Tuesday, February 28, 2006



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Taming the plastic-waste

Taming the plastic-waste ogre:

How often we have sighed at the huge piles of plastic seen everywhere we go. Some have clamoured for laws to ban plastics use. But most of us have kept our faith by practicing responsible use, the while praying that our good behaviour will be rewarded. Well, here's good new. A self effacing Indian lady has demonstrated a solution that can transform the world. Read the story here:



Saturday, February 25, 2006

Bhojpuri films strike right notes

Saibal Chatterjee

February 24, 2006

Bollywood?s top production houses, busy wooing the cash-rich urban multiplex crowd, have turned their backs on the entertainment needs of the hinterland masses. So, on the sidelines of the mainstream movie business in India, Bhojpuri films, dormant for long, have bounced back big time with a string of hits cranked up by a parallel industry that plays the game by its own rules and on the strength of its own ?superstars?.

The rise and rise of Bhojpuri films is mofussil India?s revenge against Bollywood?s continuing apathy towards the rural yarns that were once commonplace in Hindi cinema (Naya Daur, Ganga Jamuna, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Sholay, et al). Contemporary Mumbai films cater to the urban audience and the stories that they narrate are culled from the consumerist fantasies of an upwardly mobile fan base. It is not surprising at all that the poor old village has dropped out of the picture almost completely.

So, for wide sections of urban Indian filmgoers, among whom there are pockets of migrant labourers in need of daily doses of recreation, as well as for small-town and rural audiences, average Bollywood storylines only serve to further the disconnect that exists between their traditional cultural moorings and aspirations on the one hand and the fast-changing, alien environs in which they are forced to live and work in the big cities on the other. Bhojpuri films, which have never aspired for critical acclaim and have been content to thrive on box office support, have successfully filled that vacuum.

Since Vishwanath Shahabadi made the first Bhojpuri film, Ganga Maiya Tohe Piyari Charaibo, in 1961, triumphs for this fringe genre have been far and few between. The only really big Bhojpuri successes that spring to mind are Ashok Jain?s Dangal and Nazir Hussain?s Balam Pardesia, both made and released in the late 1970s. But the scenario has changed completely in the last two years.
With films like Sasura Bada Paisawala (starring crooner-actor Manoj Tiwari and Rani Chatterjee) and Panditji Bataai Na Biyah Kab Hoyee (featuring the reigning superstar of Bhojpuri cinema, Ravi Kishan) smashing box-office records especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country, this regional filmmaking stream is on an unprecedented roll. Other successful releases like Bandhan Tute Na, Mayee Re Kar De Bidaai Hamaar, Ganga Mile Saagar Se, Firangi Dulhaniya, Mayee Ka Bitwa, Dulha Milal Dildaar, Ghar Dwaar and Dharti Putra have given Bhojpuri cinema the sort of fillip that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago.

So big are Bhojpuri stars today that an upcoming film is even named after Ravi Kishan himself. The film is directed by Bollywood?s Amol Shetge and co-stars Zarina Wahab. Ravi Kishan the star plays a double role in Ravi Kishan the film. Has big bad Bollywood ever heard of anything to match that?

Bhojpuri films work because they are shot at breakneck speed, with budgets always kept on a tight leash. In an era in which mainstream Bollywood concentrates primarily on slick, glossy NRI romances, thrillers and skin flicks, these films hark back to the simple and emotionally effecting spirit of the 1970s Rajshri Films productions. None of these Bhojpuri films come remotely close to being great cinema, but they do manage to connect with their target audience owing to their simple-minded, uncluttered approach to storytelling, which hinges on the conventions of old-school Mumbai films, many of which have been discarded by mainstream Bollywood moviemakers themselves.

Acceptance of Bhojpuri films as a commercially viable proposition is now complete. A large number of such quickies are currently under production on locations in Mumbai, and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

That Bhojpuri films have well and truly arrived was demonstrated late last month, when an NGO in Mumbai hosted the first-ever Bhojpuri Film Awards night. The event honoured the best of Bhojpuri cinema produced in 2005. Among the most talked about entries at the awards was Kab Hoyee Gawana Hamaar, produced by singer Udit Narayan. Parts of the film were shot on foreign locales.

Balaji Telefilms? Ekta Kapoor has tied up with one of Bhojpuri cinema?s best-known producer-directors, Mahesh Pande, to make not one but two films in the course of 2006. The first, Hum Baal Brahmachari Tu Kanya Kunwari, is set to roll in April. The second venture, starring Ravi Kishan, is likely to go on the floors in October.

Actor-producer-director Tinnu Verma, the winner of the Best Male Villain award for his performance in Dharti Putra, has just launched yet another Bhojpuri film, Pandit, starring Ravi Kishan and Naghma. The man who sounded the clapperboard at the muhurat of the new film was none other than Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor.

Despite all the successes it has achieved of late, Bhojpuri cinema will probably always continue to be Bollywood?s poor country cousin. But it has now reached a pitch where it will be seen and heard on its own terms. It is now clearly a full-fledged industry capable of running on its own steam.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Coming Back Home

By Sandeep Adhwaryu

The first thing you notice when you reach Delhi is people. The second thing you notice is the noise. Vatsyayana would be happy to learn that, for entirely the wrong reasons, we have?finally and loudly?become horny.


I left London on transfer for Delhi in the first week of September. London was on the cusp of autumn, at the end of its (mostly) glorious summer. Delhi was about to finish with its scorching summer, and on the anvil of its delightful winter. I was told the monsoons had come and gone. In London it rains incessantly, but rarely with passion. Looking out of my window on another wet, grey day, my mind would often think of the verandah in my home in Delhi, where holding a cup of tea, I would watch the skies come pouring down to the accompaniment of thunder and lightning. Fortunately, soon after I returned I could do just that.

The first thing you notice when you reach Delhi is people. In England, as in many places in the West, you can drive for miles and not see a soul. Entire villages appear to be deserted, the roads lonely and people-less. But, as you emerge from Indira Gandhi International Airport, the sheer swell of humanity strikes you afresh. The second thing you notice is the noise. I have a theory that sound gets amplified in the tropics: people shout, horns blare, shoes thump, dogs yelp and birds screech, a perfectly happy welcoming symphony.

My only problem is with our propensity to press on the horn. Vatsyayana would be happy to learn that, for entirely the wrong
reasons, we have?finally and loudly?become horny. There is little doubt that Delhi is changing fast. You notice more cars, more mobiles, more flyovers and more ads for more straightaway. And yet, I am amazed how amidst this change so much remains the same. The monkeys are still there in South Block, refusing to not be associated with the making of foreign policy. The Ministry of External Affairs must be the only organisation of its kind that has two langoors officially on its payroll to chase out the monkeys.

India really has no parallels. We are a sui generic people, like that only. I loved my daily morning walks in Hyde Park, but I am happy to be back in Nehru Park, where the authorities ban (like Hyde Park, but, I suspect, just as unsuccessfully) fornication in the park. Unlike Hyde Park, but entirely in keeping with the schizophrenic reality of India, Nehru Park also bans bathing, cooking and washing of clothes.

The other day, crossing the Yamuna, I saw the most glorious sunset frame what is arguably Delhi?s most ugly building: the DDA HQ. The good and the ugly mix freely in this city, but October is upon us, and as the mornings and evenings suddenly have the intoxicating whiff of winter, I can see only the good. I read my morning papers sitting in my aangan. A cool breeze sways the madhu malti creeper, and I am content, happy to be back home.

Classic case of Juggar(INNOVATION)

Classic case of Juggar(INNOVATION)

Here?s another typical JUGGAR example which typifies the Indian or rather Bihari Buddhi(mind).A guy called Raghav from Muzzafarpur set his FM radio station with an investment of only 50 Rs. It started with the repair of radio sets, from where Raghav picked up the tricks and since then, Raghav FM Mansoorpur 1, as his FM station is called is a household name.
Raghav has no license to run a FM station and thus, technically this station is illegal, but who cares? Raghav is a happy man. "CD nikala to dekhe ki agal bagal main catch kaar raha hai. Cordless mike dekhe, issi ko soch kaar apna banaye. Isme 50 rupiya laga hai. 3-4 part laga hai, Rs 50 rupaiya kharcha hai", explains Raghav.

"Welcome to Radio Raghav FM Mansoorpur 1, one stop entertainment solution for all. Tune in not only for your favourite filmi numbers, but also for information, which we think is crucial for you. Over to the anchor," says a voice on the radio.
The buck then passes on to the anchor of the Raghav radio FM station, Sambhu. "Namaskaar, main apka dost Sambhu. Aap sun rahe hain, FM Mansoorpur 1. Aap logo ko suchana dena chahate hai, aids chune se nahi failta, saiyam aur surakcha, aids se rakcha,"he says.
Man that?s innovation for you.

Indians and Hindustanis/In The NETHERLANDS

Indians and Hindustanis

How a three culture people, the Hindustanis of Holland, live next to their cultural cousins, direct Indians from the subcontinent
By Sam Coleman

I enter the hall of the Bijlmeer Sportcentrum, a rambling auditorium that hosts various events for the local community. The reputation of the Bijlmeer as a hard-edged area of Amsterdam, filled with disenfranchised ethnic minorities, is hardly present at this gathering. Almost a thousand guests fill the hall, families, youths and local leaders sit and enjoy the program, laugh and talk casually to themselves. I catch a young woman who is about to ascend the stage-Reshma-who is preparing to perform a modern Indian dance ?Hindu Modernî as her friend informs me. Dressed in a blue Indian dress, a bindi adorning her forehead, I ask her a telling question that cuts to the heart of the matter, that illuminates the very special cultural navigation that the people known as the Hindustani must ply. Asked what she considers herself categorically she giggles and answers with amusement. ?Well Iím a Hindustani, then Dutch and then Surinamer.î Her friend, a young man named Ranesh, declares a different nomenclature. ?Iím Dutch then Hindustani and then Surinamer,î he boldly interjects. A third respondent replies in the reverse, pointing to the perplexing cultural reality that these residents of Holland navigate. These are the Hindustanis, an odd mix of identities that trace their identity to history as much as geography. Emigrating from the North of India more than a hundred years ago, these Indians found their home in the South American country of Suriname, then a colony of the Dutch. Their journey started in 1873 aboard a ship called the Lala Rookh, a passage still commemorated on June 5th in Amsterdam for its significance. They became part of the multi-cultural mix of that surprisingly diverse nation, becoming farmers, merchants and artisans, contributing quietly to the history the jungle state. But with independence of Suriname, all Surinamers were offered the benevolent choice of immigrating to the Netherlands. The Hindustanis, like many of their brethren, schooled in Dutch, took up the challenge and flocked in numbers to the land of tolerance, swelling to tens of thousands in the early 1970s and comprising 30% of the Surinamese population in Holland. And-depending who you ask-their numbers have increased even more rapidly to 300,000 +, making one of the more visible ethnic footprints in the Netherlands. Mostly in ZuidOost and Den Haag, the Hindustanis make a curious tripartite of identity and tradition. ?The Hindustanis that are here are more traditional [than typical Indians], our traditions have progressed in the last 125 years [in India]. But the Hindustanis are adapting to Dutch culture although they are marrying Indians, maybe to keep a connection to the culture,î explained Amar Jyoti, a local ëdirect Indianí journalist & writer who has written books in Punjabi for an audience back home about the Dutch. Her reflection is another element to this saga: the way that direct Indians-Sub-continent nationals who came to the Netherlands like any expat group-views and is viewed by their historical cousins. The two communities interact, praying at the same temples, watching Hindi language broadcast TV in the Netherlands, but it is tantamount to a Frenchman in Quebec: the Quebec French, denied regular cultural contact, tend to be more traditional than even the Frenchman. Frank Schaar, an organizer of Indian events at the Tropen Insitute, concurs that the Hindustanis indeed feel a strong urge to connect with traditional Indian culture. ?In the last five years weíve been getting more Hindustanis who are starting to appreciate this traditional culture. Girls see the Bollywood films, see the dances and they want to learn them so theyíre seeking out gurus to teach them.î He explains further that such gravitation-anthropologically-is a fairly understood pattern. ?India is a very old culture and I think it gives a sense of place when you have so many divisions in your head. The Hindustanis, donít forget, were former farmers from the North and theyíre more traditional.î Soebhash B. Darsan, a 22 year old Hindustan politician Running on the VVD ticket in ZuidOost, put it more directly. ?The problem with our people is if we go to Surinam we are foreigners, if we go to India we are foreigners and here we are allochten.î Holding onto such a rich motif such as Indian arts, culture and language is understandable.

The Philipino Jeepnese

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The Brihadeshwara Temple-Tanjore...a World Heritage

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Indian Ocean

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The Sun Rise

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Once in Taiwan

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Vishu in Deep Pondering

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Famous Marina Beach Side in Chennai

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The Swan in My office Campus

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A Land Mark

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This is one of the Graveyard of WW-II..

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Beauty of Nature

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Toos the Camera and Take a Unique Pic

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How the Budget is kept secret

It is being guarded like the gold in Fort Knox. High-tech tapping devices, an army of security personnel, sophisticated surveillance gadgetry, digital deterrents, electronic sweeping devices and jammers, huge scanners: the Union Budget 2006-07 documents are under the tightest security in Indian history.

In this electronic age, the Union finance ministry is taking no chances and ensuring that the contents of the Budget to be presented by Finance Minister P Chidambaram in Parliament are not leaked out before he reads his speech at 11.00 a.m. on February 28.

Security agencies have, for the first time, set up a small telephone tapping exchange in North Block. The electronic contraption can intercept private mobile operators' cell numbers. Electronic sweeping devices, installed on either side of the corridors of the finance ministry section of the North Block, fortify the security further.

The mini 'intercepting exchange' will also keep a close eye on the 100-odd landline telephone numbers installed in the chambers of various bureaucrats.

The Intelligence Bureau has also blocked e-mail facilities to most of the computers in the offices of Union finance ministry.

The entrances of the finance ministry itself have been cocooned in an electronic umbrella. A huge steel frame, housing a special X-ray scanner fitted with computers, has been mounted at the gates to prevent anyone from taking anything unwelcome inside the North Block or, more importantly, smuggling anything out.

The finance ministry office, in the North Block of the Central Secretariat, is normally open round the year and you can easily walk in after obtaining a pass at the reception. No more. At least not till the finance minister presents his Budget proposals in Parliament.

Till then the hush-hush work on the Budget, as finishing touches are given to it, is going on in the depths of the North Block.

Heading the secret exercise of the Budget making is Dr Adarsh Kishore, the bearded, 59-year old Union finance secretary. Kishore is summoned by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the finance minister every now and then and presented with new ideas and suggestions. Kishore's job is to translate these ideas into facts and figures that go in the Budget Speech and Budget papers.

Insiders say that the guiding principle -- the mantra -- for the prime minister is that the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) must jump out of each page of the Budget Speech to let the nation know how sincerely the United Progressive Alliance government is committed to people-oriented progress in India.

The work is gruelling. Long hours, deep thought, no relaxation. . . And Kishore -- who is a 1969 batch Rajasthan cadre IAS officer and who might soon rise to the top post of the bureaucracy as Cabinet Secretary -- has hardly slept for a fortnight.

Apart from his many tasks is also the coordination and monitoring of the timetable of the printing of the Budget speech. Everyday at 8.30 a.m., before the government offices open, he is busy perusing a check list on his table to ensure that everything is going ahead smoothly and will meet the different deadlines set for different parts of the Budget.

Freewheeling Finance Minister

For those who know that the task of Budget preparation demands total commitment in terms of time and effort, it is quite perplexing to see Finance Minister P Chidambaram flying off on frequent foreign trips: to Moscow, to Davos, to Tokyo. . . Especially when nothing other than the impending Budget should hold his entire attention. But insiders say that he is as concerned about the Budget as he is about the upcoming Tamil Nadu assembly elections and about the selection of the right candidates for the six seats in his parliamentary constituency.

While everyone else engaged in preparation of the Budget is required to cut off social contacts completely and stay away from the social gatherings until the D-Day, Chidambaram can be seen merrily attending dinners and get-togethers. The burden of the Budget sits light on his shoulders.

Sources say Chidambaram is able to take it easy since he found the adarsh (ideal) man in Dr Adarsh Kishore, who efficiently handles all these responsibilities.

Kishore can freely walk into Chidambaram's chambers whenever he notices anything awry in any taxation proposal that he has been asked to prepare. And if for some reason Chidambaram is not available, Kishore has been asked to communicate to S Krishnan, an IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre and Chidambaram's private secretary, whatever the finance minister needs to know. Chidambaram, who has full faith in Krishnan, knows his Budget will remain leak-proof.

Sources say that as a prize for providing relentless service to Chidambaram to keep him comfortable, Krishnan is tipped to go to the International Monetary Fund as a senior research fellow on the Indian desk around September.

Krishnan is the son of K Saranyan, a retired IPS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre who was the security advisor to late prime minister P V Narasimha Rao. Krishnan's father-in-law is K P Geethakrishnan, former finance secretary.

Meetings & More Meetings

Finance Secretary Adarsh Kishore has till date attended eight meetings on Budget 2006-07 with the prime minister.

Apart from these meetings, Kishore has also held three crucial meetings at the Prime Minister's Office with three key officials: T K A Nair, principal secretary to the prime minister; Rajiv Ratna Shah, member secretary, Planning Commission; and Arun Bhatnagar, member secretary of the National Advisory Council.

Insiders say these latter meetings were more crucial than the ones Kishore had with Dr Singh.

Teams That Make the Budget

There were two teams that were involved in the preparation of the Budget, one political, the other official. The political team consisted of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Economic Advisory Council Chairman Dr C Rangarajan.

The official-level team includes:

T K A Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister,
Dr Adarsh Kishore, Finance Secretary,
Ashok Jha, Secretary, Economic Affairs,
K M Chandrasekhar, Revenue Secretary,
Parthasarathy Shome, Advisor to Finance Minister,
K. Mohandas, IAS (KL 74), Additional Secretary, Revenue,
Mrs M H Kherawala, Chairman, Central Board of Excise and Customs,
M. Jayaraman, Chairman, Central Board of Direct Taxes,
Mrs L M Vas, Joint Secretary (Budget), Department of Economic Affairs, and
S Krishnan, Private Secretary to Finance Minister.

The level of secrecy that has been maintained to ensure that there is no Budget leak is phenomenal, to say the least. A horde of the Intelligence Bureau sleuths have taken control of each and every movement and phone call of over a dozen officials in the ministry to ascertain that the Budget remains shrouded in secrecy till it is presented in Parliament.

Those who are being monitored include Dr Adarsh Kishore himself, two of his closest confidants in the Tax Research Unit (TRU) and five stenographers working on the computers delinked from the usual NIC hot link.

The IB surveillance scares those under its watchful eyes so much that they prefer not to speak to even their better halves and children lest they are accused of leaking out any Budget proposal.

Finance Secretary Adarsh Kishore now moves with the highest 'Z' security provided by Delhi Police, in addition to the IB men keeping watch on everything that goes on around him. He moves around with a police vehicle fitted with a wireless set.

Top Secret

The most closely guarded secret is the timing of the printing of the finance minister's speech and the taxation proposals. Insiders say the ministry hands over the material for printing either on midnight of February 25 midnight or early February 26 morning.

The Press Information Bureau officials admit that they are bundled into the press on the night of February 25 to get cracking with the press releases to be put out on February 28. Old timers say that manual typewriters used to be placed in front of the printing press in the underground sections of the North Block till the mid-nineties. After the computer revolution, compact discs are sent to the press.

On the night when the data in the computer, to which nobody except the finance secretary has access, is transferred to CDs to send them for printing. IB, CBDT, and Central Board of Excise and Customs officials stand in front of the computer and sign the list of each file of the confidential papers that is copied on to the CDs.

Delhi Police protection is available to prevent any possible attack on Kishore as the exact Budget proposals are crucial and are known only to him. In fact, he is so steadfast about it that he is himself keying in the taxation proposals, instead of relying on even trusted stenographers.

IB Everywhere

Every year around Budget time, IB asks Delhi Police to provide protection to the finance secretary. The IB chief is also in touch with him on a daily basis. An officer of the Joint Director rank supervises the IB network created at the Budget wing of the North Block. This officer keeps a close watch on the movements of junior or senior officials. Even the peons are under constant surveillance from the beginning of February.

How IB monitors Budget secrecy

A total of 24 officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police have moved to the North Block. It is a drill that is not known to many. These officers split into four groups and report to the Joint Director (VX). Their prime duty is to keep a watch on a select group of 40-50 officers belonging to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) and others engaged in the Budget preparations.

Since 2004 onwards, a powerful electronic jammer has been installed inside the finance minister's chambers as well as at the entry of the finance ministry corridors. The IB, thus, ensures that all mobile phones are jammed and no information is passed out.


All government publications are printed at the government presses, but not the Union Budget. There is a special printing press in the basement of the North Block to print the Budget. A tight security blanket is spread during the second half of February. Technical heads of the printing press are not permitted to go out of the press from February 24 onwards when they will get the most secret part of the Budget -- personal taxation -- for printing. Already other parts of the Budget are being printed by then.

IB Director E S L Narasimhan has made two secret and surprise visits to the printing press as he thinks he is equally responsible, along with the finance secretary, for ensuring the secrecy and sanctity of the Budget. He will be making at least five to ten visits, at different intervals, to the ministry to ensure that the IB sleuths posted there remain alert.

A mock exercise has been conducted in the past by sending an unknown person with fake papers inside the finance ministry at eleven in the night, just two days before the printing of the Budget. And if he is not nabbed by IB men or by finance ministry officials the entire IB team is kept under suspension for two years. Such is the alertness with which the IB functions for a fortnight.

The printing press itself is housed in a huge space in the depths of the North Block. The area is fully air-conditioned. Dr S Narayan purchased special printing machines just for the Budget in the year 2000, when he was finance secretary, to modernise the Budget printing process.


It is not only the finance ministry officials who are virtually locked in to maintain the secrecy of the Budget, but officials of five other ministries are also quarantined.

Among them are senior legal experts on taxation matters from the law ministry who are given the responsibility of checking the text and wordings of the taxation Acts. There are five law officers who attend the Budget meetings.

The Press Information Bureau officials selected for preparing press notes on the Budget to be distributed to the media as soon as the Budget is presented to Parliament are also locked up inside the ministry building just before the printing of the taxation proposals begins.

The chairmen of CBDT and CBEC also visit the printing press just a day before the Budget presentation.


The presentation of the Budget is in the following order:

Key to Budget
Budget Highlights
Budget Speech
Budget at a Glance
Annual Financial Statement
Finance Bill
Receipt Budget
Expenditure Budget
Customs & Central Excise
Implementation of Budget Announcements
The Macro Economic Framework Statement
The Medium Term Fiscal Policy Statement
The Fiscal Policy
Strategy Statement
The Statement under Section 7 of the FRBM Act

The Union Budget defines the nation's financial projections by the Union minister for finance for the forthcoming financial year and a financial review of the current fiscal year. Ultimately, however, Parliament finally decides the Budget.

The imposition of any central government taxes and distribution of government expenditure from public funds cannot be possible without an Act of Parliament, which examines and reviews all statements to ensure the proper dissemination of government expenditures.

Basically it is the Lok Sabha, the House of the People, whose approval is mandatory for the Budget to come into effect.

Proposals for taxation and expenditures can be initiated by the Council of Ministers, specifically the minister of finance. However, according to Article 112 of the Constitution of India, a statement of estimated receipts and expenditure of the Government of India has to be laid before Parliament in respect to every financial year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Under the fast lane, dreams for sale

By Amelia Gentleman International Herald Tribune

NEW DELHI The traffic lights beneath the IIT Gate overpass in southwest Delhi are set to stay red for 92 seconds. Some time ago, in a moment of thoughtful urban planning, a digital monitor was screwed above the lights, designed to let impatient drivers relax by counting down the seconds until they could progress through the junction.

No one can remember when the screen was last working, and the city's commuters are left to vent their fury at the motionless traffic by endlessly hammering at their horns.

The hawkers who weave their way between the stationary cars and rickshaws never looked at the clock anyway: Their working existence is divided into 92- second cycles, and they can sense the disappearing seconds instinctively.

For Dhiraj Kumar, an 18-year-old bookseller, the efficiency with which he uses these minute-and-a-half bursts of activity determines whether he can eat, save money for his younger sisters' marriages, and send enough home to his village in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar to stop the local loan sharks from seizing his family's land.

As the lights turn red, Kumar, with a flick of the wrist, turns a pile of 10 paperbacks into a fanlike display, easily sized up by passing drivers.

In the six months he has been working this patch of dusty asphalt, he has developed a nuanced understanding of the public taste in popular literature. He knows what weary office workers want as they make their way home in the evening.

Sex sells, but not as fast as dream fulfillment; people want to find out how to get rich, how to be enlightened, how to find love. "The Magic of Thinking Big" (David Schwartz, 1959) promises in block capitals on the cover to explain HOW TO TURN DEFEAT INTO VICTORY. Spiritual rather than material self- help comes with another big seller, "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" (Robin Sharma, 1999), a fable about REACHING YOUR DESTINY.

Keeping up a fast rhythm, Kumar makes his way methodically from the front of the four-lane traffic junction, knocking on as many car windows as he can. He divides drivers into two categories: "Those who are friendly and encouraging, and those who abuse me and threaten to run me down." Women, he knows now, read more than men; people in expensive cars rarely wind down their windows.

He doesn't have time to discuss the merits of the books with his clients, which is fortunate because he hasn't read any of them. He left school at 13 without learning English and can't even decipher their titles. (He can tell the books by their covers, however, with help from more literate friends.) Is he curious about the contents of the books he is selling? "I've come here to earn money, not to read," he says.

Kumar has no need for these manuals, with their peculiar anecdotes drawn from an alien American society. His own life is a powerful example of ambitious determination in the face of adversity - of precisely the kind that self-help writers feed on.

Successive years of flooding have brought his family in their village in Bihar close to destitution; in desperation his father borrowed 55,000 rupees, about $1,200, last year to try to repair the land.

"The day he took that loan was a turning point in our lives," Kumar says. The new seeds were soon washed away by another violent monsoon, leaving the family with no means of paying back the loan.

"Farming the land barely brought us enough to eat," he adds, and quickly the high interest on the loan doubled the size of the debt. "The moneylender told my father that if he didn't have the money, he should send his sons out to work."

Kumar and his 12-year-old brother, Sindhu, left their parents and three young sisters last year, with 700 rupees between them. They traveled more than a thousand kilometers by train to New Delhi, where they met up with another boy from their village who taught them the principles of the book trade: how to pick out the best sellers at the Daraya Ganj Sunday book market in Old Delhi, where to buy cellophane to protect the volumes from the grime that sweeps along the highway.

Kumar had never visited the bigger cities near his home, but he won't admit to feeling overwhelmed on arrival in the capital. The only thing that alarmed him were the policemen, who periodically stop by to harass the sellers, seizing their takings and their books.

"To begin with I'd waste hours hiding from them," he says, "but then I realized that way I wasn't going to earn enough to eat."

Delhi is home to millions of migrant workers forced to flee desperate rural poverty, and Kumar quickly found his place among them, renting sleeping space on the floor of a room in a block of flats in Ganesh Nagar, eastern Delhi, alongside four other Bihari boys.

Every morning at 8, he squeezes himself onto the crowded 344 bus, joining a dozen other regular sellers at the junction shortly after nine.

Booksellers are near the top of the hierarchy of street hawkers: They run their own businesses, answer to no one, have clean clothes and make respectable profits. They earn about 30 rupees on every book they sell, and hope to sell at least 10 a day. If things go well, each boy sends home about 12,000 rupees a month to their parents.

Their friends who sell newspapers, dusters, flowers and flags look more worn down by their work, and their profits are lower.

Despite their truly destitute appearance, a large family of beggars from Rajasthan, who parade their tearful naked babies through the traffic, earns the most, Kumar says, because of their aggressive persistence. All the other sellers have to pay a daily fee of 20 rupees to the matriarch, who has worked the junction for so long that she regards herself as its proprietor.

Kumar tries to avoid the filthy children, who turn cartwheels as they beg, but he does not resent the family. "They're on the streets, too," he says. "They are in difficulty like the rest of us."

Along the central barrier there are government signs proclaiming, "Clean Delhi Green Delhi," but the leaves of the scrubby bushes by the roadside are blackened with car exhaust.

By 6 p.m. it is getting too dark for people to see the titles of his books, and Kumar pushes his way back onto a crowded bus to go home, exhausted and often coughing, after nine hours spent in the eight-lane traffic beneath the motorway overpass.

The evening before the two boys left home, Kumar's mother told him to "try to live a good life" in the city and to make sure his younger brother got enough to eat. He thinks she would be happy with him, but he wishes he were earning more so the debt could be paid off faster and he could return home.

"In my heart," he says, "I would rather be back in the village, working in the fields."

Indians are world's most optimistic

Majority of Indians are willing to purchase what they desire and invest in mutual funds and shares way ahead of their Asian counterparts, according to the latest global online consumer confidence survey from ACNielsen.

This positive outlook on job prospects and personal finances makes India an exciting country for consumer marketing, according to ACNielsen. The country is witnessing a retail boom, with more and more consumers (66%) excited about trying out new products and services.

Apart from that, disposable incomes are venturing beyond traditional savings to investments in the stock markets. About 44 per cent of Indians are willing to take the plunge into the continuously bullish market.

The ACNielsen Online Consumer Confidence and Opinion Survey, the largest half-yearly survey of its kind, is aimed at gauging current confidence levels, spending habits/intentions and current major concerns of consumers across the globe. The survey polled over 23,500 respondents in 42 markets from Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, Latin America and Emerging Markets

Looking back over the last six months, consumers in the Asia Pacific region and North America were the most optimistic, while the attitudes of Portuguese have worsened further over the previous six months.

"The positive outlook towards the job market has empowered Indian consumers with more disposable income than they have had at any time in recent history, creating a new set of consumers whose eagerness to splash out is not limited to the festive seasons," says Sarang Panchal, executive director, customised research services, ACNielsen South Asia.

"To capture the wallet of this new set of consumers, companies would be well advised to focus on innovative promotional activities with advertising and promotional budgets spread across the year, instead of concentrating them on festive occasions."
For the coming year, India is clearly the most optimistic country in the world. Indians have made a leap of faith and remain at the top of ACNielsen's global ranking, with a confidence index of 132 points - nine points ahead of the world's second most optimistic nation, New Zealand.

An overwhelming 92 per cent of Indians are expecting job prospects to increase substantially and about 87 per cent think that their personal finances will be in good shape.

"The impact of outsourcing and the flourishing of the IT sector have opened up a lot of avenues for the Indian youth. The key challenge at the moment is ensuring that adequate training and grooming are available to sustain this prosperity over time." adds Sarang. "Further employee satisfaction is likely to be the metric for this young breed of corporate associates," he added.

Consumers in Asia Pacific continue to ride a wave of economic buoyancy, with their confidence increasing in nine out of 13 markets. Even the Japanese and South Koreans, with the lowest confidence indices globally, have improved their prospects for the future. In Japan, 45 per cent more people believe they will have better job prospects over the next year, compared to the earlier survey.

Positive developments were also seen in European countries, in spite of prevailing economic and political conditions facing the region. North America, as well as Latin America, is generally positive on employment and financial prospects. 68 percent of North Americans look forward to good and excellent job prospects over the next 12 months.

Spending desires:

With wallets laden and increasingly competitive airline tickets, more and more Indians are opting for leisure vacations.The survey clearly points to home improvements (38%) and leisure holidays (37%) as the two pursuits Indian consumers are willing to indulge in. (Refer Chart IV & V)
On a global basis, 59 per cent of the world's consumers share positive financial expectations, while 61 per cent say they would rather not spend. Out of home entertainment, new clothes and holidays ranked top of the global list.

Europeans remain true to form by neglecting their savings, which came fifth (36%) before home improvements and decoration (35%). It is also interesting to note that in the fashion arena, France has lost their mantle as the second biggest spenders on new apparel, handing it to Spaniards (48%) and Italians (47%). Consumers in the US, Canada and South Africa continue spending mostly on paying down debt, while at the same time keeping themselves entertained out of home.

Asians, Australians and New Zealanders on the contrary are mostly focused on savings and paying off debt in the first place.

Major concerns:

While the major concerns for Indians over the next 12 months are the economy and their health, this number has dropped from 37 per cent and 31 per cent to 22 percent and 11 per cent respectively.

"Lack of adequate facilities in semi urban and rural areas is making healthcare a bigger and more serious concern for consumers and this will surely affect the development of the nation in future. But things are getting better with time, and a newfound interest in healthy living has lead to pursuits like visiting a personal trainer or taking health-rejuvenating holidays coming into vogue. This opens up a whole host of opportunities for marketers operating in the wellness sector," explained Panchal.

Globally, consumers continue to rank their major concerns as the economy, job security and health. The economy is the biggest concern for most Asian countries as well as the US, while job security is the top issue for Latin American. Health is the biggest or second biggest concern in Europe and North America. Polish consumers are worried over political stability, following the recent change of the country president.

Crime is by far the biggest concern in South Africa, followed by job security and the economy

'Our brands can conquer the world'

'Our brands can conquer the world'

Hear it from the horse?s mouth! Majority of the Chinese and Japanese think their brands are not up to the mark, advertising lacks the cutting edge and marketers are not doing enough to create buzz in their minds.

Compared to the low esteem of the teeming population of the dragon land, Indians feel their brands can conquer the world.

A new Asia-Pac consumer survey conducted by Grey Global and research firm Millward Brown shows that Indians are confident of their brands? equity.

An interesting aspect of the survey is that consumers in countries like Korea (home to brands like Samsung, LG and Hyundai) and Japan (Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, Toyota, Honda), showed lower confidence in their local brands compared to Indians.

The survey reveals that 81per cent of the Indians felt that brands in their country were world class, which was above the Asia-Pac average of 68per cent.

In fact, Indians were behind only the Kiwis and the Aussies in their confidence on local brands compared to the global standard. In China and Japan, less than 50per cent of those surveyed, believed that brands in their respective countries matched global standards.

This shows that consumerism in India has come a long way from the time when anything with an international tag was deemed to have a better image. That?s not all. A majority (71per cent) of Indian consumers also believed that advertising in their country is world class as compared to the average of just 53per cent in the Asia Pac region.

The Chinese and Japanese ad men need to shape up, as just about 21per cent of the consumers in China and 43per cent of those in Japan felt that advertising in their homeland was world class.

While Indians in particular believed that marketers are doing a good job, less than half of their counterparts in Taiwan, Japan and China concurred. In the region, Indian marketers were only a step behind their counterparts in the Philippines as more Filipinos (87per cent) felt marketers were doing a good job compared to the Indians (86per cent). However, more Indians (96per cent) think that their country needs to be more innovative compared to the regional average of 93per cent.Chinese were on the top of table, 99per cent of those surveyed felt that their country needed to be more inventive.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Take a ride in this Rickshaw in POLAND

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Beauty of SNOW- Netherlands Covered in SNOW

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Nitish Kumar's Interview in The Financial Express

Today?s edition of The Financial Express has an interview with Mr. Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar.

Nitish Kumar says, ?The basic challenge before us is to build Bihar?nothing can wait.?

Some of the highlights of recent initiatives taken in Bihar as elucidated in the interview:

Adequate delegation of power to various departments. Earlier, state cabinet had the monopoly in taking decisions.

Bihar has to be built on its core competency of agriculture and human capital.
Simplification of procedures for effective utilization of central government funds through budgeting.

Confidence building measures among investor community to remove the "investor unfriendly" tag from Bihar's name. As a result investors are showing interest in fields like sugar industry, hospitals, and educational institutions.

Investment promotion board has been set up with powers to clear investments up to Rs 100 crores. Only for investments above Rs 100 Crores cabinet approval is necessary.
Plans for modernization of police force. Recruitment of police force to make it more youthful and energetic. Current average age in Bihar police is 37+ years!

World Bank is currently processing Bihar Livelihood Project. Efforts on to persuade ADB to include Bihar on its list of priorities. Other funding organizations are being contacted.

Ordinance in pipeline to implement fiscal responsibility.
A decision to unbundled Bihar SEB has been taken to improve power situation in the state.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A Curse Of History -

A Curse Of History
Long ago, girls were killed to protect them from Muslim invaders. Now, it's dowry.


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Punjab has a long history of doing away with newborn girls. The preferred method today is foeticide after a sex determination test, but centuries ago, the practice was to bury them. This tradition perhaps goes back to the days of repeated invasions by Muslim armies from the northwest, who used to carry off girls as booty for their own pleasure or to be sold in the slave markets of the Middle East. Today, it is the extortionate dowries that parents of girls have to provide on her marriage. The custom of polyandry in Punjab probably arose out of the shortage of girls?the eldest son of a family would take a wife, his younger brothers would also have access to her.

One of Guru Nanak's oft quoted hymns condemns the denigration of women: "We are born of women and nurtured by them, we fall in love with them and they bear us sons and daughters.

How can you belittle women who give birth to kings?" His words had little impact?the killing of newborn girls continued as before, though practised more among the land-owning zamindars than by the common folk.

At the end

of the first Sikh war, when the British annexed half of the Sikh kingdom, the Sikh zamindars of the region met John Lawrence, who had been appointed commissioner, to confirm their land holdings. He insisted on their signing pledges that they would not bury lepers alive, refrain from burning widows and stop burying newborn girls. The zamindars protested, saying Lawrence had promised that the two sides would not interfere with each others' religious customs. Lawrence agreed that he had indeed done so, adding that British religious custom was to hang anyone who followed these practices. That put an end to sati and the murder of lepers, and though female infanticide was checked, it probably continued surreptitiously.

After Independence, and the passing of the Hindu Code Bill giving equal rights to inherit ancestral property to sons and daughters, things again took a turn for the worse, with the murder of newborn girls gaining momentum, especially in propertied families. With medical science able to detect the sex of the child in the womb, the practice has become much more widespread, resulting in a situation today where the ratio of females to males in Punjab is the lowest in the country.

Religious leaders and institutions like the SGPC and the Akal Takht make only feeble attempts to put down this criminal practice, and their efforts have failed miserably. 'Kuree Maar' (daughter-killer) is a common abuse in Punjab?an abuse that those who indulge in the practice have learnt to take in their stride.

They Call BIHAR as Backward-See PUNJAB the most backward State

Death Becomes Her

Punjab has the worst sex ratio in the country. Female foeticide is at an alarming high. The worst culprits are the affluent.


Kulwinder Kaur Housewife: "I have two daughters and my mother-in-law is threatening to get another wife for her son if I don?t have a boy.

I got an abortion done last year when the scan showed it was a female foetus. This time I have been lucky."

Simran College Lecturer:

"I have one girl and cannot afford to have another daughter. It?s so difficult to marry them off as boys demand hefty dowries. I have undergone five abortions at a private nursing home as all of them were female foetuses. I may not be able to conceive again."

Kashmiri Devi Housewife: "I?ve two daughters, after which I had four abortions because the foetuses were female. Now, I want to have a son of my own so that he can take care of us in our old age."

Satinder Kaur Wife of a landed farmer: "I have one daughter, and I

know that if I don?t have a son soon my status in the family will come down.

Femicide is not an issue in our family. I got my last pregnancy aborted, it helped me to limit our family size. Otherwise I could be saddled with a whole lot of girls until I get a boy."

Satnam Singh Sarpanch, Nai Majara: "No matter what people might say, at heart everyone wants a son. Imagine the plight of a couple who has two daughters in a row. Life in Punjab is cruel for those with too many daughters."

Look hard and you won't find anything out of the ordinary in Dhanduha village in Punjab's Nawanshahr district. But anganwadi worker Harminder Kaur knows well the foul secrets her village keeps. As she produces her register, which maintains a record of all births which take place in the village, she says, "I've been telling these women not to go in for female foeticide as it's against the law and bodes ill for our society." Words which most anganwadi workers and health department officials in rural Punjab can mouth in their sleep.

Dhanduha's register shows that of the seven babies born in the last six months, there were six boys and just one girl. In the last one year, against 12 boys only three girls were born, and in the last five years, 34 baby boys were born as against only 18 girls. A sex ratio of just 529:1000!

But it's not fair to point fingers at Dhanduha. Everyone in the district knows of Nai Majara, the village where an on-the-spot survey conducted by deputy commissioner

Krishan Kumar a month ago, of children in the 0-1 age group, came up with a ratio of 437:1000. A local NGO staged an instant demonstration in the village but its sarpanch Satnam Singh wrings his hands in despair. "It's such a shame for our village, but what can I do? This happens everywhere." Sure it does. And much more than anyone previously imagined.

Gobindpura is a village just off the main road to Jalandhar, with pretty bungalows built with money sent home by its expatriate population. With its fields of yellow mustard, the wheat crop just beginning to ripen and the juicy sugarcane ready for harvesting, Gobindpura presents a picture of agrarian prosperity. A prosperity which many feel is responsible for the village's fast falling sex ratio. Out of the 24 baby boys born in the last one year, the village produced just 10 girls. A sex ratio of 416:1000. A few years ago it was slightly better, at 636:1000.

Nawanshahr district's gory secrets began tumbling out when Krishan Kumar took over as the deputy commissioner in May last year. Kumar took it upon himself to improve the female sex ratio of his district to a respectable level.

Nine months into the campaign and Nawanshahr has uncovered a sordid story of rampant female foeticide which goes on with the active participation of the state's health department officials. It all began when Kumar initiated a survey of all children from 0-6 years in the 477 villages of the district, to gauge the extent of the problem in his area. It turned out that there are 16 villages where the ratio is in the range of 500:1000. And 65 more villages recorded a ratio of below 700:1000. These are prosperous villages in the state's Doaba belt. Mud houses are a rarity in these parts, and grand mansions built by NRIs or even prosperous villagers are common. Incidentally, Nawanshahr had emerged as one of Punjab's better districts according to the sex ratio mapped in the 2001 census, in which it stood at 808:1000. By 2004, it had fallen to 775.

Kumar suspects the situation in the four towns of the district, still to be surveyed, would be much worse because of greater accessibility to scanning centres and clinics. Villages like Sekhopur, Kador, Sultanpur, Sajawalpur, Jatpura, Kherevewal and many others like them, all with a sex ratio below 700:1000, are a sad reflection of a chilling trend which, despite the 'efforts' of the government machinery to enforce the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PNDT) Act, refuses to ebb.

When statistics tabulated by the 2001 census came out a few years ago, the country sat up and took note of the dismal sex ratio which the prosperous, green revolution states of Punjab (793:1000) and Haryana (820:1000) threw up. The government framed laws to deter would-be mothers from tearing out female foetuses from their wombs. The state machinery launched awareness drives, and researchers enthusiastically set off for the villages with satchels filled with questionnaires. But the mothers continued doing what they must in the gender-biased society which they inhabit. At Dhanduha, a clutch of mothers and pregnant women look the other way when asked whether sex determination testing is common in their village. The village midwife or 'dai', Jeeto, is the only one who speaks up. "It's quite simple. They all go to Banga (a nearby town) to get tests done. Most girl foetuses are simply aborted."

Everywhere in Nawanshahr, people talk about a well- entrenched network of educated 'dais', nurses, midwives and doctors, encompassing private practioners and those from the government's health department, who facilitate violations of the act with impunity. Paramjit Kaur, the child development project officer of Banga block, admits candidly, "Health department officials, particularly the auxiliary nurses and midwives (ANMs), lady health visitors (LHVs) supervisors and doctors are deeply involved in the business because these are the people who are intimately connected with pregnant women as part of their duties." A recently detected case of female foeticide in Naura village is revealing. Manjit Kaur and her husband Santokh Singh have been hauled up for allegedly aborting their female foetus at a nursing home in Hoshiarpur. Since Nawanshahr had become too hot to conduct a medical termination practice (MTP), because of the deputy commissioner's aggressive drive against female foeticide, Manjit simply went to a relative's place in nearby Hoshiarpur district and got her pregnancy terminated at Shashi Nursing Home and Scan Centre. Investigations have revealed that the nursing home is being run by a doctor couple, where wife Dr Shashi Bala is a former government doctor and husband Dr Gurdial Singh is none else than the district family planning officer in Hoshiarpur.

What's worse, Dr Gurdial also heads the district committee constituted to enforce the PNDT Act! A case has duly been registered against the nursing home. But it's common knowledge that government doctors in Punjab run private nursing homes and clinics on the sly in the name of their relatives or spouses. A sullen Manjit had only this much to say, "This is our fate. What can we do? Luckily the village is supporting us."

A few months into the campaign and Krishan Kumar realised that he needed to do some tough talking with the private and government doctors of the district. The meeting opened a can of worms. Private doctors accused doctors and staff of the government health department of indulging in large-scale sex determination scans and female foeticide. Says Dr Gurmej Singh Saini, a lady gynaecologist in private practice, "As vice-president of the Nawanshahr chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), I pointed a finger at the wife of chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Kuldip Kumar, who is working as a radiologist at the government civil hospital at Nawanshahr." Dr Saini alleged at the meeting that the woman in question conducts sex determination scans and then refers those desirous of undergoing abortions to dais, ANMs and doctors known to her, for a commission. Dr Saini also alleged that she is being pressurised by the CMO to conduct abortions on women referred by his wife, and that her nursing home was sealed for two months on false charges when she refused to do so. Reacting to the allegations against him and his wife, Dr Kuldip Kumar told Outlook, "Let them prove their allegations, then I will see. They are making false allegations because their business is suffering due to our enforcement."

In villages located close to towns like Nai Majara, it's easy for pregnant women to catch a bus to town and get a scan done. But more remote villages are serviced by nurses, and dais, who scour the villages for pregnant women and work either as middlewomen for nursing homes or do the abortions themselves. The government and private nurses are generally girls from the local villages, and officials see a link between the presence of a nurse or trained dai in a village to its low sex ratio. These nurses or dais charge anything from Rs 500 to Rs 3,000 for an abortion.

The civil surgeon of Nawanshahr, Dr Dilip Kumar, estimates that nursing homes charge anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 for a package which involves scanning the foetus and conducting an MTP if it's a female. The middlewomen pocket a hefty commission for every case brought by them. The PNDT Act has only pushed up the price?a sex scan now costs Rs 3,000 or so, as against the Rs 400 which a normal ultrasound costs.

The entry of untrained dais and nurses into the female foeticide business is also because abortion techniques have changed and now become much simpler. The earlier invasive surgical techniques for abortion, such as suction aspiration or syringe methods are fast becoming obsolete. Popular among Punjab's army of trained and untrained medics is the trend of chemical abortion wherein M cradil, a dye, is injected into the uterus which leads to intra-uterine death of the foetus, followed by its expulsion. Some prefer to give two injections of Prospadil, a hormonal formulation which leads to uterine contractions and expulsion.

Even with the kind of abysmal figures which Nawanshahr has turned up, the district has some good news to report too.

The entire state is watching with wonder the results of the rigorous anti-female foeticide drive undertaken by the district administration. Results of strict enforcement have begun coming in places like Khothran already. According to a government assessment in 2004, the ratio in the 0-6 years group in this village was 787:1000. Strict monitoring had increased it to 904:1000 by the end of 2005. Satisfying yes, but Kumar feels that even the better villages cannot be taken for granted because the socio-economic conditions which led to the problem in the first place remain. As Channan Singh at Nai Majara says: "It's all very well for the DC to launch a campaign, but will he help us to marry our daughters when the time comes? Boys nowadays ask for huge dowries. If it's an nri groom the amount doubles."

The emergence of the two-child norm and even the trend of one male child preferred by rural landed families nowadays are other factors encouraging female foeticide. Dr Renuka Dagar, a senior fellow with the Chandigarh-based Institute of Development and Communication, studied the phenomenon in 2003 and found that in one village of Bhatinda district, 40 per cent of the couples over 35 years of age had only one offspring, a male. With land holdings shrinking, people don't want too many children or even too many sons. Ensuring that the one child that they have is a male, she points out, is one more reason for the increase in female foeticide.

Death Becomes Her

(4 of 4)
The entire state is watching with wonder the results of the rigorous anti-female foeticide drive undertaken by the district administration. Results of strict enforcement have begun coming in places like Khothran already. According to a government assessment in 2004, the ratio in the 0-6 years group in this village was 787:1000. Strict monitoring had increased it to 904:1000 by the end of 2005. Satisfying yes, but Kumar feels that even the better villages cannot be taken for granted because the socio-economic conditions which led to the problem in the first place remain. As Channan Singh at Nai Majara says: "It's all very well for the DC to launch a campaign, but will he help us to marry our daughters when the time comes? Boys nowadays ask for huge dowries. If it's an nri groom the amount doubles."

The emergence of the two-child norm and even the trend of one male child preferred by rural landed families nowadays are other factors encouraging female foeticide. Dr Renuka Dagar, a senior fellow with the Chandigarh-based Institute of Development and Communication, studied the phenomenon in 2003 and found that in one village of Bhatinda district, 40 per cent of the couples over 35 years of age had only one offspring, a male. With land holdings shrinking, people don't want too many children or even too many sons. Ensuring that the one child that they have is a male, she points out, is one more reason for the increase in female foeticide.

A couple at the Baba Budha shrine near Jalandhar seeking a male child
It's not surprising to find that the overall sex ratio for Punjab is dipping further. According to data from the latest sample registration system of the office of the registrar general, the overall sex ratio at birth (considered a more accurate indicator of female foeticide) for Punjab is now 776:1000 (in 2001 it was 793:1000). In Nawanshahr district alone, the ratio fell from 810:1000 in 2001 to 775:1000 in 2004. Again, a state-wise analysis done recently by an Indo-Canadian team, which appeared in the latest issue of British medical bible Lancet, has found that if the first birth in a family is a female child, the figures for Punjab show a dismal sex ratio of 614:1000. This gets worse in urban areas, where it goes down to 560:1000. Described as the first systematic and scientific study on female foeticide, it was carried out by Prabhat Jha, formerly of the World Bank who is now with St Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, and Dr Rajesh Kumar of the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh. Dr Rajesh Kumar observes that their study reveals a cruel paradox: "Since our study shows higher incidence of female foeticide in well-off and better educated segments of society, we feel that Punjab registers the lowest sex ratio because of the relative prosperity of people here. This signifies that as prosperity levels go up, the problem will worsen in the years to come."

As for enforcement, out of the 77 cases registered in the last four years under the PNDT Act, there have been only two convictions so far?measure that against the estimated 10 million foeticides in 20 years. Health department officials say convictions are difficult to come by because there are no complainants. Consequently, evidence is difficult to get because both the patient and doctor have a nexus. A convenient nexus, which is fast catapulting Punjab towards sociological disaster.

No Fear of Bird Flu in India

Indian style of cooking kills bird flu virus

It can't survive Indian summer

Virus sensitive to common disinfectants
Need to dispose of culled birds
Report sighting dead birds to authorities

NEW DELHI: The Government on Sunday said it was safe to consume well-cooked chicken and eggs since the Indian style of cooking, involving deep-frying and boiling, killed the bird flu virus.

Highly sensitive to heat, the bird flu virus would not survive the harsh Indian summer. The avian influenza virus is sensitive to common disinfectants such as detergents, 10 per cent household bleach, alcohol and other commercial disinfectants. It is, however, difficult to inactivate when the virus is encrusted in organic material like faeces or soil.


Affected birds display symptoms like tremors, diarrhoea, head tilt, staggering and paralysis.

Close contact with infected birds can lead to human infection. Human beings, especially children, who come in contact with live infected birds, their mucus, droppings or even feathers stand a risk of getting infected. Symptoms of infection in human beings are similar to that of flu, namely difficulty in breathing, high fever, cold and running nose.

Avoid contact with chicken

While officials in the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare and Department of Animal Husbandry have asked people, particularly poultry farmers, chicken sellers, handlers and transporters, to avoid direct contact with chicken, they have also stressed the need to dispose of culled birds to control the spread of infection.

The Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) cull, dispose of and vaccinate birds in infected areas. Besides being administered Tamiflu, the RRT personnel wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The health status of cullers is being monitored and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has despatched 9,000 doses of Tamiflu, 2,000 sets of PPE to Maharashtra and 2,000 doses of medicine and 1,000 PPE to Gujarat.

The Veterinary and Forest Department staff who handle wild and migratory birds must wear rubber gloves, eyewear and protective clothing that can be disinfected or disposed of. The work surfaces and equipment used for testing have to be disinfected regularly and extra precautions must be taken not to eat, drink or smoke while handling these birds.

If one is in direct contact with infected birds or a contaminated environment, one must take an influenza anti-viral drug daily.

Sample collection

Those involved in sample collection have been instructed to see that wild birds are not harmed during collection of serum samples. Preference should be given to the leg vein instead of the wing vein while collecting samples as collection from the latter often results in haemorrhage, affecting the bird's flight. Collection of samples, packing and transportation is to be done in collaboration with trained staff from the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary departments.

All Chief Wildlife Wardens have been instructed to report bird deaths to the Ministry and assist the district veterinary authority while collecting serum and blood samples of dead birds.

Bird watchers too must report any sighting of a dead bird to the nearest Forest or Animal Husbandry office.

* * *

Control rooms set up

The Union Health and Family Affairs Ministry has set up a round-the-clock control room at Nirman Bhavan here.

The telephone number is 23061302 and the fax number 23061457.

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases at Sham Nath Marg has also established a control room. The telephone number is 23921401 and the fax number 23913028.

Nitish steps towards development

Piyush Pushpak

Patna: Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his ministers took to the roads on Sunday to participate in the 'Run for Development' marathon.

Thousands of people - including top bureaucrats, army personnel and children - ran the marathon that was organised by the Bihar Industries Association (BIA).

Accompanied by his team of ministers, Nitish walked the entire 5-km stretch from Rajendra Chowk near Rajbhawan to Kargil Chowk.

Earlier, Nitish had organised events like Patna Film Festival, Youth Festival and Doctors' conference. Such events, he says, are essential for the development of Bihar and also strengthen the solidarity among the people of the state.

Reacting to the programme, RJD President and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad that he had also organised a run for development from Gandhi Maidan when he was the chief minister. He added that such kind of event would not yield any fruitful result.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Task force on Bihar in plan panel..Kudos to PM Man Mohan Singh

PATNA: In pursuance of an initiative taken by PM Manmohan Singh, a special task force on Bihar has been constituted in the Planning Commission on issues relating to the economy of Bihar, its finances, governance and possible development strategies.

The former director and chief economist, Asian Development Bank and ex-chairman, Bihar State Finance Commission, Satish Chandra Jha has been made chairman of the task force.

The member secretary of the Planning Commission Rajiv Ratna Sah has already issued a notification to this effect.

The six members of the team are Saurav Srivastava, founder president of NASSCOM and ex-chairman of Xansa India Limited; Rajender Singh, ex-chairman NTPC; R K Sinha, former member UPSC and ex-industry secretary, Bihar; former deputy director general at ICAR P V Dehadrai; Nachiket Mor, executive director, ICICI bank, Mumbai and
Tarun Das, representative of CII.

The task force will submit an interim report within three months. The final report will have to be prepared within six months, said member secretary Shah in an official notification.

According to official sources, on the recommendation of the task force, the Planning Commission may appoint consultants for specific periods, in accordance with the prescribed guidelines, to carry out specific technical task such as data collection, collation and analysis.

The Planning Commission will be the nodal agency for the task force for inistrative, logistic and budgeting purposes. The Planning Commission will also make necessary arrangements for providing required office space, equipment and secretarial staff.

As per the terms of reference of the task force, it would submit quarterly reports to the deputy chairman and the Prime Minister for review and appropriate action.

It would analyse issues relating to the state of the economy of Bihar, sources of finances locally, nationally and globally- to fund the development of Bihar.

The task force would outline measures for expeditious implementation of on-going and new schemes; effective utilisation of state, Central and other institutional funds and steps required to attract more funds for development of the state.

It would also examine issues pertaining to governance, identifying constraints and suggest improvement for more their effective implementation.

The task force would also develop suitable mechanism for effective dialogue between the government of India and the government of Bihar.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


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My Team in Back ground and Me

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My Team Mates ( SANJEEV and NAGRAJ)

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Recently in a Cricket match ( Prize distribution)

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An Idiot?s Words: Bush on the Mahatma

An Idiot?s Words: Bush on the Mahatma

Yet again, George W Bush has reaffirmed through his own words how unintelligent the top man in the US was.

According to an amusing news article in Rediff.com, George W Bush?s protocol handlers have notified South Block that the American President?s deep belief in his born again faith precludes his visiting Mahatma Gandhi?s Samadhi at New Delhi?s Raj Ghat - during his forthcoming visit to India.

Not only he disgraced the highest chair of the world?s most admired nation championing secularism, he also unwittingly stamped his own approval on the theory that he is the Christian counterpart of Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden as far as religious zealotry is concerned. Remember his ?Crusade? against Osama?s ?Jehad? statement?

Should someone tell Dubya that he is bringing in radical religious beliefs to something called international diplomacy? Anyway, the unfortunate thing is that his advisors and cabinet members belong to the same Neo-con School of Brainwash & Bigotry for the Brainless.

We as Indians shouldn?t take offense or read much into whatever he said on the Mahatma for the Mahatma is beyond the words and comprehension of simpleton.

The Rediff.com article expresses outrage, shock and hurt over this and rues over mainstream media failing to pick this up. I don?t know if they knew about it at all, however, if they chose to ignore this as they would ignore the remarks, beliefs and ideology of a moron, they have my support.

The world would be a much better place if we ignored idiots like Bush and bin Laden. It will get rid of almost all the conflicts that we see today. Unfortunately, we are not doing that. However, fortunately for the world, the US would get rid of their stupid president in three years.

Ah! Some years are so long to pass.

Read the Rediff.com story here.

Muslim Headcount in the Army: Necessary or Dangerous

Muslim Headcount in the Army: Necessary or Dangerous

The Indian army has perhaps remained the last truly secular institution without prejudice or bias towards any religion, caste or creed. It is a truly national army where the chiefs have come from many religious backgrounds though none of them had been a Muslim so far.

The recent Sachar committee formed by the government in counting the number of Muslims in the Army, their trades in the forces, ranks etc with the intention to get an idea of the Muslim participation in the social and economic spheres have actually drawn flak from many quarters including the Army Headquarters itself. It said that it is going to hit at the core of the institution?s heart.

In my opinion, there is no harm in getting the information. The government has the right to know the current status of Muslims in India. Besides, though it may sound bad, with Muslim fanaticism growing, it always pays to be on the guard. Can the army completely rule out penetration by Islamic terrorists in its ranks?

National security should be a top concern for the government. However, knowing what community is doing how in the economic and social spheres must be welcomed should working to improve the status is at the back of government?s mind.

It is up to the army to tell it?s Muslim soldiers that such a headcount must not be taken as a personal attack and reason it before them rather than fighting the government against it.

Basant Panchmi celebrated in the Caribbean

Basant Panchmi celebrated in the Caribbean

NDTV Correspondent

Thursday, February 2, 2006 (Tobago):

Basant Panchmi was celebrated thousands of miles away in Trinidad and Tobago, but with a Caribbean touch.

Almost half the population of the island is of Indian origin.

They are the descendants of indentured labourers who were taken from the villages of UP and Bihar about 350 years ago to work in the sugarcane fields of Trinidad and Tobago.

Centuries later, what has been preserved down the generations, is the religious and cultural rituals that the Indian people carried with them.

But the mode of expression of the rituals is distinctly Caribbean.

Bihar scripts arithmetic of success

Bihar scripts arithmetic of success

Sumit Pandey
Updated 1000 hrs IST (+GMT 5:30), 16.02.06 Email Print

New Delhi: Students in Bihar are known for getting kidnapped.
But a survey conducted by National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) shows that Bihar's students are not only doing well, they're doing better than the kids in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

They may not get the right infrastructure or a good school to complement their talent, but Bihar?s young brains are toiling their way to the top.

Bihar's children are way ahead of other states in the country including the famed Kerala and Tamil Nadu when it comes to doing Math. In fact, these kids love maths.
?I love tables, calculations and the sums. I love studying math,? a girl student says.

The survey was carried out in over 500 schools spread over 108 districts of the country on a sample size of 88,000 students.
The results were startling and showed Bihar students topping mathematics with 63 percentage points as compared to Kerala where boys and girls scored a meagre 35. Students from UP students secured just 37 percentage points.

Those from Tamil Nadu came close with a relatively high 58 per cent. The survey was a proof enough that Bihar's underpaid teachers are winning a battle that had long seemed lost.

"We have a different way of teaching. We teach them by the play-way method. This way, they don?t even feel the pressure of conventional learning," a schooteacher from Bihar, says.

Politicians from Bihar are known for their political arithmetic and caste mathematic. And the students from the state, despite known infrastructre problems, are not far away when it comes to calculating and are much ahead of their counterparts.

Nitish gives Bihar a sweet surprise

Nitish gives Bihar a sweet surprise

Prabhakar Kumar

Updated 1529 hrs IST (+GMT 5:30), 15.02.06 Email Print

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is trying to put the state's ailing industries on track and his government's initiatives with the help of the Centre has started yielding results on ground.

The developmental spree promised by Nitish has given a fillip to the sugar market and has kicked off the opening six new sugar factories in Bihar.

Bihar once had 30 sugar-producing units making up 26 per cent of the national sugar production.

With the government?s latest initiative and the Centre chipping in to help, it almost seems that those days are back with

"It has been concluded that the state will get at least five to six sugar mills,? Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, said.

Out of the 30 sugar mills, only four units are functional as of now and even they are struggling to survive.

Sugarcane farmers in Bihar now see a new ray of hope. Most of them are either heavily in debt or leading a hand to mouth existence.

"We want to raise production of sugar to 5000 tonnes. To achieve that, we have announced a package and the state will fund the programme," Nitish Kumar said.

Even RJD ministers at the Centre seem to have joined the mission to bring back Bihar on the path of development and has made an effort to bring back smile on the faces of thousands of sugarcane farmers.

"For the sugar mill to work, we are ready to shed our blood for it. Anything to make it work," sugar cane farmer Virendra Yadav said.

Talks are under way to reopen all 30 sick sugar units and add an equal number of new sugar producing factories that would provide 40,000 jobs and livelihood to one lakh families.

Haal chaal

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Baldeo Kumar Pandey
Date: Feb 14, 2006 10:36 PM
Subject: Haal chaal
To: santoshpandeyca@gmail.com

Dear Santosh Ji,

I felt privileged to talk to you.I appreciate your organisational pursuit regarding Bhojpuri society.I hope we youth should be committed to especially unprivileged and marginalised people.You know that our Bhojpuri culture is not parochial as it spread worldwide.The socio-politico-cultural conciousness is in our blood.But we should not be complacent in relation to pressing issues of our society.

I congratulate you and your comrades for a noble cause and wish all the best.

Baldeo Pandey.
State Gen.Secretary & Spokesperson,
Youth Congress,Chandigarh.
Sector 38-A
Mobile 09815601768

O Khaike Pun Banaraswala

Khaike Pun Banaraswala
Bachi Karkaria

I would not, on a normal working day, accost a man in a wet loin cloth vigorously scrubbing his upper thigh, and engage him in small talk about moneylending and moksha.

But this was Banaras, and it seemed to be the most natural thing to do as, a sloka's throw away from Darbhanga ghat, I encountered Avinash-ji, who would turn into an accountant again as soon as he'd finished settling his daily debt to Ganga-ma.

Pausing in mid-massage, while I kept my gaze decorously within the modesty rekha, he told me that this sunrise hour was all he had to call his own.

After that he got caught up in such mundane matters as juggling the books for his merchant maliks. Like a karm-ically challenged soul, our conversation ricocheted between corruption and salvation.

Avinash-ji was both comrade and contrast to Adam, who kept his elongated earlobe at full stretch with a lotus carved pebble.

Like his body-pierced cohorts, he spent an hour at the cybercafe tracking finances, and the rest of the day coasting along the spiritual highway, from aarti to Zen. With weaving, hydrodynamics and/or surbahar in between.

My friends, all Hindu, had direly warned of shock and awfulness. Moloy shuddered. Neville advised, "Go with low expectations"; when I said they were already very high, he had snapped tersely, "Then shut your eyes."

Nandita had exclaimed, "Corpses!" and then launched into a ghoulish procession of "dead bodies ? loaded on tempos, carried in rickshaws, hefted on shoulders, crammed into taxis".

I half expected them to be standing at the airport with welcome garlands. As an infidel, I had no access to the believer's blinkers, so I arrived prepared for the worst. Masochistic disappointment.

For starters, there were only two desultory pyres on Harishchandra Ghat, incidentally the view of choice from the much-advertised 'Indiana Rooftop Restaurant'

The evening boat-ride got us a ringside seat at the packed aarti at Dasashwamedha Ghat. With the surround-sound of electronically amplified bells, conches and bhajans, the stylised movements and blazing red kurtis of the purohits, it was a theatrically cathartic performance for the spiritual tourist.

Complete paisa vasool came via the ash-smeared, matted-locked sadhu in tiger skin and trendy wire-rim glasses, swaying and clapping like a rock star. Banaras manages to survive the spiritual hardsell.

The firang accents may be louder, and previous centuries did not have the 'Bread of Life' cafe, the result of an American interior decorator's epiphany ("standing on the sacred banks, I heard a voice say 'Feed my sheep',") , but Banaras is old enough not to get carried away by today's insta-fervour.

It helped that I was cosseted in a more-haveli-than-hotel recommended by Meenal, the only friend who hadn't put a dampener. Shashank Singh runs the Ganges View on Assi Ghat with refined understatement (and underpriced hospitality).

It had the works ? ancient family mandir, heirloom artifacts, mataji meditating in an alcove armchair, breakfast cornflakes and shuddh Vaishnav dinner, Sunday classical concerts impresario-ed by a bicycle-riding Frenchwoman who's lived in Banaras for 15 years and always wears a sari (badly).

And, completing the cameo, American teenagers immersed in, Gap-Year spirituality, painstakingly colouring Shiva drawings on the sun-drenched terrace.

Digvijay plans 6-month stir against 3-month Nitish Govt

Digvijay plans 6-month stir against 3-month Nitish Govt

Amarnath Tewary/ Patna

After Mr Rahul Gandhi's recent thrust to reorganise the Congress and to regain lost glory in Bihar, the State party in-charge and general secretary Digvijay Singh on Tuesday declared that the party would launch an agitation on its own against the NDA Government in the State.

The party general secretary also said that he has suggested his State party leaders to a six-month agitation programme against the failures of the new NDA Government in Bihar.

Mr Singh also stressed that after the last Assembly poll in the State, the social base of the Congress has widened.

In the wake of crushing defeat of the Congress, during the last Assembly poll in the State, the party in-charge of the State put a brave face and declared that the party has all the freedom to chalk out its own plans and programmes without having any support or help from ally partner RJD."We need no help from any quarter to highlight the shortcomings of the NDA Government and launch popular agitation for the welfare of the people on our own," said Mr Singh.

"We've our own distinct political identity and history in the State and there is so need to seek support from any party including the RJD from outside to decide our plans and programmes", stressed party general secretary while addressing State party executives' meeting at party headquarters here.

This was the first meeting of party state executives, after the last poll in which party in-charge Digvijay Singh and all the other important state leaders including state president Sadanand Singh were present.

However, when asked about his opinion on the party's dismal performance in the last Assembly poll, Mr Singh armed with some social facts and figures put up a brave face and said that the party has in fact gained comparatively and it's support base has widened.

"If the last two Bihar Assembly polls are compared (the February 2005 poll and October-November) the Congress performed better in the second, while expanding its social base", he said.

While explaining his claim Mr Singh said that during the February poll in which the Congress was part of 'some messy coalition' and had contested 85 seats out of which on 51its candidates had lost their deposits. However, in the October-November election Congress had fielded it candidates on 51 seats and won on nine while stood second on 35 and lost deposits only on three seats, explained Mr Singh.

"Besides, the social base, even the vote share of the Congress increased during the last Assembly poll and now we'll try our best to expand it further," maintained the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.

When quizzed about Congress's future alliance with the RJD in the post-poll era, Mr Singh parried the question saying the party has its own base and political identity in the State.

"It is not necessary for the party to consult the RJD or anyone on its every political programme or plan," he said.

Despite the continuous opposition from the State party leaders to snap ties with the RJD during the Assembly election, Mr Singh had refused to toe the line and defended party's alliance with the RJD.

The party in-charge even had distributed party tickets reportedly on the advice and suggestions of RJD boss Lalu Prasad Yadav.

State party sources said that some organisational changes would also be done to strengthen the party and its base at the grassroots soon.

"In the changed political scenario and atmosphere the State Congress may be given a new look under alchemy of a new chemistry", said a party leader.