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2010 May 8 [Saturday]

chaturanga

Sexual assaults involving ministers mixed with never-ending power-cuts make a heady summer mix. Its not surprising that the frequency of water cuts and power cuts has spiked the moment local Municipal elections voting got over. People have filed PIL's but KPTC/BESCOM cant seem to curb the power theft that occurs right under its nose, which is self-evident when you take a walk around any main street with shops and direct your gaze skyward to see the criss-crossing wires from each electricity pole situated on the roadside--all illegal but under the benign gaze of the officials. The shopkeeper will tell you why you could not get away with it without the connivance of the employees of inefficient BESCOM whose palms they regularly grease, lest its converted into "commercial rates" which is four times higher than the residential rates....and thus residential power theft continues. The powers that be are aware of the irregularities and yet dont care. What would it take to turn things around?

If that is the local state of affairs, the national level is no better. Nope, Sonia Gandhi, a woman at the helm has not changed things for the better. Its not uncommon for women to bear the brunt and pay the price when it comes to law-making policies. India has always had women politicians and yet the scams continue to tumble out of the closet catching the players on a sticky wicket, and we continue to live with corruption, lobbying for power while the money-making games continue, resulting in tacit compromises instead of clean governance. If anything politicians lack the will to root out corruption and a citizen has no choice when it comes to choosing a clean political party to represent them. Today, corruption and crimes are committed by politicians from just about every party and ideological frame of mind --Quid pro quo.

2009 March 5 [Thursday]

Sexual assaults in public spaces

I've changed the title of this post thrice because I refuse to dilute sexual harassment and assaults by calling it eve-teasing -- sounds frivolous and trivialises crimes against women.

India in the 21'st century is definitely unsafe for women, even if she is accompanied by a man and nobody seems to care enough about public sexual harassment to act on it. I've had to warn many female (and male) friends visiting India to NOT travel alone or even in groups of 4-5 women as they dont know the local language and without men in their group its inviting trouble. Saying that about your country sucks big time.

On Monday after a protest was held outside the police commissioner's office, Shankar Bidari, the police commissioner of Bangalore said :

"Bangalore people are so cultured people they will never tolerate any indignity, harassment or assault on women. Even without police and without government, the dignity of women in Bangalore city is perfectly safe and protected,"

I wish !!  One of the women who was attacked describes her ordeal and after reading this article, its deeply disturbing that the PC who is responsible for the safety of the city's citizens has trivialized the issue with insensitive press statements but didnt the Home Minister Dr V S Acharya and District In-Charge Minister J Krishna Palemar called the pub attack and MLA’s daughter’s abduction as ‘small and common’ incidents and scream at the media reporter to "not waste his time with silly incidents" ?! There was a photograph of the Police Commissioner (check out "After hrs" last page of Bangalore edition of DNA newspaper dated 2009mar05) calmly enjoying the Mysore Maharaja's birthday bash on Tuesday at Palace Grounds Palace because : None of the women noted the assailants bike numbers, hence NOTHING can be done.

WRONG, Mr. Bidari, Bengaluru is not safe...... INDIA is not safe for women. I can narrate my experiences too BUT do you even want to listen to women like Archana and others who were attacked ?!

Join us :

Women in Bangalore are facing serious violence and attacks - for wearing jeans, going out in the streets, fighting back the moral police etc and we need to stop these attacks. This is a letter to the police commissioner/home minister/press release regarding the recent attacks on women in bangalore,

Endorse the petition at : http://www.petitiononline.com/petition.html


FRI, Mar06 :
Please come to ALF [Phone : 080-2286 5757] on Friday anytime between 2-6pm to make posters for the protest at the DGP'S office on saturday.. Charts and colours will be provided but feel free to bring your own and you can bring money you would like to contribute. Alternative Law Forum, 122/4 Infantry Road, (opposite Infantry Wedding House), Bangalore 560001, (nearest bus stop- Shivajinagar Depot)

SAT, March07:
1. Gather at Nrupathunga Road at 15:30.  (Parking available at YMCA, DG's office compound, etc.)  Stand on either side of the road, outside DG-IG's office, holding placards, silently.
2. Either the DG-IG comes out at 16:30 collects the memorandum and addresses the audience, or a small representative group goes in to his office when called and present the memorandum.
3. If the latter, then the representatives will address the gathering, when they come out.
4. Gathering shall disperse at 17:30.

SUN, March08:
0. On Sunday 2009March08, International Women's Day,members of the group and other citizens will walk down various prominent roads of the city. Its called "Take Back the Night Walk" and is being held by women to reclaim our lawful right to be safe at night across India. It starts at Indiranagar, Ulsoor and the other two places where the women were attacked
1. At 18:00, people will gather at the five locations as designated by the area coordinators.  They will interact with the audience (in as many languages as possible), and spread awareness about the various goals of the Fearless Karnataka campaign.   This will involve spreading of information flyers and testimonials, conducting bystander polls, and other such forms of interaction with the people on the streets.  This can go on till 20:00.  (Volunteers for poster-sticking will do so around this time.)
2. At 21:00, people gather at the designated spot in Majestic, bringing along with them necessities such as food, water, and community spirit.  There will be further performances, video projections (if possible), songs, and other such activities there.
3. This will go on till 23:00, when people will disperse in their vehicles (pooling as much as possible), in public transport, tempos (which are currently being investigated), etc.

[updated, from FKNK]

2009 February 28 [Saturday]

Cell-help

This week had more newspaper reports that gangs of fundamentalist men are attacking women in Bangalore for wearing jeans. The DeccanHerald and Express buzz also carried the news and local groups in Bangalore sprang forward to support women but this brouhaha subsides after a few days. Frankly I dont expect passers by to do anything, much less help a stranger and I say this with prior experience in multiple situations in the past.

Well, as a mark of protest against the jean-hating facists, I am contemplating wearing jeans to the next hindu wedding I attend. So there!  But before that I thought of blogging the whole specification that I had discussed with Ashwin Mahesh (of Mapunity). At the last barcamp (BCB7) I heard that they have implemented my idea so I'm blogging about it publicly, partly in the hope that cellular service providers encourage more such applications.

Ideally facilities like these should be available akin to the '911' service that North America has, but well, we live in a country where life and safety has lost meaning so I hope someone can take the idea and convert it into a social instrument of change and safety for Indian women, instead of the greedy entities that one gets to see always -- There is only so much value to caller tunes and ringtones and its my assumption that women (and children too) would be willing to pay for a safety service app. Millions of people dont use smartphones/GPS enabled devices in India and I wanted them to be able to utilize this tool and get help in an emergency too. Here is the spec :

APPLICATION #1

Pressing a combination of One or two buttons to initiate and send a distress/alert message to more than one person together with information like 'his/her location' and 'how to reach that location'.

PROPOSAL-1

Present day phone sets offer only single button (speed dial) feature to initiate a call to one single receiver/destination. In a situation where the person finds herself in danger/helpless, it may not be possible to use the instrument for dialing  or typing out an SMS. Hence the need for an emergency button feature. Besides, the emergency button when pressed can dial single numbers only which can be introduced by the handset provider. It is therefore necessary to introduce another emergency "2 button press" feature to initiate sending an SMS text message containing one or more telephone numbers to the Mobile service provider software running at the base station.

[ The SMS text along with the list of Cell# (max10) will be provided and stored during normal times. ]

Delivery mechanism to be built in base station software.

The software at the base station should be able to recognise this 'distress SMS', scan the message and read, select and dial mobile numbers, get the dialers location, decide destination from/to route , pass the parameters to 'XYZ software, get the route details for person in distress  and send the SMS/call to all the listed receipients in the users data file.


PROPOSAL-2

Current feature set in the mobile instrument hardware allows a single key to be associated with one single number store in the phone-book.

Change needed in software :-- Instead a new feature of storing and attatching a list of member (say max 10 numbers) is made and on pressing the 'hotkey' like # or * along with the 'call' key, the mobile can dial and send SMS (as explained in the XYZ paragraph above) one-by-one automatically till all the numbers stored in the list are exhausted.

Features : 

- ease of navigation
- does not need gps phone
- user creates the config say, "*key + 99"

USECASES:

The new feature can alert upto 10 people, including maybe the police, and help can be provided in emergency cases. The feature is extremely useful in unexpected situations like accidents, hijacking or kidnapping, rioting, dacoity, rape/assault cases, etc...

APPLICATION #2

[A] MOBILE user (requester) seeking route information to reach a destination

1] Mobile user to send SMS to '999' typing the text message containing parameters like :

+ names of destination,
+ landmark,
+ street name, etc...

Mobile service provider software with 'XYZ feature' to :
                  
- Analysis of the senders GPS location (starting point)
- analyse the destination parameter (by searching the database)
- decide their geo-spatial location on the city map,
- identifies the road name, junction name, etc... along with the route from starting point to destination.
- links traffic congestion details generated by 'transport information API' to select alternate route.
- and finally list out road names, junction names to be passed through to reach the destination.
- generate a 'reply SMS' containing the above details and transmits to requester.

SMS charge can be recovered from user and shared between Service provider and others.

USECASES:

0] local hospitals/shops/companies can advertise if the person passes through a locality.
1] The 'XYZ feature' can in normal situation be availed to obtain route details to reach a new destination or call/invite/give directions to a new place.
 

PRIVACY:

Privacy is a huge factor in both the Applications mentioned above, but since these are opt-in models, i.e. the user will have to subscribe or activate the features as they are not default services provided with a cell phone, its expected that the subscriber will know what they sign-up for.

The cellular operators would need to ensure that they dont bundle or sell these services to unscruplous advertising agencies which spam cellular service users with unwanted calls and sms -- since the approximate location of the user will be known to the operator, steps to avoid misuse  must be taken.

2008 September 15 [Monday]

++LClabs

Its fantastic to see an idea grow and carried forward because other people believe in it. Thrilled to announce that we have a new addition to the LC family -- Labs in DELHI :-) YAY !!

FAT-net has agreed to host the space and bandwidth and its open to women learners only but men are allowed to conduct technical talks. Check the 'fat-net.org' website for their addres. Contact Hassath [hassath gmail com] and AjayKumar [ajuonline gmail com]for more details. With Delhi its 4 Indian metros covered ...the others being :

2.MUMBAI: At the Bigadda office in Malad. Contact Jayashree Pare [Jayashree DOT Pare # GMAIL DOT] or Warren Noronha - Email: warren.noronha AT gmail.com { Phone: +91-989-280-6204}

3.PUNE :  Contact Swatee Karpe (swateekarpe # GMAIL dot COM) for further details.

4.BANGALORE : DeepRoot Linux Pvt. Ltd., #93/4, First Floor, Nandidurga Road, Bangalore - 560 046 INDIA Phone: +91 (80) 4112 4781 / 82 / 85. Contact Mr. Abhas Abhinav or me.

2008 August 27 [Wednesday]

its live


On Monday, Abhas, Tania and me met at the Deeproot office  ...yeah I should have blogged earlier.... pfft. but I dislike writing reports. so here is Tania's summary of the meeting to the indichix list :

Though I went to the meeting mainly as an observant, I wanted to share with the list what I found was an important input to the project: the idea of setting up labs not only as technical learning environments, but as project learning environments in which women (and men, Vid, please react/correct me if this was not a point agreed or discussed with Abhas) can contribute to the development of social projects which would be  enhanced by the use of free software. The advantage is that that contribution becomes itself a way of learning about FLOSS for those who are joining the labs. It is a two way process!!! It is a colaborative learning environment, set up not just for the sake to participate in the FLOSS community, but to doing it so, as a way to help others, to enhance community building around FLOSS, a community that goes beyond expert users. WOW! sorry, I really think is a great idea and I believe it completely fits into LC philosophy.

Besides DeepRoot has already a network of nonprofit organisations that would work as a starting point for this (http://www.deeproot.co.in/deepofix/users).

Unfortunately I could not stay till the end of the meeting, perhaps I could say something more if I would have ... but anyway, I hope in the other cities this labs are opening up great opportunities for you girls to develop new understandings and possibilities of what LC is about in India, just like I felt it started to happened yesterday at DeepRoot.

Tania's very eloquent mail saved me the task of writing most of this blog entry :-P so now i return to worrying about the coming weekend activity : how many hours will i waste to drape this ? Am missing the experts so much now :(

2008 August 26 [Tuesday]

Save half-a-Million with just 500 Rupees

I was trawling the web when I accidentally came across this article on the girl child in India by Neena Malik which appeared in the Tribune some years ago, http://www.tribuneindia.com/2002/20020310/herworld.htm -- which is unavailable now. So I pulled a cached version which I reproduce here :

Haryanavi way to deal with girls
Neena Malik

Don’t you think it is entirely foolish and hare-brained to spend on kerosene oil and match boxes for bride burning or using up muscle power of the poor dear husbands and mas’-in-law to strangulate their daughters-in-law when all we need to meet our "immediate national requirement" to get rid of all the females in the country in one stroke is to resort to our good old Father of the nation-Gandhiji’s-respect for the common salt and start storing a little extra in every household! ..

Yes, it is so simple and easy that you might be fascinated enough to try your hand at it again and again. .. Just take a small lump of common kitchen salt and put it in the throat of the new born baby girl. Lo and behold! Before you can say "Halleluja", the infant will have choked to death without a whimper. And yes, what is more important, without even leaving a scar on her body or on your conscience. After all you did not use pistols or knives or pesticides to kill her. She just fades away as easily as the salt. After that, imagine the innumerable advantages you gain. There will be no hassle for women’s reservation in schools, colleges and Parliament, no hassle of dowries, no further need for kerosene oil and match boxes. Already 26 per cent youth in Haryana cannot find brides for themselves as the female ratio is the lowest in the country. They are now resorting to buying brides from Bangladesh. Curiously, the Haryanavis are averse to baby girls but look forward to brides and bride burning! ! Though they are feeling the dearth of brides for their sons, the average Haryanavi families want to do away with the girl child at all stages. "Panch sau Lagao, Panch Lakh Bacchao" -such tempting ads displayed on big hoardings outside medical clinics all over Haryana certainly seem more within reach of the common man than the popular television lure of " Kaun Banega Crorepathi"!

All that the pregnant women has to do is to step in for an ultra sound test costing Rs. 500 to determine the sex of her unborn baby. And if it is a baby girl threatening to add to her woes she can quickly get the unwanted baby aborted. The arithmetic of it all is not only simple but realistic in the eyes of the parents. After all they will be saving at least Rs. Five lakh straight-in the far flung future— a minimum amount spent on the dowry of a girl in these hard times. As in many other areas-good and bad-Haryana has achieved the dubious distinction of topping the list of the fast declining female ratio of 861 per 1000 males. It is the worst in the country as compared to 933 females for 1000 males for the country. The sex ratio in Haryana was 865 in 1991. It is surprising that the sex ratio in all the districts is below the national average of 933. Another alarming fact is that the sex ratio in Haryana has declined continuously since 1981 and is at its lowest since independence. According to Sunil Gulati, Director Census Operations, the preference for a male child is always there and when it is coupled with technology assisted choice such as ultra-sound, the decision to get rid of the baby girl in the first stage becomes easier .Ironically, this happens in the urban area. where one expects the awareness levels to be high and less prejudice.

Not shocking, nor stats for just one state. I remember reading another news report that the salem district in TamilNadu matches these stats for the girl child but cant find it online. Most news reports which talk of the imbalance in sex ratios across India fail to touch the root cause and for the most part, these cases have been discovered by reporters who spoke about it publicly. What of those which dont get this public a platform??

It also takes on a whole new meaning when you look at the abortion laws in our country. While the case of a couple who approached the courts is a rare one indeed, it brought to the forefront issues we usually ignore. Abortion is a highly personal issue which we rarely comment upon since it might infringe individual liberty. Sadly she had a miscarriage.

Have we as a society have evolved ethically, socially and personally (will touch on this later). While an abortion _is_ a personal decision and way better than bringing an unwanted child into the world and making it suffer knowing it was not wanted by its parent(s) (a big burden and negative karma to carry for a lifetime), it would be unfair to use the "women can only decide to abort" since unlike the west, here it is not uncommon for the family to pressure women to undergo abortions, whether married or unmarried. That family/society pressure can be a very crushing for a lot of women.

Now, let us assume the judged had changed the abortion laws in India. Then, what stops people from misusing it to kill the girl child using the "defective" approach? Most times the girl child is killed long before the 20th week especially if the family (in India its not the woman who decided this alone) wants a male heir then mere laws are not going to stop them. Most times its another woman (read mother-in-law or aunt or female relative) who increases the pressure with comments like "oh, their family has just female kids, no male heirs". Challenging them that as a woman they should be the last person to make such disparaging comments usually shuts them up but how many daughters-in-law would dare to do that?

Nupur Basu has made an interesting documentary “No Country for Young Girls? ” for the BBC. Besides the foetal killing, the girl child could be killed after she was born (with salt like the above reproduced article). Women's rights is not that simple in India. Ironically, the country that venerates the Supreme Godess, who among her various forms and names is ironically called Shakti (power), has a high imbalance in sex-ratios spanning across the great Indian middle class.

Somewhere in all this the MOOT question remains : Are we trying to create a society that wants "designer" babies? Are we as a society misusing technology to create that "perfect, smart, healthy" baby and anything less than perfection does not deserve to exist !?? To me those questions have ethical, social and personal meaning. Having seen how the disabled are treated in India (forget the laws, as a society we dont even treat anyone who is not perfect, beautiful/handsome, rich-famous-successful, as worthy of a second glance). Now it seems that technology is slowly being used as a crutch to aid and abet the politically incorrect societal and personal reflections that get buried due to legal pressure. Any society that clamors for perfection in humans is going to be very difficult to live in and when materialism is added, expect hell.

Instead why cant we ask the government to enact laws which will give more power to the disabled instead of stopping them from being born? Many developed nations have strict laws (which are implemented) but its only here that we tolerate corruption and ignore our citizens rights. Shashi Tharoor has a nice comparison over differences in American political life and the Indian one. Sigh. no easy answers here :(

2008 August 25 [Monday]

linuxchix bangalore meet-up

Abhas of DeepRoot Linux expressed an interest in hosting LC-labs at bangalore and we are having a meet-up at his office at 4pm today. This should give each woman an opportunity to discuss their individual interests, find out what options are available and how she can make the best use of the facilities at hand.

The Deeproot office is near Cantonment station which I hope is not very inconvenient and yet central for women to access. Here is the office address : #93/4, First Floor, Nandidurga Road, Bangalore - 560046 INDIA

See you there !!

2008 August 15 [Friday]

LC Labs sponsors

At any given point my draft box tends to overflow with half-finished entries, some of which i discard if i aint in the blogging mood. To maintaiin the semblance of a regular blogger, i finally got around to using the weasel method of auto publishing while away enjoying the Independence day weekend. Happy 15Aug !

In the libre community the easiest way to ensure the growth of an idea or project is to allow people wanting to participate to take it further. So at Pune we have Swatee Karpe (PLUG) sponsoring the labs for weekdays and weekends and if you are in Mumbai you can get in touch with Jayashree Pare and Warren Noronha :
Email: warren.noronha AT gmail.com
Blog: http://www.hyperionreactor.net
Phone: +1-415-620-8700
Phone: +91-989-280-6204

While these spaces are open to the public, its not a random walk-in audience-oriented space. Rather, it is an opportunity for women (and men who support them) who usually collaborate online to work together, in person, on specific tasks. If interested, get in touch with the person(s) listed above to find out the timings. They will be managing the whole show locally.

If you have and idea, space or want to donate machines, here is a list of people whom you can contact for the following cities :

1] Delhi : Hassath [hassath gmail com] and AjayKumar [ajuonline gmail com]
Requirements: Space + infrastructure

2] Bangalore : me [vid at this domain]
Requirements: Space + infrastructure

For Chennai, Hyderabad and Mangalore we have people interested in being mentors and mentees but since this is the Free/Libre community feel free to take the initiative to find sponsors for space and infrastructure. Here is the standard format I use for writing to prospective sponsors.

--------- Letter --------

Dear Sir/Madam,

[Here, add your name and intro, unless you know the person, inwhich case, not required]

As per our discussion, this is a formal request to [add the company name] to provide us with a small room for conducting mentoring
sessions on Libre software in your organisation.  LinuxChix is a community for women who like Linux, and for anyone who wants to support women in computing. We are an international group of Libre Software users and developers, founded in 1999 with the aim of "supporting women in Linux". We have several local chapters [0] across each continent.

[0] http://www.linuxchix.org/regional-chapters.html

Having LC labs is an experiment, mainly aimed at increasing women participation in Libre software communities. Since the number of women contributing to libre software is very low (~2% ) when compared to men. In contrast the proprietary ICT industry has 28% participation, further balanced at around 50% in India, but yet few Indian women volunteer with Free/Libre software. We are trying to bridge this skewed gender gap and experiment with possible solutions.

Due to low ICT adoption in India, especially Libre software, we would like to earmark a sponsored local space which will be open to women of any age, irrespective of their financial, social or educational background to use. Since Libre software is freely available anyone is free to learn to use and contribute to it.

Thus far, LinuxChix has largely been an online interaction experience via IRC and mailing lists. This effort is meant to provide women the opportunity for periodical meetings, arrange regular sessions and workshops to contribute to Libre software. Currently, for Mumbai planning and execution is underway with Pune being the second city to follow.  The focus is on contributing upstream (Debian, Ubuntu, Gentoo, etc... ) and our activities would mainly revolve around :

- learning to do packaging,
- learning the dependency cycle,
- creating patches,
- bug squashing,
- localisation/translation of libre s/w
- conducting hack sessions,
- etc....

The LinuxChix-India Chapter was also featured in the ET recently :

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Infotech/Software/LinuxChix-India_aims_at_free_software_access_for_women/articleshow/3217080.cms

We have no age restrictions or qualification limits and any woman with a desire to learn is welcome. We hope [add company name]  can support us in this endevour and help us turn this into a successful experiment to inspire others to contribute and create Libre software and not limit it to Indians being mere consumers of Libre software.

Awaiting a positive reply !

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

[add your name]
Team LinuxChix-India

2008 August 4 [Monday]

libre labs for indichix

A few weeks ago I had asked if there was any IT firm in India willing to host Free Software Labs just for women ? Many people wrote and asked what it would entail and I had suggested:

#1. Requirements :
1.1 Libre computer labs equipped with machines and an Internet connection.
1.2 Centrally located within city limits.

#2. Goals :
2.1 These labs ensure a static space so women dont have to travel far or to lonely places for local meets.
2.2  It would enable local FSF/GNU volunteers to introduce and teach them packaging, translation, bug-squashing, etc...
2.3  Increase contribution to upstream projects like Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Gentoo, Suse, KDE, Gnome, etc...

#3. Do's and Dont's :
3.1 Not meant to be used for personal use (downloading movies/songs, chatting, etc...)
3.2 Currently restricted to women participants.

#4. Managing and growing the Idea :

Managing and decision making (how many days a week, who will talk, what talks, etc....) is left entirely to the women volunteers in the city.

4.1 Mumbai :  Although I had started out looking for space in Bangalore, I have an interesting proposal from an MNC in Mumbai who are willing to lend space, infrastructure etc). BUT at this point, I would like to know if chix in Mumbai are willing to take this further.I would not be able to do that from another city and neither am I interested in micro-managing things. I would prefer if local chix took initiative in this regard. So is anyone up to the challenge ?

4.2 Bangalore : Currently, machines are available but space is a challenge. At Mukt.in a few alternatives were suggested so let me see how things pan out.

4.3 Delhi : Not much except I found a committed volunteer (again at mukt.in) who is willing to help out with this. Any Delhi-chix interested ?

4.4 Other cities: Please reply to the list if you want a similar lab in your city.


The whole idea is centered around sharing and learning together. With a systematic effort we may reduce and hopefully eliminate the "how do I start" which is the common question every newcomer has.  That said,this needs your co-operation and depends entirely on your interest levels.

So I hope we pull this off as a team !!  Do add your thoughts /suggestions to improve it.

Thanks.

/end mail......................

That was the mail I had sent a little earlier to the Indichix mailing list. I just came back from Hyderabad today morning, where I was attending mukt.in from Friday. To my utter surprise things fell into place at and I have a lot to blog about, the event and the fun I had :-P

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