Yatra with a cause

On the 16th of this month, I was hurried to come out of my anthropology class and eat the lunch at the campus canteen. I rushed for an auto with a freind and reached the Metro station at Race course, Delhi. We had to take a train from Old Delhi railway station to Gorakhpur at 3 pm.
tbc…

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Nations and Nationalism in Contemporary South Asia: A Nepalese Perspective

The notion of nationalism and ethnicity is much pronounced now than ever before in Nepal. The idea of cultural sameness shared by the citizens of a nation and distinctiveness that differs them from what nationalism and ethnicity refers respectively to. This essay summarizes the main arguments made by Ernest Gellner in his classic writing on nationalism and ethnicity. The paper begins with definitions of nationalism, state and the nation followed by the reflection of these concepts in Nepalese context.

Ernest Gellner begins the writing by defining the political principle by which he means the congruency of political and national unit that includes political sentiment and political movement. According to him, political sentiment is the feeling about the fulfillment of the principle by either anger or satisfaction and political movemnet is actuated by this sentiment. For him, violations of the nationalism principle is through four reasons- political boundary of a state does not include all members of the nation, political boundary including some  foreigners, multiplicity of state resulting in no national state and rulers of the political unit belonging to another nation than the majority of the ruled. He further argues that Nationalism is a theory of political legitimacy, which requires that ethnic boundaries should not cross political ones. On explaing the state, Gellner cites the Weberian definition of the state which says that the state is an agency within society which possesses the monopoly of legitimate violence. He does this to explain that nationalism does not arise from stateless societies.

Gellner then explains the stages in mankind’s history where he outlines three societies i.e.  pre-agrarian society, agrarian society and industrial or post-agrarian society. Pre-agrarian society is characterised by hunting and gathering, small societies with no possibilities for political divison of labour and with absence of a state. Similarly,  the characteristics of agrarian societies was such that the most agrarian societies are state-endowed, state is one possible option and various forms of states. In the same way, post-agrarian society features  the state which is infact inescapable, once none had the state, then some had it, and finally all have it and large societies with high living standards need general division of labour and cooperation.

Nationality, accoording to Gellner is a given category and a modern man’s imagination. He provides an analogy of shadow to explain this concept. He says that nationality is a person’s identity and inherent with him like his shadow wherever he goes.  In fact, nations are no universal necessity. Nations and states do not exist all the time and under all circumstances. State emerged without the help of the nation. He further defines the nation on the basis of two criteria- cultural and voluntaristic.  Cultural definition stresses upon the sharing of a same culture whereas voluntaristic definition argues on recognition by others as having same nation.

As discussed above, states emerged in agrarian societies and agrarian societies are characterised by  two main factors – emergence of literacy to some groups and emergence of clerisy. Literacy was first required for keeping records (taxes / accounts) and functions were largely on legal domain for either contractual or administrative purposes. Those who were literate specialists  have chance of becoming a clerisy. The social structure of agro literate polity was such that ruling class was a minority with rigid separation and exaggeration of class inequality leads to  specialised sublayers. The stress was on cultural differentiation and there was horizontal lines of cultural cleavage.  Genetic and cultural differences covered functional differentiations. Production class was organized in small, inward-turned communities with no possible cultural homogenity. State interests were only on tax collection and peace maintenance. Clerisy was the only class which may have a measure of interests in imposing shared cultural norms, but the social structure prevented success. The definition of cultural boundaries was impossible, because culture and power were separated.

Gellner argues that cultural proliferation in this world does not generally lead to cultural imperialism and political boundaries and cultural limits are determined by totally different factors. Culture tends to be branded horizontaly in class or vertically in local communities. The proliferation is very complex and is based on different factors such as life-style, occupation, language, religion, etc.

The issue of nationality and nationalism has to be thought in context of people. Nationality is not a territory. It is often heard that Nepal’s King might have been autocratic but he was a nationalist. Often, it is voiced from a person who is not in King’s camp politically. It is surprising that how can nationalism be assured without people’s basic rights? Desh or nation is not a territory but people. This should be noted that Nepal is Nepal because Nepalese are living in Nepal. The territory may be there even in absence of Nepali but the true notion of Nepal as nation will not be there.

History suggests that current Nepal is the result of the expansion of Gorkha state by King Prithvi Narayan Shah. After the end of Mughal Empire in India during 18th century, many kings of this region were expanding their states by conquering other states. King Prithvi Narayan Shah was one of them. The primary purpose of unifying other states then was nothing but to expand his state. It would be wrong to say that it was unification because the concept of nationalism was not imagined during those days.  The brutality towards Newars of Kathmandu is the testimony that the conqueror was not acting like a statesman but a victor.  Sughauli treaty made the geographical territory of Nepal but not of the nation. After 1816, Nepal was formed but no attempts were made to make it a nation. The nationalism as a feeling was perhaps first experienced during 1950 (2007 BS) movement when people from the east and west and the north and south went to Nepal. The same was during 1990 (2046 BS) and 2006 (2063 BS). However, I doubt whether these movements were spontaneous or induced. Now, the need of the hour is again to form a nation not just to create a territory based on ethnicity or other. Only time can tell what will happen next.

 

Bibliography

Gellner, E. (2006) Chapters 1 and 2Nations and Nationalism, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pg. 1-7, 8-18, 19-37.

The article is also published in the following link page:

http://sausociology.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/nations-and-nationalism-in-contemporary-south-asia-a-nepalese-perspective/

Biostatisticians Vs Epidemiologists

There was once a group of Biostatisticians and a group of Epidemiologists riding together on a train to joint meetings. All the Epidemiologists had tickets, but the Biostatisticians only had one ticket between them. Inquisitive by nature, the Epidemiologists asked the Biostatisticians how they were going to get away with such a small sample of tickets when the conductor came through. The Biostatisticians said, “Easy. We have methods for dealing with that.”

Later, when the conductor came to punch tickets, all the Biostatisticians slipped quietly into the bathroom. When the conductor knocked on the door, the head Biostatistician slipped their one ticket under the door thoroughly fooling the layman conductor. After the joint meetings were over, the Biostatisticians and the Epidemiologists again found themselves on the same train. Always quick to catch on, the Epidemiologists had purchased one ticket between them.

The Biostatisticians (always on the cutting edge) had purchased NO tickets for the trip home. Confused, the Epidemiologists asked the Biostatisticians “We understand how your methods worked when you had one ticket, but how can you possibly get away with no tickets?” “Easy,” replied the Biostatisticians smugly, “we have different methods for dealing with that situation.”

Later, when the conductor was in the next car, all the Epidemiologists trotted off to the bathroom with their one ticket and all the Biostatisticians packed into the other bathroom. Shortly, the head Biostatistician crept over to where the Epidemiologists were hiding and knocked authoritatively on the door. As they had been instructed, the Epidemiologists slipped their one ticket under the door. The head Biostatistician took the Epidemiologists’ one and only ticket and returned triumphantly to the Biostatistician group.

Of course, the Epidemiologists were subsequently discovered and publicly humiliated.

MORAL OF THE STORY

Do not use statistical methods unless you understand the principles behind them!

Cited from

Patrick Royston (original author unknown) posting to allstat, 7–Feb–1996 in Some Quotable Quotes for Statistics J. E. H. Shaw December 28, 2001

The types of movies that I enjoy

I believe that more than depicting society movie can guide the society to a larger extent and it has to be. Behaviour Change Communication can be achieved through TV as people can learn by copying people doing something. When I say this I mean that it is always better to show people actually practicing the expected behaviors rather than just teaching them to do so. For instance, the possibility of adopting healthy behavior after watching it in TV by someone role model is always higher than by listening this by someone.

The movies that I enjoy are mostly dominated by Hindi movies including Tamils. Politicial thriller – Raajneeti, colonial stories – Lagaan, Krishna, MadrasPattiNam, Andha Kanoon (My father talks much about this which he watched during his days in Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana and the song Rote Rote Hasna Sikho Haste Haste Rona Jitne Chavi Bhari Ram ne Utni Chale Khilona) The song helps to console in agony and the song from Lagaan, Chale Chalo, empowers me (probably u too) on achieving expected aims and taking action towards it.

But many of the love songs are non sense if we forget the music onto it. It’s just through music that makes us to remember the words but the words alone are meaningless for me in many times like Jab Aachal Raat Ka Laharaye…., Apne Pyar Ke Sapne Such Huye, Hum Bane Tum Bane Ek Duje Ke Liye, Tum Ho Buddhu Man Lo Tum Ho Handsome Jan Lo….more HYPE than reality but still good like Ye Mere Watan Ke Logon Jara Ankho Me Bharlo Pani. I particularly like the song like Suno ji Eh Calcutta Hai because it’s not only song but also a melodious travel guide.
Nepali – I probably began with this category or was it through Hindi, I doubt. Yet, it could have been English, I do not remember. However, initially I have seen most of Nepali movies made in the nineties. Upto this time, Nepali was able to stand with Hindi movies but it could not run with technology rather than just crawled for the next decades that followed. Nepali society was also going through tough time during this phase. Nowadays, there have been a ray of hope but before it get lighted there is unhealthy competition to make it much vulgar than ever before. I wonder, where is the Nepali movie is heading?

English – I am very new to this category. I can’t spent time to find if it is really a good one and I can’t rely on reviewer because they have a different frame of mind. However, my preference is on non fight historical movie which can tell something that stimulate me to study on the issue further when I get free time and get a fair understanding until I could not time to either visit the place or read the authentic texts. If you have your personal favourites, please tell me because I trust more than commercial reviewer.

Korean – I am not a Korean type. The one that I saw of which I do not know the name but I am aware that people in Nepal says a Nepali movie with new actors was just a copy of it with shooting set and language in Nepal and Nepali. Before publishing this I told to a friend of mine and he informed that it was Millionaires First Love (Korean) and Mero Euta Sathi Chha (Nepali).

My current interest is mainstream movies made in Afghanistan and Bhutan for my own reasons not the Bollywood movies depicting Afghani and Bhutani society. But I can watch the movies about this society made in India as well to have views from both sides. I am also interested to watch Maldivian feature film of all genres. These are the countries which I wish to be able to visit probably after I see some of the recent portrayal of these societies by themselves through media.

This writing requires constant revision and reflects my state of mind while typing, therefore, subject to change, but not so much, I guess.

It’s time to pay FCHVs

Even though Female Community Health Volunteers are working for Women’s and Children’s Health voluntarily for three decades, provisions should be made to make them paid volunteers in changed time and context. There are no such things as free lunch. Nepal’s Health Care System has made a network from periphery to center, one of the perfect health systems but one looks at its ground, one can see the distance between the theory and practice. Female Community Health Volunteers being at most periphery with direct contact to the most vulnerable populations – women and children, has done remarkable efforts without any pay. This essay aims at explaining why these women working for our children, mothers and sisters should get some financial support for their work rather than subjective honour. In the paragraphs that follow, an explanation is presented with three reasons for this – no free work, labour intensive and addressing their demands.

Firstly, there is no free work around the world. One expects or gets something meaningful in return for his work. If we see the national health system of Nepal, it is disheartening to state that only these peripheral health cadres are not getting enough attention when it comes to remuneration while in executing the health programs, they are always at forefront. Although, volunteers do not get salary but it is practiced worldwide that they get an amount of living allowance for their work. Everyone around us – teachers, doctors, workers are paid for their work, but not Female Community Health Volunteers. Is not it a time to value their labour?

Secondly, the work of Nepali women is labour intensive. Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRA) carried out in Bhadrabas Village Development Committee in Kathmandu district in 2005 by a group of Public Health students including myself reveal that Nepali women are working more than fifteen hours a day in comparison to their male counterparts who only work for an average of six hours. Additionally, no benefits added to them when the government introduces new health programs. Moreover, volunteers also have their family obligations in addition to their societal work. This overburdening them with no benefit is demotivating and could be counterproductive.

Thirdly, Female Community Health Volunteers should be paid as an attempt to address the recent demands by their associations. The idea of Female Community Health Volunteers was applied 30 years ago to solve the problems facing society at that time. The community was more traditional then and these women have to contribute little on health agenda as compared to present time. The national goal then was to reduce fertility by means of increased use of contraceptive devices, reducing child deaths caused by diarrhoeal diseases by the introduction of Oral Rehydrated Salts. Now, these volunteers are not only diagnosing neonatal sepsis using an algorithm and prescribe antibiotics but also resuscitating newborns by using bag and mask apparatus, often used by trained nurses. This suggests the time to change the policy to be compatible with changed program.

To sum up, in changed time, context and needs, the stereotype of labeling Female Community Health Volunteers as merely ‘volunteer’ and overburdening them should be changed. It is also because volunteers are more or less paid worldwide, their work being labour intensive and their recent demands to accommodate their grievances addressed. Acknowledging the efforts and background of Female Community Health Volunteers, a necessary amendment is imperative. Finally, how can an empty belly dance in a melody?

Children should be treated as human beings

There are many ways to death, but there is only one way to be born. In a country like Nepal, where many of the children die before reaching their fifth birthday, the gravity of the sentence is much higher. The concern here however is not only about making children able to reach their fifth birth day but rather advocating for them to be able to enjoy their childhood so that they could be in their productive days strong enough in all aspects-physical, mental and social. Only this can make them ideal human beings. Human beings have freedom of choice, basic human rights, and access to resources, and respect. They are successful only in presence of such attributes. Children must be prepared to be successful human beings. In order to be successful human beings, children should be treated as human beings.

By children we mean that the group of population which is below than 15 years. The national census of 2001 suggests that children shares 39 % of total population. Nepali Children are facing different types of problems due to various reasons. According to the 2001 census, about 29 per cent of the children within the age group 10-14 are economically active and among which about 62 per cent are engaged in Agriculture and related activities. The highest share of children population shares by the Central Development Region (33.7 per cent) followed by Eastern Development Region (22.7 per cent), Western Development Region (20.3 per cent), Mid-Western Development Region (12.7 per cent) and Far Western Development Region (10.3 per cent) respectively for 2001. Likewise, the Terai Region has the highest percentage (48.3 per cent), followed by the Hill Region has (45.1 percent) and the Mountain Region has the lowest percentage (6.5 per cent) of children population for the same year.

The World Summit for children endorsed a declaration and a plan of action to implement the declaration for the survival, protection and development of children. Nepal had a high level participation in the summit expressed its commitments to fulfill their goals. Likewise, at the 11th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) held in Kathmandu, the SAARC leaders including Nepal had expressed their strong commitments for the regional arrangements for the promotion of welfare of children. In line to these commitments, Nepal Government included children as a development concern for the first time in the seventh five year plan (1985-90). Moreover, the government has made the required amendments in the Child Protection Act to ensure that the rights of the children are protected at any cost. The establishment of a special court to deal with child related injustice is a major step forward in protecting the rights of the children. Because of such efforts and ratification of Convention of Rights of the Child, the children found a place in the Constitution of Nepal.

Family seems to be completed after having the children. A woman with children is regarded as a complete woman and respected than other with no child. Besides, they are also the future of the nation. However, children are the most vulnerable section of the society as well. They are vulnerable in a sense that they are not able to express their specific needs and are at risk of being exploited. This is even truer in country like Nepal where the level of awareness towards human rights is very miserable. To overcome such malady, an   action to ensure a child’s right to survival, right to development, right to protection and right to participation is imperative. Possible measures could be assurance of child friendly home, school, hospital and community.

Now comes the question, whether the problem is manageable or not. My answer is yes for three reasons-problems, resources and solutions. We have identified the problem and its magnitude. We can arrange the resources to devise solutions to it. Finally, there are cost effective and feasible solutions. The other parts of the world have solved or are also solving the issue in a same way. Thus, we can also do the same as often said; there is no problem without solutions. So, with due recognition to children, it needs to be done something substantive for their benefit.

The roles of parents to decide on the affairs of the children are a hot issue these days. Some says children should have their own say on this, while others argue that this has to be decided by their parents as they are not able to make decisions for themselves. I argue they should have their based on their ability. By ability I mean the evolving capacities of the child with their age and education. When parents decide on the affairs of their child, children are away from the decision making which is going to affect them in the days to come. In Nepal, children are not entertaining freedom of choice as evidenced by national statistics that the practice of child marriage in rural Nepal is 54% for the period of 2000 to 2009 (UNICEF, 2010).  It is only with freedom of choice the personality of a child is reflected. Therefore children should have freedom of choice based on their ability and need.

Nepal is one among many countries where the state of human rights is not that much encouraging. There are many instances of human rights abuses. The children are at greater risk as they do not have enough say as adults. This causes more abuses to them. The Children should entertain basic human rights. National statistics of vaccination coverage being just 79% which being below than national target of universal coverage reflects how the right to health is not being met. The same holds true as 43 % of children the age of five are suffering from pneumonia which is preventable. Only healthy children represent a healthy nation.

Likewise, many of the developing countries like Nepal are facing with the challenge of educating to its all people, mainly the children. Children do not know this reality. The convention of child rights has advocated for the concept of compulsory primary education and free education to all. The right of each person to get education in also mentioned in the human rights declaration. In Nepal, primary school enrollment /attendance rate is at 84% for the period between 2005 and 2009 which is below the target of universal goal of education for all.  Children are not only the treasure of the present but also the nation’s future citizens; any action to increase educational status of the children will eventually benefits the country and its people in the long run.

Children’s access to resources is largely attributed with their right to choice, freedom and others. Everything is associated with the access to the resources. In Nepal, children need to depend on parents for resources. Resources do not always mean financial resources. It could be access to information, health, treatment, social security, living, education and justice. Currently, children do not have access to such resources in full. One measure to move towards it could be reducing birth rates and ensuring small family so that even little resource can be distributed fairly. They should have justifiable access to resource for their independency according to their capacity.

Children have the right to express their opinion. In Nepal, it is customary to make decisions by parents on behalf of children which may affect the children. In doing so, it is not my argument that children are always able to tell their parents about what is to be done. Instead, children should be encouraged to have their say and parents should listen and respect them. This must be in accordance with child’s level of maturity.  Children are not much respected as adults on decision making and such. In addition, Nepal is not able to resist the abuses and violence to children. Only 23 % of people are known about domestic violence according to UNICEF data for the period of 2005 and 2009. Children are future adults. So, they should therefore be respected and participatory decision should be made.

Whole discussion till now focused upon different aspects of the child rights and their importance to the children. Lets now see what may happens if these rights are not ensured. To start from family level, a child who has not entertained the rights may not be able to develop its physical, mental and social development. Such children cannot lead productive days in his life. This not only affects him or her but also will become the burden to the family instead of being source of happiness. The same holds true for nation although it manifests differently. The citizens are the human resources of the country. We can relate the fate of the nation with the fate of its citizens. Non productive citizens mean increase of government expenditure in a country like Nepal where regular budget outnumbers the development budget in most of the years. This hampers the national development.

The notion that the children as the building blocks of the society need special care and nourishing cannot be ignored. However, as discussed throughout the paper the state of Nepali children is vulnerable. It is no doubt that nation’s future is in the same vulnerable section of the society upon reaching adulthood. According to article 4 of Convention on the Rights of the Children, the governments must ensure by laws that the children should be protected even by reviewing the existing laws to meet at least minimum required conditions to protect their children. Moreover, to prepare children to be successful, they must be treated as human beings. Finally, I want to conclude with Gandhi’s saying on Children. If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.


References

A World Fit for Children, 1990, UNICEF

Fact Sheet: A summary of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF

Legislation and Policies for Child Protection, www.unicef.org/nepal/5522_Legislation_and_policies_for_child_protection.htm

Child Development, www.mowcsw.gov.np/policies-12-en.html

Statistics, www.unicef.org/nepal