Fighting early marriage, a 'happiness junction' and more

The Netherlands has a population of 17 million people but only 11,600 of them are in jail-a tiny proportion compared with most other countries. Prison numbers have been falling since 2004 and, as a result, the country's prisons have been closing: eight in 2009, another 19 in 2014, and now another five are set to follow.

Updated: Oct 10, 2018 18:41:39 IST
2018-10-10T18:41:39+05:30
Fighting early marriage, a 'happiness junction' and more

A helping hand

GIVING

India may not have made  it to the top 10 of the World Giving Index, but looks like we are gradually becoming more charitable and generous. In 2014, we were 106 on the list, but have jumped up to 91  in the recent 2015 ranking.

According to the UK-based Charities Aid Foundation that commissioned the study, our country has the largest number of people helping strangers (40 crore) and volunteering their time for social causes (20 crore). Hopefully in time we'll take Myanmar's spot as the most giving country in the world.

 

Next stop: happiness!

WELLNESS

Travellers at the Sonpur railway junction in Bihar's Saran district are in for a pleasant surprise. In a bid to boost wellness amongst passengers, the station authorities have introduced India's first ever 'happiness junction'. It has a kid's zone, as well as facilities for books  and journals. There will even be a 'goodwill' wall that encourages people to donate. Sonpur is best known for Asia's biggest cattle fair, also known  as the Harihar Kshetra Mela.

 

Parched no more

ENVIRONMENT

The Pani Panchayat (water council) at the remote and drought-prone Kumbharwalan village in Maharashtra's Pune district started an initiative four years ago that has finally shown results. Between March and April last year, the water in the wells in the area have risen, and so have the water tables. It all began after the residents built continuous contoured trenches to slow down and halt the flow of rainwater rushing down the hillside. It's an initiative that can, the villagers believe, be replicated easily.

 

Superhero on wheels

HEALTH

This new initiative has the potential to save lives in the furthest regions of our country. NGO Saathi Samaj Sevi Sanstha, UNICEF and the Chhattisgarh Health Department have joined forces to introduce a motorbike-ambulance service to remote areas of the state. The modified motorbike comes with a side carriage for patients, a majority of whom are pregnant women. Ever since the initiative started in 2015, 300 lives have been saved, of which 80 per cent were pregnant women.

 

Dutch prisons are closing

CRIME

The Netherlands has a population of 17 million people but only 11,600 of them are in jail-a tiny proportion compared with most other countries. Prison numbers have been falling since 2004 and, as a result, the country's prisons have been closing: eight in 2009, another 19 in 2014, and now another five are set to follow.

According to Ard van der Steur, Dutch minister of security and justice, the reasons behind the phenomenon are twofold: shorter sentences and a decline in serious crimes.

But what to do with the empty prisons? The Netherlands has begun "leasing" them as prisons to other countries, such as Belgium and Norway. One former prison in the Dutch town of Roermond has even been turned into a hotel.

 

Heroes

Fighting early marriage

When 11-year-old Syrian girl Omaima arrived in Jordan's sprawling Za'atari refugee camp in 2012, she began to find that new friends of her own age were disappearing- to arranged marriages.

Although the practice is  not common in Syria, it has become more widespread in  the camps as some families  seek to ease their financial responsibilities by marrying  off their daughters.

Omaima now does all  she can to stop the same  fate befalling other girls, encouraging classmates to share information on the practice with their parents and working as a volunteer with  a child protection group.  She says she hopes to get married herself one day. "But only on my terms, after I've finished my education and been to university."

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