I suppose it needs to be said that the literacy figures for India are simply abysmal. For women in particular it is about 60%.
But the really bad news is that that isn’t a real estimate of how many can actually read and write in India. When there was a lot of angst expressed over how India houses almost half the world’s illiterates, the government got down to work on it — of course Indian style.
They created a new official definition for ‘literacy.’ By this unique Indian method, anyone who can read and write their name is officially counted as literate!! So Sita who can write S I T A, but doesn’t know the alphabets, can’t read and write anything else, considers herself literate.
Not only that, these women even when they work and earn, have no idea of how much they are actually earning or should be earning. They have no concept of savings, or calculation of change when they go shopping and take whatever change is handed over to them. So among the 60% women literates, 84% (see below) have little or no idea of how to handle daily cash transactions!
There was a Sita who had worked as a part-time domestic help for for me for a year. She was proud to call herself “literate” and insisted on signing the pay register instead of putting her thumb print as is customary for “illiterates” in India. They are called the “angootha chchaps” (thumb printers) — an offensive term. Naturally no one wants to own it. I had about 12 ‘signatures’ from Sita, all wildly varying in shapes and proportions. She turned down repeated requests from me to allow me to teach her. She said what she ‘knew’ sufficed her. Of course I or someone was always there to fill her forms, help her with her banking etc. But she was happy and proud to say she could write. As I suppose is India!
Posted by Rita Banerji on September 8, 2014
‘Velfies’ (Selfies of people who have voted) are the trend in India now. So here is mine. That little, blue-black, ink mark is put on the left, fore-finger of all who have voted in India’s 5-week election marathon. It is non-erasable and will stay there for the next 7-10 days. There are café’s that are promising customers 10% discounts on their bill, if they flash their inked fore-finger at the cash register. A small reward for being a ‘good’ citizen I suppose. Though I don’t know how they can tell if it’s really the election booth that has put that mark on the finger. Unfortunately, even ‘good’ citizens in India have the tendency to cheat, lie and steal!
Take my neighborhood for instance, full of ‘good’ upper-middle and upper class citizens, many of who were in the voting queue with me at 6.30 a.m., complaining about ‘bad’politicians. Now I know among them were some ‘good’ neighbors who happily pay the gas delivery man a little ‘bribe’ to deliver someone else’s gas to them, because they’ve run out of theirs. Who cares if that inconveniences the other people who have followed the rules, and made the effort to book their gas cylinder ahead of time! Or the odd way my land-phone connection, and the broad band that comes with it go dead and don’t get fixed for 10 days, during which time some other ‘good’ neighbor has paid a little bribe to the phone service man to connect my line to their house. So at the end of the month, I get a massive phone bill for a connection that was dead for half the month! And then there are plenty of ‘good’ neighbors who never bother to buy a cable connection because they know some wise guy who hijacks someone else’s for them for a small fee.
It’s not that people in my neighborhood cannot afford cable, gas, phone, or internet. Most of them shell out 4-5 times what they’d have to pay for the monthly cable fee, for one dinner outing (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on May 15, 2014
As long as political parties house criminals, Indian women can never have a government that will be committed to stopping systemic violence against women.
THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN BLOG ON INDIA'S FEMALE GENDERCIDE
WHAT IS NOTA?
NOTA is a voting option provided to Indian citizens for the first time in the April 07- May 12, 2014 elections. NOTA stands for “None of The Above.”When a voter presses the NOTA button they will indicate that they are rejecting all the political parties and their candidates standing for this election.
WHY HAS THE SUPREME COURT PROVIDED THE NOTA OPTION?
Over the last two decades there has been serious concern about the escalating presence of criminals in Indian government and political parties. With each election the inclusion of these criminals increases. In the 2004 election, 24% of Members of Parliament (MPs) had pending criminal charges against them. In the 2009 election their numbers had risen to 30% with a majority of these cases carrying serious charges of rape, murder, extortion and other forms of violence against women, such as molestations, stalking, and dowry…
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Posted by Rita Banerji on April 8, 2014
THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN BLOG ON INDIA'S FEMALE GENDERCIDE
by Rita Banerji
In December 2012, when the social media was abuzz with news of the Delhi rape protests, our campaign received several messages asking why India had been totally silent on the 1984 mass rapes and killings of Sikhs in Delhi.
This is a reference to an episode in 1984, when following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards, for four days there were unchecked and organized attacks on Sikhs in Delhi and other parts of India. Since the Sikhs are a tiny community, 2% of the population and easily identified by the turbans and other clothing, they became an easy target. More than 4000 Sikhs were killed, hundreds of women were gang-raped, and homes and businesses burnt down.
A report from the CBI, (India’s Central Bureau of Investigation) shows the massacre was sanctioned and organized by the police and the…
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Posted by Rita Banerji on May 22, 2013
Buddhism is the main focus of the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2013 and the Dalai Lama is one of the chief attractions this year. So in keeping with that, I am sharing here some excerpts from the Buddhist period in my book Sex and Power (Sect II, pp.67-110). I know that the literary festival as indeed a lot of the global discussions on Buddhism focus on ahimsa (non-violence), with this idealistic vision of a harmonious society. [Read the 2nd excerpt from my book on how Buddhism impacted on social perceptions of women and sex here].
But in my book I look at how Buddhism actually was a powerful social revolution in India that became popular among the masses because Buddha openly and strongly challenged the caste based hierarchy and the superiority of the Brahmin and upper castes, as well as their social and economic exploitation of the lower castes and poorer people.
Buddhism changed the whole power structure of Indian society in the period from about 500 B.C. to 100 A.D. in a manner that was hugely radical. And even though most modern Buddhist practitioners talk about non-violence (more…)
Posted by Rita Banerji on January 25, 2013