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15 June 2013

ETHNIC CHANNEL OF WOMEN HEALTH INFORMATION IN RURAL MANIPUR


According to the 2011 census, about 68.8% of India’s population resides in rural areas. About 75% of health infrastructure, medical man power and other health resources are concentrated in urban areas, where about 31.2% of the population resided. It is also said that two-third of the population in the country consists of women of child bearing age and children under the age of fifteen years. This age group is considered to be the vulnerable age group suffering more severely from consequences of socio-economic development. Because of their ignorance of health, hygiene practices, and household responsibilities women tend to neglect their illness till their health problems get aggravated to the extent of becoming too sick to move around and attend to their normal household chores.
The government at the state and central launch a number of health facilities and schemes for women but these health services provided through a network of health workers, government hospitals, dispensaries, and primary health centers do not sufficiently reach the targeted beneficiaries. Consequently, the health schemes remain underutilized by women particularly in rural areas. One main reason for under-utilization of such essential schemes is due to lack of awareness. Lack of awareness also led to negligence and unfair practices that propel the whole systems into total obliteration. When the deficit in awareness has reach endemic proportion, the problem can be solved only with knowledge disseminated through effective information channels. Contrary to the general assumptions, all communication channels are not universally effective. In rural India, the effectiveness of communication channels is significantly decided by socio-cultural backgrounds. If this is the case, identification and usage of the effective channels of the grassroots level is a must. Only such channels will significantly contribute to the effective utilization of health schemes particularly of women in the rural area whose predicaments are further aggravated by various forms of socio-cultural barriers complicating their access to health facilities.
Most technology driven communication mediums are beyond the reach of the rural population in Manipur. The paradox between the necessity to put across government sponsored women health schemes on the one hand and the defective communication channels on the other hand can only be bridge, at this stage, by utilizing the existing ethnic communication channels. Most transaction of information among the ethnic groups in Manipur is largely based on the age old traditional forms of communication. Traditional ethnic communications are fairly simple and cost effective verbal protocols disseminating information through trusted channels. Being based mainly on trust, ethnic bodies like the village council, chiefs, parents, elders, religious heads, friends, persons from the same community and village are still the effective channels of communication. The disseminated information is adopted only if it comes through one of these trusted channels. Among the rural ethnic groups women health is not an individual issue. With decision on women health being taken by way of taking every members of the family into confidence, mere handing down of information to the concerned woman will not yield the desired effects. It is due to this deeply entrenched tradition, the formal institutions like health workers, health center and similar instruments are not capable of making much dent.
Besides the inappropriate forms of existing formal channels, the other mistake committed in the dissemination of woman health in rural Manipur is this failure to regard the unique culture and tradition of the various ethnic groups. The one-size-fits-all approaches of Delhi contribute a lot in decapitating the women health schemes. Fortunately, trusted channels of communication, by word of mouth, across the different ethnic groups are similar in nature and practice. Exploitation of this form of communication, in most likelihood, is the only viable means through which the rural women can be reached.
Women health is a family subject that concerns the community. Decision on women health is not taken individually but through a consensus involving the family and the community. Ethnic communication channels not only ensure reaching rural women with health information but also help in building consensus among all who matters in the process of making decision on the woman of the family. The ethnic communities valued communal consensus and most of the individualistic aspirations that affect the community are considered immoral. The individual is part of the community and community good cannot be sacrifice for the sake of individual good. Such value system calls for a community based approach even when the target is the health of an individual woman. Since individuals are only part of the community, the benefits of the community must be underscored to ensure mass acceptance and adoption. In such distinctive circumstances, the said ethnic channels of communication should be made the de facto standard of communicating women health information among the rural population of Manipur. 

Featured in "Eimi Times", a daily vernacular newspaper on 15th June 2013

21 May 2013

CARTOON DEBATE


Dalits are militants,
Brahmins are Hitlers,
The rest are sinners.

Khan is a terrorist,
Mayawati is a fetish,
Politicians are foolish.

Thorat is a toon,
We love the toons,
Kill radicals save the toon.

A SLEEPLESS NIGHT

O sleepless rainy night!
What have thou bear me right?
Thou open these starry eyes
with a weary tiresome mind.

O sleepless rainy night!
What good is a lonesome night?
While kids and kin slept tight,
thy presence stood me upright.

O sleepless rainy night!
What reason beckons at night?
When the candles ceased to light,
let in never-land walk my mind.

O sleepless rainy night!
Less the sun beams the light,
whose eyes can see it right?
Whose eyes will make me smile?

FOR HIS INNOCENT BRIDE

Love takes you to the alter,
Let not love be altered,
Altered love cause you sorrow.
Go and walk past the pew,
Go and wear the ring of vow,
Then they'll bide thee adiew.

People, pigs, feast and gongs
Will mark your silvery gown.
Never to walk in the days gone,
May your sorrows be gone.
As love takes you to new heights,
May your childhood be never nigh.

Showers of affections, blessing,
Tears of joy will come raining.
Their longings finally fulfilled,
Long after life spans are filled.
Dad's li'l girl now walks the pew
On her own to take her final vow.

20 May 2013

THE HOPELESS TRIANGLE OF MANIPUR

The triangulation of communal politics in Manipur will always bring any two communities opposing any one community or vice versa creating a vicious circle with no permanent relationship in the process. Any issue, political or petty, significant or silly, will set this vicious circle of communal intolerance in motion but ironically, at one point in time or the other one among the communities would be found sleeping with the "enemy", much too often for comfort. As long as this triangular equation exists with opposing communal aspirations, nothing can be done without harming the interest of the other community. As in a geometrical triangle, change in the degree of one angle will always affect the degree of the remaining angles of the triangle. There is no room for any external agency to solve the dilemma. Not even the best political mind in Delhi can be of help. The aspiration of any single community resulting in the perceived favor or against the other community is an absolute truth that can be stated with mathematical accuracy.

How long will these major communities remain purposefully blind to the hopeless situation and continue to insist on the path to gain political mileages at the cost of their fellow communities? The solution to the enigmatic plight, if at all desired, lies largely in the hands of the communities themselves. Contrary to the popular believe, no external agent is going to fix this equation even if we raze the state down to ashes as the Taliban did to Afghanistan. Such realization did not materialize because the triangulation is not a perfect one. The imperfection in the triangulation is seen in the form of several associated advantages like geographical, population, administrative or even brute forces. The advantages associated with each community are exploited to the fullest and used as the bargaining chip to gain out of any given issue. This is how might comes to play leading to the emergence of the communal forces.

Slogans, bans, strikes and the likes in favor or against one community or the other are not doing us any good. While readily accepting India's democratic form of governance, it is amazing how soon we ignore the fact that in a democratic state our voices will be heard only through the election process. This legitimate form of protest is realized, probably, by one community who failed to gain much out of it mainly because of the intention to benefit in isolation. The truth is no community in isolation is going anywhere as long as the opposing pulls are not compromised. High time the people of Manipur irrespective of conflicting communal interests rise to the occasion and serve the interest of all. Unless of course we are hell bent on dooming our future, our children's future and their children's future for the sake of the preset mindless communal competition.

For so many years, governance is found wanting in many parts of the state. Be it law and order or development or administration, the presence or absence of a government does not make much difference leading to the general perceptions, suppose to be in favor of the government, shifting steadily towards social organizations and pressure groups championing the cause of a particular community. In a triangulated community, such trend is bound to result in impossible consequences. In due course of time the situation gets murkier and uglier. The pace further gets accentuated with the only external agent, the central government, interested only in playing carrot and stick in its effort to put a particular brand of government in power at any cost.

To dissipate the imbroglios, certain things should be undone. To begin with, a firm political will free of communal prejudices ensuring an equally advantaged society is of paramount necessity. The exploitation of communal strength can only be checked by balancing the strength of the communities, in other words empowering the weaker community. The establishment of equally capable communities automatically neutralized communal forces which tend to show up in its pursuit to exploit the weaknesses of the other. The associated advantages tilted towards a particular community should not be allowed to remain disadvantageous to the other communities. Introduction of alternative infrastructure equally accessible to all the communities should be used to eliminate the biased advantages. While introducing checks and balances, the mass must not be ignored. No matter how far flung or scatter the mass may be, they should be educated in the nitty-gritty of voicing their concerns in a democratic way while ensuring their rights to participate in the democratic process. Beside these indicative pointers, the presence of governance can be ensured in so many other ways. The only hiccup to bring in such positive changes is the political will to bring governance even to the remotest part of the state and end the imperfect communal triangle.
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The author is Dr. P. Hangsing, Assistant Professor, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong – 703022.
Featured in the english daily "The Sangai Express" on the 28th May 2013

18 May 2013

A WISTFUL THOUGHT


Even in wistful moments
It's unbearable to imagine
Leaving you and all of you.
How in reality can I ever
Say adios without the pain,
Piercing right through me.
You know how fond I am
Of your wet lips and kisses.
How fond I have grown
Ever-since I set eye on you.
Friends, foes, come and go
But I pledge to stand firm
By you like your mounds.
Till the last taxi departs,
Your clouds blown away,
It rain last in Mawsynram,
I'll hold on with dear life
To love and cherish you
As mine and mine alone.
You my beloved Shillong.