Tag Archives: Maharashtra

Anandibai Joshee: First Indian Woman to Qualify as a Doctor in USA in 1886 – Part 1

Myself  .

By T.V. Antony Raj


The Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, founded in 1850, changed its name to the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMPC) in 1867. It was the first medical institution in the world established to train women in medicine and offer them the M.D., degree.

The Dean's Reception at the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, October 10, 1885. (Photo: Legacy Center Archives, Drexel University College of Medicine)
Dean’s Reception at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, October 10, 1885. (Photo: Legacy Center Archives, Drexel University College of Medicine)

In the above photograph taken on October 10, 1885, are three students of the WMPC. This and many other images now reside in the archives of Drexel University, which absorbed the successor to the WMCP, in 2003.

All three women became the first woman from their respective countries to get a degree in western medicine. They are:

(1) Dr.Anandabai Joshee, Seranysore, India.

(2) Dr. Kei Okami, Tokio, Japan.

(3) Dr. Tabat M. Islambooly, Damascus, Syria.

The saree-clad woman with a determined look is Anandibai Joshee from India.

Anandibai Joshi was the first of two Indian women to receive a degree in Western medicine in 1886. The other was Kadambini Ganguly, a Graduate of Bengal Medical College.

Anandibai is also believed to be the first Hindu woman to set foot on American soil. This is her story.

Anandibai Joshi in 1886. (Photo: Legacy Center Archives, Drexel University College of Medicine)
Anandibai Joshi in 1886. (Photo: Legacy Center Archives, Drexel University College of Medicine)

Anandibai was born as Yamuna on March 31, 1865, in Kalyan, in Thane District, Maharashtra, India. Her father, Ganapatrao Joshee, hailed from the orthodox Brahmin family of the Peshwas. The Joshees ran a joint family and for three generations were staying under the same roof. The family was now impoverished. They had some ancestral land and a dilapidated building.

In those days, the tradition among orthodox Brahmins was to get a girl married before she reached puberty. Otherwise, their society considered it a public disgrace to the family.

When Yamuna turned nine and nearing puberty, her parents became desperate. They did not have enough monetary resources to offer a handsome dowry. They were ready to accept any male who would marry the girl after accepting the meagre dowry which they could afford to give.

A postal clerk in Kalyan, 25-year-old Gopalrao Joshee, resided in Thane. He was a widower. Some considered him an eccentric for his romantic obsession of remarriage of widows. He also sought education of women, which was a taboo among the Hindus in India at that time. Some, even said that his first wife Savitri died, unable to bear his bullying her to read and write Marathi.

When someone suggested Gopalrao’s name as a prospective groom, Yamuna’s family immediately showed interest. The only condition laid by Gopalrao was that her parents should permit him to educate the girl. Yamuna’s family accepted his condition and fixed the marriage.

A few days, after agreeing to marry Yamuna, the romantic Gopalrao changed his mind. His idea of marrying a widow still haunted him. He left home without telling anyone with the intention of getting married to a widow in Poona. But when that woman came to know that he was an ordinary postal clerk, she refused to see him. When the dejected groom returned to Kalyan, the muhurta (auspicious moment) had passed. So, the marriage took place at a later date.

After the marriage, Gopalrao changed his wife’s name Yamuna to Anandi. He took care of his child bride almost like a father. During his leisure hours, Gopalrao started teaching Anandi to read and write Marathi. He instilled in her a desire to learn more.

It was common for Brahmins, in those times, to be proficient in Sanskrit. But Gopalrao influenced by Lokhitawadi’s Shat Patre, considered learning English more important. So, to avoid the interference of her parents in her education, Gopalrao got himself transferred to Alibag, Calcutta, Kolhapur, etc.

In due course of time, Anandi metamorphosed into an intellectual girl with an excellent knowledge of English.

Gopalrao was much impressed with the zeal of the Christian missionaries in the field of women’s education. He understood that education for women was the key to the prosperity of a nation. So, he wanted to set an example by giving a higher education to his own wife.

When Anandi was 14, she gave birth to a boy. But the baby died within 10 days due to non-availability of proper medical care. This proved the turning point in Anandi’s life. Encouraged by her husband, she vowed to become a physician.

While stationed in Kolhapur, Gopalrao met an American Christian lady missionary. Due to her influence he gave serious thought to becoming a Christian. He thought of sending his wife to America for higher education with the help of the Christian missionaries.

So, in 1880, Gopalrao sent a letter to Royal Wilder, an American missionary if he could help his wife to study medicine in America. Wilder replied that he would help in his wife’s education if he and his wife agree to convert to Christianity. The condition proposed by Wilder was not acceptable to him and his wife. However, Wilder was gracious enough to Gopalrao’s appeal in Princeton’s Missionary Review.

Mrs. Theodicia Carpenter, a resident of Roselle, New Jersey, United States, happened to read it while waiting to see her dentist. Impressed by Gopalrao’s desire to help his wife study medicine in America, she wrote to him. Anandi wrote back to Mrs. Carpenter, and a friendship sprouted from their correspondence. Anandi’s earnest desire to study medicine in America prompted her to offer accommodation for Anandi in America if she so desired. A physician couple named Thorborn suggested to Anandi to apply to the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.

In Calcutta, Anandi’s health declined. Mrs. Carpenter sent medicines from America.

In 1883, Gopalrao was transferred to Serampore, in Hooghly District, West Bengal. So, Gopalrao decided to send Anandi alone to America to pursue her medical studies, despite her poor health. She was a bit uncertain about travelling alone across the sea, but Gopalrao convinced her to set an example for other women.

Next → Anandibai Joshee: Part 2 



November 19, is World Toilet Day!

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj


“Sanitation is more important than independence.”
– Mahatma Gandhi (in 1925).


World Toilet Day


If you find the images used in this article nauseating, then I have made my point. For us, Indians and other Asians, this is life. We have to live with it.

In 2001, World Toilet Organization (WTO) declared November 19 as World Toilet Day (WTD). Today, over 19 countries observe WTD with events hosted by various
water and sanitation advocates.

In developing countries in Asia and Africa, poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually.

India has more mobiles than toilets

Though a majority of the world’s population has access to mobile phones, one third of humanity do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines, affecting the environment, human health, dignity and security, and social and economic development.

We all like food. We spend most of our income on food. We look forward eagerly to what we would eat today for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, do we ever give thought to what happens as a result of all that food we consume?

In our society and community, it is a taboo and not polite to talk about toilets. We do not want others to see the cleaning and sanitation products we use. So, we hide them. We even hide the sewer system beneath the ground.


Because one third of humanity (2.5 billion people), or one in three people living in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to clean, safe, and functioning hygienic toilets. Therefore, they do not bother to discuss the problem of sanitation. As such, sanitation remains a neglected issue with meager financial investments in water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.

In the developing countries, the cost of inaction on sanitation is high. Due to lack of toilets, men, women, the young, the sick and the elderly have to defecate in the open, in fields, in vacant lots, and even by the roadside during the day and at night. Almost 1 billion people continue to defecate in the open.

Excreting in India

Lack of access to clean bathrooms in schools deters many girls from pursuing their education after they reach puberty. In some regions, due to lack of toilets, girls do not go to school when they are menstruating. Improved sanitation facilities can have a particularly positive impact on the education opportunities of young girls, affected by the lack of privacy and cleanliness during their menstrual period. Also, lack of toilets in schools affect all learners from concentrating in the classrooms, as they have to wait for longer periods before being able to relieve themselves in privacy in a dignified manner.

Without toilets and proper sanitation the environment around homes, workplaces, markets, and hospitals, become sources of infection and diarrhoeal diseases due to millions of tonnes of human excretion.

Due to lack of improved sanitation almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases, the second leading cause of child deaths in the world. Diarrhoeal diseases caused by inadequate sanitation, and unhygienic conditions put children at multiple risks leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, high morbidity, malnutrition, stunted growth and death. Every year 0.85 million children die from diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and unimproved water cause 88% of these deaths. Studies reveal that improved sanitation can help reduce diarrhoeal diseases by about 33%.

Despite the scale of the crisis, sanitation remains a low priority for many governments.

How can we mitigate this situation?

Now, many organisations have started to discuss toilets. Investment in sanitation is becoming a priority in many international communities. Yet, because the topic of sanitation has until now been neglected to a vast extent, they wait for good solutions to the problem. New solutions and approaches to sanitation that should have been tried and tested a long time back, are starting to find support only now.

Progress depends on adequate investment and collaborative action by civil societies, multilateral agencies, academia and the private sector in developing countries by supporting national efforts to improve sanitation for all strata of their society.

To address these issues, in July 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Sanitation for All” Resolution (A/RES/67/291) designating November 19 as World Toilet Day, aims to change both behaviour and policy on issues ranging from ending open-air defection (which 1.1 billion people practice worldwide) to enhancing water management.

 Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

On July 24, 2013, Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, issued a statement on adoption of the General Assembly resolution ‘Sanitation for All.’

I am delighted and grateful that Member States have adopted a resolution officially designating November 19th as World Toilet Day. I thank the Government of Singapore for its leadership on a crucially important global issue. This new annual observance will go a long way toward raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation.

Despite progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet. Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.

Proper sanitation is also a question of basic dignity. It is unacceptable that women have to risk being the victims of rape and abuse, just to do something that most of us take for granted. It is also unacceptable that many girls are pushed out of school for lack of basic sanitation facilities.

This new resolution builds on the General Assembly’s “Sustainable sanitation: the drive to 2015”, agreed in 2010, and adds momentum to the Call to Action on Sanitation that I, on behalf of the Secretary-General, launched in March this year.

I urge every country to accelerate progress towards a world in which everyone enjoys this most basic of rights. I look forward to working with all partners to make Sanitation for All a reality.



The lack of access to decent toilet is no joke for a third of the world’s people, but a matter of life and death. No other invention has saved more lives than a toilet. Without access to toilets, many women and girls are too embarrassed to go in the open to defecate during daytime and so deny themselves relief until darkness sets in. But, trips to fields or roadside at night, however, puts them at risk of physical attack and sexual violence. So, having a toilet in or near the home lowers the risk of women and girls getting subjected to violence and rape.

Toilets mean safety.



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The Reality at Jaitapur, Mr. Hollande by Anuj Wankhede and Cressida Morley


French President Francois Hollande is making his first visit out of Europe since he was elected. And he has chosen India as a preferred destination for his visit starting 14th February.

On his radar is to sell Areva’s failed EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) nuclear reactors to India. Even as his own country has neither been able to implement the EPR reactors in France or Finland and nor has the US regulator certified it, the Indian government is eager to set up these reactors in a huge area in coastal Maharashtra – at Jaitapur – a highly bio-diverse region that needs preservation.

The carrot which the French president is dangling is the supply of fighter jets to India on “favorable” terms. The Indian government for want of more and more weapons (and probably with an eye on making some money out of the deal?) is turning a blind eye to the enormous damage this project will cause. Anuj Wankhede and Cressida Morley write about the Jaitapur protestors, who despite all efforts of the French and Indian governments, remain determined that this project will never see the light of day.

The beauty of the Ratnagiri coastline and surrounding area has to be seen to be believed. Any government official from DAE to NPCIL would be crazy to think of destroying or even putting at risk this kind of natural biodiversity. It is already established that Maharashtra state itself does not require any more electricity than is already being produced and the Chief Minister himself is on record as saying that the state will be free of any load shedding by the year end.

So for whom is the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) being built?

Certainly not for the local people, the fishers, farmers and ordinary people whose livelihoods will be destroyed and their lives threatened. The government tells us that nuclear power is needed for ‘development,’ but the people who will be directly affected by JNPP have a very different ideas of what development is and whom it should benefit.

The fishing village of Sakhri-nate, is just a few kilometers by road from the proposed JNPP site – only 3 kilometers as the crow flies. You can see the site clearly just across the sea.


Slogans such as ‘No nuclear’ and ‘Areva go back’ are painted on walls all around the village and the people against JNPP vehemently say they are prepared to give their lives rather than allow the plant to come up. Recent newspaper reports have shown just how desperate NPCIL is to do a deal with the fishers by raising the compensation for land acquisition to Rs. 22.5 lakh per hectare from Rs.1.5 to 4 lakh announced previously.

But the fishers are adamant…it doesn’t matter how much they are paid when their livelihoods, their community, in fact their very lives are on the line.

Most of those opposed to the plant in Sakhri-nate are fishers but there are people of different professions as well, showing that it is not just a direct concern for livelihood but a much wider fear that JNPP will in fact destroy their lives and community. The activists have detailed knowledge of how the JNPP will affect their lives. For fishers, this knowledge may not be scientific in the academic sense of the word, but every day they observe the sea intimately as their lives literally depend on it. The knowledge that they have gained through long experience cannot be easily dismissed.

The fishing community is concerned that the effluent water used for cooling the nuclear plant – which will be pumped back into the sea at a temperature – at least 5-7 degrees Celsius higher than the natural temperature – will have a disastrous effect on the fish population and their breeding. The Government is trying to assure the fishers that a rise in seawater temperature would not affect the fish, except possibly to make them bigger! Obviously, the fishers are not buying this at all. They claim that the fish that presently inhabit their fishing ground will not be able to live in such a changed environment. Even if these fish are able to swim away to other areas of the sea, shellfish, for example cannot escape so easily and will surely perish. Perhaps, different species of fish will come to the area due to the raised temperatures but this also represents an unknown for the fishers. In any case, they refuse to believe that the environment will simply remain the same with such enormous quantities of heated water being pumped into the sea. As one fisher put it, even a refrigerator emits heat which can affect the surrounding air temperature and living things, so how can the government claim that an entire nuclear power plant will have no impact on the environment?

Others have expressed fears of terrorism and natural disasters.

The cliffs surrounding Sakhri-nate, directly opposite the proposed site for JNPP, are spectacular to say the least. The solid rocks here weather the eternal beating of the sea waves. Yet, this rock was split wide apart by lightening and electrical storms that are common in the area. It’s easy to imagine similar lightening bolts falling just a few kilometers away, and the damage they would do to a nuclear reactor. It would be a disaster of unimaginable proportions indeed.

The Reality at Jaitapur - Crack in rockEspecially after Fukushima, the fear of accidents is very real and no amount of government assurances has convinced the activists that JNPP will be totally safe. The level of distrust towards the government is very high and palpable. Activists claim that the government contradicts its own reports and does not disclose ‘inconvenient’ information besides they feel the government is least concerned about the locals.

Rather than the government, Sakhri-nate fishers would rather believe their fellow fishers from another part of the state – Tarapur. They have travelled to nearby Tarapur which as the site for the first nuclear reactor to be built in India and they have seen what the nuclear power plants have done to the fishing catch. The fishing community at Tarapur is practically out of business due to the low catch and the enforced security ring around the plant which forces them to take long detours into the sea and which entails huge costs on diesel – not to mention the time spent.

At Tarapur, the locals were told 40 years ago that the Tarapur NPP was a matter of national pride. The local community and fishermen in that area gladly agreed to its construction, fully believing government assurances that the fish and environment would not be affected and that they would be adequately compensated. They have since been thoroughly betrayed and have warned their fellow fishers near Jaitapur to fight against JNPP – lest the same fate befalls them. The information received by the Sakhri-nate fishers from the Tarapur fishers is based on their bitter experiences and a shared understanding of the sea and the environment, both of which are integral parts of their lives and livelihoods. Who would you rather believe—the actual experience of your peers or the theoretical science of distrusted governments?

Ideas on development: worlds apart

The rift between the local community, dead-set against the NPP and the government, equally determined to build it, is not just about differing information and mistrust. There is a more fundamental difference in worldview between these two parties. While the government’s idea of ‘development’ focuses on achieving ambitious electricity generation, attracting foreign capital and making more and more ‘goods’ for an ever-expanding market, the fishers of Sakhri-nate have different ideas.

The Reality at Jaitapur - no-nuclear

As one local explained “We are already developed. We don’t need anything more; we have full employment in the village. Even disabled or illiterate people have jobs, mending fishing nets etc. We have enough electricity; all we ask is that the government allows us to pursue our livelihoods. We have enough money to live well now, as fishing is a lucrative industry, but if we loose our livelihood, we will have nothing.”

Others said that if development was needed at all in their village, it should be in the form of increased educational facilities – including vocational schools – so that their children would get better employment opportunities – if they choose to. There are also calls for growth which minimizes environmental destruction and which compliments local industries such as food processing factories for the fish and mangoes, also produced in large quantities in the Jaitapur area. The already present ice factories, which provide ice to pack the fish so they can be sent to different parts of the country, are another obvious example of this type of development.

It would seem that the government has underestimated the level and type of knowledge and information that the local community has or even tried to understand their concerns – leave alone address them. This is not to mention the high income and living standards enjoyed by the fishermen who do not want this so called lop sided “development” at such high risks.

But most of all, the official model of development is being called into question: Why should large-scale industrial projects be encouraged, in this case a foreign-funded project that carries a risk of unimaginable destruction, and why should local communities be required to sacrifice their lives and livelihoods for lighting up city malls while the locals who are being affected by the project will still have only erratic power supply – just as is the case at Tarapur?

The Reality at Jaitapur - Areva go back

(The views expressed in the article are the personal views of the authors and not those of any organization or institution.)

Reproduced from DiaNuke.org



“Slum free India! – The Dream” by Nipesh Narayanan

   By Nipesh P. Narayanan

  • Published by Human Settlement Management Institute under HUDCO in collaboration with UN-HABITAT, Habitat for Humanity on the occasion of world habitat day 2012. (October 2012 edition) http://hudco.org/writereaddata/shelter.pdf (Page 41)

Ever since the honourable president announced the vision for a slum-free [1] India this had been the limelight of discussion in the intelligentsia in social, and urban development field. One of the most shocking revelations came when the Parekh Committee stated that five years were too less for this dream to come true. Even so, the positive side to this was that those five years were the first phase for the realization of the dream. By following a structured methodology, this dream is quite achievable.

There are a few myths that need to be broken off before we proceed, and there needs to be a paradigm shift.


When we say slums, we talk about a place which more than 93 million [2] people call their home. When India has an upper hand in the global economy through a demographic dividend, every eighth child up to six years-old lives in a slum; thus, making the situation grave. However, before we set to solve the problem we need to have a better understanding of the problem itself. Undoubtedly, slums have many negative things, but there are many positives to it, which we need to preserve. Preservation of these positives is all the more important; even majority of the planned development in urban India, lacks them.

Social Structure

Slums in general have an intricate social structure. The organic nature of the slums helps in building strong interpersonal relationships. It should be noted that in current times one even refuse to recognise the next door neighbour in an apartment while an entire gully in a slum lives like a family [3]. The alley (gully) in a slum is the most vibrant and important open space. During the different times of a day, the street transforms itself into various functions according to the needs of the occupants, acting like a strong social spine for the community within and the neighbouring locality.

EXAMPLE: Major community interaction happens on the street. Women dominate the street in the mornings sharing the space for daily activities – from washing clothes to cutting vegetables. In the afternoons, the kids who return from school play in the gully where every member of the community can keep an eye on them. By evening, the male members sit outside and discuss work [4].

Street as a living room

One of the most talked about slum redevelopment is Maharashtra’s SRA schemes where the builder gets the right to the land after the completion of houses for the slum dwellers. Taking from SRA schemes in Pune, the flats created for the slum dwellers completely ignore the social structure. One of the main reasons for this to happen is because there is no participatory planning process. The SRA scheme has a very good process in place for informing the slum dwellers on what they are getting, but there is no process in place for the community to get involved at the design stage; thus the resulting design is the outcome of an architect’s vision who has never lived the way the community lives. A stark difference can be seen in the city of Sangli, just coupleof hours from Pune; where an NGO ‘Shelter Associates’ have involved the community in the design process through GIS and other architectural tools. The design of new homes for slum dwellers in Sangli demonstrates how the social structure of the community can be enhanced by the involvement of the community which thereby improves the local environment.

EXAMPLE: In a typical architectural logic, interiors of a house should not be visible to the other house, so generally apartments and flats are staggered to avoid the entrances facing each other, which is a good design practice in usual scenario. However, experience from the slums clearly shows that the first level of the interior space of a house in a slum is permeable and needs community access. This particular issue and many other such nuances are unacceptable for a normal architectural mind, and therefore, the community needs to be involved in the design from the beginning.

Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) has a very detailed chapter on community participation, also it requires 70% community consensus for a project to go ahead. However, the biggest road block for this is the lack of capacity in ULBs, also there is only a handful of CBOs working in the housing sector which aggravates this problem.

Lack of sanitation in slums – Jawaharlal Nehru Camp Delhi
Lack of sanitation in slums – Jawaharlal Nehru Camp Delhii


The organic layout of the slums produces a mix of different-sized houses, thus addressing the varied demands of the slum dwellers, including rental options. It should be noted that one size won’t fit all in this sector. A slum is not a homogeneous entity; the heterogeneity of a slum is what is difficult to replicate in a new development. The mix of different types of housing and commercial options is based on the market demand. In a slum, there is a differential mix of both commercial and housing. Whereas in housing itself there is a wide range:

  1. Different size of houses
  2. Rental houses/rooms
  3. Dormitories
  4. Single room tenements

The proportions of different types in this heterogeneous entity vary from place to place in a city itself. This mixed character needs to be preserved whenever an intervention is done in a slum.

EXAMPLE: JNNURM established the minimum size for a dwelling to be 25 sq m. But what is more important and determines the quality of life in a dwelling unit is the per person area. Many slums have 6-10 people staying in a house, thus providing them with a 25 sq m house means that one person gets a maximum of 4 sq m, which is worse than providing a 15 sq m room for single occupancy. Thus, any slum redevelopment project should consider a mix of different housing typologies that need to be incorporated. Based on the location, there should be a mix of typologies between dormitories to joint family units.

Sculptors in Gulbai Tekra Ahmedabad
Sculptors in Gulbai Tekra Ahmedabad


As the general rule goes: almost always there is no one who is unemployed in a slum! One of the main reasons for the focus of in situ redevelopment in RAY is to retain the livelihood options of the community which has developed over the years. Keeping the location intact is not an action enough to keep the livelihood of the community. Slums in general have a varied occupational involvement and in that regard, every slum is different from each other. While designing for a slum the spatial needs for these occupations and its related activities need to be taken care of individually.

EXAMPLE: Every slum is involved in different economic activities.

The slum of Sunder Nagari in Delhi is extremely a shoe making community. Each house is a mini factory and loads of different-sized shoes are produced in each house, thus there is a need for different spatial design of these houses in case of redevelopment.

Similarly, Gulbai Tekra in Ahmadabad mainly consists of sculptors. Now this is a different case from Sunder Nagari because in Gulbai Tekra, the houses are normal, but the community space (or the clustering of the houses) is articulated in a manner to create workshops for these artifacts. Furthermore, there are special spatial requirements like protecting the sculptures from sun and rain.

These examples are presented to emphasise that there is more to livelihood than location.

Considerable Increase in self investment for housing after SNP in Sharif Khan ni Challi in Ahmadabad
Considerable Increase in self investment for housing after SNP in Sharif Khan ni Challi in Ahmadabad


When one talks about getting rid of the slums, then it is a huge number; the magnitude of it itself is enough to understand that simply eradicating slums and rebuilding from scratch will never solve the issue. As of now India has very limited resources and limited time to achieve the goal, thus we need to concentrate on improving the conditions of the existing stock and build new stock. For the initial first phase there need to be a strategic approach towards the slums; it is Utopian and unachievable to look forward towards completely rebuilding each and every slum in India. A participatory approach with the community private players and experts in this field should be applied.

Conservative surgery[5]

Majorly a slum’s pressing three issues are

  1. Sanitation
  2. Basic services like water and electricity
  3. Structural safety and quality of the dwelling unit

Thus it makes complete sense to first tackle these issues.

Health-related issues are predominant in the slums, so a sanitation plan needs to be made with community participation. A multidisciplinary team [6] with the help of a community-based organization shall be involved in this process. Community knowledge can be used regarding the flooding pattern and local bottlenecks for devising an efficient servicing system without demolishing existing houses.

With a sanitation network in place, it becomes easy for laying water and electricity lines taking safety into consideration.

Structural safety and quality of dwelling units are a tricky issue. Most of the slums are self constructed, thus the best way to influence the quality of these structures is through training masons. Masons have a trust factor in these communities and imparting basic knowledge of quality construction practices and rules to them will have a big impact.

EXAMPLE: Indore and Ahmadabad have implemented a successful slum networking program (SNP), which is a partial example of a conservative surgery approach. Sharif Khan Pathan ni Chaali in Ahmadabad was one of the first few slums to be tested with SNP. Basic services and sanitation were laid with community involvement through the NGO SEWA-MHT and the work completed in 2000. After the SNP program there has been a considerable increase in investment in the improvement of the quality of the houses by slum dwellers themselves. Moreover, the quality of life has tremendously increased after the initiative.

Exposed walls show the bleak structural safety of houses in Sunder Nagari Delhi
Exposed walls show the bleak structural safety of houses in Sunder Nagari Delhi

Additional housing stock

India has a housing deficit of 25 million and 98% of this deficit is in EWS category; and with 2.07 % urban growth rate this deficit is bound to increase. Thus, there is no option but to add to the housing stock.

Subsidised houses or free houses create perverse incentives, and the repercussions are known to everyone. Instead there should be a diverse option for all the income levels and family types. Everyone need not own a house. If a person is economically weak, then there should be an affordable rental option available, rather than subsidising a house for ownership, the subsidy should go into the process of establishing affordable rental options. The new development should allow community management through the creation of cooperatives. In terms of owning a house, those who can access finance (or self-finance) can own a house directly and those who are not can also be given a choice on rent to ownership model.

In order to achieve the dream of a slum-free India, we need to be innovative and be practical in our approach. Terms like cut-off-date need to be removed and an approach based on self-selection should be developed for the slum dwellers. Initiatives should be devised, which could become a catalyst for quality improvement and any initiative should be judged through a social equity lens.

Hope we soon have better and adequate housing for all.

[1] The term ‘slum’ used throughout the article refers to urban slums as defined by Pronab Sen committee report [2010]

[2] Census [2011]

[3] This and further observations in this article on communities in slums is based on authors experience in studying slums in different parts of India.

[4] Based on study of street activity in the slums of ‘Sunder Nagari’ in Delhi and ‘Baba Lui Jhoparpatti’ in Ahmadabad by the author.

[5] Conservative surgery is an urban design methodology developed by Sir Patrick Geddes

[6] A multi disciplinary team should consists at least of (but not restricted to) architects, urban designers and planners, sociologists, Lawyers, economists and community members

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Exodus of People from Northeastern States Back to Their Native Places


Myself By T.V. Antony Raj


Thousands of workers and students from Assam and other northeastern states living in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala have already left for their native places. This was due to the threat spread via SMS, that a set of miscreants probably would seek them out after Eid. This has prompted the Assam government to stay on high alert to reduce recurrence of violence after Eid.

On Sunday, August 19, Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam convened a high-level emergency meeting attended by the State Chief Secretary N.K. Das, Director General of Police J.N. Chaudhury, three former DGs of Assam law enforcement and government officials. The Chief Minister informed them that in Jalpaiguri area of West Bengal, miscreants killed four people and injured at least nine others in an Assam-bound special train originating from Bangalore. The train that was among three Bangalore-Guwahati specials, which were coming to Assam, had reached Guwahati that Sunday morning.

The chief Minister then told them that Assam government had dispatched officials to Jalpaiguri area to find out what exactly triggered the death of the four people. He said that occurrence of fresh violence that could erupt as soon as the Eid festivity comes to an end in the state worried him. He asked his officials to set up a contingency plan straight away to meet any emergency that could happen in the next few days.

In the meantime, the Assam government has asked the Indian Railways not to offer any more special trains from any state to Guwahati for the panic-stricken people from the region. The Chief Minister said most people who had come due to panic were now eager to return to their workplaces and educational institutes outside the state.

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Manual Scavenging in India

Myself .

 By T.V. Antony Raj


The images I have used in this article are real. I accept the fact that they are nauseating. If you too feel so, then I have made my point. Manual scavenging is in vogue not only in India but is rampant all over South Asia. For us Asians, this is life. We have to live with it.



It was a hot afternoon. I was waiting for the bus in Kodambakkam – the home of Kollywood in Chennai. Like others, I too pressed my handkerchief to my face to ward off the stench emanating from the heap of reeking night soil lying nearby.

Then I saw this old man around 70, with only a loincloth to cover his body, his right hand groping into the clogged drain of a septic tank.


Source: Anonymous


My heart bled for him. I drew out a ten rupee note from my shirt pocket and stretched it towards him.

He looked up at me. His face glowed with anger. He murmured a few loathsome phrases from his gutter language. Clenching his fist, he shouted, “Hey man, who did you think I am? I’m not a beggar!

Before I could apologize, the old man started ranting:

Ayyaa [Sir], I am an old man and I don’t know when I was born. I do an honest job. My work is clean. My father too was a scavenger. I don’t remember doing any other work. I have three girls and one boy. Two girls are married, the third is a widow, and she lives with us. My son is a useless fellow. He steals at home and loafs around with his good-for-nothing friends. I don’t know how; he sniffs my liquor wherever I hide it. I had an eye operation only two weeks ago. If I sit at home, who will feed my wife, daughter, and son?

This is only one story of the terrible plight of athe manual scavengers in Chennai.

This made me think of the caste system in India. While there are just four main castes, and more than 20,000 sub-castes. Then what about the sub-sub-castes, clans, and a multitude of other mutations?


Manual Scavenging - 01


The above photo is a still from the documentary movie titled “MANUAL SCAVENGING CONTINUES” that appeared along with the article “The inhuman practice of manual scavenging lives on” published in ibnlive.in.com on August 14, 2011.

Here is another story of the terrible plight of manual scavengers in Pandharpur, Maharashtra.

Gurunath works all day amidst the extremely unbearable stench of night soil. He often stays dead drunk to do his work. At times, he finds it difficult to eat when he thinks about the human waste he has wallowed in. He has asthma. Many of these cleaners succumb to asthma and the life expectancy of many in their community is just 30 years.


Source: Anonymous


In Punjab, men belonging to lower castes, particularly from the Chuhar, Mehathar, Halalkhor, Lalbaghi, Bangi, Thotti and Jamadar castes, are widely employed as manual scavengers and sewage cleaners. These caste subgroups generally called Valmikis, are the lowest of the low in the caste hierarchy.

Jaikumar, who runs a public primary school in Punjab, says:

“A lot of children in the school come from migrant families. Everyone thinks that Punjab is a prosperous state but the truth is that we have our own problems. There are a lot of people who can’t afford to have two meals a day and especially the dalits, the migrants and the people who are surviving on less than minimum wage …  Members of my community are poor and there are high levels of illiteracy. They aren’t aware of the dangers attached to these jobs or of other opportunities available. It is crucial that they be educated about the risks involved. Only then will they be empowered to demand safety equipment and even an end to this practice altogether.”

Here is a video made by Jaikumar that highlights the dangers of this work. This video shows two manual scavengers killed while working without any safety masks or gloves which necessarily have to be provided by the government.



In India, 90 to 95 percent of people belonging to the scavenger communities engage in this abominable undignified work. The drains often contain an abnormally high percentage of carbon monoxide, methane, hydrogen sulphide and other toxic gasses. When cleaners are directly exposed to these gasses they fall sick and even, as the above video shows, die immediately. But most manual cleaners do not know that on every waking day their lives are under threat.

Why should human beings, citizens of democratic India work day after day surrounded by the unbearable conditions and stench of human waste?

What happened to the 1993 law banning the practice?


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Is manual scavenging a result of India’s caste divide?


Sagarika Ghose Sagarika Ghose, CNN-IBN


Sagarika Ghose: The story of Prabhu and Guru Dhodiya and the terrible plight of manual scavengers. They do their job standing all day in human waste, standing in the unbearable extreme stench of night soil; they often have to stay dead drunk to do this job. They are sometimes unable to eat because of the human waste they are surrounded by. Many of them get asthma and the life expectancy is 30 years for many in their community. Our sister channel IBN Lokmat reported on manual scavengers in Pandharpur, Maharashtra leading the Maharashtra government to reinforce a ban. Actor Aamir Khan has also taken up the issue with the PM and on his show Satyamev Jayate. But despite the law, despite the ban, why is manual scavenging continuing.

Sagarika Ghose

Day after day working in the unbearable conditions and stench of human waste. Why should human beings, citizens of democratic India have to do this? Why is it that manual scavenging is increasing in India in spite of a 1993 law banning the practice?

Joining us Asim Sarode, he is a lawyer of High Court and Human Rights activist, Pradip More, convenor of the campaign against Manual Scavenging in Maharashtra, from Pune we have S Anand, Publisher of Navayana. And Paul Divakar, General Secretary of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR). Thank you very much for joining us.

We will also get you the views of Mukul Wasnik, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, to whom I spoke to earlier. When I spoke to Mukul Wasnik, I asked him why in spite of the law, in spite of the government efforts – why is manual scavenging still continuing, in fact increasing? Did it require an Aamir Khan to wake up the government on the issue of manual scavenging?


Mukul Wasnik: It didn’t require anybody to tell the government as to what needs to be done. Basically the government has been attending to this as a national priority recently after the data of census 2011 became available where it was pointed out that all most about 26 lakh insanity latrines exist. We thought it would be better for us to call collectors from various districts where the incidences are on the higher side. Similarly our present approach will be compared to what we did in 1993, when the law was enacted basically keeping the sanitation in mind. This time we are preparing a draft, rather a draft is already under circulation for inter-ministerial consultation, which will be base on human dignity. This we are attending to as a national priority. And by national priority, I mean, we take such issues on war footing. And when I say we take up these issues on war footing means that other things can wait but this cannot. People who would like to join in this campaign are most welcome and I am happy that Aamir Khan had taken up this in one of his programmes. But he was also telling me in one of the conversations that in his 47 years, 46 were such where he was totally not aware about this issue existing. But let many more people join this.

Sagarika Ghose: You are speaking about a new law on this but there is already a 1993 law banning the practice of manual scavenging and there has been no punishment. No one has been convicted for practicing manual scavenging. Will this new law be implemented and effective?

Mukul Wasnik: It will provide survey of manual scavengers, it will provide their rehabilitation and it will provide cognisable offences, non-bailable offences, with penalties which will be appropriate for a crime like this.

Sagarika Ghose: What about political will, activist say that there is no political will to act against manual scavenging?

Mukul Wasnik: See, Sagarika, I have just mentioned to you and I will again repeat that it is not about political will. We are addressing this issue with total seriousness. But I will just mention to you that these are the people who are living on the margins of society. They may be on the remotes corner of the village or in a remotes corner of an urban pocket; we have to reach out to them, not only the government but the society. As a nation we have to reach out to them. And with concerned efforts with all the concerned people, I think, the day will come sooner than later.

Sagarika Ghose: But the explain to me, why is it so difficult to eradicate this practice? Why is the government up against so many odds? Why is it so difficult to tackle it head on?

Mukul Wasnik: This is a very deep rooted, this is in the remotes corners of villages, and in the urban pockets. This is going on for generations, ages have witness this kind of thing and therefore to come out of this we will have to provide proper training to the manual scavengers. We will have to provide them with sufficient resources to come up with alternative self employment measures so that once they are out of this they can live their life with dignity. And that is the way we are trying to address this thing.

Sagarika Ghose: The minister there, Mukul Wasnik talking about what the government plans to do to eradicate manual scavenging. He was talking to me a little earlier. Let’s now turn it over to our panel. Asim Sarode, you are lawyer of the High Court, you are a human rights activist, do you find minister’s (Mukul Wasnik) comments convincing? Do you feel that the government will act, can act, can the law be implemented?

Asim Sarode: Sagarika, I beg to differ from the minister because actually what he is saying is very misleading. The act is prevailing since 1993, the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. But ask the minister to show one punishment which happened using this law. This law is already cognisable, then why are they making a new law? What is the need of the new law? I am sensing suspicion on the presentation of the new law on this issue. Because they are trying to make hazardous manual cleaning of safety tanks and latrines. So why are they adding this hazardous thing in the definition, because they want to escape from the responsibility that this is not hazardous and this is hazardous. See manual scavenging is itself hazardous. It is degrading, it is inhuman and it is anti-human, so they should completely ban rather then creating spaces to escape from the responsibilities. He have filed a case in December 2011, and three hearings took place in High Court but no government official was present. This is there sense of responsibility.

Sagarika Ghose: They have completely insensitive approach. Let me get in Mr Pradip More as well, Pradip More do you agree with those comments that are being made. That in fact government is not serious, there has not been a single conviction for anyone who is employing manual scavenger.

Pradip More: Yes, we need to see all these facts that in spite of this act and also before this act came he had various committees, and commissions were appointed to see this inhuman practice in India. Like Barkway Commission, we have Lord Committee, we had Malkana Committee. Many committees had given so many recommendations to the government but government was insensitive to see all this. And of course there are many charges that the workers are doing all this. The authorities are saying them to do this but they are doing this. All these practises are with the sense of untouchability

Sagarika Ghose: It is because of untouchability because of social discrimination. Let me put to Paul Divakar, you know, the shocking illustration that we have shown that you have to stay drunk to do that all day. Day after day you are standing neck deep in human waste, the most degrading practice. Now is cast prejudice the reason why there is so much apathy?

Paul Divakar: It is definitely trans based discrimination, it is just the panicle at the end. The worst form of discrimination is forcing people who are meant… as you know cast is meant for pollution and think to do with death, anything to do with unclean, these are the things which are thrust upon untouchables. And one think, we need to pull up the government is leave the society alone for a while. What is the government doing specially with the Railways? Today you have the entire track, I think, lakh of kilometres, and Railways has not done a single think today to have a sensible system of sanitation. And you have all the tracks right along (*) shit all along the way. So make that first the national priority and say from 2012-2013 you are going to fix the system. Every Railways in the world, Railways has managed this. Why is it that Indian government which is so developed is not able to have a system. So some where it is not just the society. There is a will that needs to be harnessed and government can’t tolerate this kind of cast based discrimination.

Sagarika Ghose: It’s cast based discrimination which is leading to the apathy. You were telling me about the sewer workers who are also a part of sub-cast scavengers. And you were saying that they are forced to do it. It is assumed that there cast is as such that they have to go down the sewer.

S Anand: Sagarika the larger thing is, whether we raise it on this panel or Aamir Khan talks about it, the crux of the issue is that it is a part of a larger ideological apparatus, which sustains the entire cast system. It is about the cast occupation nexus in society. So it is no surprise that due to urbanisation you have these sewer lines in Delhi, let’s talk abut Delhi. 5300 kilometres of sewer line, 9 inch diameter pipes that go down you bathroom. You put a cleaning acid, what every you are putting. People flush down sanitary pads, to condoms and even construction rubble goes to these sewer lines. Why do we do that, because these people we die… there is an estimate, which I arrived when I was doing a story for Tehelka about four years again, and it was a conservative estimate arrived with Lela Vesaria, person who is a demography expert, and she and I arrived at this figure of 22,327 deaths per year all over India. In Bombay alone according to an RTI 3,495 deaths in just 24 wards in just once city. Now if you compare it with Army people who died in Kashmir from 1990 to 2007, 5,100.

So there are sacrificing their life but they are not wearing the flag so nobody bothers. Media gets very exited when a young boy goes down the little pipe, I mean, he has to be rescued. The Army is called, you have shows. But these are workers we don’t see them. When Aarushi murder case happened, they sent two workers down the sewer to find the murder weapon. Nobody discussed that in the media. What is the middle class which is watching Aamir Khan’s show doing?

Sagarika Ghose: These are invisible people. Asim Sarode, they are invisible workers, they are invisible to us. We don’t know that they are going down the sewer everyday. They are standing neck deep in night soil everyday. They are inhaling this terrible stench everyday. And yet they don’t have rights because the society believes that is their job, they are by birth cleaners of night soil.

Asim Sarode: They are also invisible in urban areas. In rural areas they are there, in urban areas they are they; they are there on the railway tracks. So political will is absent to see them and to recognise their existence. It is not the issue of manual scavenging; it is the issue of cast based violation. It is the issue of health rights of the people who are working in unorganised sector. It is also issue of how and why they are not getting medical aid, they are not getting shelter. So what is think is if Mr Mukul Wasnik is coming up with a new bill, then the people should demand and they (Government) should also consider…there should be no legislation with out people’s consideration. People should be consulted, their opinion should be gathered and only then new bill should be presented in Parliament. Otherwise, as I pointed previously, if they insert these words like hazardous and create space to escape from responsibility that should not be done.

Sagarika Ghose: You heard Mukul Wasnik there, telling us about his solutions, that he wants to provide proper condition, provide alternative livelihood, do a survey, so do you think these solution will work or do you think much more drastic punishment is the answer?

Paul Divakar: First I feel what we can, what the government can in its own hand, they must begin to implement. There is money that is being allocated, that money is not being spent. Now the question is why the money that has been allocated from the relief and rehabilitation, elimination of the manual scavenging for the last five years, why has it not been spent ferociously in a way that you can eliminate it. Then there are wider issues where you have education, you have special component plan, which is suppose to allocated certain proportion of money… today you don’t have a legislation to implement it. Now why is it… at least, Sagarika, there are 37510 crore that are allocated every year for the development of schedule cast and schedule tribes, including some of the people we have seen on the TV. If this money would have gone for their relief, rehabilitation, education, civic amenity today we would have not these scenes.

Sagarika Ghose: But as Guru (manual scavenger) was saying he has no other option. He said this is the option he had from last four generations and his family has been doing this therefore this is what I’m going to be doing.

Paul Divakar: That is because there is a force on the people and they are forced to some of these jobs. If they refuse there is violence, they are not given job anywhere else. So on one hand there is a mind set which forces them to do this job and on the other hand the wider community says that you are not fit for any other employment. There are lawyers, advocates who do this job in the evening because they are not able to sustain themselves.

Sagarika Ghose: Forced to do the job because born into a particular community. The reform measure of Mukul Wasnik didn’t convenience you.

S Anand: Not at all because reform is an agenda which has a huge Gandhian kind of aura around it. Ambedkar was for annihilation of cast.

Sagarika Ghose: So the reality is that no Brahman will go down the sewer.

S Anand: No Brahman will ever go down the sewer. Whatever you do, even you pay them Rs 1 lakh a month as a salary. You are not going to see reform. Reform is the problematic language which the state has been speaking. Especially because of this triangle hold which I call Gandhian piety. Here is a man whose photo still adorns National Commission for Safai Karamcharis’s office and he says this, you know, you have to really see this… because that is the ideology that inflects the policy on manual scavenging.

Sagarika Ghose: It is a kind of middle class… Gandhian ideology…

S Anand: Ideology which says an ideal banghi should be able to examine night soil and tell you what is the quality of your urine and tell whether it has go germs in it. And this was at a time when Ambedkar was talking about annihilation of cast. So unless you delink occupation and case…

Sagarika Ghose: You have to delink occupation and cast. As Anand is saying that no Brahman will ever go down a sewer and stand neck deep in night soil. That is a very shocking indictment of the democratic rights of manual scavengers. No person should be a manual scavengers, we must have awareness and must pressurise government to have strict punishment for those employ manual scavenging. Thank you very much indeed, Asim Sarode, Paul Divakar, S Anand. This is because of caste discrimination that manual scavenging is continuing.

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The world has lost another Tiger

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

This is a gruesome scene photographed on May 2012.

About half of the worlds estimated 3,200 tigers are found in dozens of Indian tiger reserves set up since the 1970s.

In mid May 2012, while international and national Tiger conservationists, NGOs, and many others were busy in Delhi, counting the world’s tiger population, discussing and deliberating over cocktails in 5-star venues, poachers after trapping and killing one more tiger cut it into pieces.

This heinous carnage took place around 15 km from Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), Chandrapur, Maharashtra – the oldest and largest National Park in the state, and one of India’s 41 “Project Tiger” Tiger reserves.

Now, Maharashtra has declared war on animal poaching to curb rampant attacks against tigers, elephants and other wildlife. They have issued a “Red Alert” in the State anticipating such incidents of tiger poaching. Nevertheless, the poachers have defied them and have enacted this heinous act.

On April 26, a tiger was found killed and another seriously injured in the Tadoba reserve.

On May 18, this tiger was found cut into pieces by poachers believed to be of Bahelia community of Katni, Madhya Pradesh. The poachers took with them the head and paws of the tiger and had left the remaining body.

On May 20, three leopards were found killed. They might have died of electric shock.

After these incidents of carnage, Patangrao Kadam, the state’s Forest Minister said that the high-powered committee of forest officers took the decision to empower their state forest department guards with logistic support and orders to shoot poachers on sight in Maharashtra’s four tiger reserves. He also announced that 523 new guards will be recruited soon and deployed at four forest reserves of the state – Tadoba, Pench, Melghat and Sahyadri.

“Killing poachers won’t be considered a crime and no case will be registered if the forest staff catch them in the act and open fire. The guards have been provided with state-of-the-art arms. They will also be given 100 vehicles. The department has been given more funds for hiring informants,” Kadam said.

Further, Minister Kadam said that a CID will probe the death of two tigers at the Tadoba reserve to find out whether they were electrocuted or poached. A committee of four forest officers will conduct a parallel inquiry in to the death of the tigers.


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