14 Dec 2007

An Astute of an Invisible

An Astute of an Invisible
By Aditya Bastola

The embryo of Pune’s Red Light Area
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is growing rapidly and there is increasing global concern and effort for prevention of the disease. To that effect, a few women from the ostracised part of Pune city formed an association of female sex workers, for the women and by the women in the year 1998. Today this association of female sex workers is known as Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh. The Sangh aims to bring female sex workers together in order to solve their problems by undertaking initiatives to achieve their rights as human beings.

From the date of its establishment, the organisation has undergone various changes. The organisation was established by female sex workers living in the red light area, with the noble intention of protecting other women from HIV/AIDS infection and inhuman treatment by the brothel keepers, and also to protect their children from becoming victims of second generation trafficking[1]. In this pursuit, members of Saheli Sangh had to overcome heartless treatment from their own community. The brothel keepers did not welcome the members of the Sangh, perceiving them as a threat to their business. If women living in brothels were to be persuaded to become more aware about protecting themselves from HIV/AIDS, then it would imply going against the will of the customers[2], and eventually reduction in business. Most women living in the red light area was at sometime or the other trafficked. Some had been given hope, through the media and/or other sources, of getting jobs leading to ‘a good life’ in the city. However, it often turned out to be false and masking the lack of any real opportunity. Some of these women were sold by their own husbands. Some had chosen to be sex-workers of their own will due to falling livelihood opportunities amongst low-income groups resulting from growing rural hardship as well as a decline in public-sector employment. As stated above, with growing rural hardship and the withdrawal of state intervention, economic reform stimulates the demand for paid sex, and may at times also bolster the supply of sex-workers.[3]

Once the woman has been brought to the red light area, she lives on a sharing basis. If she has been trafficked, then she owes a huge amount in loan to the brothel keeper. When she is purchased from the traffickers to work in a brothel, the price paid for her effectively becomes her own debt at an interest of 12 to 25 %, with earnings shared on a 50/50 basis with the gharwalis (brothel keeper). She also has to pay the rent for her lodging and cover her living expenses, as well as support any children and at times also remit money home to her family. Thus, with the rates paid by customers, which in some cases are as low as Rs 20, the woman may be effectively trapped both in poverty and sex-trade for her entire working life.[4] While staying in the brothel, the conditions are laid down by the brothel keepers and their so-called lovers, and also at times by the pimps. These conditions restrict the mobility of the woman and if she is the member of the organisation and works for other female sex workers, the conditions compel her to find another accommodation. In this process she once again becomes unhoused.

Any adult Indian living in an area for more than 5 – 10 years has the right to vote in that constituency. The female sex workers have been living in that area forever. Despite the provisions and fundamental rights proclaimed under the Constitution of India, they still do not have the right to live a dignified life. Most female sex workers have no right to vote; often their rights are not recognised. In fact, the women are not accepted as legitimate citizens of the nation. Similarly most female sex workers do not have a ration card. When they approach the government officials, they are firstly stigmatised as being sex workers, and then called on an appointment basis. The meeting, however, never takes place. Legally, for the provision of voting rights, a woman has to produce relevant documents as proof of residence. In case of the female sex worker, the house is rented and managed by a brothel keeper. There is no contract which the woman undertakes. This makes her increasingly vulnerable to extreme poverty; her rights are not recognised and she becomes susceptible to abuse at the hands of the local police in the vicinity.

Prosecution requires that sex workers testify against traffickers and third parties like pimps and brothel owners. Since the livelihood of these women depends on these third parties, they are extremely unwilling to do so, which makes their prosecution almost impossible.[5] As a result, a huge sum of money is laured for corruption purpose with various institution for continued existence.

Likewise, under the ITPA (Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act) Amendment Bill, the provision to punish clients visiting brothels under the new Section 5C threatens the very survival of sex workers. Interestingly, the Amendment Bill ignores the profound reality that in order to support children and families, the sex workers may be compelled to accept any client who comes their way, notwithstanding health and safety concerns. Furthermore, sex work will be pushed underground, making it difficult for the sex workers to access HIV/AIDS prevention services. [6]

Coming of Age

Reflecting on these issues of livelihood of a female sex worker, Saheli Sangh had the determination to break the barrier of silence and provide the woman a platform where she could voice her rights against all forms of stigmatisation.

The members of the Sangh started their work by escorting other women for health care to various government clinics and hospitals. The message of HIV/AIDS was spread through door-to-door visits at the brothel level. The informants used various techniques to transmit the knowledge about the care and support of HIV/AIDS, and most significantly the right procedures for using the condom. Primarily the Peer Educators, and also the members of the Sangh, focussed on increasing the negotiation skills of the female sex workers.

Given the fact that most women are in a debt trap, they at times feel miserable about falling into the clutches of the brothel keeper. As a result, in order to pay off the debt immediately, most women perform roles as per the customer’s preference and have unprotected sex. Such practices increase the vulnerability of the women towards being affected by the epidemic. Moreover, the other factor to enable the negotiation skills of the female sex workers is when they are involved with their non-paying sexual partner and regular clients and at times also referred to as so-called ‘lovers’. Many of the latter group are in search of not only sex, but also seemingly of love and affection, either due to unmarried status, or because they are lonely migrant labourers, or as a response to some family conflict. Such regular clients, together with non-paying sexual partners, often constitute the only men with whom women in sex-work are able to form meaningful relationships.[7] Today with the efforts of Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT) and Saheli Sangh, the Female Condom has been introducted to the female sex workers since May 2007. This has enhanced the negotiation skills of the female sex workers and prevented the spread of HIV/AIDS at a nominal level. The line chart presented as Distribution of Female and Male Condoms, reveals results over a six month period (April to September 2007) of promoting female condoms in the red light area. The data highlights the fact that although male condoms are distributed free of cost, there is less demand as compared to Female condoms, which is priced.

The female condom has high demand, because it offers protection when the women have to encounter alcoholic customers, who are often too much at a loss of control to be able to wear condoms, and also due to the denial of the so-called ‘lovers’ to use male condoms. As a result, with the availability of female condoms, today most women who are compelled to perform sex with alcoholic customers and their lovers prefer to use female condoms to protect themselves. This prevents the infection vulnerability towards various diseases such as STIs and HIV. Thus, the data generated through the distribution of condoms clearly indicates an increase in the negotiation skills of the female sex workers.

Similarly, as a collective, Saheli Sangh has not only been able to increase the negotiation skills, but also has had an immediate impact in the reduction of patients referred for HIV testing. The data from the table Distribution of T.B. and HIV Referrals indicate that in the month of April 2007 there was a higher percentage (55) of female sex workers referred for HIV – VCTC (Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre) to Government Hospital as compared to the month of September 2007 (0). The reason for lower proportion of HIV referrals states that, due to higher increase in awareness about the usage of condom and especially with the availability of female condoms amongst the female sex workers, its demand and usage has increased. This has resulted in a fall in the number of women reporting the symptoms of HIV to the counsellor appointed at the organisation.

It is interesting to note that there is a steady increase in patients reporting symptoms of Tuberculosis, 12.5 % to 25 %. At the DIC (Drop in Centre), it is mainly observed that the patients often referred for Tuberculosis are Male members from the mainstream community. The male members seeking medical help at times are also so-called ‘lovers’ of the female sex workers, or are general members who are ignorant about the facilities provided through the government hospitals.

The road less travelled

Despite of meagre results, today the Sangh as members of ostracised community have been able to lobby with various stereotype individuals for the provision of basic human rights. At present, approximately 125 women are provided with ration cards and 50 women have the right to vote. The process to provide other women their basic rights is still in progress at respective government offices. Furthermore, the collective have placed a monitoring mechanism of reporting abuse that occurs at brothels and the police stations. There is Legal Aid Cell established with the assistence of Law Students from various law colleges in Pune City who provide the necessary legal support to the female sex workers especially when they are arrested under false charges. Peer Educators of the Sangh are currently working as Para-Legal Workers in the red light area.

Irrespective of being disenfranchised and dehumanised, the collective of female sex workers have initiated with their own financial support a Crèche which provide shelter to the children of female sex workers, and at times the space for women in need of dwelling and medical care, if discriminated at government hospitals. The Crèche of the collective has also been the rescue ground for many children, and prevention of the second generation trafficking. At present there are 24 children living in the Day and Night Crèche.

Given the fact about the economic status and the impoverished conditions of a woman in sex work, she still has propensity to spend more on her cosmetics, with the belief that she might be able to attract more clients, and pay off the debts. Unfortunately she doesn’t understand the impact of high interest rate and the method of calculations of her debt, because of lack of education. Figures say 95 % of the female sex workers in Pune are illiterate. This often acts as a double sword in the life of a woman in sex work. Understanding these factors, the women’s collective initiated saving groups, today there are 4 such groups who save and borrow money at times of admitting their children at residential homes, meeting the health care needs especially while living as a victim of HIV/AIDS or remit money home to her family. Considering Saving groups’ limited coverage and a lengthy process, the Sangh launched a Cooperative, which was easily accessible to all women in the red light area. At present there are 100 women as members of the cooperative. The Saheli Cooperative has also emerged as a sister organisation of the Sangh. Nevertheless, to provide care and support, the collective have established the only support group of the women in sex work living as People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) in Pune City. This is ‘the only’ support group of its kind. The urgency was felt when the needs of other PLHA groups differed and discrimination still persisted amongst this network.

Though the road may not be often travelled, it has been well envisioned so far.

[1] Second Generation Trafficking is a term used when a child of a woman in sex work is trafficked for sex work purpose.
[2] In terms of condom usage and other roles which they might have to perform to satisfy the customers.
[3]http://www.adityabastola.blogspot.com/or http://www.sahelipune.blogspot.com/ Title: “People Just like You: Don’t Blame it on the Sex Workers”, by Aditya Bastola.
[4] ibid.
[5] Saheli Sangh, BASELINE Report, UNDP – TAHA (Prevention of Trafficking against young girls and women and HIV/AIDS) Project, November 2006.
[6] ibid.
[7]Taken from http://www.adityabastola.blogspot.com/ or http://www.sahelipune.blogspot.com/ Title: “People Just like You: Don’t Blame it on the Sex Workers”, by Aditya Bastola.

30 Jun 2007

The Phad System

This study has been conducted to document the best of traditional innovative practices under the Jalswarajya Project – Local Self Government Incentive Scheme, a World Bank funded project for water and sanitation (June 2006). This study is designed to provide a firsthand authoritative knowledge of the social process and the underlying facts related to the water harvesting structures. The information produced would be used to refer as a future literature of the foremost operation and also to design the Training of the Trainers (TOT) Manual in capacity building of the Gram Panchayat, Zilla Parishad members and the Local Representative respectively in effective implementation of the Project through YASADHA.


Water has been an immemorial gift of nature to humankind. In ancient times, community settlements were mainly on the bank of rivers, where water could be easily provided for the sustenance of humans, animals as well as plants. Great civilisation of humankind existed along these bank of rivers such as the Great Nile, The Ganges, The Indus, The Tigris etc, this was the fundamental progression where the human societies and cultures flourished across the globe. Gradually, with the change in time, water was considered a produce, often resulting to a valuable commodity. Understanding the value of the scare resource, people learned various methods of optimum utilisation of the water through means of canals, diverting the water to settlements. In ancient Persia, the agricultural lands were watered through canals about 2500 years back.
[1] Such progressive knowledge of the farmers has turned most regions of the world into important crop producers. Sequelled the brown earth into green. They acquired the knowledge of boosting the crop yields and managing the system of water utilisation and distribution over decades. Thus, the evolution of life was realised with the availability of water.

The Science of Survival

Given the fact of major civilisation existed along the banks of river across the globe. Progressive farmers throughout the world realised the importance of irrigation. They adopted various types of irrigation method. As we are already aware, about the Indian Civilisation, which had taken place in the great belts of Ganges and Indus, concurrently people migrated along the banks of smaller perennial rivers in various regions and started their daily living. They had their own indigenous knowledge of irrigation, and the geo-spatial distribution of the region. Accordingly, the people living under various specific regions build water-harvesting structures along the river belts and had their own sense of managing these structures in a co-operative manner thus transforming to productivity oriented.

As stated by Gulhati, in Dr. Shinde.D.S (1988)
[2], Irrigation in many countries is an old act – as old as civilisation – but for the whole world it is a modern science – the science of survival. Likewise, the people living on the banks of Panzara River fall under the Kandesh Region had their own method of survival through building appropriate irrigation system, which has descended over centenaries. The method of irrigation system was through building structures commonly known as Bandharas – a low water diversion weirs in stone masonry, constructed at the main stream of the Panzara River. People living on the banks of the Panzara River had the expertise knowledge of diverting the water flow to their main field through canals for agriculture purpose known as Phad System. This system of effective irrigation is also observed in Nashik district. A detail case study of the Phad System existing at Dhule district of Maharashtra has been presented under various sub-titles listed below. Henceforth, over the period mentioned above, the skills of the Kandesh clan have turned out as a science of survival.
[1] Technology of Water Management, Dr. R.A.Raju, Agrobios (India), Jodhpur, 2004.
[2] Readings in Irrigated Farming, Dr.S.D.Shinde, Vishwani Publications, 1988.


The significance of the study was to document the best of traditional innovative practices under the Jalswarajya Project – Local Self Government Incentive Scheme. This study is designed to provide a firsthand authoritative knowledge of the social process and the underlying facts therein. The information produced would be used to refer as a future literature of the foremost operation and also to design the Training of the Trainers (TOT) Manual in capacity building of the Gram Panchayat, Zilla Parishad members and the Local Representative respectively in effective implementation of the Jalswarajya Project. The study focused in understanding the technical design, social milieu and its specific uses defined as per the best practices related with Phad System. The study also emphasised in exploring the historical evolution of the structure, its spatial specification related to the technology and cropping pattern. The pivotal point of the investigation was to refer the role of community in operation and maintenance of such traditional water harvesting structures.

To discover the facts and insights related with the objective of the study, there has been various methods simultaneously used for the effectiveness, thus representing it as a whole comprehensive study. The explorative and descriptive design was applied during the study process. Pertaining to the method, survey method was extensively implemented. Overall, method of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) was developed and improvised by the practitioner in the field for gathering facts. Time related PRA method was used to explore the dimensions of people’s realities with related to the water harvesting structure.

The universe of the study consisted of the total villages benefiting from Bandharas located at Panzara River. There were 30 Bandharas located at the river base. Each village consisted of one Bandhara. Taking into the consideration of the functioning of the Bandharas, they were classified into three components such as:
Bandharas from the upper reach of Panzara River,
Bandharas from the middle of Panzara River, and
Bandharas from the tail end of Panzara River.

Amongst the Bandharas of the upper reach of Panzara River, three Bandharas were considered for documenting the traditional practices, as these Bandharas were reported to have been working for about 4 – 8 months. In the middle of Panzara River only one Bandhara was considered for the study and two Bandharas from the lower reach of the river consisted the sampling size of the study, as these lower reach Bandharas has not been functioning for more than a decade.
Upper reach Bandharas
1. Dutondya Bandhara of Sakri Taluka.
2. Samoda Bandhara of Sakri Taluka
3. Kokla (Kokla and Gondas Bandhara) of Sakri Taluka
Middle Bandharas
1. Ner (Mana Bandhara) of Dhule Taluka.
Tail end Bandharas
1. Mudi (pd) (Mudi Bandhara) of Shindkheda Taluka.
2. Betawad (Betawad Bandhara) of Shindkheda Taluka.
The method used for gathering the facts and insights consisted mainly of convenient sampling. The study for documenting the traditional practices was mainly seeking to gather more accurate information from the rural aged who had once been the beneficiary of the structure or may have possessed historical information about the structure.

The techniques used for gathering of information
Under the Time related PRA Method, Time line, Trend Analysis and Daily Activity Schedule techniques was used with the communities benefiting from the structure.
In order to authenticate the data, Interview Schedule, and Focus Groups Discussion was utilised amongst the beneficiaries of the water harvesting structure at the village level.
While amongst the NGOs and Academics, Interview Guide was used to achieve the object of the study.

The total sample size for the study consist about 82 respondents, which includes the participants in focus group discussion, participants while conducting PRA activity, Interview Schedule and Interview Guide.

The Panzara River

A document published on traditional water harvesting system by Anil Agrawal et all, enlist as the first document to give details of the construction, where in, it states the reprint of the Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency: Khandesh published in 1880:

“The Bandharas must, at one time, have been very numerous. In the west, there is scarcely a stream of any size without traces of them. Tradition attributed their construction to the Musalman rulers. In many places foundation holes cut in the sheet rock are the only traces of former dams. Others are found in every stage of ruin, Some are still in use while others have been abandoned due to scarcity of water, silting and other causes. Here and there huge masses of overt turned masonry lying a few yards down the stream from the line of the weirs show the violence of occasional floods and excellence of the old cement. The sites of these dams were as a rule well chosen. Except a few, built straight across the stream, dams are more or less oblique, the watercourse issuing at the lower end. Where the rock below is not continuous, their forms are most irregular. In building a dam, holes were cut in the rock in the proposed line of the wall. In t he holes stone uprights, sometimes small pillars taken from the Hindu temples, were set and a dam was either built in front of these or the stones were built into the dam leaving only the backs of the uprights visible. The dams are strong, clumsy walls commonly sloping on both sides to a narrow top. The materials are commonly black stone, coarse concrete mixed with small pieces of bricks and the very best cement. Occasionally large blocks are found in the face of the wall but the inner stones are all small. Dressed stone is seldom used for either facing. Except some small openings at the middle or at the base, no provision seems to have been made for removing the silt. While the dams were built with greatest care, the watercourses were laid down with strict economy.”

With the same source, the authors hypothesise the existence of the structure to have existed since 300 – 400 years ago.

During the process of fa
ct finding and being with the villagers, the Chairman of a Water Committee of village Samoda Bandhara, obtained a traditional copy of a document, from the Vanshawali[2], Mothi Vahi no 2, Page no 191, reads Yabhua Patil constructed Samoda Bandhara in 1530 A.D. A copy of this document has been attached beside.

The chairman restate an anecdote supporting the document saying that there were two brothers who had migrated from River Mosam region, one stayed back at Kokla village and built the Kokla/Gondas Bandhara at the Panzara River, where as the other brother proceeded towards the upper reach of the river at Samoda village and the Bandhara. The chairman also felt, he belonged to the same clan of the person who built the Bandhara. Reflecting on the document, which the villager gave to the investigator, had a similar surname, and both belonged to the same Jerai Mali Community. The researcher uses the term Jerai Mali here so that it could be more specific and not to hurt the sentiment of the community. This was the field experience, when the term was used, the other member present along with the researcher belonged to the same community, and he disliked himself being called as Jerai Mali. It is important to note that, there is no inter-marriage relation amongst the community members because they consider themselves to descend from the same clan.

Similarly, using various methods of fact finding at village Kokla, the villagers report of the Bandhara to be constructed by Nawaje Patil in 1409 A.D.

As we move towards the middle base of river Panzara, the establishment date changes accordingly, for example at village Ner, the community report of the Bandhara being constructed in 1608 by Jerai Mali community. People contributed for the construction of the structure. While at the tail end of Panzara River the village community state the British Regime constructed the Bandhara.

Reflecting on the review of literatures, one often finds the probability of the Bandhara’s existence to be mentioning of 300 – 400 years ago. (Agrawal and Narain, 1997), (Datye and Patil, 1987). The case study of villages undertaken for their study, most belong to middle part of the river Panzara. As we reflect with our own data presented through various means, we find a trend of Bandharas being constructed from head to tail except for Bandhara at Samoda village, given the fact of separation of the family. They report the initial date of establishment of the first Bandhara could be in 1409, while the Bandhara of Samoda village was in 1530, whereas the middle of Panzara River, Ner Villagers report of 1608, and the tail end villages of Panzara River reveal to be constructed by the British Regime.

During the field visit, it was found that, the Bandharas which were laid at the upper and middle part of Panzara River were still functioning, which could be for any period between 4 to 8 months especially during the monsoon and at winter with the release of water by the Irrigation Department for Rabi cultivation of wheat. While the villagers from the tail end of Panzara River had not seen the Bandharas functioning for past 40 years due to lack of water available at the river, consequently with the absence of water at the Bandharas, may have restrain the community members from the quest of knowing it’s history.
[1] Taken from the Dying Wisdom, Traditional Water Harvesting Systems, edited by Anil Agarwal et all. CSE, 1997, New Delhi, Page 188.
[2] Vanshawali is a traditional clan book written by the head priest of the family. The book enumerates the list of activities performed by the family members during their respective period. Similarly, the Vanshawali of Jerai Mali community, the book mentions of Yabhua Patil constructing the Bandhara at Samoda Village.

The term Phad means a block of land used for irrigation purpose. Usually in one command area there were 3-5 Phads on an average. Each Phad has a name been given by the village community. The collection of Phads is known as Thal. The Phad receives water from the Bandhara diverted through the canal or Pat, as the main source of water flow. This Pat had various field distributaries known as sarang, which reach till the tail end of each Phad and the excess water is diverted back to the main river through Sandwa or the waste weir. Between each Phad, there are small opening called Bara, which is the main inlet where the water enters the field. The method of distribution of water through the gravity is generally done from one Phad to another. During the water distribution process, the Patkari/waterman use the field gate also known as Sasar for release of water at each phad. The Phad irrigators have laid conditions that, unless the first Phad is not supplied adequate water according to the crop grown; the second Phad does not get the change. During the process of water distribution, remaining Phads waiting for water release is blocked with the help of Sasar (field gate). Details explained in the sub-title - Cropping Pattern.

The Bandhara
Bandhara is a stone masonry built at the river base, and is usually curved in shape towards the upside of the river at an approximate height of 4 to 5 feet, like a horseshoe shape called Supada in local language or the Arch – shape. The foundation of the masonry rests on the hard rock available at the riverbed. The height of the Bandhara varies depending upon the slope of the river, gorge and the distance of the area to be irrigated. It is interesting to note that the layout of a Bandhara also depends upon the shape of the river as it flows downstream. For example if the river flow straight downstream, the shape of the Bandhara is in curved shape called Supada, else the engineering of the Bandhara is in straight line. On an average distance of water travelled from the Bandhara through the Pat (Main Canal) till it reaches the command area (Thal) is 4 – 5 kilometres. Locally this water is known as patache pani (water from the canal).

The Figure above explains the main layout of the Bandhara and its relation with the command area. The process of selecting the site for building the structure was carried out taking into consideration of the river base gradient and the slope of the command area. This was the natural process where the water could flow with its own gravity till it reached the main Thal (Command area). The river water was diverted from the Bandhara with excavating canals (Kalvas). At the side end of the Bandhara, there was a temporary storage place of the water, usually known as Khajana; the main function of the Khajana was to maintain the velocity of the water of the river.

At the bottom of the wall, each Bandhara had a small key opening, which functioned in removing the silt, sand and other particles that obstructed the water flow, also known as ‘Key Hole’. The scoring sluices were present on both ends of most Bandharas, performed similar function for removing silt, sand during the floods. The excess water at the Bandhara were removed with the help of scoring sluices and over flowing above the arch-shaped wall. There was no controlling mechanism present at the Bandhara to prevent the water flow. The scoring sluices has an approximate width of 1 to 1.5 m

The Bandhara had a provision for accumulation of water at the side end of the weir known as Khajana or reservoir. The Khajana had an opening or a gate like structure for regulating the flow of water into the main canal. The mechanism of controlling the water flow was known as saucer. The saucer had a provision of inserting a wooden plank from the top of the wall. Adjoining to the saucer, there was a canal like structure, which connected to the head of the canal. In between these structures there were scoring sluices to perform as a regulating mechanism of water flow and cleaning the area of Khajana from silting and accumulation of sand. With the series of Bandharas constructed at Panzara River, the types of saucers have also changed. It is estimated there were about 45 such structure (Bandharas) at Panzara River.

The height of the Diversion Weir was selected in such manner that the excess water from the river was automatically removed with the help of scoring sluices. The water required for irrigation purpose was diverted into the main canal, with the provision of scoring sluices in between the head of the canal and the saucer. The head of the canal had no provision of gate; the saucer and the scoring sluices present between the diversion weir and the head of the canal regulated the water flow.

The length and size of the canals varied amongst the Bandharas depending upon the size of the Phad and the distance of water travelled from the site selected for the diversion of water through the weir. The reason for the variation of size and length of the canal was to maintain the velocity of water so that the water could flow at its own gravity till it reached the main command area or the Thal.

The method of building the canal was through banking and cutting depending upon the topography. There were scoring sluices also provided at different places as per the length of the canal. This worked as an automated cleaning device for the drainage of sand and silt. The average water discharge from the canal is 7 – 10 Cubic feet/sec (cusecs).

After the Government notified the river in the 70’s, the Irrigation department imposed tax, and provided iron gates at the scoring sluices. The provision of iron gates was used as a stopper to maintain the diversion of water. While with the traditional practices these scoring sluices worked as a mechanical technique for equitable water distribution amongst all the Bandharas at river Panzara. There has been some minor repair work been done by the Irrigation department at the Bandhara. Like wise, the height of some Bandhara at upper reach of Panzara River has been increased by 3 – 5 inches.

On an average each Phad had an approximate size from 5 – 10 ha to 20 – 35 ha. Each Phad grows only one crop. The landholdings may vary in numbers but the crop grown is similar. Which means in one Phad there could be many landowners having smallholdings, are practising similar cropping pattern as compared with the major landholders. At the Phad, there are landmarks indicating the size of the land holding. The distribution of water in each Phad is from the head to tail end.

The Farm Management

At the village level, the landlords from the Phad had their say in the water meeting which normally decided the cropping pattern for every season, based on previous year’s experiences. The consent of landless from the village community was not taken at the committee meetings.

Instead, most of these landless were given opportunity to work as a Patkari (waterman), Hawaldar (supervisor) and Jakleya (watchman); their role was to maintain the Sarangs, Sasars, Kalvas and also looked after the crops and the fair distribution of the water.

During the meeting the Patkari, Hawaldar and Jakleya were to report to the Chairman of the managing committee (Panch - member of five Committee) about the misuse of water by the farmer or if any vandalism existed with the common property. These designations of the landless labourers were of hereditary position. Though on an individual level, the person appointed was required to perform his role as a devoted and sincere person, else the position could be passed on to the other family associated with the similar socio-economic conditions.

Usually a general meeting was held in the month of April – May (‘Akshayya Tritya’) where a public announcement was made for community management of the water harvesting structure. Each family had to provide a pair of bullocks and 3 men for a day to maintain the system, and the family who were not able to provide the announcement had to pay Rs. 30 for the bullock and Rs 10 for 3 men.

The process of mobilising the village farmers for the meeting was normally through a key person of the village who is often known as the Kotwal. The Kotwals’ had a special role at the village level; they were the first person to disseminate the information to the villagers. The usual method of the Kotwal disseminating information was through cupping the mouth. The job performed at the village level amongst the Kotwals’ was a hereditary one. The Kotwal got his share from the Phad after every village water committee meetings.

The Panch committee also known as Pani Purvata Committee given the responsibility for making decision related to water distribution and assigning roles and responsibilities to Patkaris, Hawaldar and the Jakleyas for maintenance and operation of the water harvesting structure. This Panch committee had no written rules in place; decisions were made on experience basis.

The working Bandharas, in the upper reach of the Panzara River, usually held village water meetings before or after every harvest period. The villagers benefiting from the tail end Bandharas of Panzara River have not held any such meeting for the past 40 years.

The Method of Equitable Distribution of Reward

The Patkaris, Hawaldars and Jakleyas were remunerated a fixed amount. The farmers had different methods of measuring the remuneration for the services provided by the responsible mentioned above. The amount payable for the service was both in kind and cash for example kind for food grains and cash for cash crops.

In the upper reach of Panzara River, the Patkari, Hawaldar and Jakleya was paid in terms of Champa (local measuring unit), where each Champa would include of 3.5 Kg of food grain. Like wise each Patkari was given 3 Champas for irrigating 1 Acre of land at the Phad. This was the main measuring unit for remuneration of service delivery, but the terms may vary according to the villages.

It is also found that with the differences of cropping pattern at the Thal, if any cash crop grown, the Patkari, Hawaldar and the Jakleya were paid in cash. For example, earlier 4 Annas (16 Annas is equal to one Rupee) were paid for 1 acre of land, whereas today, a Patkari is paid Rs 20 for 1 acre of land.

Some villages used a rope that consist a length of 6 – 7 feet to encircle the crop; the amount of crop, which came within the rope, was an entitlement of one acre of the season’s yield from the Phad. The Patkari and the Hawaldar were remunerated with the help of the rope and both had similar share of the harvest from the Phad.

Changing Nexus of Traditional Local Institutions

The Patkari, Hawaldar, and the Jakleya who belong to the same village community, ensured every Phad got a fare share of water, there was better and timely maintenance of the main canal, and all the crops at the Phad were protected from the wild animals, but today they have been replaced by the Water Inspector appointed by the Irrigation Department. The Inspector appointed, is entrust to collect water fees from all the villages, it is his role to timely release water at the Phad, he is also responsible to inform the Irrigation Department about the maintenance of the Bandharas.

The water committee, consisting of Patkari, Hawaldar and the Jakleya were almost institutionalised in the earlier days. They got their fare share from the Phad for the services delivered. Still today, we find this institution amongst the Bandharas of upper and middle part of the Panzara River to be working. With the enactment of the Inam Abolition Act (1955), the community defined roles and responsibility have not changed except for few villages at the tail end of Panzara River, the Patkaris were given land and became a government employee, who till date receives pension from the government.

Cropping Pattern

It is often believed amongst the farming community, during the years of plentiful water at the Panzara River, the cropping pattern varied from one Phad to another. The principal crop grown at the Phad was paddy. But as the need for more varieties of crop increased, people started growing different crops. Like stated earlier, each Phad had a one single type of crop, similarly different crops was grown in different Phads. Water was provided according to the need of the crop grown.

The main command areas was locally known as Bagayat/Thal or the assured area of irrigation system and similarly there was also an extended area know as Jirayat, or the unassured area. The Jirayat land received water only in years of plentiful water flow at the Panzara River. This land had no regulation in cropping pattern or water distribution. Each farmer practiced individual cropping pattern and was not related to the Phad system.

If drought like situations continued for several years, all Phad got equal share of water and kept the remaining Phads unused, this was done on a rotation basis. This method of water distribution system amongst the landowners reflects of co-operative farming been existed with the traditional water harvesting structure for more than 600 years now. For example in years of plentiful water, the functional community decides to grow sugarcane in the three Phads and millet in one. But in a year of average rain the farmers would grow two Phads of sugarcane and two of millet. In a bad year they allowed sugarcane in only one Phad, grow millet in two and kept one fellow. Keeping the Phad fellow was also done on rotation basis, because all farmers had some share of land at the main command area, thus maintaining an equitable water distribution and farming system. The institutions created under the umbrella of irrigators managed this system. Unfortunately today, with the lack of availability of water over the prolonged period, the Phads have been remaining fellow for a very long period.

Like wise with the lack of available of water in the Phad, the daily intake of food has been changed. During the period of better functioning of the Bandhara, it was not essential to travel to marketplace for purchase of daily food. Vegetables like Cucumber, Ladyfinger, were grown at the village. Today villagers frequently travel to market place for purchasing every little items required for the daily meal except few grown at the Phad such as the Maize, Bajra, and Wheat.

Withering Science

With the construction of Lattipada Dam, two Bandharas have been submerged completely. Similar Minor Irrigation Project is under construction at Akkalpada. Unfortunately this project has not been completed for the past 25 years due to local political groups involved in manipulating their constituency. The working of the Akkalpada Dam would submerge three villages, Sayyadnagar, Nashimar and Tamsawadi.

The Bandharas, mostly on the upper reach of Panzara River, the usual height of the Bandharas have been increased by the Irrigation Department, the scoring sluices have been replaced with iron gates and importantly the pockets holes placed at the centre of the Bandhara has been closed, this had caused the Bandharas to be filled with sand up to the height, there is no space at the wall for the water to be reserved for diversion.

Before the notification of the river, the farmers paid water cess (Pankasar) to the Revenue Department for cultivation. After the notification of the river, the Irrigation Department took over the Bandharas, and labelled them as 1st Class Irrigation, they imposed tax for water usage. The Irrigation Department imposed separate tax on the water released after the construction of the Lattipada and Jamkhedi dam. As most of the water was reserved at these dams, water was not available for irrigation; the villagers were compelled to use the Dam water, paying a separate fee for the release. This was how the villagers of the upper reach of the river were bound to pay the water tax. Though paying the double tax to the Irrigation and Revenue Department respectively, it was always unsure of water being released from the dam, especially during the Rabi Cultivation.

The villagers of upper reach usual sowed the wheat seed only during the month of November and the harvest was in February for which, the crop required two water releases. Unfortunately, the Irrigation Department always released water during the month of October and the other in January, the practice of water release by the Irrigation Department was early for a better harvest of the crop, as a result the villagers required another water supply in the month of February for which they again had to pay another water fee for the same crop.

Today the intensity of the rain has remained the same but the no. of days of rainfall has reduced. The water of Panzara River is reserved for the urban dwellers at Dhule City, leaving the lower reach of the river ran dry soon after the monsoon period.

With the lack of availability of water, the farmers had been compelled to dig wells at the river basin. The villages on the lower reach of the Panzara River have dug well at the Phad itself, though the norms of Phad System does not permit to do so, the villagers have been compelled, due to lack of water. Thus, farmers have switch over to other methods of irrigation than following the traditional practices; urbanisation has contributed for the unaccountability of water supply.

Thus, the Phad system, which is a collective farming system, with the rising of individual wells, the collective management of the Phad has collapsed. Downstream of the river at Mudi and Betawad Bandhara, there is total breakdown of the Phad System. Individual farmers are irrigating the land with their own wells and those who do not have a well just practice rain fed agriculture. As rightly said by Narain,
[1] that cities in India must manage their water resources if rural India is to survive and the answer lies in both traditional wisdom and modern technology.
[1] Statement quoted by Maxine Olson, UNDP and United Nations resident coordinator, India, article published in Indian Express dated 20th June 2006.


Unfortunately, modern science values have posed a threat to the indigenous system. The community-managed system is fading way with the lack of water available; people who used to grow the staple food have substituted with the cash crops for maximisation of the yield for better economic gains. The poignant aspect of this trend is that people have not yet realised under the neo-liberal policies, the slow and steady always wins the race.[1]
[1] Here I mean the term conscientisation referred by Paulo Freire, where people need to enrol in the search of self –affirmation and avoid fanaticism of the neo-liberal policies.

The community managed Phad farming system has adopted an individual managed farming. The Rich farmers have found their own method of irrigation by digging wells at the Phad, while the small and marginal farmers are left on the mercy of nature. Such relinquishment of farming due to lack of resources to draw water and dependence on the nature has caused most land to remain barren. This has consequently reduced the value of the land. Similarly, the lack of rain and the water reserved for urban drinking purpose has contributed the landless with no employment at the village level. This has pushed the rural population to migrate for better life at the urban centres especially to the cities of the neighbouring state (Gujarat). The youths have been unable to receive better education as their parents are in debts. The repercussion of such incidence due to lack of water at Panzara River has increased the incidence of alcoholism. The joint family system has been broken down due to inadequate resources to feed all family members at a time. More over the values of modernised irrigation system has destroyed the flora and fauna of Panzara River Base such as with the construction of dams, the river water has been reserved at the upper reach leaving the middle and lower reach to run dry almost around the year.

Henceforth, the question remains, whether replication of such indigenous practice is a viable option in a modern welfare state such as India, where structural adjustment and neo-liberalisation policies have compelled the state to shift its policies, the burden of payment from taxpayer to beneficiaries.

Another instance which has been clearly marked in the document above, the water committee body were constituted mainly by the large landholding farmers and decision making was a top-down process, reviving of such practices under Jalswarajya Project – World Bank, Water and Sanitation project which talks about state retreat from provision of infrastructure and promote the discourse of decentralisation, people’s participation and empowerment and also adhere more closely to the neo-liberal agenda of structural adjustment, minimal taxation and ‘small government’ is a hypothetical situation, reflecting on the social realities related with traditional water management system and the growing capitalistic economy.

11 Jun 2007

Curriculum Vitae

Aditya Bastola
Objective: A challenging position in the development sector which will allow me to grow into a position of broader responsibility by facilitating professional & personal growth.
Age: 30 (28-11-1978)
Marital Status: Unmarried
E- mail:
adityabastola@hotmail.com, adityabastola@gmail.com

Presently pursuing doctoral study from University of Pune
Dec 2006
Women’s Studies Centre.
Title: Review of Jalswarajya Project through Gender and Development Perspective.
(World Bank, Water and Sanitation Project).

Master in Social Work (MSW) 2003-2005
Karve Institute of Social Services (KInSS) affiliated to the University of Pune (India)
Thesis: People’s Participation at Saint Gadge Baba Sanitation Campaign Implemented by Government of Maharashtra 2000-2003
Grade: First class/ with special award for Field work and Thesis
Core subjects: Urban and Rural Community Development, Research Design, Disaster Management, Development Communication, PRA, Project Management

Bachelors in Commerce 1999-2002
Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce (BMCC) affiliated to University of Pune (India)
Bachelor’s Degree
Grade: Higher Second Class
Core Subjects: Advanced Accountancy, Computer Application, Economics, Mercantile and Industrial Law, Business Taxation and Auditing, Costing and Management.

Higher Secondary Education 1999
Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce (BMCC) affiliated to Maharashtra State Board of Higher Secondary Education, Pune
Grade: First Class
Core Subjects: English, French, Economics, Accountancy, Secretarial Practices.

Secondary Education 1997
St. Xavier’s School, Pakyong, Sikkim, affiliated to Indian Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (ICSE), New Delhi.
Grade: Distinction

Other additional courses:
4 credit course on Gender, Development and Globalisation: Jan 2008
Women's Studies Centre,
University of Pune
Grade: A

Right-based Campaigning: November 2005
Developing Strategy, Forging Solidarity
Centre for Communication and Development Studies,
Pune, India
10 Days workshop

Diploma in Windows for Workgroup/MS Excel/MS Word
May-August 1996
St. Xavier’s School, Pakyong, Sikkim, India
Grade : A

English: Fluent
Hindi: Fluent
Nepali: Fluent
Marathi: Good
French: Rudimentary

Includes efficient working on following tools – MS Office, Internet, SPSS, SQL, Java and have an ability to adapt to new environs very quickly.


Karve Institute of Social Services (KInSS)
September 2007 - March 2008
Project Coordinator/Project Support Manager
- Conduct Research, Training to bridge the gap between academics and field practitioners.
- Provided Technical Support to the Field Action Projects of the Institute.
- Implemented an Inclusive Pilot Project for Children’s participation in Local Self Governance (LSG) at three villages of Pune District.
- A successful case study of children involved in decision making at LSG documented.
- Research on Woman and Child development scheme was assessed as an impact study of UNICEF – Micro Planning efforts in Nandurbar District of Maharashtra.
- Prepared project for the Review of Pune City’s 1987 Development Plan and was sanctioned by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).

Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh (CBO)
April 2007 - March 2008
Project Manager
- Monitor and evaluate the project on regular basis.
- Develop innovative methods of working in team and fill the gaps accordingly.
- Maintain quality and quantitative database system about women in sex work.
- Network with various NGOs, Government Officers to advocate the rights of women in sex work.
- Conduct trainings for Peer Educators, staff s on regular basis for Maharashtra State AIDS - Control Society (MSACS) supported Target Intervention Project for prevention of HIV/AIDS.
- Established cooperative movement amongst the women in sex work, including members (men) from mainstream society.
- Literacy unbiased monitoring and evaluation system put in place for the women in sex work.
- Writing Annual Reports to funding agencies and Articles as required for print and electronic media.
Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh (CBO)
August 2006 - March 2007

Project Manager and Documentation Officer
- Mapping of the red light area identifying brothels, young girls to prevent trafficking and HIV/AIDS.
- Strategize rescue operation at the red light area of Pune City.
- Develop alternative strategies for rehabilitation of women and young girls rescued.
- Develop IEC (Information Education & Communication) materials and hold discussions at the community for prevention of trafficking and HIV/AIDS including brothel keepers, pimps etc.
- Drawing participatory vision map of the organisation through its members as guidelines to Saheli’s achievements in 5 years.
- Extensively document the process of rescue and issues of trafficking as Case Studies.
- Writing Annual Report and articles as required by UNDP – TAHA Project (A Pilot Project in India)
Karve Institute of Social Service
Sep 2006
Guest Faculty for MSW students on community participation.

Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASADHA)
May-Nov 2006
Research Consultant
- Documentation of Traditional Water Harvesting Structures in Maharashtra (i.e., Phad System, Roof Top Rain Water Harvesting)
- Documentation of best practices on Water Supply, Sanitation, Health, Education and Community Participation across the villages in Maharashtra.
- Giving inputs for the preparation of Training Manuals to other Government Officers.
- Prepared project, implemented the study, analysed data and comprehensive report submitted on Impact Assessment of Jalswarajya Project in Tribal villages of Maharashtra.

Samabhavana Society
May 2005-April 2006
Project Coordinator
- Conduct Research and prepare Project Proposals according to the need of the funding agencies.
- Establish Self Help Group (savings group) amongst the men having sex with men (MSM), Transsexuals and other Male Sex Workers (MSW)
- Counselling the clients and networking with other organisation for Naturalization of Alternate Sexuality.

Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh
October 2001– March 2003
Development Worker
- Mobilizing the community of women in sex work for prevention of HIV/AIDS.
- Established the first savings group of women in sex work.Support staffs in project management.

Editorial and Publications:
a) Women and Children in Micro Planning: Assurance & the impact of community dialogue on women & children related development schemes in Nandurbar District, MH. India.
b) A case study on Children’s Right to Participation: A tool of sustainable development.
2. Jalswarajya: Empowering People for Participation in Neo-Liberalism – seeking publication
3. Article “Collectivisation of women in sex work”. Published at www.adityabastola.blogspot.com and www.sahelipune.blogspot.com
4. Men who visit Women in Sex Work, Published in Marathi, at Purush Aavaj, Diwali 2007 Issue. Article written with Mr. Nishad Sevekari
5. Article “An Astute of an Invisible” and “We Are People Just Like You: Don’t Blame it on the Sex Workers”, published at www.adityabastola.blogspot.com and www.sahelipune.blogspot.com
6. Article “Models of Development” published at www.adityabastola.blogspot.com
7. A Case Study of Phalkewadi Village, Mahad Taluka, Raigad District, published in Training Manual of Yasadha on Panchayati Raj – in Marathi Language as well at the blog Complete report “Withering of Traditional Water Harvesting Structure: A study on Phad System of Dhule District, Maharashtra” submitted for preparation of Training Manual to YASADHA and article published at www.adityabastola.blogspot.com

Documentary Films:

1. “Asha” for Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh – Fund Rising,
2. Draft work on Phad system for Yasadha.

Other Professional Involvement:
1. Member of the Advisory Board of Life Line Help Group.
2. Advisory Board Member of Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh, Pune.

Recommendation/References: Available on request.

I solemnly declare that the information given above is true to the best of my knowledge.

Aditya Bastola

2 May 2007

People Just Like You....

By Aditya Bastola

Organised efforts towards minimising the commercial sex industry's impact on the spread of HIV/AIDS often incorporate the assumption that it is the behaviour of the sex workers themselves that should be targeted for change. Based on fieldwork conducted in Pune, the second city of India's Maharashtra state, this article considers such an approach to be inadequate, arguing that more attention needs to be focused on the roles particularly of regular clients and of women sex workers' non-paying sexual partners. The practice of unsafe sex within the sex-trade should not be seen solely as a consequence of sex-workers relative ignorance of the dangers, but also in relation to the need to maximise earnings under conditions of exploitation and poverty. Furthermore, the epidemic needs to be addressed in the context of a society that is relatively conservative in its attitudes towards sex and sex education, a situation that fosters widespread lack of awareness of safer practices extending well beyond women in sex-work. The report presented here is resultant of bi-weekly interactions with women sex-workers between July 2003 and April 2005 in Pune's red light district of Budhwar Peth. Information collection was informal in nature and reliant upon the gradual creation of a rapport between the researcher and the women. Although the evidence gathered was thus largely anecdotal in nature, it is contended that (given the subject matter) this approach yields more accurate results than a more formal survey, as the latter method can readily be anticipated as prompting answers based not on real experiences but rather upon what is believed to be sought by the researcher.

Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh (SHAKS) in the only collective of women in Pune to be registered under the Bombay Society's Act. Established by a small group of such women in 1998, the efforts of SHAKS are aimed at protecting members and non-members alike, not only through raising sex-workers own awareness, but also by changing the negative attitudes prevalent in so-called 'mainstream' society. This involves drawing attention to the many problems experienced by sex-workers, as well as mobilising them towards the collective achievement of their fundamental human rights as women. The evolution of SHAKS can be traced to the initiations of HIV prevention/awareness activities under Dr. Ishwar Gilada's leadership of the People's Health Organisation (PHO - formerly the Indian Health Organisation). Thus, following India's first reported HIV diagnosis in 1986, the PHO launched an initiative to reach out to the sex-workers of Budhwar Peth, Pune, recognising that the fight against the epidemic necessitates changes in existing high-risk behaviour patterns. The Times of India estimates that Budhwar Peth contains 6000 sex-workers, a figure which includes 200 minors (1). However my own exhaustive efforts at 'sex-mapping' suggest a somewhat lower figure of 3744 women distributed amongst 394 brothels (with each such establishment thus averaging approximately 10 workers), in addition to approximately 500 street-based workers. In addition to the red-light district trade, the sex-work of women operating from apartments in many locations around the city remains far more hidden and harder to documents.

It was the need to promote sex-worker's active participation in HIV/AIDS prevention/control that directed the PHO's work in Budhwar Peth towards the launch of the first 'peer education model' of community-based organisation in India. The essence of peer education is that the agents through which information and practical support are disseminated are themselves drawn from the community of sex-workers. Making the transition from a scheme sponsored by government to one with more organic roots, it was these peer educators that then went on to become the founder members of SHAKS.

Today SHAKS is funded by the Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), and not only intervenes with sex-workers, but also works with their children, non-paying sexual partners, brothel keepers (gharwalis), with those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as with local residents. In addition, SHAKS lobbies the Government for the provision of basic amenities, civic services and legal rights to be directed towards women in sex work, as well as conducting awareness campaign amongst government officials aimed at informing them of sex-worker's human rights. Another central aspect of the union's work has been its contribution to the provision of free nutritious meals to patients of opportunistic infections to which sex-workers are particularly vulnerable due to their typically low economic profile. Together with MSACS, and Pathfinder (an organisation sponsored by the Bill Gates Foundation), SHAKS is presently reaching out not only to the brothels, but also to non-brothel based women sex-workers including those working outside of Budhwar Peth. Alongside the distribution of free condoms to the women's doorsteps, the outreach activities of SHAKS' peer educators also involve other areas of health assistance and monitoring. Thus, early diagnosis is enabled by providing the women with an escort to government hospitals as required, and behavioural change amongst sex-workers is promoted through daily discussions utilising information, education and communication (IEC) tools, for example flipcharts and role play techniques.

Unsafe sex as a means out of poverty and sex-work.

Given that from the gharwalis' perspective sex-workers represent productive assets, it is unsurprising that they are typically keen to allow SHAKS' peer educators to inform the women with regard to the correct use of condoms. SHAKS thus only rarely encounters resistance in this crucial area of their work, and statistic of monthly free condom usage indicate an increase from 50,000 - 1,00,000 pieces as of 1991 to a current figure of 5,00,000 - 8,00,000. Demand is such that sex-workers frequently come to SHAKS in need of more supplies despite of the peer educators' daily distribution of condoms to each brothel. Other than this, there are women who prefer to use branded condoms with their non-paying sexual partners, believing such usage to increase the latter's pleasure. Thus, evidence suggests a considerable positive impact regarding peer educators' work in creating demand for condom usage so as to slow the epidemic.

Nevertheless, with the continuing spread of HIV/AIDS, it would obviously be premature to announce that the problem has been successfully tackled. One reason for this is that the poverty trap within which many women in sex-work exist serves to increase temptations to accept offers of extra payment for unprotected sex. When a woman is purchased from traffickers to work in a brothel, the price paid effectively becomes her own debt, with earnings shared on a 50/50 basis with the gharwalis. She also has to pay the rent for her lodging and cover her living expenses, as well as support any children and remit money home to her family. Thus, with the rates paid by customers in some cases as low as Rs20, a woman may be effectively trapped both in poverty and the sex-trade for her entire working life. Under such circumstances, agreeing to unsafe sex is not simply a factor of a lack of information or of a disregard for personal well-being. Rather, it may be a survival strategy aimed at maximising income.

Another contributing factor to the relative lack of progress in halting the epidemic's spread is the sexual behaviour not so much of the sex-workers, but of a number of their non-paying sexual partner and regular clients. Many of the latter group are in search of not simply sex, but also seemingly of love and affection, whether due to unmarried status, because they are lonely migrant labourers, or as a response to some family conflict. Such regular clients, together with non-paying sexual partners, often constitute the only men with whom women in sex-work are able to form meaningful relationships, and are frequently viewed as offering a potential route out of poverty and the sex-trade. Sometimes this leads to marriage and the wearing mangalsutra (symbol of marriage), even in the women's knowledge that the man already has a wife elsewhere. Yet, although there are cases in which hopes of a new beginning via these men are fulfilled, all too often the men consider such relationships as a ticket to an easy life sponsored by the women's continued sex-work. In need of both secure emotional bonds and a hope of a brighter future, some of the sex-workers spend a significant proportion of their earnings on these exploitative males, who are also not unknown to steal directly from the women. Thus, rather than an offering a way out of their existing situations, such relations often serve to further entrench women sex-workers into the trade.

Furthermore, regular clients and non-paying lovers commonly insist on unprotected sex, which may be accepted by the women - given their desire to please these men to maintain the possibility of a route out of sex-work. Hence, given that these men are often highly promiscuous, sometimes cultivating the same exploitative relationships with more than one woman in sex-work, the dynamics through which they secure unprotected sex by raising the women's (usually) false hopes may be a major contributor to the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Thus any programme which focuses on changing sex-workers behaviour without also addressing the attitudes and powerful position of regular clients and non-paying lovers would seem to offer only limited potential for success.

Unsafe sex and social attitudes to sex education

A further factor feeding the epidemic, and which is also insufficiently addressed by efforts focused on changing sex-workers' behaviour, is the intense sexual curiosity of male youths promoted by a society within which attitudes towards sex are generally conservative. In such a social climate, where the open and frank discussion of sex frequently remains taboo, one of the few options open to satisfying such young men's desire for sexual experience or observation of the female body is to visit women in sex work. Furthermore, with few school curricula providing information regarding condoms,
knowledge of their correct usage is less than it would otherwise be, contributing to a situation within which almost 6000 new HIV infections occur amongst 15-24 years old each day across the globe (2). Considering this mix of amplified curiosity and relative ignorance, it is of little surprise that experimenting young men are often eager to experience unprotected sex. Whatever a client's age, given the debts within which many sex-workers are trapped, the women may be vulnerable to offers of extra payment for such encounters, regardless of their own personal knowledge of the dangers. This is not to say that sex-workers are necessarily willing to take such risks, or even to accept youngsters as their customers, as the following example (which I myself witnessed) illustrates. Obviously uncomfortable with such scenario, one of the women was seen bundling a rather awkward young lad into an autorickshaw, remarking that there was no way that she was prepared to conduct business with someone younger than her own son. At a general level, the manner in which the women retain their dignity despite their work, and the good humour they express, has left a lasting impression of respect and admiration upon this researcher.

Sex-work, neo-liberalism, migration and trafficking

The sex industry's customer base is cross-class in character, with a high demand arguably facilitated by men's tendency to control household expenditure within all social strata (3). Thus there is a need to avoid stereotyping clients as either migrant labourers or experimenting youths, not least as there also seems to be a burgeoning demand for high-end 'escort' services generated by the growing incomes of the more economically privileged, which in turn can be understood as partly consequent of the widening disparities in wealth distribution produced by the era of neo-liberalism.

In addition to economic reform stimulating demand for paid sex, withdrawal of state interventions has also bolstered the supply of sex-workers. This is resultant of growing rural hardship as well as of a decline in public-sector employment, both of which have contributed to falling livelihood opportunities amongst low-income groups. That migration ultimately leads many women into sex-work may also be related to illusions of a 'good-life' in the city which are planted by the media and other sources, but which all too often turn out to be false notions masking a lack of real opportunity. These 'push' and 'pull' factors not only spur increases in the unforced migration of women, but also fuel a situation within which the rural poor in certain areas have become particularly vulnerable of the false promises, not to mention the outright abductions, perpetrated by the human traffickers. Whatever the processes through which migrant women come to be involved Pune's sex industry, that there than typically follows an 'internal migration' to Budhwar Peth is a response, either by themselves or by their brothel keepers, to locate in an environment which provides a degree of protection both from prosecution and from police harassment (4).

In summary, it is both erroneous and insensitive to blame women in sex work for the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. The epidemic must be seen in terms of the wider implications of the society for which they all too often serve as scapegoats. Traditional patriarchal values, combined with more recent neo-liberal initiatives, keep such women vulnerable to exploitation related to their subordinate socio-economic status. Whilst the sex-workers are stigmatised and often seen as the epicentre of the epidemic, their male clients somehow seem to manage to escape similar criticism, even though it is their desires (together with women's poverty) which fuel the sex industry. Combined with archaic attitudes to sex and sex-education, society is ill equipped either to understand the compulsions that drive the business or to change the dynamics, which lead the women to be so grossly exploited. There is a saying amongst women in sex-work that neatly illustrates the necessary change in social attitudes without which efforts to halt the epidemic seem destined to fail - "we are the whores of the society. For which we are stigmatised, marginalised, ostracised, despised, disenfranchised, dehumanised, discredited, disinherited, disowned, studied, blamed, raped, imprisoned, rendered invisible - but we won't go away. And now you must deal with us as artist. For we are also creative, artistic, poetic, sensual, erotic, multi - talented, diverse, interesting, thespians, comedic, playful, fantasy, weavers, sagacious, loving, giving, nurturing, empathetic, compassionate, patient, tender and strong. We are people, just like you…" (5).

1. Times of India, 22nd October 2003.
2. Young People Speaking Out - Meeting out rights to HIV prevention and Care: Access for all, UNICEF, 2004.
3. Johnson, R. Men in the Informal Sector: Studies of Rickshaw Driving and Lottery Vending. Unpublished dissertation, Institute of Development Studies, University of Mysore, 2005. (Johnson argues that this control is reflected not only in high demand for sexual services, but also for other male oriented recreation including the lottery industry).
4. Tejaswi Sevekari, Times of India, 5th March 2004.
5. Action Aid Communication on SHAKS' notice board (Action Aid formerly operated in Budhwar Peth).

(Any further details please contact: adityabastola@hotmail.com)