Schooling Woes

Posted in Education with tags , , , on May 9, 2014 by swatiaiyer

I have been feeling pretty disturbed. ‘I will come late. I have to go pick up my son’s report card”.

A week later – “I need to take him for an entrance exam”?

“Entrance exam? Why do you need to change the school again”?

“No, Akka, his school is only till Std. VII and now he goes to Std. VIII, he has to go to the other branch of the same school, but they take entrance exams”.

A week later. “He failed the test and he has to take a re-test”.

He fails this test too. So he can no longer go to the convent school she had moved him to last year. She tries another school where he needs to know Hindi. He fails that to. She takes him back to the school from where she moved him last year because the fees were nearly double those charged by the convent. They refuse to take him back.

Now she is in a fix and does not know what to do. Other schools in the area are very expensive.

I do not understand this logic. Why should kids going from Std. VII to Std. VIII of the same school have to take an entrance exam?  The Std. VII reports of this child show he has done reasonably well for his circumstances.  So which of the evaluations is false – the annual report card or the entrance test evaluation?  How does a kid who has done well enough to pass (according to his teachers) suddenly fail the entrance test to the next class of the same school? Kids go to school to study and to learn. Is the fact that they are weak reason to throw them out of school? What about all the reservations and talk of bringing up people from the underprivileged classes by giving them equal opportunities? If this is one kid I know about, I am sure there must be millions all over the country. They belong to homes where the parents are labourers and aren’t educated enough to help them at home. This lady spends her hard earned money to send her kids to private tuitions too. What more can she do? The kid is around 11. He is too young to work So what should parents of such kids do? Why can’t opportunities to come up in life be given at this level instead of reserving positions in jobs? Why not give them the fullest opportunity to study (at least till the age of 18) and then take them in jobs they truly merit? What happens if this kid neither goes to school nor goes to work? He already loafs around in undesirable company (according to her) in the holidays. What will he do if he is left rudderless?

Smart kids will get through any which way. Isn’t it the weak ones who need help? What are schools there for if not to pull up the weaker ones? On a suggestion that she needs to find someone with a knowledge of RTE, I try to search the web to find out if there is anyone we can approach.  There is a huge amount of stuff about RTE in Bangalore.  It is a real eye opener.  While I am no expert on this topic – in fact, I am struggling to understand the various aspects that I read about – there seem to be just too many complicated conditions, exceptions and legalese involved.  There are some schools which are supposed to implement the RTE.  There are many who claim to have been granted “minority” status.  What exactly is the definition of “minority” schools?

The Supreme Court put minority schools outside the purview of RTE. The state government, however, through an executive order, imposed conditions on what a linguistic minority school meant, to bring them under RTE.    …….    The Advocate General, appearing for the state, said that many schools were claiming minority status after the SC ruling that kept them outside RTE. The court said it shows mala fide intentions.   ……    The court asked if linguistic minority schools taught the minority language to its students. The advocate said that it was not necessary. It was enough if the management was composed of linguistic minorities.    Source:  HC makes fun of money focus of private schools  By Shyam Prasad S, Bangalore Mirror Bureau


So now we have schools who say they are minority schools, hence not under the purview of RTE and yet don’t teach the minority language to its students.  What is this if not a mockery of the law and any simple logic?

Interestingly enough 25 schools in this very area where we live have claimed they are exempt from RTE and this is the area where there are huge populations of people who are underprivileged in terms of financial status or educational backgrounds.  What do these people do?

What happens to laws regarding compulsory education, law banning child labour and various laws which are made much of?  Where is the much needed implementation?  One can go to court.  How much time is the child going to lose in the process?  Where is the continuity in education which a child who is already not doing well needs?  What should the child do – considering he/she is not legally allowed to work – during this period of no schooling?  How are parents who are labourers to protect these kids from getting into trouble when they are out working most of the day?

I wonder if anyone could suggest a competent authority for this lady to approach.  In the process, I too get educated about “education” in India.



It is Official – They are the Third Gender

Posted in Media with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2014 by swatiaiyer

After 2000 years India recognizes eunuchs as the third sex reads the news item.  Welcome news.  It is grossly unfair that people born with birth defects have hitherto been abandoned by their families to be brought up in eunuch colonies and forced to beg, resort to extortion and such like.  They have in turns been despised and feared.  No one would consider trusting them with a job partly because of prejudices, distrust born thereof or simple hatred.  They have been referred to in the Mahabharat and were employed in Mughal courts as guards to the harems.

High time we got over archaic notions and learned to accept that they are individuals with just the same rights and liberties as any other individual on earth.  And here comes the crux of the matter.  The Supreme Court in their ruling have formally recognised as a third sex and listed as a “backward” caste entitled to reserved government jobs and university places

“Backward caste”???  Where does the caste equation come into this?  Once they are recognized as a third gender, does that not make them just as equal as the other two?  As a class of people who have been underprivileged as well as persecuted over the centuries, they certainly deserve all possible help to become part of mainstream society and to lead their lives normally with full dignity.  To that extent, giving them government jobs as well as places in the universities is a great start, though it would have been better to probably ensure that they got a basic school education (how many of them have been through school to be assured of university places?) in the first place.  Economic help could be provided to families whose children have been afflicted at birth.  This might just prevent from them abandoning them to a life on the streets or to giving them up to eunuch communities.

What is being done to prevent eunuchs coming and taking away children who are born with birth defects or from forcibly castrating boys just to make them a means of earning money?  Are any steps going to be taken to ensure that these people stop resorting to extortion at weddings and birth celebrations?  What steps are going to be taken to take them off the streets and ensure that they get into regular jobs where they have to work to earn a living?  What is going to be done for those members of this group who are now adults but don’t have appropriate qualifications to enter universities or government positions?  Are any steps going to be taken to ensure that people availing of these facilities are genuinely birth afflicted individuals and not people who mutilate themselves or feign psychological problems merely in order to avail of these reservations?

A lot of questions to be answered which only the concerned implementing authorities as well as time can answer.


An Appeal on Behalf of the Aged

Posted in Aged, Alzheimer's, Care for the Aged, Dementia, Social with tags on March 8, 2014 by swatiaiyer

Dear friends,

I am coming to you today with an appeal for support for the cause of the aged. As you all know, as life expectancy increases, the incidence of illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s is also rapidly on the increase. Many Western countries have the infra-structure and social back up to deal with the needs of such people and their families.

Patients suffering from dementia/Alzheimer’s require constant care and attention and very often this is not possible in a domestic set up. The demands on the care-givers is intense and with the kind of changes our social set up is undergoing, this becomes next to impossible to deal with at home.

Unfortunately, we do not have too many organizations which help care for patients with such intensive care. There is to the best of my knowledge just one such organization which provides in-house specialized care for such patients. They also provide home care and nursing for those requiring such help. This is an organization called “Nightingales’ Medical Trust”. They have a number of centres in Bangalore and one such is dedicated to the care of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. My mother is admitted there since more than a year and I can attest to the quality of care that is provided to these elderly people. (I would like to mention here, that it is not only the aged, but also middle age people who suffer from dementia – early onset dementia. I have been shocked to see people of my age over there).

Yesterday, I received a petition from this organization. They are looking to expand their services and open more centres in other places as well to cater to the needs of patients.

One new centre is almost near completion and will be opened very soon in Kolar in Karnataka. I am enclosing a copy of the appeal I received here in the hope that there will be some people who will be able to help out a needy and good cause.

I am also giving a link to their facebook site, so that you can satisfy yourselves about the veracity and legitimacy of the organization for yourselves. It is

Dear Sir/Madam,

Having developed various innovative support systems for the well being of the older persons in the area of home health care, mitigating loneliness through enrichment centres, combating elder abuse, financially empowering needy elders, medical care for aged in rural areas and dementia care through Nightingales Centre for Ageing & Alzheimer’s (NCAA) now Nightingales Medical Trust (NMT), a registered non profit organization is embarking on a major challenge of making dementia care accessible, efficient and affordable in India.

In India, today, about 37 lakh people are affected with dementia and the number is expected to double by 2030.

Dementia is a progressive brain and degenerative brain syndrome. It affects memory, thinking, behaviour, emotions and the activities of daily living. In India, caregivers are mostly the family members. The disease affects both patient and the caregiver. In advanced stages, the patient needs institutional care. But in India, Institutional care is available only in few cities, making it inaccessible and unaffordable.

Since 2010, Nightingales Centre for Ageing & Alzheimer’s (NCAA) has been providing a wide range of services, including institutional care. Patients from Bangalore and other parts of the country are utilizing the services. Yet, the demand is growing day by day.


To bring down the cost of institutional care for dementia patients significantly and to benefit more needy patients, NMT is planning to establish Satellite Dementia Care Centers by using technology and telemedicine solutions based on a Hub & Spokes Model with Nightingales Centre for Ageing & Alzheimer’s as the hub. As a pilot project Nightingales has initiated steps to establish the first such centre , a 38 bed facility, at Kolar town (60kms from Bangalore) at the premises of ETCM hospital. Once this pilot project becomes a success, we will be setting up more satellite units like this in different towns and cities in India enabling affordable, accessible and efficient dementia care.

Renovation work has almost been completed and the centre is expected to be functional by the end of March 2014.


To make this center functional we need the following requirements.

1. Furniture & Fixtures : 14.25 lakh

2. Medical Equipment : 6.5 lakh

3. Telemedicine Solutions: 9.25 lakh

As a person / organization concerned about dementia care, may we request you very earnestly to contribute your best for this project to make dementia care accessible, efficient and affordable in India

The names of those who contribute over Rupees Fifty Thousand will be displayed prominently at the Centre.


a. Cheque favoring Nightingales Medical Trust to the following address:

The Managing Trustee
Nightingales Centre for Ageing and Alzheimer’s
No. 8P6, 3rd A Cross, East of NGEF Layout
Kasturinagar, Banaswadi, Bangalore – 43
Karnataka, India
Ph: +91 80 42426565

b. Alternatively, you could also transfer the donation to the following bank account after sending an email to us.
A/C Name : Nightingales Medical Trust
A/C No. : 06681010000097
IFSC Code : IFSC SYNB 0000668
Bank Name : Syndicate Bank
Branch : Kasturinagar Branch, Bangalore – 560043

Bank Details (For Foreign Currency)
A/C Name : Nightingales Medical Trust
A/C No. : 183010022816
IFSC Code : VYSA0001830

Kindly note, all donations to NMT is exempt U/S 80G of the Income Tax Act and the Trust is approved under FCRA to receive contributions from abroad.

Nightingales Medical Trust has also been recognized by Silicon Valley Foundation as the equivalent of a US public charity.

With kind regards
Dr Radha S Murthy
Nightingales Medical Trust
I request everyone who reads this to help out in whatever way and to whatever extent you can and to spread the word to others who you think will be in a position to help.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely

Defining Feminism

Posted in Feminism, Social, Women on March 3, 2014 by swatiaiyer

This is the month when the world celebrates “women’s day”.  GBs and reams have been dedicated to issues concerning women as well as to their problems.  After all this, one wonders whether women in some parts of the world really have any reason to celebrate their womanhood.

Without harping on the issues which are widely discussed, I want to focus on a relatively new problem faced by women.  We talk of equality, freedom and liberation from the shackles to which society has bound us.  Feminists – a much maligned lot – are doing all they can to better the lot of women.  But are they achieving what they are trying to?

Blog after blog, post after post and various women’s sites are witness to women coming in reporting their disillusionment with their situation in life.  Educated, working, earning, playing the roles of dils, wives and mothers to the hilt, having their money taken away by ILs, not being allowed to take care of their own parents, being forced to either give up their jobs to take care of children or worse still having to balance work, home and kids with little help and a lot of taunts ……  it is all there.  Nothing changes.

YET whenever a stay at home mom or a home maker comes and complains about her issues with life, the first question she is asked by other women is “why did you get into an arranged marriage, why are you not working, why does your husband have to earn for you, do you think what he goes through being saddled with a wife and having to earn for the family single handedly” ……. 

I shall not even get into the topic of arranged marriages here as that is a subject for another discussion altogether.

While I can understand that a truly liberated, self-sufficient woman MUST be able to earn and stand on her own feet, my question is are we still at that stage?  Are we in a situation where working women stay unmarried, single or in an equal relationship?  Do they really get respect for their abilities and for their individuality?  As things stand today, all I see is that women are being caught between the devil and the deep sea – very few choose or have a third option open to them.  They are probably in a worse situation than their grand mothers who were financially dependent, had no other life or options beyond home and family, but it ended there.  They were not in a situation where they had to be superwomen and achievers while living the same life of drudgery and slavery which many women of today live.  All we seem to have achieved so far (EXCEPT for a small percentage of women) is that women have ended up in a position where their education and work are being used to exploit them further.

Under these situations, is it fair that we women who fight for the rights of under privileged women add insult to their injuries with our words?  Are we not putting the cart before the horse in demanding that women must work without sorting out the ground issues?

My second question is how do we define “equality”?  Does this have to be 1:1 equality?  Is that really reasonable?  Why can’t women, in the face of their biological differences continue to play a nurturing role while demanding respect and value for that COMPLEMENTARY ROLE?  Why should running a home, looking after family and kids be considered demeaning?  It is one thing going out and working because one wants to, or because the family requires it financially (in which case, she better be treated well and fairly) and another matter having to go out and work just to make a statement.  

Why should home makers be considered unequal?  What is the use of marriage if one’s contribution to society and family are not acknowledged to be as important as going out and raking in the moolah?  Why do we (men and women) have to lose out on real “home life” simply because everyone has to go out and earn just to be acknowledged as “equals”?  All of us require a safe haven in our lives to return to at the end of the day – we call them homes – and in providing this, women need to be given their due acknowledgement and be compensated in terms of emotional and financial security – after all if they had gone out to work during that time, they would not have been available at home to provide that comfort to all concerned.  To my way of thinking, equality would be admitting that they work 24X7 in various roles / designations.  This needs to be recognized and all family members need to pitch in to help her out when they are not out working.  The home needs to be recognized as the woman’s “work place” and not as a hideout or a route of escape and free loading on her part.

It would be nice to share some ideas towards sorting out this grid lock to ensure that women lead better existences in the decades to come.

Sunset from the Window

Posted in Hobbies, Nature, Photographs on February 23, 2014 by swatiaiyer

Sunset 22 feb 2014.jpg (1) - FB, I4usSunset 22 feb 2014 (2) - FB, I4USSunset 22 feb 2014 - FB, I4us

A glorious end to a busy day.

Supreme Court Judgment – Being Gay is A Crime – Some Questions, Some Answers

Posted in Judicial, Social on December 13, 2013 by swatiaiyer

Supreme Court has declared homosexuality a crime once again, barely 4 years after the Delhi High Court decision in 2009 to amend Section 377 of the IPC.  This is a 150 year old law introduced by the British which still exists in our Constitution.  The “crime” according to the SC will be punishable with a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

To say this reversal is regressive, disappointing, shocking, unfair, incomprehensible is a gross understatement.  The basic rights of a minority group of human beings is being totally denied to them.    Why?

Though the ruling was widely and visibly welcomed by India’s gay community, it was strongly opposed by religious groups, particularly leaders of India’s minority Muslim and Christian communities. They had appealed against the ruling before the Supreme Court, which concluded hearings on the issue in March last year.


I have some simple questions to ask:

  • How does anyone prove two adults belonging to the same gender living under one roof are gays/lesbians?
  • Why give a weapon in the hands of the police, which they might freely use to harass innocent people besides homosexuals?  One more avenue opened up for blackmail and corruption?
  • What makes the courts decide that marital rape is not a crime, but a consensual relationship between two adults is?
  • What happens if gay marriages are not allowed and gays are forced by family and society into marrying “straight”?  How many individuals and families will end up miserable?
  • What does society gain by sweeping homosexuality under the carpet?  Do we mean to say it has never existed in India?  If it hasn’t, then what does one say about this sculpture:


So why would we want to be slaves to a law which was introduced in this country by a colonial power?

Now here are some answers / counter-points to many accusations / arguments I have heard against homosexuality:

  • “It is unnatural”.  Who is to define “natural” or “unnatural”?  If it was so despicable and wrong and unnatural, would God allow such variants exist in His universe?
  • “It is unnatural because such a union cannot produce off-spring”.  There are many “straight” couples who are unabe to have children.  Does that make their relationship also unnatural?
  • “Would people proudly invite friends and family to the wedding of their son/daughter if it was a gay wedding”?  Well, maybe it is not happening today.  Why not?  Because our people, as usual, are afraid of “what will people say”?  (Add to that now, what if my son/daughter lands up in jail for the rest of his/her life?)  Can people asking such questions understand that if gays were treated like “us normal human beings” and social acceptance crept in, there will be a day when the parents of gays would not have any hesitation in getting their children married with much the same extent of celebration as if it had been a “normal” wedding?


When will we wake up and allow individuals to lead their own lives and concentrate on protecting those weaker sections of society which really need help?  Whom is this law trying to protect?  Self appointed guardians of public morals?  People who are willing to write off domestic violence, marital rape, child abuse as “domestic problems” in which they don’t want to “interfere”?  People who don’t think it their duty to report people who employ children and then subject to inhuman violence?  People who gather around an accident spot and watch the “tamasha”, but don’t think it is their duty to help the victim by taking him/her to hospital?  People who do not think what happens between two consenting adults is their own business or in their own words “a domestic matter”?

Aadhar or Niraadhar?

Posted in Media with tags , , , , , on November 9, 2013 by swatiaiyer

Two days ago I received a refill of my Indane gas cylinder which I had ordered recently.  Not very long ago, all gas companies got customers to provide proper ID proof (passport copies, electricity bills) with proof of address in order to be able to continue getting their services.  Subsequent to this a system of booking a refill on phone which functions 24 hours was introduced and believe me, it has been functioning very efficiently.  Just goes to show what we can achieve if we just put our minds to it.

However, here comes the twist in the story.  This time round the guy who delivered the cylinder informed us that we need to give a copy of our Aadhar card (supposed to be a unique identity card which was introduced with a lot of fanfare but has been going through several birthing pangs) in order to be able to avail of the subsidized rates, failing which we would have to buy cylinders at the full price of Rs. 1000/-.

Now as it happens, I have an Aadhar card, but my husband in whose name the gas connection is booked does not have one.  So either he has to get one, which is not an issue,(the easier option) or we have to get the gas transferred to my name.

However, there are some facts here that are being glossed over.  A PIL was filed by a retired judge against making the Aadhar card (which at present serves as a proof of residence) compulsory for transfer of benefits. (

While everyone was under the impression that Aadhaar card is mandatory for all government subsidies and services, a Supreme Court interim order issued on September 23, 2013, ruled that Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory, it has to be voluntary.

Under the circumstances, the demand by the gas company amounts to contempt of court.  

There are several issues which render the Aadhar card meaningless:

  • To start with, there is no verification process done when issuing the card as is done when issuing a passport.  There is no police verification.  All this card shows is that one is a resident of India.  So any resident of India including illegal immigrants can provide a proof of residence (such as electricity bill, telephone bill) and get an Aadhar card.  Obviously they can benefit from subsidies by just owning an Aadhar card.
  • If one loses the Aadhar card, one can go online and download a copy.  However, for that one has to have the receipt showing the exact date, place, time (hh:mm:ss) when one applied for the card.  If one does not have that receipt or has not recorded the card number, then one is doomed.  All attempts to call the UID issuing authorities in Delhi drew a blank when I was in this situation.  Despite claiming to have a computerized database, including my mobile number, they said they could not retrieve that information for me, which meant, in effect I could not get a duplicate issued.
  • “Can I get another one issued”?  The answer was “NO”.  Which means if I lose my Aadhar card, I cannot get a duplicate or get a fresh one issued.  So I cannot avail of any benefits linked to owning an Aadhar card for the rest of my life.  That of course is provided I am honest to own only one Aadhar card.  Is there anything to prevent one from getting a few more Aadhar cards?  Is any cross-checking done to ensure that no card has been issued to an individual in the past?
  • If I cannot get a new Aadhar card, what happens if I happen to move to another city/state?  How do I provide evidence of my new residence (based on Aadhar card) if I cannot get a fresh one with the address changed?

These are just some of the very basic problems which do not seem to have been tackled (if they have even occurred to them) by the people trying to impose the use of Aadhar card on the citizens.  Besides the Aadhar card had been earlier touted to be a purely voluntary card and not compulsory.

Issues of privacy too come into play.  Why would anyone want to share their bank details with private parties who are handling this entire business of issuing Aadhar cards?  (That a large number of people in this country do not have bank accounts is a different story altogether).  Is this another way of playing “Big Brother” in public life?  Would it not be easier and cheaper to keep a check on the number of gas cylinders that one purchases and ensure that no more than 9 a year are provided at subsidized rates?  Would it not make more sense to have a proper citizenship card for everyone? 

Yet another story of a well-meant idea of a UID card that has been totally messed up.  We shall wait till the government suddenly wakes up to the need for a citizenship card and all other cards owned by one become invalid – some more money which could have been better used will have been successfully thrown down the drain.


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