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 India’s Detrimental Farming LawsIn September 2020, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi implemented a series of farming laws aimed at loosening the government’s protective role in selling agricultural products. Instead of assisting the farms and their workers, who make up at least 58% of the workforce, the laws left farms with fewer profits. After months of protests, in the final days of November 2021, the Indian government made the decision to repeal India’s detrimental farming laws, causing farmers across India to rejoice.

Farming in India

India’s farming industry employs one of the largest agricultural workforces in the world and stands as one of India’s greatest providers of economic income. Rice alone earns the nation $8.82 billion, as reported at the end of the fiscal year 2020. According to World Bank data, “agriculture, forestry and fishing” contribute 18.3% to India’s overall GDP.

Small-scale farmers are vulnerable to “many production risks like drought, floods [and crop failure].” In addition, these small-scale farmers’ incomes are also vulnerable to market risks, such as “poor price realization” and an “absence of market.”

From July 2018 to July 2019, Indian farmers’ average income per month was ₹10,218 or approximately $135. This amount monthly means farmers can earn around $1,600 annually, with a margin for error to account for the received income in trades. This figure is the total of all earnings plus expenses.

India’s extreme poverty rate stands at about 7%, however, certain states, usually rural areas, face disproportionately high rates of poverty. For example, in Bihar, one of the most agriculture-dense states, poverty rates are the highest. Estimates indicate that 770 million Indian citizens are impoverished and live in rural areas where the farming laws had the most impact.

Impacts of India’s Detrimental Farming Laws

Modi’s intention was for the laws to allow farmers, specifically those working the smaller farms, to increase earnings by taking away government regulations and allowing easier access to business dealings with private businesses. The government wanted farms to increase dealings with private companies because most private businesses can pay higher rates and the government was willing to guarantee minimum prices. It may not have been the government’s intention, but the Indian government’s three new laws minimized profits for India’s farms in significant ways.

The three bills seem relatively straightforward but do not promise any immediate assistance or an apparent increase in income for farmers. One of the major changes promised was the ability for farmers to sell their products to any private organization. However, the laws did not enforce or extend the Minimum Sales Price (MSP) to those industries.

Before the changes, the MSP was guaranteed for many products from which the farmers often made their highest income. The MSP was the assured price for farmers when selling specific types of products directly to the government. Without the extension of the MSP, the power went to the private businesses. Still, the privatized businesses could buy the products for less than the products’ worth, dramatically undercutting the farmers’ income.

The major secondary change put more power into the hands of the consumers and buyers than into the hands of the farmers. This change left the farmers unable to alter contracts or expand on their average income from the private companies. The government did not repeal the MSP but limited how much it would buy from the small farms to encourage outside sales. At the very least, the farmers demanded a promise of the MSP. Without the MSP, the farmers knew they would lose significant income.

The Road Ahead

Now that the Indian government has chosen to repeal India’s detrimental farming laws, farmers are jubilant. The laws’ repeal passed through both Upper and Lower Parliament, and in doing so, has guaranteed the farmers the freedom to, at the very least, earn the MSPs.

Repealing the laws will have future implications for farmers and their demands of the government. During the year of protests, the farmers learned the extent of their political powers. The farmers account for more than 50% of the workforce and are one of the largest voting blocs in India. After their victory through protest, India’s farmers have become aware of their power and admit their plans to continue protests to place MSPs on other farming products.

India’s farming laws, including those repealed, do not include MSPs for products such as rice or wheat, which are the small farms’ most common and significant creators of income. MSPs on rice and wheat, and hopefully all produce, can significantly increase the average farm income, potentially lifting many farmers and farming communities out of poverty. The power is now back in the hands of Indian farmers and farmers are determined to make the most of it.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: PixaHive

Reduce Poverty in India
In August 2021, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India will spend $1.35 trillion to improve the country’s infrastructure. The infrastructure plan called “Gati Shakti” will create jobs that can potentially reduce poverty in India by increasing household income across the nation and improving the economy at large. The plan also intends to expand the “use of cleaner fuels to achieve the country’s climate goals.”

The Gati Shakti Plan

The specifics of India’s Gati Shakti plan were not immediately announced, but amid the country’s economic decline and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Modi claims the plan will increase India’s economic output, which decreased by more than 7% in 2020. Specifically, “the plan will help local manufacturers compete globally and create new avenues of future economic growth.” In addition, Gati Shakti will help India “become energy independent by 2047,” by transitioning to “a gas-based economy” and developing India into “a hub for hydrogen production.”

How Better Infrastructure Can Reduce Poverty in India

Studies show a clear link between improved infrastructure and poverty reduction. Better infrastructure may help reduce poverty in India in a variety of ways. Improved infrastructure has the ability to increase economic activity in the country by minimizing “production and transaction costs” and increasing “agricultural and industrial productivity.”

Infrastructure leads to job creation due to the demand for labor in both the development process and the ongoing management and maintenance of the infrastructure. Therefore, impoverished and disadvantaged people can participate in an economy that they once had no place in.

Even though income-related aspects of poverty are at the forefront of the issues better infrastructure addresses, better infrastructure also has non-income advantages, including “health, nutrition, education and social cohesion.” These aspects improve the quality of life for people across the nation. Overall, better infrastructure has the potential to contribute to reaching the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

How Infrastructure Improvements Contribute to SDGs

  1. SDG 2: Zero Hunger. Malnutrition and food insecurity are significant problems in India, with more than 200 million citizens lacking “sufficient access to food.” Modern infrastructure can help improve people’s access to food by promoting better productivity (particularly among farmers) and by helping to decrease production costs. Decreased production costs can drive prices of food products down, making them more accessible to the impoverished.
  2. SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being. Adequate health infrastructure means more people will have access to health care services, especially impoverished people in remote locations. Better health infrastructure will increase the number of in-hospital births, which will reduce both the infant mortality rate and the maternal mortality rate. This reduction will come as a result of the presence of skilled birth attendants and access to hospital equipment in case of emergencies. India’s current infant mortality rate stands at a staggering 28.771 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  3. SDG 4: Quality Education. Road infrastructure influences the attendance and enrollment of students in schools. This also affects the quality of teachers attracted to a school. More school facilities mean education is more accessible to children in remote locations. More than 27% of Indian youth find themselves “excluded from education, employment or training.” Education infrastructure is essential because education helps people acquire the skills and knowledge to obtain higher-paying, skilled jobs that can help them rise out of poverty.
  4. SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, according to The Indian Express, almost 200 million more Indian people could face poverty by the close of 2021. Ultimately, this means that more than 50% of the Indian population may live in poverty. Under SDG 8 is target 8.7, eliminating child labor in its entirety by 2025. Families tend to resort to child labor when they need extra income to meet their basic needs. India’s infrastructure plan can potentially help reduce poverty in India by providing adults with more job opportunities and by increasing household income, negating the need for child labor. Similarly, parents marry off their young girls to take the economic burden off the household, hoping that the girls’ husbands will economically provide for the girls. However, with increased household income and more employment opportunities, families can bear the costs of taking care of all their children. Then, marriage will be an option and not an economic necessity.

For all these reasons and more, better infrastructure can reduce poverty in India, improving lives throughout the nation.

– Jared Faircloth
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

Farming Reform in IndiaToward the end of November 2020, more than 250 million people around the Indian subcontinent protested for farming reform in India. Protestors are pushing back against the three-piece legislation passed by the Indian Parliament which attempts to liberalize the agricultural sector by increasing Indian farmers’ access to bigger markets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, argues that the recently passed agricultural bills intend to grant farmers autonomy and increase their income. However, Indian farmers fear these laws will threaten their livelihoods by leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by powerful agricultural corporations.

The Indian Agricultural Sector

The agricultural sector is an essential part of the Indian economy, as it generates livelihood for nearly 60% of the Indian population. Despite the vital role of Indian farmers, the agricultural sector only makes up 15-16% of the subcontinent’s GDP, leaving farmers grappling for livelihood. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, almost three million farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995. Having one of the highest suicide rates in the agricultural sector, Indian farmers have long suffered despair from tyrannical policies, debt, low income and climate change inducing production risks. On September 28, 2020, the Parliament attempted farming reform in India by passing three bills that the government and Modi claim will benefit farmers’ livelihoods by decreasing financial burdens and increasing profit.

The 3 Farming Acts Passed

Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act

  • Allows for intra-state trading, inner-state trading, electronic trading and e-commerce of produce.

  • Abolishes the imposition of government-determined financial burdens.

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act

  • Withdraws the previously determined list of essential commodities.

  • Removes stockholding restriction on essential commodities.

  • Demands that levying of stockholding limit on produce emanates from increased price.

The Reason Behind Protests

With support for farming reform in India from all over the world, hundreds of thousands of farmers and those in solidarity have taken to the streets with a common goal: to have the acts repealed. The laws spark deep worry that transitioning to a free market will enable powerful agricultural businesses to take advantage of the farmers, potentially leading to loss of land, income and autonomy. Indian farmers, who sell their produce at a set rate, are certain that a market-aligned system will solely increase private equities welfare while continuing to forbade domestic benefits. Farmers are also concerned that differences in business objectives could leave farmers at risk of financial consequences from market unpredictability. Finally, farmers are fearful that the abolition of stockholding limits will empower corporations to distort prices for personal monetary reward.

Global Support for Indian Farmers

There is a consensus among Indian farmers that their agricultural sector requires reform. Although the new laws of farming reform in India promise to improve farmers’ livelihoods and freedom, the lack of trust in a market-friendly reform and the government’s incentive has prompted a collective demand for change. As the protestors persist with force, the demand for alternative farming reform in India is being heard by Prime Minister Modi who is beginning to listen to farmers’ concerns. The exploitation of farmers continues to spark global support for farming reform in India from organizations, advocates, politicians and humanitarians until fairness and justice is achieved.

– Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Indian Migrant Workers
As COVID-19 spreads throughout India, it is revealing the country’s systematic inequalities as Indian migrant workers bear the brunt of the pandemic.

The Lockdown

India’s national lockdown began on March 25, 2020. It went into effect a mere four hours after the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, made the announcement. However, Modi’s order did not consider the impact it would have on migrant workers. As a result, millions of migrant workers were jobless and stranded in cities all across the country. Shareen Joshi, a professor at Georgetown University, spoke to The Borgen Project. Joshi described how the lockdown “appears to have been imposed to benefit India’s middle and upper classes in urban areas. It literally ‘forgot’ about 350 million migrant workers.”

Consequently, thousands of migrants had to make the dangerous journey home. With public transportation shut down, some walked hundreds of miles, often without proper protective gear or the ability to practice social distancing.

“The virus is basically systematically exposing inequalities and fault-lines in every country it seems to enter,” Joshi said.

The Pandemic Highlights Underlying Inequalities

Indian migrant workers are already a vulnerable population. They rarely belong to trade unions or work under contracts. Additionally, many migrants lack the bank accounts necessary to secure government benefits. Although the Indian government offers welfare for those below the poverty line, migrant workers often do not know how to access this relief.

Indian migrant workers were among the first to feel the economic consequences of the virus. An April 2020 report by the nonprofit organization Jan Sahas, titled Voices of the Invisible Citizens, stated that “90% laborers (approx.) have already lost their source of income” within just three weeks. This complete financial depletion left, “42% of labourers” with “no ration left even for the day, let alone for the duration of the lockdown.”

The virus has also aggravated discrimination against Indian migrant workers. Joshi stated that migrant workers represent their own “scheduled castes” within India’s caste system. Many consider migrant workers as possible carriers of the virus. Fearing infection, their communities shun them upon their return home.

Rebuilding the Economy and Addressing Inequities

As India begins to rebuild its economy, Joshi recommends “a bottom-up strategy, people-centric rather than money-centric.” This strategy would have the government invest in individual villages to create a trickle-up effect.

Moreover, this strategy would aid the Indian migrant workers. In March 2020, the president of the Indian National Congress, Sonia Gandhi, proposed that district collectors help migrants who cannot afford shelter and that the government provide transportation for migrants to get home. Joshi described a proposal to make ration cards portable. This would allow migrants to “access food in both the location they are registered and the area where they work.”

While this pandemic has brought unthinkable suffering to Indian migrant workers, it may also inspire a new fight for equality. Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of the Human Rights Watch, believes the pandemic might provide “an opportunity to end communal bias and­­­ other discrimination in governance and restore the impartiality of state institutions.” This pandemic has shown, if nothing else, the need to address the inequalities that have plagued India.

Jessica Blatt
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in India
India, the second-most populous country in the world, faces a surprising paradox in its health care system. Though it has become a hub for high-quality medical treatment at supposedly affordable costs, health-related expenses cause as many as 63 million people in India to fall into poverty annually. As a result, it is essential that the country makes improvements to health care in India in order to improve its accessibility to those in poverty.

Fixing a Faulty Health Care System

As of 2015, prime minister Narendra Modi proposed the National Health Policy (NHP) to provide universal health care in India, regardless of socioeconomic status. This new policy also guarantees free public health care for those living below the poverty line.

This policy suggests an ambitious reform. Private practitioners continue to dominate India’s health care market. In fact, the private sector provides approximately 70% of health care.

Many more barriers come with delivering a new and improved health care program. With a severe shortage of medical professionals, financing issues and the public’s general lack of trust in the country’s ability to implement effective health care resources, India faces a problem in reforming its health care system.

This has presented a problem for citizens and the government alike. The government wastes expenditures on underutilized resources. Meanwhile, the private sector could include illegally trained doctors and possible medical malpractice, which may entail dangerous treatment and unnecessary expenditures for citizens. The prevalence of private health care partnered with poor insurance regulations results in up to 70% of medical costs from out-of-pocket expenditures, which exacerbates the economic stresses that the nation’s poor feels.

Lack of Public Trust

The driving force behind the underutilization of health care in India is public mistrust. People typically seek help from village doctors first, who are typically closer in proximity to their homes. Many citizens are also wary of poor service in public systems: many patients experience disrespect or the public systems overcharge them for various medical expenses and treatments.

Many citizens hesitate to turn to public hospitals until it is their last resort. There are cases of individuals earning less than INR 10 per day who would seek private care facilities rather than obtain government-granted medical care.

Cases like these are some in a pool of many. There are cases of mothers waiting hours before receiving help in labor, or individuals struggling to pay for necessary medications.

The expensive price tag of private practitioners makes quality care essentially inaccessible to those living in poverty. The prevalence of many low-income individuals desperate to pay high price tags for private care as opposed to visiting free, government-funded institutions presents a clear exclamation: health care in India experience reform to prioritize the trusts and needs of its residents.

Addressing the Problem

As low-income individuals face difficulty in obtaining quality health care, a number of organizations that readily seek to help continuously emerge.

HelpAge India has been around for multiple decades and has earned multiple accolades (NGO Leadership & Excellence Award, Times Social Impact Award, etc.) for its continued support of elderly populations in India. This NGO provides free medical care (cataract surgeries, cancer care, etc.) that would otherwise be unaffordable to many individuals in India.

The Smile Foundation has also focused on providing equitable medical care, especially to underprivileged families. The Smile Foundation provides easier access to health care in slums and lower-income communities and also promotes health care awareness within these communities.

The Rural Health Care Foundation also provides health care to low-income communities all across India. It provides primary care diagnoses, medications and cataract/cleft lip surgeries for those who are unable to pay for these procedures.

These organizations are a few of many seeking to improve systems of health care in India. The implementation of a new and improved health care system is ongoing. However, a combination of both newfound public optimism and institutional change is necessary to ensure health care access to everyone.

– Vanna Figueroa
Photo: Flickr

India's WorkforceOn March 24, 2020, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced a nationwide lockdown — giving India’s workforce of 1.3 billion people just four hours to prepare. The goal of this lockdown was to minimize the spread of COVID-19. However, there have been three major problems with this lockdown:

  1. Migrant workers returning home
  2. Equal access to resources
  3. Coordination

Migrant Workers

During the lockdown, all stores, factories and businesses shut down. For many migrant workers, this was problematic since it is their employers who provide them with food and shelter. To get home, many of these people used public transportation every week — which was also shut down. Under these circumstances, tens of thousands of migrant workers became stranded with no means of transportation to return home — except on foot. Consequently, workers and families walk hundreds of kilometers in the streets, close to one another, to arrive home. Moreover, these workers have limited access to health products and resources. Many of these people live on daily income and without these funds, they must rely on the government for financial support.

Access to Resources

This sheds light on the second problem, the distribution of resources. Due to the lockdown, India’s economy could drop by nearly 8%. This has prompted the government to invest in a $23 billion relief package to help sustain India’s poor and stimulate the economy.

But does this provide people with enough? Does this provide for everyone? Dr. Sanjay Kumar, an activist, professor and leader in the field of urban development, describes the situation as “very related with social security systems.” He describes a lack of equal connection between people and resources, explaining that “public distribution is not connected.” This is about the lack of equal distribution of goods, not the lack of goods in the first place. Since more than 80% of India’s workforce works within the informal sector and all inessential jobs have been shut down, these people are left jobless. They need resources but find them difficult to obtain because they can no longer access them through their jobs.

Coordination

Thirdly, there has been a lack of coordination by the government while implementing this lockdown. There was much confusion among policemen during the lockdown. This resulted in multiple cases of police brutality against those in India’s workforce simply trying to return home. Additionally, there is much confusion and a lack of education regarding the virus. India’s workforce is not adequately educated on social distancing — a practice that is very important for the containment of the virus. “There is a gap between planning, announcement and implementation… due to this gap, people are suffering,” Dr. Kumar said. Due to this disorganization, Prime Minister Modi has publicly apologized for the poor execution of this lockdown.

Two further important issues remain. That of healthcare funding, which is very low and the high amount of immunocompromised citizens with respiratory diseases. India currently has 2.09 million people confirmed to have the new coronavirus. Bearing in mind the limited ability to test because of poor healthcare funding, this is a great concern. The rise in cases has shown to be fairly rapid. Concerned, global citizens can assist India and its informal workforce through advocation. E.g., advocating for the creation of a social security net, donating to hospitals, donating to families and advocating for the government to invest in India’s healthcare system. Through this type of action, India’s workforce may see a much needed, positive turn around.

Hope Arpa Chow
Photo: Google Images

5 Facts About Sex Education in IndiaAdequate sex education in India has been lacking for centuries. However, India has started to make way for a whole new sex education curriculum. Here are five facts about sex education in India.

5 Facts About Sex Education in India

  1. The current Indian Health Minister was against sex education in India. In 2014, India’s Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan, declared that he wanted to ban sex education. Instead of sex education, Vardhan declared that yoga should be compulsory in schools. This declaration against sex education was in opposition to a 2007 health education program for adolescents that India’s National AIDS Control Organization and its Ministry of Human Resource Development was promoting. He opposed this education because he believed it was against traditional Indian values. In an interview with the New York Times, Vardhan said, “condoms promise safe sex, but the safest sex is through faithfulness to one’s partner.” There was a great amount of uproar among opposers because of all his comments on this topic encouraged abstinence over education. After receiving a lot of grief from his comments opposing sex education, he tweeted, “Media got it wrong again. I am against “so-called” sex education not sex education per se. Crudity, Vulgarity out, values in.”
  2. Teachers were threatened with violence if they were to conduct sex education. Around the same time as Vardhan’s comments, the right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti led an attack that included “threats of physical violence against teachers and schools that dared to carry out the 2007 health education program. As a consequence, several different states in India banned sex education.
  3. Better sex education is now a part of India’s school curriculum. After years of sex education being banned in many Indian states, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out a sex education program in 2018. This training is vital since India is number three in the world’s HIV epidemic. This education involves role-playing and activity-based modules that are taught by trained teachers and student peer educators. In this training, students learn about sexual violence and sexual health among other topics. The whole training in total is 22 hours. Each week the schools set aside one period for the training.
  4. The Internet Could Be a Key Tool to Provide More Comprehensive Sex Education. Better India conducted research in 2017 and found that 77 percent of males and 54 percent of females use the internet. Projections show that internet usage will reach more than 600 million people by 2021. In a society where sex is taboo, learning about sex education privately online is often times the solution. Media content on sex education in Hindi has become popular. mDhil’s videos on sex and STIs have received 1.2 million views on YouTube. The shareability of this content increases the reach of sex education.
  5. The fight for fair sex education is not over. Despite great strides, sex education is still considered taboo in India. It is considered by many to be a Western influence that corrupts Indian culture. The Family Planning Association of India conducted a workshop on “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for All” in July of 2019. The organization hopes to break down taboos around sex, reproduction and homosexuality. India’s Health Ministry is also working to improve awareness about sex and sexuality. In 2017, it stated homosexual feelings are natural. This is a progressive stance for a country with previous laws against homosexual intercourse.

This biggest barrier toward sex education in India will probably be cultural norms against talking about sex. These norms are heavily ingrained in Indian society. However, India is making small but important steps to provide more comprehensive sex education.

– Emily Joy Oomen

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Kashmir
Kashmir has been a flashpoint for conflict between India, Pakistan and China for the 70 years since India and Pakistan gained independence. At the time, the area was a princely state, Jammu and Kashmir, and it had to choose between India or Pakistan. The Hindu king chose India, but Pakistan contested by saying that the Muslim majority would prefer to join Pakistan. A war between India and Pakistan resulted in the Kashmir area’s split with India, Pakistan and even China controlling different parts.

The Constitution of India’s Article 370 guaranteed autonomy for Kashmir, meaning that Kashmir had its own flag, constitution and several laws that gave it independence from the rest of India. For example, during Article 370’s existence, Indian citizens of other states could not buy property in Kashmir. Now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Article 370, Kashmir does not have its own constitution and must follow the rules and regulations of the Constitution of India.

Modi Promises a Better Economy for Kashmir

As for Kashmiri citizens, the Prime Minister promised economic growth due to the changes. Modi and his allies pointed out that Article 370 slowed economic growth, and that revoking the article would give Kashmir a chance to catch up to the growth of other Indian states. Many believe that poverty in Kashmir continues because restrictions on Indian businesses of other states hold back business potential.

For example, Kashmir’s manufacturing sector “has grown at just 32 percent – lower than national average of almost 50 percent.” Indian businesses now have the ability to buy land and create a business in the Kashmir region, which could effectively kickstart the slow economy.

Modi emphasizes that the autonomy of Kashmir resulted in “separatism, nepotism, corruption to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.” Since Kashmir does not have to compete with people from outside the region, corruption flourishes and remains unchecked by competition. Poverty in Kashmir continues to exist due to the lax attitude of corrupt officials who are unaffected personally by the reach of poverty in Kashmir.

Kashmiri Fear the Rise of Poverty

However, some fear that the negative effects of revoking Article 370 might actually increase the probability of Kashmiri people facing poverty. The autonomy and exclusivity of the Kashmir region meant that every Kashmiri citizen was able to find a job and buy land as a result of there being more jobs and land than people. Now, Indians of other states can get jobs and buy land in Kashmir, potentially leaving native Kashmiri people unable to obtain valuable jobs, and therefore, closer to poverty.

As with most important decisions, there are benefits and drawbacks, and Modi’s decision to scrap Article 370 is no different. Only time will tell if the move will help or hurt the common people, but poverty in Kashmir will definitely face drastic changes as Kashmir grows through several economic upheavals.

– Anish Kelkar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

India water crisisIndia’s dry season has been notably harsh in 2019, and the country is suffering its lowest rainfall before a monsoon season in six decades. Just under half the population is facing a drought and dozens have died from the combination of a heat wave and a lack of water. The India water crisis is also causing evacuations as the drought is forcing families to leave their homes in search of water.

Chennai, India’s sixth largest city, is facing extreme water scarcity. The reservoir water supply shrank between 2018 and 2019 and is almost entirely drained of water.

Effect of the Drought

Experts blame the severe drought on mismanaged resources along with industrial and human waste, bad policy decisions and climate change. Thirty-two states have organized a State Action Plan on Climate Change in order to achieve national as well as regional priorities. But many farmers claim the government plan has not been carried out. “There is a lack of interest among politicians and the bureaucracy, which is keen to look for temporary solutions to drought and climate change impacts,” stated agricultural and climate change researcher Atul Deulgaonkar.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the drought has not only affected the monsoon and winter crops but also destroyed supplementary crops. Because agriculture is the most important sector of its economy, India is heavily reliant on monsoon rains. The drought is particularly dangerous for marginalized farmers in rural areas. Approximately 80 percent of districts in Karnataka and 72 percent in Maharashtra are faced with crop failure, which has put the livelihood of eight million farmers in jeopardy.

Solutions to the Crisis

However, there are solutions to the crisis such as reducing the need for the enormous amounts of water used for crops. Because agriculture accounts for nearly 90 percent of India’s water consumption, reducing the dependence on water-intensive crops and agricultural methods would substantially increase water for drinking and make farmers less vulnerable to water shortages. Environmental scientist Kyle Davis stated, “Diversifying the crops that a country grows can be an effective way to adapt its food-production systems to the growing influence of climate change.” In addition, the use of alternative grains can improve nutrition and reduce greenhouse emissions from agriculture.

Other steps are currently underway for alleviating the water crisis. In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed an $87 billion plan to reduce flooding and improve irrigation by linking 60 rivers across India. So far only 16 rivers have been linked and the effect of this plan is yet to be determined. Some Indian states such as Maharashtra have followed the example of Israel and implemented a drip irrigation method, which involves dripping water onto individual plants through tubes or pipes rather than flooding whole fields.

Whatever the means, the India water crisis must come to an end. One-hundred million children in India lack water and one out of every two are underfed. Water security must be guaranteed in India amidst rising temperatures and falling water tables so families can raise their children with dignity and health in the upcoming century. A slew of solutions indicate hope for the future, though.

– Kiran Matthias
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