Tag: poverty

Borrowing and lending: What Jesus tells us about lending money?

Moneylending is a serious issue since time immemorial. It is painful, to know how people are enslaved in numerous ways by moneylenders. Many times poor people spend their entire life or even generations to pay off their interests. Usurers extract land, labour, assets, farm produce etc in return. This money lending business is killing many poor people and enslaving many for life. Money lending with interests always worsens the plight of the poor.

When I come across such cases of exploitation, I always think what Jesus said about lending and borrowing. How God commanded Moses to tell His people to lend?

Mosaic Law tells, “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest” (Exodus 22:25). In Deuteronomy 23:19, it prohibits charging interest in any form such as food, money or anything else.   Mosaic Law tells us this, basically for two reasons, first: interest bearing loan would aggravate the difficulties of the poor and secondly: God promised a blessing on the gracious lender that would far surpass any interest he would make. Moreover, this law strongly encourages community living by proposing, every creditor must cancel their debts every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:1). However, the law does tell borrowers to work to return their debts (Psalm 37:21) but it does not encourage lenders to impose interest or forcefully collect the loan.

When the Mosaic Law of 3500 years tells not to lend with interest, what Jesus tells us about this? He says “do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). He then tells us to lend freely without expecting a return. He goes one step further by telling even don’t expect any return from the needy. He not only tells us to give to our friends but also to enemies in need. He says, “But love your enemies and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great” (Luke 6:35). He strongly emphasizes to give freely, without interest and even in worse cases give without even expecting anything in return. Jesus tells “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

It encourages to give freely and promises a return of our gracious giving from God.  By giving He tells us, we will not become poor rather he tells us our ability to produce wealth comes from God (Deuteronomy 8:18) and it is God who sends both poverty and wealth; He humbles and He exalts” (1 Samuel 2:7).

When we live in a community we should live interdependently and equality and justice help us all live joyful and meaningful lives rather than living lavishly at the cost of others.  When we are connected to God vertically and to people horizontally in love, it sums up everything. As He blesses freely, it is expected we too bless others freely.

But how far have we gone in the other ways? I wonder where the increasing individualism would take us.

People with Disabilities in India: Hopelessness and Hope

Today International day for People with Disabilities is being observed around the world.

Here in India, we also have various events to commemorate the day like every other year but PWDs continue to live in extreme poverty, facing different types of discrimination, poor quality of life and hopelessness.

PWDs in villages are still being mocked and are identified by their impairments. Disability is largely considered a consequence of one’s past life sins or karma instead of being a physical condition and disease. Widespread awareness is still lacking among people who are both educated and denied education.

PWDs are often looked down upon or looked at in a manner that makes them feel worthless. Even when we show compassion and kindness, it is more out of pity rather than the actual intention of helping the person grow. Our behavior is attached with stigma and discrimination and our use of words affects their self-esteem, confidence and faith in themselves. Some even don’t dare to attend public functions in fear of being rejected, mocked or looked down upon or considered as helpless creatures. Many are confined to their homes all their lives.

Although, disability is often a low priority for the government, in the recent years there have been many initiatives taken. In 2013, while I was working in Jharkhand, it was the first year the District Administration was observing Disability Day. This is almost 20 years after IDPWD was declared globally and more than 15 years after the PWD Act 1995 was passed. It is tragic that such a global event had been ignored for so long while there also seems to be a glimmer of hope as the District Disability Rehabilitation Centre was started on that day as well.  There are various rights for PWDs outlined in the Act and there are various social welfare schemes initiated by the government but they hardly promote empowerment, wellbeing, and freedom. At the ground level, the initiatives by the government are limited to disability pension of Rs 600/- p/m. In addition to the fact that the amount barely provides for basic needs, it is very irregular. Pensions are received once in 6 months or sometimes once a year. Even when they receive the amount, it is used to meet family expenditures making it close to impossible to have a decent quality of life dependent on the pension.

A few other initiatives by the government include the provision of assistive devices like wheelchairs and tricycles for PWDs (but not all) with restricted movements. These events are rare and when these equipments are given, they are of very poor quality and often do not last long. When a few PWDs actually utilize them, their movements are still restricted as the rural infrastructure such as roads, houses, toilets are inaccessible.

Apart from this, in order to avail any government benefits, PWDs are required to have disability certificates. Unfortunately, by 2012 when my colleagues in EHA had started working in the area in Jharkhand, very few had disability certificates in the region. Around 80 – 90 percent of PWDs were not registered or given certificates. The certification is a lengthy process which requires multiple visits to the district headquarters. It is both time consuming and a financial burden. Caregivers or family members who are dependent on daily wages find it especially difficult to get the work done. Even this disability certification process is not exempt from corruption. People with lesser impairments sometimes pay and get higher than 40% percentage of disability in order to access government schemes easily. On the other hand, there have been instances where people could not pay and have got lower percentages of Disability during certification.

As stated above, there are many challenges and barriers to a better quality of life such as social, financial, institutional and infrastructural.

There are hardly any government initiatives that focus on capacity building, skill development, education and empowerment of PWDs. Skill development programs which are functioning are more of a hype rather than doing any sustainable good.

It is 26 years since the first human development report was published by UN based on the capability approach. The government should focus more on building capacities, providing opportunities and an environment to utilize their skills, disable friendly technologies and accessible markets. Moreover, to create a community and society which is open, educated enough and inclusive in order to provide an enriching environment which is necessary for better quality of life.

However, it is not all hopeless. In the recent years, many Non-Governmental photo1729Organizations have come up to work in this area of disability, focusing on the right based and empowerment approach. In rural areas a few well informed NGOs are trying to strengthen the rural institutions and helping in forming disability people groups in order to work for their rights. The Government is also increasingly coming up with policies but the implementation is still dependent upon the mercies of the officials.

Hope is raising, change is happening but the question is can we be satisfied with this? Satisfied by the disguised notion that things are changing? If we are satisfied with the way things are changing, we are doing injustice by denying their rights. We need to be impatient, because the way things are changing, by the time we ensure an equal society and wellbeing for all, millions of lives would have been lost without education, quality of life, wellbeing, freedom and even without having to dream.

As the popular quote from Nehru’s speech on the eve of India’s Independence goes, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom”. I wonder we are still waiting for that stroke which will bring with it life and freedom to other relevant aspects of our lives.

Let’s observe the International Day for People with Disabilities as a reminder that a lot is still to be done much more than what we have achieved so far.

Love

Abinash

P.S. Contributed by Rachel

Beyond beef, pork and BAN…

beef-ban
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Television, Newspaper and social media are filled with beef, pork and chicken since a few weeks in India. Eat Beef!!!Ban Beef!! Ban pork!! Ban Chicken!!! What’s happening?? Why have we been concentrating on what people should eat and not??? But there are no highlights on number of people who go to bed with no food or inadequate food every day in our country…

Is not life much more important than just eating? What will happen if one does or does not eat something? How far is it justified to hate someone for their eating habits? Is it not important for us to love one another? If we will love people on the basis of their behavior and attitude we can’t love…we can only hate…

Promoting hatred and fighting each other in the name of religion has become a trend in certain parts of the world including our country. Why are we fighting in the name of religion? If anyone believes that God promotes religion, then leave it to God to defend his cause. We are too small to defend God. Don’t defend God, he does not need you to defend him and kill one another in the name of religion.  How does that promote peace and harmony?

Talking about holiness. Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defiles a man – Matt-15:11. What a person eat does not make a person good or bad but how one speaks, behaves and his/her attitude makes him/her good or bad. That means we need to concentrate what comes out from us rather than what goes inside (other than in terms of health). It is good to stop eating something if that disturbs anyone, but how far is it right to kill a person who ate something in his house without causing harm to anyone?

There are more important things to worry, rather than someone’s eating habits. Unfortunately, our media focuses its attention on the sensational news rather than the harsh realities. All around, there are millions of Indians who do not have a square meal each day, a huge population lives in extreme poverty, children die of malnutrition, mothers in childbirth, access to a social life is a dream for majority of the People with Disabilities, millions of children have no access to proper education (we may be happy with the literacy rate in our census data). There are so many more important and pressing issues that need our attention and priority.

Come to our villages and see lives…”India lives in its village” – Mahatma Gandhi. If you don’t agree then experience it. Visits to many of the villages in Jharkhand, Odisha and few other states are very limited due to the fear of Maoist presence in the region. But reality cannot be understood unless one goes to the ground. Only when we step out will be able to see, think and experience something different. Right now all banning Beef does fulfill some political agenda and satisfies somebody’s greed while realities remain unchanged.

Looking at these realities might actually save lives.

Rather than focusing on what goes inside let’s think about what goes out. How we live our life and contribute to the society and behave to our fellow human beings are important than eating?

By saying this, I don’t mean I am perfect but all I am saying is to focus on the things that matter and we will grow together. Time to look beyond beef, pork and BAN….

Thank you

God Bless..

A Face in the Web

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A lot has been written and debated on the vicious cycle of poverty and disability and has always been of interest to me as well. Often we get lost in the academics of these concepts that reality doesn’t affect us as much. But during my field visit yesterday, I happened to meet someone caught in that web, a face in that vicious cycle.

Anshu is a 2 year old girl with delay in developmental milestones. I had met her during one of our assessment camps for Children with disabilities. She was accompanied by her mother. In the initial interaction, her mother seemed surprisingly knowledgeable. I later found that she was a trained health assistant and had been working for about 6 years. I even took the liberty to assume that the child was getting good care at home and that everything would turn out ok. But unfortunately, not everything is as we see it. A long interaction and a visit to their home showed the other side of their lives.

Anshu is the only child in her family, her father lives in Kerala in South India, where he with many other men from the village had migrated in search of jobs mostly unskilled labour. Her mother is hopeful that her daughter would recover. She had quit her job as a heath assistant to take care of her daughter and is dependent on her husband.

But this is not all, Anshu has a heart condition, when asked if they had taken any treatment, her mother explained that they had gone to Ranchi (about 150 kms away) but couldn’t admit the child as they did not have money and had to come back. She said when they had saved enough money there was no one to accompany them. Her father visits once a year and that could be a time for them to go for treatment but this year due to lack of rains, there has been no agriculture and it also means that her father would not come home this year.

As we observed the child playing cheerfully, it was heart breaking to watch her stop and gasp for air. I offered her a biscuit, her face lit up but she was too tired to come and take it from my hand. As we talked, am disturbed by the thought of how much longer would the child be able to hold on? I pried her mom on if they were planning to have other children, her reply was surprising, she said they wanted to wait till the child is independent otherwise they wouldn’t be able to take care of her properly. I am not sure what is the right reaction or suggestion. I left quietly with a promise to come back. I only can whisper a prayer that the family would win the race against time cause every time I remember that family, I am left with an image of little Anshu waving but her little heart beating so rapidly that it was visible from where I stand.

Hope
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Thank You

Millet – The answer in the long run…

The World is vastly dependant on agriculture for food production and in a country like India; it is the main source of livelihood for rural population. Since independence, India has experienced a lot of changes and achieved many things in the area of agriculture. One of the most popular changes is the Green Revolution. The green revolution contributed to widespread poverty reduction, averted hunger for millions of people, and avoided the conversion of thousands of hectares of cultivable land for other development purposes. . But the lesser known fact is that it also has left many communities at enormous loss with poverty, food insecurity and different health issues. It was started with keeping in mind the human need, the growing population with their limited land but what it failed to think was about the environment, water, soil and other natural resources and most importantly the sustainability factor. Even though it was human focused it also failed to provide food and better health for all.

Green revolution introduced high-yielding varieties of seeds and increase use of fertilizers and irrigation for more production and it has definitely helped us in many things in short run but in long run it has become a threat to the future of both humans and the earth.

  • As it requires a lot of irrigation, it is not suitable for all the regions in our country. It is a curse for communities who depend on rainwater for irrigation. Irrigation technologies have been developed which are not sustainable and increased use of underground water will leave us in a tragic state in few years. It is making some communities more vulnerable and susceptible to disasters and water crisis and hence poorer than they were. Green revolution which is not inclusive has increased poverty level of many farmers, as poor farmers could not afford high variety seeds, fertilizers and machinery. It has forced farmers to borrow and left many with huge debts causing suicide and high rates of rural to urban migration.
  • Due to the heavy chemical fertilizer inputs, land quality has gone down and yield has suffered.
  • Increase use of pesticide has made pests more resistant to many pesticides causing increase in pest attack.
  • Due to increase use of chemical pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers we have lost many birds and friendly insects and this can result in long term loss.
  • Chemicals used in agriculture are contaminating the groundwater and the chemical content in the food has affected general health. Consumption of one or two variety of food may provide us calories but can’t fulfill the requirement of micronutrients which are essential for human beings.
  • We are losing our vast varieties of traditional seeds due to the introduction of high yield seeds and many traditional crops have disappeared due to high concentration on wheat and rice,
  • Due to improper technological development farmers have been losing their indigenous methods of   adapting to climate change which have made communities more vulnerable and less resilient.

So it is the time for us to think of a better solution. What can give us a sustainable future from which both humans and nature would benefit?

There are a lot of initiatives that have been taken by the government and NGOs, but none of their attempts seem to be solving the problem in recent future. Organic farming has been a solution and it has been implemented in some regions and seems to be successful. Organic farming may solve the issue of pesticides and fertilizers but how far can it solve the issue of irrigation and natural resource management? What can give us a future without compromising with nature?

The Earth is rich and has tremendous capacity to meet the human need and it has been providing too.  But since the past two centuries, we have been facing lot of problems and threats from climate. Nature has its own management process but we are trying to manipulate. It is the time to look back at how our ancestors lived their lives and how they adapted to climate and saved the earth for us to live. So it is time for us to go back to the traditional crops which might have the answers to our problems and can save the earth for future generations. There are some traditional crops which have tremendous capacity to adapt to the climatic condition and do not require much input like fertilizer, pesticide and irrigation. One of the categories can be Millet.

Photographs of some types of millets traditionally grown in India:

ककुम
Foxtail Millet
कोदों
Kodo Millet
चेना या बर्री
Proso Millet
जोवारी
Great Millet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

बाजरा
Pearl Millet
मडुआ
Finger Millet
सांवा
Barnyard Millet
सावन या कुटकी
Little Millet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millets need very little water for their production. Thus, they do not burden the state with demands for irrigation or power. Millet does not demand for subterranean water and can contribute to sustainable agriculture in our country.

Millets are adapted to a wide range of ecological conditions often growing on very thin soils. It does not demand rich soils for their survival and growth. Hence, they are a boon for the vast dry land areas.

It can provide livelihood to small farmers at the same time focus on ecological preservation.  Millet production is not dependent on the use of chemical fertilizers. Most millet farmers therefore use farmyard manures and in recent times, household produced bio-fertilizers. Therefore, they can significantly reduce the huge burden of fertilizer usage.

Grown under traditional methods, no millet attracts any pest. A majority of them are not affected by storage pests either. Therefore, their need for pesticides is close to nil. Thus, they are a great help to the agricultural environment.

Millets are amazing in their nutrition content. Each of the millets is three to five times nutritionally superior to the widely promoted rice and wheat in terms of proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Comparison of Millets with rice and wheat:

Millets Protein (g) Carbohydrates (g) Minerals (g) Fiber (g) Calcium (mg) Iron (mg) Energy (Kcal)
Finger 7.3 72 2.7 3.6 344 3.9 336
Sorghum 10.4 70.7 1.2 2.0 25 5.4 329
Pearl 11.8 67.0 2.2 2.3 42 11.0 363
Foxtail 12.3 60.2 4.0 6.7 31 2.8 351
Little 7.7 67.0 1.7 7.6 17 9.3 329
Kodo 8.3 65.9 2.6 5.2 35 1.7 353
Proso 12.5 70.4 1.9 5.2 8 2.9 354
Barnyard 6.2 65.5 3.7 13.6 22 18.6 300
Rice 6.8 78.2 0.6 1.0 33 1.8 362
Wheat 11.8 71.2 1.5 2.0 30 3.5 348

All these qualities of millet farming system make them the climate change compliant crops. Climate change portends less rain, more heat, reduced water availability and increased malnutrition. If there is any cropping system that can withstand these challenges, survive and flourish, it is the millet system.

While wheat and rice might provide only food security, millets produce multiple securities (food, fodder, health, nutrition, livelihood and ecological) making them the crops of agricultural security and future of our agriculture.

Millet is the answer which can give us a sustainable future from which both human and nature will benefit. This can be answer for us and our future generations, making a sustainable, rich and healthy planet and millet can be an answer for today and tomorrow…..

Last year we were quite successful in bringing back finger millet in our target area, where 46 farmers harvested finger millet. This year there are around 300 farmers have registered to cultivate finger millet. As the region is drought prone, millet can be an answer for them to solve the issue of food insecurity and malnutrition. It can contribute to livelihood, food security and availability of fodder for animals. Its capacity to grow with minimum water makes it one of the appropriate crops for the region and as there is no need for fertilizer and pesticide it can be the savior for farmers with low economic status. Millet is the answer for this region and can be for our country……. Along with promotion of organic farming, bringing back the millet to the mainstream agriculture can be the best options for Indian agriculture system in the long run.

Thank You

May God Bless….

Abinash

 

Reference:

Call of the time

We have been trying to protect and conserve forest in our target area since two years. Many interesting and sad facts have come out from the village meetings and FGDs with villagers over the last year. Every year the change in climate is drastic and a wide spectrum of village life has been affected and agriculture their main source of income is also affected immensely. When asked, villagers say it is the result of their irresponsible behavior over last few years. They have been continuously cutting the forest which is affecting their community in many ways.

People living in the area are economically poor and they depend upon forest for their livelihood. It is their right to utilize forest for their livelihood but at the same time responsibility should not be forgotten. Everyday thousands of bunches of wood from the forest are being supplied to market for sale apart from domestic use. We have necessity and right to use it but not to exploit it. If one tree is cut let us plant two instead.

As we all know that we all are responsible for climate change problem but the effect of the climate change is more on poor and marginalized community as they have very less resources and knowledge to adapt to it. Even though they are less responsible they are the most affected in the village. But this community is responsible for their own problems, whatever may be the cause, may it be poverty, unemployment, lack of awareness, the community is responsible for the enormous injustice they have done to the next generation.

We have been trying our best to help conserve forest in the region and the divisional forest office has ensured us all the help required towards forest conservation. Last year we had help plant 1300 saplings in 30 villages with the help of village forest protection committees but out of it there are less than 300 alive now. This year we have planned to plant more than 5000 sapling including bamboo in waste land with the help of villagers. Last Tuesday we had organized a block level meeting with forest committees from different villages. In the meeting most of the committee members shared that they now understand the importance and need of forest conservation and they would do their best to conserve it. 

Time has come for all of us to work hard to conserve forest. This is the ‘Call of the time’ don’t think, no delay, no tomorrow, it starts from now…. Wherever you are, you may be in village or city, if you can’t do anything just pray for the cause….this is call of the time…

Pray for us as we are working with the community towards forest conservation. May God help us in helping people to conserve forest for better living, better livelihoods and better future for all.

Thank You

God Bless…

Abinash