Tag Archives: Nagpur

Earth Day 2017: Are we doing enough for our Mother Earth?

This year’s theme is ‘Environmental and Climate Literacy’ which seeks to “empower everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection.” Decide your own contribution when you celebrate ‘Earth Day’ on April 22

Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) institutionalized an innovative system for the betterment of environment in 2016. It officially promoted and made available cow-dung cakes for cremation at one of the ghats. It is almost one year since the facility was adopted by the NMC and the number of families choosing to go green when bidding good bye to their dear ones is increasing day by day. Using cow-dung cakes has not just proved to be cost-effective but also saves trees from being cut.

The brain behind this was Vijay Limaye of the Eco-friendly Living Foundation (ELF), who has been propagating the concept through his NGO at various ghats. In about 10 months, when more than 300 persons were burnt using the eco-friendly materials such as cow-dung and/or briquettes made from agro-waste. The initiative has received a huge response from Nagpur residents and the facility is in the process of being replicated at other cremation sites in the city.

Far away from Nagpur, in drought-prone Marathwada, a bunch of Jain people, mostly from Mumbai, were striving hard to bring relief to the drought-stressed farming community across 60 villages. Samasta Mahajan, an organization of few individuals from the business community, poured in its heart to de-silt scores of lakes, deepen hundreds of ponds and help large number of farmers dig farm-ponds in their land. This was followed up by plantation of lakhs of indigenous varieties of trees such as banyan, neem, peepal, mango, tamarind, baheda and karanj etc. to alleviate the drought related problems faced by the farming community.

Our Mother Earth

Recognising and acknowledging that Mother Earth is a common expression for the planet earth in a number of countries and regions across the globe, which “reflects the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit”, the United Nations General Assembly decided to designate April 22 as the International Mother Earth Day in 2009. The United Nations believes that “the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change in conjunction with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development holds the power to transform our world.”

The theme for 2017 campaign – Environmental and Climate Literacy – is an apt step to club the two major plans of action agreed upon by world leaders. Top leaders from 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement wherein they all agree to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and given the extreme urgency of the situation, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. The changing climate has already started manifesting as there has been a steady rise in the number of climate related disasters.

Governments of the world, including the government of India, have announced to take several measures to combat disasters that are wrought on the humanity due to changes in the climatic conditions. India’s federal structure makes participation by the state governments necessary in all such endeavours. Maharashtra government too has charted out its Action Plan for combating Climate Change.

Rivers are important water resources and need to be conserved

For instance, among other sector-wise issues, the 300-plus page document mentions possible impact of climate change on water resources in the state – such as ‘projected increase in rainfall in the form of heavy precipitation events’ and ‘increase in surface run offs in certain catchments’. It then goes on to recommend ‘conservation and re-naturalisation of rivers and water bodies’, ‘enhancement of water storage and groundwater recharge’ and ‘improvement of water use efficiency’ and charts out a proper action plan for steps to be taken for mitigating this problem and also in adapting to the situations arising out of it.

Individual’s contribution

But more than what the governments are doing, it becomes imperative for each one of us to contribute in whichever way we can. (See box for what you can do?) Not just adults but even children/students need to be aware of what can be the consequences of the changes in climatic conditions, of its unprecedented threat to our Mother Earth. Awareness will come from education and empowerment through knowledge. Knowledge will inspire people to take adequate action. “Environmental and climate literacy is the engine not only for creating green voters and advancing environmental and climate laws but also for accelerating green technologies and jobs,” the United Nations has declared.

Each one of us is duty bound to first gain knowledge about causes that lead to rise in global temperature which in turn brings about disastrous climate changes. Next, we need to empower others with that knowledge so that each one of is aware of the pitfalls and can take a conscious decision to improve chances of a better world for our tomorrow.

“Ensuring adequate public participation is central to the design and implementation of any SAPCC,”, the Maharashtra state action plan to combat climate change states and declares: “Effective climate action on adaptation requires general public awareness and community involvement. There is potential for key roles to be played by women, the youth, NGOs and community leaders.”

Perfect opportunity for spreading ‘Environmental and Climate Literacy.’ Remember, you need to work to save yourselves, your future. Are you ready?

What can an individual do for his bit for Mother Earth?

Some simple and some not-so-simple steps for ordinary citizens

** Adopt sustainable lifestyle – e.g. reduce energy consumption as much as possible
** Build green buildings rather than opting for glass facades
** Cycle to your office or take public transport, discard your own polluting-fuel vehicle
** Make online bill payments, reduce paper usage
** Do not pollute the rivers and the mountains as citizens, as tourists
** Save every drop of water – in your kitchen, bathroom and in open/common areas
** Harvest rainwater falling on your roof top, in your garden, in your farmland
** Plant trees as often as you can and in as many numbers as you can
** Recycle things to reduce garbage/waste, turn waste into energy
** Shift to solar and/or other renewable energy

This write up was carried by Maharashtra Ahead, the official publication of DGPIR of Maharashtra Government in its April 2017 issue. The following images show how it appeared in the print edition.

Maharashtra Ahead April 2017 – Page 1-2

Incredible life of Rubina Patel

Nagpur: Incredible! That is how Rubina Patel’s life story is.

She came from a well to do, educated, business family, married to a teacher, blessed with two children. She wanted to study and help the community through her social work. But her life went on an unexpected trajectory.

If fighting against an abusive father was not enough, she faced a violent husband, who pushed her into a well. As if her lonely struggle against corrupt system – vis-à-vis police and court staff that prevented and delayed justice to her – was not enough, she has even faced death threats.

Rubina Patel of Nagpur

Rubina Patel of Nagpur

But, rising above her odds, fighting and hoping against hope, Rubina survived all this and much more. And today, the 39-year-old resident of Tajbagh area, near the Tajuddin Baba Dargah, has become an inspiration for all. She counsels divorced Muslim women and helps out needy young girls and even elder women by training them to earn a living.

She was awarded the Baburao Samant Sangharsh Puraskar 2014 on October 18th.

Early life, marriage and near death experience
Rubina’s father was an educated businessman from Umred, about 50 kms from Nagpur. She dreamt of higher studies and wanted to do social work. But her drunkard father won’t let her study. He would harass her and her mother, not let her eat and even beat her. “Paida karna jurm kyun nahee hai? (Why is giving a birth not considered a crime),” she says in chaste Urdu, one of the four languages – Marathi, Hindi and English being other three – that she is fluent in and alternates with ease.

Rubina interacts with Firdaus Anjum (right), enrolled in one-year fashion designing course along with Neha Anjum, a BA student. “I came to know about the course through pamphlets and some girls from my area too had done this course,” Neha says.
Rubina interacts with Firdaus Anjum (right), enrolled in one-year fashion designing course along with Neha Anjum, a BA student. “I came to know about the course through pamphlets and some girls from my area too had done this course,” Neha says.

A devout to the core, prayers and reciting namaz were a constant then in her life. She was barely 18 – studying in class 12th – when she was married off to a teacher, then posted at Pahla village in Bhandara district, as she thought “marriage would change things” for her. Five years and two children later – the son is now 21 years and daughter 18 – she was in for a rude shock.

Rubina’s husband started ill-treating her. She faced domestic violence and was tortured physically, mentally and sexually. During this time, her will to study prompted her to take up Bachelor in Arts (BA) course but that too was met with hurdles. Her husband would tear up books, ask ‘how she filled up the form without asking?’ and one year, did not even let her go for examination.

One day, her husband brought a ‘talaq ka fatwa’ from a local Mufti. After her father died, her uncle had usurped their property so Rubina’s mother had gone to stay with her own brother. Rubina and her daughter were with Rubina’s mother when the news of talaq reached her. Her husband won’t meet her or allow her to meet their son. With a strong urge to meet her son, she went to the village Kondha Kosra, where husband was then posted.

“July 7, 2007. I can never forget that fateful evening!” Rubina recalls, her eyes looking distant. Her husband not just verbally abused and physically tormented her; he actually pushed and dumped her into a well in their courtyard.

A dangling pipe of a submersible pump inside the well saved her but her left leg was fractured. She remained there in darkness for more than an hour. Her husband had threatened all onlooking neighbours. Almost 1 ½ hours later, several women goaded their husbands to pull her out. “Hanging for my life, I still was thinking about meeting my son. Unfortunately that time, he never listened to me and never met me,” she says her tone palpably sad and angry at once.

Rubina Patel with her project coordinator Shahina at the gate of Rubi Training Institute
Rubina Patel with her project coordinator Shahina at the gate of Rubi Training Institute

Lonely struggle and the zeal for life

With a fractured left leg, she lay on her bed for almost six months, with bouts of crying interspersed with long depressing silence. On one hand she could not believe what had happened with her. On the other, tears won’t stop thinking what next? Her worries were only augmented when her husband lodged a case against her under section 309 (Attempt to commit suicide).

That started another round of trying period for her. Travelling to the court alone, studying and preparing her matter and arguing the case herself. “Even the judge was impressed by my work,” she recalls with a fleeting smile, and, adds quickly, “But no use. Police connived with my husband.”

Every time she would ask the policeman “Did you ask my husband if he has shown me thetalaq ka kaghaz?”, “Did you ask him if he has paid Mehar amount to me?” or “Have you asked if he has returned my stree dhan?” the policemen and even the court staff would find newer excuses of not doing so. (Stree dhan – jewellery / money that a woman in Maharashtra gets at the time of her marriage).

Slowly, slowly her thinking started changing. Her prayers were not answered, her life didn’t show any promise.

“I knew just one thing. I wanted to live for my daughter.” By this time, she had called her mother back from her Mamaji’s place and the trio lived together at Nagpur. It took her 10 years to complete her BA course. Then she did a B Ed course and started working in a school. Masters in Social Work (MSW) and Masters in Arts (MA) followed.

But bouts of depressions continued to haunt her. “I was going to dargah, was offering namaz and prayed regularly. But nothing was happening. One day, as if hit by a bolt, I said, “Enough!” and I felt as if I was free from the bondage of religion. Then I thought to myself, I am independent now, I can do what I want. I can pursue all my dreams now.”

Meanwhile, she was cleared in the ‘attempt to suicide’ case but her counter case challenging her talaq remains incomplete.

Rubi Training Institute building
Rubi Training Institute building

Rubi Social Welfare Society
In 2005, during her MSW course itself, she had started counseling poor needy women from her locality and started Rubi Social Welfare Society from a one-room rented house. As her work expanded, she interacted with several other activists and organizations she started attending workshops on gender and women’s empowerment. In 2008, she came in contact with famous Mumbai based women’s rights activist Hasina Khan and her Aawaz-e-Niswaan (Voice of the Women). It inspired her to do more, expand the scope of her work.

The society has a counseling centre at Kuhi, another village in Nagpur district. Along with women’s rights work there, she also mobilized the women of that village, with about 50,000 population, to organize a daaru bandi protest (no liquor campaing) but did not succeed.

In 2011, Rubina opened the training centre – Rubi Training Institute – with an aim to offer livelihood related course to make women financially independent. “Women from my society, especially poor and illiterate, suffer a lot. And if they are talaq pidit(divorce sufferers), they face more problems. And what are the reasons for divorce? Small little things! Then, there are those taboos – don’t do this, do go there, don’t talk with that man, don’t venture out without a burqa. Burqa sirf kapde ka nahee hota hai, dharm ka bhee hota hai,” the young activist asserts.

Today the training centre – recognized by the government for vocational courses – offers Beauty Culture, Montessori and Computer, for a nominal fee of R500 or R1000. Montessori training is a 9-months course with 10-12 ladies per batch; Beauty Culture training course runs for 6 months with 15 ladies per batch while the fashion designing is a full year course with 15 women and young girls.

The five-room building, an erstwhile school, belongs to the Hazrat Baba Tajuddin Trust and offered to her on a nominal rent. The institute has 3 teachers, one legal advisor, a project coordinator, two community workers and three other persons at the Kuhi centre. Rubi has handled 800-850 cases of counseling. Recently they also started anti-trafficking work at Bhandara district.

Rubi Training Institute building
Rubi Training Institute building

Rubina also reaches out to women from villages, slums and economically backward colonies. Women associated with her often stage demonstrations for their issues. In recognition for her work, she has won the Keshav Gore Smarak Trust Puraskar, Hamid Dalwai Puraskar and Ram Aapte Prabodhan Puraskar since then apart from the latest award in October.

As her work increased, there were people, especially men and religious clerics, who didn’t like what she was doing. In 2011, a mother came pleading to save her underage daughter from getting married. Her husband had thrown her out. “I rang up the area DCP and got the local ACP and the police inspector to stop that marriage. Next thing I know is an irate morcha coming for my life. Police also later came to know about a conspiracy to kill me,” a confident Rubina rattles off similar incidents and puts forth an important point.

A man treats his wife in a different manner but when it comes to his own sister or daughter, he takes a different stand. Rubina hopes: “That’s where my work is.”

(This was first published by TwoCircles.net on November 9, 2014 and can be read at http://twocircles.net/2014nov09/1415509586.html#.VGj12TSUe84)