Wednesday, January 11, 2017

EDITOR'S COLUMN

Friends,
The old order changeth, yielding place to the new. The 2016 old man was flogged to welcome the New Year 2017. So, at the outset WISHING ALL OUR READERS, PATRONS & WELL WISHERS A GREAT NEW YEAR. 2016, has been an epochal year by any stretch of imagination, besides the usual ups and downs in politics, economics and of course the social tremors becoming slowly an essential concomitant of our day to day life.
Looking back over the 12 months that has passed by, in January 2016 Donald Trump had made that audacious demand of banning entry of Muslims into the U.S. And come to think of it, U.S. voters have overwhelmingly voted the controversial real-estate baron into the WHITE HOUSE. Yes, the first coloured man Barak Hussain Obama, is vacating the American Presidential Palace this month after 8 years in the most powerful address in the world. He is the first coloured man to have occupied the 'whites-only' territory of Capitol Hill in Washington.
Joe Klein of the TIME, called Obama and his first lady Michelle ‘amazingly very gracious, with absolutely no hint of any scandal.’ It was a white man’s tribute to a coloured first citizen of the United States of America. Indeed Barack Hussain Obama is a gentleman. What can happen to Donald Trump with Harvard professors suspecting his mental ability or is it stability! Hope, Americans, having elected their 45th president, shall manage him while in office.
We as a nation suffered immensely all through the year at the North-West border because of Pak perfidy. Someday, it had to be paid back. There were a couple of strikes, which confirmed our ability to squarely hit back. Of course with ego bruised, Pak is trying all sorts of shoot-and-scoot warfare. Someday for sure, they will get back with compound interest.
Demonetization came like a bolt from the blue. And for all 50 days from 10th November, life has never been the same for the entire country. While, it was a very bold step, was it sufficiently planned?, was a nagging question, that was left, on the public space, unanswered by the power that be. A pragmatic stock taking has to be done for the truth, to say the last word, on the 8th November move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Passing away of Jayalalitha, the AIADMK Supremo, was an epochal event with ramifications far and wide for the state of Tamil Nadu. Will the transition be stable and peaceful?, is a question making its round. Hope it does. 
Month-in-Perspective is as usual with its quota of happening in the past month. Have tried to deal with issues head-on.
Passing away of Fidel Castro of Cuba, has certainly left a void in the Caribbean Country. But as a leader of his countrymen, he has left his indelible foot prints on the length and breadth of Cuban landscape. His epoch making foray into Health and Education for his people has made him iconic. In Focus we have tried to compare India’s tryst with social engineering in health and education, two most important area of public expenditure. Hope readers would find the effort interesting. Rest are as usual. Do revert with your inputs.

J.Shriyan

MONTH-IN-PERSPECTIVE

NEW DELHI: Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) was in the news, post demonetization. They had issued an advisory that members of the institutes should refrain from ‘sharing or writing any negative personal views by way of an article or interview on any platform regarding demonetization’
This was thought to be proper as ICAI is part of Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and therefore of Government of India.
But then ICAI is only technically part of MCA, and it has global membership. Being chartered accountants, they are certainly better placed than most people to appreciate or criticize the demonetization move. Their critical inputs -both positive and negative- could have only enlivened the public space and contributed positively to the ongoing debate on demonetization, all over the country.
Thus the latest report ‘ICAI issues new advisory, removes controversial diktat’ is a welcome development. Hope these members of ICAI contribute positively on the raging debate.

It’s been a month since the so-called bold but truly unprecedented move of the Modi government to demonetize Rs.1000 and Rs. 500 currency notes. We have been told, in 50 days everything will be alright. Will it be? After 30 days, as we look back, it is a very difficult question to answer.
The objective of this unprecedented move was to strike a lethal blow on black money, parallel economy, fake currency and terror funding which in all probability shall happen to some extent, in the medium and long term, besides good number of men going digital. Wordsmith that Mr. Modi is, has been weaving a net of hope and a possible ‘achche din’ after this move. His deputies in parliament and cabinet have been talking continuously positively of the move, saying that 90% of Indians approve of it, while it is also true that bank staff has been harassed no end. Rural folks, ordinary labourers, small traders and those who do not have or not operated bank a/c have suffered enormously. Every trader has a story to tell of difficulties in getting cash or to buy all necessities. It has truly disrupted the normal life of most people, especially those who are not within the comfort zone. Everyday both TV channels and newspapers have carried stories of not enough is happening in the market place, be it long queues in bank and ATMs, of less and less cash available with the bank and sometime after all the wait, the NO CASH  board hitting on the tired face.
We carried a story over 15 days ago in which we mentioned about ‘some level of over confidence that, at ground zero things can be managed,’ right enough Apex Court asked the Centre yesterday, “if mind was applied on note ban’. Could it be that they didn’t anticipate the size of the problem of cash crunch! May be the availability of Rs. 500 currency notes, could have greatly helped the situation on the ground as of now! Rs. 2000 currency notes is helping the ones who wanted to change it fast and in big quantities, with colluding bank staff, as we have witnessed the stories in the media, it helped both the bank officials to convert more to make commission for themselves and also helped black money holders of Rs. 500 & 1000 notes to change them into new Rs. 2000 notes. But the man on the street who needed new Rs. 500 notes hardly got it. None in the government was asked; none in the media, neither the Supreme Court questioned why Rs. 500/- new currency notes are not available? That is the crux. If Rs. 500/- notes were printed at least half the quantity of Rs. 2000/- notes, made available, the problem could have been greatly addressed. But nobody in the government is talking about the non- availability of Rs. 500/- notes. After 30 days the scene is still very tricky. Will the next 20 days bring smile on the face of harassed Indians?

MAHARASHTRA: Justice Vidyasagar Kanade of Bombay High Court commented the other day, “Even in Pakistan no one would have investigated like this. I believe Pakistan is more tolerant than you (police) in such sensitive issues”. He was reacting on the shoddy handling by the Mumbai police in a case involving a footwear dealer.
Dejal Shah, a Thane footwear dealer had sold a footwear, the bottom of which had several alphabets. According to one Amjad Ibrahim Sheikh, a Samajvadi Party member, the letter M in the footwear resembled the word ‘Allah’. He complaints to the police and police acts to confiscate all footwear of the dealer and detained him for over 10 hours in the police station.
This caused not only loss to the dealer but also caused mental and physical harassment to this Dejal Shah, according to his lawyer.
In the meanwhile, police had also booked the manufacturer of footwear, who happened to be a Muslim, submitted the lawyer for police.
Judge reacted sarcastically “In cases where you must take prompt action you don’t do anything. There has been no application of mind on your part in this case. You have to justify how can a Muslim person (the manufacturer) insult his own religion? We are shocked by such complaints”. The subsequent observation of the learned judge comparing Pakistan was inappropriate, unless he has a firsthand knowledge of the level of tolerance in that country, which according to a former U.S Secretary of State Madeleine Albright “an international migraine”. More than anything it was the sheer incompetence of police to take action on a hapless guy due to a complaint of a politician. Police had clearly failed to apply their head before acting. For a change court has acted fast to snub the police.
However, the interesting dimension to the whole episode is the innumerable instances of how Hindu gods have been denigrated by either MF Hussain or those fine art students of Baroda University or even the drama man Habib Tanvir branding Brahmins as children of prostitutes, or that English magazine that called Lord Rama and Lord Krishna as homosexuals, or those white men, from Oklahoma to Auckland painting or printing Hindu Gods on liquor bottles, on panties, on socks and umpteen other ways. Hindus have lived with the idiocy of the extreme kind, and neither police were around to book them, nor there were courts passing their learned observations on the arrogance of men bent upon insulting and trying the patience of Indian Hindus. That’s India and the world at large for you.

26/11/2016 has come and gone like any other day. Memory revisited the horrors of the day 8 years ago, when Pakistan had waged an undeclared war on Mumbai, by Pakistani based terror group. Some 170 or so had died, and hundreds injured.
Looking back on the horrible days which lasted for close to 3 days, stories of pluck and chivalry were bound to be recollected for the benefit of posterity.
While there were heroes like Tukaram Ombale, who is remembered reverentially by the Mumbai Police, there were others too who were forgotten. There were these two Mumbai datelined news items “Girl who identified Kasab pays dearly for helping cops”, and another was “won’t help police again says Chabad House Hero”.
Devika Rotawan, was only 10 years old when she deposed as a prosecution witness before the special court in Arthur Road jail. “During the trial many politicians and ministers had promised to help my education and provide house. After 8 years they are only promises. I didn’t depose for the promises, but that Kasab should get the punishment he deserved”.
As a result this deposition, Devika tells, every place we go for renting, apartment owners refuse to rent flat because they “do not want any lafda since you have been a prosecution witness in a terror attack”. She recollects how she was asked to leave the tuition class “just because I deposed as a witness.”  So not only she has no protection from the state, the promises of help too never came.
Harishchandra Kashinath Awad, is a next door neighbor to the Chabad House that housed Israelis and their Rabbi and his family. Awad had seen two terrorists entering Chabad House. They held 6 Israelis hostage and when security forces entered the premises, before getting killed, these terrorists killed all their hostages. Being next door neighbor Awad played significant role in identifying the terrorists and was with the police for all three days of the mayhem. He was given a certificate by the Mumbai Police Commissioner, through a constable delivering it at his house. He was piqued by the cavalier action of the police. When so many were publicly honored why he was treated like this, has hurt his sense of pride. He is bitter that his efforts to help security forces went unrecognized. “I will not help the police in future” was his anguished remark to the reporter when contacted to mark the anniversary of 26/11.
In India, such things are not unusual. After all they are people with no influence and they are soon forgotten, like that families of blast victims at Patna 3 years ago. It was in Oct. 2013. Narendra Modi was still the CM of Gujarat. Targeting, probably the campaigning prime ministerial candidate, there were series of blasts at the meeting venue, Gandhi Maidan in Patna, on Oct. 27. 2013. Some six persons were killed, who had come for the meeting addressed by Narendra Modi.
Veena Devi, the widow of Vikas Kumar, one of the six victims of the blast, recalled that in the first week of Nov. 2013, Modi himself visited her at her native Nishiza village and promised her a job and assured free education to her two minor children at Sainik School. “But to date nothing has happened” was Veena’s disappointed remark. And she is not alone; all other five families of the victims have the same story. “I have been waiting for a call from PMO for the last 3 years”, was the painful remark of Shankar, son of Bharat Razak who was also killed in the blast.
It appears to be a season of “Empty Promises”, and comes this story of ‘Mountain Man’ Dashrath Manjhi who spent his 22 years cutting the Gehlor hills to make a connecting road, which reduced the distance between two blocks of Atri and Wazirganj in the Gaya district of Bihar by 40 Kms from 55 to 15kms. He still lives in a hut. He became a celebrity. Ketan Mehta made a film ‘MOUNTAIN MAN’ on him and promised 2% of the earnings, but ended up giving only Rs.1.5 lakh in two installments. Amir Khan who covered Dashrath Manjhi in his Satyameva Jayathe TV serial promised financial assistance and a pucca house. He has completely forgotten him. Reportedly Amir Khan used to make Rs. 3 crores for every weekly episode.
Sonia Gandhi invited him and gave him a cheque of Rs. 5001, a shawl and reimbursed his travel expenses. All that he wanted was a pucca house, and nobody gave it. What he did, as an ordinary citizen was incredibly unprecedented. Even Bihar CM Nitish ditched him, after he made Dashrath Manjhi sit on CM’s chair in his weekly janata darbar. This is Yeh Mera India, where promises by politicians and the elites of the society are only to be broken. Poor Mother India!  

ANDHRA PRADESH: Prajwala is an NGO from Hyderabad, it wrote a letter to Justice HL Duttu who was the CJI at that time. Along with the letter, the NGO had sent two rape videos in a pen drive. Justice Duttu decided at that time to take suo moto note of the letter and the contents of pen drive and asked CBI to investigate and arrest the culprit.
The pen drive had the record of two videos uploaded on the ‘WhatsApp’. Taking it further, the Supreme Court asked recently for response from internet majors Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and FaceBook, on the letter of Prajwala seeking curbs on sharing of sexual offence videos on social networking sites and steps to check such cybercrimes.
Reportedly bench of justice MB Lokur and UU Lalit issued notice to these companies and asked their reply in a month’s time.
According to the NGO, these rape videos were shot and posted on the social networking sites. Obviously these videos when circulated on ‘WhatsApp’ are likely to travel far and wide and can lead to completely avoidable ramifications. The incidence of rape has increased to such an extent; it is becoming increasingly difficult for young girls to move around freely. In such circumstances such videos being circulated on sites like ‘WhatsApp’ can play havoc on young boys and can create fear among young girls.
It’s commendable that Prajwala has approached apex court and court has asked to make these internet majors accountable in bringing the offenders to book and also curb its uploading and circulation within its domain. Hope the initiative of both the NGO Prajwala and that of the Supreme Court has its salutary effects.

  KARNATAKA: There was this observation by a former Advocate General of Karnataka BV Acharya “Speaker can’t head House Committee”. Surely! If he is the one to whom any ‘house committee’ should submit report, he simply cannot head the committee. No intelligence is required to know this. But the govt. headed by Siddaramaiah can do anything and still insist to carry on.
No wonder, former Law Minister Suresh Kumar, an MLA, who was in the House Committee, has resigned from it for exactly the same reason. As an Ex- Law Minister, he needs no explanation. It is true that the present speaker KB Koliwad was not a speaker when the House Committee was constituted to probe encroachments of lakes in Bangalore. But as soon as he was made the speaker, he should have quit. But he didn’t. Is it left to the Chief Minister to ask the speaker to leave the committee or speaker himself will resign from the position of House Committee (HC)? has to be seen.
However, it is another matter, although the HC was constituted in Oct. 2014, it is reportedly nowhere near submitting its report. With less than 18 months to go, will it complete its job in time for the government to act, is a moot point. This is Karnataka govt. for you.

Questioning the locus standi of CBI, for booking one Ibrahim Shereef in the case related to Rs. 2000/- new currency seizure of Rs. 4.8 crores involving senior government official S.C. Jayachandra, has the Karanataka High Court judge Anand Byrareddy gone overboard?
What this Shereef has done is prima facie violation of RBI guidelines on exchange of old currency notes. Besides banks which exchanged these old notes in such large quantity, when general public is restricted to 2000/4000, are certainly culpable under Banking Regulation Act. Hence CBI role in initiating action against both the banks and this Shereef is legally tenable. Therefore the HC order to CBI not to arrest this Ibrahim Shereef is questionable. CBI must challenge this order in higher court.

Concept of differential costing is a 20th century idea. It can be used for different productive purposes when fixed infrastructure is available. An infrastructure becomes a fixed cost and therefore can be used round the clock to make the cost per unit less and less. Hence differential costing, which is based on variable inputs can be a win-win idea.
India is a country in the low Human Development Index (HDI) group according to the United Nations Development Programme Report (UNDPR). For a country wanting to become a super power we are at 135, among 188 countries of the world, when tiny Cuba is at 44 in the High Development Index group, and they do not have even a millionaire, when India boasts of billionaires. That is the level of inequality in India.
We have enough schools and colleges all over the country. They are used to be occupied for about 6 to 8 hours during the weekdays, and not used at all on Sundays and holidays and partly used during vacations. Can’t these schools and colleges be used for greater purposes and for longer time for a larger section of the society?
It can be. But most Indians are self obsessed, they want their holidays and breaks, not because they are tired, but because they think they need breaks, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. We are not one of the most productive country in the world, and altruistic intentions are, kind of alien to us. We are in the know of poor standard of our primary/secondary education in govt. schools. Not because of children but because of the poor mind set and incompetence of our teaching class. They get comfortable government salaries, but what they give in return? They can certainly give more. Yes there are teachers who do give more, but they are few and far between.
In such a situation, comes a principal of a government college in Hassan, Dr. D.G. Krishne Gowda. He has started an evening college for working men and women with no age bar offering a dozen short terms courses during the weekdays evenings and Sundays and holidays. Fees are between Rs. 250/- to Rs. 7000/-. Courses are occupation oriented and hence empowerment driven. They are as diverse as ‘Gym instructor to mushroom cultivator’. It’s a personal initiative and certainly possible across the board. Now that Dr. D.G. Krishne Gowda has opened the path, there should be many, who are on similar wave length wanting to bring change. Hail change.

Those who are in business are not in love with their customers. They are in business only to make money and if possible make more and more money. To fulfill their objective, they are into all kinds of practices, mostly unethical. But there are also those, who do their business on ethical principles. They want to make money alright, but want to make it within the socially acceptable means.
The controversy regarding GM or genetically modified farm produce has been there since many years. After the WTO, dos and don’ts, companies involved in GM Crops are active to push their seeds into the third world. In India there has been opposition, some time active, sometime muted, to this GM crops. However politics and politicians play significant role in influencing decision on such issues. The latest news about the silence of state government on GM mustard seeds have got local farmers worried.
Reportedly some major mustard growing states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have strongly opposed GM mustard and its field trials. However strangely Karnataka, which too is a mustard producing state has shown no interest in debating the issue. This is despite several farmers’ groups and organic farmers urging the state government, not to allow open field trials.
Is there politics to it, or is it serving some vested interest? Farmers are aware, so is the political class, besides academics, that the use of these transgenic could bring along with it, its ill effects.
For a state, which was the first state to introduce organic policy, this silence is strange and disturbing.

There was this news about Prime Minister Modi not granting appointment to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Understandably the CM was upset. Of course, the PM’s party in state accused CM of not following protocols. But then as a CM, he has certain standing, unlike, an ordinary citizen seeking to see the PM. Protocol is certainly needed to see the Chief Executive of a country. But then there are always exceptions to the rule. A Prime Minister of the country is for the entire country and hence has responsibility to interact with all Chief Ministers without any party affiliation. It is true that, Karnataka CM has asked to see the PM in short notice to discuss the drought situation in the state. It is certainly a serious matter needing more time. However in the spirit of federal structure, PM could have given the CM some 10 minutes, as a courtesy, and ask him to leave his papers with the PMO for discussion on another day and time.
Of course, in a country like India professionalism takes a back seat. Both could have saved the situation but both failed. Of course, PM Modi since he is the top executive needs to be more sensitive, in such situations.
Earlier some weeks ago it was the Kerala delegation including the state CM, wanted to see the Prime Minister and he didn’t see them. This attitude neither wins friends nor influences people. Yes, Prime Minister Modi needs to be more circumspect.

The print media said, “Its Rahul all the way” and added to a good measure ‘misses double century by a run but helps India make a strong reply in pursuit of England’s 477’. There are three dimensions to this headline. The first, Congratulations to KL Rahul for the magnificent innings, and second, it has helped India come back in style with still 6 wickets in hand with only 87 runs needed to cross the England total. That’s far more important that we have saved the day for India, and that’s the larger picture. Of course, the 3rd, it’s disappointing that KL Rahul couldn’t make history of being only the 2nd opening batsman to have touched the double century figure. The crestfallen reaction of KL Rahul is quite understandable. Personal records are important in the larger picture of India winning, but should not be the only thing. In this Rahul Dravid’s record is better than Sachin Tendulkar. The junior Rahul must take heart looking at senior Rahul, who played for the game of cricket and the country than so called legend Sachin Tendulkar. Hope KL Rahul recovers soon to be a great batsman playing for the national purpose than accumulating his own record. Amen.

TAMIL NADU: Surely, there are any numbers of issues that Supreme Court could have taken on to address. Occasionally they do, suo-moto, take up issues of national relevance.
But that the apex court shall take up the issue of national anthem, in the midst of its own problem of shortage of judges, pending cases etc. and the demonetization mess the country is passing through, was entirely unexpected.
Reaction to the intervention by the highest court of the land was on expected lines. ‘Judicial Overreach’ said one eminent jurist, a former Attorney General reacted ‘judicial legislation’. Most media members took umbrage ‘why force people to stand up when the national anthem is being played’, and ‘why it has to be played in cinema theatre only, before the start of the movie,’ and that, all entry and exit doors are to be kept closed when the national anthem is being played. Of course the apex court has not envisioned that there will be some funny men and women, who would refuse to stand-up when the national anthem is being played. Hence there is no mention of the type and the quantum of punishment for such offence. May be the court may have to fall back on “Prevention of insults to National Honour Act, 1971”.
There have been debates on TV Channels, about some 20 men and women having been taken into custody for their refusal to stand-up while national anthem was being played, both in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The number of persons who offended the national honour was mere 20, when probably remaining 2000 had no issue to stand-up. And yet, these sentinels of human rights are up in arms to present a case saying, the apex court was not right in enforcing the national anthem in cinema theatres and that all should stand-up when it is being played.
Constitution of the country speaks about the rights of individuals as Indians; it also speaks of duties. There are Indians, who only make noise about their rights and not their duties. They need to be told in no uncertain terms, “Please mind your behaviour, when it comes to national honour” period.    

KERALA: Kerala High Court has reportedly ruled that women devotees entering Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvanatapuram should not be allowed entry into the temple without tying a dhoti over the salvar kamees or chudidaar they wear.
Court intervention came on the petition challenging the earlier order of the temple Executive Officer, which allowed the women devotees to enter in salwar kameez or chudidaar.
The practice prior to this reportedly was either saree or a dhoti over chudidaars, jeans or skirts.
Except having been born to Hindu parents, I have no other identification to prove my religious background. Thus, as a Hindu, maybe I am entitled to criticize some of the practices forced upon devotees by whom-so-ever-concerned. My view is, between saree and salwar kameez, the later is a better dress, for its easy weareability, management on the persona and flexibility in situations of physical demands to act in case of need or crisis. Of course all dresses including saree can be corrupted to suit a corrupt mind. Having said that, what is the role of dhoti? is not clear, except it was the decision of the Chief Priest of the temple to impose dress code in the temple. Surely God in his sanctora sanctorum will not be unhappy if a particular devotee has come without dhoti. So it’s the writ of the priest class which decides and God has no role. Funny are the ways of this priest class. Does it matter, which religion?!

WORLD: Religious conversion is more often a means of convenience, or so it seems. Ever since, evangelization has been in vogue, it’s not often that a person has become a member of X or Y religion- due to spiritual vacuum he experiences in his existing state of being. Inducements or force or even attraction to become a part of a group have been reasons. Weakness to belong to a ruling class has also been an attraction in religious conversions.
And comes this news from Germany “Migrants convert to Christianity”, obviously meaning they are Arabs from different countries of the Middle East. In recent times, post Syrian crisis, thousands of fleeing migrants have landed in Germany, due to its open door policy. Other countries of Europe have not been as accommodative as Germany, due to the Islamic terror dimension. Some have been even openly hostile because of insistence of a section of migrants to practice their own customs as opposed to the law of the land where they are migrating.
Thus logically it seems to suite both the host country, as well as those who are open to change, and adjust to a new situation. Thus for these migrants, it is a practical solution to become Christians, to merge with the larger population. This will, for sure, reduce conflict and probably even bring about social harmony. The report informs that Muslim refugees have recently been taking the same step (of conversion to Christianity) throughout Germany, where nearly 900,000 asylum seekers have arrived in 2015.
So, it’s wishing all of them a very, merry and happy Xmas. May peace be upon Germany, and of course the entire earth. Amen.

Just before the last election to the White House, The New York Times and Columbia Broadcasting Service (NYT/CBS) had conducted a poll on the ‘State of American Politics’. Reportedly an overwhelming majority of voters were disgusted by the State of American politics. They saw presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who eventually won the presidential race, as dishonest and incapable of uniting the country after the election. According to the voters to the NYT/CBS poll, it was a historically ugly presidential campaign. More than 8 out of 10 voters stated they were repulsed rather than excited about both Clinton and Trump and viewed them unfavorably.
It was indeed praise worthy that media houses NYT/CBS took the initiative to understand the rot within their political atmosphere. U.S is an open society and debate things rather openly. Their media too is responsible and understand their duties well in educating their citizens. Of course they may have some programmed views on things outside their country for their own agenda, but at least for their own countrymen, they do take care to be positive and upfront. Sadly, same cannot be said about Indian media, both electronic and print. Of course, we have an added problem of linguistic and therefore regional chauvinism. Hence biased reporting is the done thing. We are also constitutionally a secular nation, with some half a dozen practicing religions. There are any number of instances where media has tried to muddy the recurring disturbed water of social harmony for their own commercial interest of circulation and viewership, the MSP & TRP. While it is true, that Press must be free, can that freedom be absolute?! Hope someday media in India lives up to its cherished objective of informing and educating the great Indian public about the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Amen.

What They Said

"Universal (Uniform) Civil Code vis-a- vis Human Dignity& Where does the religion come in!?"(I&C Dec 2016) I couldn't agree more. See the following quote “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” said Dante Alighieri.
-Prof. B.M Hegde, Former V.C. Manipal University.

"DEMONETISATION" (I&C Dec 2016) Timely and well-written, as always.
-Dr. Ravishankar Rao, Professor of English and Director,

 International Students Centre, Mangalore University.

My congratulations to you and your team for bringing out the 200th issue of your magazine. The event to commemorate this was very well organised and had a warmth to it. The sharing of thoughts by both Justice Santosh Hegde and Dr B M Hegde was very interesting.
I was happy to be a part of this event and my good wishes to you and your team.

-Kiran Navinchandra, Nitte University.

"Universal (Uniform) Civil Code vis-a- vis Human Dignity& Where does the religion come in!?"(I&C Dec 2016) Well said. These so called leaders follow only the policy of appeasing minirities,dalits and others for political gains but not for their welfare.

 -Sanathana Kumar Punja, Bengalooru.

“Yapping with unsubstantiated allegations by Kejriwal”, Month-in-Perspective I&C Dec 2016.  What AK 47 talks, is all absurd but he is still going on bragging all the while. Why not we just ignore what he says?                                                        

 -Eric Lobo Via FB

“BURQA CONTROVERSY in Karnataka” Month-in-Perspective I&C Dec 2016.  As long as the educated mass of Muslim community is silent on the questionable customs of Islam, there cannot be progress in the thinking of the community because they are totally brain washed by their religious fanatics to hold a position in the community to enjoy the patronage arising out of it.  

-PNM Ramprasad, Via FB

I&C Dec 2016. Your focus article on Uniform Civil Code, coined as Universal Civil Code is significant. Indeed there is no doubt, this Civil Code has to be universal and then only, it will have its appropriate application. Primarily, these Civil Codes are intended to protect to rights of women in a male dominated world. Therefore why should it be according to religious groups or caste groups or according to nationalities? Since, it is to protect the vulnerable women from the injustice forced by men, your argument, “where does religion come in?” is very sound & sensible. Hope all concerned take the matter on similar lines.
-A concerned person 

FOCUS

Fidel Castro & His Relevance to India A look at Cuban Health & Education Policies

J. Shriyan

All leaders the world over, have their share of admirers and those who despise them including those who hate them. These are human feelings and therefore it will be multi dimensional, like degree of likes, dislikes, hatred, etc. There is no exception to this aspect of public life. All leaders, who can be truly regarded as those who have left indelible footprints on the sands of time, surely for varieties of reasons, from Abraham Lincoln to Mahatma Gandhi to the latest victim of time Fidel Castro, there will be loads of positives as well as portions of negatives. None will be fully without criticism, since despite their superior contribution to the time they lived, they too are humans and therefore could have been victims of some human failings. But it is the larger picture that truly matters. In that sense, Fidel Castro, who passed away some weeks ago, was a towering personality who lived for his people and died for his people. It is quite likely, in the process of doing good to his people, he could have stamped on some achilles foot. Of course according to the available details in public space, he was ruthless with his opponents. His record of human rights is supposedly pathetic. UNDP report informs that he had over 500 people jailed for every 100,000, which is among the highest. Be that as it may, his record in health sector and education to his countrymen are being seen as models in socio-political governance.
Born in comforts to a plantation owner father, young Fidel was witness to the socio-economic inequity prevailing in their own backyard. His playmates were children of his father’s impoverished workers living in thatched huts with dirt floors. The economic injustice and deprivation he witnessed in his childhood inspired his lifelong sympathy for the poor. This sympathy spurred his political life of communism. He managed to overthrow the then Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and established himself into the national life of Cuba. Most of Latin American despots were U.S stooges and they were aided and funded by them for their own socio-economic & political reasons. In the bargain ordinary people immensely suffered. Fidel Castro detested this scenario and had visions of U.S-free Cuba from early days. From 1959 to 2008 he strode the Cuban landscape like a colossus. During those almost five decades, he defied every president- some 10 of them- of United States of America. The missile crisis of 1962, brought the world to the brink of possible nuclear war between the then USSR and U.S.A, but was averted in time. The leadership in Moscow helped him establish his socialistic pattern of government with huge physical and financial aid.
At the time of his initial political life, the U.S influence was all over Latin America, and young Fidel wanted it ended. He was out and out anti- U.S, all for the sake of his country. There were umpteen U.S inspired attempts on his life, but he managed to survive them all, for almost all the five decades of public life. Born in Aug 1926, he died in Nov. 2016. After the missile crisis of 1962, the U.S imposed trade sanctions against Cuba, which greatly hurt the socio/economic life of Cuba.
It is true, his experiments in socialistic pattern of governance, did throw-up enough opponents and created a lot of enemies within the Cuban society who left the country and kept campaigning against him.
But the strides he has made in both health sector and in spreading the quality education is a model to many countries in the third world as well as European countries. The government of Fidel Castro was operating the national health system at its own cost and responsibility for the health care of all its citizens. There is no private hospital or clinics, and health services are government owned and operated. It spends 10% of the Gross Domestic Product, which is almost 3 times that of India. When Castro took over the reins of government in Havana in 1959, Cuba had 9.2 doctors for every 10000 citizens, by 1999 it was 58.2 per 10000, which  is almost 6 times jump, and increased to 67.2 in 2014, where as in India, it is 6.5 per every 10,000 citizens, a poor less than 1/10th. Universal health care in Cuba was a priority in state planning. In 1976, Cuba’s health care programme was enshrined in Article 50 of the revised Cuban constitution which reads “Everyone has the right to health protection and care. The state guarantees this right by providing free medical and hospital care by means of the installation of the rural medical service network, polyclinics, hospitals, preventive and specialized treatment centres; by providing free dental care, by promoting the health publicity campaigns, health education, regular medical examinations, general vaccinations and other measures to prevent the outbreak of disease. All the population co-operates in these activities and plans through the social and mass organizations.”
Thus, unlike India, for Cuba, the health of its citizens certainly constituted an integral part of its developmental paradigm. In India, not only the health sector is poorly funded, private enterprises have been allowed free run with hardly any drug price control regime. That is how in Cuba, out of pocket expenditure of individuals is only 5.3% of the total health expenditure, whereas in India it is a whopping 59%. So one can imagine the devastation caused by the exploitation of private drug industry, allowed by a system of governance that has remained immune and distant to the needs of its citizens. (See table)
The commitment of the politica
l class to the universal health under Fidel Castro in Cuba has been of such order that as of 2012, the infant mortality rate in Cuba had fallen to 4.83 deaths per 1000 live births, which is better than even the United States of America at 6.0 per 1000 live births. This infant mortality rate came down further to 4 per 1000 in 2014 and those under 5 years it is 6. Whereas comparative figures of India are rather dismal. The infant mortality rate of India was a staggering 44 for every 1000 births and those under 5 years of age were 56 for every 1000 births.
According to Wikipedia, in 2007, Cuba announced that it has undertaken computerizing and creating national networks in Blood Banks, Nephrology and Medical images. Cuba is the second country with such a product, preceded only by France. Cuba is preparing a Computerized Health Register, Hospital Management System, Primary Health Care, Academic Affairs, Medical Genetic Projects, Neurosciences and Educational Software. The aim is to maintain quality health service free for the Cuban people, increase exchange among experts and boost research development projects. An important link in wiring process is to guarantee access to Cuba’s Data Transmission Network and Health Website (INFOMED) to all units and workers of the national health system.
Wikipedia also informs that ‘Cuba had 128 physicians and dentists per 100,000 people in 1957. This was comparable to the levels in many European countries and supposedly the highest in Latin America. However in 2005, Cuba had 627 physicians and 94 dentists per 100,000 population, while USA had 225 physicians and 54 dentists per 100,000 populations.
Writing further, it says “While preventive medical care, diagnostic tests and medication for hospitalized patients are free, some aspects of healthcare are paid for by patients. Items which are paid by patients, who can afford it, are: drugs prescribed on an outpatient basis, hearing, dental and orthopedic processes, wheel chairs and crutches. When a patient can obtain these items at state stores, prices tend to be low as these items are subsidized by the state. For patients on low income, these items are free of charge.
In 2000, former Secretary General of UNO, Kofi Annan had stated “Cuba should be the envy of many other nations” adding that achievements in social development are impressive given the size of its per capita gross domestic product. “Cuba demonstrates how much nations can do with the resources they have if they focus on the right priorities- health, education and literacy” the UN Secretary General had concluded. A former President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn had, in 2001, remarked at the annual meeting of IMF “Cuba has done a great job on education and health.”
What is admirable and therefore worthy of reflection is, despite the poor pay to doctors, mostly outdated and poor state of repairs & maintenance of its hospital buildings, lack of adequate equipment, absence of freedom of choice, “the success of the Cuban health care system is based on its strong emphasis on disease prevention and commitment to the practice of medicine in a community”, stated Health Select Committee of U.K House of Commons which travelled to Cuba in 2001 and reported back to their parliament.
There are any number of accolades which describes Cuba “as a shining example of power of public health and transformation of the health of an entire country by a commitment to prevention and by careful management of its scarce medical resources”.
India also needs to learn from Cuba’s holistic approach to health. Economic constraints and restrictions have forced the Cuban health system to incorporate alternative and herbal solutions to health care issues which are accessible and affordable to a larger section of the population. In 1990 itself, Cuban Ministry of Public Health formally recognized natural and traditional medicine and began its integration into the already well established western medicine model. Options included flower essence, neural and hydromineral therapies, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, natural dietary supplements, Yoga, electromagnetic and laser devises.
According to available reports, children in primary school begin studying the multiple uses of medicinal plants, learning to grow and tend their own plots of aloe, chamomile and mint and conduct scientific studies about their uses. Cuban biochemists have produced a number of new alternative medicines which are used in the state health system.
Medical research is another area of strength in the Cuban health scenario. This is despite all kinds of sanctions and embargo by the mighty United States. Their scientists have done well to produce pharmaceutical preparations in the treatment of cancer, meningitis B, polio and many other have been the products of this Cuban research efforts.
Of course this is not to say, there is no criticism of the system. But what is important is at the end of the day, Cuba as a country, despite huge disadvantages of lack of democracy, limited resources, political sanctions leading to trade embargos by the U.S, has managed to give its people an exemplary health service, acclaimed all over the world. A government of the people, for the people and by the people should at least guarantee a semblance of good health to its people. Admittedly, Fidel Castro of Cuba has come out with flying colours.
Coming to Education, reportedly in Cuba, education continues to receive high priority with 10% allocation in the national budget, compared to 4% in the UK and just 2% in the United States, according to UNESCO. However, in 2014, the Cuban expenditure on education was 13% of the GDP and in India it was a mere 3.3%.
Although Cuba always had better levels of education, early on, as compared to their Spanish colonial masters, it was not accessible to poor rural folks. But post Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro, the new government placed the reorganization of the education system as a top priority. Following the restructuring, the new government focused on literacy problem. As soon as Fidel Castro took over, in 1959, close to 1000 literacy centres were opened and youth were sent all over the country-side to teach their fellow Cubans, how to read. Reportedly, this Literacy Campaign served two purposes: first to educate every Cuban and teach them to read, then to give those in the city a chance to experience the rural living, so also to improve communication between the countryside and cities. By 1961, all private schools, colleges and Universities were nationalized. The changes that the new government brought about spurred literacy rate among age 15-24 to almost 100% at 97% by 2000. Leaders of the new government recognized that to be strong and for citizens to be active participants in society, they must be educated. Literacy provided poor uneducated Cubans a better standing in the country and the world.
The new government of Fidel Castro made a huge difference to the women of Cuba. Besides agriculture, most women were reportedly engaged in prostitution. Fidel Castro changed it all. He made prostitution illegal in 1961, and opened up schools and institutes for job training for rural women in multiple vocations. This gave the women folks a big opportunity to rebuild their lives. The new government believed in the human dignity of women, and hence provided them, besides schooling and higher education, skills to build confidence and pride.
Thus, gender equality was given the prominence it deserved. The new government wanted women to take their rightful place in nation building.
A study carried out by UNESCO in 1998, showed a high level of educational achievement among Cuban students. Cuba is supposedly one of the poorest countries in Latin America, and was reeling under U.S trade embargo, which severely restricted its economic development. Yet Cubans turned out very good with their third and fourth graders scoring 350 points, a clear 100 points above the regional average in basic mathematics skills and language. Hence, it was very clear that Fidel Castro gave high importance to education. The figures available on record confirm it. In Cuba, the student-teacher ratio was 12 to 1, in early years, when Latin American average was double at 25 to 1. But by 2014 it got still improved to 9 to 1. Reportedly the youth illiteracy rate in Cuba is almost zero, a figure unmatched by any in Latin America. Wikipedia informs “Cuban schools are closely integrated with the community. Teachers are very active in the communities of the children that attend their schools, and build strong relationship with their parents and families to enhance the learning process. It has been demonstrated that there is a strong commitment to the educational sector on the part of the government. Equal opportunity for a high quality education for all students is one of the key factors that explains that Cuban educational success is not a miracle or an accident, but the result of many years of concerted efforts and commitments, by the government to its people.”
Coming to India, its performance in education sector is clearly disappointing. With its budget at 3.3% of GDP, compared to Cuba @ 13%. India’s students to teacher ratio is 35 to 1. Population with at least secondary education is 39% as compared Cuba’s 77% and university education 23% as against the Cuba’s 62%.
According Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER), year after year, learning outcomes were woefully short. ASER of 2014 found that half the kids in class five could not read class two text book. Maths and reading skills achievements routinely fall very short. “A hundred million children have gone through the schools in the last decade without basic reading and math skills” was the stark comment in the 2014 ASER report. Isn’t this a terrible waste of national resources? No wonder Deputy PM of Singapore had observed during his recent visit to India the biggest gap between India and East Asia was the state of education.
We do not have to over emphasis that education is what empowers all communities, more so, backward communities, with tools to move ahead.
Without quality basic education, the weak are eventually rendered weaker, left fit only to do menial jobs. The real remover of backwardness in society is good quality school education. Skill development comes in later. Good basic education helps backward communities march forward and challenge stratified conventional established classes.
As we end, it is worth quoting the observation of Haoliang Xu, Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific. He had remarked “The availability and quality of work are keys for human development in Asia and the Pacific, a region that is home to 2/3rd of the world’s working age population. In order to ensure that the work force is capable of adapting to rapidly changing demand, the government needs to make strategic investments into education and health care.”
Power that be in India need to appreciate and understand, that ‘investment in and accumulation of human capital is the best marker of development’. Economist Ajit Ranade writes “If a nation’s stock of capital (which determines its future growth), is broken into human and non-human capital, then in developed economies the share of human capital is more than 75%. That share for India is likely to be less than 30%.” That’s the bottom line. Do you hearken, the power that be!

 

FEATURE

Can we comprehend much more than we can grasp?

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


Science should try and understand Nature. That is the main purpose of science. Technology, on the other hand is for making money. It has brought lots of personal comforts to mankind. Therefore, it is venerated by all. Unfortunately, technology is pushing science beyond its calling of understanding nature to trying to teach nature a lesson or two to get the industry make a faster buck! In this bargain many scientists are being pushed to make science bend to the wishes of the vested interests, engineered by the greedy industry, unbeknownst to the scientists. A few scientists also join hands with the industry in their clandestine designs. This today is the bane of science. Basic science has changed a lot and has almost come closer to spirituality and eastern philosophy but the technocrats are resisting that wisdom to come to common knowledge.
Our dilemma today is due to the confusion of having the 19th century science, 20th century technology and, 21stcentury wisdom to grapple with. Western science minus quantum physics is dead science. This is glaring in biology. The new evolutionary biology has thrown new light on evolution sans the time honoured Darwin-Mendel conundrum. This world which had been in existence for four billion years had the first two billion with germs running the show all by themselves. They made even their initial mistakes and learnt their lessons. They then mutated to live in harmony and invented chlorophyll for energy. They further went in for compassion by donating their individual DNAs to form the first nucleated cell. Doesn’t this sound like Indian philosophy of “paropakaararthamidamshareeram?” (we live for others) That nucleated cell (zygote) is our origin. Human biology (physiology) is a closed system in systems biology. The zygote goes on dividing to make eventually what you and I are. We are not organs separately put together to make a whole. It is the whole which has divided to become a bigger whole. Therefore we have a large baggage of our ancestors, the germs, with us. In fact, we are outnumbered by them 1:10. Finally human body is a happy colony of 120 trillion human cells and ten times that number of germ cells.
Energy being the same as matter the human body becomes an illusion of the human mind. It is natural that one cannot touch or feel the mind but you can make out its effects. It is the consciousness which has no particle shape but has only a wave existence and is found all over the body and outside of it also. It is in fact the canvas on which our emotions and thoughts are flashed. The human body can change from particle to wave and back almost 1024 (Planck's constant) times here in a second. Just as an atom has the blueprint of a molecule in it, the human wave form has the blue print of its particle form as well. In short, all living things are interconnected-not just human beings alone. This can be made use of in quantum healing where self healing is achieved by making the wave forms to change the particle form as and when needed. We have the power to heal ourselves in the unlikely event of our falling ill?
This was my research interest for the last five years and I am happy to state that I have found encouraging results. I am yet to publish these data but the results were so compelling that I have started using the method on willing patients with their informed consent. At times I try it on myself. I did not regret it so far. Theoretically anything from common cold to cancer could be helped, but this needs the active participation of the patient in a tranquil state of mind, say meditating. Since is world is incredibly interactive and coherent at all levels it is unlikely that the individual consciousness units are distinct from the universal consciousness. Consciousness is fundamental part of all existence. David Bohm and others have clearly shown that in physics and mathematics there is good evidence for a deeper organising and informing wave function. As Hans Peter Duerr put it "matter is not made out of matter" but only of energy.
Unfortunately, western medicine is still neck deep in Newtonian 19th century physics of deterministic predictability. That is where we are able to comprehend only what we see or feel but not what we do not see. Our five senses are the only source of our information. Out there is this vast sea of quantum wisdom that can not be grasped using the linear mathematics of Newtonian physics. Our medical training has not changed while science has changed completely since 1925 when Werner Heisenberg propounded the Uncertainty principle. 21st century is the century of new biology where consciousness rules the roost. All matter is derived from consciousness. Today we can comprehend much more than what we can grasp with out five senses. Let us make use of that new knowledge to help the suffering humanity. That will, of course, change the course of modern medical practice. The medical technocrats and the trillion dollar drug lobby may not be so upbeat about this new found wisdom in medicine as it does not bring them greater joy materially. Materialistic science of medicine should give place to the new Reality. The caption of this paper is taken from one of Hans Peter' s writings in quantum physics.

A SLICE OF HUMAN KINDNESS

Terminally ill child dies thinking of X’mas in Santa’s arms

Chicago: A terminally ill 5-year-old boy in the US state of Tennessee had his last wish fulfilled, dying in the arms of Santa Claus after he was afraid that he would miss Christmas.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen, whose 136-kg frame and real white beard and curled mustache make him a popular Santa in Knoxville city. “When I got there, it was my job to make sure he got Christmas,” Schmitt-Matzen told NBC affiliate WBIR channel through tears. Schmitt-Matzen said he had just returned home from work about a month and a half ago  when a nurse at a local hospital called him and said she had a very sick child who wanted to see Santa. “He was more concerned about missing Christmas, than dying,” Schmitt-Matzen said. After he arrived at the hospital room within 15 minutes, Schmitt-Matzen asked the boy, “What’s this I hear you’re going to be missing Christmas this year?” That’s when the boy told him he heard he was going to die. “Well, you’re not going to miss Christmas, the elves already had your present, we knew you wanted this for a long time,” he said he told the boy.  “Really?” the boy asked, according to Schmitt-Matzen.
He then gave the boy the gift his mother had given “and that put a grin on his face,” he said. Schmitt-Matzen choked up as he said that he told the boy “When you get up those pearly gates, you just tell them you’re Santa’s number one elf.” “I am?” the boy asked, perking up, according to Schmitt- Matzen. “You sure are, I’m sure they’ll let you right in,” he said.  The boy then gave him a big hug, he said, and “he just looked at me and said, Santa, can you help me?” “And that’s when he passed,” Schmitt-Matzen said.

FEATURE

‘Samajhdaar Jodidaar’, the change with the changing mindset

Suchismita Pai, Solapur

Injustice is something that Ambika Umakant Gadve, 25, simply can’t tolerate. As she looks at the water pumps piled up in one corner of the panchayat office in Boregaon, she says, “My colleague and I have confiscated these. Water is for everyone and in this village each family gets equitable access to it. Installing a jet pump to steal more than one’s share is wrong and we will not allow it.” Gadve, a mother of two daughters, was voted to power as sarpanch (panchayat chief) of Boregaon in Maharashtra’s Solapur District in 2012 and ever since then she has turned her once backward hamlet into a model village where everyone has equal rights and a stake in the progress.
So then what was it that brought about the remarkable transformation? How did Gadve decide to fight elections, defying years of status quo? What made the locals repose their trust in a female leader? It all began in 2010 when the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) initiated the Samajhdar Jodidar (Responsible Partner) intervention in the village. Implemented through five non-government organisations across 100 villages in Maharashtra, the specially-designed programme engages with married men and unmarried youth to fight patriarchal mindsets and change the inequitable gender construct.
“Patriarchy perpetuates prejudice, inequality and violence and we cannot do away with it without involving men. Therefore, we decided to enlist a few men from within the project villages as animators who could lead by example. However, initially our approach was met with scepticism not just from the menfolk but from women, too,” reveals Shakti Jamdade of CHSJ.
As a facilitator with Halo Medical Foundation, the non-government organisation implementing Samajhdar Jodidar in Akkalkot Block of Solapur, Basavraj Nare had his work cut out. He was on the lookout for conscientious animators who were not just open to overhauling their own belief system but could stand up to the negative backlash of the villagers. “I chose men who were not perceived as leaders, as they thrive on upholding traditional images of masculinity. I selected men who were unaware of their sensitivity but felt trapped in the morass of patriarchy and yearned to do something for their community,” he shares.
Nare’s search for the ideal change-maker for Boregaon ended when he met Manikchand Dhanashetty. Soft spoken and unassuming, Dhanashetty is not your average crusader and, yet, in his own quiet way he has been able to lead the charge of a change so significant that it has altered the way families bring up their children, how women are treated by the community at large and even the manner in which people participate in local governance.
Having been to cities where his older brothers were working, Dhanashetty knew his people were being deprived of their basic rights and entitlements, especially access to clean drinking water, affordable health care and education. He also realised that the funds the panchayat was receiving for development activity were being grossly misused by a few powerful individuals. Keen to make a difference he was searching for like-minded partners but that was not possible in a community totally fractured by caste, wealth and power politics.
His meeting with Nare, however, paved the way for him to become the catalyst of change he always wanted to be. The sensitisation training he received under the Samajhdar Jodidar programme not only enabled him to evaluate his own actions as a husband, father and citizen but also empowered him to talk to other men and women about the simple ways in which they could improve their own lives and their collective destiny. A victim of patriarchal conditioning himself, it had never occurred to him till then that the injustices being committed in his village on a daily basis were, in fact, only a scaled-up version of his own indifferent attitude towards his daughter. “Men are in power at every level and they use it to subjugate others – be it women at home or someone weaker in stature in the outside world,” he points out.
Needless to say, people in Boregaon were not ready to accept Dhanashetty’s ideas of gender equality and put up a fierce resistance. No one understood the logic behind men helping out their mothers and wives in household chores or taking care of children or reprimanding someone for domestic violence, all of which were vociferously advocated by Dhanashetty. Moreover, when he started broaching the subjects like ensuring institutional deliveries, monitoring mid day meals and allowing girls to complete their schooling, this father of two had to constantly defend his motives – even to his wife and mother.
Dhanashetty vividly remem-bers how his mother went on an eight day fast when he tried to expose the misdeeds of the local quack and push for availability of essential health services in the village. Then when the trusted ‘medicine man’ fled Boregaon, people started sending their ailing relatives to his home asking him to take them to the health centre.
“Nonetheless, Dhanashetty staunchly stood his ground. While Halo Medical Foundation stood by him, he was the man on the ground facing a new threat each day,” says Nare. Dhanashetty’s patience did pay off and, gradually, things started to take a turn for the better. First in his own home – “whereas my brothers persuaded my mother that I was doing the right thing my wife relented as she saw how happy our children were when I helped them with their homework or took them out” – and later in the village, too.
Once Dhanashetty realised that the apathy in the system had finally broken down, he suggested the idea of putting up a candidate of their own during the sarpanch election. “Although we had no money or experience the opposition had done nothing for years and everyone was beginning to see that things could change,” he says. Their search for a suitable candidate ended when Ambika Gavde came forward, ably supported by her husband Umakant, and ended up with a landslide victory. “Both Umakant and I feel Dhanashetty’s approach is right. If everyone in the village has the freedom to express themselves, women included, and we work together as equals we can achieve anything,” she says.
Boregaon is a very different place today. Unlike the previous panchayat, the present group believes in action. One of its first initiatives was to institute a monthly mahila gram sabha (village women’s council) where women can raise issues close to their heart. Water shortage, a perennial problem, has been solved after a new four kilometre pipeline was laid and linked to a 40000-litre tank.
“Our work is not just about providing facilities but ensuring an equitable distribution of the benefits,” says Gadve. Additionally, the panchayat has set its sights on becoming a nirmal gram (model village) and already begun constructing toilets, which they know is “necessary for the health and safety of girls and women”. In its four-year-long attempt to inculcate gender equity and loosen the stranglehold of patriarchy the Samajhdar Jodidar programme has managed to broaden mindsets for good.

ETCETERA

Titanic locker key sold for £85,000

London:  A key which opened a life-jacket locker on the ill-fated Titanic has been sold for a whopping 85,000 pounds at one of the biggest auctions involving Titanic memorabilia in recent years.
 It was among 200 items from the liner sold at an auction in Devizes. The key had been predicted to fetch up to £50,000. Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said the amount the key finally sold for “reflected its importance and unique nature”.
The locker key had belonged to third-class steward Sidney Sedunary, from Berkshire, who perished when the Titanic went down in April 1912, after hitting an iceberg. Aldridge said “Without a doubt [he saved lives]. Here’s a man who sacrificed his life to save others.” The auction in Devizes was one of the biggest involving Titanic memorabilia for many years. RMS Titanic had been four days into a week-long transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York when the supposedly “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg on April, 14 1912.
The ship sank less than three hours later on April 15; 1,500 passengers and crew died and 710 survived. A collection of letters written by Chief Officer Henry Wilde, who was second in command on the vessel, fetched 5,000 pounds at the auction.  In one of the letters, written onboard Titanic and posted at Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, Wilde indicated he had misgivings about the new ship.
“I still don’t like this ship… I have a queer feeling about it,” he wrote. He had been expecting to take command of another ship, the Cymric, and only signed on to the Titanic on April 9, 1912, the day before it sailed. On March 31, 1912, he said he was “awfully disappointed to find the arrangements for my taking command of the Cymric have altered. I am now going to join the Titanic until some other ship turns up for me”.


VISION OF PERMANENCE

The above cheques represent the permanent subscription from 3 more of our earliest readers. While thanking these gentlemen for the trust reposed in the integrity of Issues&Concerns, we most humbly submit that, this amount of Rs. 10,000/- is being planned as seed money for a proposed setting up of co-operative society of subscribers. So that readers become the owners of I&C in due course.  As and when it happens, within the next 2/3 years, this amount shall be taken as share capital. The proposal is open to all subscribers.            -EDITOR

INTO THE ETHER

NASA growing lettuce in space

Washington: NASA has planted lettuce on the International Space Station (ISS) to learn how to grow fresh food in space – which may help prepare astronauts for the future manned mission to Mars.
Just as farmers on Earth are planting leafy greens for the fall growing season, astronauts aboard the ISS are planting their third on-orbit crop of red romaine lettuce, NASA said.
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough initiated the Veg-03 experiment, one of his first science assignments as a new crew member aboard the orbiting laboratory.
The study is a validation of the tools and procedures necessary to grow plants to provide fresh food for astronauts. As Kimbrough worked, members of the Veggie team watched from their consoles in the Experiment Monitoring Area located in Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
A live video downlink from the orbiting laboratory allowed the scientists to remotely watch Kimbrough’s actions and ensure he did not encounter any challenges with the activity or hardware.
“Operations went great today! A little slower than expected, but all plant pillows were successfully primed for the first time in our Veg series,” said Nicole Dufour, NASA’s Veggie project manager.
Plant pillows are small pouches already containing a growth medium, fertiliser and seeds; to start them growing, astronauts simply add a little water.
“We previously have had some hardware issues that prevented at least one pillow from each ‘grow out’ from being successfully primed, so we were very excited to achieve that milestone,” she said.
Astronauts on future long-duration space missions will need to be able to grow their own food to supplement their diets. Using the veggie plant growth facility aboard the station, Veg-03 builds on the successes of previous studies, including Veg-01, which resulted in the first-ever on-orbit harvest and sampling of fresh produce in 2015.
Techniques learned from Veggie crops will sow benefits on Earth and help NASA prepare for the Journey to Mars. The Veg-03 crop will be the Veggie team’s first on-orbit attempt at a new, repetitive harvest technique termed ‘Cut-and-Come-Again’.
“Once the plants are approximately four weeks old, a selection of leaves can be harvested for a bit of fresh lettuce and possibly science samples,” said Dufour. “Meanwhile, some leaves are left intact along with the core of the plant, and will continue to grow and produce more leaves,” she said.
“We expect this will increase the on-orbit crop yield, as well as allow for more opportunities to supplement our astronauts’ diets with fresh, nutritious food from the same plants, which is an important goal of the ‘pick-and-eat’ food concept,” she added.
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MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Sachin Janardhan Mandon, a BE with an MBA, is an Associate V.P with ICICI Lombard, his life partner Bhavana, a BE with also an MBA, a Regional Marketing Manager with MERCK International, and their only child Siddhant, a 1st std. student at Nahar International School are a happy and contented family of Hum Do Hamare Ek. Obviously they are comfortably placed professionals. Despite the level of comforts, they have made a conscious decision to limit their family to 3 only. They want to give their child the best they can give, with limited free time available at their disposal and comfortable resource capability for long term stability. Hats off to their vision. Indeed theirs is a silent service to the nation, as a model family with no demands on the nation’s resources. Small family is an empowered family. We at I&C wish them all the very best and a promising future to the blossoming Siddhant.                                                                                                          
-Editor

TECHNOLOGY

Robot to help patients walk

Beijing: Scientists have designed a wearable lower-limb robot exoskeleton that features natural knee movement to help stroke and spinal cord injury patients regain ability to walk and strengthen their muscles.
Wearable “robot-assisted training” is quickly emerging as a method that helps improve gait rehabilitation. Now, researchers from Beihang University in China and Aalborg University in Denmark have designed a lower-limb robot exoskeleton – a wearable robot – that features natural knee movement to greatly improve patients’ comfort and willingness to wear it for gait rehab.
The robotic exoskeleton is intended to help, stroke patients strengthen their physical fitness, aid the rehabilitation training of paralysed patients, or to assist those who need help, performing daily activities.
The team focused on the knee joint, one of the most complex mechanical systems within the human body and a critical player during gait. The knee joint’s motion is actuated by several skeletal muscles along its articular surfaces, and its centre of rotation moves.
Researchers wondered if a parallel mechanism similar to skeletal muscles would be useful for designing a bionic knee joint. “Our new design features a parallel knee joint to improve the bio-imitability and adaptability of the exoskeleton,” said Weihai Chen, a professor at Beihang University.
The exoskeleton taps a hybrid serial-parallel kinematic structure consisting of a 1-degree of freedom (DOF) hip joint module and a 2-DOF knee joint module in the sagittal plane.
A planar 2-DOF parallel mechanism helps to fully accommodate the motion of the human knee – enabling rotation and relative sliding. Movement transparency is critical when wearing a robot for gait rehab. When wearing the exoskeleton, its movement should be synchronised and consistent with a patient’s natural movement.
“If not, it exerts extra forces on the human joint. And this extra force causes patient discomfort and unnatural movements,” Chen said.
“To improve the transparency of the robot, we studied the structure of the human body, then built our model based on a biometric design of the lower limb exoskeleton,” Chen said.
This design is the first known use of a parallel mechanism at the knee joint to imitate skeletal muscles. “Our design goes beyond solving the transparency problem in the knee joint – and it’s a simple structure,” Chen added.
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Super battery from Junk

New York: Researchers have developed a new high-performance, grid-scale battery made from metal scrap and common household chemicals. The proof-of-concept battery, which is no bigger than a pill bottle, could withstand the equivalent of 13 years of daily charging and discharging while retaining 90 per cent of its capacity.
Cary Pint, assistant professor at Vanderbilt University in the US, said the battery is powerful and easy-to-build and represents a new kind of approach to innovation. Pint and his students were inspired from an ancient technology called the Baghdad Battery, which dates back to the first century BC. 
It consisted of a terracotta pot, a copper sheet and an iron rod along with some trace chemicals that could have been an electrolyte, ‘Live Science’ reported. The team soaked metal pieces in a jar with a solution of water and salt or a solution of water and antifreeze.

SERIAL : 4

THE PERSISTENCE OF CASTE

A HISTORICAL OUTLINE

Anand Teltumbde

In their wake, however, the untouchables also articulated their rebellion, not only against Brahmins, but against caste in its entirety. The earliest form of the dalit anti-caste movement was in terms of a rejection of the theory of the so-called ‘superiority of the Aryan race.’ This was expressed by the assertion of dalit aboriginal identity as a highly civilized and peaceful people, once dominant in the country but later subjugated and enslaved through Aryan conquest. This movement took root in several parts of India, mostly independently. There was the Adi Hindu movement in the region now known as the state of Uttar Pradesh, the AD Dharm movement in South India, all making equalitarian tradition. The reverberations were felt even in regions where a movement with an explicit adi prefix had not arisen. In Bombay province, for instance, a pre Ambedkar dalit leader, Kisan Fagoji Bansode (1870-1946), emphasized points very similar to those made by the anti-Aryan movement.

The Emergence of Ambedkar
The most remarkable personage to emerge from this process was Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), known widely among dalits as Babasaheb, meaning ‘respected father’. He led the dalit rebellion into a formidable movement, steering it through the dominant political contentions between Hindus and Muslims at the close of the colonial period and securing for dalits a political space and several socio-economic rights both under the British and in the Constitution he shaped for independent India.
Born in 1891 into a military family from the untouchable mahar community, he was among the first dalits to receive a university education, after he left for further study abroad on a scholarship from the progressive Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda. With doctoral degrees from both Columbia University and the London School of Economics, he also qualifies as a barrister from Gray’s Inn. Following his return to India, he launched, in 1927, a civil rights agitation in the town of Mahad (in what is now Maharashtra), targeting the caste prohibition against untouchables accessing drinking water resources and entering temples. He hoped through this to sensitize Hindu society into initiating long overdue social reform, but the belligerent privileged-caste response disillusioned him, and he soon shifted focus to the political sphere. He was invited, because of his prominence as a dalit leader, to the three Round Table Conferences the British held between 1930 and 1932 on devolving power to Indians. In the course of the 1931 conference, he had an epic confrontation with ‘Mahatma’ Mohandas Gandhi over the issue of separate electorates for untouchables. When Ambedkar eventually won, Gandhi opposed him by threatening to end his life with a fast unto death. A compromise was struck which replaced the plan for separate electorates for untouchables under the Poona Pact of 1932 with a grant of more reserved seats to untouchables in joint electorates, along with a promise of other measures in their favour.
While focusing on the caste problem, Ambedkar rightly realized that the emancipation of the untouchables was entwined with that of the entire class to which they belonged. As such, he tried to build a broad class unity of workers, peasants and untouchables by founding, in 1936, the Independent Labour Party (IPL) to fight the brahmin-bourgeois INC, prominent at that time in the freedom struggle. However, rising sectarian conflict vitiated the political atmosphere in the wake of the British decision to relinquish India. The Cripps Mission formula of March 1942, which completely ignored dalit demands (as no party represented them) but granted most of the demands made by communal parties, Hindu and Muslim, forced Ambedkar to dissolve the class-based ILP and found the caste-based Scheduled Caste Federation. It, however \, did not meet with much success.
After the transfer of power in 1947, Ambedkar became law minister in the all-party government led by the INC and was also elected chairman of the drafting committee for India’s Constitution. The constitution, as it stands after all amendment, ambitiously declares India a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic with liberty, equality and justice as its guiding principles. It bears the distinct imprint of Ambedkar’ ideology, yet many matters dear to his heart could not survive the opposition of the predominantly orthodox Hindu drafting committee. His chief disappointment was over the ultimately rejected Hindu Code Bill, whose radical reforms in favour of Hindu women he vigorously supported. A bitter dispute with the orthodoxy over the Bill’s progressive provisions led him to resign from the cabinet in 1951, and he was in later years to even disown the Constitution he architected. He devoted much of his time thereafter to writing a ‘gospel’ of Buddhism, posthumously published as The Buddha and his Dhamma. In 1956, shortly before his death in the December of that year, he fulfilled a vow made in 1935 to renounce Hinduism, which he did by embracing Buddhism along with nearly four hundred thousand of his followers, making it the largest conversion in history. The anniversary of this event, the Deeksha as it is called, draws hundreds of thousands to its commemoration in the city of Nagpur in Maharashtra every year; the crowd that gather annually to commemorate his death anniversary run into millions.
Ambedkar became the dalit’s greatest icon, symbolizing their identity and aspirations. Innumerable statues of him and memorabilia in the form of Buddhist monuments testify to this fact. It is his example that inspired dalits to take to education. Thanks to the Constitution, with its pioneering provisions in favour of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, dalits today are represented almost everywhere in Indian public life. Ambedkar always operated on the representational logic that a few advanced elements would lead the entire community forward, and he expected to transform society gradually but steadily. But while it is true that caste in India has indeed changed, the hardship of the dalit multitude are far from over. While the forces of modernity have rendered difficult the open practice of untouchability, it is nonetheless still prevalent in rural India. If notions of superiority/inferiority and discrimination are taken as the essence of caste, it could still be seen as pervading all of Indian society in relation to dalits, even among its most modern sections.
 
The Decline of the Dalit Movement
Ambedkar envisioned being able to unify untouchables with the altered soci-cultural and religious identity Buddhism offered, which he hoped would seed social transformation along the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. In supplementing this transformational project with political struggle, he sought the inclusion of the downtrodden of both caste and class- his Scheduled Castes Federation subsequently evolved into the Republican Party of India (RPI), which aimed at bringing all those of a socialist persuasion under its banner. However, he passes away before he could fully articulate the scale of his vision. Conversions to Buddhism continued after his death but remained confined largely to his own mahar community. The RPI came into existence soon after his death but was also monopolized by the mahars,
Post-Ambedkar dalit leaders proved incapable of a dialectical handling of the contradictions in his legacy and soon fell apart, catching at one or the other strand of his ideology in support of narrow self-interest. In due course, they made an art of feigning to follow Ambedkar while pursuing their own petty concerns. Where Ambedkar had desired to see an emergence of a politics of identity, and it did not attract the average dalit politician, aiming to make a quick buck. The result was that dalit polity and politicians became subsumed as adjuncts of the ruling class practice for which symbols and identities mattered more than the material interests of the people. Nonetheless, the dalit movement did demonstrate its potential strength when, in1964, it launched a countrywide struggle demanding land for the landless. Sensing danger, the Congress (as the INC was more generally known, especially after independence) soon operationalized the age-old ruling-class strategy of co-optation, and paved the way for the perpetual fragmentation of the dalit movement. Today, the movement is characterized by all-round weakening through helpless fragmentation in every sphere.
The first graduating classes of young dalit faced bleak prospects when they began emerging from the country’s universities in the latter half of the 1960s. by then, the dalit movement was already in degeneration, a circumstance reflected in the increasing atrocities on dalits in rural areas. Internationally, the first major crisis of post-World War II capitalism had broken out, unleashing movements for social revolution all over the world. Inspired by the Black Power movement in the United States, dalit youth in Maharashtra gave dalit literature a modern impetus with an outpouring of anger in their writings. This catalyzed, in 1972, into the formation of a militant outfit called the Dalit Panthers in the city of Bombay (now known as Mumbai), emulating the Black Panthers in America. Their radical rhertoric caused panic among their adversaries and admiration amongst dalit youth; their appeal quickly extended to other parts of the country. The group ultimately accomplished little materially, but it held a promise for pro-people dalit politics in future. Sadly, it too proved a flash in the pan and soon went the way of the RPI. Both the RPI and the Dalit Panthers still exist today but in innumerable factions, most of them engaged in a competitive pursuit of favours from the ruling class.
Around the same time, in 1973, under the leadership of Kanshi Ram (1934-2006), a movement seeking to consolidate all dalits, shudras and religious minorities, who together constituted about 85 percent of the population, began organizing the employees belonging to these communities into the Backward and Minority Employees Federation, or BAMCEF. This later changed into the Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsh Samiti (DS4), the Dalit Oppressed Classes’ Resistance Committee, for agitational politics, which then launched itself as a full-fledged political entity, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Cultivating a constituency in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, it achieved spectacular electoral success over the years and, through dexterous negotiation, catapulted itself into the state leadership.

HEALTH

Probiotics may help you beat stress

New York: Common probiotics sold in supplements and yogurt can decrease stress-related behaviour and anxiety, suggests new research, says IANS. “Our study has shown that simple probiotics that we normally use to keep our digestive tract in sync, could be beneficial to reducing our stress levels as well,” said Aaron Ericsson from University of Missouri in the US.
In a series of studies, researchers tested how zebrafish behaved after doses of Lactobacillus plant arum, common bacteria found in yogurt and probiotic supplements. Studying how gut bacteria affect behaviour in zebrafish could lead to a better understanding of how probiotics may affect the central nervous system in humans.
“Zebrafish are an emerging model species for neurobehavioral studies and their use is well-established in drug-screening,” Ericsson noted. In their first experiment, scientists added the bacteria to certain tanks housing zebra fish; other tanks of zebra fish received no probiotics.
Then, the researchers introduced environmental stressors to both groups, such as draining small amounts of water from the tank and overcrowding. “Each day we introduced a different stressor – tests that are validated by other researchers and cause higher anxiety among zebrafish,” Elizabeth Bryda, Professor at College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri.
By analysing the gene pathways of both groups of fish, the research team found that zebrafish that were given the supplements showed a reduction in the metabolic mechanisms associated with stress.
“Essentially, bacteria in the gut altered the gene expression associated with stress- and anxiety-related pathways in the fish allowing for increased signaling of particular neurotransmitters,” Daniel Davis from University of Missouri noted.


Cheese could curb high BP

New York: Consuming sodium in the form of a dairy product, such as cheese, may protect against some of sodium’s effects on the cardiovascular system, such as high blood pressure, researchers say.
According to researchers, the protection comes from antioxidant properties of dairy proteins in cheese. The results suggest that when sodium is consumed in cheese it does not have the negative vascular effects that researchers observed with sodium from non-dairy sources.
“We found that when participants ate a lot of sodium in cheese, they had better blood vessel function — more blood flow — compared to when they ate an equal amount of sodium from non-dairy sources — in this case, pretzels and soy cheese,” said Anna Stanhewicz, post-doctoral fellow at the Pennsylvania State University.
“The novel finding may have implications for dietary recommendations. Newer dietary recommendations suggest limiting sodium, but our data suggest that eating sodium in the form of a dairy product, such as cheese, may be protective,” added Lacy Alexander, Associate Professor at the Pennsylvania State University.
For the study, the researchers fed participants dairy cheese, pretzels or soy cheese on five separate occasions, three days apart.   They then compared the effects of each food on the cardiovascular system using a laser-Doppler, which shines a weak laser light onto the skin.  Further, the study revealed soy served as an additional control to match the fat, salt and protein content from a dietary source that is not dairy-based.
Participants who had more nitric oxide-moderated dilation after eating dairy cheese, compared to after eating pretzels or soy cheese, the researchers observed, in the paper reported in the British Journal of Nutrition.


YEH MERA INDIA

Talk on cash crunch but garland of new notes

Lucknow: When BSP legislator Iqbal Ahmed from Chandpur assembly constituency in Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnore district slammed demonetization and the problems it caused to the common people while addressing a public meeting, many in the crowd were shocked.
What shocked them was not the legislator’s words but the garlands of new currency of Rs. 2000 and Rs 500 demonetization around his neck as he spoke.
According to reports, Iqbal Ahmed, also a contractor, was garlanded with new currency by his supporters at a programme organized to celebrate his acquittal in a case.
The matter came to light when photographs showing the BSP legislator’s smiling face with a garland of new currency went viral on social networking sites. The photographs showed Ahmed surrounded by his supporters with a garland of new currency.
While the Opposition parties reacted strongly and demanded action against the MLA, Ahmed said that he had done no wrong.
“My supporters had garlanded me with new currency… they had arranged the currency… I had nothing to do with it,” said legislator.
Senior BJP leader Vijay Bahadur Pathak, however, said that it proved the allegation that BSP leaders bought nominations from their party supremo Mayawati.
He also sought action in the matter.
“It must be investigated as to how did the BSP MLA got so many new currency,” Pathak added.

Election to Municipal Councils President: 25 crore patis

Mumbai: As many as 25 per cent candidates contesting the direct election for the post of Municipal Council President in 14 civic bodies in Pune and Latur districts are crorepatis. Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Maharashtra Election Watch, a non-political group aiming at electoral and governmental reforms, analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 93 candidates contesting for the post of President in second phase of elections in the two districts scheduled to be held.
Out of the 93 candidates analyzed, 23 (25 per cent) are crorepatis, a statement issued by ADR said. Direct election for the post of President are taking place at all 14 Municipal Councils — 10 councils in Pune and 4 councils in Latur.
The average assets per candidate analysed for this election, is little over Rs 1.42 crore. The candidate with highest declared total assets is Sharif Syedsikandar Syed who is contesting from Ausa Municipal Council, with assets worth over Rs 20 crore.
There are only 2 candidates who declared zero assets in the two districts.
There are 16 (excluding those declaring zero assets) candidates who declared low assets below Rs 2 lakh in these districts. Mithilesh Kendre had the highest declared total liabilities of all the candidates.
Four candidates have declared their age between 21 to 24 years, 5 are aged between 25 to 30 years, 24 candidates between 31 to 40 years, 30 candidates have declared their age between 41 to 50 years, 17 candidates are between 51 to 60 years, while, 13 candidates are aged between 61 to 70 years, the statement added.
As many as 106 candidates are in fray for the post of President in these civic bodies, while there are 1326 candidates in race for 324 seats in 14 councils.

78 companies raise 300 crores+ & vanish

New Delhi: As many as 78 companies are untraceable after having raised Rs 312 crore from investors, with Gujarat having the maximum number of 17 such entities, Parliament was informed.  These entities are, among other entities coming from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Punjab, reports PTI.
Vanishing companies are those that fail to file documents and balance sheets after raising funds through public issues and are untraceable. Cumulatively, these 78 vanishing companies have raised about Rs 312 crore.
Gujarat, at 17, has the maximum number of such firms. Other such companies include 13 in Andhra Pradesh, 10 in Tamil Nadu and 9 in Maharashtra. Besides, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have 5 vanishing firms each. A total of 238 companies were initially identified by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs as ‘vanishing companies’, which raised money through public issues, Minister of State for Corporate Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
Of these, 160 companies have been deleted from the list as they were subsequently traced. Presently, only 78 companies remain untraced. Besides, the ministry has ordered probe into the affairs of 185 companies through Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) in more than three financial years.
This includes 24 firms in the current fiscal. These firms were allegedly running illegal chit-fund, ponzi and multi-level marketing entities. Also, they were involved in unauthorised collection of funds from the public, Meghwal said.
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‘MOUNTAIN MAN’s family still without proper roof on their head

Bihar: Children of the Mountain Man – Dashrath Manjhi who constructed a road by cutting Gehlor hills for 22 years (1960-82), individually reducing the distance between two blocks of Gaya district Atri and Wazirganj from 55 kms to 15 kms – are still without a roof in Gehlor village.
Dashrath Manjhi for whom Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had vacated his chair for a brief time at his weekly Janata Darbar and asked Dashrath to occupy his chair, had visited Gehlor during the annual Gehlor festival organised by state tourism department and assured all assistance to his children, but even an Indira Gandhi Awaas unit could not be arranged, regretted Bhagirath Manjhi, Dashrath’s son and four daughters.
Bhagirath told this visiting correspondent: “The then chief minister Jeetan Ram Manjhi also came to meet us after a film – Mountain Man – directed by Ketan Mehta was released in 2015. When we asked him for a pucca house, he replied: “hut made of phoos (straw and mud) was better for you. If we give you a pucca house, no one will visit you”.
Ketan Mehta had promised 2 per cent of the earning from the film to Dashrath Manjhi’s children, but they got only Rs 1.5 lakh in two installments. Aamir Khan, who also visited them for his first show of Satyamev Jayate, had promised financial assistance and a house. He too backed out. Last week, AICC president Sonia Gandhi invited them to 10 Janpath with three family members. Gandhi handed over a cheque of Rs 5001 and a black colour shawl. She reimbursed the train journey fare and other expenses to them, but there was no word promising a house to them at Gehlor.
After the film – Mountain Man based on Dashrath Manjhi’s life was released, senior army officers too visited Manjhi’s house to take inspiration from Dashrath’s life. “Daily two to three big vehicles are parked outside my hut. They get photographed with us; offer some money, but no offer of a pucca house. There are over a dozen shawls gifted in last two years,” Bhagirath told this correspondent.
Following the release of the film – Gehlor has now a hospital, pucca road, school and even a police station as distinguished visitors need security cover, but no effort has been made to give Manjhi family a pucca house. Their only source of income is ten acres of land on which they grow paddy and rabi crops. Bhagirath said since he was physically handicapped as one of his legs were damaged in a road accident, he cannot get employment.