The Telegraph – Disappearing through the cracks

For women to join the labour force, trade-off between the burdens of work and family needs to be harmonised

Chitvan Singh Dhillon and Navdeep Singh

Op/Ed, 08 April 2020. This year’s Economic Survey has thrown up an intriguing statistic: 60 per cent of women in India in the productive age bracket of 15-59 years are engaged in full-time housework. This does not augur well for a nation chasing its $5-trillion-economy goal.

All-encompassing growth and gender parity are paramount for any economy to realize its full potential. With India striving to become a $5 trillion economy by 2025, it cannot afford to leave half of its productive workforce behind.

India’s female labour force participation rate, calculated as the share of women who are employed or are seeking work as a proportion of the working age female population, stands distressingly low at 23.4 per cent (2019) as per the World Bank (modelled ILO estimates).

Juxtapose this statistic with neighbouring nations like Bhutan (58.3 per cent), Nepal (81.6 per cent), China (60.63 per cent), Bangladesh (36.14 per cent), Myanmar (47.54 per cent) and Sri Lanka (34.75 per cent).

While slightly more women work in Pakistan than in India (24.09 per cent and 23.4 per cent, respectively), Pakistan’s female labour force participation rate is escalating as India’s is flagging.

The Economic Survey also found that India’s female labour force participation declined by 7.8 percentage points, from 33.1 per cent in 2011-12 to 25.3 per cent in 2017-18. A comparison of India’s female labour force participation rates with the BRICS countries is not encouraging either.

Why have women in India been dropping out of the labour force in large numbers?

The decision and ability of women to participate in the labour force are the consequence of a complex interplay of varied economic and social factors that interact at the household and at the macro level.

Economic literature suggest that some of the most important drivers include education, fertility rates and the age of marriage, marital status, household income, religion, caste, cyclical effects and the degree of urbanization. Socio-cultural norms influencing the public role of women continue to affect labour force participation outcomes.

Multiple factors on the supply and demand side influence female labour force participation in India. On the supply side, economists have found a distinct U-shaped curve between the number of years of education and female labour force participation rates.

At extremely low levels of education and income, women have no option but to join the workforce and support their households. But as their male counterparts in the family start earning, women tend to pull out of work in the formal economy to give more attention to household activities.

It is the women in the middle of the pack, those who have some schooling or have completed only high school, who are pushed by the pressure to stay at home and by the lack of jobs matching their intermediate levels of education.

It is only at higher levels of education (graduate and above) and income that women re-enter the workforce through well-paying jobs that adequately match their educational levels and skill sets. In some communities, there may be a taboo attached to women working outside of their homes, especially if it involves doing ‘menial’ work. This increases pressures on women to drop out.

On the demand side, women’s fundamental duties confine them to the household. They are forced to take up work during a financial crisis, but they must do so in addition to their familial duties. So they move into the labour force only as supplementary workers.

There is no doubt that India has taken strides in improving access to education for girls, the rising enrolment rate in secondary schools and colleges is testimony to that.

However, the nature of post-liberalization economic growth has been peculiar in the sense that it has failed to create jobs in large numbers in sectors that could readily absorb women, especially those from rural areas.

Living standards witnessed a drastic improvement as a result of rise in household incomes but it has also reduced women’s participation in the labour force, especially in subsidiary activities due to a shift in preferences. Women’s contribution to the economy often remains undocumented or unaccounted for in official statistics.

Women continue to face countless barriers to enter the labour market. They face manifold challenges related to access to adequate employment opportunities, choice of work, safety at the work place, hospitable working environment, security of tenure, parity of wages, discrimination and, most importantly, harmonizing the trade-off between the burdens of work and family.

No single policy prescription can be proposed to advance labour market outcomes for all women. Unique initiatives such as ‘Skill India’, ‘Make in India’ and new, gender-based quotas can spur change. But the need of the hour is to invest heavily in skill training and job support. Can we do it? – India suspends pilgrimage to Kartarpur due to coronavirus outbreak

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi – India, 15 March 2020. The Indian Home Ministry has temporarily suspended pilgrimage and registration for Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib as a precautionary measure to put control over coronavirus outbreak. From 16 March, no devotee would be allowed to emigrate through Dera Baba Nanak terminal to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Sri Kartarpur Sahib via Kartarpur corridor.

Sharing the development with media, a government official informed that the Home Ministry has suspended pilgrimage to Kartarpur Sahib so that the spread of coronavirus could be controlled. “Not only Kartarpur instead movement of all types of passengers through international border points with Pakistan from 16 March onwards,” he added.

It is pertinent to note here that the Indian government has already suspended all types of passenger movement through land check posts with its other neighboring countries Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

On 13 March, the SGPC appointed Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh had asked the Indian government not to suspend pilgrimage to Kartarpur.

A similar ban by the Pakistan government is already in effect on Pakistani citizens since yesterday.

India suspends pilgrimage to Kartarpur due to coronavirus outbreak

Dawn – Laudable Saudi move

Editorial, 28 December 2019. Coming at the end of a year that has held quite a few shocks for Pakistani diplomacy, the news that Saudi Arabia is planning to convene a meeting of Muslim foreign ministers exclusively on the Kashmir issue deserves to be welcomed.

But some of the diplomatic jolts need to be recalled.

In March, the UAE invited the Indian external affairs minister to a meeting of foreign ministers of the OIC, without considering the opinion of Pakistan, an OIC founding member.

Then following 05 August, when India’s Hindutva government headed by Narendra Modi abrogated the special status of India-held Kashmir, there was no criticism of the move from the Arab side; those who condemned it included Malaysia and Turkey.

While the Arab stance reflected adversely on the acumen of Pakistan’s diplomats, it also underlined the cumulative mindset the Arab world has developed towards Muslims from other parts of the world. This mindset is one of indifference towards non-Arab Muslims even when they are victims of state brutality, as in occupied Kashmir and Myanmar.

Islamabad’s grief over Riyadh’s passivity was the greater because of the esteem in which Pakistan holds the Saudi leadership which is regarded as the Guardian of the Two Holy Places. For that reason, Riyadh’s reaction to Mr Modi’s criminality came as a blow to Pakistanis.

The media quoted official Saudi sources as saying that Riyadh wanted “the concerned parties in Jammu and Kashmir to maintain peace, and take into account the interests of the people of the region”.

Noting that Saudi Arabia was following “the current situation” in Jammu and Kashmir, it called for “a peaceful settlement in accordance with the international resolutions”.

While Riyadh, thus, walked a tightrope, Dubai’s response did it no credit whatsoever, for it said that Mr Modi’s Aug 5 action was “not a unique incident” in India’s history and that it was that country’s “internal matter”.

Against this background, the report that Saudi Arabia intends to call an OIC foreign ministers’ moot devoted exclusively to Kashmir comes as a breath of fresh air.

This can be called the most positive outcome of Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan’s one-day visit to Islamabad.

The Saudi initiative could be interpreted in two ways: either it is a move to placate Pakistan, especially after Riyadh put pressure on Islamabad to distance itself from the Kuala Lumpur Summit, or it shows a genuine Saudi interest in the plight of the Kashmiris who early next week will complete five months of the lockdown in their homeland which has been described as “an open-air prison”.

No date or venue has yet been notified for the planned OIC conference, but let us hope it is held at the earliest and that Qatar and Iran, both Saudi rivals, are also, as they should be, invited to make it a proper gathering of Muslim countries.

Ieper Visit – Menenpoort

16 August 2019

Nepali memorial

Nepali memorial

Belgian (just visible) and Indian flag
Indian memorial

Ashoka lions
Indian memorial

India in Flanders ‘ fields
1914 – 1918
Indian memorial

The Indian national emblem
Ashoka lions
Indian memorial

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Published in: on September 1, 2019 at 5:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Hindustan Times – A little-known story of Nepal’s Sikh connection

The story of Sikh transporters is legendary in Nepal. In the early 1950s, hailing from the Jammu region, many of them personally navigated the newly laid tracks of the Tribhuvan Highway, and crossed rivers to haul their trucks to Kathmandu.  They also started the first public bus service in the country, and have been active in the setting up of modern schools in the country.

Manjeev Singh Puri

Kathmandu metropolitan – Nepal, 20 July 2019. Nepal has a small but a vibrant Sikh community that is best known for its role as transporters, who opened Nepal to the modern world. Not many, though, know that Nepal’s Sikh heritage dates to Guru Nanak Dev, who travelled through Nepal during his third udasi.

Marking his sojourn in Kathmandu is Nanak Math, which has a peepul tree marking the exact spot where Guru Saheb meditated. The math, like a few other shrines in Kathmandu, is linked to the Udasi tradition and has a mahant presiding over it.

The shrine is not well-known and remains neglected; this prompted author Desmond Doig to call it the “forgotten shrine of the Sikhs”. Nepal also boasts several handwritten copies of the Guru Granth Sahib, including a couple in the Pashupatinath Temple complex.

The Sikh connection with Nepal developed during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh when the armies of the Sikh and Gorkha courts fought inconclusively in the Kangra region. The valour of the Gorkhas led the Lahore Court to recruit them. Even today, Nepalese serving in the Indian Army are colloquially referred to as “Lahureys”.

Later, when Maharani Jind Kaur escaped from the British, she came to Nepal and lived in the country for several years. Accompanying her was a large body of Sikhs. When she left Nepal, many of them settled down in the area around Nepalgunj, bordering Uttar Pradesh.
Retaining their Sikh identity, including wearing unshorn hair and maintaining gurdwaras in the villages of their concentration, they are a community largely missing in the annals of the Sikh diaspora.

In modern times, Sikhs have played pioneering roles in Nepal not only as transporters but also as engineers, doctors, police officers, teachers, educationists, pilots, and even as fashion designers.

Indeed, the person credited with laying the first drinking water pipes in Kathmandu was a Sikh, Manohar Singh. And, of course, by setting up the first restaurants, they paved the way for popularising Punjabi cuisine in Nepal.

The story of Sikh transporters is legendary in Nepal. In the early 1950s, hailing from the Jammu region, many of them personally navigated the newly laid tracks of the Tribhuvan Highway, and crossed rivers to haul their trucks to Kathmandu. They also started the first public bus service in the country, and have been active in the setting up of modern schools in the country.

The Sikh community in Nepal in the 1980s totaled more than a few thousand and built a grand gurdwara in Kathmandu’s Kupondole neighbourhood, apart from smaller gurdwaras in Birgunj, Nepalgunj and Krishnanagar. It is further enriched by Nepalis like Sardar Gurbaksh Singh embracing Sikhism.

India’s diplomatic ties with Nepal also have a strong Sikh connection with Sardar Surjit Singh Majithia being the first ambassador and establishing the embassy in 1947. His arrival and departure, by air, saw the first uses of the landing strip that is now the runway at Tribhuvan International Airport.

As we celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the Sikh connection of Nepal will be further strengthened as Nepal has started minting three commemorative coins, two in silver with denomination of Nepali Rupees 2,500 and 1,000 and a cupronickel coin with a face value of Nepali Rupees 100, to be launched on this auspicious occasion. Nepal is one of few countries issuing legal tender featuring a Sikh connection.

Manjeev Singh Puri is India’s ambassador to Nepal and is a former ambassador to the EU, Belgium and Luxemburg