Archive for the ‘Funny India’ Category

Behind the ‘hindu growth rate’ of Gujarat, ‘wombs for rent’

January 5, 2008

ANAND: Every night in this quiet western Indian city, 15 pregnant women prepare for sleep in the spacious house they share, ascending the stairs in a procession of ballooned bellies, to bedrooms that become a landscape of soft hills.

A team of maids, cooks and doctors looks after the women, whose pregnancies would be unusual anywhere else but are common here. The young mothers of Anand, a place famous for its milk, are pregnant with the children of infertile couples from around the world.

The small clinic at Kaival Hospital matches infertile couples with local women, cares for the women during pregnancy and delivery, and counsels them afterward. Anand’s surrogate mothers, pioneers in the growing field of outsourced pregnancies, have given birth to roughly 40 babies.

More than 50 women in this city are now pregnant with the children of couples from the United States, Taiwan, Britain and beyond. The women earn more than many would make in 15 years. But the program raises a host of uncomfortable questions that touch on morals and modern science, exploitation and globalization, and that most natural of desires: to have a family.

Dr. Nayna Patel, the woman behind Anand’s baby boom, defends her work as meaningful for everyone involved.

“There is this one woman who desperately needs a baby and cannot have her own child without the help of a surrogate. And at the other end there is this woman who badly wants to help her (own) family,” Patel said. “If this female wants to help the other one … why not allow that? … It’s not for any bad cause. They’re helping one another to have a new life in this world.”

Experts say commercial surrogacy _ or what has been called “wombs for rent” _ is growing in India. While no reliable numbers track such pregnancies nationwide, doctors work with surrogates in virtually every major city. The women are impregnated in-vitro with the egg and sperm of couples unable to conceive on their own.

Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002, as it is in many other countries, including the United States. But India is the leader in making it a viable industry rather than a rare fertility treatment. Experts say it could take off for the same reasons outsourcing in other industries has been successful: a wide labor pool working for relatively low rates.

Critics say the couples are exploiting poor women in India _ a country with an alarmingly high maternal death rate _ by hiring them at a cut-rate cost to undergo the hardship, pain and risks of labor.

“It raises the factor of baby farms in developing countries,” said Dr. John Lantos of the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Missouri. “It comes down to questions of voluntariness and risk.”

Patel’s surrogates are aware of the risks because they’ve watched others go through them. Many of the mothers know one another, or are even related. Three sisters have all borne strangers’ children, and their sister-in-law is pregnant with a second surrogate baby. Nearly half the babies have been born to foreign couples while the rest have gone to Indians.

Ritu Sodhi, a furniture importer from Los Angeles who was born in India, spent US$200,000 (euro138,910) trying to get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization, and was considering spending another US$80,000 (euro55,563) to hire a surrogate mother in the United States.

“We were so desperate,” she said. “It was emotionally and financially exhausting.”

Then, on the Internet, Sodhi found Patel’s clinic. After spending about US$20,000 (euro13,890) _ more than many couples because it took the surrogate mother several cycles to conceive _ Sodhi and her husband are now back home with their 4-month-old baby, Neel. They plan to return to Anand for a second child.

“Even if it cost $1 million (euro690,000), the joy that they had delivered to me is so much more than any money that I have given them,” said Sodhi. “They’re godsends to deliver something so special.”

Patel’s center is believed to be unique in offering one-stop service. Other clinics may request that the couple bring in their own surrogate, often a family member or friend, and some place classified ads. But in Anand the couple just provides the egg and sperm and the clinic does the rest, drawing from a waiting list of tested and ready surrogates.

Young women are flocking to the clinic to sign up for the list. Suman Dodia, a pregnant, baby-faced 26-year-old, said she will buy a house with the US$4,500 (euro3,125) she receives from the British couple whose child she’s carrying. It would have taken her 15 years to earn that on her maid’s monthly salary of US$25 (euro17).

Dodia’s own three children were delivered at home and she said she never visited a doctor during those pregnancies.

“It’s very different with medicine,” Dodia said, resting her hands on her hugely pregnant belly. “I’m being more careful now than I was with my own pregnancy.”

Patel said she carefully chooses which couples to help and which women to hire as surrogates. She only accepts couples with serious fertility issues, like survivors of uterine cancer. The surrogate mothers have to be between 18 and 45, have at least one child of their own, and be in good medical shape.

Like some fertility reality show, a rotating cast of surrogate mothers live together in a home rented by the clinic and overseen by a former surrogate mother. They receive their children and husbands as visitors during the day, when they’re not busy with English or computer classes.

“They feel like my family,” said Rubina Mandul, 32, the surrogate house’s den mother. “The first 10 days are hard, but then they don’t want to go home.”

Mandul, who has two sons of her own, gave birth to a child for an American couple in February. She said she misses the baby, but she stays in touch with the parents over the Internet. A photo of the American couple with the child hangs over the sofa.

“They need a baby more than me,” she said. The surrogate mothers and the parents sign a contract that promises the couple will cover all medical expenses in addition to the woman’s payment, and the surrogate mother will hand over the baby after birth. The couples fly to Anand for the in-vitro fertilization and again for the birth. Most couples end up paying the clinic less than US$10,000 (euro6,945) for the entire procedure, including fertilization, the fee to the mother and medical expenses.

Counseling is a major part of the process and Patel tells the women to think of the pregnancy as “someone’s child comes to stay at your place for nine months.”

Kailas Gheewala, 25, said she doesn’t think of the pregnancy as her own.

“The fetus is theirs, so I’m not sad to give it back,” said Gheewala, who plans to save the US$6,250 (euro4,340) she’s earning for her two daughters’ education. “The child will go to the U.S. and lead a better life and I’ll be happy.”

Patel said none of the surrogate mothers has had especially difficult births or serious medical problems, but risks are inescapable.

“We have to be very careful,” she said. “We overdo all the health investigations. We do not take any chances.”

Health experts expect to see more Indian commercial surrogacy programs in coming years. Dr. Indira Hinduja, a prominent fertility specialist who was behind India’s first test-tube baby two decades ago, receives several surrogacy inquiries a month from couples overseas.

“People are accepting it,” said Hinduja. “Earlier they used to be ashamed but now they are becoming more broadminded.”

But if commercial surrogacy keeps growing, some fear it could change from a medical necessity for infertile women to a convenience for the rich.

“You can picture the wealthy couples of the West deciding that pregnancy is just not worth the trouble anymore and the whole industry will be farmed out,” said Lantos.

Or, Lantos said, competition among clinics could lead to compromised safety measures and “the clinic across the street offers it for 20 percent less and one in Bangladesh undercuts that and pretty soon conditions get bad.”

The industry is not regulated by the government. Health officials have issued nonbinding ethical guidelines and called for legislation to protect the surrogates and the children.

For now, the surrogate mothers in Anand seem as pleased with the arrangement as the new parents.

“I know this isn’t mine,” said Jagrudi Sharma, 34, pointing to her belly. “But I’m giving happiness to another couple. And it’s great for me.”

Economic Times

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Malaysia’s Super Hindu leaders landed in Jail

December 14, 2007

I am sick of those village idiots call themselves as “Proud Indians” and “Proud Hindus”.

Garve se kaho hum Hindu Hay [Proudly Say that I am a Hindu] that was a slogan initiated by Hindu militants in India to attract socially excluded Hindu castes and Dalits to their Brahmin superiority fold.

Brahmin promise is simple. “In public space, we will call you as a Hindu, Don’t ask me more”.

To those socially excluded poor Hindus, that is an attractive offer. HINDU ON DEMAND !

Marginalized Dalits constitutes 10 % population of Jammu and Kashmir state. Because of the vast media coverage of Kashmiri Brahmins we consider it as a Pundit land . Jammu’s Dalits, who are still under the slavery of brahmins, want to be known as super-Hindus in order that the ‘upper’ castes accept them’, says a Dalit activist from J &K. [Yoginder Sikand, 2004]

According to Mukul Sinha, ‘Super Hindu‘ is a newly created identity by hindutva zealots to brainwash Patels. This lower caste (shudra) community played a major role in Gujarat riots against Muslims. [Yoginder Sikand, 2007]

Super Nannies, Super Hindus

The richest 2 percent own more than half of global household wealth. To many, good health and a happy family life are far more important than material riches. But, few days back, Malaysia’s Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) demanded the British government pay some $4 trillion in damages to “150 years of exploitation of ethnic Indians”. That was a wonderful idea to become rich over night! Money can bring problems as well as solutions. But Hindraf leaders finally landed in Jail under National Security Act called ISA.

I disagree on imposing such a draconian law against these Super Hindu lawyers. The government should have left them free. Once their followers know that they cannot get millions from the British queen, they should have killed Hindraf leaders on the street. One more video footage for Malaysiakini or YouTube, titled as The last supper, That is it!

But truly, HINDRAF leaders want to be Malaysia’s ‘Super Hindu billionaires’ and they want their followers to be ‘Super Hindu Millionaires’.

Plenty of Indian village idiots are fascinated by the propaganda launched by RSS on Super Hindu Billionaires.

Look! 10,000 village idiots joined rally organized by Malaysia’ s future billionaires.

I have n’t seen any list of Super Jews, Super Christians, Super Sikhs, Super Buddhists or Super Muslims.

Now, RSS want to make Malaysia’s Tamil Hindus as Super Hindus, because most of them are dalits or lower caste Hindus. Read the following words from the website of Malaysia Hindu Sangam, the local collaborator of RSS in Malaysia.

This is the tribute to the Great Hindus of All time.

An inspiration to all Hindus around the world that We The Hindus, are simply the BEST and no doubt…We Are The Number 1.

Read more the great stories of millions of great Hindus from all corners of the world. However, this list is never been complete, we welcome more and more names and personalities to publish here, please submit to webmaster@hindusangam.org.my

Above L-R : M ahathma Ghandi (Great Ruler and Freedom fighter), Sabeer Bhatia (Founder of Hotmail), Kalpana Chawla (Hindu Astronut), Lakshmi Mittal (World’s 5th Richest Man, Forbes 2007), Mukesh Ambani (World’s 14th Richest Man, Forbes 2007), Aishwarya Rai (Miss World 1994)

http://www.hindusangam.org.my/library/superhindus/

Now, I am wondering who are Super Hindus?

Mahathma Gandhi aka “Father of Nation” was killed by another super Hindu, called Nadhuram Godse. The offense was simple. He was willing to talk to Muslim minorities in India. And the X Generation super Hindus are still proud of Godse. Read this NewYork Times Article

But some of them need half of Gandhi’s picture to earn more acceptability among ordinary Hindus. The rest of the Super Hindus in that image gallery doesn’t endorse Hindutva Fascism like RSS idiots. Some of them don’t even hold Indian passports.

Mukesh Ambani don’t even talk to his brother Anil Ambani!. Don’t ask me why! Ask a Hindu Brahmin Guruji about Dharma and he will explain you why you shouldn’t talk to your brother, if you are rich. Definitely he will quote, ArthaShasthra wrote by another crooked Brahmin, Chanakya. To me, Ambanis are as good as Butch Cassidy.

The fact is that capitalism is most unfair system where the majority of the Indians has to suffer so that the bullys like Ambani brothers have their whole cake at expense of everyone else!

Indonesia now has 11 Forbes billionaires, but 235 million of its people still survives on less than US$ a day. Majority of those Indonesian billionaires are not Muslims, but Indonesian Muslims didn’t asked the world to impose trade sanctions against their nation. If the number of billionaires can be counted as a criteria for development, Indonesia is much ahead of India. (They have only quarter of India’s population)

Yadha Raja Thadha Praja!

In India, wealth of 36 families amounts to $ 191 billion, which is one-fourth of India’s GDP while half of the world’s poor lives in this proud nation! In other words, 35 Super Hindu families own quarter of India’s GDP by leaving 85 % ordinary Hindus as poor! (Wipro’s Azim Premji is a Muslim by census)

India’s foreign exchange reserves are only $273.5 billion while for China it is $1455.

Abu Dhabi’s sovereign fund is world’s largest and worth $1,300bn. $1.5 trillion of funds sloshing around the Middle East, but those wealth hasn’t eradicated poverty from Muslim world. The Saudis alone hold about a trillion dollars in United States assets. They buy more U.S. made weapons than Israel even though Israelis influence the world politics. Empowerment of a community is not related to the headcount of its billionaires. Please don’t talk such nonsense to me.

Ever wondered why these village idiots call Indian Culture as best No.1, world’s best, globe’s super etc?

Then never forget to read this blog :

E=mc^2 Great Indian Culture

Ref.

Forbes Billionaire Club Data

Dipankar Bhattacharya on India’s Forbes Billionaires

Thieves cut off Hindu sadhu’s ‘holy leg’

December 14, 2007

By Omer Farooq
BBC News, Hyderabad

Police in southern India are hunting for two men who attacked a Hindu holy man, cut off his right leg and then made off with it.

The 80-year-old holy man, Yanadi Kondaiah, claimed to have healing powers in the leg.

He is now recovering from his ordeal in hospital in the city of Tirupati in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Local people believed they could be healed of spiritual and physical problems if they touched his leg.

They also believed in Mr Kondaiah’s predictions of the future.

Police say the incident happened 550 km north of the state capital, Hyderabad.

‘Brutal manner’

Police say that the self-styled ‘Godman’ – who lives in a village near the city of Tirupati – was approached a few days ago by two strangers who came to seek his advice over a medical problem.

They say that the pair returned to the old man on Tuesday ostensibly to thank him for his help.

“As the old man had the weakness of drinking, he accepted their invitation to have drinks with them,” said local police Sub-Inspector Pendakanti Dastgiri.

“They took him to a deserted spot in the outskirts of the village.

“After the old man had passed out under the influence of liquor, they cut off his right leg from the knee,” he said.

Mr Dastgiri said that the amputation was carried out in a very “brutal manner” and that police are still looking for the leg and the men who so cruelly took it.

He said that the assailants used a sharp hunting knife, and left the old man alone and bleeding slowly to death.

Local people who found him unconscious alerted the police, who rushed him to hospital in Tirupati.

After regaining consciousness Mr Kondaiah said that he had no idea why he was targeted in such a manner, and did not understand the motive of the miscreants in taking away his leg.

“I have always been good to others and helped who ever came to me. Then why has this been done to me?” he asked amid his tears.

Police say the reason for the attack could be because Mr Kondaiah told too many people of the alleged magical powers of his right leg.

“This might have motivated some people to take away his leg hoping to benefit from it,” a police spokesman said.

“But it is difficult to say that this was the only motive. It could also be a case of a revenge attack.”

Story from BBC NEWS:

Hindu gods get summons from court

December 13, 2007

By Amarnath Tewary,Patna

A judge in India has summoned two Hindu gods, Ram and Hanuman, to help resolve a property dispute.

Judge Sunil Kumar Singh in the eastern state of Jharkhand has issued adverts in newspapers asking the gods to “appear before the court personally”.

The gods have been asked to appear before the court on Tuesday, after the judge said that letters addressed to them had gone unanswered.

Ram and Hanuman are among the most popular Indian Hindu gods.

Judge Singh presides in a “fast track” court – designed to resolve disputes quickly – in the city of Dhanbad.

The dispute is now 20 years old and revolves around the ownership of a 1.4 acre plot of land housing two temples.

You failed to appear in the court despite notices sent by a peon and post

Judge Sunil Kumar Singh in letter to Lord Ram and Hanuman

The deities of Ram and Hanuman, the monkey god, are worshipped at the two temples on the land.

Temple priest Manmohan Pathak claims the land belongs to him. Locals say it belongs to the two deities.

The two sides first went to court in 1987.

A few years ago, the dispute was settled in favour of the locals. Then Mr Pathak challenged the verdict in a fast track court.

Gift

Judge Singh sent out two notices to the deities, but they were returned as the addresses were found to be “incomplete”.

This prompted him to put out adverts in local newspapers summoning the gods.

“You failed to appear in court despite notices sent by a peon and later through registered post. You are herby directed to appear before the court personally”, Judge Singh’s notice said.

The two Hindu gods have been summoned as the defence claimed that they were owners of the disputed land.

“Since the land has been donated to the gods, it is necessary to make them a party to the case,” local lawyer Bijan Rawani said.

Mr Pathak said the land was given to his grandfather by a former local king.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/12/07 09:08:32 GMT

India, Where paradoxes reign supreme

November 26, 2007

It has become a cliché to speak of India as a land of paradoxes. The old joke about our country is that anything you say about India, the opposite is also true. We like to think of ourselves as an ancient civilisation but we are also a young republic; our IT experts stride confidently into the 21st century but much of our population seems to live in each of the other 20 centuries. Quite often the opposites co-exist quite cheerfully.

One of my favourite images of India is from the last Kumbha mela, of a naked sadhu, with matted hair, ash-smeared forehead and scraggly beard, for all the world a picture of timeless other-worldliness, chatting away on a cellphone. I even suggested it to the publishers of my newest book of essays on India as a perfect cover image, but they assured me it was so well-known that it had become a cliché in itself.

And yet, clichés are clichés because they are true, and the paradoxes of India say something painfully real about our society.

How does one come to terms with a country whose population is still nearly 40% illiterate but which has educated the world’s second-largest pool of trained scientists and engineers, many of whom are making a flourishing living in Silicon Valley? How does one explain a land where peasant organisations and suspicious officials once attempted to close down Kentucky Fried Chicken as a threat to the nation, where a former prime minister bitterly criticised the sale of Pepsi-Cola since 250 million of our countrymen and women don’t have access to clean drinking water, and which yet invents more sophisticated software for the world’s computer manufacturers than any other country on the planet? A place where bullock carts are still an indispensable mode of transportation for millions, but whose rocket and satellite programmes are amongst the most advanced on earth?

The paradoxes go well beyond the nature of our entry into the 21st century. Our teeming cities overflow while two out of three Indians still scratch a living from the soil. We have been recognised, for all practical purposes, as a leading nuclear power, but 600 million Indians still have no access to electricity and there are daily power cuts even in the nation’s capital.

Ours is a culture which elevated non-violence to an effective moral principle, but whose freedom was born in blood and whose independence still soaks in it. We are the world’s leading manufacturers of generic medication for illnesses such as AIDS, but we have three million of our own citizens without access to AIDS medication, another two million with TB, and tens of millions with no health centre or clinic within 10 kilometres of their places of residence.

Bollywood makes four times as many movies as Hollywood, but 150 million Indians cannot see them, because they are blind. India holds the world record for the number of cellphones sold (8.5 million last month), but also for the number of farmer suicides (4000 in the Vidarbha district of Maharashtra alone last year).

This month, in mid-November, the prestigious Forbes magazine list of the world’s top billionaires made room for 10 new Indian names. The four richest Indians in the world are collectively worth a staggering $180 billion, greater than the GDP of a majority of member states of the United Nations. Indian papers have reported with undisguised glee that these four (Lakshmi Mittal, the two Ambani brothers, and DLF chief K P Singh) are worth more than the 40 richest Chinese combined.

We seem to find less space in our papers to note that though we have more dollar billionaires than in any country in Asia – even more than Japan, which has been richer longer – we also have 260 million people living below the poverty line. And it’s not the World Bank’s poverty line of $1 a day, but the Indian poverty line of Rs 360 a month, or 30 cents a day – in other words, a line that’s been drawn just this side of the funeral pyre.

Last month, the Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex crossed 20,000, just 20 months after it had first hit 10,000; but on the same day, some 25,000 landless people marched to Parliament, clamouring for land reform and justice. We have trained world-class scientists and engineers, but 400 million of our compatriots are illiterate, and we also have more children who have not seen the inside of a school than any other country in the world does.

We have a great demographic advantage in 540 million young people under 25 (which means we should have a dynamic, youthful and productive workforce for the next 40 years when the rest of the world, including China, is ageing) but we also have 60 million child labourers, and 72% of the children in our government schools drop out by the eighth standard. We celebrate India’s IT triumphs, but information technology has employed a grand total of 1 million people in the last five years, while 10 million are entering the workforce each year and we don’t have jobs for them.

Many of our urban youth rightly say with confidence that their future will be better than their parents’ past, but there are Maoist insurgencies violently disturbing the peace in 165 of India’s 602 districts, and these are largely made up of unemployed young men.

So yes, we are a land of paradoxes, and amongst those paradoxes is that so many of us speak about India as a great power of the 21st century when we are not yet able to feed, educate and employ our people. And yet, India is more than the sum of its contradictions. It may be a country rife with despair and disrepair, but it nonetheless moved a Mughal Emperor to declaim, ‘‘if on earth there be paradise of bliss, it is this, it is this, it is this…’’ We just have a lot more to do before it can be anything like paradise for the vast majority of our fellow citizens.

25 Nov 2007, 0000 hrs IST,Shashi Tharoor, Times of India

Tamil Indian man attempts to break curse by marrying dog

November 15, 2007

14 November 2007,  CHENNAI, India (AFP) — An Indian farmer has married his dog in a bid to overcome what he believes is a curse caused by him having stoned to death two mating dogs in his rice field, press reports said.

The 34-year-old farmer, identified as Selvakumar from Sivaganga district in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, fell on bad fortune 15 years ago after killing the dogs and hanging their carcasses from a tree.

A few days later, his hearing and speech were impaired and he was unable to walk.

Doctors were clueless, but an astrologer finally told him he was cursed by the spirits of the dogs he had killed. He could undo the curse only if he married a dog and live with it, the soothsayer said.

After a long search for a ‘suitable bride’, Selvakumar managed to get a four-year-old mongrel bitch from a friend and had a fully-fledged Hindu wedding in front of villagers and elders on Sunday, eyewitnesses said.

The canine bride, named Selvi, was adorned in a sari and flowers and brought to the temple by village women. A Hindu priest conducted the ceremony.

The reports, however, said Selvi the dog attempted to make a run for it — apparently due to the large crowds — but was eventually tracked down and returned to her new ‘husband’.

“The dog is only for lifting the curse and after that, he plans to get a real bride,” a friend of the groom said.

Indira Gandhi International Airport listed among world’s worst

October 5, 2007

October 2007,
Hate flying? You’re not alone. But often, it’s not the crowded, overly air-conditioned airplanes themselves that are the problem: Just getting on and off the plane is the real nightmare. For this week’s List, FP looks at five airports around the world that make traveling hell.

Indira Gandhi International Airport

Firsthand account: “Of all the regional capital airports this one takes the cake … a piece of crap … bring the bug spray.” —Anonymous commenter, The Budget Traveller’s Guide to Sleeping in Airports, Dec 11, 2005

Why it’s so bad: Because it’s sheer chaos. The IT boomtowns of Hyderabad and Bangalore have built shiny new airports in recent years, but old standbys like New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport have failed to benefit from India’s economic expansion. Visitors report aggressive panhandlers, filthy bathrooms where attendants charge for toilet paper, and used syringes on the terminal floor. The main terminal building was even closed to visitors for a few months in 1999 after a flight from Nepal was hijacked. Things have hopefully gotten a little safer since an Australian tourist was murdered by a taxi driver leaving IGIA in 2004, prompting the Indian government to form a special tourist police force. But there’s still a danger of things going slightly awry: In 2005, an act of sabotage in an ongoing feud between cable television providers led to a pornographic film appearing on the airport’s television monitors. Let’s just hope it provided a much-needed respite from CNN International.

Foreign Policy.COM

Poor Indians enjoy virtual air travel rides in Delhi for £2!

September 30, 2007

Book now for the flight to nowhere

AN INDIAN entrepreneur has given a new twist to the concept of low-cost airlines. The passengers boarding his Airbus 300 in Delhi do not expect to go anywhere because it never takes off.

All they want is the chance to know what it is like to sit on a plane, listen to announcements and be waited on by stewardesses bustling up and down the aisle.

In a country where 99% of the population have never experienced air travel, the “virtual journeys” of Bahadur Chand Gupta, a retired Indian Airlines engineer, have proved a roaring success.

As on an ordinary aircraft, customers buckle themselves in and watch a safety demonstration. But when they look out of the windows, the landscape never changes. Even if “Captain” Gupta wanted to get off the ground, the plane would not go far: it only has one wing and a large part of the tail is missing.

None of that bothers Gupta as he sits at the controls in his cockpit. His regular announcements include, “We will soon be passing through a zone of turbulence” and “We are about to begin our descent into Delhi.”

“Some of my passengers have crossed the country to get on this plane,” says Gupta, who charges about £2 each for passengers taking the “journey”.

The plane has no lighting and the lavatories are out of order. The air-conditioning is powered by a generator. Even so, about 40 passengers turn up each Saturday to queue for boarding cards.

Gupta bought the plane in 2003 from an insurance company. It was dismantled and then put together again in a southern suburb of Delhi. The Indian Airline logo on the fuselage has been replaced by the name Gupta.

Passengers are looked after by a crew of six, including Gupta’s wife, who goes up and down the aisle with her drinks trolley, serving meals in airline trays.

Some of the stewardesses hope to get jobs on proper planes one day and regard it as useful practice.

As for the passengers, they are too poor to afford a real airline ticket and most have only ever seen the interior of an aircraft in films.

“I see planes passing all day long over my roof,” Selim, a 40-year-old tyre mechanic was quoted as saying. “I had to try out the experience.”

Jasmine, a young teacher, had been longing to go on a plane. “It is much more beautiful than I ever imagined,” she said.

Matthew Campbell, The Sunday Times UK,September 30, 2007

Indian teachers ‘purify’ low caste students with cow urine

April 23, 2007

Mumbai, April 22, 2007 ,

Indian teachers have been sprinkling cow urine on low-caste students to purify them and drive away evil.

In India, millions of people formerly known as “untouchables” remain oppressed at the bottom of the ancient Hindu caste system.

The Times of India reported yesterday that upper-caste headteacher Sharad Kaithade ordered the ritual after taking over from a lower-caste predecessor at a school in a remote village in the western state of Maharashtra earlier this month.

He told an upper-caste colleague to spray cow urine in a cleansing ceremony as the students were taking an examination, wetting their faces and their answer sheets, the newspaper said.

“She said you’ll study well after getting purified,” student Rajat Washnik was quoted as saying by the CNN-IBN news channel. Students said they felt humiliated.

Hinduism reveres the cow, and its dung is used in the countryside as both a disinfectant and as fuel.

In 2001, Hindu nationalists promoted cow’s urine as a cure for ailments ranging from liver disease to obesity and even cancer.

The newspaper said the two teachers were arrested after angry parents complained to police. They have been released on bail.

India’s secular constitution bans caste discrimination, but Dalits – those at the bottom of the caste system – are still commonly beaten or killed for using a well or worshipping at a temple reserved for upper castes, especially in rural areas.

Dalits, once known as untouchables, make up around 160 million of India’s billion-plus population.

In February, the New York-based Human Rights Watch group said India was failing to protect its lower-caste citizens, who were condemned to a lifetime of abuse because of their social status.

Reuters

46 per cent Indians believe ghosts exists, 24 percent consult a palmist

January 25, 2007

93 per cent Indians believe in God

New Delhi, January 24, 2007

Here are some common beliefs about religion — Indians used to be very religious but no longer are, religion is the domain of women and the elderly, and educated and urbane India has no time for religion.

If you also thought so, it is time you took a look at the findings of the HT-CNN IBN State of the Nation Survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). Every alternate respondent in this survey — 7,670 to be precise — was asked a series of questions about their religious beliefs, attitudes and practices. The findings are bound to surprise you.

The survey found that urban, educated Indians are more religious than their rural and illiterate counterparts. Yes, women are more religious, but metropolitan women are far more religious than rural women. Predictably, the youth are a little less enthusiastic about religion. But the point is: religion in the country is on the rise.

If there is one social group that is least enthusiastic about religious practices, it is the adivasis. And if there is one group that is more religious than any other, it is upper caste Hindus who have been exposed to modern life more than others.

Consider these facts:

1) 93 per cent believe in god; education makes no difference
2) 64 per cent visit a temple, mosque or gurudwara regularly
3) 53 per cent pray daily; the educated pray more regularly
4) 46 per cent believe ghosts exist
5)  24 per cent consult a palmist
6)  68 per cent participate or take interest in religious functions of other religions

Do you think these figures reflect the rise of the BJP? Not quite. The party gets a little more than average support from among the very religious, but so does the Congress.

So what drives people to religion? Sociologists tell us that the stress of urban living pushes people to search for anchors in their lives. Since they cannot go back to their villages, they recreate a community through religion. That explains the religiosity among those who live in big cities.

In the process, religion changes from a personal experience to something that is more public and congregational. Hence, the proliferation of jalsas, satsangs and ratjagas. Market and the media play a greater role in defining religion.

Religious programmes on television are the latest vehicle for religious communication.

(Kumar and Yadav are social scientists working with the CSDS, Delhi)

Sanjay Kumar and Yogendra Yadav, Hindustan Times