An unusual lawsuit is making headlines in India.
A couple is suing their only son and his wife for not giving them a grandchild after six years of marriage.
Sanjeev and Sadhana Prasad, 61 and 57, say they used up their savings raising their son, paying for his pilot’s training, a lavish wedding and his honeymoon.
And now, they say, it’s payback time – either the son and daughter-in-law give them a grandchild within a year or reimburse 50m rupees ($650,000; £525,000).
Although the younger couple have not yet commented, a detailed reading of the court petition shows that relations between the Prasads and their son’s family are strained.
Talking to BBC Hindi, Sadhana Prasad said her son and daughter-in-law’s refusal to have children had opened them to “taunts from society” and described it as “mental cruelty”.
“We had no option but to go to the court. We have been trying to talk to them but whenever we raise the issue of grandchildren, they become evasive. Their decision not to procreate would mean the end of our family name,” she said.
“We are very unhappy,” her husband Sanjeev added. “We are retired. We want to be grandparents. We are even willing to look after their children. Grandchildren bring joy into people’s lives, but we are being deprived of it.”
The case of disappointed parents taking their children to court for not giving them grandchildren is perhaps a first in the country but, as many would say, having a child in India is almost never just a couple’s decision.
Everyone – from parents and parents-in-law to near and distant relatives and the wider society – has a say in the matter and in most cases, families begin nudging couples towards starting a family even before the bride’s henna has faded.
“In India, marriages are between families and not just a couple,” explains social anthropologist Prof AR Vasavi.
The “cultural logic” in what the Prasads are doing is that “expecting grandchildren is a norm”.
“They feel they have the right to a grandchild because in our society marriage is seen as an institution that sanctifies procreation and once married you are expected to reproduce for the family, the caste and the community.
“They are also using the economic rationale that since I’ve spent money on your education and upbringing so now you have to fulfil my cultural rights whether you like it or not.”
This expectation of parents that it’s the duty of their children to provide them with grandchildren cuts across caste, class and religious differences and transcends the urban-rural divide.
Journalist Ritu Agarwal points out that in 2019, India’s richest man – billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani – made headlines when he dropped “broad hints” to his new daughter-in-law Shloka that it was time to produce an heir.
“I’m sure that by the time I wish you next year, not only will I be a grandfather, but you’ll be a mother,” he said in a fairy tale-themed video the family released on the occasion of her birthday.
Less than 18 months later, Ms Agarwal says, Shloka had delivered a baby boy.
In India, the Supreme Court has recognised it as “the moral duty and legal obligation” of a son to take care of his parents in old age, but campaigners say that the decision to have a baby or not is essentially a woman’s.
But many married women say this pressure to procreate from family and society – even when “subtle” – puts unnecessary stress on them.
Sudha (name changed), a 46-year-old business analyst in the southern city of Bangalore, told the BBC that when her parents arranged her marriage, she was 21 and had just graduated.
“At festivals, my in-laws’ relatives would ask me, ‘When are you giving us the good news?’ I was very young and didn’t know what to say. But it was very intimidating and every time they would raise it, I would get very anxious,” she says.
That was 25 years ago and, she says, most women went along with their family’s expectations and had a baby in the first or second year of marriage.
“But what I see is that even today, most women, especially in small towns and rural India, do not question it and go along with the demand to have a child quickly.”
The lawsuit, she says, is “shocking”, but the subtle pressure to deliver a baby continues.
Like for her cousin Srishti (name changed to protect her identity), a 28-year-old software engineer, who told me that in the 17 months of her marriage, family elders have already suggested “seven-eight” times that “it’s time for me to have a baby”.
The first time her parents-in-law broached the subject was just six months into her marriage. But she and her 30-year-old IT professional husband, who had an arranged marriage, don’t want a child “any time soon”.
“We want to get to know each other better, deepen our bond and also focus on our careers at the moment,” she said. “Having a baby is a long-term project. And I feel that a couple should not have a baby unless they are mentally and emotionally ready and confident to give the baby the attention and care they need.”
She says the first couple of times “we were asked about having children, we explained why we didn’t want to rush things”, but the topic keeps coming up.
“They say ‘Oh, so and so had a baby. Or this girl and that girl who just got married has also had a baby. It does feel like pressure when they raise it over and over again. But I just nod and ignore,” she said.
WHO chief Tedros reappointed to second five-year term – India Today
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was reappointed to a second five-year term on Tuesday by the UN health agency’s member countries.
No other candidate challenged Tedros for the post amid the ongoing difficulties of responding to the devastating coronavirus pandemic.
“This is overwhelming,” Tedros said, after another World Health Organisation official asked everyone in the room to stand and applaud him.
Fighting back tears, Tedros described himself as “a child of war” after signing the contract for his extension. He said that after witnessing his younger brother’s death at an early age, it was “luck (that) brought me all the way here.”
Tedros, a former government minister from Ethiopia, has directed WHO throughout its management of the global response to COVID-19 and withstood occasionally withering criticism over its multiple missteps.
He is the first African to lead the agency and the only director-general not qualified as a medical doctor.
He is also the first WHO leader not to be supported by their home country; Ethiopia has previously accused Tedros of “ misconduct ” after his sharp criticism of the war and humanitarian crisis there and raised concerns about his leadership on Tuesday.
Under Tedros, the U.N. health agency failed to call out countries including China for blunders that WHO officials grumbled about privately, advised against mask-wearing for months, and said initially that the coronavirus wasn’t likely to mutate rapidly.
Scientists drafted by WHO to investigate the coronavirus’ origins in China said the critical probe was “ stalled ” last year, after issuing a report that even Tedros acknowledged had prematurely ruled out the possibility of a laboratory leak.
“There have been some mishaps, but Tedros has also been a steady voice throughout the pandemic, advocating for an equitable response,” said Javier Guzman, director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development in Washington.
He said despite reservations about Tedros’ leadership, some countries weren’t willing to push for change.
“We are in the middle of the pandemic and there is some pressure for consistent leadership to take us through this difficult moment,” Guzman said.
Tedros has frequently railed against rich countries for hoarding the world’s limited supply of vaccines and insisted that pharmaceuticals aren’t doing enough to make their medicines available to the poor.
Amid the near-universal focus on Ukraine after the Russian invasion, Tedros slammed the global community for not doing enough to solve crises elsewhere, including Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan, arguing that it was possibly because those suffering weren’t white.
Still, critics say Tedros has failed on some fundamental issues, like holding staff accountable after allegations that dozens of outbreak workers managed by WHO sexually abused young women in Congo during an Ebola outbreak that began in 2018, in one of the biggest sex scandals in UN history.
None of the senior WHO managers alerted to the abuse allegations and who did little to stop the exploitation, have been fired.
In January, The Associated Press reported that staffers in WHO’s Western Pacific office filed an internal complaint accusing regional director Dr. Takeshi Kasai of abusive, racist and other misconduct, undermining efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19. In response, Tedros said an investigation into the allegations had been launched and promised to act “with urgency.”
But last week, several WHO staffers wrote to the agency’s Executive Board complaining that Kasai “has been able to continue his unethical, abusive and racist conduct without any form of restriction.” In an email to staff, Kasai disputed the charges.
Public health expert Guzman said the apparent culture of impunity at WHO was problematic.
“We do need to see a stronger (WHO) director-general going forward, where misconduct is not tolerated,” he said, calling for extensive reforms to make the agency accountable.
As Tedros begins his second term, some experts have also raised concerns that WHO isn’t fulfilling its primary role as a technical agency providing science-based guidance to countries.
Dr. David Tomlinson, a cardiologist who has campaigned for better protective equipment for health workers in Britain’s health system, says he has been appalled by WHO advice, most notably their reluctance to acknowledge that COVID-19 is widely spread in the air.
In July 2020, more than 230 scientists published a paper appealing to WHO to recognise the coronavirus was airborne; that later prompted the organisation to alter some of its recommendations.
Tomlinson and others say Tedros should ensure WHO’s top priority during future health emergencies is evaluating the science.
“They have perpetuated untruths that have ultimately led to the deaths of millions of people,” he said, citing the estimated 15 million people who have died during the pandemic.
“We need an agency that’s unafraid to tell the truth, but that’s unfortunately not what we have.”
Russia's war in Ukraine: Live Updates – CNN
The head of the UN World Food Programme called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to reopen ports in Ukraine to prevent children around the world from starving.
Speaking to CNN’s Julia Chatterley at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, David Beasley called on the Russian leader to “have a heart.”
The growing food crisis has been a major issue at the forum, with Beasley being one of the leading voices calling for action. He warned that the Ukraine war has meant that “the breadbasket of the world was becoming the bread line of the world.”
Some background: Before the war, wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine accounted for almost 30% of global trade, and Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department.
Beasley said that 325 million people around the world are facing starvation, with 49 million people in 43 countries now “knocking on famine’s door.”
“The world is facing a food security crisis. It is immediate and long term. If we are struggling now to feed 7.7 billion, what is going to happen when we have 10, 12, 13 billion? That is on top of climate impact. It’s going to be resonating around the world,” he added.
He also said that renewed focus on the food crisis was a good thing, with world leaders recognizing the size of the problem, with solutions to solve issues.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier today accused Putin of “weaponizing” food supplies in his invasion of Ukraine. The Russian army is confiscating grain suppliers and machinery in areas of Ukraine and blocking exports from ports in the Black Sea, von der Leyen said.
Ukraine should give up territory to reach peace deal with Russia, says former US secretary of state – India Today
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has said it would be ‘fatal’ for the West to get swept up in the ‘mood of the moment’ and forget Russia’s position of power within Europe and suggested Ukraine should give up territory, reported Daily Mail.
Kissinger, 98, was speaking during the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.
Kissinger said Ukraine should begin negotiations before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easy to overcome.
“Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante. Pursuing the war beyond that point will not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself,” he told the conference on Monday.
These statements come after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s opening speech at this week’s Davos summit.
Zelensky had said that brute force will once again rule the world if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is allowed to go unanswered.
He told delegates that their summit would become pointless if Putin was allowed to win the war.
According to The Telegraph, he explained that Russia was an ‘essential part of Europe’ for over 400 years, noting that European leaders must ‘not lose sight of the longer-term relationship’ or otherwise risk putting Russia in a permanent alliance with China.
He also said, “I hope the Ukrainians will match the heroism they have shown with wisdom.”
Zelensky’s speech came at the start of the four days of talks during which Ukraine is expected to launch a global charm offensive to secure economic and military backing to ensure survival.
This year, Russia will take part in the Davos meeting as the organisers had banned Moscow from sending a delegation.
“The theme for this year’s summit is, ‘history at a turning point’,” Zelensky told a packed auditorium on Monday morning.
“This year, the words, turning, and point, are more than a rhetorical talking point. This year is the year when it is decided whether brute force will rule the world,” he said.
“If so, the powerful are not interested in our thoughts and there is no further use for meeting in Davos,” he said.
Zelensky said, “The Brute force seeks nothing but the subjugation of those who it seeks to subdue and it does not talk, it kills, as Russia does in Ukraine, just as we speak today.”
Recalling the horrors of Russia’s invasion, Zelensky said, “Instead of peaceful cities there are only black ruins, instead of normal trade, seas full of mines and blocked ports, instead of tourists, closed skies and the sound of Russian bombs and cruise missiles.”
“This is what the world will look like if that turning moment does not have a proper response from humanity, it would resemble a large set of war crimes,” he said.
WHO chief Tedros reappointed to second five-year term – India Today
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