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Monday, July 25, 2011

3 tiers back in hills, but what next.. Prisoner of rhetoric

3 tiers back in hills, but what next
Gurung in Chungthung. Picture by Suman Tamang
VIVEK CHHETRI, TT,Chungthung, July 24: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is not sure how the three-tier panchayat system will be put in place in the hills despite its provisions in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration.
Bimal Gurung’s outfit, the Morcha, is one of the three signatories to the memorandum of agreement that will set up the GTA for the Darjeeling hills.
Since the Constitution has no provision for setting up two zilla parishads in the same district, the Morcha is unsure about how the new system would be implemented in Darjeeling district where the Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad is equivalent to the zilla parishad. The rest of Darjeeling district, according to the constitutional amendment of 1992, has a two-tier panchayat system.
The Morcha’s Darjeeling MLA Trilok Dewan today told party workers at Chungthung: “One of the biggest achievement for the hill people in the agreement is the revival of the three-tier panchayat system.”
But Dewan, too, was not sure how the provisions would be worked out. “We have to carefully look into how the implementation process would be carried out — when the bill for the GTA will be passed in the Assembly and an Act enacted. We have to see if the government will abolish the Mahakuma Parishad or will create a different district out of Siliguri to make way for the implementation of the three-tier system,” said Dewan.
However, the MLA was happy that the three-tier system had been agreed upon. “This provision of the agreement proves that the GTA is higher than the zilla parishad and it may be noted that only a Union Territory or a state is higher than the zilla parishad in the country. That the government is not being able to spell out the inclusion of three-tier system is an indication that the GTA is almost like a Union Territory,” said Dewan.
The Constitution was amended in 1992 after the DGHC under Subash Ghisingh was set up. Ghisingh was of the opinion that the functions of the zilla parishad would overlap with that of the council. Later, he had opposed even the existence of the two-tier system, which ultimately ceased to exist from 2006.
Lawyers in Darjeeling felt that a three-tier system would mean that the Constitution would have to be amended again. “It is now a political decision. If political parties decide on amending the Constitution, it would not be very difficult,” said a lawyer. However, the lawyer admitted that the major problem for the Mamata Banerjee government— another signatory along with the Centre and the Morcha to the GTA agreement — will be the Mahakuma Parishad. “Since the GTA will not involve the entire Darjeeling district… It will have to be an administrative as well as a political decision to clear the path for the implementation of the three-tier system in the hills,” the lawyer added.
At Chungthung, 26km from here, 370 people who once owed allegiance to the CPRM, GNLF and the CPM today joined the Morcha. Party president Gurung handed them party flags at a ceremony.
Prisoner of rhetoric
Keshav Pradhan, TNN, Jul 24:At first glance, Bimal Gurung may come across as a quintessential Nepali - cheerful and fun-loving, yet reticent. Be it dussehra or diwali or any celebration, he breaks into an impromptu jig with his supporters.
But under the veneer of such a happy-golucky disposition lies the heart of a politician hardened by years of poverty, deprivation and political violence. Born into a family of tea garden workers, Gurung, now 48, abandoned his studies while he was in junior school. He spent his teens and adolescent years doing odd jobs to support his family.
Gurung's life took a dramatic turn when Subash Ghisingh launched an armed struggle for a Gorkha homeland in 1986. He immediately joined Gorkha Volunteers' Cell (GVC), the police wing of Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) set up on the lines of Hitler's SS. All through the 28-month-long movement, GVC cadres carried out kidnappings, beheadings, bomb attacks, arson, social ostracism and other forms of persecution against anti-Gorkhaland elements, especially the Marxists. They also frequently ambushed security forces.
Robust and well-built, Gurung quickly made a name for himself as a top-notch GVC militant. People began to call him 'Patlebansko Bimal ' (Bimal from Patlebans, which probably derived its name from a bamboogrove) either out of fear or in derision. Patlebans is located in Tukvar, about five km from Darjeeling. At the time, people would call Tukvar a "mini-Beirut". Marxist and GNLF cadres would often engage in gun battles for its control.
Gurung and his Patlebans fighters left Ghisingh soon after the GNLF signed the 1988 Darjeeling Accord with the Centre and the West Bengal government that led to the formation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). They went underground for about four years after police started a hunt for them. After he resurfaced and surrendered in 1992, Gurung floated an organisation of unemployed youth and started working as a petty contractor. It was during this period that people started calling him a Robin Hood. A few years later, he returned to the GNLF and became close to Rudra Kumar Pradhan, DGHC councillor from Tukvar-Singhamari. After Pradhan was hacked to death by some disgruntled GNLF workers in 1999, Gurung replaced him in the DGHC. Ghisingh gave Gurung the charge of DGHC's sports and youth affairs department, an assignment that helped the young leader consolidate his position in the hills. Soon, the two became so close that people started saying Ghisingh would rule as long as Gurung was with him. Gurung and his followers would not allow Opposition parties to carry out their campaign against Ghisingh's bid to bring DGHC under the Sixth Schedule.
Life took a new turn for Gurung a little before the 2007 Indian Idol-III contest. Fissures surfaced once again between Ghisingh and Gurung over certain party issues. Bimal got a chance to hit back when his mentor declined to support Prashant Tamang, the Nepali contestant who had reached the finals of the reality show. He chose to go by the mood of the Nepali diaspora and set up 'Prashant fan clubs' to garner support for the singer. While Ghisingh lived in isolation, the clubs got funds from Nepali-speaking people from across India, Nepal, Bhutan, the UK, the US, Hong Kong and the Gulf for the voting rounds of the contest. Prashant's victory in the TV contest emboldened anti-Ghisingh organisations to openly oppose the DGHC chief 's excesses as well as the Sixth Schedule proposal. Seizing the opportunity, Gurung turned Prashant fan clubs into Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on October 7, 2007. He backed the people's opposition to Ghisingh's proposal to include DGHC in the Sixth Schedule. Most Nepalis opposed the move fearing disintegration of the community on ethnic and religious lines.
Within months, Gurung drove Ghisingh out of Darjeeling, forcing him to live in exile in the plains. He then revived and extended the Gorkhaland campaign abandoned by Ghisingh in 1988 to the Terai and the Dooars. To win popular support, he promised to follow Gandhi's path of non-violence. Soon, his image suffered a big dent after he imposed a dress code on the people and condoned ostracism of opponents. His detractors accused him of failing to stop fund raising and acquisition of government contracts by GJM workers.
The biggest threat to Gurung's leadership came when he and other GJM leaders were named in an FIR for the murder of Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League chief Madan Tamang on May 21, 2010. The case still hangs like the sword of Damocles over his head, weakening his power to bargain with the government.
After having accepted Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), Gurung faces the daunting task of justifying his decision to settle for an arrangement short of full statehood. For, he had earlier vowed to achieve a Gorkhaland state by March 10, 2010. Besides, his fellow Nepalis from the Terai and the Dooars may hound him if he fails to get their areas into GTA. Was it to avoid a possible political checkmate by his opponents that he did not sign the GTA accord himself and left that bit to other senior members of his team?
School hygiene
TT, Siliguri, July 24: The Guardians’ Forum of North Bengal today asked the Darjeeling district administration to form a joint inspection team to check the sanitary and hygienic conditions of St Joseph’s School, Matigara, in a week.
The demand comes in the wake of the death of Alana Ghosh, a four-year-old student of pre-KG of the school, at a nursing home here on July 6 because of encephalitis.
“Encephalitis is caused by virus. We know that there are not enough washrooms in the school where around 1,400 students study. The existing washrooms are in utter unhygienic state and are breeding ground for mosquitoes. Our children are exposed to all sorts of bacterial infections and viral diseases while using these washrooms,” said forum president Sandipan Bhattacharya.
The parents took exception to a report filed by a panel comprising the assistant inspector of schools and a deputy magistrate on St Joseph’s after the girl’s death. The report said the school had 62 washrooms and they were all spick and span.
Bhattacharya said if a joint inspection team of doctors, guardians and civil society members was not formed in a week, the forum would approach state education minister Bratya Basu.
R.N. Bhattacharya, the Siliguri MLA who is a doctor himself, said encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain caused by virus and is not mosquito-borne.
“Only Japanese encephalitis is mosquito-borne and contagious. Mosquitoes breed in swampy and shallow grasslands and not in toilets that are cleaned regularly. We have not heard of any Siliguri resident suffering from Japanese encephalitis.”
The school authorities could not be contacted.
Global Urban Vision – August 2011
(Compiled and Published by J.N. Manokaran ( on behalf of Glocal Resources Development Associates)
I India
1. Pregnant woman and daughter burnt to death for dowry: A pregnant woman and her minor daughter were allegedly burnt to death by her husband and in-laws for dowry in Ahirolia village in Bihar's East Champaran district, said police. The deceased, identified as Sunita Devi (26) and her 18 month-old daughter were allegedly burnt by her husband and in-laws after her family failed to fulfil their dowry demands, Paharpur police station in-charge Satyendra Prasad Singh said. The perpetrators of the crime dumped the body of the woman in a sugarcane field before fleeing from the village. The victim's father Bhikari Sah has lodged an FIR against four persons, including his son in-law Sadhu Sah, charging them with the murder of his daughter for dowry, police said adding investigation was on.( accessed on 27 June 2011.)

2. 50K tonnes of rice rotting in monsoon rains in Gadchiroli: Heaps of rice bags dumped in open, some covered with polythene, the rest uncovered and visibly wasting away, catches your eyes as you pass by the procurement centre of Maharashtra State Co-operative Tribal Development Corporation (MSCTDC) across Gadchiroli district. Over 5.33 lakh quintals of rice procured under central government's price support schemes is rotting in monsoon rains, thanks to lack of space in the godowns and apathy of department towards transporting it to the safer locations. The tribal and underdeveloped Gadchiroli district has two divisions of MSCTDC - Gadchiroli and Aheri. Thanks to the apathy of higher-ups in the corporation, entire capacity of rice procured under central government sponsored scheme since last three year has not been transported out of the district. The reason officer's state is that the transporters have denied transporting the grains at meager rates offered by the corporation. It is indeed ironical and extremely unfortunate, the over 50,000 tonnes of rice is left for rotting in the unprivileged district where hundreds of kids die of malnutrition and elders joins Maoist rebels for their inability to earn and feed their destitute families. Government pays higher wages and extra allowances to the government and police personnel against the risk involved in working in Naxal-infected areas. But it is ironical that the civilian contractors and the transporters, who risk their property and even the lives of men employed by them, do not get justified returns from government while carrying out works in Naxal areas. ( accessed on 27 June 2011.)

3. Cops bust rave party near Mumbai, 300 youngsters rounded up:The crime branch, in a joint operation with the local police, busted a rave party at a resort in Khalapur, Raigad district, late on June 26; the day has been declared as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking by the UN.. Nearly 300 youngsters, including 60 girls, were rounded up. A Mumbai police officer was also among those detained from the Mount View Resort on the old Mumbai-Pune highway. The youngsters could either hail from Mumbai or Pune as both the cities are close to Khalapur. (Vijay Singh, accessed on 28 June 2011.)

4. Alcohol, not milk for tribal children in Andhra Pradesh: A television channel in Andhra Pradesh has caught on camera children as young as two years drinking toddy, often served to them by parents who do not have meals or milk to offer. iNews says that parents in tribal areas of the Mahbubnagar district have been using adulterated locally-brewed alcohol to put their children to sleep. This allows adults to head out to work. Heath authorities say that trouble in accessing some parts of these villages makes it tough to deliver milk to poor families. They also say that culturally, tribals here have a long tradition of giving toddy to their children. Anganwadi centres - meant to serve as day care centres run by the government for children from poor families - will be closely monitored and studied to uncover why they are not serving tribal families in the regions. ( accessed on 30 June 2011.)

5. Chennai: youth turning to robbery? Two young boys snatch a gold chain to take their girlfriends out for a new year's party. It is not just the story of films anymore - young professionals and college students are resorting to this in alarming numbers in Chennai. Police say 72 cases of chain-snatching have been reported in the last month and a half and 49 people have been arrested. Chennai Commissioner of Police JK Tripathy said, "It's a disturbing trend that to my knowledge at least 15-20 per cent of the accused are not the types that are expected to commit such crimes. There are employees of different organizations, there are students, girl students studying in colleges." In 2009, 319 cases of chain snatching were reported from the city. The figure went up by 16 per cent in 2010 with 370 cases reported. And in the period between January and May this year, 177 such cases have already been reported. Dr M Priyamvadha, Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Madras says, "Committing a robbery or burglary is a difficult task. Chain snatching is not a difficult task. Because of peer pressure they commit a lot of crimes. One things for fun they commit crimes, for thrill they commit crimes." Police say that youngsters often resort to such opportunistic crimes to fund their extravagant lifestyles. (Pratibha Parameshwaran, accessed on 1 July 2011.)

6. No of drug users shoots up 33 times in ten years in Meghalaya: According to survey conducted by India Drugs & Aids Care (NEIDAC) the number of drug users has increased 33 times in the past 10 years. The total number of drug users in 1999 was just 556 compared to the latest figure which has gone up to 17, 833. In Jaintia Hills district, which has coal mines and where there are migrant workers, has the highest concentration of drug users at 5398. Ri Bhoi district has 2397 drug addicts, West Khasi Hills district 1525, East Garo Hills 1500, West Garo Hills district 1100 and South Garo Hills 800. 30 per cent of the addicts inject themselves, while sniffing and popping methods are also followed.( accessed on 3 July 2011.)

7. The Silent Epidemic: The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore estimates that two crore Indians need help for serious mental disorders, while a further five crore suffer from mental illnesses not considered very serious. These figures do not include neurological age-related progressive disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Nimhans also estimates that at least 35 lakh Indians need hospitalisation on account of mental illnesses. But the country has only 40 institutions that are equipped to treat patients suffering from mental disorders. The total number of beds is less than 26,000. Of these 40 institutions, only nine are equipped to treat children. Moreover, many of them are medieval-era, asylum-style institutions with high boundary walls, artificial barriers and patients kept in solitary confinement. A report published in the June 2011 edition of The Lancet states that one in every two adolescents globally suffers from neuropsychiatric disorders. The study also estimates that one in five adolescents has an emotional, learning or development disorder while one in every eight has a serious mental disorder. The most common of these are depression, alcohol abuse, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder comprising more than 45 per cent of the disease burden among young people in the age group of 10-24, the study adds. "At least 20 per cent of Indian children suffer from some form of mental disorder, of which about 2-5 per cent are serious disorders," says Manju Mehta, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, at Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences. "Irritability, sleeping and eating disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders, if ignored, could later manifest as more serious concerns," she adds. India's District Mental Health Programme is currently trying to include mental illness treatment in PHCs but has been able to do so only in 125 of the 625 districts till now. In Bangalore, between January and December 2010, six software professionals committed suicide; at least three of them were being treated for severe depression before they ended their lives. NIMHANS estimates that India needs at least 12,000 psychiatrists. The reality is, there are less than 3,500 registered psychiatrists in the country. That's approximately one psychiatrist per 3,00,000 people. Even China, with over 100 million reported cases of mental illness, has one psychiatrist per 1,00,000 people whereas in countries like Australia, the number is as high as 100-150. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2020, mental depression will be the largest cause of disability worldwide. It also says that by 2025, mental illness will catch up with heart disease or may even overtake it as the biggest global health concern. A NIMHANS study has found that more than 35 per cent patients who go to see a general practitioner report psychological concerns. The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear.(Nirmala Ravindran, India Today 11 July 2011, p. 50-51)

8. The horror of Indian jails: Moradabad Central Jail in Uttar Pradesh is so chock-a-block with inmates that there isn't enough space for them to sleep. So the 2,200 inmates in the jail, which is supposed to house only 650, sleep in shifts. Each morning when 600-odd prisoners go to court for their trial, the pressure eases somewhat and some inmates get their share of a 6ft x 2ft cell. Overflowing with prisoners, with one waterless clogged toilet for every 100 inmates, where bad odour becomes a part of one's life and food is severely rationed-India's jails are less correctional centres and more crime dens where 'bladebaazi' (the use of surgical blades to settle scores) is rampant and extortion extensive. There are violent fights over even a bucket of water. What's worse, 70 per cent of the total 300,000 inmates in India's 1,356 prisons have not been convicted of any offence. They are undertrials, most of them victims of police high-handedness and a grindingly slow judicial system. Of them, nearly 2,000 have spent more than five years behind bars without being convicted of any crime. If one juxtaposes these figures with the overall conviction rate in the country-a measly 6.5 per cent-the injustice of the system stands starkly exposed. An extensive investigation by India Today reporters across the country has exposed a dark sub-culture thriving in jails across the country, not very different from the murky underworld of organised gangs and criminals. In the absence of proper legal aid, the poor and the vulnerable, especially women and youngsters, unwittingly become part of the sordid system.Jails in Bihar are amongst the worst in the country. Underworld dons continue to operate from behind bars, thanks to mobile phones and lax security arrangements. Delhi's Tihar jail may boast of foolproof security but 2G scam accused Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables director Rajiv Agarwal, managed to smuggle in a BlackBerry phone. According to him, life in prison can be comfortable if one has money and is not in the media glare. Four 'VIP' inmates at Bangalore central jail, serving life for murders, were found routinely going out for a meal as well as to broker land deals. The richer inmates even "hire'' the poorer ones to do menial jobs, including cleaning and sweeping the cell, washing clothes and filling water. However, money can be a double-edged sword. It buys little luxuries but it also attracts extortion gangs.Jail authorities, however, refuse to take responsibility for the behaviour of inmates. Jharkhand inspector general of prisons (retired) Sabhapati Kushwaha says that barring a few exceptions, jails have become orphans in most states. The Government's indifference to the condition of jails defeats the basic purpose of crime control. In the women's Jail No. 6 of Tihar, nearly 90 per cent of inmates are undertrials. Helplessness, frustration and psychological disorders are common. In India, since the conviction rate is poor, pre-bail detention is used as punishment. Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily says that the government is planning to introduce a Right to Justice Bill, whose highlight will be a time-bound justice delivery system. It remains to be seen if the ills plaguing Indian prisons get addressed. (Bhavana Vij-Aurora, India Today 4 July 2011, p. 32-36.)

9. Dharavi in Mumbai is no longer Asia's largest slum:Dharavi , spread over 557 acres and housing nearly three lakh people, is no longer Asia's largest slum. Mumbai has at least four larger contenders for the dubious distinction, some of them three times the size of Dharavi. Though, the island city is now largely free of slums. The erstwhile smaller slums in the suburbs have metamorphosed into contiguous, larger slums. The Kurla-Ghatkopar belt, the Mankhurd-Govandi belt, the Yogi and Yeoor hill slopes stretching from Bhandup to Mulund flanking the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) on the east and Dindoshi on the western flank of the National Park have all eclipsed Dharavi. While the profile of the suburban slum sprawls is still to be established, the Mankhurd-Govandi slums that have sprung up at the base of the Deonar dumping ground are known as a "dumping ground" for the city's poor. It has the lowest human development index in the city and is constantly in the news for malnutrition deaths. Moreover, following earlier trends, the slums have come up on hill slopes and mud flats. The island city is largely clear of slums except on the fringes, like Dharavi in the north, Antop Hill in the east, Geeta Nagar and Ambedkar Nagar in the south and Worli village in the west. Since 2005, the BMC's action against slumdwellers, as part of its road widening projects, seems to have had a transformative effect. Significant initiatives were the clearing of slums along Senapati Bapat Marg from Mahim to Elphinstone and P D'Mello road from the General Post Office, Mumbai CST, to Wadala. The exercise of mapping the slums was done by architect and civic activist P K Das, who has been involved with the rehabilitation and resettlement of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park slum-dwellers through the Nivara Hakk Sangharsh Samiti. Data from the 2011 census shows there are 3.1 crore people in the island city and 9.3 crore in the suburbs, while nearly 78% of the city's population lives in slums. Population density in the suburbs is the highest in the state, at 20,925 persons per sq km, whereas it is 20,038 person per sq km in the island city. Official sources said while the government wants to ensure housing for the urban poor, there are legal issues as the Slum Redevelopment Act mandates free housing for structures protected up to 1995. However, urban development officials attributed the lack of progress to the strong builders lobby opposed the scheme as the present SRA scheme ensured a profit of nearly 40%. (Clara Lewis, accessed on 6 July 2011.)

10. Private hospitals are not hotels to charge exorbitantly: SC: Criticizing the Delhi's big private hospitals for their steep charges, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said that they are acting like star hotels and have not kept their promise to treat the poor -- 25% outdoor and 10% indoor -- free of cost. "You got the land at a very cheap rate from the government because of this promise. If you admit a poor patient but ask him to pay for everything, it is not free treatment," said a bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik as it gave the hospitals two weeks to prepare a comprehensive plan to give effective free treatment. The hospitals had moved the Supreme Court against the order of the Delhi High Court directing them to fulfill their promise to provide free treatment to poor. The apex court which had stayed the HC order warned that it would withdraw the freeze if the hospitals failed to meet the two-week deadline to submit their free treatment plan. The court brushed aside the argument put forward by the counsel for big hospitals Mukul Rohatgi that given the high cost of treatment and medicines, most of hospitals would be out of business if the poor patients were to be given everything free of cost. "It is not a hotel that your doctor will come, just say hello to the patient and then charge for everything. What is the fun in admitting poor patients in free beds and charging him exorbitant money. They are not beggars. They are entitled to free treatment as it is their land which has been given to you," the bench said. The outrageous fees of the private hospitals also came in for sharp remarks from the court. The bench said: "Do you know the price difference between a government hospital and a private hospital even for a CT scan? Unless you have a charitable attitude, the medical treatment will be meaningless. It is happening in educational sector. Everything is done only for commercial gains, nothing for charity." In Delhi, private hospitals and schools are provided public land at cheaper rates on the condition that they would earmark one-fourth of beds and seats for economically weaker sections. The promise is seldom kept by the beneficiaries of the scheme, it is alleged. (Dhananjay MahapatraDhananjay Mahapatra, accessed on 6 July 2011.)

11. Jealous of marks, Kolkata student kills classmate:A student beat a classmate to death in a south Kolkata school on Wednesday because he allegedly envied his stellar performance in the Class X board examination. Once a close friend of the victim, the alleged killer, who is 16, has been missing since the murder. The victim, Raja, had scored higher marks and was studying science, while the other boy barely passed and managed a seat in commerce, said Raja's friend. Raja dreamed of becoming a doctor. Some students said the accused wanted to copy Raja's answer script in the Madhyamik exam, but Raja refused. Then the accused turned vicious. The murderer taunted Raja at the school gate. This time, Raja stood up to him. This angered the accused so much that he punched him and banged his head repeatedly against the wall. Raja screamed, but no one came to his rescue. It was only when the accused left him unconscious, that his classmates took him to a hospital. He died a little later due to severe haemorrhage in head and chest. ( accessed on 7 July 2011.)

12. Chennai: 20 rabies deaths in 6 mths, health workers worried: At least 20 people have died of rabies at the Government General Hospital in the city in the last six months. Last month, three died of the virus, spread through dog bites. The increasing number of such deaths is worrying public health workers. Though the records at the general hospital alone point to 12 deaths in 2010 and 13 deaths in 2009, none of these were recorded in the national registry. In 2009, Tamil Nadu recorded three deaths against 263 across the country and in 2010 it recorded two deaths against 162 nationally (source: National Health Profile 2010). The Government General Hospital reported two rabies deaths each in April and May this year. Rabies is caused by a virus that is transmitted to humans through the infected saliva of a range of animals. In many cities, dogs have been the primary cause for spreading the virus. Officials at Chennai Corporation maintain that dog population in the city has not been on the rise. "We have outsourced dog population control to NGOs. They sterilise the animals, give them anti-rabies vaccines and let them out in the same area,"said a health department official. He said most dog bites took place in suburban areas outside city corporation limits.(Pushpa Narayan, accessed on 7 July 2011.)

13. Movies promote smoking, finds UK study on Delhi children: The sight of a Bollywood actor puffing away a cigarette in a movie inspire teens to pick up smoking, says a study published online on July 5 in the British Medical Journal. According to the findings: a cross-sectional sample of 3,956 adolescents (classes VIII and IX, ages 12-16 years) from 12 randomly selected New Delhi schools was surveyed in 2009. It included assessing tobacco use status, receptivity to tobacco promotions (based on owning or willingness to wear tobacco-branded merchandise) and exposure to its use in the movies. Dr Monika Arora, principal investigator of the study claimed this was the first survey of its kind conducted in India and the subjects were asked to recall Bollywood movies they watched that were made between 2006 and 2008. The survey led to the subjects listing out 59 films that had 162 shots of tobacco-use scenes that they could recall. At least 11.8 per cent of the adolescents were found receptive to tobacco promotions from the Bollywood movies. The findings of the survey indicate that exposure to tobacco use in the movies was significantly associated with the demographic profile of the adolescents and other risk factors such as social influences and characteristics of adolescent and parenting. Those who were receptive to tobacco promotions or who had tobacco users as friends were also significantly more exposed to movie smoking. Exposure was also significantly higher for those with higher level of sensation seeking and, surprisingly, for those with more authoritative parents. Dr Arora said that relevance of first-ever tobacco use was significantly higher among those adolescents who were highly receptive to tobacco promotions. Be it a cigarette, beedi, cigar, pipe or even a smoky background in films, the two-way association between films and smoking was studied by asking the adolescents a variety of questions including: Do you have an item (like a T-shirt, cap, poster, belt or water bottle) that bears a tobacco brand name or logo on it? Would you ever wear or use an item (like a T-shirt, cap, poster, belt or water bottle) that bears a tobacco brand name or logo on it? India, the world’s largest producer of films, makes more than 1,000 movies a year in several languages when compared with around 500 made in the US. Bollywood represents the Indian Hindi movie industry, and in 2005, around 24 per cent of the Indian movies produced were in Hindi language. Indian movies are watched by over 188 million Indian viewers every year, the study said. It is estimated that by 2030, 10 million people per year will die from tobacco use, with 70 per cent of those deaths occurring in developing countries. India accounts for one-sixth of tobacco illnesses worldwide and will face an exponential increase in tobacco-related mortality from 1.4 per cent of all deaths in 1990 to 13.3 per cent in 2020, the published report said. (Anuradha Mascarenhas, accessed on 8 July 2011.)

14. Mumbai, New Delhi among 5 cheapest places in world: Survey: In a Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, India's financial capital Mumbai has been ranked third cheapest place to live, while national capital New Delhi is fifth. The annual survey, conducted by international research firm Economist Intelligence Unit, claims to rank as many as 134 major places across the world on the basis of costs of various items ranging from food to transport to toiletries. In this year's ranking of costliest cities of the world, Mumbai has been placed at 131st position, up a place from 132nd a year ago, while New Delhi has remained at 129th. The only two places found to be cheaper than Mumbai are Tunis in Tunisia and Karachi in Pakistan. Tehran in Iran has been ranked as cheaper than New Delhi at 130th position. Japan's Tokyo has been ranked as the costliest place in the world, followed by Oslo ( Norway), Japan's Osaka Kobe, Paris (France) and Zurich ( Switzerland) in the top five. Others in the top-ten include Sydney, Melbourne, Frankfurt, Geneva and Singapore. The 10 cheapest cities in the world have a strong presence in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East and North Africa. Karachi in Pakistan is the cheapest location surveyed, with a cost of living level at less than one-half of that of New York and one-third of that of Tokyo, the report said. Karachi is joined in the bottom ten by Dhaka ( Bangladesh) and the Indian cities of Mumbai and New Delhi. Cities in the Middle East and North Africa make up most of the rest of the cheapest locations. Algiers (Algeria), Tehran (Iran) Tunis (Tunisia) and Jeddah ( Saudi Arabia) all feature in the bottom 10. The two remaining cheapest cities in the world include Manila ( Philippines) and Panama City (Panama). Colombo ( Sri Lanka), is the only other city surveyed on the Indian subcontinent, that is one of the 20 cheapest cities and was ranked at the 114th place in the survey. ( accessed on 9 July 2011.)

15. Now, chewing tobacco outstrips smoking in India: The World Health Organization's latest report on the "global tobacco epidemic", said while 33% adult Indian males and 18.4% adult Indian females use smokeless tobacco, the corresponding figure for those taking a puff stands at 24.3% and 2.9% males and females, respectively. Among the youth, 19% males and 8.3% females use some form of tobacco. Tobacco will kill nearly six million people this year worldwide. More than five million will be users and those addicted to tobacco but have since given up. And, the rest will perish for being exposed to tobacco smoke. WHO says tobacco could kill eight million a year by 2030. Tobacco use is one of the biggest contributors to the non-communicable diseases epidemic, including heart disease, stroke, cancers and respiratory diseases, and accounts for 63% of all deaths. At present, more than half the world's population, or 3.8 billion, live in countries with at least some form of anti-smoking measures such as health warnings on cigarette packs, cigarette taxes and anti-tobacco mass-media campaigns. The WHO report says there are 425 million people in 19 nations — about 6% of the world's population — where bans on tobacco marketing are in place, and nearly all of them are low or middle-income countries. Research from around the world has shown that large, graphic warnings are most effective at informing consumers about the health risks of tobacco use, motivating smokers to quit and discouraging non-smokers, including children, from taking to this habit. Other findings say, 16 more countries since 2008 have enacted national smoke-free laws covering all public places and workplaces. Altogether, 739 million people in 31 countries are protected by comprehensive smoke-free laws. In addition, 210 million people are protected by smoke-free laws at state or local level, a gain of 100 million since 2008. In the past two years, 23 countries, with a population of nearly two billion, have aired strong mass media campaigns about the harmful effects of tobacco use. "It is disheartening to see that India, where more than 2,500 people die daily due to tobacco use, took about two years to finally notifying the new set of warnings. However, civil society representatives and public health activists feel that the stronger pictures will only appear on smokeless tobacco products, whereas smoking forms like bidi and cigarette packets will carry milder pictures," Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director, voluntary health association of India, said.( Kounteya Sinha, accessed on 9 July 2011.)

16.Live-ins are not eligible to adopt kids: The new rules, recently notified by the ministry of women and child development, focus mainly on "the source of the child" (abandoned, orphaned or surrendered), placement priority and ethical issues. While live-in couples have been barred, unmarried individuals will continue to be allowed to adopt, while married couples "may" have to show only "two years of stable marital relationship" instead of the earlier five years. The guidelines ease some provisions, seek to fast-track adoption of "children with special needs" and promote domestic adoptions by enforcing an 80:20 rule. The rule will require an adoption agency in India to place only 20% of its available children for inter-country adoptions as against the existing norm of 50-50. Children with special needs however are not counted in the 20%. To speed up adoption procedures, there is a two-month deadline. To check the plight of children in failed foreign adoptions—which in recent years has seen a rise—the rules now require foreign adoption agencies to shell out $5,000 before repatriating a child after court orders are passed for such repatriation. A whole section is devoted to repatriation under the guidelines. The money has to be deposited with a public sector bank and the documents will be in the custody of the state government. The child will get the money on becoming a major. Adoption Agencies will now have to "facilitate an adopted child's roots search, but will keep in mind his or her age and maturity." The guidelines, however, ban roots search by a "third party." The provisions also clarify that personal information cannot be revealed "if the biological parent/s specifically requested anonymity while surrendering the child". (Swati DeshpandeSwati Deshpande, accessed pm 12 July 2011.)

17.3-month-old abandoned at Marina: A three-month-old girl was found abandoned on the Marina Beach, just behind the Anna Swimming Pool, on 12 July 2011. A policeman on patrol noticed the child on the sand and waited there for more than an hour, believing that her parents had forgotten to take her and would return. "When no one came, the policeman took the child to the Anna Square police station. Later, the child helpline was informed and volunteers from Anbu Illam took the child," a police officer said. The girl, who seemed very weak, was taken to the Institute of Child Health in Egmore and treated before being admitted at Anbu Illam. The face of the child, wrapped in a piece of white cloth, was not covered and it was sheer luck that no stray dog noticed her. The Anna Square police have registered a case and launched a search for the girl's parents. ( accessed on 14 July 2011.)

18. Over 200 women get breast cancer everymonth in Patna: More than 200 women in the city get affected by breast cancer every month. Spreading like an epidemic, this cancer has affected more than 20,000 women in the city in the last 10 years. Breast Cancer Foundation-India, Bihar and Jharkhand chapter, on 14 July 2011 organized a breast cancer awareness programme under the aegis of Science and IT society of Magadh Mahila College. Seventy per cent of cancer is curable and the rest 30% is controllable, if detected at an early stage. "One in every 22 women in the country has a chance of developing breast cancer," said Dr Jitendra Kumar Singh, director, Mahavir Cancer Sansthan, on the occasion. Chances of developing breast cancer decreases by avoiding the regular intake of contraceptive pills (for more than 10 years), smoking and drinking. Some of the reasons for developing of breast cancer are late pregnancy, shorter duration of breast-feeding and irregular lifestyle. ( accessed on 15 July 2011.)

19.Sex tests hit rural India: According to provision data on population, though the urban CSR is far worse than that in rural areas, the fall in CSR in rural areas is around four times than that in urban areas in the last decade. Rural India still has a better CSR (ratio of girls to boys under the age of six years) of 919 than urban India's 902. However, between 2001 and 2011, rural India's CSR fell by 15 points as opposed to urban India's four-point decline, and the gap between the two has narrowed. Haryana has both the worst urban and rural CSRs. Nagaland has the best urban CSR, while in rural areas, the Andaman and Nicobar has the best, indicating yet again that tribal communities have a more egalitarian attitude to girls than other communities. The data also highlights that growth rate of population in empowered action group states, including Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Rajashan and Madhya Pradesh, is nearly three times more than rural areas in non-EAG states like Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu. The growth rate in EAG states in rural areas is 18.7% as compared to 5.7% in non-EAG states. The new census data on rural and urban areas shows that India is still overwhelmingly rural, with close to 70% of people still living in villages. census data released on 15 July 2011 shows that 377 million Indians, or 31.16% of the population, now live in cities. This is up from 27.81% in 2001. The proportion of Indians living in urban areas registered the biggest ever jump since the Independence. Some amount of migration is taking place, but this is to the peripheries of big cities, as well as to Tier-II cities. Goa and Mizoram are the first states to be more urban than rural. Some states have thrown up surprises: Tamil Nadu, projected in 2001 to be 50% urban by 2007, is still more rural than urban. Kerala (48%) is now more urban than Maharashtra (45%). This has completely confounded the Census's earlier projections by which Kerala was expected to be only 25.5% urban by 2011. Himachal Pradesh, 90% rural, is India's most rural state, followed by Bihar (89%) and Assam (86%). UP has almost a fifth of the country's rural population. For the first time in independent India, the absolute growth in the urban population—91 million—is greater than that in rural India. While the urban population grew by 32%, the rural population rose by 12%. However, growth rates in both urban and rural India are tapering. (Rukmini Srinivasan & Himanshi DhawanRukmini Srinivasan & Himanshi Dhawan, accessed on 16 July 2011.)

20.Country's med capital to get 3,000 more beds: The private hospital sector in the city is expected to increase its bed strength by mid-2012 by nearly 25% — at least 3,000 beds in four leading hospitals . Experts, however, feel these numbers need to be tripled to meet global standards. Just half, they add, are used by Chennaiites. The rest are shared by patients from across the state and country and even foreigners. According to statistics from hospital research groups, the city has an estimated 12,500 hospital beds. This works to 2.1 beds per 1,000 population against the national average of less than 1 bed per 1,000 population . Chennai is better than Delhi (1.4), Mumbai (0.8), Kolkata (0.8), Hyderabad (1.5) and Bangalore (2.1) but still does not satisfy World Health Organisation norms of three beds per 1,000 persons. The Fortis Group is planning a hospital with about 1,500 beds in a new block leased out in Vadapalani and Apollo Hospital is planning one with 550 beds in the southern suburbs by end of 2012. Global Hospitals and MIOT Hospitals, too, are looking at 500-bed units, each with 150 beds for cancer therapy. Global Hospitals, are planning two 100-bed hospitals in the city to act as feeder services for the main hospital. Many patients want a stay in a hospital to be luxurious. Large hospitals will be able to get substantial discounts on equipment and drugs, just like government hospitals. ( accessed on 16 July 2011.)

21. Barefoot: Cities and the right to vend: Street vendors have a presence in every urban area, from the smallest town to the largest metropolis. But what they require is a transparent and liberal system of registration. Street vending has been the livelihood of millions in our country since time immemorial. In every settlement, large and small, in the countryside and cities, men and women and often children carry an extraordinary variety of their wares in baskets, hand-carts or cycle-carts. Some sell these house-to house, calling out their wares as they walk or cycle past. But frequently they squat or park their carts on pavements or parks to sell their commodities. It is from them that most middle class families purchase affordable vegetables, fruit, groceries, clothes, decorations, souvenirs, second hand books, and the majority of their daily needs. Street vendors bring into our hands the products of the sweat, enterprise and creativity of millions of unorganised tiny producers, who would have no other market avenues. Despite their major contributions to the economy, both as a source of livelihoods for the poor and of efficient inexpensive retail, they are mostly considered unlawful and victims of continuous harassment by civic authorities and police in most towns and cities. Aggravated by growing urban land value, there are recurring drives to harass and evict them, in the name of clearing encroachments and smoothening traffic. It is officially estimated that approximately two per cent of the population is dependent on street vending. The total number of street vendors in the country would today be at least six million, which means that nearly 30 million people are dependent on street vending for survival. Many times this number benefit from the cheap retail afforded by urban vending. Street vending is threatened further today by malls and super-markets. Recognising belatedly the rights of millions who depend on this vocation, Government of India announced a National Policy on Street Vendors in 2004 and again in 2009. These policies are progressive, but were rarely implemented, because they lacked the force of law. Only legally enforceable rights can offer justice to this vulnerable and productive section of the urban poor. The two most common types of street vendors are mobile hawkers and street vendors sitting in a market or alongside roads or in designated places. Mobile hawkers earn much less than the stationary ones and aspire to getting a spot of their own. Mobile hawkers also get harassed and have to pay bribes to police and municipal authorities. But stationary hawkers face the most brutal forms of eviction from the municipalities and the police. Both mobile and stationary vendors require a transparent and liberal system of registration, along with allocation of space for the stationary vendors. Street vendors are also being pushed out of modern urban economies because of the rising value of urban land, the multiple competing uses of public space, and the low bargaining power of street vendors. The powerlessness of street vendors leads many city governments to reduce numbers of licenses for street vendors to ridiculously low numbers. Large industry celebrates its “liberation” from the “licence-permit raj”. But small vendors and service providers such as rickshaw pullers are still trapped in mindless and oppressive regulation, brutally enforced. They are further threatened by highly unequal competition from shopping malls and air-conditioned arcades. If governments do not urgently pass humane laws to protect them, millions of street vendors will be expelled from work and dignified survival, although the city — and its pavements and parks — belongs to them no less than it does to all of us. ( accessed on 16 July 2011.)

22. Seven kids go missing in Delhi every day: The data, as sourced from the Zonal Integrated Police Network (ZIPNet) and compiled by child rights NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), says 331 children have gone missing from Delhi in the period between June 1, 2011, until July 18. That means on an average seven kids went missing. According to the data, from the beginning of this year until July 18, a total of 921 children have gone missing in Delhi. Most of the children are in the age group of 12-15. Only 315 have been traced. The maximum number of children went missing in the month of June - 183. As per the month-wise breakup of children going missing this year, 89 children went missing in January, 104 in February, 132 in March, 127 in April, 130 in May, 183 in June and 157 in July (until July 18) ( accessed on 21 July 2011.)

23.Four teens held for raping, murdering Madurai boy: Police have found that the eight-year-old , whose body was found in a wooden box at a school near here a few days ago, was sodomized and strangled to death by five teenagers. Four school students , aged between 14 and 17, and an 18-year-old daily wage labourer were arrested for the crime on 21 July 2011. According to police: "All the five hail from Kilavaneri, the victim's village. They used to gather behind the school to drink liquor or smoke beedi . On July 16, they spotted P Jayasurya (8), who was playing hide-and-seek with friends, entering the school around 4.30pm. They grabbed Jayasurya , took him to the school bathroom and sodomized him. The boy fell unconscious. Fearing that Jayasurya would expose them, they strangled him and dumped the body in a wooden box." All the teenagers hail from poor families in Kilavaneri. They ganged up two years ago and were in the habit of smoking and drinking together, though they were said to be sober when they allegedly murdered the child. They were booked under five counts, including murder and unnatural sex. Psychiatrists blamed the media for "exposing" children to abundant sex-related information. " After dumping the body of Jayasurya in the box, the five went about their normal lives till the police picked them up for interrogation two days later. They confessed when arrested. The school students were remanded and sent to a juvenile home, while the youth was lodged in the Melur sub-jail . (V MayilvagananV Mayilvaganan, accessed on 22 July 2011.)

24.Wife accuses husband of drinking her blood over dowry demand: In a bizarre crime, a man has been arrested for allegedly drinking the blood of his wife after withdrawing it through a syringe, because she was unable to meet his dowry demand. The couple lived at Aanvri Barkheda village under Hindoria Police Station in Damoh district. The husband, Mahesh Ahirwar, has been arrested, police said. ( accessed on 22 July 2011.)

25.Indians spend more on kids' education: Indian families are investing heavily in their children's education and spending more on healthcare at the expense of basic needs like food, reveals a recent NSSO survey report on spending patterns of households. Between 1999 and 2009, expenditure on food increased by about 70% among rural families and 78% among urban ones. But the spending on education jumped up by as much as 378% in rural areas and 345% in urban areas. Even after correcting for inflation, the expenditure on education increased by a phenomenal 162% in rural areas and 148% in urban areas during the decade. Compare this to the overall household expenditure on all items, which increased by a mere 8% in rural areas and 20% in urban areas after adjusting for inflation. Compared with 2004-2005 data, the latest survey records a big jump in these numbers - 40% to 63% of rural and 57% to 73% of urban families were getting their children educated. At current prices, spending on medical care in hospitals increased by 152% in rural areas and by 136% in urban areas. The corresponding figures after adjusting for inflation are 38% and 31%. Spending on non-institutional medical care - medicines, tests, fees etc - jumped up by 60% in rural areas and 102% in urban areas. After adjusting for inflation, this works out to a decline of about 12% in rural areas - possibly an effect of the National Rural Health Mission - and a modest increase of 12% in urban areas. The 66th round of NSSO's survey, carried out between July 2009 and June 2010 covered 2,01,649 households. (Subodh VarmaSubodh Varma, accessed on 25 July 2011.)

II Diaspora
Now, 'made in China' doctors in India: Twenty eight Chinese universities are promoting their MBBS degrees and are top picks for Indians. Dali University - one of the top universities in China is busy promoting their MBBS course - the top pick of several aspiring Indian students. Bimbadhar and Vamshi Krishna from Andhra Pradesh was readily accepted in this university four years back along with 300 others from their state after failing to make the grade back home. And not just the Dali University, 27 other universities across China are producing "Made in China" Indian doctors. It’s the money which makes Chinese universities the new Mecca for Indian MBBS students. The average tution fees range only between Rs 1 Lakh to Rs 2 Lakh per year. Just Rs 70,000 more is needed to cover boarding and lodging expenses. In India, the same course usually cost four times more at the very least. Every year, thousands of Indian students come to China in such universities to study medicine since early 2000, this knowing fully well that till recently, their MBBS degrees were not accepted back home. The Medical Council of India conducts a screening test for 'made in China" Indian doctors before they are allowed to practice. But Chinese University heads say that is not their problem. Last year, 3000 students went to 28 such Chinese universities to study medicine. Since 2003, nearly 25,000 Indian students have arrived here. The attraction is not just lower fees but simple admission procedures. Students who score marks of 70 per cent in Class 12 are eligible for admission. But students here complain that while studying medicine, they are forced to learn Chinese as well due to lack of English speaking faculty.Yet, China has emerged as the new game changer for aspiring Indian doctors when they fail to make the cut in India. (Sumon K Chakrabarti, accessed on 27 June 2011.)

III Global
1. India has 153000 millionaires: Report: India has moved into 12th spot in the list of countries with most millionaires. India has 153,000 millionaires, a report by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management has revealed. The U.S has the most millionaires at around three million and China ranks fourth with 535,000 millionaires. Japan is in second and Germany is third. Asia, with 3.3 million has the highest number of high net-worth millionaires followed by Europe's 3.1 million. Africa showed the biggest increase in the number of millionaires by region with growth of 11.1 percent, while India entered the top 12 country rankings for the first time, with 153,000. The number of millionaires in China grew by 12 percent to 534,500. Growth in the number of global millionaires slowed from 17 percent in 2009, when wealth rebounded following the credit crisis that sent stock indices to their worst annual losses since the Great Depression and slashed the value of real estate holdings, hedge-fund and private-equity investments. ( accessed on 27 June 2011.)

2. Why Kunming is Beijing's new competitor: China is promoting the city of Kunming as the new gateway to Asia. The city in south-western China is Beijing's new competitor. Kunming is China's eternal spring city in the south-west of the country in the Yunnan province. Bordering Bhutan, Burma, Vietnam and Laos, it is strategically placed on the Silk Route from where any flight can land in most of Asian airports within five hours. The city is now actively competing with Beijing to replace the Chinese capital as the biggest destination - in trade, tourism and diplomacy. Yunnan province has already started promoting Kunming as the gateway to Asia. It's a perception problem that China wants to overcome. The name Beijing evokes some strong sentiments outside China. The Chinese leadership knows that Kunming does not come with any such baggage. Chinese President Hu Jintao has already announced that "the gateway strategy should be included in the nation's 12th Five-Year Plan. Even the government-backed Yunnan TV is being positioned to compete directly with the omnipresent China Central Television. At the 19th Kunming Import and Export Trade fair, held earlier this month, Chinese leaders were seen busy promoting Kunming as not just the next gateway to China but also the largest trade hub of the country. (Sumon K Chakrabarti, accessed on 30 June 2011.)

3. 600 mn women trapped in insecure jobs: More than half of the world's working women -- an estimated 600 million -- are trapped in insecure jobs, often outside the purview of labour laws, and many of them face discrimination at the workplace, says a new UN report. Violence against them also remains widespread though more women are gaining access to basic rights. It said that 28 countries have reached or surpassed the 30 % mark for women's representation in Parliament, but women are generally paid between 10 and 30 % less than men. All too often, women are denied control over their bodies, denied a voice in decision-making, and denied protection from violence. The report said some 600 million women, more than half of the world's working women, are in vulnerable employment, trapped in insecure jobs, often outside the purview of labour legislation. Even where labour laws extend to these zones, they are often un-enforced, leaving women exposed to low wages and poor conditions, ( accessed on 8 July 2011.)

4. Divorce easier than getting driving licence: A top UK judge Sir Paul Coleridge blamed 50 years of relationship free-for-all for the spread of divorce on demand, and said that it has left 3.8 million children at the mercy of the courts because of the break-up of their parents. The judge, who sits in the High Court Family Division as Mr Justice Coleridge, has called repeatedly for legal reforms to clear up the mess left by the decline of marriage. He described the problem of family breakdown as "huge" and condemned the ease of divorce in an interview on BBC Radio Five Live. "Divorce is easy in the sense that obtaining a divorce is easier than getting a driving licence," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying. "It's a form-filling exercise and you'll get your divorce in six weeks if everyone agrees," he said. He added that the stigma attached to divorce in the past has also disappeared. The judge said there was no sign that the misery of large numbers of children hit by family break-up was diminishing. "In fact, every indication is it's going up. The whole of society is affected by this. Everyone in the land, from the Royal Family downwards, is now affected by family breakdown," he said."It affects the lives of children themselves, it affects the lives of their parents. The wider family gets caught up in it. "It then ripples out to the local community, the schools and then into the wider community," he added. ( accessed on 16 July 2011.)

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