Posts Tagged ‘Hindu’

Fears of social unrest ahead as India’s rise creates new underclass

January 5, 2008

Double-edged boom hits India’s poor

Fears of social unrest ahead as country’s rise creates new underclass
From Raymond Thibodeaux in New Delhi

EVEN AMID the chaotic swarm of Delhi’s traffic, with horns blaring and trucks and buses rumbling past, Omprekash Takur’s place of business remains a bastion of stillness and calm. Which is a good thing, as Takur’s speciality is open-razor shaves.

Takur has spent nearly 10 years at this barber shop, or what passes for a barber shop: a small stretch of pavement with a rusted chair, a plastic table for his shaving kit, two pairs of scissors, a comb and a square mirror hanging from a nail driven into the trunk of a tamarind tree, its leaves darkened by soot and dust kicked up by the traffic.

“My father taught me to do this when I was seven and I’ve been doing it ever since. My teachers would beat me for skipping classes, but I enjoyed making money from cutting hair,” said the slight, dark-skinned Takur, now 27, as he loaded a fresh blade into the razor.
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India’s city streets are filled with people like Takur – barbers, ear cleaners, cobblers and tailors, a rag-tag platoon of kerbside personal assistants for the country’s urban masses. But for many of them, India’s economic rise has chipped away at their client base as a growing number of Indians are better able to afford more upmarket versions of their services at newly sprouted shopping malls.

The huge wealth being generated by India’s booming economy has been slow to trickle down to the street level, where most of the country’s 400 million workers ply their trades. Typically, they are poorly educated and semi-skilled, and toil away in a shadowy, informal economy that falls under the radar of most government controls and protections.

As India’s rises, the gap between rich and poor appears to be widening. With a 6% inflation rate, the new India seems to be backfiring on the poor, who are hardest hit by increases in the cost of basic necessities such as food and shelter. This has stoked fears of a looming social turmoil in this country of 1.1 billion people, as a growing and increasingly restive underclass is left to fend for itself as India’s economic tide turns.

“These are our electricians, our plumbers, our housemaids and our drivers. They are the backbone of our economic success, and yet they live in slums,” said Ranjana Kumari, director for the Centre of Social Research in New Delhi, a non-governmental agency focused on India’s workplace.

“There is a serious flaw in the government policies that guide our economy. There needs to be more government initiative to care for these workers and give them a bigger share of the wealth.”

So far, India’s pro-growth government has been reluctant to burden businesses with costly regulations that would do just that. And many Indian companies have been unwilling to absorb them as formal employees, who would then be entitled to the few perks already required by law: health benefits, pension plans, holidays and severance pay.

As a result, about 93% of India’s workforce remains informal and unorganised.

“Ideally, we want to formalise our entire workforce, give them pensions and health benefits and so on, but that’s going to take a long time,” said Pronab Sen, the Indian government’s chief statistician. Part of the hold-up is that more and more rural Indians are abandoning their farms and moving to urban areas to seek better jobs as rickshaw drivers, street sweepers and barbers. These workers are hard to keep track of and much harder to organise.

“The informal sector is an extremely important transition between the rural areas and the cities. It allows the people to learn different trades that are more useful and better-paying,” Sen said.

In the shade of the tamarind tree, Takur dipped his shaving brush in hot water and lathered up another scruffy face, his third in the space of an hour. He said he usually rakes in at least £3 a day, three times the daily wage of most Indians. It’s enough to support his wife and his three sons, aged six, four and two.

Asked how India’s boom had benefited him, he said: “It hasn’t.” But a client, a rickshaw taxi driver waiting his turn in the barber’s chair, pointed out that Takur had doubled his prices since last year.

“Yes, that’s true, but that is not really a benefit to me,” said Takur, using his palm to wipe shaving cream off the razor. “My supplies are costing more, so I must pass that on to my customer.”

Sunday Herald

Hindutva states issued ‘ghost’cards for Public Distribution System

December 22, 2007

Rot in PDS: Over 2 cr ghost cards

NEW DELHI: It has been one of India’s worst kept secrets. But now, a recent study has put the number of “ghost” public distribution system cards at a staggering 2.3 crore and, what is even more damning, revealed that as many as 1.21 crore “deserving” poor have been left out of the food security umbrella.

So, the PDS or the “ration card” scam is actually a massive double whammy. Not only do a huge number of fake cards point to diversion of the PDS subsidized foodgrain, but the leaking system is bypassing those who are in dire need of state support. While the government is importing foodgrain to maintain buffer stocks, the delivery system is falling wide off the mark.

The study, conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), has provided evidence to confirm what senior ministers like P Chidambaram and Sharad Pawar have been claiming — that foodgrain is being diverted to the black market and may even be smuggled into Bangladesh.

A back of the envelope calculation shows the economic dimensions of the PDS fiddle. If the entitlement to 35kg of foodgrain, comprising wheat and rice, for every family under PDS is taken into account, the ghost cards can represent a potential diversion of 966 crore tonnes of foodgrain each year.

There is a very real fallout of the ghost cards despite the NCAER report, even in the face of its own findings, claiming the system is working “quite satisfactorily”. The finance minister, for one, certainly does not agree. On Wednesday, Chidambaram told the National Development Council that PDS “could become an albatross around our neck and an opportunity for rent seekers to enrich themselves… about 58% of subsidised grain does not reach the target group, of which a little over 36% is siphoned off the supply chain”.

Various other reports, commissioned by the Supreme Court and government, seem to have been validated by the recent NCAER data. The study looks to make things a little less bleak by not accounting for the ghost cards when calculating the extent of diversion. But the 2.3 crore figure cannot be wished away. Uttar Pradesh has issued 1.11 crore more cards than it should have, NCAER feels. Rajasthan has an excess 24 lakh cards and Gujarat and Haryana have more than 10 lakh ghost cards each. A ghost card can be used either by an undeserving beneficiary to buy cheap grain or just be diverted. In either case, the purpose of PDS to provide nutritional security to the poor is defeated.

The report found that the rich had been given the lowest income group ration cards — AAY cards — in 70% of the cases in the Northeast and in 30-35% of the cases in other states.

Even people who got their PDS supply of wheat and rice did not pay the stipulated price. In the six states that NCAER surveyed, not once in the six months of the study’s duration did people purchase grain at the fixed rate. In Rajasthan, the people paid at times 35% more than the prescribed rate for wheat, the staple diet in the state.

This is a sign of not only rampant corruption but also puts the cheap foodgrain out of reach of those who need it as some people complained that they couldn’t afford the rations even at subsidized rates. The “premium” introduced by unscrupulous Fair Price Shop owners is bound to make the really poor more vulnerable.

Of the six states surveyed, the study found Bihar to be worst off. Almost 90% households in case of rice and 70% in case of wheat complained of impurity, insect-infested supply and broken grain.

22 Dec 2007, Nitin Sethi,TNN

World Bank debars 2 firms in Indian child health project

December 21, 2007

WASHINGTON: In its global fight against corruption, the World Bank has debarred two firms for alleged collusive practices in connection with the Bank-financed Reproductive and Child Health Project in India.

The two firms, Nestor Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Pure Pharma Ltd were debarred for a period of three years and one year respectively after a sanctions hearing in fiscal year 2007, according to a new Bank report.

The hearing followed approval by the World Bank Group Board of a broad new set of reforms to the Bank’s sanctions regime in fiscal year 2007 that will help ensure uniform compliance with the highest ethical standards in all aspects of Bank-financed projects around the world, the Annual Integrity Report said.

The World Bank’s Department of Institutional Integrity (INT) also undertook a Detailed Implementation Review or DIR of five projects across the Bank Group’s health portfolio in India, which is to be completed and provided to the region in financial year 2008.

INT, the report said, has greatly increased its use of DIR, which is a proactive diagnostic tool that uses forensic accounting and investigative techniques to examine Bank projects in a given country for indicators of fraud and corruption. INT completed two DIRs in fiscal year 2007 in Kenya and Vietnam.

INT made significant contributions to the global fight against corruption in fiscal year 2007, with a 25 per cent increase in closed investigations from the previous fiscal year.

It also launched a voluntary disclosure programme to deter private-sector corruption, and reached agreement on a coordinated approach to rooting out corruption among the international financial institutions.

“Corruption is a cancer that steals from the poor, eats away at governance and moral fibre, and destroys trust,” said World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick. “The challenge for the World Bank is how best to diagnose, determine, and clean out corruption in concert with developing and developed countries.”

According to the report, “Improving Development Outcomes: Fiscal Year 2007 Annual Integrity Report”, INT closed a total of 301 cases in fiscal Year 2007 ended June 30.

These included both cases of fraud and corruption in Bank-financed projects and cases of alleged staff misconduct, an increase of 60 cases from fiscal year 2006. In addition, the total carryover of open cases into fiscal year 2008 was 232, a decrease of 62 cases (21 per cent) from the fiscal year 2006 backlog and the lowest year-end total since fiscal year 2002.

Economic Times, 20 Dec 2007 

Indian arrested in Cambodia for fraud

December 21, 2007

 PHNOM PENH: An Indian businessman in Cambodia has been arrested for tampering with manufacturing dates of medicines and reselling them, local media reported on Wednesday.

Indian national Kartik Sayay, director of Pragya Co Ltd, was arrested at his home in this capital city on Monday, Municipal Economic Police Chief Pich Pannha was quoted as saying by Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper.

The daily said he faced court a day later and was remanded in custody after police allegedly found equipment for repackaging medicine under fake names and stamping false expiry dates.

If convicted he might face a jail term of between 10 and 20 years. Fake and falsely labelled medicines kill a number of people in Cambodia every year and the government has increasingly acted to combat the problem.

20 Dec 2007, IANS

Hindu millionaire couple punished for slavery

December 20, 2007

Slave pair punished
20/12/2007

A  hindu millionaire couple who enslaved their two servants have lost their £1.3million mansion as well as their liberty.

Varsha Sabhnani, 45, and her husband were told their home could also be seized because they committed their crimes there.

The pair, from Indonesia and India but naturalised Americans in Long Island, New York, face up to 40 years in jail after they paid the housemaids £50 a month, slashed them with knives and made them eat their vomit.

Sabhnani said: “I’m devastated. It will take me away from my children.”

Moon mission of Sathya Sai Baba: Only for the faithful!

December 20, 2007

Natteri Adigal, 29 November 2007,

Sathya Sai Baba is not a Nobel laureate like Dalai Lama. But, he counts Dr Michael Nobel, son of Alfred Nobel, among his staunch devotees. Former Chief Justice of India PN Bhagwati was the chief guest as Baba cut the cake on his 82nd birthday in November.

THE PLANS of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) for a manned mission to moon has had mixed response from the people. The advisability of putting an Indian on moon – before ensuring that no Indian is forced to seek railway tracks to relieve himself / herself every morning – has been justified with sermons on ‘nationalism’ by people reposing unquestioning faith in India’s tremendous capabilities. The move has been strongly condemned by others, who say that the funds happen to be collected by relieving their pockets compulsorily, through a maze of invisible taxes and duties. But, faith is quite a difficult commodity to analyse. It always has takers as well as sceptics.
So was it the case about a different kind of moon mission on the October 4 this year at Puttaparthi, 500 kilometres off Hyderabad. Prasanthi Nilayam in this town is the headquarters of Ratnakara Sathyanarayana Raju, with no achievement to boast of – in the strict academic and material sense of the term. However, millions have full faith in the divine nature of this person, whose following is put at between 50 and 100 million. Out of these, an estimated six million adherents firmly believe him to be the Bhagawan (god). Shortly after aarti was performed for this ‘Bhagawan’ at 6 pm that day, the noted academic Prof Anil Kumar made a startling announcement. He said there would be a repeat of what happened during the epic Mahabharat war – ‘Vishwa Viraat Roopa’. Ardent Hindus believe that their god Lord Krishna revealed his cosmic form to warrior Arjuna and rumours had been doing the rounds that Sai Baba had decided to give a similar darshan to people all over the world by appearing on the moon. The professor instructed devotees present to proceed to the airport and thousand made a beeline for the airport, from where to sight the moon between 7 and 8 pm. The instruction also reached millions of Sai devotees through calls and SMSs.
According to the official weblog of the headquarters, “. . . at 6.15, Bhagawan also emerged from his residence and proceeded to the airport. There, Swami’s car was surrounded by devotees and had difficulty moving around – Swami could not come out of the car completely due to the crush of the crowd. After around 45 minutes at the airport, Swami started back to his residence, the car making its way very slowly through the road which was clogged with people and vehicles.” In short, the promised ‘miracle’ turned out to be a damp squib. The thousands of folk from neighbouring villages who rushed to the airport were disappointed as a cloud cover hid the moon. The police had a tough time in clearing the traffic on the airport road to enable the Baba to return to his abode amid tight security. There was no word from Sai Trust as to why the ‘miracle’ failed to materialise.
Australia-based Barry Pittard, a former devotee and lecturer at Sathya Sai College in Whitefield who has been leading a campaign against the ‘cult’, ridiculed the whole exercise as another gimmick at fooling people. Baba’s faithful devotees, on the other hand, believe that only the clouds played spoilsport. Ironically, there were numerous claims of having sighted him on the moon on that day, and even afterwards. One such claim said, “We were gifted to see the Divine Face of Swami in the Moon on 20th November 2007 clearly. His Hair, Eyes, Nose and Mouth were clearly seen without any blemish. We started crying, looking at this DIVINE LOVE.”
Sathya Sai Baba is not a Nobel laureate like Dalai Lama. But, he counts Dr Michael Nobel, son of Alfred Nobel, among his staunch devotees. On Baba’s 76th birthday, six years back, Nobel launched a digital radio network vowing to spread his message of global harmony and peace. Even people, who take the ‘Bhagawan’ claims with a lot of incredulity, cannot but admire his contributions to the society at large. He has been instrumental in creating ‘institutions of excellence’ which are very different than others – they are addressed at providing medical care and advanced education to the poor public, and not to the privileged.
Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust runs several general hospitals, world-class super-specialty hospitals, dispensaries, eye hospitals and mobile dispensaries. The 220-bed super-specialty hospital at Puttaparthi was designed by Keith Critchlow, architectural adviser to the Prince of Wales, and was inaugurated on Sai Baba’s 72nd birthday in 1997 by the then Prime Minister. The 333-bed facility at Bangalore has the most advanced ICUs (Intensive Care Units), CCUs (Critical Care Units) and OTs (Operation theatres) in the country but it focuses on treating the most poor. Inaugurated in 2001 by the then Prime Minister, it has handled more than two million cases. Food and medicines are provided free of cost at Sai Baba hospitals. Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in Prasanthi Nilayam is the first college to receive A++ rating by NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) of UGC (University Grants Commission). But, unlike IIMs, it does not seek out the crème de la crème but lifts up the ordinary. The trust also runs an Institute of Music and an Institute of Higher Learning, specifically for women in Anantapur.
Last year, the Baba asked his devotees to implement Rs 200 crore drinking water project that provides water from the river Krishna in Andhra Pradesh to Chennai city, the capital of Tamil Nadu. Both state governments had miserably failed to implement the programme since decades, with all the taxes and duties fleeced by them going only to maintain a bloated bureaucracy. The felicitation for the feat in January 2007 by the Chennai citizens’ conclave at Nehru stadium saw four chief ministers at the dais with Sai Baba, including the hardcore atheist chief minister Karunanidhi of Tamil Nadu. He said the work that Sai Baba was doing could be taken as a measure to define god.
As it should happen to any mortal, whether ordinary or divine, the miraculous powers of Sai Baba however seem to be waning with age. The godman has been confined to a wheelchair since 2005 and has made very few appearances due to failing health. He did make a brief appearance on Thursday (November 22) at the Hall to deliver the convocation address of Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, attended by Ashok Chavan, minister for Industries, Maharashtra; Geeta Reddy, minister for Industries, Andhra Pradesh and the noted industrialist AVS Raju.
Even though Sai Baba’s attempt to perform another miracle of appearing on the moon on October 4was a non-event, it would be savage to call it as mooning. After all, he has been able to perform what has proved to powerful governments to be mooning. The godman has achieved the projects out of funds that flowed in voluntarily, unlike the government that indulges in extravagant mooning!
As for the reactions among the faithful for the ‘failure’ of the moon mission on October 4, one devotee Dattaswami says, “Even if this miracle is done, our atheist-friends will say that some laser technology was adopted. Our friends have disposed all the earlier miracles also as magic. When Lord Krishna gave the cosmic vision to Kauravas, they did not believe it and concluded that it was some magic show. . . The whole scene is to be understood carefully to conclude the concept. . . Every time, every devotee needs the exhibition of a miracle to establish the existence of unimaginable . . .god established by the unimaginable limits of infinite space (indicated by the airport) inferred by mind (indicated by moon) in the medium of human body (indicated by Shri Baba sitting there). Since the moon was not visible, which infers the unimaginable limits of space, the airport infers the unimaginable limits of space. It is for this reason of invisibility of moon (mind is invisible), the airport was selected as the place.”
Of course, the explanation may not be comprehensible to ordinary mortals. But, then, faith is quite a difficult commodity to be comprehended by analysis!
Merinews

Puri priests demand ban on entry of ISKCON monks

December 20, 2007

PURI: Firing another salvo against ISKCON monks, nearly hundred priests of Sri Jagannath Temple here sat on a dharna on Thursday demanding a ban on the entry of converted Hindus into the 12th century shrine.

In a memorandum to Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), Sri Jagannath Sevayat Sammilanee (SJSS) said only “Hindus by birth” should be allowed into the temple, one of the four important dhams for Hindus in the country.

Earlier last week, the priests had criticised ISKCON for holding “untimely” Rath Yatra and display of the Lord’s picture on the website of an American online shopping outlet.

Samilanee Secretary, Harehrushna Mahasuar, said a number of foreigners under the cover of ISKCON were trying to enter the temple. “Though their passports showed they were Hindus, in reality they hailed from other religious groups,” he claimed.

Citing two recent incidents in which the priests drove out nine Indonesian nationals from the temple, Mahasuar said they were Hindus on paper. But they were converts. “We are sure that they had changed religion in order to get an entry into the Puri temple which is a dream for many,” he claimed.

The priests also expressed their anguish over the police act of facilitating the Indonesian nationals to enter the temple.

“We allowed them to enter the temple as their religion was Hindu according to their passports,” said Puri Superintendent of Police Asit Panigrahi.

20 Dec 2007, 1550 hrs IST,PTI

Cops to enlist ex-bad guys to nab criminals

December 19, 2007

Lucknow, India – Indian police are betting there is no honour among thieves.

Police said on Tuesday they are co-opting former criminals to give up trade secrets to help stem a massive crime wave that has hit the city of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, a notoriously lawless state in northern India.

“Who knows the mind-set of criminals better than the one who, himself, had ruled the dark alleys of crime?” Kanpur police chief Anand Swaroop said.

Swaroop said the plan entailed identifying once habitual criminals who are no longer active and asking them for their insights into today’s delinquents.

Twelve convicts have so far agreed to take part, and they will initially receive a monthly retainer of 1 000 rupees (about R150) that could increase depending on how useful they are, he said.At least 32 murders and thefts worth 250 million rupees or more have taken place in the last three months in Kanpur, an industrial city some 80 kilometres southeast of the state capital, Lucknow, according to police statistics.

State police chief Shiv Narain Singh praised the initiative, saying if it went well it could help former criminals reintegrate into society.

“This perhaps is the best way for them to repent for the crimes they have committed in their youth,” he said.

December 18 2007 at  Sapa-AP

Hindu boy sells girl friend for Rs 40k

December 19, 2007

Delhi lover sells woman for Rs 40K

NEW DELHI: In a shocking incident, the ‘lover’ of a 21-year-old woman sold her to a couple from Haryana for Rs 40,000. The victim, who was rescued by the Delhi Police crime branch from Jind on Monday, was raped repeatedly by three men before being forced into prostitution.

The woman, who is from Jharkhand, had come to Delhi a few weeks ago to meet her pregnant sister. She was staying in the house of her brother-in-law at Shahdara in east Delhi.

The two men who have been arrested for abducting and selling her were identified as Jai Shankar, who lives in Adarsh Nagar in north Delhi, and Pervez, from Sultanpuri in west Delhi. Both are unemployed. According to the police, Shankar met the woman in Shahdara and they “fell in love”. On December 12, Shankar took her to Pervez’s house saying he wanted to marry her in a temple.

The woman told the police that at Pervez’s house, they were approached by a man named Jagbir and his wife Rajbala. These two have also been arrested. “The couple has admitted they paid Rs 40,000 to Jai Shankar and Pervez for the woman. Jagbir and Rajbala are pimps who forced women into prostitution. The two forcibly took her to Jind and kept her illegally confined there,” said a senior police officer.

19 Dec 2007, 0420 hrs IST,TNN

Fresh probe into India politician

December 18, 2007

A court in the Indian capital Delhi has ordered a fresh investigation into the alleged role of a former central minister in anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

The court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the alleged role of Jagdish Tytler, a month after a case against him was closed.

However, a witness said recently he saw Mr Tytler lead a mob against Sikhs.

The riots, sparked by the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi by Sikh bodyguards, left more than 3,000 Sikhs dead.

Mr Tytler is a MP with the ruling Congress party, and has consistently denied any role in the rioting.

‘No evidence’

In November, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s top central detective agency, closed a case against Mr Tytler saying there was “no evidence” or “witness” to establish that he had a role in the rioting.

However, Jasbir Singh, who lives in California, recently claimed that he saw Mr Tytler lead a mob on a Sikh temple in Delhi during the riots.

Three Sikhs were burnt to death in the attack on the temple.

Mr Singh, who lost 26 family members in the rioting, left the country after the incident.

Now the court has asked the CBI to carry out a fresh investigation into Mr Tytler’s alleged role and submit a report by 16 January.

Mr Tytler was earlier implicated by a judicial commission set up to investigate the 1984 killings.

The report, by retired Supreme Court judge GT Nanavati, was the ninth inquiry commission into the riots, and was set up in 2000 by the then governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is now in opposition.

The inquiry found “credible evidence” against Mr Tytler and recommended further investigation into his role.

Mr Tytler submitted his resignation as a minister for expatriate Indians after being implicated in the riots.

He said he had resigned to his “name cleared”.

Story from BBC NEWS: