Friday, April 8, 2016



Beginning with all fools day, April ushers the new financial year. Second full budget was presented by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The national finance document was dissected thread bear by all stake holders both in print media and electronic channels.

It has been generally hailed as pro-rural. Beginning with a tall promise of doubling farm income by 2022; increasing irrigation outlays of Rs 17,000 crores, low cost crop insurance scheme as Rs. 5,500 crores, interest subsidy to farm loan of about Rs. 15,000 crores with MGNREGA getting the allocation of Rs 38,500 crores, besides the plan of electrification of all villages by 2018, its been fairly rural heavy. Therefore it is expected to be better for the rural folks, both in terms of improved overall income and better living conditions. The union budget also had proposals like taxing the rich based on principle of ‘what traffic can bear.’ Those getting more than Rs. 10 lakhs as dividend shall have to pay the new dividend tax of 10%. Similarly those who are earning more than Rs. 1 crore as salary shall have their surcharge increased from 12% to 15%. Thus, in one stroke, Modi- government tried to dispel the allegation, that it is business friendly and in fact truly rural friendly and pro poor. Of course in a country, where there are people like Rahul Bajaj of Bajaj Group, who has openly accepted “I have no problem in paying more for the increased earnings”, it is a positive vibe from the business community. Initiatives like Start-up India and Skill development is likely to have multiplier effect on the economy and society as a whole. Tax exemption to new manufacturing companies can greatly help Start-Ups. Besides huge funding for infrastructure like highways and arterial connecting roads too can lead to boosting of the economy. Hope all the good intentions conveyed in the budget carries its message to the intended target.

 Month-in-perspective has been as usual covered as much as it could within the space constraints.

Violence in Lahore, violence in Brussels, have exposed the vulnerability of general public anywhere, to the organized killing in the name of faith. While all faiths love peace and abhor violence, why this uncontrolled bloodletting is a question that disturbs everybody across the board. Don’t we all want to live a peaceful life? Even those who were involved in the killings of those who are innocents, should be yearning for peace and yet these meaningless killings keep happening. Questions are far too many, but alluding answers.

Ijtihad, is a Quranic inscription which provokes questions. Thus we have this Irshad Manji, who calls herself as a Muslim pluralist from Canada asking many questions about the influences in her life. Then you have this ISIS, the latest movement of the ‘faithfuls’. We have tried to combine the three under Focus, in an attempt to have some dialogue. Will that happen? is a question looking for answer. Hope readers shall find it worth their time. Kindly revert with your thoughts as usual. We do value them.    
J. Shriyan    


UTTARAKHAND: The northern state was in the news for a very sad reason. A horse, named, Shaktiman, was inhumanely attacked by BJP party workers led by MLA Ganesh Joshi in Dehradun. The attack was so bad that Police horse slumped on the ground, with a broken leg, which led to amputation and subsequent replacement by the local Veterinary College hospital surgeons.
Something is getting rotten with a section of Sangh Pariwar, who are not being reined in by their senior leaders for their inhuman and dastardly violent attack to humans and animals. While they profess, and even violently react to cow issue, why the same love and affection is not there for other domestic animals? What was the fault of horse? Only that it can’t hit back. This kind of violence only speak about the mindset of people who are involved in these attacks on dumb animals, who can neither protest nor can hit back. There have been in the past, many leaders, MLAs and MPs who mouthed stupidities and have been party to violent incidents. Of course, the leadership did rap their knuckles, while the need was for more harsher reprimands.
These raps in the knuckles have obviously not helped in disciplining its ranks, which has certainly led to this incident at Dehradun. These BJP workers and functionaries are not making the life of their senior leaders better by their irresponsible and insensitive public behavior. Hope, before it is too late, seniors, including, their top leader Narendra Modi, act in the overall interest of the country rather than their party only.
Every development is a change. But every change is not development.

NEW DELHI: The Indian power centre had a two-day conference of National Women Legislators (NCWL).  The Conference was addressed by all three top functionaries of the Indian state, The President, Pranab Mukarjee, the Vice President, Hamid Ansari and the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. If the former two stressed the importance of 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State Legislatures, the last of the three, the Prime Minister, simply ignored the reported strong pitch of the former two, the President and the Vice President.
What compulsion drove each one of them is unknown. However there cannot be any disagreement as far as the empowerment of women is concerned. And why stop at 33%, they should be allowed to go to any length in a free democratic setup. Women have proved themselves as capable and have delivered and therefore there should not be any constraints on their aspirations. It is also; however, true that the men folk, especially in politics, do not want many women, since it is the political power, that is ultimate in any power equation. To this end, to check the male chauvinism, a legislated reservation may be a solution. But we have a political class in the Hindi belt, like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and some others, who simply do not agree on any political quota in Assembly or Parliament. It could be that, Prime Minister Modi, is a political office holder and therefore may be carrying the burden of some of his supporters, who are also opposed to this quota in politics. Hence has not committed himself on this issue of 33% reservation for women during his address to the delegates at this NCWL.
However, what is of real importance is the promotion and celebration of women’s achievements in all spheres of activity across the socio political spectrum. There is this Field Training Exercise Code named Exercise Force 18 with participation of over 360 personnel from 18 ASEAN countries, including U.S, China, Russia & Japan among others. This is a first of an initiative, and happening in India. The theme of the training is ‘Humanitarian mine action and Peace keeping operation’. The essence of this multi-national ground exercise is to learn and share the best practices of other armies of the world and to display India’s commitment for peace and stability in the region. That India has been selected for this unique initiative is an honour in itself. But, issue of greater honour, in the context of women’s empowerment at this NCWL is the selection of a lady, Lt. Col. Saphia Qareshi to lead the 40 member Indian contingent. She is the only lady in the entire group of 360 members from these 18 countries. It is a matter of great pride for Indian women, especially our Muslim brethren to have this 35 year old officer from Corps of Signals to have been picked up to lead this unique international exercise. Congratulations to Lt. Col. Saphia Qureshi and her proud parents. She is a model, not just for her community but for the entire country. In the cacophony of all-round mudslinging this is an event to celebrate.

Mohammed Tahir-ul-Qadri who created a ruffle some years ago in Pakistan and not welcome in Pakistan, is a Pakistani from Canada.
There are many from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan migrated to Canada in search of better life and better freedom. They got both, but their mindset has remained imprisoned to their theological moorings.
Qadri is one such person. He was attending the “World Sufi Forum’ held in Delhi. Talking to the media he is reported to have remarked ‘IS killers are anti-Islam, will go to hell”. According to him “it is not Jihad but fasad”. But, what about other Jihad groups, and they are dime a dozen. From Karachi to Kampala, you find them all over. These killers are Muslims or at least claim to be so. But this Mohammed Tahir-ul-Qadri is quite on them. And what about his own country cousins in Pakistan, ISI supported, ISI inspired and ISI sponsored killings, not only across the border in India, whether Kashmir, Punjab or elsewhere, but also within Pakistan itself, where Muslims are killing Muslims? Will they all go to heaven Mr Qadri? Why ‘intellectuals’ like you have this multiple standards? Killer anywhere from any background is an enemy of humanity. Period. Do you harken Mr Qadri!  
In India, both media and political class have been, since quite some time, especially after BJP came to power, or rather more importantly after Narendra Modi became the prime minister, this national vilification of Indian has been going on, all in the name of freedom of expression. These elements calling themselves as secular, has been methodical in their vilification campaign to include even observations of non-political intellectuals. They can be very vicious in their no holds barred shrill vocalisation. But how conveniently they underplay or even ignore to report, to talk or to debate real intolerance from certain sections of society, clearly showing how these elements suffer from selective blindness and deafness.
There was this report datelined New Delhi, appearing only in some news papers, once and then forgotten. Prof. Obaid Siddique, of Jamia Milia Islamic University (JMIU) had filed a writ petition against the Vice Chancellor Talat Ahmed in the Delhi High Court, pointing out financial bungling allegedly committed by the V.C, since April 2014. V.C Talat Ahmed had joined JMIU in April 2014. Prof Siddique had also complained to President Pranab Mukarjee on the same issue. He was suspended by the V.C immediately thereafter. Reportedly he was restrained from travelling outside Delhi without the prior permission of the competent authority. Now what is the fault of Prof. Siddique? As a responsible citizen, alive to the situation around him, did what a responsible citizen would do. For doing his duty, he has been suspended. Our 24x7 electronic media has gone dumb. When Kirti Azad went against his party, his party suspended him from the party, but he continued to remain an M.P. But 24X7 channels went to the market, as if it was an earthquake. And this Prof. Siddique has been suspended from his employment as Professor for no fault of his and the same media is deafeningly silent. How strange are ways of the urban intelligentsia! This is Yeh Mera India      

People thought its only Digvijay Singh & likes of Mani Shankar Aiyar who put foot into their mouth, when they mouth inanities of political skullduggery. I am neither a RSS member nor that of BJP or other Sangh outfits. But what Ghulam Nabi Azad, a congress functionary said in the same breath about ISIS and RSS, is not just boorish but patently diabolic. His explanation about the comparison of the world’s most barbaric outfit with RSS, is clearly a vicious attempt at mudslinging. His statement “We condemn organizations like ISIS as much as we condemn the RSS” if not a comparison, then either he has pawned his head for the votebank or he simply is not fit to be a Member of Parliament. However, it is to his credit that as Union Minister of Family Planning & Welfare, he was the only one who understood the importance of small family and advocated a sensible population policy, which none of the governments of past, including the present Modi government have articulated. How can such a sensible person, mouth utter nonsense of clubbing ISIS and RSS together! Now he can be very well clubbed with Shakshi Maharajs, Adityanaths and their ilk.

Power Corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In UPA, it was left to Dr. Ambumoni Ramdoss, an MBBS, to humiliate an internationally recognized Cardiovascular Surgeon, in the name of political power. Now it is the turn of Smriti Irani, a 12th std. pass to humiliate AMU Vice Chancellor.
Dr. Ambumoni Ramdoss was the Union Health Minister, under UPA regime. A DMK cardholder, this Dr. Ramdoss was a mere MBBS, but he had the power and tried his best to insult Dr Venugopal, the then Director of AIIMS, a premier institute of higher medical learning. Most Indians are privy to the prolonged feud between Ramdoss and Prof. Dr. Venugopal. It is another matter, that due to Apex Court intervention Union Health Minister couldn’t do much to hurt Dr. Venugopal.
In similar vein, is this episode involving Union HRD minister Smriti Irani. None is aware, what prompted Prime Minister Modi to appoint Ms. Irani to head the HRD ministry, which also handles affairs of institutes of higher learning. Unfortunately there are no seniors who could advise the first time Prime Minister. And nobody had the courage, even to suggest to the P.M., on his error of judgement in appointing Ms. Irani as HRD minister. There has been public criticism of Ms. Irani being made the HRD Minister. Strangely for whatever reasons, Prime Minister Modi has not seen it fit to change the HRD minister.
Hence, we have come to read this news in a section of the print media “AMU VC insulted by Irani?” Reportedly the AMU VC Lt. Gen. Zameeruddin had called on the HRD minister on the invite of Kerala CM Oommen Chandy, who was with the minister discussing some issues of AMU centres in Kerala. On seeing the VC in her office, an arrogant Irani, reportedly asked the V.C “Go back and sit in the visitors room” while reminding the VC, that it is the HRD ministry which pays his salary and not Kerala CM. Do we need to remind this upstart that HRD ministry is not Irani’s private property. It is the property of India and of all Indians. She better behave, before an online campaign starts for her ouster from the cabinet.

Whenever the thought of entering political arena, the first thought that used to cross my mind was what is the map of the area with all villages shown therein, whether in the assembly constituency or parliamentary constituency. The idea was to know the geography of the area, its strength and weakness. But then, it didn’t go any further, since, no political plunge took place.
Thus, I was quite impressed with the news report that appeared in the print “PM stumps MPs by his quiz”. Probably Prime Minister Modi, is the only PM, who comes to mind, who could have thought of such interactive session with MPs.
Ahead of UP election, PM Modi wanted to have a firsthand knowledge of the update that his party MPs from UP have. He calls for a meeting of MPs from U.P in the house of a Union Minister from his party. Reportedly, he spoke for 2 minutes, and asked 2 questions to all MPs and sadly none of the 71 MPs gathered could answer his question. He had asked about the state of villages of each parliamentary constituency, and if they have a list of villages and reportedly none had the list. He was interested to know the progress of the rural electrification scheme, named ‘Deendayal Jyothi Gram’, so also the ‘Narendra Modi APP’ containing NDA initiatives, if it’s been downloaded on to their mobile phones. To both the queries, PM Modi drew blank from his MPs from U.P.
If with a proactive Prime Minister like Modi, if his party men in Parliament have failed, what can be expected of other Members of Parliament? Oh Poor Mother India!

BIHAR: Bihar does not always make national news. Even if it makes, they are generally for all wrong reasons. But this one is, quite admittedly, an exemplary reason. The report “JD(U) Suspends legislators for shooting off mouth”, said it all.
In just about most political parties, there are these motor mouths operating unannounced and causing entirely avoidable controversy. It may be true that the right of freedom of expression is available only to likes of JNU student leaders, or Rohit Vemulas hailing terror accomplices like Yakub Memon, and not available to these characters who are rather unkindly branded as ‘motor mouths’, and other adjectives, by our media and their ‘intelligent’ fellow travelers.
These so called ‘motor mouths’, are never taken head-on, by any political party, instead are just admonished to mind their language. And all of us know these admonishens are as transient in effect as blowing wind or flowing water. But Nitish Kumar and his party need to be publicly congratulated for taking a ‘suo-moto’ tough stand and summarily suspending their party men pending enquiry.
Reportedly, Gopal Mandal, MLA from Gopalpur had openly barked ‘I will now do politics of murder and order murder, I used to commit murders in the past and will do it again’. Rana Gangeshwar Singh, an MLC had reportedly remarked that, “national anthem is a symbol of slavery”. That the Bihar leadership under Nitish Kumar did what PM Modi has failed to do it to his MPs and MLAs, is really commendable, with all the ‘jungle raj’ epitaph making its round. Nitish has also proved better than Arvind Kejriwal in as much as he didn’t demand a similar action from ruling party in the centre, which showman Kejriwal had openly did while sacking one of his ministers on charges of corruption. Two cheers for Nitish.
And our media, going to the market demanding actions by PM Modi against his MPs and MLAs are not commending Nitish Kumar! This is Yeh Mera India.

GUJARAT: The infamous Ishrat Jahan fake-encounter case of June 2004 has been in the media for a fairly long time. Although the authorities in Ahmadabad, always maintained that it was not a fake-encounter and was based on the input from Intelligence Bureau of the government of India. However, as it happened , the court monitored investigation into this Ishrat Jahan elimination case turned upside down for Gujarat Police and the then Gujarat Home Minister Amith Shah. All of them were jailed.
Now comes the explosive revelation that, it was not a fake-encounter after all. It was not merely this David Headley urf Dawood Gilani, a Pakistani Muslim turned American Christian, making his submission about Ishrat Jahan being LeT member but the respected retired official, former Home Secretary G K Pillai, making a public statement that, the fact of the admission that Ishrat was indeed a part of LeT, made earlier was in fact changed in the Home Ministry’s later submission to the SIT Court. Similarly Rajendra Kumar, the then head of IB Gujarat Unit, too admitted to pressure from the then UPA Home Minister Chidambaram to withdraw the input that Ishrat was a LeT operative. Then came another from RVS Mani, the then undersecretary in the Home Ministry making similar charges, adding the torture that he had to undergo at the hands of SIT Chief Satish Verma. Palaniappan Chidambaram, the then Home Minister in the UPA II is clearly  in trouble. But the last nail on the coffin came with a signed article released to the press by former National Security Advisor to the UPA government MK Narayanan. He has reportedly written that “Affidavit on Ishrat Jahan was indeed corrected and that it was in 2010 itself they were told about Ishrat Jahan’s LeT involvement after FBI interrogated David Headley.” Thus, clearly Chidambaram’s Harvard educated intelligence has let him down. But that is not the issue. He committed a grave antinational act. He, along with elements within the UPA, had joined hands with enemies of the nation, only to fix an opposition  state government. This demands a thorough and independent inquiry into the whole episode and all those police officers too should knock the door of Court to get justice for their wrong incarceration, courtesy the then Home Minister.      
KARNATAKA: The most famous contemporary Indian from Bangalore has suddenly vanished. The most colorful Vijay Vittal Mallya, reportedly ‘ran away’ from the possible clutches of the law enforcing authorities. Was there a need for him to leave the shores of India, which gave him everything from Love to Luxury, unless he had some selfish reasons to give the authorities a slip! Everything that he had, or his father Vittal Mallya so meticulously gathered, was all from this country. So he is beholden to account for all his actions and inactions.
The story going round is, he and his business empire owes to Indian banking industry a whopping 9000 crores, in both principal and interest, that he took, to fund all his activities- both commercial and personal. As all Indians are privy that, he has interest starting from liquor to airlines to pharmaceutical to cricket and many others including horse breeding. May be because of his proximity to horse, he took everybody for a ride!
But, what needs to be appreciated, but quietly pushed under the carpet, there are always two sides to an issue. In this case, there is a giver of loan as well. What has he been doing? There are almost a dozen banks, who to-gather paid this huge amount of loan. Are these banks manned by jokers? All of them are qualified banking professionals, who knew their onions. Most fundamental to any loan application is the ability to pay it back, rather than assets of the borrower. Is it that they didn’t ask questions? Or they joined the borrower in looting the system or they were under pressure to lend to the playboy high profile businessman? Surely there will be many questions looking for answers. And he is not alone in exploiting the system to live beyond their legitimate means.
Now that Vijay Vittal Mallya has bolted, what are the options? Suddenly all are active, from banks to Enforcement Directorate to CBI and of course the political class. We are wiser, smart and pro-active only when the horse has bolted. That has been the legacy of our democracy, where all are equal before law but somehow some manage to be more equal than all else. Sadly, the loot by the well connected shall continue and the general public shall keep hearing the inanities of political rhetorics. Oh poor mother India.

‘Guru did not deserve capital punishment’ was a statement attributed to a retired professor of JNU, in a section of the press from Mangalooru. According to Prof. Valerian Rodrigues, ‘Afzal Guru, the Parliament attack convict, did not deserve capital punishment and sentiments aired by JNU students were more or less in tune with the general opinion of a part of society on Guru’s punishment’.
Granted, like JNU students, Prof. Rodrigues too have his right to free speech. Is he saying Supreme Court of India, which gave all the opportunity to this convict to prove his innocence was wrong in awarding the capital punishment? Prof. must come clear on that.
Students can be excused for their ignorance of duties, while hankering only for their rights; but not a retired professor. Besides, was this Professor Rodrigues disturbed when Osama Bin Laden was killed, his head blown off, by the Seals of United States, not in the United States, but in a restricted defense area of Pakistani Army in Abbottabad right inside Pakistan! United States is the ‘greatest champion’ of freedom of expression. Even Amnesty International did not question the U.S. Besides, no American university campus anywhere debated the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Prof. Rodrigues did you lose sleep over this? According to me, it is the commitment to duties that makes a citizen and a country great rather than crying for rights & rights only.
While on the subject, it needs to be recognized that there were others too who got the capital punishment in India and nobody shed their tears on them including JNU students. Are JNU students and their supporters being politically correct in defending Afzal Guru, a convicted terrorist?      

WORLD: Researchers from University of Sheffield in Britain conducted a study of 17000 sentencing decision in South Carolina in the U.S. Strangely there were no sentencing guidelines and decision makers have greater discretion when sentencing offenders.
Commenting on the study, the lead researcher Todd Hartman had stated “Whether intentional or not, the fact that race appears to influence incarceration and criminal sentencing decisions is troubling. It is particularly concerning that this pattern of disparity appears to be affecting African American offenders with limited criminal histories or for less severe crimes.”
Clearly there appears to be bias in sentencing blacks in white America. According to the study, petty criminals who are black are more likely to be jailed than their white counter parts, also longer sentences for crimes which are in low intensity. It highlighted the iniquity in incarceration rates and sentence lengths for black offenders. The results of the study, reportedly, also showed that blacks with lower levels of criminal history were more likely to be jailed than whites, and the likely hood of incarceration increased by some 43% for those with no past criminal history.
Isn’t the white American running an unfair and unjust justice delivery system? And New York Times goes to the market to cry hoarse on alleged intolerance in India!

Japan, the land of the rising sun, the land of Buddhism and therefore land of peace is in some kind of a weird turmoil. A month ago stories datelined Tokyo appeared in print. A Japanese woman and her boyfriend reportedly abused a teenage girl, who happened to be the daughter of this woman. The couple poured detergent into their fish tank and killed all fish and forced the girl to eat more than 30 dead gold fish. Although the report is silent as girl’s condition, couple has been arrested. Reportedly, they were indicted last year for torturing the girl including burning her tongue with a lit cigarette after tying her with a rope, and this was their fifth arrest for the abuse of the child. In Europe, even if a child falls off accidentally inside the parental home, and suffers no injuries, the child is taken away for foster care. Here in Japan, the mother is arrested for the 5th time in a year for abusing and torturing her teenage daughter, they have continued to leave the teenager in her mother’s care!
Then comes the story of another mother who deliberately poured boiling water on her 3 year old girl child. Seriously burnt child died. Reportedly police arrested the women and her boyfriend for negligence and not for homicide. According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, there have been over 89000 cases of child abuse during the 12 months ending March 2015.
Report also informs about the abuses of elderly, where a former hospital worker was arrested for throwing an 87 year old resident from the balcony of his house, killing the old man. This hospital worker was reported to have killed two more octogenarians in similar fashion around the same period.
This state of affairs is unbelievable for a country as advanced as Japan in all its socio economic indicators, unlike other 3rd world countries. What ails Japan?
There was this print media report in a section of the press “Modi govt. under attack for authoritarian drift’. On reading the whole report, it transpired that it was New York Times and ‘Le Monde’ from Paris, supposedly ‘World’s leading news papers’. They did not say anything different from what a section of Indian press have said in recent times. In India there are three kinds of reporting. One unbiased in reporting, straight off the cuff, without any addition or subtraction. Then there is pro-government and those who are anti-government. In the second and 3rd, both are subjective according to their agenda, and unfortunately they have wider circulation unlike the first variety.
As it happens, the present government at the centre is BJP dominated. With their allies they have near 2/3rd majority. But they have a Prime Minister, a hugely grassroots politician with huge grassroots following. He has kept the media away from the corridors of power. That has greatly irked, at least those who are anti-govt. types.
It is also true that, Prime Minister Modi has his own style of working, while being a 24x7 worker, minus some rest, he is a bit of domineering. But that has not reduced his popularity and that is what irks both opposition politicians and a section of the press. It is also true that whenever BJP is in power, its cadres have tried to assert in public space. But then, it is largely true of most political parties. Ask Left cadres in both Kerala & W. Bengal or ask Trinamool cadres. They are all same. May be, to an extent Congress may have been better. But they have lost power for varieties of reasons. Of course, while there is scope for Modi and his government to adjust its style of functioning for better public perception, likes of NYT or Le Monde, have simply no business to ‘read us scriptures’. Both have their own enough problems to be written about and addressed, which need not be elaborated, whether it’s the issue of blacks being badly treated by the police, or  Indian Sardars (Sikhs) being beaten up mistaking as Osama bin Laden’s duplicates, or even those who cannot reply the police questioning in English being badly man handled, problems are many.
Hence we need not seriously take these observations from foreign press. Indians are quite competent to manage their affairs. We are in nation of close to 1.3 billion people, with some 25 official languages, over 1500 dialects and some ½ a dozen religions with a mind boggling diversity unmanageable anywhere in the world.

What They Said

"In the Name of Freedom", (I&C March-2016)  You have spoken straight from the shoulder. Called a spade a spade! Adds to the debate. This churning is good.               - Ravishankar Rao, Professor of English and Director,   International Student Centre,  Mangalore University,  via-email

"In the Name of Freedom", (I&C March-2016)
Once again 'Issues & Concerns' has traversed the path less trodden. In a countr y where the political class  excels in iconoclastic impostures and part of the media panders to the vociferous cliques masquerading as intellectuals,and where even academia seems to  have come under the spell  of uncritically accepting the notion of 'academic immunity',  the bold and contrarian stand taken "In the name of Freedom" comes as a breath of fresh air. And it is not that this stand is prompted by any predilection to be a contrarian, per se. It is appropriately supported by facts and logic. It points out to the circular issued on the eve of the so called cultural meet, which essentially was to glorify Afzal Guru, the convict who attacked Parliament, support Kashmiri self determination and to seek "Bharath ki Barbadi". If academic immunity means providing a sanctuary to those remotely controlled anti-nationals, then the notion needs to be revisited.

 And well, the attempt in the 'Focus' to draw attention to Article 51A of the constitution, which states the fundamental duties of the citizens, has come not a day too soon. In the turbulent 60s, a young President of the U.S. sent a similar message: “Ask not what America can do for you, but ask what you can do for America." It is time for some soul searching, particularly in the hallowed corridors of higher learning.                                                       -Norbert M Shenoy, Mangalooru, via-email

"In the Name of Freedom", (I&C March-2016)

Well said Sir, may we call these so called research scholars as misguided youths, but what we call those teachers who still support these youths and the Gandhies, who heads the oldest party of this unfortunate country, the Kejris, the Yechuri , The A Raja, and the most celebrated journalists like Burkha dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai and more so the Intellectuals of this great nation like our own /Girish Karnad ? Don’t you see a sinister plan to tarnish the image of our Prime Minister and there by the country. As said by Gen (Rtd) Sampath Kumar, these willy politicians have nothing to loose, neither their job nor their eanings, and these students are very easy to provoke. Very sad state of affairs. God only can save this country.                                                       -Sanathana Kumar Punja, Via-FB

"In the Name of Freedom", (I&C March-2016)

enough of this nonsense-let these so called patriots go to Pakistan and ask for rights for baluchis, mojahirs etc-we have been too patriotic-anyone who supports attacks on Pakistan-asks for India to be divided-is preaching treason-he or she needs to be tried for crimes against the country-we have listened to enough nonsense for 60 odd years-the backlash will be very severe-people-ordinary people are very angry-and we are talking of the silent majority in India-they are going to vote and show their anger-we had enough of the pseudo secularism-we are the silent majority-we have tolerated corruption, cronyism, antinational activities-we will make history-we are the majority-we are tired of misrule and corruption-we have had enough of lectures by self serving people.-Dr. Ramdas Rai, Via FB

Regarding the open letter to our PM Mr. Modi, I totally agree with Mr. Norbert Shenoy’s comments. Your letter also mentions about Ms. Irani “She is not even a graduate”. Is it really necessary to have a university education to hold a cabinet post? She is efficient and clever to hold her job.

The article about a soldier’s father was touching and poignant. One would like to see similar article about our nation’s unsung heroes.                                                - Kathyayini Subash, Via-Post

Dear Ms Kathyayini Subash
Thanks indeed for the time taken to write to us. Your comments on the issues raised by I&C are well taken. Reg. Ms. Irani, there is absolutely no quarrel with her being a cabinet minister where it is the competence that matter than all else. As HRD Minister she happens to be looking after matters of Education including institutions of higher learning, hence when dealing with Vice-Chancellors of universities or Directors of IITs it could cause avoidable unease. She could have been given other ministries like Women & Child Welfare etc. While on the subject it is pertinent to state that Indians already have an experience of a former Union Health Minister, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss from Tamilnadu, (2004/2009), an MBBS, and how he made the life of the Director of All India Instt of Medical Sciences, an internationally known cardiovascular surgeon Dr. P. Venugopal, miserable, during his entire term. Why humiliate a professional with professional qualifications by the unlettered political power? 

Thanks very much for the Rs.10000/- for our reach-out initiative. So also your renewal subscription of Rs. 2700/-                                                                                  -EDITOR     

I have read your Cover Story of the March 2016 issue named “In the Name of Freedom”.

 The article is not only one sided but reflects the mind sets of the few journalist friends to brandish what not suits them in the same brush as what the government calls it as  “Nationalism”.                                                                                                                      Venkatesh Shriyan, Via- email

Having gone through your long letter, we are constrained to state as follows. We strongly believe, educational institutions are meant for education and development of personality of students therein, whether it is FTII, HCU, or JNU. There are clear demarcations. Ideology should have no place. Every political party pushes its own ideology, be it Left Right or Centre. All of them have destroyed the sanctity of institutes of higher learning. If students want to represent them, it should be clearly outside the campus and during non-class hours. Politics should have no place inside the campus.                                                                      -EDITOR     

"Civility in Public space", (I&C March-2016)
Well said. Those whoever is not able to look after their as well as motherland are forgetting their duty in the civilized society.                                                                     -Gopal Poojary, Via- FB



Contemporary world is infested with issues of myriad kinds, but unfortunately all emanating from this creature called MAN, supposedly the creator’s ‘best creation’. Long ago we were told as youth, that ‘man has learnt to swim like a fish in the water, and to fly like a bird in the sky, but he couldn’t learn to live like a human being on this solid earth’. Sadly not only he has failed to live like a human, but he created a whole lot of problems for all living beings, whether for his fellow humans, or for animals or for vegetations around the human society. In his terms of trade with nature, first he blamed the nature, then tamed the nature and finally he maimed the nature. Thus the record of humans was certainly not something to be celebrated. Of course, this is not to say that entire humanity is negative. But it is an unassailable truth, that good has not proved itself better. It is only because good man stopped being better that the bad has become worse. Hence there is scope for plethora of questions where the civil society has failed to allow the fear to dominate the human society.
Ijtihad, although an Islamic tradition of dissenting, reasoning and reinterpreting, it is available to salvage the entire humanity in its pervasive application. Ijtihad is about struggling to understand our world by using our minds- which implies exercising the freedom to ask questions- sometime uncomfortable ones. Irshad Manji, tells us, why we all need Ijtihad, doesn’t matter the source, appreciate its sweep. She quotes an email from Jim, a Christian, an American reader of her books, “The message of Ijtihad, of questioning, speaks to more than just Muslims. Throw away the confines of political correctness and discuss, debate, challenge and learn. A brown Muslim women inspiring a white Christian man; Isn’t freedom great?” he asks.
Irshad Manji was born in 1968, to a Gujarati Indian migrant to Uganda and an Egyptian mother. Post IdiAmin trials and tribulations, the family migrated to Canada, when Irshad was only 4 years old. She attended a secular school as well as a madrassa. However madrassa expelled her for asking too many questions. According to her she learnt Islamic teachings through Arabic tutors in Canada.
At the very young age of 22, after graduation with honours, she became a Press Secretary and Speech writer in the Ontario Provincial Government in Canada. Two years later she became the youngest member of an editorial board of Canadian daily “The Ottawa Citizen”. Being a brilliant intelligent student, with freedom allowed by her parents she bloomed like a flower in a well tended garden. She had too many questions on all aspect of socio-political and religious dimensions of her evolving time.
It was in 2002, she became an ‘In house writer’ in University of Toronto, where she started to write her book ‘The trouble with Islam Today’. The book, on publication in 2004, catapulted her to instant fame and celebrity status in the English reading world of U.S and Europe. She was apparently troubled by how Islam is practiced today by the Arab influence on Islam that took away women’s individuality and introduced the concept of group honour. According to her, she is ‘attempting to reconcile her faith in Allah with her love of freedom and is not prepared to join an army of robots in the name of God.’ She likes to call herself as a Muslim pluralist. She invites Muslims and non- Muslims to transcend the fears that stop many from living with integrity; the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning their own communities. She quotes chapter 13, verse 11 of the Quran “God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is inside themselves”. Demanding reforms in the Islamic practices she asks some bold and uncomfortable questions like “Why should I avoid examining the Quran and understanding it?” Now this is entirely ‘blasphemous’!
Writing a foreword to her book “ The trouble with Islam today”, Prof Khaleel Mohammed, a Ph.d in Islamic Law from McGill University and a Professor at San Diego State University, so also an Imam, he states “Let us face a simple fact. I should hate Irshad Manji. She threatens my male authority and things about Islam that I wish were not true. She has a big mouth and fact upon fact to corroborate her analysis. She does not fear death. She is a lesbian. My madrassa training tells me that Allah hates gays and lesbians. I should really hate this woman. But then I took into my heart and engage my heart and mind, I come to a discomfiting conclusion. Irshad is telling the truth. And my God commands me to uphold the truth- which means that I have to side with her”. Aren’t they brave words! If the book has been courageous in its radical contents, the foreword by Prof Mohammed, who is an Imam, has been equally courageous. World need to celebrate both these lady and gentleman. More so for Liberal Muslims, who feel unsafe to stand up to the world around them of violent bigots.
If the above 2 personalities are of international background, closure home in India, we have likes of Hamid Dalwai, who died at a young age of 45 years. He was a social reformer of his time, from Rathnagiri in coastal Maharashtra. Born in 1932, he passed away in 1977, when Irshad Manji was only 11 years of age. In the larger canvass of our evolving society, it is very pertinent to revisit the ideas of this long lost reformer activist. While it is true that Irshad Manji spoke of all Muslims and others as well, to be fearless in bringing about change, Hamid Dalwai restricted himself to Indian Muslims. How much Muslim intelligentsia agrees with Dalwai is not known. But like Irshad Manji, Hamid Dalwai too faced threats to his considered views.
Coming to the ISIS, we have just been told that Brussels, the capital city of Belgium and that of European Union has been bombed. In multiple explosions, some 50 or so have perished and hundreds injured. T.V. Channels informed, an organization called ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombing and therefore the killing and mayhem.
Who is this ISIS? Why are they killing people indiscriminately? What drives them to kill people with so much ferocity? What is their purpose? Whatever be your cause, is it right to kill people so violently? Questions are far too many. Answers too may be available. But answers can at times only be explanations, but not solutions. World needs solutions.
ISIS is the brain child of a man called Abu Bakr-al Baghdadi, with his name being Ibrahim Awad Al-Badri. A very erudite Islamic scholar with a Phd in Quranic studies from the Saddam University for Islamic Studies in Baghdad, Iraq. Being claimant to be a descendent of Prophet Muhammad, he had a vision for himself and his people. He joined hands with Abu-Ayyub Al-Masri, who had founded Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), after disbanding Al Qaeda in Iraq (ABI). Because of his scholarship, Abu Bakr-al Bagdadi was chosen to lead the ISI, on the death of Al-Masri in 2010. Opportunity provided by the unrest in Syria in 2011, became a stepping stone for Al Baghdadi to expand his ISI into Syria. Al Assad family, who ruled Syria, starting with father Hafez al-Assad and now son Bashar al-Assad is from Alawite community, an offshoot of Shia. In Syria the majority are Sunni Muslims. The majority didn’t want Al Assad family to rule them. Thus Syria became a fertile ground for ISI to expand, since ISI itself was Sunni driven. In Iraq it was the Baath party of Saddam, who was a Sunni minority ruler in Shia majority country. Hence, is ISIS a product of this theological hatred between Sunni & Shia? Or a product of regional rivalry? Or even the regional rivalry is based on Sunni-Shia divide? Or for ISIS, ‘the enemy’ is all those who does not embrace it, which defines ‘The world is divided into Dawlat al-Islam, the state of Islam, and Daulat-al-Kufr, the state of Unbelief?’
Available information in the public space tells, that in late 2006, AQI joined with eight other Islamist insurgent groups to form the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). The name chosen for this new group indicated its ambition of creating a caliphate, governed by Islamic laws. A caliphate is the rule of a Caliph, meaning a successor to Prophet Mohammed. The emergence of Abu Bakr-al Baghdadi, as the undisputed leader of ISI, with its entry in Syria, al Baghdadi changed the nomenclature of the outfit as Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS), in April 2013. 
According to the available information in Wikipedia, in 2015, ISIS took over the Camp Speicher, an old American military base in Iraq. ISIS militants surrounded the camp and ‘thousands of captives were sorted, the Shia were weeded out, bound and trucked away to be systematically shot dead in prepared trenches. Around 1700 are believed to have been massacred in cold blood. Far from trying to cover up the atrocity, ISIS reveled in it, posting on the internet videos and pictures showing the Shia prisoners being taken away and shot by the black-clad militants.’
Prior to that sometime in Aug 2014, ISIS released a video of gruesomely beheading American journalist James Foley, followed by similar beheading of four British journalists and aid workers.
The growing power of ISIS managed to ‘take over large areas of northern Iraq controlled by Kurds, which had Sinjar, mainly populated by Yazidis, a Christian minority sect. ‘Hundreds of Yazidi men who failed to escape were simply killed. Women and children were separated and taken away as war booty, to be sold and bartered as chattels and used as sex slaves’.               
In a matter of few months, Wikipedia informs that ISIS had blasted its way from obscurity on to the centre of the world stage. Almost overnight it became a household word. The violent retributive killings became frequent. Every week there would be news about such killing in news papers all over the world. There appeared little resistance so far to the spread of hate mongering by ISIS. It is true, U.S, U.K, France have declared war against ISIS. Can they curb ISIS, is difficult to answer in the short run. 
However going back in time, from Brussels to the disintegration of Iraq post Saddam between the current majority Shia rulers and the Sunni minority, it is becoming increasingly clear that while regional politics is the prime mover, the hatred of the Christian west is emerging as a common ground. You have powerful Saudi Arabia and its friends in the Middle East combined with Turkey, the Sunni’s have an upper hand, as compared to Shia Iran & Iraq. Thus, it is the numerical advantage of Sunni denomination that is forcing the issue in Pan Islamic world. Prima facie, it is the Sunni faction who appear to have problem with Shias, Ahmediyas and others. Reverse does not appear to be the case.  
Differences among sections of human civilization is a fact of life. They can be addressed by talk, debate, and discussion only and not by violent killings. Of course, the reasons of continuous violence from different sections of humanity is surely there. Whether it is the hegemonestic tendencies of super power or those who think they are powerful, U.S, USSR/Russia or China or even Israel all have contributed to the mess. Most sections of our global society are changing towards non-violent ways, although slowly. However, the Salafists among Sunni denominations, are still arguably the most violent and they should be made to realize that the world can be saved only by way of Co-operative Co-existence rather than absolutism of any kind. It will be a win-win situation to all. Will that happen!? is a question staring at all of us.
J. Shriyan



‘Change is inevitable. But before this change can overtake and overwhelm you, become the instrument of change’ is a wise quote from the days of yore; Mr. Narayana Peesapathy, a B.Sc (Hons) in Chemistry from Osmania University and an MBA from IIFM, Bhopal has been a researcher, associated with many organizations. While working with AC Neilson & Operation Research Group Baroda, he undertook some 50 consulting assignments related to mainly Agri based industries, forestry and forest based cottage industries. He also worked with International Crop Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad as a Senior Scientific Officer.
During his long years with different aspects of research in agriculture related areas, he became aware of the multiple utility of agro products.
However, it was a chance usage of plastic spoon that set him thinking to create an alternative to plastic spoon. He found it unclean, despite being disposable, it was being reused many times over by unscrupulous caterers. Beside this unhygienic hazard, these plastic cutlery also has number of poisonous and cancerous chemicals that gets into food when used. 
Being a man of research, he had to think of an alternative. As an agricultural scientist, it became natural for him think of a green model for this cutlery. He started his own company Bakays Foods Pvt. Ltd in 2011, to help produce edible cutlery as replacement to plastic cutlery. After much research Bakays came up with alternative to plastic disposable cutlery and Bamboo disposable chopsticks. Now Bakays are producing spoons, forks and chopsticks made out of dried millets, rice and wheat.
Yes, now you can use your spoons, forks and chopsticks and if you like, eat it too after use. These edible cutlery is made from flour. They contain absolutely no chemicals or preservatives and are just flours kneaded with water and are 100% natural products. This initiative by Narayana Peesapathy will go a long way in increasing demand for millets and improving the lives of millet farmers in coming years, since globally there is about 120 billions pieces of plastic cutlery disposed every year. Hope this will revolutionize the use of edible cutlery and stop environmental degradation. So also help farming fraternity.   


Salt restriction myth busted-curse of reductionism in science.

Prof. B. M. Hegde,

“The fact that salt is a powerful emetic as well as a potent laxative should convince the most skeptical that it is not meant to form an important part of the human diet.”
-John H. Tobe, Salt and Your Health

There is an old adage in this part of the world. “There is no one more loving than the mother and there is no food tastier than salt.” Some of these sayings come from hundreds of years of observational holistic research which looks much more reliable today than the present day cross sectional short term studies of reductionism and surrogate end points. The one study basis of the salt restriction in the world is a longitudinal study of Dahl which showed that higher salt intake seems to keep the blood pressure up. Further scrutiny of this study did show major fallacies in his calculations, but for some unexplained reasons the official stand has been for salt restriction to stay healthy and be fit.

A common diagnosis in elderly people hospitalised these days is hyponatraemia which presents with neurological manifestations ending in coma. In my younger days we never used to see that so frequently as these days. There are many reasons for this increased incidence. The number of patients on diuretics for various reasons is increasing while at the same time salt restriction has become more and more aggressive in hospitals. Many other drugs in common day today use also upset the electrolyte balance in the human system. All in all the poor patients pay for their ignorance with their lives. Time has come to take a relook. What made me do this was a study recently published of nearly one thousand patients with heart failure who were studied to see the effect of the conventional salt restriction on their outcome through mortality and morbidity. (Rami Doukky JCHF. 2016; 4(1):24-35. doi:10.1016/j.jchf.2015.08.007)

Since this is only an observational study a prospective randomised controlled study might be better. However, having said that I feel the above cited study has thrown lots of light on this vexed problem of sodium chloride and human health. Universe does not work in bits and pieces. It works as whole. Trying to understand how this nature works is called science. But in reductionist science which the western medicine follows as the basis of human physiology the scientists only get a keyhole view of the goings on inside, missing the essential always. That is why medicine is not a perfect science; it is only a statistical science treating all patients as identical (one size fits all hypothesis) which they are NOT. All our efforts at RCTs (randomised controlled trials) have, per force, to be unreliable as two human beings are NOT like two molecules in your laboratory to be compared.

Let me assure you that we will never be able to get a clear cut black and white demarcation here. “Men are vain authorities who cannot decide on anything.” Something on those lines was Michel Montaigne’s opinion about us humans. Human physiologists have yet to fully understand the enigma of water and electrolyte balance in the human body. It is now known that human system can even get any electrolytes it wants from other electrolytes. This is new concept known to Russian scientists for decades but kept away from the west. This is called transmutation. All these compound our confused understanding of these electrolytes. Sodium taken in isolation (reductionism) might increase the BP and abet heart failure. God only knows what it does in the whole body with many other players in the field and its capacity to transmutate. Any talk about our underlying physiology might not be true because our thinking is so stunted thanks to our reductionist science. Long termoutcomes research is our future guide and the above study has been a good lesson for us to know that all is not well with our treating heart failure. Mortality of heart failure with or without treatment remains almost the same except for the dent (small gain) that diuretics have made in that area. Repeated hospitalisation has also not come down after we introduced so many drugs for heart failure treatment. The only drugs which, for sure, help are diuretics. Beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, ARBs and all other newer modalities have not had a long enough experience in the field. None of these drugs had any independent studies to recommend their use. Available studies are all company funded!

We need more unbiased, independently funded studies to answer these questions. The drug company funded studies will, of course, give acceptable results to their funders. The above study also showed one more important parameter. Salt restriction did not improve treatment outcomes or quality of life but did significantly increase the incidence of low salt syndrome, especially in the old elderly in the ICUs. Drawing sustenance from our ancient wisdom, which will be frowned upon by my “scientific minded” colleagues, gives us another angle to this problem. The best diet to help us in the lean seasons, like the long rainy seasons, was our pickle. Studies on pickles have shown that the salt in the pickle does not damage human health; but increases pickle’s shelf life! Western junk foods, on the contrary, contain so much of pure sodium chloride that they are shown to be bad for health. Professor Macgregor’s studies in London on cornflakes showed that corn flakescontain four fold salt compared to sea water and is bad. Our ancient rock salt, not the present refined salt, contained many other salts in addition to sodium like potassium and magnesium chloride that it might be good for health in the long run; the sodium content does not differ in the two though. Our ancient food preservation techniques were also based on salt but not the pure salt of today. We have to study their goodness to extrapolate to modern food processing methods.

In conclusion, the above mentioned study needs further clarifications. As of now our idea of connecting salt to hypertension and heart failure has not been questioned but what we have to see are two things- 1) if salt intake in the long run is detrimental to health and 2)  Human physiology of water and electrolyte balance needs to be relooked at to make our interventions in seriously ill patients more rational. For the time being my take on the subject would be to let nature decide our future benefit as far is salt is concerned. Let us get enough salt from fresh plant based foods. Let us avoid adding table salt to food. Let us also avoid very high salt containing foods like the western junk preserved foods.

“You are the salt of the earth. But remember that salt is useful when in association, but useless in isolation.”     -IsraelmoreAyivor

Employment and self Employment

-Katy Steinmetz
After 28 years as a matchmaker, Sherry Singer, a 51-year-old resident of Long Beach, Calif., had grown tired of making matches. She had also grown accustomed to the independence of being her own boss as she helped customers find love. But she fretted about where or how to find a new line work. Then Singer met a woman who said she was making $200 a day working as a freelance courier for Postmates, a San Francisco- based startup specializing in on-demand deliveries from restaurants and stores in major cities, the types of places that wouldn’t normally bring their gourmet burgers or cough syrup to someone’s doorstep. “I said, ‘Sign me up!’ Singer recalls. Within about a week she was patching together a living one order at a time as requests came through on her smartphone, and working whenever she left like it. No experience or formal interview was required.
Companies like Postmates connect people who want goods and services- whether it’s a meal from a restaurant that doesn’t deliver, a bedroom to stay in for the night or someone to help move a piano- with people who will provide them for a price. These peer-to-peer transactions, numbering in the hundreds of thousands each day, bypass the traditional employer- employee relationship in ways that are befuddling regulators in cities and states across the country. The new companies- they often call themselves “platforms”- don’t seem to fit the old models. Ride-app company Uber, for instance, has become the fastest- growing startup in history, now valued at more than $60 billion at just five years old. Yet to hear the company tell it, Uber has done this without hiring a single driver; its role is simply providing software that allows willing parties to connect.
This raises many questions, among them: Can algorithms replace human managers? Do these business models demand a rethinking of labour laws? Or are companies just using new tools to get up to old tricks that give them an edge?
There is no one name- whether sharing economy, gig economy or on-demand economy- that captures the diversity of this disruption. But it’s clear that the demand for this way of working and consuming is profound. According to a first- of – its –kind poll from TIME, communications and global public relations firm Burson- Marsteller and the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative, 44% of U.S. adults have participated in such transactions, playing the roles of lenders and borrowers, drivers and riders, hosts and guests. The number this represents, more than 90 million people, is greater than the number of Americans who identify, respectively, as Republicans or Democrats. (Poll figures exclude adults who are not Internet users.) “This is a disruptive explosion that we’re seeing,” says Michel Solomon, a professor of marketing at Saint Joseph’s University. “It is good or bad for workers? The real question is, what kind of worker are we talking about?”
That question is at the centre of several lawsuits about how many of these companies have classified their workers. TIME’s poll of 3,000 people, conducted by Penn Schoen Berland in late November, found that 22% of American adults, or 45 million people, have already offered some kind of goods or service in this economy. And in doing so, they’ve likely made a trade-off: the typical driver and handymen using these platforms have operated as independent contractors, which means they enjoy the freedom of working without set hours but are not afforded the safety nets that traditional 9-to-5 employees have. In return, companies like Uber and Postmates save fortunes on employee-related expenses such as payroll taxes but must give up control over exactly how and when workers do their jobs. Questions about liability and responsibility- and whether these companies are exercising more control than they’re acknowledging- have led to protests, bans and referendums from San Francisco to New York.
The vast majority of these 45 million people who have so far offered goods or services have other sources of income and describe their experiences in this new economy as positive, according to the poll. About one-third, whom we might call motivated offerers rather than casual ones, aren’t just earning extra bucks; they either make more than 40% of their income in this economy, describe it is their primary source of income or say they can’t get workers, per the poll, are the ones who most treasure the liberty this type of work provides yet say they miss the security and benefits they’ve traded for it. Take Singer: she started out optimistic, then grew disillusions as parking fees, Smartphone costs and her frustration with company protocol piled up. Eventually, she signed up to be a lead plaintiff in a suit against Postmates, alleging that she was controlled like an employee and therefore should have been treated like one, getting reimbursements for things like gas, for instance. (The case in pending.) And yet after all that, Singer then started working as a contractor for a ride-app startup in the same economy. “I need to,” she says. “I’m only as good as my last ride.”
THE GROWING MOMENTUM of peer-to-peer economics is undeniable. When the poll asked how many Americans had used goods-exchange platforms like eBay and Etsy, as well as other new-economy services, the participation rate jumped to 70%. For most people, as they rent out their pool house or get paid to run someone’s errands, worker status is likely far from their minds. Meanwhile, highly skilled jobs, like consulting and teaching, are shifting to more gig-like models too. “There’s something nice about getting a regular paycheck,” says Arun Sundararajan, a business professor at New York University, “but we’ve got to get away from thinking that is the only model.”
So while a change in the social contract is already under way, politicians and regulators are still scrambling to catch up. In the U.S. today, workers fall into one of two buckets: employee or independent contractor. These two categories have roots in 18th century England, when legal minds decided that servants, at the mercy of their masters for a living wage and bound to obey their orders, deserved some protections in return. The U.S. built on those in the 20th century, developing and expanding basic rules about employee wages and hours. But many of those don’t apply to contractors, who are viewed as more autonomous in the eyes of the law.
Though assigning either category to any worker is notoriously complicated, a crucial element is control. Take an electrician who could be engaged to do several jobs by several different clients quoting his own rate, organizing his own schedule and leveraging a skill set that allows him to function as his own business. That, says University of Connecticut law professor Sachin Pandya, looks more like a contractor. Now imagine the fast-food cashier who must adhere to set shifts and wear a certain uniform and has a single boss who tells him what to do and how to do it. That looks like an employee. The idea is that “people who are classified as employees are in a more vulnerable position in the economy,” Pandya says.
Yet it’s often not clear-cut, and many companies in the new economy blur the distinction by exercising varying amounts of control over workers who use their apps to valet-park your car or delivery your groceries. If Uber sets the rate that drivers can earn per mile and reserves ability to kick drivers off the platform in they get low customer ratings, that suggests an element of control. But when those drivers can turn their app on or off at any time, working as much or as little as they like, that looks pretty freewheeling.
Complicating the issues for policy makers is the fact that these platforms are luring all kinds of workers. TIME’s poll found that offerers are most often young, male, urban-dwelling and members of a racial or ethnic minority. (Nearly 40% are female.) While they’re more concentrated in metro-heavy states such as New York and California, they live all over the country. Perhaps most important, while a small percentage depend on home-sharing or ride apps for 100% of their income, about half say these gigs account for less than 20% of it and may only offer services a couple  of times per month or year. So it is far from clear that more government oversight makes sense. “From an efficiency perspective,” says St. Louis University law professor Miriam Cherry, “you don’t want somebody who gives someone a ride once a week in their car to be regulated.”
Workers within platform aren’t cookie-cutter either. Some Lyft drivers may be empty nesters looking for something to fill their days, while others use the platform 50 hours a week to feed themselves. Some Airbnb hosts are struggling middle-class workers who need the rental money to pay their mortgage, while others are landlords who are taking units off the market because they can make more renting them out a few nights at a time. In August, Uber’s lawyers made diversity a key argument before a judge in California’s Northern District Court who was deciding whether to certify an estimated 150,000 drivers as a single class in a lawsuit against the company. There is no such thing as a “typical” Uber driver, the firm argued, and if the company were forced to reclassify all drivers as employees, Uber’s entire business model would have to change; drivers would have to work in shifts. “These are real live human beings who vary widely,” the company’s lawyer said in court. “It’s a hornet’s nest.” After a judge issued an order in December that could certify a class of that size, Uber vowed to appeal. "Drivers control their use of the Uber app,” the company tells TIME in a statement. “There flexibility is key.”
The new economy can make self-employment more attractive, at least at the start. The ease of getting onto these new platforms can be thrilling, with a low barrier to entry and promise of making as much money as you’re willing to work for. Ads often tout promises of making $25 an hour. According to the poll, new economy workers tend to be more optimistic about their financial future than workers as a whole. “There’s something a little bit more adventurous,” a Lyft driver from Chicago says, “knowing that I kind of determine how much money I will be getting at the end of the week.” Yet a number of lawsuit plaintiffs allege that after all their expenses were considered, they weren’t even making minimum wage.
Increasingly policymakers from both sides of the aisle fear that the erosion of the old social contract between employers and workers could place a large burden on state and local welfare budgets if those new-economy jobs don’t last. “Without a social contract,” notes Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who co-chairs the Future of Work project at the Aspen Institute, “the social safety net will be stressed much more later on. For some of these workers, the gig economy is all good until it’s not.”
Which is why some politicians are pursuing new compromises within existing frameworks. In December, the Seattle city council voted unanimously to become the first city to allow Lyft and Uber drivers to unionize. States like Utah have passed laws that let certain new-economy companies operate only after they register with the state and meet insurance standards. “The intent of this legislation is to create an environment where innovation can continue to happen but not at the expense of the workers,” said Mike O’Brien, the council member who spearheaded the Seattle proposal. Uber and Lyft testified in opposition.
Some companies have decided to change back to the models, transitioning workers from contractors to employee status. Instacart, a grocery-delivery-app company, announced in 2015 that in-store shoppers would have the opportunity to switch, after a pilot showed that treating them as employees improved retention of better- trained workers. Still, some politicians and labour experts believe that this doesn’t need to be such an either-or situation, nor one that regulators solve by themselves. “Just as these enterprises have been able to disrupt (various industries),” says Warner, “May be we ought to unleash the innovation in what the social contract should look like.”             


CO2 + Water= Hydrocarbon

New York: A team of chemists and engineers has discovered that concentrated light, heat and high pressures can drive the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water directly into useable liquid hydrocarbon fuels, reports IANS.
This simple and inexpensive new sustainable fuels technology can help limit global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make fuel. The process also reverts oxygen back into the system as a byproduct of the reaction, with a clear positive environmental impact, said the researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington.
“Our process has an important advantage as many of the hydrocarbon products from our reaction are exactly what we use in cars, trucks and planes, so there would be no need to change the current fuel distribution system,” said Frederick MacDonnell, co-principal investigator of the project.
The researchers demonstrate that the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water into liquid hydrocarbons and oxygen can be achieved in a photothermochemical flow reactor operating at 180 to 200 degrees Celsius.The authors envision using parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight on the catalyst bed, providing both heat and photo-excitation for the reaction. Excess heat could even be used to drive related operations for a solar fuels facility, including product separations and water purification.
MacDonnell has also worked on developing new photocatalysts for hydrogen generation, with the goal of creating an artificial photosynthetic system which uses solar energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen could then be used as a clean fuel.


Diabetes Can be Cured

Washington: A new research has come up with material that can be used to encapsulate human islet calls and can cure diabetes for up to six months, reports ANI.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have designed a material that can be used to encapsulate human islet cells before transplanting them. In tests on mice, they showed that these encapsulated human cells could cure diabetes for up to six months, without provoking an immune response. 
Daniel Anderson, Associate Professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and his colleagues have come up with a way to make encapsulated islet cell transplantation a viable therapeutic approach.
They began by exploring chemical derivatives of alginate, a material originally isolated from brown algae. Alginate gels can be made to encapsulate cells without harming them, and also allow molecules such as sugar and proteins to move through, making it possible for cells inside to sense and respond to biological signals.
The researchers found that 1.5 millimeter diameter capsules made from their best materials (but not carrying islet cells) could be implanted into the intraperitoneal space of nonhuman primates for at least six months scar tissue building up.
The researchers are also investigating why their new material worked so well. They found that the best performing materials were all modifies with molecules containing a triazole group, a ring containing two carbon atoms and three nitrogen atoms. The study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.   

Paracetamol and baby’s asthma risk

London: Children are more likely to develop asthma if their mothers use paracetamol – a common painkiller – during pregnancy, a new study has warned, reports PTI.
Using data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, researchers compared associations between several conditions during pregnancy (with and without the use of paracetamol) and asthma developing in the 114,500 children in the study.  They examined asthma outcomes at ages three and seven and evaluated the likelihood of the association being as a result of the three most common triggers for paracetamol use in pregnancy – pain, fever, and influenza.
“Uncovering potential adverse effects is of public health importance, as paracetamol is the most commonly used painkiller among pregnant women and infants,” said Maria Magnus from the University of Bristol in UK.   Results showed that 5.7 per cent of the children had asthma at age three, and 5.1 per cent had asthma at age seven.
The research found a consistent link between children having asthma at age three and having been exposed to paracetamol during pregnancy. The strongest association was seen if the mother used paracetamol during pregnancy for more than one complaint with a child having asthma at three years old.
The findings indicated that prenatal paracetamol exposure showed an independent association with asthma development. The association was similar whether used for influenza, fever, or pain. The research was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Diseases Diagnosis Accuracy Possible 

Geneva: Scientists have developed a low-cost, portable device that can accurately diagnose diseases such as Ebola and may help monitor epidemics even in remote regions with limited health facilities. Such microfluidic devices are composed of silicone rubber with minuscule channels the width of a hair. They can rapidly detect a number of different biomarkers in very small quantities of blood, reports PTI.
Researchers at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) in Switzerland developed a new type of microfluidic platform that runs on battery power and is completely self-sustained. It operates seamlessly with inexpensive microscopes and provides very high levels of accuracy and detection.It can quantify up to 16 different biomarkers in a tiny amount of blood (less than 0.005 millilitres).
Digital detection is highly sensitive and can detect the presence of a single biomarker. However, it is less effective when the concentration of biomarkers is too high, due to signal saturation. Analogue measurements, on the other hand, function best at higher biomarker concentrations. Using these two detection mechanisms simultaneously, the composition of a drop of blood can be thoroughly analysed in a short amount of time.
Researchers also found that they could load the blood sample directly onto the device and perform on-chip biomarker quantitation without requiring any sample pre-treatment. “For researchers, it is quite interesting to be able to avoid having to separate the blood,” said lead author Francesco Piraino. Blood plasma separation requires centrifuges, large volume samples and a long processing time. “The platform will lead the development of new kinds of tests to meet the increasing demand for on-site diagnostic testing,” said Piraino. “It will prove very useful for medical staff working in resource-limited regions,” he said. The device could, for example, be used to monitor endemic, epidemic, and pandemic disease outbreaks.




Satish was in a state of quiet agitation when Darrel pitched in and said, “Just listen to what Dan just said. You have to network to get to the right people. The key term he used is ‘right people.’ Are you talking to the right people?”
“Yes,” Satish said.
Darrell continued, “May be not. Let’s test that premise. Who are your targets?”
“Engineering directors and some VPs of engineering,” he said.
“Why engineering directors?” Darrel asked.
“Because I am looking for an engineering manager’s position, and it typically reports to an engineering director or VP of engineering.”
Darrell was pensive for a moment or two. Then he said, “Satish, there’s a bigger problem here. I think we may have made a mistake. You may be aiming too low.
“I think we all make errors in targeting positions for ourselves, especially early in our careers. We believe that we are not ready for senior positions when we are, and we hold ourselves back. Tell me, Sam, could you have been CFO several years before you actually became one?” 
“You are right, Darrel. I was ready two, maybe three years before I was finally promoted, but those times were different. The industry was hitting bottom. I wanted to stay out of the limelight so that when the reaper came along I was below the radar. Look at me now. The thresher got me anyway. I guess I was a little scared to ask for the senior position.”
“How about you, Dan? Were you promoted before or after your time?” Darrel asked.
“Before my time, Darrel, before my time. I did not want to be promoted to manager or vice-president. I just wanted to be a plain old salesman, but they would not let me do that. They wanted me to be part of management and help the underperformers get better. I wasted four years trying to create silk purses out of sows’ ears.
“Selling is inside you. Either you have it or you don’t. I was happy where I was, making a lot of money; then they promoted me, and then they fired me for not performing!”
He shrugged his shoulders as if he did not care about the outcome.
“I am sorry to hear that, Dan. But generally, do you believe that we hold ourselves back a little bit and see ourselves smaller than others see us?
“I think we do. I can tell you, when I was in my pilot’s uniform, women told me that I looked ten feet tall,” he said, laughing. “Shoot, I am only five ten, shorter than Satish here, but he thinks I am taller than him. Isn’t that true, Satish?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Satish conceded.
“How about you. Clyde? Your experience?” Darrel asked.
“True. I always thought that I was a country bumpkin and that I was not as good as them Yankees from Ivy League schools. It  held me back some,” he confessed. “I probably lost about ten years or so. Humility is a good thing, but if you wear it on your sleeve, it will hold you down and sink you like an anchor.”
Darrel gulped down the rest of his beer, and laid the empty mug on the table. Staring at it, he said, "Satish, I am going to ask you a tough question, and I want you to think before you give me an honest answer.” Then he leaned forward, looked him in the eye, and asked him, “Satish, do you think you were treated fairly at Clark?”
He promptly answered, “Yes, I think I was treated fairly at Clark. Why do you ask?”
Darrel drew a deep breath, shook his head, and said, “In my opinion, you were not treated fairly at Clark. I have read your technical papers, and I have seen you present them at conferences and participate in industry workshops. We did not compete directly, but I often heard my counterparts- presidents and vice presidents of engineering and other divisions- pay you compliments, especially when they heard about a successful field test or when they heard that your schedule had accelerated because of one of your breakthroughs.
“We wondered why you were never made a director or a vice president. And you did not leave the firm, even when headhunters offered you lucrative, enticing position. It is a small industry and company boundaries are porous. Your reputation preceded you when you joined the Lunch Bunch.”
“Darrell’s right, Satish. Sam and I know you by reputation before you joined us,” Dan added.
Sam said, “That’s what your evaluation tests revealed to you. Unknown to you, you had transcended from execution alone to strategy and execution to leadership. You were being underutilized at Clark, and if you had been there any longer, your growth would have been stunted. You were a tall man in a low- ceilinged room, and if you had continued to hunch over to fit, it would have deformed you.” 
“Let me tell ya something, Satish. You’re a lot taller than you think you are,” Clyde said.
“Wow, gentlemen. Thank you so much for the compliments. Can I buy you all a round of beer? And then perhaps you can explain what all this means in how I go about looking for my job.”
“I’ll drink free beer anytime,” Clyde said with a grin. “If you’ve got the beer, I’ve got the time.”
“Damn fine rule,” Dan said, and signaled to the waiter for another round of beer.
The five of them then huddled and, over several rounds of beer and nachos, helped Satish with a plan to accelerate his search. The premise was simple. He needed to target senior executives, CEOs, and presidents of firms who constantly looked for engineering leadership skills.
These executives were visible and could be reached by a letter from him, but he needed to recast his letter, resume, and calling techniques to move these executives to quick action.
Finally, Dan added, “you need new clothes. You dress like a bloody engineer, not an executive. Get rid of those pens from your pockets.”
When the waiter brought the check, Clyde signaled for it. He took the check, and as he pulled out his credit card over the protests of his lunch buddies, he looked around the table and said, beaming with pleasure, “Gentlemen, this one’s on me. I am now an employed man, unlike your sorry asses!” 
Clyde’s compadres jumped from their seats to congratulate him. “You poker-faced son of a gun,” Dan said, slapping Clyde’s back hard.
“Hey, the fat lady just sung a few minutes before we left for lunch,” he protested.
The rest congratulated him. Darrell ordered another round of beer, over which Clyde gave details of his new position.
“Executing vice president of Translaniar Bank. It’s just a small local bank, and the title don’t mean nothing–you know how banks are with titles. Shoot, this bank has a VP of internal communications who just delivers the mail!”
He paused, put his hands on the table, raised himself, and said, “Well gentlemen, my free ride is over. It’s back to the grind.” When the Lunch Bunch came around to congratulate him, he said nothing. After the last handshake, he silently went for the exit, but just before he pulled the door handle, he turned beck and said, “Adios, amigos! The pleasure was all mine.” He then exited the building, waving to no one in particular.
When Satish watched Clyde leave the building, memories of all the western movies he has seen, where cowboys rode into the sunset, came rushing to him. None was as majestic as Clyde’s unrehearsed exit.
When Satish went home that afternoon, Monica noticed that he was unusually calm. She had seen him engage in frenetic activity, wearing himself out driving all over town, meeting people to reach his aggressive targets of what he called a “numbers game.” That evening, he dropped his briefcase carelessly on the floor and hugged her firmly, all the while with a silly grin on his face.
“Did you get a job?” asked the suspicious wife.
“No,” he replied. “Something better.”
“What’s better than finding a job at this time?”
“Finding the right job,” he said.
“And?” Monica asked.
“Let’s take Seeta to the park and I’ll tell you all about it,” he replied.
“In this heat?” she asked. “Have you forgotten that it is almost July in Houston? It is almost ninety-five degrees out there. I am not going for a walk. Seeta will get dehydrated.”
“How about if we go to the swimming pool?” he suggested. “I know Seeta will love playing in the water, and it will cool her down, too.”
“Okay, as long as you don’t expect me to go swimming,” she said. She was still bashful about wearing a swimsuit in public.
On the way to the pool, he gave Monica a synopsis of what had transpired that afternoon. He shared the Lunch Bunch’s opinion about how Clark had ‘screwed’ him all those years. He told her that he had a terrific reputation in the industry, that he had been aiming low, and that his compatriots were convinced that he had to aim higher to fulfill the results of his tests.
“I am going after a vice president position, Monica. From now on, my targets are only CEOs and presidents of companies.”
Monica was pleased with what she heard. She conveyed her admiration by squeezing his hands and saying, “I am so proud of you, Satish.” She gave him a peck of encouragement and support on his cheek. Though he wanted to, he could not reciprocate; he was focused on turning his car into a parking spot in the crowed neighborhood swimming pool lot.
A few minutes later, Seeta, protected with “floaties,” and her father, with a large, bright orange “noodle,” descended into the shallow end of the swimming pool and played around in the warm water. Monica watched, pleased with the scene. 
The oppressive combination of the summer heat and humidity in Houston did not slow Satish in his job search. He systematically analyzed and created a list of target companies, excluding Clark’s competitors. He sifted through industry directories and discovered the names of their senior executives. Aided by Dan, he recast his cover letter and resume.


Sakaala without Kaala, 'In time' never in Time

Bengalooru: About ten months ago, Sumalatha D had sustained serious injuries in an accident. The money spent on her treatment in a private hospital was to be reimbursed by the Employees State Insurance (ESI).
But the reimbursement remains a distant dream till date. She took refuge under the Guarantee of Service to Citizens (GSC) scheme (Sakaala) to know the status of her application. That has not worked, even after eight months.
Sumalatha’s case shows how the Sakkala scheme has became another white elephant, courtesy of the corrupt officialdom.
In April 2015, she met with a road accident and was rushed to Hosmat Hospital. She underwent many tests and surgery in the hospital and she had to foot a bill of Rs 95,000. Sumalatha says, “Once I was discharged from the hospital, I submitted the bills to the ESI for reimbursement.” Every month she and her husband D Srinivas have been going to the ESI office to check the status, only to be told by the staff to check the notice board.
Finally, they decided to try Sakaala, on a suggestion by social activist Kalidas Reddy. On doing so, officials did not give them the computer-generated slip with a code number. Instead, they just signed on the application and returned it on May 6, 2015.
Sakaala mandates that the service should be provided within seven days, failing which the official concerned will have to pay a penalty which escalates with each passing day. Since the slip was not generated, nobody in the administration knew that a poor woman had applied for reimbursement.
Reddy filed an RTI application on December 28, 2015, on whether ESI has been exempted from Sakkala, order copy of exemption if it is exempted, status of Sumalatha’s claim for reimbursement, certified copy of the written claim, details of the file movement, time limit for processing the claim and the procedure followed by ESI for reimbursement cases.
“I have not received any information even after 44 days of filing the RTI application. The first appeal too has not fetched any response,” said Reddy.
The activist say officials are out to kill the Sakaala scheme because it minimizes corruption. “An effective implementation of Sakaala will curb bribery in the departments substantially, which the officials have ulterior motives to extract money from the person who has already undergone trauma,” he said.
The case affirms the claim by Santosh Nargund of Rashtrotthan Sankalp and Sakaala Watch, who claimed in his report on Sakaala four days ago: “Four years after Sakaala was launched, the hopes of citizen to avail services from the government without running from pillar to post and without paying a bribe still remain a dream.” 

Lack of mask leads to death

Mumbai: Following the death of a sweeper at Sewri Tuberculosis (TB) hospital in the last week of February, the workers union claims that the hospital doesn’t have enough stock of N95 masks, posing a threat to workers.
However, the hospital administration has brushed aside the allegations and stated that the hospital has a stock of 30,000 N95 masks, enough to last for the next three months.
Santosh Kamble, (28) who was working as a sweeper at the hospital contracted TB in July last year, following which his treatment was immediately started at KEM Hospital. Pradeep Narkar, secretary of the Municipal Mazdoor Union said, “This is the first casualty at TB hospital this year whereas last year, the hospital had reported four deaths of sweepers.

150/200 MPs absented budget session

New Delhi : Over one-fourth of the MPs gave a miss to the budget session of the Lok Sabha so far. The data put on the Lok Sabha website shows that on an average 144 MPs did not sign the attendance register during the first nine days of session as against the total 544 members in the House.
The current session began on February 23 and continues till May 23, with a recess in between from March 17 to April 24. The MPs are supposed to sign the attendance registers kept in the lobbies to draw daily allowance of Rs 2,000 per day during the session.
The data worked out on the basis of the attendance registers may not be accurate on the absentee MPs as some may not have signed. For instance, many ministers did not sign and they include not only Prime Minister Narendra Modi but also ministers like Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari.

Most women in India lack Vitamin D

Mumbai: A report released by Metropolis Healthcare on women’s health has revealed that over 79% of the women aged between 20 and 60 years, who were analysed for Vitamin D, reported deficiency and insufficiency of Vitamin D. The other health conditions which were prevalent among women were anemia, high cholesterol, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, diabetes, and vitamin B12 deficiency.
Metropolis Healthcare tested samples of all the women aged between 20-60 years who visited the facility in the last year. The objective of the survey was to make women aware of their underlying conditions which often are unreported and unidentified.  The report revealed that 58% of the women analysed for Hemoglobin reported Anemia, 36% of the women reported borderline or high cholesterol.
Of the women who underwent HbA1C testing, 54% were found to be diabetic, 1% of all samples tested positive for Hyperthyroidism and 23% of samples tested positive for Hypothyroidism and around 14.81% of women in the age group of 20-60 years, out of the sample size of 11027 samples analysed by Metropolis are Vitamin B12 deficient.
Dr Sonali Kolte, general manager of Metropolis Healthcare said, “All the conditions are co-related and even one health ailment can give rise to the others. Vitamin D deficiency which is highly prevalent among women can lead to other major illnesses as it is crucial for making your bones strong and it helps in fighting infections. If even one thing goes wrong in your body, it directly affects the other part. Following the survey, we are following up with these women and have asked them to get their treatment started for which we will be helping and guiding them. The treatment cost depends on the severity of their condition and the medications provided to them but we ensure that it is affordable.”

On World Women’s Day

MENDING LIFE: Alka Ahire’s (45) fingers and needle continue working at the same pace while she loops the thread in and out to fix the broken strap of a sandal at her small footwear repairing stall in Bhayandar. After her husband’s sudden demise 22 years ago a determined Ahire learnt cobbling (traditionally a male occupation) and plied the trade to support her four young children. It’s been more than two decades she’s polishing/mending footwear and even repairing umbrellas and bags in addition to taking care of household chores.

JUICE OF LABOUR: 18-year-old Sonu Manek Ghurke who has travelled all the way from Pathardi village in Ahmednagar district with her parents is seen toiling away, extracting sugarcane juice under the scorching sun to quench the thirst of people lined in front of their wooden hand cart in Mira Road. While the juice might just be a drink, it beats the heat with a human touch given by young Sonu who though unaware of Women''s Day, is particular to ensure that the crush or glasses were not littered.

BALANCING ACT: Life is a tight rope walk, both symbolically and factually for 12-year-old Titli (assumed name) who was spotted performing to the drum beats of her mother at Khau Galli in Bhayandar. Her mother (aged around 40 years) was using a stainless steel plate and a stick to compensate the absence of a cymbal, as a teenage boy (apparently her elder brother) stood guard at one end of the rope tied to a hook hammered to the ground.