Friday, 25 February 2011

Why do parents, we Indian parents, expect so much from our kids?

And by kids, I mean their sons specially.

For their daughters, I think, this applies only till she marries. If the girl agrees to marry the boy of their choice, its fine with them, they don’t want anything else from her. Their thinking is that now she belongs to the other family, and we don’t have any more rights over her. Or over the damaad (son-in-law).

But a son, right from his education, to marriage, to preference/importance of parents above wife and kids, to seva (service) in their old age, everything is expected from him. Which line to follow in career studies, what job to take, where to get posted, which girl to marry, how to conduct life after marriage, how much priority and attention should be given to parents, everything should be as the parents desire. If the beta (son) and his wife want to do something else, life becomes miserable for them. Especially if they are a joint family. Want to go out for a movie, or dinner? Take their permission. Are you two going without us? Daughter-in-law wants to work? Who will do the house work? Who gets the pay of both, all depends on the saas (mother-in-law) and sasur (father-in-law).

Why can’t parents, specially the mothers, let go of the son. If at 18, he is old enough to vote, and decide who is to be a part of the government ruling his country, then he is old enough to make other decisions too. What job to take, what sort of girl to marry, who to marry, and how to conduct life afterwards.

It is this interference and dominance in the life of the son and his family by the parents, that creates problems for him. Because he is pulled both ways. He can overlook and accept his parents’ behaviour, having done it his whole life, but when his wife rebels, whose side to take? His wife is not wrong, wanting to lead an independent life, a life where she makes her own decisions, why are her in-laws interfering?

In the western countries, generally, kids shift out of their homes after the age of 16. They start to earn in part-time jobs, save money for their own further studies. Living alone, they make their own decisions in all spheres of their lives. Of course they keep in touch with their parents and siblings. But they are independent as far as their living goes. Their live-in girl friend, their morals, etc are not the parents’ domain. We Indians can learn from the West. We need’nt go the whole hog, as both aspects have the good and the bad. But we can pick up good points from them. No harm in it.

Today’s modern generation, both the youth and the parents are slowly learning. In the Metros, where both son and daughter-in-law are working, and living is expensive, housing more so, it becomes feasible to live together, to share and halve the expenses. More so, when the babies come. It can well be the best of both worlds. Babies are cared for, as the grandparents are there to oversee the servants/maids taking care of the kids. And the grandparents ENJOY their grandchildren, as they could’nt their own children, spending their time and energy bringing them up.

The only need is first, from the elders, to understand the young of today, give them their freedom, don’t expect them to do the same you did at their age, let them do their thing, you do yours, and see how they will love and respect you. Forget your ego, enjoy your old age, and the respect and affection you generate. Don’t make them your whole life. Let them live their life. This way you have them when you really need them. And they too have you, to guide and care for them.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Employment in the organised sector - How representative is it?

An article in the Times of India of 20/2/11 talked of women in government projects getting a raw deal. Reading some of the statistics there,  as also in the report of the National Sample Survey Office, came as a real surprise to me; the ballpark figure from my husband was also totally out. So before going any further, make a guestimate of the percentage of persons in India working in the unorganised sector, and of these, the percentage of women workers.
In India, a major chunk of labour force is employed in the unorganized sector. The unorganized / informal employment consists of causal and contributing family workers; self employed persons in un-organized sector and private households; and other employed in organized and unorganized enterprises that are not eligible either for paid, sick or annual leave or for any social security benefits given by the employer.
Well, assuming you have made a wild guess, let’s see what they actually are - the unorganised sector accounts for almost 90% of the total work force in India (of these approx 1/3rd are women). Quite unbelievable I felt. And of course the percentage of women here in this sector, which is considered more unproductive and poorly paid, is very high. Surprisingly however the percentage of women in the workforce in the urban areas is nearly half that in the rural areas.
An argument I frequently heard earlier while at office was that women were taking up the jobs of the men, such comments however declined with the passage of time as working women came to be more acceptable – or so I thought.  Hence even more surprising I find is that, over the period 2004-05 to 2007-08, the worker population percentage has remained the same for males but has declined significantly for females. I find this so unbelievable that I wonder if I have understood this correctly.
And going back to the figures of employment ratio in the informal sector, if less than 10% of the workable population is in the organised sector, the present lack of importance given to strikes by doctors, pilots, trade unions, bank employees etc. is really understandable.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Are Television producers showing adequate Social Responsibility?

TV these days is getting from bad to worse.

So much of violence. Violence to the extreme, and in such graphic detail, that it appears the main aim of the producers / directors of the serials is to teach, in 3 easy steps how to steal, commit murder, kidnap, rape, and how to get away from the consequences. In an episode of half an hour, if they show these atrocities for 23 minutes, and just for the last  2-3 minutes, catch the criminal and tell him that now the death noose awaits you,  what lasting impression do they  leave on the viewers. Very recently in the serial CID, they showed the murder of a young girl, commited by her stepfather. They described in detail, during the conversations, how the girl was killed by a blunt knife, then how the body was cut with another knife into so many many pieces and then hidden in so many different places. All this puts ideas in the heads of servants and others. Is this what the serial producers, want to do? And why are the channels not protesting against this? Is there no censor board for TV?

Such bad language. If we had used even a few of them when in school, we would have had to wash our mouths with soap and water. Kids are talking this bad language these days, as a matter of course, and is accepted by all. 

Going back to old  backward traditions and glorifying them. Killing of the girl child at birth, child marriages, unbelievable treatment of young widows.The argument being that by highlighting the bad, they are showing how wrong these things are. Why not go the other way, and highlight the good, and show how things can be, or should be?

Giving sanctity to unacceptable events, like a man having two wives. And after overcoming a few hurdles, enjoying life with both.

I remember, once, while watching a movie on TV,  my father walked out of the room, when an awkward scene was being shown. On being asked, he said he could not sit and watch that scene with his children. I wonder, if he was alive today, what would he watch with us?

Why can't this branch of the media practice some moral responsibility towards its viewers? TV viewership is such a vast base in India. One of the first things a family, even the poorest, buy as soon as they can afford is a TV. The easiest way to educate our illiterate masses. That is how  they started educating the rural public, about farming etc. propaganda against smoking, rooting for family planning. Way back in those days, my three year old son had started asking his dad to stop smoking, as it would harm him.

In the name of entertainment, only the dance, and singing competitions are worth watching. Or the comedy circus. These show real talent. Tho’ the standard of the comedy is sometimes below par.

The news channels too have only 50% of the time devoted to news. The rest is spent on showing film and tv skits. The worst is the mushrooming of these reality shows. One worse than the other.

Anything good on TV these days?

(Contributed by Vibha)

Friday, 18 February 2011

Pedestrians too have a responsibilty towards Road Safety

My previous blog was on the pedestrians rights to pavements. But that also raises the issue of the pedestrians’ responsibilities while walking along the roads. While going around Europe I have observed that drivers invariably stop and always give pedestrians the right of way - and very courteously and patiently. Here too, at zebra / pedestrian crossings too, we find that motorists do wait, albeit only till the light turns green. Nevertheless I am certain that as we turn from a developing to a developed nation further changes on this front will be visible.

But what do we see on the other side? While driving around the city it is common to see people just walk across the road when convenient, ignoring the pedestrian crossing nearby. While driving across cities and passing through small towns and villages it is usual to find youngsters just charging across the road looking neither right nor left. While this is not acceptable, it was understandable in the early days of our freedom, as these youngsters were not well educated and did not understand the proper drill to cross the road. But we can no longer consider ourselves a fledging independent country, if we can learn to use the mobile, surely we can learn to cross the road? Here, on highways it is seen that the fence or girder is broken and folks squeeze in through a grilled road divider or jump across the median onto the main road. An unexpected or sudden crossing would result in the need for either a swerve or sudden brake application by the motorist, both of which have their attendant risks. Even in such cases however, it is the motorist who is considered at fault.

The Road Safety week, which is observed every year from 1st to 7th January, had its 22nd year in 2011. This year the theme suggested by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways was Road Safety is a mission, not intermission. We are still in the first quarter of the year but the intermission seems to have been long past. The link on their website, to this week is also a blank, apparently the Ministry has not found anything to write home about on the performance ( Does it remain mere posturing?

A basic rule followed across the world (especially if there is no footpath), is to walk facing the traffic, thereby ensuring that the risk is visible. In India however, all of us walk with our backs to the traffic leaving the pedestrian to the mercy of the motorist and to our faith in God.

Several good steps have been taken in the past - highlighting the speed breakers is one such in Delhi and most of NCR but not, my sister tells me, in Bangalaru. Can this not be made mandatory across the country?

Can we not have prominent signboards across all accident prone areas stressing the responsibilities of the pedestrians?
And most importantly, can we actually have a measure across various parameters, of the success or failure of each observance of the Road Safety week?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Let pedestrians rights to walk on pavements be sacrosanct

I wonder if there is any pavement stretch in Delhi between say, any two bus stands where a person may walk straight and comfortably. A low level of usability has encouraged people to walk on the roads.
The Delhi Traffic Police say pedestrians must not walk on the motorways except in emergencies and must always walk on the footpath,” they are meant for you”.
Pavements are these days used for various purposes. The first and foremost is for tree plantation. This is so even when the pavement is very narrow. This means that one has to walk around the lamppost or tree planted, sometimes having to avoid your face or head getting scratched by branches of the trees, and at times perhaps even get off the pavement. Another very frequent use is for the vendors who not only block the pavement with their own wares but also due to their customers and their garbage. Then let’s look at the height of the pavements - with the passage of time these are getting higher and higher. So getting off the pavements and onto the roads is neither comfortable nor smooth. Pavement surfaces are in poor repair with uneven or broken tiles, slabs which have lost their position due to the trees having grown their roots, malba/ debris of construction of nearby buildings or even construction material of the road itself. And one should not forget the annual exercise of repairing the pavements which takes months together. This of course begs the question - why is there a need to repair the pavements so frequently? Are no norms laid down on the life of the pavements?  Or, in these days of scams, is there a vested interest here?
When pavements are not available, pedestrians are forced to walk on the roads sharing these with vehicular traffic. With more and more vehicles plying on the roads, the risks are only increasing. While doing a Google search on “Delhi, pavements” I came across at least 2 articles which said that on 3rd December 2009 Ms. Sheila Dikshit assured that pavements would be disabled friendly. While this appears to be a case of “If wishes were horses...” can we at least have pavements that are pedestrian friendly?
Pavements are the pedestrians’ transportation network. It would necessarily be the responsibility of the concerned government agency to ensure that well-designed safe places have been provided for people to walk. If only we could have ...
·         Continuous stretches of walkable pavements.
·         Ramps on the curbs at intersections.
·         Adequate width to allow a minimum of two people to cross each other comfortably without anyone having to step off the pavement.
·         Extended life of pavements and cost effective processes which minimise deterioration.
We see that in recent years already car designers have begun to move towards redesigning the cars so as to reduce injuries to pedestrians in the event of an accident. Let us at least design our pavements.
A very good presentation on delhi pavements can be seen at

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Hindu succession Act - Equal rights to women still not achieved

Great concern has been shown about the declining sex ratio in this country. One step taken some years back was to amend the Hindu Succession Act. The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005, which came into effect on September 9, 2005 aimed at the removal of the gender discriminatory provisions in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and gave a number of rights to daughters, taking them on par with sons. While this is indeed commendable, the view of the family on the birth of a daughter is formed at the time that the baby is actually born and is nowhere impacted by the knowledge that she now has equal rights of succession. The amendment has focussed on daughters/ sons but has totally ignored the position of the parents. To give adequate pride in the birth of a daughter, what is essential is that the parents of a girl child feel as secure on the birth of a daughter as they do on that of a son. Towards this, have the rights of the parents of daughter been strengthened by this amendment?

This amendment leaves major lacunae in respect of the rights of succession of the mother (or father) of a daughter vis-a-vis that of a mother (or father) of a son. As frequently happens, a person may die without leaving a will i.e. intestate. Let us look at the provisions of the law when the person is a male vis-a-vis if a female.

In the event of a male dying without a will, the following Class I heirs (or the various progeny / heirs thereof) get equal shares : Son, Daughter, Widow, Mother. It is also seen that in the event of none of these being alive, the estate passes on to the next group of Class II heirs, in order of availability – father, various direct descendents, and then various members of the father’s family etc. On the other hand, the general rules of succession in the case of female Hindus is that the estate devolves: Firstly, upon the sons and daughters (or their progeny) and the husband; secondly, upon the heirs of the husband; thirdly upon the mother and father; etc.

A quick glance shows up the following two very glaring anomalies:
a)     In the case of a son, the mother gets a share ab-initio whereas in the case of a daughter, she is the third option.
b)     In the case of a son, the father is the first of the Class II heirs, but in the case of a daughter, the mother and father are combined under ‘thirdly’ with the husband’s heirs getting priority over them.

A detailed look at the list of heirs shows up many more such differences. Today, more and more  we see a woman earning, becoming economically independent and having property or other assets created out of her own hard work, yet her parents effectively lose all rights on her marriage.

To explain what I feel, let us take the case of two sets of parents who educate their child well, who then gets a good job, works for some time and generates some assets, gets married and shortly thereafter passes away (without any child). An identical situation except with a ‘small’ difference – one has a son and the other a daughter.

In the case of the child being born a male, his unfortunate mother and widow would get a 50% share each of the assets. But if the child is born a female, the husband would get everything with the daughter’s parents being truly unfortunate.
And what happens if both husband and wife die together? In the case of the son the mother, or in her absence the father, would succeed to all but in the case of a daughter, the claims of the various heirs of the husband would supersede that of the parents who would truly be left high and dry. Why then would parents of daughters not feel shaky?

In the organisation where I worked till my retirement, I noticed a gap in one of my perquisites – while my male colleagues would get certain facilities for their wives, irrespective of other factors, I could get the facility only if my husband was totally dependent on me. I took this matter up and to my very pleasant surprise within a short time, not only was the provision for the perquisite amended but the entire Service Rules were revised to provide for officer and spouse making no discrimination between a male officer and a female officer  (except for matters relating to maternity). A truly great organisation indeed.

It would have been appropriate if, while amending the Hindu Succession Act, the same would have been revised in toto, to eliminate to the maximum extent possible if not entirely, any gender specific terms.  

Let parents have hope on the birth of a girl child.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A grand step towards Gender Equality in India

India is a country which has been under servitude for approx 1000 years and can be considered a toddler as an independent country. Despite this, in terms of granting rights to women, it has definitely been at the forefront in the past and continues to do so.

The Constitution of India guarantees equality of sexes and in fact grants special favours to women. These can be found in three articles of the Constitution. Article 14 says that the government shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal protection of the laws. Article 15 declares that government shall not discriminate against any citizen on the ground of sex. Article 15 (3) makes a special provision, enabling the State to make affirmative discriminations in favour of women.  Moreover, the government can pass special laws in favour of women... Above all, the Constitution imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen through Articles 15 (A) (e) to renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women.

We also have a National Policy for the Empowerment of Women. This was drafted as a follow up action to the commitments made by India during the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing during Sep. 1995, and after nation-wide consultations to enhance the status of women in all walks of life on par with men and actualize the constitutional guarantee of equality without discrimination on grounds of sex.

The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles of State Policy. The Constitution not only guarantees equality to women, but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Since the Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-78), India has been making a marked shift in its approach to women’s issues from welfare to development while keeping the empowerment of women as the central issue in determining their status in the society. The National Commission for Women was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women. The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution in 1993 have provided for reservation of seats in the local bodies of Panchayats and Municipalities for women, laying a strong foundation for their participation in decision-making at the local levels. India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal rights of women. Key among them is the ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993.

A recent Act of the government of India is indeed noteworthy and indicative of this country’s sincerity and commitment towards giving equal rights to women.
The Personal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2010, notified very recently, has removed the gender discriminatory provisions from two different laws - the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. The Guardians Act allowed a court to appoint either the father, or any other person in case the father was not alive, as the guardian of a minor child, thus diluting the mother's claim to be appointed guardian of her child in case of her husband's death.  But the latest amendment to the act has removed this anomaly and the courts will no longer be free to appoint any other person as guardian of the child, ignoring the mother's claim.

The Personal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2010 has also amended sections 8 and 9 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, giving women equal rights as men in matters of adopting children or giving her children in adoption to others.

The implications, as I see it, were that in the unfortunate situation of a young husband passing away, leaving his widow with minor children, the grand parents, say, could be made the natural guardians of the minor children. The widow, already grief stricken, would hardly be in a position to protest and might perforce, keep quiet. Once someone else was made a natural guardian of her children, she would at all times be under their domination.  Such a situation is easily visualised even with a economically independent woman.  

I have been a career woman all my life with tremendous support from my family, a generally similar position prevails in my circle of friends and relatives. My colleagues and I have gone through life, happily ignorant that such a sword of Damocles hung even above the heads of the liberated and well earning woman.

Kudos to our country, the sociologists, opinion makers, and the law-makers for coming up with this.