India Insight

from The Human Impact:

Prostitution: their bodies, their rights

It is seen as a job no woman would want to do. A job no woman would willingly do.

Yet, spending time in one of Asia’s largest red light districts gives a view of prostitution that jars with what many feminists, gender rights activists and, in fact, society in general believe.

The Sonagachi district – a labyrinth of narrow bustling lanes lined with tea and cigarette stalls, three-storey brothels, and beauty parlours – in the east Indian city of Kolkata raises eyebrows with many who know this place.

It is a place for “fallen women” or “potita” as they say in Bengali, the local language.

Here, heavily made-up women clad in bright saris stand outside dark doorways, leading up narrow staircases into small rooms furnished with just a bed and perhaps a television.

from Breakingviews:

India’s power vacuum needs to be filled

By Jeff Glekin

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Perhaps Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi got trapped in the Delhi metro yesterday. If the two leading Indian politicians were indeed victims of the world’s largest electricity blackout ever, they would at least have an excuse for their lack of public response to this clear sign of policy failure. Actually, there was a response, but it was not what might be expected. The power minister was promoted to Home Minister and replaced with a part time substitute.

The promotion was not really a reward for failure; it was part of a planned reshuffle prompted by the move of Pranab Mukherjee from finance minister to the ceremonial role of President. Mukherjee’s tenure in the finance ministry was basically disastrous. He overturned the Supreme Court’s tax ruling in the Vodafone case and tried to retrospectively tax foreign investors. And he appears to have pursued these policies without consulting Singh, the prime minister.

from The Human Impact:

Acid attacks: the faceless women you can’t forget

Since I met her over a week ago, I have been unable to forget.

Every morning as I put on my lipstick and black eyeliner in front of the mirror, I am reminded of her face. Or lack of it.

Sonali Mukherjee, 27, is one of hundreds of women across the world who have lost their faces, and their will to survive, as a result of one of the most heinous crimes against women I have come across: Acid violence.

Nine years ago, three men broke into Sonali's home in the east Indian city of Dhanbad as she slept, and threw concentrated acid over her face.

Defying Hitler and jostling for Goering’s autograph

    The Dutch broke his stick hoping to find a hidden magnet The Japanese suspected his stick was coated with glue Cricket legend Don Bradman gushed — “He scores goals like runs in cricket” Adolf Hitler was so impressed with him that he offered him German citizenship and a post in the army

If an athlete’s greatness is measured by the number of apocryphal stories about him or her, hockey wizard Dhyan Chand is in a league of his own.

Before every Olympic Games, India indulges in nostalgia about its hockey heyday and revisits the folklore around arguably the greatest hockey player ever.

One such story is about the controversy Dhyan Chand and the entire Indian contingent created by refusing to salute Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

Air India: should we shut it down?

Imagine yourself as the chief of an airline company. Here’s how things look there at a glance:

- You’re running an accumulated loss of 200 billion rupees (about $3.6 billion)

- You employ some of the best-paid pilots in the world. They have been known to go on strike whenever they want.

from Photographers' Blog:

From man into woman

By Adnan Abidi

Hardeep Singh, a father of two, leaves his home in west Delhi every day at around 2 p.m. Dressed in a pair of light trousers and a shirt, he reaches a local charity, where he undresses to reveal his female clothes underneath and transforms into Seema.

The 33 year old is a male-to-female transgender, or “hijra”, as they are known in India. Living with two identities, by day, he is a married family man and by night, a hijra sex worker.

With no legal recognition in India, transgenders like Seema have little choice but to turn to prostitution to earn a living, which is something she hides even from her family.

from The Human Impact:

Does marriage stop prostitution? Indian village thinks so

Is marriage a guarantee that a woman won't be prostituted?

It's a question that played heavily on my mind recently when I went to the remote village of Wadia in India's western region of Gujarat to cover a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls, which was aimed at breaking a centuries-old tradition of prostitution.

I arrived in the small, neglected hamlet on the eve of the big ceremony. Preparations were well underway.

Soon-to-be-brides sat inside the mud-walled compounds of their homes surrounded by singing female relatives, with "haldi" or turmeric paste smeared on the faces and arms - a South Asian pre-wedding ritual believed to make the skin "glow".

from The Human Impact:

Undernourished and anaemic – the plight of India’s teen girls

The U.N.'s latest report on the state of the world's 1.2 billion adolescents gives food for thought, especially on the plight of India's girls aged between 10 and 19.

The report explores a range of issues affecting teenagers around the globe, from nutrition and health to sexual behaviour, knowledge on HIV/AIDS, attitudes towards gender violence and access to education.

Data from surveys of adolescent girls in India, and South Asia in general, are once again a reality check - which we shouldn't need but unfortunately still do.

Did pro-India militias kill Western tourists in Kashmir?

A government human rights commission in Kashmir on Tuesday evening said it will review records from the 1995 abduction of Western tourists after a new book claimed that four of six foreign tourists were murdered by a pro-India militia to discredit India’s arch-rival Pakistan.

On July 4, 1995, Americans Donald Hutchings and John Childs, as well as Britons Paul Wells and Keith Mangan were kidnapped by the little known Al-Faran militant group while trekking in the Himalayas near Pahalgam, 97 km (60 miles) southeast of Srinagar.

Four days later, Childs escaped. On the same day, the captors abducted German Dirk Hasert and Norwegian Hans Christian Ostroe. Ostroe was found beheaded in August 1995. The others were never found.

Budget in a bunker

The leather briefcase that the finance minister holds up for the cameras before he delivers the budget in parliament is one of the most curious hangovers from British colonial times.

But one tradition that gets little attention is the intense secrecy that surrounds the preparation of the budget.

Weeks before the finance bill is presented, finance ministry officials clam up, and refuse to speak in detail about the economy to the media. The basement of the Finance Ministry in the North Block of India’s central government secretariat, which has its own press to print the entire set of budget papers, is declared off limits to people not involved in the exercise a month before the big day.

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