information and stories about India.

Lynching in India
Lynching means to illegally kill a person suspected of an offense without a trial, often by a public mob. In the past few years, incidents of mob lynching rose in India. Religious polarization and fake social media news are the two main drivers of increased lynching in India. This article explores nine facts about lynching in India and provides measures to prevent it.

9 Facts About Lynching in India

  1. Data on Lynching in India: The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) collects and publishes data on the crime incidents happening in India within a year. The NCRB does not collect or publish any data on lynching incidents although there is a distinct category in the report for the same. The NCRB reports these incidents as murder. Media sources claim that incidents of lynching are on a sharp rise under the current right-wing government of India. Journalists reported 20 incidents between May and June 2018 alone.
  2. Causes of Lynching in India: Most of the lynching in India occurred in response to the Indian government’s cow protection and beef ban. The cow is a sacred animal for Hindus who venerate it. The Muslim population carries the beef trade in India and is generally the victim of this mob fury. Although beef comes from buffalo and not cows in India, the mobs attack and beat the drivers carrying dead animals (to death in many cases) or others involved in the trade. The recent mob lynching in India is an example of religious intolerance. The spread of fake news through social media about child abduction is another important cause of mob violence against any suspicious people.
  3. Lynching and Economy: An important fact about lynching in India is its effect on the economy of the country. The greatest number of attacks have been on drivers carrying dead animals, traders of beef and owners of slaughterhouses; as a result, they will tend to abandon these jobs due to fear of suffering lynching. This is sure to affect the trade and economy, especially since India is one of the largest exporters of beef in the world. The lynching will also lead to job loss and increase the rate of unemployment in India where unemployment is already at its highest.
  4. Lynching and Health: Lynching incidents are an issue of public health. In the short-term, lynching leads to death and injury for the victims whereas in the long-term it can lead to psychological and physiological effects on present and future generations. Studies show that higher rates of lynching in an area lead to increased rates of mortality for those communities.
  5. Enactment and Enforcement of Strict Anti-lynching Laws: In India, there are currently no laws dictating punishment for lynching. Therefore, the first and foremost step is for the government to introduce and pass an anti-lynching law and strictly enforce it. Given the distinct nature of the crime, it is important to make separate laws for this and not merge these incidents with other kinds of murder. The United States passed its first anti-lynching law in 2018 and India should follow the lead.
  6. Collection and Maintenance of Data Independent of the Government: To put control over such incidents, NCRB should make lynching a distinct category and record the number of incidents. This will give visibility to the lynching episodes and create an urgency to act. When there is no separate category for lynching, people see these incidents as unimportant and rare.
  7. Improve Economic Conditions and Employment Rates: Research says that there is a link between hate crimes such as mob lynching and economy. Socioeconomic status and education determine participation in such criminal acts. People living in poverty and with low educational status are more prone to both participating in lynching and becoming a victim of such incidents. Therefore, creating more jobs for the unemployed young of the country, skill development and improving their financial circumstances will divert their attention away from such heinous acts and protect them from being a victim or a perpetrator of it.
  8. Campaigns and Awareness: The success of Ida B. Wells (who started the anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s) and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) movement against lynching of African-Americans in 1909 are examples to learn from and the people of India can start similar awareness campaigns against current increase in lynching incidents. Such campaigns can end religious polarization and create cultural sensitization towards mob violence.
  9. Control the Spread of Fake News Through Social Media: Apart from the cow protection groups, the second most important cause of lynching in India is the spread of fake news over social media regarding child abduction. People in rural areas and with low education easily believe the news they read on social media platforms and act in anger and frustration. Therefore, the Indian government needs to restrain the spread of such fake news by collaborating with social media companies and run awareness campaigns about the pros and cons of social media.
The Supreme Court of India has given orders to the Government of India to enact laws specifically to control lynching in India. The court has framed a three-level strategy that involves prevention, remedy and accountability on the behalf of the officials to control lynching in India. Three states, Mizoram, Rajasthan and West Bengal have introduced anti-lynching bills so far. With the people and government paying attention to mob violence, there is hope that the government of India will soon pass appropriate laws to curb lynching in India and her people will feel safer again.

– Navjot Buttar
Photo: Wikipedia

India’s Digital Transformation
Over the last decade, India has tackled barriers like undocumented citizen identities and minimal access to formal banking and new technologies with a series of innovative programs and digital services. This article will explore India’s digital transformation.

Digital Identification and Financial Inclusion

Efforts to digitize India first took off in 2009 with the launch of a digital identity system called Aadhaar. Aadhaar aimed to provide every citizen with a digital identity. Aadhaar obtained IDs through a biometric-authenticated 12 digit number that created them according to applicant’s iris and fingerprint scans. Aadhaar has provided over 600 million voluntary applicants with UID’s (unique identifications) since its launch. The success of Aadhaar gave even the most rural populations the ability to identify themselves and avoid the hassle of ineffective systems.

Although the majority of citizens obtained digital IDs, a portion of the population still lacked access to digital banking services. Limited access excluded citizens from participating in formal banking that could improve their lives. With the demand for digital banking services increasing, India embarked on its next phase of digital innovation.

In 2014, with added backing from the Modi government, India created the Jan Dhan financial inclusion program. Jhan Dhan sought to get as many Aadhaar identity holders to participate in digital banking as possible. Within the first day of the program’s launch, Aadhaar identifications set up 10 million paperless bank accounts. The program also promised account holders accident insurance for up to 100,000 rupees (or $1,500) and an overdraft capacity of 5,000 rupees ($80).

Empowered with digital identification and banking, citizens could digitally access government services with more ease. The increase in mobile banking also created new layers for India’s digital transformation.

Demonetization and BHIM

By 2017, Aadhaar identification had become a required function for formal banking, SIM connections and income tax returns. With the majority of the population using digital services, the need for India to demonetize became more apparent. India’s total demonetization seemed daunting, but it appears to have worked well for the country. India’s decision to demonetize was so abrupt, the demand for services like Aadhaar and Jan Dhan, among others, increased rapidly. With the replacement of its old currency and the demand for digital services rising so quickly, India’s digital transformation took its next steps.

To help with the transition of demonetization, India’s Prime Minister launched BHIM (Baharat Interface For Money) in 2016. The app serves as a digital payment platform in tandem with the country’s UPI interface. BHIM also works with a 2G network, meaning that people even the most rural parts of India can access this service. This network allows UPI account holders to send and receive instant payments from non-UPI holders, which cushioned the shock of demonetization for more of the population.

The app also offers a wealth of diverse services for users and businesses. Currently, it allows users to shop/pay for services online, transfer money to family and friends, receive customer payments with no additional cost and check transaction history and account balance at any time.

Three years after its launch, BHIM collaborated with over 100 banks nationwide and in early 2018 people downloaded the app 21.65 million times for Android phones and over a million for Apple. Data that RBI and the National Corporation of India collected also demonstrated that out of 145 million UPI transactions that year, BHIM carried out 9.1 million of them.

Although India requires more work, it has dedicated itself to improvements through innovative technology and creative solutions over the last decade. As it continues its efforts, the country’s citizens should have increased access to banking services.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

airlines fight poverty
When thinking about airlines, people often only think about things such as comfort, price and convenience. Many forget to consider the different ways their favorite airlines make a difference to people around the world. Below lists how five of the world’s top airlines fight poverty.

How 5 Global Airlines Fight Poverty

  1. Qatar Airways: Travelers voted Qatar Airways the best airline in the world in 2019. The airline fights poverty by supporting and donating to charity projects in over 43 countries around the globe. One of these is Educate A Child. Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar founded this initiative to provide children facing extreme poverty with opportunities for education. Since 2013, Qatar Airways’ customers and employees raised $2.3 million for the initiative. The airline matches the funds that customers donate onboard. Educate A Child works in countries around the world, from Uganda to Lebanon and Haiti.
  2. British Airways (BA): This airline fights poverty in partnership with Comic Relief through the Flying Start program. The airline raised more than 23 million pounds since the program’s inception in June 2010. Customers raise funds when they donate via the BA website or onboard the airlines. British Airways staff also gather donations via onboard collections as well as by participating in individual or group challenges such as skydiving, mountain climbing and cycling. Through Flying Start, BA helped more than 620,000 children and youth across the U.K. and other countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Jamaica and India.
  3. JetBlue: Travelers voted JetBlue the best airline in the U.S. The airline worked with the Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring (DREAM) Project since 2008 to provide equal opportunity to high-quality education to children in the Dominican Republic. In partnership with DREAM, JetBlue can reach 6,000 youth each year.Since 2006, JetBlue also partnered with First Book to give brand new books to children who would otherwise not be able to afford books or other learning material. The airline successfully distributed more than 430,000 new books to children in local U.S. communities as well as around the world. In 2016, when JetBlue launched its inaugural flight to Quito, Ecuador, its donation of 500 books to the Working Boys’ Center marked the first time since 2008 that the center received new books.
  4. Etihad Airways: The national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) worked with Magic Bus to support children and youth between the ages of 12 and 18 in India. In December 2016, a group of volunteers from the airline’s staff worked in Mumbai and constructed a sports field, a weatherproof outdoor shelter as well as a vegetable garden. Since its founding 20 years ago, Magic Bus helped more than 1 million children across 22 states in India as well as children in Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh to gain skills and knowledge necessary to move out of poverty.
  5. Lufthansa: The German airline won the best European airline award in 2019. Lufthansa Group and Lufthansa employees formed an aid organization called the Help Alliance in 1999. It is through this alliance that the airline fights poverty. Currently, it manages 50 projects worldwide. The donations alone fund these programs. The Help Alliance constructed iThemba Primary School in Cape Town, South Africa where more than 200 students studied since January 2018. When the project finishes, 700 students will have the chance to receive a quality education. This is important as more than 2,000 children in Cape Town do not get the chance to attend school. In Brazil, the Broadening Horizons program enables 30 disadvantaged youth from around Sao Paulo Airport to receive vocational training as bakers or confectioners. The youth undergo six months of training after which most of them find jobs in one of the many catering companies, hospitals and hotels in the region.

Beyond moving people from one place to another, top airlines in the world give back to the communities around them. Customers can choose to travel with airlines that fight poverty and make a small donation to help them in their quest.

Sophia N. Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

water crisis in ChennaiChennai, the capital of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, faces a water shortage that threatens the lives of 9 million residents. The city heavily relies on groundwater, which has completely dried up. Ironically, the city is prone to flooding caused by the heavy rains of the monsoon season. The local government failed to harness rainfall during the monsoon season, which was less than usual last year, causing water reserves to remain unfilled. With no further preparation of the inevitable, stored water continued being depleted and resulted in a water crisis in Chennai.

Only Rain Can Save Chennai

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio posted on Instagram, saying that “only rain can save Chennai from this situation.” The picture was of women trying to draw water from an almost empty well. DiCaprio drew attention to the water crisis in Chennai in hopes of highlighting how devastating the conditions are, and to spread awareness about the importance of preparing for droughts.

The Cause of the Problem

The cause of the drought is the vast amount of urbanization in Chennai. Buildings were quickly built on top of underground water reserves, which eventually dried up due to a lack of rainwater being able to enter them. For example, “in the 1920s…the ancient 70 acre Mylapore tank was filled up to create what is now a bustling residential and commercial area called T Nagar.” This means that the citizens of Chennai have to rely on outside water being brought in.

Getting Water from the Government

One solution for the people of Chennai is to order water from government water trucks.  Each day these trucks bring water to a community or neighborhood for people to fill up their reserves. However, current water tankers have long and increasing wait time, causing further problems. Citizens turn to private tankers, but these sell water “for six times the price [of government tankers].” Until the water tanker process can be made more efficient, people are forced to deplete their savings to pay for water, or even move out of Chennai.

Other Possible Solutions

An alternative solution is to invest in the latest technology to make water more accessible for everyone, such as more desalination plants that make saltwater drinkable. One example is the Minjur desalination plant, which is “35km north of…Chennai,” and is the largest desalination plant in India. It has “a capacity of 100 [milliliters/day]” and could potentially help around 500,000 people in Chennai. The state government hopes to use the plant to help in future water crises.

Ironically, Chennai already has a solution, rainwater harvesting, which is mandatory for all buildings by law. This is the simple process of collected rainwater from buildings which can then be stored for later use. According to The Washington Post, the rainwater harvesting process “has not been rigorously implemented or monitored” leaving many people blaming the Chennai government for their inefficiency and lack of preparation for what is the slow and steady degradation of Chennai’s water supply.

While millions of Chennai citizens currently struggle to get drinking water, it is important to remember that there are solutions that can be implemented to stop a water crisis from reoccurring in the future. Solutions such as desalination plants, water trucks and rainwater harvesting are all steps in the right direction to ensure water access for the millions who need it.

– Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in India
India is a sub-continent in Southern Asia that boasts the second largest population in the world following China, with roughly 17 percent of the world’s population. India plays a vital role in multiple international organizations including the U.N., World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While India has sustained large economic growth—up to 10 percent annually—and a GDP amounting to roughly $1.6 billion, not everyone has reaped the benefits of these feats. India ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world with approximately 68.8 percent of its citizens living in poverty—that is over 800 million people. A life of poverty for these citizens hastens the spread of diseases that inevitably lead to chronic impairment or death. These are the top eight diseases in India.

Top 8 Diseases in India

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease – Commonly referred to as coronary artery disease (CAD), this condition is the number one cause of death in India. Independent groups such as the Indian Heart Association work to raise awareness of the issue through cardiac screenings and informational sessions. Indian dietary habits can be poor with many foods involving butter, grease and fatty foods. This is especially true for poorer segments of the population where this type of food is cheaper and easily accessible. From 2007 to 2017, there was an approximate 49.8 percent increase in the number of deaths in India caused by ischemic heart disease.
  2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – People primarily contract this disease through smoking, second-hand smoking and fume inhalation. Roughly 30 million Indians suffer from a moderate or severe form of COPD. Early detection of COPD can lead to successful treatment and survival of the patient. Factory pollution in India is rampant and the use of cigarettes is all too common, especially among poorer sections of the population. The impoverished have limited access to medical clinics with 56 percent of the population lacking health care, and thus, unable to get adequate treatment for COPD.
  3. Diarrheal Diseases – Diarrheal diseases account for a significant portion of childhood mortality in India. It is the third leading cause of childhood mortality and studies have correlated this to hygiene, malnutrition, improper sanitation and an impoverished upbringing. A lack of affordable care and education for families will lead to further prominence of diarrheal diseases in Indian society. Currently, the U.S. Agency for International Development is working to implement effective and affordable solutions to counteract sanitary related diseases in India.
  4. Lower Respiratory Infections – Respiratory infections such as influenza, pneumonia and bronchitis are all diseases that harm lung function in the body. Indians are extremely susceptible to these due to the high concentration of air pollution throughout the country, especially in poor rural and urban areas. In 2018, 14 out of 15 of the most polluted cities in the world were in India according to the World Health Organization. Further, air pollution also led to roughly 1.24 million deaths in India over the course of 2015.
  5. Tuberculosis – In 2016, there were 2.8 million reported cases of TB and about 450,000 deaths. This disease is rampant among the impoverished in India because there is not a sufficient amount of clinics and professionals to resolve the issue. The vaccine for tuberculosis is not accessible for Indians in the poor parts of the nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025. Through a $1 million partnership with USAID, India hopes to strengthen the detection and treatment of tuberculosis.
  6. Neonatal Disorders – While incidences of neonatal disorders in India have decreased from 52 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 28 per 1,000 in 2013, this is not an indicator of sustainable progression in India. The truth of the matter is that neonatal decline simply boosted the infant mortality rate because of a brief time-lapse in the survival of the newborn. In India, one can attribute neonatal deaths to asphyxia, pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, tetanus and an array of other preterm abnormalities. Further, studies show that there is an inverse correlation between socioeconomic status and neonatal deaths. In impoverished rural parts of the country, the neonatal mortality rate is 31 per 1,000 live births whereas it is 15 per 1,000 live births in urban parts of the nation.
  7. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – Contrary to popular belief, CKD impacts lower-income countries as well as developed ones. In more developed countries, individuals are able to get access to life-saving treatments. Lower-income nations and portions of nations do not share the same luxury. Scientists predict that there will be 7.63 million deaths from CKD in India in 2020; this is up from the 3.78 million CKD deaths in 1990. The poor in India do not have the finances to receive transplants or the means to attend a reputable hospital.
  8. Tumors – Accounting for 9.4 percent of deaths in India, tumors are the product of pathogens and the buildup of harmful germs in the human body. While not extremely common, these tumors are affecting young and middle-age individuals at an alarming rate. Tumors are also root identifiers of cancer. In the last 26 years, the cancer rate in India has doubled and caused significant economic loss, exemplified by a $6.7 billion loss in 2012. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer and oral cancer are extremely prominent in the nation. The costs of treatment are not attainable for all of the affected and thus cause an increase in mortality. India aims to increase the number of physicians and centers for treatment and research through a $20 million initiative. Nongovernmental organizations are also working to raise awareness and supporting early detection methods across the nation.

Since its independence in 1947, India became one of the strongest nations on the planet. With an unprecedented economic boom, India is an emerging global superpower. Despite India’s successes, it is still lagging behind many western countries in its accessibility to medicine, medical facilities and equal wealth distribution.

The top eight diseases in India are pressing problems the nation can resolve through adequate reform. While the situation may appear hopeless, India is taking strides forward to ensure that each citizen lives a prosperous and meaningful life. Technological advances such as new surgical techniques and radiotherapy equipment continue to help counteract malignant tumors and potent cancers. Furthermore, the Indian government has enacted the National Clean Air Plan to reduce air pollution by 20 to 30 percent by 2024. This has prompted individual cities throughout the nation to limit their carbon output through the use of more efficient technologies and stricter regulations. India can continue to thrive as a global economic power while working to resolve its internal problems.

– Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Development of India

Thirty years ago, India was considered by many to be the poster child for global poverty, with what the CIA World Factbook described as “environmental degradation, extensive poverty and widespread corruption.” However, in the decades since, India has grown tremendously, threatening to eclipse existing global superpowers, in fact, the country is projected to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2025. Here are five reasons for the rapid pace of development in India:

5 Reasons for the Rapid Pace Development of India

  1. Risk Management in Farming – Farmers are the backbone of a thriving society. However, the field of agriculture is full of risks, as bad crops, bad weather and other unexpected circumstances can lead to ruin for a would-be farmer, particularly in a country like India, which experiences ongoing monsoons that can completely ruin a farmer’s crops. This is why India has begun to implement risk management programs that insure farmers’ crops against monsoons and other disasters, a practice common in developed countries. When the Indian government implemented the PMFBY risk management scheme in 2016, the country saw the market premiums for agricultural goods increase by 300 percent.
  2. Quickly Growing Cities – A large part of India’s development has taken place in its cities. Two-thirds of the economic growth of the country comes from its cities, which are projected to have economies the size of small countries by 2030. This is largely due to the large influx of new citizens to the cities, which is projected to add 300 million residents by 2050. This comes at the cost of tremendous overcrowding in the cities, but India is working to develop new methods of urban sustainability that will keep the growth provided by its massive cities going.
  3. Investing in Renewable Energy – When India began to take off as a world power, the country was able to quickly develop its energy systems due to a rapid and early adoption of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy. This is because, due to the lack of preexisting infrastructure and the country’s sunny climate, it is cheaper for the Indian energy industry to harness solar energy than to harness energy from coal and gas. Today, solar energy alone makes up 30 percent of the energy produced in India and has the capacity to produce 30 GW of power in 2019. This access to cheap and reliable energy has helped India’s development by allowing the country to power its cities and even export energy to other countries. With that said, many households in India still lack access to electricity, which has caused many in the country to criticize the government’s export policies.
  4. Increased Focus on Breastfeeding – Although this point may seem oddly specific, it is vital to India’s development. The ability of children to breastfeed has been shown to improve their overall nutrition and reduce child mortality. Over the last 10 years, the percentage of babies who are breastfed in India has increased from 46.4 to 54.9 percent. This is partly due to a government program called Mother’s Absolute Affection, which works to make mothers and health care providers more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and the nutritional needs of a developing baby.
  5. Thriving Tech Industry – In recent years, India has become almost ubiquitously known for being one of the largest tech powerhouses in the world. Most of this growth has been concentrated in start-up companies, turning India into a gigantic Silicon Valley. Of note, Bangalore, India’s biggest tech city, is considered by experts to be the second-fastest growing startup city in the world (behind Berlin) and the country has been rated the world’s top exporter of IT services.

Overall, India is one of the world’s fastest-growing countries and it is because of smart government policies, targeted economic development and stronger social services that help ensure that people aren’t left behind.

Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

 

 

STEM Education in India

According to India’s latest census, 7.8 million children must earn a living while attending school. Another 84 million children do not even attend school. One of India’s biggest challenges is making education accessible to all its people. While primary education in India is now required, many children do not have the means to attend school. Although India’s literacy rates are rising, studies show that many children in primary schools fail to comprehend basic skills and concepts. As new technologies emerge, STEM education is becoming an important aspect of India’s education. The Agastya International Foundation and India STEM Foundation are two nonprofit organizations introducing rural children to STEM education.

STEM Education in India

In 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that 75 percent of India’s technology graduates lack the qualifications for jobs in their fields. This report came a month after India released its 2011 census stating that nearly 92 million children in India struggle to achieve an education. Today, India’s government and nonprofit organizations, such as the Agastya International Foundation and the India STEM Foundation, have partnered to provide children with a strong education they can depend on later in life.

Agastya International Foundation

Founded in 1999, the Agastya International Foundation is a “transformative educational organization” that provides poor rural and urban children with hands-on learning through its mobile science labs. With more than 130 mobile labs set up across India, Agastya provides more than 500 students with hands-on learning every day. The Agastya International Foundation hones its curriculum to fill noticeable gaps within India’s education system.

  • With a rural 172 acre campus, Agastya provides children and young adults with a wide range of hands-on learning activities. The Camps @ Campus program is a unique opportunity for rural and urban children to come together. During the program, children sharpen their academic abilities while simultaneously drawing lessons from their rural or urban counterparts. Agastya also offers learning opportunities for remote children who are unable to attend on-campus programs. Lab-in-a-Box contains science experiments that are sent to village schools in the more rural corners of India. Agastya trains at least one teacher per school to assist the students as they work through each experiment. There are a total of 12 boxes packed with more than 133 experiments that range from chemistry to biology.
  • The Agastya International Foundation’s most effective program is its mobile labs. Trained teachers travel across India in a van to supply rural children with an education in science. In 2018, over 160 mobile labs reached nearly 4 million children in 2,460 schools. The teachers reported seeing a spike in attendance whenever the Mobile Labs came to visit. Agastya’s Lab-on-a-Box programs also saw similar results, reaching more than 600,000 children in 780 schools.
  • Agastya is also empowering aspiring teachers through their Young Instructor Leaders program. This program breaks down the traditional setup of a classroom by allowing the students to become the teacher. Last year, over 18,000 children participated in the YIL program. One young leader organized cleaning programs in his village while another provided her family with financial and educational advice. Due to Agastya, the young leader “lost [her] fear once [she] became a young leader.” Already impacting over 6 million children and 200,000 teachers, the Agastya International Foundation continues to create, connect and empower children with science throughout India.

India STEM Foundation

Similar to the Agastya International Foundation, the India STEM Foundation’s mission is to educate young children about science and technology. In an interview, the program manager, Nityanand Channur, stated that “there is definitely a need [for a] holistic learning approach in [India’s] education system.”  Through its hands-on education in robotics, the India STEM Foundation hopes to inspire young students to pursue careers in STEM fields. Since 2006, the Foundation has created robotic labs, workshops, training for teachers and robotics competitions.

  • Robotics has quickly become one of the many stepping-stones to engage children by using important concepts in math and science. Through problem solving and teamwork, the students work together to create a working robot. Robo Siksha Kendra is the India STEM Foundation’s robotics program that has captivated more than 500,000 students and created 15,000 teachers. In 2018, India STEM Foundation partnered with Lego to create India’s first Lego League. Over 2000 students participated in the robotic event. The students were tasked with researching and designing a solution to a real-world scientific problem or question.
  • Alongside its robotic program, the Foundation also supports the Atal Tinkering Lab, which uses the same hands-on methodology to create an environment for students to create and innovate. The Atal Innovation Mission was created by the Government of India to encourage and foster curiosity in children. Its mission is to “cultivate one million children in India as Neoteric Innovators.”

STEM education is not only fostering an interest in science, technology, engineering and math, but a future for children and India. India’s next generation of innovators is on the rise and ready to meet India’s growing need for STEM careers.

Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

Rape Epidemic in India
The rape epidemic in India garnered international attention in 2012, when several men brutally raped and beat a woman, Nirbhaya, on a bus. The event immediately spread across the globe and sparked massive international outrage. This pushed the government to promise new laws. However, it did not make any tangible changes. A minor positive change was a social shift resulting in more women finding the strength to report cases of sexual assault. Perhaps the most gruesome fact from this brutal event is the regularity of gang-rape in India. Nirbhaya’s case, while one of the most horrifying stories of rape, is only one among thousands.

Solutions in Bangladesh

There is a precedent for solutions to these types of problems. One solution is for the law to change in a way that punishes those who physically or sexually abuse women. Bangladesh has effectively lowered its acids attacks on women to just 75 in 2014 whereas it was previously 492 cases in 2002. It accomplished this by mandating the death penalty as the crime for acid attacks. Since Bangladeshi men now fear the severe ramifications for an acid attack, they refrain from hurting women with this method. However, if Bangladesh and India enacted rigorous laws for all types of abuse on women, then at the very least, those particular men would not be able to abuse women at as drastic of a level as they are currently.

Snehalaya Provides Aid to Abused Women and Children

Women who suffer abuse can still have hope since many NGOs are actively working to support the victims and help them get back their dignity and return to a normal life. One example is Snehalaya, which provides a safe space for women and children who are suffering abuse, and helps over 15,000 people per year. Snehalaya strives to use “grassroots outreach and education” to lower the amount of domestic abuse and violence that occurs in India. Women who are victims of sexual abuse can count on Snehalaya to provide the proper support group to push them towards a normal life, which is even more important because sometimes a woman’s parents may not accept her after she has become a victim due to social stigma.

Another solution for the rape epidemic in India is women’s empowerment through properly educating women, which is what Sayfty strives to do. It strives to provide women the tools to be safe from acts of sexual violence and to teach women how to defend themselves. While the first solution provides a legal means for female empowerment and the second provides a way to help them after they become victims, Sayfty is essential because it empowers women to stand up for themselves while suffering abuse or at least provides them with knowledge of how to get away from predators and get help.

The efforts of millions of women who are finding the bravery to call out abusers are defeating the rape epidemic in India. The laws in India are slowly changing to match modern social attitudes. NGOs are empowering women to lead their own fight. Though change is slow, it is inevitable, and more women are getting the justice they deserve every day.

Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

 

education in India

As India’s population continues to grow, the number of education initiatives from both nonprofits and the government has increased. The approaches to modernizing and unifying education for India’s 1.3 billion people vary, with some focusing on equality and others on upgrading the curriculum. Educate Girls, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and The Akanksha Foundation are three programs looking to improve education in India, through different methods.

3 Approaches to Better Education in India

  1. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
    Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the Indian Government’s flagship program for universalizing elementary education. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan mandates education for children ages 6 to 14 under the 86th amendment to the Constitution of India. SSA is implemented in coordination with state governments to reach 192 million students, with a particular focus on girls and children with special needs. SSA also has an emphasis on community-specific education, in order to address the particular needs of all communities, especially indigenous communities. India has almost 600 Indigenous communities, most of which are rural. Those who live there speak almost 300 Indigenous dialects, meaning that education policies cannot be one-size-fits-all.SSA looks to open new schools in villages that lack infrastructure, or where existing infrastructure is inadequate. For existing schools, the goal is to strengthen teaching staff and increase access to teaching materials and resources such as computers. Many schools in urban areas have significantly benefited from SSA, seeing improvements in textbooks and consistency with teacher salaries. However, rural villages are not seeing the same benefits. In the Keonjhar district, the school does not have proper classrooms and only three teachers for the almost 90 students it serves. The community has appealed to the government for nine years but has received little assistance.
  2. Educate Girls
    Educate Girls works to increase government accountability for education in India’s rural villages. Educate Girls is a non-profit organization established in 2007 by Indian native Safeena Husain. The organization focuses on mobilizing forces in local communities to advocate for better education opportunities in India. Educate Girls currently operates in 13,000 villages with an overall goal of reaching 16 million children cumulatively by 2024.Educate Girls works to increase education in India by lobbying existing governmental networks to improve education conditions for both boys and girls, as not to duplicate services. Husain feels that by forcing the hand of the government, not only do they reduce the risk of duplicating service, but they also hold the government accountable to its citizens and avoid government dependence on non-profit services. Educate Girls uses a base of community volunteers to identify, enroll and retain girls in school to help improve literacy and numeracy rates.The organization aims to change the behavioral and social approach to girls’ education to create an environment where equal opportunities are automatic in India. Volunteers currently go door to door in villages to identify every girl who is not in school. Educate Girls takes pride in their survey’s 100 percent saturation rate by knocking on every door in the village they are targeting. This initiative led to the re-enrollment of 380,000 girls.Thanks to Educate Girls’ in-depth research, it has partnered up with the UBS Optimus Foundation and the Children’s Investment Foundation to create the first-ever results-based bond program. Educate Girls was also just named an Audacious Project of 2019. The Audacious Project is an organization funded by numerous donors and housed by TED, which chooses a few organizations each year to showcase for donors and to present at the annual TED conference. Educate Girls was one of eight organizations selected for this year’s Audacious Project.
  3. The Akanksha Foundation
    The Akanksha Foundation has taken education in India out of the hands of the government, creating a network of public-private schools that are built, staffed and managed by the foundation. Although the schools are privately funded, the organization establishes partnerships with the community as a whole in which it operates. Akanksha schools believe that nurturing home environments is equally as crucial to academic success as a positive school experience. Its academic model starts with an initial evaluation of needs and goal setting. Then through constant evaluation, Akanksha schools tailor their standard curriculum to each community’s needs. Akanksha schools also believe in a focus on extracurricular activities to help develop social and emotional intelligence, teaching students to be responsible and compassionate citizens.Akanksha has 21 schools in Pune and Mumbai, reaching 9,300 students. Within those districts, 12th grade passing rates in the Akanksha schools are higher than the government-run high schools. Ninety-two percent of 12th graders from Akanksha passed compared to only 86 percent passed in the public high school. Similarly to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan government initiative, the results are seen in urban areas, but rural areas are still not receiving comparable resources or attention. India tasks local governments with auditing and enforcing education in their communities, but efforts are often obstructed by cultural opinions about education.

– Carly Campbell
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health in IndiaWomen’s health in India is still vulnerable to several risks such as high maternal mortality rates, lack of preventative care and misinformation about family planning and contraception. Despite this, India has proven itself a pioneer in technological innovation among developing countries and it is putting its new innovations towards improving women’s healthcare. 

Maternal Health and Newborn Development

Although maternal mortality rates in India have declined substantially in the last decade, the number of recorded deaths related to pregnancy complications in the country is still remarkably high. A report by UNICEF estimates that 44,000 women die due to preventable pregnancy-complications in India yearly. These complications often stem from a lack of knowledge and inherently the inability to understand that their baby isn’t developing correctly. This lack of knowledge results in fewer women seeking treatment that could save their lives. To combat this, organizations are developing innovative mobile apps to help women stay proactive and educated about the health of their babies and the status of their pregnancies. 

For example, in 2014, MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action), an organization dedicated to women’s maternal health in developing countries, developed a digital service called mMitra. The service sends recordings and SMS messages to new and expectant mothers with crucial information about the early stages of pregnancy and child development within the first year of life. The app, which collected 50,000 subscribers within months of its launch, sends educational content to women in their native languages and at times of their choosing. The app,  mMitra ultimately aims to help women pick up on pregnancy and child development issues early and seek treatment before symptoms escalate or endanger the mother and child. 

Breast Exams and Preventative Care

Mammograms are an essential part of preventative care for women globally. Despite this, it is estimated that over 90 percent of women in the developing world go without this essential screening examination. Particularly, in India, high-costs, unsustainable electricity and lack of properly trained radiologists are major causes for the inaccessibility to mammograms and other procedures like it. More women die of breast cancer in the country than anywhere else in the world (around 70,000 women annually). While these high death rates due to inaccessibility to preventive care are tragic, they’ve inspired innovative medical devices that have revolutionized women’s health in India. 

One such device, known as iBreastExam was invented by computer engineer Mihir Shah. Shah invented the device to ensure that women in even the most rural parts of India could get affordable, accurate breast exams and seek treatments as needed. The battery-operated wireless machine is designed to record variations in breast elasticity and performs full examinations in five minutes, posting and recording results through a mobile app. Not only that, the exams are painless, radiation-free and are extremely affordable at $1 to $4 per exam.

Family Planning and Contraceptive Options

Lack of family planning and knowledge of contraceptive options is another challenge in improving women’s health in India. Many Indian women shy away from modern family planning and contraception due to things like familial expectations, cultural influence and a general fear stemming from misinformation from disreputable resources. Family planning and the use of contraception could reduce India’s high maternal mortality rates. However, without proper education on these matters, it is difficult for young Indian women to make informed decisions about what options are best for them. But, in the midst of India’s technological revolution, an increase in accessibility to mobile devices is steadily transforming the way women are gaining health awareness in India. 

There is a particular mobile app that is playing a huge role in improving women’s health awareness in India. Known as Gyan Jyoti, the mobile app provides credible information through educational films, TV advertisements and expert testimonials from doctors. It also acts as a counseling tool for ASHAS (appointed health counselors). The app allows ASHAS to expand their knowledge of family planning through an e-learning feature, customize their counseling plan according to the needs of clients and monitor and store client activity in order to provide the best information possible. 

Overall, while there are still many challenges in improving women’s health in India, the country has proven itself to be a pioneer in technological innovation. Just as well, it’s proven that transformation is possible by putting its innovations towards women’s health awareness through mobile apps, life-saving hand-held devices, and educational platforms that can be accessed at the click of a button. 

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr