Dividers turn into death traps for motorists

Hyderabad: While road medians installed on many roads and by-lanes are reducing the possibility of head-on collisions among motorists, the battered dividers with deep scratches have a different tale to narrate.

Due to the lack of proper reflective paints, cat eyes and obstruction road paintings, the dividers themselves are causing problems to motorists in the city, particularly on the outskirts and secondary roads.

If the spate of accidents reported in the State capital are any indication, such incidents are on a steady rise. In a recent incident two students died on the spot when their motorcycle rammed a divider near Katta Maisamma temple in Suraram at Dundigal.

No proper signage

Lack of proper street lighting, road markings and reflective paints on the dividers, along with road congestion, are becoming major reasons for accidents involving dividers. Also, road width in the city is not uniform due to which dividers too are of different sizes resulting in mishaps.

“To avoid traffic chaos, a road should ideally have a minimum carriage way of five metres on both sides, after putting up a divider,” P.R. Bhanumurthy, JNTU professor (transportation) said. But even with that width, it is the responsibility of the authorities to provide proper lighting and reflective signage to warn motorists of the impending obstruction, he explained.

Motorists commuting on Outer Ring Road (ORR) are particularly vulnerable as the wider roads entice the motorists to step on the gas, but due to the lack of proper signage are at risk of colliding with the dividers. The sight of a battered four wheeler perched precariously on a divider has now become part of suburban folklore.

Driving with care

“Motorists will automatically avoid the obstructions if proper obstructive road signage is made at the junctions and dividers. But without these markings and proper street lighting there is always a possibility of motorists ramming the medians,” Prof. Bhanumurthy opined.

Another problem that the motorists face is when a divider comes up on a road overnight, catching regular commuters off-guard. To prevent accidents motorists too should drive defensively, especially during nights, he added.

Reflective signage

However, traffic authorities point out that it is the responsibility of municipal officials to install reflective signage. “GHMC has to install reflective signage and other related items on the roads and we are coordinating with them regularly to check the progress,” DCP Traffic (North) P.V.S. Ramakrishna said.

“Many dividers in the city are broken as motorists collide with them. GHMC authorities have assured us that they will rectify these dividers along with providing reflective signage,” he explained.

This article was published in The Hindu on May 22, 2012

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Being lax can cost you dearly

HYDERABAD: It’s a cherished dream for many to ‘own’ an abode where they can unwind in peace after a long and tedious slo at work. But the process of buying or building a house is indeed very tedious. A popular adage says that the amount of hardships that one has to undergo while building a house have very few equivalents.

While reaching the decision of buying a house is tough one in itself, the actual troubles for a prospective ‘home hunter’ starts just after that decision is taken. From escalating costs to delay in construction to securing enough finances and managing the contractors and construction workers, the travails that an aspirant has to go through are indeed many. But the most important step that any prospective customer needs to take is to exercise utmost caution while identifying a suitable property.

“The first hurdle that any person has to cross is to identify a property that is in an area that one wants and also comes within his budget. It is also important for him to ensure that the title deeds of the property are clear and is free of litigations,” a builder said.

“Property dealings are very irksome and can cause a lot of trouble. Many people have lost their hard earned money as they invested in a property without clear papers. If the investment is huge, taking a professional legal advice from an advocate regarding the land documents is a better idea,” he opined.

But if you thought that buying a flat, instead of a plot removes the burden of verifying documents off your shoulders, experts warn that being lax about such documents can cost one dearly.

A person interested in buying a flat should also be careful about the documents such as land papers, building plan approvals, clearance certificates from municipal and other utility companies and departments, link documents, among others. But apart from these mandatory checks, it is also advantageous if one chooses a builder with good reputation and the projects that are cleared by banks.

“Buying a flat from a builder with good track record makes good sense as we can be sure of the quality of construction to a reasonable extent. The reputation of a builder also helps in raising a loan easily,” A. Mathew, a bank manager said.

“Raising a loan is much easier if a project has prior approval from a bank. This is because a bank would have vetted the documents of a property along with a host of other mandatory clearances. In other words, a bank has already taken a favourable decision to extend loan against such a project,” he explained.

This article was published in The Hindu on May 19, 2012

To buy or not to buy: dilemma faced by real estate consumers

HYDERABAD: The demography of India is tilting favourably towards youth and with each passing year scores of young professionals are entering the job market. With hefty pay packages and ‘stars’ in their eyes, a sizeable chunk of these youngsters are indeed aiming for better positions and are poised for brighter careers.

But while the changing economy and the associated ‘perks’ are changing the lifestyles of the people; one quintessential Indian trait still lingers on. The desire to own a house. The increase in the well paid workforce is indeed providing a perennial demand to the real estate sector.

Name it anything, a place to settle in, a way of reducing expenditure or a simple investment opportunity, there are many incentives for owning a house. But while most people have a strong desire to own their abode, they, nevertheless, are deterred by many daunting obstacles.

And the first one of the lot is to take the very decision of buying a house. “We would like to buy a house but the very fact that we have to take a decision right way scares us. There are few variables that we have to factor in before taking this plunge,” Satish Kumar and Veena Rani, a couple working in IT industry, says. The dilemma that this couple face is that there is a possibility for them to move out of the country on a three-year assignment. “We have few choices here. We can buy a house now and give it on rent or come back to the country with better savings and buy a better house in a gated community,” Satish mulls. “And then there is the question of whether we will settle in this city. If we are not settling in this city, we will be struck with an investment that we cannot look after,” he adds.

While taking the plunge is a hard step for consumers, builders too advise that the decision of buying a house should be taken after careful deliberations. “If a person can afford to buy a home within his salary he should not have a problem in buying a home. Investing in real estate indeed makes for a sound economic judgement. But if a person has to take a loan to buy a house, he has to be careful before taking the plunge,” Janardhan Reddy, a builder observes. To help a person in taking the decision, Reddy gives a checklist. “A person has to decide as to whether he is buying a house or flat to settle in it or is he taking it as an investment. If he is taking it for settling down, then the distance from work place, connectivity and civic amenities available in the area play a major role in taking the decision. Typically such people would look for a house in the core areas of the city or those near their work place,” he says. But if a person is looking at buying the house only for investment purpose, he can go a little easy on these parameters. This, he explains, is because over a period of time any area in a city is bound to develop. “The real estate rates are bound to go up and by the time a person decides to sell his property, the area would have developed sufficiently and would invariably fetch him a good bargain,” he said.

The article was published in Property Plus supplement of The Hindu on May 12, 2012.

Young professionals preferring to buy house early in their careers

HYDERABAD: Suresh Kumar, a 26-year old software engineer is a busy man. He joined a leading multinational company three years ago and is now looking out to ‘settle’ in his life. While few years ago settling in life, at Suresh’s age, meant getting married, Suresh thinks otherwise.

Before getting married, Suresh is determined to buy a house. “I want to first buy a house and then only think of tying the knot. Buying a house before marriage is a better option as it will give me a semblance of security,” he says. And Suresh is not the only young professional with such ideas. Few decades ago, buying a house was the final step that a person would take to settle in his life. Most often, one would buy a house at the fag end of his career with the money that he accumulated during his log working life. This would give a modicum of security to a person in his penultimate years, or so earlier generations thought.

With the rise of new economy and with its inherent volatility, the situation is different now and younger generation prefers to own a house very early in their careers. “Though we are well paid, we do not have the job security which our earlier generations enjoyed. Without the security provisions like retirement benefits and stable pension, it is too risky for a young professional to wait till his retirement to buy a house,” Siddhartha M., an IT professional explains.

Apart from this, with sky rocketing house rentals, it also makes sense for a professional to purchase a house with loan and clear it with monthly instalments. This way, one can own a piece of property with almost similar cost that one would shell out if he stays in a rented house, he adds.

While these reasons are quite valid, buying a house early in the career can also have an investment value.

“In spite of economic downturn, the real estate market is on a stable upward trajectory. While financial instruments like shares and bonds can loose their sheen, buying a property will not only ensure that the value of your investment remains stable, it will also give a decent return,” Hari Krishna, an investment banker says.

With the ever booming population, the share of young professionals in the total population is set to rise in the coming decades and this means that real estate sector is in for a long term growth, Hari Krishna points out. This, he says, is because all these professionals will try to settle and own a house. In case a professional is forced to move out of the city because of his job requirements, he can either rent his house or sell it for a higher price. Both of these options are lucrative, Hari Krishna points.

The article was published in “Property Plus’ supplement of The Hindu on May 05, 2012.

Leverage socialmedia better

HYDERABAD: It is a common knowledge that current generation is very active on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. But what do they do on these platforms? Bond with their friends? Meet strangers with similar tastes and interests? Tell their peer group what they are doing?

While social media websites make it possible for youngsters to do all these, Shantanu Ghosh, an authority on social media feels that younger generation is not using the platform efficiently.

Social media, more than anything else, has the ability to create a strong personal brand and youngsters should try and utilise it better,” he says.

In the current networked world, where a person can connect with professionals from across the world, social media websites help in providing an efficient platform and hence they should be extra cautious in the way they use these sites, he points.

“In social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn a person can create a strong brand and further his career prospects but sadly most youngsters limit their accounts for personal use,” he explains.

With HR professionals increasingly turning to the social media websites to scout for the talent, it is vitally important for a person to create a better personal brand, he explained.

Human Resource (HR) professionals also concur with Prof. Ghosh. “Many people create online profiles with pictures of film stars and other popular figures.

zThe moment we come across such a profile, we disregard the candidature of that person,” a HR professional revealed. Like in real world a person has to create a credible presence in the online world without which it is not possible for him to secure a better job, the professional said.

After all, the whole trade of ‘head hunting’ (HR term for scouting a suitable candidate) depends on credibility of a person, the professional quipped.

So if creating a credible online presence is a necessity, what should a youngster do towards this endeavour? Prof. Ghosh gives out few points to help a person in creating a better online profile.

First, a person should identify his target clearly. “One should first decide upon which field he wants to excel in. Then he should join the networks or groups, available on social media platforms, regarding that field. This way a candidate will have opportunity to interact with professionals and can keep himself updated about the latest developments in that field,” Prof. Ghosh explains.

Joining the groups also has another advantage, he point out. By participating in the discussions in those groups one can also increase his visibility on the platform there by generating credibility, he said.

Prof. Ghosh advises that a person should share the information that he stumbles upon.

Credibility of a person increases when he shares substantial information on the net. This not only helps people, but will also help in creating the brand value of a person,” he said.

“Gone are the days when one could out smart a competitor by knowing more than him. With information being available on the net freely, everyone has equal access to it. A person should instead share the information so that his peers can be benefited by it and in turn increase his popularity,” professor points out.

The article was published in The Hindu on May 07, 2012.

Also read my article on Career opportunities through socialmedia

Social media throws up many job opportunities

Hyderabad: With social media gaining steady popularity, the traditional methods employed by the recruiters to identify a suitable candidate are increasingly becoming obsolete. Recruiters are now looking towards social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to spot the talent. And this necessitates candidates to have a better online presence to corner the desired job.

Shantanu Ghosh, an authority on social media and its implications for business practices agrees. Contrary to the popular perception that social media is not a credible platform for recruiters to scout for the talent, Prof. Ghosh argues that the very basis of social media stands on the credibility of a person and aspirants should maintain a ‘credible’ online profile.

“Online acquaintances and relationships are very fragile and anyone can leave a network without prior information. Only credibility and resourcefulness can hold one’s reputation and ensure a better following in the social media,” explains Prof. Ghosh, who was a business development head in Singapore for a leading multi-national.

In social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter a recruiter can easily follow a person’s activity and hence can understand his personality. Because of this it becomes easy for a recruiter to zero in on a preferred candidate.

But Prof. Ghosh cautions that online search for a job may not be that easy for a fresher. “Because of lack of proper awareness, college students and fresh graduates are failing to harness the power of social media in promoting their careers and these youngsters are limiting their social media presence for personal reasons,” he said. HR professionals are relying on social media for spotting a candidate for middle and senior level positions instead, he said.

But while there is much ado about the rise of social media and its implications, will these strategies be successful in India? “LinkedIn has become a de-facto tool for hiring a senior level professional and sooner than later the job portals will loose their sheen. For entry level jobs, companies prefer posting the job vacancies on Facebook as younger generation is active on that platform,” agreed a HR professional of a leading company.

While HR professionals are looking into social media profiles to track a prospective candidate, they also have evolved the pattern of this evaluation. “While finalising a candidate, companies are preferring a professional who is already doing well in his present job and is active on social media,” A.K. Menon CEO of Options Executive Search, explained.

Terming these professionals as ‘Passive Job Seekers’, Mr. Menon says that companies are not inclined to select a candidate who creates a online profile in search of a job. “One has to maintain a continuous presence on social media and build credibility over time,” he opined.

This article was published in The Hindu on April 30, 2012

Also read how my next blog on Leveraging socialmedia better

 

Drunk drivers’ efforts to evade traffic police

HYDERABAD: With traffic police clamping down vigorously on drunk driving, revellers visiting high-end pubs and bars are employing new tactics to evade police detection.

Apart from hiring drivers to ferry them home, they are now winding up their parties only late into the night.

“Visitors of pubs and bars in posh areas are leaving the bar premises only after we wind up our operations, to evade police check posts put up during drunk driving enforcement,” a police official said. For last few months we have observed that not many customers come out of high-end bars till the time our check posts are in place, he explained.

That’s also because many of the high-end pubs serve liquor beyond the schedule time, he points out. As per rules, bars should close down by midnight, but quite a few of them serve liquor with their shutters closed.

Rate of accidents

The aim of controlling drunk driving is to reduce the rate of accidents, but if bars and restaurants allow patrons to leave their premises after the enforcement timings, the very purpose of the drive will be defeated, the police official said.

According to present regulations, bars should stop serving liquor by 11 p.m. and close by midnight. But most watering holes frequented by influential people/VIPs remain open till late in the night, admitted Andhra Pradesh Wine Shop Dealers Association president D. Venkateswara Rao.

Since most bars and pubs in areas such as Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills are kept open till late into night, most youngsters are now hopping to these places after ‘smaller’ joints close at their scheduled time, he explained.

As a police official points out with a shrug: “Traffic police does not have the authority to close the bars, so our law and order brethren should ensure that these bars are closed in time to help us in better enforcement of drunk driving.”

This article was published in The Hindu on April 23, 2012

Homoeopathy is a misunderstood medical system

Hyderabad: Hoardings dotting the city claim ‘miraculous’ cure for a range of ailments through homoeopathy. From stopping hair fall to treating obesity and from bringing in hormonal balance to curing infertility, mushrooming clinics promise an answer to all.

But main stream doctors scoff at these claims and maintain that the very system of homoeopathy is a ‘scientific hoax’. And caught between claims and counter claims, patients are a confused lot these days.

“People have many misconceptions about homoeopathy and this is causing a lot of confusion. There has to be an informed debate about homoeopathy to help people in taking a better decision,” K. Gopala Krishna, General Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Homoeopathy Association, said.

Homoeopathy depends on the principle(called ‘similia similibus curentur‘) which states that a disease can be cured by those substances which actually cause the disease itself, Dr. Krishna explained. Based on this principle homoeopathic doctors prescribe medicine that, if consumed in excess, can prove dangerous to a patient, he said.

“Since the ingredients of the medicine are very potent they are diluted to a large extent. Sometimes the dilution extends to the point where the presence of original ingredients in the medicine cannot be discovered by any available scientific procedures,” he explained. Homoeopathy is not considered as a scientific system because of this reason, he added.

Homoeopathic medicine are not a placebo pills

While some commentators maintain that homoeopathy relies on mere placebo effect, Dr. Krishna points out that people are getting physical relief by its medicine for last 200 years and this proves that homoeopathy is not just a placebo effect.

Placebo effect is a process where a doctor gives an ineffective medicine (placebo) to treat a disease and patient is cured because of the mere psychological effects.

“Each system of medicine has its own strengths and weaknesses. Homoeopathy is best suited for the ailments such as upper respiratory track infection, arthritis, allergic disorders, hormonal imbalances in women and spondylitis, among others,” he said.

On the other hand the modern medicine, also called allopathy, has gained technical expertise to such an extent that it has no match in emergency, interventional and surgical procedures, he said. Because of this expertise allopathy doctors depend excessively on surgical procedures, he added.

Approach of Homoeopathy and Allopathy different

“Even the approach towards treating a disease by both the systems is completely different and hence they should not be compared,” Dr. Krishna said.

Whereas allopathy concentrates on curing an ailment by killing the invading pathogen, homoeopathy tries to strengthen the body so that it can fight the pathogens by itself, he said. “Our surroundings are brimming with pathogens all the time and they cause an ailment only when the body becomes weak,” he explained.

Admitting that some homeopathy doctors are indulging in false claims, Dr. Krishna said that these claims are damaging the image of the system.

Homoeopathy, if practised properly, is cheaper, safer and effective for many ailments and can help body in gaining resistance against ailments, he said.

“Excessive dependence on western medicine is proving to be very costly. A judicial balance between both homoeopathy and allopathy will reduce the cost and also improve the health of a person,” he added.

This article was published in The Hindu on April 19, 2012

Cashing in on ‘infertility’

With more and more childless couple resorting to Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) to realise their dream of an offspring, newer avenues are opening up for desperate women to make quick money.

While becoming a surrogate fetches a poor woman about Rs.2 lakh, for those who do not want to take up long-term commitment of bearing a child becoming an egg donor has become a preferred alternative. Each time a woman donates her mature eggs, she is paid an amount of Rs. 25,000. ART technologies help a childless couple to get their genetic child through processes like test tube babies and surrogacy.

But those women, who cannot produce an ovum altogether, the only option left is to receive an egg from a donor. And with rising demand for such eggs, many women are coming forward to make a moolah.

“Earlier we had to solicit women to donate their eggs. But now they come to our clinic on their own, some of them regularly. We pay Rs.25,000 for each such donation. Regular donors often refer their friends or relatives to the clinic,” an official at a fertility clinic said.

But though donating eggs fetches handsome amount, it has its own set of problems. “To donate mature ovum, a woman has to undergo a hormonal therapy. Taking this therapy at frequent intervals can be very dangerous for the donor,” K. Anuradha of Anu Test Tube Baby Centre explained. “Due to the lack of proper monitoring mechanism, some poor women are donating their eggs almost every month by visiting different clinics each time. This practice can result in serious damage to the donor’s health,” she explained.

Plenty of choices

Childless couples, who want to receive an ovum from a donor, have plenty of choices. Though the identity of a donor is kept secret, parents can go through the complete profile of the donors, including their height, weight, complexion and even IQ levels, to choose an ‘egg’. And if money is not an issue, the couple can even give attractive physical traits to their surrogate baby by getting an egg from Caucasian women.

“Foreign couples prefer a Caucasian woman because of their attractive physical traits. They are flown down to the city in business class, stay in five star hotels and are paid about $5000,” a fertility clinic employee added.

This article was published in The Hindu on April 12

Ameerpet, Hyderabad becoming a hub for fake experience certificate racket

Java, SAP, Dot Net, Mobile Apps, Testing, Networking these may look like disjointed words, but for aspirants who want a share of the lucrative software industry pie, these are but keys to a dream job. And the popularity of these courses can be gauged even during a casual stroll through the narrow by-lanes of Ameerpet.

Aspirants throng the nondescript pathways displaying the pamphlets urging an aspirant to take up various courses for a brighter future. Whatever may be the educational background, if one can splurge enough money on learning proprietary software, institutes in Ameerpet assure that they can land a well paying job in a software company.

There are more than 500 engineering colleges in the State and only a handful of these manage about 100 per cent placements for their students through campus placements, Siddhartha Malempati of Forum for IT Professionals (ForIT) said. And for these students doing a course in proprietary software is the next available alternative, he said.

Many institutions in the city adopt a standard procedure. They charge a candidate anywhere between Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 1.5 lakh depending on the course. Then they train the person for about six months and arrange an experience certificate for the candidate to enable him in finding a job.

“Lured by these claims, fresh graduates from the smaller towns are flocking the city to do these courses and spend huge amounts of money and precious time,” Mr. Siddhartha said.

But aspirants land in trouble soon after they finish their courses. “In Andhra Pradesh craze for an IT job has put all other engineering streams into a relative disadvantage. When candidates do not get a job through campus placements they try to enter a company through backdoor and produce a fake experience certificates,” a senior HR manager from an IT company said.

“More than 80 per cent of fake experience certificates come from Andhra Pradesh and the largest concentration of training companies, who provide experience letters for dummy projects done during the training, is around Ameerpet,” he observed.

“To make an experience letter look genuine, candidates are indulging in illegal activities of fabricating fake documents like bank statements and salary slips,” he said.

With a rise in the incidence of fake certificates, the software companies have made the background verification of a candidate a mandatory procedure before hiring him, he said.

“Apart from the background verification, most companies screen out the candidates, who they feel, might be producing a fake certificate in the initial stages itself,” he said.

“As a precaution companies started rejecting a candidate carrying an experience certificate from an Ameerpet based company or institution. The only exceptions being those companies whose names are well known in the industry,” the professional explained.

This article was published in The Hindu on April 03, 2012