Posted by: Pinky Pradhan | September 16, 2011

Long live the Indian hero

I read this preposterous news that an actress Nikita Thukral  belonging to the  Kannada Film Industry  in India  from the southern region,  was banned by the industry for three years for her alleged affair with a Darshan , a married leading  actor, who happened to regularly beat up his wife, burn her with cigarettes , and torture her mentally.  Not able to bear any more injuries, she
finally lodges a complaint against her husband. He is arrested but not boycotted by the industry or the peers.

In all of this, the actress, who probably found a patronizing figure in him, is banned for three years by the Kannada Film
Producers Association for her involvement with the actor. Isn’t this a bizarre form of public justice where instead of shaming the perpetrator for abusing his wife, they chose to conveniently punish the woman?

Amid strong protests by women rights group, the ban on the actress was lifted. But this event clearly reiterates the sexist attitude
towards women in the film industry.  For a while, we had forgotten that the female actresses are more than eye candies.
We even forgave all those titillating shots of their bodies; out of context rain dances where their wet clothes hung to their bodies leaving nothing to the imagination, never ending, ample cleavages and curves. Even the highest paid actresses with millions of fan following and awards; both national and international, cannot escape this. And off course goes without saying how the Indian industry, for that matter, is age obsessed. If an actress hits 30, it is  literally menopausal stage  of her career. There are just a few who have lingered on. Whereas others relegate themselves to smaller and utterly meaningless roles or as the popular trend is , join the TV bandwagon.

Let us picture their age-career graph:

Under 20 – very high on demand.   If  the movie becomes a hit , for whatever reason , her  career picks up. She is sought
after by every producer, advertising agencies, award shows etc.

Under 25-  She matures by this time  and  demands her fees to be paid in millions . She gets to endorse leading national and international brands and even pick her roles.

Under 30- leading roles start to dwindle until and unless she is  a superstar, considered at par with the leading actor. Or you are dating one and making news, controversial and scandalous.
Under 35 –   She is almost dead to her producer or those who don’t think so, they are kind enough to offer her roles where she plays a doting mother to 10 year old . At times, she  dons the hat of a  producer  and tries salvaging herself .

Under 40 –   Most of the time, they play roles of a an elder sister or sister- in -law  to the hero or the central charcter, who before used to romance her on the screen . Worse scenario, playing mother to 20 year old upcoming actresses.

However, in all of this, our hero never ages miraculously. He may turn 40, 50 , 60 or 70, he will always get to romance with actresses half his age, at times even younger than  18 year olds.

Long live the male, the Indian hero!

Posted by: Pinky Pradhan | September 15, 2011

Web 2.0 and women empowerment

‘ Didi (sister in Hindi), I saw your pictures on Facebook and I have opened an account as well,’ echoed my sister’s voice over the phone, traversing thousands of miles . The excitement was befitting because she lives in a very small village called Boko, in Assam, India where technology and overall development has only started to seep in. I have to admit, that both us were literally hollering at each other over her this new found accessibility and suddenly an exuberant world of communication unfolded before us. And this is exactly what I find exciting about Web 2.0.The promise and actuality of infinite possibilities and opportunities; of bridging distances; of providing a digital platform to link, share and express our voices.

To further expound my point, Web 2.0 and its technological advancement can play the role of a catalyst and add onto women’s empowerment. It opens new doors for information sharing and the capacity of reaching out to the millions of internet users. It transcends the mores of traditional media and allows the user be the manager of her own content, notwithstanding the censures of the society; Government or the repressive power. Because some women out there dared to write and expose, I and thousands like me, got to know about some heinous customs such as teenage breast ironing, genital mutilation, banishment during menstruation and similar such heart wrenching facts.

We are already witnessing some of the successes of Web 2.0 from across the globe. Most recently, women from Egypt were actively blogging, tweeting their angst against a disrupt and collapsing country. Closer home in India, few ordinary women managed to run a controversial campaign called ‘pink chaddi (underwear) against the moral police of India, who in open daylight physically attacked few girls coming out of a pub in Bangalore. These bands of women ran offline and online campaigns on Facebook, blogs, twitter and created a massive mobilsation of voices and sent pink underwear in thousands to the offenders, as a condemnation to their barbaric act. This movement created ripples as women from all across India, poured in with their voice and support. The proliferation of Web 2.0 helped in magnifying the efforts and garnering support which otherwise would have been limited in its reach and effect.

In my own experience the tools of Web 2.0, especially Facebook, online news media and blogs; have proved very useful and empowering. I am using these tools extensively for both professional as well as personal use. Web 2.0, has allowed me to connect, reconnect with friends, larger networks, professional groups, etc. Online forums and campaigns has opened avenues for me to link up with like minded professionals fighting for the rights of women and children to education, safe environment, health and social equality; or protest against crimes such as human trafficking, exploitation of children and other such malice. And through blogs, I have been able to refine my thoughts and visiting others, have been able to expand my knowledge and insight.

( This has appeared on Pulsewire)

Posted by: Pinky Pradhan | February 17, 2010

One Down in Bribe Tribe

Ashim Jain does a 007 maneuver to capture a senior government officer demanding bribe. The story from the hero’s mouth.

 Cops were wiring me with two tiny hidden video-cameras, two audio recorders, stuffing thousands of Rupees in my pockets, and briefing me like a military commander does his cadets prior to an offensive.  One pocket had thousand-Rupee notes sullied with detective powder that would turn pink as evidence if dipped in treated water.  A cameraman was recording this process.  Had it not been for missing flood lights and makeup artists, it could have been mistaken for a 007-style film shooting.

Read More…

Posted by: Pinky Pradhan | October 29, 2009

Noble values diminishing in the NGO sector

THE NGO sector and network of Washington D.C of U.S.A is as vibrant as that of my home country. The need to know more about this dynamic sector, took me to researching the various aspects of it. And one such aspect that caught my attention is the issue of transparency and integrity of NGOs. We talk about the integrity of the government and the corporate sector, but become lenient when it comes to the NGO sector, may be because of the nobility of the profession and the need and purpose we serve.

 During this period of research, I came across a campaign on Facebook on the rising incidence of plagiarism in the NGO sector in India and that caught my attention. I began to probe more and in the process started questioning myself and the profession that I am wedded to. I have been working with the non governmental or non-profit organizations for quite some time. Defined as the ‘third sector’ or the ‘people sector’ with an estimated population of 1.2 million, the profession has its own professional hazards and merits. It is a profession synonymous with ‘ kurta, jhola and  chappal ’ and for those crazy people, who want to change and save the world, end poverty , bring social justice to the most unwanted or the bottom of the population and  fight corruption.

 People, who have their heart and soul in it are often described as ‘no-gooders’ and  even as losers. Ironically, I was also a party to those kinds who saw this NGO business as nothing else but an extended act of minting money by exploiting the poverty or misery of somebody. But, I changed and I have deep and profound respect for my vocation and also those of my peers, who bring hope to the despair, food to the hungry and shelter to the homeless. There are many passionate people who gave up their comfort, social security to pursue this hopeless dream.

 However, not everything is good about this sector. Much as I would like to deny it and have an optimistic and positive attitude, the fact is that this profession too is slowly emerging as a profit venture. There are many stories of how corrupt the sector is and how it is becoming corporatized riddled with ‘corporate culture’. It is a ‘me-first’ scenario where the one who is the fittest and the smartest gets all the funds. And also, who can steal others ideas and concepts, add a comma or two, shift sentences here and there and do a jazzy power points. There is also the sadistic trend of ‘showcasing or exhibiting’ crying and malnourished children, anemic men and women, in front of the prospective funders or existing donors.

 Referring back to the campaign on Facebook, Jeroninio (Jerry) Almeida, Founder and Volunteer with iCONGO (Indian Confederation of NGOs) pensively says that his idea ‘Joy of Giving where everybody in India observes a philanthropic day/week was stolen and is being executed by some other organization as I write this piece.

 “As a part of our policy for benefiting the sector we are happy to let people use/ adapt/ borrow our ideas for their fundraising and campaigning and any person or organization may feel free to copy, print, forward any material on this website. Website and the ideas we generate are open for adaptation by any charities and organizations, people as long as it benefits a cause. But what hurt us most this time was that we were not even credited or acknowledged.” There are many who have voiced their stories but do not wish to be named.

 Within the NGO sector, we often get to hear about stories linked with an NGOs funder being ambushed by other, proposal and concept ideas being stolen and in some places even the benefactors or communities being manipulated for some interim benefits. The other issue that plagues us is the issue of commission. It is a known fact that most of the NGOs have to pay a percentage of the total funds received as a ‘facilitator cost’ to the person who helped broker the deal from within the donor organization.

 It is indeed time that we question ourselves and stop turning a blind eye to it. We have no right to be in this profession if we cannot raise our voice about the corrupt practices that is inflicting it from within. This is a matter of personal and professional ethics.

 Let us take a moment and question our system: How fair and honest are we? Where are those values which stood a testimony to this profession? How can some executives of NGOs easily afford to send their children to foreign universities, engage in a lavish lifestyle — fancy cars and bungalows? 

As the infallible custodians of the development of our society, we have been vested with immense power and trust. The line gets blurred when this power is exploited for the benefit of few. I read somewhere that as the “the conscience of the world” we must be beyond reproach so that we remain the keepers of the public trust” and with that I rest my case.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (MOHFW, GOI) had mandated that all tobacco products manufactured/ packaged/ imported in India on or after 31 May 2009 have to display pictorial health warnings, as specified in the notification dated 15 March 2008.

However, a civil society led monitoring exercise has revealed blatant violations that are taking place across India, in the enforcement of this crucial public health and corporate accountability provision of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003. A total of 60 tobacco product packages (from 9 states of India), manufactured on or after 31 May 2009 were analyzed (17 smoking forms and 43 smokeless forms). These products were purchased from retail sale outlets from 15 July 2009 onwards, considering that the already existing old stock of products available in the market would need a period of 4-6 weeks to be exhausted.

On close scrutiny, it has been revealed that a majority of the tobacco packs analyzed either do not display any pictorial warnings at all or the warnings displayed are not in conformity with the rules notified by the Government.

“The intent with which this provision was notified is not being fulfilled. The coming into force of the warnings was already delayed by two years and now this provision is ineffectively enforced. The notification 30 dated July 2009 which notified the officers responsible for implementing the packaging and labelling rules came two months after the enforcement date of this provision of the law. By then most tobacco product manufacturers had violated this law” said Monika Arora, Director, HRIDAY.

Some of the key deficiencies reported in this study include:

* Size of the pictorial warning: Pictorial warnings are occupying less than the stipulated 40% of the principal display area of the pack. Of the 60 products analyzed, 25 brands of gutka, 10 brands of khaini and 2 brands of bidi carry smaller warnings.

* Misleading descriptors on the pack: These are prohibited but still appear on some of the tobacco products analyzed. Five cigarette brands and 4 chewing tobacco brands contain such descriptors.

* Promotional messages on the pack: Messages promoting tobacco use appear on the packs of 10
brands.

* No pictorial warnings: Several tobacco products do not display any pictorial warnings at all. Eight brands of chewing tobacco and 9 brands of smoking forms of tobacco do not have any warnings. These include international brands as well.

* Incorrect warnings: Three brands were found carrying incorrect warnings

* Language: In some of the products, the warnings are not displayed in the regional language in which the brand name is mentioned, as mandated by the law.

“Some gutka companies are again circumventing pictorial warnings by covering 40% area of the pack with white colour and devoting much less space to the warning. The Government should hold them accountable in interest of public health and social justice” said Bobby Ramakant, Indian Society Against Smoking, Asha parivar.

“Enforcement of pack warnings is very weak in Kerala especially on bidi and chewing tobacco product packs. Today also lakhs of packets of Dinesh Bidi come to the market without pack warnings. The reason told by the company is the bulk stock of non-warning wrappers. The Government’s inaction on the violation reflects its attitude towards the health of the people” said Saju Itty, Executive Officer, Kerala Voluntary Health Services (KVHS).

“It is almost scandalous that even after such a long time many tobacco products do not carry stipulated warnings and those who carry it, try to circumvent the rules in every possible way. This situation has developed because word ‘sold’ used in the gazette notification was changed to the word ‘manufactured/ imported’ in the public notices issued by the ministry. This has clearly sent wrong signals to the industry about the seriousness of the implementation” said Dr PC Gupta, Director, Healis- Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, Mumbai.

These violations have been documented and the report has been submitted to MOHFW, GOI, with a request to take cognizance of these violations and ensure that continuance and reoccurrence are prevented.

A set of recommendations have also been submitted to the Government to upscale the enforcement of pictorial warnings. These include:
– Introduction of a complaint mechanism
– Constitution of Inspection and Compliance Cells (ICCs)
– Issuing compliance guidelines for manufacturers, distributors and retailers of tobacco products
– Uniform placement of pictorial health warnings on all tobacco packs, preferably on the top edge of the pack
– Mandatory depiction of the warnings in at least one regional/local language specific to the region of sale

Civil society organizations are keen to work in partnership with the Central and State Governments to take stock of violations, improve enforcement and increase compliance at all levels. This includes the development of a thorough nation wide enforcement mechanism based on the recommendations submitted for the Government’s perusal.

This study was collaboratively undertaken by Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control (AFTC) member organizations: Cancer Foundation of India, West Bengal; Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, Maharashtra; Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY), Delhi; Indian Society against Smoking ,Uttar Pradesh; Institute of Public Health, Karnataka; Dr Mira Aghi, Delhi; National Organisation For Tobacco Eradication (NOTE), Goa; Rajasthan Cancer Foundation, Rajasthan; Taleem Research Foundation, Gujarat; Voluntary Health Association of India, Delhi and Kerala Voluntary Health Services, Kerala.

 

(This information has been shared by tambakookills through group emails, to  which the author  has subscribed to. For further information please get in touch with tambakoo.kills@gmail.com)

Posted by: Pinky Pradhan | August 18, 2009

Honour my dignity

Why are some sections of Indian men intolerant to the other half of the population? Why is it that the women are always at the receiving end? Why am I being looked at and stripped as if I am some kind of a brand and commodity? Similar such questions have been bothering me since a long time. And each time I hear about the unthinkable crimes being committed against young girl child or a woman, my heart quivers. And at these moments, I honestly feel the loss of not being born as a man.

 Can we for a minute lay down our obsolete mores, superficial differences of religion, caste and geographic boundaries and think hard about why are women in India not safe, even in their own homes. I would like to question the higher ups, the young force who clearly shone in the recently held general elections — does safety for women, ever, feature as a top most priority in their lengthy arguments? India at one hand is scoring international praise for it economy, whereas on the other hand, crimes of all kinds, heard and unheard of are being perpetuated against women. Incidents such as rape, sexual exploitation, eve teasing, public groping, dowry death, mercy killing, trafficking of women and child, female foeticide and gender biasness: these are what an average Indian woman has to face in India.

 Of all the crimes, rape is on the rise. A recently released report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) stated that a total of 20,737 rape cases were registered in 2007 against 19,384 in 2006, while the figure was 18,359 in 2005 and 18,233 in 2004 against 15,847 in 2003. A last year’s report indicated that there were 38,734 cases of sexual molestation. Crime against woman has increased by manifold. There has been a jump of 700% since the time NCRB started keeping records. As per the same report, Delhi reported 29.5% (524 out of 1,775) of total rape cases, 31.8% cases (1,021 out of 3,207) of kidnapping & abduction of women,15.6% cases (111 out of 711) of dowry deaths, 14.2% cases (1,711 out of 12,031) of cruelty by husband and relatives and 21.5% cases (744 out of 3,463) of molestation. The picture is almost the same — be it Gurgaon, Mumbai, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab or some nondescript town or village — the fact of the matter is; this country is extremely unsafe for women.

 What is the root cause behind this behavioral and physical malice? What agitates them to resort to such a violation of dignity? How can somebody get pleasure by causing pain and suffering to others? Some sections of the society are of the opinion that we as woman ask for such crimes by forgetting our morals, wearing dresses that tempt man, by pubbing and by flouting our traditions and culture. This is indeed utter nonsense and nothing else but a blinkered opinion.

 Let us call upon all the faith leaders, the political heavyweights, self acclaimed activists and the celebrities from the entertainment industry .As you rant and rave in front of the camera for every issue , somewhere some unthinkable crime is being committed against a woman.

 As a woman, I have been forced to feel paranoid about my surroundings and safety. As a citizen, I am deeply frustrated and angry. And I am sure I am not alone in this feeling.

P.S:  This article has also been featured at http://www.merinews.com/article/honour-my-dignity/15781922.shtml

Posted by: Pinky Pradhan | April 28, 2009

Election Jamboree

 

The election campaign in India this time round has been the most expansive one. It has been touted by many as a jamboree, a must see political carnival. Frankly, speaking it is an entertainment in itself, clearly outflanking the over the top K serials of Ekta Kapoor. The 2009 Lok Sabha elections has got everything in it: flamboyance, wealth, drama, start power and loads and loads of suspense and action.

 

 PR firms, advertising companies and brand consultants are busy writing slogans, copies and with strategic positioning mind games for political parties and candidates, rather than for products and brands. Big bucks are also being spent on its visibility. Joining the fever called elections are the endless number of Bollywood celebrities like Aamir Khan,  Priyanka Chopra and others, all urging us to assert our right to vote.

 

The political parties and their candidates have used every viable media to communicate, place their mandate and persuade the rightful votes to their party. Whether you are watching a news channel, or a mindless programme on any one of the general entertainment channels, they are all out there. Ubiquitously present with scores of endorsement from aam janta (in the case of Congress) or the towering profile of Mr. L.K Advani, the Prime Ministerial candidate of Bharatiya Jana Parishad (BJP), beckoning us to vote for BJP. We cannot miss them. Surely, a time will come when the political parties will use chopper services to colour the sky with campaign messages.

 

During the last Lok Sabha elections, mobile users were confused, elated and surprised to be greeted by the deep voice of the then Prime Minister of India, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He appealed the citizen of India to vote for BJP, for progress and for ‘India Shinning’. This time round the BJP has gotten smarter and wiser; they have used the medium of internet. They have entrenched themselves to every viable website. I am surprised at the intensity of their campaign. No matter which website I visit, even a website like http://www.timeanddate.com, has been inundated by its e-campaign. If you google for Mr. Advani, there are 598,000 hits against his name and for Mr. Manmohan Singh, there are 2,810,000 hits. Let me also write about the involvement of celebrities. I am sure their involvement comes with a huge price tag. There are very few, who would be doing this as a concerned citizen.

 

My heart wrenches to see so much money being spent on media visibility and so called campaign. How I wish the political parties, would loosen their purse and voluntarily donate to feed hundreds of hungry stomachs, or provide education to the underprivileged children, build shelter homes for the destitute and fight for social irregularities such as child marriage and female infanticide. If the political parties would have done their duties and fulfilled their commitments, when voted to power, they wouldn’t have needed to rely so heavily on reaching to the voters through the media. I hope the voters can see through this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Pinky Pradhan | February 2, 2009

I am a Gorkhali

The Indian Idol 2008 and the subsequent win of ‘Prashant Tamang’, not only catapulted Indian Nepali / ‘Gorkhali’ community to the mainstream; it also brought it closer to my life. I was brought up in a multi-cultural set-up and environment of Guwahati city, Assam, India. During my childhood, I was influenced by the language and culture of my friends who belonged to Assamese, and other tribal communities of Assam. My interaction with my own community was limited since there were only a few of us in my neighborhood (most of them were my cousins) and school. I saw no difference between my friends and me, except for the fact that they didn’t understand the language I spoke at home or the specific customs we followed and celebrated. It didn’t strike me at that point that it was so because I belonged to a minority and scattered population. It was during my growing years that this reality grew more real and certain questions started bothering me about the identity of my community.

As a teenager, I remember being ridiculed and called by names such as ‘kanchee’ and the song ‘kancha re, kanchee re’. I would fight back saying that I am not a kanchee. Such was my anger and frustration that one day after being subjected to countless such teasing and derogatory remarks; I hurt two rowdy neighborhood boys (of my age) by throwing stones at them. It’s a separate story that their wailing mothers created quite a scene at my house.

I was so antagonized with numerous such incidents, that I sub-consciously started distancing myself from my community. In public places, I would try to speak in Assamese , rather than my own language , with my parents and relatives. It all seems so ridiculous now.

Except for the language and the festivals (dassain and Bhanu Jayanti particularly) we celebrated, I kept myself away from further association and exposure to it. However, the fact of the matter is, one cannot run away from his or her identity / roots, culture and family. Ironically, during the year 1999, I was adjudged Miss Personality of Cotton College for presenting my community — dressed in chaubandi cholo- a traditional Gorkhali wear. The occasion even made me popular than before and was instrumental in my historic win as the  ‘Debating and Symposium Secretary’.

I have to admit, that it was only recently that I started developing a desire to know about my community, its history, personalities and its angst. Off course I shouldn’t forget my brother Kamal, who with his passionate zeal  influences me over and again. I started reading, interacting, understanding and even attempted at penning down my interpretation of it. Soon, the desire changed into a thirst to know more and more. This took me to the meeting held on December 21 2008 at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi organized by Bharatiya Gorkha Parishangh. A huge melee of people: young and old alike, women and men from different states and background, had assembled to discuss issues pertaining to Gorkhaland. I felt a surge of emotion, as I heard passionate speeches and met with people who had only one dream ‘Unity and oneness of Gorkahilis’.

I understood the importance that Darjeeling has in our lives. Its status as a Gorkhaland will not only give us our due rights but most importantly bind us as one. It doesn’t matter that we were not born in that pristine hill, what really matters is that it will give us our long deserving status.

I came away from that meeting with a promise to myself. I promised to be with my brethren in this movement. I promised to make my voice loudest while demanding our rights. I promised to take pride in the fact that I am part of a community which is known for its fearless valor and integrity.

Posted by: Pinky Pradhan | January 29, 2009

CHANGE OF LAW BY SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (with ref. to Accident)

CHANGE OF LAW BY SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (with ref. to Accident)

CHANGE OF LAW BY SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (with ref. to Accident)

 

On the eve of Children’s Day, Chief Justice of India, Honourable Justice Shri K. G Balakrishnan promised former child labourers rescued by BBA that the time would soon come when child labour and exploitation of children would be eliminated from society.  In a programme organized by the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) with Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), the Honourable Justice was joined by other eminent judges from the Supreme Court and the High Court. 30 children from Rajasthan and a Bal Mitra Gram (Child Friendly Village) of Meerut had an interactive question and answer session.  At the beginning of the programme, the children performed a skit weaving the true story of how children in many parts of the country are still in the grip of child labour and illiteracy and how important education is for a bright future. It won the hearts of the judges.

 

Q-  Pradeep Kumar who was rescued at the time when he was being sacrificed by his parents, wanted to know – “Whenever children complain, the police say that they would take action; but then nothing happens as the employers go scot-free. What should we do in such a situation?

 

Ans – Chief Justice of India Justice K. G Balkrishnan replied – “Children or anybody can write to National Legal Service Authority (NLSA) or to the Supreme Court Legal Services and we would take action and any such reports would be welcomed.”

 

Q- Rakesh, 12 years  and a child labourer for 6 years asked – “There are so many street children and many are trafficking for forced labour. Why are authorities not taking action against the traffickers and what measures should be taken to solve this issue?”

 

Ans – Honourable Justice Shri Arijit Pasayat echoed the same statements as the Chief Justice of India’s and said – “You can write complaints on a post card and send it to the Supreme Court and action would be taken against your complaint.”

 

During the conclusion of the programme, Honourable Chief Justice of India, Justice Shri K. G Balakrishnan expressed his happiness at the children and their wise, probing questions. He said –”These children will shine like stars. I congratulate BBA for their success and this programme has made us also are more sensitized by problems that these children encounter.”

 

The President of BBA, Shri Ramesh Gupta said that this group of confident children after all that they went through, shows that there is hope in the society. And this is right message on the children’s day. 

This news has been sourced from http://www.bba.org.in/news/141108.php

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