Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Women in the Doldrums

Every year on the occasion of International Women's Day there is a great celebration in the media of individual women who have overcome odds and made a name for themselves in the prevailing system which remains deeply patriarchal, or even of women who are not so famous but have still fought and achieved something away from the limelight. However, such celebration of success by a few individual women on this day, though undoubtedly very laudable, tends to mask the continuing travails of the vast majority of women who  are doomed to struggle without any iota of relief. Especially scary is the state of their heath and the gender based violence they undergo as a result of widespread patriarchal oppression. I did some quick analysis of the National Crime Records Bureau data on crimes against women over the past decade or so and the just released preliminary data of the National Family Health Survey IV conducted in 2015 and here are the disturbing results of this analysis.
The National Crime Records Bureau data show that ‘Cruelty by husband and relatives’ continues to occupy the highest share (43.6 per cent) among the crimes committed against women followed by ‘assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty’ (18.6 per cent). 15.7 per cent cases were that of kidnapping and abduction, 10.2 per cent of rape, 3.8 per cent of ‘insult to the modesty of women’ and 3.7 per cent of ‘dowry prohibition act’. 10.8 per cent cases of ‘cruelty by husband and relatives’ underwent trial by the Courts of Law and conviction was done in only 1.6 per cent cases. 36 per cent of the rape victims were minor girls under the age of 18.  Between 2005 and 2014 the proportion of crimes against women to all crimes committed has gone up from 3.1 per cent to 4.7 per cent which is an increase of over 50  per cent in the crime rate and a serious cause for concern. Also the conviction rate in crimes against women has declined from 32 per cent to 21 per cent in the same period while that for all crimes taken together has increased from 73 per cent to 80 per cent. Clearly, gender based violence is on the rise and due to poor conviction rates there does not seem to be any possibilities of this adverse trend being reversed.  
Given the very low levels of public health expenditure, the allocation for reproductive health services other than safe motherhood are extremely meagre and this results in very poor gynaecological health of women. Patriarchy results in an absence of reproductive rights of women as they have to go through several pregnancies to produce male children. According to the National Family Health Survey IV, the Total Fertility Rate of women in India is a very high 2.0, while those accessing family planning of any kind is only 51 per cent. Even though the proportion of institutional deliveries is high at 83 per cent, the proportion of those who received the full subsidy amount under the Janani Suraksha Yojana is only 27 per cent and 68 per cent have received immediate post-natal care which together mean that the government maternity services are not performing well despite all the hullabaloo around providing safe motherhood. This is compounded by the fact that only 45 per cent of pregnant women received iron and folic acid tablets and  dismal 32 per cent received complete ante-natal care. Not surprisingly the proportion of women who are anaemic is a very high 53 per cent. This high prevalence of anaemia among women is a serious problem arising from a combination of greater and frequent child bearing, over work, under nutrition and gender based violence. 
The NFHS III was held all of a decade ago and had at that time created a stir with its stark portrayal of the severe condition of women arising out of patriarchal oppression. The government, thereafter, began to dilly dally with the conduct of the next NFHS which should have been done five years later. Anyway, the NFHS IV has finally been conducted and though it shows that there is improvement in the health situation of women, we still have a long way to go. In this context a quote from Supriya, Sule Member of Parliament, is very relevant - "How can we talk about improving women's health when essential medicines, well trained public health workers and functioning health centres are inaccessible to vast sectors of the populace? What chance does a woman really have if her health has suffered from childhood, she is malnourished, underweight and anaemic, and has not been reached by the public health system until the moment when she is going into labour? We are not addressing the wider problems that endanger her health over a longer-term basis - health problems that are largely a consequence of the gender imbalance, inaccessible health systems, lack of preventive and potentially life saving interventions, limited prenatal care, inaccessible, overpriced medicines or high dropout rates. Platitudes alone will not provide a solution to this abject situation. In order to create the holistic strategies needed to deal with India's neglected half, there must be a reconsideration of an entire policy approach."

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