in haste never bodes well for anyone — be it the husband, the wife, or society as a whole. 

I am lucky that my husband is a very caring and understanding individual. He would never hurt me or try to prove his superiority over me. He treats me as an equal and I love being his wife. Ours is a relationship of mutual respect. 

However, many others in my extended family have not been so lucky. Two of my aunts, for instance, were divorced through triple talaq. While, one somehow managed to rebuild her life, the other aunt couldn’t bear the shock. She gave into depression and slowly died. She had two children, who are now being raised by the other aunt. Imagine the plight of the parents of these two sisters! 

I am glad that the Triple Talaq Bill has finally been passed in the Parliament. It is a boon for women as well as families, who want to stick together and build something beautiful out of their companionship. Our future generations will reap benefits from this new law. Women will no longer live in constant fear of being abandoned by their husbands. The credit must go to all the women and NGOs, who were involved in laying the foundations of the new law. 

There is a doha:  Rahiman dhaga prem ka mat todo chatkay… Don’t break the string of love for it is very delicate. A marriage is a beautiful bond, bound by the delicate string of love. A custom like triple talaq threatens to snap them in one impulsive moment. Triple talaq signifies the male ego and misogyny. Even the most trivial fight can end up in an instant divorce, ruining families. I do understand that some relationships don’t work out, no matter how much effort you put into them, but triple talaq is no way to end them.


‘Skill India Didn't See My Skills’

Raju Yadav, 26, picked up the skills of an electrician while working in an electric repair shop. However, Skill India centres refused to lend him certification because he did not know how to write and take notes 

I am an electrician. I can fix any wiring fault and even install solar panels. I have been doing this for the past five years. But I don’t have a degree or a certificate, I have learnt my skills through experience and no formal training. I have been pursuing a Skill India centre for getting a certificate, but in vain. 

I have been denied a certificate because my poor reading and writing skills. This is gross injustice with people like us. I learnt about Skill India Centres through a friend, who got a certification. He is now a certified electrician, but I am not. How does it matter whether I am able to write notes or not? 

The only thing that matters are my skills. And I have worked very hard to acquire them. When I first came to Delhi with my family from Uttar Pradesh, I could only find work as a daily wage labourer. I struggled to make money, as even after a day’s hard work, the money wasn’t enough to survive in Delhi. 

One day, I got an opportunity to work as a labourer at an electrification site. I stuck to that project for over a year till it was completed. Gradually after two-three years of work as an assistant to electricians, I got my first project on my own and completed it successfully. Now I am a full-fledged electrician, I just need a certification to get more jobs. 

To get a certification I need to learn to write properly. I quit studying after primary school, so writing is something that I could never perfect. With a little help I can probably learn to write too.

There are many people like me, who have learnt a vocation, on the job. It just shows that we are good learners and we don’t really need to take notes. But our fate still hangs in balance. People who have similar skills, and are able to take notes, are now certified by the government. 

I want the authorities to understand that we are equally skilled. I have spent years in perfecting my skills as an electrician. But I can only get a contract through my sources and references as I don’t have any certificate. 

Even if the government gives me a certificate of assistant or trainee electrician, it will be of great help for me. I will prove myself and will return to the centre after studying enough to get proper certification. This will help me build a career and take care of a family. 

There are thousands like me who are in dire need of certification for their skills. The government must do something for us for the sake of equal opportunity.


‘Self-Defence Skill India Course Ensures A Job’

A Black Belt in Korean martial art Taekwondo, Anjil Dixit Sharma is one of the first women to get a certification in self-defence course under the Skill India initiative. Sharma feels confident of securing herself a gainful employment.

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.


‘Namami Gange Funds Go Into A Drain’


LokMarg team speaks to people on Namami Gange project, one of the pet projects of Narendra Modi government launched in June 2014. People feel that the project has given yet another milch cow to officers and politicians.