46 per cent Indians believe ghosts exists, 24 percent consult a palmist

93 per cent Indians believe in God

New Delhi, January 24, 2007

Here are some common beliefs about religion — Indians used to be very religious but no longer are, religion is the domain of women and the elderly, and educated and urbane India has no time for religion.

If you also thought so, it is time you took a look at the findings of the HT-CNN IBN State of the Nation Survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). Every alternate respondent in this survey — 7,670 to be precise — was asked a series of questions about their religious beliefs, attitudes and practices. The findings are bound to surprise you.

The survey found that urban, educated Indians are more religious than their rural and illiterate counterparts. Yes, women are more religious, but metropolitan women are far more religious than rural women. Predictably, the youth are a little less enthusiastic about religion. But the point is: religion in the country is on the rise.

If there is one social group that is least enthusiastic about religious practices, it is the adivasis. And if there is one group that is more religious than any other, it is upper caste Hindus who have been exposed to modern life more than others.

Consider these facts:

1) 93 per cent believe in god; education makes no difference
2) 64 per cent visit a temple, mosque or gurudwara regularly
3) 53 per cent pray daily; the educated pray more regularly
4) 46 per cent believe ghosts exist
5)  24 per cent consult a palmist
6)  68 per cent participate or take interest in religious functions of other religions

Do you think these figures reflect the rise of the BJP? Not quite. The party gets a little more than average support from among the very religious, but so does the Congress.

So what drives people to religion? Sociologists tell us that the stress of urban living pushes people to search for anchors in their lives. Since they cannot go back to their villages, they recreate a community through religion. That explains the religiosity among those who live in big cities.

In the process, religion changes from a personal experience to something that is more public and congregational. Hence, the proliferation of jalsas, satsangs and ratjagas. Market and the media play a greater role in defining religion.

Religious programmes on television are the latest vehicle for religious communication.

(Kumar and Yadav are social scientists working with the CSDS, Delhi)

Sanjay Kumar and Yogendra Yadav, Hindustan Times

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80 percent of Indians questioned “God had a human form”

India sees God as creator, not controller – report

Sun Nov 26, 2006

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Most Indians perceive God as a macro-manager responsible for controlling things like the earth’s rotation, rather than being in charge of the actions of humans on a day-to-day basis, a survey said on Saturday.

According to a poll conducted for the Times of India newspaper across 10 cities with 1,007 respondents — which included people of Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Sikh faiths — Indians were not convinced that God controlled our daily lives.

“(God) is seen as the Creator — 91 percent feel God controls macro-affairs like the rotation of the earth or the cycle of life and death,” the newspaper reported.

“A significant 46 percent said (God) was an observer, not a controller.”

Predominately Hindu India is seen as being a deeply religious country where idol worship and superstitious beliefs are widely adhered to, but the poll found that only one third of Indians sensed the presence of God in idols.

While 80 percent of Indians questioned thought God had a human form, 23 percent felt God was male and 11 percent believed God was female. Forty-nine percent thought God took both a female and male form.

The poll, conducted by market research firm TNS for the daily newspaper, also found 54 percent of Indians believed God answered their prayers and 56 percent thought God was never unjust.

The newspaper said that while India is often perceived as a land of God-fearing people, God is seen by many as more a source of energy than someone to be feared.

India flunks UNESCO test in child education

Toufiq Rashid, Indian Express,October 26, 2006
NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 25: While the Sachar Committee report highlighted the worsening education indices for the Muslim community in India, a Unesco report released in Paris has more bad news for the education sector in the country.

The report gives India minus points (-1.7) in reducing the number of illiterates among adults above the age of 15 years in the country. According to the Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring report, while India had 27,30,66,000 illiterates in 1990, the number marginally reduced to 26,84,26,000 in 2004. This number is the highest in the world. This despite increasing literacy rate from 49.3% in 1990 to 61% in 2004.

India figures along with three other countries — Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan — which account for a significant proportion of the world’s out-of-school children. The report says the children comprise child labour; children who cannot afford school fees; hard-to-reach groups such as those living in small settlements or remote areas where no schooling is available; children of migrant families; children in coastal fishing communities; those with special needs; Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe children; urban deprived children; and children from minority groups (read mostly Muslims).

India also tops in terms of gender disparity in education — for every 100 out-of-school boys, there are 136 girls. The numbers are comparable to Arab states (134), South and West Asia (129), Benin (136). Only Yemen (184) and Iraq (176) are worse than India.

On the EFA development index, the report gives India a score of 0.7. While 90 per cent children get enrolled in primary schools, only 79 per cent study till Class V. Only 71 per cent of these children enroll for lower secondary and 40 per cent for upper secondary. For tertiary education, the percentage enrollment is just 12.

Referring to a survey commissioned by the Government of India in 2005 (Social and Rural Research Institute), the report says a nationwide survey showed that 13.5 million children were out of school. The percentage for the 6-13 age-group was nearly 7 and for the 6-10 age-group, 6.1.

The analysis focuses on results for the 6-13 age group, in line with the practice by the Centre and state governments in India. The highlights are:

• The 7% rate of out-of-school children reflects 6.2% for boys and 7.9% for girls

• The 7.8% rate in rural areas is significantly higher than 4.3% in urban areas

• In urban areas the rates for boys and girls are similar while in rural areas they are 6.8% and 9.1%, respectively

• The variations across social groups were much larger than those across gender and place of residence — 10.0% for Muslims, 9.5% for Scheduled Tribes, 8.2% for Scheduled Castes, 6.9% for Other Backward Castes and 3.7% for the remaining social groups

• Among the states, the rates are highest in Bihar (17%), Jharkhand (10.9%), Assam (8.9%), West Bengal (8.7%), Madhya Pradesh (8.6%), Uttar Pradesh (8.2%) and Rajasthan (6.9%)

• By contrast, in the south, some states appear to have virtually achieved universal schooling for the age-group — Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu record out-of-school rates between 0.5% and 2.1%

• Surprisingly, the number of SC and Muslim boys who are out of school are higher than those for girls. This is not the case for Other Backward Castes or STs

The only positive remark is about the India’s Open Basic Education (OBE) programme of the 1990s, which has targeted neo-literates who have successfully completed literacy and post-literacy programmes.

India ranks 3rd from bottom of the world on malnourished kids

Sonu Jain, Indian Express,October 14, 2006

NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 13: Yet another report confirms India’s losing battle against hunger. In the Global Hunger Index, India ranks 117th for the prevalence of underweight children. Only Bangladesh and Nepal are worse-off.

Overall, India is ranked 96th out of 119 countries covered by the index, which doesn’t paint a rosy picture per se. But India comes off far worse in its record for malnutrition in children, as measured by body weight.

The proportion of children found underweight in India, according to the latest figures is 47.5 per cent, which makes it worse than conflict-plagued, drought-stricken Sub-Saharan Africa, where the figure is some 30 per cent on average. India’s figure is also worse than that of individual Sub-Saharan countries.

These findings are from a report released globally today by the Washington-based International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI).

The Global Hunger Index combines three indicators: child malnutrition, child mortality, and estimates of the proportion of people who are calorie-deficient.

The index has been calculated for 1981, 1992, 1997, and 2003. The latest round ranks 119 countries, of which 97 are deemed “developing” and 22 “in transition.”

Speaking to The Indian Express on phone from Washington, the report’s lead author Doris Wiesmann said the two major factors for India’s low ranking were that per capita food availability did not increase from 1997 onward, and that child malnutrition rates remained at very high levels, with more than 46 per cent of children under five years being underweight.

India is a different story from Sub-Saharan Africa. A higher proportion of the population (33 per cent) is calorie-deficient there than in India (21 per cent) or South Asia as a whole (22 per cent). The sub-text to India’s dismal showing is malnutrition in children under five.

“Mothers, who are usually children’s primary caretakers, and their education, nutritional knowledge, well-being and status in families and communities are particularly important in this respect,” said Wiesmann.

The results are a direct fallout of the low status of women in Indian society, several earlier studies have pointed out.

“In India, women eat the last and the least, increasing the chances of anaemia,” she explained. This practice partly explain why 83 percent of women in India suffer from iron deficiency anaemia, as opposed to about 40 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Not surprisingly, one-third of the babies born in India are born with low birth weight, compared to one-sixth in sub-Saharan Africa.

“It has been observed that the women who have a say in the family, allocate more resources to their children’s nutritional needs. Men have other priorities,” she said.

There have been other studies that have explained India’s presence as a hotspot despite its growing GDP.

Lisa Smith, a IFPRI research fellow, and Usha Ramakrishnan, Associate Professor at Emory University, identified three factors contributing to the nutritional status gap between South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in a recent study.

The first, making by far the greatest contribution among the three, is women’s status, followed by sanitation and urbanization

The implication for policy is clear: in the interests of improving child nutrition, women’s status should be raised.

The study also concluded that in regions where women’s status is low, programmes to improve child nutritional status would have more lasting impact when combined with efforts to improve women’s status.

India has a large programme that aims to provide supplementary nutrition for children called the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).

Studies have shown that preventing child malnutrition in the most critical phase of child development between six months and two years is more effective than targeting children under the age of five once they have become malnourished.

By the time a child has developed signs of malnutrition, the damage may already be irreversible

Higher education, pro-rich phenomenon in India, says report

Monday, 29 May 2006

Panel finds participation of SCs/STs “abysmally low”

# Universities should step up efforts to supplement funds from the Government
# Fee hike should be considered only if it is “unavoidable”

NEW DELHI: At a time when higher education has come into sharp focus in the wake of the controversy over reservation, a Parliamentary Standing Committee has found higher education a “pro-rich and urban phenomenon.” And, the participation of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes in higher education is “abysmally low,” compared to their percentage in the population.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development said the enrolment of the SCs in higher education ranged from 8.6 per cent in 1990-91 to 11.3 per cent in 2002-03 while that of the STs was from 2.1 per cent to 3.6 per cent.

With access to higher education being cause for concern, the committee, in its report tabled in Parliament earlier this week, said universities should step up efforts to supplement funds from the Government, generating their own resources. One of the measures explored by the committee was fee hike. But after examination, members said it should be considered only if it was “unavoidable,” that, too, after examining other options and the social and economic implications of an increase in fees.

However, in view of the shrinking budget for higher education, the committee favoured a differential fee structure to suit the paying capacity of every student. Though “fully aware” of the implications of a fee hike, it said it was not “prudent to charge the same fees from all students irrespective of their socio-economic status.”

The report, however, comes with a dissenting note from member Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). She is opposed to a fee hike “in the name of cost recovery” since it will further limit access.

On the “imbalance” in the urban and rural scenario, the members said: “Most of the colleges and universities are located in urban or semi-urban areas. Whatever colleges are in rural areas, the less said the better about their quality and output. While only 16 out of every 1,000 are college graduates in rural areas, 111 out of every 1,000 belong to this category in urban areas.”
Faculty crunch in varsities

New Delhi, May 27, 2006 (Agencies):
The Centre is looking at raising the number of seats to absorb the impact of increased quotas, but a parliamentary committee has said there is a serious shortage of faculty in central universities.

In the 16 such universities, there were 1,988 vacancies as on March last year, with Banaras Hindu University and Delhi University having as many as 687 and 396 vacancies, respectively, the parliamentary standing committee on human resource development said in its report.

The “situation is also far from satisfactory in JNU, Visva-Bharati and Mizoram University”, it said, noting that out of the 1,988 vacant posts, 1,056 were of the lecturer category.

Expressing surprise over such a large number of lecturers’ posts lying vacant, the committee feared that the situation might be worse in state universities.

To attract and retain qualified and motivated teachers, the committee felt, there was a need to supplement their salaries with an attractive package of perquisites as well as support academic activities and recognise outstanding achievement.

“Our higher education system is faced with many challenges today. The pressure on it is going to increase further due to a large number of additional students expected to join higher education institutions in the coming years, particularly due to an upward pull generated by popular interventions like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the mid-day meal scheme,” the committee said.

The panel also noted the “tremendous imbalance” in access to higher education between urban and rural areas, and said higher education in the country was largely a “pro-rich and urban phenomenon”.

It said the University Grants Commission had introduced the scheme of establishing SC/ST cells in universities in 1983 to provide information regarding facilities available for them in educational institutions.

But these attempts have not helped much, it said, adding that enrolment of Scheduled Caste students in higher education has ranged between 8.6 per cent in 1990-91 and 11.3 per cent in 2002-03, and between 2.1 per cent in 1990-91 and 3.6 per cent in 2003-04 for Scheduled Tribes.

The panel recommended special programmes to encourage students from backward and minority communities as their participation in higher education was “abysmally low”.

93% of Indians never progress beyond secondary school

By Jill McGivering, BBC News, Delhi

It was a glamorous evening in one of Delhi’s most exclusive venues.As the music played, the rich and fashionable gossiped and waiters moved through the crowd with silver trays of drinks and canapés.

Before dinner was served, the main lights dimmed and the master of ceremonies announced the star of the show, businessman Lovy Khosla.
Standing in a cascade of glitter, he launched his latest venture, Elvy – described as India’s first lifestyle catalogue.

After the presentation, I asked Mr Khosla what kind of people he hoped would buy the bone china, platinum-stemmed wine glasses and other luxury catalogue items.

“Aspiring Indians”, he said, “the new emerging middle-class”.

He admitted the divide at the moment between rich and poor was huge – but eventually, he said, everyone in India would prosper.

‘Brain industry’

At times, optimism like Mr Khosla’s does seem justified.

More and more people nowadays have the means to buy the international goods now available in India’s cities.

The IT shops I visited in Delhi, for example, were buzzing with all the latest technology.

The IT sector itself is still small but clearly booming, a key part of India’s new wealth.

But there’s a clear mismatch between the hinterland of rural unemployed and the IT sector’s demand for educated workers.

Kiran Karnik, the President of India’s National Association of Software and Service Companies, told me one of their biggest problems is finding enough suitable recruits, people with the right education and skills.

“You have a lot of people with minimal or sometimes no education,” he said.

“And the industry we work in requires at least a certain minimum level of knowledge. It’s not a brawn industry, it’s a brain industry. That means we’re looking for people who are by and large graduates.”

But why, in a country of more than a billion people, are graduates relatively hard to find?

Why do about some 93% of Indians never progress beyond secondary school?

Poor education

I travelled by train into rural Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s biggest and poorest states to see the education available for children in villages there.

I was taken to a small village by Sandeep Pandey, one of the founders of the educational charity Asha (Hope).

There I came across about 50 children, of all ages from about three to 15 years, sitting under the trees chanting their lessons.

They have to learn together like this because there is only one teacher.

There was also a government school nearby but some parents in the village complained that they did not send their children there because the standard was so low.

When I asked the children what they would like to do as adults, they crowded round, faces beaming.

“Teacher!” cried one. “Doctor,” said another. They were full of enthusiasm. But privately Sandeep was pessimistic about their chances.

“The children saying they want to be doctors or teachers or engineers, they’d never be able to make it,” he said. “In the end they’d end up being unemployed or underemployed.”

Most of the children, he said, dropped out before they finished primary school.

Their parents knew they would eventually work on the land so more than a basic education seemed a waste of resources.

“The only hope,” he said, “is that by learning to read or write, they will check corruption. We don’t have any hope beyond that.”

‘Living hell’

Those who do leave the countryside without higher education, in the hope of finding greater opportunities in the cities, often end up living in slums.
I visited Banwal Nagar, a sprawling slum on the outskirts of Delhi, a labyrinth of narrow lanes with no running water, stinking open drains and massive overcrowding.

There I met Babloo, a shy 18-year-old who came here from a village in Uttar Pradesh a year ago.

He told me he came with his brother who is earning just enough as a tailor to feed them both.

Babloo said they were always hungry in the village, there was no work there. Now Babloo is helping out – unpaid – in a mechanic’s shop, trying to learn the trade.

Sitting with us, listening to Babloo’s hesitant story, was an old-timer in Banwal Nagar, Anrud Mandel, who came here 25 years ago.

I asked him if he thought Babloo and his brother had done the right thing in coming to Delhi.

His answer was emphatic: “No. Like all of us, he had to leave his village because there wasn’t work there.”

“But we’d all be better off in our villages if we could earn enough there to feed and clothe our children and ourselves.”

He gestured to the conditions all around us, the air thick with flies. “This place is a living hell.”

There is no doubt India’s impressive economic growth is providing new opportunities.

But the challenge is finding ways to put them within the reach of the children in India’s poorest villages.

Zodiac sign will bring super power status for India by 2011 : RSS chief

Quoting Swami Vivekanand, RSS Chief, K.C. Sudarshan said “India will become a super power in year 2011 thanks to the excellent zodiac combinations.” The centenary celebrations got off to a spectacular start and would conclude on Feb 18, next year in Delhi.

Muslims and Christians in the country “should accept that their ancestors were Hindus”, even though their style of worshipping God may be different today, RSS chief K C Sudarshan said tonight.

“By nationality these Muslims and Christians are Hindus and due to conversions by their ancestors they are practising different means of worship,” Sudarshan said addressing a mammoth gathering of swayamsewaks during the inauguration of birth centenary celebrations of second RSS chief Madhav Sadashiv alias Guruji Golwalkar here.

Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Swami Satyamitrnand Giriji Maharaj, founder of bharatmata mandir, Haridwar, Buddhist monk, Bhadant Gyanjagat Mahasthivir of Vishwa Boudha Pratisthan, former Bihar Governor M Ramajoise, also addressed the function.

During his brief speech, Vajpayee recalled his association with late Golwalkar in 1940 when he was a tenth- class student. He called for uniting the people in the country to fulfil the dream of late Guruji. Vajpayee also recited a poem in the honour of Golwalkar.