where trouble was needed

March 15, 2015

A life-changing cup – The Hindu

Filed under: Provocations — Aravinda @ 9:37 am

A life-changing cup – The Hindu.

December 24, 2014

Merry GoodGovernanceDay

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 10:49 am

Here is my essay.Instance of Bad Governance
Canceling Christmas

#GoodGovernanceDay #EssayCompetition #AccheDin

July 8, 2014

Breastmilk bank in Mumbai

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 10:56 am

After 25 Years, Modest Gains at Mumbai Breast Milk Bank



Affordable health care starts with breastfeeding – it makes good sense for the government to support efforts to ensure that babies get breast milk and that mothers get support to overcome difficulties, believe in themselves, and breastfeed their young.

Simply knowing that there are people willing to donate milk for those in need will boost a young mother’s confidence and also help to increase people’s respect and appreciation for the value of mother’s milk. So much of the public and corporate messaging devalues it and makes it seem as if it is not worth the effort to solve problems that may arise.

I hope that greater awareness also comes to hospitals to follow the WHO Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and the International Code and the corresponding Indian laws regarding formula distribution / promotion and also to doctors to follow the World Health Organization Guidelines, recommending six months exclusive breastfeeding and at least two years of complementary breastfeeding. We must also see that the government enforces the International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes and the IMS Act, bans the offending advertisements, and punishes corporations that are violating it every day.

Had I known about this milk bank when my daughter was nursing I would have donated milk as well. May the bank serve more mothers and families and may more governments and hospitals follow suit.

June 7, 2014

Not only toilets

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 4:13 pm

Dear Editor,

While I agree that "access to sanitation and water are fundamental human rights" the assertion that "a lack of these services is putting hundreds of millions of children, girls and women at risk each and every day" where the risks refer not to health and hygiene risk but personal safety and freedom from violence, takes attention away from basic equality and humanity.

Yes a woman should have a clean place to go and yes for the sake of public health this should not be out in the open, but even if a woman goes to the toilet in the open she should not fear for her safety.

Obviously we don’t expect Bill and Melinda Gates to look into issues of caste, gender and land tenure when they’ve got a huge toilet program going on. Good for them. But let theirs not be the last Word on the matter.

In response to

Two girls died looking for a toilet. This should make us angry, not embarrassed

Attacks on girls and women as they look for somewhere private to defecate are frighteningly common. Improving basic sanitation, as a global goal, would do a lot to make them safer.

May 23, 2014

Affordable health care begins with breastfeeding

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 10:30 pm

Response to

Most Women Can’t Afford to Breastfeed

The New York TImes

Cynthia Colen is an assistant professor of sociology at the Ohio State University.

MAY 22, 2014

Affordable health care begins with breastfeeding. Look at the countries with the most positive health indicators and you will see that they also provide for at least 6-12 months of maternity leave, along with reasonable working hours and dignified working conditions for all.

Formula is a precursor for packaged foods. Breastfeeding children learn the taste of real foods. Breastfeeding is the foundation of healthy eating and lifelong health. If we care about our health, our food and our economy we should recognize the importance of breastfeeding and all of the work parents do and make it possible to balance the work on various fronts. Maternity leave is not such a difficult thing to implement if you recognize its value. Neither is flex-time, part-time and other ways to balance work in the home and in the office. Instead we see everyone working increased hours and prices rising – we are on a treadmill that benefits no one.

March 28, 2014

Soni Sori, candidate for Lok Sabha

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 10:28 am

India Ink - Notes on the World's Largest Democracy


Tribal Activist Candidate Poses a Problem for Aam Aadmi

By NIDA NAJAR MARCH 27, 2014, 1:35 AM

Comment to New York Times:

Soni Sori was in jail not for any crime but for opposing the powers that be in the state – hence human rights organizations campaigned for her release. A large number of tribal men and women are unjustly imprisoned in Chhattisgarh, awaiting trial for years on end. Who will address their plight and the causes for which they went to jail in the first place, the gross injustices that the tribal people of Chhattisgarh face?

It is a correct and courageous move for a political party to recognize the strength of a woman like Soni Sori to stand up for the downtrodden and lead the way towards a just society for all. I salute her determination to overcome such extreme torture in police custody and keep up the courage to fight for her people. Listen to the sincerity in her heart as she talks about the problems tribal youth face and how she would address them:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFNyP4GhC8c (NRI Samay interview).

You can only say that her candidacy poses a "problem" if you are looking at politics in the most narrow sense of winning an election. Her candidacy restored my faith that there is a political process that has space for selfless service. If people who have borne the brunt of the worst excesses of corrupt powers still have faith in democracy, and are willing to stand up and be part of the solution, then how can the rest of us be cynical?

Recognizing the potential of Soni Sori to serve in the Parliament was a brilliant move by the AAP Party.

January 28, 2014

Little things lead to bigger things

Filed under: Memories,We Shall Overcome — Aravinda @ 8:00 pm

Farewell to another conscience-keeper, who made trouble where trouble was needed.

Pete Seeger marching with  Occupy Wall Street protestors, October 2011.

Pete Seeger marching with Occupy Wall Street protestors, October 2011.

He articulated my vision of activism to the letter:

“Realize that little things lead to bigger things. That’s what [the album] ‘Seeds’ is all about,” Seeger said. “And there’s a wonderful parable in the New Testament: The sower scatters seeds. Some seeds fall in the pathway and get stamped on, and they don’t grow. Some fall on the rocks, and they don’t grow. But some seeds fall on fallow ground, and they grow and multiply a thousandfold. Who knows where some good little thing that you’ve done may bring results years later that you never dreamed of.”

From Democracy Now! “We Shall Overcome”: Remembering Folk Icon, Activist Pete Seeger in His Own Words & Songs

And he fearlessly spoke truth to power when questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee:   Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times obituary:

“I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”

Mr. Seeger offered to sing the songs mentioned by the congressmen who questioned him. The committee declined.

Mr. Seeger was indicted in 1957 on 10 counts of contempt of Congress.

Pete Seeger, Champion of Folk Music and Social Change, Dies at 94 By JON PARELESJAN. 28, 2014

December 24, 2013

The Diplomat and The Help

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 8:03 am

New York Times

India Ink - Notes on the World's Largest Democracy

December 19, 2013, 8:59 am 131 Comments

The Domestic Help’s Views in Debate over Diplomat’s Arrest



When the allegations first came out that the diplomat was not paying the wage stated on the official documents, her father and others protested that she could not afford to pay that much, or even minimum wage. People even trotted out the defense that "all the diplomats do it."

When this cut no ice, all we heard about was increasing the diplomat’s immunity, not about holding her accountable or restoring unpaid wages to the domestic worker, Sangeetha Richard. Furthermore the Government of India proposes to designate Indian domestic helps working abroad as government servants on contract in order to exempt them from US wage laws.

Regarding the employers’ claim that "they make up for lesser wages for their staff by providing a home, food and transportation." the question is, is this what they stated on the visa application form?

Sangeetha Richard and Safe Horizon are taking on a significant uphill struggle. The government of India, which never tried using its clout to change US Policies on issues affecting pollution, food security and other matters affecting hundreds of millions of Indians, has acted swiftly in this case. Going well beyond the issue of treatment in police custody, the Ministry of External Affairs has clearly taken sides with the diplomat and left Sangeetha Richard, also an Indian, to fend for herself.

Many domestic workers earn much less than Sangeetha Richard. I hope this case empowers more of them to speak up for their rights.

December 20, 2013

Fighting Inequality, Indian Style

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 9:40 am

New York Times

Inequality, Indian Style

Published: December 19, 2013


Indian TV-Gurus are peddling your message of "change must come from within" 24 / 7.

Are we giving up on the idea of democracy, that we can collectively make policies that work for society as a whole? At times, I plead guilty … but every day, I wake up and snap out of it. Of course, we must change ourselves – it is very hard, too. Hats off to Ravi Gulati, but if he finds that his peers aren’t interested in conversations on the subject of inequality, he is clearly hanging with the wrong crowd.

Not 5 km from Khan Market, near Jantar Mantar, 200 elderly people are sitting in dharna for pensions. Struggling to live with dignity in old age, they are demanding that the government fulfill its promise to provide social security benefits. Their dedication and faith in the democratic process reminds us that we must join our voices with theirs, we must be the change.



November 22, 2013

The Penance of Tarun Tejpal

Filed under: Provocations — Aravinda @ 6:46 am

As if we weren’t already disillusioned by the declining standards of Tehelka from its eminent days of exposing arms dealers and communal rioters, and barely able to give benefit of the doubt when it comes to the corporate sponsorship of conferences like THINK that pretend to be venues of socially and politically conscious discourse, with the aim of working for a just society,

… and the pain still raw from the death of Tarun Sehrawat, courageous young journalist who worked for Tehelka and, while on assignment in Chattsigarh, succumbed to malaria at the age of 23,

… now we find not only has THINK turned out to be far more than the venue for the media to get in bed with corrupt industrialists but for the editor-in-chief of what the world hailed as one of the last bastions of independent, investigative journalism, Tehelka, Mr. Tarun Tejpal, to engage in sexual assault of a staffer, behind the closed elevator doors of a luxury hotel.

AND that the best excuse he could offer for his behavior was that it was “drunken banter.”

Pardon my ignorance, but some of us are shocked that the THINK conference hosts “drunken banter.”

But I’m afraid it is way too late for that.

In his own words, Tarun Tejpal’s crime – “misreading” a situation, an “untoward incident, “a bad lapse of judgement,” and, as a last resort, “drunken banter.”

The most unkindest cut of all, though is his “penance,” which he calls “the penance with lacerates me.”

No word for what he has done to her: it is all so vague – it is a situation, an, incident, a banter … the closest we get to a verb here is “misreading.” But for himself, the verb is sharp and clear: “lacerate.”

The more I read of Tejpal’s letter, the more I wanted him to STOP.  For a journalist he seems astonishingly oblivious to the fact that the more he says the sleazier he sounds.

This case reminds me of a recent sequence of events involving sexual harassment in the media profession – the case of Bora Zivkovic, a leading light in the science blogging community, who had helped many science writers, both men and women, and yet harassed and molested several women along the way.  Stories of his behavior were almost as revolting as Tejpal’s but at least when the women finally spoke out in public, he apologized without making any excuse:

I decided to check Tejpal’s twitter feed but found zero tweets.

Tarun Tejpal Twitter

In any case all we have to go on is the self-declared penance (a word associated with rishis doing tapas) and his series of euphemisms for his crime. The “drunken banter” excuse makes me grimace most of all.

After reading the letter that the concerned journalist wrote to Shoma Choudary, this has gone beyond disgusting.  NOTE:  I leaned that this letter was illegally leaked without the consent of the journalist.  Read the Statement of Journalists on this matter.

Creating a hostile environment (as “drunken banter” might) is bad enough but according to her letter what he has done is criminal by any standard.  Merely resigning from Teheka will not be enough. I expect him to go to jail for this. He is unlikely to get a job in journalism, or anywhere, again.

And he has succeeded in getting the BJP and AIDWA to agree on something, namely where he can go to do his penance. 

Jail is best place for Tejpal’s atonement: Brinda Brinda Karat  (AIDWA) November 22, 2013
Let him atone in jail, Meenakshi Lekhi (BJP), November 21 2013.

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