Have you ever felt emptiness?

A sense of purposelessness,

A sense of wasting everything in each moment

Or rather losing nothing but that very moment.

When you are not in control of your own

It is more painful because you know it all.

But in that very purposelessness

In that same emptiness

Seeds of redemption lay hidden

and a flickering lamp stays burning

which says

day is not far when

moments will count their blessings

For putting to use themselves

For great productivity and joy.

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Global Nutrition Report (GNR) 2016 Calls for Action to Achieve Goal 2 of SDGs

malnutrition Image: Creative Commons, Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Malnutrition is one of the biggest challenges which is staring in the face of humanity today. Why malnutrition should be a concern for every citizen?? The recently released Global Nutrition Report 2016[1] throws light on the importance of tackling the challenge of malnutrition. The Global Nutrition Report is the only independent and comprehensive annual review of the state of the world’s nutrition.

Affects One-third Humanity: Malnutrition is a condition that directly affects one in three people globally which makes it more than 2 billion people.

Economic Burden: It has huge economic costs for the society. It causes the loss 11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) every year in Africa and Asia, whereas preventing malnutrition delivers $16 in returns on investment for every $1 spent[2].

Major Driver of Disease: Malnutrition and poor diets are a major driver of the global burden of disease which puts families under the strain of economic burden and pushes the vulnerable families into poverty. An undernourished child has weak immunity to fight with the infections and disease which further compounds the health problems in later life.

Under-development of Cognitive Abilities: A malnourished child is less likely to develop her cognitive abilities to the fullest potential as compared to a well-nourished child. Under development of cognitive potential becomes a barrier for the child to live a healthy and productive life.

The Sustainable Development (SDG) Goal 2 is aimed at ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030. As per the GNR 2016 there are variations in the way countries have been approaching towards their targets. Some countries are on the track while some are yet to take important measures to remove this ill. Some of the broad urgent actions that the GNR urges the global community and states to take are:

  1. Commitment to end all forms of malnutrition: The report urges the commitment of all the stakeholders be it government, civil society and private sector to give adequate focus on forms of malnutrition including the rapidly rising problem of obesity and non-communicable diseases in developing countries.
  1. The GNR calls for greater investments by the states to make sure that required resources are in place to tackle this challenge.
  1. Data gaps are a significant roadblock to nutrition progress throughout the world. Every country has a different nutrition context and should gather the national and sub-national data it needs to understand—and act on—its own unique situation.
  1. Countries need to come up with the innovative solutions that are suitable to their own national contexts. For example developing the ready- to-eat nutritious foods which are in alignment with the local supply chains can be important.
  1. Tackling malnutrition in all of its forms. The report highlights the challenge of obesity and non-communicable diseases like diabetes which have emerged at a quick pace in the developing countries. GNR 2016 urges the countries to take preventive steps to check the growth of these forms of malnutrition.


Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of author in the private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of employer.



[1] It is a multipartner initiative that holds a mirror up to our successes and failures at meeting intergovernmental nutrition targets. It documents progress on commitments made on the global stage, and it recommends actions to accelerate that progress.(Press release of GNR 2016)

[2] Global Nutrition Report 2016

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One-Quarter of UK is Invisible in Brexit



Image: Creative Commons, Source: http://www.freepik.com

Globally and nationally the most important decisions are taken without the most important constituency, children. Entire world has been in the grip of a frenzy about Brexit. Electronic Media, print columnists, social media everybody is going crazy about discussing the fate of Britain post Brexit referendum and the impact of same on the global and national economies but have the children been provided platforms to express themselves on this issue. It is the children who will bear the effects of result of referendum in the years to come. About quarter of the total population of UK, one-fifth of EU and one-third of global population is less than 18 years old but unfortunately this sizable chunk of humanity hardly has any say in this decision.

While proposals to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds were defeated in the House of Lords in December 2015, they reignited debate over the substance and scope of children’s democratic participation and their capacity to make informed political decisions[1]. Let alone providing them an opportunity to express there has been a conspicuous absence of the discussion of impact of Brexit on children.

Denying a voice to children in important decisions of life is not a new phenomenon. Almost all the decisions of our political, social, economic and environmental lives are taken by that category of human beings called ADULTS. Irony is that even the decisions about children are taken by adults. In many cultural settings especially in Asia the decisions like which toy a child wants to play with, which school she wants to go to, which subject she wants to study, which career she wants to pursue are the choices that in majority of instances are made by the adults.

We take our decisions as if children do not exist as if they are invisible. There are doubts if there have been sincere efforts to reach out to children on Brexit issue, if their voices have been captured after explaining to them what this referendum is all about and how it might impact them and larger society. Though children are not allowed to vote but it would have been good if children were informed about the entire issue of Brexit and their voice could be heard. Children’s voice could be shared with the adults to make them understand how their votes will affect children and what is it that they want.

Though the children are not allowed to vote but there is need to identify ways of incorporating the voices of children in important decisions affecting our collective lives. Consultations with children from diverse backgrounds can be one such mechanism.

World will become a much better place to live and our decisions will be much more humane if we can provide platforms to children to express themselves and  lend our ears to listen to them about the  kind of world children want for themselves and for the society.

[1] Not seen, not heard: the implications of Brexit for children by Helen Stalford Accessed on 24th june 2016 at https://www.opendemocracy.net/brexitdivisions/helen-stalford/not-seen-not-heard-implications-of-brexit-for-children.


Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of author in the private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of employer.

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Busting of Urban Advantage Myth

An Indian Slum

Urban advantage over rural India is something that we Indians have assumed and lived with for decades. It has always been assumed that cities have better access to services like education, health, sanitation and drinking water as compared to the rural India which always conjured up the images of poverty and hunger. But a closer look at the situation will tell a rupture in this urban myth in recent years. India is experiencing the phenomenon of ‘urbanization of poverty’. Indian cities are growing at a rapid pace and hordes of people are flocking to cities in search of livelihoods everyday but a vast majority of them have no option but to stay in slums. As per the census 2011, 17% of Indian population in urban areas lives in slums which are the biggest example of life of deprivation. Life in slums is generally a life deprived of decent housing, quality education, sanitation facilities and clean drinking water.  Housing in slums is characterized by, lack of land titles, insecure tenure and threats of eviction.  The urban areas do provide proximity to the services like education and health but for the urban poor this proximity does not get translated into access. Under nutrition is a major challenge for urban poor as they fare worse than average Indians on important nutrition indicators.  As per the NFHS-3 data 54.2 % of children under five years of age were stunted as compared to the figure of 48% of overall India. In the same vein 5.1 % of children under five years of age among urban poor were severely anemic as compared to the 2.9% proportion for entire India.

As per census 2011, about 40% of the urban population is below 18 years old. These children are the biggest possibility for India. But unfortunately our cities are ruthless for the vulnerable urban child. According to a 2007 study undertaken by the Ministry of Women and Child Development on child abuse which covered 2317 street children as respondents across 26 districts of 12 states from different zones of the country more than 65% of children reported physical abuse by the family and others.

Another category of children who are really deprived and vulnerable in urban areas are the children who work as domestic helps. Comprehensive violation of rights of these children is something that should shake the soul of each one of us but this is a stark reality which is crying to get adequate attention of policy makers, civil society and other stakeholders. Street Child is another category of children who are continuously denied their basic rights stipulated in the UNCRC[1] to which India is a signatory.

Urban areas are the drivers of Indian economy. By 2040-50, urban India will constitute a 50% share in the total population of the country. Also, its share in India’s GDP will grow to 75% by 2030.Urbanization as a process is the biggest opportunity for present and future generations to eradicate the evils of poverty and misery but at the same time in the event of lack of planning and effective policies urbanization can become a major challenge for the generations to come.  There is a need to understand the process of urbanization and design strategies and mechanisms to ensure that it becomes a process of good especially so, for the vulnerable populations like children.

[1] United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child

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Let’s Celebrate the Spirit of Rural Indian Women to See Themselves Educated

  1. Our education system may need a lot of improvement but these smiling faces show their spirit and enthusiasm to educate themselves.
 © 2016 Farrukh Shah. All Rights Reserved.

2. Though the Right to Education Act, 2009 makes education free and compulsory for each and every child but girl child still faces a lot of social barriers, especially in rural areas, in acquiring education. The sparkling smile on her bright face shows her commitment to travel long distance and overcome all the social barriers.

DSCN0522 11
© 2016 Farrukh Shah. All Rights Reserved.

3. Women expressing their concerns about the schools and their dreams to see their children educated.

DSCN0466 11
© 2016 Farrukh Shah. All Rights Reserved.

4. A mother sharing her opinion about the efforts needed to prevent children from dropping out of the school in her village.

© 2016 Farrukh Shah. All Rights Reserved.


5. According to the National Sample Survey Office’s 68th round, which covered one lakh households in every State and Union Territory and looked at women’s usual employment status, over 60 per cent of adult women are primarily engaged in unpaid housework. There is a need to educate every girl child to improve the labor participation rate of women in India.

 © 2016 Farrukh Shah. All Rights Reserved.

6. Awareness in community and its participation is indispensable to ensure the education of girl child.

DSCN0599 © 2016 Farrukh Shah. All Rights Reserved.



Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of author in the private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of employer.

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Will 2016 Be a Breakthrough Year in Promoting Gender Equality in India?



              © 2016 Farrukh Shah. All Rights Reserved.

Every New Year brings hopes and desires to see something new and fresh in its wake. Each one of us will have different things to achieve, dreams to materialize and desires to fulfill in this New Year. Since the neo-liberal reforms in 1991, Indian economy has witnessed unprecedented economic growth and today it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Greater production of goods and services in the economy has brought greater prosperity for Indians in last more than 20 years. But unfortunately the fruits of this prosperity have not been shared evenly. Even more unfortunate is the fact that there are millions in India who are oppressed by multiple deprivations which they face in their daily existence, be it hunger, penury, illiteracy, poor health or looming fear of violence. Many a times these deprivations are a result of social disabilities caused by inequalities in the society. These inequalities find their origin in economic, social, regional and gender-related arrangements in society. Gender inequality continues to be a harsh reality for almost half of the population.  Gender inequality affects a girl child right from the pre-conception days to its birth (if it is allowed to) and then further in its chances of survival, immunization, health, schooling, decent employment and subsequent opportunities in life. The United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) measures the human development costs of gender inequality. India ranks 130 of 155 countries on GII inHuman Development Report, 2015 as it scores a higher GII value of 0.563 which shows greater disparity between males and females. Only Afghanistan in South Asia performs worse than India otherwise all other nations in the region perform better.[1]

As per the Census 2011, while the overall sex ratio had gone up to touch 943, against 933 in Census 2001, the child sex ratio came down to 918 from 927 (which some commentators have termed as’ emergency proportions’). Girl child continues to face discrimination in the immunization which is a crucial determinant of survival. As per the NFHS-3 data the proportion of male children who are fully immunized is 4% higher than female children. If a girl is able to pass the hurdle of gender bias in birth and survival, she is discriminated against in education as well. Unfortunate is the fact that even in the 21st century when everyone is obsessed with talking about the digital age Indian women are still lagging behind males in basic literacy. Though there has been an overall improvement in female literacy from 39.3% to 65.46% and a corresponding decrease in the gender gap from 24.8% to 16.7%. However, there are significant regional variations in the female literacy rate. In 2001 and 2011, the highest literacy rate was seen in the states of Kerala (87.8% and 92% respectively) and Mizoram (86.1% and 89.4% respectively) which were well above the national female literacy rates (54.3% and 65.5% respectively). In 2001, the state of Bihar with 33.6% had the lowest female literacy rate, and in 2011 Rajasthan had the lowest rate with 52.6%.[2]

I would like to offer my apologies if I am only talking about distressing news at the very beginning of the year but all this is just aimed at reminding us the challenges that lie ahead and the hurdles that we have to surmount to see a smile on the face of every girl child and ensure a better and egalitarian world in 2016. There is a need of concerted and targeted efforts from all the stakeholders, be it Central, State and Local Governments, Private Sector or Civil society, to make sure that 2016 turns out to be a breakthrough year in promoting gender equality and thereby ensuring that women are accorded equal status and opportunities to realize their full potential in society.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of author in the private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of employer.


[1] Gender Inequality Index: In South Asia, India leads in poor condition of women – Indian Express, accessed on January 02, 2016

[2] Wings 2014: The World of India’s Girls, A Status Report by Save the Children, India

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