Sunday 30 June 2019

Mammootty and his various police attires

Unda is a reminder—of Mammootty as an actor who continues to fine tune, polish and reinvent his craft. An actor who knows after every fall, there is a rise.

Mani sir is in his 50s, with a slight paunch, greying sideburns and walks slowly and smiles gently. He is an SI and has been assigned to head a group of havildars and constables assigned to cover election duty at the Maoist-ridden Chhattisgarh. When you first meet him, he is sipping chai at a roadside kadai, watching a man strategically steal a purse from a man sitting in front of him. When he realises that a policeman has just witnessed the scene, he quickly slips it on the ground and nudges the man to pick it up.  SI Mani sir’s response to this scene is an unhurried smile, as he briefly narrates the scene to his fellow officer. “There are bigger thieves than him,” he reasons.

SI Mani is Megastar Mammootty’s nth outing as a cop and also a subversion of all the previous ones he has done on screen.

Mani is kind, gentle, vulnerable and carries a lot of insecurities and fears along with him. When an unexpected attack occurs at their camp at night, he goes panicky and numb with shock, and watches weakly as his subordinates’ take charge. In another film, two decades ago, Inspector Balram would probably have clenched his teeth and showered Mani with a volley of choicest expletives for his ineptness. Or an SI Narendran in Roudram would make him listen to a stunning monologue, the next morning about duty, honesty, bravery and a brief about the definition of Khaki. If it was Kasaba’s Rajan Zachariah, he would smirk and plant Mani a tight slap and stroll away amidst a celebratory BGM. The dichotomy between Mani and these alpha male cops are startling and thoroughly delineated by the actor, by way of his body language, dialogue delivery or even something basic as a smile and walk. Even among these alpha male dare-devil superstar cops, Mammootty brings an originality and nuance that doesn’t always looks like it was there on paper.

Balram (one of his most feted characters) despite being honest and duty-bound is unpleasant and bitter and the actor played him up with lot of drama. He was the classic angry young man, angry with himself, the world and the system. The line-up of cops (20 memorable ones) in a way also show his fruition as an actor. Balram’s evolution is what we saw in Inspector Narendran or Nari—the same anger, bitterness against the system and yet Narendran has internalised the trauma, unlike Balram. He seems more in control of his emotions than Balram, making him a formidable enemy to even his naysayers. While Black’s Head constable Karikkamuri Shanmugam is the system, he is the creator and the destroyer, a beast on a leash. Shanmugam’s past and present merge brilliantly in his attire (he only wears black) and bearing.  CI Amarnath (The Godman) and Ramanathan IPS (Rakshasa Rajavu) are essentially cops cut from the same loud-in-your-face-caricaturish sketches. They bark unnecessarily, are disgusted with the system and are yet kind and compassionate when need be, providing them a superman closure. 

In a KG George film, Inspector Rajan Zachariah would have thrived organically—he is flawed, salacious and a womaniser.  He passes lewd and sexually coloured remarks on his female colleagues and gets away with it and clearly sees women more as objects than individuals.  But in the hands of debutant director Nithin Renji Panicker, these obnoxious characteristics of Zachariah are leveraged and celebrated (accompanied by a robust BGM), thereby aborting what could have been an unconventional and challenging choice for an actor like him.

Yavanika’s no-nonsense sub-inspector Jacob Irazhi is counted as one of his earlier breakthrough roles but today he seems to be a preparatory to one of his most iconic cop roles that came a decade later—Sethuramaiyyer CBI of the CBI Diarykurippu series. The Mammootty who did Irazhi is raw and unpolished, almost awkward but when he comes to Iyer, he has modified himself. He deliberately controls some of his “mannerisms”, like keeping his hands tied behind his back. Iyer is deceptively calm, thinks on his feet, rarely raises his voice, yet gets things done his way, walks briskly and is ordinary to the point of being dull. There is nothing flamboyant about the man or his lifestyle (a sort of counterpoint to James Bond). But there is an urgency in his movements and a twinkle in his eyes that livens the proceedings.

Similarly, DYSP Perumal in August 1 and Superintendent Haridas Damodaran in Eee Thanutha Veluppankalathu are cops who primarily follow the calm-thinking-on-their-feet narrative. While Perumal is naturally flamboyant, Haridas comes across as casual and pragmatic.  There is also Pramanam’s DYSP Prathapan who has an interesting sketch—he is strict, playful and even romantic.

Antony Simon, CI Crime Branch in Daddy Cool suffers from lazy writing, with the focus drifting away to the superstar than the actor. Ditto for Masterpiece (2017) and Abrahaminte Santhathikal (2018), frivolous mass-set pieces where his stardom were brazenly exploited.  That’s why we don’t really recall anything more of Anto Antony IPS or ASP Derick Abraham than their physicality or their jackets and boots. Last year’s Streetlights CI James Abraham although had a less starry sketch still rallied around his stardom.

In the early 80s Mammootty played a petrified young cop in Nandi Veendum Varika, someone who was pushed into the profession by his ambitious father. But towards some point in the film, he morphs into a fiery angry young cop, which somehow looks unconvincing. Mudra’s Ramabadran can be considered as one of his most underrated acts. He is the superintendent of a reform school, who wins over the inmates with his patience and compassion. He is another version of Mani sir, younger and more capable though.

It’s easier to slot SI Mani sir as one of his finest cop acts in his career, not because it subverts every previous on-screen police role but also in how the actor merges himself into the body and soul of this kind, vulnerable, disarmingly humane cop. More importantly, how does one create the image of a man bone-tired, broken in spirit and struggling to sustain himself in a profession which demands exactly the opposite? Look out for that scene where he is trying to decipher the reality that he just had a minor heart attack or the one where he apologises to his juniors for his act of cowardice or the scene where he curls up on the floor, weary, helpless and anxious or that climactic scene where out of sheer desperation he musters enough courage for himself and his juniors to fight the Ministers gundas or his shock when he sees his otherwise frightened juniors gang up to protect him with empty guns.

Unda is a reminder—of an actor who continues to finetune, polish and reinvent his craft. An actor who knows after every fall, there is a rise. And that even after a spate of bad films, all he needs is a director who knows how to use Mammootty the actor in all its nuanced glory.

(Source: The Arabian Stories)

California set to be first US state to ban hair discrimination

California is set to become the first US state to ban discrimination against natural hair.

The new bill, which the Senate passed in April, amends anti-discrimination laws to include "traits historically associated with race" and "blackness".

It bars discrimination against black hairstyles in schools and workplaces.

California's assembly voted unanimously in favour of the measure on Thursday, sending it to Governor Gavin Newsom's desk for signing into law.

The update to the law comes after years of nationwide reports of black students being sent home from school over braids or natural styles that violated dress code rules.

In the workplace, black employees have often reported unfair policies that describe natural hair as unhygienic and unprofessional. The US military had a ban on dreadlocks for women until 2017.

"Professionalism was, and still is, closely linked to European features and mannerisms, which entails that those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional," the California bill states.

"Hair remains a rampant source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences, especially for black individuals."

The bill has been referred to as the Crown (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act and was sponsored by Democratic Senator Holly Mitchell, who is black.

It passed 69-0 and notes that while afros are protected federally by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, black individuals are unfairly affected - deterred, burdened or punished - by dress code policies targeting "braids, twists and locks".

New York City enacted a similar anti-discrimination policy in February. The city's Human Rights Law now protects "natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identities".

Black hair has been controlled and policed for centuries - during the 1700s in Louisiana, women of colour, whether they were enslaved or not, were ordered to cover their hair with scarves.

For decades in the US, black women have used sometimes dangerous or damaging chemical methods to straighten their natural hair. These harsh treatments could permanently damage hair, cause it to fall out, or burn the scalp.

California's measure, which is expected to be signed into law by the governor, has been praised on social media.

But some supporters have also pointed out that no other hair texture has needed legislation to prevent discrimination.

(Source: BBC)

Slum tours beat Taj Mahal as India's most pouplar "experience"

One of the largest slums in Asia just became the favorite tourist “experience” for travelers to India in 2019, beating out classic draws like the legendary Taj Mahal.

TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards recognized tours to Dharavi in Mumbai as the top “experience” in India and among the top 10 in the “Travelers’ Choice Experiences in Asia” category this year. The 553-acre slum in the heart of India’s capital is home to more than a million people. It is bustling with industry and creativity. It is also, as Quartz India’s Ananya Bhattacharya has noted, a place where “shanty-homes line…narrow alleyways” and “open drains run along the ground, and electric cables hang overhead.”

Tours are offered by a number of Indian companies and are often led by guides who grew up in or currently live in Dharavi. According to the travel publication Trip Savvy, the experience isn’t depressing for visitors or exploitative of locals. “These tours aim to dispel any notions that people may have of Dharavi being a place of misery, and are actually very inspiring. They show what people are capable of achieving despite adverse conditions,” a May 30 article claims.

The sentiment, while well-intentioned, is questionable. Just because the slum’s residents aren’t all visibly depressed doesn’t necessarily means that rich visitors should feel uplifted. Dharavi’s residents are often literate and have electricity, but as BBC News points out, the slum is also “one unending stretch of narrow dirty lanes, open sewers and cramped huts.”

The disparity between how much visitors pay for this allegedly authentic Indian experience and how little slum dwellers survive on gives cause for some pause. On Trip Advisor, a tour company called “Mystical Mumbai” offers a $162-per-adult private guided day trip that includes a visit to “both sides of the city—its colonial-era grandeur and Dharavi slum.” It promises tourists a walk “through Dharavi’s lanes to see the dilapidated huts, cottage industries, recycling projects, and clay potters” and a view of modern and colonial Mumbai, all via private transportation. Rents in the slum start at about $4 a month on the low end, so a single tourist is spending in one day what would buy a resident more than three years of shelter.

Shantytown tours have gained popularity around the world. Roughly 40,000 people visit the favelas in Brazil each year, according to 2016 estimates by Tourism Concern, a UK-based nonprofit that advocates for fair and respectful tourism. Supporters of shantytown travel say these trips give tourists a more complete and true picture of the places they visit, while locals grow a new kind of business that can help improve conditions.

Still, not everyone is comfortable with the notion of poverty being promoted as a tourist attraction, or sold on the possibility that visitors leave understanding what they saw. The long-term effects of lack of wealth on health and happiness can’t possibly be comprehended on a quick visit.

(Source: Quartzy)

Japanese company now makes kimonos with hijabs for Muslim women

Yumeyakata, a Japanese kimono rental store that caters to foreigners, is now offering wagara hijabs for Muslim women.

Muslim women visiting Kyoto, Japan with plans to rent out kimonos can now fully enjoy the experience with Yumayakata’s wagara hijabs that match their wide selection of traditional Japanese clothes for the price of 300 yen – reduced from its normal price of 500 yen ($2.73, $4.55), according to a press release via Grapee.

These hijabs will not stand out or clash with the designs of the kimono as they are specially made to have wagara (Japanese pattern) designs to blend well with the outfit.

Yumeyakata currently has 20 different designs of wagara hijabs in their lineup that are appropriate for the spring season, including the sakura (cherry blossom) and yukiwa (snow ring). This lineup will eventually expand to 50 designs for the summer season, as will the types of fabrics available (such as lace).

This new lineup of wagara hijabs can be rented out at the store’s two locations: 128, Manjujicho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto and 472-1 Kinpukicho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0846.

This new lineup of wagara hijabs can be rented out at the store’s two locations: 128, Manjujicho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto and 472-1 Kinpukicho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0846.

(Source: Next Shark)

Children cannot parent other children

Reports of babies and toddlers being left in the care of slightly older children in detention facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border reveal an ongoing atrocity.

A fundamental truth about children is that they have needs they cannot themselves fulfill. They need people who acquire and prepare food for them, and people who look out for their safety and cleanliness. Beyond those material needs, they also need people who care for them emotionally, tending to them when they are sick and supporting them through tough times. Normally these duties fall to parents, but they can also fall to relatives, family friends, babysitters, teachers, or social workers. At the border, in detention centers, they are falling to other detained children, a harrowing detail in a sea of harrowing details now being reported.

Lawyers who visited a border station in Clint, Texas, this week told the Associated Press that during their visit, they encountered small children who had been taken from their parents under the Trump administration’s family-separation policy, some of them infants and toddlers, who are receiving little time or attention from adult caregivers or supervisors. Instead, some detained children receive affection and care—such as being held, rocked, bathed, fed, and even changed—only from other, slightly older detained children. As the AP reported Saturday:

Three girls told attorneys they were trying to take care of [a] 2-year-old boy, who had wet his pants and had no diaper and was wearing a mucus-smeared shirt when the legal team encountered him.

“A Border Patrol agent came in our room with a 2-year-old boy and asked us, ‘Who wants to take care of this little boy?’ Another girl said she would take care of him, but she lost interest after a few hours and so I started taking care of him yesterday,” one of the girls said in an interview with attorneys.
An asylum-seeking boy from Central America runs down a hallway after arriving from an immigration detention center to a shelter in San Diego.AP / GREGORY BULL
Children are so tired from the duties of caring for one another that they are reportedly falling asleep during interviews with the lawyers, and one 8-year-old who was “taking care of a very small 4-year-old with matted hair couldn’t convince the little one to take a shower,” a lawyer told the AP. One 14-year-old girl from Guatemala who had been holding two little girls in her lap told the AP, “I need comfort, too. I am bigger than they are, but I am a child, too.”

A report published in The New York Times, meanwhile, said that “children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, are caring for infants they’ve just met … Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves in their pants.” Lawyers who spoke with the Times confirmed that they had observed similar scenes involving dirty, neglected children, often being surrogate-parented by other children, at six other facilities along the border.

The short-term and long-term harms that could come to children who have to do this kind of thing are staggering. While the psychological damage that children can suffer when involuntarily separated from their parents has been widely documented, the added duty of parenting other children only compounds the potential damage.

Experts call children shouldering parental duties in the absence of a capable adult caregiver “parentification,” or sometimes destructive parentification. As Cindy Lamothe wrote for The Atlantic in 2017, parentification often results from having an abusive or a neglectful parent, or a parent with an incapacitating alcohol or drug addiction, and it can have dire consequences both at the time and far into the future. For one thing, prolonged periods of heightened stress on a child—which would naturally result from having the wholly age-inappropriate responsibility of feeding, bathing, clothing, and otherwise providing for other children—can affect the function of several of the body’s internal systems and cause severe illnesses, short-term and long-term. As Lamothe pointed out, “Links have been found between childhood stressors and adult heart disease, diabetes, migraines, and irritable bowel syndrome.” Prolonged high-stress situations can also lead to brain damage in kids: According to Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, high levels of cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormone (two chemicals released by the body in stressful situations) can alter the hippocampus and damage a child’s memory and learning capabilities.

Plus, “Researchers are increasingly finding that in addition to upending a child’s development, this role reversal can leave deep emotional scars well into adulthood,” Lamothe wrote. Many “experience severe anxiety, depression, and psychological distress. Others report succumbing to eating disorders and substance abuse.” Some kids who parent their siblings, she added—especially those who come from abusive homes—have close but complicated relationships with those siblings as they grow older.

Parentification, in other words, is bad for kids even in less extreme circumstances than a detainment facility. Numerous books and studies underline the potential harms of burdening children with parental duties too early in life: Many find that they continue to compulsively parent others into adolescence and adulthood, at the expense of their own needs and sometimes at the expense of those relationships with others. Others link destructive parentification to mental illness in adulthood.

But in the case of the detained kids at the border, the involuntary separation from their parents—which, as my colleague Olga Khazan wrote last year, can cause some of the same childhood stress-related ailments as parentification—only makes the situation worse.

The children in these border facilities “are not developmentally equipped to deal with the immense task of caring for an infant in any circumstance, least of all these,” Louise Earley, a clinical psychologist and a lecturer at the U.K.’s University of Birmingham who has researched “parentified” children, wrote to me in an email. Not only are these kids simply not mature enough to undertake the immense responsibility of caring for a baby or toddler, they’re also struggling with the trauma of separation from their parents or any other caring adults, she noted. It’s a high-stress situation, “and with no effective support, the prospect that they will inflict unintentional harm or actual harm [on the smaller children in their care] as a result of their frustrations is likely.”

Much has been written over the years about the care that parentified children need later in life to recover psychologically. In 2011, for example, an article published in the Journal of Family Studies recommended that clinicians assess adults who were formerly parentified children with an eye on resolving the feelings of injustice they harbor toward their families. A feeling of unfairness, the article pointed out, could arise from the fact that their care of other family members was not acknowledged, supported, or reciprocated. Certainly, it stands to reason that the kids at the border who have by default ended up in charge of parenting smaller children will grow up with a sense of indignation concerning the time they spent thanklessly parenting other children in dirty detention centers. It’s unclear, however, whether that indignation will be directed at their parents, at the United States or its law enforcement, or elsewhere.

These children have taken on parental duties at an inappropriate age not because their parents or other guardians have been neglectful, but because they were, in many cases, forcefully removed from their parents or guardians by a government aiming to “send a message” to immigrants entering the country. Many of the children being detained came across the border with adults who would care for and comfort these children if only they hadn’t been separated under this policy.

Earley worries about the future effects this bleak situation may have on the children doing the parenting in the border facilities—and she worries about the immediate effects, too. “They will be unable to deal with the sense of responsibility and practical demands and will inevitably fail at the task, thus leaving an immeasurable sense of guilt and self-blame,” she wrote to me. And the effects won’t just wear off after a while, with some adjustment, she added. “Only with stability can psychological recovery begin, and only then in the context of a consistent, caring and responsive adult who can help them to begin to trust in relationships again.”

(Source: The Atlantic)

Domestic violence is the most common killer of women around the world

A U.N. report revealed that 87,000 women were murdered last year, and over half were killed by intimate partners or family members.

The most dangerous place for women is in their own homes, a new report from the United Nations concludes.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released the “Global Study on Homicide: Gender-related Killing of Women and Girls” on Sunday to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The report analyzed the violence perpetrated against women worldwide in 2017, looking at intimate partner violence and family-related killings such as dowry- and honor-related murders.

Last year, 87,000 women were murdered around the world, and more than half (50,000 or 58 percent) were killed by partners or family members. Over a third (30,000) of those intentionally killed last year were murdered by a current or former intimate partner. This means that, globally, six women are killed every hour by someone they know.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described violence against women as a “global pandemic” in a Sunday statement marking the international day of recognition.

“It is a moral affront to all women and girls, a mark of shame on all our societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development,” he said. “At its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect ― a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women. It is an issue of fundamental human rights.”

The U.N. report also highlighted that women are much more likely to die from domestic violence than men are. According to the study, 82 percent of intimate partner homicide victims are women and 18 percent are men.

“While the vast majority of homicide victims are men, women continue to pay the highest price as a result of gender inequality, discrimination and negative stereotypes. They are also the most likely to be killed by intimate partners and family,” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said.

The study suggested that violence against women has increased in the last five years, drawing on data from 2012 in which 48,000 (47 percent) of female homicides were perpetrated by intimate partners or family members.

Geographically, Asia had the most female homicides (20,000) perpetrated by intimate partners or family members in 2017, followed by Africa (19,000), North and South America (8,000), Europe (3,000) and Oceania (300). The U.N. does point out that because the intimate partner and family-related homicide rate is 3.1 per 10,000 female population, Africa is actually the continent where women are at the greatest risk of being murdered by a partner or family member.

(Source: HuffPo)

Saturday 29 June 2019

French city closes public swimming pools after Muslim women defy burkini ban in protest

Women remained in the water for nearly an hour, receiving cheers and embraces from other swimmers

A French city closed two public swimming pools after seven Muslim women “inspired by Rosa Parks” defied a citywide ban to swim in their burkinis on Sunday, despite a heatwave that triggered special measures to protect public health.

The protest was part of a campaign dubbed Operation Burkini, launched in May by Grenoble’s Citizen Alliance, which saw burkini-clad protestors break the ban for the second time in five weeks.

Two pools, Jean Bron and Les Duaphins de Grenoble, were closed on Wednesday and Thursday due to “incivilities”, which a city hall spokesperson told The Independent was related to the protest, but also caused by teenagers threatening and being rude to lifeguards.

However, both city hall and mayor Eric Piolle’s statements on the closures spoke almost exclusively of the protesters, whom the latter denounced as using “tactics of shock and buzz”.

The display of civil disobedience was part of a campaign dubbed Operation Burkini, launched in May by Grenoble’s Citizen Alliance, which supported and documented the activists as they enjoyed the pool and were cheered by other swimmers and around 30 supporters.

“They contested a situation in which close to a thousand female inhabitants of Grenoble find themselves obliged to choose between respecting their religious convictions and accessing public services,” Citizens Alliance wrote in a statement.

The women remained in the water for nearly an hour despite being reprimanded by lifeguards beforehand, and received cheers and embraces from other swimmers.

They were apprehended by police, received a fine and were banned from using public pools for one month, the city hall spokesperson said.

“I hear controversy, but there are two interpretations of republican equality possible, which is precious to everyone here,” Mr Piolle said in a statement.

“For some, Grenoble’s current regulations, which are essentially the same as everywhere in France, are considered discriminating.

“Grenoble protects equality by distancing itself from symbols of religious belonging.”

France has courted intense debate on the religious clothing after it became the first European country to ban public use of the full-face veil in 2010, deeming it an affront to secular values.

Burkinis – a type of swimming costume that covers the arms, legs and hair  – were also banned at many swimming areas in France in 2016 after a series of terrorist attacks shocked the nation.

The Grenoble pool closures came as a heatwave caused city officials to open parks throughout the night in an effort to safeguard public health, while the Centre Communal d'Action Social contacted isolated senior citizens to warn them about the hot weather.
“The burkini has no place in France where the woman is the equal of the man,” Local MP Eric Ciotti wrote on Twitter.

“To allow these Islamist activists in Grenoble and throughout France is to give up the Republic. I will never accept it.”

Citizen Alliance told The Independent: “This is the beginning of a long campaign for the recognition of Muslim women’s rights in France.

“Xenophobia has been strong against Muslim people and specifically Muslim women.

“Civil disobedience action will spread across French cities until equal rights to access public services and every job are guaranteed to Muslim women, just like every citizen.”

(Source: Independent

Kamala Harris seizes the moment. Again.

The senator from California consistently cut through the noise during the second night of the first Democratic debates, in Miami.

Give Kamala Harris credit for a keen sense of timing.

Within the first 20 minutes, night two of the first Democratic presidential-primary debates had descended into the circus that many in the party had feared: a cacophony of unintelligible noise, as 10 candidates crammed onto a single stage all tried to talk over one another, gesturing to the moderators, desperate for a chance to speak, to attack, to shine.

The moderator Jose Diaz-Balart made clear that it was Harris’s turn to speak. “Hey guys, you know what?” the senator from California said, as everyone onstage quieted down and turned to her. “America does not want to witness a food fight; they want to know how we’re going to put food on their table.”

The audience erupted in cheers, and Harris quickly pivoted to a pointed criticism of President Donald Trump. She mocked his heralding of “my great economy,” arguing that the standards the president uses—the stock market, a low unemployment rate—do not apply to millions of struggling Americans. “He talks about the stock market. Well, that’s fine if you own stocks. So many families in America do not,” Harris said. “They point to the jobless numbers and the unemployment numbers. Well, yeah, people in America are working, but they’re working two and three jobs. Well, let’s be clear: In our America, no one should have to work more than one job to have a roof over their head and food on their table!”
Kamala Harris had multiple memorable lines at the first Democratic debates.RICHARD VOGEL / AP / PAUL SPELLA / THE ATLANTIC
It was, in the admittedly flawed parlance of modern presidential-debate analysis, a moment. Harris has already had a few as a candidate—in May, she shined at a Senate hearing by showing off her skills as a former prosecutor in questioning Attorney General William Barr. And she had a few more tonight. Harris spoke movingly about the financial fear parents face when they have to bring a sick child to the emergency room, knowing that even if they are insured, they might still wind up with a $5,000 out-of-pocket bill.

And Harris nailed a response to a question about the steps she would take on her first day as president to address the thousands of migrants seeking asylum at the southern border. “I will,” she said, “immediately put in place a meaningful process for reviewing the cases for asylum, and release children from cages, and get rid of the private detention centers, and ensure that this microphone that the president of the United States holds in her hand is used in a way that is about reflecting the values of our country and not about locking children up.” Again, the crowd erupted.

Her most memorable exchange will likely prove to be her decision to challenge former Vice President Joe Biden in strikingly personal terms on his recent praise for the “civility” of former Senate colleagues who were ardent segregationists. “As the only black person onstage, I would like to speak on the issue of race,” Harris began. “It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and careers on the segregation of race in this country.”

Harris’s debate moments may not tell voters much about how she would assemble a government or make the crucial life-and-death decisions a president must make. They show that she is a commanding public speaker and quick on her feet. The “food fight” line in particular appeared to be planned in advance, even if Harris deployed it masterfully. The cattle-call style of an early presidential debate may be entirely performative, but that’s the game each of the candidates signed off on, and it’s one that Harris is clearly comfortable playing.

(Source: The Atlantic)

The scientific benefits of a father's presence in their kid's lives

Some of us who are mothering little ones today still remember the stories of our own mothers describing how our dads were not allowed into the labor and delivery room when we were born. While much has changed in terms of birthing practices, fathers today are still at times overlooked or considered second-class parents in popular culture. Jokes about clueless fathers who can't find their kids' clothes still surface from time to time, but most of us realize the crucial role our children's fathers—and all partners and family members—play in their lives.

In the research world, times have changed as well. Only a few decades ago the role of fathers in childhood development was mostly ignored. Psychology scholars educated before the 1980s rarely heard any mention of fathers in their academic journals. Virtually all of the research focused on mothers' roles in their children's development.

Now, of course, we are more enlightened on this topic. We have learned in the intervening years that a father plays a significant role in a child's development. Fathers are no longer just considered "babysitters" but active, equal partners in their child's life.

From birth through adolescence, the crucial role of fathers continues to be illustrated in study after study.

Dads and their babies
Although most of us today consider the father's presence at the time of our baby's birth to be commonplace, this was not the case only a generation ago. Much of this change has been due to the clear benefits we see for both mom and baby by having the dad in the room.

From a baby's earliest days, the presence of an engaged, attentive father or partner can have a positive impact. Some studies have shown that babies who experience skin-to-skin contact with their fathers in the first hours after birth tend to cry less, calm quicker and fall asleep sooner than babies staying in a crib.

Fathers' attention to and care for their babies in the early months is one way they foster a secure attachment. Past developmental research on attachment seemed to imply that babies only attach to one caregiver (usually the mother), but we know now that this is not the case. Babies become securely attached to multiple caregivers, especially if the other caregiver (e.g., the partner) is responsive and attentive to the baby's physical and emotional needs.

Forming a secure attachment isn't merely about the amount of time caregivers spend with infants either. Even partners who cannot spend long periods of time with their infants can potentially still establish a secure attachment. One study found that the responsiveness of caregiving mattered more than the sheer amount of time spent together.

Ultimately, attachment is about becoming attuned to the baby's needs and cues.

Secure attachment, of course, promotes all sorts of good outcomes for children for years to come, including better emotional regulation, fewer behavior problems, even better academic performance into the teen years.

The childhood years
The positive impacts of active fathers, of course, do not end in the nursery.

Throughout childhood, the important role of fathers continues as children develop emotionally, physically and intellectually.

Just as with mothers, the path through which fathers' influence children's development is largely through the attachment relationship. This extends even into childhood and beyond.

Social-emotional development
Social-emotional development is one key area where fathers' impact is seen clearly. Studies find that secure attachment with fathers supports emotional skills like empathy and the ability to read emotions, even in the school-age years.

As children mature, the role of play becomes increasingly important in their development. Although it seems stereotypical to say that dads engage in more roughhousing and rough-and-tumble play, research does support this distinction. Children whose fathers were active play participants, particularly roughhousing, were shown to have strong social competence in school and improved behavior. While that roughhousing may seem rowdy and silly, it actually has amazing hidden developmental benefits.

Cognitive development and education
Recent research is opening our eyes to the fact that the father's day-to-day involvement with their children influences their education and cognitive development as well.
Several studies have shown that fathers' involvement with their children in activities such as reading and outings together predicted children's further educational progression. Similarly, children with involved fathers were more likely to graduate from high school and college. From these, it's clear to see that father's contributions to children's cognitive development go well beyond just the financial resources available to them.

The adolescent years can be a turbulent time for many children. These are the years when unsavory peer influences, risky behavior and mental health issues can take hold if more positive influences are not present. Fathers can play a crucial role in children's lives during this time. The presence of an active, engaged father can act as a protective force in the lives of adolescents. For example, studies find that teens with involved fathers are less likely to have problems with delinquency and depression.

The role of father's attachment relationship extends into adolescence as well. Although children are older and more mature, that foundational attachment relationship can have long-reaching effects. Some studies find that teens who have a secure attachment to their fathers have higher self-esteem and are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors. The time fathers invest in those early years establishing a strong bond with their children continues to benefit them into adolescence.

After years of their role in parenting being diminished, fathers are now understood to be equal contributors to their child's development. We see through research and personal experience that fathers play a meaningful and complementary role to that of mothers. Fathers influence children in meaningful emotional and psychological ways that last a lifetime.

(Source: Motherly)

Women have heads shaved by mob of men because they resisted rape

'We have been beaten very badly. I have injuries all over my body and my daughter too has some injuries', says victim

Two women have been beaten up and had their heads shaved by a mob of men in India after they resisted an attempted gang rape, police said.

Several men, including a local government official, barged into the home of the mother and her daughter with the intent of raping the teenager, police in northeastern Bihar said.

“When the mother and daughter protested, the men got angry and called a local barber, who shaved their heads,” senior officer Sanjay Kumar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The men then assaulted the mother and daughter with sticks, before parading them around the village before neighbours protested against their treatment.

“We have arrested two men and are searching for the other five,” Mr Kumar said, adding that the criminal investigation was ongoing.

Describing the attack, the mother told NDTV: ”We have been beaten very badly. I have injuries all over my body and my daughter too has some injuries.”

Her daughter told the broadcaster: "I was alone with my mother around 6.30 in the evening when five men from the neighbourhood forcefully entered the house and tried to molest me.

“When my mother and I protested, they started beating us with a stick and took us outside of the house.”

India has a poor record on sexual violence against women, despite legal reforms following the gang rape of a student on a bus in Delhi in December 2012.

Nearly 40,000 rapes were registered in India in 2016 – an average of about 100 cases each day - according to the latest government data.

Earlier this week, a man in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh ran over and killed two women with his car after they protested against his attempt to molest one of their daughters.

Four men attacked a girl with acid in Bihar in April after she tried to fight off their gang rape attempt.

In 2014, village elders in Bihar shaved the head of an orphan girl, blackened her face with ash, and paraded her through their neighbourhood as punishment for talking to her boyfriend in a public place.

(Source: Independent)

June 25, 1975: An account of the day Indira Gandhi declared an Emergency in India

In ‘Saving India from Indira’, lawyer JP Goyal traces the legal history of the events before, during and after the Emergency.

At 3.30 pm, the doors of Justice Krishna Iyer’s chambers opened. We entered inside the learned judge’s chamber. He had got cyclostyled a number of copies of his judgement, which contained twenty-three cyclostyled pages each. We were given the said cyclostyled copies.

The judge read out the operative portion of the order. In the said order, though he had observed that the merits of the appeal could be gone into only at the time of the hearing of the appeal, he also observed that he had hesitated to prolong the “absolute stay” granted by the Allahabad High Court as the High Court’s finding, until overruled, held good.

Even though the office of the prime minister was not involved in the election petition filed by Indira Gandhi, nevertheless the learned judge gave an elaborate order and held that she could still continue in the office of the prime minister. However, she could not participate in the parliamentary proceedings as an MP but as the prime minister, she could speak in Parliament (without a right to vote).

This order created a great complication. When I came out to go to my chamber with the order, a crowd of members of the press waiting on the lawns of the Supreme Court surrounded me and it was very difficult to get out of the crowd. It must have taken more than an hour for me to come out of the crowd and reach my chamber. It being the summer season, I was fatigued during this hour and sat outside my chamber for some time.

A decisive resolution
I received a telephone call from Raj Narain from his residence in Delhi on 8, Dr Bishambar Das Marg. He asked me to bring the order and explain the same to the political leaders who had gathered at that time in Delhi at Morarji Desai’s house at 5, Dupleix Road.

I went to Raj Narain’s residence and from there we went to Morarji Desai’s place. Jayaprakash Narayan and Morarji Desai were sitting together. I read out the relevant portions of the order to the leaders of the Opposition gathered there. Piloo Mody thereafter asked me to accompany him to a room, where Asoka Mehta, LK Advani, Piloo Mody and I drafted the resolution that was to be released to the press by the Coordination Committee of five Opposition parties, namely the Congress (O), the Bharatiya Lok Dal, the Jana Sangh, the Socialist Party and the Akali Dal.

The salient features of that resolution were that Indira Gandhi had not got a full stay order from the Supreme Court and under the circumstances she could not remain the prime minister. She was found to be guilty of corrupt practices, and even Justice Krishna Iyer in his order had indirectly brought up the issue of political propriety and democratic dharma, saying that it would be better to observe judicial silence on it.

It was pointed out that the principles and practice in democratic countries had been that if a person was under a cloud of suspicion, then he or she must vacate the office held by him or her. By the said resolution, a sort of advice was given to Smt Indira Gandhi that she should quit the high office of the prime minister. The said resolution was published in the newspapers of 25 June 1975.

In the evening of 25 June 1975, there was a large meeting at New Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, which was addressed by Jayaprakash Narayan and other leaders. In that meeting, Jayaprakash Narayan declared that if Indira Gandhi did not quit the office of the prime minister with grace, the Coordination Committee would be compelled to undertake a peaceful satyagraha against her continuance in that office.16 Shri Raj Narain also addressed the meeting, which ended at about 9 pm.

Raj Narain went to his residence thereafter. From there, he telephoned me and requested me to come to his residence, where he wanted to talk to me on many issues. I reached there at about 10–10.30 pm. We discussed many connected issues, political as well as about the case. We sat together till about midnight.

I wanted to leave for my residence but Raj Narain said that it was not proper for me to go at that late hour. He said that some foul play may be done by the other side if I went out at that odd hour as I was appearing for him in the case and the other side could not be relied upon. Under these circumstances, I was asked by Raj Narain to spend the night at his residence. I telephoned my wife at home and informed her that I would not be coming back home that night.

The proclamation
Two cots, one for myself and the other for Bhrigunath, were put on the rear lawns of Shri Raj Narain’s residence. I went to bed. At about 3 am, I was woken up by Urmilesh
Jha, who was the former secretary to Dr Ram Manohar Lohia and was at that time working as a secretary to Raj Narain.

He told me that the entire house was surrounded by the police and that Jayaprakash Narayan had been arrested at the Gandhi Peace Foundation. Bhrigunath also woke up. Urmilesh Jha told me that Raj Narain, who was inside, had asked me not to get up, otherwise the police might arrest me too. I got up nevertheless.

I saw policemen all around. I could not restrain myself and entered the room where Raj Narain was surrounded by the police. He introduced me to the police officers while making preparations to go with them. A warrant was served on Raj Narain, who showed the same to me. It was under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1971 (MISA) and signed by Shri Sushil Kumar, District Magistrate (DM), Delhi.

I found that the receiver of Shri Raj Narain’s telephone was put off the hook. I rebuked the police officers for doing so, and told them that they could only arrest Shri Raj Narain and not interfere with other facilities in the house such as the telephone. Urmilesh Jha told me later that KS Radhakrishna, Secretary of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, had told him over the phone that Jayaprakash Narayan had been arrested.

Raj Narain had his bath and packed some books to take along with him. In the early hours of the morning, he was taken away in a car by the police in my presence. After he left, T Lakshmi Kantamma, an MP, who was later a member of the Working Committee of the Janata Party, arrived at Raj Narain’s residence. Era Sezhiyan, who was the leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in the Lok Sabha at that time and who was living in the neighbourhood, also arrived there. They both enquired about all that had happened.

The Statesman and The Hindustan Times, Delhi’s two leading newspapers at the time, somehow appeared the next day, though other papers could not appear. The main news was that the President of India had declared National Emergency on account of internal disturbances under Article 352 of the Constitution of India.

I went to my residence. Immediately after reaching, I received a phone call from someone from the The Hindustan Times who asked for my reaction to the proclamation of the Emergency. I dictated my views on the telephone, stating that there was no national emergency and it was only Smt Indira Gandhi’s own personal emergency as she was in trouble and could not get a full stay order from the Supreme Court.

I further stated that as Indira Gandhi, according to democratic norms, must vacate the office she was holding, she had done this mischief merely to keep herself in office. I said that democracy was finished in this country, and that she ought to have resigned on the day when she was found to have committed corrupt practices by Justice JML Sinha on 12 June 1975.

(Source: Scroll)

10 fascinating Indian languages that are slowly dying out

According to the story of the Tower of Babel, God broke what united man the most – language, with language. He scattered the world with an infinite number of languages such that the men could not build a tower tall enough to reach the heavens. Does that explain why so many languages – particularly, Indian languages – are vulnerable to almost completely dying out?

The number of languages I have been exposed to during my education, have been more than limited. I was briefly introduced to Marathi for three years until the 7th grade, besides Hindi and English, and finally Spanish in high school, and that’s the end of it. India has 29 states, and yet, I never had the opportunity to explore any of its languages the way I was made to explore the mentioned 4.

According to The People’s Linguistic Survey of India, 220 of the 780 languages spoken in India have been lost in the past 50 years. While UNESCO has classified over 191 Indian languages as either vulnerable or endangered, we’ve put down 10 incredibly interesting, yet almost extinct, Indian languages.

I. Shauraseni
What is most wonderful about Shauraseni is that it was a ‘dramatic Prakrit’ – the language used in drama and theatre in northern medieval India. Many Jain epics had been composed in this language, the most famous being the Satkhandagama and the Kasayapahuda. Many Hindi-based languages have actually originated from Shauraseni, and it is said to be very similar to classical Sanskrit. Primarily, members of the Digambara sect wrote in Shauraseni.

II. Apabhramsa
Although not really a language by itself, Apabhramsa is most commonly used to define the range of languages that formed the transition between the late Middle and the early Modern Indo-Aryan languages, and was most prominent between the 6th and 13th centuries. A large number of Apabhramsa works of literature have been found in Jain libraries. Its grammar is starkly different from that of traditional Sanskrit; Apabhramsa in Sanskrit literally means ‘corrupt’ or ‘non-grammatical.’ The Sandesh Rasak, by Abdur Rahman of Multan, traced back to 1000 AD, is considered to be the only known work of Apabhramsa by a Muslim.

III. Gondi
A Dravidian language spoken mostly in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Chattisgarh, Gondi is the language of the Gond people, although only about half of them still speak it. Gondi is said to have had a very rich oral folklore tradition. Nevertheless, no written literature has been found, and the Gondi script was barely used by the Gonds. Some Gonds have even lost their own language, embracing instead Telugu, Marathi or Hindi.

IV. Tai Aiton
Classified as a threatened language, with no more than two thousand speakers around the world, this language is spoken in Assam – more specifically, in the Dhonsiri Valley and the Brahmaputra’s South bank. This area actually holds three other actively spoken languages as well – Phake, Khamti and Khamyang. The strangest thing about Tai Aton is that it is almost completely monosyllabic. Each symbol in Tai Aton has a specific tone. It also has a vowel system of 7 vowels – the smallest of all Assamese languages.

V. Mahasu Pahari
This is a Western Pahari language spoken in areas in Himachal Pradesh, with a speaking population of about 1 crore as of 2001, with the number steadily decreasing. As it traversed various locations, it took on several forms, including Baghati and Kiunthali in Lower Mahasu Pahari, and Rampuri and Rohruri in Upper Mahasu Pahari. It uses the Devanagari script, which probably explains why it isn’t as vulnerable to immediately dying out as the other mentioned languages.

VI. Bellari
Again a Dravidian languages, Bellari is spoken by a mere 1,000 Bellara – members of a Scheduled Caste of Karnataka and Kerala. It is most similar to the languages of Tulu and Koraga. Currently, it is being traced to a tiny community of fifty families of basket-weavers in Karnataka.

VII. Gutob
Gutob is an Indian Munda language, spoken primarily within Koraput, Orissa and Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, by the South Munda subgroup of the Austroasiatic languages. It has been given a number of different names, including Gadba, Gudwa and Boi Gadaba. A population of only 8,000 people have been found to currently speak it. Many traditionally Gutob speakers are shifting to Desiya instead, as the popularity of the language is slowly dying out.

VIII. Jarawa
Jarawa is an Ongan language spoken in Interior and South-Interior Andaman Islands. It is used by the hinter-gatherer communities who live along the coasts of and within the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Jarawas, who are the only remaining Negrito members of the islands; the African ethnic groups that migrated and settled in certain parts of Southeast Asia around 30 to 65 thousand years ago. Apart from being hunters and fishermen, this community also has a rich history of warriors, surviving the British as well as Japanese occupations of their land. Currently, the Jarawa population is approximately 270. Jarawa includes 41 sounds, 28 constants and 13 vowels, and has no script.

IX. Önge
Again specific to the Andamans, Önge is spoken by the Onge people of the Little Andaman Island. Like the Jarawas, the Onge were hunter-gatherers. Although it was previously spoken throughout the Little Andaman as well some of the islands in the Northern and Southern tips of the Andamans, the number of Önge speakers started to decline after British occupation of the islands in the 19th century. As of now, there are only 94 native speakers of Önge.

X. Puroik
Puroik, or Sulung, spans areas of Arunachal Pradesh in India and Lhünzê County in Tibet. In Arunachal Pradesh, it is spoken in 53 villages along the Par River. Due to Puroik’s characteristic of being enormously divergent, its very classification has been questioned. Literacy among Puroik speakers is very low – only about 2%, who use either the Bengali, Devanagari or, strangely enough, Latin, to write it. Puroik has no grammatical gender.

(Source: Home Grown)

Friday 28 June 2019

Is this India’s most unique language, untraceable in its origins?

Only 2500 people in Jalgaon, Jahod speak Nihali. Can the answers to this language be found, before it’s completely forgotten?

The data from People’s Linguistic Survey Of India showed that India had 780 of the world’s living languages, more than 10% of the total number of languages in the world. While the survey has been widely criticised by academics, it states that India has ‘lost’ 250 languages in the past 50 years with another 150 languages which have been predicted to disappear in the next 50 years. The death of current speakers and the inability of the future generations to learn or speak the language may spell doom for such regional and tribal languages in a country where the government seems more inclined to push for greater adoption of Hindi. It’s in such a climate that the story of one of India’s oldest and perhaps her most unique language becomes even more critical.

Nihali is a language spoken in Jalgaon Jahod in Maharashtra by close to 2,500 people of the region. “There are five language families in India. Nihali, the language which is spoken there, cannot be considered belonging to any of these five langauges?” says Dr Shailendra Mohan, associate professor in Austro-Asiatic linguistics at Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute in Pune. Dr Mohan had taken up the studying of lesser known languages as a part of his research while studying at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and received a grant to begin the first documentation of Nihali ,from the Endangered Languages Project by the school of Oriental and African studies in London in 2012.

The languages in India can be grouped into Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Austro-Asiatic or Andaman language families but Nihali is said to be a ‘language isolate’. Mohan told the Indian Express in 2014 explaining how hand is referred to as ‘haath’ in Marathi and ‘hatha’ in Punjabi, adding,’ These regions are miles away from each other, yet their lexicon is derived from one family of language: Indo Aryan. But Nihali does not belong to any of the four Indian language families.’ “I have submitted the reports, which I was required to but I will be continuing with the research because there are many hypotheses which can be applied to that language,” Dr Mohan told Homegrown.

Shailendra describes the process of unravelling the language and the history of the people who speak it as a ‘lifetime puzzle’ as he formulates multiple hypotheses—are the inhabitants of the region who speak the language one of the oldest in the country? Did they migrate to India? The status of Nihali has been a matter of debate for some who questioned whether Nihali could even be called a language though Dr Mohan states that Nihali is certainly a language, which will be justified with the publications on Nihali that he may soon put out in public. He is also trying to understand the reasons for Nihali’s near extinction. He seeks to not just document the language but even understand the reasons for Nihali’s near extinction.

“As you know, there is a three language formula. The local languages are never taught as you are either taught English, Hindi or Marathi,” says Dr Mohan as he tells us that no tribal language is taught in the schools of Maharashtra though some in regions like Yeotmal , where communities have made some efforts to bolster tribal and local languages. “The locals who speak Nihali, have inter-married with speakers of other languages like Marathi, Korku and Hindi. Even if a child speaks Nihali at home, once he enters a classroom, he instantly switches to Marathi. A language stays alive only when parents speak the mother tongue with their children. I don’t see that happening with Nihali. When the next two generations pass by, there is a possibility that the language might vanish with them,” said Dr Mohan after having observed the ground situation at Jalgaon Jamod closely.

There was no government support in the region or an academic body, which would support this kind of research which meant that Shailendra had to go and establish trust and contact with the locals. He would make repeated trips to the schools and town offices, attending panchayat meetings and even asked for the Sarpanch’s help. He would listen to village elders tell folk stories and songs in broken Nihali, which revealed how rich their history and mythology really was, with the locals having their own version of the Panchatantra or fables with animals at their centre, and while they sang songs from the Ramayana, they would worship Ravana as their hero. Nihali is said to have a unique sound pattern where water is ‘joppo’, to eat is ‘ti’ and drink is ‘delen.’ Dr Mohan also aims to release the first tri-lingual dictionary with Nihali-English-Hindi translations with up to 2,000 words. Dr Mohan’s efforts have met with approval from the locals who appreciate someone recording their songs, stories and lifestyle.
“Language changes unconsciously, we do not realise it during every day use. But the documentation programme has inculcated a sensitivity towards their language. They are now aware that their language is different from other communities and that there are less number of speakers,” he said in 2014. When we questioned him on the means by which Nihali could be preserved, he suggested preparing Nihali based teaching materials and teaching Nihali in schools as a medium of instruction whereby one increases the vitality of the language, while one documents the lifestyle, grammar and words of the language through dictionaries and awareness of its extinction among the speakers of the language, efforts which he has already undertaken.

While the task of unraveling undocumented history through language is ardous, Dr Mohan certainly seems to be committed to the cause. The questions of the language’s orgins, the history of the people and its impact on Indian history are profound but none are as pertinent whether the answers can be found before the language is forgotten.

(source: Home Grown)

In South Africa, informal workers helped redesign a market to save it

Warwick Junction’s maze of stalls, arches and bridges can elicit wonder in any first-time visitor to South Africa’s largest marketplace. The area’s nine distinct markets are wedged between Durban’s major train station, three highway overpasses and dozens of taxi ranks. More than 7,000 informal street vendors sell everything from clothes and fresh produce to medicines and traditional delicacies like bovine head soup. More than 450,000 commuters and shoppers pass through the marketplace every day.

But behind the colorful stalls is a deeper story of urban transformation. Looking at Warwick Junction today, you would never know its troubled history as a dangerous and neglected marketplace—one that was almost wiped from existence.

Every day nearly half a million people flow through Durban's Warwick Junction.

The story of how Warwick Junction bucked the global trend of replacing informal markets with malls and shopping centers is a testament to the compromise, conflict and resourcefulness of a small set of actors – informal workers, local officials and the small non-profit Asiye eTafuleni (Zulu for “bring it to the table”). It is a story of social healing and the enduring contradictions of a modern African city.

Opening up Warwick Junction
Under apartheid, Warwick Junction was a tightly controlled black entrance to the all-white city. With only one bridge providing a primary crossing into the city, it was intentionally designed to discourage movement, enabling local authorities to close off the city to non-whites living on the periphery at a moment’s notice. Police regularly harassed traders by confiscating their goods and enforcing “move-along” laws, which prevented vendors from stopping alongside streets and paths to trade.

“The inner city was primarily for white people,” said Richard Dobson, co-founder of the non-profit Asiye eTafuleni (AeT). “There was actually a real, real blind spot to servicing any of those communities—particularly if they weren't white.”
Image: Kyle Laferriere

After apartheid, the eThekwini Municipality began an urban renewal project to reverse the decades racist urban design, disinvestment and neglect. Instead of the heavy policing policies of the past, the municipal project team began improving safety and redesigning public spaces by involving the informal workers of Warwick Junction. They added bridges, overpasses and entrances, and upgraded individual areas to better fit trading needs.

It was all going well—until it wasn’t. In the lead-up to South Africa’s 2010 World Cup, the city unexpectedly announced plans in 2008 to replace Warwick Junction’s historic Early Morning Market with a modern shopping mall. Around 80,000 livelihoods would have been affected, between vendors, their porters and suppliers, and their families.

Informal traders were heartbroken. Some had been trading in Warwick Junction for more than three decades and depended on the marketplace to support their families.

A rocky road to recognition
It was no coincidence that AeT formed around the same time. Its co-founders, Dobson and Patric Ndlovu, were former city officials and leading figures in the urban renewal project of the 1990s. They created AeT to keep the legacy of inclusive urban renewal alive and patch the widening gulf between informal traders and the city.

Image: Kyle Laferriere
When protests erupted as the city tried to forcibly displace traders, AeT supported advocacy efforts and legal challenges against the municipality. After several months of traumatic police clashes and major disruptions to traders’ livelihoods, the city paused its redevelopment plans for the Early Morning Market.

But AeT knew that to secure traders’ stake in Warwick’s future, there needed to be greater recognition of informal workers’ rights. AeT started working with the non-profit Legal Resources Centre to teach street vendors legal literacy and provide pro-bono legal expertise. They also launched challenges in court. Thanks to their efforts, a court declared in 2014 that it was unlawful for the city to impound the goods of informal traders.

Image: Kyle Laferriere

Using techniques piloted in the past, AeT worked with traders to prototype basic market infrastructure, such as multi-functional tables, safer cookstoves and storage facilities. By involving traders in this process, they gradually transformed Warwick Junction’s formerly unequipped workspaces into areas that cater to the specific needs of each type of trader. The cardboard recyclers, for instance, now have secure storage spaces, so they no longer have to sleep next to their goods. AeT has led collaborative upgrades to Warwick’s Herb Market, Bovine Head Market, Early Morning Market and Bead Market.

“Inclusive design is the solution,” said Ndlovu. “If you include the users during the design stages, they will look after the infrastructure, because they had input. They are valuable, and they are knowledgeable, and they know their stuff.”

At the same time, AeT has developed traders’ abilities to advocate for themselves in formal decision-making processes, such as negotiating with the city over the use of public space, systematically documenting unfair practices like the confiscation of goods, and documenting deteriorating market infrastructure.
Image: Kyle Laferriere

“AeT gave us leadership training so that we can build our leadership capacity,” said Xolisile Nzuza, a vendor at Warwick Junction’s meat market. “They opened our eyes. Nobody can prevent us from raising our voice.”

AeT’s approach provided the critical missing middle between Warwick Market’s informal trader-led organizational structures and official municipal decision-making processes. Alongside inclusive redesigns, AeT helped set the tone for a respectful working relationship between Warwick Junction’s formal and informal institutions.

“Seven years down the line and the market stands here today,” said Romila Chetty, secretary of the Early Morning Market Traders Association. “It’s because of leaders like us.

(Source: We Forum)

Female chief in Malawi breaks up 850 child marriages and sends girls back to school

Theresa Kachindamoto, the senior chief in the Dedza District of Central Malawi, wields power over close to 900,000 people… and she’s not afraid to use her authority to help the women and girls in her district. In the past three years, she has annulled more than 850 child marriages, sent hundreds of young women back to school to continue their education, and made strides to abolish cleansing rituals that require girls as young as seven to go to sexual initiation camps. With more than half of Malawi’s girls married before the age of 18, according to a 2012 United Nations survey — and a consistently low ranking on the human development index, Kachindamoto’s no-nonsense attitude and effective measures have made her a vital ally in the fight for women’s and children’s rights.

Kachindamoto, who was born in Dedza District, had been working as a secretary for twenty-seven years in another district when she was called to come home and serve as a chief. Upon her return, she was dismayed at the sight of 12 year-old girls with babies and young husbands and quickly began to take action. Last year, Malawi raised the legal age to marry to 18, yet parental consent continues to serve as a loophole to allow younger girls to marry. Kachindamoto ordered 50 of her sub-chiefs to sign an agreement ending child marriage in Dedza District. When a few male chiefs continued to approve the marriages, Kachindamoto suspended them until they annulled the unions. In addition to annulling the marriages (330 in June of 2015 alone!), this fierce chief sent the children back to school, often paying their school fees with her own money. She has also asked parliament to raise the minimum age of marriage again to 21.

In an area where girls are often married early to ease a family’s financial burden and where one in five girls in Malawi are victims of sexual abuse, Kachindamoto is also taking a stand against the cleansing camps where girls are routinely sent before marriage. The sexual initiation rites that take place there are extremely disturbing, particularly in a country where one in ten people has HIV. Kachindamoto is threatening to dismiss any chiefs that continue to allow these controversial practices. Kachindamoto has faced plenty of opposition to her efforts from parents and community members, even receiving death threats, yet she remains determined to continue changing minds and laws for the benefits of Malawi’s females and their futures. In Kachindamoto’s own words, “If they are educated, they can be and have anything they want.”

(Source: Inhabitots)

Top Indian salt brands contain deadly cyanide, claims activist

Tata Chemicals, which manufactures the Tata Salt brands, on Wednesday assured that its salt is “safe and harmless” for consumption.

The company said that India is among countries like US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand that have been permitted the use of potassium ferrocyanide in salt.

The level permitted by regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is lowest at 10 mg/kg, and the Codex Alimentarius – an authoritative guideline on food safety – has declared potassium ferrocyanide as safe for consumption at levels of 14 mg/kg, the company said.

The Tata Chemicals reaction came a day after Godhum Grains & Farm Products Chairman and consumer activist Shiv Shankar Gupta on Tuesday claimed that the potassium ferrocyanide levels are alarmingly high in reputed Indian salt brands, leading to a huge controversy.

However, Tata Chemicals dismissed the allegations as “totally false and misleading” and said that potassium ferrocyanide content in its brands is “well within permissible limits” and is “safe and harmless” to the human body when consumed as per approved levels.

It added that iodine is another essential micronutrient needed by the human body daily in small quantity, and is part of the government’s efforts to address the issue of Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD).

“Since 1983, Tata Salt has partnered with the government in this (IDD) initiative and played a pivotal role in the battle against iodine deficiency. As per FSSAI, adequate salt iodization has saved four billion IQ points in the past 25 years,” the company said.

Tata Chemicals reiterated that Tata Salt is a reputed and responsible brand which follows rigorous quality control processes at all levels to ensure safe, healthy and high-quality products for the consumers.


Mumbai, June 25 (IANS) Citing a US lab report, an activist on Tuesday said that premium brands of processed iodized salt sold in India allegedly contain alarming levels of poisonous and carcinogenic components like potassium ferrocyanide.

According to Shiv Shankar Gupta, Chairman of Godhum Grains & Farms Products, the test by the American West Analytical Laboratories has revealed that potassium ferrocyanide levels are an alarmingly high in Sambhar Refined Salt at 4.71 mg/kg, at 1.85 mg/kg in Tata Salt and 1.90 mg/kg in Tata Salt Lite.

Despite repeated attempts and emails, neither the Tata Group nor their official media teams commented on the matter.

Gupta, who has launched a mission “to rid salt of harmful substances, expose corrupt practices by the salt industry and help provide healthy and safe natural variants of salt to the masses”, said that no where in the world is the poisonous potassium ferrocyanide permitted for use in the edible salt industry or for that matter, in any other food item.

“Leading companies in the edible salt manufacturing industry simply repackage industrial waste laden with hazardous chemicals like iodine and cyanide and market it as packaged edible salt, making people vulnerable to diseases like cancer, hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, impotence, obesity, kidney failures etc,” he told media persons here.

He accused the companies of adapting “dangerous and undisclosed processes such as bleaching, adding a plethora of dangerous chemicals like iodine and cyanide to ‘refine’ the salt”.

Gupta alleged that the poisonous cyanide compounds are freely used by leading salt manufacturers in India, while iodine, which is already present in natural salt, is artificially added, virtually rendering the salt a poison.

He said that the country’s natural salt industry – spread across Gujarat’s Kutch, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – has been systematically destroyed by successive governments which hailed “iodised salt” as a healthy alternative.

“Declaring salt from these salt pans, which is naturally suited for human consumption, as inedible is one of the biggest scams in post-Independent India. This is one of the worst cases of corporate greed and corruption with the livelihood of workers in the indigenous salt industry at stake,” Gupta claimed.

Alleging a strong nexus between the government and industrial lobbies to cheat workers of the indigenous salt industry while selling it at exorbitant prices, leaving the consumers with no choice but to buy cheaper, chemical-laced variants, he accused the government departments entrusted with the task of ensuring quality standards in production of branded salt of being “inert”.

“RTI applications show that none of the big salt manufacturers have applied for testing or licensing with the FSSAI, which – on its part – has been unambiguous on how refined salt is produced. Moreover, food testing labs in the country are not equipped to measure the quantity of cyanide in salt,” he claimed.

(Source: NRI Pulse)

Punjab announced free education for girls from nursery to PhD

The Captain Amarinder Singh-led government in Punjab has announced free education for girls in government schools and colleges from Nursery to PhD.

Making the announcement on Monday Capt. Singh said free textbooks will be provided to all students in government schools from the next academic session.

Books will also be made available online from where students can download for free.

He also said that Nursery and LKG classes will be reintroduced in government schools from next year. Fulfilling another election promise Singh also announced free Wi-FI for 13,000 primary schools and all 48 government colleges.

According to the census of India 2011, the literacy rate in Punjab is 75.84% which is better than the national average of 73.0%. The total number of literates in Punjab is 1,87,07,137. The male literacy rate is 80.44% and female literacy rate is 70.73%.

(Source: India Times)

Half of Britons socialise with family and friends at most once a month

Lack of interaction is damaging sense of wellbeing, says Sainsbury’s Living Well Index

Nearly half of Britons socialise with family and friends only once a month or less, according to a survey.

The lack of human interaction is causing the nation’s sense of wellbeing to dwindle, the Sainsbury’s Living Well Index said.

Some 8,000 Britons were surveyed on everything from their sex lives, quality of sleep, finances, relationships and jobs, with an average “wellbeing score” of 60.4 out of 100.

 Nearly one in 10 people said they never meet socially with friends, relatives or coworkers. Photograph: Flashpop/Getty Images
The figure is 0.38 points lower than last year, which the report said was equivalent to a wellbeing decline associated with a £260 (or 18%) fall in the average monthly income.

Nearly one in 10 (9.1%) people said they never met friends, relatives or coworkers socially, while 21.4% did so less than once a month.

A further 17.5% only socialised once a month, according to the survey.

Sainsbury’s carried out the report in partnership with the National Centre for Social Research and Oxford Economics.

Simon Roberts, Sainsbury’s’ retail and operations director, said: “Sainsbury’s Living Well Index has found that over the last 12 months there has been a decline of the sense of community the nation feels as a whole, which has had a significant impact on our sense of wellbeing.”

 Near-empty streets in Rochester: Sainsbury’s Living Well Index found there had been been a decline in the sense of community the nation feels as a whole Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian
Working baby boomers’ index scores fell “dramatically” – by 1.76 points on average – in the past 12 months, more than four times the average.

Authors of the study said the key driver was a decline in social connections (down 0.36 points) and relationships (0.29 points).

The overall score for June 2019 was almost a full point lower than in autumn 2017, when the first index was published.

People were asked about a total of 60 different aspects of their lives.

(Source: The Guardian)