Dalit Students and Journalists – from Classroom to Newsroom: Shivnarayan Rajpurohit

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

This is a guest post by SHIVNARAYAN RAJPUROHIT

The conscious or unconscious exclusion of Dalits (SC/ST) from the Indian mediascape has given way to a lopsided public sphere which hardly manages to generate comprehensive debates. Corporate interests have aggravated this malaise, given the indifference of the corporate sector towards fomenting a diverse media, cutting across caste, religious and class lines. The following paper looks at the absence of Dalit journalists and students from English press and journalism schools. The primary conclusion of my research is that English-language media as an institution has been undemocratic because it draws its workforce from a homogenous set of people, overlooking the urgent need for diversity. In that sense it is hostile to opposing viewpoints and diversity of arguments. The paper is primarily divided into five parts: counting Dalit journalists, reason for exclusion, classroom to newsroom, need for Dalits in media and Blacks in USA.

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“Come back, we’ve got Chilly Chicken!”

(A satire on the handling of the Italian marines’ case by the UPA government)

With tearful eyes, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi bid adieu to the two Italian marines, going to fulfill their highest duty to their country: voting for the next elections.

“Come back, Chilu and Soda, we’ll make chilly chicken for you,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the boys boarded the plane last month.

“Such loving boys they are,” said mother Sonia, “they go home to their families for Christmas and (sob) they vote!”

“How many of our Indian boys vote for the elections?” she asked poignantly.

Chilu and Soda were two loving boys sailing on the Enrica Lexie who shot a couple of poor fishermen off the Indian coast in February last year. Mother Sonia reprised her role as the original Mother India (Made in Italy) by sending the brave boys back home.

Reacting to criticism that India had been too soft on the Italian soldiers, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde sounded confident that he had taken the right steps. “Of course they will come back. I forced them to say ‘Cross my heart and hope to die’ before they left our shores. Isn’t this the way it’s done in the west?” he beamed.

Now that the Italian government has refused to return the marines, Mr. Shinde may have to eat his words. Never mind, Mr. Shinde, Mother Sonia will be waiting to take you in her arms and make things better, and maybe offer some chilly chicken too.










Chennai’s slums: A case for in-situ development

Slums line the canal bank near Park Town Station, Chennai

Slums line the canal bank near Park Town Station, Chennai

Chennai: A stone’s throw away from Park Station is the huge settlement of Sathyavani Muthu Nagar. Built on acres of defence land, S M Nagar is occupied by nearly 2500 families, most of them occupied by migrants who work as coolies, construction workers and auto rickshaw drivers. Just one public toilet functions for the entire settlement.

Inspite of the overcrowding and lack of basic facilities, residents are reluctant to move. Ismail, a welder, sold his flat in Kannagi Nagar and returned to live in a hut below the bridge. “In Kannagi Nagar there are a lot of problems, no water, no electricity, and there’s a lot of drugs, drinking and goondaism. This place feels much safer.”

His concern is echoed by residents of other slum areas, who have been put off by the lack of facilities and job opportunities in the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board’s resettlement colonies.

Kuppamal, a fifty year old domestic help who lives in a slum area near the Thirumylai MRTS station, says, “I won’t shift to Kannagi Nagar or Semmenchery even if the government forces us to. I make 800 a month here cleaning houses in the nearby apartments. How can I be sure of finding work elsewhere? On my salary I can’t afford to travel the distance every day.”

A large part of funding for the TNSCB’s recent constructions comes from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) scheme.

“Of late, a big part of JnNURM funds are being used for building resettlement colonies, from the BSUP (Basic services to the Urban Poor) component of the scheme. Almost 30,000 tenements are being built in Perumbakkam and Ezhil Nagar, at the cost of around Rs. 1073 crores. This is about 77% of the BSUP funding for Chennai,” says Priti Narayanan, Researcher with Transparent Chennai, an NGO working for the rights of slum dwellers. She adds that this goes against the basic spirit of JnNURM, which stipulates that tenure security must be provided to the urban poor.

The Rajiv Awas Yojana emphasizes in situ development of slums with tenure security, both for declared slums and informal settlements. “In Chennai, survey of slums for the Rajiv Awaas Yojana is going on right now”, says Priti. “This seems like a good opportunity for pushing for in situ development.”

In the 1970s, Chennai had a fairly inclusive policy towards slums. The state passed the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Act in 1971, which stated that the government needed to first identify slums according to the definition given in the Act, officially recognize them or ‘declare’ them under the Act, and then improve them by adding basic services or by building better housing in-situ.

The Corporation declared 1,202 slums in 1971 and built thousands of in-situ tenements under the World Bank funded Madras Urban Development Programs (MUDP) and the Tamil Nadu Urban Development Programs (TNUDP). However, as per records from Transparent Chennai, no new slums have been identified since 1986.  Over the decades, new slums have grown and the people settled there live in constant fear of eviction.

As per the 2002-03 enumeration by TNSCB & PWD, 15354 families reside illegally on the banks of the Buckingham canal. Of these nearly 3500 families were evicted until 2002.

With the slum survey under the Rajiv Awas Yojana due to be completed by the end of March, researchers hope that the Chennai Corporation recognizes the long standing demand for in-situ development of slum areas.

(Data on slum enumeration taken from Transparent Chennai)

Safety in Indian Railways – A little but not enough

The lives of several hundred passengers were saved, after the Kaveri Express derailed last week, because of the existence of a simple safety feature: Central-Buffer (CB) Couplers.

According to V. J. Accamma, CPRO of Southern Railways, one of the key features of the CB coupler is that it prevents coaches from mounting over each other in the event of an accident. Earlier screw couplers were being used, which could break if the train derailed and lead to more disastrous consequences.

However the report of the High Level Safety Review Committee constituted by the Railway Ministry under the chairmanship of Dr. Anil Kakodkar tells a tale of severe apathy to the safety issue. To date there is no practice of safety regulation by an independent agency outside the Railways. “The Railway Board has the unique distinction of being the rule maker, operator and the regulator all wrapped into one,” the report states.

As per the report, derailments which are half of the consequential train accidents resulted in 4% deaths and 27% injuries (195 total injuries) have gradually come down over this period.

Recently the Western Railways announced plans to implement Linke Hoffeman Bush coaches in superfast and express trains. These coaches have crumble zones at the ends as well as energy absorbers which prevent the impact of accidents on passengers. The same is being used currently in all Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto trains. “Southern Railways has no plans to implement Hoffeman coaches”, said Accamma.

With the introduction of high speed trains running at 120kmph, the existing design of bogies no longer meet safety requirements. The Safety Committee has recommended stopping production of the current bogies and completely switching over to LHB design coaches. It has also recommended the elimination of all level crossings (manned and unmanned) within 5 years at an estimated cost of Rs. 50,000 crores. However, considering the cash strapped situation of the Indian Railways and the dominance of populist politics over the Railway budget, one wonders how many body counts more will we see screaming from headlines before the authorities wake up and notice.

Image Source: http://www.indianrailways.gov.in/hlsrc/index.html

Satyameva Jayate – Panacea to Evil or Flash in the Pan?

Hats off to Aamir for achieving something no one has managed in the history of Indian television: turning the womenfolk away from their saas-bahu serials. The reach of the programme has been astounding. Satyamev Jayate was the No 1 trending topic on Twitter for 24 hours after the first telecast. The official site of Satyamev Jayate crashed within minutes after the telecast of the first episode. It’s obvious that the programme has garnered eyeballs. But has it really made an impact?

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