Tag Archives: India

Nathalia Kaur aims at long innings in Bollywood

She set the ramp ablaze while she was just 14 and captured the coveted crown by becoming Kingfisher Calendar Girl – 2012. Now with a peppy item number ‘Dan Dan Cheeni’ in Ram Gopal Varma‘s latest thriller ‘Department’, Nathalia Kaur is aiming for a long innings in Bollywood.

A law graduate from Rio de Janeiro and trained opera singer, Nathalia aspires to make a fruitful career in Indian cine field.

Apart from the fabulous performance in the item number, she has already acted in a Kannada movie and bagged another movie with Varma.

“I find India very hospitable and people here are very warm. I want to make this country my home,” daughter of an half-Indian father says. But will this Brazil-born stunner get stumped because of the language? She claims that language is not a problem for her.

“In a country with more than 250 official languages, I don’t think that I will have any problem. I am already comfortable with Hindi and can speak without accent, instead I have an accent when I speak English and I am working on it,” she says.

To gain proficiency in Indian languages, she carries a book to jot down all the words that she comes across.

No accent problem

“Because of my lineage I do not have accent problems while speaking Indian languages. I think I will be able to manage the languages on my own very soon,” she claims.

But while she proved her mettle in the item song, can she handle the high-wire competitive arena in Bollywood?

Down south

Nathalia thinks she is game for the challenge. “I am a through professional and my approach towards the movies is very different. I believe that a good director can bring life to a character and I have no qualms in donning any role that I am asked to,” she says. She is also training her sight on film industry down south.

Film industry in the south is very vibrant. The industry here is very professional and it also some fantastic technicians and directors. I am looking forward to do more movies in Telugu, Tamil and Kannada,” she adds.

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.

No jobs in Campus placements? go for higher studies instead!

(This article was published in The Hindu on April 02, 2012)

With academic year coming to an end the final year students in various engineering and other degree colleges across the State are getting ready to step into a brand new world of jobs and careers.

Each summer, the final year students indeed reach a crucial crossroad where they have to take a decision as to whether they should continue with their studies or take up a job. It is also the time when most engineering students dream of joining a software company in the hope of taking a slice of the lucrative IT and ITES sector jobs.

For the students who study in top rung institutions like NITs, IITs and reputed colleges options of taking up a job becomes very easy. With most companies preferring these colleges for campus placements, the students from these colleges are set to join better jobs.

But for those who did not study in a better college or those who failed to land a plump job during campus placements, taking a decision proves to be a daunting task. Should they join whatever job that is available for them? Should they take up some course in proprietary software and then join a job? Or should they continue with their further studies? “Only about seven colleges in Hyderabad get campus placements nearing 100 percent. Most students from other colleges have to either take up courses in proprietary software or have to go for further studies,” Siddhartha Malempati of Forum for IT Professionals (ForIT) said. For those who do not have a job in hand by the end of campus placements, taking a decision becomes quite difficult, he said.

While most students prefer to join a short term course and join a software company, HR managers from reputed MNCs believe that going for higher education is also a better option.

“Doing a B. Tech is sufficient to get a job in India and all big companies have a mechanism to induct fresh graduates. But the problem lies in the fact that all big companies have a clear ranking of institutions,” a senior HR manager from a MNC says.

Companies also choose the candidates for different streams based on the nature of work to be done and required skill proficiency, among others. For maintenance and support projects, companies usually hire non-engineering graduates and for software development and core projects they hire engineering graduates,” he explained. “So, for those who pass out from colleges, without many placement opportunities, it makes sense to pursue masters,” he opined.

But again the choice of institution selected to pursue one’s masters is very important. “A student should join for a masters program only from a reputed institution. Joining in a nondescript college or university for a master’s degree will not fetch the desired results as companies view the institutions with a clear hierarchy,” the HR professional says.

‘I will get Rs. 2 lakh to bear the child’

Article Published in The Hindu

At the first look, Radha can easily pass off as any other pregnant woman waiting to go through her regular checkups at a clinic. But a closer observation would reveal that she is a tad older than a normal pregnant woman. The man accompanying her is not her family member but an agent.

At 33, Radha, a resident of Karimnagar district, is already a mother of two teenagers and lost her husband in 2010. But again Radha is no ordinary pregnant woman. She is a surrogate mother who took up another couple’s child.

“When my husband died I was left with a debt which I could not payback. It’s impossible to get a job to repay the debt,” Radha recounts wryly. “The offer to become a surrogate mother has come at the right time. I would get Rs. 2 lakh to bear the child. They would also pay for my maintenance and medical care,” she said.

But is she aware of the risks involved in pregnancy? “I have been through two pregnancies already and I am aware of the risks. I am fortunate to retain the fertilised ovum. Four more months and I can repay the debt and get back to a normal life,” she says. She also had to undergo a hormonal therapy during the preparatory phase of the surrogacy. “The doctors have explained everything and I have accepted the risk in each stage.”

Radha shares accommodation, provided by her agent, with five other surrogate women. “My children come to visit me at times. They know what I am doing and they support me,” she claims.

(Name of the surrogate has been changed to protect identity)

Once a taboo, surrogacy gaining acceptance in Hyderabad

Article in The Hindu

Nemmani Sreedhar and Pavithra S Rangan

Once literally a taboo, the idea of barren women ‘renting a womb’ to realise the joy of motherhood, is today being bravely embraced by the city.

Burgeoning fertility centres and their crowded premises here, bear testimony to the increasing acceptance of Assisted Reproductive Technologies, chiefly surrogacy.

Affordable procedures, latest technology, claimed success rates, and importantly, the ease in finding women willing to rent out their wombs in the city are incentives for women, not just from here but from across the world, to make Hyderabad ‘destination surrogacy’.

For a woman who cannot bear children, surrogacy is advised as a viable alternative wherein, a couple can have a genetic child with the help of a friend, family member or a commercial surrogate, willing to bear their baby.

“Five years ago, we barely undertook one surrogacy case in a year. Today, we deal with at least two cases every month,” said K. Anuradha, gynaecologist, Anu Test Tube Baby Centre.

“Couples earlier shied away from revealing the child as one obtained from a surrogate mother. But now the society at large is much more open to this idea,” she added.

While surrogacy is indubitably a boon for many, the process is not an entirely clean one. Lack of any enforceable law and regulatory mechanism in the process has reduced parenthood into just another commercial venture.

Some clinics encourage friends or family of barren women to come forward and assume the role of a surrogate. However, others are providing poor women whose wombs can be hired, thereby aggressively promoting commercial surrogacy. They have also formulated attractive packages with a promise to practically ‘deliver’ a baby for a fixed sum.

“Many are unwilling to act as surrogates for their own friends and family. This is the prime reason why couples opt for commercial surrogates,” said M. Divakar Reddy, Managing Director, Dr. Padmaja Fertility Centre. “We provide women willing to bear others’ children by paying them a fixed amount, and an agreement is signed between the couple and the surrogate,” he pointed out.

Social stigma

Even as surrogates are willing to bear children for monetary reasons, he said that they are still wary of the social stigma attached to bearing another’s child. “We counsel commercial surrogates extensively to make them see the nobility in helping a barren couple,” he said.

Women willing to act as commercial surrogates are primarily those belonging to lower-middle class backgrounds and are barely educated. “Several of them come to the city from rural parts of the State. In dire need of money, these women are wiling to bear another’s child, despite the many risks involved,” Dr. Anuradha said.

Certain clinics also have tie-ups with online portals that advertise commercial surrogacy and scout for prospective parents from across the globe. The process being three times cheaper in India, these portals apparently have no dearth of customers.

This has been promoting ‘reproductive tourism‘ in Hyderabad as well as other cities in the country. A certain clinic in the city has, within a span of six months, taken up cases of 12 foreign couples wanting children through commercial surrogates.

Pregnancy itself is a process involving several risks and surrogacy is no exception. In case of any eventuality to the surrogate during pregnancy, there are no laws or mechanisms to protect her. There is a need for a strong legislation to regulate the practice,” Dr. Anuradha said.

In a system involving conniving agents and clinics, a surrogate merely gets one-fourth of the total amount that a wanting couple is charged. But numerous physical and psychological risks that she is forced to bear during the process outweigh the commercial gain.

But is surrogacy the only option for a barren couple? Doctors believe that couples are opting for surrogacy because alternatives like adoption warrant an extremely cumbersome procedure. While adopting a girl child takes up to one-and-a-half years and for a boy the process is two-and-a-half years, doctors say couples prefer surrogacy, which in less than year gives them their genetic child.

Easing adoption laws and sensitising society at large, they say, can put at bay rampant malpractices surrounding surrogacy.

Indian democracy depends on EVM reliability

Chennai: India, a nation of more than a billion people, is the largest democracy in the world. Founding fathers envisaged India as a secular, multi party democracy based on universal adult franchise. To this end, periodic elections are held by an autonomous institution Election Commission of India (EC) set up under constitutional mandate. Over a period of time as the democracy matured in India, because of its vast population and rich diversity, numerous political parties sprang up on regional, linguistic, religious and community lines. As per EC data, a total of 363 parties have contested in 2009 general elections (national elections). This translated into 8070 candidates contesting for 543 Lok Sabha (lower house of the parliament) seats.

Because of the magnitude of these exercises, holding elections was becoming increasingly costly and difficult. In 1996 general elections a total of 8000 tons of paper (for ballot) was used. In 1999, 7,700 tons was used. To address this issue, EC in collaboration with two public sector companies, Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India, Hyderabad developed Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). EVMs were first tested in 50 polling stations of Parur assembly constituency, in Kerala, in 1982 by-elections. Later in 1989, 90 EVMs were used in 16 assembly constituencies in three states.

In 1999 elections EVMs were used in larger proportion as compared with 1996 Elections (that’s why the usage of paper is reduced from 8000 tons in 1996 to 7700 in 1999) and in 2004 election, paper ballot was done away with, and EVMs were used for the whole process. According to the EC’s claim using EVMs has brought down the cost of holding the elections along with reducing the amount of time it takes for declaring the results.

According to the website India-elections.com EVMs are tamper-proof, stand alone units that are highly reliable. Though this claim is supported by EC, various activist groups hotly contest it. In Apr 2010 an independent researcher Hari K Prasad of NetIndia, (P) Ltd., Hyderabad along with Alex J Halderman of University of Michigan and Ropp Gonggrip a hacker from Holland, claimed that EVMs are not tamper-proof. His claim was based on his research conducted on an EVM procured clandestinely (since EVMs are under the custody of EC and access to them is not possible without EC’s permission).

While EC denied Hari Prasad’s claim, he was arrested in Aug 2010 on the grounds that he stole government property. The then Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla claimed that the findings by Hari Prasad are not reliable. While delivering a lecture in Asian College of Journalism in Nov 2010 , Chawla claimed that EVMs are tamper-proof. He said that no one could prove before EC that EVMs can be manipulated. He contended that from the beginning of the electoral process to the time election results are declared, EVMs are held under strict vigil of the EC and security forces. So there is no possibility of any person/ organization confiscating the EVMs and manipulating the results. If no one could prove that EVMs can be tampered with, in the presence of EC, how the results can be manipulated, he argues. On the question of whether EVMs can be preloaded before elections, he says that since no commercial software is used in EVMs and since the manufacturing of these units is undertaken by public sector companies and embedded chipsets are used, preloading is impossible.

2004 general elections are a turning point for the Indian election scenario. A total of 5398 candidates contested the elections and about 39 crore votes were polled. This gigantic electoral process was held in four rounds spanning three weeks using 10.25 lakh EVMs. But because of the EVMs the poll results were declared in just one day whereas it used to take more time when elections were paper based. The total amount of paper saved in the process is estimated to be around 8000 metric ton.

There were other benefits of EVMs. Booth capturing, an endemic problem in Indian elections is virtually eliminated as EVMs are configured to register only five votes per minute. Earlier in ballot paper elections, miscreants used to capture a poll booth and stuff ballot boxes with votes in favour of their candidate. This whole exercise used to take a very small amount of time, and they could flee the booth before police reinforcements arrived. But because of the EVMs only 150 votes can be cast in half an hour, this discourages booth capturing practices.

Another benefit of EVMs is that it reduces the incidence of invalid votes. In paper ballots, a voter had to stamp his vote on the symbol of the candidate he favoured. Many a times voters used to fold the paper in a wrong pattern, inadvertently marking two candidates, resulting in disqualification. This possibility is eliminated in the EVMs as a voter has to just press a button and the vote would register. Since the display on the EVMs is quite prominent it is also easier for an illiterate voter to easily choose his candidate .

These benefits of using EVMs have attracted attention of the Election Commissions world over, who are looking forward to introduce these machines in their countries. While at the same time this issue has also attracted serious objections from activists and academics. In Aug 2010 condemning the arrest of Hari Prasad, a group of IT experts from US claimed that EVMs are (like any other software embedded devices) not tamper proof and requested EC not to use them. They argue that the future of Indian democracy depends on the issue of EVM’s safety and the surety that they cannot be tampered with.

Even national parties like BJP have expressed their concern about the reliability of the EVMs. BJP has constituted a committee of its own to look into the allegations made by various groups, and ascertain reliability of these machines.

The success of the democratic process in the country depends on the faith that voters have in the process of elections and EC’s role as a fair referee. With the allegations flowing in thick and fast from the various quarters and EC’s persistent denial that EVMs can be manipulated, the faith of the common voters in the very process of Indian elections is at stake. To ensure that the democratic practices developed overtime in India are maintained, EC should help resolve the issue, rather than adopting a belligerent posture of denial.

Meanwhile the debate on utilising technology in the world’s biggest democratic process continues.

Roads on Stilts: exploiting an ambiguous CRZ notification

Chennai: Selvi, 35, who ekes out a meager living by selling milk to the residents of Besant Nagar, feels threatened by the proposed elevated expressway from Chennai’s Marina Beach to Kottivakkam. Her fear is that the proposed road will force her to vacate her house, which is in the slum on the fringes of the Eliot’s beach, and complains that there is no proper rehabilitation plan in the sight.

This elevated expressway also faced opposition from various social groups. The shop owners and residents of Besant Nagar complain that because of this project, sound and air pollution will increase. Apart from pollution, Sanjeevan Suryanarayanan, who owns a garment shop on the beach, is apprehensive that real estate prices will fall drastically, as the beach front property will be devalued due to the disturbance created by vehicles, plying on the road throughout the day.

Another notable community that opposes the proposal consists of environmental activists. Siddharth, an active member of ‘Reclaim our Beaches’ (ROB), says that this project threatens the fragile estuarine ecosystem along with the endangered Olive Riddle Turtles which migrate annually to Chennai’s beaches. He is of the opinion that the main benefactors of this venture are the ones who can afford to buy a four-wheeler, as public transport will not be allowed on the road. With a construction of this magnitude, which hugs the seashore, the process of the construction is bound to pollute the sea, and the migrant workers who have to camp on the beaches, will only aggravate the situation to the detriment of the environment. “With the track record of Chennai authorities in constructing mega projects, we can safely assume that this project will wreak havoc to the fragile ecology for five to ten years at least” he laments.

Vaishnavi, of ‘Transparent Chennai’ says that the major source of the problem in this issue is the lack of clarity in the existing regulations. The present guidelines which are published under Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) notification in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part-II, Section 3, Sub-section (ii) of dated the September 15, 2010, does not help clarify the issue. The exemption provided in the notification says that ‘Roads on Stilts’ can be allowed to be built in the CRZ area. The initial exemption was incorporated by the policy makers to allow roads on stilts to avoid disturbing/ destruction of mangroves. But since the regulation is not specific about the exemption, it is being misinterpreted.

The problem of lack of clarity is endemic to the CRZ notification since its inception in 1991. Since the guidelines are only published in the Gazetteof India, and not enacted as a law, there was hardly any discussion on the subject. Manju Menon with her co-authors, in an article in Economic and Political Weekly, says that even though the 1991 notification was welcomed by all the stakeholders, lack of administrative will and pre-occupation with economic reforms resulted in government neglecting the implementation of this notification in good faith. This lack of clarity resulted in a flurry of public interest litigations in various courts.

The Supreme Court in an Order dated April 19, 1993 in Writ Petition No.664 of 1993, directed the Central Government and the coastal States that ‘there is 6000 km long coastline of India and it is the responsibility of coastal States and Union territories in which these stretches exists to see that both the notifications are compiled with and enforced.’ This and various legal litigations forced government to amend the notification time and again along with the setting up of various committees which finally resulted in Draft CRZ 2010 notification. But Menon in her article says, “…. The notification is misleading since the Swaminathan Committee report (on which the present notification relies heavily) is not a widely accepted document devoid of controversy. It falls short on several counts and the absence of citizen participation in its drafting has been a serious concern since its objectives have far-reaching implications. Pro-industry influences are evident in the Swaminathan Committee report.”

When contacted by this correspondent about the proposed elevated expressway, a deputy director in Department of Environment, Governmentof Tamilnadu, was reluctant to identify himself, but shared some information off-the-record. He said that his department did not receive any proposal to build an elevated expressway, nor was any clearance ever granted. Instead, he said that a 169 km circular road, parts of which are elevated and would cover the land falling under CRZ, covering Chennai is under consideration.  He was of the view that it is highly impractical to refuse development projects on the grounds of ecological considerations, particularly in Chennai and that there has to be a balance between both public welfare and ecological concerns.

But the problem of uncertainty in the notification still exists. The information that there was no expressway proposal, as conveyed by the official, on the one hand and the misinformed activists on the other, shows the lack of clear dialog between government and the stake holders. With increasing population, the pressure on the natural resources is bound to increase. Enacting a law by the central government after wider consultation and citizen participation, may remove the ambiguity and potential conflict between various stake-holders, resulting in better management of the fragile ecology.

Osho: A fresh breeze

“Why is so much sex needed? Because you are tense, sex becomes a release. Your tensions are released through it — you feel relaxed, you can go to sleep; if you repress it, you remain tense. And if you repress sex — the only release, the only possibility of release — what will happen? You will go mad. Where will you release your tensions then?” – Sex to Super-consciousness, by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (also known as Osho) a twentieth century Indian mystic.

These words made Osho notorious. When religious leaders from all faiths were condemning ‘Sex’ and advised strict discipline, Osho stood up to declare that, the fault does not lie in sex but in our perception, and rather, preoccupation towards it. He stated that repression of Sex is not a healthy option. This revolutionary view was like a breath of fresh air and won him many disciples. But in a self-professed conservative society like India his book ‘From Sex to super-consciousness’ was a scandal.

Osho was also the most misunderstood man of his time. His philosophy is not limited to sex. For him sex, if properly understood can be a liberating experience. He emphasized the importance of creativity, awareness, meditation, love and most importantly, the celebration of the existence itself. His famous quote “do not fall in love, rise in it” reflects his ideology. He criticized any attempt to stifle the natural growth of a being, because of social and religious traditions.

He was a prolific orator. His discourses, given over a period of time, are published as his works. In these discourses, he re-interpreted all the major religious and spiritual traditions of the world. He usually went against the traditional interpretations, and many times he subjected Gods and Prophets to critical evaluation. During the last phase of his life he concentrated more on Zen Buddhism, about which he declared, “God is dead- Now Zen is the only living Truth.”

Osho taught that every human has a potential to become a Buddha. Every person is also capable of unconditional love, his ego usually does not allow him to acknowledge and enjoy this experience. To encourage the removal of this undesirable Ego, and to attain Buddha-hood, he devised new ways of meditation which encouraged catharsis in the practitioner. Many of his disciples swear by these methods.

When most of the religious leaders form India were criticizing the material pursuit of the industrialized nations and preached renunciation as an essential condition for spiritual deliverance, Osho said that material success is not an hindrance for attaining Buddha-hood, to explain this he borrowed the concept of Zorba the Greek, and put forth the theory of Zorba the Buddha, merging the western ideas with the eastern. The western new age thought is influenced by this concept.

The notion that material success is not inimical to the spiritual development, encouraged many westerners to flock around Osho, as his Neo-Sannyasins. By 1981 itself, Osho’s Pune ashram hosted 30,000 visitors per year. His popularity was rapidly increasing. At the peak of his popularity, Osho’s Oregon, USA ashram boasted a fleet of 93 Rolls-Royce cars and private jets.

But this indulgence with the wealth, as well as controversies, proved to be Osho’s undoing. Along with gaining followers he, alienated many people. Osho and his followers were accused of grave charges like drug abuse and prostitution (Even today his Pune ashram is viewed with a mix of aversion and suspicion by the local populace). He was arrested and deported from America, and was denied permission even to set foot upon their land, by most of the liberal countries.

Last days of this great man were confined to the Pune ashram. His doctors suspected that, his deteriorating health was a result of poisoning by radiation and thallium, when he was in prison in America. His death on 19th Jan 1990 was attributed to the heart failure. Osho was much demonized while he was alive but after his death, his philosophy started gaining greater popularity and acceptance.

“Osho”, which means a high ranking Buddhist monk in Japanese, is a title adopted by Chandra Mohan Jain at the fag end of his life. He was also affectionately called as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh by his followers. Born in to a Jain family of Taranpanthi sect, in Kuchwada, Madhya Pradesh, on 11 Dec 1931, he was the eldest of 11 children. Osho’s childhood is relatively less known, much of what is known, comes from his own discourses. He lived with his Maternal Grand mother. During this time he witnessed two tragedies, deaths of his grand father when he was seven, whom he adored, and later when he was fifteen, of his childhood sweet heart and cousin Shashi. These two deaths lead him to be preoccupied by the thought of death throughout his life.

Osho was a self-taught man, even as he went to college and studied logic, he refused to accept the laid down text book knowledge, resulting in frequent arguments with professors. Because of this notoriety he was allowed to write exams without attending the classes. Osho utilized free time by reading large number of books. It was during this period, Osho’s thought process crystallized, leading him to interpret various religious and philosophical texts in his own peculiar way. He claimed that, he got spiritually enlightened on 21March 1953, when he was 21, and remained unmarried.

One of the strengths of Osho was his analytical abilities. He would deliberately provoke people. With his radical reinterpretation, he would shock the people out of their complacency. People who understood this usually appreciated him, but who could not understand the same started hating him. Unfortunately the later make the majority. His failure in procuring land for a bigger ashram, as Pune ashram was proving congested, was a result of this bad image.

Zen masters of Japan also relied on provoking people to come to the realization. But they never spoon fed their pupil. Osho by way of excessive intellectualization deprived the opportunity of self realization to his students. This was evident when his students were repeatedly involved in controversies, ranging from drug abuse, to Bio-terror attack on the citizens of The Dallas, Oregon using salmonella bacteria.

Going by the depth and range of his teachings along with his unique re-interpretation of existing religious texts, it is impossible to deny that Osho realized some of the profound truths in his life. He is also the most profound thinker of his age, whose influence can be felt even after his death. But allowing some of the close disciples to gain a free hand, in the organization and running of his ashram, proved detrimental to his reputation. Particularly the conduct of the ashram in Oregon, USA, and later arrest of Osho damaged his reputation to such an extant, that 21 countries have not only just denied him the visa, but did not allow him even the permission to enter their land. No modern day religious teacher was humiliated and feared in such a way. On the contrary Indian thinker Jiddu Krishnamurthy, his contemporary and who was not controversial, was given permission to continue his religious work in USA, and was offered permanent citizenship there.

The opulent manner, in which he lived, also did not go well with his reputation. The image of 93 Rolls-Royce cars lined up in Oregon, earned him a nick name of ‘Rolls-Royce guru’ in America. In his later days, particularly after coming back to India, Osho primarily talked on Zen Buddhism, but he violated the very teachings he so often preached, the ‘Middle Path’, avoiding of extremes, by these opulent indulgences.

Controversies not with standing, Osho’s impact on the society can not be under estimated. He produced some of the seminal works and popularized ideas like, ‘Here and now’, ‘Power of Unconscious’ etc. the fact that during his life time Osho was harassed by the governments all over world does not diminish his stature as a profound thinker. A person no less than Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh has said that, ‘Osho will long be remembered as a great philosopher – saint and mystic of twentieth century.’ During last election campaign, leader of BJP Mr. L.K. Advani, in an interview given to a national TV, said that he is reading an Osho’s book when ever he gets a time between his election campaigns. This shows that Osho is no more an untouchable. This is also attested by an influential Indian news paper, which counted Osho, along with Buddha and Gandhi, as one of the ten people who changed the destiny of India.

It is a classic case of hating a teacher but loving his teachings. But it also shows that Osho was far ahead of his times, that his teachings will be better understood in an Ideal enlightened society, than in a society that is fragmented, and embittered in its own contradictions and conflicts. Osho’s legacy has a profound effect on the human thought process.

Grim Politics of Hunger- Food Security in India, Part – 2

Nemmani Sreedhar

Chennai: In my previous post on the same topic, I provided a brief background for the ongoing debate. National Advisory Committee’s (NAC) proposals for the

A food grains vendor in Hyderabad

Food Security Bill, envisaged supply of 35 kg of food grains at subsidised prices for 75 per cent of the population (nearly 800 million people) and 20 kg for the remaining 25 per cent of the population. But the draft bill that was cleared by Empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM) for cabinet consideration led to serious debate. The problem was solved by a compromise between the NAC and government. Government retained some of the proposals by NAC, and NAC in its turn, owing largely to drop in food grain production, accepted pruned draft bill. With this India is set to become the first country in the world to enact legislation that gives a guarantee of food grain supply to people in Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, but bill has its detractors.

NAC council member and development economist Jean Drèze issued a dissent note saying that “an opportunity [had] been missed to initiate a radical departure in this field.” Dr. Drèze who played a critical role in the formulation of two of NAC’s most important programmes — the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the path-breaking Right to Information Act—said, “The NAC began its deliberations on a visionary note, but later came under a lot of pressure to accommodate constraints imposed by the government.” The final result, he says, is “a minimalist proposal that misses many important elements of food security.” Neelabh Mishra, in an opinion piece in Outlook objects to the wording of the bill. His objection pertains to a passage in the draft bill: “The definition of food security should be limited to the specific issue of food grains security (wheat and rice) and be delinked from the larger issue of nutritional security.” He says that 33 percent of Indians have Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 18.5 and barely misses 40 percent benchmark according to which WHO considers a society to be famine affected. Mishra argues that the proposed draft bill is fundamentally flawed and falls short of expectations and requirements.

Criticism of the Draft bill and NAC’s proposal is not restricted to the food grain entitlement alone. The mode of delivery also came under sharp attack. Whereas the NAC proposed a greater role for PDS, in a paper circulated within the government, Chief Economic Adviser to the Finance Ministry Kaushik Basu has argued that, the need of the hour is a reduced role for the Food Corporation of India, winding up of the Public Distribution System (PDS) and interventions in the food market. He refers to a study that currently 70% of wheat under BPL does not reach beneficiaries.

His contention is reinforced by Justice Wadhwa Committee, appointed by Supreme Court of India, which concluded that PDS is corrupt, inefficient and a majority of the poor people do not have BPL cards. As a solution, Basu says that instead of the reliance on PDS, food coupons could be given to adult woman members of a household, to ensure that food grains reach family members in a more reliable manner. The food coupon system could be dovetailed into the Unique Identity Number (UID) or Aadhaar system and eventually coupons could be replaced by smart cards linked to a mobile banking system.

His idea may have been inspired by American system of food coupons, but with a Gini co-efficient (which measures the inequality of wealth distribution in a country) higher than India can American system be taken as a role model is a question that needs to be answered. With the doubts that are being expressed about UID scheme it will be worthwhile for government to consider all issues in a comprehensive manner and arrive at a solution to alleviate hunger in the country, rather than resort to some ad hoc measures for temporary political gains.

Grim Politics of Hunger: Food Security in India

Nemmani Sreedhar

Chennai: India, the land of paradoxes, has yet another paradox in its long list. But this one is not pleasant; government does not advertise it for tourism development. It could as well have swept this issue under the carpet, and pretend that it never existed. The paradox, of ‘Huge stock of food grains rotting in government controlled Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) warehouses while masses of poor people go to sleep hungry,’ represents the soft underbelly of the thriving economy, slated to grow at 9% or more annually. According to an estimate, a staggering 25 percentage of people in India (with a population of 1.173 billion) go hungry everyday.

Challenging this insensitivity on government’s part, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan held a petition in the Supreme Court (SC) in April 2001 (PUCL Vs Union of India and Others, Writ Petition [Civil] 196 of 2001), demanding that ‘the country’s gigantic food stocks should be used without delay to protect people from hunger and starvation.’ This writ petition led to series of prolonged public interest litigation, and after may other petitions concerning corruption in Public Distribution System (PDS) and other food security related issues, SC on 31 Aug 2010 gave a directive to the Ministry of Agriculture, that rotting grains be given freely to the poor people. Reacting to the directive, Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh said, “The government will do all it can to provide affordable food to those below the poverty line but cannot implement the Supreme Court’s order to give free food grains to the poor,” and advised SC not to enter into ‘the realm of policy formulation.’ PM’s response triggered a huge outcry from the public as well as media, blaming the government for skirting its responsibilities and as being insensitive to the plight of poor people.

Judicial activism apart, owing to the sensitivity of the issue, United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) National Advisory Committee (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi decided to work out the feasibility of utilizing the vast food grain stock amassed at the FCI warehouses to address the issue of hunger. It also sent a draft Food Security bill to Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as early as June 2009, but the bill that was approved by the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) failed to meet the expectations of not only people but also NAC Chairperson. With this a huge debate started between Government of India and NAC, along with debates in the public sphere. The proposals that the NAC had put forward were termed infeasible by the Government. Even Planning Commission along with government said, (to name an example) that no legal guarantees can be give to people in above poverty line (APL) regarding food security. But the grim reality of the food security debate is that with all this legal and political wrangling, the fate of poor people is still precarious. The pace at which Indian government moves during the course of taking a critical decision is well known. We can only hope that good sense prevails in the government for the benefit of poor people.

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