Pakistan has twice as many women MPs in India


Times of India
Reservation to ensure fair representation of women in national legislative bodies seems more the norm than the exception globally, with almost 100 countries having some kind of quota system or the other in place. India happens to be in a minority group of over 20 countries that have no system at all to ensure a more gender-balanced national legislature. Hopefully that is soon set to change.

The average proportion of women in the national legislature is 18.5% for the Asian region, considered low by international standards, but almost twice as high as in India (11%). Even within South Asia, only Sri Lanka with 6% has a worse record. Both countries have no quota system for women in their parliaments.

In Pakistan, 22% of the National Assembly seats are held by women, made possible through the quota policy that reserves 17.5% of seats for women. In Nepal, the proportion of women members is 33% thanks to the constitutional stipulation that women must constitute at least 33% of the candidates and electoral laws that mandate that 50% of any party’s candidates should be women. In Bangladesh, a constitutional amendment was brought in to reintroduce quotas for women, by which 45 seats out of the total 345 seats are reserved for women. Following the 2008 election, Bangladesh’s parliament has 65 women MPs, which is 19% of the total seats. Incidentally, China has 21% women in the National People’s Congress without any quota policy.

Rwanda, which has reserved seats for women, happens to be the only country in the world with more women (56%) than men in their national legislative body. This is followed by Sweden with 47%, South Africa (45%), Iceland (43%), Argentina (42%), the Netherlands (41%) and Norway and Senegal with 40%. In the list of 11 countries with the highest representation of women in their national legislature, five (Sweden, South Africa, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway) have voluntary political party quotas for women. Angola and Costa Rica, both with 37% seats occupied by women, have electoral laws granting quotas. Only two countries in the list Denmark (38%) and Senegal have no quota system.

The widely accepted benchmark to ensure a critical mass of women parliamentarians is 30%. Yet, the proportion of women in parliaments globally stood at just 18.8% in December 2009, according to the Inter parliamentary Union (IPU). By July 2008, 21 countries had successfully met the 30% critical mass target and about a quarter of these were Nordic countries known for long-standing efforts to increase the participation of women, according to the Parliamentary Research division of Canada. Another quarter were so-called post-conflict countries, which took advantage of rebuilding efforts to implement electoral reforms and political party practices, thus jump-starting the effort to boost the representation of women.

It was also noted that a majority of countries that reached the 30% benchmark had done so through measures such as proportional representation systems and electoral quotas. Countries that rely solely on the usual majority electoral system show low levels of representation of women.

The data put together on countries with quota mandated through electoral law or the constitution also indicates that having strict legal sanctions for contravention of the quota system also can show results. For instance, in Argentina, where party lists that do not comply with the electoral law will not be approved, the proportion is 42%. In Belgium, where if a party fails to comply with the gender composition , their list shall be refused by electoral authorities.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-9T

Indian man faked attack to claim insurance: Australian police


– Time of India

MELBOURNE: The Indian man, who said he was attacked and set ablaze by assailants here, had falsely reported the incident for claiming insurance, Australian police alleged today.

Jaspreet Singh, Grice Crescent, Essendon, in the city’s north, faced an out-of-sessions hearing today before a bail justice at St Kilda Road police complex charged with making a false report to police and criminal damage with a view to gaining a financial advantage, the Sky News TV said.

Singh, who is in Australia on his wife’s student visa, told police that he was doused with petrol and set alight as he parked his car near his home early on January 8.

Singh, 29, was taken to the Alfred hospital with 15 per cent burns, affecting his face, arms and hands.

Detective Senior Constable Danielle O’Keefe of the arson and explosives squad told the hearing Singh suffered the burns while trying to torch his 2003 Ford Futura.

O’Keefe said arson chemists and hospital staff had concluded the damage to the car, Singh’s clothes and his injuries were not consistent with his story.

“Police inquiries have led us to believe that Mr Singh is in some financial difficulty and that he intended to sell his car but instead stood to gain USD 9,750 from an insurance claim out of this particular incident,” she told the hearing.

The January 8 incident occurred amid growing tension between India and Australia over a spate of violence against Indian students in recent months here.

Police had obtained security footage depicting Singh buying a 15-litre opaque plastic container and 15.96 litres of petrol on the day before the attack. The container and other evidence were found at his unit when he was arrested yesterday, O’Keefe said.
However, Singh has denied all allegations. His wife had been questioned about her knowledge of the incident, she said.

Burns were still obvious on Singh’s face and neck, and he wore pressure bandages on his arms.

Through an interpreter, Singh told the hearing he and his wife planned a holiday to India, leaving on February 20 and returning in late April to visit his child and extended family.

O’Keefe said while police did not oppose bail it has been noted that Singh was a potential flight risk.

The justice, who declined to be named, granted him bail with strict conditions banning him from contacting witnesses and attending points of international departure.

He must report to police three times a week and surrender his passport. He will appear before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on March 15.

At the time, police Detective Acting Senior Sergeant Neil Smyth described the attack as “a bit strange” and said there was no evidence the attack was racially motivated.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-9G

India’s Dirty Secret Is Flushed Out At Last


More than half of Indian population defecates in the open. More households have TV than toilets.

Rhys Blakely | Times UK

It is possibly the worst job in the world, a task so disgusting, demeaning and dangerous that it has been illegal for 17 years.

However, at least 340,000 Indians (a conservative government estimate – other experts reckon the figure is close to a million) are forced to scrape a living by cleaning up other people’s excrement.

In 1993, the practice of employing a “manual scavenger” – a job description that masks the rank grossness of the work with an Orwellian flourish – was outlawed in India. So was the building of “dry latrines” – the kind that have no flush, have to be emptied by hand, and breed diseases.

The dirty truth, however, is that three government deadlines to eradicate manual scavenging, the most recent on March 31 2009, have passed. Dry latrines are still being dug all over the country, in both rural and urban areas.

A shortage of water and space and a lack of reliable sewage systems often make them the easiest, cheapest option.

At issue, however, is more than the woeful state of infrastructure in India, a country where 660 million people still defecate in the open and more households have TV sets than have proper toilets. For the persistence of scavenging speaks to the robustness of the centuries-old caste system as much as to a chronic lack of basic sanitation.

A new report by WaterAid, an NGO, highlights the how almost all manual scavengers are Dalits, the group at the bottom of the caste hierarchy, who were formerly known as Untouchables. About 80 per cent are women.

“They will often have inherited their ’scavenging rights’ and been tasked from an early age with removing human waste from public or private toilets, which have no flushing system, to dispose of elsewhere. Men who are scavengers usually have to manually clean out sewers and septic tanks. Scavengers are paid a pittance and treated with disdain and social stigmatism,” the study says.

Ninety per cent of scavengers have no protective equipment. Diseases such as dysentery, malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis are common. Men sent down the sewers in T-shirts and loincloths often die from inhaling toxic fumes.

Social taboos complicate the business of rehabilitation. In a small village, it is hard for a former scavenger to shrug off her past. If she tries to start a small business, it is likely to be boycotted by members of higher castes.

Even before she gets that far, however, there is the issue of self worth to overcome. “Imagine how a life spent picking up s*** affects your confidence,” says Indira Khurana, the report’s co-author and WaterAid’s head of policy in India. “For these people to stand up for their rights is a difficult thing.”

Some activists suggest that what scavengers really need is relocation programmes, so they can start new lives in places where they are not known and not burdened by the accident of their birth. It sounds like something out of a spy novel, but the stigma that follows these people around is that great, they suggest.

In some areas, imaginative thinking has produced results. The mothers of the northern state of Haryana, for instance, have adopted a simple message for men who call on their daughters: “No toilet; no bride”.

The government-initiated slogan – often lengthened in Hindi to something like “if you don’t have a proper toilet in your house, don’t even think about marrying my daughter” – has been plastered on hoardings across the region’s villages as part of a drive to boost the number of proper flush lavatories.

The campaign is one of the most successful efforts to combat India’s chronic shortage of proper plumbing, local officials claim – probably because a skewed sex ratio (there are more 8 per cent more men than women) means brides are gaining more leverage in marital bargaining while women have come to resent having to defecate outside under the cover of darkess.

About 1.4 million toilets have been built in the state since it was begun in 2005, many of them with significant government subsidies. “We have more toilets, less shame among women and less disease,” said S. K. Monda, the local government official in charge of the programme.

The Haryana project offers a ray of hope that helps explain why Ms Khurana is optimistic. She says that the new India – the India that has a world-class IT industry and a space programme – is ashamed of its caste-defined past. She thinks that political pressure – Dalits constitute a powerful vote bank – is mounting and can force change – and that schemes where community members pitch in to build proper flush lavatories have been proven viable.

She also reckons that an extensive study that will document the number of scavengers in detail will expose false claims by several state governments that they have eradicated the practice and force them to act.

It is to be hoped that she is right. But even if she is, the world’s worst job seems certain to exist for some years yet.

Also read: India Drowning In Its Own Excrement

Fewer than 10 percent of Indian cities have a sewage system. Some 665 million Indians practice open defecation, more than half the global total. In China, the world’s most populous country, 37 million people defecate in the open, according to Unicef. Incredible indeed.

Read Full Article | Jason Gayle, Bloomberg

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-9f

We will not allow kangaroo cricketers in India: Shiv Sena


Australian cricketers like captain Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Matthew Hayden and Shane Watson are star attractions in the third edition of the lucrative Indian Premier League in March-April. —AFP/File Photo

NEW DELHI: An influential right-wing Hindu party in Mumbai warned on Wednesday that it would prevent Australia’s cricketers playing in parts of India because of attacks on Indians living Down Under.

Bal Thackeray, who heads the radical Shiv Sena party, said the Australians will be barred from playing in Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the state capital.

“We will not allow kangaroo cricketers to play in Mumbai and Maharashtra, till the attacks on Indians are stopped,.” the ageing Thackeray wrote in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna.’

“Our boys are being stabbed, burnt and shot at in that country and still our cricketers have no qualms in playing with them. Do they have any national pride?.”

The murder of Nitin Garg, 21, in Melbourne earlier this month caused anger among Indians in Australia and overseas, and prompted India’s foreign minister S. M. Krishna to suggest it would hurt ties.

The murder followed a spate of violence against Indian students in Melbourne over the past 18 months that has included beatings, robberies and stabbings and has threatened Australia’s education industry.

Australian cricketers like captain Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Matthew Hayden and Shane Watson are star attractions in the third edition of the lucrative Indian Premier League in March-April.

Two major cities in Maharashtra, Mumbai and Nagpur, are due to host IPL matches.

The party’s north Indian chapter also threatened to disrupt matches involving Australians in New Delhi, another IPL venue.

“We will do our best to ensure the matches in New Delhi are also cancelled,” the chapter’s head Sandeep Kulkarni told AFP. “We have very strong units across this region.”

The Shiv Sena has in the past prevented Pakistan’s national team from playing in the state for what it says is Islamabad’s backing of militant activities in India.

Thackeray praised movie legend Amitabh Bachchan for refusing an award from Queensland University in protest at the attack on students in Australia.

“I would have been happy if our cricketers too had shown similar self-respect in the matter,.” he wrote.

“But cricket has become a game of money, and self-respect and patriotism have taken a back-seat.”

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-8W

Kashmiri people Smear Dirt and naked Indian Soldiers for raping Girl


Kashmiri People caught two Indian Soldiers who where trying to rape a 17 years old Kashmiri Muslims Girl. angry Kashmiri People naked them, shaved their heads, Smear Dirt in their faces and then paraded them in the village. thousands of incident of sexual harassment and rape are taken place in last few years by Indian army of Kashmiri women but this time they learned a good lesson. you can watch below Video.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-8T

India doesn’t have a common border with Afghanistan: US


– Times of India

WASHINGTON: Contrary to India’s position that it has a legitimate boundary with Afghanistan, a top US official has said both the countries do not share a common border.

“If you look at the map, Afghanistan has a lot of neighbours. I mean, bordering neighbours. You mentioned India. India doesn’t have a common border with Afghanistan. But I’m talking about just the countries that have direct borders next to them,” said Richard Holbrooke, Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Every one of the neighbours (of Afghanistan) has a role to play here in the stabilisation and demilitarisation, ultimately, of Afghanistan. And when I say every one, I mean every one of the neighbours,” Holbrooke said.

Holbrooke’s statement is contrary to India’s position that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the country; which has its physical boundary with Afghanistan.

The part of the Kashmir which shares boundary with Afghanistan is now a part of Pakistan, other portion is Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) which has been illegally occupied by India for nearly 60 years.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-8w

India’s challenge


Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor inspects the guard of honour during the Army Day parade in New Delhi. –Reuters Photo/B Mathur

The statement by Indian army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor regarding his army’s capacity to fight a two-front war upset a lot of people in Pakistan. Both Pakistan’s army chief and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee rebutted such superfluous claims.

Pakistan’s military high command did not mince its words in dissuading its Indian counterparts from giving any thought to ‘military adventurism’, and highlighted the severe implications of this and of the Pakistan military’s capacity to respond.

Such exchanges represent the heightened tension between the two traditional rivals. For many political pundits the year 2010 does not bode well for bilateral ties. The tide of peace and amity has been reversed even though people thought that the peace process, started during Musharraf’s reign, was ‘irreversible’. At that time, one of the major reasons for hope on both sides was that a possible deal could be negotiated between an elected government in India and a military dictator in Pakistan, who, it was assumed, could carry his institution along in reaching out to New Delhi. Now things are back to square one with hawks on both sides intensifying tensions.

Kapoor’s statement and its response from Rawalpindi is not the last time that such an exchange will take place. Needless to say, such exchanges do not bode well for peace in the region.

The Indian army chief had spoken of a capability that India desires but does not possess at the moment. Taking on two neighbours militarily and ensuring a ceasefire on its conditions is New Delhi’s dream. But it does not have the capacity to translate this into reality. In fact, India does not even have the capability to successfully try out ‘cold start’, its strategy to allow the Indian military to strike specific targets inside Pakistan and pull back without incurring a high cost. The basic assumption is that if India targets terrorist training camps or headquarters in Pakistan and pulls out without holding Pakistan’s territory or annihilating its military, Rawalpindi will have no excuse to deploy nuclear weapons.

Theoretically, such an adventure is possible because it is based on another calculation that the Indian army will not waste time in regrouping but would already be regrouped to carry out a strike. Official sources believe that activating ‘cold start’ could mean Pakistan deploying nuclear weapons at forward positions or keeping them ready for use. Such a situation would result in India deploying its arsenal as well, making the atmosphere highly charged.

Thus far, the Indian strategy is not in place. It requires complete inter-services harmony and would essentially be a joint services operation which could only succeed if well simulated. So far, there is no indication that India has this capacity. There are internal problems in establishing a new force structure. The establishment of this would indicate that headway is being made in bringing necessary changes to the organisational structure.

So, should Pakistan just laugh off Kapoor’s statement? It would be wiser to understand the nuances of the statement which are more important than the actual content of what he said. It basically indicates the shifting of plates in terms of civil-military relations in India. This is not to suggest that the Indian military is getting ready for an internal coup or that it could take over politics or even wage a war on its own.

However, Kapoor’s statement is one of the many symbols of the growing significance of India’s military in the country’s security and foreign policy paradigm, particularly as far as Pakistan, China and the US are concerned. It is no longer the military of Nehru’s days that sat silently waiting for orders from Delhi as it saw the Chinese army creeping into areas India considered part of its territory.

The modern-day Indian military has access to the media and has managed to build a partnership with it to get its message across when it is in need of public pressure on the political government regarding a particular issue or policy. Furthermore, the military’s overall significance in military security decision-making has increased for a number of reasons.

First, the current lot of Indian politicians is comparatively less skilled to deal with security issues than their predecessors and so tend to seek advice from military officers on security issues. Second, given India’s desire to become a global player and its acquisition of modern technology to achieve this objective, the significance of the armed forces has increased. Third, India’s security partnership with the US has bolstered the Indian military’s significance. Finally, (as in Pakistan) senior commanders who retire from the service find jobs in think tanks. This has allowed them to influence the national security discourse in the country.

For instance, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry recently published a report on national security and terrorism proposing extreme measures. Thus, senior retired military officers and hawkish civilian experts drive the thinking of businessmen and traders who are key to peace in the region. This is indeed unfortunate and depicts a reduced capacity of the civilian sector in India to take on or oppose the military’s perspective.

From Pakistan’s perspective the important thing is that Indian politicians might find it difficult to go against their military’s opinion in case there is a crisis in the future. Not to forget the fact that both the Indian and Pakistani military have changed qualitatively as far as their class structure goes.

Greater indigenisation of the officer cadre and troops has meant larger numbers from the lower, lower middle and middle classes. One of the distinguishing features of these classes is their sympathy for socio-cultural traditions that have a significant religious flavor. Consequently, the men in uniform might view matters of war and peace differently.

Such factors as mentioned above are difficult to quantify but have a greater bearing on military planning and decision-making than what one would imagine. Under the circumstances, any misadventure or misperception could cost heavily.

These are two neighbors who do not know or understand each other and this makes an accidental conflict or some other dangerous miscalculation possible. Perhaps it is time that the two rivals began to understand each other.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.
ayesha.ibd@gmail.com

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-8u