Ban on women drivers lifted
Some big steps in the right direction for women's rights, the environment and social harmony
Free to drive
Starting next June, Saudi women like Ashwaq al-Shamr -- who took the wheel after her bus driver suffered a heart-attack -- can drive without fear of arrest, courtesy a royal decree. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud's announcement that woman can, from 2018, start applying for driving licences, is being seen as a way to improve Saudi Arabia's image in the world. Over the years, many women activists have protested this ban limiting Saudi women's freedom, and have faced jail term, been fired from work and routinely shamed on media and social media platforms.
For the first time in its history, Kerala's Travancore Deva-swom Board has shortlisted 36 "non-Brahmins", including six Dalits, for the posts of priests. They will now be appointed to temples under the board. The shortlist was made following government reservation norms with a total of 32 per cent for SC/ST and OBC categories. They were chosen after a series of tests and an interview. Board chairperson Rajagopalan Nair said: "Earlier we had some priests from backward communities who made it to the list through merit. The Travancore Devaswom Board came into existence in 1949 and the demand for reservation for Dalits in appointments of priests has been persisting for several decades. But now we have made it a reality." This significant move shows that in the end, it's work not birth that matters.
A sigh of relief
The Supreme Court, in a welcome move, banned the sale of fireworks in Delhi NCR, ahead of Diwali. This ban stays in effect until the first week of November. A Supreme Court bench presided by Justice A. K. Sikri passed the order after a plea was filed by three children who petitioned for a ban because of the risks of respiratory ailments. The court has also suspended any temporary licences for the sale of firecrackers that the police may have issued. It noted the deterioration in air quality immediately after the festival in 2016. From all accounts, there seems to have been a marginal improvement in air quality this year, despite reports of people bursting crackers. However, there is a need to further evaluate the ban's impact. Sale of firecrackers and the "graded approach" for monitoring from the previous (12 September) order will be implemented from 1 November.
Heroes: Good Sole
The Bengaluru-based founder of Safe Karnataka, Joyappa Achaiah and his group of volunteers, are making 'barefoot' strides towards providing footwear for the underprivileged in their city. Achaiah says the idea for the Barefoot India Campaign came about after interacting with people living in villages and slums in and around his city, who talked about the lack of footwear and related health implications. These could include worm infestations and infections. The campaign came into being in January 2017 and included the 100-day No Footwear Challenge (between May to August) to create awareness of the risks of walking barefoot. The campaign conducts shoe collection drives and has helped around 10,000 people in Karnataka so far. They also held a barefoot marathon and walkathon on 8 August. Achaiah and his team are now working with Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka state governments to spread their initiative.
Sources: Gender: bbc.com, 27 September 2017. Equality: outlookindia.com, 6 October 2017. Environment: livelaw.in, 6 October 2017; NDTV.com, 20 October 2017. Heroes: thehindu.com, 3 September 2017.