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How to make urban governance pro-poor

By Ramanath Jha

This introduction demystifies terms such as 'the urbanisation of poverty', 'absolute' and 'relative poverty' and the 'informalisation' and 'feminisation of poverty', and points out why urban poverty needs a different approach and set of solutions from rural poverty. Pro-poor urban governance follows on an acceptance of the poor as integral assets of the formal city


Counting the urban poor

By R B Bhagat

In all the noise over whether the urban poor can survive on a daily per capita expenditure of Rs 33 rupees or Rs 47, we miss the point that we need to move away altogether from the income/consumption approach to measuring poverty to measurement on the basis of urban habitat -- including access to safe water, sanitation and a clean household environment -- and livelihood/disaster vulnerabilities


The industry of 'empowerment'

By Rahul Goswami

The urbanisation of India project is being executed in the name of the 'urban poor'. But the urban poor themselves are lost in the debate over methodologies to identify and classify them and the thicket of entitlements, provisions and agencies to facilitate their 'inclusion' and 'empowerment'


Data discrepancies

By Debolina Kundu

We cannot address the problems of urban poverty and slum conditions until we know their magnitude and details. Masses of data are available, but given the inadequacy of official definitions of slums, it is limited in scope, coverage and standardisation/comparability


The feminisation of urban poverty

By Vibhuti Patel

Economic globalisation rides on the backs of millions of poor urban women, forced into cheap labour in an unregulated and insecure informal sector. The increased visibility of women in the workforce could actually be read as a sign of economic distress, not empowerment


Making the invisible visible

By Siddharth Agarwal

Health, nutrition and wellbeing disparities in urban India are stark. Under-5 children in the most vulnerable sections of the urban poor are 2.5 times more undernourished than the urban rich. And their mortality rate is significantly higher than the urban aggregate. The urban poor are in fact far less likely to avail of ICDS and other schemes than the rural poor


Minorities at the margins

By Abdul Shaban

While increased social exclusion and religious polarisation are pushing Muslims to urban areas, poverty amongst urban Muslims is 13-16% higher than the national average. In the western and northern states in particular, communalised state machineries and politics act as barriers to the economic and social mobility of Muslims. Malegaon, Mumbra and Bhiwandi in Maharashtra illustrate how poverty is concentrated and perpetuated amongst urban Muslims


Housing poverty by social groups

By Darshini Mahadevia

13.9 million households were living in slums in urban India in 2011. While housing conditions within slums have improved between 1993 and 2008-09, BPL and Muslim households continue to have poor access to safe water supply and sanitation. They should be the focus of future policy


Multidimensional poverty in Pune

A CCDS report

With income as the only indicator, an absurd 5% of Pune's population would be classified as poor. But the Pune Municipal Corporation itself accepts that 40% of the city lives in multidimensional poverty, suffering residential, occupational and social vulnerabilities. While Pune's poor have relatively higher levels of access to public services than the poor in other cities, a closer look reveals the extent of their vulnerability


Undermining RAY

By Kathyayini Chamaraj

The Rajiv Awas Yojana recognises the right to land and security of tenure of the urban poor, requires slums to be redeveloped or upgraded in-situ, and mandates community participation in rehousing plans. Then why are slum-dwellers federations in Karnataka rejecting the scheme and governments continuing to push for one-size-fits-all multi-storeyed housing and PPP models?


Resettlement projects as poverty traps

By Karen Coelho

Mass-scale state-constructed slum rehousing schemes serve more to eradicate the poor from the city than to eradicate poverty. The 15,000-unit Kannagi Nagar project in Chennai illustrates how mass tenement-construction promotes spatial and social segregation, and perpetuates or reproduces poverty


Participatory budgeting

By Naim Keruwala

Urban local bodies are responsible for urban poverty-alleviation. And municipal budgets reflect the priorities of government. But unless the urban poor participate in envisioning and planning budgets, all sorts of general expenditure ends up booked as allocation for the poor, as the case of Pune illustrates, and the opportunity for targeted poverty-alleviation is lost


Exclusionary cities

By Amita Bhide

2015 marks a centenary of urban planning legislation in India. This is as good a time as any to reflect on how the poor have been excluded from the planning process and how the colonial legacy of a divided city has continued in independent India. If the poor have staked a claim on the city it is in spite of urban planning, not because of it


Exclusionary cities: The exodus that wasn’t

By Amitabh Kundu

Yes, the urban population increased more in absolute terms during 2001-11 than rural population. But, no, this is not because distressed agricultural workers are pouring into cities. It’s because census activism has tripled the number of urban centres in Census 2011. In fact, exclusionary policies are discouraging the inflow of rural poor into the mega cities


Slowdown in urban growth

By Debolina Kundu

Population growth in urban India has been decelerating over the last three decades, busting the myth of an urban explosion. Most cities with populations of 100,000-plus have recorded a significant decline in their population growth, more so the million-plus cities, suggesting that they have become less welcoming to migrants. Delhi and Chandigarh recorded less than half the growth rate of the '90s, and Mumbai district has reported a decline in absolute terms during 2001-11


The invisible migrant

By Amita Bhide

The city is harsh terrain for the roughly 100 million circular migrants who move around the country in search of livelihoods. The territoriality of policy renders them invisible, denied access to essential services such as housing, subsidised foodgrain and bank accounts. Urban policy needs to be re-imagined to understand the realities of migrants


The grime beneath the glitter

By C P Chandrasekhar

The official figure for income poverty in urban India is 21%. Multidimensional urban poverty would be more than double that, and the absolute number of urban poor continues to be over 76 million. Why are the numbers so high? Is it because the wealthy enclaves of urban India are being built on the surpluses extracted from this urban labour force, underpaid and housed in extreme deprivation?


Accelerating urbanisation widens social divides

By Rahul Goswami

By 2030, McKinsey estimates that urban India will generate nearly 70% of our GDP. Urban concentration is therefore viewed as an opportunity for further economic growth and rise in per capita income. This mercantile view is what is driving the focus on infrastructure and services to the exclusion of food and nutrition security of these urban Indians and the increasing inequality both between rural and urban India and within an expanding urban India


The ‘other’ urban India

By Partha Mukhopadhyay

The most vibrant, people-driven process of urbanisation is occurring outside the large metropolises which dominate popular imagination. It is not directed by the state, as in Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar, nor developed by the private sector, as in Mundhra or Mithapur. It is the result of decisions about livelihood and residence made by thousands of individuals that coalesce to transform a ‘village’ into a census town


Transition towns

By Kalpana Sharma

The 74th constitutional amendment has on paper devolved power to urban local bodies. But even a cursory look at small towns reveals that elected representatives have little knowledge of their powers or responsibilities, cannot read or frame budgets and fail to generate local resources for planned development. Many of these towns are still transitioning between large village and town, with even basic public services absent, particularly for the poor


Size matters

By R B Bhagat

Size clearly matters in the hierarchy of urban agglomerations. Most programmes including JNNURM are directed at the big cities. Basic civic services including electricity, sanitation and clean drinking water for the poor in small cities and towns are abysmal, and hardly better than rural areas. The widening gap in income levels between rural and urban areas cannot be bridged without developing small cities and towns


Big city, big share

By Sama Khan

The well-planned development of small cities can help disperse rural migration and prevent overcrowding of the metropolitan centres. JNNURM funds can make much more of a difference in these smaller towns. But the bulk of the allocation under JNNURM goes to the three mega cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata


Urban territories, rural governance

By Gopa Samanta

West Bengal has the highest number of census towns among all the Indian states -- with 528 villages reclassified as such in the last decade -- but only 127 urban local bodies. The slow process of municipalisation means that most census towns, especially those with fast-growing industry, mining and commercial enterprises, are urban areas governed by gram panchayats. Such urban territories can become unregulated free-for-alls, with low taxes but haphazard development and poor infrastructure and services


The making of a mini-city

By Marie-Helene Zerah

Market forces, collusion of interest and malpractice are all involved in the growth and ad hoc development of a village into a small industrial town and then into a satellite town of a global city. Nowhere is this more visible than in Dharuhera, 70 km from Delhi


Mending what works

By Bharati Chaturvedi

Waste can be a tool to break poverty when used imaginatively. In Nainital, Haridwar, Nagpur and several other cities, public-private partnerships in solid waste management have displaced the invisible, informal-sector wastepickers and traders instead of nurturing and upgrading them


Messing around with waste

By Poornima Chikarmane and Anjor Bhaskar

Solid waste management accounts for over 50% of overall municipal budgets and manpower, but municipal authorities collect only 50% of the waste and recycle a negligible 5%. Technology and privatisation are the solutions being proposed everywhere. But public-private partnerships are turning out to be more about using public money for private profit. Is integration of informal sector wastepickers into the management of domestic and commercial municipal waste the solution?


What’s law got to do with justice?

By Oishik Sircar & Saptarshi Mandal

There are two perceptions of law and justice: One is of law delivering justice, the other is law as justice. The state, in legislative overdrive, wants us to believe that more laws equals more rights equals more justice. In fact, there are widening fissures between law and justice. Identifying these fissures could help us mend them for better access to and delivery of justice


The new avatar of the judiciary

By Rakesh Shukla

Public interest litigation started out as a way to make justice and fundamental rights accessible to the exploited and oppressed. There was a time when the higher judiciary would provide relief from the arbitrary actions of the executive, such as slum demolitions. Now the tables have turned and it is the courts that are ordering slum demolitions!


Inequality before the law

By Garga Chatterjee

In a tribal state, and at a police station set up to redress atrocities against scheduled castes and tribes, a glimpse of the indifference, brutality and convenient roadblocks encountered by the marginalised looking for a modicum of justice


Invisibilising mass violence in Gujarat

By Anita Abraham

International law mandates the prosecution and punishment of all perpetrators of mass crimes, including heads of state and other leaders. But India has not defined state criminality in mass atrocities in its jurisprudence, making it difficult to address situations such as Gujarat in 2002


Citizen power or media power?

By Maya Indira Ganesh & Gayatri Ganesh

TV news media campaigns such as those for Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo appear to be shaping and giving voice to public opinion. But is this democracy in action or a sensationalist, manipulative drama to raise ratings? Is it more about media power than citizen power?


Accessing justice in times of terror

By Mayur Suresh

Knowing the law is different from experiencing it. Experience tells you that sometimes the problem is not that people have no access to justice, but that ‘justice’ has too much access to them. These people include tribals accused of waging war against the state, Muslims accused of sedition, and slum-dwellers who have encroached on public lands


Impunity in the name of war against terror

By Manisha Sethi

When and how did the purveyors of illegal execution gain the respectable title of ‘encounter specialists’? Terrorism is redefining our criminal justice system. It produces a sense of emergency, calling for the loosening of ethical compunctions, weakening established conventions of legal procedure, and fetishising encounters as legitimate means of disbursing justice


Afzal Guru case: Justice ended up the loser

By Saurav Datta

In the Afzal Guru case the legal community, swayed by misconceived perceptions of patriotism, demonstrated its abject failure to adhere to its core ethics. The judiciary was carried away by bloodlust. And the state, paranoid about ‘terrorism’, was cavalier in its interpretation of effective legal aid to the accused. Did Afzal Guru have any meaningful access to justice?


Multiplicity of human rights institutions

By Swagata Raha

The proliferation of HRIs to inquire into human rights, women and child rights, minority rights and SC/ST rights has not translated into better protection of human rights as the state machinery remains largely indifferent to them. Is it time to look at the possibility of a merged institution?


How to file a PIL

By Shambo Nandy

PILs have become a powerful tool of empowerment and access to justice for the common man, and a major grievance redressal mechanism for many unheard voices in the country. When and how should a PIL be filed?


Meeting the law halfway

By Abha Singhal Joshi

Most people dismiss the law as tangled, futile, expensive and biased. But legal literacy trainings can help citizens negotiate the legal system and restore their faith in justice


Is this reformatory justice?

By Geeta Sajjanshetty

The Juvenile Justice Act requires a child-friendly approach in investigating and adjudicating cases of children in conflict with the law. The idea is to give these children access to reformative and restorative justice. This article reveals what juvenile offenders and their families really come up against


Undermining the domestic violence law

By Jayna Kothari

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 aims to provide women with quick decisions on protection, residence, maintenance and child custody. This is an account of how the best intentions of the law are thwarted in the process of implementation


Maintenance as an entitlement

By Pooja Badarinath

The right to ‘maintenance’ acknowledges the woman’s non-economic contribution to the family. In patriarchal India, however, this right ends up being linked to the real or perceived ‘sexual purity’ of a woman. Also, it is usually available only to middle class and elite women. How can this civil right be made meaningful for all women?


The supportive role of women’s organisations

By Rukmini Sen

In most situations, in spite of legal provisions being in place, women cannot access the courts by themselves. They need the help of support groups. Women’s organisations become that support, helping the victim become a survivor


Commissions of compromise

By Sonal Makhija

Women’s commissions were set up at central and state levels to monitor violations against women, recommend policies and legislation and take up cases related to collective justice. But in Karnataka at least, the commission seems to be handling marital and other private disputes


Disabled women and sexual violence

By Shampa Sengupta & Saptarshi Mandal

What difficulties do disabled women face in accessing the legal system and navigating the trial process? And what are the consequences for them of making sexual assault gender-neutral for perpetrator and victim?


Policing hijras

By Siddharth Narrain

In the wake of several positive developments for transgender communities in Karnataka came 36A, a startling amendment to the state Police Act aimed at controlling the ‘objectionable activities’ of ‘eunuchs’. The new rule relegates hijras to second-class citizens, vulnerable to police harassment and surveillance


The resilience of patriarchy

By Pamela Philipose

Despite an active women’s movement and social and political recognition of the problem, discrimination continues to mark every stage in a woman’s life, and patriarchy is becoming further entrenched. The sex ratio at the start of the 20th century was far more equal than it is today, violence against women is manifesting itself in newer forms, and the oppression of socially excluded women is taking on brutal contours


Voices and silences in history

By Tanika Sarkar and Sumit Sarkar

Though the social reformers of the 18th and 19th centuries looked at women through the conservative lens of family, chastity and purity, they did make gender and the condition of women a dominant public issue, and set into motion the process of change


Barriers to the classroom, barriers in the classroom

By Anita Rampal

Yes, the odds are stacked against the girl who wants to stay in school -- because she is more malnourished and hungry, because she also does the housework and looks after siblings. But insufficient attention is paid to one important factor that pushes her out of school -- the quality of education. Parents who find their daughters are not learning much in school think she would be better-off grazing cattle


Good girls are submissive and subsidiary

By Deepti Priya Mehrotra

School textbooks continue to portray a predominantly male and patriarchal world. Women are depicted as demure, stay-at-home accessories for the male. They seem to exist only to preserve the status quo


Renaming Nakusa

By Freny Manecksha

What's in a name? Plenty, if you happen to be one of 222 girls in five blocks of Satara district, Maharashtra, called Nakusa, which means 'unwanted'. These are also blocks which have registered a sharp decline in sex ratio over the last decade


Sex-selective abortion and India’s declining female sex ratio

By T K Sundari Ravindran

The decline in child sex ratios in India cannot be addressed only by preventing misuse of preconception and prenatal diagnostic techniques. Factors other than sex-selective abortion -- including higher under-5 mortality for females in every state -- are also responsible. It is important to address the root causes of sex determination -- gender discrimination manifested through son-preference and daughter-neglect


Why do boys get all the milk?

By Anumeha Yadav

As in so many families, the Kumhars who live in a Jaipur slum take their two daughters to the construction site where they work every day. But their son goes to a private school, and is assured a glass of milk a day. The disparities and biases that creep into the distribution of food within the family have long-term impacts on the health and wellbeing of women and girls. But the Food Security Act does not address them


How many women in science labs?

By Vineeta Bal

About half of our qualified women scientists are dropping out of the system. This is a loss not just in terms of gender representation but in terms of the investment that has gone into training them. Scientific establishments are beginning to wonder why this happens, and why women scientists appear to be at a disadvantage


Silences in academia

By Mary E John

We have seen 150 women’s studies centres set up since 1974. But the idea was not so much to introduce women’s studies as an add-on discipline as to bring the gender dimension into all higher education, introducing a perspective that would change existing ways of creating knowledge and work as a catalyst to make change happen


Marriage as oppression

By Ravinder Kaur

The weight of a female-unfriendly political economy and society ensures that even for women empowered by education, marriage remains an oppressive and unequal institution. Marriage is still seen as an exchange of women and goods, a form of social mobility for the family, which will exercise patriarchal control through honour killings of inter-caste and inter-gotra unions


Multi-layered deprivations of Muslim women

By Syeda Hameed

Patriarchy in the Muslim community is that much stronger because it is seen -- erroneously -- as enjoined by religion. Women from within the Muslim community must speak out if the stranglehold of patriarchy is to be broken. They must reject triple talaq, reject the burkha, lead namaaz, perform the nikaah and insert gender-just clauses into the legal contract that is their nikaahnama


‘Do we suffer because we are Muslim?’

By Syeda Hameed

250 girls study at the Azmatul Quran madrasa in Dehradun district, learning the Koran and Hadith, Arabic and Urdu, Hindi and English, maths and science, even computers. But they are in tattered clothes, sitting on the floor in a bare classroom. Why can’t the state give them the same uniforms, midday meal and scholarships as other government schools?


The violence of caste and the violence in homes

By V Geetha

A dalit woman can be humiliated for daring to cross a dominant caste woman on the road, for refusing the sexual advances of a dominant caste male, or for protesting her subordinate status. In these instances, the very fact of being dalit seems enough to invite violence -- it is as if dalits are made to suffer an ‘ontological’ wounding


A home of her own

By Bina Agrawal

Women’s rights in property, when effectively implemented, can give them a stronger sense of identity and social protection. “We had tongues but could not speak. We had feet but could not walk. Now that we have land we have the strength to speak and walk,” said women in Bihar


Health and the other half

By Imrana Qadeer

Women’s health is much more than their reproductive health, but this is the only aspect public health policy focuses on. Unless the social determinants of a woman’s health, including her secondary status in the family, are addressed there will be little change in the falling sex ratio, malnutrition and maternal mortality


The lost mothers of Rajasthan

By Neena Bhandari

More than half of all married women in India are anaemic and one-third are malnourished. No wonder India contributes a quarter of global maternal deaths. Maternal mortality has a direct impact on infant survival, but only 46.6% of mothers receive iron and folic acid for at least 100 days during pregnancy. Rajasthani women are no exception, but in Jhakaron ki Dhani village there are signs of change


Women as bodies, not persons

By B Subha Sri

Textbooks, teachers and teaching methods prompt medical students to see the human body as impersonal, female sexuality as little more than childbearing, and rape victims as so much evidence in a medico-legal case. In the family welfare departments and maternity wards of hospitals, they learn to treat women as cattle


Twice undermined

By Anita Ghai

A personal article on the multiple biases facing disabled women who are infantilised even by the empathetic, medicalised by doctors, denied their sexuality and constantly pressurised by society to be ‘normal’


Gendered violence and biases in the criminal justice system

By Vrinda Grover

Suspicion and contempt for female victims of sexual violence permeates the criminal justice system. A victim of rape or molestation, for instance, must pass the test of the ‘good Indian woman’, and the ‘good woman’ cannot be one who wears revealing clothes or goes out late at night


The workplace is still gender-unequal

By Padmini Swaminathan

An examination of the Minimum Wages and Maternity Benefit Acts establishes that extending the coverage and scope of such legislation will make only a marginal difference to women's conditions at work. In fact, while ostensibly addressing labour market inequalities, the state has actually contributed to reinforcing gender-based discrimination in the work arena


How equal are women as citizens?

By Neera Chandhoke

Women got formal citizenship with the dawn of independence in India. But it was only after the struggles of the women’s movement since the ’70s that background inequalities were considered and these formal rights expanded into more substantive rights, including the right to property, representation in local governance, the right to life and free movement and the right to health and social protection


Women in retreat after Independence

By Zoya Hasan

Why does India present the paradox of at least four major political parties headed by women, and yet have so little representation of women in Parliament? And why is there so much opposition to reservations for women in Parliament and state legislatures when there is no opposition to reservation at the panchayat level?


The face of famine

By Sandhya Srinivasan

Forty-three per cent of all children under 5 in India are underweight, and more than half of all under-5 deaths are linked to malnutrition. One in three adults too is underweight, and 60% of deaths due to infectious diseases are caused by the coexistence of undernutrition. These figures represent a composite index of chronic and acute deprivation and hunger. As Dr Binayak Sen says, the poor are walking with famine by their side


Health through the hunger lens

By Yogesh Jain with Jan Swasthya Sahyog

In tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh, where this writer works, men and women are at least 10 kg lighter than the reference Indian, and even the popular PDS rice scheme lasts a family only 11 days. The high burden of all diseases, from TB and malaria to cancer and heart disease, has clear links with the 'lifestyle' of poverty and hunger in this region


Layperson’s guide to nutrition and malnutrition

By Ramani Atkuri with Jan Swasthya Sahyog

Malnutrition underlies 50% of all under-5 deaths worldwide. What are the links between malnutrition and ill-health? How is malnutrition to be determined and measured?


The career of hunger: Critical reflections on the history of nutrition science and policy-Part 1

By Veena Shatrugna

Nutrition research in 1920-30 'extracted' about 10-15 nutrients out of nearly 900 foods: carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins. By 1950, Indian scientists were estimating people's requirements based on their own largely vegetarian diets, prioritising cost and recommending a diet of cereal for the nation and excluding animal protein. This exclusively cereal diet underlies the profile of malnutrition and disease today


What individuals spend on a monthly food basket

By Rahul Goswami

Though the amounts spent on cereals are largely the same, there are clear differences between the spending of rural and urban consumers on milk and milk products, sugar and oil. Urban consumers spend 104% more than rural consumers on beverages, refreshments and processed foods


The poor spend more of their income, but eat less

By Sachin Kumar Jain

The top 10% in rural areas spend Rs 913 per capita per month on food -- just 38.1% of their total expenditure per month -- to get 2,617 calories, 73.8 gm of protein and 65.5 gm of fat daily. The bottom 10% spend 66.5% of their total expenditure per month on food -- just Rs 251 per capita per month -- for a mere 1,545 calories, 40.7 gm of protein and 19.5 gm of fat daily


Land alienation and starvation

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

From the south to the northeast, health professionals and social scientists working at the grassroots report that adivasis are at the bottom of the nutritional ladder, worse off than dalits in most cases. Where adivasis retain control over even a small piece of land, there is some food security. It is the landless who are on the brink of starvation


The shadow of hunger

By Aditya Malaviya

Baran is one of 22 districts in Rajasthan designated ‘food insecure’. The Sahariya tribals who have a per capita income of roughly Rs 7 a day live in the shadow of hunger, with not enough money to buy even BPL rations. Children are brought up on little more than bajra rotis with salt and chillies and, not surprisingly, child deaths from hunger are reported every few months


Poor fare

By Rajashri Dasgupta

This article details how the urban poor stave off hunger, cooking just one meal a day, scrounging for chicken waste, and making do with the empty calories offered by street food. Even the nutritious sattu that Kolkata’s poor traditionally survived on now costs Rs 9 a portion and is beyond the reach of many


The underfed and the unscrupulous

By Shahina K K

In Raichur district of Karnataka, where over 4,500 children face acute malnutrition and 2,689 have died of malnutrition in two years, there is a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The greater the problem, the higher the multi-crore contracts for supply of completely inedible, even dangerous, supplementary food packets to anganwadis


The wider effects of nutrition research: History of nutrition science and policy-Part 2

By Veena Shatrugna

The decision to focus on calories from cheap sources of food influenced many of independent India’s major policy decisions such as the shamefully low poverty line, a minimum wage to meet these low dietary requirements, a public distribution system limited to cereals, and high-input monoculture to produce these cereals. The combined results are seen in the undernutrition and catastrophic health profiles of Indians today. Micronutrient programmes are the natural extension of this policy


Approaches to malnutrition and the writ of a compartmented government

By Rahul Goswami

The absence of inter-sectoral programmes covering the entire lifecycle of women and children in particular and requiring coordination between different ministries such as women and child development, health and family welfare, agriculture, food processing and human resource development, is the reason why, at the start of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan period (2012-17), the fundamental causes of malnutrition in India remain as they were during the First Five-Year Plan


Commodifying malnutrition

By Radha Holla

Government is abdicating its responsibility to guarantee the food and health rights of its people by entering into partnerships with the commercial sector. Corporations are only too happy to capitalise on malnutrition by supplying pre-mixed food packets to anganwadis instead of hot cooked meals, trumpeting their social responsibility even as they create markets for their fortified foods and use nutrition education to build brand loyalty for the future


Plumpy Nut or indigenous foods?

By Vandana Prasad

Imported ready-to-use therapeutic foods such as Plumpy Nut are being pushed to supplant locally prepared indigenous foods in the treatment of severe acute malnutrition, ignoring the multiple causes of malnutrition and destroying the diversity of potential solutions based on locally available foods


Micro, bio and packaged -- how India’s nutrition mix is being reshaped

By Rahul Goswami

Crop and food multinationals, ably assisted by government, are using the 'reduce hidden hunger' platform to push hunger-busting technologies that best suit them -- including biofortification of crops, the use of supplementation, and of commercial fortification of prepared and processed foods


Universal malnutrition?

By Sridhar Srikantiah

All children in India display a slower growth rate, but we look only at those that have ‘fallen’ below the cut-off and call the rest ‘normal’. Surely poverty and hunger cannot be the only cause of this near-universal malnutrition? Is malnutrition caused by not feeding our children enough dal, milk, eggs, meat and vegetables, in addition to cereals, in the first two years? Does that explain why cereal-based ICDS food supplements are ineffective in reducing malnutrition? 


Mal-Mal approach to malnutrition

By John Oommen

The determinants of nutritional status are different from place to place. The Mitra programme in adivasi areas of Orissa where 35% of children would die before the age of five, found a strong correlation between prevalence of malaria and malnutrition. Treating children for malaria immediately saw their weights jump. Identifying and dealing with specific local factors could change the game for malnourished children and communities


Combating under-3 malnutrition

By Ramani Atkuri with Jan Swasthaya Sahyog

In the Jan Swasthya Sahyog's 72 creches across 30 Chhattisgarh villages, children aged six months to three years are given three meals that cover two-thirds of their daily requirement of calories and protein. The cost per child per day is Rs 17, but the payoffs in terms of their nutritional status and health are unquestionable


‘Malnutrition will not change unless women exclusively breastfeed’

By Sharmila Joshi

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life provides comprehensive nutrition and also passes on the mother’s immunity from certain infections. Neonatologist Armida Fernandez, who started the first human milk bank in India, discusses why many women stop breastfeeding, the medical profession’s response, and the community’s role in supporting women


‘The Food Security Bill is regressive’

The Planning Commission’s minimalist starvation line is perverse, says Biraj Patnaik, who has been working on the Right to Food Campaign for over a decade. If the government cannot move towards universal coverage for all rights, including food, it should stop expending energy on identifying the poor and should instead identify and exclude the rich from entitlements meant for the poor


Peace refractions

What is peace to the refugee living in a camp, to the person who comes home to domestic violence, to those living in want, to those who cannot speak their mind, who are denied equity because of their caste, class or religion? Is the end of war or civil strife peace if justice is not done to the victims, and to the perpetrators of violence? And finally, can there be peace in any sphere without inner transformation? Swarna Rajagopalan assesses


The everydayness of conflict, and of peace-building

In the 21st century, conflict is everywhere, no longer playing out on battlefields alone, but in forests and mohallas, over control of water, food and livelihoods. As a result, writes Sumona DasGupta, the way we respond to conflict has also changed: it requires not just ending violence, but also changing unjust structures of society. Building a positive peace requires state diplomacy as well as engagements by individuals and communities at all levels


Manufacturing conflict

It is a short step from something as simple as colouring the old city green and the outer city saffron on a VHP map of Ahmedabad in 1991 to the violence Gujarat witnessed in 2002, explains Teesta Setalvad. And a short step from carrying the coffin of Swami Lakshmanananda around Kandhamal to the gutting of 100 villages. Communalism is not about religion but the manipulation of religion and religious symbols for political mobilisation; it is not about history but the construction, reconstruction and deconstruction of history


A people-centred peace

Why have all peace-building measures failed in Kashmir? In this article, Dileep Padgaonkar, one of the government interlocutors appointed to study the Kashmir conflict, discusses the importance of going beyond positing the crisis as a Hindu-Muslim one, or one of competing nationalisms, to seeing the plurality of concerns, interests and aspirations in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, and putting the people at the centre of a settlement, not nations, ideologies and faiths


The folly of using violence to quell violence

As early as 1986, the government was warned of the “backlash of modernisation” in the central tribal belt. But the colonial precedent of using violence to quell violence has been government’s only response to Maoist extremism to date, writes K S Subramanian .Why are there no peace efforts? When and why did the Union home ministry, once tasked with the delivery of social justice, especially for adivasis and dalits, become just a law and order ministry?


Constitutionalism and the possibilities of peace

How is law and order to be maintained in times of conflict even while ensuring that the exercise of state power is kept within constitutional boundaries, asks Siddharth Narrain. More importantly, should not the state ensure a lasting peace by promoting social, economic and political justice? It is the manner in which the state behaves in times of conflict that determines the nature of the state in times of peace, the recent Supreme Court judgment on the Salwa Judum reminds us


'Listen to your mother before you kill your brother'

The women of the Northeast have halted violence between warring villages and tribes, campaigned against AFSPA by stripping naked, as the Meira Paibis did, or by fasting for 11 years as Irom Sharmila has done. But though women have been at the forefront of peace-building, writes Rita Manchanda, there is not a single woman in the state assemblies of Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur: clearly, women can be relied on to stop the violence, but not to shape the peace


The violence within

Legal and constitutional safeguards, education and economic progress will not by themselves suffice to resolve caste conflicts in India. If we want a social order free of exclusion and dominance, explains Edward A Rodrigues, we need to reinvent the victim-victimiser relationship, with the victimiser not only giving up the process of victimisation but directly and overtly standing up for the victim, as the grassroots movements of the ’60s and ’70s did


The Indian family: A peace not worth protecting?

Justice and peace do not always coincide, writes Nivedita Menon. The heterosexual patriarchal family, for instance, contributes to the dominant social order in India, but it is not a just or equal space for women. Is this then a peace that should be protected? Sometimes, this author suggests, conflicts should not be resolved; sometimes disorder can be the beginning of justice


Secular rethink

Is it time to accept that secularism as we have known it has failed India in many ways? Should we begin to redefine ‘secularism’ with the aim of embracing, rather than obliterating, multiple identities based on religion, region, caste, language, etc? Members of Citizens for Peace, a Mumbai CSO, reflect on their 20-year journey from an unquestioning faith in secularism to a more nuanced questioning


The space where either/or co-exist

It is literature and the arts -- more than politics or religion -- that hold the possibility of peace, because they allow open spaces for imagination, dialogue, dissent, and plurality. Even for questioning the Truth. This is why we must guard against the enclosure of these spaces, says Ashok Vajpeyi


Between 'Yes' and 'No'

In letting go of the anchors of identity -- Hindu or Muslim, feminism or patriarchy, secular or sacred, folk or classical, dalit or upper caste -- do we walk into a more fluid space, a place without walls or doors that allows for the possibility of others entering? And is it poetry and song that best carries us to such a place? Shabnam Virmani explains


Teaching peace: Civil society peace education programmes in South Asia

Several peace education programmes across South Asia, from the Peace Museum in Karachi to the Sita School near Bangalore, are initiating processes that incorporate ideas of peace and non-violence. But they are fighting for space within the mainstream education system and tend to be confined to private schools, writes Anupama Srinivasan


Beginning with children

Preventing conflict is the work of politics, establishing peace is the work of education, said Maria Montessori. NCERT’s National Curriculum Framework 2005 proposes the integration of peace education and the building of peace-seeking mindsets across the entire curriculum, not just in a weekly ‘moral science’ class. It emphasises the interdependence of living beings and the creation of an environment that builds sensitivity to others’ cultures, perspectives and rights. Priyadarshini Rajagopalan explains


Cultivating compassion

Universities offer many courses on war, genocide, justice and injustice. But can we teach students how to become more compassionate and ethically driven, asks Linda Hess. An experimental course at Stanford University seeks to help students understand the roots of violence within themselves as well as in the world around them. It is a course that attempts to put the ‘heart’ back into higher education which tends to focus only on intellectual learning


Beyond social and economic justice

‘Social + economic justice = Peace’ is now an established universal principle. But it banishes the quest for a deeper, more fundamental peace to the personal realm. It’s true that there may not be peace without justice, says Rajni Bakshi, but justice by itself will not ensure peace. Better laws and better social and economic structures can only work if there is a ceaseless personal renewal of the underlying values in everyday life


Re-dedicating ourselves to the priority of means over ends

Moral idealism is dangerous because it is inevitably accompanied by the belief that the end justifies the means, that violence in service of justice is justified. Gandhiji was aware that this would open the floodgates to brutality, and therefore he insisted on the priority of means over ends. We need a blanket rejection of violence, no matter what the cause, writes Sudhir Kakar. Justice is important, but compassion is equally important



  • Urban Poverty

    As poverty intensifies in urban India,
    what will it take to give the urban poor
    equal rights to our cities?

  • Urbanisation

    The focus needs to shift from our megacities to small towns and cities that are at the centre of India's growth story

  • Access to justice

    Despite a government in legislative overdrive, the gulf between law and justice is widening for the poor and marginalized

  • Gender bias

    Discrimination marks her life

    Are patriarchy and gender bias getting further entrenched?

  • Malnutrition
  • Peace-building

    What are the keys to building a positive peace? Is social, economic and political justice enough? What is the role of the state, and what that of communities and individuals? Can peace be taught and cultivated?

  • Freedom of expression

    Freedom of expression is incregenagsingly under assault — on grounds of sedition, obscenity, immorality or offending public sentiment. Should this freedom be constrained? If so, when and how?


  • Enclosure of commons

    Market forces, infrastructure development and archaic rules of land acquisition are squeezing the poor off the lands, forests,waters and coasts that their survival and identities depend on.

  • Medical technology: Ethics

    New medical technologies are selling us dreams of genetic engineering, stem cell treatments to eradicate all disease, perfect bodies, perfect babies and super vaccines. But who is asking whether these technologies are relevant to our needs? What must we consider when making decisions related to these medical technologies, as individuals and as a society?

  • Agricultural revival

    New Agriculturist
    With roughly 45,000 certified organic farms operating in India, there is finally a rejection of resource-extractive industrial agriculture and a return to traditional, sustainable and ecologically safe farming.

  • Coastal communities

    On the waterfront
    India’s impoverished and marginalised coastal communities confront the challenges of liberalisation, mechanisation, commercial development and climate change.

  • Role of civil society

    Exploring the role and impact of civil society in India.

  • Intercultural dialogue

    The need for intercultural dialogue and cultural initiatives to build it.

  • Occupational safety

    On the fast lane to growth, millions of india's workers are dying or falling prey to occupational diseases every year.

  • Reporting conflict

    Are accuracy and objectivity enough in covering conflict situations?
    Or should the media frame contemporary debates in a way that also builds dialogue and peace?

  • Social exclusion

    The roots of social exclusion and battles against it.

  • Migration & displacement

    A study of moving populations in the Indian sub-continent—the displaced, dispossessed, exiled and evicted.

  • Battles over land

    All over India, the battle lines are drawn between land as commodity and land for livelihoods. How much agricultural land is actually transitioning to non-agricultural use? What are the laws governing acquisition? What is the social impact of a development-at-all-costs policy? Can those who owned and lived off the land have a stake in its development?


  • HIV/AIDS: Big questions

    • Who determines the numbers, and how?
    • What has changed for people living with HIV?
    • Why are less than 50% of those who need ART getting it?
    • Is transmission only about sex and drugs?
    • How can interventions with high-risk groups work if they are criminalised?
    • Is vaccine research in a blind alley?

  • Women & work

    A recent report of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector reveals that 395 million Indians work in the unorganised sector. 79% of these workers live on an income of less than Rs 20 a day. Many of the workers in this vulnerable and impoverished sector are women, who face the additional inequalities of gender. This issue of Agenda uncovers, explores and recognises the work and contribution of millions of these Indian women.

  • Child rights in India

    Over a third of India's citizens are children in the 0-18 age-group.Despite the fact that we have this huge child population, and despite the poor indicators for children's health, education, development and very survival, children's issues get peripheral attention in India. This dossier examines the status of India's children, their rights, and the delivery systems available for the realisation of these rights.

  • Cost of liberalisation

    Can trade be a catalyst for poverty reduction? Are the rules of global trade free and fair? What does trade have to do with the crises in Indian agriculture and livelihoods?

  • Hunger & food security

    A quarter of India's population lives below what has been termed a 'starvation line'.

    Why are chronic hunger and under-nutrition still so widespread?

    Why have foodgrain and calorie consumption actually fallen in the last 15 years of structural adjustment?

  • Climate change

    The big challenge of the new millennium. How is climate change linked to energy use? How can India's galloping economic growth and insatiable appetite for energy be balanced with environmental security?

  • Sexual rights in India

    Between the media hype and the moral policing where is sex and sexuality located? Activists engaged with sexuality issues in India debate the question.

  • The politics of water

    Who controls water resources? How much is water worth today? Who suffers as a result of water scarcity, and who gains? Is water a social good or an economic good?

  • Access to healthcare

    The cost of healthcare is spiralling Government spending on healthcare is shrinking The impact on the poor is catastrophic: They are being wiped out in their struggle to access healthcare.

  • Industrial pollution

    20 years after the world's worst industrial disaster, many more Bhopals are waiting to happen. Why has so little changed?