information and stories about India.

Gender Wage Gap in IndiaGender inequality is still a prevailing problem across the world today. India is one country among the many engaging in the fight for gender equality. One prominent issue within this gender struggle is the disparity in pay. The strive toward equality within the country requires a greater focus on the gender wage gap in India. This pay gap is perpetuated by multiple factors, which must be tackled from a variety of angles. Two key areas for improvement lie within the education system and job market. In order to diminish the pervasive gender wage gap in India, the country’s educational and occupational discrepancies between men and women need to be addressed.

Barriers to Equality

Indian women often receive an insufficient amount of education and preparation for the workforce. On top of this, the educational training they do obtain tends to be of poorer quality. The literacy rate for women in India is around 70% while the literacy rate for men in India is 84.7%. Due to lower quality in education, women are less likely to attain higher-paying jobs. In fact, the participation rate of Indian women in the labor force has declined over the past 20 years and is significantly less than the world’s average. A high percentage of women who do find work do so in vulnerable employment situations. Around 80% of employed women work in rural areas in the agricultural sector and very few women work in the paid labor market. Comparatively, unpaid work accounts for only a quarter of men’s time. As a result, the wage gap between men and women widens.

This is if women can succeed in pushing against the social norm that women should stay at home and care for children. Oftentimes, women must take on the position of caretaker, which leaves less time for pursuing careers outside of the home. This societal standard has furthered educational and occupational inequalities. Investment in education is geared more toward men because women are labeled as future homemakers. Additionally, women face discrimination in the workforce due to the assumed idea of motherhood. Women are viewed as potential mothers who do not have time for the job and thus receive unfair pay. Accompanying the role of child caretaker, women in India generally hold a lower status than men. This leads to women being treated unfairly, one way being through smaller wages than men.

Commit2Change

The movement to decrease the gender wage gap in India is not without aid. NGOs are joining the fight for equality from all around the globe in numerous functions. One international NGO working specifically with young girls in India is Commit2Change. Its primary goal is to educate orphaned girls in India to transform their lives and provide a pathway to a bright future. Commit2Change believes educated women can help remedy gender inequality, especially in the job market.

Commit2Change works with young girls to instill academic knowledge, self-worth and the importance of community aid and involvement. Its educational programs help its participants to thrive holistically in all of these elements, especially educationally. Commit2Change has reached more than 4,000 girls, helping 98% of them to enroll in secondary school, 89% to pass exams and graduate and increase their interest in education by 82%. Commit2Change is undoubtedly fulfilling its goal of helping girls succeed through the power of education.

A Promising Shift Toward Gender Equality

The hurdles women must overcome in relation to education and job opportunities greatly influence the gender wage gap in India. To tackle these issues, Commit2Change along with similar organizations are paving the way for equality in the workforce. Commit2Change prepares young girls for a technologically advanced workforce, which can help them obtain high-paying jobs. It achieves this by providing quality education and adaptive life skills programming. As Commit2Change and other NGOs continue to educate and support women and young girls, the ultimate end to the gender wage gap in India may be an attainable goal.

Philip Tang
Photo: Flickr

Fair Fashion in India
Women employed in formal and informal work settings fuel India’s fashion sector to meet the global demand for fast fashion. India’s garment industry is the second biggest exporter and manufacturer after China. By 2021, projections determined that the textile market will reach $223 billion. Predictions have stated that the domestic market will reach $59.3 billion in 2022 and the global market will reach $1.3 trillion by 2025. Despite the booming economy, Indian garment workers face exploitation, poverty wages and unsafe working conditions while working for fast fashion brands. Fair fashion in India presents a solution for workers to receive a living wage, to be empowered and to thrive during a global pandemic.

Fast Fashion

Fast fashion refers to when brands prioritize profit over people by pressuring factories to produce high quantities of clothing at a rapid pace and low cost. Indian workers experience unfair and abusive conditions in their workplace. About 12.9 million individuals work in sweatshops and millions more work in informal settings, typically in their homes. The United States and European Union receive 47% of India’s total fast fashion output. In March 2020, fast fashion brands refused to pay for completed orders, fired workers with no severance pay and left garment workers with little protection and safety nets. This caused millions of Indian garment workers to go hungry, become vulnerable to COVID-19 and suffer wage theft.

Fair Fashion

Fair fashion in India has been critical in providing fair and ethical employment opportunities to Indian garment workers. About 30% of the world’s poverty is in India. Garment workers with a fair wage are able to break cycles of poverty, support themselves and their families and enroll their children in school. Organizations demanding circular innovation and experimenting with business practices and technologies have made India the hotbed for circular corporate-startup partnerships. India is the second-largest spinner in the world and is consistently the top three producers of cotton. In 2018, Textile Exchanges Organic Cotton Market Report found that India was the largest producer of organic cotton. Sreeranage Rajan also explains that the proximity of manufacturing, processing and fiber production makes it easier to create transparent supply chains in India.

Garment workers benefit from fair fashion through the increasing demand for well-made clothing in safe working conditions. India houses 40% of certified Fairtrade cotton producers, 449 Organic Cotton Standard (OCS) producers and has the most Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Factories, totaling 1,254. According to Nivedita Rai, the Executive Director of Women Weave, the biggest problem for workers in the fashion industry is being underpaid. The benefits of more certified factories would ensure more dignity and respect for the garment workers spread across India.

Indian Fair Fashion Brands

KKIVI is a slow fashion platform that has been a pioneer in pushing for systemic change in the fashion industry. They encourage conscious consumption and minimalism by curating unique pieces from ethical and sustainable designers in India. Chosen designers uplift culture, promote timeless design and empower artisans. KKIVI’s platform also uplifts the designer’s stories to global markets while showcasing their creative abilities to the world. Limited quantities and small units highlight their meaningful sustainable and ethical pieces.

WORK+ SHELTER, an ethical sourcing and cut and sew business, empowers Indian garment workers by providing skill-based training and employment opportunities. Workers receive five times more than the average wage rate, work a standard eight hours per day and can earn promotions and raises. Theresa VanderMeer, CEO of WORK + SHELTER, spoke with The Borgen Project saying “Many of the women that work with us never finished school, so our job training in sewing and production management provides them with the means to find dignified work they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. We provide a work environment that is safe and respects them as individuals.” During COVID-19, garment workers have still been paid despite products not selling. A second facility for social distancing, having all workers wearing masks and running air filtration systems 24-7 has also ensured worker’s safety.

Fair fashion in India is essential for the poverty alleviation of garment workers. VanderMeer explains that “Each woman has her own story of hardship. Some have had to make tough decisions on whether to eat or send their children to school, have suffered through forced arranged marriages, or have even endured coerced abortions….” Supporting fair fashion brands that produce high-quality clothing, therefore, uplifts the most vulnerable women in the world

Giselle Magana
Photo: Pexels

Playgrounds Made of Recycled Materials in IndiaOne of the lesser-known consequences of India’s rapid urbanization has been the lack of available playgrounds and recreational spaces for India’s youth. A recent study found that 90% of India’s youth never get to use a playground. This disproportionately affects children living in poverty. To improve the mental, physical and social health of India’s most impoverished urban youth, playgrounds, recreational spaces and sports need to be more accessible, especially in India’s urban slums. One method of providing such an outlet to Indian children is through the construction of playgrounds of recycled materials.

Indian Youth Face Disadvantages

With so few spaces to play, children resort to playing in dangerous places like on the side of the road, in construction areas or near railways. In addition to having exposure to more dangerous situations while playing, the lack of recreation space for India’s urban youth has other disadvantages as well. Daily physical activity has been proven beneficial to the mental and physical health of children by decreasing depression, reducing anxiety and strengthening the immune system.

Practicing sports and engaging in recreation have positive social effects for girls in particular. Girls who play sports and keep up with physical activity are less likely to experience an unwanted pregnancy, smoke cigarettes or consume drugs.

Anthill Creations

Anthill Creations is a nonprofit organization (NGO) in Bangalore, India, working to help solve the problem of the absence of recreation spaces for India’s youth through designing and constructing playgrounds out of recycled materials.

India’s landfills have an abundance of industrial materials such as tires, concrete pipes and scrap wood. While watching children play with scrap materials that litter the streets, the founder of Anthill Creations, Pooja Rai, came up with the idea to build playgrounds out of the same recycled materials and litter that one can find in and around India’s slums and landfills.

Anthill Creations relies on the input, trust and energy of the communities where the NGO works in order to design each playground specifically for that community. When undertaking a construction project, the team at Anthill Creations spends time with the local children for days prior to beginning construction; the goal is to both gain the trust of the local children and to understand what they would desire in their new playground.

The organization’s volunteers construct the playgrounds, oftentimes even attracting volunteer labor from the very communities in which the organization is working. Rai says this helps foster a sense of “ownership and responsibility” of and for the playgrounds among the local volunteers.

The Positive Impact

Anthill Creations coordinates with other NGOs, private corporations and local governments in order to maximize its positive impact on India’s urban youth. As a result of Anthill Creations and its projects for government schools, the nonprofit has been able to help reduce absenteeism; children are more excited to come to school when they have a new playground to play on. Anthill Creations also worked with the United Nations in order to construct playgrounds for Rohingya refugees from nearby Myanmar.

Anthill Creations projects are a sustainable way to provide low-cost recreational spaces and playgrounds to India’s children, while also repurposing India’s abundant scrap in a way that can benefit the country’s most impoverished communities.

– Willy Carlsen
Photo: Flickr

Mining for Mica
The majority of the world’s mica comes from India, more specifically the country’s eastern states. Jharkhand and Bihar, two regions in the country’s eastern states, are where the majority of the mining for mica happens. In fact, around 60% of the world’s mica comes from those two regions. Before mica ends up in shiny eyeshadow and many other makeup products, it passes through many networks’ middlemen and wholesalers; it also crosses many borders. Thus, it is nearly impossible to trace the origins of mica and the harsh reality that children frequently mine this mineral.

About Mica

The makeup industry is a prominent part of Western culture. Some common beauty products are powder, eye shadow and eyeliner. Upon close examination of what is in these products, the realization has emerged that they all have a common ingredient, mica. Mica, also known as muscovite, is a natural mineral. Because mica is a mineral, it requires mining. Mica has the appearance of flakes and is rather flexible. It is light in weight and relatively soft.

Mica and Child Labor in India

Children mine mica illegally in India as they have small frames and can easily access the minerals underground. These children generally do not have an education and are unable to attend school due to their families’ lack of funds. Children as young as 5 years old must work long hours in the mines to make money for their families. Estimates have determined that around 4,545 children in Jharkhand and the surrounding region are not attending school. Moreover, the hazardous work environment negatively impacts their health. Cases such as tuberculosis, skin infection, respiratory infection, asthma and head injuries are not uncommon. Many children have supposedly died while working in the mines. However, because mining is illegal, local officials frequently cover them up, thus making an actual fatality count rather difficult.

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF)

Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) is a foundation that strives to end all violence against and exploitation of children. It is doing so by ensuring child protection through research, innovations, awareness generation, promoting partnerships and participation. Since 2005, KSCF has been working in mining areas where children illegally work as laborers. It raises funds to send many children to school. It intends to rescue all children from mining and send them to school. KSCF regularly issues saplings to the children and encourages them to plant them. This is an effort to spread awareness of their environment.

There are 171 counselors in 150 villages of Jharkhand who create awareness against sending children for mining and other social issues. KSCF has freed over 3,000 children from mica mines and 80,000 children from child labor across multiple industries.

Though mining for mica is still illegal in India, many children and adults continue to do it to provide for their families. Moreover, many deaths have occurred but people have not reported them for fear of losing income. While India still produces mass amounts of mica, the help of organizations like KSCF should gradually help eliminate the use of children in mica mining.

– Candice Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Honor-Based Violence
In 2020, family members murdered two women after a video from the previous year surfaced online of the women kissing a man. This murder is just one of 5,000 “honor-based” killings that happen every year. Girls as young as 15 have died just for helping neighbors elope. Here is some information about honor-based violence.

What is Honor-Based Violence?

Honor killings are one type of honor-based violence. Honor-based violence is any violence that occurs with the purpose of restoring the honor of a family or community, and thus, the victim’s family members or community members usually commit it. Violence, in this case, includes any physical or psychological attack. The most common forms of honor-based violence are acid assaults, genital mutilation, forced marriage and murder. Girls or women typically face the most honor-based violence, but men can be targets as well.

Honor-based violence frequently occurs due to the desire for female purity. The practice stems from cultural ideologies that women belong to men or are a symbol of their family’s honor.

Traditionally, some cultures consider men “guardians of female value,” and therefore, experience dishonor if a woman becomes worthless by destroying her virtue. A woman can experience condemnation for ruining her “value” even if she suffers rape or assault.

History and Statistics of Honor-Based Violence

The practice of honor killings dates back to ancient Babylon, connecting to tribal traditions of burying baby girls alive. Although honor killings have undergone justification in the name of Christianity, Islam and Sikhism, the practice does not have any basis in religion. On the contrary, religious leaders frequently condemn this violence.

Estimates have determined that about 1,100 people die in honor killings per year in Pakistan. This is only slightly more than in India, which is about 1,000 people. While Pakistan and India record the most honor killings, they are not the only places where these murders happen. Records of honor killings exist in the U.K., the U.S., Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey and Uganda. Many places do not document honor killings or record them under other types of violence. Therefore, it is hard to know exactly how many honor killings occur and where they happen.

Activists and Artists

While thousands of honor killings happen each year, many activists have been working to change the culture. For one, they are trying to end the legal and colloquial use of the phrase “honor killing” and instead make sure people use the word murder.

Activists and artists throughout the world have made documentaries about honor killings. In 2016, journalist and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar for her film “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.” The movie follows the story of Saba, a young woman from Pakistan who survived an attempted murder against her after she married without her family’s permission.

The film was so influential that the Pakistani Prime Minister vowed to change the laws surrounding honor killings. In fact, that same year, the government passed the Anti-Honor Killing Bill. The bill states that families can no longer pardon people who murder their family members due to “honor.” Before the enactment of this bill, a family could forgive someone for murdering their family member out of honor. In such a case, the murderer would not receive a charge or penalty.

Obaid-Chinoy is not the only one who has created influential documentaries. In 2021, filmmaker Safyah Usmani worked with MTV and Obaid-Chinoy on her documentary “A Life Too Short,” which follows the life of Pakastani star, Qandeel Baloch, and her death by her brother. While many well-known documentaries have emerged in Pakistan, it is not the only country that features in these films. ITV aired a documentary in 2020 about the murder of a London woman, Banaz Mahmod.

Honour-Based Violence Awareness Network

In addition to films, activists have collected resources to help teach people about the tradition. One such project is the Honour-Based Violence Awareness Network that “intends to advise professionals in how to identify and provide an effective response to these forms of violence, and to provide links to [organizations] with expertise in providing help to people at risk.” Founded by activists Deeyah and Joanne Payton, the website provides training and other informational resources for anyone interested in learning more about honor-based violence.

With films and advocacy groups, awareness about honor-based violence has increased. Increased awareness of the issue, along with an increased pressure to cease such harmful patriarchal practices, will hopefully continue to include policy change.

Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered iron
India possesses the second-highest worldwide population with 1.2 billion people. Poverty in rural areas leaves local Indians unable to find job security. They instead must resort to street vending. Approximately 10 million street vendors exist in India, with many representing the laundry and textile industries. In particular, impoverished Indian families tend to choose the path of ironing clothes, a lucrative business considering the needs of everyday workers. However, there is one downside of the traditional method of ironing clothes in India: charcoal powers the irons. Luckily, a 14-year-old girl named Vinisha Umashankar recognized this energy source’s impact on the environment and innovated a solar-powered iron to create a renewable alternative to coal in India.

The Importance of Street Vending in India

Two kinds of retail industries exist: organized and unorganized retail. The latter represents the main retail industry in India. Unorganized retailers lead a solid 97% of businesses in the country, including local stores, family-run shops and street vendors. The sector of unorganized retail is the second-largest source of employment in India following agriculture. This demonstrates how much these workers crucially rely on their jobs for financial security. Those who have education but are jobless, or who suffer from poverty, benefit from the consumer familiarity and low-cost structure of the unorganized retail sector. Additionally, Indian small-store retailing generates self-employment relatively easily and does not require much investment in labor, land or capital.

India’s Pollution Problem with Charcoal

Early Indian society used a coal-fuelled iron box to smooth out clothing. Street vendors who iron clothes rely heavily on coal to power their equipment. There are some 10 million ironing carts in India and each cart uses more than 11 pounds of charcoal daily.  Given the hot and dry summers in India, cotton clothing requires washing and ironing on a daily basis. The high demand for ironing is escalating the use of coal and intensifying the smog issue in India.

The monsoon season from June to September poses an additional threat to the quality of the environment. Due to heavy rains, the coal becomes damp, causing an increase in the total weight bought by vendors. The moisture of the water, however, also reduces the warmth the charcoal produces when burned. Also, in the winter, as the price of coal naturally rises, suppliers purposefully add additional water to extend their product. Therefore, intense rain means increased spending on coal for the irons, further intensifying the cycle of Indian poverty.

Coal supplies approximately 72% of India’s electrical needs. The reliance on coal energy presents challenges regarding rising smog levels and respiratory conditions in cities. Coal power plants emit toxic gases and particulate matter that can penetrate human lungs. A reaction between sunlight and the nitrogen oxides that coal-powered plants release causes smog. The more people burn coal, the more smog that will emerge. However, coal is still a cheaper alternative to other, cleaner, forms of energy in India. Most people do not have the means to finance renewable energy.

Vinisha Umashankar’s Solar-Powered Iron

Vinisha Umashankar, an Indian teen with great concerns for the Indian air, developed an alternative to coal-powered irons. She suggested that they use solar-powered irons to harness the energy in the sun. This innovation promises to improve the poverty associated with the ironing industry as well as the environmental issues it causes. India receives enough sunlight to produce solar power 3,000 times more than its total current energy consumption. Her innovation to eliminate the use of charcoal in the ironing industry received the Children’s Climate Prize, comprising 100,000 Swedish krona ($11600) to further aid the project.

Umashankar also developed a solar-powered street cart. Similar to the solar-powered iron, Umashankar designed the model with functionality and cost-efficiency in mind. Individuals can use the cart effectively after only 15 minutes of tutorials. The solar-powered batteries charge in under five hours and last for six hours.

Overall, the goal of the solar-powered iron and cart is to improve the economic and health outcomes of the street vendors working in the ironing industries. In the long run, with further innovation, Umashankar intends to develop a cart prototype with solar panels and batteries that could last up to eight years. This ambitious plan favors sustainability for two parties: vendors and the environment.

Looking Ahead

With innovations like Umashankar’s solar-powered iron, India shows promise for improved environmental conditions and reduced poverty rates. Although expensive, new technologies are constantly emerging and individuals as young as 14 years old are working to prioritize cost-efficiency and sustainability. Given the fact that street vending is a widespread market in India, a solar-powered iron has the potential to transform the harmful coal-sourced iron industry into one that is profitable and environmentally conscious.

– Sarah Frances
Photo: Unsplash

Mobile Government
Worldwide, more people have access to mobile phones than to proper sanitation. As crazy as it sounds, mobile phone access can be advantageous. The International Telecommunication Union estimates that out of the 7 billion people on earth, around 6.5 billion have access to a mobile phone. As of 2018, 100% of the population in low- and middle-income countries had access to mobile phones, whereas 55% of the population in low-income countries owned a mobile phone. The pervasiveness of mobile technology can help build expansive government networks. Mobile Government (mGov) could provide citizens and businesses with extended benefits and stir up overall economic growth.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, several countries with pre-established digital governments have launched public services that people can access via mobile phones. The introduction of these online services could be a blessing for developing countries, where the communication between the government and the residents is almost nonexistent.

What is a Mobile Government (mGov)?

Mobile Government is a government-led platform that uses mobile technology to increase active participation in government operations while offering several government services and applications that individuals can access electronically. It provides quick and easy access to integrated data and location-based services and helps to empower citizens. Here are different ways Mobile Government can make a positive impact.

Increased Financial Inclusion

As per World Bank reports, by 2018, the number of people holding bank accounts shrank from 2.5 billion to 1.2 billion in just seven years. As a result, less than 50% of the adult population did not have a link to traditional banking systems. Therefore, to increase the financial inclusion of the citizens, governments all across the globe are undertaking initiatives to encourage and support the development of financial technologies.

In India, Jio, an Indian telecommunications company, in collaboration with the government, stirred a socio-economic revolution by providing subsidized 4G service to more than 200 million subscribers in under two years. Likewise, the mobile currency has transformed the Kenyan economy. More than three-fourths of the population have gained access to mobile wallets (M-Pesa) and can participate in financial transactions.

Similarly, online services can be useful in distributing money among the poor since only a small fraction have operational bank accounts. About 1.2 billion users across 95 countries use mobile money. Many countries use mobile payment services to provide monetary assistance through Government-to-person (G2P) payment systems.

In Bangladesh, the government is providing 5 million families with economic support by transferring money online, ensuring that families have a stable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The usage of mobile has helped reduce corruption dramatically, improve access to financial services and boost participation in economic activities.

Better Access to Essential Services

Mobiles have made access to health, education, agriculture and other services trouble-free for the general public. In the same way, mobile phones are going toward addressing serious health problems. Increased communication can bring awareness about safe drinking water, birth control, maternal health and malnutrition amongst many others.

Globally, 774 million people are unable to read or write. Out of that group, 123 million are youth. One can frequently trace illiteracy to a lack of books. Studies have revealed a positive correlation between high illiteracy rates and a shortage of books. The majority of people in sub-Saharan African do not have access to books and the schools in the region rarely do anything about it. As a solution, several developing countries have replaced physical texts with online books, allowing a larger proportion to access books. For instance, educators in schools in countries like Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria and Pakistan read stories to the children from mobile phones.

Mobile phones can also combat dengue fever in Pakistan. Sanitary workers use smartphones to send geo-tagged images of swamps to the central health experts. Afterward, health experts monitor the images.

The agriculture sector in Ethiopia and Uganda also utilizes mobile phones in a significant way. It employs mobile phones to deliver early alerts on droughts, food shortages, pests and weather-related calamities.

Enables Social Accountability

The governments in developing countries are using mobile technology to promote the use of SMS texts to enhance social accountability among the citizens. A study that took place in 46 African countries unearthed a correlation between high mobile penetration and low corruption rates.

In several developing countries, citizens receive encouragement to notify their governments of any matters that require addressing. In Pakistan, the Director-General of the Passport Office sends a message to the visitors inquiring about any bribery encounters or any other issues.

Mobile Government can be a powerful tool, useful in extending access to existing services, developing further innovative, inclusive services and increasing citizen participation in all realms of the public sector. Mobiles can dynamically foster civic engagement, facilitate transparent democracy, reform the outdated educational systems and create advanced healthcare infrastructure in developing countries. The use of mobile technology can tackle the growing digital divide between low-income and high-income countries. Hopefully, this will uplift the economies and literacy rates in developing countries.

– Prathamesh Mantri
Photo: Flickr

better Education in IndiaEducation is vitally important to every country, especially impoverished ones. Education itself can help families break cycles of poverty and it allows people an opportunity to use their knowledge and skills in a way that helps their nation. Education can allow people to learn better farming techniques so that they can produce more food for themselves. Literate and educated people often have a better opportunity to have a healthier lifestyle because they can understand medical information. India is one nation that is trying to improve its education system. Better education in India can help people rise out of poverty.

Advantages of India’s Education System

Despite its learning system needing improvements, India’s learning system does already have some substantial positive aspects to it. One benefit of India’s education system is that it correlates to a decrease in unemployment. School also helps people become self-employed. India’s schools also helped to greatly reduce the amount of child labor taking place in the nation.

India’s educational system also provides a degree of support for people who are especially disadvantaged and impoverished. There are programs in India called reservation systems that help these groups. Reservation systems mean a set percentage of seats will be reserved in all universities and colleges for students who belong to socially and educationally backward categories or castes. Certain scheduled tribes have 7.5% reserved seats, scheduled castes have 15% and “other backward classes” have 27%. However, each state within India can have varying percentages.

The Draft National Education Policy

In 2019, India released its Draft National Education Policy (DNEP). The DNEP is India’s first attempt to reform its education system since the 1986 National Policy on Education. The DNEP outlines some important improvements that India wants to make.

For example, the document suggests an increase in spending for public education in India. The current percentage of India’s GDP that goes to education is 3%. Under the DNEP, that percentage would go up to 6%. Under this policy, Indian school children would start learning at the age of three, which allows more time for children to grow and learn.

Another improvement that India’s education system requires is better training for its teachers. The DNEP will address this challenge by having teachers complete their training at universities. Currently, teachers train at specialist colleges that provide less beneficial teacher training.

Lastly, the DNEP wants to develop around 10,000 to 15,000 multidisciplinary universities. The reason for this is that currently 20% of 40,000 colleges in India only offer one field of study and another 20% of those colleges have less than 100 students on their rosters. Multidisciplinary universities will allow Indians to have more opportunities and educational routes.

A Concerned Citizenry

While the government of India is taking steps to better-learning systems in India, Indian citizens are more than aware that their educational system could use some much-needed change. This has led news outlets such as India Today to publicize their desires for the future of India’s education system. One suggestion that the outlet posed is the removal of lengthy tests that evaluate the knowledge and skills of students. Due to their length and importance, these tests can cause students to become stressed, resulting in underperformance.

India Today suggests that evaluation indicators should include class participation, projects and other key indicators of learning. The equal treatment of all learning subjects is also imperative. Teachers should encourage their students to pursue not just the subjects they need to learn but also the ones that they have a great interest in.

India’s education system still needs improvement but the country has taken significant first steps toward quality education in India. Since education is a key to poverty alleviation, reform is vitally important.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Global Teacher Prize
Ranjitsinh Disale received the Global Teacher Prize in December 2020. Disale is a 32-year-old schoolteacher in Paritewadi, a village located in a rural area of Western India. The Varkey Foundation named Ranjitsinh Disale the most inspirational teacher of 2020 for various reasons. Additionally, he remodeled the area’s school system, optimized pupils’ learning process and empowered teenage girls.

Celebrating Teachers Around the World

The Varkey Foundation collaborates with UNESCO to award the Global Teacher Prize to educators around the world. This Foundation believes that education should be at the center of social and humanitarian issues. According to the Varkey Foundation, education “has the power to reduce poverty, prejudice and conflict.” The Global Teacher Prize is a $1 million grant that goes to one educator every year to celebrate their contributions to education and, by extension, world peace.

The Varkey Foundation underscores the impact of the Global Teacher Prize on local and international levels. As education shapes future generations, it is crucial to invest in teaching and improve educational systems on a global scale. Thus, the Global Teacher Prize has always received important media coverage. Moreover, the Global Teacher Prize inauguration obtained international support from Prince William, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates in 2014. International media supports the foundation’s goals and is crucial for the Global Teacher Prize. It recognizes the essential nature of education-related professions. Overall, the Global Teacher Prize awarded more than 40 national rewards to teachers and educators all around the world. For instance, 17 countries and states created awards celebrating local teachers in 2017.

The 2020 World’s Most Inspirational Teacher

Ranjitsinh Disale greatly contributed to the educational and cultural structures he worked in. Shortly after arriving in the small village of Paritewadie, he learned the local language. He then translated the textbooks used in his classes to improve his students’ ability to study efficiently. The 2020 laureate showed dazzling commitment to his profession. For example, he used technology to transform the educational system. He made PowerPoint presentations to expose his students to the outside world. Furthermore, he showed YouTube videos, songs and movies to his students on his personal laptop. Others best knew Disale for embedding QR codes into the students’ books so they could use videos and poems while studying a specific lesson.

One of the main challenges Ranjitsinh Disale encountered as a teacher was the lack of access to education for teenage girls. The schoolteacher used interactive and digital versions of his own lessons to reach girls who were staying at home. In addition, he personally advocated against teenage marriages. According to the Varkey Foundation, the schoolteacher transformed the entire village’s system. The organization stated, “The impact of Ranjitsinh’s interventions has been extraordinary. There are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100 per cent attendance by girls at the school.”

Hope for the Future

Disale’s contributions to world peace do not stop here. The schoolteacher recently took part in the Let’s Cross the Borders and Live Together project. This international project aims to create a network between young people living in conflict zones to raise global awareness and build international solidarity.

Ranjitsinh Disale explains that collaboration is crucial in the fight against poverty. As a result, he decided to share his $1 million prize with the nine other Global Teacher Prize finalists. By supporting other inspirational educators, the schoolteacher hopes that they can all help improve education systems in developing countries. In an interview, the schoolteacher declared that his highest hope was to give every student from underdeveloped countries a chance to access quality education.

To make his dream come true, local solidary and international cooperation remain crucial to his vision of an educated future.

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

Farmers' Protests in IndiaOn January 21, 2021, Jai Bhagwan Rana, aged 42, committed suicide by digesting Sulphas tablets during an ongoing protest near New Delhi, India. In his suicide note, he wrote about the current fight to protect Indian farmers’ rights from three new agriculture bills signed by India’s parliament. The note states “The government says it is a matter of only two to three states, but farmers from all over the country are protesting against the laws. Sadly, it is not a movement now, but a fight of issues. The talks between the farmers and the center also remain deadlock.” The farmers’ protests in India have received international attention as people look to protect the rights of farmers in India.

Farmers’ Protests in India

The protests have escalated since the bill signings in late September 2020, with major marches to the capital city of New Delhi following in late November. Violence has disrupted between the stoic farmers and paramilitary troops armed with water cannons and tear gas guns. Mental health counselors have been disbursed to the protest sites and have reported that farmers are burdened with hypertension, anxiety and trouble sleeping and are afraid of losing their homes and their families. Sanya Kataria, a clinical psychologist, reports that “the farmers are not being heard so there is frustration and aggression,” also adding that her patients regularly report feeling anxious.

Violence and Conflict

Five major highways surrounding New Delhi are now filled with protester camps fighting their way through police since November 2020 and thousands of farmers surrounding the northern regions of India settled within the state’s borders. The farmers have rations of food with cooking equipment and shelter supplies on-site and have propped up microphones and stages to keep their mission potent.

Farmers broke the two-month peaceful protest on January 26, 2021, breaking through law enforcement barricades by mobilizing 10,000 protesters on tractors as well as horses and storming into India’s most important 17th-century landmark, the Red Fort. Protesters wielded ceremonial swords, ropes and sticks, overwhelming the police force with their strength in numbers. Meanwhile, India was celebrating Republic Day, a holiday that exemplifies the country’s strength in military and culture with the attendance of important leaders. The casualties injured more than 300 police officers. Reportedly, one protester was killed by his own tractor and many farmers were bruised and bloodied.

The 3 Farming Bills

The three bills that were approved in early September 2020 were rushed through parliament by the Modi government.

  1. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price and Farm Services Bill. The primary purpose of this act is to form contracts between privatized businesses and farmers and legally allow companies to have control of agricultural remuneration, transportation and methodology. Protesters are weary that corporate investors would simply dominate production and exploit farmers through legal clauses.
  2. The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill. This bill takes agricultural produced trade outside of India’s state-mandated restrictions, allowing food to be sold outside of mandis (food markets) to cold storage, warehouse, processing units and more. Farmers will be able to do direct marketing, eliminating intermediaries, and therefore, securing higher prices for produce. However, this bill cuts ties between government and farmers, releasing all businesses into competitive markets and cuts farmers from government subsidies or procurement in case of low or fluctuating market demands.
  3. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. This act removes particular commodities from a federally approved requirement list, which is predicted to boost farmer revenue and ultimately raise retail prices on non-essential items. The bill specifies that non-perishable items can only be deemed essential if the market price rises 50% and perishable items will be essential if the market price rises 100%. This can lead to hoarding, black market activity, and ultimately, raises food prices for everyone.

Support for the Rights of Farmers in India

More than 50% of the population in India works in the agriculture sector, and in 2019, at least 10,281 citizens ended their lives, mostly due to bankruptcy and debt. The protest continues internationally by relatives and families of Indian farmers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and more, demonstrating their frustration outside of embassies. Since December 2020, millions of international Indian protesters have answered the call to cause. Non-resident Indians have been helping protesters by sending money, arranging transportation and sending rations for the farmers camping outside of New Delhi.

Influencers like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg have used social media to show support for the farmers’ protests in India. The Indian government has banned more than 250 Twitter accounts, blaming specific tweets and hashtags as a “motivated campaign to abuse, inflame and create tension in society on unsubstantiated grounds.” Since the beginning of the protest, 60 farmers have died in just 40 days from illness, suicide and the blistering cold. Yet, a protester named Kuldeep Singh forebodes that “We will sit here for the next three years. We will sit till the elections, till the laws are scrapped.”

Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr