Kirankumar Vissa (AID Maryland)
Why are they begging on the trains?
When you are traveling in India, you are invariably forced to ask yourself, “What do I do when someone comes to me
begging on the street or in the train?” Many say that by giving them money, you are only encouraging them not to work for
their living - that you are encouraging them to remain poor. But, are the people who say this doing anything that helps
remove the poverty? Should we, instead, react with
compassion and share whatever we feel like sharing? At least that will allow us to retain our human feeling. Meanwhile, one also wonders, “Why are they going through this indignity? Why are they begging on the streets, in the trains?”
When asked, “What is your policy of dealing with those who come to you begging?” Aravinda (AID-India) gave a
thoughtful answer: “My policy of dealing with begging is to buy village-made products whenever possible.” And at a fair price, she implicitly meant.
Beneath the surface evidence of the few who have settled for the indignity of begging, there lies the reality of hundreds of millions of Indians struggling to make a decent living, a large majority of them in the villages. The problem of the poor is largely the problem of their livelihoods. Are we ready to have a share in their problems? Are we ready to participate in
positive efforts in this direction, through groups like AID? Are we ready?
Rapaka women learn jute skills!
The main occupation in the Muslim hamlet of Rapaka
(Srikakulam dist., AP) is stone cutting, and women
traditionally have not gone out of the house to work. But,
standing on the road next to Rapaka, one sees carts full of jute, recently harvested. Most of it is exported out of the state. Is there any local enterprise making jute products? No!
AID-India volunteers searched and discovered a single couple in the block who can make jute products. Ten women
participated in a month-long training arranged by AID-India
and GRASS. Now these women, in a cooperative effort, make
… continued on page 3
DOWRY: An Evil Lurking Behind Tradition
Vaijayanti Gupta (AID San Diego)
Amongst a myriad of issues that affect gender equality in India, the tradition of dowry in weddings penetrates deep into every section of Indian society, irrespective of religion, caste or economic status. While the failure to fulfill dowry directly claims approximately 25000 lives of women in India every year, its indirect effects kill many more through practices such as female infanticide and abortion of female fetuses. The latter serve as preventive measures for families who potentially "go broke" trying to meet dowry demands at their daughters' weddings. While stories of brides being killed for not meeting dowry requirements make newspaper headlines, countless women unnoticed by society, suffer domestic violence, emotional taunts, and threats of divorce as a consequence of dowry.
Sadly, though education and financial independence helps in the empowerment of women, they alone will prove inadequate in eradicating this practice. An important reason why we chose to address this issue in AID is because we ourselves are not far removed from it. Among the well-educated and well-employed worldwide, the NRI community in the US comprises the highest bidders of dowry amongst Indians. An NRI groom's demands can often exceed 15000 to 20000 US dollars. Many different issues came to our mind when we started this campaign. What should be considered dowry? Who is to be blamed for this practice - men, older women or the patriarchal society? Or the growing fad for materialistic gains that also manifests itself at various levels like corruption? Dowry affects men as much as women, for example, when fathers and brothers sell their property and spend their life's savings to get their daughters and sisters married. Do we fear to break this evil practice, which garbs itself as tradition? Or is it lack...