Prostitutes of God

An ancient tradition which sees girls dedicated to a lifetime of ‘religious prostitution’ has become a big business on the streets of southern India. Sarah Harris, who spent two years uncovering the practice, explains what it means to be a devadasi in the twenty-first century.

It was in 2008 that Sarah Harris first made the acquaintance of India’sdevadasi. The former journalist from The Independent on Sunday had, in what she calls “a moment of madness,” thrown in the towel at her old job, and gone to work with victims of sex trafficking in southern India.

“One day, I walked into a meeting at an NGO,” she recalls, “and there were a group of women sitting there, whom I assumed were prostitutes. But later, someone told me that they were actually devadasi or “servants of god”; religious prostitutes, and part of an ancient Hindu tradition. It was at that point my interest was piqued.”

Deciding that the devadasi would make an interesting subject for a documentary, Harris began to research the custom’s history, concentrating particularly on the state of Karnataka. She discovered that the tradition there stretched back as long ago as the sixth century, when young girls, often from wealthy backgrounds, were dedicated to local temples. After going through a dedication ceremony which “married” them to the fertility goddess Yellamma, they would act as temple care-takers: performing rituals in honour of their goddess, as well as dancing and playing music for the entertainment of wealthy locals.

Over time, however, the tradition began to change, and the devadasibecame less respected. “Many ended up becoming the mistress of a particular ‘patron’ – often a royal, or nobleman – as well as serving in the temple,” says Harris, “and eventually, the connection with the temple became severed altogether. Today, although there are still many women called devadasi, and who have been dedicated to the goddess, a lot of them are essentially prostitutes.”

As research for her documentary, Prostitutes of God, Harris and her team spent several months tracking down and meeting some of the estimated 23,000 devadasi in Karnataka. Getting access to the women posed a challenge, but Sarah’s experience working for NGOs managed to provide her with several leads. Out of those she interviewed, nearly all cited economic need rather than religious tradition as the main reason behind their chosen path.

“Many devadasi are sold into the sex trade by their families,” she says. “The parents know that they’re not really giving their children to be religious servants, but they turn a blind eye. The only devadasi I met who saw the tradition as strictly religious was a rather bizarre cross-dressing male version, who spends several hours a day in prayer.”

The most interesting fact yielded by Harris’ investigation was how female-driven the industry is. “It’s very much women recruiting women. When thedevadasi become older and can’t attract the same business, they end up trafficking, and taking girls from the small villages to big cities like Bangalore, where they set up brothels. Most of the girls chosen are illiterate agricultural workers, who go because they think they’ll make more money as devadasi than if they work on the land.”

Do any make their fortune? “A few can – a client might pay a few thousand pounds for a night with a virgin devadasi. But a lot of devadasiin their 30s or 40s are selling sex for about thirty or forty pence. The strange thing is that though they see themselves as superior to non-religious prostitutes – and even though they often dress to look different, with distinctive jewellery and clothes – I don’t think the clients see much difference.”

Nearly three years after a whim first took her to India, Harris is back in Britain with her documentary in the can. “One of the reasons I wanted to go to India was because I visited it when I was 19, and it was so strange it just terrified me,” she says. “Now, I feel that I’ve got to know the country properly – and learnt about something astonishing on the way.”

Tamil Nadu addresses Sanitation Problems

In December 2011, the Government of Tamil Nadu declared that it would take steps to provide safe sanitation to all its residents by 2015. This ambitious goal led to sanitation being recognised as a priority “State” issue. In pursuit of improving sanitation services, a multidisciplinary team was formed to look into various aspects of urban sanitation. The lessons learnt in the early stages of this exercise can help in better planning and implementation of sanitation services in other States as well.

Observations from field visits indicated that while sanitation facilities were insufficient, a bigger problem was the condition of existing facilities. Public and community toilets could have been designed better. Problems such as unplanned spaces, selection of construction material, leaking taps, broken toilet pans, inaccessible toilets, lack of ventilation, clogged networks and insufficient water and electricity, figured prominently. Most facilities were found to be unfit for use by the dependent population like children, the elderly and the differently-abled. It was clear that the expansion of facilities could not take place with the existing design of toilets.

OVERCOMING RESISTANCE

However, the striking observation during these visits was the lack of public responsibility towards existing sanitation facilities. After several public meetings, it was apparent that sanitation problems were further complicated by disunited communities, vandalism of public utilities, and lack of public ownership. Communities were divided when it came to deciding a location for public toilets. Families with toilets at home resisted the construction of community toilets, even if the majority in their locality did not have access to toilets at home. Once built, the facilities were subjected to vandalism and theft of fittings and fixtures. While residents kept the toilets within their household clean, the responsibility to take care of public utilities as their own was completely missing. This behaviour suggested that the current facilities did not meet user needs, leading to frustration among users and abandonment or misuse of these facilities.

Reflecting on these findings, a decision was taken to change the overall look and feel of city toilets. In order to encourage usage and ownership, it was recognised that the toilet facility had to meet people’s needs and aspirations. A collective effort was required to create a user-friendly, universal design, which would cater to the needs of all kinds of users — men and women, children, the elderly, and residents with special needs.

A REDESIGN

As a first step, a study of cultural appropriateness in Tamil Nadu was undertaken by the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. The study highlighted preferences of urban residents and also shed light on how existing designs have failed to meet user needs. This was followed by six months of brainstorming sessions with a team of sanitation experts, architects, industrial designers, branding and communication specialists, and material experts.

The result was a universal toilet, where every element was designed keeping in mind the user. It was named “Namma Toilet” to inculcate a feeling of ownership and pride in users. “Namma Toilets” are prefabricated modular stalls and can be assembled at the site within a short period. Based on local needs and availability of space, the toilet can be put up as a standalone unit shared by a family, assembled together to form a row of toilets serving a group of families or the floating population, and even an entire complex for the community. The toilets have louvres on all four sides and a sunroof to allow for optimal ventilation, natural light and a feeling of openness without compromising user privacy. The fittings and fixtures are vandal resistant, durable and user-friendly. Each toilet stall is powered by a solar panel installed on the roof. During the day, the toilets get sunlight while the solar panels charge the battery, and when it is dark, the stalls are lit with motion sensor lighting. Most importantly, the toilet stalls do not have sharp corners that often accumulate dust and dirt. The interiors are seamless and can be easily cleaned with the help of a water jet. For treating the waste water, it has been proposed to provide a range of options to suit site specific conditions. The usage of recycled flush water is also being emphasised.

PILOT PROJECT

After design validation by IIT Bombay’s Industrial Design Centre, the first set was installed at the Tambaram bus station, Chennai, as a pilot in February 2013. The three free-to-use toilets stalls installed at the site get an average of 600-700 users daily. In addition to the unique design of these toilets, their success has also depended on the involvement of the local municipality and toilet caretakers. Communication has played a key role as well. Before the formal opening, a public meeting with the local self-help groups (SHG) was held to familiarise them with the features of these new toilets. Post-inauguration, a walk was organised with the SHGs to the toilet stalls to gather user inputs. Alterations to the design take place periodically based on user inputs.

“Namma Toilets” will be provided on a need-based approach after consultation with the local stakeholders. Community-based organisations will be encouraged to create their own “Namma Toilets” through locally available materials. The success will, however, depend on the collective effort of authorities as well as communities who will have to eventually own these toilets.

At a time when several efforts to improve sanitation are not yielding the desired results, it is imperative for States to adopt a bottom-up approach, particularly in lower income pockets. An equal emphasis on hardware and user awareness is needed in the planning stages. In each location where a new toilet is planned, solutions will have to be customised keeping in mind local conditions, needs and preferences. Most importantly, the effort has to be collective, involving everyone who has a stake in improving access to sanitation services.

SOURCE: THE HINDU

Stop pretending that Rapes are isolated incidents!!!

Author: Monsoon Bissell
Mental Health Counsellor And Educationist

IT IS a very disturbing morning. The papers carry eight separate incidents of violence against women. A young woman’s face is slashed for the second time within two months by a man she rejected. A video is made of a private, intimate interaction and posted on a porn site without the victim’s knowledge. And a number of incidents of molestation and gang-rapes seem to occupy just as many columns as they did in yesterday’s edition. The deterrents, if any, are clearly ineffective if the crimes are so similar and so common day after day.

In the video clip case, the boys responsible are still at Jawaharlal Nehru University while the girl has had to flee, as per the news report. That is a trend too. The Delhi Public School MMS case followed a similar pattern with a far graver outcome.

Maybe we will move in a scarier direction where locking up the victim is the norm

How does one not get discouraged in the face of this? I know anger and outrage are ready responses; yet I am left with a sense that it is anger and frustration that has led to this pervasive violence in the first place.

And, of course, a total sense of entitlement. Men are entitled to exert power — we have condoned it in many arenas so why not in this one. They are taught more and more to trounce the weaker opponent. Rape is a weapon, used strategically during war and extensively during peace both inside and outside the home. What easier target than a child/woman who either trusts her caretaker or is victimised because she is alone in a city that has yet to learn the value of safeguarding its women and children.

The perpetrators are also following a cultural trend — the men who rape women do it in packs, finding safety in numbers. Girls are attacked in schools and homes by the very custodians of their safe havens.

Maybe the growing malaise is the disempowerment that many feel and translate into violent acts — violating a woman’s body or crushing a man to death under their car? Human nature expects male aggression and societies like ours help perpetuate harmful ways of expressing it. Damaging clichés like “boys will be boys” and “the girl asked for it” still ring shrill in this new India. How can we expect a young man to not believe he can have any woman if the hero in Dabangg gets his way by intimidating the heroine into submitting to his “love”?

Conveniently, this collectivist and traditional culture is morphing into one where sexual violations are considered an individual’s problem and an inevitable byproduct of a modernising nation.

In many ways, the changing culture may well be feeding the fungus. In part by promoting the sevenyear- old girl who is thrusting her pelvis at a male judge as she emulates item girl moves to win a prize on television. Do we even consider the message we send when we brand women who do catchy and popular songs as “item girls”? One definition of an item is something we put on a list to buy and tick off — raping a woman is often about dehumanising her, possessing her and discarding her.

 

Male prostitution

SOURCE: TIMES OF INDIA 2011

In the safe anonymity and license of cities, boys walk the whole plank of sexual offices – from plying as gigolos, escorts, strippers, nautch dancers and call boys, but according to Samabhavana, children and minors, especially those from impoverished rural backgrounds, are most visible as ‘maalishwalas’. Their migration into the city is seasonal, staying here through the festival calendar, and returning home to meet the onset of farming. To their folk back home, their sons’ occupations are ‘bare-concealed’ secrets.

In the city, the boys’ clients are tabled as men who have sex with men (including men who don’t identify as gay); sugar mummies and daddies;wives of male clients and visitors (businesspeople and tourists). “Many closet homosexuals in conjugal situations employ masseurs for sexual gratification,” says Jasmir.

His non-profit outfit not only furnishes legal and medical advocacy, but attempts to relocate the boys to safer environments of work and living. Samabhavana has successfully proselytised 52 such boys by equipping them with soft skills and training them in automobile mechanics, where they now earn their bread. He wants to set up a vocational training centre in Mumbai and Mathura, UP, the home of many masseurs, and make livelihood options available for boys at the source to stem the inflow. While he is patently opposed to children trading on their flesh, he knows the only way he can reverse the commercial sex tide is if he gains the community’s confidence and offers profitable alternatives.

Dancing boys

If public discourse limits the tradition of male prostitution to modern licentiousness, it denies the heritage of the laundas – the effeminate boys who danced at weddings in feudal UP and Bihar. In 2007, Kolkata PLUS, a non-profit organisation supporting sexual minorities, studied the prevalence of the launda tradition, and the eventual prostitution and brutalisation of these boys, of whom 30 per cent of the sample set were between 15 and 19 years. In his report titled Dancing Boys, Agniva Lahiri, executive director of PLUS noted, ‘In India, young gender-variant boys (males with feminine demeanor) are victims of social stigma and human rights violations, which preclude them from joining mainstream occupations.

The absence of alternatives leads many to the “Hijra” (eunuch) community where they undergo illegal, secret and crude castrations at risk to their lives. The other alternative is launda dancing. The dancers mainly belong to indigent families from West Bengal, Bihar, UP and Maharashtra and also from Nepal and Bangladesh. Often at weddings, the dancers’ backs are slashed with blades through backless cholis. Often they are bitten and/or stubbed. A group of 10 to 15 men could easily carry a dancer to a field and gang-rape him, which is a very common trend. In parts of rural Bihar and UP, men satisfy their wild sexual urges with these effeminate young men because, they are available, identified, socially sanctioned for prostitution, and having sex with them proves their mardangi.’

“Many don’t even consider themselves victims of sexual exploitation,” says Lahiri, pointing out the normalisation of violence. For them, prostitution is par for the course – the price for living and earning among equals. Lahiri’s report catalogued several misconceptions about the migration of adolescents and young boys for sexual exploitation – all fixed in the patriarchal view that it is an issue related solely to homosexuality and child sex tourism. Results demonstrated that the perpetrators are largely from the local heterosexual population and not solely homosexual men or tourists.

In the course of this article, several specialised non-profits were contacted for statistics or case studies of male prostitutes under 18 years. There was ignorance, if not denial of the subject. They had all rescued girls, but never encountered boys being trafficked for sex.

Follow the money

According to Samabhavana, male prostitution in India is not institutional. Boys offering sex for favours or money are transient, moving to where the money is. Boys as young as six are trained to approach foreigners and moneyed older Indians, touching them strategically, and offering ‘homo sex’ and ‘suck’. They then repair to cheap lodges in the vicinity or are ferried away in cars. There is usually a pimp who runs these rings.

Mohammed Aftab, national Child Protection Manager at Save The Children, admits there is no empirical evidence on the subject. “Our observations show that such children are compelled by circumstances, primarily poverty, and this creates ‘supply’. Where there is supply, there is demand,” he reasons. And demand peaks at places of tourism – black holes where all discretions are swallowed and forgotten. And as Mohammed points out, as tourism gains, so will hunting grounds spread.

 

 

Combating Female foeticide across India: A glance

While female foeticide has been growing at a rampant rate across India, there are growing efforts to control the same. A review of some of them:

1. Doctors arrested in Kanpur : Eight persons, including five doctors, were on Saturday arrested for allegedly conducting sex determination tests on pregnant women and agreeing to abort the female foetuses.

Five doctors from various hospitals in Kanpur, two nurses and one ward boy were arrested following raids conducted by the police, SSP Yashasvi Yadav said. Seven ultrasound centres were also sealed.

“The arrests were made following a sting operation by an NGO which was shown to District Magistrate M P Aggarwal who ordered the arrests. “They went to seven hospitals and all of them agreed for the test and abortion if desired,” Mr Yadav said.

2. Incentives for villages : Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has announced Rs. one crore for the development of a village where a Khap Mahapanchayat termed female foeticide as a “heinous act” and demanded murder charges be slapped against those involved in the illegal practice.

The chief minister has announced the money for village Bibipur in Jind district as its residents especially women have taken the initiative to condemn female foeticide, an official spokesman said on Sunday.

According to Mr Hooda, the initiative by village residents will inspire others to bring about positive social changes not only in Haryana, but in other parts of the country also.

3. Awarness campaigns : A Mahapanchayat or meeting of village councils on female foeticide and related issues, was held  in Jind district of Haryana. The district is notorious for its skewed sex ratio where males far outnumber females.

The village bodies met this morning, in what they say is an attempt to empower women. Over a 100 women attended the session aimed at controlling female foeticide. Other issues pertaining to women were also discussed

Several khaps or caste councils from Haryana and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Delhi took part in this, Bibipur village Sarpanch (Village Head) said.

The Evil of Female Foeticide

It has been six long decades since India gained independence but many Indians are still trapped in age-old traditional beliefs. Here, ‘old beliefs’ imply the mindset of people who still find themselves in the trap of girl-boy inequality. The ‘liberal’ Indian society has failed to transform the other orthodox India. No doubt India is advancing at a fast pace in the field of science and technology, and also in aping of the western culture, but if we look at the grass root level, the picture is not so rosy; it is rather a dark, especially when it comes to how we treat the fairer sex.

The status of females in India aptly symbolizes India’s status of being a developing nation – miles away from becoming a developed state. Of course, India deserves to be in this list because here, in this 21st century, the girl child continues to be murdered before she is born. Female foeticide is still prevalent in the Indian society, in fact, it has been a practice for hundreds of years.

Narrow-minded people do not mind murdering their unborn daughters for the fear of giving huge amounts of dowry at the time of her marriage. Such people, whenever they discover they are going to have a girl child (through illegal sex selection tests), get the foetus aborted. Else they would continue to reproduce till they get a male heir. When price rise is already taking a toll on the standard of living, is it necessary to go in for more than two children irrespective of their gender?

Many families put pressure on women to give birth to boy so that he can take family’s name forward, light the funeral pyre and be the bread earner of the family. But these days, are girls less competent than boys? Just look at the results of Board exams or any other competitive exams, girls mostly outshine boys. Women empowerment has led to inundation of females excelling in the corporate world, engineering and medical professions.

Sadly, there have been numerous incidents of the foetus being found lying in farms, floating in rivers, wrapped up in jute bags etc. India’s major social problem is the intentional killing of the girl child. The struggle for a girl child starts the day her existence is known in her mother’s womb. The fear and struggle to survive swallow most of the girl’s life even if she is ‘allowed’ to live in this cruel world.

In India, the girl child is considered a burden as huge amounts of money, gold and other items need to be given in the form of dowry when she gets married. Dowry is not the only reason for poor couple to abort their girl child. The ages old traditions, customs and beliefs of the Indian society are largely responsible for creating a negative mindset among the couples. More shocking is the fact that the sinful crime of female foeticide is not only common in rural areas where social discrimination against women, lack of proper education etc. can be considered as reasons behind carrying out such acts, but also the ultra modern, so-called ‘educated’ people living in urban areas and metropolitan cities who are a step ahead in killing the girl child in the womb.

The truth behind this crime has been brought into light several times by the print and electronic media. But, it has failed to melt the hearts and minds of those who remain unaffected by the consequences of the grave sin they are committing.

The matter was discussed in length and breadth in the inaugural episode of the show ‘Satyamave Jayate’ anchored by Bollywood actor Aamir Khan. The show has once again ignited the spirited discussion on the female foeticide in the country. That episode had mothers from different parts of rural and urban India talking about the pressure and the problems they faced for delivering a girl child. Although the show is doing really well and has already garnered positive reviews from the audiences, we will have to wait and see whether the impact will remain even after the programme stops beaming into our drawing rooms every Sunday. The emotional connect which the show has successfully created should be strong enough to stop the killing of the girl child before being born.

If we look at the figures of sex ratio in India, according to the 2011 Census, the number of girls stands at 940 which is a marginal increase from 933 in 2001. Not surprisingly, Haryana has the lowest sex ratio among the states while Kerala remains at the top with the highest sex ratio. In the national capital Delhi, the statistics stand at 821 girls against 1000 boys in 2001 compared to 866 in 2011.

According to the statistics, nearly 10 million female foetuses have been aborted in the country over the past two decades. Of the 12 million girls born in India, one million do not see their first birthdays.

As a result, human trafficking has become common in various states of India where teenage girls are being sold for cheap money by poor families. The girls are treated as sex objects and more than half of such cases go unreported.

The United Nations’ World Population Fund indicated that India has one of the highest sex imbalances in the world. Not surprisingly, demographers warn that there will be a shortage of brides in the next 20 years because of the adverse juvenile sex ratio, combined with an overall decline in fertility.
With the advent of technology, ultrasound techniques gained widespread use in India during the 1990s. It resulted in the foetal sex determination and sex selective abortion by medical professionals. Recently, incidences of female foeticide were reported from Beed district in Maharashtra where women used to come to a doctor’s clinic to get their female child aborted for Rs 2000. Just think for a moment about the doctor’s connivance in this illegal act. Doctors, whose aim is to save the lives of people, happily kill the foetus for a meagre two thousand bucks! And more heart wrenching is the fact that the aborted foetuses were very often fed to dogs.

The above mentioned case is not the only one of such heart wrenching heinous crimes. There are thousands of such clinics where illegal activities are carried out on a daily basis and in some cases, in connivance with politicians and police men.

The life transition from a female foetus to a school going girl to a caring woman is never an easy task for the fairer sex. She has to face challenges at every step of her life. Daily, there is news related to rape, sexual harassment, molestation, verbal abuse, torture, exploitation. She has to fight against gender indiscrimination, inequality, and hundreds of social norms are tagged with her the day she puts her steps outside her home.

In most of the cases, women abort their female child involuntarily when they succumb to family pressures. The in-laws’ illogical demand/ desire for a boy preference makes the life of women hell. Sometimes, she is left by her husband if she is unable to give birth to a child and worse happens when she conceives a girl child.

Ironically, it all happens in a country where the girl is seen as an incarnation of Goddess ‘Laxmi’. True, many families are out of bounds in joy when a girl child is born in their family. They think she will bring luck, harmony, happiness and peace in their family. They even touch her feet to seek her blessings. Many childless couples even adopt a girl child irrespective of the worries of her future (mainly marriage).

In such a grim scenario, it’s really difficult to digest the harsh reality of the differences between a boy and a girl. India has a deeply rooted patriarchal attitude to which even the doctors and the women, who in spite of being the victims, unthinkingly subscribe. There is an urgent need of undoing the historical and traditional wrongs of a gendered society; only then the hope of abolition of female infanticide and boy preference can positively adjust the figures in favour of the girl child in future. The skewed sex ratio has to find a balance in order to maintain the progress of the country.

THE HINDU REPORTS:-

Report as of March 2013.

Eliminating female foetus after pre-natal diagnostic tests has pushed the female child ratio down nationwide, the Supreme Court has observed.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra blamed the practice on lack of implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition on Sex-Selection) Act. Both judges gave different, but concurring, judgments.

Justice Radhakrishnan said: “Indian society’s discrimination against the female child still exists owing to various reasons, which has its roots in the social behaviour and prejudices, and due to the evils of the dowry system, which still prevails despite its prohibition under the Dowry Prohibition Act. The decline in the female child ratio leads to an irresistible conclusion that the practice of eliminating female foetus by pre-natal diagnostic techniques is widely prevalent. Complaints are many [of] at least a few of the medical professionals performing sex selective abortion.The provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, are also being consciously violated and misused.”

The Bench said: “We have gone through the chart as well as the data made available by various States, which depict a sorry and alarming state of affairs. Lack of proper supervision and effective implementation of the Act by various States is clearly demonstrated. However, Maharashtra has a better record. Seldom are ultrasound machines used for such sex determination in violation of the provisions of the Act seized and, even if seized, they are being released to the violators, only [for them] to repeat the crime. Few cases end in conviction. Cases booked under the Act are pending disposal for several years in many courts. Nobody takes any interest in their disposal and hence, seldom do those cases end in conviction and sentences, a fact well known to the violators.

Many of the ultra-sonography clinics seldom maintain any record as per the rules, and in respect of the pregnant women, no records are kept for their treatment, and the provisions of the Act and the rules are being violated with impunity.”

Directives to Centre, States

In view of this, the Bench issued a series of directives to the Centre and all the States. The Central Supervisory Board and the State and Union Territory Supervisory Boards, constituted under Sections 7 and 16A of the PN&PNDT Act, would meet at least once in six months to supervise the implementation of the Act.

The State Advisory Committees and the District Advisory Committees should gather information on the breach of the provisions of the Act and the rules and take steps to seize records, seal machines and institute legal proceedings in case of any violation.

The committees should report the details of the charges framed and the conviction of the persons who committed the offence to the State Medical Councils for proper action, including suspension of the registration of the unit and cancellation of the licence to practise.

The States and District Advisory Boards should ensure that all manufacturers and sellers of ultra-sonography machines do not sell anything to any unregistered centre, as provided under Rule 3-A of the Act, and disclose, on a quarterly basis, to the State/the Union Territory concerned and the Central government a list of persons to whom the machines have been sold, in accordance with Rule 3-A (2).

The State governments should map all registered and unregistered ultra-sonography clinics in three months. Steps should be taken to sensitise the people to the need for implementing the provisions of the Act, through workshops and awareness camps.

Special cells should be constituted to monitor the progress of various cases pending in court and steps taken for their early disposal.

The authorities should seize the machines used illegally. They could be confiscated under the Code of Criminal Procedure and sold.

Courts should dispose of all pending cases within six months. The States should file a status report in three months.

Fraud with soldier-widow

The wife of Lance Naik Hemraj, who was beheaded by Pakistani troops near the LoC on January 8, was duped of Rs 10 lakh by a man posing as an army officer on the outskirts of Kosi town, police said on Saturday.

In her complaint, Ms. Dharmvati, the widow of Hemraj, said one Amit Kumar, who claimed that he was an army officer and sent by the Army Headquarters, approached her at Shernagar village in the morning on Friday.

According to the complaint, Amit advised Ms. Dharmvati to keep the relief packages provided to her in different banks. On his advise, she agreed to withdraw Rs 20 lakh from SBI, Chhatta branch.

Accompanied by brother-in-law Bhagwan Singh, uncle Gajendra Singh and Amit, Ms. Dharmvati reached the bank.

“Rs 20 lakh were withdrawn from the bank, out of which a fixed deposit of Rs 10 lakh was made in the same branch in favour of my daughter Shivani, whereas we planned to deposit the remaining Rs 10 lakh in a bank in nearby Bukharari village,” she told police.

Ms. Dharmvati claimed that she rode pillion on Amit’s motorcycle, whereas her brother-in-law and uncle followed them on another motorcycle.

In the complaint, she mentioned that Rs 10 lakh was kept in Amit’s bag. Thereafter, all the four proceeded towards Bukharari village, about 45 km from Mathura.

“Amit stopped his motorcycle at a petrol pump near a dhaba on the outskirt of Kosi town, pretending that he had to take petrol for his bike,” she said.

As Ms. Dharmvati alighted from the motorcycle, Amit fled with the bag, the complaint alleged.

“The Special Operation Group has been asked to work out the case and the CCTV footage of the bank is being examined to arrest the youth,” Senior Superintendent of Police Pradeep Yadav said.

“Though Ms. Dharmvati was asked to inform the police about any major financial transaction she makes, she did not do so,” the SSP said.

On March 25, an attempt to fraudulently withdraw Rs 60 lakh, of the relief amount given to her, was made at a bank in Palwal district of Haryana.

Hemraj was killed and beheaded by Pakistani troops near the Line of Control in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir on January 8.

India’s Growth rate

When they think of India, many people still have the shining image of it as a rising economy, one of the four most promising in the world, in fact. As one of the BRIC countries, along with Russia, Brazil and China, India’s rise from a long history of poverty raised hope for the rest of the developing world. So it’s startling when Fareed Zakaria recently asked on CNN, “Is India the broken BRIC?” In the same vein, Jim O’Neill, the most important global economist at Goldman Sachs, and the man who coined the term BRIC, considers India the biggest economic disappointment with its 5 percent fall in growth since 2010.

What makes the disappointment worse is that since the early 90s, as Western media and business people were jetting back and forth between India and China sizing up these two growing economic giants, business magazine covers, famous economists and top CEOs at conferences were saying, “India is the one to watch, not China.”

How did so many brilliant prognosticators miss so badly? As economists ponder what went wrong, the Gallup data gives telltale clues on the human side. Economics comes down to millions of individual workers and what they experience at work. The worker’s story from India is discouraging. A staggering 33 percent of employees are what Gallup scientists refer to as “actively disengaged,” meaning not only are they miserable at work, but they walk the halls and petition their colleagues to be as miserable and discontented as they are. On the positive end of the spectrum, a tiny 9 percent of Indian employees are engaged. These are the people who build new products and services, generate new ideas, create new customers and ultimately spur an economy to create more and more good jobs.

The workplace tends to be symptomatic of society as a whole, and here the picture is just as gloomy. India’s state of mind is severely troubled right now. Gallup’s World Poll, currently in its eighth year in the field, finds more Indians than ever are “suffering” — 31 percent — while fewer are “thriving,” just 10 percent. This is among the worst in the world.

When any society reaches a low point of well-being with a sizable number of people suffering, it is in trouble. When the quotient of suffering sharply rises (as it did in Libya before the Arab Spring and is happening today in Egypt), social turmoil often results. The street rioting over sexual harassment of women in India — an endemic problem that the government and judicial system turned a blind eye to for decades — is another warning sign.

What will happen next? Officially, India is being upbeat about its economic projections, with a forecast of growth between 6 and 7 percent for 2013 after falling below 7 percent for the past two years and generally underperforming since 2008, according to a recent story in the New York Times. In the Gallup data, 36 percent of the Indian population rated economic conditions as “good” or “excellent” in 2012, as compared to nearly half (46 percent) who thought so in 2008.

Of course, we are rooting for India’s economic uptick, but the human side needs deeper examination. In many ways India is facing a crisis of the soul. When only one person out of 10 is thriving, and around that number feel engaged at the workplace, it indicates that the vast majority are not reaching a desirable level of fulfillment — far from it.

A nation’s soul is the sum total of all interactions between all people in that society. Every moment lasts a few seconds and is positive, negative, or neutral. In those moments, people may make very tiny decisions that, as they accumulate, can profoundly change their day and even the rest of their lives. An old adage says, “Miss a bus, and you change the rest of your life.” In our world of unprecedented interconnectedness, that axiom may need updating: “Miss a bus and you change the rest of the world.” With India’s vast population, there are trillions of interactions per year. If they swing too far to the negative, the society’s soul is suffering a malaise.

Analysts point to large-scale problems, such as the widespread corruption that persists in Indian government, local and national, and the failure of reform parties to gain a strong political footing. But we think the story of moment-to-moment experience counts the most. What if every interaction with a bureaucrat brings expectations of obstacles, red tape or a bribe? What if every woman walking out alone expects catcalls, whistles and physical intrusions from men on the street? What if domestic violence and rape go hugely underreported and when reported lead to minimal consequences for the perpetrator?

India needs to come to terms with its soul sickness, and slowly, haltingly, it seems to be. Most Indians are lodged in the slot of low expectations. The Gallup data shows a surprising complacency, because despite the alarmingly low level of well-being, around 60 percent of Indians between 2006 and 2011 said that they were satisfied with their standard of living. The bubble seems to have burst since then, however, with that figure dipping below 50 percent in 2012.

There is something important here that India’s leaders — and all global leaders — must consider: A nation’s soul precedes its human development. Organic human development will not occur in India if the majority of everyday experiences are negative. Even so, India’s resilience and optimism — along with its resignation in the face of problems going back for generations — gives hope that the country will look to its soul. A great culture can only persist by doing so. We are pained to deliver gloomy news, but our deepest feeling is that the most spiritual nation on earth, and its largest democracy, can find a path to reform, with the well-being of its people held out as a primary goal.

Vibrant Gujrat

Ahmedabad, India, is undertaking a dramatic renovation of the Sabarmati riverfront, converting an 11.5 km section of the riverbanks into a model development of public spaces and valuable commercial and residential lots.

The City of Ahmedabad, India, is making progress on an ambitious riverfront development project that will convert an area that was once home to slums and illegal sewage outflows into a model development that will feature parks, malls, and theaters. Several highly prized commercial and residential parcels will be auctioned off to pay for the improvements.

The project is complex. The Sabarmati River is a nonperennial river with raging water as much as 8 m deep during the rainy season and a naturally dry bed at other times. In the dry season, the city can place low levels of water in the river from irrigation canals and hold it via dams downstream. A collection of 51 storm sewer outfalls on the banks had been illegally tapped by residents, and were flowing raw sewage into the stream much of the year. Slums and trash dumps dotted the banks.

In 1997, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation formed the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation Ltd. to renew the area and manage the river as critical infrastructure along an 11.5 km portion of the city. Plans called for an extensive upgrade of the water, storm-water, and wastewater infrastructure, installation of promenades and retaining walls, relocation of slum residents to apartment buildings, and the creation of a wastewater effluent reuse system.

“The overall scope of the project is very wide. In a way you can say it’s like creating a city within the city,” says Nitya Shah, P.Eng., the regional manager for MWH India Private Limited, a division of MWH Global, headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado. MWH was responsible for designing the wet infrastructure on the project.

MWH designed interceptor lines—one for each bank of the river— that collect sewage from the 51 outfalls via junction chambers and direct the wastewater to Vasna and Pirana Sewage Treatment plants downstream. Creating this system with the capability to manage massive storm inflows was a design challenge, Shah says.

“Initially we thought during the dry weather we will have the gates and the junction remain closed, and during the high flood times we will open the gates and let the water flow into the river,” Shah says. “In doing so, there was an operational issue because during heavy storms, it is difficult for the operation staff to get to those gates and open them or close them.”

MWH developed an alternative that diverts a portion of the flow in the interceptor lines, which range from 900 mm to 2100 mm, to the river during storm events in the city.

“In some cases, there have been incidences in which we have received 14 inches of rain in four hours,” Shah says. “It’s very heavy rainfall. Seasonal rainfall amounts to 30 inches on average, but we have a couple of events every year when there is a torrential downpour. At that time we need the interceptor as well as the outfall to work simultaneously. That has eliminated the requirement or the need for the operation staff to go to the site and open up the gates and risk their lives.”

The retaining walls of the riverfront project are designed to repel a 200-year flood. The promenade areas are designed to be submerged during flooding.

The existing wastewater treatment plants have adequate capacity for the increased flows, but the treatment process will be enhanced by the addition of membrane bioreactors and sequential batch reactors to improve the quality of effluent. A new reuse system will pump 4 mgd of treated effluent from the plant back to the riverfront district to irrigate the 50 percent greenbelt in the nearly 200 hectare development area and for public toilet flushing and cleaning.

“Once that component is executed, it will be first reuse water network in the city,” Shah says. “So there is something unique. There is a huge water demand to that public garden space. And with this being a water-scarce area, MWH proposed, ‘why not reuse [wastewater effluent]?’ It’s nothing new to the Western world, but it’s certainly a unique thing to do in India. It hasn’t been practiced anywhere else in the city before.”

The project includes another first for the city and a rarity in the nation, a 24-hour drinking water supply. Many cities in India, including Ahmedabad, have a two-hour per day water supply, and the pressure can be limited, at that. This required MWH to develop a new design that could connect to the existing system but function independently. The new system features smaller diameter lines and water meters, a new addition for domestic customers in the city.

“They are not going to change the entire city’s water supply to 24/7 immediately after this project,” Shah says. “It will take some years to get to that stage. Meanwhile, we have to make sure that although this area is part of the city, it has different operations and a different design.”

These differences will make land in the revitalized riverfront area—scheduled to be complete in late 2013—“extremely valuable,” Shah says. About 15 percent of the land will be auctioned off, with expectations that developers will place hotels, condominiums, and corporate offices there.

“It will be a model,” Shah says. “This project will certainly bring new ideas to the table and obviously it will provide new thinking to the cities trying to develop their river area. A lot of cities are thinking of adopting this type of project to improve the image of their city, attract more tourism, and to upgrade their social lives of the citizens.”

INDIA – MY MOTHERLAND ASKS:- WHY CAN’T THE SAME BE DONE WITH EVERY RIVER IN INIDA?

Students protest over alleged molestation of girl student by VNIT professor

NAGPUR: Thousands of Visveswaraya National Institute of Technology students staged protest at the administration block on Wednesday, over alleged molestation of a first year students by a college professor.

Sources informed that on Wednesday morning, the victim was sitting with her close friend in the lawn area of the college campus when a security guard scolded her and seized her identity card. The guard handed over her I-card to a professor at the chemistry department.

Few minutes later, the professor called the student in his cabin to return the I-card. However, the girl came crying out of the room and alleged that the professor molested her. She claimed that the professor outraged her modesty and even blackmailed her of ruining her image.

The shocked victim immediately alerted her parents and friends. College sources told that the victim’s parents were all set to file a police complaint when the college authorities prevented them from doing so and asked them to submit a written complaint at student council.

Despite the girl’s complaint, the professor had threatened her, sources said. Enraged over this, thousands of first, second and final year students protested in front of the administration block late on Wednesday night, demanding stern action against the professor.