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Articles by: Moin Qazi

A Need For Reliable Micropension

A Need For Reliable Micropension

India is home to one-fifth of the world’s population which includes a third of the world’s poor and one-eighth of the world’s elderly. Most of them spend their whole lives as informal workers and have no retirement security other than the hope that their children will care for them in their old age. This arrangement worked well as long as[Read More…]

India’s Water Woes

India’s Water Woes

 Water is the driving force of all nature. – Leonardo Da Vinci India has long undervalued one of its most precious resources—water. The country’s chronic mismanagement of water is staring at it now. Over 600 million Indians rely on the monsoon to replenish their water sources and the unpredictable nature of rain leaves them vulnerable. The country breaks out in[Read More…]

What Ramadan Teaches Me Every Year

What Ramadan Teaches Me Every Year

  O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain Taqwa [God-consciousness]  – (The Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 183) Religious fasting traditions- from Ramadan to Ekadasi to Yom Kippur and Lent -are meant to relieve believers from unburden believers from day-to-day compulsions, helping them replenish their spirituality, remember the poor,[Read More…]

Corruption: India’s Worst Curse

Corruption: India’s Worst Curse

India’s eager quest for economic dynamism has been severely stifled by chronic corruption. The country needs to urgently modernize its institutions and end the culture of rent seeking and cutting corners if it is to allow the economic wheels to roll seamlessly. Corruption is both anti-national and anti-poor because the resources meant for poverty alleviation schemes get siphoned off by[Read More…]

The original founder members-Zaibun,Minakshi and Shashikala

Rag Pickers To Entrepreneurs: How Women In This Maharashtra Village Are Empowering Themselves

I vividly remember my moment of epiphany. It was a balmy afternoon in early 1996 in Warora, a small township in northern Maharashtra. I was posted as a manager of my bank’s branch, dealing mostly with rural clients. I was busy trawling through the day’s mail and going about my tasks.Although transactions had not commenced, there was, as usual, an[Read More…]

 Zakat: Reawakening A Spirit Of Camaraderie

 Zakat: Reawakening A Spirit Of Camaraderie

  By no means shall you attain righteousness, unless you give of that which you love.  (Q 3:  92) The idea that helping others is part of a meaningful life has been around for thousands of years. For Muslims, charity is a central aspect of their faith and practice. In Islam, a culture of giving is interwoven into the fabric[Read More…]

How A Mumbai Couple Is Helping To Change The World

How A Mumbai Couple Is Helping To Change The World

Historians will tell you that a burst of creativity occurs when we start believing that the search for solutions to complex problems has come to an end. This explosion is fate’s way of reminding us that there is always something just over the curve of innovation. As the country continues to face mounting challenges, social entrepreneurs are pairing their ingenuity[Read More…]

India’s Public Banks Are Its Lifeline: Privitisation Will Ruin Them

India’s Public Banks Are Its Lifeline: Privitisation Will Ruin Them

The world’s investment leader, Warren Buffett, once said, “It’s only when the tide goes out that you realise who has been swimming naked”. When the banking system hit the rocks and the tide turned, the naked were caught disrobed. Similarly, sometimes it takes a pitch-black economy to reveal who and what in the financial firmament really shines. It is only[Read More…]

Baba Amte’s Legacy Ignites Granddaughter

Baba Amte’s Legacy Ignites Granddaughter

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. -Eleanor Roosevelt The world is witnessing a new breed of women leaders and game-changers who are gate crashing and boldly scaling new heights even as they are pairing their ingenuity and knowledge with passion for bringing lasting solutions to most pressing social challenges and creating a sustainable and[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Life/Philosophy
Mosque silhouette in night sky with crescent moon and star

The Message Of Ramadan

This is the holy month when Muslims, about one fifth of the world’s population, undergo a rigorous fast (not even a drop of water or spittle passes their throats). Muslims around the world take a journey within – to discover their inner strengths and strive zealously to subjugate their evil instincts. It is abstinence in its literal, metaphorical and allegorical[Read More…]

Malnutrition: India’s Silent Catastrophe

Malnutrition: India’s Silent Catastrophe

Despite the spectacular strides made in economic growth and having a technological boom, India still continues to struggle to attain freedom from hunger. It is bearing witness to a triple burden of malnutrition—the coexistence of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and overnutrition. According to the Economic Survey (2017-18), child and maternal malnutrition posed the most challenging health risk of our times. India[Read More…]

India’s Sanitation Revolution

India’s Sanitation Revolution

Sanitation is the key to proper hygiene, which is essential for a health and safety of the public. India’s record, especially when it comes to sanitation, has been abysmal so far. According to the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund Joint Monitoring Report (2017), more than half of the open defecation that occurs anywhere in the world[Read More…]

Aamir Khan Shepherds New Water Revolution

Aamir Khan Shepherds New Water Revolution

  Historians will tell you that an explosion of creativity occurs the moment the world starts complaining that there is nothing left to invent, or that the search for solutions has come to an end. This explosion is fate’s way of reminding us that there is always something just over the horizon of knowledge. Social entrepreneurs are now using their talent to[Read More…]

People waiting to get registered at Motihari District Government Hospital in East Champaran, Bihar. With so few doctors employed to work in the public sector of healthcare in India, this scene is typical.

India’s Public Health Crisis

  Indian economy has made rapid strides in recent year but its abysmal health system remains an Achilles heel has impeded millions of people from sharing the gains of India’s new prosperity   India has a laggardly record in its healthcare coverage. In per capita terms, adjusted for purchasing power, the public expenditure on health is $43 a year, compared to[Read More…]

India’s Schools Are Letting Down Their Students

India’s Schools Are Letting Down Their Students

  The true teachers are those who help us think for ourselves –Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan India’s education sector has expanded rapidly in the last decade but the quality of learning remains pathetic on account of unimaginative and misguided policies. The Modi government’s budget  this year was a mixed basket for the education sector, which is bogged with several serious issues aside[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Life/Philosophy
Moneylenders Still Rule The Roost

Moneylenders Still Rule The Roost

    “In general, the rural moneylender as a species has proved surprisingly resilient, even in countries such as India and Indonesia where it has been a declared objective of state intervention in financial markets to suppress him.” — Hulme and Mosley, Finance Against Poverty A sense of deep despair runs through the lives of farmers in India. They have lost[Read More…]

Fixing India’s Broken Education System

Fixing India’s Broken Education System

India’s education sector is one of the largest sunrise sectors in the economic and social development of the country. With more than 1.5 million schools — 1.1 million of them run by the Government — and more than 250 million student enrollments, the country’s K-12 school system is among the largest and most complex in the world. Between 2010-11 and[Read More…]

The Great Financial Exclusion Drive Of Banks

The Great Financial Exclusion Drive Of Banks

  The country’s largest bank, the State Bank of India (SBI), has closed as many as 41.16 lakh savings accounts between April-January in the current fiscal year for not maintaining the minimum balance, reveals an RTI query. Between April and November 2017, the bank had netted a windfall of Rs 1,771.67 crore, more than its second-quarter profit, from customers for non-maintenance[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
India Needs To Fix Its Water Woes- World Water Day -22 March 2018

India Needs To Fix Its Water Woes- World Water Day -22 March 2018

  India has long undervalued one of its most precious resources—water. The country’s chronic mismanagement of water is staring at it now. Over 600 million Indians rely on the monsoon to replenish their water sources and the unpredictable nature of rain leaves them vulnerable. The country breaks out in a cold sweat every time the monsoon is delayed. Despite these alarming signals[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Environmental Protection
India Reins Ponzi Kingpins

India Reins Ponzi Kingpins

  In 1919 Charles Ponzi, a clerk in Boston, suckered Americans with a scheme that is now identified with his name. At a time when interest rates stood at 5 percent, Ponzi offered investors a 50 percent return in just 45 days. The pitch was to buy postal coupons—used for buying foreign stamps, in a particular country, and then capitalize[Read More…]

How Civil Is India’s Civil Service

How Civil Is India’s Civil Service

  Does a career in the Indian civil service mean a life of ‘public service’? It is a puzzling question given the sloth and the thickets of red-tapism that have eroded the bureaucracy. Moreover, the way events have been unfolding, most will tend to agree that all it means is a lifetime of serving the most despicable lot of politicians[Read More…]

Wasting Food In A Hungry World

Wasting Food In A Hungry World

  India produces enough food to meet the needs of its entire population yet, it is unable to feed millions of them, especially women and children. India ranks 100th among 119 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2017, where it has consistently ranked poorly. Despite the fact that every twelfth Indian has to sleep on an empty stomach, the[Read More…]

Can India Stop It’s Epic Bank Scams?

Can India Stop It’s Epic Bank Scams?

  The world’s great philanthropist and investment leader, Warren Buffett, once said, “It’s only when the tide goes out that you realise who has been swimming naked”. Well, it’s the ebb of the tide for many of India’s high-flying crony capitalists like Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, as they find themselves caught in an ignominious buff. Their diamonds may have sparkled[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
Pension For The Poor

Pension For The Poor

  India is home to one-fifth of the world’s population which includes a third of the world’s poor and one-eighth of the world’s elderly. Several million of them who spend their whole lives as informal workers have no retirement security other than the hope that their children will care for them in their old age. This arrangement worked well as[Read More…]

Microfinance or Debt Trap? What The Poor Don’t Know

Microfinance or Debt Trap? What The Poor Don’t Know

Microfinance continues to thrive despite being under fire from legions of critics. One plausible reason for the lingering faith in the power of microfinance is that it provides a convenient strategy for investors to demonstrate that they are active fighters against poverty and are trying to save the poor while making a substantial amount of money from them. It is built[Read More…]

 The Threads Of Gloom

 The Threads Of Gloom

India has been home to a variety of arts and crafts which have won it a coveted place in the cultural heritage of the world. Handloom is one of the most exquisite textile traditions of India, and weaving was once the largest income generating activity in the country.  The weavers’ craft is threatened with extinction by power looms which offer[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Life/Philosophy
Media On Trial

Media On Trial

  Much is said, and rightly so, about the excesses of the press. Despite press codes and press laws  ,partisan journalism continues to rule with an untrammeled pen.  The press, enjoys the widest freedom.? Here again, the main concern is not to infringe the letter of the law. There is no moral responsibility for deformation or disproportion. What sort of[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Life/Philosophy
Photo Credit: Dsource.in

Himroo: A Dying Art

  A dignified aura of its rich past cloaks every corner of Aurangabad, a bustling city in Maharashtra. The crowning minarets that dot the city landscape and the villages around it, dissolve into the mist of history as the lavender of the evening glow envelopes the monuments from which writers extract magical romances for their books. Legends abound of the[Read More…]

Aruna and Bunker Roy.

The Marquee Harbingers Of India’s Development Spring

Historians will tell you that an explosion of creativity occurs the moment the world starts complaining that there is nothing left to invent or that the search for solutions to complex problems has come to an end. This explosion is fate’s way of reminding us that there is always something just over the horizon of knowledge. Social entrepreneurs are now[Read More…]

Faiz Ahmed Faiz: The Fiery Conscience Of Our Times

Faiz Ahmed Faiz: The Fiery Conscience Of Our Times

  Faiz Ahmed Faiz—the poet, teacher, editor, freedom-fighter, dramatist, critic, progressive writer and Lenin Peace Prize recipient—is one of the greatest poets of the Indian subcontinent. He was not a mere dreamer of dreams but was an iconoclast who inspired a million mutinies. Great poets like Faiz are warriors and serve as the sentinels of the collective conscience of their[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Arts/Literature
Why Indians Are Averse To Repaying Loans?

Why Indians Are Averse To Repaying Loans?

  Most people have a psychological aversion to repaying bank loans. In several cases, they have sufficient assets and capital to redeem their debt but they use every possible means to avoid it.  Things have turned so bad that whether it is an individual or institution, getting back any money at all is a reason for celebration. We have seen[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
Budget Shines A Flashlight On India’s Poor Women

Budget Shines A Flashlight On India’s Poor Women

Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge. India has a larger relative economic value at stake from advancing gender equality than any of the ten regions analysed in a McKinsey Global Institute report, The Power of Parity: How Advancing Women’s Equality Can add $12 Trillion To Global Growth. The report[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Patriarchy
When The Poor Are Made Guinea Pigs

When The Poor Are Made Guinea Pigs

  India has long been a testing ground for several western products, particularly in agriculture and medicine—making the most of loose regulations and genetic diversity of a huge population. It is done to help cut research costs dramatically for lucrative products to be sold in the West. The relationship is highly exploitative and many believe it represents a new colonialism.[Read More…]

Can Cows Help The Poor?

Can Cows Help The Poor?

  The penchant of development agencies for high-yielding cows has never abated. Whenever relief measures are planned for drought-affected families in villages, free cows are considered the best aid. I have seen several villages in my career where Holstein and Jersey’s cows arrive in wagonloads and every family in these parched villages is handed a cow. However, in a drought-affected[Read More…]

Development Landscape Needs A Fresh Lens

Development Landscape Needs A Fresh Lens

One of the most dispiriting features of modern development discourse is the strong influence of elitism. One of the pitfalls of elitism is that it places a disproportionate value on the style rather than the content of the approach. There are authors and writers on rural development who arrogate to themselves the right to hand out certificates for best practices.[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Life/Philosophy
Women Head India’s Village Republics

Women Head India’s Village Republics

  Not long after Nirmala Geghate took over as sarpanch in Wanoja, a remote hamlet in northern Maharashtra, groups of young men stopped hanging out in front of the   shop at the village square, where they used to ogle and catcall female laborers who walked by in dusty saris. There were several ripple effects of the new found women power[Read More…]

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Why Muslims Need A Fair Media

Why Muslims Need A Fair Media

   (And if your goal be truth, Is this the right road— Europe’s faults all glossed, and all Islam’s held to so strict an audit?) -Sir Muhammad Iqbal Too often in the news, Islam is only associated with terrorism and extremism. An uninformed viewer may think: How could anyone in their right minds find inspiration and solace from such a[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Communal Harmony
Vibrant Villages Are Key To India’s Success

Vibrant Villages Are Key To India’s Success

  The Indian village has, for long, been viewed as a convenient entry-point for understanding Indian society. At the beginning of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi had emphatically declared: “The soul of India lives in its villages”. Even after 70 years of Independence, in the wake of urbanisation, villages are at the core of the country’s soul. For social anthropologists,[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
When Women Succeed, We All Succeed

When Women Succeed, We All Succeed

  In an ashram perched high on a hill above the city of Guwahati is a small exhibit commemorating the life of India’s most famous son. Alongside a bed  where Mahatma Gandhi himself  slept is a display reminding visitors of something the man himself said in 1921: “Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Patriarchy
Social Programmes Need More Empathy

Social Programmes Need More Empathy

  A development professional’s career demands not just technical skills but empathy; not a form of empathy that comes from superiority, but one born from a profound humility. l’ve learned hard lessons that have shaped my ideas about good principles and practices in development. The most abiding lesson is that we should value people over projects, and at the same time value[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
The Hold Of Moneylenders Grows To A Record High

The Hold Of Moneylenders Grows To A Record High

   A recent report by IndiaSpend states that professional moneylenders, who can charge up to four times more interest than the government’s banking system, hold more rural debt than ever, from 19.6 percent in 2002 to 28.2 percent in 2013. According to a 2017 study by Stanford University’s Center on Global Poverty and Development, farmers take loans from informal sources at high rates of interest[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
How The First Lady Of Islam Set An Example For The Generations To Come

How The First Lady Of Islam Set An Example For The Generations To Come

The public perception of Muslim women is one of stubborn stereotypes: supposedly powerless and oppressed, behind walls and veils, demure, voiceless and silent figures, discriminated and bereft of even basic rights. Contrary to this general belief, Muslim women have held the flag of enlightenment throughout history. The early Muslim community recognised and honoured a wide spectrum of female roles and[Read More…]

The Triple Talaq Conundrum

The Triple Talaq Conundrum

  Of all the lawful acts the most detestable to God is divorce. – Prophet Muhammad [This an authentic saying recorded by Abdullah ibn Umar, a highly respected companion of the prophet in an authoritative treatise “Divorce (Kitab Al-Talaq)” of Sunan Abu-Dawud (Ref. 63-2173)] India is currently mired in a war between theology and law as it tries to articulate[Read More…]

The Madrasa Myth

The Madrasa Myth

  The silhouette of the large mosque, brick-like but for a bulbous dome, looks blurry in the downpour past the minarets as the imposing wide red brick gates, herald you into the hallowed precincts of an institution—one of the most influential institutions in the world that frames Islamic discourse in the subcontinent. The occasional rain is heavy, lending a sparkle to the green paddies[Read More…]

Tackling Poverty, One Meaningful Step At A Time

Tackling Poverty, One Meaningful Step At A Time

  The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt In India, the priorities of village people are constantly undergoing changes. These are, in fact, a result of the changes the development landscape is undergoing.[Read More…]

Humanitarianism: The Greatest Art

Humanitarianism: The Greatest Art

Henry Thoreau, the 19th century American poet, naturalist and philosopher once remarked: “It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look to affect the quality of the[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Life/Philosophy
Malnutrition Ravages India’s Children

Malnutrition Ravages India’s Children

 We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow,’[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
Photo courtesy of PIX11 News

The Healing Touch Of Love

  Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. -Thomas Merton, Love and Living Henry Thoreau, the 19th century writer, naturalist and philosopher once remarked: “It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few[Read More…]

The Sufi Path To Bliss

The Sufi Path To Bliss

  What a relief to be empty! Then God can live your life -Rumi In the chaos that prevails around us, there is a growing feeling of desolation and misery. The pace of modern times has upset the rhythm of life and the music is slowly ebbing out. Living in a harsh world we have developed cynicism and hatred. Our[Read More…]

India’s Invisible Water Wizards

India’s Invisible Water Wizards

  India has long undervalued one of its most precious resources—water—and today the country’s chronic mismanagement of water has led to drought in nearly 2,00,000 villages. According to the World Bank data, Indian farmers use almost 70% of the total groundwater that is drawn in the country each year. Shockingly, India uses more groundwater annually than China and the United[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Environmental Protection
India’s Failed Food System

India’s Failed Food System

  India grows enough food to meet the needs of its entire population, yet is unable to feed millions of them, especially women and children. India ranks 100 in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) — 2017 of 119 countries, where it has consistently ranked poor. Even as millions of Indians go to sleep on an empty stomach, the country wastes[Read More…]

Photo courtesy of PIX11 News

The Season Of Giving: A New Year Resolution

    You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you -John Bunyan When I   got my first job   in a small town, I was lucky to get wonderful neighbors.  A lady whom I regularly encountered was Samina, a devout and demure housewife who struggled to feed the family. For several reasons,[Read More…]

People waiting to get registered at Motihari District Government Hospital in East Champaran, Bihar. With so few doctors employed to work in the public sector of healthcare in India, this scene is typical.

India’s Sick Health Care

  India’s economy is soaring but its healthcare system remains an Achilles’ heel. For millions of people, the high cost of treating illness continues to undermine economic progress. This is largely on account of the abysmal and chaotic healthcare system owing to the declining budgetary healthcare support by the government. India now ranks close to the bottom of the pile[Read More…]

Participatory Development: A Partnership For Banishing Poverty

Participatory Development: A Partnership For Banishing Poverty

  Any sensible government must learn to unleash the energy of its people and get them to perform instead of trying to get a bureaucracy to perform ―Verghese Kurien, I Too Had a Dream Tackling poverty requires an approach that must start with the people themselves and encourages the initiative, creativity and drive from below. The strategy must be at the[Read More…]

Muslim Women Are Defying Stereotypes

Muslim Women Are Defying Stereotypes

 “Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.” In Khaled Hosseini’s novel about life in Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns, the character Nana, a poor unwed mother, gives this grim advice to her five-year-old daughter, Mariam. In 25 words, she tries to sum up[Read More…]

Women: The Missing Piece Of The Poverty Puzzle

Women: The Missing Piece Of The Poverty Puzzle

Poor women’s suffering has long been a sure-fire way to pull on the heartstrings of rich donors, but in recent years there has been a newfound appreciation for the role that these women play in breaking the cycle of poverty and stabilising fragile societies. It has been said that women who are closest to the world’s most pressing issues are[Read More…]

Inside The World Of Indian Bureaucracy

Inside The World Of Indian Bureaucracy

 In the late nineties I was manager of a bank branch at Warora, a small town in western Maharshtra. We had to make frequent trips to the Block Development Office at Warora and the Collector’s secretariat in Chandrapur for discussions on various rural development projects being undertaken by our bank branch. We believed that instead of individual clients going and[Read More…]

Giving Hope To Youngsters

Giving Hope To Youngsters

The present-day education reformers believe that schools are broken and market solutions are the only remedy. Many of them embrace disruptive innovations, primarily through online learning. There is a strong belief that real breakthroughs can come only through the transformative power of technology or the invisible hand of the market. However, findings suggest that this strategy has not lived up[Read More…]

The Man Behind India’s Rural Housing Spring

The Man Behind India’s Rural Housing Spring

Historians will say that an explosion of creativity occurs the moment the world starts complaining that there is nothing left to invent, or that the search for solutions to complex problems has come to an end. This explosion is fate’s way of reminding us that there is always something just over the horizon of knowledge. Social entrepreneurs are now using[Read More…]

Each Adversity Has A Seed Of Triumph

Each Adversity Has A Seed Of Triumph

These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them. — Rumi, Essential Rumi “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Everyone knows the cliché, of course, and   brave people often rise above adversity to climb great heights. Given that life hands lemons to everyone from time to time, the bravest approach is to turn those “lemons” into   lemonade. I put[Read More…]

Can We Solve Corruption?

Can We Solve Corruption?

  (International Anti-Corruption Day-9 December, 2017) Corruption is amongst the most debilitating economic illnesses that afflicts large parts of the world. It erodes the quality of life for ordinary citizens, devastates the moral fabric of society, and impedes growth. In the last four decades, despite several government programmes for the welfare of the rural poor, poverty remains endemic. Either the nets were[Read More…]

Bapu Kuti: The Nursery Of Gandhian Revolution

Bapu Kuti: The Nursery Of Gandhian Revolution

  Eighty kilometres to the east of Nagpur in central India lies Bapu Kuti, a historic site in Sewagram, the ‘village of service’, which is nestled in the serene rustic surroundings of the Wardha district. This dwelling was the residential abode of Mahatma Gandhi from 1936 to 1948 and was the epicentre of the Indian freedom movement. During the 12[Read More…]

The Tyranny Of The Development Lexicon

The Tyranny Of The Development Lexicon

  When ideas fail, words come in very handy.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe We live in an age when noisy posturing too often substitutes for reasoned debate and brash opinion trumps hard fact. The thread of the argument often disappears in a blizzard of gee-whiz statistics, acronyms, and catch phrases in interviews with eminent folks of all kinds. Yet the[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Counter Solutions
Rice threshing near Sangrur, SE Punjab, India. (Photo:  Neil Palmer (CIAT)/flickr/cc)

The Indian Village: A Window Into Indian Society

The inertia of a jungle village is a dangerous thing. Before you know it your whole life has slipped by and you are still waiting there. ― Tahir Shah, House of the Tiger Kin The Indian village has been celebrated by every poet who has admitted to having been touched by India including Rudyard Kipling and Rabindranath Tagore. Social scientists[Read More…]

The Farewell Sermon Of Prophet Muhammad

The Farewell Sermon Of Prophet Muhammad

(Birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad-2nd December 2017) As you read these lines, 1.6 billion Muslims across the world, from Morocco to Jakarta, will be paying homage to the Prophet Muhammad on his birthday. This day, 1,428 years ago, Prophet Muhammad delivered the historic Last Sermon (khutabat al-wida) on the parched terrain of Mount of Mercy (Jabal ar-Rahmah) in the Uranah[Read More…]

Give Some Place In Your Heart For Kidneys! Please!

Give Some Place In Your Heart For Kidneys! Please!

  Heard so much about the heart, but so less about kidneys, right? Our kidneys don’t get a lot of love, and definitely don’t get the attention or concern associated with other major organs like our heart, liver, and lungs. Kidneys are the unsung organs of public health campaigns. We know how to care for our hearts (exercise and eating well)[Read More…]

A Decent Shelter For India’s Homeless

A Decent Shelter For India’s Homeless

One of the most challenging problems of our times is homelessness. While we continue to record improvements in dealing with poverty, homelessness has been plagued with an unimaginative response from policy pundits.The apathetic approach of successive governments is symptomatic of the disease that ails India’s housing system. Housing is often the bedrock of other development interventions: owning land boosts health[Read More…]

Financial Literacy: Key To Economic Freedom

Financial Literacy: Key To Economic Freedom

  Financial services are like clean water and electricity. They are made possible though ideal financial societies that provide safe and convenient ways of managing their everyday simple monetary affairs. This philosophy is known as financial inclusion. It includes providing affordable, safe and properly regulated financial tools to people. These tools enable them to save and to responsibly borrow—allowing them[Read More…]

Bridging The Gender Gap

Bridging The Gender Gap

    Women and girls play a lesser recognised role as drivers of growth and progress and powerful agents of change. Gender remains a critically important and largely ignored lens to view development issues across the world. Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge. India has a larger relative economic value at[Read More…]

The Poor Woman Wants A Handup, Not A Handout

The Poor Woman Wants A Handup, Not A Handout

  The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world all we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them -Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus When I first initiated livelihood finance projects for women, more than two decades back, I encountered stiff resistance from the local elders who couldn’t believe that their women could[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Patriarchy
First World Day Of The Poor-19 November 2017

First World Day Of The Poor-19 November 2017

   Poverty won’t allow him to lift up his head; dignity won’t allow him to bow it down  — Malagasy Proverb The global battle against poverty has acquired a new dimension this year with Pope Francis declaring   19 November 2017 as the First World Day of the Poor. Hereafter it will be observed on 33rd Sunday of every year. The[Read More…]

The Promise Of Microhousing

The Promise Of Microhousing

  The Gaekwad family lives in a single-room-house on the outskirts of a city. The family cooks their food, eats it and sleeps in the same room. This room is also used as a play area by their three-year-old child. Lack of credit has prevented the Gaekwads from obtaining a loan to improve their living conditions. There are millions of low-income families[Read More…]

Photo/The Indian Express

How Farm Widows Are Leading Societal Change

  The large swathes of cotton farms in Central India have been the epicentre of a global crisis that has gripped the rural population in crippling debts and driven thousands to suicide. But amidst the gloom, it is the women of this region who have emerged as the torchbearers of hope and progress. This new hope comes in the form[Read More…]

How Best To Engage Communities In Development

How Best To Engage Communities In Development

  In India, the priorities of   people are constantly undergoing changes. These   are, in fact, a result of the changes the development landscape is undergoing. A generation or two ago, ending hunger would have been the overwhelming need. Not any more even if malnutrition remains a challenge. Development also has brought electricity, more roads, pumps and overhead tanks — all[Read More…]

The Savings Revolution: World Thrift Day-30th October

The Savings Revolution: World Thrift Day-30th October

  Managing money well begins with hanging on to what you have. This means avoiding unnecessary expenditure and then finding a safe place to store whatever money is left over. Making that choice—the choice to save rather than to consume—is the foundation of money management. -Stuart Rutherford The importance of savings has been understood from very early times even in[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Life/Philosophy
Reexamining Professional Development Wisdom

Reexamining Professional Development Wisdom

  The development community seems constantly and restlessly in search of a singular approach that will solve poverty, unveiling new theories  every few years only to toss them aside. The fundamental flaw with this system is that each new approach fails to break out of the underlying technocratic and specialized paradigm. We must understand that there is no precooked blueprint[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
Micro Insurance: A Critical Need For India’s Poor

Micro Insurance: A Critical Need For India’s Poor

Finance is the cementing force that holds all the pieces of our life together. It enables money to be in the right place, at the right time, and for the right situation. To borrow and save is to move money from the future to the present or from the present to the future. To insure is to move money from[Read More…]

A Novel Paradigm For Fighting Drought

A Novel Paradigm For Fighting Drought

  Historians will tell you that an explosion of creativity occurs the moment the world starts complaining that there is nothing left to invent, or that the search for solutions has come to an end. This explosion is fate’s way of reminding us that there is always something just over the horizon of knowledge. Social entrepreneurs are now using their talent to[Read More…]

 The Poor Know How To Escape From Poverty

 The Poor Know How To Escape From Poverty

  The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.  —F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors Of Socialism I firmly believe it is possible to eliminate poverty in our country— provided we re-examine the   wisdom of our professional approaches. The poor are poor not because they are[Read More…]

The Poor Need Savings, Not Credit

The Poor Need Savings, Not Credit

  Managing money well begins with hanging on to what you have. This means avoiding unnecessary expenditure and then finding a safe place to store whatever money is left over. Making that choice—the choice to save rather than to consume—is the foundation of money management.” -Stuart Rutherford More than four decades ago, the idea of microcredit was born out of[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
Women Hold The Key To The Battle Against Poverty

Women Hold The Key To The Battle Against Poverty

(International Day for the Eradication of Poverty –17 October 2017) This year marks the 25th anniversary of the declaration by the United Nations of 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. We have still a long way to go for making this world poverty free .One of the key strategies for eliminating poverty is focusing on women   and girls. Achieving gender[Read More…]

A Refreshing Introduction To Islam

A Refreshing Introduction To Islam

I recently came across a wonderful introduction to Islam titled Islam Is Good: Muslims Should Follow It by Sanjiv Bhatla that compresses encyclopedic insights in a small volume. His study of the Prophet is primarily based on Martin Lings’ book. For the Quran’s interpretation, he relies on the translation by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan and supplements it with that of Abdullah Yusuf li.

India’s Microfinance Is Losing Its Soul

India’s Microfinance Is Losing Its Soul

  Microfinance — an approach to financial inclusion based on providing small loans and other financial services to poor people, and primarily women-has generated considerable enthusiasm, not just in the development community but also at political levels In the last decade and half microfinance institutions (MFIs) in India have struggled to gain legitimacy as credible institutions even though they have[Read More…]

India Can’t Afford To Ignore Mental Health

India Can’t Afford To Ignore Mental Health

(World Mental Health Day -10th October 2017) According to an India Spend report, the number of Indians suffering from mental illness exceeds that of the population of South Africa. At present, the mentally ill account for nearly 6.5 percent of the country’s population and it is estimated that by 2020 this number will increase to a staggering 20 percent. Further, the[Read More…]

Will Supreme Court Order Rein Cow Vigilantism

Will Supreme Court Order Rein Cow Vigilantism

  When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.  -Nelson Mandela India has been bedeviled by a spate of gruesome lynchings. And at the epicenter of the country’s violent upheaval is the indolent cow which is considered sacred by Hindus .The targeted communities  have lately[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
The Female Face Of Poverty

The Female Face Of Poverty

  We live in a world in which women living in poverty face gross inequalities and injustice from birth to death. The global statistics on poverty are numbing. The real brunt has always fallen on women and sometimes it is very cruel. Women are commonly married young, quickly become mothers, and are then burdened by stringent domestic and financial responsibilities.[Read More…]

The Heart Of A Professional Banker

The Heart Of A Professional Banker

During my first assignment at Aurangabad, my boss, R. P. Mehta, was a little bemused at the amicable way I treated my clients, given banks’ notoriety for poor customer service. Mehta was given the impression by my colleagues that I was liberal in my approach with borrowers and hypersensitive to customer complaints. Mehta could be ruthless with errant staff and[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled India
Maharashtra Defaces Mughal Legacy From History Text Books

Maharashtra Defaces Mughal Legacy From History Text Books

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” –George Orwell Too much of the thinking about Muslim rulers is now being shaped along predictable, clichéd lines. This is true of all shades of opinion, perception and scholarship. There is evidence from a number of established scholarly discourses that the public[Read More…]

Twenty Five Years Of Indian Women’s Self Help Movement

Twenty Five Years Of Indian Women’s Self Help Movement

  Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie. — Gloria Steinem Poor women’s suffering has long been a surefire way to pull on the heartstrings of rich[Read More…]

My Learnings As A Rural Banker

My Learnings As A Rural Banker

  I am a professional banker taught and trained in the hard and coarse grammar of banking. At the same time I am a developmental worker at heart always keen to empathize with the poor and their cause. Although I began my career in the exciting and turbulent world of corporate finance, microfinance (which in a common man’s language means[Read More…]

How Historians Poisoned India’s Tolerant Legacy

How Historians Poisoned India’s Tolerant Legacy

  The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” –George Orwell Too much of the thinking about Muslim rulers is now being shaped along predictable, clichéd lines. This is true of all shades of opinion, perception and scholarship. There is evidence from a number of established scholarly discourses that the[Read More…]

Supreme Court Of India Illumminates The World For Muslim Women

Supreme Court Of India Illumminates The World For Muslim Women

Of all the lawful acts the most detestable to God is divorce  –Prophet Muhammad (This an authentic saying recorded by Abdullah ibn Umar, a highly respected companion of the prophet in an authoritative treatise “Divorce (Kitab Al-Talaq)” of Sunan Abu-Dawud (Ref. 63-2173) The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the practice of instant triple talaq, calling it unconstitutional and in[Read More…]

The Panoramic Circus Of Rural Development

The Panoramic Circus Of Rural Development

  The farmers in northern Maharashtra had suffered badly on account of low yields of cotton; additionally, the government procurement prices for cotton were pegged low. As a result, our loan recoveries plummeted. I conducted a detailed assessment of the farmers and realized that their plight was genuine and a rehabilitation package had to be worked out. I informed my[Read More…]

Farmers outside one of the banks in Tadimarri mandal: Farmers like T. Brahmananda Reddy need bulk amounts of the new notes to pay their debts and labourers – and these notes remain scarce at the banks here

How Financial Illiteracy Is Duping People Of Millions Of Precious Savings

  Finance is the glue that holds all pieces of our life together. Ideal financial societies are those which provide safe and convenient ways of managing these simple monetary affairs. This philosophy is known as financial inclusion. It is providing financial tools to people —tools that people can afford, that are safe and properly regulated, that people can access conveniently[Read More…]

The Dilemma Of A Muslim In India

The Dilemma Of A Muslim In India

The increasing tendency towards seeing people in terms of one dominant ‘identity’ (‘this is your duty as an American’, ‘you must commit these acts as a Muslim’, or ‘as a Chinese you should give priority to this national engagement’) is not only an imposition of an external and arbitrary priority, but also the denial of an important liberty of a[Read More…]

Farmers Suicides Soar On Freedom Anniversary

Farmers Suicides Soar On Freedom Anniversary

  Even as India celebrated its 70th  year of independence, the number of suicides of beleaguered farmers in Marathwada, the drought prone belt of Maharashtra, touched a new high. In the last seven and half months ending with !5th August ,580 cultivators have committed suicide  .At the end of July, the toll stood at 531 and it has gone up[Read More…]

India’s Mournful Song Of Freedom

India’s Mournful Song Of Freedom

    When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.  -Nelson Mandela Most of us who lead lives of privilege tend to take freedom for granted. On the edge of our own realities are those that can’t. Between the time a young IT professional was[Read More…]

Poor Women Craft Their Destiny

Poor Women Craft Their Destiny

   The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world all we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them -Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus When I first initiated livelihood finance projects through women collectives called as self help groups, more than two decades back, I encountered stiff resistance from the local elders who[Read More…]

The Brave Women Running Rural India

The Brave Women Running Rural India

  Women are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture, the farm labour force and day-to-day family subsistence. The biggest myth is that the rural woman is part of her land’s wealth. Yes, but only to the extent of generating it. They don’t own land but produce secondary crops, gather food and firewood, process, store and prepare family food and fetch water[Read More…]

 A Therapy For India’s Suicidal Farmers

 A Therapy For India’s Suicidal Farmers

While debates continue to rage on reforming the agricultural sector to improve the economic conditions of farmer, there has till now recently been no attempt to focus on the likely mental problems arising out of economic stress that may be leading to suicides. Farm suicides are a reflection of the economic plight of an ailing rural economy but demonstrate the utter state of mental hopelessness and weak resilience of farmers who have become emotionally so fragile that they are meekly taking their own lives.

India Must Act Before Water Runs Out

India Must Act Before Water Runs Out

Water is   crucial to   all societies as it has a myriad of uses. However, in India, it is of much more importance as over 600 million people make a living off the land. They rely on the monsoon to replenish their water sources and the unpredictable nature of rain leaves them vulnerable. The country breaks out in a cold sweat[Read More…]

Rice threshing near Sangrur, SE Punjab, India. (Photo:  Neil Palmer (CIAT)/flickr/cc)

Rural Transformation Needs Grassroots Mantras

  Tackling poverty requires a fundamentally different approach: one that starts with people themselves and encourages the initiative, creativity and drive from below .This principle must be at the core of any programme aiming at transformation of their lives. It is only then that if it can be lasting and meaningful. If people can be given the support they need[Read More…]

A Banker In The Dock

A Banker In The Dock

  One of the toughest tasks I had to handle in my long career as a banker was handling the recalcitrant defaulters who made us literally beseech and supplicate before them when they refused to pay up the loan. I had to make regular appearances in the witness box  whenever we filed a law suit against any tough loan defaulter.[Read More…]

CSR Tourism: A New Development Fad

CSR Tourism: A New Development Fad

  This has been a phenomenon quite old with the corporate world, but now it has   acquired a glamorous face. .It is rural development or euphemistically called CSR  tourism—brief visits by corporate leaders whose businesses are obliged to take up community development as part of public commitment. But, as is their wont, many businesses are using these opportunities for brand[Read More…]

Women: The Bitter Half

Women: The Bitter Half

  Woman Work  I’ve got the children to tend The clothes to mend The floor to mop The food to shop Then the chicken to fry The baby to dry I got company to feed The garden to weed I’ve got shirts to press The tots to dress The can to be cut I gotta clean up this hut Then[Read More…]

Suicides Continue To Ravage Farmlands

Suicides Continue To Ravage Farmlands

At least 217 farmers have ended their life in the month following Maharashtra Government’s farm loan waiver announcement on June 2 this year.This numbers for the month of June equal the average monthly figures in the past six months.

Loan Waivers Offer No Relief To Most Distressed Farmers

Loan Waivers Offer No Relief To Most Distressed Farmers

  While the government is set to forgive billions of dollars of farm debts, the actually distressed class among them will have little respite from their misery .They owe their debts to moneylenders whereas the government waiver applies only to formal credit. In Maharashtra, farmers’ dependence on private money lenders   has shown a steep rise. Loans disbursed by private money[Read More…]

Men Deny Women Equality, Not The Quran 

Men Deny Women Equality, Not The Quran 

  The portrayal of Muslim women   in the media is grim and sombre. The public perception of them is one of stubborn stereotypes: supposedly powerless and oppressed, behind walls and veils, demure, voiceless and silent figures, discriminated and bereft of even basic rights. This picture keeps reinforcing itself, largely because this is how the Western media caricatures women in Islam.[Read More…]

 Why Money Lenders Still Rule The Farm Lands

 Why Money Lenders Still Rule The Farm Lands

  While the government is set to forgive billions of dollars of loans of farmers, the actually distressed class among them will have no respite from their misery .They owe their debts to moneylenders whereas the government waiver applies only to formal credit. Almost every farmer in India’s massive rural swathes is tethered, in one way or another, to the sahukar, the[Read More…]

Envisioning A World Where Women Inherit Property, Not Poverty

Envisioning A World Where Women Inherit Property, Not Poverty

  The Indian women farmer, almost never publicly acknowledged, reviled by superstition and patriarchy, and increasingly troubled by entrenched social and cultural mores and taboos bears the real burden of farm labour. Nearly 98 million Indian women have agricultural jobs, but around 63% of them, or 61.6 million women, are agricultural labourers, dependent on the farms of others, according to[Read More…]

Indian Peasants Cry For Justice

Indian Peasants Cry For Justice

  India is now the world’s fastest-growing major economy, but years of drought and a failure to create jobs for a burgeoning young population has left millions of rural Indians struggling. India’s   120 million farmers are considered e the backbone of the country’s food security but disillusionment runs through almost entire rural India. Farming remains the country’s dark spot and[Read More…]

At The Mercy Of Rain Gods

At The Mercy Of Rain Gods

  Farmers in India do a lot of talking about the weather—especially, it seems, when there is no weather in sight. During the month of May, when the land heats up like a furnace and most fields lie fallow, when wells have run dry and the sun taunts from its broiling perch in a cloudless sky, there is no topic[Read More…]

Breaking The Poverty Cycle

Breaking The Poverty Cycle

  An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics. ― Plutarch It has been said that women who are closest to the world’s most pressing issues are best placed to solve them. Women are economic factors: They produce and process food for the family; they are the primary caretakers of children, the[Read More…]

India Needs To Focus On Its Development Warriors

India Needs To Focus On Its Development Warriors

  India spends more on programmes for the poor than most developing countries, but is not getting  the expected dividends that significant public expenditure would seem to warrant, and the needs of important population groups still  remain  partly addressed. This   has been haunting  social scientists and policy makers . India has ranked a lowly 131 among the 188 countries surveyed for[Read More…]

New Mantras For India’s Development

New Mantras For India’s Development

  A decade or two ago, many in India’s development community acted with the best of intentions, but without the best of evidence. If households lack clean water—help build wells ; if people suffer ill health—set up health services; if the poor lack capital to start businesses, give them credit. But the actual reality is not simple, it is very[Read More…]

Where Farmers Are Taking Lives, Women Refuse To Die

Where Farmers Are Taking Lives, Women Refuse To Die

  The large swathes of cotton farms in Central India have been the epicenter of a global crisis that has gripped the rural population in crippling debts and has driven thousands of them to suicide. But the great news is women in this region have creatively and doggedly used the power of hope to reemerge form the ruins. This new[Read More…]

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Heat Wave Scalds Orange Farmers

  Nagpur’s oranges, which were the pride of the country, are fast losing sheen. Nagpur still retains the appellation of “Orange City” but the scene today is nowhere near the mystical description that famous Englishman Major Henry Bevan gave following his visit to Nagpur in 1818. “The greatest ornament of the garden is… (an) orange tree called Cintra (santra) or[Read More…]

Poor Women Deliver Rich Dividends

Poor Women Deliver Rich Dividends

 We live in a world in which women living in poverty face gross inequalities and injustice from birth to death. From poor education to poor nutrition to vulnerable and low pay employment, the sequence of discrimination that a woman may suffer during her entire life is unacceptable but all too common. When we want to help the poor, we usually[Read More…]

Making Microfinance Work For People

Making Microfinance Work For People

The claims of microfinance are not necessarily dubious but then as the saying goes, there are three sides to every story—your side, his side and the truth. The good claims are trumpeted and the bad evidence is rubbished. It is a reminder that those who provide microfinancial services   need to monitor carefully not only their positive impacts but also their[Read More…]

Healing India’s Suicidal Farmers

Healing India’s Suicidal Farmers

  How many deaths will it take ‘til he knows That too many people have died The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, The answer is blowin’ in the wind. –Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate India’s economy may be soaring, but agriculture remains its Achilles’ heel, the source of livelihood for hundreds of millions of people but a fraction[Read More…]

Tamil Nadu farmers strip outside Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Office in protest demanding waiver of loans

In Champaran’s Centenary, Indian Farmers Await Another Gandhi

   This is the centenary year of  the Champaran sayagraha (policy of passive political resistance)  – the first experiment by  Mahatma Gandhi of his epic philosophy .This tool  was to become Gandhi’s most powerful amour  and  earned him  a cherished and coveted place  in the pantheon of world ‘s legendary leaders . Gandhi launched his satyagraha in Champaran district on[Read More…]

Bridging The Gender Gap

Bridging The Gender Gap

Pride and dignity would belong to women if only men would leave them alone. Egyptian Proverb Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge. India has a larger relative economic value at stake from advancing gender equality than any of the ten regions analyzed in a McKinsey Global Institute report, The Power of Parity:[Read More…]

Give These Tenacious Women Some Flashlights

Give These Tenacious Women Some Flashlights

  Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression. – Margaret Sanger Providing women with more and better opportunities to fulfill their social, economic, and political roles is now deemed so essential for reducing poverty and[Read More…]

Rice threshing near Sangrur, SE Punjab, India. (Photo:  Neil Palmer (CIAT)/flickr/cc)

In India’s Villages Women Are A Solution, Not A Problem

  Women are the mainstays of small-scale agriculture, the farm labour force and day-to-day family subsistence. The biggest myth is that the rural woman is part of her land’s wealth.  Yes, but only to the extent of generating it.  They don’t own land but produce secondary crops, gather food and firewood, process, store and prepare family food and fetch water[Read More…]

Tapping Into The Creativity Of The Poor

Tapping Into The Creativity Of The Poor

I always believe that people can do wonders, if their energy is channelized and focused on a given task. Tomorrows are made by people. A lesson I learnt early in life is that great leaders don’t teach. They touch and transform. They don’t instruct; they inspire by their conduct and disposition. They help people discover within themselves the strength to[Read More…]

A Partnership For Banishing Poverty

A Partnership For Banishing Poverty

  Any sensible government must learn to unleash the energy of its people and get them to perform instead of trying to get a bureaucracy to perform ―Verghese Kurien, I Too Had a Dream Tackling poverty requires an approach that must start with the people themselves and encourages the initiative, creativity and drive from below. The strategy must be at the[Read More…]

How Fair Is The Media?

How Fair Is The Media?

   There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil. -Walter Lippmann In an ideal world, journalism is a profession of incredible integrity. Good journalists are amongst the most dexterous and skilled people in the world—and also the most respected. We have all benefited from the work of indefatigable journalists who[Read More…]

India’s Social Programmes Need Passionate Managers

India’s Social Programmes Need Passionate Managers

India spends more on programs for the poor than most developing countries, but it has failed to eradicate poverty because of widespread corruption and faulty government administration. India is not getting the ‘bang for the rupee’ that its significant expenditure would there is need for a radical overhaul of India’s social programs. Marginal changes alone may not deliver the kind[Read More…]

The Smart Way Of Beating Poverty

The Smart Way Of Beating Poverty

I often wondered why was it that when there were so many social programmes for the poor that poverty was yet so endemic and stubborn. Despite such vast investments there were regions in which we could just nibble at the frozen layers of poverty. This is not to discount the enormous progress we have made in improving the social indicators,[Read More…]

Letting The Poor Steer The Development Agenda

Letting The Poor Steer The Development Agenda

  The perception that the poor do not have skills or would not be able to survive on their own is a myth. My experience with development finance has demonstrated that we have to encourage strategies that ensure wider participation of poor in schemes aimed at solving their problems. It is the unleashing of their social and mental energies and,[Read More…]

The Enduring Myth Of Microfinance

The Enduring Myth Of Microfinance

  Access to the right financial tools at critical moments can determine whether a poor household is able to capture an opportunity to move out of poverty or absorb a shock without being pushed deeper into debt. When microfinance-provision of financial services tailored to fit the needs of low income people – made its first appearance, everyone was infatuated by[Read More…]

Women Herald The Development Sun

Women Herald The Development Sun

  Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women ― Maya Angelou  Over the years several strategies have been used to empower women .One of them relies on community groups whose members   can be trained and equipped to use their collective strength and wisdom to tackle their problems. [Read More…]

India’s Gender Reforms Need Greater Bite

India’s Gender Reforms Need Greater Bite

  Of all the world’s major ills – such as war, hunger, and natural disasters – none can quite compare to the millions of baby girls and female fetuses killed by parents  .The  National Family Health Survey 4 data for 2015-16  indicates that the practice of aborting female fetuses and murdering girls after birth is being contained  efforts The   sex[Read More…]

Microfinance Needs To Realign Its Focus

Microfinance Needs To Realign Its Focus

Today, microfinance   — an approach to financial inclusion based on providing small loans and other financial services to poor people, primarily women —  is a global multi-billion dollar industry with operations on all continents .Microfinance had once generated considerable enthusiasm, not just in the development community but also at political levels. It was considered a marvelous innovation and was expected[Read More…]

25 Years Of New Middle Women

25 Years Of New Middle Women

  We live in a world in which women living in poverty face gross inequalities and injustice from birth to death. From poor education to poor nutrition to vulnerable and low pay employment, the sequence of discrimination is very hard, but all too common. They face significant constraints in maximizing their  But there are also silvery strands in this dark[Read More…]

Rice threshing near Sangrur, SE Punjab, India. (Photo:  Neil Palmer (CIAT)/flickr/cc)

A Relook At Our Social Programmes

  A decade or two ago, many in the development community acted with the best of intentions, but without the best of evidence. If households lack clean water—help build wells   ; if people suffer ill health—set up health services; if the poor lack capital to start businesses, give them credit. But the actual reality is not simple, it is very[Read More…]

Beyond The Muslim Veil

Beyond The Muslim Veil

   This woman, who is your beloved, is in fact a ray of His light, She is not a mere creature. She is like a creator -Rumi In recent years, due to the global socio-political climate, the phrase “Muslim woman” might conjure an image of a demure un-empowered woman sheltered by her veil Yet this image is not what our[Read More…]

How Poor Women Are Taking Charge Of Their Future

How Poor Women Are Taking Charge Of Their Future

If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need – go to the poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones. ― John Steinbeck The Indian women farmer, almost never publicly acknowledged, reviled by superstition and patriarchy, and increasingly troubled by entrenched social and cultural mores and taboos bears the real burden of farm labour. Nearly 98 million[Read More…]

Digital Fiance Must Be Humane If It Is To Succeed

Digital Fiance Must Be Humane If It Is To Succeed

We will have to sign off 2016 with a cultural baggage of a new vocabulary which elderly  and illiterate  Indians   may not be comfortable with , but have to embrace it    in order to honour the government since  the new rules of democracy leave them with little choice. . Most of the conversations in the new year we   will have[Read More…]

Farmers Continue To Suffer Pains Of Demonetisation

Farmers Continue To Suffer Pains Of Demonetisation

  Demonetization has left deep scars on the economy and, despite assurances from the government, the journey to normalcy may be slower and more painful than expected. The denudation of India’s vast informal economy, almost entirely dependent on cash, has put the marginalized and economically vulnerable – farmers, daily-wage labourers, street vendors ,  small businesses, tiny industries, shops,  and countless[Read More…]

My Romance With A Village Postman

My Romance With A Village Postman

daak laaya  kushi ka payaam kaheen dardanaak laaya daakiya daak laaya …” —From the film  Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein’  (1977)    The Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini starrer 1977 film was a flop in the Box Office, but the song, penned by Gulzar and sung by Kishore Kumar remains a strong favourite for that generation. The lyric  reflects a reality all[Read More…]

Why Are India’s Development Programmes Not Delivering?

Why Are India’s Development Programmes Not Delivering?

   In India, most development programmes for   poor have been designed on the assumption that the poor need charities and they cannot afford to pay for the services .This is   erroneous   and we have witnessed how dollops of free money have stifled their initiatives .Several studies have revealed that the  poor are keen to have access to proper healthcare  ,[Read More…]

How Women Are Remaking Their Destiny

How Women Are Remaking Their Destiny

When I first initiated livelihood finance projects through women collectives called as Self Help Groups, more than two decades back, I encountered stiff resistance from the local elders who couldn’t believe that their women could attend a meeting without a male chaperone. There were some who felt that since I was a male, I had no customary sanction to interact[Read More…]

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Cash Crunch Turns Orange Trade Sour

The orange growers of Nagpur have now  joined the fellowship of pain of their peers in the cotton farming community.  Demonetization has dented the orange trade in Vidarbha. The orange exporters who export to Bangladesh   have suffered the most as the fruit prices have fallen by up to 50%. “Prices have crashed by 50% and the time to harvest the fruits is getting over. We fear that the situation can lead to increase in suicides of farmers,” was written in a memorandum that was given[Read More…]

Village Moneylender: The All Season Vampire

Village Moneylender: The All Season Vampire

Almost every farmer across India’s arid cotton-bearing central plateau is a hostage, in one way or another, of  the moneylender. The present demonetization has come as a blessing for the moneylenders For centuries moneylenders have monopolized rural Indian credit markets. Families have lost land, farmers have been asked to prostitute their wives to pay off debts and, when all else[Read More…]

Microfinance Can Actually Harm The Poor

Microfinance Can Actually Harm The Poor

  Microfinance continues to thrive despite   being under fire from legions of critics.  One plausible reason for the lingering faith in the power of microfinance is that it provides a convenient strategy for investors to demonstrate that that they are active fighters against    poverty   and are trying to save the poor while making a substantial amount of money from them. Microfinance –[Read More…]

Empowered Muslim Women: Islam Is Her Strength

Empowered Muslim Women: Islam Is Her Strength

The portrayal of Muslim women that we glimpse in the media is grim and somber. The public perception of them is one of stubborn stereotypes: supposedly powerless and oppressed, behind walls and veils, demure, voiceless and silent figures, discriminated and bereft of even basic rights. This picture keeps reinforcing itself, largely because this is how the Western media caricatures women[Read More…]

It’s Time For Obituary Of Triple Talaq

It’s Time For Obituary Of Triple Talaq

  The best of you are those who are the kindest to their wives. Prophet Muhammad  The Allahabad High Court has finally got the clock of judicial activism ticking by saying that triple talaq  is unconstitutional. It was no surprise   and the liberal strands in Muslims thought had already stood out clear.  Indeed, one of the reasons triple talaq has[Read More…]

Time To Acknowledge Indian Women Farmers

Time To Acknowledge Indian Women Farmers

The Indian women farmer, almost never publicly acknowledged, reviled by superstition and patriarchy, and increasingly troubled by entrenched social and cultural mores and taboos bears the real burden of farm labour. Nearly 98 million Indian women have agricultural jobs, but around 63% of them, or 61.6 million women, are agricultural labourers, dependent on the farms of others, according to 2011[Read More…]

India’s Agrarian Crisis

India’s Agrarian Crisis

  More than a billion people in the world are employed in agriculture, and in India, one out of four people are farmers or agricultural workers. Farm output contributes $325 billion. ( about 15 per cent) to India’s $2-trillion economy. Small farmers—who constitute 85 percent of farmers globally—make up one of the largest constituencies among the world’s poor .Small and[Read More…]

We Are Flames, Not Flowers

We Are Flames, Not Flowers

Worldwide millions of women   have traditional responsibilities as food growers, water and fuel gatherers, and care-givers. In South   Asia, women make up   make up 43% of the agriculture workforce in developing countries and account for around 66% of the world’s subsistence livestock keepers. Women secure clean water for drinking and cooking; they are familiar with non-timber forest products (medicinal plants[Read More…]

Thumbs Up To Women Power In Village India

Thumbs Up To Women Power In Village India

The transformation of women’s roles is the last great impediment to universal progress. Indian women haven’t always had much by way of social agency or power whereby they could formulate strategic choices, and   control resources and decisions that affect important life outcomes. This   , however, hasn’t stopped them from elbowing past certain patriarchal structures to powerful effect. The introduction of[Read More…]

Seeds Of Farmer’s Distress     

Seeds Of Farmer’s Distress     

Despite being the country with the second largest agricultural land in the world, hardly two fifth or forty percent of the agricultural land is irrigated. Also, even though the country boasts of being the highest producer of many major agro commodities in the world, it suffers from low productivity. The naked and cruel truth is  that agriculture remains its Achilles’[Read More…]

A Taste Of Women Power

A Taste Of Women Power

It has  been more than  20 years since the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts – termed as post-Independent India’s most revolutionary exercise in democratic decentralization and devolution of power – were passed by the Parliament, mandating one-third seats in all local governments be reserved for women. The biggest significance of women’s reservation was that it unlocked the power, talent[Read More…]

In Villages Women Hold The Reigns

In Villages Women Hold The Reigns

If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman -Margaret Thatcher If we want to bring a truly transformative gender revolution, we must remember that all women, regardless of their marital status, need access to education, good jobs, and support for domestic duties. Although transforming long-held laws, beliefs and practices may be difficult,[Read More…]

Poor Women: A Voiceless Underclass

Poor Women: A Voiceless Underclass

A mother is a school. Empower her and you empower a great nation.   -Hafez Ibrahim, Egyptian poet  The real tragedy of the poor, particularly the women among them, is that their voice is unheard in forums, even at those which are exclusively devoted to their problems. As the Madagasy proverb goes, “poverty won’t allow him to lift his head, dignity[Read More…]

Poor Women Furrowing Male Bastions

Poor Women Furrowing Male Bastions

Money is the seed of money, and the first guinea is sometimes more difficult to acquire than the second million. —Jean-Jacques Rousseau The 21st century poses many challenges that require new ways of thinking, none more important than the economic role of women in a rapidly changing world. Over the last several decades, it has become accepted wisdom that improving the[Read More…]