Most of us still don’t like to talk about mental health in public. It is imperative that we do because according to a World Health Organization report, India is the world’s most depressed country, closely followed by China and the US. According to the 2015-16 National Mental Health Survey (NMHS), every sixth person in India needs mental health help of some sort. Of all the age groups, it is the adolescents who need it the most.
At least 6.5 per cent of the Indian population suffer from some form of the serious mental disorder, with no discernible rural-urban differences. Though there are effective measures and treatments, there is an extreme shortage of mental health workers and experts.
Although there have been several campaigns on mental health in the country, the count of suicide attempts due to depression hasn’t gone down much. Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone who has battled depression in the past, with her The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF) has been trying to spread awareness. The actor in a statement said, “When we were talking about more celebrities coming out and speaking and when we were talking about stigma, there is a lot of miscommunication that depression happens to people who are successful.”
TLLLF had released a report in 2017, based on views of 3,556 respondents across eight Indian cities that highlighted the importance of focused stigma-reduction programmes. It said that as many as 87 per cent of the respondents in the survey felt mental illness was a disorder.
Over 500 persons experienced “life without vision” during a ‘blind walk’, which was organised to celebrate World Sight Day.
The walk was organised to raise awareness about the problems faced by persons with visual impairment.
Those are born with the gift of vision were blindfolded during the walk and were led by 50 visually impaired students from Institute for the Blind, Sector 26, here.
Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu flagged off the walk. He also walked along with the aspirants.
While appreciating the efforts of the Dialogue Highway, Navjot Sidhu said: “I am happy to be a part of this unique initiative, which keeps humanity alive. I am of the opinion that visually impaired people do not need sympathy. They need to be respected and given equal rights. I announce a grant of Rs 5 lakh to the Trust that has been doing great work. We will give this grant every year till I stay in the ministry”.
The walk witnessed the participation from volunteers, social activists, doctors and students from local schools and colleges. Prominent among who joined the walk included state president of the Chandigarh BJP Sanjay Tandon, PGI Director Jagat Ram, Punjabi actress Japji Khaira, Punjabi singer Pammi Bhai, Hardeep Gill and Gurkirpal Surapuri.
Sanjay Tandon gave away the prizes to the organisations that are working for the welfare of visually impaired people.
Dialogue Highway’s managing trustee and well-known food policies analyst Devinder Sharma said: “Figures show that there are 4 crore visually impaired people across the globe, while the tally stands at 1.5 crore in India. As per the Census 2011, there are 2,852 visually impaired persons in Chandigarh. Millions of people have joined hands in spreading awareness across the world by carrying out blind walks at different places across the globe. Such initiatives will go a long way”.
A World Economic Forum (WEF) study has revealed that companies in India that are witnessing the highest growth prefer hiring men, and technology-led job growth benefits men more than women.
The alarming report by WEF has also stated that while one in three companies preferred hiring men, only one in 10 companies said they wanted to hire more women.
Country’s female workforce participation lower than global average
As per the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE), more women now go to college than men and there is an equal number of both in undergraduate science programmes.
However, the recently-published WEF’s “Future of Work in India” report suggests that the country’s female workforce participation, which is a mere 27%, stands 23 percentage points lower than the global average.
A third of the companies had no female employees: Study
While the study found that men were disproportionately benefiting from technology-led jobs, it also found out that a third of the companies had no female employees.
As per the study, 71% of companies have less than 10% female workers, and only 2.4% have 50% or more females.
Only 11% companies stated they wanted to hire more women and 36% reported preference for men.
And, what about the informal work?
The study says 75% of freelancers are men and the participation of women in freelance work dropped from 37% for women with up to five years’ experience to 10% for women with more than 10 years’ experience.
The concept of informal work includes unpaid work of the family, in which women participate three time more than men.
“On this International Day of the Girl, let us recommit to supporting every girl to develop her skills, enter the workforce on equal terms and reach her full potential. ” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Since 2012, 11 October has been marked as the International Day of the Girl. The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
2018 theme: With Her: A Skilled GirlForce
Today’s generation of girls are preparing to enter a world of work that is being transformed by innovation and automation. Educated and skilled workers are in great demand, but roughly a quarter of young people – most of them female – are currently neither employed or in education or training.
Of the 1 billion young people – including 600 million adolescent girls – that will enter the workforce in the next decade, more than 90% of those living in developing countries will work in the informal sector, where low or no pay, abuse and exploitation are common.
On 11 October, International Day of the Girl, we are working alongside all girls to expand existing learning opportunities, chart new pathways and calling on the global community to rethink how to prepare them for a successful transition into the world of work.
Under the theme, With Her: A Skilled GirlForce, International Day of the Girl will mark the beginning of a year-long effort to bring together partners and stakeholders to advocate for, and draw attention and investments to, the most pressing needs and opportunities for girls to attain skills for employability.
India’s #MeToo movement arrived in a cascade of allegations as women took to Twitter to call out comedians, journalists, authors, actors and filmmakers – in the process, they have sparked a debate about consent and complicity.
Unlike its American counterpart, it has not been spurred by investigative journalism. Rather, it has been a spontaneous outpouring in the last few days, amplified by journalists themselves. And it has hit Indian media the hardest.
It’s difficult to say what sparked the torrent of allegations. But it seems to have started on 4 October when a young female comedian accused Utsav Chakraborty, a 33-year-old comedian, of sending her an unsolicited photo of his penis. More allegations followed as other women replied to her tweet or she shared private messages they sent her (with their names blurred) – they said he had either sent them photos of his penis or asked them for naked photos of themselves.
Mr Chakraborty, who admitted to the accusation in a series of tweets, apologised the next day. By then, more women, many of them journalists, had begun to share stories of sexual harassment and even assault.
In the next three days, as more comedians, senior reporters, editors, popular authors, actors and filmmakers were “outed”, the hashtag #MeToo was trending in India. The scores of tweets – in the form of long “threads” and screenshots of incriminating conversations – have set off a debate about what constitutes harassment, complicity and consent.
Women journalists have perhaps played the biggest role so far, “outing” reporters, senior editors, authors and even a high court judge. And it’s likely the coming week will bring fresh accusations.
“So many allegations have come out and organisations are slowly realising that this is wrong and something has to be done,” Dhanya Rajendran, editor of The News Minute, told the BBC ‘s Divya Arya.
“But this is just a start. This is the first step to give women a safe working environment,” she added.
The allegations have made it to the front page of national dailies, forcing newsrooms to not just take notice but also respond. At least one major newspaper has promised an investigation after seven women accused one of its senior editors of sexually harassing them and of sabotaging their careers if they did not comply; another newspaper announced that a senior editor who had been named was stepping down from his role.
“There were whispers all along in the newsrooms of misconduct by senior editorial colleagues who used their positions of power and influence to proposition and harass young women, but now some of it’s being articulated in the open,” says the BBC’s Geeta Pandey.
Journalist Sandhya Menon, who has called out two senior editors for allegedly sexually harassing her, has shared numerous stories of harassment and assault from other women – many of whom messaged her privately.
Since then, many more women have come forward with their stories, some of them from years ago. This is perhaps a sign of how, for the first time, they believe people are listening.
“They are using their words, smartphones and laptops to speak their truth and be heard,” says Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy.
She said it was a form of “civil disobedience” because, having lost faith in the justice of public institutions, they were making use of the tools available to them.
India’s film industry has hovered on the edges of #MeToo for some time. In September, a 10-year-old allegation by actress Tanushree Dutta against veteran actor Nana Patekar once again made headlines but, for the first time, it attracted the attention of several people in the film industry. Patekar repeated his denial of the allegations over the weekend, calling them “a lie”.
Mr Bahl, who denied the allegation after it first surfaced, has not commented publicly since the HuffPost story on Saturday.
While actresses have spoken out before they often did not name their harasser or their allegations did not become part of a larger movement. Although the accuser remains anonymous, this is the first time such an allegation has been made public in Bollywood.
Phantom, the production house set up by Mr Kashyap, Mr Bahl and two others, was dissolved on 6 October. It produced the Netflix show Sacred Games along with several Bollywood films.
The alleged victim had not wanted to speak out until now, Mr Kashyap said, so the company had not acted sooner. “Now in hindsight and after taking stock of things myself, I can quite see how I was ill-advised.”
Complicity and consent
The allegations have ranged from awkward or creepy encounters, lewd behaviour and suggestive text messages to aggressive sexual advances and outright assault. This has prompted some women to ask others to use caution before calling someone out on Twitter for something “trivial”.
But this has also invited criticism from other women who have argued in favour of a stricter definition of consent. Some have said this is a moment to listen, sift through stories and introspect rather than tell women how they should process what happened to them.
And the allegations of complicity have also unleashed a public reckoning.
So, what now?
Geeta Pandey, BBC News, Delhi
The floodgates have opened and what’s coming out is predictably murky.
Many are describing it as Indian journalism’s #MeToo moment, but could it really be as potent as the movement that brought down some of the most powerful men of Hollywood? The names that have been outed, barring one or two, are of relatively small fry – the “Harvey Weinsteins” remain unnamed as yet.
The strength of the latest #MeToo movement will ultimately be tested by where it travels from here – and if the past is any indication, there’s not much to be optimistic about, for earlier attempts at an Indian #MeToo did not have any lasting impact.
A list of alleged predators in academia died a quick death in the Twitter bubble; and calls to name and shame the sleazy in Bollywood did not find many takers. Also, it’s not going to be easy for those who choose to speak out, especially for those who have no evidence to back up their allegations.
Some of the women have provided screen shots of private text messages they were sent by their alleged harassers, making the allegations hard to deny.
But in cases where it boils down to “your word against mine”, many of the women who spoke out are already being threatened with legal action for defamation and some of the tweets, naming names, have already been taken down.