Monday, March 11, 2013

EDITOR'S COLUMN


Friends
We are in the budget month. Mr Bansal, the Railway Minister has come up with his maiden railway budget. As usual, across the spectrum, there have been responses and reactions. Prime Minister said, ‘its path breaking’, and some others said “it has broken the path”. Treasury bench members and their party functionaries hailed the budget, which all opposition members blasted it in different degrees of ferocity. But then, this is how politics work. He did present a surplus budget, that by itself is a credit.
Although freight prices have been increased by a little below 6%, inflationary pressure can be there. Aam aadmi has not been disturbed. Some increase in reservation charges in higher passenger classes are alright, but Tatkaal and cancellation charges raise has no justification. Of course, it would bring revenue, but looked a little exploitative of the helplessness of the traveller, instead a straight raise in higher classes would have been in order. It would have even given better revenue. Although not quite a damp squibb, it was not cheerful either. As expected some effort at modernization and safety are in place.
The national finance budget of P. Chidambaram is eagerly expected. When you read this it would have already come. The expectant nation is hoping that it would be a good budget devoid of populism. The taxing of super rich is expected. This idea of-'what traffic can bear'-is positive. Those who earn more, should, in all fairness, pay more. But hope P. Chidambaram keeps the bench mark at Rs:1 crore. Those who earn over Rs: 1 crore should share a little more burden for the sake of nation. A 10% hike, in I.T on the income above 1crore should be ideal and may be acceptable. It would give certainly some additional revenue to the government. The complaint that ‘You are punishing those who work hard to earn more’ should be taken with a pinch of salt.  Surely there will be many who will willingly give. Of course any other aspect may be difficult to wager. Hope Finance Minister shall leave a bit of smile on everybody’s lips with his pro-development approach. Lets wait and see. We have taken up the issue, Changelessness – An Indian dimension in Focus. Hope readers will find it interesting and revert with your inputs.


MONTH IN PERSPECTIVE


HARYANA: Haryana is going to dogs with law and order machinery looking the other way to the increasing attacks on vulnerable women at different places. And comes the news of a minister, one Shiv Charan Sharma, calling Geetika Sharma a ‘Servant’ of his former jailed colleague Gopal Kanda, and this is not a ‘big case’. All media informed public are privy to the fact that Geetika Sharma, who worked for the MLDR airline owned by Handa, committed suicide some months ago due to the physical assault and torture by Handa.
Handa is the prime accused in the case. Celebrating the jailed bird Kanda’s birthday in Sirsa, this Shiv Charan Sharma, the Haryana minister, had reportedly stated that “This isn’t  such a big case. Handa appointed Geetika as a servant by mistake”.
If the report in the print media is true then, either this minister Sharma is semi literate, not knowing what is an abatement to suicide, commenting even when it is ‘sub judice’, and what the term servant means, or he is arrogant beyond repair. He should be dismissed as unfit, to be a minister by the Congress government. Of course, it is another matter, he apologised after opposition reacted rather sharply calling it “extremely condemnable and insulting”. When shall politicians like Sharma learn decency in public utterances.

MAHARASHTRA: There is this Dr Sudam Munde and his wife Dr Saraswathi. They have a clinic in Beed, where they have been conducting illegal abortions of female feotus, and reportedly fed the feotuses to their dogs.  A case was filed against them in the court of Additional Session Judge Sudhakar Mahajan, in Beed in 2010. Doctor couple managed a bail in the court of Sudhakar Mahajan. In 2012, an arrest warrant was issued against the couple. Again reportedly same judge granted them bail. Little after the bail, a woman, Vijayamala Patekar, died while undergoing illegal abortion in Dr Munde’s clinic. Under pressure, the Doctor couple was arrested along with 15 others who allegedly sheltered them. Our judge Sudhakar Mahajan again grants all of them bail. To the bad luck of Munde couple, the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court cancelled the bail, the bailing judge was suspended. Obviously this Judge Mahajan was a rotten egg and had to be remanded in the larger interest of the justice. How can a judge bail out a serial offender serially, especially in a case of female foeticide?!
Some people are law unto themselves. We had written about it earlier as well, how Salman Khan is more powerful than Maharashtra home minister, or else more than 10 years’ old case of ‘Hit & Run’ against Khan is seemingly going no-where. It needed an activist to complaint to the court about the alleged favouritism by the Mumbai police in not persuing the case. As expected the police have denied the allegation by filing the affidavit. Clearly they are telling lies, because there were other cases of similar nature probably more grave, like that of Alister Pereira, which got over in flat 15 months. Or that of Nooria Hit & Run case, which took about 2 years for the trial to complete.
The case involving Khan had one death and 4 injured. Accident occurred at 2.45 in the early hours of 28 Sept. 2002. Y P Singh, former senior IPS officer of Maharashtra cadre, left service to join Anna Hazare movement had formally accused the Mumbai police of intentionally dillydallying in persuing the case. Besides ham handling of witnesses by the prosecution, Khan has been ignoring to appear in the court despite being asked by the court. Clearly there are two sets of law in operation for Mumbai Police.
There was this survey conducted by students of St. Xavier’s college in Mumbai on the utility and usefulness of skywalks across Mumbai city. To make these skywalks government had reportedly spent over Rs: 700 crores during the last decade or so. It was a greatly felt need near railway stations and certainly could have helped in the better management of vehicular traffic so also human traffic. However the key findings are not supportive of the huge expenditure the government has incurred. Of the 1000 adults who responded to the survey, 68% have said that skywalks are beneficial and 22% are lost, they are not sure if it has helped, while 16% opined that it has not helped. By any stretch of imagination, it is a money well spent. May be it will take some more time for the people to appreciate its usefulness. It is free of any clutter, one can get straight into railway station without any encumbrance of  crossing vehicles, and vehicles can be free to cross. But unfortunately used to the disorganised and unorganised way of life Indians by and large do not like to be disciplined hence the utility rate of these skywalks are less. It is safe, provided more people use it. Some security at night may be needed. Enforcement of crossing curbs on the road below, for those who oppose change, can greatly help in improving the level of usage of these skywalks. Indiscipline is our national malaise. If this reigned in, then all would realise that skywalks are  the best thing to have happened. Hope it happens.

TAMIL NADU: Vishwaroopam, the film by Kamala Haassan, has unwittingly exposed another ‘roopam’ of politics in Tamil Film fraternity. Jayalalitha has only used her position as the CM of Tamil Nadu to ban it, when prima facie there was hardly any case. Reportedly in Kerala, there was no problem in screening it. Even court, once allowed the screen then withdrew the permission. All because the government had raised the bogie of law and order. Of course the larger issue of freedom of expression was certainly given a go by which is again an issue of another bigger debate. But what is sad is Kamala Haassan, a genius in his own inimitable way, was made to eat a humble pie by forcing him to agree to cuts, which even by some Muslims’ standards was hardly of any relevance.

CHHATTISGARH: Gautham Navlakha, is an intellectual and a writer who has sharp and strong views. He normally supports everything what naxals do, who are according to him victims of the system and are justified in doing all violent actions and reactions.
Of course, India is a huge place where all kinds of people live, and sometime don’t let others live. Naxals are certainly a fringe group some of whom must have suffered societal wrongs, they certainly need sympathy for their suffering, and empathy for pro-active corrective actions so that they are helped back to the society to which they always belonged.
Unfortunately both, the misguided Naxals, as well as, the insensitive state are wrong on many counts, and hence the problem of naxalism has grown to difficult to manage proportions. And comes the latest reports “Dead trooper booby trapped” and “Arms dealers trying to contact Maoists: NSA”.
Both these reports appeared in less than two weeks time. Both the reports, by its very nature appear extremely diabolic. If one can be called a terror act, the other is clearly anti-national. One was when Maoists implanted a bomb inside a dead CRPF trooper’s stomach, found while conducting autopsy. It was a 1.5kg bomb stitched inside the abdomen of a dead Jawan. This is clearly barbaric. Would this communist card holder Gautham Navlakha, who writes extensively for Economic & Political Weekly, being part of its editorial board, have difficulty in accepting his fellow travellers naxals to be terrorists?

KARNATAKA: Word fantasy and fantastic have a common connotation and that is the incredibility dimension. Karnataka government had leased out huge tracks of land to corporate play boy Vijay Mallya at Kunigal in the outskirts of Bangalore. These kinds of favours are a-done-thing for varieties of reasons and considerations, both political and financial. Mallya was using the land for breeding his race horses. Thus basically it is a stud farm.
Railways had a proposal to construct a tunnel under the stud farm for the Bangalore-Hassan broad gauge railway line. Both Karnataka govt. and Vijay Mallya let their imagination go wild. They came up with a fantasy and the ever obliging government, being corporate friendly, declared the stud farm as “a site of heritage value”. Or how else to save the stud farm for Mallya! Again it could be for some considerations. Naturally, the railways cannot disturb the ‘heritage site’, and planned a detour. Livid, over the railway plan to acquire farm land, farmers knocked at the court. Our farmer friendly government did not blink, to favour a businessman at the cost of farmers and their interest.
The court, while upholding the farmer’s petition observed that “state government has evolved a fantastic adjective of heritage site in respect of a stud farm” and has asked railways to go ahead with their survey for tunnel under stud farm.
This is how our elected government cried with the poor and sided the rich.

KERALA: Some months ago Palaniappan Chidambaram’s son complained against a small time businessman from Puducherry for a twitter incursion into his private public image. Being son of union finance minister, he had the clout with the police in Puducherry. The twitter man was hauled up by the police under some clauses of I.T. Act. He managed to get a bail, may be after a day, but vowed not to apologise for the twitter message.
Then one day Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackray dies in Mumbai. A girl in Palghar, some 100 kms north of Mumbai questions in her twitter, the bandh, in the wake of this SS Chief’s death. And another agrees, saying she liked it. Shiv Sena goes berserk and police in Palghar acts with alacrity to arrest both girls. It arouses the netizens and nation goes viral on this arrest. Maharashtra Chief Minister goes on over-drive gets all the charges dropped and police reprimanded.
In Kerala, reportedly some 111 persons arrested for sending twitter and some for liking it. Issue here was the infamous 17 year old Suryanelli rape case. Despite having been ‘exhonerated’ by all legal processes, name of Rajya Sabha Deputy chairman P.J. Kurien kept coming back again and again especially after the well published Delhi rape and death case of a medical student. PJK keeps flaunting the ‘exhoneration’ by all competent legal authorities. But then, it was on the basis of witnesses made available to the authorities then. However fresh revelation have considerably increased the pressure on PJK to quit. Of course, in the ‘highest tradition’ of politicians across the national spectrum, PJK is refusing to step down. His party, fortunately for him, is supporting him. But pressure among people, especially the Left and their supporters are on the offensive. In fitness of things, he should resign, get cleared and comeback. But as usual, all criminals are worried that the golden hen of political position would be lost forever, if given up under pressure. PJK is just being an opportunistic politician.

RAJASTAN: These days literary festival like art festivals are getting into public domain mostly for all wrong reasons. Latest to be in the limelight is Ashish Nandi, one of India’s finest sociologists. All that he said at Jaipur Lit Fest was, how empowered and corruption have become a common denominator of equality. According to Nandy it was only the upper class intelligence which ruled the roost in corruption scandals, now with political entry having increased for SC/STs, the opportunity of making unearned income or undeserved income or simply put, to indulge in corruption has increased, and SC/STs have used the opportunity to their advantage. Hence if money is one of the measurement of empowerment and therefore equality, SC/STs have managed it, opines Ashish Nandi. Quite frankly he is not far from truth. Brilliant example is Madhu Koda, who in matter of months is known to have made Rs: 4000 crores as a standby Chief Minister of Jharkhand, not to mention likes of Maayawathi or Ram Vilas Paswan. It is another matter that both Maayawathi and Paswan are baying for the blood of Nandy for just speaking the truth. Fortunately Kancha Ilaiah has taken a principled stand saying, that Nandi did not say anything seriously wrong, but probably could have put it differently, besides being opposed to any legal action against Nandi. Anand Teltumbde, the other prominent intellectual, a grand son of national icon BR Ambedkar, has also ignored the ruckus. Of course, this should not end up being licence to SC/STs to be corrupt, since it has a equity dimension in a corrupt milieu.

NEW DELHI: One national news paper from Mumbai carried two views on the same page. One on Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and the other on U.S. President Barack Husain Obama. One said “Self Goal by Shinde” the other said “An Assertive Obama”.
With all the claims by U.S. being India’s friend, there have been occasions like not considering Indian sensibilities while deciding on issues relating to Mumbai terror attack on 26/11. U.S. excempted  ISI of Pakistan under immunity provisions, much to the chagrin of India, so also 35 years of imprisonment with possible 5 years remission, to the key handler of 26/11 attack, David Headley, instead of life term until death or death penalty. After all some 170 people were killed in the attack. Thus with all their noises they clearly know where their interest lie.
Despite some not so reasonable responses to Indian’s concerns, Obama, generally has been very clear in his 2nd term address to the nation and is likely to take decision which can impact positively. Be it Palestine issue, containing China’s hegemonestic aspirations, Pakistan’s diabolic role vis-à-vis-Taliban terrorism etc. All the above issues would have impacted India positively in some ways.
But our very own Sushil Kumar Shinde, in his Political brinkmanship, allowed himself to be embraced by terrorist Hafiz Said and his ilk by officially stating that RSS & BJP were running terror camps. Now by any stretch of imagination this is far fetched. Of course there were instances of Abhinav Bharat activists allegedly involved in terror attacks, ostensibly to repay in kind, for what groups from across the western borders have committed and continued to commit. But to make a sweeping statement just to please the political leadership of his party and influence Muslim vote bank is to clearly play into the hands of Pakistan. His remarks were received with glee from across the border is no surprise. As one paper puts it “With one stroke he has knocked out the bottom from the known Indian position that ISI and its agents, local & foreign, perpetrate terrorist acts in this country”. At this point we all need to ask an honest question. How unsafe are Muslims and Christian in India as compared to Christians and Hindus in Pakistan?
It is only the hype by media and politicians who kept the divide gaping for their partisan ends. Certainly Obama is far more honest than Shinde. That is the bottom line.
It is very apparent, that Italians are better at the application of rule of law. On Feb. 13, just about all Indian news papers informed their readers “Italian defence giant Finmeccanica’s CEO arrested along with other three on charge of paying a bribe to land orders for helicopters for Indian VIPs”.
Fact was, the bribe or the kickback of about Rs: 350 crores was the loss to Indian exchequer. And reportedly allegations of huge bribe were going round since over a year. But Indian govt. did not act citing ‘no specific input’. Suddenly all hell broke when the other side wanted to come clean and acted on their own. It was just like BOFORS. It was Sweden, who broke the news, and India drew ‘blank’ after ‘strenuous efforts’ by our CBI for close to 3 decades. Then it was Rs: 64 crores. Now it is Rs: 350 crores, CBI ‘acted’ then also, and they are acting now also. Yes now they are running all over and with purpose, since the instruction have come from the top to act, for obvious reasons, the Italian connections. Will have to wait and see what happens next and whose head shall roll.
But an interesting dimension of this VVIP helicopter deal is the cost of it. Reportedly, Barack Obama, the U.S President turned down buying this AW: 101 helicopter for the White House as U.S. felt it to be very expensive and instead just upgraded their existing fleet. But for Indian VVIPs cost is of no consequence. Their life is very valuable and has got to be protected besides the luxury they are entitled to. So what! Chidambaram may have to find newer ways to raise revenues, including taxing the super rich! Kyaa Baath hai!
Hanging of Afzal Guru, in the 2001 Parliament attack did bring about the closure of the case. However it did leave quite a few questions unanswered. Was it a political execution? Was it to satisfy a section of Indians? Was it to satisfy the collective consciousness of people of India, as Supreme Court tells. But then, he was caught for waging a war on the nation. Parliament of India is not a tiny temple in Kashmir, which you can demolish and get away with it. But Parliament of India is an edifice of huge socio political significance. Attack on it, surely is to be seen as an attack on the whole ‘Idea of India’. Absolutely unacceptable, and reportedly this Afzal Guru is not repentant for the attack. He has been given full assistance by the legal process. Supreme Court has gone into the whole gamut of the case. Only after considering all aspect apex court found him guilty of being a key accomplice of the terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammed from Pakistan. There were scores of innocent death. Completely avoidable, some families have lost lone bread winner. Were the design of attackers to succeed, the horror could have been unimaginable. Thank god, all attackers could be killed. Thus the decision of the court is fairly grounded on judicial premise. Except whether death sentence was right or not, there was no reason to stop the ultimate punishment. The letter didn’t reach the wife before execution, Supreme Court review opportunity was not given, now body is not being returned, these are questions of larger questions. Answers are there for all these questions. May be some day, when the issue cools down, government or the authorities shall give all these questions appropriate answers. Until then its Jai Hind.

WORLD: Haven’t our women folks, rather women activists or can we call them feminine activists always protested rather vehemently, any adverse comment on their sartorial attitude or ways. In India from across the spectrum, there have been in the past and continued to the present, observations from many quarters like, the police, social thinkers, elders and even senior ladies in positions of authority have commented that revealing and body hugging clothes do entice some men to attempt at possible physical assault.
We have witnessed in the past how many women’s organisations, activists, including men and students, both girls and boys reacted rather sharply saying it is the criminal mindset and dress habits of women or girls have no impact at all.
And comes the news from the west, the citadel of modernity and probably even nudity. A London based news informs “Women in short skirts, high heels ‘risk rape’, says UK-MP”.
Britain have many Indians and other Asians as Members of Parliament. But this Mr Richard Graham, a Tory M.P., is out and out – pure Englishman, born and grew in a more open society of London. He had reportedly stated “While what a woman wore did not necessarily attract sexual predators, it could make it harder for them to get away from an attacker”. And mind you, he is not alone, there is this Jo Wood, a trustee of Rape Crisis England & Wales, too echoes similar sentiment. “Its not about the impact of your clothes on a potential predator - its about whether the clothes you are wearing make it harder to get away from a predator”.
In any case what needs to be appreciated is that the scanty and skimpy clothes do make the men turn on. What next is essentially a matter of chance. Thus the fact remains, it could still be a trigger factor, take it or leave it.
We have been hearing in recent past that India will emerge closest friend of United States, repeated many times over, by President Obama, Hillary Clinton and all those who can influence thought and action within the United States. But on ground, somehow, things do not look as bright as they make it out to be. It has been always our experience. Not that things have not worked, it has worked. There has been upward trend since a decade or so ago. But at crucial moments, story has been otherwise.
Look at this latest case of David Headley urf Dawood Geelani, a Pak-American. World is privy to the truth that he worked for both U.S. intelligence and ISI. For the U.S., he was an informer, who would inform on terror activities in Pakistan. He had a firsthand knowledge of terror since he was an associate of LeT. For ISI, he would work as spy to keep them posted on India and likely targets of vulnerability.  Thus he was a double agent. Being an informer this Headley would always be in the U.S. radar. Thus they would have known of his travels to India and his itinerary. Hence it would be within the realm of justifiable imagination to think, if only U.S. authorities were to keep India in the loop on this diabolic lump called Headley, chances are 26/11 could have been avoided, so are the deaths of those about 170 who were killed – Indians, American and others. What calculation the U.S. had in this move to keep India in dark is a mystery. The mystery confounded when U.S. granted ISI chief a curious immunity from law suits in America. The 35 years of imprisonment for this Pak-American is therefore disproportionate to the crime he committed. U.S. being U.S. will have all kinds of justification for not seeking life sentence instead of death sentence, since he turned approver. However the fact of the matter is, it is indeed a case of judicial miscarriage, since India which suffered the most and the maximum, had no role in this decision. And the Democratic Party of Obama administration has reportedly admitted that 94% Indians voted for Obama. So it was indeed a let down by Obama and his men.
An Islamabad datelined report informed “Indian prisoner in Pak jail dead after beating”. CBMs or No CBMs, Pak will keep doing what Pak is best at – keep tinkering and play foul with any emotive issue. Pakistanis in Indian prison or vice versa is an ever present fact of life for varieties of reason. But least one can do is to cause physical harm or beatings to helpless prisoners, who would be there by accident, for entirely no fault of thiers. However what is despicable in this particular case is that the victim was to have been released after just two days remaining in his 5 years jail term, informs a Pakistani lawyer, Tehseen Khan. According to Khan, who too was in the same prison and was released little earlier, he was mercilessly beaten by jail staff abusing him with racial remarks against India and minorities. The victim Chamel Singh’s only fault was he used water from a tap to wash his clothes. If the details as reported form Islamabad are true this is another barbaric act after the barbaric beheading of Indian Jawans killed on LOC in Kashmir by Pak army men. How can you sustain a civilized relation with such countries?!
There is another juicier side of Pakistani national scene. A Paris date lined news in the print media headlined as “Sarcozy faces probe in Karachi affair” tells us about a diabolic development in an arms deal between France and Pakistan. According to the report, French court had authorized an investigation into the role of Sarcozy, who was a budget minister in late 1990’s in an alleged kickback in the deal. But in 2002, there was a bomb blast in Karachi which killed 11French Engineers, ostensibly because the kickbacks received by the then French Prime Minister Edward Baladur was not shared with the Pakistani connections. The court was apparently probing if Karachi bombing was a revenge for the cancellation of bribes secretly promised to Pak officials. The idea of commenting on this news unrelated to India was due to the Pakistani angle and how they can kill innocents if their money share is not paid, even if it is illegal and illegitimate?
So, Pope Benedict XVI has quit, citing reasons of failing health due to growing age. Reportedly this happened after 600 years, of a similar voluntary retirement. Reportedly some were shocked but there were those who called it courageous. Yes, when the whole world of faithfulls looks at you in reverence, to call it quits requires a courage of rare order. Christians, the world over must salute this apostle for the courage of his conviction.
Of course, there are any number of controversies surrounding Vatican. The child abuse by priests being the most damaging. Funding by totalitarian regimes and the underworld, which leads to financial scandals by its very nature. Lets face it, it is the fate of all religious orders, because there is lack of transparency in their history and geography. It is like Samuel Butler’s “Way of all flesh”.
Pope Benedict XVI, too had a rough sail during his tenure, with his views on Muslims, Jews, divorce, contraception, ordination of women, ending celibacy for priests etc. It happens in every democratic set up, we always agree to disagree.
This could be the lot of all his predecessors so also his successors. But all do not call it quits. All of us need an old age home, so all try to hang on as long as god does not decide to make his last call to us. But Pope Benedict XVI has proved that he is an individual and is made differently, and therefore acted differently. And that indeed is ultimate freedom, the freedom from desire. As he walks towards the evening twilight, the sunset, lets al pray that all goes well for him. Amen.
J.Shriyan

FOCUS

Changelessness -
An Indian dimension


Urdu is a very rich language, with richer vocabulary. There is a couple of couplets  in Urdu, which are fairly prevalent in India, although Urdu, per se, is not one of the dominant languages of this country. It is true those who know Hindi can largely understand Urdu, thus, it has near universal appeal across India except parts of South India.
“Kaarvaan Nikhal Gayee Aur Gubhar Dekhte Rehgayaa”, and other “Oopar Sherwaani Aur Andhar Pareyshaani”. Both these couplets convey a certain social dimension with complete relevance, when it comes to be applied to a developing economy like our Mera Bharat Mahan is.
Caravaan has passed, but the dust left behind kept looking at it, probably forlorn wondering at the emptiness of the ethereal stillness. It represents a situation, where lot of people have moved on to greater heights of acquisition, education, wealth and power, leaving behind a huge section of population caught in the time warp like the dust left behind by the march of the developmental caravan. Doesn’t it represent large parts of India, which remained far away from the developmental highways of emerging ‘super power’ called India!
At the stroke of midnight, as the world lay asleep, India awoke to freedom. The 15th Aug. 1947, that ushered India as a politically free nation, inherited to a large extent colonial mindset, especially by the officialdom.
This is only the beginning of changing India’s dimension of changelessness.
On Aug. 15th 1947, some 350 million Indians, unshackled from the colonial yoke of over 100 years, set out on an voyage of rediscovery, unlike Nehru’s Discovery, of India. If Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India, tried to put in black & white a perspective for a continental audience, what India was, the burden of the average Indian was to rediscover, what is left of it, in the post colonial depredation era.
History of pre-independence era, especially since the year 1600, when Englishmen landed in, the then, Calcutta with commercial interest, informs us that East India Company was opened to promote the English trade and commerce with India. However, they apparently had long term plans to stay put in the country, which they systematically did, as the history testifies, right upto Aug 1947. During this 347 long years, using the trader’s canniness, joining hands with the self serving native chieftains, they plundered the nation’s riches and resources without much of a hindrance. When they left, after almost 31/2 centuries of exploitation – political, economic and social – Britishers had reduced the country bereft of all developmental avenues, except some railway lines and similar transportation infrastructure. Of course, even this railways and some road networks were developed only to serve its colonial commercial interest.
According to government sources, over 90% people, that is, over 300 million, lived either below the poverty line (BPL) or hovering around it. Low income and poverty driven maladies like malnutrition, undernourishment leading to preventable diseases, premature death, besides illiteracy were some of the stark realities of the day. It further informs that, not even one child in three, of primary school age, was in school. Only one adult in seven could read and write. There was only one doctor for every 25000 people in rural India. Over third of rural India was landless labourers. Not a pretty picture for a British Colony, in mid 1947.
Yet looking back over the shoulder, in 2013, some 65+ years down the line, how has been the voyage of rediscovery, of an Indian born into free India on 15th Aug. 1947?!
Yes, India of 2013 is certainly not the same as India of 1947. India has changed, but for whom and for how many?! Yet it has remained without change for millions of Indians.
Here, instead of going into statistical semantics, let us try to see through events and incidents, which are in the form of examples of whatever is happening to India and Indians.
Bartalomio Dentamaro, an Italian traveler, staying in a South Mumbai Hotel, decided, to take an evening stroll in the parking lot of the hotel. There was a wedding reception going on in the hotel premises. Parking was, therefore, full. Strolling the area, looking at the cars parked in the hotel compound, Mr Dentamaro was visibly surprised at the array of limousines therein. From exotic Lamborghini, to handcrafted Masaretti to personalised Rolls Royce to varieties of imported premium  brand four wheelers. What amazed him was, even in up market Monaco, in the Italian neighbourhood he had not seen at one place, so many cars of premium brands parked along side of each other. The sheer opulence and the open display of riches clearly overtook him. He walks upto the reception and tells the hotel staff, all Indians of course, failing to contain his disbelief, “Amigo, who said India is poor. No! India is not poor, India is rich, but Indians are poor”. How true was his observation, way back in 1993! Aren’t we still the same?! India continues to be rich, with millions of millionaires, and some billionaires making it to the ‘Fortune 500’, the elite club of the super rich. But we still have some 400 million Indians living below 2$ a day. The double digit growth story did not bring about the change that did not percolate down, for these millions of our countrymen.
Exactly 100 years ago, in 1912, one Ram Jiyawan, a landless labourer from Nawawa village, some 300kms east of Lucknow towards north western Bihar, was picked up by the British as an indentured labour and forcibly transported to the far away British Guyana in South America. Three generations down the line, Ram Jiyawan’s grandson Mr Bharath Jagdev came to India in search of his roots. The family of two Lonia households had multiplied to 24 households in the intervening ten decades that passed by. India had become a free nation from the British colonial masters since 65 years. But for this community of Lonias, in free India, nothing had changed except the growing number of mouths to be fed. They were still landless labourers working for big land lords, as it was 100 years ago. Eleven development plans of free India left them untouched. All the redistributive exercise brought them no justice in its developmental growth trajectory. Yes, nothing had really changed for that part of Bihar, except Mr Bharath Jagdev, who came calling, from half the globe away, on his ancestral root, was the President of British Guyana. 
The persistent changelessness was so stark, they didn’t have even a set of decent clothes to welcome one of their very own! A few poor men, dressed up for the occasion, provided by the district administration, were presented to the head of a nation as his family. A deeply embarrassed first citizen of British Guyana, probably left in tears, like his grandfather, bewildered at the distance covered by him, in the realization of human potential and the time warp, his Lonia brothers and sisters in India, were caught in. 
Is this one-off story of deprivation?! There are thousands of such stories where things remained unchanged for millions of Indians. Indeed “Kaarwaan Nikhal Gayee Aur Ghubhaar Dekh tey rehgaya”.
Speaking from the ramparts of the Lal Kila, the Red Fort, the first Prime Minister of free India gave a clarion call “Our work shall never to be complete until the last tear is wiped out”. 
But what is our experience, 65 years down the line?
VR Krishna Iyer, wrote brilliantly, some years ago, reflecting the unease in growth. “In India, a socialist, secular, democratic republic, is over a billion strong, and is perhaps the world’s first in its ancient heritage, second in primitive poverty, third in contemporary crimes, twelth in total wealth. In the context of institutions and the developmental dynamics desiderated by modern technology, India can be Kohinoor diamond and can be rich in resources if creatively catalised. Yet is a frustrated fraction of mankind because of environmental, colonial, corrupt and stultifying contradictions. Our creative statesmen can transform the country if they wished to. Feudalism, capitalism and Marxism co-exist in a Bharat, which is plunged in widespread socialist injustice. Perestroika and glasnost, and a do or die struggle for systemic transformation, are the militant urgency of the hour”.
These are provocative thoughts. There is genuine restlessness in the message Justice Iyer was attempting to convey, representing an unhealthy state of affairs.
“Progress” writes Amartya Sen, “is more plausible judged by the reduction of deprivation than by the further enrichment of the opulent”. Surely, Sen as a Nobel Laureate in Economics, clearly knows what he is talking. Indeed, the double digit growth did not change the moribund status of our millions living away from the national highways. Surely it is a case of “Oopar Sherwaani, andar pareyshaani” and the ‘pareyshaani’ runs pretty deep.
Yes, we have changed for sure, but still changelessness persists. ‘India Shining’ came and gone off with shining left only in few pockets. Poverty that existed in 1947, may have continuously come down, even to this day in 2013. But the absolute number of poor has only increased. If in 1947, we had some 300 millions, of the 350 million population representing almost 90%, it is over 400 million in to-day’s 1200 million, about 1/3rd of the population. It could well be that those who were in the 300 million of around the 1940s, may still be there in the 400 million of the 2010s. Poverty, unfortunately, has many facets. Undernourishment, malnutrition, lack of safe drinking water, lack of health care facilities, lack of adequate housing, lack of sanitary facilities, lack of opportunity for education  and therefore opportunity for advancement and empowerment, lack of income and income generating opportunities like employment, etc.
Across India, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Kutch to Kolkatta, problem of deprivation of different kinds is visibly seen and felt. Of course, it is abundantly clear that in recent years, say since last 30 years, things have greatly changed for the majority of our population. But those who are badly off are indeed worse off suffering multiple inadequacies.
If the absolute number of poor in India has not reduced over the past 65 years there must be some profound reasons. Experience of China and other smaller nations of the south-east Asia has provided us with lamp-posts to human development index. Unlike our elite babus & their political masters who debate for years what constitutes, Below Poverty Line and that Rs: 600 can take care of a family of 4 for a month, as stated by Sheila Dixit, men at the helm of economic decision making in those countries showed more practical concern for the fundamentals of human well being. Without tom-toming they went about persuing primary health care, basic education and economic sustenance to all their people. These countries have left India far behind in the human development index. Our well meaning laws simply didn’t work therefore failed to deliver. The classic example of granaries being full and people dying of starvation is a sad commentary on our monumental failure to measure up to even minimum expectation in a democratic milieu.
So what has really changed for those who were and are still continuing to remain outside the developmental exercises?
There was this report in the print media “When the policy failed children,” which talks about the government schemes that never reached the target and that doctors and health workers are unaware of these schemes. This was a report of, as late as Dec 20, 2012. It has always been like this at least in those pockets where vulnerable sections live. They were helpless then, and they are helpless even now. 
There was this half page advertisement on 20th Feb 2013 in prominent national dailies (See Box), screaming “Nearly every second child in India is a victim of malnutrition”, and asks to contact Anganwadi workers or ASHA, for more information. Isn’t it a matter of shame that our national government openly admits its monumental failure in tackling malnutrition, which even according to the Ministry of Women and Child Development is the “biggest killer”? How sad and bad that after 65 years, we are where we began in 1947, for good part of Indians.
It is not just the child, whom the governments across India failed, but even women. The recent death of a victim of Delhi gang’s sexual attack which somehow galvanised a national display of anger, against the government’s failure in providing basic security apparatus. Are these stories of women or even girls being physically exploited and violated with violence new?! Its been there all the while. It was EK Nayanar a former CM of Kerala who had observed decades ago, while still holding office of CM, that “rape happens in Kerala everyday”, reacting to a widely reported sexual attack on a 16 year old, known as the infamous Suryanelli case. So what’s new?! This governmental attitude was in display even as late as last month in Jan. 2013. So what has really changed with all this imaginary ‘super power’ status hogwash being mouthed by all and sundry!
Yes, after 65 years, we couldn’t guarantee a modicum of basic governance, an application of rule of law. While most necessities of a civilized living conditions, are not met by the elected government, one aspect they have magnificently succeeded in improving its level, is the all pervading corruption. We are all privy to the knowledge that there is corruption in just about every socio/economic activity. The corruption index has always negatively portrayed India as deeply corrupt. A small report in the Times of India, Mumbai of Feb. 17, 2013, informs that Disproportionate Assets (DPA) of government servants have increased, in just one year, by 6200%. One Nitish Thakur, a deputy collector in Mumbai, was raided the other day and they could seize assets worth Rs. 118 crores. And that is only a tip of the iceberg, if pan-Indian details of sleaze is collated. Of course, this corruption by the officialdom, joined by the political leadership in the national loot, is the biggest cause of India’s changeless status. It was to the credit of Rajiv Gandhi, who, in a moment of deep introspection, credited to have said “only 15 paise in a rupee reach the target and the balance 85 paise gets siphoned off in transit”. He couldn’t have been more right.
Thus, unless this all pervading corruption is shackled, the status of India’s changelessness shall continue to have its uninterrupted run.
Some of the recent print media headlines are reproduced for the issues raised therein crying for national attention:
1) “Only 1 in 7 Nutritional Rehabilitation centre functioning in AP” Dec 18, 2012
2) “Eviction of traditional dwellers in Forest opposed” Dec 18, 2012
3) “Over 650 devotees perform ‘Made Snana” Dec 18, 2012
4) “Parents refuse mid-day meal cooked by SC woman” Dec 18, 2012
5) “Dead Engineer served with show-cause notice” Dec 18, 2012
6) “Odisha elite go on spending spree” Dec 18, 2012
7) “Redrawing India’s disease Map” Dec 19, 2012
8) “Student gets shot for refusing to salute politician” Dec 19, 2012
9) “Top priority for family planning in 12th Five Year Plan” Dec 20, 2012
10) “Danger to women lurks within us” Dec 27, 2012
11) “More than half of SC/ST families in Karnataka do not have toilets” Dec 28, 2012
12) “Adarsh scam reveals deep rooted corruption” Dec 29, 2012
13) “School dropout rise due to poverty” 
Above are some of the reports from two English dailies appearing in less than 2 weeks time. This is fairly representative of the rot that has set in the body politic of the country. The changelessness is not merely because of the rulers but also because of the mindset of the ruled. ‘After all the governments can be only as good as the electorates who voted them to power’. Amen.

J. Shriyan

FEATURE


Half of drugs prescribed in France useless or dangerous, say two specialists

Prof. B. M. Hegde,
hegdebm@gmail.com

Half of all medicines being prescribed by doctors in France are either useless or potentially dangerous for patients, according to two eminent medical specialists. They blame the powerful pharmaceutical companies for keeping these drugs on sale at huge expense to the health system and the taxpayer.
Professor Philippe Even, director of the prestigious Necker Institute, and Bernard Debré, a doctor and member of parliament, say removing what they describe as superfluous and hazardous drugs from the list of those paid for by the French health service would save up to €10bn (£8bn) a year. It would also prevent up to 20,000 deaths linked to the medication and reduce hospital admissions by up to 100,000, they claim.
In their 900-page book The Guide to the 4,000 Useful, Useless or Dangerous Medicines, Even and Debré examined the effectiveness, risks and cost of pharmaceutical drugs available in France. Among those that they alleged were "completely useless" were statins, widely taken to lower cholesterol. The blacklist of 58 drugs the doctors claimed are dangerous included anti-inflammatories and drugs prescribed for cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, osteoporosis, contraception, muscular cramps and nicotine addiction.
The Professional Federation of Medical Industrialists denounced the doctors' views as full of "confusions and approximations".
"This book is helping to alarm those who are sick needlessly and risks leading them to stop treatments," it saidin a statement.
Christian Lajoux, the federation's president said: "It is dangerous and irresponsible … hundreds of their examples are neither precise nor properly documented. We must not forget that the state exercises strict controls on drugs. France has specialist agencies responsible for the health of patients and of controlling what information is given to them."
Professor Even told the Guardian most of the drugs criticised in the book are produced by French laboratories. He accused the pharmaceutical industry of pushing medicines at doctors who then push them on to patients. "The pharmaceutical industry is the most lucrative, the most cynical and the least ethical of all the industries," he said. "It is like an octopus with tentacles that has infiltrated all the decision making bodies, world health organisations, governments, parliaments, high administrations in health and hospitals and the medical profession.
"It has done this with the connivance, and occasionally the corruption of the medical profession. I am not just talking about medicines but the whole of medicine. It is the pharmaceutical industry that now outlines the entire medical landscape in our country."
The French consume medication worth €36bn (£29bn) every year, about €532 (£430) for each citizen who has an average 47 boxes of medicine in cupboards every year. The state covers 77% of the cost; in Britain spending on medicines is around £271 per person. "Yet in the UK people have the same life expectancy of around 80 years and are no less healthy," said Even.
The authors were commissioned by former President Nicolas Sarkozy to write a report over the Mediator affair, a drug developed for diabetes patients but prescribed as a slimming aid, that has been linked to the deaths of hundreds of patients who developed heart problems.
However, Even accused the industry of having a get-rich-quick attitude to making medicines and said it was interested in chasing only easy profits. "They haven't discovered very much new for the last 30 years, but have multiplied production, using tricks and lies.
"Sadly, none of them is interested in making drugs for rare conditions or, say, for an infectious disease in countries with no money, because it's not a big market. Nor are they interested in developing drugs for conditions like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease because it too difficult and there's not money to be made quickly.
"It has become interested only in the immediate, in short term gains. On Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry is third after petrol and banking, and each year it increases by 20%. It's more profitable than mining for diamonds."
Asked to explain French people's apparent dependence on medication, Even said: "For the last 40 years patients have been told that medicines are necessary for them, so they ask for them. Today we have doctors who want to give people medicines and sick people asking for medicines. There's nothing objective or realistic about this."
He added: "There is nothing revolutionary in this book. This has all been known for some time."
• This article was amended on 17 September 2012 to correct the figures given for health spending. The original article gave overall health spending figures and not spending on medicine.

SLICE OF LIFE


Stranded for 30 years, gets exit pass on death


Dubai : A 56-year-old Indian, who had been stuck in Oman for 30 years while awaiting an exit pass from the Gulf nation, died hours before he got signed documents proving his Indian nationality.
Madhusudhan, who first came to Muscat in 1977 from Kerala, had been living on the roof of a building in Muscat after his bag containing his passport and other documents were stolen. Earlier, he had tried in vain to prove his nationality to Indian embassy officials in Muscat and government officials in Kerala, media reports said.
Finally a nativity certificate was issued to him but, unfortunately, it came just hours before his death, the reports said. According to a Times of Oman report, even though he had a few documents to prove his Indian nationality, it was insufficient to obtain an out-pass.
Madhusudan had been working in a construction company for a few years and last visited his home in 1983. “After 30 years of struggle, Madhu passed away, putting an end to his long wait,” Muneer, a social worker in Muscat, told the newspaper.
“We came to know of Madhu from our friends. We found him lying in front of a building in Darsait, shivering from cold. He didn’t have enough clothes to keep himself warm. He was not even able to talk. Somehow, he managed to reveal his identity. So we quickly rushed him to hospital,” Muneer said.
After becoming an undocumented migrant, he had approached embassy officials several times to get an out-pass. “He had a National Cadet Corps certificate and even a copy of his ration card. But these papers were not enough for the embassy officials to provide an out-pass. They insisted that he should provide his ‘nativity certificate’. Now that it’s finally on its way, he didn’t wait for it,” the social worker was quoted as saying.


YEH MERA INDIA


Remains Police SI for 39 years, yet is worth ` 50 crore 


Mohd  Yunus Siddiqui, presently posted as enforcement sub-inspector in Transport Department at Kaimur in western Bihar is worth Rs: 50 crore. Most of his assets have been reportedly acquired through illegal means in his 39-year-long career.   
This startling fact came to light when the sleuths of Economic Offences Unit (EOU) swooped down on his residence and recovered Rs 61.98 lakh in cash. The raiding team also found that Yunus owns a cinema hall, besides a training college, a public school, 34 vehicles and a hotel in Mohania. He also owns four four-storied houses – two each in Patna and Muzaffarpur, apart from 25 acres of land in different parts of Bihar.
Born in an extremely impoverished family, Yunus’s parents eked a hand-to-mouth existence till he joined the government as sub-inspector in 1974. Yunus’s father Md Siddiqui used to sell turmeric and green chillies, while his mother Latiphan was a vegetable seller. But after the death of his father, Yunus threw out his mother, who, out of frustration, committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train.

Advocate & 92 criminal cases against him!?!

New Delhi: A 73-year-old advocate was arrested for his involvement in over 92 cases of forgery and motor vehicle theft, police said. Dhani Ram Mittal is a master at stealing vehicles and was involved in 92 cases of forgery and thefts of motor vehicles, said a senior police officer. He was arrested while driving a stolen car.

“During questioning over the fake car documents, Mittal threatened the police staff by saying that he is a senior citizen and how did they dare to stop his vehicle,” said the officer. He also threatened to get the officers suspended from their service and tried to slip away from the spot, leaving the car behind, said the officer. “On checking police records, Mittal was found involved in 92 cases of cheating, forgery and motor vehicle theft,” said the officer. “Mittal started committing crimes since 1964 in Rohtak,” the officer added. His modus operandi was simple, usually parking his car near the targeted car and starting it with a master key and driving it off. “If caught, he took the pretext of his old age and apologised to the owner, saying it was a mistake and showed his car parked adjacent to the stolen one,” said the officer.


Oscar winning producer fined for smoking in non-smoking area

Jaipur: The producer of Oscar award winning film No Man’s Land March Bachet, who was here as a jury of the International Film festival,  was fined Rs 200 by the police for smoking at public place.
Bachet plans his next Anglo-French film to be shot in India was found lighting a cigarette by a cop, of Manak Chowk police station outside the Golcha theatre where the Jaipur Film Festival was going on. The cop told the film producer Bachet that smoking in public is unlawful in India. Bachet pleaded ignorance, but the cop insisted on booking him. The cop told him that he could avoid all the hassles by making a fine of Rs 200. Bachet, much relieved person paid the fine and obtained a receipt.

When father ticked off his son

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Congress (Pillai) leader R Balakrishna Pillai  asked chief minister Oommen Chandy to drop Pillai’s son and minister KB Ganesh Kumar from the cabinet. The father and son have been at war for over a year. A letter making this demand was handed over to Chandy by an aide to the senior Pillai. Ganesh Kumar is the forest, sports and cinema minister. At a meeting of the Congress-led United Democratic Front, Pillai’s aide demanded that Ganesh Kumar be removed as minister as he does not enjoy the confidence of the party any more.


SG & Law Minister not seeing eye to eye

Rohinton Nariman has resigned as Solicitor General of India. Nariman sent his resignation letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with a copy to Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar. Though the reasons that triggered Nariman’s resignation are not immediately known, sources said that he and the law minister were not on the same page on certain issues, and Nariman was upset with the way government instructions were reaching him. Nariman was appointed solicitor general in July 2011, after his predecessor Gopal Subramaniam resigned, protesting against Nariman’s appearance in the 2-G scam case before the Supreme Court. The solicitor general is the prime lawyer of the central government in the Supreme Court. Nariman reportedly left for Mumbai after submitting his resignation.

FIR against BJP MP from Amreli for slapping doctor on duty

An FIR has been lodged against Naran Kachadiya, a BJP MP from Amreli, for allegedly slapping a government doctor on duty and threatening to kill him, police said.
The incident took place at Amreli Civil Hospital here, where one of the relatives of Kachadiya is undergoing treatment, they said.
The victim, identified as Dr Bhimji Dabhi has lodged the FIR against the MP.
"A relative of Kachadiya is being treated at the trauma centre of the Civil Hospital here.


India’s monthly average income rises

New Delhi: The per capita monthly income, a measure to assess standard of living, grew at a slower rate of 13.7 per cent to Rs 5,130 in 2011-12 at current prices compared to Rs 4,513 in 2010-11. "The per capita income at current prices is estimated at Rs 61,564 (per annum) in 2011-12 as against Rs 54,151 for the previous year depicting a growth of 13.7 per cent, as against an increase of 17.1 per cent during the previous year", said the revised data of national accounts released here.



MONTH THAT WAS


Madarsa Chief Assaults Boy


A head of a Madarsa in Karnatka  allegedly assaulted a teenage boy for "refusing" to learn Arabic at Belur in Chikamagalur district, police said.
Dadapeer, head of Jamia Habibiya Madarsa, allegedly assaulted the 11-year old boy for "refusing" to learn Arabic. He received injuries on his legs and genitals and is being treated in a hospital, police said. Dadapeer met the boy's parents and admitted of assaulting theie son, police said.


US immigration reform to benefit Indians


Washington : Even as President Barack Obama is set to announce an immigration reform plan, a bipartisan group of US senators have unveiled their own scheme offering millions of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
 The compromise plan proposed by a bipartisan group of eight senators would give 11 million undocumented immigrants, including an estimated 200,000 Indians, a provisional status to live and work in America. Currently the sixth largest nationality of illegal immigrants behind Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the Philippines, Indians are also the fastest growing illegal immigrant group in the US since 2000, according to the Department of Homeland Security. 
The senators’ plan also called for strengthening border controls, improved monitoring of visitors and cracking down on hiring undocumented workers. 
Once these steps take place, undocumented immigrants already in the country could begin the process of getting permanent residence-green cards-as a step toward citizenship, the senators told a news conference. “They would no longer be deported, provided they don’t have a criminal record. They would no longer be harassed, they would be allowed to stay here and work,” said Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.
The outline for a possible immigration bill reflects a new willingness by mainstream Republicans to compromise following their party’s defeat in November, when Obama got strong backing from Latino voters, according to CNN, reports media. Obama is expected to deliver a speech in Las Vegas to discuss comprehensive immigration legislation, which he calls a priority of his second term. According to senior administration officials cited by CNN, the president will say the senators’ plan represents progress and argue that now is the time to act.

 Members of polio vaccination team killed in Pakistan


Islamabad: Two members of a polio vaccination team were killed when their motorcycle hit a bomb in the restive Kurram tribal region of Pakistan, the latest in a string of attacks targeting volunteers engaged in a drive against the crippling disease.The two volunteers were on their way to administer polio drops to children in Mali Khel area of Kurram Agency when their motorcycle hit the bomb buried under the road. They were killed instantly, officials of the local political administration said. The bodies of the two men were taken to a hospital in Parachinar, the main town of Kurram Agency.
  The region has been rocked by sectarian clashes between rival Shia and Sunni groups as well as attacks by the Pakistani Taliban. A policeman was killed when suspected militants targeted a polio vaccination team in Swabi district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The attacks prompted UN agencies to withdraw their workers from the vaccination campaign.

No more guinea pigs for clinical trials
New Delhi : The Government has issued a notification on the clinical trials to protect the unsuspecting Indians becoming the guinea pigs and provide for compensation in case of death, disability or serious health injuries in such trials.

The compensation will be now decided by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI), the highest drug regulator, who approves the conduct of the clinical trials of new medicines under the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules. Hitherto, the rules had no procedure for the compensation in case of any harm to the person in the trial.
Under the fresh guidelines, the sponsor of the trial, its investigators and the ethics committee of the medical institute conducting the trial is required to report any injury or death of a subject within 24 hours to DCGI, with independent and own assessment on the cause of the harm.
The DCGI will set up an independent inquiry committee to review the case and decide the final compensation to be paid to the subject or legal hairs. The guidelines also make it mandatory that the patient’s consent will be duly registered before his or her participation in the trial.
The guidelines to end the practice of the sponsoring pharmaceutical companies escaping with petty compensation to the victims if there are any adverse effect of their clinical trials allowed by DCGI.

It took 200 years…

 Paris: Women in Paris can finally wear trousers without fear of criminal prosecution after the government said a more than 200-year-old ban no longer had any legal effect. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France’s minister of women’s rights, said in a statement that the ban, imposed on November 17, 1800, was incompatible with modern French values and laws.
The municipal order required Parisian women to seek permission from local police if they wanted to “dress like a man” by wearing trousers. It was modified in 1892 and 1909 to allow women to wear trousers if they were “holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse” but had officially remained on the books, reports AFP.
Answering a question in the Official Journal of the French Senate, Vallaud-Belkacem said that while it had not been formally struck down, the order was in effect abrogated.
“This order was aimed first of all at limiting the access of women to certain offices or occupations by preventing them from dressing in the manner of men,” she said. A number of women also broke parliamentary protocol by wearing jeans during an extended debate at the weekend over France’s planned legalisation of gay marriage.


“Cut down my security”  
Opposition leader tells police chief

Mumbai: In a token gesture to protest against unsafe atmosphere for women in the state, Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council, Vinod Tawade urged the Mumbai Police Commissioner to withdraw eight of the ten policemen deployed for his security saying they could be better used for the security of citizens. Tawade, a prominent BJP leader, met police chief Satyapal Singh at the Police Commissionerate here and urged him to withdraw his security with immediate effect. Several policemen are deployed for security of politicians and social figures. If a major chunk of these personnel are drawn for maintaining law and order, then there would be a decline in crime, he said. The recent attacks on senior citizens and women, murder of advocate Pallavi Purkayastha in Wadala and killing of a girl in Chetna College had forced him to take a decision on withdrawing his security, he said.







ABRACADABRA

‘Rent-a-Boyfriend’ service 


Beijing : An online Chinese sales firm has started a bizarre ‘Rent a Boyfriend’ service for single women wanting to stave off embarrassing queries about marriage and male companion from their families.
The firm, Taobao.com, China’s largest online marketplace, is hoping to cash in on plight of millions of single women during the next month’s Chinese New Year, which is traditionally a family reunion period. The online service is offering single women a ‘Rent a Boyfriend service to accompany them during their visit friends and families, go shopping, having meals and even getting a kiss out of courtesy.
All this for a charge, calculated on hourly basis. According to media reports China has about 180 million singles in the country.
Almost all Chinese travel to their native places during the New Year to celebrate with their parents, near and dear. But many single working women regard as the most dreadful time as they have to face the same old question at the family dinner table: Have you got a boyfriend? And for those who haven’t found their Mr Right, renting a boyfriend emerges as a solution.
“I offer such a service only because I’m bored and know fewer female friends at work,” Ding Hui, 27, a salesman in the plastic industry in Shanghai, told official China Daily. He leased himself twice last year during Spring Festival and National Day. His customers were two 28-year-old women. He charged 3,000 yuan each (USD 500) and the customer had to cover his round-trip tickets, accommodations and bought him clothes to make him look smart.
More than 260 rent-a-boyfriend services can be found on taobao.com, with the number climbing, the Daily said. Beijing Normal University associate professor of psychology Lin Xiuyun said it’s not a good idea to rent a boyfriend or girlfriend to meet one’s parents, who will be concerned about more questions, such as when they will get married.
“It’s better to communicate with parents, who will be hurt more if the white lie ends with a break-up between the fake couple,” Lin said.


Pakistani accused of 100 murders walks free

Islamabad: A Pakistani man accused of more than 100 counts of manslaughter in the port city of Karachi has been released after he was acquitted in many cases and got bail in the rest. Shahnawaz alias Ajmal Pahari was released from the Karachi Central Jail. He was released after he was acquitted or secured bail in all the cases registered against him. He had been detained since September 2012.


You thought only human’s can steal!ask this NZ tourist


In an unusual theft, a mischievous kea parrot robbed an unsuspecting tourist of hundreds  of dollars in New Zealand, dashing away after stealing the money from his campervan. Peter Leach, a visitor from Scotland, stopped at Arthur's Pass to take in the views along the Highway. He left the windows down as he snapped photos of the scenery, including one of an unusual bird. 
"A Canadian couple walked by and said: 'We've just seen that bird take something out of your campervan'," Leach laughed.

Man stole $145M but pays only fine
Abuja: A man who formerly helped oversee Nigeria's police pension program pleaded guilty to stealing $145 million, but walked out of court a free man after agreeing to a plea bargain that saw him pay only a fraction of it back.
The plea deal given to John Yakubu Yusufu and read out in court sparked immediate anger across Nigeria, a nation where many feel government officials pilfer pension funds and oil revenue without any fear of prosecution. 

Pilot locked out of cockpit after co-pilot falls asleep

London : A pilot of a low-cost Dutch airline was locked out of the cockpit mid-flight after his co-pilot fell asleep, an aviation report has said, prompting authorities to launch a probe into the bizarre incident.
Dutch authorities said the incident occurred on a Boeing 737 flight to Crete in September, but it was only made public after the release of the Dutch aviation safety board’s (OVV) quarterly report.
  An investigation has been launched by the low-cost Dutch airline Transavia, after one of its pilots was locked out of the cockpit mid-flight after his co-pilot fell asleep, The Telegraph reported. A survey suggested that four in 10 pilots have fallen asleep at the controls of an aircraft.

After working 86 years, 100yr old is still UK’s oldest office boy

London: A 100-year-old man has been revealed to be the oldest "office boy" in Britain after working for an astounding 86 years.
Jim Clements who retired at 66 was so bored that he took a new job with a security firm and is still there 34 years later, the Daily Mail reported.
He is entering his 86th year of employment in 2013, and says he has no intention of giving up yet. The centenarian works two days a week filing, shredding documents, answering the phone and photocopying. He is also responsible  for making tea, and is renowned for being a flirt, his colleagues say. Clements, who celebrated his 100th birthday, said he loves work and will not retire again.









THE LAST PAGE

Enough of minoritism 

Dr. M. V. Kamath


As time passes, one thing is becoming increasingly clear, after 65 years of independence it is time we stopped talking about “minorities” and “reservations”. Both the concepts, once considered epitome of the nation’s sense of social justice and fair play, have had their day. In today’s context, to talk about “minorities” is to divide the people of India. Muslims who constitute almost eighteen per cent of India’s population of 1.2 billion with a strength of over 280 million are hardly, any longer, a “minority”. To call them a minority is to misuse the word. By the end of the 21st century Indian Muslim population will reach 320 to 340 million, in numbers higher than the population of the United States! And certainly higher than the population of Pakistan. To treat them as a separate entity is to be party to the break up the social unity of India. Apart from that, presently Muslims are getting more and more aggressive in their behaviour, as in the matter of censoring the film Vishwaroopam which is not acceptable. In many districts Muslims are in substantial numbers as in Hyderabad (41.7%), Nagaon (51%), Bhubri (74.60%) in Assam, Kishanganj (67.6%), Katihar (42%), Araria (41.1%) in Bihar, Kozhekode (37.5%) and Malapuram (68.5%) in Kerala and over 20% in five more districts. In Kashmir, of course, all seven districts have an over 95% Muslim population. The time has come to scrap both the “minority” tag to Muslims in India as well as the Minority Ministry. Again, in a professedly secular county it is scandalous to set up a “Muslim University” in Karnataka and that, too, in the name of an aggressively Muslim ruler, Tipu Sultan. It is tantamount to inflicting a wound on our secular body and the sooner it is ended, the better for all concerned. There are more Muslims in India than in any other Muslim country in the world barring Indonesia and they must come to accept India as Indians and seek no special favours. And they are well advised not to exhibit their separate identity through dress and deportment, like men wearing white skull caps. That is aggressive communalism and is unacceptable. Much the same can be said about reservations, not only for Muslims but for SCs, STs and OBCs. When the Indian Constitution was being enacted, no less than Dr B.R. Ambedkar himself was not in favour of extension of reservations beyond a decade, but is now 65 years since independence and the social picture has changed. Agreed that tensions exist in rural areas, especially in north India but the task of dealing with caste conflict should be relegated to social reformers like Anna Hazare and more especially to what is considered as a rising “Harijan elite”, largely consisting of Mahars in Maharasthtra, the Ezhavas in Kerala and Malas in Andhra Pradesh. It is the task of the “creamy layer” of dalits to take care of their fellow citizens and get them to take to education in a big way. The charge is made by scholars such as Oliver Mendelssohn that the “creamy layer” is gradually moving further and further away, politically, socially and economically, from the rest of the SC population. Politically there is no question but that the SCs, especially, have come to exercise their power through the polling booth; how else can one explain the rise of the likes of Mayavathi and her growing wealth? It is now becoming fashionable not to be critical of dalits as the distinguished socio logist Ashish Nandy found one to his horror and dismay. In many areas dalits are doing quite well. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde is proud to call himself a dalit and what else is the Speaker of the Lok Sabha? One can think of several such examples. Statistical evidence shows decidedly positive trends of dalits entering into senior civil ranks – an eightfold increase from 1959 to 1995, as well as in receiving higher education, a near doubling over seventeen years ending in 1996. The 2001 Census shows a ten year jump of 27 per cent in national literacy and an independent study (1997-98) found that Dalit educational achievement for younger age groups in villages in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has surged to a point that it was virtually the  same as for upper castes. Add to this is an article in Economic & Political Weekly (9 February) which states that “Dalit millionaires have been increasingly visible over the last few years”. A new Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been formed. Dalits may form 16.4 per cent of the population but presently they own 9.8 per cent of all enterprises as of 2005. Agreed that enterprises owned by members of the SCs and STs tend to be smaller and are less likely to employ labour from outside the family and “more likely to belong to the informal and unorganized sector”, but so what? The Dalits are having a business of their own, haven’t they? They are not professionally shunned, are they? It is significant that in contrast to the under-representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in entrepreneurship, OBC members owned 43.5 per cent of all enterprises in 2005 and accounted for 40 per cent of non-farm employment in most states. The share of the workforce employed in OBC-owned firms has been close to their overall population share. According to Economic & Political Weekly, “South India has witnessed the phenomenal rise of some OBC communities to the highest reaches of publicly-traded firms”. As an example, the weekly mentions the ascent of Nadars, traditionally toddy-tappers who were once subjected to enormous deprivation and degradation, to a leading business community in Tamil Nadu that has absolutely no parallal in North India. In Gujarat again, according to the weekly “a large increase in the share of the workforce employed in OBC- owned enterprises over the period 1998-2005 (from 22% to 39%) suggests that caste barriers were breaking down rapidly. What all this suggests is that despite the fact that even if in rural areas-especially in North India – Dalits are held victims of caste-ism, conditions are changing for the SC, ST communities that indicate a social revolution is on and cannot be stopped. What this calls for is social leadership of a high order and the promotion of equality; we have come a long way from the Yerwada Pact signed by Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar. Known better as the Poona Pact, it kept dalits under the larger Hindu ambit; now we require a larger and unwritten pact that shuts the door to communalism, minoritism and other divisive trends to build India into a dreamland conceived by the likes of Swami Vivekananda. There are no minorities in India. There are only Indians to live and work together to achieve great ends.