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Book review: Water Security in India: Hope, Despair, and the Challenges of Human Development May 14, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Paula Hanasz

Review of Water Security in India: Hope, Despair, and the Challenges of Human Development, by Vandana Asthana and A. C. Shukla (Bloomsbury, 2014).

Hope and despair are the themes of Water Security in India according to the book’s subtitle. Despair is obvious; there are so many issues and instances of water insecurity, the wicked problem of addressing them all seems overwhelming. But there are flickers of hope in the water security story too. As this book shows, for every flood or drought there is growing environmental consciousness; for all the pollution and spread of water-borne disease there is rapid technological advancement; for every time water-dependent livelihoods are threatened there are improvements in the legislative and institutional governance of water resource, etc.

Water Security in India is a methodical compilation of all these issues and more. It begins by describing water security issues in agriculture and irrigation, then moves on to industrialisation/urbanisation; climate change; governance; privatisation; interstate disputes; and national security. It concludes with suggestions for improving water management practice and instances of progress occurring.9781441115119

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Fatalism, or, where are women in South Asia? October 17, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Adhikari, Mohanraj, India, Nepal , comments closed

Mohanraj Adhikari

The last few months have been really fantastic for me as a wedding enthusiast. On 10 March The Mirror published news about a British divorcee woman aged 46, who wedded her own pet dog in a ‘romantic’ wedding ceremony after her marriage to a man 20 years ago did not work out. This story was followed by a news item in Metro UK, 3 September, about an 18-year-old girl, around 7000 kms away from Britain in Jharkhand state of India, who married a stray dog to please her family, who think that it will pass a curse from her to the animal so that that when she marries her future prince, a real man, the marriage will be blessed with longevity. Though both these stories talk about a woman marrying a dog, the context is quite different. The wedding in the first story shows a woman’s love and connection towards an animal after spending a considerable part of her life with it, whereas the second wedding is done to pass a ‘curse’ to the animal. According to the news, both weddings were fabulously organized. The stories provide evidence of the divide between women in developing countries and industrialized countries: in one place, a woman is free to choose her husband even from a different species; in the other place, a woman believes that a dog husband will free her from a curse and give her a better human husband in later life. This kind of fatalism is very much widespread in South Asia especially in the rural areas of India and its neighbouring country Nepal.

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Life for all: nourished now & forever? July 5, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

A Ercelan and Muhammad Ali Shah

In Pakistan, the right of expression is being increasingly eroded by actual assassinations and threats of assassination carried out by those who trade in religious militarism. Such acts of terrorism should not succeed in deflecting attention from increasing economic vulnerability. This is the reason for the following discussion.

This year, 2014 marks a decade for the UN Right to Food Guidelines. Their report for this year states in part that:

“[T]he right to food remains one of the most frequently violated of all human rights.  As such, the 41st session [of the UN] is an opportunity to generate a renewed political commitment towards advancing the implementation of the right to adequate food, as well as towards addressing the most important challenges in that regard, including: ensuring the primacy of human rights, human rights accountability, and human rights coherence at all levels.”

Yet, South Asian children and their mothers suffer endlessly; too many have even died because of hunger and malnutrition. Pakistan’s low and sluggish labour compensation accompanied by its high and rising prices for goods and services has even forced its Supreme Court to ponder the meaning of “dignified survival”. Yet despite their acknowledgement of widespread hunger, the Supreme Court did not seriously admonish the authorities for creating the causes of this hunger nor hold them responsible for its result, the untimely annual termination of hundreds of thousands of lives. This despite the fact that in Pakistan today, hunger and malnutrition kill vastly more people than the wars of terror. (more…)

Freedom from hunger: privilege granted or acknowledged right? January 29, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan, South Asia - General , comments closed

Aly Ercelan and Muhammad Ali Shah

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.”

A recent publication of Rome-based UN agencies (FAO along with IFAD and WFP of the UN) aiming at global food security is worth a serious commentary for several reasons. One is the odious South Asian situation, which includes Pakistan, of socially imposed mass hunger and malnutrition, which affectsnot just women and men but also children. If there is a single issue that defines development, then it is the situation of children today and tomorrow (as UNICEF rightly underscores). Their under- and mal-nourishment leads to untimely death of hundreds of thousands before the age of five. Survivors face a cruel future in which both body and brain remain wasted and stunted. What then is the point of investing social resources in universal schooling? Avoiding hunger often leads to employment of children in distressingly hazardous conditions and at ruthlessly exploitative wages. Government commits funds for abolition of “worst forms of child labour” but what benefit can they have when their disbursement excludes full and productive employment of their parents?

A second reason is that the FAO retains an overwhelming influence upon sub-continental professional advisors as bureaucrats and consultants, even among those who are not obviously beholden to Washington. Thirdly, food security should be included in the post-2015 agenda for universal accountability of states and the international community to citizens. In fact, food security targets may well encompass necessary commitments in education and health.

This review summarises the FAO report – The State of Food Insecurity in the World  with an emphasis upon South Asian conditions. Its policy guidelines are to be examined critically in a follow up article, through a lens provided by another recent study – Alternatives & Resistance to Policies that Generate Hunger (by the Right to Food & Nutrition Watch.

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Shattering the stereotypes: the Delhi gang rape and the need for nuance March 13, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : By contributor, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Elen Turner

In December and January I spent a few weeks in Delhi, a city I love and in which I have never felt unsafe. My only experiences of “Eve-teasing” (that horrible Indian euphemism for sexual harassment) in India did not happen in Delhi, and did not happen when I was alone, but with my male partner. Despite my positive experiences, I take seriously the city’s terrible reputation for the safety of women, and take precautions, as I do at home, in Australia, too. I refuse to be afraid, as this is the most crippling thing a woman can do, but I avoid going too far alone after dark, dress in a way that local people consider modest, and am generally on my guard against over-friendly men. The gang-rape of a twenty-three year old student in December, the injuries from which she later died, confirmed that Delhi’s reputation is not unjustified. A rape is reported every seventeen minutes in India, with more unreported, but this event caught national, and international, attention. Perhaps it was the brutality, or the fact that it happened in a “nice” part of South Delhi, or that the victim was middle-class, that caught peoples’ attention.

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The Delhi gang rape can be explained by India’s gender ideologies February 26, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

Riding a bus in New Delhi was always intimidating. I still remember how, in the early 1990s, a largish, unknown man just flopped on my lap on the aisle seat. When I mildly expressed displeasure, his demeanour switched between menacing and casual, forcing me to shut up and leave him the seat. This was not an isolated experience: many women, whether in Delhi or Bangalore, have had similar experiences in their daily lives and felt amazed at how ‘naturally’ traditional gender ideologies are ‘performed’ in public.

So is what came to be known as the Delhi gang rape case different (and if so, how and why) from the myriad forms of violence that Indian women face every day, whether in urban or rural India, at home or in public, from close family members, spouses or completely unknown strangers?

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Sri Lanka: still difficult to ‘bell the cat’ February 23, 2013

Posted by auriolweigold in : Gordon, Sandy, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Commissioned by East Asia Forum and previously published in Future Directions International

Sri Lanka is a small country of about the population of Australia. Its location astride the major energy sea lanes of communication (SLOCS) of the Indian Ocean and just south of behemoth India, however, puts it in a strategic box seat for the forthcoming struggle for influence over the liquid energy requirements of the East Asian economic giants, including China.

Until about a decade ago, the island was a Western-leaning democracy, but one with a generational civil war involving human rights violations on both side. The denouement of the war in May 2009 saw the death of the head of the Tamil Tigers, Vellupillai Prabhakaran. Few who were not Tamil Tiger loyalists would have mourned the passing of the homicidal head of the feared organisation.  Fewer still would have regretted the ending of a civil war that had lasted since 1983 and caused an estimated 80,000 deaths.

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Poor by definition June 7, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, South Asia - General , comments closed

Monika Barthwal-Datta

Security continues to be viewed in limited terms in the Indian subcontinent.

For hundreds of millions in the Indian subcontinent, daily life is a ruthless battle. It involves being assaulted brutally by insecurities arising from socio-economic, political, environmental and even military threats to their lives and livelihoods. Despite this, at the national level, the countries in the subcontinent remain stuck to a simplistic and narrow view of what security means, i.e. the safety of the state (or regime) from military threats.

It is a view which stands fundamentally challenged in the globalised, post-Cold War world. The case for a wider understanding of security is now well-established, and in many countries, regional institutions and international organisations, academic and policy debates are informed in this way.

For the subcontinent, the narrow approach to security is unhelpful in at least two ways. One, it makes it very difficult for a more people-oriented, holistic and inclusive understanding of security to emerge, despite it being highly relevant to the needs of its people. When thinking of security, policymakers continue to be driven by the limited, state-centric approach. Likewise, security analysts continue to look to the state when seeking expressions of insecurity, while ignoring other similar expressions at the sub-state level.

Two, it overlooks the importance of actors other than the state who are active in this wider security realm. It ignores their role as legitimate security practitioners, and the potential to learn from and build on their work from a policy perspective.

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Burning for freedom May 21, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, Powers, John, South Asia - General , comments closed

John Powers, Australian National University

In April 1998 in Delhi, a Tibetan exile named Tupden Ngodup doused himself with petrol and calmly set himself alight. He then knelt and brought his hands together in a gesture of prayer as the flames consumed him. Despite the agony he must have endured, his physical demeanor remained calm as horrified bystanders watched him burn. His action sent shockwaves through the Tibetan community, both in exile and in the Tibetan Plateau. This was the first time a Tibetan had engaged in self-immolation, and opinions were divided. Many hailed him as a hero in the struggle against Chinese oppression, while others described his suicide as contrary to Buddhist principles. Most Tibetans acknowledged the depth of his commitment to the Tibetan struggle for freedom and human rights, but none chose to follow his example in the aftermath of his dramatic public demonstration of Tibetan discontent.

Ngodup’s suicide was an important event in an ongoing campaign of protest against the actions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Tibet. It began in 1950 when Chinese troops crossed the Drichu River, the traditional border between Tibet and China, and marched to the capital, Lhasa. They announced that they had come to ‘liberate’ Tibetans from the feudal theocracy of the Dalai Lama’s government and that they would depart as soon as this was accomplished. Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had been assured by their leaders that they would be welcomed as saviors by the oppressed Tibetans, and so they were shocked and angered to hear people shouting “Han go home!” as they marched into the city.

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Resisting censorship in India March 19, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar, TISS

This article appeared in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Ideas from Indiaand on East Asia Forum 2 March 2012.

Censorship in India comes in various forms. There is, of course, the ubiquitous censorship of the state, which censors films and plays before release, bans websites and decides what is in the national interest. There is also the censorship of the market, which decides what Indians should see and have market access to, and leaves little space for content that is seen as commercially unviable. And of course there is the vigilante brand of censorship, which is ever ready to defend any so-called attack on ‘Indian culture’.

The notion of censorship is closely linked with the moral panic that informs India’s popular debate about media and new technologies. Many Indians are prepared to take on the role of the ‘moral police’. They are everywhere: in the legislative assemblies, boardrooms, courtrooms, colleges, cinemas, cyber cafes, gardens and pubs, on the street, and even in police stations. The Hindu right-wing parties and groups which demonstrate their love for ‘Indian culture’ by molesting girls wearing jeans and vandalising Valentine’s Day celebrations are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg.

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