Thursday, April 19, 2012

MONTH-IN-PERSPECTIVE

EDITOR'S COLUMN

Friends
Yes, we are into the new financial year 2012/13. With the month of April, also start All Fools Day. So when Union finance Minister presented his budget for 2012/13, there were expectation of myriad kinds from different sections of society. Has he lived up to their multiple expectations or let them down, depends upon – how do you look at it!
Reactions as usual are mixed. Some called it damp squib while others complimented ‘best of the bad situation’. The Railway budget presented 2 days earlier led to a completely avoidable drama with the party politics of a petty kind hogging the media glare. Yes it takes all sorts to make the public life, from sublime to ridiculous.
Looking in perspective over the month that passed by, as usual, India is alive and kicking, of course in some cases, in wrong places. Media generally had a field day hyping some and ignoring some others, depending on its own perceptions. In M-In-P we have taken up some of them for its larger relevance.
International Women’s Day came and passed by. Speeches, processions, and talks were organised to bring home the message on the state of women the world over with emphasis on India. Of course, as in most cases, there have been progress in women’s empowerment, but still a great deal needs to be done. A fact, all recognise but not all do, what could be done. Of course job for the media is cut out. But media do not do enough to keep the issue in public domain to keep it alive, to be made more aware of what needs to be done. We have tried to present it differently by publishing images more than writing. Hope, readers will find it worth their time. Do revert with your response.

TAMIL NADU: Month began with the "CBI filing cases against NGO’s" in Tamil Nadu, over their alleged role in the anti-Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project. Earlier Union Ministry for Home Affairs had referred the issue of ‘inspired agitation’ in and around the project site, where the Nuclear Power Plant is almost ready to go critical. While it is true that the ruling combine at the Centre is very keen to get the plant started so is the Tamil Nadu partner, the DMK, in the UPA combine, even the government in Chennai has been politicking by keeping quite at the agitationists, although never opposed the plant to support the agitating groups. And comes the news ‘Jayalalitha shows green flag for KKNPP’. Thus despite all three, UPA at centre and its partner in Chennai, besides the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu supporting the KKNPP, the opposition by locals allegedly funded by some NGOs getting foreign funding were the real trouble makers.
All news savvy Indians are aware that TN government and its people agitated for the continuation of Mullaperiyar dam, despite the fear expressed by Kerala government and its people around the dam about the possible seismological unsafety of the dam. Similarly these Tamil Nadu agitating crowd need to be told that despite the alleged unsafety the KKNPP, which all concerned scientists have assured it to be nil or very minimal, the project is of national importance and of immense use to all. If this realisation comes, then hopefully every where opposition to development is likely to fade away. Hope it happens.
KARNATAKA: Was it free for all! The war of words culminating on to warpath and then degenerating into mayhem. Was it the curiosity that killed the cat for journos? Yes, former minister, mining scam tainted mine lord Janardhan Reddy, is a 'big news' wherever he goes. This time he was at City Civil Court complex in Bangalore, at the behest of CBI, and the battery of journos had descended there to have a first hand shot at the BREAKING NEWS, instead what followed was "ALL HELL BROKE", right inside the court complex. A heated argument between lawyers and journos following denial of entry of media into the court premises, by the police, led to physical fight between lawyers and media men, with lawyers hitting journalists with big sized stone which caused completely avoidable injuries. At this point police were, reportedly inactive, but condoned off the place. But a big sized stone missile hurled from within the court premises, late in the afternoon hit a policeman who collapsed, had to be rushed to the hospital. The police, hither to sitting, charged into the court premises and went berserk.
The so-called 'three estates of democracy' were at war with each other, trying to prove, one-up. But sadly all of them proved to be of poor mental make up to stop a hugely avoidable mishap. But this is Yeh Mera India!
The squashing of the FIR against BS Yeddyurappa by the Karnataka High Court is one of those judicial interventions, Karnataka could have lived without. The observation by the KHC that "He (BSY) was condemned without being heard" is certainly debatable, especially when a retired Supreme Court Justice was the author of the report which indicted BSY. By hindsight, same accusation can be hurled back at KHC, since they didn’t ask Justice Santosh Hegde (JSH), former Lokayukta who signed the report, whether JSH can justify his action in not calling BSY to explain himself.
Subsequent development led to series of unpleasant political developments which again is not in the interest of better and cleaner politics. There was noises in public domain expressing unhappiness at the judgement. In fact one went even bit ballistic, calling the judgement "bad in law".
But what the people in general are yet to come to terms with the facts of the case that the trust owned by BSY family received some Rs. 20+30 crores as donations and undeserved compensation for the land which prima facie could be linked to BSY’s decisions to favour the giver of the donation. When wrong committed is still in the open, can the accused be given the benefit unilaterally, for being ‘condemned unheard’? is a question begging for answer.
Mr. Vijay Mallya, scion of Vithal Mallya empire, King of Good Times, is having rather not so good time these days. For quite some time, Mallya’s dream child King Fisher Airlines was intermittently getting into air pockets. This time round, it was particularly bad weather. His international pilots couldn’t save him – and by extension his air lines – without jettisoning a part of the baggage he had uneconomically acquired and retained. He just announced a massive cut in its operations to remain afloat.
The U.B., group, where U.B., which is the acronym for United Breweries, is the flagship company, is into many unrelated activities. The primary activity of UB group, as the name suggests, is making and selling brews – wine, beer, whisky etc –. And they have been doing well there. But the restless playboy that Vijay Mallya is, he wanted to play with the excess money breweries were making. So decides to own flying machines for self and commerce.
Principle of any business is your own in-house strength in managing its nitti gritties. Look at the way Capt. Gopinath, of Air Deccan sold his entire enterprise to Vijay Mallya for Rs. 400 crores and laughed his way to Bank. Capt. Gopinath is a pilot and knew his strength and weaknesses. May be he realised early to get off the passenger airline segment and made his deft move. Inexperienced Mallya got caught. Under the circumstances, it is best that Mallya sells the Kingfisher to those who can manage it well. Surely, if his ego allows him, he will find some buyers. After all he is the only one who faces maximum problem for his KFA. Hope he learns to come terms with ground realities for the sake of his huge staff and those banks who have funded him.
WEST BENGAL: Dinesh Trivedi the Union Railway Minister presented his maiden Railway budget for 2012/13, and he gets his sack order from his political boss, from far away Kolkatta. Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, also the Chief of Trinamool Congress, faxed her instruction to the Prime Minister to ‘sack Dinesh Trivedi’. The reason, he increased railway fares without her sanction, or that of any of her party leaders. While asking for the removal of Railway Minister, she also demanded the reversal of increase in railway fares. How this Trinamool Congress Party should work is entirely a business of the party. But to instruct a Union Cabinet Minister-just because he is your party member-to what to do and what not to do and react publicly to an alleged wrong doing smacks of dictatorial attitude of the leader. It has clearly exposed her political immaturity. Mamata is an honest person but likes the trappings of power. She asks power for people, but she herself is undemocratic and dictatorial. Her complaint is, raising rail fare is hurting common man. But railways have not increased fare for the last 10 years. Cost escalation and expenditure on better infrastructure is an ongoing and continuous process, hence fare raise is an essential concomitant and has got to happen. Opposing for the sake of opposing is to take the populism to ridiculous levels. And the tweet by the Quiz Master Derek O’Brien that "effecting raise in fare in upper class fare OK but all? Sorry cannot agree" shows, that neither he nor his boss understand sensible economics. May be he should go back to his quiz shows and ask this question on arithmetic. As for Mamata, she may be slowly losing her goodwill by her acerbic and eccentric behaviour. It will not be surprising if she goes the way Mayawati has gone. Of course the saving grace is, unlike Maya-Mamata Banerjee is not corrupt. Here she needs to understand that UPA government may be driven to go to SP for support, in case UPA is tired of her tantrums. Certainly TMC is a better choice than the SP with its rogue elements. But if Mamata continues to behave the way she is behaving, for survival UPA has to go to SP or BSP or both. Besides, it is reliably understood that most party men and opinion makers in the party fold are increasingly feeling upset with the temparamental tantrums of Mamata. Reportedly Amit Mitra, the high profile former FICCI chief and Mamata’s Finance Minister is frustrated and contemplating shifting back to Delhi. These could be writings on the wall, which Mamata should read or else it could be repetition of another Maya.
KERALA: There was this Kozhikode datelined report "Pressure mounting on Israeli author to leave country". Susan Nathan, probably a PIO (Person of Indian Origin), with an Israeli passport, reportedly in alleged ‘house arrest’ prior to being deported for overstaying in India. Her visa reportedly expired on 16/09/2010 and she has made application for extension and has requested Union Home Ministry (MHA) to convert the visa as ‘Medical Visa’. MHA in turn has apparently recommended extension of visa as per medical advice. However, the lawyer representing Ms. Nathan has alleged that his client is in dark about this MHA recommendation, thereby casting aspersion on the police, which is-by extension-a part of MHA.
There appears to be certain misunderstanding over the Malayalam translation of Ms. Nathan’s book "Other side of Israel", which is currently in circulation in Kerala.
The report, as usual, is incomplete. It suggests harassment by Police in Kerala but ‘why?’, the report is silent. Has the book caused any avoidable disquiet in the community around Kozhikode? The report is silent. Who are the people, ostensibly pressuring police to force Ms. Nathan to leave? What are the antecedents and other nationality details of Ms. Nathan? The report is silent. Why media is leaving too many crucial Qs unanswered in their eagerness to make a story? Of course we have E. Ahmed of Kerala Muslim League in the MEA, who was-long ago-involved in getting Arabs into Kerala without visa.
MAHARASHTRA: There was this Thane date lined news item "Tribals help CPI win 29 seats across six districts". It was indeed heart warming to know that people's movement doesn’t die, at least in the present socio-economic scenario. Despite big and dirty money playing its inevitable role in the socio-economic destabilsation of the society, it is indeed very creditable that CPI (Communist Party of India) has managed to win 29 seats in different parts of western Maharashtra, like Thane, Dahanu, Nashik and others. These wins were mainly in tribal areas where CPI(M) is very active in people centred socio/political activity. These victories are not new, but it has been so, for over 15 years. In fact it was in 1962 that CPI (M) won its first Panchayat Samiti election in this area. So it is indeed possible to influence and win elections without this dirty money, by service and reach out alone. Long live people's movement.
Rise and Rise and Rise and then a sudden fall with a thud, is the story of a class IV employee of government of Maharashtra becoming the president of Mumbai City Congress Committee, and making hundreds of crores in the process. The news that Mumbai High Court has directed the city police to file an FIR against Kripashankar Singh who is also an MLA, besides the city Congress Party boss, need not surprise those who are alive to the happening around them. Politicians with power, making money, left-right and centre, is a well known fact. But the authorities, who need to be alive to this blatant misuse of position to enrich themselves, at the cost of public and the nation, are cousins of legendary Kumbhakarna, suffering from long spell of sleeping. Only when judiciary raps them on their knuckles they, kind of, get ruffled out of their slumber.
It was one Sanjay Tiwari, who filed a PIL in the High Court against Kripashankar and his son. The court in turn asked the police to act.
A Mumbai datelined report informed "Ex-Mumbai Top Cop Hassan Gafoor dies". There is nothing special in the news. All have to die some day. Of course, poor fellow died rather early at 61. But then it need not be unusual, some die late some die early, and surely humans do not have much role in its timing – Good health or no good health.
But the report, while detailing about some of his controversial decisions and actions, concluded, "In a deviation from tradition, he neither got a customary farewell dinner nor parade".
If the report says so, in the main stream print media, it must be true. But, was it right? NO, in capital letters. It exposed the unprofessional attitude and pettiness of the police top brass in Mumbai. There could be any number of controversies, but a farewell dinner and parade to a very senior policeman, when he retires is an absolute must. All controversies have two sides or may be even three sides, as some cynics say, when both could be wrong. And such denials become major talking points especially in India, who officially swears by secularism and yet practice its own kind of discrete apartheid. This has happened in a state ruled by the ‘champions of secularism’, the Congress and NCP. What if Mumbai had a saffron government, media would have gone-hammer and tong-vilifying the SS/BJP combine. As usual in India’s political life honesty is always at a discount. Yeh Mera India.
UTTAR PRADESH: Like Mayawathi’s solo performance 5 years ago, it was Akhilesh Yadav all the way. In an unprecedented come back Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh romped home with 224 seats in the house of 403 seats. It was even better than 206 of BSP in 2007. This victory is incredibly fantastic. While all predicted a better showing by SP, nobody wagered a battering for BSP. It was a free fall from 206 to 79. Mayawathi with her maiden absolute majority in 2007 had a golden opportunity to build the party, if she had shown even 50% of her rhetoric into sincere actions on the ground, she would have repeated her last performance 5 years ago. She comprehensively messed it up with her megalomaniac approach to politics and development. In the event, people emerging as the real power centre, gave Mayawathi a deafening marching order, that BSP will never stage a comeback if Akhilesh Yadav does read the writings on the wall for all politicians across the country. The message of the UP election is simple and very striking. Perform or perish. Yes the electorates in UP, has given unforgettable lessons to all. Nobody should take them for granted. People, the electorates, have options. So Mr Akhilesh Yadav, the Engineer turned politician, you better be careful. The people of UP has given you unprecedented opportunity for you, and mind you, not your father, so not only you should perform, you must also keep your promise of cleansing the socio/political scene of UP of its rogue elements.
But your very first move of appointing 6 older politicians as ministers, who have serious criminal charges have sent unmistakably wrong signal. It could be compulsions of party politics, but you must ensure that these elements play the ball by the rule. Or else Mayawathi can still stage a comeback next time round, since despite the huge difference of 145 seats-that is 65%-when the difference in vote share is only 2.5%. So truly speaking, you are on notice as you begin. So watch your every move, you are being watched, doesn't matter the Mulla/Mulayam combine.
The report that there was a minor riot in Basti jail near Lucknow just before your swearing in, which left 1 prisoner dead and 12 injured, is a bad beginning.
RAJASTHAN: The news from Sanchor in Jalore district of Rajasthan is that Narmada river from far away Chhattisgarh has reached the barren districts of Thar Desert in Rajasthan, is certainly music to all those who like to see a developed India. And come to think of it, that Rajasthan is not even a riparian state, unlike Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, with over 3/4th of the river falling in M.P. Traversing around 460 kms from the Sardar Sarovar dam site, the facility of irrigation and drinking water was extended in a spirit of co-operative co-existence. The 56km canal from the border of Gujarat that was commissioned in 2008, has dramatically changed the whole topography of these 233 villages, which are irrigated and 1336 villages getting drinking water. The report informs that the price of farm land in Jalore has soared from Rs.5000/- to Rs. 2.5 lakh per bhiga, that’s an increase of 50 fold. Surely all along where Narmada has flowed and canalised, such development has taken place. In a place where people used to walk for 8 kms to get water, are now growing in their backyard, cumin, castor seeds, wheat, pearl millets, isabgol and even pomegranates, informs the report. It is a huge development story.
Looking back over the saga of Narmada dam construction of over a decade costing thousands of crores, the present report is indeed heartening. It was worth it after all.
GUJARAT: The writings on the 10th anniversary of Gujarat carnage of 2002 have again came back to haunt the psyche of average Guajarati so also Indians at large. There have been pointed articles in the print media, especially, when writers tried to dwell on the issue, to tell the readers, how all perpetrators have still not been made accountable. While only some were punished, how the state leadership has largely remained unscathed. Of course there is no denial of the truth that there has been large scale violence, and may be state government failed in its duty and a section of people suffered immensely. There can be no justicification for the hugeness of the reaction to what happened earlier at Godhra. If Godhra was bad, Ahmadabad was worst. Every action has to have its reaction, not necessarily equal. In this case it was very badly unequal. As homosapiens, we are all privy to the human history, that man has been cruel, and different people suffered differently at different places and at different times. If all incidents and accidents are to be remembered in every detail to keep a terrible event live, then, there will never be any human interaction or human co-operation for a co-operative co-existence anywhere in the world. Human pettiness have always caused the rupture, but the largeness of humanity has always overcome the pain of the wound to live another day, more meaningful and purposeful for the betterment of a larger society. Surely we shall all overcome likes of Gujarat, someday, despite the consistent failure of all governments and redressal agencies everywhere to give justice to those who suffered. Hence, attempts to keep the divide alive and widening has to be consciously avoided.
DELHI: The report from New Delhi on the Wikileak exposure of Dow Chemicals spying on Bhopal activists should surprise no one. Of course, this exposure only reinstate and reiterate the oft repeated charge that the culpability of Union Carbide, in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy is still alive and kicking. A fact that can never be brushed aside. Of course those 20,000+ who died cannot be brought back and half million or so, who suffered and continue to suffer the horrendous aftermath of the world’s greatest industrial tragedy, their pain cannot be mitigated. But there are ways to address the redressal, however incomparable to the tragedy, is to reach out in whatever form that is humanely possible. One such is an adequate compensation which all those responsible for the redressal have failed so far. Beginning from Indian authorities, to Indian courts to all the U.S. agencies and of course the Union Carbide (UC), and by extention the current brand owners of UC, the Dow Chemicals, every body evaded their responsibility one way or the other, and suffering by those effected and living in Bhopal continues. The question is, will the cancellation of Dow sponsorship of London Olympics help? Of course PM David Cameron will never agree and so shall the IOC. After all it is only a matter of some additional payment. So the way out is eminently possible, if there is a will. The only problem is, white man must accept that the value of life and suffering of a browni or a blackman is same like the whiteman. That's all. It is this refusal to accept as equal is at the core of this impasse. Nothing else.
The proposed bill to enhance fines many folds for traffic offences is a long overdue measure. Sooner it comes, the better for police. Indian road users, the motorists, are the most indisciplined lot. We have the highest rate of traffic accidents in the world. The loss of life and property seen and read in the media has not helped the scene to improve. Because, Indians generally are poor learners. Hasn’t the emergency of 1970’s proved it. We only like batons, to be bullied into submission. Hence this law, where fines for traffic violation can be as high as 5 times, is a welcome sign. Only when you financially bleed these traffic offenders, they will learn. This can also increase the revenue of police. If in 2011, Mumbai police have collected over Rs. 3 crores it can now be over Rs. 15 crores after this bill becomes operational. Hopefully Indian road users will become more law abiding.
As a nation, we have always barked up the wrong tree. The cartoon "Compared to 2G, the fodder scam looks like traffic violation" says it all. For all these years Lalu Prasad Yadav, the ebullient former CM of Bihar and former Rail Minister, who was accused of embezzlement of Rs. 55 lakhs in the infamous Chaara Ghotala, suffered the ignominy of being corrupt. Of course, a thief is a thief, whether he steals an egg or an elephant. But look at the mind boggling stories of sleaze across India, what Lalu is accused of, is petty peanut. Unlike Bofors where court closed the case for alleged spending Rs. 250 crores against a case of Rs. 64 crores of bribery, this case against Lalu must have cost the exchequer/ CBI more than Rs. 55 lakhs and hence it should be closed. In Bofors case, the government had bluffed when the cost of litigation was just Rs. 5 crores, as disclosed under RTI and not Rs. 250/- crores as submitted by the government/CBI. Of course, court too, in its haste, did not question the veracity of CBI’s claim. But then, this is how we work.
That Jayaram Ramesh, the Rural Development Minister (RDM) of the centre, is a better minister, both intellectually and organisationally, besides being a good human being, is never in doubt. As soon as he became the RDM, he made some right noises regarding the naxalite problems. From Prime Minister down to the village patwari, all seem to think that threat of violence is the most serious when it comes to Maoists or Naxals, as they are also known as. Hence, if there has not been significant measurable success in the handling of naxal menace, there has got to be some sound reasons. At present the Integrated Action Plan of the Prime Minister is being handled and implemented by RDM, and Jayaram Ramesh, the RDM, has proposed that it should be handled by Ministry of Panchayati Raj for better impact and for achieving the objective of weakening the hold of the CPI (M) in naxal infested areas. There are not many ministers who are interested in giving up their hold in any development project, for both power and money involved in it. But here is Jayaram Ramesh who thinks jobs need to be done better and effectively without cost overruns, does not matter if his own role is reduced. So we do need people like Ramesh. In fact he could be a better man at the helm in Yojana Bhawan. Some years ago, he was the Deputy Chairman of Karnataka Planning Board. He is not a stranger to planning, besides his IIT background can be better utilised.
WORLD: The romance between communist China and the theocratic Pakistan shall continue to have its-ins and outs-on regular basis. Violence in the past against Chinese nationals in Pakistan, Beijing had taken it very seriously and Pakistan playing the obedient second fiddle, without demur. Unlike, when dealing with India, Pakistan cannot afford to take Chinese anger lightly. China can be very hard on Pakistan and Islamabad is fully aware of it. But these partners in bed shall continue to find bed infested with thorns rather than roses. It is basically a sleeping to-gether of convenience, just to spite, to irritate India.
The recent killing of a Chinese woman in Peshawar has once again brought to the fore the question of safety of Chinese men and women in Pakistan, either students or those who are in business and industry. Pakistan as usual bent backwards to convince China that it is doing everything to nab the culprits. Besides China is also accusing Pak outfits for the restlessness in its western Chinese Muslim majority province. The report that ‘violence in Xinjiang kills 20’, is largely blamed on separatists helped by Pak trained terror groups.
Thus, sooner than later, those who live with sword shall be forced to die with sword. It is a time tested dictum, whether Pakistan likes it or not.
"Executed in cold blood despite being child" was the ultimate nail into the human rights violation coffin of Sri Lanka. The report by Callum Macral, the British journalist described the killing of 12 year old son of LTTE supremo in chilling details in his documentary. "A 12 year old boy lies on the ground. He is stripped to the waist and has five neat bullet holes in his chest", he wrote in ‘The Independent’ "Beside him lie the bodies of five men believed to be his body guards. There are indications showing they were tied and blind folded before being shot. Evidences suggest that the Sri Lankan government had a systematic policy of executing surrendered and captured LTTE-fighters and leading figures, even if they were children", the reported had continued.
In the wake of the resolution moved by U.S., France and Norway against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, there have been clamour among Indian parliamentarians to join the issue, and rightly so.
Reports of human rights violations in Sri Lanka against Tamil separatist elements has been known for quite some time. The govt. in Colombo even terrorized Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese, for speaking against state violence on Tamils. It is true that Prabhakaran and his cadre could have been more circumspect in the larger interest of both Tamils and Sri Lankans but he was a terrorist himself and conducted the affairs of LTTE with impunity. Sri Lankan government was hell bent to teach him a lesson. And they succeeded in their design. However, a victor can always be gracious in his victory, which Rajpaksa and his brother failed to rise up to. Future lies in the acceptance by the Tamil that they are in Sri Lanka and therefore should earn Sinhalese goodwill and Sri Lankans cannot antagonize Tamils who gave their best to Sri Lanka. Both need to understand their duties in the larger Sinhala/Tamil context. Indian government should play a positive role to make Tamils know and understand their role towards the country of their adoption and surely Sri Lankan’s would respond positively in an atmosphere of genuine reconciliation of leaving the baggage of history behind and move ahead. Sri Lanka has the necessary wherewithal to emerge as a prominent member of the sub-continent and the world at large.
Arab spring, did bring spring time to some countries. Aspirations of ordinary people wanting to breath free is a global phenomena. In some places it happens fast, as it happened in Tunisia and some other places, it is happening with difficulties in places like Egypt. But in some places it never seem to happen. Of course, China is economically most powerful country in the world to-day, by the sheer strength of balance of payment in its favour. Time and again, China has ruthlessly crushed any such aspiration by its people. Following China, is Syria. In its brutality may be Syria is worse than China. At least China has an ideology, right or wrong. But Assad is a dictator, worse than his father. He has to give up in the larger interest of Syrian people. But it is very unfortunate that both China and Russia, for its own political compulsions are ready to sacrifice the lives of ordinary Syrians. How can authoritarian states like China and Russia hold the international community for ransom in vetoing the UN resolution to take action on Syria? UN too must be subjected to democratic norms, lest China hijack international institutions.
J.Shriyan

 

FOCUS

Indian women

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International Women’s Day

Come 8th March, suddenly women all over the world take centre stage. Passing show continues year after year, same speeches, same rallies by girl students and same spectacle of honouring some ladies, The IWD comes at the day break on 8th March and curtains are wrung before 12 midnight. So its just another day, and its business as usual the next morning.
Despite being just any day, such days, when it comes to public domain as IWD, they do leave a bit of its imprints and somewhere along the line make a small difference in the otherwise moribund thinking of both men and women. These symbolic days, when properly and meaningfully observed make us realise, how much the world has travelled in empowering the lady as a mother, as a daughter, as a sister and as a wife. Every role a woman plays has its own significance.
Not withstanding all those traditional role a women dones, what really should concern all those who are interested in the welfare or the good of women, is the true empowerment.
How does the empowerment comes? Looking back over the 64 years of past independent India, in the evolution of girl child into adolescent and adulthood and then to womanhood, how has she evolved in free India?
History of Modern India informs, in 1947 Sarojini Naidu became first woman governor of Uttar Pradesh. 1947 was the year the nation became politically independent from its colonial masters. So, women have been at the forefront of recognition. Following her was Vijaylaxmi Pandit, who became India's 1st lady Ambassador to Russia. But both these ladies were already very prominent people. Sarojini Naidu, was a highly educated person and was associated with Mahatma Gandhi in freedom struggle, was elected president of Indian National Congress in 1925 itself. And Ms. Pandit was the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru. Thus in an evolving free India, those who were born good, did better, but those who were not born with silver spoon, how have they done in our mother India is an ever ringing question.
Of course, during all its 64 years, those who managed to get educated, especially from the middle class, did scale up the ladder of progress, both economic and social. In 1949, a lady from Coorg, Chonira Belliappa Muthamma became the first IFS woman diplomat, similarly in 1957, Anna George became the 1st lady IAS of free India. In 1972, Kiran Bedi became first woman IPS officer.
Thus, there have been instances of women doing very well. Its truly a long list. They have indeed made India very proud.
While it is true that a section of our women did scale upwardly mobile, because of the opportunities that came their way, vast majority of women are still in the margins of 'India Shining'. They can only see the 'Shining India' without really experiencing it, and there is a huge section out there.
What is also unfortunate is that, these well placed women who have done well, enjoying the growth trajectory and making better use of it, have done little to promote the welfare of those of their less fortunate sisters, with a miniscule exception.
A run-through the list of names of political and corporate who’s-who, would inform that these women are doing exceedingly well in an India, where vast majority of women are either doing manial work or working in areas of socio-economic empowerment without any recognition and appropriate compensation. Thus are cheated of developmental fruits.
Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), which employ over 100,000 women-both as Anganwadi workers and their helpers, has been a fairly success story. It was started to address the malnutrition among infants and their lactating mothers from the poorer sections of our society. A comprehensive study carried out for three decades of ICDS programme up to 2008, has thrown up interesting data, which shall require to be taken up and implemented. The programme provides a package of services comprising supplementary nutrition, immunisation, preschool education, health check-ups, nutrition and health education and referral services to children below six years of age, besides expectant and nursing mothers.
ICDS organisation structure has 8 levels above Anganwadi workers (AWW). Of these 8 levels, three levels are before AWWs-Supervisor, Astt. CDPO and CDPO-are directly connected with ICDS. CDPO is the acronym for Child Development Project Officer. But it is AWWs who are the real life line of this whole programme. Without them, ICDS will simply collapse. Yet how does the governments-both in States and Centre-look after these AWWs is a question of monumental failure and injustice.
The 8 levels starting from Minister up to Supervisor – are all looked after well by the government. They are all on government pay rolls as per their scale. They enjoy all that their employment offers without the responsibility of ground level management and action. It is the systematic exploitation of powerless by the organised men and women of the country. While those in the governmental system enjoy the salaries and perks, these AWWs and their helpers were started with some Rs. 175/- for AWWs and less than that for their helpers way back in 1975, as honorarium per month. The bureaucracy in its selfishness to protect their turf appointed them as honorary workers. Honorary workers shall entitle no benefits, that's the catch. Unemployed women, in both urban and rural area’s, accepted these terms without choice. But our ‘welfare oriented’ governments exploited these over 100,000 women for all these years. It was in 2010 that a section of these workers had Rs: 1750/- as their honorariums and Rs: 1000/- for helpers. Believe it or not, it took 32 years to reach there. But some of the northern states were paying only Rs 1000/- to AWWs, without including state component. Even this Rs. 1000/-, had to be bribed, to collect. In last year's budget, centre increased their pay by Rs 1000/- so also some states. Reportedly in Karnataka these AWWs are getting Rs. 3750/- and helpers Rs. 2500/-. It is indeed a sad story of over exploitation of these helpless women, who are currently over 10 lakhs. For the kind of jobs these AWWs are doing, and their superiors who are only lording it over them, with far higher pay and perks, is a story of exploitation of monumental proportion. (See Box)
There has got to be some comprehensive study by some interested, well-meaning individuals and corporate houses to bring to public domain, not only the massive contribution these AWWs have done in the overall well being of children and mothers, both expectant and lactating, but also the sacrifice they had to make by way of more work and less pay, when the government machinery works on reverse principles of more pay and less work and sometime even no work.
If AWWs are one of the more committed section who are involved in social development, there are groups like Self Help Groups among women, who are writing their own histories of achievements. Their contributions to their own welfare and therefore in general empowerment of women in the society around them, is already becoming stories of inspiration for others. Govts and society should support these groups in more ways for the increased impact they can have on the youth of the society. After all development should not mean, hand-outs, but true empowerment. Only when women are doing better, a society shall grow economically and socially more rounded. That is the true growth, not the double digit growth figure doled out for public consumption by the planning commission and finance ministries. These government functionaries only mouth inanimate figures which are as Benjamin Disraeli, a Victorian British Prime Minister had famously observed "There are three kinds of lies - lies, damned lies and statistics".
Writing on women and what they are doing, or what they are capable of, besides suffering they are enduring at the hands of society, those multiple dimension of their evolution, can be an exercise of mammoth proportion. Here only a small portion of it is discussed to keep the women in focus on this symbolic yet historic IWD.

J. Shriyan

FEATURE

Schools of the future.
Prof. B. M. Hegde,
hegdebm@gmail.com


"The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence."
Rabindranath Tagore
Life is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ceaseless change till death. "Anything that does not change does not come under the definition of science" wrote a Federal Judge in the USA while delivering his judgment in a dispute between the Creationists and Scientists. Human life history is the story of the evolution of this Universe itself. If one wants to understand the nature of Nature one has just got to understand human nature which is a miniscule of this Universe itself. We are obsessed with science today. The word science brings goose pimples on many of us. Indian schools do not seem to have changed ever since the East India Company destroyed our ancient school system some time in the early 19th Century. There have, of course, been some cosmetic changes in that schools today have become big corporate businesses and they have also got a bit of American flavor. However, the philosophy of feeding the young creative minds with useless dead information seems to be our goal. Rote learning for getting grades is the order of the day. Grades should make wealthy careers at the end of the day is the philosophy accepted by the greedy parents as also the powers that be in the educational system, and some of the powerful industrial honchos who see nothing wrong in education being a big business.
The vital part of education, which is to try and make healthy minds, is all but lost in this milieu. Our education, especially the primary one, which matters a lot, is, therefore, unscientific by definition, as it has not changed. The aforementioned Federal judge would have declared our educational system as a religion, which I think it is slowly becoming by Karl Marx’s opinion that a religion is the "opium of the people". The actual complete quote from 1843-44 Karl Marx’s book Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right is more nuanced, though. Marx did not ridicule religion by this statement; rather he thought that religion is an extension of his own thinking. He goes on to say that: "To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions". That was in a way Marx’s own opium in one sentence since the "human essence has not acquired any true reality". Yet instead of the crude opium reference there is that beautifully poetic conclusion "of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo". To call upon our present school system bosses to change would be exactly like what Marx felt about asking for change in his times. Spirituality-sharing and caring-is not only the essence of all religions but also the ageless wisdom of man, which has very little to do with ritualistic religions.
Science today tells us that the world began with the Big Bang. I wonder if there was a big bang or a small whimper! For 750 million long years, they say, that there was no life on earth. The first life came as a single cell which could do all that you and I can do today-breathe, eat, excrete, think, and work. That stage went on for more than a trillion and half years when these single cell individuals wisely thought that it is better to get together as a colony to work more efficiently with least expense. They had a fertile brain in their cell wall (membrane), called the memBrain by a famous cell biologist, Bruce Lipton. They could sense their environment through antennae in their cell walls, their brain, called Integral Membrane Proteins (IMPs). These could make the cells come alive to the environment (universal consciousness) to have own their individual consciousness. Figuratively life gets born then like your actors on the TV screen. When that antenna does not get the message (when you switch off your TV) life ebbs out just as the TV actor dies when the switch goes off. The consciousness gets into, may be another cell immediately after that- life again. So death is only a part of life and not its end! Thus the human body is a happy colony of 50 trillion individual cells.
Why did the single free floating cells come together then? They, in their wisdom, realized that they are better off and stronger if they came together in larger groups as they could expand their individual consciousnesses many fold by increasing the IMPs exponentially! How wise of them? As time passed they realised that each one of them need not do all the work that needs to be done. They could share their responsibilities. Some cell groups inside the body became what we call today organs doing specific tasks more efficiently. But they did not lose sight of the fact that they were all functionally identical even when they morphologically different to fit that organ e.g. brain looking after overseeing the total function of locomotion etc. In this new role they found that they could care for others better. Thus evolved the philosophy of spirituality-sharing and caring! Body cells therefore love one another. This could be seen under the electron-microscope in disease conditions. In a fresh fracture site the red blood cells in the clot could gradually change to pluri-potent stem cells to heal the fracture eventually! Same cells but different work. These endogenous stem cells are our best doctors in all disease states.
Education, therefore, should teach the young mind that it is in sharing and caring that the world can go on for good. Our grading system, on the contrary, puts negative thoughts of greed, hatred, jealousy, anger and pride into that innocent, creative, loving, and compassionate mind of a child. Scientific studies have shown that if students in a class with varied levels of intelligence could be taught the principles of collective compassionate sharing efforts they all get high grades in the final examination! This is conducive to good health as well since body cells enjoy working together, anyway. Health is defined today as "enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be compassionate." Those who do not have either or both of those are really sick! In that definition society as a whole is becoming sick today with no compassion. Recent noise about "Wall Street" greed is but a sign of that universal sickness that is overtaking our present society; rather it is the Corporate Greed that would eventually destroy all God given resources of Nature. The root cause for this disease is the wrong type of primary education that turns a universally compassionate, creative, God like child into a greedy, angry, proud man/woman who joins the rat race to acquire money, power and parking lots! The future of the world depends on a new change in schooling system, thus ushering in an era of sharing, caring and universal compassion-the true religion for the masses.
"Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making and character-making assimilation of ideas."
Swami Vivekananda.

GANG LEADER FOR A DAY

In early 1995 the newspapers began to report another story of major import for the residents of Robert Taylor, this one with even greater consequences than the federal drug busts. Members of Congress and the Clinton administration had begun serious discussions with mayors across the country to propose knocking down housing projects. Henry Cisneros, the secretary of housing and urban development, claimed that "high-rises just don’t work." He and his staff spoke of demolishing these "islands of poverty," with the goal of pushing their inhabitants to live where "residents of different incomes interact with one another." Cisneros singled out Chicago’s projects as "without question, the worst public housing in America today." The Robert Taylor Homes were said to be at the very top of the demolition list. They were to be replaced by an upscale townhouse development called Legends South, which would include just a few hundred units of public housing.
Most of the tenants I spoke with, greeted this news with disbelief. Did the politicians really have the will or the power to relocate tens of thousands of poor black people? "The projects will be here forever," was the phrase I heard from one tenant after another. Only the most elderly tenants seemed to believe that demolition could be a reality. They had already seen the government use urban renewal-or, in their words, "Negro removal"-to move hundreds of thousands of black Chicagoans, replacing their homes and businesses with highways, sports stadiums, universities-and, of course, huge tracts of public housing.
From the outset urban renewal held the seeds of its own failure. White political leaders blocked the construction of housing for blacks in the more desirable white neighbourhoods. And even though blighted low-rise buildings in the ghetto were replaced with high-rises like the Robert Taylor Homes, the quality of the housing stock wasn’t much better. Things might have been different if housing authorities around the country were given the necessary funds to keep up maintenance on these new buildings. But the buildings that had once been the hope of urban renewal were already, a short forty years later, ready for demolition again.
Amid all this uncertainty, I finally heard from J.T. He called with the news that his promotion was official. He asked if I still wanted to join him in meetings with some citywide BK leaders.
"They’re actually interested in talking with you," he said, surprise in his voice. "They want someone to hear their stories, about jail, about their lives. I thought they might not want to talk because of what’s going on"-he meant the recent gang arrests-"but they were up for it."
I told J.T. that I’d been talking to my professors about winding down my field research and finishing the dissertation. I had completed all my classes and passed all my exams, and I was now focused on writing my study about the intricate ways in which the members of a poor community eked out a living. Bill Wilson had arranged for me to present my research at various academic conferences, in hopes of attracting a teaching position for me. My academic career probably started the day I met J.T., but the attention of established sociologists made me feel as though I had just now reached the starting gate. Katchen had completed her applications to law school, and both of us were expecting to leave Chicago soon.
There were other factors, too: Many of the tenants in Robert Taylor felt betrayed by me, cops were warning me not to hang out, and now the projects themselves were about to come down. All this combined to make it pretty clear that I wouldn’t be spending time in the projects much longer.
J.T. reacted dismissively, saying I shouldn’t even think about leaving now. "We’ve been together for the longest," he said. "If you really want to know what my organization is about, you got to watch what happens. We’re on the move, we’re only getting bigger, and you need to see this."
J.T. wouldn’t take no for an answer. There was something childlike about his insistence, as if pleading with someone not to abandon him. He laughed and chatted on spiritedly about the future of the BKs, about his own ascension, about the "great book" I would someday write about his life.
I tried to take it all in, but the sentences started to bleed into one another. I simply sat there, phone to my ear, mumbling "Uh-huh" whenever J.T. took a breath. It was time to acknowledge, if only to myself, exactly what I’d been doing these past several years: I came, I saw, I hustled. Even if J.T. wouldn’t allow me to move on just yet, that’s what I was ready to do.
Not that this acknowledgement of my inner hustler gave me any peace. I was full of unease about my conduct in the projects. I had actively misled J.T. into thinking that I was writing his biography, mostly by never denying it. This might have been cute in the early days of our time together, but by now it was purely selfish not to tell him what my study was really about. I tended to retreat from conflict, however. This was a useful trait in obtaining information. But as my tenure in the projects was ending, I was noticing the darker side of avoidance.
With other tenants I played the role of objective social scientist, however inaccurate (and perhaps impossible) this academic conceit may be. I didn’t necessarily feel that I was misrepresenting my intentions. I always told people, for instance, that I was writing up my findings into a dissertation. But it was obvious that there was a clear power dynamic and that they held the short end of the stick. I had the choice of ending my time in the projects; they did not. Long after I was finished studying poverty, they would most likely continue living as poor Americans.

to be contd.....

OPINION

THE BUDGET : A DAMP SQIB?
Dr.K.Shanker Shetty

"A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that a fine is generally much lighter." – G. K. Chesterton
Indian budget 2012 – 13 was presented in the parliament on 16 – 03 – 2012 with the background of a slow paced global recovery after the crisis. Though Indian economic performance has been quiescent there are sufficient alarming indications of declining trend in growth rate; double digit inflation ruling throughout 2011; strangulating monetary policies with, ever increasing rate of interest; fiscal profligacy continuing unabated widening the fiscal deficit increasing the deficit financing, rising prices; declining foreign and domestic private investments; languishing manufacturing sector etc. Simultaneously at the macro level, GDP is expected to be at 6.5%; agriculture 2.5%, industry 3.9% and service sector at 9%. External trade at $39billion has not improved the situation with trade balance and current account remaining highly negative.
In the circumstances budget should have primarily aimed at reducing fiscal deficit; minimizing subsidies and unearthing blackmoney. Divestment should have been progressive; planned expenditures should have increased; tax rates should have helped to improve the effective demand along with low rates and improved efficient tax collection management. Infrastructure should have been widened with adequate funds. However, even the railway budget has failed to modernize with better safety measures. Oil and gas sector needs more investment with better technology. Reforms must have been revived with speed.
In the circumstances, it is worth the trouble to understand whether the Finance Minister has succeeded, through his budget 2012, to chalk out effective measures to secure at least some of the objectives which would have helped to revive national economy from its stagnation status. A cursory glance at the budget, however, would reveal the naked truth that it has been a "non – event", - a status quo exercise plagued by political cycles and imperatives. From the beginning the budget exercise was affected by political exigencies, fiscal negatives, bureaucratic bungling and environmental complexities. It has utterly failed to achieve fiscal prudence, reduce rate of interest, attract FDI, avoid subsidies. This is despite of the fact that export has been quiescent; imports moving upward though savings / investment ratio to GDP being reduced marginally. Budget also declares about food security; bring down subsidies below 2% of the GDP; deregulating diesel and LPG in the near future. New equity schemes, infrastructure bonds, proposals to reform capital market by attracting foreign investors in banking, insurance and civil aviations etc. National manufacturing policy; tax rebate to retail investors were assured. Power generation, has been aimed at by improving coal, transport, oil and gas with high investments. There are proposals to improve agricultural sector and intensify the process of inclusive development. Social sector as usual found prime of place though ultimately they shall prove to non – starters to raise the standard of living. Even, when China has earmarked $100 billion, the budget proposed only $40 billion for defence is a matter of concern indeed.
The budget 2012 also aims at achieving fiscal deficit of 5.1% and GDP growth rate at 7.6%. It also plans to have Rs.30,000 crores divestment as against Rs.40,000 from 2011 – 12. It indicated continued market borrowing, and non plan expenditure through subsidies. We find in the budget proposals to encourage coal and power sectors; reduction of revenue deficits; advance pricing for foreign investors; current account deficit at 3.5%; amending FRBM Act etc.
However, the question arises as to whether the budget has remained a "visionary exercise" to improve India’s growth process? In all probability, it may not. Because, the proposal to reduce fiscal deficit to 5.1% as against 6.5% at present is a tall order unless equally harsh measures are taken up. Similarly, projected GDP growth at 7.6% is doubtful if the current policy trends continue. The proposal to limit the fiscal deficit at 2% of GDP and tax – GDP ratio at 12.6% shall be remain wishful thinking unless positive steps are taken. Due to hike in excise and service taxes inflation shall pick – up once again towards scaling double digits. Interest rate continues to remain high as per RBI policies and is likely to affect domestic investment in industry, infrastructure and manufacturing sectors. In absence of reforms, regressive steps towards foreign multi – product retails may not improve product quality or competitive pricing. Worst is the corporate sector has been thoroughly disappointed with the lukewarm attitude towards reforms in economic sector. Current account deficit target of 3.6% as shown in the budget shall remain a dream. Budget does not provide any positive provisions for the revival of stock – markets and capital market.
Hence, what the economy needs is a pragmatic approach. Yet, there is no positive concrete steps indicated to reforms by expediting goods and service tax, direct tax code, entry of multi – retail giants, foreign investments, civil aviation etc., except lip service. Adequate provisioning for funding through PPP route would have given enough push to coal, power and transport sector. Budget may even fail to enthuse the inflow of FII capital into Indian economy.
Thus, on the whole from the macro – level perspectives the budget 2012 – 13 proves to be a damp – squib since it may not help to revive the economy to the level of 2007 – 09, making it a driver economy of the global scale as is the case with China. India’s budget exercise, hence must be based more of merits on economic terms rather than being captive to political compulsions. On the taxation front, the Finance Minister has failed to inject a sense of positive urge. The minor dissection conducted in the personal income tax sphere, by tinkering the slabs and raising the basic exemption by a meager Rs.20,000 has not fooled the common people. This paltry raise has been nullified with negative impact due to the hike of 2% in excise duty and service charges across the board. Ever increasing oil prices resulting in raising fuel prices and additional burden on account of increased hike in excise and service charges is bound to poke more holes in the small pockets of people with limited sources of income. Resultantly, heat of inflation may be the order of the day making the daily life of commoner more miserable due to rising prices and inflationary spiral.
In nutshell, it must be concluded that the current budget with its various omissions and commissions, has created a dent on government credibility and reputation. There is no hope of fiscal consolidation or the growth recovery can be ensured. The continuity of education cess on individual tax payers without accountability and transparency as regards its actual utilization is perplexing. In order to sustain growth and stability, prudent and pragmatic policies are missing. Subsidies may continue unabated due to political compulsions. Therefore, the budget 2012 may not help to change the living conditions, despite of aspirations of the common people. Once again it has been proved, as in the past, that budget in India is an exercise in futility nay a damp squib. The point to remember is what government gives, it must first take it away, seems to be the guiding philosophy of budget makers in India.
Author is an economist and a former General Manager of Vijaya Bank

YEH MERA INDIA

35 monuments, sites untraceable
At least 35 historical monuments/sites have been reported "untraceable" due to factors such as urbanisation, commercialisation, development of projects, and changing climatic and geographical conditions, culture minister Kumari Selja told the Lok Sabha. "It is not feasible to fix individual responsibility as there are many causes.. for the disappearance of the monuments," she said.

When life was worth only Rs: 200/-

Lucknow: A man in UP’s backward Gonda district killed his son for a meager Rs 200 and driven by guilt, committed suicide by jumping before a speeding train.
According to reports, Mata Prasad Goswami, a resident of Kunwarpur Amaraha village in the district, hit his son Bhupendra several times with an axe, killing him on the spot following an altercation after the youth expressed his inability to return Rs 200 taken from him to go to Rajastan to find work.
Goswami had borrowed the sum from a fellow villager and had given it to Bhupendra, asking him to go to some other state for work.
Bhupendra later left Rajasthan to try his luck but failed to get any work there and had returned to his village a few days before Holi.
Gowsami’s elder daughter Kusum Lata said his father had asked Bhupendra to return the money so that he could pay it back to the lender.
"The two had an altercation over the same," she said. Head of the family of six children and a wife, Goswami found it hard to make two ends meet from his petty income.
Goswami attacked Bhupendra with a sharp-edged axe and hit him several times, when the latter was asleep.
"My father was disturbed after the altercation and was crying. He immediately left the spot after killing Bhupendra," Kusum said. Goswami’s body was recovered from near the rail tracks a few hundred meters away from the village.
According to the police, he had committed suicide by jumping before a speeding train.


Indian CEO: Not trustworthy!?

Mumbai: Indian CEOs are now less trusted than ever before. Common people i.e. ‘you and I’ have toppled the corporate CEOs from their numero uno position a year ago to number four position, a survey conducted by Edelman has said.
According to an annual ‘Trust Barometer’ index, compiled by global public relations and consultancy major Edelman, the credibility of corportate officials have been replaced by academicians, technical expert and a ‘person like me’, in the chronological order.
Media, as also the social networking arena, have seen significant improvement in their credibility levels, while the trust level for businesses, government and NGOs remained largely stagnant over the past year.
The survey was conducted among more than 30,000 people in 25 countries including 1,000 Indians and covered trust in four areas: businesses, government, NGOs and media.
As per the findings, a systemic decline in trust in most institutions globally has seen a ‘person like me’ or the common person reemerging as one of the most credible people, with the biggest increase in credibility since 2004, and now trials only academics and technical experts.
The survey, which gauged the confidence levels in the last year, found that confidence in media has risen from 50% in 2010 to 70%. A number of scams being unearthed during the year 2011 might have worked in favour of the Indian media.
Overall, trust in media rose above 50% for the first time globally. Besides, trust in social media in India showed a double-digit rise, from 19% to 29%.
Globally, social-networking, micro-blogging, and content-sharing sites witnessed the dramatic percentage increase as trusted sources of information about a company, rising by 88%, 86% and 75%, respectively.
Trust levels in business (69%), government (53%) and NGOs (67%) remain stagnant in India.
"Business is substantially more trusted than government, but has its own hurdles to clear. In this year’s Trust Barometer in India, business and government are both not meeting publics expectations," Edelman President and CEO Richard Edelman said.
"The results in the general publics category throw up calls for greater protection for consumers from irresponsible behaviour by business," he added.

Fake voter Id creator wants to be arrested

Nashik: A software expert, who helped manufacture fake voter cards, wants to be arrested, while seven PCs, with apparent voter data, were stolen from the Tehsildar’s office. Kanhaiya Ashok Pardeshi was a mute witness to the manufacture of fake voter cards, by Infotech Bhopal and remained so due to pressure. He announced this during a press conference in Nashik. "I saw that fake cards were being manufactured by the director Vijay Kasbe and Sanjay Budhe. The fake cards were being manufactured were made about 3 days before the recent elections.
The names on the cards and photographs are different. "I went to the State Election Commission but they refused to take down my complaint. Similarly the police refused to take down my complaint or arrest me", Pardeshi claimed.


I-T may get powers to reopen old returns

New Delhi: Government may grant the Income Tax department powers to re-open tax returns of beyond six years in specific cases of black money where "foreign assets" are involved, reports media.
The I-T department needs these powers to pursue the ongoing cases wherein funds were found to be stashed abroad and these came to light after India received a classified list of bank account holders which include those in HSBC Bank, Geneva and LGT Bank of Liechtenstein.
The department, according to current rules, can only open I-T returns for the past six years if they need to probe hidden income and assets.
The recommendation on extending the period was also made by the committee on black money headed by the Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is expected to take into account this issue before he presents his Budget.
"This specific clause is being seriously thought. Numerous instances in the department’s ongoing probe in black money cases warrant such a clause as unreported investments date back to many years. The I-T investigations have also asked for such a clause in the I-T Act," a senior Finance Ministry official said. The clause, however, is needed in cases where foreign assets are traced as in these cases we need to prepare a tight case before we approach a foreign country for help under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) or other relevant treaty, the official said.
The official said the time frame that I-T authorities want to go back is about 12 years but the limit can only be decided by the Finance Ministry and Mukherjee’s office after consulting all stakeholders.
While Germany had last year provided the names of some Indians having secret accounts in Liechtenstein’s LGT Bank, many other such classified data is now with India.
Officials of the probe wings of the I-T department have carried out a number of searches and visits in the last four months on various entities based in Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmadabad and few other cities of people who have admitted to holding accounts and stashing funds in the foreign bank after their names figured in the classified lists.
In cases wherein the individuals have denied holding secret foreign bank accounts, the department has already decided to re-open their past tax returns.

MONTH THAT WAS

Britain won’t be Christian nation by 2030: Report

London: Britain may no longer be a Christian country by 2030 as the number of non-believers is set to overtake the number of Christians, IANS cited a ‘Daily Mail’ report as saying.
Christianity is losing more than half a million believers every year, while the count of atheists and agnostics is going up by almost 750,000 annually.
Research by the House of Commons Library found that while Christianity has declined, other religions have seen sharp increases. In the last six years, the number of Muslims has surged by 37 percent to 2.6 million; Hindus by 43 percent and Buddhists by 74 percent. But the number of Sikhs and Jewish believers fell slightly.
A group of MPs and peers - Christians in Parliament - claimed public policy was promoting "unacceptable" discrimination against Christians. The group’s chairman, former Tory justice minister Gary Streeter, warned that believers were having their faith "steamrollered" by a "secular and hostile state". It found that in 2010 there were around 41.1 million Christians in Britain - down 7.6 percent over the past six years.


Jesus resting place found in Jerusalem!

Washington: Archaeologists have stumbled upon a coffin bearing engravings inside a first-century Christian tomb in Jerusalem which they believe could prove that the site is the final resting place of Jesus, PTI reports. The burial chamber located below a modern condominium building has been dated to before AD 70, so if its engravings are indeed early Christian, they were most likely made by some of Jesus’ earliest followers, the excavators said.
Using a remote controlled camera connected to a robotic arm, the excavators found that one of the limestone boxes, also known as ossuaries, bears an inscription in Greek that refers to "Divine Jehovah", raising someone up.
A second ossuary has an image that appears to be a large fish with a stick figure in its mouth. The excavators believe the image represents the story of Jonah, the biblical prophet who was swallowed by a fish or whale and then released.
Together both the inscription and the image of the fish represents the Christian belief in resurrection from death, "Live Science’ reported.
While images of the Jonah story became common on more recent Christian tombs, they do not appear in first century art, and iconographic images like this on ossuaries are extremely rare, the researchers said.
The researchers, who published their findings online in ‘The Bible and Interpretation’, however, acknowledged that the discovery and their interpretation may become controversial.
This tomb was originally uncovered in 1981, but the excavators were forced to leave by Orthodox Jewish groups who oppose the excavation of Jewish tombs. The tomb was then resealed and buried beneath the condominium complex in the neighbourhood of East Talpiot.
Almost two decades later, the researchers got a license to go back into the tomb. However, because of the condos on top of it and the threat of protests from Orthodox Jewish groups, they took an unconventional route into the tomb.
They inserted a robotic arm, developed for this project, carrying high definition cameras through holes drilled in the basement floor of the building. The cameras photographed the ossuaries inside from all sides.


Navi Mumbai cops have no space to lock up criminals!

Thane: Though Navi Mumbai has been growing vertically and crime rate is also up, there is no space for policemen who are finding it hard to stash their weapons or even lock up criminals when they are caught, as they have been operating out of a rented residential apartment. Needless to say, it is completely ill-suited to the department’s needs. Way back in 2009, Ashok Chavan, the former Chief Minister of the state, had laid the foundation stone for the planned building that would house the Kharghar police station. The building was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010 by the City and industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO).
However, CIDCO has failed to even start the construction work of the proposed police station, located near Kharghar square on the Sion-Panvel highway. In the absence of a permanent building to accommodate them, police officials have been facing a host of problems. The residential building lacks a custody area, a records room, an arms and weapons room, not to mention lack of space to operate in.


76 farmers committed suicides in Vidarbha

Nagpur: Despite Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s relief package, there has been an alarming rise in farmers’ suicides in cotton belt of Vidarbha region in the year 2011, claimed Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti (VJAS).
31-member Parliamentary Committee, headed by Vasudev Acharya, visited the Vidarbha region, to study the issue and impact of special packages.
The panel visited Wardha, Yavatmal and Nagpur.
VJAS convener Kishor Tiwari said here that in Yavatmal district alone, 76 farmers committed suicides in 2011, against 35 in 2010, despite special package and loan waiver for them.
He has demanded immediate intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office, considering the grave situation, the VJAS has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to provide a long-term solution to the crisis and integrated solution to Vidarbha’a agrarian crisis, 2,332 farmers had committed suicide since 2000 in Yavatmal district alone.
Of them, only 714 were found eligible for the compensation.
Despite special package and loan waiver, nothing has changed on ground and dry land farmer has very little hope of getting a remunerative price in order to make agriculture a sustainable activity, he claimed.


18 lakh dead listed as ‘active’ voters in US

Washington: At least 18 lakh dead people are listed as active voters on electoral rolls in the US, which is scheduled to hold presidential and congressional elections in November, according to a new study, media reports.
Not only of every eight active voter registrations in the US are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate, and more than 27.5 lakh people have names appearing in more than two states, but also at least 18 lakh dead people are still figure in the electoral list, said the study conducted by the non-partisan Pew Centre. "Voter registration in the US largely reflects its 19th-century origins and has not kept pace with advancing technology and a mobile society. States’ systems must be brought into the 21st century to be more accurate, cost-effective, and efficient," the Washington-based think-tank said in the report entitled ‘Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient’.
Pew Centre said its research estimate that at least 51 million eligible US citizens are unregistered, or more than 24 per cent of the eligible population.
"Approximately 24 million – one of every eight – active voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate. More than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as active voters. Approximately 2.75 million people have active registrations in more than one state", it said.
Further, about 12 million records have incorrect addresses, meaning either the voters moved, or errors in the information make it unlikely any mailings can reach them. The study identified approximately 12.7 million records nationwide that appear to be out of date and no longer reflect the voter’s current information.


Obese police officers face salary cut in Britain

British police officers must prove their fitness in annual tests or have their pay docked after a survey found that 53 per cent were overweight and one in 100 was morbidly obese, a review concluded.
The government commissioned report into police pay and conditions suggested that officers who failed a fitness test three times should be disciplined and could lose 8 percent of their salary, as much as 3,000 pounds (64,700) for some.
It follows a survey of more than 11,500 staff on London’s police force which found that 44 percent were overweight, 19 percent obese and 1 per cent morbidly obese, the report said.
The review, which comes as the government seeks to make cuts of some 20 percent to police budgets as part of austerity measures, recommended other wide-ranging changes which would allow officers to be sacked, cut starting salaries, raise the pension age and require staff to have better qualifications.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

ABRACADABRA

Britons: Number numbs!

From a nation of clever book-keepers to a nation of "barely numerates" who struggle to make sense of their payslips, comprehend long telephone numbers or train time-tables. Welcome to modern Britain.
Until now, the problem was thought to be limited to schoolchildren but, according to a major new study, half of adult Britons have the numeracy skills of a primary schoolchild. Poor numeracy is so widespread that, experts say it is ruining people’s lives with many not able to get jobs because they cannot read graphs or do calculations. The study shows that some 49 per cent Britain’s working-age population is "numeracy-challenged", an increase of two million since a similar study was done in 2003.
"At best these people have the maths ability of an 11-year-old, but for many it’s like a nine-year-old. They can’t understand deductions on their payslips; they can’t calculate the change they give and receive. It’s a very basic weakness that can impact on normal family life and employment," said Chris Humphries, Chairman of National Numeracy, the charity behind the study. But far from being embarrassed, many Britons are said to regard their lack of interest in numbers as a "badge of honour". It is fashionable to say "I can’t do maths". Mr. Humphries called it "a peculiarly British disease" as business leaders warned that it was "blighting" the economy and affecting its international competitiveness.


Wealthy class more likely to lie and cheat: Study

Washington: They may be the more respectable and upstanding members of society, but the rich are also more likely to lie, cheat and engage in other kinds of unethical activities than those in lower classes, claims a new study.
But these findings, published in the journal proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, do not mean that everyone of high status behaves unethically, nor that everyone in lower society behaves ethically, scientists cautioned.
"We’re not saying that if you’re rich, you’re necessarily unethical, and that if you’re poor, you’re necessary ethical, there are lots of instances of increased ethical conduct among upper-class individuals," study researcher Paul Piff, a social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, was quoted.
However, the researchers suggested that the rich’s view of the world may be clouded by self-absorption and greed. As a result, they have fewer scruples than those who have less money to burn.
They came to the conclusion after a series of experiments examining social class and ethics. The first two took place in the street, with motorists secretly being observed as they crossed a busy junction and approached pedestrian crossings.
Those in the flashiest cars, assumed to be wealthy ones, were four times as likely as those in old bangers to cut up other vehicles by barging their way across the junction, the researchers found.
In a series of lab tests that included undergraduates at Berkeley and national online samples of adults, those who considered themselves upper class were found to have greater tendencies to make unethical decisions. This included unrightfully stealing something, lying in a negotiation, cheating at a game of chance to boost their chances of winning cash for endorsing unethical behaviour at work, such as stealing cash, receiving bribes and overcharging customers.
"I was surprised at the consistency and strength of all these effects – upper-class individuals often acted unethically three to four times more often than lower-class individuals," Piff said.
Another lab experiment revealed that unethical behaviour was not necessarily inherent to individuals. The researchers had volunteers compare themselves with people with the most or least money, education and respected jobs, thereby subtly putting them into the mindset of someone with a relatively low or high socioeconomic status.
Greed was found to be the driving force. When poorer volunteers were asked to think of ways greed could be beneficial before taking part in the experiment, they acted just as unethically as the wealthy.
"If you take lower socioeconomic status people and just change their social values very subtly, they’ll act just as unethically as upper-class individuals," Piff said.
"The patterns of behaviour naturally arise from increased wealth and status compared to others."
Other studies have shown that upper-class individuals are often less cognisant of others, worse at identifying the emotions others feel, less generous and altruistic, and more disengaged socially.
Such research might support these new findings – it may be easier to act unethically toward others if you are not thinking about how they feel, Piff added.


Boy genius went to college at age 8

Los Angeles: The one thing 14-year-old Moshe Kai Cavalin dislikes is being called a genius. All he did, after all, was enroll in college at age 8 and earn his first of two Associate of Arts degrees from East Los Angeles Community College at age 9, graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Now, at 14, he’s poised to graduate from UCLA this year. He’s also just published an English edition of his first book, "We Can Do". The 100-page guideline explains how other young people can accomplish what Cavalin did through such simple acts as keeping themselves focused and approaching everything with total commitment.


Assistant engineer & crores

Raipur: If the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officials here are to be believed, an assistant engineer employed with the water resources department in Chhattisgarh has assets worth Rs 7 crore.
"The ACB sleuths raided two locations – Raipur and Baloda Bazar town – of the assistant engineer Purshotam Agarwal and seized several documents", D M Awasthi, Additional Director General (ACB), told reporters here.
"We are analysing the documents and so far we found that the official has amassed assets not less than Rs 7 crore (Rs 70 million)," said Awasthi.
He stated that the exact amount, earned through disproportionate sources of income, may go higher once the ACB completes the analysis of all documents seized in raids.
Awasthi said the engineer had invested the most of his money on land purchase and bungalows in prime locations in Raipur and Baloda Bazar town, some 100km from here.

THE LAST PAGE

Western threats to Indian interests
Dr. M. V. Kamath

The West is doing everything possible to prevent Iran from getting into the nuclear arms field and is applying sanctions against it to the fullest possible measure. It may be remembered that the West in its Nuclear-Arms-For-White-Nations only approach, applied similar sanctions against India in the 1990s when it exploded its first nuclear device. The Five Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council can do no wrong but let other nations beware was the idea. And Japan, a subaltern nation went along with it to India’s grief. What did the U.S do when Pakistan, with the active assistance of China went on to produce nuclear bombs? Has the U.S – and the West in general made any effort to confiscate over a hundred bombs that Pakistan allegedly has in store? If Pakistan and Israel can go nuclear, why shouldn’t Iran? The West now is putting pressure on India to stop buying oil from Iran. Iran accounts for 12% of India’s crude oil imports and if India lets itself to be pressurised to stop this purchase, it will be extremely difficult for it to find a viable replacement for that quantum. But the West couldn’t care less for India’s future. Bullying is all. What this means is that the West wants India to be subservient to it or face the consequences. But should India give in? Would it serve India’s interests? With China a close Iranian trading partner, India cannot afford to lose another friend, in the Middle East. Iran currently provides 11.3% of China’s oil needs. In late 2004, China’s Petrochemical Corporation (SINOPEC) signed a 25-year contract with Iran for production and export of liquified Natural Gas (LNG) to it. In separate Agreements in 2006, 2007 & 2009, China signed agreements with Iran to the tune of $ 23.3 billion to develop Iran’s northern and southern Pars gas fields, the Yadavaran oil field and North Azadegan oil field. On trade, China is already among Iran’s major partners and the trade volume between the two countries is estimated at $ 29 billion in 2008 as against U.S trade with Iran in 1994 of around $ 400 million. And it is China that is bolstering the Iranian military and weapon production capabilities with long-term and far-reaching consequences on the Balance of Power in the Middle East. Furthermore, China is also believed to give military assistance to Iran in the matter of missiles and nuclear weapons technology, just as it has been doing the same with Pakistan all these past years. Has the West been able to stop it? Will it dare? Besides, when it comes to Sino-Pakistan relationship, the U.S turns a blind eye at India’s cost. The West dare not pressure China, but it thinks India is an easy prey. To meet its stupendous need for oil, China has extended its influence to Kazakhistan where it has acquired Petro Kazakhistan Oil Company and has further given a $ 10 billion loan to Kazakhistan to buy oil fields from foreign stake-holders and sell them to China! China is a dozen times richer than India and can spend billions to have a stake in Central Asian Oil production, as in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It has already opened a 1,833 km long gas pipeline connecting Central Asian energy fields with China. India as at a disadvantage and that is sought to be made worse by the West. What all this means is that, instead of falling a prey to western machinations and dark threats, India must focus on its own self-centered foreign policy and be helpful and considerate to Iran. The West in recent weeks has made it difficult for India to pay Iran through western banks with a determined viciousness to stop Indo-Iranian oil trade. To get over this India must indulge in barter trade. Instead of attempting to pay in dollars
lars, India must sell Iran such items as food grain and other goods that are in shortage there. It is a known fact that while Iran can supply oil, it is short in refining capacity. India can get the crude, refine it and re-export it to Iran. The point is that India should not allow itself to be the West’s doormat. It should revert to its old non-alignment policy which is not aimed at any one country and is clearly based on one’s self interest and is "resource diplomacy" – based. Israel has its own interests and is willing to go to any extent to fulfil them. If the West has such good reasons to stop Iran from going nuclear, why doesn’t it seek to persuade China to be a party to its machinations? That it dare not. In the past the U.S has shown that it is willing to throw away all principles in order to achieve its targets. Thus it found nothing wrong in cultivating Mao’s friendship in order to contain the Soviet Union. Fancy, President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State courting China, showing even subservience, just to win Mao Tse-tung’s cooperation! When it comes to taking care of its own interests the U.S has no compunction in dining with the Devil. Fair enough, India has no complaints. The US has extensively given every possible kind of aid to Pakistan, knowing fully well how that aid was being used to attack India. Delhi has put up with it with patience and fortitude. It has complained regularly but to no effect. In the matter of Iran, India is not giving it any aid, as China does, for example. It is only buying oil which is essential for its economy. And while we are at it, why doesn’t the U.S tell Saudi Arabia not to sell oil to China which is unwilling to apply sanctions against Iran? China’s support to Iran is brazen and is there for all to see. Let this be said straightaway. India does not want to be involved or drawn in the West’s quest to contain Iran. The best way to persuade Iran from building a nuclear stock is for all the current nuclear powers to dispense with theirs. The West must show by example that it is against nuclear power by dismantling its own huge stocks. If it can’t do that it will only be guilty of hypocrisy. The least that the U.S can do to show, that it is fair-principled, is to cut down its own stock of nuclear bombs by half and persuade England and France to follow suit. Example is better than precept. Putting on superior airs and accusing a competing country of being a rogue state makes no sense. We are living in the twenty first century.

AN ISSUES & CONCERNS INITIATIVE