Saturday, August 29, 2009


The Body Mass Index or BMI, is a measure of one's weight in relation to one's own height, and gives and indication of the body's muscle mass and fat stores. Normal BMIs for men and women should range between 19 and 25. A BMI less than 18.5 indicates undernutrition, or in most cases, hunger.

A BMI between 13 and 15 corresponds to 48 to 55 percent of desirable body weight for a given height and is considered as the lowest body weight that can sustain life. At this level of BMI the body fat is less than 5 percent.

It seems logical therefore, that the BMI be used as an indicator of who should receive Government subsidies for various programmes, especially those that enable a person to purchase food at an affordable price.

Dharmin Gond is one of the TBAs I work with within the Achanakmaar sanctuary. She is 38, and lives in Katami with her husband and 3 children - a son 22, a girl 16, and the youngest a boy of 14. They own less than one acre of land, which has been given to her by her parents. Her in-laws are dead, their land was submerged when the Lamni dam was built some years ago. No land compensation was provided, and she does not know if any money was given.

She is heavily in debt: having borrowed 40 kg grain for sowing: the seedlings came up and during the dry spell in August, all of them dried up. She now has nothing to sow again, and has to return 80 kg to the farmer she borrowed from, and does not know how she will manage this.

They also borrowed Rs.1500 for a wedding @ 5% interest per month. Apart from this, they borrowed Rs.3500 for a bullock at the same rate of interest. The bullock which died of a mysterious illness within a month of purchase.She struggles to keep up with the interest payments.

They do not have a BPL card, and have to purchase rice at the market rate of Rs.16 / kg, or broken rice at Rs. 14 /kg. She is not sure how much they consume per month, but buys whenever they have Rs 50 or 100. But 10- kg rice lasts a maximum of 4 -5 days. She buys about Rs. 10 worth of masur daal during festival time, which they eat for 2 days. Masur is Rs. 60 per kg in the market now.

Both her sons and husband worked in NREGA in summer, and when they were paid, Rs. 50 was deducted from each one's wages as a standard procedure. There is no work in Katami now. They have heard that there is work in Lormi, but they need voter Id proof ,which they don’t have. They now have to go to the block headquarters at Lormi or to the Surhi Panchayat office to get it.

She also runs a creche for which she earns Rs. 1000 per month, which helps her in meeting some expenses.

Dharmin says she is distracted with worry about her debts and also about her daughter's marriage: her daughter wants to study further, but discontinued after the 8th standard to help in the house.

Dharmin's BMI is 15.3. She is barely above the body weight that can sustain life.

Yet according to our Government, she is not poor.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

back in the college campus at CMC, vellore for a few days. a beautiful green place with lots of walks, it always gives me a sense of peace and tranquility and continuity. the tamarind trees outside the anatomy department are the same ones that were there when i joined this college in 1981. the college store has a new look but the stones outside it on which we used to sit and talk are still there, with a new generation of students frequenting them. the first and second gates have not changed, nor has the chapel and the sunken garden. the huge stone buildings housing the biochemistry and physiology and pharmacology departments have lots of happy memories for me: thankfully the nightmarish events of pharm exams have faded from memory.
most of my teachers have retired, and my batchmates are now the "senior" staff in some departments. many of the students here on campus were not born when i joined college.
it has been a haven for so many of us, and those who live here do not realise how fortunate they are to be in a place like this, a cocoon from the world outside.
indeed, it is easy here to forget that another outside world exists.

Monday, August 24, 2009

nissim ezekiel

The Patriot
by Nissim Ezekiel, 2005

I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,
I should say even 200% correct,
But modern generation is neglecting -
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.
Other day I'm reading newspaper
(Every day I'm reading Times of India
To improve my English Language)
How one goonda fellow
Threw stone at Indirabehn.
Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen,
I am saying (to myself)
Lend me the ears.
Everything is coming -
Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.
Be patiently, brothers and sisters.
You want one glass lassi?
Very good for digestion.
With little salt, lovely drink,
Better than wine;
Not that I am ever tasting the wine.
I'm the total teetotaller, completely total,
But I say
Wine is for the drunkards only.
What you think of prospects of world peace?
Pakistan behaving like this,
China behaving like that,
It is making me really sad, I am telling you.
Really, most harassing me.
All men are brothers, no?
In India also
Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs
All brothers -Though some are having funny habits.
Still, you tolerate me,
I tolerate you,
One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.
You are going?
But you will visit again
Any time, any day,
I am not believing in ceremony
Always I am enjoying your company

Saturday, August 22, 2009

where are they now?

looking through my papers i came across this photograph. gangabada village, gajapati district, 1996, a group of saura women and children in a remote village accessible only on foot. one goes down the valley from champaghati near koinpur, then across two mountains and valleys to climb up again to gangabada. the walk down from there across the border into andhra pradesh is shorter. the sauras here eke a difficult and miserable living practising "bogodo" or shifting cultivation on the hill slopes. with shrinking forest available to them, they come back to the same patch of land at progressively shorter intervals, leaving little time for the soil to regenerate itself. this, along with the soil erosion caused by deforestation has resulted in diminishing returns on the cultivation done on the slopes. ragi and corn are the main crops grown.
malaria, malnutrition, tuberculosis, outbreaks of meningitis - all are common here, and health services are virtually absent. infant and maternal mortality at that time were way above national average. this part of orissa was marked out as "naxal infested" even then.
i wonder whether anything has changed there over the past 13 years. how many of the children and women in the picture are alive today?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bengal Tiger

this one always makes me laugh.


Through the jongole I am went
On shooting Tiger I am bent
Boshtaard Tiger has eaten wife
No doubt I will avenge poor darling's life
Too much quiet, snakes and leeches
But I not fear these sons of beeches
Hearing loud noise I am jumping with start
But noise is coming from damn fool's heart
Taking care not to be fright
I am clutching rifle tight with eye to sight
Should Tiger come I will shoot and fall him down
Then like hero return to native town
Then through trees I am espying one cave
I am telling self - 'Banerjee be brave'
I am now proceeding with too much care
From far I smell this Tiger's lair
My leg shaking, sweat coming, I start pray
I think I will shoot Tiger some other day
Turning round I am going to flee
But Tiger giving bloody roar spotting Bengalee
He bounding from cave like footballer Pele
I run shouting 'Kali Ma tumi kothay gele'
Through the jongole I am running
With Tiger on my tail closer looming
I am a telling that never in life
I will risk again for my damn wife!!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Kiran Baiga

Baigas are one of the primitive tribes of Chhattisgarh, and are extremely poor. They live in small scattered hamlets inside the forest. Kiran lives in Boirha village (inside the Achanakmaar sanctuary) which has no running water or electricity; the only tubewell in their hamlet is dry and they fetch water from a stream 2 kilometres from their village.

They are now threatened with eviction since the forest they have been living in for generations has now been declared a biosphere and human habitation is not to be allowed. Where they will be resettled is not known, and we at JSS have filed a petition under the Right to Information Act for details of the Government plan regarding their eviction.

Kiran, a primi, came to the Danganiya clinic for the first time at 8 months of pregnancy with high blood pressure, severe anaemia and swelling of the feet and legs. She was taken to the clinic at Ganiyari where she was given a blood transfusion, and was also started on medicines to reduce her blood pressure. She went home to await her baby and continues to be on iron and anti-hypertension tablets. Her ability to reach the clinic at Ganiyari is now dependent on the rains and whether the rivers are passable. Flash floods are common in the hilly forest region where she lives. Someone will need to cycle for an hour to inform our clinic at Bahmni, from where a cellphone link can sometimes be made to Ganiyari. An ambulance will take 1.5 hours to reach Bamhni, while Kiran will need to be probably carried from her village to the ambulance – a walk that may take upto three hours, assuming, of course, that the river is not flooded.

If she can be back at Ganiyari for her delivery, there is a good chance of saving both mother and child.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


jaymati, the TBA from Atariya said this as she left for her village today afternoon: "itni baarish ho ki mere aadmi to pardesh na jaana pade". summed up the mood of the dais during the two day monthly meeting this time.
the past two days were hot and humid, with a thin layer of clouds acting like a greenhouse and trapping the heat all around us.
the first seedlings of rice have all dried up, and now there is neither grain in the house nor a prospect of a crop.
and migration has begun - to bilaspur, to bhopal, to delhi. the men are at construction sites, or hiring themselves out for daily wages in the cities, or working as ragpickers. anything to keep the family going till who knows when?
as i left bamhni this afternoon, it started raining, though not heavily enough, nor long enough to do any good, however.