August 15, 2015: As India celebrates another Independence Day, here are still millions of residents who still live like outcasts, refugees and outsiders in their own country. We look at some of the categories of people, who still struggle to lead a respectable life.
Women: Talk about crimes against women, and India has covered almost the entire spectrum.
It would be a rare Indian woman who has never faced any of these during her lifetime: eve-teasing and groping, physical and sexual abuse, menstrual taboo and personal commentary, acid throwing, restrictions on education, forced marriage, dowry demands, pressure to abort her female unborn and/ or deliver a male heir, trafficking and slavery, unhygienic and disrespectful sanitary conditions; and overall discrimination at domestic, social, legal, institutional and professional levels.
On an average, 93 women are raped in India every day. There were 33,707 ’reported cases’ in 2013 alone.
Homosexuals: While they are still fighting social and religious taboos, more than 2.5 million homosexuals in India face the grim potential of going to jail.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) dating back to 1861 makes homosexual sex punishable by law and carries a ten-year sentence.
Don’t rub your eyes in disbelief. You read it right.
1861. That is ‘one year before’ the death of India’s last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, ‘eight years before’ the birth of Mahatma Gandhi and a shocking ‘fifty years before’ Delhi became India’s capital.
For a country that boasts adherence to the constitutional principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, it is ironical that 67 years after the India’s independence, 0.2 percent citizens do not have a right to love and express it legitimately.
For a ’developing country’, acceptance has its economic advantages as well. Homophobia is costing the country a whopping $30.8 billion (Rs 1,88,342 crore), or more than a percent of the country’s GDP.
Sportspersons: If you are a sportsperson playing anything other than cricket, our heart reaches out to you.
There is no public acclaim, financial security and blissful stability for majority of the sportspersons in India.From selling plastic bags in fish markets, to being thrown off a running train, our national-level sportspersons have endured it all.
The ’Premier Leagues’ might have provided instant stardom for a select few - but in the absence of sustained support systems - our desi sports may soon become history. By the way, just wondering: when was the last time Sachin Tendulkar or Mahendra Singh Dhoni used the public transport?
North Easterners: When Amitabh Bachchan inadvertently referred to the ’Manipuri’ Mary Kom as ’Assamese’, he was just being any other Indian.
His tweet perfectly reflected the ignorance that millions of his countrymen still share about India’s North East. Once upon a time, the region was an important hub, intimately close to India’s capital of Calcutta (Kolkata).
Gradually, India’s ’Paradise Unexplored’ was flung into neglect, its children facing racial attacks due to their distinct culture and features. The latest Kaun Banega Crorepati ad, is both poignant and poetically just. Poignant, because it highlights the pain of the North-Eastern people.
Poetically just, because Amitabh Bachchan’s admitting smile sort of seeks apology for his past faux pas. You think you know better than Bachchan? Then answer this rapid-fire question: ’Name the ’Seven Sisters and the their capitals without fumbling.’
Inter-caste lovers: Of the total 5,000 honour killings worldwide every year, 1,000 cases occur in India.
All it takes is for a few chauvinist men in families or village councils to issue diktats of deaths for defiant lovers. Paranoid prudes may point out that India is not the only country where these murders take place.
But not all of these ’other countries’ pride themselves to be united in their diversity or being sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republics. What is alarming is the active or tacit support the perpetrators receive from the local people, politicians and the police.
And if it all they get caught, the continuing court trials and endless embarrassment of the victims’ families ensure that true justice is often delayed or denied.
Handicapped: Disabled and differently-abled: Social apathy is routine order in a country that treats ‘disabilities and handicaps’ as divine punishment for past sins.
We dream of a day when India will have roads, doorways, buildings, public venues, toilets, parking lots and public transport systems with greater safety, access ramps, better lighting, clearer audio-visual announcements and sign posts.
We dream of a day when India’s educational institutions and work organizations do not have discriminatory categories such as ‘special’ or ‘normal’ - where everyone has ’equal’ opportunities – with everyone respected, integrated and trained as per his/ her individual aptitude, capabilities or limitations. We dream of a day when individuals and the society show higher concern, understanding, patience, appreciation, love and acceptance, to those who might be physically different.
We dream of a day when there will be no shame, taboo or stigma attached to being disabled or differently-abled and they and their family come forth for treatment rather than conceal the facts to avoid social rejection. The day all these dreams come true, India will have truly integrated into the mainstream, as many as 6-7% of the country’s citizens.
The Poor: Question: How do you lower the poverty levels in India? Answer: Change the basic definition and parameters of poverty. If you think WE are joking, then you are wrong.
From asserting that Rs 5 is all Indians need for a full meal - to fixing the poverty line at ridiculously low spending levels - our parliamentarians and panelists have made enough fun of those who struggle for basic food, water, education, healthcare, and shelter.
Today, even with the revised estimates, almost 30% of India’s population lives below the poverty line. That is a depressing statistic for Asia’s third largest economy. In contrast, China brought down its poverty rate from 84% in 1982 to 26% in 2007; to 7% by 2012.
As we begin another year as a free country, the old tales still continue. Those of farmer suicides, labour exploitation, inconsistent water and power supplies, seasonal unemployment, malnutrition and lack of basic medical infrastructure, hygiene and sanitation, rural-to-urban migration, rise in crime, and the list goes on.
It is all inter-related and the root cause is the same: poverty. Any new solutions, anyone?
Children and Minors: Drop everything you are doing right now and watch this video. Or this. Or read this one.
If you winced or your guts wrenched while watching the insensitivity with which the young ones were being beaten up, please don’t be surprised. It is only a representative sample, and children in India are deprived, abused and exploited in ways far worse than those you visually saw.
The United Nations believes every child has a natural right to: - Grow up and to develop physically and spiritually in a healthy and normal way, free and with dignity
- Special care and protection and to good food, housing and medical services
- Special care if handicapped in any way
- Love and understanding, preferably from parents and family, but from the government where these cannot help
- Go to school for free, to play, and to have an equal chance to develop and to learn to be responsible and useful
- Always to be among the first to get help
- To be protected against cruel acts or exploitation
- Not work before a minimum age and never when that would hinder health, and moral and physical development
- Be taught peace, understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people
In a country where even adults suffer in despair, just imagine the plight of vulnerable children.
Check the list of rights above – and sincerely answer this question. Is India really the best place in the world for minors to grow up?
Minorities: Atrocities and discrimination against religious and caste minorities continue subtly and at times, explicitly. But it is not about faith alone.
Any contrarian or defiant person/ voice is vehemantly (often forcefully) stifled. While many have had the courage to speak out, we salute those silenced minority voices of social reformers, honest officers, whistle-blowers, bribe-refusers, historians, artists, or even those discriminated because of their chose pro.
Animals and Pets: Deprived of inadequate healthcare and hygiene facilities, thousands of animals often breed and die in pathetic conditions.
It is the same kind of indifference and discrimination that Indian society reserves for the elders, the disabled and the poor. Ask any pet-owner who is looking for a house on rent, or walking his dog at a mall or welcoming a guest at home.
For residents of the country that give only unconditional love, don’t they deserve a little bit of humanity?