#India – Tribal women hit hardest by development: study #Vaw #Womenrights


 

STAFF REPORTER, The Hindu

When displaced by development projects, many migrate to cities as servants, some are lured into prostitution

A study conducted by Centre for Development Studies (CDS) on impact of development on tribal people has found that tribal women are the worst sufferers in this process of change.

The study, titled ‘Withering Valli: Alienation, degradation and enslavement of tribal women in Attappady’ and undertaken along with the Kerala Research Programme on Local Level Development, says the “displacement for development projects has deprived tribesfolk of their land and forests from which much of their food came”.

“Today, they have to walk much longer distances than in the past to collect food and fodder. Impoverishment forces women to migrate to towns and cities as domestic servants. Many of them are also lured into prostitution. Development schemes have effected a thorough change in the socio-economic and cultural life of the tribal women.Transactions are increasingly made in man’s name. Improved facilities of development like transportation, health, housing, and technology have not reached women.” The study has also found that “women continued to work hard and have no time to enjoy the fruits of development. Women’s work is considered unskilled and unproductive in the market sense.”

Women also have to be at the beck and call of officials and contractors who come to tribal areas to implement projects of development, the study observes. “When development programmes are allotted to women, they have to go to various offices to get the programmes sanctioned. Some women have to undergo sexual abuse at the hand of officers. In order to get grants or subsidies for house construction and building of cattle-shed, women are sometimes forced to oblige to officials. Among the victims of rape and sexual harassment, 95 per cent are tribal women and children. Of this, all the victims were tribesfolk belonging to the age group of 6-16 years.”

There are no witnesses to the thousands of unreported atrocities on tribal women like rape, sexual harassment, and murders except the forests, mountains, and valleys, the report says.

The government promotes and even rewards mixed marriages, between tribal women and settlers from other parts of the State, with monetary awards. But the settlers who marry tribal women usually have wife and children back home. After a period, the settlers go back to their own native places leaving their tribal wives and children in lurch.

Among the sexual exploiters of tribal women, the people involved are the police, government officials, contractors, smugglers, flesh-traders, and immigrant farmers. Incidents of death and murder of tribal women have also become common; and almost in every case, the culprits go unpunished. ”

 

No Social Protection for India’s Elderly #Indiashining


Aged women sitting in front of an old age home in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPSAged women sitting in front of an old age home in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

NEW/DELHI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Nov 9 2012 (IPS) - At midnight on Oct. 12, 91-year-old George Puthenveettil, a widower living in Kalanjur village in the Pathanamthita district of the southern Indian state of Kerala, was brutally tortured and ousted from his own house by his only son for “not earning any money”.

The nonagenarian wandered the streets of his village for hours before he reached a shelter in Pathanapuram with the help of neighbours. Police said the son had often beaten and harassed the old man, who was financially dependent on his son.

For many people like George, the sunset years of life turn out to be a traumatic period, in which they find themselves entirely dependent on families or friends due to the absence of a good social security system or government pension plan in India.

Expressing concern over the increasing insecurity of elders in the country, Dr. Irudaya Rajan, a prominent demographer and chair professor of the research unit on international migration under the Ministry of Indian Overseas Affairs, told IPS that income security is one of the most urgent needs of India’s aging population.

Years ago, “traditional values and religious beliefs were quite supportive of elderly people”, he said.

Today, economic hardships and the faltering nuclear family system are “drastically eroding the support base of aged people”.

“The majority of the elderly tend to work even after the age of retirement due to inadequate social security and financial resources,” Rajan added.

A report on the aging population in India, released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) in New Delhi, said that the country had 90 million elderly people in 2011, with the number expected to grow to 173 million by 2026.

Of the 90 million seniors, 30 million are living alone, and 90 percent work for a living.

Experts estimate that only eight percent of the labour force of about 460 million receives social security from an employer.

‘Informal’ labourers left out in the cold

Over 94 percent of India’s working population is part of the unorganised sector, which refers to all unlicensed, self-employed or unregistered economic activity such as owner-manned general stores, handicrafts and handloom workers, rural traders and farmers, among many others.

Gopal Krishnan, an economist in Chennai, told IPS “There is no social safety coverage for people in the unorganised sector, which accounts for half of the GDP (gross domestic product) of India”.

According to the World Bank, India’s GDP in 2011 was 1,848 billion dollars.

In 2006, the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector recommended that the Union Government establish a National Social Security Scheme to provide the minimum level of benefits to workers retiring from the informal sector.

Until now, the government has not been able to compile a comprehensive policy to address the issues of elderly people. The ministry of social justice and empowerment drafted a National Policy on Older Persons in 1999, which was never implemented.

Hardships abound

Analysts point out that India’s aging population is constantly grappling with health issues, economic stress, family matters, uncertain living arrangements, gender disparities, urban-rural differences, displacement and slum-like living conditions.

Dr. Udaya Shankar Mishra, a senior demographer at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram, believes the current “profile” of the aging population of India can change.

“The (perception) of the elderly as a burden can, with suitable policies, be turned into an opportunity to realise active and healthy aging,” he told IPS.

“With limited resources, we need to adopt viable policy changes to manage the crisis of the aged. This calls for a detailed auditing of (all) the affairs of the elderly, primarily health, morbidity and mortality in addition to economic and emotional wellbeing.

“Research on geriatric health needs to (shift) towards ensuring a better quality of life among future elderly persons. Considering the demographic inversion and its associated challenges, it (is clear) that investments into healthy aging are necessary,” he added.

Data from the 2011 National Census revealed that the percentage of aged living alone or with spouse is as high as 45 percent in Tamil Nadu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Kerala.

Healthcare experts have found that the elderly are highly prone to heart diseases, respiratory disorders, renal diseases, diabetes, hypertension, neurological problems and prostate issues.

The National Sample Survey Organisation calculates that one out of two elderly people in India suffers from at least one chronic disease, which requires lifelong medication.

The most recent data available, taken for the period 1995-96, revealed that 75 percent of aged individuals are affected by at least one disability relating to sight, hearing, speech, walking, and senility.

Dr. Shanti Johnson, professor at the faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the Canada-based University of Regina, estimates that nearly eight percent of the elderly are immobile, while a disproportionately higher percentage of women are immobile compared to men.

“The average hospitalisation rate in the country per 100,000 aged persons is 7,633. There is considerable gender difference in the rate of hospitalisation, as a much greater proportion of men are hospitalised compared to their female counterparts,” she added.

Non-governmental organisations are advocating for more old-age homes, day-care centers, physiotherapy clinics and temporary shelters for the rehabilitation of older persons, with government funds allocated to the running and maintaining of such projects.

(END)

 

Kerala a State with a speedily ageing population- issues and concerns #sundayreading


Shades of grey

 R. KRISHNAKUMAR

in Thiruvananthapuram, Front line 

 

Kerala faces difficult and politically inconvenient policy choices on issues linked to its final-stage demographic transition.

K.C. SOWMISH 

AN ELDERLY WOMAN with her grandson. In Kerala, the continuous decline in the number of births has been accompanied, among other things, by a rapid increase in the number of the elderly. 

IF population trends and hesitant statements by State Ministers are a clue, Kerala is set to face difficult and politically inconvenient policy choices in the near future on issues linked to its final-stage demographic transition, marked by low fertility and mortality rates.

Signs of new dilemmas are already evident in the State. It has one of the lowest population growth rates in India. Its fertility and mortality rates have fallen to very low levels. An average Keralite would live beyond 70 years. All this is leading to a situation making Kerala a State with a speedily ageing population.

At an international seminar on “Emerging Fertility Patterns in India: Causes and Implications” organised recently by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) in Thiruvananthapuram, participants were calling attention to the “profound demographic transformation” taking place, indeed, all over the world. As a result, more than half the world’s population is now living in countries or regions where birth rates are “at or below the level needed to ensure the replacement of generations” (or 2.1 children per woman, a number known as the “replacement rate of fertility”, which denotes a stable population).

“Nearly one-third of India is witnessing a trend of below replacement level of fertility today [see box]. Our estimate is that by 2021, two-thirds of the districts in India will have below replacement level of fertility,” S. Irudaya Rajan, a professor at the CDS who has been studying demographic and migration issues in Kerala for over two decades, told Frontline.

Within Kerala, one of the first States to reach an advanced stage in demographic transition, the continuous decline in the number of births has been accompanied, among other things, by an increase in the proportion of the working population, the highest unemployment rate among educated youth in India and problems associated with their migration in large numbers in search of job opportunities, and a rapid increase in the number of the elderly within the State.

From the mid-1990s, questions were being raised on the economic implications of low fertility and mortality and on how the development achievements of the State could be sustained in the wake of such population trends and in an environment of poor economic growth. Researchers have been saying that the socio-economic implications of the reversal of demographic trends would be far-reaching in a State like Kerala.

A collection of research papers from the CDS titled “Kerala’s Demographic Future: Issues and Policy Options” released at the seminar foresees, among other things, “significant changes in the age structure” in Kerala, including “a decrease in school age population, decrease in proportion of the labour force in about two decades from 2001, decline in young working age population, a doubling of older working age population in two decades ending in 2021 and more unemployment among the older age groups than among the youth in the foreseeable future”.

Unique ageing scenario

A paper on the unique ageing scenario in Kerala estimates that the size of the population in the age group of 60 years and above in the State is expected to increase from 33 lakh in 2001 to 57 lakh in 2021 and to 120 lakh in 2061. By 2061, the proportion of the elderly would constitute 40 per cent of Kerala’s total population. Of this, 6.7 per cent would be in the age group 60-69 years; 23.8 per cent in the age group 70-79 years; and 9.1 per cent in the age group of 80 years and above.

Another study by the State Planning Board, published in 2009 as part of a United Nations Development Programme-Planning Commission project, also makes similar projections, that the number of elderly persons (60+) is set to increase from 3.62 million in 2001 to 8.93 million by 2051, an increase of 166 per cent. The study estimates that the growth rate among the elderly will be the highest during 2011-21 and will decline thereafter to a low of 7.5 per cent during 2041-51.

K.K. MUSTAFAH 

AN ELDERLY MAN returning home after a day’s work in an agricultural field near Thrissur. The proportion of households in the State that do not have aged persons has been decreasing. 

The CDS studies report that the cost of “dependency burden” of Kerala households will also rise quite rapidly in the future. While the young dependency ratio (defined as the number of persons aged 0-14 per 100 persons in the working age group of 15-59 years) is expected to decline from 41 to 16, the aged dependency ratio (the number of persons above 60 years of age per 100 persons in the working age group of 15 to 59 years) is to increase from 17 to 76 during the period from 2001 to 2061.

Kerala would also have more women than men in the old-age group; also, more aged widows than aged widowers. The proportion of households that do not have aged persons has also been decreasing. Among Kerala’s 14 districts, there are variations in the proportion of the elderly to the total population, with the highest percentage of elderly population (21 per cent) found in Pathanamthitta, followed by Alappuzha, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram.

The older working age population in the State is estimated to double in number in the 20 years from 2001 to 2021, “creating an atmosphere of unemployment more among the older age groups than among the youth in the foreseeable future”.

However, unemployment among Kerala’s young working age population is set to decline in the coming decades, and “educated young workers will be able to virtually pick and choose the jobs they want”, according to the editors of the collection, Irudaya Rajan and K.C. Zachariah, an honorary professor at CDS. They also believe that the reversal of the demographic trends will ease the pressure on Kerala’s education and health care systems and offer opportunities for quality improvement of such services.

Migration

It is well known that migration from Kerala to other States in India and abroad had been one of the means by which the State coped with the ill effects of rapid demographic transition in the last 50 years and which helped it realise its human development achievements. Questions are raised on whether migration will continue at such high rates in the future too and contribute to the well-being of Kerala’s economy. Meanwhile, the State is also seeing a new trend of “replacement migration”, an increasing flow of migrant labourers from other States into Kerala.

The authors say that Kerala is now experiencing the secondary effects of migration of its people during the past decades, which are not so beneficial as the primary effects were. They include (a) the creation of educated youth unwilling to take up low-paid or unskilled jobs, and thus leading to a high unemployment rate; (b) the inflow of migrant workers from other States who are willing to accept low wages and poor working conditions and thus make a significant impact on unemployment and wage rates within, and “nullifying some of the potentially positive spin-off effects of emigration”; (c) the divisions caused by the “increasing economic and political clout of the newly rich emigrants”; and (d) rising resentment in Kerala society as a result of unequal opportunities in the emerging migration market.

The recent phenomenon of “replacement migration” is a result of a rapid decline in the number of workers in the young working ages caused by fertility decline to below replacement level, emigration of a large number of young persons to the Gulf and other destinations, and economic improvement in the State economy “which have fostered an aversion to low-paid and unskilled jobs on the part of the youth in the State”.

As a result, “the potential spin-off effects of remittances on employment are benefiting workers outside Kerala more than workers within Kerala”, with much of its remittances being drained off to other States, according to Irudaya Rajan and Zachariah.

C. RATHEESH KUMAR 

PENSIONERS WAIT AT the sub-treasury in Thiruvananthapuram. Nearly 20,000 State government employees retire every year in Kerala. 

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