REPORT ON PAGES 4 & 5
Singapore’s field of dreams
Farrer Park is where
stars were born,
hopes were dashed and
friendships were made.
Soon, it will close for good.
T H E H E A R T B E A T O F T H E I N D I A N C O M M U N I T Y
ONCE A SEX
WORKER, SHE'S NOW
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
minister Siddaramaiah got
a pleasant surprise while
Santhemala in Hootagalli
in the run-up to the state
He was welcomed with
a 750kg apple garland
His supporters, who are
mostly youth, had to bring
a crane to lift the garland of
As the crane operator
lowered the garland after
greeting Mr Siddaramaiah,
people rushed to pluck the
fruit. According to a report
by The Hindu, residents
said the garland was made
of about 3,000 apples.
Retirement age of MP
GOVERNMENT employees in
Madhya Pradesh will now retire at the
age of 62 instead of 60, announced
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh
He said that there have been cases
where an employee retires without
getting due promotions.
“It is the right of every employee to
get promoted as per seniority. To
ensure this, the age of retirement has
increased,” said Mr Chouhan.
Bike ambulances to the rescue in
CHIEF Minister Jai Ram Thakur has
launched a free bike ambulance
service in Shimla town.
A government spokesman told
IANS that it has been difficult for
normal ambulances to reach accident
spots due to traffic congestion.
Himachal Pradesh has become the
first state in north India to start the
bike ambulance service.
Mr Thakur said the service will be
subsequently provided to other parts
in the state.
Assam to get fast-track courts for
THE Gauhati High Court in Guwahati
has decided to set up exclusive
fast-track courts in Assam for
day-to-day trial of cases relating to the
rape and murder of women and
The court order came following a
letter from Assam Chief Minister
Sarbananda Sonowal to the Chief
Justice of Gauhati High Court on
A statement issued by the court
said that the administrative committee
had resolved to work out the
modalities and submit a report within
Separately, Mr Sonowal had also
lauded the efforts of the Gauhati High
Court for setting up fast track courts to
try cases under the Wildlife
(Protection) Act which has led to
speedy conviction of culprits and
fewer incidents of poaching in Assam.
Shuttle buses to ferry passengers
THE Odisha government is doing
away with the passenger bus service to
Dhauli hilltop and has instead started
a shuttle bus service on the route.
Tourism minister Ashok Chandra
Panda launched six 26-seater buses for
Tourism director Nitin Bhanudas
Jawale said the plying of big buses was
dangerous on the steep hill and the
service was started for the safety of
He added that the shuttle bus
service, which will pick visitors up
every 15 minutes, will also not cause a
jam on the hilltop.
Goa expands mobile library
GOA state central library will
introduce six more vehicles for its
mobile library initiative following the
good response by the state’s citizens
with over 600 books being borrowed.
The mobile library van was
launched in Bhuipal, Sattari, in
December last year.
Since then, the bus has been
travelling to remote areas of the state
as far as Morpirla and Nagargao.
The library stocks novels,
biographies, encyclopedias and
magazines in Konkani, Marathi,
English and Hindi.
Tourist help desks to come up in
THE West Bengal government is
setting up 49 help desks at various
locations for tourists so they can be
assisted with information during their
tours. They will be established at
popular tourist destinations as well as
transit points including railway
stations like Howrah,
Calcutta, Sealdah, New
Cooch Behar and New
Alipurduar and at places
like the Strand at
Ghat in Barrackpore and
near Chowrasta in
A source in the tourist
department said: “At many
places, tourists often face
inconvenience in getting
and sights of attraction.
They will have to bank on
cab drivers or local
residents. That is why it has
been decided to set up
kiosks to ensure that they
get relevant information.”
Dalits protest in India
after Supreme Court
THOUSANDS of people
from India’s marginalised
Dalit community have been
involved in protests in several states in
This comes after the Supreme
Court stopped the immediate arrest of
people accused of discriminating
The court had announced that prior
approval was needed from officials
before action could be taken on
complaints of violence against Dalits,
who are at the bottom of India’s caste
The protests, called “Bharat
Bandh,” or “India shutdown” saw
protesters setting police stations on
fire, blocking rail tracks and major
roads and attacking buses and
The chaos left seven people dead in
Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and
Rajasthan on April 2.
Gujarat’s Somnath temple to
dazzle in gold
THE Somnath temple in Gujarat,
which is an important pilgrimage spot
will have all its 72 pillars gold plated.
About 30kg of gold will be used in the
first phase to plate 10 pillars.
The sanctum sanctorum and two
doors of the temple are already gold
plated along with the prong and Lord
Shiva’s damru on the peak of the
Trustee-secretary of Somnath
temple P.K. Lahiri told the Times of
India: “The work of gold plating has
been assigned to artists from New
The temple trust bought the gold in
Delhi from donations it received.
AYAMMA Bhandari was or-
phaned at the age of three and
spent her childhood in grim
poverty. After she got older and mar-
ried, she was forced into the sex trade
by her husband.
But unlike other victims who are
forced into the murky business, she de-
cided to challenge her destiny — and
has become an inspiration for many
other women like her.
Now 40, Ms Jayamma runs the Chai-
tanya Mahila Mandali (CMM) with the
aim of helping sex workers leave the
trade and find respectable livelihoods.
CMM works in high-risk slum com-
munities to raise awareness of sexual
rights and reproductive health, and
teaches skills and livelihood courses.
According to the National Aids Con-
trol Organisation, there are 1.65 mil-
lion registered sex workers in the coun-
try though the actual number could be
Forced into the profession, they still
bear the stigma — being ostracised,
alone and unwanted. Then there are
the ramifications of being exposed to
various sexually transmitted diseases.
Ms Jayamma is credited with di-
rectly impacting the lives of some 5,000
sex workers — nearly a thousand of
them are now engaged in alternative
Also, over 3,500 children of sex
workers have been provided vocational
training through her efforts.
She is fondly called “Amma”, or
mother, and her efforts were acknowl-
edged when she received the Nari
Shakti (Women Power) Award on Inter-
national Women’s Day last month.
Earlier last year, the Confederation
of Indian Industry conferred her with
the Exemplar Award.
Ms Jayamma grew up in her uncle’s
home in Nakrakal in Nalgonda district,
about 300km from Hyderabad.
After a tough childhood and a diffi-
cult adolescence, she was married to a
man in Hyderabad who, soon after she
had a baby, started pressurising her to
join the flesh trade.
She refused and that led to her being
abused, both physically and mentally.
With minimal education and no one
to support her, she succumbed to the
wishes of her husband.
Ms Jayamma toyed with the idea of
suicide many times.
But the thought of what would hap-
pen to her daughter after her death –
that she too could be pushed into the
same trade – gave her the strength to go
For Ms Jayamma, it was meeting Jai
Singh Thomas, an NGO executive from
Hyderabad, that proved a turning
He encouraged her to leave sex work
and advocate for the community.
With Mr Thomas’ help, she decided
to set up an organisation that would en-
able sex workers to find viable alterna-
tive professions. Thus began her jour-
ney as a change agent.
Now Ms Jayamma — who eventu-
ally mustered the courage to part ways
with her husband in 2012 – and her or-
ganisation reach out to victims like her
and counsel and try to convince them
that there can be a better ways to lead
“It’s really a daunting task to con-
vince them as some of these women
have become addicted to alcohol,
drugs, cigarettes, sex and living in that
vitiating environment,” she said.
“They have many questions: Will
they be able to earn enough to support
themselves and their kids? Won’t their
situation be more miserable if the world
doesn’t accept them due to their past?
“We have the challenge to win their
confidence and persuade them by offer-
ing help and support. Forcible rehabili-
tation doesn’t work in such cases and,
as such, de-addiction, counselling, and
slow, long-term therapy become neces-
sary to restore their lives,” she said.
The tragic life of sex workers is not
limited to them – children born to such
women are bigger victims.
Being vulnerable, they usually end
up finding themselves trapped in the
Hyderabad has no designated red-
light district, and sex workers go out to
solicit clients. They usually take their
children along as they have nowhere to
go. The sight of their children some-
times getting abused in front of them is
disheartening for these mothers.
Ms Jayamma believes that prevent-
ing the victimisation of children of sex
workers is important and so she set up
Chaithanya (awareness) Happy Home
in 2011 where children of sex workers
are provided with all basic necessities
of life – food, access to education, life
skills and a safe place to live.
CMM not only rehabilitates the chil-
dren but also follows up to check on
The initiative today has 43 children
with big dreams of becoming teachers,
engineers and doctors.
With the aim of changing societal at-
titudes stigmatising sex workers — and
with the belief in building a system
equipped and sensitive to address the is-
sue of trafficking — Chaithanya also
conducts sensitisation training for po-
lice officers in Telangana.
On being asked whether sex work
should be legalised in India, Ms
Jayamma gave a firm “no”.
“First, the law needs to be in place.
Policymakers, police and activists need
continuous sensitisation on this issue,”
Prostitution itself is not illegal in In-
dia, but soliciting and living off the earn-
ings of a prostitute are.
And the law is open to a lot of misin-
terpretation and manipulation by the
police and pimps.
Indo-Asian News Service
She aids them in getting jobs and helps their
kids through vocational training
to help women
Impactful... (Top) Credited with improving the lives of some 5,000 sex workers, Telangana’s Jayamma Bhandari received the Nari Shakti
(Women Power) Award on International Women’s Day from President Ram Nath Kovind and (above) some of the more than 3,500
children of sex workers who have been provided vocational training through her efforts.
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