Karuna Trust

Our vision is of a world without prejudice, in which every human being has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, regardless of their background or beliefs. We aim to do this by challenging the ignorance and prejudice that trap people in poverty.
Jul 19, 2011

Caste as a barrier to education

Unicef has acknowledged that caste remains a key factor in illiteracy in India. The following article can be found directly here: http://www.unicef.org/india/children_2359.htm

Education

Despite a major improvement in literacy rates during the 1990s, the number of  children who are not in school remains high. Gender disparities in education persist: far more girls than boys fail to complete primary school.

The literacy rate jumped from 52 per cent in 1991 to 65 per cent in 2001. The absolute number of non-literates dropped for the first time and gross enrollment in government-run primary schools increased from over 19 million in the 1950s to 114 million by 2001.

90 million females in India are illiterate, but 20 percent of children aged 6 to14 are still not in school and millions of women remain non-literate despite the spurt in female literacy in the 1990s. 

Several problems persist: issues of ‘social’ distance – arising out of caste, class and gender differences – deny children equal opportunities. Child labour in some parts of the country and resistance to sending girls to school remain real concerns.

 School attendance is improving: more children than ever between the ages of  6 and 14 are attending school across the country. The education system faces a shortage of resources, schools, classrooms and teachers.

 

 

 

There are also concerns relating to teacher training, the quality of the curriculum, assessment of learning achievements and the efficacy of school management. Given the scarcity of quality schools, many children drop out before completing five years of primary education; many of those who stay on learn little.

Girls belonging to marginalized social and economic groups are more likely to drop out of school at an early age.

With one upper primary school for every three primary schools, there are simply not enough upper primary centres even for those children who complete primary school. For girls, especially, access to upper primary centres becomes doubly hard.

Jul 11, 2011

Bright Futures

Shilpa Pawale shares her feelings about how the project has impacted on her life;

“I am Shilpa, living with one family for domestic work. I don’t have father and my mother is staying far away from me for her job purpose she is also doing daily wages work. Where I stay with family there I do all household activity such as washing clothes, cleaning house cooking, everything I do. Somebody told me about this class and I came to learn stitching clothes. Before I could not even talk in group and use to feel shy to interact with people. I have very low confidence within me but now I feel have very bright future. I got confidence that now I can earn by stitching cloth by my own business, no need of doing domestic work.”

Jul 11, 2011

Bidi-rolling and poverty

I came across this research by Healthbridge who have conducted fieldwork into the issue of the Bidi-rolling in India.

To access the full report, just follow this link: http://www.healthbridge.ca/tobacco_poverty_Appendix%205%20India%20Final%20Research%20Report.pdf

The tobacco industry often boasts that tobacco growing generates employment and provides positive economic benefits to farmers and others. But the actual facts are quite different. Though a labour intensive industry, its wages are one of the lowest in the country at Rs 17,898 per annum. A large part of the industry also comes under the unorganized sector where wages are often fixed arbitrarily and where unending flow of unskilled labour keep wages low.

The majority of the profits, therefore, remain with the large manufacturers. Farmers often believe that tobacco will prove to be a profitable cash crop; however they often find themselves caught in a cycle of poverty and debt. Serious health risks, hard working conditions, contractual arrangements, the use of children in tobacco growing, and the environmental practices of tobacco growing have negative impacts on human capital and land, the two crucial assets for rural livelihoods. There are also many occupational hazards faced by those working in the tobacco fields, including health hazards such as green tobacco sickness, pesticide exposure and nicotine poisoning. And, while tobacco farming is not unique in its use of child labour, the particular hazards posed by tobacco cultivation places these children at increased risk of injury and illness. The production of bidis (small, inexpensive, hand-rolled cigarettes made from cheap tobacco and rolled in tendu leaf, commonly smoked in India) involves intensive labour: growing tobacco, plucking/collecting tendu leaves and rolling and packaging the bidis. While no accurate statistics are available, the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) has estimated that in India more than 6 million farmers and 20 million farm labourers are engaged in tobacco farming, spread across 15 states. Bidi rolling provides employment to an estimated 4.4 million people, in addition to 2.2 million tribal workers involved in tendu leaf collection. Further, nearly 4 million people are engaged in the wholesale and retail sale of tobacco.

 Bidis harm not only those who smoke them; everyone connected with bidi manufacturing faces various health and occupational hazards. Bidis are mostly rolled at home where rollers expose their entire family (including newborns and children) to harmful tobacco dust and fumes. Most bidi workers suffer from chronic respiratory problems, skin problems, green tobacco sickness, asthma, TB, eye ailments and chronic backache. Bidi workers are largely illiterate and live below the poverty line, struggling each day to earn enough to feed their families two meals. They do not have health cards and therefore cannot access treatment at hospitals. Instead of paving a way out of poverty, bidi work simply allows for subsistence at the most marginal level. Most of the workers are women and children, already vulnerable and exploited groups, with no access to educational or other career opportunities. Deprived of a normal childhood, it is not only their size which is typically stunted; these children become the core of a repetitive cycle of systemic poverty.

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