Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Monday, December 31, 2007

Eye Banking Conference: Donors honoured

In the first ever Eye Banking Conference in the state, the Eye Bank Association of India (EBAI), North Zone, held a function today to highlight the role of NGOs in the cause.

The Punarjot Eye Bank Society, which is associated with the EBAI, also honoured the families of the donors of 2007 at SCD Government College auditorium.

Family members of about 35 donors were handed over certificates for donating the eyes of their loved ones. Besides, members of over 10 NGOs participated in the conference.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Ramesh, medical director of Punarjot Eye Bank said, “We are thankful to the families of those who donated their eyes to let others see the world. However, there is still need to create awareness among the people so that they come forward for the cause.”

Dr Ramesh said they we were touched by the gesture of the family of three-and-half year old girl who died in an accident. The family donated the eyes of the child, the youngest eyes donor in the state. “We are now spreading out message by way of regional cooperation programme.”

Gautam Mazumdar from Ahmedabad, who is a pioneer in the field of eye donation, said, “The NGOs can play a very important role in eyes donation programme. I think that NGOs can take eyes donation as one their projects in order to create awareness among the people in the community. Moreover, they can also help in collecting the eyes since in case of instantaneous deaths it becomes difficult to ask the family members to donate the eyes. The member of the NGO who lives in that community can be intrumental in asking the family who is also grief-stricken at that moment.”

Among those present on the occasion were Dr Arun Mitra, president, IMA, Dr Sonia Gupta from GMCH, Chandigarh and Vinod Kumar Sharma from Rajasthan.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Another Nandigram near Mumbai:Locals against SEZ

Agnes Bandu has not heard of Nandigram. But this parishioner from Uttan, a sleepy village some 40km from Mumbai, knows “poor people and farmers across the country are opposing SEZs”.

“We feel the same anguish. After all, the land we have cultivated for generations cannot be compensated by any kind of rehabilitation package. It is like taking a child away from its mother and being paid in kind,” the 55-year-old said.

Agnes and over a 100,000 residents of the Gorai-Uttan belt near Mumbai face the threat of being uprooted from their homes if the Maharashtra government proceeds with a proposed SEZ in the area.

“The state government is displacing us from the land of our ancestors without any rehabilitation plans. We will not allow this state-sponsored land-grabbing,” said Lourdes D’Souza, secretary of the Dharavi Beth Bachao Samiti spearheading the resistance movement.

The Gorai-Manori-Uttan belt is also called Dharavi islands and has virgin beaches. Its biggest tourist attraction has been Esselworld, the entertainment and water park promoted by the Essel Group.

The state government plans to develop an SEZ in the area, spanning 5,740 hectares and covering 10 villages. An entertainment and gaming zone that will be “Disneyland, Hollywood and Las Vegas rolled into one” is likely to come up.

The save-Dharavi samiti has, however, found out through a right to information application that only 60 per cent of the land belongs to the government.

“Of the 60 per cent, 40 per cent is mangrove, which must be protected according to the government’s environment guidelines and coastal regulatory zone laws. They are flouting their own laws,” D’Souza said.

The Essel Group owns some of the land around Gorai, of which 700 acres was gifted by then revenue minister Narayan Rane in 1996. Local groups have challenged the transfer in the high court.

The first set of approvals for the SEZ has already come from the commerce ministry. The SEZ is expected to displace over 1.25 lakh people, most of whom are Catholics or tribals.

“The first phase of the project includes a 1,000-hectare multi-product SEZ. Later phases are likely to extend to other areas, depriving people of their ancestral land,” D’Souza said.

Most people on the Dharavi islands are fishermen or farmers. Some work in salt pans.

“This is the land of our forefathers. The government is claiming the land as its own and asking us to go. They want to set up an entertainment zone for rich people on our fertile lands. They want to take away the beachfronts from the fishermen to build resorts for moneyed people. We will fight for this land with the last drop of our blood,” said Dominic DeMello, a farmer.

But DeMello and others, including the fishermen of Manori village, do not have any land deeds. “They are settlers or local tribals who have been cultivating it for centuries,” D’Souza said.

Vijaykumar Agarwal, the state additional secretary, revenue and forests, however, brushed away the son-of-the-soil claim. “Yes, they have been settlers for centuries, but in effect it is government land and the government can do what it wishes with it.”

State tourism and culture secretary Bhushan Gagrani said the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation in partnership with Pan India Paryatan Ltd would set up the entertainment zone.

“Vested interests are coming in the way of development. We propose to make this an eco-tourism site that will benefit the local people as well,” said Nilesh Mistry, senior vice-president, corporate affairs, Pan India Paryatan.

The representatives of the Catholic Christian Secular Forum, Gorai Machchimar Samiti and the Machchimar Sahakari Sanstha who are involved in the campaign said their struggle would be a “fight to the finish”.

“This is a fight of the poor versus the wealthy and powerful,” said Joseph Dias, the general secretary of the Catholic Christian Secular Forum.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

'Taare Zameen Par' in Real Life

Does Y come before X, or vice versa? This problem of sequencing that the protagonist in Aamir Khan's latest 'Taare Zameen Par' faces is typical of children suffering from dyslexia, or learning disability, and reflects in their poor performance in studies, especially maths.

Such children are often the butt of mean jokes by peers as their incomprehension of figures, which normal children find easy, makes them recoil into a shell.

For Amit, a 10-year-old, maths makes his head go into a blur. It has been so since he was three. In his nursery class years, he would sit for hours with his mother as she patiently explained sizes and sequences with plastic pyramid squares. It took him months to understand, what for an average child would be simple, that the largest square had to come at the bottom and the smallest at the top, and conversely.

'Sequencing is a major problem with children with dyslexia, and therefore mathematics. In the initial years, they find it difficult to put their thoughts and speech into sequence, their attention span is limited,' said Bindu Prasad, a senior counsellor with Sardar Patel Vidyalaya who has with her innate patience dealt with many such children and seen most grow into cheerful, confident youngsters.

'The sequencing of thoughts, organising data in the head is a problem. Such children can't visually organise data in their head, and therefore putting it down on paper becomes difficult,' Ruchi Kapoor, a counsellor with the same school, told IANS.

But if identified early, before the child reaches Class 1 or 2, remedial measures can be taken, she said.

Dyslexia can be in reading and writing, arithmetic disability, oral expression and visual and spatial difficulty, explained Kapoor.

'The way to help such children is to identify what part of their learning is hampered, use audio visual aids to help. And also see which learning capacity is higher, and use that,' said Kapoor.

Sometimes dyslexia exists with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), a behavioural and neurological disorder among children which makes the learning disability more pronounced.

'Many cases with patient handling do get better by the time they are 11-12 years,' said Kapoor, adding that in a school roughly three percent children would be having some kind of leaning disability.

'For such children, we use a multi-sensory approach to learning, using all senses, even through dance movement therapies. Teachers use the 'talk and chalk method', where the teacher speaks and writes to make the child understand.'

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has a provision for such children, informs Swati Mohan, a counsellor with G.D. Goenka School.

'The CBSE gives extra time for such children, only marking them for content and not for spelling mistakes or grammatical errors,' Mohan told IANS.

Early identification of such difficulties in children is important, said Mohan, as 'the earlier the intervention, the sooner the learning gap (with other children in class) can be lessened'.

An initial problem that counsellors face is parents who aren't able to accept that their child has such a problem. 'Parents don't accept the fact and go through denial. After their child is repeatedly not able to perform, then they are forced to get to terms with it,' Mohan said.

'In such a child, the IQ is average but when it comes to writing, the data processing is at fault. It is here that the school educators are able to help.'

Children with learning disability do not need sympathy, but 'more empathy' - keeping oneself in the child's position, says Mohan.

'Such children realise that when it comes to writing there are reversals and omissions, that they are not able to deliver what they know and show on paper. This results in a lot of frustration for the child, they get confused, make grammatical errors,' she said.

Many children with dyslexia are good at art, singing or acting, said the counsellor. These children should be helped to bring forth their talent so that it gives them the self esteem that they lack and bloom into creative individuals.

By Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Helping parents of NRIs in their twilight years

Their children live and work far away, but many parents of non-resident Indians have formed new bonds in their twilight years - not just companionship but also support - thanks to a unique organisation.

Set up in 1994 with just 30 members, Non-Resident Indian Parents' Organisation (NRIPO) is now a registered charitable trust with 1,000 members. The support group helps the lonely and aging parents.

Seventy-three-year-old M.H. Paranjape, who has a son in the United States, says that with a large number of youngsters finding jobs overseas, more parents live alone these days.

'Sometimes when members are sick and there is no one to take them to a hospital, NRIPO takes charge. We have tied up with 11 top hospitals in Pune, which admit members of the trust without deposits,' Paranjape said.

The trust has grouped parents according to geographical locations. They meet once every month to discuss issues.

According to 66-year-old Nanda Kumar, a retired banker, who has a son in Houston, US: 'We have found great friends in this trust. The meetings help us bond so that members do not hesitate to ask for help.'

'Communication with kids abroad starts thinning down over a period of time because the children become busy in their families. In such situations, meeting people facing similar situations provide solace and comfort.'

Nanda Kumar said: 'Two months ago, a member's son in Paris faced racial discrimination. We took it up with the ministry of external affairs. The issue has not been resolved, but what counts is the fact that we initiated it.'

The trust organises programmes by inviting banks and other financial institutions to educate members about various investment schemes available in the market.

It insists on members preparing their wills. A copy of each is deposited with the trust, which is opened after the death of the member.

'We have legal consultants who help children deal with legal issues after the parents' death. We also take care of the funeral arrangements and the bodies till the children arrive. The scheme is called Will and After Assistance,' said Paranjape.

NRIPO has another scheme called 'one-by-two' under which two families act as minders to single parents and help them in times of need.

'These families regularly call the single parent, meet him/her at regular intervals and help in times of sickness or other emergencies. The volunteers also take care of daily shopping and bill payments,' Paranjape said.

Younger NRIPO members in their 50s help older colleagues, he said, adding that some of their senior members were as old as 95.

NRIPO has also formed a National Confederation of NRI Parents Organisation with members from Bangalore, Coimbatore, Nagpur, Baroda and Ahmedabad.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated, Democracy Process Derails in Pakistan

The death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is being mourned by millions of Pakistanis. She had a profound public base despite staying out of her country for nearly a decade and dogged by corruption and nepotism charges.

Her death, however, should not come as a surprise at all. For the past three decades, Pakistan has been turned into a "Jihad factory' under the guidance of the US and other Western powers. After 9/11 when Pakistan launched a war on its own people in the name of "War on terror', it was not uncanny to predict that the Jihadis who were nourished previously will turn against their old allies -- the politicians and the military and the innocent people of Pakistan will get caught and entangled as a collateral.

Martyr of Democracy?

Is Benazir Bhutto a martyr for democracy in Pakistan? Many of the Pakistani political parties are calling it a set-back for democracy which could be seriously contested, but her death is certainly a blow to the electoral exercise. Strangely, exiled leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement MQM, Altaf Hussain called her "martyr of democracy'. Altaf Hussain's MQM is blamed for hundreds of terrorist actions that led to the deaths of thousands of people in Karachi. The world's "greatest democrat' George Bush has claimed that Benazir laid down her life for the ideals of democracy.

Benazir Bhutto was indeed a very popular woman politician of her country, but she was by no means a democrat. During her tenure as twice Prime Minister of her country, she stifled the growth of democracy and undermined the democratic institutions. She not only concentrated in herself the absolute power of the country, but also assumed the title of chairperson for life of her political party -- Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

Her husband Asif Ali Zardari is generally seen as the villain who tarnished Benazir's image through corruption and violence. Zardari, a jagirdar or landlord used his traditional violent methods to subdue his opponents and used the government power of his wife to extract benefits through his various corrupt, and often violent deals. He was alleged to be involved in the killing of Murtaza Bhutto, Benazir's brother. Asif Zardari had even maintained private jails where he tortured his opponents. This all happened while Benazir Bhutto's "democratically elected' government was in power.

Benazir's record for corruption surpassed all the pervious governments as she amassed huge assets mostly in Dubai, the UK and other Western capitals plundering the assets of her country. Her government was involved in the massive human rights violations particularly in Karachi where the MQM militants had virtually brought the financial capital of Pakistan to a grinding halt. The reaction of the Benazir government was ruthless operations that killed thousands of innocent and unarmed civilians.

Although Benazir was portrayed as the "modern and moderate' face of Pakistan who could help fighting Jihadists, this fact is conveniently buried that it was her government that helped formation of Taliban whose legacy continues to ruin Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond.

After her return from self-exile, Benazir went beyond all decency and decorum to appease the US and other Western powers. Her assertions that she was not opposed to the American operations in the Pakistan's tribal areas to fight "terrorism' and would allow disgraced scientist AQ Khan to be interrogated by the US showed her desperation for power. Power was all that mattered and she showed no regard to the public feelings or her country's integrity. She even talked tough about Jihadis and was willing to follow the course of General Musharraf's military response to the crisis rather than any political negotiation to rid the country of growing extremism.

Who killed Benazir?

There is no doubt that Benazir Bhutto had many enemies. After her rhetoric against Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists, her list of enemies grew phenomenally.

Despite the "deal' between Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, she was seen as main challenge to the current government. This is important to note that General Musharraf allowed Bhutto into Pakistan only after tremendous US pressure. When she arrived in Pakistan in October last, the millions of people who came to receive her gave sleepless nights to the government authorities. This ultimately paved way for the return of Nawaz Sharief another former Prime Minister who was earlier deported as soon as he landed in Pakistan.

Although the Jihadists and Al-Qaeda had allegedly vowed to kill her, the current Pakistani regime headed by General Musharraf can not be absolved and will be the greatest benefactor of her death. Another rival who may have been willing to see her dead are Chaudhry Brothers -- Chaudhry Pervez Illahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of Pakistan Muslim League Q, the political partner of General Musharraf. The Chaudhry Brothers were the bitterest opponents of Benazir's homecoming and tried unsuccessfully to stop President Musharraf from doing a deal with Bhutto.

When the terrorists attacked Benazir's homecoming rally on October 18, 2007, she blamed former Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Ilahi. Chaudhry Brothers have had well documented connections with the Jihadist extremists and are well known to use violence for their political goals.

Even if President Musharraf's government may not be directly involved in her killing, it can not be absolved of inaction in protecting her. Despite being on the "hit list' of terrorists and extremists, Benazir was not provided ample security cover. The deterioration of Pakistan's intelligence and security apparatus to predict or stop suicide bombings can be gauged by the number of rising fatal bombings in and around the highest protected area of the Army Headquarters GHQ in Rawalpindi. Benazir Bhutto was also killed in Rawalpindi not far from the country's military headquarters.

The Future

The future of Pakistan is fraught with instability and the death of Benazir has further undermined the internal security of Pakistan. After her death, her party could win the majority of seats if the elections go ahead, but there is no single leader that could hold the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) together. Unfortunately, Benazir's legacy for her party is highly undemocratic and there is a chance that the PPP could split with many contenders and claimants for the throne. This could create further divisions among the Pakistan's fractured polity.

There is no doubt that the death meted out to Benazir Bhutto is tragic and testing for Pakistan. But there are some positive things that seem to be coming out of this national tragedy. In his reaction and speech to the nation, President Pervez Musharraf declared a three day "official mourning' when the national flag will fly at half mast. This is for the first time that the death of an opposition leader has been recognised officially. Similarly, Islamist Jama'at-e-Islami while condemning the terror act has called for a general strike. Other political parties from a wide spectrum of persuasions have condemned the killing and offered condolences.

The suicide attack on Benazir's convoy on 18th October 2007 that killed nearly 150 Pakistani civilians precipitated the anger of Pakistanis against the terrorism and extremism. There was a massive public recognition and reaction against the extremist ideology. Benazir's death might act as a catalyst to unite the Pakistani nation and strengthen their resolve to fight the menace that has engulfed the country thanks to its willingness to act as proxy to the alien interests in the region.

If Pervaiz Musharraf's government can offer initiatives to value the public opinion of Pakistanis in this time of multiple crisis and bring about a real national reconciliation, Pakistan could emerge from the challenges that are not only threatening the core values of its society, but also the very existence of the country and its people.

By Murtaza Shibli ,editor of Kashmir Affairs, London []


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Ram Setu may be man-made: ISRO book

The controversial Adam's bridge off the Tamil Nadu coast could be "man-made" and has an "echo in the ancient mythological epic, the Ramayan", says a Government publication tabled in Parliament last week -- a development that could put the Congress-led UPA regime in a piquant spot.

A book, Images India, published by Hyderabad-based National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) that comes under the Department of Space, says the satellite images have revealed an "ancient bridge between India and Sri Lanka in Palk Strait".

"The origin of the bridge is a mystery. Archaeological studies have revealed that the bridge dates back to the primitive age, that is about 1,750,000 years."

"Its structure suggests that it may be man-made," it says on Page 39 of the coffee table book under the sub-title, 'Stunning Structures'.

"This 30 km long bridge, named as Adam's bridge, is made of a chain of shoals and links Rameshwaram in south India to Sri Lanka." It goes on to say: "This has an echo in the ancient Indian mythological epic, the Ramayan. According to the epic, such a bridge was built by Lord Ram and his followers to reach Sri Lanka. Studies are still on but the bridge is seen as an example of ancient history linked to the Indian mythology."

The revelations in the book, with a foreword by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman G Madhavan Nair, are in contrast to what the Government has been maintaining so far -- that the setu is formed by giant tombolos or bars of sand.

It also contradicts the findings of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which said in an affidavit, since withdrawn, that there is no "historic or scientific" evidence of the existence of Lord Ram or Ram Setu.

The Government has given its nod to the multi-million-dollar Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, which requires breaking a portion of Ram Setu to make a route navigable for ships around the Indian peninsula.

The project and the ASI affidavit had put the Government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress in a major embarrassment.

Shipping Minister TR Baalu, whose DMK has made the construction of the canal a prestige issue, has gone to the extent of saying he will resign from the Cabinet if the bridge is proved to be "man-made".


Ram only will save this country from the Politicians!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Green boom in Punjab School

From the outside, Government Senior Secondary School, Boormajra, looks like any other rural government school of Punjab. It's difficult to believe that students of this school can defeat over a thousand other school teams from India to win the prestigious "Greenest School of India" title for 2007 for the school. And that too two times in a row.

The school has won the Gobur Times Green School Programme Award based on an all-India rating of schools for the second consecutive year.

Take a walk around the school and one realises that this school deserves the award on all counts. Drinking water in the school is saved from going waste. Extra water flowing from taps is collected in the floor trap and channelled into flowerbeds. Rainwater is harvested from the rooftop and collected for the recharging of ground water.

Saving water is one of the five activities that the school's eco club is involved in under the charge of five environment leaders. All waste water is recycled. "Any one who collects a hundred wrappers of toffees or chips packets is given a token prize. These wrappers are then used to make decorations," explained school principal Jaswant Singh.

Polythene bags are collected throughout the year and given to any one in the village undertaking construction. "Students tell villagers that a layer of polythene plastic in the foundation of the building would restrict humidity from reaching the walls," said Harinderjit Kaur, school teacher who along with club's teacher in charge Gurpal Singh, motivates the students.

Every bit of paper waste is collected and reused in one way or the other. "Empty pages left in notebooks after the end of the session are collected and made into and reused as autograph books or small personal diaries," said Namit Kumar, the "wastage" leader of the school who created a model of the school from paper waste.

The eco club students have involved villagers in their other efforts too. "The club members launched a campaign that every house in the village would use smoke free chulha. We all went door-to-door and helped the residents build a smoke chimney," said Mandeep, the "air" leader. Harpreet Kaur, the "water" leader, has now planned to motivate villagers to harvest rainwater.

"We also hold awareness camps in the village. We save the maximum possible energy in the school and also ask the villagers to do so," said the "energy" leader, Rajbir Kaur. Sazia, the "land" leader of the school, is responsible for the upkeep of the hundreds of plants and trees on the school campus.

This rural school competed with some of the top urban private English schools from the country and won despite all odds. "None of the five eco club leaders of the school can speak English coherently but their confidence and concern for environment has brought this award to the school for the second year," said elated teacher Vandana Sharma.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Diets of Alzheimer's patients lack many nutrients

People with Alzheimer's disease eat less nutritiously than their peers without dementia, even in the early stages of the disease, new research from Canada shows.

This is particularly concerning given that adequate intakes of certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K, and other antioxidants, could possibly help to preserve mental function, Dr. Bryna Shatenstein of the University of Montreal and her colleagues say.

Poor diet and malnutrition is a problem among older people, Shatenstein and her team write in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Alzheimer's patients, in particular, are known to eat less, demonstrate disturbances in eating behavior, and lose weight.

To fill in the gaps in knowledge about nutrition among Alzheimer's patients, the researchers compared the diets of 36 individuals in the early stages of the disease with 58 men and women (at least 65 years old) who were free of dementia and living independently. The researchers followed the study participants for 12 to 18 months.

The dementia-free individuals were getting more calories, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins A and K, and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids than the Alzheimer's patients, the researchers found. The difference remained when they limited their analysis to people 70 and older.

Nutrient intake remained fairly constant over time in the individuals with dementia, suggesting that "deterioration in food consumption occurs early in the disease, and once in place, remains a characteristic feature," Shatenstein and her colleagues write.

"Because nutrition problems may be prevented or reversed, patients in the early stage of Alzheimer dementia could benefit from dietary assessment and targeted interventions designed to stabilize and/or improve their nutritional status," they conclude.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, December 2007.

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

BBC starts contest in India to fight HIV/AIDS

The BBC World Service Trust launched a mass media contest to combat HIV and AIDS in India on 30 November 2007. Within three weeks of the launch, more than 350,000 people had participated in the contest.

UNAIDS estimate around 2.5 million people in India are living with HIV, which only falls behind South Africa in terms of absolute numbers. The highest rates of infection are among men in the south of the country.

Talking about sex
In a contest targeting more than 50 million people, a riddle aims to get people talking about sex with their friends, as they try to solve the clues.

The contest is part of a massive BBC World Service Trust public service campaign to help stem the rate of HIV infections.

The new campaign uses public service adverts on TV, radio and in cinemas, as well as on location at beaches and shopping malls.

The campaign targets men aged 15 to 59 years old in the states of Andhara Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

What’s smart, green and feathery and talks about sex non-stop?

The mass media HIV and AIDS campaign is fronted by an animated green parrot.

The parrot, which represents talking and intelligence, is smart, pesky, has an opinion about everything and a sense of humour.

The campaign’s strapline, 'Jo Bola Wohi Sikander' ('those who talk are winners'), aims to encourage people to talk about HIV and AIDS prevention, emphasising that the real winners are those who communicate about such issues.

Yvonne MacPherson, Trust country director for India said: "The strength of the creative idea behind this campaign is that instead of an advert that tells people to talk about sexual health, it actually stimulates people to talk.

'We believe the riddle posed in the advertisements is sufficiently enticing and tricky that men will have to talk about it with their friends in order to arrive at the answer."

India’s largest HIV and AIDS mass media campaign

Over the past six years, the BBC World Service Trust, which is the international charity of the BBC, has been implementing India’s largest HIV and AIDS mass media campaign.

It has produced two weekly television shows for Doordarshan (the public TV broadcaster): a drama, starring HIV-positive detective Jasoos Vijay, and a reality show Haath se Haath Milaa, which featured over 40 Hindi film stars.

The last series of Jasoos Vijay was watched by over 70 million viewers. The detective series was awarded the Best Thriller Serial at the prestigious Indian Telly Awards.

This latest HIV and AIDS mass media campaign run by the Trust is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

20 schools in India Awarded for best environmental practices

Located in a small hamlet in Boormajra in Punjab’s Ropar district, a government school was adjudged as India’s greenest school second time in a row. The second and third prizes went to Government Secondary School, Daramdin, Sikkim and Apeejay School, Pitampura, New Delhi respectively.

At a ceremony here in New Delhi on December 17, Prof Krishna Kumar, director, National Council for Educational Research and Training gave Green School Awards 2007 to all 20 schools short-listed from all over the country.

Gobar Times Green School Programme (GSP) was started last year by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a non-profit organisation. Explaining the reason behind starting the programme, Sunita Narain, director, CSE said: “We started this programme because we very strongly believed that the environmental issue was going to be absolutely critical in India and that this issue would determine the future of our country.”

With this objective in mind, the CSE team went about helping teachers and students to take stock of environment and natural resource management within schools, suggest steps to improve performance, ensure implementation of these steps for a better school habitat and more environmentally aware and involved school community.

Prof Krishna Kumar appreciated the efforts of the CSE in launching this kind of a programme, which, according to him, was now transforming itself into a movement. “It has an enormous potential to create hope and combat cynicism which you find very widespread today given the fact that there is so big a crisis facing us,” he said.

“The kind of enthusiasm that I see around me is symbolic of much larger energy, which this programme has triggered,” he added.

GSP coordinator Sumita Dasgupta pointed out towards the remarkable achievement of the programme in such a short span of time. She informed that from 1,200 schools last year, the number of schools covered under the programme had gone up to 3,500 this year.

Not only that, the training of teachers went up from 300 to 600 and the urban-rural ratio tripled during this period. Increasing participation of government-run schools in both rural and urban areas suggested that environment as an issue of concern was coming out of the fold of elitism, she added.

Applauding the performance of the Boormajra school, the statement released by the CSE reads: “The students and teachers [here] have outdone themselves. The award has gone to it because the school has been able to grasp the real message that the GSP seeks to promote: it is actually practicing sustainable use of natural resources and constantly looking out for new and more innovative ways of managing them. The school has now set up a rainwater harvesting system with the help of funds from the state government.”


The Top 20

Here’s an alphabetically arranged list of the shortlisted 20, the greenest schools in India. With 8 schools in this list (including 6 from Delhi), the NCR bags the king’s share of the shortlisting votes. The five winners have been selected out of this list…

Adarsh Public School, Vikaspuri, New Delhi:
contact person is Madhu Walia (+9198686 02871)
Ahlcon International School, Mayur Vihar, New Delhi:
contact person is Barnali Dutta
Apeejay School, Pitampura, New Delhi:
contact person is Malini Shridhar (+9193124 11069)
Deepalaya, Kalkaji Extension, New Delhi:
contact person is Parminder Gulati
Eicher School, Parwanoo, Himachal Pradesh:
contact person is Lata Menon (+9192560 65774)
Government Saragrahi Secondary School, Amritsar, Punjab:
contact person is Manisha (+9194632 23640)
Government Secondary School, Daramdin, Sikkim:
contact person is Prakash Chandra Subba (+9197331 99558)
Government Senior Secondary School, Boormajra (Ropar), Punjab:
contact person is Baljeet Kaur (+9199883 03434)
Gurudevar Matric School, Karur, Tamil Nadu:
contact person is Kumar Nithyananda (+9192445 52223)
Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Jaiharikhaal, Uttaranchal:
contact person is Pankaj Dixit (+9194112 44330)
Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Sardhana (Meerut), Uttar Pradesh:
contact person is N P Singh (+9194562 31424)
Kendriya Vidyalaya, IAT Pune, Maharashtra:
contact person is Veena Wakhaloo (+9198507 08868)
Kerala Public School, Kadma, Jharkhand:
contact person is Saurabhi Pathak (+9192347 05271)
Kerala Public School, Mango, Jharkhand:
contact person is Mausumi Roy (+9194319 06546)
Salwan Public School (Morning), Rajinder Nagar, Delhi:
contact person is Rekha Lalla (+9198185 20658)
Salwan Public School, Gurgaon, Haryana:
contact person is Sheetal Bagati
St Paul’s School, Safdarjung Enclave, Delhi:
contact person is Sarita Jain (+9199109 16321)
TVS School, Tumkur, Karnataka:
contact person is Lalitha (+9194498 16285)
Vishwabharati School, Noida, Uttar Pradesh:
contact person is Yukti Malik (+9198109 23831)
Vivekanada Academy, Digboi, Assam:
contact person is George Ratnam (+9198540 05094)

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

The shinning star : Girl Star of UNICEF

Picture this…. Canada’s first international film festival on disability selected a 7.30 minutes long film on Anuradha the Medical Student from India for this year’s award.

Anuradha’s story of how a little girl takes up a challenge to complete her education and overcomes her disability to become a doctor is captured among the beautiful landscapes of blue houses in Jodhpur, India.

Anuradha at her medical college, ready to take on the world, is a role model among differently abled persons.

Anuradha Rathore, 19, is studying medicine at Jodhpur Medical College in Rajasthan. When Anu was young she contracted Polio – and although the disease affected the way she walks, it has not slowed Anu down in any other way.

She has studied very hard and won a place at medical college under a reservation for students with physical disabilities. Anu failed once at school and she still finds college challenging, but she is determined to be a doctor so she can prevent other children from contracting Polio.

Anuradha is a ‘girl star’ of UNICEF. Girl Stars, a series of 15 films, documenting the lives of girls from the most disadvantaged communities across five northern Indian states, are extraordinary tales of ordinary young women and girls who have changed their lives by going to school.

Girl Stars was created by Going to School, a non-profit media trust in India, and is supported by UNICEF. The films target an audience of young girls in India aged 10 to 16, who are at risk from dropping out of school, their families and decision makers in their lives.

The ‘girl stars’ have managed to break the shackles of socio-economic constraints to make a success of their lives. Having grown to become solo models within their communities, they inspire young girls to go to schools and continue their education.

Canada’s first international film festival on disability this year attracted 90 films from across 15 countries, including UK, USA, Canada, Georgia, Russia, Bangladesh, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, France, Brazil and Netherlands. Anuradha the medical student attracted the attention of jury, who noted “this story of hope, which inspires and informs”.

During a road show organised by UNICEF in Rajasthan in the month of May 2007, this correspondent had an opportunity to meet Anuradha. She said, despite hailing from a poor family, she was given every opportunity to develop her potential as a child that helped her chose her path.

Her fight against polio may have left her with a permanent limp but could not cripple her dream of becoming a doctor. She has proved that she too is capable of performing academic feats just like any other person.

Persons with disabilities have the right to lead lives of dignity and self-respect, and should be, at the same time mainstreamed into society, said Anuradha.

“They are also equal partners in the economic progress of the country,” she added.

Anuradha firmly believes that differently abled persons should demand their rights and not sympathy or charity from people. She said that many young girls feel vindicated by the stories of girl stars and are now even more determined to see their goals turn into reality.

Girl Stars: Anuradha the Medical Student has been screened at various international film festivals, including the 2007 Schweitzer Lakedance Film Festival at Idaho, USA, the 2007 South Asian International Film Festival at New York, USA and the Kids First Film Festival, 2007, USA.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

US braces for baby boom retirement wave

The first of the vast US baby boom generation goes into retirement in January, setting off a demographic tidal wave with wide-ranging economic, political and social implications.

Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, born on January 1, 1946, is acknowledged as the nation's first baby boomer and the first to apply for social security benefits, for which she will be eligible in 2008.

The New Jersey grandmother is the first of an estimated 80 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, a generation that led a social revolution in the 1960s and changed the fabric of most facets of society.

The cost for government-funded social security and medical care for the boomers leaves a funding gap of between 40 and 76 trillion dollars for next 75 years, according to various estimates.

"America is facing a demographic juggernaut," says Brent Green, a marketing consultant and author, in his "Boomers" blog.

"An unprecedented number will soon be entering the retirement stage of life. One-third of the population will be over 50 by 2010. One in five will be over 65 by 2010."

Leonard Steinhorn, an American University professor and author of "The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy," says the generation often wrongly maligned as latte-sipping Yuppies has transformed most of American society.

He wrote that boomers have led or sustained most of "the great citizen movements that have advanced American values and freedoms -- the environmental movement, the consumer movement, the women's movement, the civil rights movement, the diversity movement, the human rights movement, the openness in government movement."

He told AFP he expects this transformation to continue as boomers age. "It's not going to be a generation that's going to go off to the golf courses and do nothing."

He said boomers will push politics to a more progressive bent even though that has not yet happened because the more conservative over-60 generation still carries much weight in the electorate.

"Once younger voters begin to replace them, the socially conservative vote will dwindle," he said.

The generation is a ripe target for marketing of everything from travel to real estate to computer games for keeping minds fit.

"In the whole way we think about aging and the way companies develop products, we have traditionally been a country of the young," said David Baxter, senior vice president at Age Wave, a California-based research and consulting company focused on the over-50 population.

"If you look at the hottest products, companies think the youth market is the most important."

Baxter said marketers are still using "the myth that older consumers are stuck in their brands and not very interesting consumers. But it's the mature consumer who has all the money."

Americans aged 50 and over have a collective one trillion dollars in disposable income and control 67 percent of the US wealth, according to the over-50 social networking website Eons.

Members of the baby boom generation are big users of technology and the Internet. A Pew Internet Life Project report showed two-thirds of those between 50 and 58 had Internet access as of 2004, similar to the number of 28- to 39-year-olds.

Many are gravitating to social networking sites, especially those geared to their generation with names like TeeBeeDee and BoomerCafe.

About half of Americans will buy new homes after retirement, and many will continue to work in some capacity or become involved in social activism.

Michael Falcon, head of the retirement group at Merrill Lynch, says the nation must prepare for a "new model" for retirement.

"Multiple generations report cycling in and out of work and pursuing a new career in later life as the retirement ideal," he said in a 2006 report. "Companies need to be aware of this new concept of retirement."

A Merrill Lynch survey found 71 percent of adults surveyed plan to work in some capacity after their formal "retirement."

Carol Orsborn, a public relations executive who writes a "Boomer Blog," said the generation appears to be pursuing its dreams rather than dropping out to a quiet retirement.

"If we were hippies in the 1960s and 1970s and yuppies in the 1980s and 1990s, what are we now?" she wrote.

"At an age where expectations that our generation pull back, instead of 're-tiring' we are 're-upping' for another tour of duty in life. We are changing careers, finally getting around to taking risks with our dreams, advancing into new psychological and spiritual terrain, not only new to us as individuals, but for society as a whole. We are, in fact, Re-uppies."

On the economic side, some fear the "silver tsunami" will drain the country of its wealth, but Baxter says the United States has some advantages.

"It's true that everything in our society is built on the idea of continued growth, it's kind of a giant Ponzi scheme with every generation prior to this one having given birth to a larger generation," he said.

The problems are even more acute in some European countries and Japan which face a similar demographic time bomb. But Baxter said "the US is cushioned to some extent by a more liberal immigration policy" and because "there is more flexibility in our workforce. It's illegal to have mandatory reitirement and that's not the case in most countries."


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Maternal Grandparents More Involved With Grandchildren

As families gather round for the winter holidays, some faces may be more familiar than others. A recent study shows that the amount of social interaction between extended family members depends on whether people are related through their mother or father. Thomas Pollet and colleagues at Newcastle University and the University of Antwerp, Belgium, investigated how far maternal grandparents and paternal grandparents will go to maintain face-to-face contact with their grandchildren.

They found that maternal grandparents were willing to travel further in order to sustain frequent (daily or a few times a week) contact with their grandchildren than paternal grandparents.

Mr Pollet says, "As the festive period approaches, we can still see that family get-togethers are integral to the celebrations. Many people will be going the extra mile to ensure they meet up - and we've found that's particularly important if family members are related through mothers."

"Even in families where there has been divorce, we found consistent differences - grandparents on your mother's side make the extra effort. We believe there are psychological mechanisms at play because throughout history, women are always related by maternity whereas men can never be wholly certain they are the biological father to their children."

The authors interpret their findings as support for psychological patterns resulting from our evolutionary history. Family members related through their mothers (matrilineal kin) are predicted to matter more than those related through their fathers (patrilineal kin).

Throughout human evolution, women were always related by certain maternity, whereas men could never be wholly certain that they are the biological father. Also, maternal grandparents were always more certain than paternal grandparents that a grandchildren was related to them. Thus, maternal grandparents, especially maternal grandmothers, may go the extra mile to visit their grandchildren.

For grandparents living within 19.5 miles (30 km) of their grandchildren, over 30% of the maternal grandmothers had contact daily or a few times a week. Around 25% of the maternal grandfathers had contact daily or a few times a week. In contrast, only around 15 % of the paternal grandmothers and little more than 15% of the paternal grandfathers would have contact daily or a few times a week.

The research which is published in the latest edition of the journal Evolutionary Psychology, was conducted on a sample of over 800 grandparents from a representative Dutch sample (The Netherlands Kinship Panel Study - ). The analyses controlled for other factors such as grandparental and child age, marital status, and number of children.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Alzheimer's disease may strike in Midlife

Alzheimer's disease may begin in midlife, although the mind-killing condition is not diagnosed until a patient begins to show symptoms, U.S. researchers say.

"Alzheimer's disease may be a chronic condition in which change begins in midlife or even earlier," Dr. John C. Morris, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis told The New York Times.

Morris has been studying the possible progression of Alzheimer's in a healthy 52-year-old woman whose mother, grandmother and maternal great-aunt all had dementia to detect symptoms as early as possible.

The woman has volunteered for batteries of mental tests, MRIs, PET scans and spinal taps to help researchers who say early detection and treatment may be the only way to halt progression of Alzheimer's before brain damage spreads.

Since November, PET scans using an experimental radioactive dye called Pittsburgh Compound B have detected deposits of beta amyloid, an Alzheimer's-related protein, in the brains of five patients, the Times reported. Scientists say studies using the dye found A-beta deposits in up to 25 percent of normal people over age 65.

There currently is no definitive genetic test for biomarkers for Alzheimer's, which was first recognized in the early 1900s. The Alzheimer's Associated estimates 5 million U.S. residents have Alzheimer's and 66,000 die of the disease annually.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Positive results for millions of children

In the three years since a tsunami devastated entire regions around the Indian Ocean, UNICEF has improved the lives and health of millions of women and children affected by the December 2004 disaster.

Through its ‘building back better’ recovery initiative, UNICEF has constructed and rehabilitated 107 schools, established teacher-training resource centres and improved education programmes. It has built 59 health facilities and 28 child care centres, and developed water facilities serving about 700,000 people.

At the same time, over 1.2 million children in the tsunami zone have been immunized against measles, and essential drugs and vitamin A have been provided to more than 3 million.

A more effective response

The lessons learned from the tsunami, a disaster unprecedented in scale, have led to sweeping changes in the way UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies work – paving the way for more efficient and effective emergency responses.

“It was a key factor that led to a whole humanitarian reform agenda,” said Jonathan Cauldwell, UNICEF’s Chief of Programme, Humanitarian and Transition Support Section.

“We’ve learned that we need to be quicker. We’ve learned that we’re not on our own. We’ve very clearly learned that the first line of response is the national level, and much more effort still needs to go into building the capacity of the national level,” he added.

Construction moving forward

Despite ongoing challenges such as violence in Sri Lanka and Somalia, and logistical problems in the remote regions of Banda Aceh and the Maldives, reconstruction in several countries is expected to be completed in early 2009.

UNICEF’s goal has been to construct better facilities than those that were destroyed by the tsunami. In this sense, the disaster has led to an opportunity to help the tsunami-affected countries plan better futures for their children.

“We looked at what was needed to lead us towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and we took it to a different stage,” said Mr. Cauldwell. “Where do we want this country or countries or populations to be in a decade’s time, and how does this response fit into much bigger, broader support for those countries?”

Not a patchwork solution

UNICEF’s work in the tsunami zone is a commitment that will last for many years. It involves tracking and measuring progress for children, protecting the rights of the most vulnerable, increasing community involvement and giving young people a voice in the recovery and reconstruction process.

“The lessons we’ve learned from the tsunami will go on for decades and decades to come, because we should continue to look back and continue to improve,” concluded Mr. Cauldwell.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you. and NGO Toybank bring smile to the underprivileged children

Christmas celebrations are just around the corner and one can already feel the buzz and the excitement in anticipation of the celebrations. The festivities bring the people closer and is the ideal occasion to show the love and affection for your loved ones. People buy all kinds of sweets, chocolates, cakes and gifts for their loved ones.

While everyone is in his/her own festive mood for celebration,, India’s first social networking website, has taken the onus and thought of becoming a Santa for the underprivileged children in association with the NGO Toybank. Over 3 million members of will come forward and donate toys – old or new for the underprivileged, which will then be distributed among the kids in slums,municipal schools, hospitals& street members just need to fill a form on the site & the Toybank team will then get in touch with them to facilitate the rest.

Continuing with its efforts to promote social networking for a social cause is the thought behind this initiative in association with Toybank. With the support of over 3 million of its members, hopes to bring a smile to the faces of thousands of underpriviledged children and make them feel like a part of the Christmas celebrations.

Toybank is a non-profit organization which has a strong belief that every child, irrespective of his social & financial background has the right to make the most of his/her childhood. While accessibility to a decent education is of prime importance, one should not overlook how important a role can indulgence in extra-curricular activities help in shaping/moulding the lives of these children as and when they grow to evolve as strong, responsible individuals. After all, these are the very same children who will represent the face of a better globe, a responsible globe. Toybank dreams to place a toy in the hands of every poor child of India. A toy shapes the psyche of the children, so utmost care is taken to give only unbiased and morally correct toys to children.

About is India’s first friendship & social networking site and is a part of Anupam Mittal led People Group. Launched in 2003 with a vision of becoming the hangout place for Indians worldwide, has worked on a simple principle -No one’s a Stranger. Today, has more than 3.5 million members who use the platform to share, interact and connect with like-minded people & make new friends. With features such as Photo & Video Sharing, Blogging, Authenticated Groups, Personalized Zones etc., has become the preferred place for Indians from India & across the world to hang out & stay connected.

About Toybank

Toybank is a non-profit organization which was set up with the aim of providing toys to children who come from a weak socio-economic background. It has a vision to reinstate the joys of childhood & become a strong medium investing in the overall development of a child belonging to a weak socio-economic background who has been deprived of a fair chance to achieve something worthwhile in life.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Home away from Home

THE ELDERLY are either neglected, used or abused," says Alan Chatterjee, 58. Due to retire from Air-India at the end of this month, this pilot and former Air Force wing commander has already booked for himself and 56-year-old wife Shyama a flat at Dignity Lifestyle’s retirement complex now under construction at Neral, off Mumbai.

What does he expect to get here that he cannot get outside? For one, dignity. As Chatterjee says: "We want a place where we can walk with our heads held high." And second, a place where every need of the elderly is anticipated and taken care of.

It is this combination of physical and emotional satisfaction that today’s retirement homes strive to provide. From an era where old-age homes were synonymous with charitable institutions for the indigent and orphaned elderly, we moved some years ago to the far more refined paid homes, where amenities were good and services like on-site medical check-ups and transport arrangements were provided. Now, retirement homes are set to enter a third phase of evolution.

First, property developers have realised the financial potential in old-age housing, and many of them are coming up with residential complexes and townships designed especially for senior citizens. Second, whether retirement home or housing complex, they are all being built consciously to certain accepted principles of gerontology. From just being luxurious, they now exhibit an informed sensitivity to retirees’ needs, whether by replacing steps with ramps or by providing mental stimulation.

The numbers. Gerontology is something that Indians had better begin to take seriously. There are almost 80 million senior citizens in India today, expected to go up to 370 million by 2047, and 50 per cent of them are in urban areas. Apart from the breakdown of the joint family, thousands of young Indians have migrated to the West, leaving behind ageing parents who are educated and independent but alone. "There are an estimated 2 million NRIs in the US alone, with the wealth and the inclination to finance their parents’ old age," says B.N. Samal, director and CEO, LIC HFL Care Homes, a new entrant to elderly housing. Also, much of the middle-class elderly population here has adequate means to afford assisted living.

Life expectancy is steadily increasing, but cities are no longer safe nor friendly neighbours a certainty. Alternative housing for the aged is a practical lifestyle solution that developers are now ready to provide. Says Samal: "Running senior citizens’ homes on a commercial basis is a well-established business in the West, and the potential for it here is vast."

Outlook Money takes a look at some alternative housing solutions now available, what they offer and at what price.

What’s available
Older retirement homes were rather like luxurious hostels, where you paid a deposit for a lifetime lease on the unit, exclusive of extras like food, transport etc. The deposit was refunded to you if you decided to move out (only after another resident was found), or to your heirs.

While Dignity Lifestyle’s village in Neral functions like this, in that the unit reverts to the foundation after the resident’s death, it would be misleading to classify it here. The 500-unit township set across 25 acres is designed so sensitively that it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘retirement living’. It’s expected to be ready by July 2005, and about 120 people have signed up so far.

The new idea. Retirement housing complexes are replacing "homes" today. Here, you buy a unit just like any other flat, which you can then bequeath to your heirs. If they are senior citizens, they can move in; or they can rent/sell the place (see table). The complexes come with a host of comforts and amenities designed to make retired life comfortable.

Of the several such coming up, Pune’s Athashri complex promoted by Paranjape Schemes was one of the first to be completed early last year. All 180 flats have been sold, and by October the next block of 160 flats will be ready. These are ownership flats, which residents can bequeath to their children. If over 55, the heirs can live here, or they can choose to rent them out. Paranjape Schemes is also ready to buy back the flats at prevailing rates.

High-profile LIC Housing has stepped in, with LIC Care Homes beginning construction in Bangalore. Given LIC’s tag, people have high hopes from it, and the plans promise not to belie these (see interview). Spread across 10 acres, the village will have 98 independent bungalows initially, extended to 150 in the second phase. Again, cottages can be bequeathed to children over 55. If they are not that old or do not choose to live there, LIC Care returns the deposit amount.

At Kochi’s 55-unit Riverdale Consortium, run by a trained gerontologist, the chief advantage is that you can also take the units on rent. Heirs of ownership units can resell to Riverdale at the purchase price, or rent them out, but only after depositing the unit price with Riverdale as maintenance amount.

What they cost

Flats at the Athashri complex cost Rs 6 lakh (450 sq. ft) and Rs 8 lakh (611 sq. ft), with Rs 25,000 as booking amount and the rest payable in instalments over 18 months. But there’s also a refundable lifetime maintenance deposit of Rs 1.5 lakh. If you sell and move out, this deposit is returned to you.

At LIC Care, there are three kinds of units at Rs 5 lakh (400 sq. ft) Rs 7 lakh (600 sq. ft), and Rs 9 lakh (800 sq. ft). You pay 50 per cent of the amount upfront and the rest before moving in. LIC Care’s chief attraction: you get concessional loans from LIC Housing for the purchase.

Riverdale is priced at Rs 1.5 lakh (200 sq. ft), Rs 2.5 lakh (350 sq. ft), and Rs 2.8 (400 sq. ft). Rents are Rs 2,550 for a single-room unit to Rs 6,600 for a deluxe double, inclusive of incoming calls, electricity, maintenance and food.

Dignity Lifestyle’s units cost Rs 3 lakh (180 sq. ft), Rs 6 lakh (375 sq. ft) and Rs 8 lakh (500 sq. ft), with the booking amount Rs 1.5 lakh for the smallest unit and Rs 2 lakh for the others. The balance is payable in quarterly instalments. Dignity Lifestyle Trust gives you 50 per cent of the total amount as a loan, where the EMI works out to about Rs 9,500 over five years. Children of prospective residents can take a loan from Dignity’s bankers, based on their income and assets.

Monthly charges. Apart from this, all places charge a monthly fee that covers various heads like housekeeping, linen, security, meditation, yoga, bhajans, lectures etc. In some places, the charge also covers vegetarian food, basic electricity charges and telephone rentals.

This fee ranges from Rs 3,500 per person at Dignity to roughly Rs 4,000 at LIC Care (inclusive of vegetarian food). Riverdale charges Rs 320-530, covering electricity, water and security. Athashri’s one-time maintenance charge covers pool, clubhouse and garden, plus security, weekly flat cleaning, and corporation tax, while an extra Rs 350 gets you a maid.

What they offer

None of them have skimped on comfort. They are all built on sprawling lawns, with library, health club, meditation centre, and indoor games. All of them have reasonably priced cafeterias. At Athashri, for instance, a meal costs about Rs 20.

The Dignity cottages come fully furnished, with beds, dressers, writing desk, sofas, and geysers; plus TV, fridge and telephone, plus pantry equipped with toaster, kettle, crockery and cutlery for two.

Subash Bapat, 61, a retired senior officer from Bank of India, moved into Athashri with wife Sangeeta in February last year. He spent Rs 13 lakh for two adjoining units, and got himself a roughly 1,000 sq. ft apartment. "It’s not just senior citizens, we even have a handicapped lady living here by herself because the facilities are so convenient," he says.

Needs anticipated. Where all these places are bound to score with retirees is in the extras they offer. For instance, at Athashri, you can pay for staff to run errands like bill payment. And there is a supermarket on intercom to make home deliveries. All the villages have ramps instead of stairs, with wheelchair access everywhere. There is skid-free flooring and handrails in the bathrooms. Net connections are available to stay in touch with children abroad.

At LIC, it’s proposed to run a full-fledged hospital, while Dignity will have a 100-bed geriatric unit with trained care, capable of handling problems like Alzheimer’s. Athashri has a clinic visited each day by one specialist doctor. Riverdale has free nursing, with medical bills up to Rs 5,000 per head covered by group insurance.

What money can’t buy. Says Shrikanth Paranjape, chairman, Paranjape Schemes: "In a senior citizens’ housing complex, 20 per cent is brick and mortar; the balance is psychological support." A special body called the Athashri Foundation has been established for cultural programmes, excursions, and movie shows for residents.

This aspect receives particular attention at Dignity Foundation. Says chairperson Sheilu Srinivasan: "It’s designed as per UN standards of active ageing where the elderly are engaged physically and mentally."

Dignity has adopted 17 villages around its Neral complex, where retirees will manage six community development projects that include micro credit finance, 100 per cent literacy, gerontology and spiritual affairs. "Our retirees are highly educated and aware. They are eager to take up something like this. The idea is to involve them in community life, not to segregate them from society," she says.

It’s this independent, productive life that today’s retirees want, backed at the same time by an efficient support system.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Fish oils intake to reduce Alzheimer's

US researchers claim to have proved that fish oils can be a deterrent against Alzheimer's disease.

The team also says it has managed to find out why the oils have a beneficial effect.

Previous studies have linked the omega 3 in fish oils with a reduction in the form of dementia.

Today's report, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, says the omega 3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) increases the production of LR11 – a protein that is found at reduced levels in Alzheimer's patients.

This protein is also known to destroy another protein that forms the 'plaques' associated with the disease.

The researchers base their claims on studies of the effect of fish oil's DHA in multiple biological systems, in which it was administered by diet and by adding it to neurons grown in laboratory.

"We found that even low doses of DHA increased the levels of LR11 in rat neurons, while dietary DHA increased LR11 in brains of rats or older mice that had been genetically altered to develop Alzheimer's disease," said Greg Cole, professor of medicine and neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and associate director of UCLA's Alzheimer Disease Research Centre.

The researchers confirmed the findings from animal studies were not limited to nonhuman animal cells.

As a result of the findings the National Institutes of Health is conducting a large-scale clinical trial with DHA in patients with established Alzheimer's disease.

Dr Cole said it still needs to be determined what the optimal dose should be.

"It could be that a smaller amount might be helpful, especially in a place like the south of France, where people are already on a Mediterranean diet," he added.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Talking to loved ones with Dementia

This morning, many caregivers likely are preparing for holiday visits from friends and families. For caregivers who are providing care for loved ones with memory impairment, it may be helpful to give your visitors some tips on communicating with your loved one.

People who are experiencing early and middle stages of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia have difficulty processing information and responding to questions or conversation. They may also have problems finding their words, which means it takes them much longer to maintain their end of the conversation.

For those who are experiencing middle stage dementia, they may respond with short sentences or even single word answers. Regardless of the stage of the illness, it is important to keep in mind that caregivers and friends should modify their communication techniques in order to avoid frustration or agitation in the person with memory impairment.

Tips for communicating with a person who is experiencing memory impairment include allowing extra time for him to respond and paying attention to his cues to determine if he is comprehending or following the conversation. For example, instead of asking several things at once or frequently changing the subject, stick with one subject at a time and give the person ample time to respond before asking another question or moving on in the conversation.

If the person with memory impairment is responding with short phrases or single words, that is a sign that it is easier for him to process and respond to information in that manner. It is important to consistently use shorter, simpler words as the disease progresses.

A golden rule of interacting with a person with dementia is to make every effort to avoid saying "Don't you remember..." If he does not recall what you are discussing.

When using reminiscence, it is better to talk about the good times you have had with the person rather than frequently asking if he remembers every detail of the event.

When attempting to help the person with a task, it is easier for him if you ask questions that can be answered "yes" or "no" rather than open-ended questions that require the person to process the information and come up with an answer.

Most important, if you are entertaining guests in your home, it is important to be open and honest about your loved one's memory impairment. Information and education are powerful tools that allow everyone involved the opportunity to help make life less stressful for you as a caregiver and your loved one who is experiencing memory impairment.

By Dotty St. Amand,executive director of the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer's Resource Center in Fort Myers, which provides support groups and other services in the Lee County area.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Kurien wants to do an Anand in Orissa

When Dr Verghese Kurien’s dream of creating and leading a world-class rural management institute in the country through the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) left him disillusioned, the veteran reformer turned to a university in Orissa to carry forward his vision.

A year later, the university he backed, the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT)’s School of Rural Management (KSRM) at Bhubaneshwar, is quietly making plans to outdo the institute it was modelled on.

Unlike IRMA, which offers a two-year Post Graduate diploma in Rural Management, KSRM will be able to award an MBA in Rural Management to the first batch of 72 students passing out in 2009 owing to its deemed university status.

The institute has also received the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) approval for increasing the number of students from 74 to 100-120 for the second batch of students in 2008.

LK Vaswani, who taught at IRMA for 16 years and is now the director of KSRM, says the new institute retains the IRMA model of building and sustaining a partnership between rural people and committed professional managers.

But according to Vaswani, a key element that separates IRMA from KRSM, is the lack of inhibition towards its students choosing to work with the private sector.

Although over the years, IRMA has softened its stance towards corporate companies with development and rural positions, there is an unsaid rule that the institute has and will be a place for rural managers.

“KSRM has decided to avoid taking a sectoral association. We do not believe in having any inhibitions towards the corporate sector considering more and more of them are entering the development sector. In fact, we are associated with the private sector where our students can have hands-on experience in agri-business, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), NGO management, finance and the like,” says Vaswani.

He added that in terms of on-the-field education or experiential learning, the institute hopes to surpass all other rural management schools.

For starters, the institute will hold live field training modules for a duration of 12 weeks which will be conducted thrice a year. The first batch of 72 students from 16 states will be asked to go back to their own states and adopt a village where they will work at the grassroot level. Students will also work with KIIT’s tribal school which has 3,000 children studying in its campus.

While IRMA, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other top B-schools face a shortage of faculty, KSRM officials say it does not worry them.

Along with seven core rural management faculty members, three of whom are from IRMA, Vaswani says faculty from the KIIT university’s other institutes like school of law, school of management, school of technology, school of social sciences etc. contribute to almost 50 per cent of the teaching load, making it a very healthy student-faculty ratio. Around 15 rural management faculty will be inducted in 2008.

With the objective of linking rural management to different sectors, KSRM has chosen to promote science and technology among the rural masses.

The institute has proposed an academic collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to ensure the participation of its students in the government’s ‘Science for Society’ programme in partnership with over 40 NGOs.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Tapping the disabled workforce

Mumbai-based Hari Raghavan, 30, works for IBM India as a specialist in banking and financial services and helps companies in these businesses find technology solutions to business problems. In some ways, Raghavan is the typical software services employee. He works five days a week, up to eight hours a day; most days, he is in by 10am and starts his day by using Google alerts to scan for news related to his areas of interest. But Raghavan, who has an MBA from Mumbai’s Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), is different in one way: he is visually impaired.

Raghavan reflects a growing trend in India—of companies hiring disabled employees for a variety of reasons, from a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative to tapping a larger talent pool. “In a talent-starved economy, it’s highly expensive for companies to have a narrow approach to talent pool,” says Ganesh Shermon, partner and head, human capital advisory service, KPMG India, an audit and consulting firm.

Raghavan, in fact, has the typical MBA’s career progression chart too—in seven years, he has had four jobs, including the IBM one. He has previously worked at Tata Finance Ltd, Jasubhai Digital Media, and GE Money.

In Bangalore, 25-year-old Veerabhadra E. is a team leader at back-office service provider Vindhya eInfomedia Pvt. Ltd. He works six days a week, and over 10 hours a day, and says he loves what he is doing. Veerabhadra is orthopaedically disabled.

The beginning
Companies such as IBM India Pvt. Ltd, Shell companies in India , HSBC India, E.I. DuPont India Pvt. Ltd, Tata Steel Ltd, Hindustan Unilever Ltd and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd started hiring disabled people as part of their human resources policy of being an equal opportunity employer and increasing diversity in the workplace. The trend has since grown to include several other companies.

Even regional players such as Erode-based Sakthi Trading Co., the maker of Sakthi Masala, Vadodara-based engineering company Jyoti Ltd and Pune-based Sharayu Precision & Associated Manufacturing Co. hire disabled people for reasons ranging from business needs to doing their bit towards corporate social responsibility.
Vindhya eInfomedia began operations in June 2006 with five people. It currently has 90 employees, out of which 75-80 are disabled.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Concert tour raises $250,000 for India's disabled poor

Vegesna Foundation, the only institute of its kind for complete rehabilitation of extremely poor and handicapped children of India, raised more than $250,000 during its whirlwind fund-raising tour in 33 US cities.The concert tour titled 'Ghantasala Aradhanotsvaalu' (to commemorate the 85th birth anniversary of the legendary Telugu singer, the late Ghantasala), began in Atlanta on Sept 23 and ended in Cleveland on Dec 15.

Well known singer "Gayaka Siromani" G.V Pabhakar and internationally reputed multi-language Houstonian singer "Gayaka Ratna" Mani Sastry performed in all the cities. Vegesna's humanitarian services resonated well with over 6000 people who donated about $250,000 from all over the US. This entire nationwide musical extravaganza designed as Vegesna fund raiser was conceived and organized by Houston-based Dr. Raju Vanguri, Hon. Executive Director, of the Foundation.Essentially an arts patron, Vamsee Ramaraju established Vegesna Foundation in 1988 with the help of a few NRI friends from New York and New Jersey area.

"We started with a handful of children with severe disabilities such as missing limbs and legs, in a small rental facility. Our goal was to offer complete rehabilitation including medical treatment, surgical corrections and post-operative care," Ramaraju explains.

"We found that while there are a lot of NGOs and even Governmental bodies to help orphans and poor children, there was nothing out there in all of India that we know of to take exclusive care of children who are not only very poor, but are also physically handicapped, mentally retarded, hearing impaired or blind." Ramaraju, who was in Houston last week, adds, "We pick up these children from bus-stands, trains, villages, at door steps of temples and village huts.

It is painful to know that most of them are made professional beggars by their own parents." The Foundation shelters more than 400 kids in its facilities, offering food, clothes, separate dormitories for girls and boys, free food and clothes, education up to 10th grade, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, regular services of orthopedic surgeon, daily medical check up, surgical corrections, supply of calipers and repairs, vocational training in tailoring, embroidery, printing & dyeing, music, yoga, computer learning.All the expenses are met by generous donations, primarily from NRIs.

"Unfortunately," says Ramaraju, "Government of India has severely curtailed all funding since 2003 except for special schools such as for mentally retarded, visually impaired or hearing & speech impaired kids and that too with a lot of strings attached. We are proud of the fact that several of our kids are now enrolled in to medical and engineering colleges and well on their way to becoming productive citizens, in spite of being disadvantaged physically and economically. But for Vegesna, I am afraid that they would still be begging on the streets."

Over the last two decades, Vegesna Foundation has expanded its services vertically and horizontally, with help from NRI donors. Recently, it established a vocational college for poor girls from villages to train them as physical therapists, teachers, computer programmers and other income generating skills. "But, there is always a financial need because our operating budget is about $100,000 per year to pay for food, staff salaries, clothes, books, medical treatment & equipment costs and maintenance," says Ramaraju.

"Our goal is to establish a corpus fund of about $1.5 million to be maintained in a fixed deposit and use the interest to pay for operating expenses and expansion. We are currently evaluating possibilities of setting up facilities in other cities and other states of India." Meanwhile, Dr. Vanguri who organized the US fundraising concert tour said, "Our goal is to raise about $1million in the next year or two from generous donors, corporations, and charitable foundations that are concerned about the welfare of India's destitute children who are physically or mentally handicapped.

We are seeking Grand Patrons ($10,000), Grand Benefactors ($5,000), Patrons ($1,000). The "Adopt A Child" program with $250 per child per year to offer free food, education, clothes and medical treatment has become very popular with many donors. And all donations are tax-deductible in USA.

And I am very sure that our community will continue to respond well for Vegesna's dedicated humanitarian service. Ramaraju, who has won several awards and recognition for his humanitarian services says of his Foundation, "As long as I live, I will take care of any number of such children. But, it is my dream that this foundation should thrive long after I am gone."


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

FUN Time for this Construction Workers Children's

Over 125 children from various Mobile crèches of Mumbai and Poway including Hiranandani and Raheja Vihar participated in the carnival. The event was held on 15 Dec at BMC Grounds, opposite Jal Vaiyu Vihar, Hiranandani and was organised jointly by MANCH - North-East Mumbai Citizens and Giants International - Powai (Hiranandani) in association with the Schools of Powai. The carnival included games, DJ music, ice-creams and food. The event had the support and generosity of residents of Hiranandani, Powai Vihar, IIT, Powai, Rajeha Vihar, Nahar Village, Lake Homes, Customs Colony, PNG Society, Income Tax Society, MHADA and several other Societies, individuals and Corporate Houses including Jet Airways.

"We wanted to share a 'happy' evening with children of construction workers. They are a neglected lot as they move from place to place. Although they their parents toil to make sure that we have a "happy home", they themselves never have one! This was one of the most cheerful evening for me to see so many smiles on the faces of little children" said Ms Bhama Sreekumar, Project Director for the event. "The response was overwhelming and it was very encouraging to see so many residents of Powai and Raheja Vihar who had spared their time to spend time with the kids. I am very happy with the success of the event" she said"

"The best joy any one can get is by giving joy and bringing smile in others" said Thelma D'Souza, President, Giants International, Powai (Hiranandani), "Children of Mobile Crèches deserve events such as this one. Only after talking to them I realised how neglected they were. Their parents hardly have any time for them. Few children came to me and thanked me for thinking of them. They had tears of joy in their eyes”

Ms Nita of Mobile Crèches, Raheja thanked MANCH and Giants for organising such a wonderful Carnival for the kids of Mumbai Mobile Crèches. She said "The kids and the staff had a very good time . The joy on the kids' faces said it all. It was a very thoughtful and touching gesture by MANCH and Giants.”

Children of Bombay Scottish and SM Shetty were touched with the experience they had. One of the child said "We did not realise how fortunate we are until we met these children, spoke to them and shared our views. We want to involve ourselves more with these children and share more time with them"

Mr Mirchandani of Raheja Vihar Residents Welfare Association complimented MANCH for their thoughtfulness in bringing smile on so many children's faces. He was very pleased to witness such a social event. He mingled with the children and spent time with them. Residents of Powai who came in large numbers had a good evening too! They too went back with smiles and were happy that they could bring smile to so many loving and cheerful children.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Long way to go and promises to keep

When Sharukh Khan-starrer ‘Chak de India’ hit theatres in August, the Tamil Nadu Women’s Hockey Association received calls from several children who expressed interest in the game.

After a couple of months, the excitement seemed to have waned. “It all depends on how much support schools or parents can give and on where the child lives,” said secretary of Tamil Nadu Women’s Hockey Association M. Renuka Lakshmi. “A child who lives, for instance, in Ambattur may not be able to come to the stadium in Egmore for regular practice.”

Making a strong case for more facilities for sports, Ms. Lakshmi said that children and youth of today need plenty of backing if they want to make it big. “Sport gives character, the ability to accept defeat and try again, to challenge the world,” she said.

Her words ring true in the case of children in Kalyanapuram slum in Vyasarpadi. The Chennai Corporation school ground in their locality is their favourite haunt, where they play football every day. N. Umapathy, one of their football coaches, said, “It keeps them busy and happy. They don’t get into abusive habits like smoking.”

However, the playground is likely to become smaller, as some new classrooms have been planned. “New classrooms should certainly be built but not on playground space. There is an old, run-down building that can be pulled down and rebuilt,” said Mr. Umapathy.

Shrinking playgrounds and poor upkeep of existing facilities add to the hurdles before young sports enthusiasts. Many city schools do not have grounds, specialist coaches or equipment. Some private institutions offer facilities for tennis, badminton and cricket, but restrict use to members only.

A. Mahendran, a former volleyball professional, was critical about the sports policy followed by the Central and State Governments. Mr. Mahendran pointed out that the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports allotted huge funds for various projects but basic infrastructure to attract young talent was lacking.

The Nehru Park Sports Complex under the charge of the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) is a very popular facility but in need of maintenance. SDAT Member-Secretary Atulya Misra said that the basketball and tennis courts would be redone soon. The SDAT also has several plans for the future. A call centre to give information on sports facilities, fees and availability is to be set up soon.

“We have started a tennis academy to coach children from Corporation schools. We will also hold district marathons that will culminate in the Chennai marathon next year,” Mr. Misra said.

Suburban pitch

Young people in Chennai are better off when it comes to sports facilities than those in the suburbs. Existing open spaces are being eaten away by commercial or residential complexes.

Sports enthusiasts in the southern suburb of Tambaram said the only good playground in Tambaram was situated in the railway staff quarters complex. Footballers said they could practise on grounds owned by private colleges and educational institutions but the charges were high.

Kancheepuram District Football Association president D. S. Sivasami said that letters had been sent to the Minister of State for Railways R. Velu requesting improvement of the railway staff quarters ground.

“Even a small city such as Imphal in Manipur has six football grounds. A stadium with infrastructure for training is a dream for young footballers here,” Mr. Sivasami said.

Private enterprise

Private coaching academies have made a mark in some of the suburbs. D.S.K Reddy has been running the Reddy’s Cricket Academy for eight years now. He started coaching children on the playground of a private school in Selaiyur. The academy recently shifted to a five-acre site, taken on lease, where he has developed infrastructure at the cost of Rs. 6 lakh to groom young players. He charges about Rs. 400 per month and has trained cricketers for competitions in the Kancheepuram district under-13, under-15 and under-17 categories.

As spaces for football and hockey shrink, sports such as roller-skating are gaining popularity. District-level meets for roller-skating encourage the children, says Raghunandhan, a sports enthusiast from East Tambaram. Parents also seem happy to encourage their children to skate. M.A.V. Swimming Pool in Sembakkam offers a skating rink.

Corporate sponsorship for matches and tournaments would be a great help, said coaches from sports associations. They said that support was available for games such as cricket but if private firms come forward to sponsor just one or two matches of other sports, a lot of young people would benefit.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Innovation in Social Sector:American circus spreads social messages

An American circus troupe has joined hands with a Delhi based NGO to perform across the country to sensitise people on various social and environmental issues.

San Francisco based circus troupe, Dreamtime Circus, has its members perform on themes like education, environment or gender.

Swecha, an NGO, which works on environmental issues, has brought the circus to India that will perform for six months.

'Although Swecha has brought them to India, the circus troupe work in association with different organisations and local NGOs in different places. Whichever issue a particular NGO works on, the troupe will perform for them on the very same issue,' Supriya Singh of Swecha told IANS.

Dreamtime circus' members are mainly students who have dropped out of their studies and other professionals who emptied their bank balance for this particular trip to India.

Performances of the troupe include an array of circus arts, music and storytelling, and will communicate positive messages of hope, dreams, and respect for all.

'In addition to performances, the troupe will also hold workshops to teach a variety of basic circus arts to kids of all ages. These performances and workshops will provide a unique creative venue for partnering organisations to raise awareness about their issues,' Singh said.

The troupe has, in the past month, performed in Alwar in Rajasthan, Solan, McLeodgunj and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh and in Delhi.

They will also perform in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

The troupe performance is free of cost and the members have sponsored the entire trip.

Through this initiative, the troupe aims that grass roots NGOs, especially in the rural areas, get publicity by the media on their various projects. Until now, 15 NGOs have registered for this initiative.

The Dreamtime Circus was founded by fire dancers and non-profit organisers Chris Dunn and Kara Kfire Voss in 2005 when they first started performing in villages in Indonesia.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.