A little bigger than my problem

It was only two days ago that I was wallowing in self pity, feeding on your empathy, quite sure that it was the end of the world for my kids. Their imagination stamped upon, their creativity stifled, poor misunderstood, unappreciated babies. Ah woe is me.

Until I picked up the paper and read this. Tribal children in Jharkhand – poverty stricken and diseased. Hot rods driven into their distended stomachs to kill worms. One rebels against the image that the West has of our country. Uneducated, superstitious, poor, neglected. Each time a foreigner brings it up, we find ways to disprove them. Our IITs, our malls, our metro systems, the new shining India.

And then something like this happens and everything else is wiped out. Is insignificant in the face of something like this. When all it takes is a little bottle of Zentel once in 6 months, why is it that its not getting to these poor tribals? Where are the government hospitals? Are they staffed? Are medicines available? And they probably aren’t if people are resorting to plunging hot rods through a child’s stomach. Some as young as three years old. As young as my little Bean. Read more at Tracking Hunger.

What are we going to do about it?


48 thoughts on “A little bigger than my problem

  1. Sad but true.Yes we get all upset when our country is portrayed negatively in the media.But this is the truth for not only the millions in the rural interiors of India, but also for thousands right here in our cities too. Globalization has helped the middle class to raise its standard of living, but did it really make any difference to the big divide between the haves and the have-nots in our country?
    Like you already asked ‘What are we going to do about it?’ 😦
    I guess for a start,we can stop complaining about the little things that are not going right for us.

  2. I am glad that a newspaper has launched such an initiative. Earlier it was just in the realm of studies conducted by development organizations like the UN or Oxfam. Hopefully, media will bring out more and more reports that cover the maximum number of our people, and not just the creamy layers in metropolises. It is a wrong that media needs to urgently set right…

      • As per online reports, it seems Hindu is the second largest circulation among the English dailies after Times of India. That’s not bad! We get both at our place. I wish they would not write such convoluted English in The Hindu. Their Sunday Magazine, however, is a very good publication.

          • More TOI because it is thicker so more kabaddi / raddi. Plus glossy supplement for covering kitchen and wardrobe shelves + eye candy in city supplement.

            Filmafare for reason 3 of the above and Frontline is too left leaning.

            Read Indian Express & Tehelkha.

  3. MM,
    Sadly Jharkhand was created for the upliftment of these tribals. The leaders who are in power are one of the tribals. But they are just busy expoliting and making money. They just manipulate these tribals and drive away people like Mittal who can bring prosperity. Their situation is pathetic. As part of tribal land act, they cannot sell their land to non tribals (this was done to protect their land BTW). So while Ranchi and surrounding area sees real estate boom, the tribals cannot benefit from it since they cannot sell their land! They have their local netas who keep feeding them with wrong notions in the name of culture and they refuse to progress.

  4. Hi MadMomma,
    I read your post on the kids school- you really need to move to Gurgaon. life is much easier and settled here. Who has the right to comment on how our children to turn out???
    Anyways, the tribal issues part. I have had limited exposure in the past few months to villages and challenges. There is a dearth of people who have intent to make things happen. The bureacracy is cynical and resigned and indifferent. Paradigm shifts need to take place and its people like us who can make a difference. Did you know that the government under its national Rural Health mission allocates ‘panjiri’ to pregnant and lactating mothers but the village panchayat head eats it up. Women and girl children are most impacted on health issues. The women are obviously undernourished. Youth turns to Naxal areas since they dont have enough to eat ( I’m talking of people who get a mean in 2-3 days). A meal is rice and water. Thats the reality. And much as we curse the private sector , the only way change can happen in when , as C K Prahlad suggested, get the poor involved in business ventures. A woman in the vollage will not have enough to eat but she still gets fascinated by a lipstick. Its heart rendingly paradoxical. I can go on and on..but media can waken our eyes up , we must take action. Action will happen through engagement and NOT through donating. Donations are NOT sustainable. Aid is not. Treating the poor rural India as intelligent consumers is. creating sensible livelihood options is. Education is. And that cant remain a government or state subject. You and I will need to get involved!

    • ah – i wish you’d said all this on my last maoist post.
      this might not be the most appropriate time for this joke, but what did one paradigm say to the other? Shift happens!

  5. I guess this not something only in Jharkhand,but in the most deprived villages all over India,i have seen my own in TN.
    But what are we going to do about,probably the answer is ‘Nothing’.
    You write about it,i comment about it,discuss it with husband,forget everything over night and start a fresh day tomm,with even a slightest trace of this topic.

  6. What are we going to do about SO MANY THINGS MM? So many that I’m kind of avoiding thinking about it. You said it right, we abuse foreign film makers that they show only the poor India. The filthy, starved, ribcage showing kids, the huge stuck gutters, the slums, the poverty. But we tend to ignore it all looking just into making cities more clogged by building malls calling ourselves developing or shining or whatever.
    I dont even know if someones going to do something about all that. I cant even think of it coz I cant do anything about it. It makes me suffocate to think of the malnutritioned children when I waste even a handful of rice. They deserve better, we are not a poor country. They have a right to their food and other things. But how it is going to reach them is what escapes me.
    I bow in shame when these thoughts swarm my head.

  7. You have to see rural Jharkhand MM . Its horrifying . The cream is lapped up by the privileged tribals but when it comes to the tribals who live in the villages everything seems to have passed them by -the grinding poverty is something which they seem to have accepted . And we wonder at insurgency .

  8. and compare this with the hype arnd the IPL this season and what the organizers/teams show off! makes me puke out at the disparity!

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  10. This is NOT okay. The world doesn’t seems horrible to me today. I just enjoyed a piece of choclate cake and it is turning to rock in my gut.

  11. Most of the conscious ones among the fortunate people (I consider myself belonging to this), think that donating money is going to solve the problem and feel good about themselves for contributing their 2 cents. But I don’t believe in it, as Bhavna said so rightly, AID or Donation is not sustainable. Donation is like giving fish to a man, it can only feed him for a day. The solution should be to teach him to fish. For this, I think, there should be a concerted effort between like-minded NGOs, Government, Media and other interested parties.

    Sadly when the media is more interested in celebrity wedding & IPL (even the Govt seems more involved in this crap than Maoist troubles or farmer suicides), guess we don’t have too many solutions. Sometimes, looks like insurgency & violence are the only means to catch nation’s attention. What a pity!

      • Please do, would like to know the details and see how / what can I contribute to this. I feel that we talk a lot but when it comes to action, nothing much happens. Post Bombay terrorist attacks, there were candle light vigils and other aam aadmi initiatives, but when it came to election time, a time when we can make our voices heard, there was nothing… nada… zilch… What is the point in blaming the rulers if citizens are so nonchalant? We will move on to watch the next cricket match or bollywood gossip.

  12. “What are we going to do about it?” – Ohh nothing ofcourse. Call me cynical and a runaway (I do not live in India and do not intend to comeback unless forced to), but I cannot stand the injustice and indifference of our society and system. Too much is vested in maintaining staus-quo and nothing much is going to change. When people are pushed into a hopeless situation, they pick up arms and now they are. It seems to me the only way to change status-quo is by demolishing the existing structures.

    • no i wont call you any of those. we have a right to choose a better life. anyone would, given a chance. and yes, i think your last line is accurate. what would you suggest? how would one go about it?

      • I got a reply!! Didn’t expect one really..

        any how to answer your question, we need to study some of our history. It boggles my mind that so few of our generation have know anything about the 1975 emergency (I know the Congress machine has done a good job at pushing it out of our minds)or about the JP movement that led to it (wonders why Lalu and Mulayam never talk about it?? they were there after all) That was the only time there was a widespread popular uprising against the corrupt govt that we have. We should study the ways of JP and may be organize something on those lines. It surely is not going to be a bed of roses, one generation will have to sacrifice the “GOOD” life that we have got used to in the cities, but to me that is the only solution. Unless we figure out a way to provide basic amenities to our masses we should be prepared to see more uprisings similar to the Naxal movement. They seem to be the only ones who are trying to change the status quo.

        • 🙂 I always try to reply. Whats the point of a blog if it isnt interactive?
          yes, i agree – you have outlined a good plan. but i dont know who’d spearhead it, get it going…
          we’re all so caught up in the ratrace. very few are motivated enough to give up the comfort of well paid jobs to do this

      • One more thing I do appreciate your understanding. I was recently talking to a relative of mine about the rampant child abuse in India and used the terms “SICK” and “OSTRICH” to describe our society. You wouldn’t believe the answer I got – “Well you don’t even live there so you have no right to talk about it”. I was simply stunned into silence.

        • i think that is the instinctive desi reaction to NRIs. Its not nice, and it isnt logical to come up with an answer of that sort. but I think one begins to think of them as the ‘other’, not one of our own. if i were to say it while living here, i’d get nods of agreement and much commiseration.
          i think its like the post i wrote long ago on segregation during periods and immediately got bashed for being a christian criticising Hindu customs. It wasnt that. it was simply a woman looking out for other women. so i totally see your point and yet i see where they’re coming from.

  13. MM – very disturbing post coz it hits very close to reality…i am one of those who gets cheesed off by foreign channels/movies which show the poverty and helplessness of India…but then again it is reality isn’t it?

    Am reminded of the movie “Well done Abba” where the govt gives money and it is eaten at all levels so much so that the ppl it is intended for get nothing…Such a hopeless situations!

    Goes to show good intentions dont matter!

  14. And we sit there and debate about the ‘insurgency’ and ‘problem’… they are a part of us.. everytime I see a statement on this or watch a show on it.. I jus feel so irritated..

    Well thats where it all stops.. I wonder if I just pass time thinking about them and worrying abt our democracy.. I wonder if it jus makes me feel ‘contributing’ to the society.. I read an article like this.. Think about it.. drop a tear or two someday and then go back to get my over stuffed Chiptole wrap to over stuff myself.. I jus feel so ashamed..

    • oh come on. i think even feeling ashamed is an indulgence. i just get a very brisk sense of – do something. and most often i do go out and contribute in some way. i think the reason i posted this is when we’re getting mad at the maoists for the 76 jawans they killed, we forget that its people who have seen this level of poverty who are being inducted. why wont they take up arms when this is the alternative to it…

  15. MM – I haven’t read through all your blog comments so I am not sure if anyone has pointed this out already. I have recently started giving out micro loans through Rang De (http://www.rangde.org/) and United Prosperity (http://unitedprosperity.org/). They work exactly like Kiva only they give out their loans to people who need them in India. UnitedProsperity works with a group in Jharkhand. I don’t think it would help the exact same group of people you talk of but I think it is a start (especially for those of us who are not physically in India and want to do something).

    I think that in the long run the Indian govt. should start a “service” component to their school system (High school, college and beyond), instruct ALL schools private and public to do this as part of their curriculum where they could arrange for these young kinds to work with rural areas in their state/neighborhood to provide education to those who need it. Sort of like this: I know a friend who is part of this: http://www.sangamindia.org/

      • MM – This is from a friend (the same one who is involved with Sangam India). This is a fund raising concert for Rangde! Would it be possible for you to share this on your blog and/or facebook etc?

        “www.rangde.org! They’re holding a fundraising concert featuring the band Swarathma on Saturday, May 1st at 6 pm at the Buck’s Theatre in Chennai. Rs. 100 of the ticket cost goes towards an investment in a rural entrepreneur, made under your name. You get to listen to great music AND make a difference, so please do make the time to attend. I have student tickets for Rs. 100, so please talk to me if you want any. Or you can get tickets at http://www.indianstage.in. Hope to see you on Saturday!”

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