ASHA – Generating Hopes for the Rural India

While reading todays paper I had a glimpse of a Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s advertisement about ASHA being a success in India. It was before three months that I had met few ASHA bahu and heard their apathy and had written about them (

ASHA (accredited social health activists)

Nevertheless the contribution of ASHA( Accredited Social Health Activist) has been immense and more the reason for me to write few things about them. ASHAs are community health workers instituted by the Government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare(MoHFW) as a part of  National Rural Health Mission(NHRM). The Mission began in 2005. The ASHA is a voluntary health worker who acts as a link between the community and health care facilities. This is a very crucial role as many in the community neither have knowledge nor the confidence to be able to get the best out of the facilities provided for them by the government.

Going through the advt. I came to know about the story of one of the many unsung heroes of our Health-care system,Debaki Pradhan, who is from my state Odisha. Debaki Pradhan has been working as an ASHA in a remote village in Raigham Gram Panchayat of Odisha under the NRHM. One of Debaki’s key mandates is to promote safe childbirth and infant health care. In the past 6 years, she has helped 36 women deliver their children through access to the public health facilities.

In April 2011, Debaki Pradhan accompanied Menaka to Kosala PHC. In due course Menaka delivered a set of twins. Unfortunately, one of the babies was severely underweight right from birth. As an ASHA, Debaki accompanied the mother home and decided to keep an eye on the baby with low birth weight.

During one of her visits to see the mother and infant, she observed that despite all efforts, the baby with low birth weight was just not able to suckle the mother’s milk properly and as a result, was getting malnourished. She swung into action. She sent the mother and the baby to the nearby Nutritional Rehabilitation Centre(NRC) at Angul Hospital. With Specialized care, the condition of the low birth weight baby improved and she was able to have her mother’s milk. In due course she gained strength and is growing up as a normal happy healthy baby.

Menaka’s baby was lucky and due to the timely observation and intervention of Debaki, the local ASHA, she survived. There are many more ASHAs like Debaki Pradhan who perform their duties and save the lives of pregnant mothers and newborns. They are the unsung Heroes of our health system.

At a national level, there are a total of 8.8 lakhs ASHAs supported by the NRHM. There is thus on ASHA for every 1000 rural inhabitants in almost every part of the country. ASHA is selected by the Gram Sabha and is entitled for a performance based compensation package.


Delhi Pradesh National Panther Party demands dismissal of Omar Abdullah

28 March 2013, New Delhi: A massive protest was held at Jantar Mantar this afternoon by the Panthers Party activists seeking immediate dismissal of Omar Abdullah as Chief Minister for having challenged the Accession of the State with the Union of India and expressed full support to the Pak-terrorists entering India via Nepal thus endangering the security of the State and secular nature of the country.

Delhi Pradesh National Panthers Party

Delhi Pradesh National Panthers Party

Prof Bhim Singh, Chief Patron of NPP who led the protest called on the political parties, civil society and the media in the country to wake up to the danger that has been posed by the National Conference and its Chief Minister in J&K. He held Omar Abdullah guilty for conspiring against the Union of India and the Constitution. The Panthers Party Supremo said that  Omar Abdullah should have been dismissed without a minute’s delay when he attacked the Union of India on the floor of the Assembly on 11th March, 2013 and challenged the legality of the Accession.

The Panthers activists urged the Members of Parliament to take up the issue irrespective of their party affiliations so that J&K is saved from further death and destruction which is likely to be caused if Omar Abdullah is allowed to act illegally as the Chief Minister of J&K. Panthers accused the State Congress for playing a treacherous game against the nation only for the sake of their petty jobs in the government and small dose.

Supreme Court Lawyers Hunger Strike on Sri Lankan Tamil Issue

19th March 2013, New Delhi: In the wake of US-Sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka’s alleged violation of Human rights against civilians , The Tamil Lawyers of Supreme Court are on a Hunger strike to demand an Indian vote in support of the resolution.

Tamil Lawyers of Supreme Court demanding Governement vote to support UN-Sponsored resolution

“Fearing China, India is reluctant to vote in favour of the resolution which US has planned to bring in the United Nations Council, while ideally Indian Government themselves should have adopted a resolution voluntarily against the Sinhalese War atrocities.” says an advocate. He further adds, “Channel 4 in the UK seems to be more caring and voicing support for the suffering Tamil group in Lanka, than our national news channels here in India. While the world around us seems to be more united against the Rajapaksha’s Government, our very own  Indian Government has let us down. Politicians are increasingly demonstrating their reluctance to vote in favour of the US planned resolution”

The Indian vote for the resolution is circling  the political and civil sections leading to several debates.

G.L Peiris, Sri Lankan foreign minister in a recent interview to a leading newspaper said “Since India has seen and made an immense contribution in the north: Building houses, laying railway tracks and helping with agricultural inputs and the creation of livelihoods. We believe therefore that she has a moral responsibility to support us. It is in her interest, no less than in ours, to ensure that there is a stable, long lasting settlement.”

DMK, the main opposition party in Tamil Nadu, threatened the Government to pull out its 18 MPs if it does not support the resolution. The party even demains 2 amendments to the resolution, Calling the killing of Lankan Tamils genocide and to censure Lanka for war crimes. Though withdrawal of 18MPs will  not destabilize the government, the move will increase its dependence on Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samajwadi Party.

Indraprastha College for Women’s Drama Festival : Team Abhivyakti Focuses on Socio-Political Issues

17th March 2013, New Delhi: Divas from Dramatic Society, Abhivyakti, of Indrapratha college for Women, Delhi University, brought into focus some of the crucial incumbent problems faced by the society through three of their brilliantly conceptualized  directed and choreographed plays.

The festival organised on 16 March at LTG Auditorium, Mandi House saw the presence of a large theater loving crowd cheering the performers.

Abhivyakti performing at Indraprastha College Drama Fest

Abhivyakti performing at Indraprastha College Drama Fest

While the first performance, a street play, “Aap Seditionist hain” focused on the UPA Government’s attempt to stifle the voices raised by common man against them, the one act play, Crave was about a girl trying to find herself and looking for meaning amid the absurdities of life.

Abhivyaktis Annual production, the full-length play, called Sakina was inspired by Saadat Hasan Manto’s short story, Khol do. In the play the character of Sakina, the main protagonist in Mantos book was portrayed with the colours of brutal rape and murder of a physiotherapy student of DU in December last year.

The core team included Kuljeet Singh in concept, design and direction and Dr. Manasvini M.Yogi in Production. Acting instructions were given by Diwakar Mishra and Choreogreography by  Niharika Bansal. Credits for Music, Light Design and Production Design were given to Sudhir rana, Himanshu Mehta and Priyankar Kumar respectively.

“Abhivyakti was among the first few dramatics societies of Delhi University. Founded at the time when women’s liberation was a cause of concern, the society performed its very first play on Dowry Issues. From then on there has been no looking back.” says one of the artist.

The Drama festival being the first for the college, was organised after their dramatic society, Abhivyakti, started winning awards consistently for their innovative plays.

Central and Regional Tibetan Women’s Association organize the “Tibetans Stand Together in Joy and Sorrow” Movement

12 March 2013, New Delhi: The oppressive policies of the Chinese government in Tibet continuously push Tibetans from all walks of life to self-immolate. Since Tapey self-immolated on 8 February 2009, one hundred and four Tibetans inside Tibet have set themselves on fire in protest. Out of this number, eighty-seven have died, and the status of the rest is still unknown. The unified demands of all the self-immolation call for freedom of Tibet and return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

To express their solidarity, the Central and Regional Tibetan Women’s Association have organized this peaceful movement “Tibetans Stand together in Joy and Sorrow” in the capital. “We would like to state that Tibetans are unsatisfied with he status of occupation and with the harsh policies implemented in Tibet. This oppressive rule has, against its intention, incited greater resistance, and acted as an unwavering catalyst to the increasing number of self-immolation as well as peaceful demonstration” said Pema Choedon.  She adds, ” We call for China to recognize more than 60 years of failed policies in Tibet. At the same time we firmly deny China’s invalid accusation that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration are encouraging self-immolation among Tibetan people.”

The central and regional Tibetan Women’s Association comprised of more than 16000 members across the globe. T.D Bhutia, one of the women campaigners said ” We want that UNO must send their peacekeeping force to Tibet, The International committee must recognize all the non-violent protest adopted by Tibetans, including self-immolation and ask China to show respect towards the Tibetan community.”

Tenzin Dekhyi, another Tibetan says, ” The international committee must call for China to open Tibet to international free media, pressure China to review its policies on Tibet, and also carry out a thorough research on Human Rights status of Tibetans inside Tibet.”

The Association has campaigned to encourage International Tibet Support groups and organisations who champion Human Rights to speak for the freedom of  Tibet.


Union Budget 2013 – 2014

Traditional Fishermen Community Assemble in Capital expressing grievance

25th February 2013, New Delhi : Fishermen from several organisations, National Association of Fishermen, All India Mallar Sangamam, Akhil Bharatiya Lodhi Nishad Bind Kasyap Ekta Samata Mahasabha, to name a few gathered at Jantar Mantar to put forward there demand.

Assembled Fisherman Organisations

Assembled Fisherman Organisations

National Association of Fishermen in their letter to Dr. Manmohan Singh demanded to settle the issue of Fishermen regarding International boundaries of fishing with neighbouring countries i.e Sri Lanka, Pakistan & Bangladesh. ” We demand that a National Committee comprising NAF should be constituted by Govt. of India and all castes and sub castes of fishermen’s communities to be included in the Scheduled Caste/Tribe in the respective state” said, M.K Tomar, secretary-general of NAF. He added, ” There should be Ministry of Fisheries at the Central Govt. & State Govt. Level.

S. Varman Mallar, President, All India Mallar Sangamam quoted lines of Bharathiyar, Famous Tamil Poet, “Our Divine Bharatham, Our Esteemed Bharatha Mata gives birth to the brave mallas.The military of Mallas are like an ocean in India. The Mallas only are capable of guarding the Indian Country”. He defines Mallars as the race which dwells near fertile lands near the river bed and participate in wars raising swords to establish “Dharma” and law and order. “The Gods Perumal, Murugan and Chera, Chola and Pandiyas were Mallas” says Mr. Varman.

The protest is likely to continue for two days.

Odisha Nagarika Samaj raise voice in capital for a better rail infrastructure in Odisha

22 February 2013, New Delhi: Railway being the most important factor for development in any region in economic as well as social integration, is almost absent in the state of Odisha as comparison to its neighboring States. To demand for a better rail infrastructure in the state, Odisha Nagarika Samaj(ONAS) had organised a conference at New Delhi.

Odisha Nagarika Samaj demands better railway infrastructure in Odisha

Odisha Nagarika Samaj demands better railway infrastructure in Odisha

Although Odisha has only 4 percent infrastructure of Indian Railways(62,215 km) it caters material load of 12 percent of IR and contributes 10 percent of the total revenue profit. Lalit Mohan Patnaik, Working President,ONAS said “Revenue generated by East Coast Railways exceeds Rs 10,000 crore yet its railway budget is lowest; last year being only Rs 714 Cr.; Irony is that Rs 221 crore out of 714 crore has been withdrawn in the year 2012-13”. He further added, “Before Independence Odisha was having two major interstate Rail lines totaling 1200km. In last 65 years of independence, only 1200 km rail line has been added which had no major intersecting lines”.

Facts indicate that Odisha has a rail density (route kilometer of rail line in 1000 of only 14.60 as compared to Bihar being 35.90, Jharkhand 25.30 and West Bengal 43.40. “We demand all eight ongoing projects, Seventy eight doubling of line, ten electrification project and Twenty eight line survey work of Odisha should be completed in this 12th Five Year Plan”,said Ramesh Mohanty, another member ONAS.

To achieve this ONAS demanded a budget allocation of Rs 4000 crore every year for the next five years to avoid gross regional disparity and dissatisfaction. Ziauddin Hindustani, Secretary, ONAS said, “We had organised a meeting on ‘Infrastructure in Odisha’ yesterday at Bhubaneswar, capital of Odisha. It is regretful that in last 65 years Odisha could not claim the railway ministry snatched away by its neighbours. Outcome being Khurdha Rd- Bolangir and Lanjigada Rd-Junagada railway lines in Odisha were approved much earlier that Muzaffarpur-Sitamari and Sultangunj-Deogarh railway lines in Bihar, but only 10  and 15 percent  of these project respectively are complete where as the projects of Bihar have been actualized.”

Campaign against Sexual Violence and Gender Discrimination kicks off at Jantar Mantar

21 February 2013, New Delhi: Students body, Faculty of different Schools, women organisations and Activists have come together at Jantar Mantar under the theme ‘People’s Watch Over Parliament’ on the eve of 1st day of Budget Session to campaign against sexual violence and Gender discrimination.

The group is protesting against the Government Eyewash Ordinance, and demanding the Enactment of  laws against rape and sexual violence on the lines of Justice Verma Recommendations, Budgetary allocation for rape crisis centres and rehabilitation and compensation for survivors of rape and acid attack.

Dheeraj Kumar, Assistant Professor in School of liberal studies at Ambedkar University, who had come to the support along with 25 of his students says “We have joined to strengthen the protest. I have encouraged my students also to participate as this helps them contribute something for the betterment of our civil society”

“The Issue is not related to women alone, We have our own families and we want a safe environment for all of them. You could well see how in December 16 incident state mechanism failed miserably. We are also protesting to repeal AFSPA to ensure that army officers accused of rape cannot hide behind it and claim immunity, as Manorama’s rapists and killers have done since 2004.” says Amlesh Kumar Singh, who is a student of School of International Studies, JNU.

The Campaign had artistic display of its theme all around the place. Posters, Placards, and Leaflets were being distributed among the  spectators encouraging them to join the cause. Several Colleges of Delhi participated including Maitreyi college, St Stephens, Hindu to name a few.

Member of 'Abhivyakti' of Maitreyi College

Members of ‘Abhivyakti’ of Maitreyi College

A special performance by the student from Theatre Group named ‘Abhivyakti’  of Maitreyi College gathered a lot of appreciation. The groups theme was based on sexual harassment, domestic violence and portrayal of women as a commodity. Shefali Chadha pursuing Eng. Hon. says “We were helped by Mr Amir Aziz, a theater artist of repute in scripting our play”. “To connect with the people was an amazing feeling” says Sakshi Sood, another member of Abhivyakti. Payal Bose,2nd year, BA tells this correspondent, “People have also given us negative comments about the portrayal of all women as righteous.  We have taken those comments positively.” Garima Bawa, a physics hons. student in her 2nd year seemed excited to speak about their group, “Abhivyakti (expression) has been an active group of theater enthusiasts, who practice theater and appreciate it for the humanizing value that it has for individuals and society. This society has been running successfully since 1999, participating in campus theater as well as seeking opportunities outside so as to reach out to a larger audience.”

The campaign also protested against gender neutrality of the accused in the rape/sexual assault law. The activists are dismayed by the ordinance’s move to automatically brand consensual sexual contact between young people between the age of 16-18 as ‘sexual assault’. Activists have also demanded the deletion of Section 377 that criminalizes same-sex relationships. The Campaign with a tagline ‘Freedom Without Fear’ has touched the hearts of all section of society which was seen by the gathering.

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