Monday, March 7, 2016



We are into the last month of the financial year 2015-16, supposedly the month of Budget – both Railway and General Union Budget, for 2016-17. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has presented his 2nd budget as Railway Minister on 25th Feb. Indeed for the 2nd time the incumbent Railway Minister presented his budget without any political colour. It was always the accepted practice of all former Railway Ministers to shower rail gifts for their States and Constituencies. Minister Prabhu has been professional. In many ways, its been a positive budget. There has been no raise in the passenger fare and freight charges. It has made both aam aadmi and Trade & Industry happy.
Budget focused on overall safety of passengers with special emphasis on women. It also sought to provide all classes of passengers more travel options, like Antyodaya Express, a long distance fully unreserved super fast train service to benefit aam aadmi, besides other trains like HumSafar, Tejas & Uday. Its been fairly imaginative, with highest outlay for infrastucture development. Ofcourse opposition has been critical as usual. 
Jan 2016 Focus “An open letter to PM NaMo” has, as expected, elicited unprecedented response from across the readership. While most have accepted the I&C assessment of his 18 month management of national affairs, some have disagreed to some of the observations and therefore conclusions. Ofcourse, hero-worship is one of the traits of homosapians. Indians are no different. There were few, who were very unhappy with the assessment. There was one who felt ‘King can do no wrong’ and called the write up a ‘crap’ the other didn’t appreciate the spirit of the letter, while a third one, kept mailing all that he thought great about Modi. Of course, those who liked it, were many. Our attempt was to draw a kind of balance sheet, which include both assets and liabilities, where assets were clearly more. Except opposition politicians and some anti national elements, everybody want NaMo to succeed. As of now, he is India’s best bet to do well. But prima facie, he has some issues, which only he can change for better. The letter tried to highlight the areas of concern. That’s all. Some of the concerns raised in the letter are being tried to be addressed by the government as we witness the happenings of recent days.
Month-In-Perspective has been as usual. We have tried to cover as many happenings of the last month as could be possible within the available space. However, there have been many issues left uncovered like, the Make-in-India event in Mumbai, despite having attracted a huge response, it did go-up in flames a bit. David Headley urf Dawood Geelani, a Pakistani convert, only to get U.S. Passport has exposed the Pakistani duplicity in their management of India affairs or rather anti-India affairs. Reservation stir of Jats of Haryana and the gori violence that it triggered are some of the events left uncovered in the Month-In-Perspective. 
Unease that prevailed post happening in the Central University in Hyderabad with the death of a scholar Rohit Vemula, continued with the Jawaharalal Nehru University imbroglio involving politically divided students. With a group of students shouting anti-India slogans, it became a flash point. We have taken it up in the Focus. Hope readers would find it interesting. Rest are as usual. Do comeback with your inputs. We value them.       


NEW DELHI: ‘Rajnath Singh, meets Muslim clerics’, was a news datelined New Delhi. Union Home Minister had reportedly called a meeting of these clerics to discuss about the growing danger of ISIS and its bad effects on India. These Muslim clerics were mostly from North, who could freely talk in Hindi and Urdu.
Report informed that even those from South would be similarly met in the near future, including MIM chief and Member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi.
This is indeed a wise move. It pays to bring these clerics on board while debating ISIS and related issues. It must provide open fora for all to allay their fears and concerns. Only then we can build bridges of understanding. Of course, there are cantankerous elements everywhere, who should be effectively asked to keep quiet and allow moderates everywhere with appropriate sense of proportion to debate. This is certainly a confidence building measure. It is heartening to note in the report that Muslim leaders have said that “they were against any sort of terrorist and violent activities including cross border terrorism”. They also underlined the fact that “Muslims were safe and enjoyed freedom in India, and this kind of freedom and security is not available to the community even in Muslim majority countries”.
While these efforts of both the government and community leaders are certainly laudable in the context of a larger national narrative, efforts should be made to reach out to liberals among Muslim leadership to address concerns of violation of rights of Muslim women, who have lots of complaints but have not succeeded in addressing them. Hope the latest initiative goes beyond its current one point agenda.

Democracy is no doubt is a beautiful concept. Everybody likes it for what it gives, the right to free speech, among other civil rights. But, everybody forgets that right entails duties as well. But rarely, duties that ought to be performed, disturbs us as a nation. While we have spoken from the roof tops, even screamed, about our rights, we never even looked at duties as the other side of the coin. If we cannot or do not,  perform our duties, we have no right to insist on our rights. This is applicable to all Indians from the Rashtrapathi to the aam aadmi on the street, including Prime Minister and other elected representatives.
However, political class, unlike others, are called upon to be role models to the ordinary citizen. They are in the media focus and therefore their actions or inaction becomes a ‘done thing’ in public space.
These days, we have been witnessing virulent attacks on each other, from ruling dispensation and opposition politicians. While there are any number of examples to quote from, two most prominent personalities in the public domain are that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition leader Rahul Gandhi. If Prime Minister Modi attacked Mother and Son duo, for allegedly hurting the developmental exercises, Rahul Gandhi has not been less vitriolic, by attacking Modi’s sartorial obsession, as if nothing else is there to talk about. It is very clear that they have time and again crossed the line of control, or ‘Laxman Rekha’ as is referred to, in a politically decent spat. Both can attack each other, but they both need to elevate the standard of civil utterances to a higher level in the overall interest of the country, since, their public posturing can lead to declining standards in the overall public discourse.
Of course, as is slowly becoming clear that lot of people, politicians and others, are unhappy with BJP emerging as the dominant player in the national politics or more importantly Narendra Modi coming to power at the centre. We all need to recognize that, whether we like it or not, BJP has come to stay as a power to reckon with, Narendra Modi or no Narendra Modi. We cannot wish it away. India is a diverse country with diverse options. As long as there is the dominance of law and order within the democratic frame work, there is role for all ideas. Those who are acceptable to the people will find their place and those who have lost their place need to work better for the people so that they become acceptable in the future. Period. It is possible for all of us Indians, to live without bitterness or rancour. Amen.

Sonu Nigam, a bollywood singer, had taken it for granted that if he wants to sing, since some passengers demanded, doesn’t matter if the safety of the flight is compromised.
We are Indians, and especially those who are better off, take far too many things for granted. May be he should have been given some award for impromptu entertaining passengers for free, by the aviation minister or the JetAir management. Then he would have said ‘cheers to India’. For being simply and plainly being disciplinarian, he called the action of JetAir management “real intolerance”.
We Indians are the well known indisciplined lot, more so these celluloid charecters including these singers. Many time, because of their elevated celebrity status, these real life villains, elevate themselves as those who set standard of public behavior, however boorish it may be. Unfortunately, the media too tags along for its own USP gimmick. Other day, another filmy worthy Karan Johar too mouthed inanities of ‘intolerance, barb. Surely these filmy folks are certainly not the bench marks for tolerance debate. Indians of all hues are generally tolerant. Of course idiots can be found among all sections of humanity, including Indians. So ignore their barbs and keep smiling. As for JetAir action, its ‘well-done’, there should be no compromise on safety regulations.  
Lawyers taking the law into their hands is the worst thing that can happen to the world’s largest democracy. There is absolutely no justification for the violence some of the members of the legal fraternity have resorted, to vent their alleged anger on members of the media and some of the students arrested by the police from JNU campus, right inside the court premises. While primacy of the law and order should never be belittled, it is very regrettable that police appeared to be mere spectators, rather than preventing & stopping the hooliganism of lawyers.
Supreme Court, the national custodian of law and order should, suo moto, take the call and make, all those who not only broke the law of the land but also those who failed to perform their solemn duty of protecting its citizens, accountable and pay for it, both in cash and kind. Only then the primacy of the law of the land will be preserved.

There was this function in the VigyaBhavan on 10th Dec 2015. Cutting across the political spectrum there was an impressive line-up of politicians. Starting from President Pranab Mukarjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, L.K Advni, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, and of course some VIP Union Ministers, state VIPs like Mulayam Singh, Nitish Kumar, Farook Abdulla, Seetaram Yachoori, Lalu Prasad Yadav and other ministers.
For once, it showed in unmistakable terms the reach and the management skill of the man, cutting across the political rainbow of all colours and shades.
Sharatchandra Govindrao Pawar, or Sharad Pawer as is known had turned 75 on that day and it was his birthday gathering. When Supriya Sule, his very privileged daughter, mentioned that there is one common denomination in the gathering, it was rather apt. She had stated while thanksgiving “They are all my father’s friends”. Indeed they were.
Among all the speeches that some of the gathered crowd made, from the President to Sonia Gandhi, the one from P.M Narendra Modi was rather succinct. He referred to his ‘uncanny sense of the changing political weather like an astute farmer with an accomplished network skills’. He had tried and succeeded in remaining relevant. This was how he managed to remain friendly with media, as well, besides his association with Sakaal group of Pune.
His name was linked to many scams. From his friendship with criminal Dawood Ibrahim, to the massive Lavasa Township development and the directorship of his daughter Supriya Sule in Khilachand group, owners of Lavasa Township. Supriya Sule’s Singapore property ownership and the Singapore citizenship, massive corruption charges in the irrigation contracts in Maharashtra involving his nephew Ajit Pawar, among other scams. He was also the chief Minister of Maharashtra when an attempt was made to kill Nusli Wadia of Bombay Dyeing Group by Dhirubhai Ambani. Involvement of one of the directors of Reliance Industries was established but nothing beyond that has happened. Now comes the news of a company registered in U.K involving a huge 70 billion pounds which came into the company in a matter of 2 months and the company was dissolved soon thereafter. Reportedly Sharad Pawer was listed as one of its directors, for a period of just 24 days from: 13/12/2010 to 05/01/2011. And strangely no main stream media, nor 24x7 electronic media, found it worth reporting, despite these 24x7 tele media being sensation hungry. Wasn’t this 70 billion sterling pounds disappearance sensational enough! Strange are the ways of our media and they say “we are objective professionals”.  

Suddenly women are taking up cudgels for their rights. It’s a welcome sign. There must be protest against things which are unfair and unreasonable, whether constitution provides for it or not.
We have women at Tirupathi, women at Shabarimalai, and women at Shani Shingnapur temples in Maharashtra, only asked to be treated as equal to men and that’s all.
It is a very fair and reasonable demand. There have been many initiatives from the states concerned to address the issue, although both the male and female status-coists have opposed the changes.
Now comes the news of Muslim women raising their voice for similar equal treatment in their places of worship. This demand has certainly rattled the Mulla groups and their male supporters. Reportedly a group of Muslim women have moved the Supreme Court demanding entry into all mosques in the country stating that their entry to mosque was not prohibited in Quran and that Prophet Muhammad had always encouraged women to take part in mosque congregation and prayers. Their petition demanded at least those mosques which receive grants from the state should not make such discrimination based on sex. Their petition made a telling reference to the silence of all political parties and even women Chief Ministers of states in advancing the cause of Muslim women, at least in providing access to mosques.
Thus, the awakening among women, both Hindu and Muslim, is the need of the hour and all concerned must support for the larger picture of true pluralism.

UTTAR PRADESH: There is this observation, “For economic poverty there is solution, but for mental poverty there is no solution.” Indeed in our country there are any number of people who suffer from mental poverty.

There was this news datelined Lucknow “Raina, Raj Babbar apply for Pension”.
Since last October, U.P government had announced Rs. 50,000/- monthly pension to winners of Yash Bharati award given by the state. Nowhere in whole of India, there exist a scheme of giving monthly pension to award winners of any kind. All states, including Centre, give awards for excellence in different activities. State government in Lucknow appears to have awarded 141 persons this award, which according to some source was initiated to benefit some of their friends and cronies, hence also awarded to some prominent personalities, like Amitabh Bachchan, Raj Babbar, Suresh Raina, & some others to make it look credible. This suspicion about its beneficiaries appears to be real, since they have announced this Rs. 50,000/- monthly pension. We can understand, a one time payment or an yearly payment but not monthly payment, that too Rs. 50000/- per month. Normally monthly pension is given to those, who have difficulty of having a regular income. But what about, Suresh Raina, Raj Babbar, Nadira Babbar and Mohd Kaif? They have all applied for pension, report informed. Surely, all of them are crorepaties and do not need this pension. But if it is coming without any hassle ‘its welcome’, even if state do not have money to pay for farmers committing suicide. Reportedly Amitabh Bachchan has declined this pension. However this insensitive largesse can cost the state some Rs.10 crores annually, and can go on increasing if the awardees increase. But this is a clear case of misuse and mismanagement of scares resources of the state.

BIHAR: When Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced that ‘persons not having toilets in their homes, will not be allowed to contest the local body elections’, all that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could have done was to pick-up the phone and congratulate the Bihar CM for his path breaking initiative in support of PMs Swachcha Bharath Abhiyaan. But he didn’t do for whatever reasons.
Since it was a first of a kind initiative and was designed to hit at the core of our commitment, it naturally hurt many political aspirants who neither thought of Swachcha Bharath Abhiyaan nor about Toilets in their homes, they also did not think of the importance of having toilets at home for all these months post NaMo announcement on 15th Aug 2014.
It is a sad commentary on the commitment of our political class that for over a year, they were not inspired to act against open defecation, despite PM's initiative on toilets in all homes. While there were many including Lalu Prasad Yadav, who opposed the Nitish Kumar (NK) proposal, BJP leaders of Bihar kept quiet, until NK was forced to dump the clause, for real politic. But no sooner Nitish took a U-turn on the compulsory toilets for poll contestants, top BJP leader from Bihar went to the town to mouth inanities of crass opportunism. Sushil Kumar Modi is reported to have stated “The mandatory clause of the toilets would have stopped many genuine candidates from fighting the polls”. Now this is rather bad. It could be that even BJP had such candidates without toilets in their homes. But excuse me, how does one become genuine, if he has not understood the seriousness of this open defecation malaise, where India has the dubious distinction of being ranked at the top or at the bottom, as one sees it.  
MAHARASHTRA: In these days of alleged intolerance, the reported glorification of Nathuram Godse, by a section of Hindus has become a sore point with those who do not break bread with Sangh Pariwar. Those who euologise Godse, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi, Sanathan Dharma Samsad, may not be part of Sangh Pariwar, but they are hard core Hindus. Because it is a Hindu organization, it has become a convenient stick to beat the RSS and its affiliates including BJP. However, the BJP led Goa government has not crowned itself with glory when it had planned to release a book on Godse, scheduled on 30th January, the day Mahatma became Hutatma, but had put off to a later date following protest by some social organizations. This is prima facie, not acceptable and the incident lends itself as a legitimate stick to beat Sangh Parwar.
It only confirms the fear that Sangh Pariwar has many hidden agendas. This hide & seek approach, will neither win friends nor influence people. In the larger pan- Indian context, such tendencies have to be curbed. Do you harken Mr. Prime Minister!
It is fairly well known that the current Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan is a ‘No- Nonsense’ type, like his predecessor Dr. SubbaRao. He has been typically tough on all and sundry. He has been saying that corporates are falsely crying about the interest rates. A ½% here or 1% there is not going to greatly affect the individual corporate, has been his considered stand. His recent tough talking to Commercial Banks to Control their window dressing with regard to Bad and Doubtful Debts has run-riot with the bottom line of many banks for the 3rd quarter ending 31st Dec 2015. Suddenly NPA for commercial banks went through the roof. He has warned that by 31st March 2017, all stressed advances have to be accounted for.
The overall NPA among Commercial banks- both public and private- has been in lakhs, it has only gone up with this latest RBI posturing. In public perception there is a growing feeling that influential peoples with money and political connection have used the banks for their private gain. If only the money that have been written off as bad loans in these public sector banks were available for national development, ‘our goal of super power status, could have been far nearer than what it is to-day-a mirage, an optical illusion.' However, while agreeing with the logic of the tough posture of RBI, concerned corporate leaders like Deepak Parekh have cautioned the RBI to be measured in their approach, objective as he has said ‘should be to fix the financial rot rather than incapacitate the bank’. There is a grain of truth in what Deepak Parekh is saying, since, all these years, window dressing or ever greening approach of these banks had gone-on uninterrupted. If only some regulatory approach was there from RBI, may be there would have been less ‘Willful defaulters’ than it is now in the books of these banks. Indeed, while the government of the day should support all initiative of RBI, in controlling NPA in banks, both of them together must ensure balanced but tough measures without hurting the banking structure.    

Karnataka: Chief Minister Siddaramayya may be on a firmer ground, when he has indicated his preference for Justice SR Nayak as the Lokaayuktha for the state.
However, majority of the consultative committee has clearly indicated their preference to the recently retired Supreme Court Justice Vikramjit Sen. Of the six members in the committee, 4 have preferred Justice Sen, with the Karnataka Speaker also going by the choice of Chief Minister.
For whatever reason Chief Minister has preferred Justice Nayak, is entirely his prerogative. But it has clearly shown CMs bias for a person, who already had two tenures, as Chairman of State Human Right Commission (SHRC) and is still occupied with Karnataka Law Commission (KLC) as its Chairman. As a country we tom-tom, that we are the largest democracy, where majority has the stake. As a person with AHINDA background, this was clearly a very disappointing attitude, ‘damn the principle’. Here the question arises, if majority has no role in deciding the selection, ‘why at all you have this committee?’
However, what is most saddening is the craving of those who enjoyed life, and want to continue to enjoy life at the cost of state and public exchequer.
This Justice SL Nayak, has already enjoyed the power and privilege of chairmanship of SHRC for 5 years, and currently enjoying another similar stint as chairman of KLC. And now, he is going to be Karnataka Lokaayuktha!
Here the issue is, not that he is embroiled in the site allotment irregularity in the Karnataka Judicial Employees Housing Co-operative, as opposition alleges. Or his appointment as KLC chairman was challenged, and still in Supreme Court, on grounds of impropriety, but the sheer greed of the person SL Nayak. You have enjoyed the best of life as one of the a senior most judicial officers of the country. There are any numbers who do not get any posting, while there are those who never desired any posting post retirement. Here is a case of craving for official position.
You had one position for 5 years of being SHRC chairman, another in 2014, as chairman of KLC and even before it is over, you are being tipped as Lokaayuktha. Reportedly, the case of irregular site allotment is with the Karnataka Lokaayuktha, and you are going to sit on judgement on your own case of impropriety! And the Chief Minister of Karnataka approves it! What do we call this! A clear case of travesty of Justice.

Mob mentality on the roads of Bangalore has really made a sad reading especially in the context of that hapless Tanzanian girl student who was allegedly stripped. To think that the student in question was not the cause of the accident that killed a woman, but it was the colour of her skin that got her into trouble, is a sad reflection of an abhorrent mindset. The report that police were silent spectators as the mindless mob directed its anger against the girl who had nothing to do with the accident caused by a Sudanese student driver. Problem between African students, and general public, due to their involvement in drug peddling and other crimes is not a secret. But police, being police has a specific role to play. They simply cannot be partisan. They cannot allow anybody to take the law into their hands. In this particular case, reportedly, police took 3 days to file an FIR, which is a poor reflection on Bangalore policing. But more importantly there is sadly a growing hatred towards these African nationals. One of the resident African scholar, doing his Phd, in a prestigious institute recalled his experience with a rickshaw driver.
This scholar was reported to have hired a rickshaw to travel, the other day, the fare was Rs. 38/- and gave the rickshaw fellow Rs.40/-. In all fairness, this driver should have returned Rs. 2/- without the demand from the passenger. Instead when the scholar demanded Rs. 2/- this idiot of a man, who is representing the Indian ethos to a foreign student at that, spat on the scholar and threw on his face a two rupee coin. This was an extremely poor form of mental poverty. According to this African scholar, it was the 2nd time he had such painful experience from rickshaw driver. Such behavior from rickshaw drivers should be taken very seriously, even to the extent of cancelling their license, lest they repeat such disgusting behavior.      

WORLD: Pakistan is a state committed to denials of every kind. India has seen it, rather a hard way. For over 20 years, India has been asking Pakistan to hand over an Indian, a fugitive from Indian law, a criminal in all meanings of the term. Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, wanted by Indian Police for crimes of every kind, including terrorism, ran away from India, is living under the official patronage of Pakistan military and political leadership. India has been demanding to handover this criminal for interminable number of years. But, as is their wont, Pakistanis have always been denying that this criminal Kaskar  is in Pakistan. This was despite the apparent proof being provided by Indian authorities, at different times in the past.
And now comes the ultimate proof, not by India, but from the Treasury Department of the United Kingdom. A London datelined media report informed “Dawood on U.K freeze list with Pak addresses”. Mark the word addresses, not address only.
The report informs that the name ‘Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar’ appears in the list prepared by the Treasury Department of the U.K against whom financial sanctions were targeted by the government. Although, the nationality of this Kaskar has been shown as Indian, properties listed for freezing, numbering four, are located in Pakistan.
According to the Treasury Department sources, this Kaskar is recorded to have lived at
1) House no:37, 30th street, Defence Housing Authority, Karachi, Pakistan.
2) House no:29, Margalla Road, F6/2 street no:22, Karachi, Pakistan.
3) Noorabad, Karachi, Pakistan (A Palatial bungalow in the hilly area)
4) White house, Near Saudi Mosque, Clifton, Karachi, Pakistan.
The report also informs about the original Indian passport which was revoked by the Indian govt. and the details of all subsequent Pakistani passports. Thus, it is as clear as broad day light, that this criminal Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar is indeed in Pakistan and that Pakistan is truly labeled as “Denial State of Pakistan”. Pakistani military, ISI and Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff- are you listening!

There is a raging debate in India since quite sometime about the alleged intolerance. There have been write-ups and write-ups. Some even admitted that intolerance is a global phenomena. Indeed in some form, intolerance was always there, and is there and shall continue to be there, whether one agrees or not. Men, including women, are products of pride and prejudices, emotions of all kinds, hence however rational or irrational, an element of tolerance or absence of it is ever present. This is across the civilizational evolution, the world over. After the incidents of some alleged intolerance in the Indian context, American media had riled Indian government of the day for not doing much to protect the alleged victims of religious intolerance.
And comes this news about a Professor Laryeia Hawkins for being out of the norm. She recently stepped down from her position in the Wheaton College in Illinois, Chicago, an evangelical institute. She was kind of accused of being a ‘heretic’, when she claimed in a Facebook post that “Christians and Muslims worship the same God”. She had even donned a scarf akin to Hijab. But wearing a scarf did not, as much, disturb the authorities. But the post ‘we worship the same God’ riled evangelical fraternity in the campus no end. They even thought to expel her. But she has reportedly left on her own, after the college initiated a termination process. Elizabeth Dias of the TIME wrote “Much of the College Community rallied to her defense. Even some 800 graduate alumni signed a petition threatening to withhold future donations, and a whole lot of groundswell of support to the lady professor. Even some Muslims, according to Ms. Dias expressed unease at her assertion that they share the same God and criticized the lady professor for wearing the scarf like a Muslim. What do we call this, height of tolerance!? As long as you think, the so-called salvation is possible only through ‘MY GOD’, it could be either the JESUS CHRIST’ for Christians and ALLAH for Muslims, the problem shall always remain. In fact Professor Laryeia Hawkins was absolutely right when she said “we worship the same God”, not just Christians & Muslims but the entire humanity. Period.

World always thought that Pope Francis is in the news, always for right reasons. And rightly so. There have been so many initiatives and acts, that Pope Francis started, which accepted the ultimate vulnerability of human beings, be it a clergy or any of those connected with the church and its order. He has been compassionate and open and took issues head on to address the human dimension of it all. He even accepted sinning as OK. But was hard on corruption as a mindset, it could be money or what money could buy. Thus, he represented ultimate hope for the humanity, not just Christians alone.
But a recent incident involving a British paedophilia survivor was, if right, is most disappointing. Peter Sanders, head of U.K.s National Association for People Abused in Childhood, feels betrayed by Pope Francis. Accusing Pope Francis as “the part of the problem”, he shared his bitterness at being forced out of the Vatican panel, while saying ‘when I met him 18 months ago and was personally asked by the Pope to join the panel. I thought there was a sincerity and a willingness to make things happen and I am afraid that has been dashed now. And I am convinced that Church will never act alone to cure the ‘cancer’ in its midst”. Question doing rounds after this development was ‘are there forces far more powerful that shackles the hand of a benevolent well meaning temporal and spiritual head of Roman Catholic faith?’

With Supreme Court of India coming heavily on former Members of Parliament occupying official bungalows, comes the news “Blair banned from staying at U.K embassies on private missions”. Tony Blair is a former Prime Minister of United Kingdom. On private visit, either for personal work or for commercial interest, former prime ministers of U.K. were using embassy premises in different parts of the world, for parking themselves and their families, so also they were using the diplomatic staff for their personal work. In fact, even former U.K. ministers had availed such benefits from its chanceries abroad.
The latest move by the government of U.K has made it clear to all former ministers and Prime Ministers of the U.K that they are banned from using the premises and its staff for their private purposes, and that they should not be entertained at taxpayers’ expense. Hope, Indian authorities who have copied lot of legislation from English statutes, would do well to emulate this one too.              

What They Said

“National Herald and DDCA, Question of Answers”, (I&C Feb-16). 
Both are interesting pieces, well-written. Author has an excellent ability to neatly summarise an issue. Quite comprehensive, yet pithily written.                                     -Dr. Ravishankar Rao, Professor of English and Director, International Students Centre, MangaloreUniversity.

Mr. Editor, you are subtly transforming readers interested in I&C. The growing feedback response is the proof. And you are fair enough even to put the distressing comments. Glory to God. Feedback thoughts are always fodder thoughts. We all chew the cuds what we ate…. Differences of thoughts are free flowing in democratic (Demo-critic) set up. I sincerely appreciate you for what you have been trying, to bring change metamorphically. Prof. B.M Hegde’s articles always have an extra appeal though they appear to stick out like a thumb to many. “Early mobilization is very essential”- is definitely yes. Even when I underwent open heart surgery in 1966, it was the thumb rule. My going round the sick bed held by medical people though annoyed me then, I know now, pain alone brings tolerance in life at all ages. Exercise- helps Kudos! 
-Dr J.N Bhat, Mangalore

Ref. Your Focus: Feb 2016- on DDCA
 There was this report in the print media, and I quote “Despite all allegations, cricket continues to take a back seat at the DDCA office. Official sit idle and recount merrily how two members decided to take a toss on who would slap one of the senior most officer bearers of the association. The winner, apparently, actually carried out the dare. This incident took place a few years ago, when Jaitley was at the helm. That’s DDCA for you”. Unquote.
Now this is a googly that Jaitlley cannot duck. Not sure if it is appropriate to quote here an English Saying. “If a man stops being better, he stops being good as well!”                 -A reader, Mangalore

I & C Feb: 2016. Focus on National Herald
The accusations leveled against Young India and its directors raise serious questions as to how political parties should spend its resources. The question is- what will happen to our democratic process if tax free funds held by these political parties enter balance sheets of privately held companies.                                                                                          Surya Prakash, New Delhi

I am a silent admirer of Issues & Concerns and very rarely respond in writing  to the issues raised therein. However, in  the February 2016 issue a letter has been published purported to have been written by me. It is a mistaken identity.  I request you to check the identity of the writer again. I know that it was not deliberate. Still, it is better a clarification is published in your next issue.                                                                                                                                    Prof. K. Rajmohan Rao
We have realized our mistake. We profusely regret the slip on our part.                   -EDITOR

A Soldier’s Father (I&C Feb 2016), by Wing Comdr Venky Iyar, was a superlative piece of writing. Mr. Lachman Singh Rathor, the father of 3 brave sons had lost them all in service of the nation. Can his sacrifice ever be repaid by our nation? Will the powers that be in the New Delhi’s corridors ever even know the heroics of a father who sacrificed all his sons.
26th January comes and goes every year, awards are announced to winners, cricketers, tennis badminton players, some celluloid actors. All of whom have made name and fortune. They even scout for these awards. What about those who lost their all like this Mr. Lachman Singh Rathod? Will they even be remembered in the corridors of power? Its indeed “Cry my beloved country” for those who lived and one day would die for the nation unsung. 
Laxman Amin, Ullal.


In the name of Freedom

Is there any living being, from flora to fauna to the homosapiens, who does not crave for freedom!? Every living being blooms well when there is freedom. But like every activity in the living world, there are perimeters, borders, margins within which, it grows. Growth is inevitable until the day it stops when lifelessness or stillness creeps into the life. It is so for all, with life breathing in & out. 
Among all living, flora, the animal kingdom, and humans, it is the last one, who has a sense of rational thinking, or a sense of distinguishing right from the wrong. This capacity is unique to only humans.
Having accepted freedom as the sine-qua-non for the fuller and better growth of all living beings, it is very pertinent to ponder, since the capacity of man to be extreme, in either direction of evolution, there is a need to draw the line, an L.O.C or a Line of Control. While everybody likes to have a beautifully tended garden outside his home, nobody wants to have a jungle or a forest which can pass for a garden. Hence, it is very clear that our evolution, just like a pretty garden, need to be kindly regulated, tended humanly with care and tenderness. In every growth, there is infancy, adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age. It is infancy which requires tender care with love and affection. It is this first 10 years of a child’s evolution that, it is believed, shall decide the rest of the course of life. Like home is the first school, and parents the first teachers, child imbibes the values of these formative years. Teachers help in later life, both in school and institutions of higher learning. The objective of all these exercises is to create a citizen who is responsible and responsive.
But what has happened in Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi followed by Jadavpur University in Kolkotta! Both are reputed places of higher learning. Some of the students of JNU sent out a circular on the eve of a proposed cultural meet. But it turned out that circular contained glorification of Afzal Guru, the Parliament attack accused, and vilification of India and its institutions. The vilification of India has been so bad and diabolic that circular demanded the ‘Barbaadi of India’, or the destruction of India, and ‘Bharat Tukde Tukde ho jaaye’, or the dismemberment of India into pieces. Those who demanded this fate for the ‘Idea of India’ are students of this premier institute, the JNU. They were not juveniles, but may be delinquent. Or else how can they call for the ‘Barbaadi of Bharath’. It is a lunacy of another kind and a dangerous one at that. According to Pushpesh Pant, a journalist who claims to have been with the JNU for four decades, ‘those who circulated these circulars, and then later ranted the anti-national slogans of ‘Bharat’s barbaadi’, are spoilt brats, overage resident bullies and trespassers masquerading as students and hostelites.’ According to these students and their supporters, in the faculty, among the media, the so-called liberal intellectuals and of course the political class, these JNU demonstrators were only exercising their right to freedom of expression. Fair enough. Indian constitution guarantees some rights for the purpose of free and unfettered expression.
But what is this right to freedom of expression is all about? As students we have been told, since our childhood, rights and restraint go hand in hand. You can’t have the right without the corresponding responsibility. The price of freedom is its responsible exercise and this is how a civil society functions.
Reportedly, a group of 100 students had organized an event at the Sabarmathi Dhabha to mark the anniversary of the execution of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and to support Kashmir’s right to self determination.
Who are these students?, what is their intention to rake an issue, which prima facie has nothing to do with freedom of expression? Ipso facto, it clearly appeared with some sinister motive, since they were shouting ‘Bharat ki Barbaadi’, ‘Bharat ko tukde tukde kar do’ etc. this was clearly anti-national. Thus if a section in the government thought, it must have been funded and supported by some cabal operating in Delhi, they cannot be wrong. There is a clear tone in the whole exercise as being anti-national. Surely they have to be dealt with the appropriate law of the land. What are the legal options available in the statute other than sedition? It is true; it may be from the colonial days. But successive governments of all political hues have allowed this to be in the statute books. It is all very well that you can blame the police and all else for whatever they have done. But excuse me, what precipitated their action, right or wrong? 
Now that the issue is in court, subsequent to the arrest of JNU Student’s Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, we leave the issue of the propriety of charge of sedition, to the court.
But the issue at stake is the irresponsible anti-national utterances of some of these lumpen characters, all in the name of freedom. And every time these characters are let loose, they have their defenders, charging at their opponents, quoting constitutional guarantees and what-not, forgetting that constitution also has an Article-51A, which informs about the fundamental duties of every Indian citizen. Ten of them in all, covering the whole gamut of commitment that is expected of a citizen. Three of them are reproduced here for the information of the uninformed, and they are,
1) To abide by the constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.
2) To cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom.
3) To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
Sir Walter Scott, in his poem ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel’ had famously and intensely observed
“Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!”

The poet’s question is simply this- ‘Will there be any human being, whose soul is dead that he will not take pride in calling the country of his birth ‘as my own my native land’? According to Sir Scott, patriotism or the love of one’s country is so very normal, it comes naturally.
However, eminent journalist Prabhu Chawla feels ‘For a class of liberal opportunists, nationalism is just another adjective to propagate the idea of a borderless country and exercise freedom to damage and insult the avowed symbols of India’s pride. There are many counterfeit liberals, who bark in the illusion that nationalism is just another marketable product which can be peddled on the auction block to the highest bidder. They don’t seem to understand that for a mammoth number of people, nationalism is an article of faith. India’s National Anthem, its Tricolour and borders are the three undisputed and non-negotiable pillars of nationalism.’
And, whom are they supporting, in their idea of borderless state? They are supporting communists, which is in a state of comatose the world over, as an ideology. Hardcore China has dumped it for market forces, while Soviet Union has disintegrated. Both in China and erstwhile Soviet Union democratic forces are making their presence felt. But in both places harsh state machineries are ruthless in dealing with change seekers. But Indian Left, they want their control on their followers, but insist on state non-intervention when it suits them. They only create chaos without any productive achievements. What they are seeking is freedom without any accountability and without any check from any authority. That is how, reportedly JNU campus is infested with thousands of cigarette butts, thousands of beedi stubs, thousands of bone pieces littered all over in and around its dhabas, thousands of wrappers of chips and namkeen eats. The report also informs about the incredible state of libido among students with the finding of thousands of used condoms and contraceptive injections. If this disgusting information is true, it is indeed atrocious for an educational institution, which is supposed to turn out responsive and responsible citizens!
Similarly, there is an unfortunate element emerging, that is of assertive Muslim youth. If the reports refer to Pro-Kashmiri and Pro-Pakistani elements among JNU campus, they should be identified and rusticated from the institute, lest the cancer spread, or before it becomes gangrenous. India is a multi cultural, multi ethnic pluralistic state and certainly must remain so. Anybody who is against the ‘Idea of India’ has no place, either in the country or its campuses. Kashmir is the only state where Muslims are in Majority. It is extremely painful and unfortunate that the majority of state’s population has still not accepted the composite culture of India. Despite many firsthand experience of Shaikh Abdullah, with regard to Pakistan, he remained ambivalent about his wanting to go either with India or Pakistan. When probably he decided to throw his lot with India, the political machinations from Delhi delayed it happening and he passed away in the meanwhile. His son Farook Abdullah no doubt is committed towards India, but in the intervening years, there have been forces, inimical to India, funded and supported by Pakistan, which kept the banner of revolt burning. 
Before the election in 2015, an idea was allowed to go round, ‘can there be a Hindu Chief Minister in Kashmir?’ Whole of Kashmir valley came to vote, only to restrain ‘Hindu’ BJP from getting the majority. It is sad, that Kashmiris still see the issue as Hindu v/s Muslim. In Secular India, despite its 68 years of impeccable credentials, the Kashmiri mindset sadly did not undergo the desired metamorphosis. The problem is the reluctance of Muslim majority in Kashmir, that is at the centre of the problem, to go separate or wanting to go with Pakistan and not remain united with the Hindu majority India. It is also unfortunate there are these so-called intellectuals and writers taking side of these elements in Kashmir which has only added to the problem, all in the name of freedom. Isn’t price of freedom its responsible exercise!
It is pertinent to reproduce a FaceBook upload for its relevance, titled WONKEY INDIANS
“Would the U.S have allowed a debate on its campuses, on the killing of Osama Bin Laden?” was a question a student asked Barkha Dutt of NDTV on its T.V programme yesterday. Ms. Dutt moved away from the student to another. It was clear, she had no answer, as were many gathered on the show.
In India, Parliament terror accused Afzal Guru had all legal recourse available unlike Osama Bin Laden, who was summarily killed by American Seals not in the U.S. but inside Pakistan. And yet, look at this small section of Indians, supported by opportunistic political class, a section of media, and probably elements inimical to Indian interest, raising slogans like, ‘destroy India,’ ‘break India into pieces’ all in the name of freedom of expression. It is indeed very sad, that JNU is becoming a hot bed of anti-national ideas and sentiments nursed by vested interests. It is becoming clear, that a section of Indians including that in JNU, is unhappy with the ruling dispensation. All need to recognize that they have won after a democratic election. Throw them out if you don’t like them in the next election. Theatrics of these nefarious minds are not needed. When will Indians grow to understand this? 


What is normal blood pressure?

Prof. B. M. Hegde,
“When people cheat in any arena, they diminish themselves-they threaten their own self-esteem and their relationships with others by undermining the trust they have in their ability to succeed and in their ability to be true.”
Cheryl Hughes

I have been wondering about this normal blood pressure for the last sixty years ever since I joined the I MBBS class in 1956. In the physiology class I was wondering what this normal blood pressure was and how did they find out the normal level in the first place? My teacher was not able to answer that to my satisfaction although she did not like my interference. Luckily those days the normal levels were much higher than now. I grew up in medicine and at some stage became a member of the International Society of Hypertension and met some of the “top” hypertensionologists to rub shoulders with them on an equal footing. None of them could quench my thirst. In the meantime I was doing my own research (no money or grant involved) and have published some of them since. I have also written a book on hypertension in 1996 published by the Bhavan in Mumbai with a foreword by one of the leading lights in the field, Barry Hoffbrand, the then editor of the British Postgraduate Medical Journal.
Here I stand O fool! With all my lore, no wiser than before about this enigma called normal blood pressure. Last month came another thunderbolt of a study (so called) proclaiming to the wide world that even “Normal” blood pressure needs to be treated with antihypertensive drugs to lower CVS and CNS mortalities and morbidities! On this side of the Atlantic an ethnic Indian researcher was presenting a paper in the European Hypertension Society meeting, another study which shouts at the top voice that a deadly combination of hypertension and depression kills millions in this world due to heart and brain attacks. He stressed that both must be vigorously hounded out of the human system to reduce heart and brain attacks! With this new study from Oxford of the need to treat even normal blood pressure I realise that I have been searching for a non-existent normal blood pressurewhich does not matter after all!
This brings back to mind that famous saying of a great teacher of hypertension, Professor Sir George Pickering’s tongue in cheek averment “More people in this world make a living “off” hypertension than dying “of” it. How very true? More curious am I about this drug treatment of depression along with hypertension to lower mortality. The human mind which gets depressed is not inside the human brain. Our reductionist chemical drugs that claim to treat depression ONLY act on the brain, provoking suicidal tendencies and cannot obviously do anything for the unhappy mind. None of the anti-depressants have been shown to be better than a placebo!I was reading some of the original comments on the (in) famous Oxford study of the need to treat even normal BP. Some of them are here for the reader’s benefit.
“Could our relentless pursuit of good health be making us sick? Advances in medicine have propelled health care to new heights and a vast array of diagnostic tests and drug therapies is now available. But are we getting too much of a good thing?” Australian TV comment.
“When I was a medical student, we used to define a normal blood pressure as being under 100 plus the person's age for the top number and 100 for the bottom number. Nowadays, it's 150/90, or if you're diabetic or you're worried about prehypertension, it's even as low as 140/80. By changing that threshold, you include millions more people in the range of abnormality and in the market for antihypertensive medication.This has raised questions about whether people with mild hypertension would benefit from blood-pressure medication. A Cochrane Review showed that most people with mild hypertension don't.The treatment of mild hypertension has had no benefit on either morbidity or mortality. That makes up the vast majority of people worldwide on treatment for hypertension.”Ion Heath.
“I feel it’s pretty arrogant to be so sure of the results of a partially completed study that it can be cut short!!!?? Finish the damn study!! This why studies are NOT reliable, they are not finished, or info was manipulated or lost or some self-appointed untrained or money oriented person starts making treatments up. Usually there’s some pharmaceutical company behind the studies….unless someone is saying to eat vegetables….and you can’t patent that!”
“I smell a rat with this.The renormalisation of medical metrics has been going on since drug companies began trying to increase sales of medications.It’s happened for cholesterol drugs, antidepressants and now blood pressure.What is normal,anyway?It seems we are less normal than we used to be - including the medical profession.”
Coming back to our original study from Oxford which proclaimed that treating normal blood pressure with antihypertensive drugs is good to save millions of lives I have several nagging questions. Incidentally, the study is published in the Lancet. It is retrospective meta-analysis of all studies done from 1953 till 2014. Obviously this is what statisticians call the Mix Master technique. It is like putting all kinds of fruits in a basket and blindly putting your hand in to pick one fruit to be shown as the representative of all the fruits in the basket. This is otherwise called “doctoring or sexing up” studies to suit your conclusions to benefit your master, who has funded you. If the conclusions of this study are acted upon drug companies will be richer by a thousand times.
Each one of the studies included in this meta-analysis has its own NNT (number needed to treat) and its own side effect profile. To give one example, the famous MRC study of mild to moderate hypertension published in the BMJ in 1985 has NNT of 850. That is to benefit one individual from stroke in the next five years one has to unnecessarily treat 850 healthy individuals with drugs which might have significant side effect in 75 individuals! Many such studies are included in this “great “study to make it in essence a company paid effort to get millions more to qualify to take antihypertensive drugs. What a way to “scientifically” increase your profits? While the company executives might laugh all the way to their banks, many orphans and widows might be grieving in the cemetery! I smell a rat here.
Would anyone tell me what is normal BP anyway. I know the average human BP but not the NORMAL BP. If one converts averages into normals we are straight away adding between 5-25% false positives, another profitable business. RCTs, the multiple studies that form the basis of this conclusion, themselves, have been seriously questioned for their authenticity. What is this circus all about? If blood is flowing laminarly inside the blood vessels, naturally it cannot exert any lateral pressure as Co Sine 90 is zero. So, what is Blood pressure?

“Recognition should come to the reporter who uncovers public cheating or proves a convicted man innocent.”   Phil Donahue


Kavitha Srinivasa
The Swades Foundation, founded by Ronnie and Zarina Screwvala , works with a single-minded focus to create a lasting change in rural India, adding to India’s growth story.
When UTV founders, Ronnie and Zarina Screwvala, divested their stake to the Walt Disney Company in January 2012, they found themselves at interesting crossroads. While Ronnie went on to lead the Disney- UTV combined entity in India as its Managing Director, Zarina sought new challenges.
Toying with different ideas she enrolled herself in a philosophy class. While entering class one day, she read a quote by Lao Tsu, “When you let go of who you are, you become what you might be.” She recalls this as one of the most defining moments of her life. Zarina had almost signed up permanently lifting a million people out of poverty, Zarina knew in her heart, that this seemingly impossible task was her calling. She quit UTV and joined their foundation, then known as SHARE and together they embarked on their mission of rural transformation, of creating an India where the urban and rural divide does not exist. 
“We are not na├»ve about the task we’ve set, but we are determined to create communities that will have the ability to contribute substantially to India’s growth story,” says Ronnie Screwvala, Founder Trustee, Swades Foundation.
As they embarked upon the Swades Journey, the couple travelled the length and breadth of the country and even abroad to learn first-hand from the phenomenal work that others were doing. Ronnie and Zarina then poured in all their learnings from nine months of extensive travels to create a model of development which is both scalable and easy to replicate. “We realized poverty is both mental and material and there is no silver bullet to ending poverty. We truly believe our 360 degree model with interventions  across the five  critical areas of Health & Nutrition, Water & Sanitation, Agriculture & Livelihood, Community Mobilization and education will enable us to achieve our dream”, says Zarina Screwvala, Founder and Managing Trustee, the Swades Foundation.
The Foundation operates with a unique strategy: Engage, Execute, Empower and Exit. It engages rural communities with corporate, young urban India, not-for-profit organizations and Governments, to execute programmes that empower communities to transform their own lives, enabling the Foundation to exit.
“We don’t want to be around for too long as we feel that the rural people should empower themselves through sustainable livelihood,” explains Zarina.
We take a large geographical area, study it thoroughly, and work out multiple solutions within that geography at the household level; our dream is to create a model of rural transformation for others to follow,” says Zarina. “In three years, we have grown from a staff of 25 people to 300 full time and 1,200 paid community volunteers and a reach of 39,000 people to 471,000 people! “She adds.
SHARE (Society to Heal Aid Restore Educate)- Ronnie and Zarina’s first steps into philanthropy- began by providing training and employment opportunities for young mentally challenged adults through sheltered workshops in the Dharavi and Chembur areas of Mumbai. Since the past two decades SHARE has been working in the Raigad region of Maharashtra. “Around ten years ago when we went into the village of Raigad we thought the education of the girl child was a crucial factor. While it is still true, we also found that water is the most crucial factor. Since then we have been working towards making drinking water available for all,” remembered Zarina.
Working closely in the area of water & Sanitation projects, SHARE has directly and positively impacted the lives of over 39,000 villagers, created 111 farmers groups, 276 Women’s Self Help Groups, 574 Water Harvesting Projects and 1,400 sanitation blocks.
“Our greatest victory in our years as SHARE is building trust with our community members in the villages of Raigad. They recognized us as a Foundation that truly worked for their benefit, towards their empowerment. When we decided to ramp up our operations, it made perfect sense to stay in this geography as we knew we’ll move ahead in our journey with the priceless asset of trust,’ says Praveen Aggarwal, Chief Operating Officer, Swades Foundation, explaining the choice of Raigad as the launch pad for the Foundation’s transformational activities.
The average annual household income in these six blocks of Raigad is Rs.25,000/-. The goal is to increase this to Rs. 2 lakh per household per year, through the Foundation’s unique strategy and holistic approach.
Zarina reminisces the Eureka moment which led to the rebranding of their Foundation. “We were having a casual conversation with a few Harvard students at our home one day when Ronnie shared our dream of empowering a million lives in rural India. One of the students matter-of-factly said that it sounded like the movie Swades, which we had produced in 2004. We instantly knew that no better name could embody our vision, our dream… The ‘Swa’ in our name reflects ‘empowered self’ forming the core of everything we do.”  

During a routine visit to the anganwadis, Zarina found that most children were anemic and stunted though the anganawadi workers were regularly providing nutritious food and heath supplements like tonics to them. Upon probing further, it was found that the tonic was bitter to taste and the children refused to drink it. A pediatrician was consulted and the bitter tonic was replaced by a sweet syrupy one. Naturally, it brought a smile to the children’s faces. Healthy children are happy children! “What’s key is to understand your consumer. We have brought this learning of ours from the media space into philanthropy and it works like magic. We don’t always need complicated solutions, sometimes simple solutions can last a lifetime,” points out Zarina.
In the Foundation’s Health & Nutrition vertical, another key achievement has been the training of 1,156 Swa Raksha Mitras (SRMs), community health workers covering 471,000 people. “With only 6.5 doctors per 10,000 Indians, frontline health workers with paramedical training can make life-changing impact on health and hygiene. We train Class VII pass women from the community and put them through rigorous training on health and life skills,” says Zarina.
The foundation has also screened over one lakh people and provided close to 15,000 high quality spectacles and carried out over 2,000 free cataract surgeries through the Mobile Medical Unit. There are plans to conduct 70,000 such surgeries in the next five years.

As the Foundation expanded its work to the Agriculture and Livelihood vertical, many lives improved. Like that of Chandrakant Pawar, who co-incidentally reminds us of Mohan Bhagwat, a character portrayed by Shah Rukh Khan in the film Swades. Just as Mohan relocates from USA to his village to use his education and skills to improve the lives of villagers, Chandrakant has found it more satisfying to work in his village. A diploma holder in agriculture, Chandrakant came to Mumbai in search of a job but city life took its toll on him. Things changed when he enrolled for the Swades Training Programmes. He became a farmer by choice, migrated to Pashti village and managed to turn two acres of barren land into a patch of green through multiple agriculture techniques. He’s now a role model in his village and promotes agriculture as a lucrative career option. He dreams of teaching every child the joy of farming and hopes to start a wave of reverse migration.
The Foundation has worked with 12,000 farmers, training them on new farming technologies that enhance their yield at low costs and turn their small farms into lucrative businesses. Farmers follow the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) methodology whereby the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients help increase productivity. Around 1,400 farmers have successfully adopted this technique, which will extend to 4,500 farmers by March 2016. In the next five years, the programme will encompass 100,000 farmers. As an income generating effort, over 14,000 trees including high value cash crops like mango and cashew have been grafted and 35,000 new plants for horticulture have been distributed. Besides farming, cattle breeding and dairying are also being promoted.

The Foundation is a catalyst in most service including sanitation and undertakes various initiatives to aid community members overcome the sanitation barriers. One key initiative is a SwachhtaRath, a toilet prototype mounted on a vehicle that goes from hamlet to hamlet motivating people to end open defecation and adopt good sanitation practices. Over 45 days, the rathas travelled to 2,000 villages in the six blocks. Actual toilets were also constructed in public places so that people could use them and get accustomed to them.
While interacting with the villagers, the Foundation realized that they were not motivated to use sub-standard or make shift-toilets. This insight led to the building of aspirational toilets that are bigger in size, with tiled walls, proper doors and ceiling. This ensured over 99% usage.
Till date, the Foundation has built 3,240 toilets and will complete building 8,000 personal toilets this year, impacting more than 40,000 people. To put it in Ronnie Screwvala’s words, “We have buy-in for each service. For the toilets and sanitation, we’re paying a certain percent, the villages are paying a certain amount, and there is a grant that’s covering the remaining part of the cost. The locals have their skin in the game.” Each household contributes Rs. 4,500- 5,000 towards the construction of the toilet and takes part in the construction activity in the form of Shramadan.
Besides that, Swades Foundation has brought sufficient potable drinking water through taps every rural household by creating 751 water structures, thereby impacting 86,169 villagers. This year, 509 water structures are being built to impact 1,00,118 individuals.
The Swades Foundation believes in a joyful, empowering education focused on enhancing livelihood and creating socially and environmentally conscious citizen who are catalysts for change. They are convinced that a good education broadens horizons and creates choices for the child to achieve her/his dreams.
The Foundation has undertaken various unique and innovative initiatives to achieve their goal. While career counseling might not be a mandate in city schools, the Swades Foundation makes sure that all their students in the rural community undergo this process. “We ask children what they want to be and not what their parents want them to be. We allow them to think and orient them towards their career choices,” said Zarina.
Swades Foundation has built around 469 libraries in primary and secondary schools. Every school also has a Library Management Committee managed by the students.
Teaching too has been redefined; rote teaching is replaced by joyous teaching. Teachers are encouraged to think critically, and they undergo training in classroom management and positive discipline. Till date 2,000 such teachers have been trained. With this, teaching becomes enjoyable, and the experience is enhanced by math kits, learning kits and well stacked libraries housed in the Community Learning & Resource Centres (CLRC). Computer literacy and English literacy help well equip students.
Around 1,900 bicycles have been distributed to students who live five kms away from schools, while 1,000 deserving the students have been given scholarships. For senior students, the Foundation provides linkages to higher education, and wherever required, career counseling and vocational training are made available. The Foundation has already reached out to 37,000 students and plans to impact 200,000 students in the next five years.

To a large extent, the Foundation owes its success to Community Mobilization, with community acting as catalysts of change, empowering people and orienting them towards livelihood programmes. Social Workers are in charge of 10 Gram Panchayats. They create awareness about cleanliness and hygiene in the village across all blocks.
Additionally, social workers create empowered institution like Self Help Groups (SHGs) in every village. To make its members self-reliant, SHGs have been linked to banks, government programmes and NGOs. The Foundation has strengthened 1,681 SHGs till date, and the agenda for the next five years is to create 11,830 SHGs.
In order to train local talent, the Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IL&FS for providing vocational training and employment to 10,000 youth in the next four years. Likewise, a MoU with ICICI Foundation has been signed for skills training for unemployed youth. The aim is to train 3,000 youth over three years, creating an employment opportunity of Rs 1 lakh per individual.
White collar jobs have also been provided through a rural BPO. In the coming months, an entrepreneur cell will be launched in colleges in the six blocks Swades works in, to motivate students to re-migrate to the villages. The villages too are slated for a new look as initiatives like eradication of plastic-bags and other environment friendly projects are being introduced.
Focusing on women empowerment and gender sensitization, the Foundation has tailored Livelihood Programmes whereby uneducated people including women earn an income. A plan has been chalked out to create 10,000 Rural Entrepreneurs in cashew-processing, mushroom-farming, backyard poultry, stitching and agarabatti-making, of which nearly 40 percent will be women. These entrepreneurs are already undergoing training through a pilot project. The target is to clock revenues of Rs 50 crore by 2015-16, and then scale it up to Rs. 165 crore three years later. Through these programmes, the Foundation hopes to guide philanthropy in India towards an entrepreneurship-led model.
Already many have learnt the craft of the business. Take the case of Sharmila Jadhav from Faouji Ambawade village, where most men work in the army. With just seventh standard education and three daughters to take care of, Sharmila had no choice but to wait for her husband to send her money to run the family and pay for the children’s education. She decided to start a small business and approached the Foundation team who guided her to start a poultry business. She began with 100 chickens and expanded it to 400. Sharmila aims to be a poultry farmer, brand her business and improve the infrastructure. 

With a Rs 100 crore budget annually, Swades Foundation has been expanding circles of access and connects with the rural communities through a team of 300 full-time staffers, apart from 1,300 volunteers and numerous partner organizations working on projects ranging from drinking water to education to health, Swades Foundation touches 500,000 people’s live every day in multiple ways. Let’s hope in the next five years, Swades Foundation impacts one million rural lives and sets an example through its model scalable villages for others to emulate.              


Electricity from Paper and Pencil

Geneva: A small device made from household materials such as paper, pencil and a teflon tape can generate enough electricity to operate a remote control, says PTI.
A team from EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) in Switzerland, working with researchers from the University of Tokyo, used these everyday materials to make a tiny device that can generate more than 3 volts of power. The simple, eco-friendly and inexpensive system can produce the same current as two AA batteries – enough to operate a remote control, researchers said.
The principle underlying this system is well known: static electricity. When two insulators like paper and teflon come into contact, they gain or lose electrons. The system is made up of two small cards, where one side of each card is covered in pencil. The carbon serves as the electrode.
Teflon is then applied to the opposite side of one of the cards. When brought together, they make a sandwich: two layers of carbon on the outside, then two layers of paper, and one layer of teflon in the middle.
They are then taped together in such a way that cannot touch, giving the system a configuration that makes it electrically neutral. By pressing down with your finger on the system, the two insulators come into contact. This creates a charge differential: positive for the paper, negative for the teflon.
When you release your finger and the cards separate, the charge passes to the carbon layers, which act as electrodes. A capacitor placed on the circuit absorbs the weak current that is generated. To boost the device’s output, Xiao-Sheng Zhang, a postdoc at EPFL’s Microsystems Laboratory, used sandpaper. Pressing the sandpaper firmly against the cards gives them a rough surface.


Herbal drug & Lower cholesterol

New Delhi: A cocktail of black pepper, grape seed and red yeast rice powders combined with a heart-friendly lifestyle can lower blood cholesterol by up to 30 per cent, a clinical trial in Medanta, The Medicity, a private hospital in Gurgaon near Delhi, has suggested.
The trial, although based on a small number of human volunteers, has found that a 12-week course of treatment with a pill containing these herbal products and two vitamins lowered cholesterol to levels comparable with reductions observed through statin therapy.
Dr Ravi Kasliwal, the chairman of clinical and preventive cardiology at Medanta and doctors from seven Indian hospitals who participated in the trial, documented it in Nutrition, an international research journal.
Cardiologists have underscored the need to validate its results through larger studies, but say these preliminary findings suggest the pill – sold in the US as a nutritional supplement – could serve as an alternative to statins for at least some patients. “What we’ve seen is encouraging, we’re now planning large-scale and longer trials,” said Dr Kasliwal.
He said studies on nutritional supplements may be relevant to countries such as India where, earlier studies have estimated, only about five per cent of patients with risk factors for cardiovascular disease take statins regularly.
The doctors have called it the first “randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled study” to assess the safety and efficacy of a nutritional supplement against a cardiovascular risk factor in India.
In a double-blind study, neither doctors nor patients know who is taking the drug and the placebo, and is a rigorous way of evaluating drugs.
“As a cardiologist, I routinely prescribe statins to many patients, but the reality is – there are some patients who are averse to taking statins because they’re concerned about lifelong therapy, and some patients turn away because of their side-effects,” Dr Kasliwal said.
The doctors tested an over-the-counter nutritional supplement that is sold in the US and contains red yeast rice powder, grape seed powder, black pepper powder, and two compounds from the Vitamin B group – niacinamide and folic acid.
Earlier medical studies have established niacinamide as a cholesterol-lowering agent. Red yeast rice, made by fermenting a type of yeast over red rice, has also has been shown in some studies to reduce cholesterol.

Five minutes every day

Stockholm: Four-year-olds who exercise for five minutes every day reap significant health benefits, Swedish researchers said, reports IANS.
Five minutes of intense physical activity is enough for children to lose fat and see marked improvements in stamina and strength, the research from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute showed. “I was a little surprised that we found this correlation between physical activity, muscle strength and stamina,” Marie Lof, a senior researcher in biosciences and nutrition, said in a statement, Xinhua reported.
The results showed stronger benefits than expected for young children who exercise more than their peers, Lof said. Intense, tiresome activity delivers the greatest results, she added, but stressed that a gym membership is not necessary. “One can play with soft balls or balloons, anything to spur the activity in a natural way,” Lof said.

Vegetarianism Unfriendly!

Contrary to popular assumption – and a talk by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference – eating a vegetarian diet  could contribute more to climate change than eating a non-vegetarian diet, warns a new study, reports IANS. 
Schwarzenegger, a former California governor, advised people to go meat-free one or two days a week to help protect the climate. But the new research found that consuming more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie.
“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” said one of the researchers Paul Fischbeck, professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the US.




“I can understand being slightly off, but this is drastic.”
“No, it is not,” retorted his wife. “It just happens to be larger than what you thought of yourself. You don’t know this, but there are certain chores you enjoy doing. There are others you don’t, but you do them with the same diligence that you do anything,” Monica said.
“I learned it by observing my father. He has two simple rules. One, anything worth doing is worth doing well. Two, do it right the first time; you won’t have time to do it again,” he said.
Monica continued, “And that’s why you took the tests, and did them honestly. Now we have the results, and I am sure you want to take advantage of them. That’s you, Satish; you will focus and do things well, not half-heartedly, even if you don’t enjoy it. But how long will you do things you don’t enjoy? Think about it.” 
She held his hand firmly to show her support, and that she was not being judgmental.
“Satish, your marriage to Priya showed commitment and persistence. Your divorce from Priya forced you to rethink everything related to marriage and family life; commitment alone was not enough. You told me that you went into years of introspection, discovered yourself, and slowly changed.
“When you met me, you were a different person than when you met Priya. You got closer to your own true self. I think your self-awareness makes our marriage a happy and satisfying one.”
“Yes, I had to change, because something was drastically wrong with my old rules.” He said.
Monica laughed softly and said, “You know Satish, for all the brains God has given you, you can be quite a Buddhu.”
They had this discussion many times, and before they could go off on a tangent, he quickly said, “Yes, I am.”
She smiled at the minor victory he had conceded to her.
She continued, “Similarly, your parting with Clark is like another divorce, except they gave you an anesthesia when they said good-bye. They thought that the package made the severance humane, but I think you would have been better off if you had seen this as a personal tragedy. It would have forced you to think and look at this differently, as you did after your divorce.”
Satish was not surprised by Monica’s insights. He expected nothing less from her. He listened.
“I think that the tests are the biggest blessing of your package. It would have taken you years to figure this out by yourself.”
“I guess you are right,” he conceded. He gave her a slight, sideways hug in appreciation of her insights. She shrank and moved away; embarrassed at her husband’s public exhibition of affection, looking around to see if anyone had noticed.
Just then, Seeta came up to them and asked them to come see the sand hill she had built. Monica seized this opportunity to get away from her amorous husband. She was still very Indian in her Victorian mores of not displaying affection in public.
On their walk back home from the park, he told her that he was still going to pursue the fastest path to employment and cash flow. He would look for a job similar to the one he had at Clark. Then, once he was firmly established, he would work on maneuvering his career in the direction of his newly discovered strengths. Monica concurred that it was the prudent path, at least until there was a steady stream of income buffered by savings.
The Lunch Bunch’s reaction to Satish’s evaluation results and his decision to go down the same old beaten path was varied. It was evenly split between the yeas and nays.
“Shoot Satish,” Clyde said when he heard about his decision. “Someone just told you that you were a big game hunter, and you’re telling me that you are going back to shooting in a penny arcade to win some stuffed animals?”
“Life’s too short not to be true to yourself,” Dan suggested. “I understand money problems; I’ve seen my share of them. But everything cannot be just about money, can it?”
“You’re right, Satish,” was Sam’s reaction. “Take care of the home front and everything else falls into place. We all have to make some small sacrifice to keep the home fires burning.”
Darrell was surprisingly supportive of Satish. “I like the way you think: short term and long term simultaneously, and meeting both seemingly contradictory goals. That’s not easy to do, guys,” he said, addressing the rest of the group. “In everything we do, we cannot be one to the exclusion of the other; we have to do both concurrently. I like that attitude; I really do.”
After hearing Darrell’s opinion, Clyde and Dan hurriedly compromised, and all four offered Satish full support in his job search. Encouraged, he began his search in earnest.
He created a mental map of the whole process. There was a job out there for him. He had to reach the decision maker through his network and convince this senior executive, initially through his cover letter and later through interviews and references, that he was the best person for the job.
The process was simple, except that these jobs were hidden. He had to be at the right place at the right time when they were being filed. He had to play with probabilities and speed to be successful before his severance ran out.
Books were often his first source of information. He checked out a few job hunting bestsellers from the center’s library, and gave them short shrift. They were anecdotal, simplistic, and talked down to the job hunter. They mimicked each other and revealed no new principles or revelations that could give him that extra edge in his search. It was very clear that he had to be innovative and different on this hunt.
He began to execute the basic, commonly practiced principles of networking. He called it his ABCD strategy: associates, bridges, customers, and decision makers. He built a list of his associates, who could introduce him to bridges to customer organizations where decision makers resided.
He spent several weeks scouring his card files, and computer to create an exhaustive list of all his industry contacts. He then informed each one, via letters and fledgling e-mail services that he was on a job search and would be contacting them to get referrals.
A week after the letters went out, he systematically called every person and asked them for reference to people who might know about job opportunities. It was not adequate to just learn about a firm; it was of primary importance to get a name and telephone number.
He was insistent in getting at least three names of bridges from each of his associates. During week ten, he sent them a carefully crafted resume and a cover letter with a proactive last line that stated, “I will call your office for an appointment.”
When he called bridges and reached them, he asked for an appointment. If an associate had a strong relationship with a bridge, the request was granted instantly. If not, there was a telltale hawing, if not reluctance. He backed off immediately, thanked the person, and went on to the next bridge on the list.
By week thirteen, the halfway mark, Satish was mired in the minutiae of meeting assorted Bs and Cs at different stages of cooperation. some Bs were polite and offered to meet him to please an A, but within minutes, he could sense that he had walked into a dead end. This was also true of polite Cs who did not want to upset the Bs in their link.
He scrupulously avoided lunch appointments- he would be obliged to pay the check, since he had requested the meeting. He preferred to get back to the office and be with his Lunch Bunch to compare notes and to listen to their suggestions. They were all encouraging, noting that his progress was impressive. They wished that they had his dogged persistence and organization, and, most importantly, the stamina he displayed in seeing at least six people each day.
“I’d be happier than a hog knee-deep in slop if I could meet three people in a day,” commented Clyde as he sipped his beer. “Boy, you’re somethin'. Let me tell ya, I’ve seen many urban cowboys, but you’re the first Indian who can ride!”
Everyone at the table laughed, except Satish. He was clueless that Clyde had just paid him a compliment.
He went on, “Son, this isn’t my first rodeo, and let me tell you that jobs today are rarer than hen’s teeth. But the way you are sniffing around like a hound dog, sooner or later you’re gonna find one.”
Satish was not satisfied. He leaned over, looked into this chili con queso thoughtfully, and stirred in the Tabasco sauce, creating a fiery red mix with rings of melted cheese.
“What’s wrong, cowboy?” asked Clyde.
“I think I am doing it all wrong,” he replied.
“Why do you say that?” Dan asked.
“Because I am at the halfway point, and all I have are some Bs, a few Cs, and no Ds in sight. I need to be talking to a few hiring managers by now. I am doing all the right things, but it feels like I am driving my cattle from here to Laredo via the Grand Canyon,” he said, extending Clyde’s analogy. “I need to get to hiring managers, and this is not the smartest way of getting there from here.”
Sam, the diligent practitioners, suggested, “Satish, you have to be disciplined about it. It has worked for so many people before you, and people who recommend it have many examples and success stories behind them.”
“Yeah,” Dan joined in. “Networking is the secret to success in any sales job. This is selling. You are selling your services, and you have to network to get to the right people.”
Darrell sat back and said nothing, observing the young man struggle with his Lunch Bunch partners.
“I respectfully disagree, gentlemen,” Satish said, smarting from the latest spoonful of chili that had a mean slice of jalapeno in it. He grabbed his beer, took a long sip to soothe his palate, and continued. “I think I am making a mistake, but I can’t put my finger on it. There must be an easier way of doing this; there must be a short cut. This process is not rocket science. There must be a better way of executing it.”