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Archives for : March2018

India – 70% Working Women Do Not Report Workplace Sexual Harassment #Vaw

Despite Law, 70% Working Women Do Not Report Workplace Sexual Harassment; Employers Show Poor Compliance

Manisha Chachra, 



“Three years ago, I was working as a fellow at a non-profit organisation based in New Delhi. At one point, I felt the need to flag the management about some coordination issues I was facing with my superior. I took my problems to another programme manager. But he started making unwanted overtures the moment I walked into his office.


“He suggested that we go to Connaught Place for a chat. I agreed but then he later insisted that I accompany him to his place. Although I resisted, he persuaded me to agree. On the way, he started touching me inappropriately and commented on what I was wearing. When we reached his place, he asked me if I drink and when I said no, he asked me to sleep with him. Despite a clear ‘no’, he continued to force himself on me.


“My colleagues encouraged me to file a complaint. I found that although my contract mentioned a committee to investigate sexual harassment, there were no details. There was mention only of a panel that would be constituted in ‘rare instances of sexual harassment’.


“I took up the complaint with my superior, who then took it to the human resources (HR) manager and the city director. But my relationship with my boss was already strained — he said it was all my fault. I ended up leaving my fellowship incomplete. Before I left, the HR manager sought a written exit interview and even though I mentioned the harassment my complaint was not taken up. The programme manager’s career, however, soared high.”


Ridhima Chopra, 25, is among the growing number of Indian women encouraged to complain about harassment at work by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, promulgated in the wake of the 2012 Delhi gangrape. Yet, 70% women said they did not report sexual harassment by superiors because they feared the repercussions, according to a survey conducted by the Indian Bar Association in 2017 of 6,047 respondents.


An IndiaSpend analysis of available data and conversations with working women showed there was an increase in reported cases of harassment–to 2015, the year for which latest data are available.


Between 2014 and 2015, cases of sexual harassment within office premises more than doubled–from 57 to 119–according to National Crime Records Bureau data. There has also been a 51% rise in sexual harassment cases at other places related to work–from 469 in 2014 to 714 in 2015.


Source: Crime in India 2014 and 2015, National Crime Records Bureau


In the year before, between 2013 and 2014, the National Commission for Women reported a 35% increase in complaints from 249 to 336, according to this December 2014 reply filed in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament).



Source: Lok Sabha


Despite the rise in numbers, women, like Chopra, are finding that their complaints are not redressed effectively by employers. Employers are either unaware of the law’s provisions or have implemented them partially and even those that do set up internal panels have poorly trained members.


Above all, there is little gender parity in organisations even today. The high profile case of the woman employee at The Energy & Resources Institute who had to fight a case of harassment against the company’s former director general, RK Pachauri, for two years despite clear evidence illustrates this inequity.


As will become clear in later sections, these problems apply not just to private and public sector establishments but also to relatively younger information technology (IT) companies.


Why Riddhima failed to get justice: Redressal system is still flawed


An internal complaints committee (ICC) is mandatory in every private or public organisation that has 10 or more employees, according to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. However, 36% of Indian companies and 25% of multinational companies had not yet constituted their ICCs, the 2015 research studyFostering Safe Workplaces, by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) showed. About 50% of the more than 120 companies that participated in the study admitted that their ICC members were not legally trained.


Kunjila Mascillamani, a freelance writer, had filed a complaint against sexual harassment while she was a student at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) in Kolkata. “In 2015, I went to the dean of my school to register a sexual harassment complaint. He said the institute has no mechanism to deal with such matters. I didn’t know the provisions of the law on workplace harassment and went to the director to tell him that we needed a mechanism to address such issues. He pointed out to me that an internal committee against sexual harassment for women already existed at the institute. I was shocked to find that the dean had lied to me,” she said.


Mascillamani had filed two cases–one of harassment and another of rape. The verdict on harassment was passed in July 2016 and the professors who harassed her were asked to take retirement. The rape case is still pending in court.


SRFTI chairperson Partha Ghose in an interview said that the complaints of sexual harassment were a “new and shocking” experience for him. He described it as a “disciplinary problem” on which the institution had acted as required by the law.


Private problem: 40% of IT and 50% of ad and media companies oblivious to law


All ministries and departments in the government of India have constituted ICCs, the ministry of women and child development told the Lok Sabha in this December 2016 reply. The ministry of corporate affairs–along with industry bodies ASSOCHAM, FICCI, Confederation of Indian Industry, Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and National Association of Software and Services Companies–was requested to ensure its effective execution in the private sector.


The law imposes a penalty of upto Rs 50,000 on employers who do not implement the Act in the workplace or even fail to constitute an ICC. But, the number of employers who do not fully comply with the law indicates that there is little monitoring of their redressal machinery.


There is a high rate of non-compliance in the private sector, as is evident in the 2015 studyReining in Sexual harassment at Workplace, by Ernst and Young. Two in five IT companies were oblivious to the need to set up ICCs and 50% of advertising and media companies had not conducted training for ICC members, the study found.


Three years ago, Meera Kaushik (not her real name) had started working in a Pune-based media and advertising company as a copywriter. She had an uneasy time during her job interview when her future employer insisted that she smile. “One day, when I was at work and feeling restless, my boss demanded to know why I was upset. He forced me to smile and leave my hair open. I didn’t realize that this was harassment. Such expressions of concern are often considered a part of the work culture. I didn’t object because I feared losing my job,” she said.


Kaushik finally did leave her job.


Why women fail to report workplace harassment


Anagha Sarpotdar, a researcher who works on sexual harassment at workplace and an external member appointed to monitor such trials by Mumbai city, was of the view that employers are wrong to discourage reporting in order to protect their image.


“Low or no reporting speaks volumes about the gender sensitivity of a particular organisation,” she said. “Further, women may not know where to go to report harassment or it could be that the cases may not have been dealt with sincerely. Often, women go to committees believing them to be independent and find that they are actually puppets in the hands of their superiors.”


Chopra pointed out that though her contract promised “strict action” against sexual harassment, there was little awareness about the issue at her former workplace. And no effort was made to create awareness either.


“Under the law, there are guidelines to display information  at a conspicuous place in the workplace, list the penal consequences of sexual harassments. There is also an  order directing the ICC to create awareness regarding sexual harassment in all government departments and ministries. But these don’t exist,” said Shikha Chhibber, a Delhi-based lawyer.


During the hearings on her case, the freelance writer Mascillamani said she was blamed for the incident. “All the faculty members and the administration had turned against me and I was slut-shamed on social media. It was at this juncture that I approached an NGO to appoint an external member to oversee the procedure and ensure a fair trial,” she said.


As Sarpotdar pointed out, for many organisations, training sessions on workplace harassment is only a box to be ticked. “They lack the perspective on gender equality to put the law into action,” she said.


(Chachra is an MPhil student at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. She has previously worked at Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.)

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India –  Empty seats, ghost campuses, unskilled graduates #mustread

 Why an undergraduate engineering degree in India is rapidly losing value — and currency

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi |

Trainees at the Yogeshwar Dutt Wrestling Academy in Bali, Sonepat. Until last year, this was the mechanical engineering workshop of Bhagwan Parshuram College of Engineering. (Express photo: Ritika Chopra)The arena at the Yogeshwar Dutt Wrestling Academy in Bali, a village near Sonepat, Haryana, comes alive with shouts of “laga, daav laga” each time someone executes a manoeuvre. Here, every afternoon, some 50 trainees in red or blue singlets slam into each other on blue mats, under the supervision of the London Olympics bronze medalist. Until early 2016, the sights and sounds of this space were a little different — this was part of the workshop for mechanical engineering students of the Bhagwan Parshuram College of Engineering.

“We had 60 students of mechanical engineering in the last batch (of 115) that graduated in 2016. Where you now see blue wrestling mats were several lathe machines,” says S K Bhardwaj, 62, principal of the college whose management offered a part of the 27-acre campus to Dutt on a five-year lease.

The decision was inevitable. With not a single new admission to any of the five departments of engineering — computer science, civil, mechanical, electrical and electronics — in the last four years, this, as Bhardwaj explains, was the only way to ensure that the institute was not laid to waste.

The teachers were all laid off in 2015 and Bhardwaj has since moved in with his children in Gurgaon.

Of the 15.5 lakh BE/BTech seats in 3,291 engineering colleges across the country, over half — 51 per cent — were vacant in 2016-17, according to data obtained by The Indian Express from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex body for technical education in the country.

The fourth-year Electronics batch at MIT Bulandshahr, UP, has 12 students against a sanctioned strength of 60. (Express photo: Renuka Puri)The akhada and the vacant benches at Bhagwan Parshuram College tell the story of this crisis staring engineering, which makes up over 70 per cent of the county’s technical education. Management (MBA), pharmacy, computer applications (MCA), architecture, town planning, hotel management and ‘applied arts and crafts’ form the rest.

Last year, roughly eight lakh BE/BTech students graduated, but only about 40 per cent got jobs through campus placement. According to AICTE data, campus placements has been under 50 per cent for the last five years.


This mismatch that underlines the reality of unfilled seats has got AICTE to consider asking technical education institutes which have had 70 per cent or more vacant seats for the last five years to wind up and leave.

As part of a three-month-long investigation to find out why engineering seats were going unfilled and what this signifies, The Indian Express analysed AICTE enrollment data for the last five years (from 2012-13 to 2016-17), visited 10 colleges across three states that are among those on the AICTE’s radar for low admissions and spoke to principals, students, academics and experts.

The picture that emerged is of glaring gaps in regulation, including alleged corruption; a vicious circle of poor infrastructure, labs and faculty; non-existent linkages with industry; the absence of a technical ecosystem that can nurture the classroom — all this accounting for low employability of graduates and, therefore, an abysmal record of job placement. In short, a steady devaluation of Brand BE/BTech.

Says R C Bhargava, IIT-Kanpur chairman and chief of Maruti Suzuki, which on an average recruits 200 engineers a year, “The reason engineering seats are going vacant is because they impart very poor quality education. Most of the graduates don’t know the basics of engineering. The reason these vacancies keep increasing is because graduates can’t find jobs. That’s because employers don’t think they are worth employing. Most people will tell you that 80 per cent of engineering graduates are not employable,” he says.


The glaring gaps

Consider these:
* Close to 30 lakh students in the science stream cleared their Class 12 Board exam in 2015-16. Even if all of them were to aim for an engineering seat, at 15.5 lakh undergraduate engineering seats across the country, there is roughly one seat for every two students. A case of too few people chasing too many seats. MBBS and dentistry, on the other hand, has less than a lakh seats nationwide.

* From 87,059 BTech and MTech seats in 1990-91, the number has risen to 16.62 lakh in 2017-18, a staggering 18 times in less than three decades.

* Ten states — Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, UP, Telangana, Karnataka, MP, Gujarat, Kerala, and Haryana — together account for 80 per cent of the total seats in the country. They also account for 80 per cent of the total vacant seats in the country.

* Enrollment data of these 10 states show the crisis is at its worst in Haryana. At 74 per cent, the state has the highest proportion of vacant BTech seats in 2016-17. Uttar Pradesh is second with 64 per cent unfilled seats. Tamil Nadu, which has the highest number of engineering seats — 2.79 lakh — has 48 per cent unoccupied seats.

* Of the nearly 370 technical colleges that are on AICTE’s radar for low admissions — 30 per cent or less admissions in the last five years — and which run the risk of being closed next year, 153 are engineering colleges. Most of these are in Maharashtra (26), Andhra Pradesh (19), Haryana (17), Odisha (17), Telangana (16) and Uttar Pradesh (11). Last year, a record 49 engineering colleges went bust and shut down.

* At least half the 153 institutes with low admissions were set up in the last decade.

* Information Technology (IT) has emerged as the least popular branch, with 770 institutes discontinuing the discipline between 2012-13 and 2016-17. That’s followed by Electricals and Electronics (635 colleges have stopped the branch), Computer Science (234), Mechanical Engineering (185) and Civil Engineering (139). The maximum number of institutes that discontinued IT were in Telangana (157), followed by Andhra Pradesh (128) and Tamil Nadu (104).

Those on their last legs are now taking desperate measures — from offering fee concessions to diluting admission criteria; from paying middlemen to bring in students to hiring underqualified faculty; and, as the Bhagwan Parashuram college in Sonepat has done, letting out part of the campus or even converting the colleges into schools.

What led to this?

Several factors, say experts, but most of them point to what they call the engineering boom that started in 1995 and peaked in the 2000s, fuelled by the IT phenomemon and the Y2K bug. Speaking to The Indian Express, AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe says: “A large number of people were required for coding then. Your engineering branch did not matter. There was always a job for an engineer in an IT company.” He says that the Union government at that time “may have also been liberal” in approving new colleges as it was focused on enhancing the Gross Enrollment Ratio in higher education.

As a result, several private institutes came up to feed the industry’s appetite for engineers. “When there was a demand for engineers, the private sector stepped in. A large number of government colleges did not immediately get into modern branches of engineering such as IT and computer science. Our entire IT industry would have collapsed had it not been for these private institutes,” says retired IISc professor D K Subramaniam, who is on TCS’s Research Advisory Board.

“I remember how TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) would earlier hire only MTech holders from IITs. But the decision to start recruiting graduates changed the technical education landscape. Everyone wanted an engineering degree,” he adds.

The boom, however, ended in a problem of plenty.

Early warning ignored

Alarm bells first went off about 15 years ago, in the shape of the U R Rao Committee report of 2003. Rao, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, had been tasked by the NDA-1 government to review AICTE’s performance.

The report had observed that the pace of expansion of technical education was unsustainable and that the explosion in the number of private institutions was fuelled more by speculative rather than real demand. “Barring some exceptions, there is scant regard for maintenance of standards,” the five-member panel said in its report.

To alleviate this “serious situation”, the committee suggested a five-year moratorium on all approvals for undergraduate technical institutions in states where the student intake exceeded the then national average of 150 seats per million population. This figure was 1,047 for the southern states, 486 in the west, 131 in the east and 102 in the north. (Currently, the national average of BE/BTech intake, alone, is 1,286 seats per million population.)

However, Rao’s recommendation was never acted upon. Indeed, the reverse happened. According to AICTE data, 2008-9 witnessed an increase of almost 30 per cent in engineering intake over the previous year — the highest in a single year since 2001 — with over 700 new institutes being approved. Many point out that it coincided with a period when AICTE was rocked by allegations of rampant corruption. That year, the CBI caught then AICTE member-secretary K Narayan Rao accepting a bribe from the owner of an engineering college in Andhra Pradesh. The incident eventually led to the suspension of then AICTE chairman R A Yadav. The CBI registered three cases against him, but did not chargesheet him.

The effects of this indiscriminate expansion in the sector were probably first felt after the global economic crisis of 2008, when growth slowed in the US and Europe, the main markets for IT companies.

Interviews with institute heads and students reveal that shrinking jobs, exacerbated by low employability of graduates, took the sheen off engineering. An immediate fallout of this was a drop in campus placements. In 2016-17, only 40 per cent of BTech graduates got placements, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar told Rajya Sabha earlier this year.

Experts also point to a shrinking economy to explain the problem, with job losses across both old and new economy sectors — from textile to capital goods, banking to IT, start-ups to energy.

“The economy is in a bit of a stationary mode. Industries are not making any investments and so there aren’t enough engineering jobs in the market at present,” says former IIT-Kanpur director Sanjay Dhande.

An engineering degree in this climate offers little return on investment.

High risk, low return

“A student in a private engineering college spends about Rs 6 lakh on his course over four years. However, once they graduate, they are offered jobs that pay as little as Rs 10,000 a month. So why would he or she want to invest in an engineering degree?” says Vinod Choudhury, head of Vishveswarya Institute of Technology in Ghaziabad, when asked about seats going vacant. The institute, set up in 2007, had almost 90 per cent of its BTech seats vacant in 2016-17.

However, a slow consolidation has begun. While the number of new engineering institutes is at an all-time low (30 last year), the number of closed colleges — 49 — is a new record. The BE/BTech and MTech intake is also shrinking steadily — from 19 lakh seats in 2014-15 to 16.5 lakh this year.

M A Anandkrishan, an educationist who served as chairman of IIT-Kanpur for almost a decade, says he is not happy with this pace of consolidation. “(Waiting for colleges to turn unviable before shutting them) is a long and painful process and the students caught in this churn are the biggest losers. AICTE should impose a moratorium on new approvals.”

S S Mantha, who took over as AICTE chief in 2010, is against this approach. “It’s not tenable. In 2012, we tried to impose a moratorium but couldn’t as the Constitution allows everyone to practise the profession of their choice. How can the regulator stop them?”

After 2012, the AICTE is making yet another attempt to restrict approvals for new institutes. In a letter sent out earlier this year to all state governments, the AICTE said they could apply for a moratorium, provided they backed up their demand with a ‘perspective plan’ — that is, map the current situation of industry, jobs and total seats in education, and use that to predict the demand for engineers.

Will this new plan consolidate the sector and cut down on ghost campuses? For now, the answer is up in the air, much like the dust that hangs over the wrestling arena at the Sonepat college.

BTech (Fail): Empty seats, ghost campuses, unskilled graduates

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You Cannot Obstruct Pension for want of Aadhaar link: CIC

Vinita Deshmukh
In a bold order that comes as a relief to thousands of pensioners who might be harassed for not linking Aadhaar to their pension account, the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) has stated that such information comes under Section 7 (concerns `life and liberty’) of a person and should be given within 48 hours.
In a stern order the CIC also directed the Department of Post to provide by 23rd March certified copies of circulars/orders issued in the month of March 2017, which refer to Aadhaar, along with names of the 55 pensioners whose pension was delayed on the basis of such a directive.  A penalty by way of compensation to the victim is also on the anvil.
The background
Ahmednagar based Nirmala Dhumane took voluntary retirement from the post office and has been receiving monthly pension on the 1st of every month. However, she was told that her pension for March 2017 was held up because her account was not linked with Aadhaar. Fifty-five other pensioners of the Department of Post suffered the same fate. This was done all of a sudden and without any intimation or notice to the pensioners. Thus, their pension was abruptly stopped.
Dhumane filed two RTI applications, one on 5 July, 2017 and another on 27 July 2017. She sought information on her pension for the month of March 2017 which was withheld ”for want of a copy of Aadhaar Card.” She submitted in her RTI application that, “l am directed by the accounts branch to submit a copy of Aadhaar Card. I may kindly be furnished the copy of the order vide which the Aadhaar Card is required/essential for pension payment”  In her second RTI application, she reiterated, “(i) Copy of the order by which the Aadhaar card is required/necessary for pension payment, and (ii) names of the persons whose pension was held up for want of Aadhaar card for the month of March 2017.’’
The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) provided an irrelevant reply, skirting the issue of whether Aadhaar Card was mandatory. Dissatisfied with the reply, she filed a First Appeal, stating, ”The Senior Superintendent of Post Office (SSPO), Ahmednagar, has given misleading information to my application under the RTI Act. Now the question arises as to why the pension of only 55 pensioners was delayed and how the pension of the remaining pensioners was effected on due dates. The SSPO Ahmednagar has given false information. Necessary action against him may be taken.  The FAA too upheld the order of the PIO. Thus, Dhumane filed a Second Appeal with the CIC.
The CIC hearing
During the CIC hearing on 27 February, CPIO Sandeep Hadgal of the Department of Post said that he received a circular to link the Aadhaar number with the pension accounts from two of his senior officers. However, he agreed that the circular from the Sub Regional Post Master (SRPM), Ahmednagar to the Post Master General Pune on 3 April, 2017 did not order to link up Aadhaar Card “without any intimation’’. He also felt that the SRPM Ahmednagar should not have delayed the payment of pension to the 55 pensioners for not linking with Aadhaar.
Dhumane argued that stalling of her pension has cause her “mental apprehension’’ and that ”denial of information on that vital aspect was breach of her right and it was quite illegal to say that the names of 55 pensioners would invade somebody’s privacy.’’
While the CPIO argued that it pertains to `third party’ information, CIC M Sridhar Acharyulu observed that the CPIO should have treated it as information to be given under Section 7. He states in his order, “it is a matter of life and living of 55 pensioners who were totally dependent upon the paltry amount of pension. Though it is a small amount even a day’s delay in payment might disturb the routine life of all or some of them. That is why the information relating to payment of pension to retired persons should be considered and categorised as information concerning life and should have been responded to, within 48 hours. Even if the appellant has not asked for immediate delivery of information, the CPIO, being a senior designated officer has a duty to consider this as information concerning life and answer within 48 hours. It was not done.’’
”The public authority has a duty under contract as per the Contract Act, Consumer Protection Act, Trusts Act and also under Right to Information Act to pay the pension in time, rectify the problem of delay promptly or give information immediately to the appellant or pensioners suffering like her.”
Reference to Supreme Court Orders
The CIC also referred to a couple of Supreme Court (SC) orders. Referring to an order of SC on 15th October 2015 and another of December 2017, the CIC quoted from the orders stating that citizens cannot be forced to produce their Aadhaar to avail themselves of government welfare schemes and benefits.
Referring to another SC order of 15 December, 2017, he quoted another news report which stated that this order had exempted six schemes from Aadhaar card link and they were:
Thus, the CIC has questioned the postal authorities “to explain under what legal authority they have directed the post offices to link their employees’ pension payments with the Aadhaar?’’
CIC has now directed the CPIO to show-cause ”why maximum penalty should not be imposed upon him and explain why the postal department should not be ordered to pay compensation to Dhumane for causing delay, loss and harassment to her without giving the  information sought.’

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Karnataka Lokayukta Vishwanath Shetty stabbed in his office #WTFnews


Assailant Tejas Sharma is said to be an advocate, based on his entry in the register at the Lokayukta’s office.
Karnataka Lokayukta P. Vishwanath Shetty was stabbed in his office on Wednesday afternoon. The assailant has been identified as Tejas Sharma. He is said to be an advocate, based on his entry in the register at the Lokayukta’s office.

Sources said Sharma entered the office on the pretext of lodging a complaint. Five minutes later, the staff outside heard screams. When they rushed in, they found Mr. Shetty, who was stabbed thrice, in a pool of blood and rushed him to the nearby Mallya Hospital. Doctors confirmed to The Hindu that Mr. Shetty’s condition was now stable.

Police overpowered Sharma and took him into custody. They are trying to ascertain the reason for the attack.

Tejas Sharma, who stabbed Karnataka Lokayukta being detained by Police in Bengaluru on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: M.T. Shivakumar
Upa Lokayukta Subhash B. Adi was not present at the office at the time of the attack, the sources added.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, accompanied by his Cabinet colleagues Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy, City Development Minister K.J. George and Water Resources Minister M.B. Patil, and senior police officials rushed to the hospital. Mr. Siddaramaiah reportedly spoke to the doctors treating Mr. Shetty.

Speaking to reporters outside the hospital, Mr. Siddaramaiah said that the assailant seems to have entered Mr. Shetty’s chamber with an intention to kill. He said he had directed the police to ascertain if there was any lapse in security arrangement. “The gunman was outside the chamber, when the assailant stabbed Mr. Shetty inside. The police have arrested him and investigation is on,” he said and added that the doctors informed him that the Lokayukta was now out of danger.

Former Lokayukta Santhosh Hegde described the attack as an unfortunate incident and said it was a security failure. “There’s a metal detector and the police is supposed to use a hand-held metal detector to frisk to visitors. In this case, they have clearly not done it,” he said.

Expressing shock over the attack, the opposition BJP has maintained that the episode was a testimony to its stand that law and order situation in the state had collapsed. “The fact that a miscreant has courage to attack the Lokayukta in his office is an indication of the weak law and order system,” BJP State President B.S. Yeddyurappa stated in a release.

He urged the government to act sternly against the miscreant so that it would be a warning for others against indulging in similar incidents.


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Parents pay more for girls clothes as the gender price gap is revealed #PinkTax #WTFnews

Dubbed ‘pink tax’, stores have been found to charge more for almost identical clothing depending on gender

A jacket that costs £8 for a boy costs £10 for a girl in one supermarket 


Parents are regularly forking out more for clothes and toys aimed at girls than boys, a study has found.

Two-thirds of parents have noticed a kids ‘gender pay gap’ with stores charging more for almost identical items depending on whether it is targeted at girls or boys.

The price gap begins when children are as young as 12 months, with 71 per cent of parents who have seen a difference claiming those with girls are forced to pay more.

The research, carried out by parenting site ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, found a blue and green striped jacket from George at Asda costs £8-£9 for one-to-six-year-olds while a similar jacket in pink costs £10-£12 in the same store.

When it comes to underwear, a pack of boy’s briefs in Marks and Spencer will set parents back £4-£7, while the same number of girl’s briefs will amount to £6-£8.

It’s not just clothes. A pair of blue inline roller skates in Argos costs £7.99, while a pink pair is £10.99.

Girls aren’t always paying more, as a pair of white skinny jeans from River Island are priced at £20 for boys but just £16 for girls.

Parents noticed that boys are also charged more for shoes and jeans.

Fifty-eight per cent of parents think they have to pay more for accessories aimed at young girls, and 52 per cent believe the cost of a girl’s coat is often higher than one for a boy.

T-shirts and tops, nightwear, and underwear, are also among the items of clothing parents believe are priced higher for girls.

On average, girls’ items were priced at 21 per cent higher than the equivalent item for boys, but the items where boys were charged more averaged just 13.5 per cent more expensive.

Previous studies have shown adult women are regularly charged more for items ranging from razors to dry cleaning in a move called the ‘pink tax’ – with the same average price gap of 21 per cent as female toddlers and young girls.

MPs have debated clamping down on the practice for adults and now a huge 97 per cent of the 1,156 parents polled by want gender-based pricing for children’s items stamped out too, with 55 percent calling for it to be made illegal.

Almost three in five think gender pricing is a ‘rip off’ by retailers designed to hit parents, with 55 per cent claiming stores believe parents will pay more for girls’ items.

A further 56 per cent believe retailers make it difficult to compare prices by dividing items into ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ sections. More than a third say they would back moves to make all kids’ items ‘gender-neutral’.

As a result, a third of mums and dads are shunning stores which use gender-based pricing and 22 per cent have ‘named and shamed’ firms using gender-based pricing on social media.

What’s the price difference between girls’ and boys’ items?


Asda coat 

Boys – Shower Resistant Striped Hooded Jacket (1-6 years) – £8-£9

Girls – Cat and Dog Print Hooded Mac (1-6years) – £10-£12

Matalan T-shirt

Boys – Slogan Epic Vibes T-Shirt (4-13yrs) – £3.50 to £4.50

Girls – Slogan T-Shirt (4-13yrs) – £4 to £5

Marks & Spencer underwear 

Boys – Pure Cotton Briefs (18 Months – 16 Years) – £4 to £7

Girls – Pure Cotton Briefs – (18 Months – 12 Years) – £6 to £8

Argos roller skates 

Boys – Zinc Inline Roller Skates in Blue (size 13-3) – £7.99

Girls – Zinc Inline Roller Skates in Pink (size 13-3)  – £10.99


Clarks shoes 

Boys – Tiny Toby Brown Leather Shoes (Sizes 2 -5) – £28

Girls – Little Gina Plum Leather Shoes (Sizes 2 -5) – £26

River Island jeans 

Boys – White ripped skinny jeans (ages 5 – 12) – £20

Girls – White ripped skinny jeans (ages 5 – 12) – £16

Commenting on the price differences, Sophie Johnson, lecturer in fashion business and promotion at Birmingham City University, said: ‘Gender equality is as poignant as ever in the fashion and retail industry and has been a controversial topic of conversation in recent years.

‘As an industry that strives and protests for equality, it’s sad to see retailers placing pressure on the children’s wear market, influencing consumer inequality from such a young age.

She added: ‘However, it is very difficult to do clear like-for-like comparisons on gender differentiated products. Maybe it should be suggested as part of retailers’ strategies to equalise this in the future.’

Sophie also explained how genderless clothing is beginning to trickle down into the children’s wear market, which she believes will have a ‘positive impact’ in the future.

Previous studies have shown adult women are regularly charged more for items ranging from razors to dry cleaning in a move called the ‘pink tax’ – with the same average price gap of 21 per cent as female toddlers and young girls.

MPs have debated clamping down on the practice for adults and now a huge 97 per cent of the 1,156 parents polled by want gender-based pricing for children’s items stamped out too.

Fifty-five per cent are calling for it to be made illegal, while 42 per cent back a voluntary code of conduct for retailers and manufacturers.

Almost three in five believe gender pricing is simply a ‘rip off’ by retailers designed to hit parents, with 55 per cent claiming stores believe parents will pay more for girls’ items.

A further 56 per cent believe retailers make it difficult to compare prices by dividing items into ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ sections, with 37 per cent saying they would back moves to make all kids’ items ‘gender-neutral’.

As a result, a third of mums and dads are shunning stores which use gender-based pricing and 22 per cent have ‘named and shamed’ firms using gender-based pricing on social media.

However, 15 per cent also believe stores are beginning to end gender-pricing discrimination as parents are becoming wise to the practice.

Siobhan Freegard, founder of, said: ‘Treating baby girls as a commodity to be exploited aged just 12 months old is terrible.

‘The so-called ‘pink tax’ is bad enough for adult women but a pink tax for tots is just plain wrong.

‘There’s simply no justification for charging more based on gender. An item which is the same or similar should have the same or a similar price tag, regardless of which gender wears or uses it.

‘Luckily parents are becoming more and more aware of the practise which should mean more firms becoming reluctant to do it.’

A spokesperson for Marks and Spencer said the child’s pants aren’t comparable because they aren’t like-for-like products as the boys’ pants are plain and the girls’ pants are patterned.

River Island said the £4 price difference between ‘white ripped skinny jeans’ is because the boys’ pair comes with a keyring.

Asda denied its pricing is based on gender, with a spokesperson explaining: ‘Parents know they can trust us to offer a great range of kids clothing at amazing prices.

‘The price of our clothing is influenced by many factors, but never by gender.’

Argos said its roller skates were not gendered at all. A spokesperson explained: ‘They’re not boys or girls products they are simply different colours.

‘Customers will notice price differences in different products. These are for different reasons. This could be a range of different factors.

‘The particular items were stock clearance items.’

Clarks stated that the two shoes were not a ‘like-for-like’ comparison.

Matalan has not yet responded to a request for comment.

What is the pink tax?

Research from last year revealed that British women were still being charged more for their toiletries than men.

A basic pre-holiday shop at a high street chemist for items like razors, deodorant and shampoo set female customers back 21 per cent more than men on average.

The survey compared prices at Boots, although many other retailers have been previously criticised on this issue.

The products compared in the study included two Gilette shave gels – women’s Pure and Delicate at £3.55 for 200ml, and Fusion ProGlide at £2.49 for 250ml – and a Nivea women’s anti-perspirant that costs £2.50 compared to a similar men’s aerosol at £2.

A spokesperson for Boots claimed at the time that such products ‘are not the same based on ingredient, formulation and use, so can’t be compared on price.’

Read more:

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Bollywood’s famous Shammi Aunty passes away #RIP


MUMBAI: Veteran character actor for nearly six decades, Nargis Rabadi, popularly known as ‘Shammi Aunty’ in the industry, died at her home here late on Monday, a family friend said. She was 87.

According to Bollywood personality Ashok Shekhar, she had been ailing since some time. She breathed her last at her Juhu Circle home.

Her funeral would be performed at the Oshiwara cemetery later in the day, Shekhar told IANS.

She became a popular character artiste portraying supporting roles of aunt, granny, elder spinster in the family, et al, besides acting for television serials.



Shammi aunty mostly featured in comic roles. The late actress starred in films like Coolie No. 1, Mardon Wali Baat and Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. She also appeared in many popular television serials such as Dekh Bhai Dekh, Zabaan Sambhal KeShriman Shrimati, Kabhi Yeh Kabhi Woh and Filmi Chakkar.

Early tributes to Shammi, who was a Parsi and the former wife of legendary Bollywood filmmaker, the late Sultan Ahmed, came in from Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, megastar Amitabh Bachchan, designer Sandeep Khosla, Abhishek Bachchan, Farah Khan and Divya Dutta.

Sharma wrote: “My heartfelt tribute to Veteran actor #Shammi on her unfortunate demise. Her extensive and inspiring contribution to Indian cinema will always be remembered.”

“Shammi Aunty… Prolific actress, years of contribution to the industry, dear family friend… passes away. A long suffered illness, age… Sad… slowly slowly they all go away,” Amitabh, who has “fond remembrances” for her, tweeted.



The actor also shared some photographs of Shammi Aunty.

Amitabh’s son Abhishek wrote, “I will really miss you Shammi Aunty… You always gave the warmest hugs and never failed to make everyone smile. So many memories, so much happiness, gone but not forgotten. Rest in peace.”

Khosla took to Instagram to post an elegant photograph of the late actress, and described her as “special”, “guide”, “best friend”.

Farah wrote, “Our beloved Shammi Aunty is no more… Most wonderful, loving and funny. Working since my dad’s films and I was lucky to work beside her in ‘Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi’. God bless her.”

Divya said Shammi’s “talent, warmth and laughter is cherished”. Actor Vindu Dara Singh said he would remember her as “always smiling and peaceful and very gracious”.

SHAMMI 1929-2018


She passed away late on Monday night. Here’s saluting Shammi Aunty, the feisty actress and one-woman support system of several eminent heroines

Ever since childhood, I have been regarded as a jester,” she had chuckled in a conversation with Filmfare magazine, August 1957. “Before films, I worked as a secretary in a commercial firm. While dictating a letter, one of the young bosses proposed to me. I brought back the proposal neatly typed for him to sign. I was sacked.”

Shammi Aunty to an ever-loyal band of yesteryear heroines, she was an antidote to the Bollywood blues. Ever the confidante, a shoulder to cry on, she saw her besties through emergency crises. Ironically, her own private life hit the rocks when her marriage, after seven years to producerdirector Sultan Ahmed, culminated in a divorce circa 1980.

The infallibly jocular Shammi — born Nargis Rabadi — didn’t ever carp about Ahmed. She had promoted him by inveigling top stars to assent to his projects, notably Heera (1973) with Sunil Dutt-Asha Parekh and Ganga ki Saugand with Amitabh Bachchan-Rekha (1978).

She glided back on the singleton’s beat. Ahmed remarried twice over. Meanwhile apri Shammi Aunty, who had suffered two miscarriages, adopted Iqbal, the son of Ahmed’s brother. Eventually, she settled in with Iqbal, his wife and two granddaughters in two separate apartments in Millat Nagar, Oshiwara.

Customarily dressed in patterned crepe saris, she would hop into an autorickshaw — if her car’s driver was off-duty — hurrying to a friend’s home to work out a quickfix solution for the bugbear du jour. Friendship meant never being off-duty.

Clearly, her Good Samaritan disposition points to her growing-up years when she was compelled to see the brighter side of the moon. Her father, an agiary priest, passed away when she was barely three. To rear Nargis and her elder sister, Mani, who went on to become a leading costume designer in the 1960s-‘70s, their mother would cook at Parsi religious functions.

The Rabadis subsisted in a Tardeo tenement till a family friend introduced the sprightly Nargis to actor-filmmaker Sheikh Mukhtar, monickered ‘The Leatherface’ because of his spotty complexion. Uninhibited and surprisingly fluent in Hindustani dialogue, her auditions were approved. The teenage girl was cast in Ustad Pedro (1949), featuring Mukhtar and Begum Para. Nargis was given the screen name of Shammi.

Was a star born? Yes and no. Averse to swerving the spotlight on herself, Shammi teamed up with playback singer-actor, Mukesh, in his home production Malhar (1951). It didn’t click. Her back-up act to Dilip Kumar-Madhubala in Sangdil (1952), a take on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, whizzed by unnoticed. Supporting roles became her survival kit, best exemplified by Musafirkhana (1955), in which she infused comic chemistry with Johnny Walker.

A kooky comedienne, a vicious vamp, a nanny or a naani, Shammi was cool with roles of any stripe. “I want to be part of the film industry, I wish to keep working,” she would insist to her last day. Felled by a neurological twitch in her hands and ailments accompanying advanced age, the prime cheerleader of Bollywood was last seen five years ago in Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. After that, lights off.

Of her estimable collection of over 200 films and an armful of TV serials, pre-millennials will surely recall her endearing acts in Dekh Bhai DekhZabaan Sambhal KeShriman ShrimatiKabhi Yeh Kabhi Woh. Of her movies, she would pick Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai(1960), Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965) and Purab aur Pachhim (1970) as her careerbest. A workaholic to the last drop, she would serve as co-producer on TV serials.

The only time I’ve seen Shammi Aunty at the end of a tether was at the first-dayfirst-show screening of Pighalta Aasman (1985) at the Naaz cinema, which she had produced. Rajesh Khanna had dropped out after irreconcilable differences with director Esmayeel Shroff. Shashi Kapoor had stepped in without charging a rupee. Shammi Aunty had said in a quivering voice, “Not a mouse has turned up. It was doomed to flop, anyway.” She’d also laughed wistfully, “Don’t go out of your way to give it a good review. I won’t read it if you do.” Her besties — Nargis Dutt, Jaya Bachchan, Asha Parekh, Waheeda Rehman, Saira Banu, Helen and Daisy Irani — were her mere apne. An inconsolable Asha Parekh says, “I have lost my mother again. Shammi Aunty loved travelling, reading bestsellers, books on philosophy, Indian and western classical music. Most of all, she loved to be in touch, dropping by for a cup of tea at least twice a week. Our lives won’t be the same again.”

One of her unalloyed joys was to fetch up at the Juhu house of fashion designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla to watch movies on DVD from their vast collection.

Another compulsion was to take off on group trips, the last one being to a vineyard in Nashik. On returning, she had forgotten a bottle of wine in the car. When it was sent over, she had sent it back, stating, “I left it behind purposely. I’ve lost my taste buds.”

Towards her end-days, she was in a semi-conscious state, in and out of an ICU. She was diagnosed with intestinal ailments and dementia. There were no parting words from Shammi Aunty. At the 88, she didn’t need a ventilator for her last breath.

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Mumbai: Sole woman engineer calls the shots on Metro tunnel

Manthank Mehta| TNN | 

Nimisha Singh, 26, says she’s rough and tough.Nimisha Singh, 26, says she’s rough and tough.
MUMBAI: Wearing a white hard hat, tough workmen’s boots and green fluorescent jacket, she watches over a group of supervisors and the operator as a giant drill digs into Mumbai’s belly. Meet Nimisha Singh, 26, the only woman civil engineer with expertise in tunneltechnology recruited for the Metro III underground corridor.

Nimisha, from UP, joined the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation as deputy engineer (civil) in August 2015 and has been working shoulder-to-shoulder with her male colleagues on a stretch between Mumbai Central and Acharya Atre Marg. They are currently digging the shaft through which the tunnel-boring machine will be lowered. What made her choose this outdoor and grimy work? “I always wanted to be a civilengineer as my family members are associated with the field. As a kid, I used to visit construction sites to observe the work,” she said, tucking her long hair behind her ear.

The Bulandshahr girl admits with a rue smile that all her 12 women batchmates have taken off-field jobs like planning and design, as most women in civil engineering do not prefer on-site work.

Nimisha passed out as an engineer in 2013. “I give a lot of credit to my parents as they have always encouraged me.” Her father is a lawyer-politician and her mother is government counsel.

Questions inevitably turn to working alongside male colleagues in what is largely a men-dominated field. “It was challenging. Mumbai has a different work culture than Delhi, but here too, male employees were not keen to take instructions from me. Gradually, I was able to build a rapport and now things are working well,” said Nimisha, who has worked with the capital’s Metro network.

Nimisha started with a private firm working on the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation’s underground corridor in October 2013. “I had no prior experience as tunnelling is not taught in the college. I had worked on irrigation and canal projects as an intern in college. But when I saw the advertisement on the web about the vacancy, I straightway applied for the job,” said Nimisha, who is single and focused on her career now. The interviewer in the firm made the difficulties clear: irregular work hours and tough working conditions. That wasn’t going to deter her. “I’m a rough-and-tough person and was keen to work in this field,” she said.

She met her first hurdle soon after joining. The expatriates working on the DMRC project were apprehensive about her ability. “They were critical, and not keen to give me exposure either. For a few weeks, they did not even allow me to work. But the Indians in the firm convinced them, after which I was given access to work and the technology,” said Nimisha, a foodie and adventure sports junkie who picks trekking and rafting as her favourites. She relaxes with music and is always looking for a chance to travel.

Nimisha said she finds tunnelling more challenging in Mumbai than Delhi, where the work is mostly off the road. “In Mumbai, the utilities are not mapped and we have to work through the road by barricading the stretch.”

Her ultimate aim is to be an expert on mechanized and conventional tunnelling. “I want to have post-graduate degree in tunnelling technology and underground construction,” said Nimisha.

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March 31 deadline for Aadhaar linkage may be extended: Govt to Supreme Court


  • The Centre said that since some more time needed to conclude the prolonged hearing in Aadhaar case, the government may extend the deadline from March 31.
  • On Dec 15 last year, the SC had extended till March 31 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes.

March 31 deadline for Aadhaar linkage may be extended: Govt to Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail various services and welfare schemes run by the government may be further extended beyond March 31, the Centre indicated in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The Centre said that since some more time would be needed to conclude the prolonged hearing in the Aadhaar case, the government may extend the deadline from March 31.

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan agreed with the contention of Attorney General K K Venugopal.

“We have extended the deadline in the past and we will extend the deadline again but we may do it by the end of month to enable the petitioners in the case conclude the arguments,” Venugopal said.

The bench said, “It is a very valid point raised by the Attorney General and the court would not allow repetitive arguments made by the petitioners’ counsel in the matter.”

On December 15 last year, the apex court had extended till March 31 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes.

Earlier senior advocate Shyam Divan, who had led the arguments challenging Aadhaar and its enabling Act, said that the deadline of March 31 be extended as it was highly unlikely that the hearing in the case challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act will be concluded.

“The deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes is March 31. This will have all India ramification as various institutions would have to adjust themselves accordingly,” Divan said.

Justice Chandrachud said even if the court reserved its verdict on March 20, the banks and other institution would have only 10 days left, which might be difficult.

The bench then called the Attorney General for assistance in the issue.

At the fag end of today’s hearing, Venugopal appeared before the bench and made the statement about the possibility of extension of the deadline.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, who argued against the Aadhaar scheme, said it violated the fundamental rights of citizens.

The hearing would continue on Wednesday.

Earlier on February 22, former Karnataka high court judge Justice K S Puttaswamyhad told the apex court that several deaths had reportedly taken place due to starvation on account of glitches in the Aadhaar-based public distribution system and the court must consider granting them compensation.

He had urged the bench to consider granting compensation to those who had suffered on the ground of exclusion due to Aadhaar, particularly the kin of the starvation death victims.


Earlier, the top court had observed that the alleged defect of citizens’ biometric details under the Aadhaar scheme being collected without any law could be cured by subsequently bringing a statute.


It had said that the Centre came out with the law in 2016 to negate the objection that it was collecting data since 2009 without any authorization, but the issue which needed consideration was what would happen if the data collected earlier, had been compromised

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