Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Monday, March 31, 2008

Economic issues facing the new government in Pakistan

Poverty is the biggest and most intractable issue in Pakistan today. The problem can only be addressed by finding ways to reduce the population growth rate, increase agricultural output and boost exports of farm produce – thus raising income levels in the rural areas where the majority of the people live.

Years of low GDP growth, on the one hand, and high population growth on the other have combined to put Pakistan in a situation where the size of the economic pie has not been increasing fast enough to extricate the country from the poverty trap. To compound the problem, recent years have seen food prices and utility tariffs shooting up and up and up, making it increasingly difficult for people to make ends meet.

Industry, too, has been badly hit by the ever-rising cost of inputs, including electricity tariffs that are now the highest in the world. This has made our manufactured goods less competitive in export markets, leading to very slow growth in export earnings and a widening trade gap. Oil imports alone have cost us over $ 8 billion in the first six months of the current fiscal year. Driven by soaring international crude oil prices of over $ 100 a barrel, our trade gap is now running at about $ 1.7 billion a month, or about $ 20 billion a year.

We cannot sustain a trade gap of this magnitude indefinitely. The growing trade gap is putting increasing pressure on the country’s balance of payments and is reducing the fiscal space available to the government to finance development schemes. This, in turn, has forced the government to resort to increasing levels of foreign and domestic borrowing, with a corresponding rise in debt servicing costs.

The previous government repeatedly claimed to have “broken the begging bowl” and “reduced” its dependence on foreign borrowing. In fact, the total amount of foreign loans went up from $ 36 billion in 1999 to more than $42 billion in 2007. Total domestic borrowing, too, has risen sharply in recent years.

These multifarious problems cannot be tackled by economic measures alone. Economic measures must be accompanied by a policy aimed at reducing the population growth rate if Pakistan is to get out of the trap of demographic-induced poverty.

At the time of the first post-independence census in 1951, the area that now constitutes Pakistan (the former West Pakistan) had a population of 37 million. Today, it has a population of about 165 million, which is increasing by 2.1 per cent a year, according to government figures, though independent estimates put it closer to 2.5 per cent. Given this high rate of increase, Pakistan’s population is expected to double to 330 million in the next twenty years and double again to 660 million over the next two decades, making it the third most populous country in the world after China and India. With a population of that size, Pakistan’s economic future would be bleak indeed.

No government thus far has been able to put in place the population planning policies needed to reduce Pakistan’s population growth rate to a level that would allow the country to extricate itself from the demographic-cum-poverty trap. It is true that the population growth rate has fallen by about half-a-per cent from the three per cent level of 15 years ago, but this is not enough. It needs to be brought down further to around 1.5 per cent or less to give Pakistan the breathing space it needs to get out of the poverty trap.

At the present level of population growth, Pakistan would need a continuing GDP growth rate of well over seven per cent a year to make any kind of dent in the number of people living below the poverty line. That’s why this seven per cent-plus figure is now referred to by some analysts as the “poverty-busting” GDP growth rate. But achieving this seven per cent-plus rate of GDP growth on a continuing basis is going to be far from easy in today’s global economic environment of soaring oil prices and increasingly competitive export markets. This makes reducing the population growth rate all the more important.

Of all the forces that will change Pakistan and the rest of the world over the next generation, demography is probably the most important. The numbers of mouths to feed, the relative sizes of the population of the industrial world and the less developed countries, the age distribution of the west – all these forces will have a profound effect not just on the world economy, including the economies of developing countries like Pakistan, but on societies both rich and poor. The change will be gradual – the world population rose by some 110 million in 2000 to reach 6 billion, but in the west people barely noticed the fact that more than the population of Germany had been added to the human race that year.

Pakistan’s population is now growing by more than 3.46 million people a year, even going by the government figure of a 2.1 per cent population growth rate. That’s well over three million people that have to be fed, and clothed and housed every year. What is more, this 3.46 million is not a static number; it is increasing every year at a rate proportionate to rise in the total population of the country. Thus unchecked population growth and demography-induced poverty are our No. 1 problem, one that the new government needs to seriously address. And it must start addressing the problem not two years from now, or three years from now, or at some unspecified date in the future, but as soon as it has put its policy team together. In other words, reducing the population growth rate has to be the new government’s top long-term priority. Otherwise, Pakistan will remain forever mired in poverty, and the income gap between the haves and have-nots will go on increasing, along with all the attendant social, economic, political and law and order tensions that this gap creates.

Population shifts have an inexorable effect on the world’s living standards, its politics, its environment, and on how people behave towards each other in societies as diverse as Italy and China and Pakistan.

If, for most people, demography seems abstruse, there is at least no shortage of information to analyse. There is a wealth of data about population change – the birth rate, marriage age, number of children, and so on – which for some countries goes back several centuries. This data sets some curious puzzles: why, for example, given the fact that the Catholic faith frowns on artificial birth control methods, has the birth rate in Catholic Italy fallen to the lowest in western Europe, while that of Catholic Ireland has remained the highest. And it raises nightmarish questions: can the world feed the 8 billion people the United Nations estimates will be alive in 2020?

The problem is compounded by the fact that long-term population projections can be spectacularly wrong. We know pretty much how many people there will be in the world in 2010, and can make a decent shot at the number in 2020 or 2025. What is much more difficult is guessing where and when the world’s population growth will level off: the United Nations has estimates of a world population of between 7.5 billion and 14.2 billion for the year 2100, but it is perfectly possible that it could be outside even these extreme ranges.

Pakistani demographers and policy planners face the same problem in trying to figure out what Pakistan’s population will be in fifty or sixty years’ time. Who, in 1951, for example, when today’s Pakistan had a population of 37 million, could have predicted that the figure would soar to 165 million by the year 2007?

The world’s population more than doubled between 1950 and 2000, rising from 2.5 billion to 6 billion. In 1950 nearly a third of humankind lived in the industrial world; now it is below one-quarter. By 2020 it will be less than one-fifth.

Within the developing world, national populations are growing at very different rates. As countries grow richer, and infant mortality declines, so women have smaller families. In some developing countries – such as South Korea and Taiwan – women typically have families as small as those in industrial countries, two children or fewer. Contrast this with some African countries where women typically bear seven or eight children. The figure for Pakistan is five or six. This figure has fallen somewhat in recent years in the urban areas. In the rural areas, however, with their much higher levels of poverty and lack of education for women, the number of children that women typically bear has not gone down.

Education, of course, is the key to family planning and to a lowering of the population growth rate. Despite increased migration to the cities in the last twenty years, close to 70 per cent of Pakistan’s population still lives in the rural areas. Given this fact, the new government must make education in the rural areas an urgent priority. This will require investment in education on a massive scale, especially health education for women of child-bearing age. Tokenism will not do the job; what is needed is investment in education running into tens of billions of rupees a year.

Along with this, massive investment also needs to be made in development schemes in the rural areas, which include some of the most underdeveloped parts of the country. The future pattern of population growth and reduction in poverty will depend largely on how powerful a force the apparent link between development and fertility rate turns out to be.

By Kaleem Omar


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

Senior Citizens vis - a- vis the Indian Society : Indian Perspective

India has proclaimed itself as a welfare state and of course it has also introduced social security schemes like ‘payment of pension’ etc to the retiring government employees which costs the coffers of the states as well as the central government considerably. Some State Governments like Tamil Nadu has also introduced welfare schemes for payment of ‘old age pension’ and ‘widow pension’ etc, in the unorganised sector to rescue the aged people from their financial doldrums to some extent. But, these payments are being made selectively only to the people who have no dependants to look after them. But in practice, the party people mostly misappropriate these funds and manage to get them either for their party people or relatives etc and most of the deserving cases, are simply ignored and neglected.

The retired and the aged peoples have been given a separate nomenclature in the Indian Society called ‘the Senior Citizens’ and the people who are in the age group of post 65 are generally considered as senior citizens. The people who are above 70 are septuagenarians, above 80 are Octogenarians and above 90 are nonagenarians.

When we compare the total strength of the pensioners, with the total strength of the senior citizens in India, it is only a very small percentage and forms only a handful of people. They are converged mostly in the urban areas and the bulk of the aged people who are senior citizens are mostly in the rural and semi-urban areas, who mostly suffer from senility and remain uncared for. However, the Indian Government had been under a long period of hibernation as far as the senior citizens are concerned.

Only in the year,2007,the Government of India had at last realized the urgent need of doing something for the cause of the senior citizens and enacted the Senior Citizens Act, 2007, the first of its kind in India. The act enables the senior citizens to proceed against their dependants who fail to look after them and claim maintenance from them. The act also provides for a stringent provision for imposing a fine of upto Rs 5,000/- and imprisonment of up to six months, to the dependants who fail to take care of those senior citizens. Above all the Act provides for yet another significant provision of canceling the gift by a senior citizen, given to his or her ward or legal heir, in case of his or her failure to look after the senior citizen who gifted away his or her immovable property. Though the Act suggests for the establishment of homes for rehabilitation of the aged, it does not make any monetary provision for them and the homes for the aged are left to the initiatives of the individuals. Despite of its flaws, the act is a step in the right direction.

Senior citizens have also been extended with some other concessions and benefits by the Indian Government. Their income-tax ceiling has been recently enhanced by the Finance Ministry, to Rs 2,25,000/- Indian Railways has offered 50 % concession in ticket fares for senior citizens. The Courts are giving preference to the senior citizens in the disposal of the cases as quickly as possible. But all these concessions are availed only by a negligible percentage of people in the urban areas. Similarly, the Sixth pay commission report recently submitted by Justice Srikrishna has announced some enhanced pension to a section of the senior citizens on attaining the age of 80, 85, 90. 95, and 100, which is in practice available to only a handful of people, among the pensioners.

The Senior citizens living in the rural areas in India do not even know that they are senior citizens and they are all the cursed people on the earth. They suffer from senility, immobility, lacking in confidence, lacking in basic amenities like food, dress and shelter and they are forsaken by their own wards, uncared for , yearn for love and affection and they suffer in silence.

The most serious aspect that remains to be addressed as far as the Senior Citizens in India are concerned is the rank disrespect, discourtesy shown towards them by one and all and simply they are treated and considered as just superfluous elements in the society. But it is an irony that our politicians who are at the helm of affairs, in the government or at the party system whether it be Congress I or BJP or the Communist parties, the decision makers are the senior citizens in the respective parties and the respect they command and enjoy is unquestionable.

Hence, whether it is an organization or a party or a village or an association, there must be a orientation class to the youngsters to change their attitude towards the senior citizens of a country which is known for its culture, heritage and many a flourishing civilizations.

By Rama Lingam


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

Right to Information Act : An Important Tool for Stronger and Vibrant Democratic Process in India

The Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005 promises to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. This Act is supposed to enable people to responsibly scrutinise government officials and legal processes. The Act emanates from what the Indian Constitution guarantees itself. Under Article 19 (1) (a) the Constitution guarantees every citizen freedom of speech and expression with certain restrictions. Logically to allow the exercise of freedom of speech and expression effectively the country needs an informed civil society.

In 1975 itself the Supreme Court observed that in a responsible government as ours, where all the agencies of public service must be responsible for their conduct, there can be only few confidential matters. The people of the country have a right to know the details about the functionaries’ function. In this context, Supreme Court judgements have made it mandatory for candidates to disclose certain information while contesting elections.

The RTI Act states that public authorities shall make known the particulars of facilities available to citizens for Public Information Officers. According to Section 7 of the Act within 30 days of the receipt of the request, either the information be provided on payment of fee if any or the request rejected and the reason(s) mentioned. If information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within 48 hours. There is a provision for appeal within 30 days. The Information Commission can impose a penalty on the Public Information Officer amounting to Rs 250 each day delayed till the information is furnished. This Act exempts certain intelligence and security organisations from its purview (Chapter VI). However, information on corruption and human rights violations are not excluded under this Section. Information on human rights violation is to be provided within 45 days.

Thus this Act puts in place implementation mechanisms and processes. However, there are certain issues of bureaucratic and political cultures and secrecy which are used to centralised control of information. In the year 2006, the Central Government proposed certain amendments to the Act. It was interpreted by the Central Information Commission that the Act includes right to see file notings which show advices and opinions of bureaucrats on the concerned issue. However , the government argued that this right was not included in the Act in the first place. The Central Government is now ready to confer a limited right with regard to social sector expenditure and development projects only. Further, no information would be provided on ongoing matters. Only final decisions would be conveyed. Such changes would have gone against the very tenets on which the Right to Information is based.

Finally, a fierce protest by activists of certain States and people at large put a lid on attempts to limit the scope of this Act. Gandhian and social campaigner, Anne Hazare, who recently passed away, went on an indefinite fast in Maharashtra. In Delhi, protest rallies were held at Jantar Mantar. The Left also clarified that it would not support the Amendments Bill in Parliament. The government realised its image were on downslide and decided not to go ahead with the ‘Amendments’ .

THERE is another dimension of the RTI Act which needs to be deliberated upon. Sometime back BBC News reported that obtaining information through the RTI was a costly affair. A Chattisgarh farmer reportedly was presented with a bill of Rs 1,82,000 as cost of mimeographing documents. All that he had asked for was information on paddy purchases in his area. This is obviously to defeat the very purpose of RTI. It is clearly mentioned that information should be provided gratis to people living below the poverty line. A farmer could very well come in this category. Moreover, an Information Officer is required under Section 7(3) of the Act to intimate beforehand the applicant how much it will cost to provide information along with the method of calculation made to arrive at that amount.

Thus it becomes imperative that the government develops and organises educational programmes to create awareness among the public, especially the disadvantaged people, on how to exercise their right as envisaged by this Act. The Bihar Government has started a system where a person can file an RTI application by simply calling the helpline number. This is an important step wherein illiterate people can take recourse to RTI without going through cumbersome paperwork and procedures. Further, to make it more people-friendly, electronic mail facility can also be introduced. A recent decision by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Grievances and Personnel to recommend scrapping of fees at the time of filing applications seeking information from the government departments under the RTI is a welcome step.

Of course like any other Act RTI also calls for judicious implementation. It should not be misused either. The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled out disclosure of information pertaining to bank account details under RTI on the ground that agreements entered into by banking enterprises with its customers were matters of ‘commercial confidence’. Further, while dismissing an application which sought information as to why certain tariff policy was framed by the Centre, the CIC has held that citizens cannot question governmental policies and plans through the RTI. In any case Sections 8 to 10 of the RTI Act exempt certain information from disclosure if it affects the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific and economic interests of the state, relations with foreign states or that may be subjudice, lead to breach of privilege of Parliament, State Legislature, or impede the process of investigation or endangers the life of a person.

However, in many cases the implementation of the Act has spelled success. Issues like public distribution system, privatisation initiatives, pensions and reforms, road repairs, electricity connections, telecom complaints have been dealt by people through the RTI. Many honest officers also feel strengthened as all decisions are now open to civil society and media scrutiny which will act as a deterrent to uncalled for political pressure.

Recently documents obtained under the RTI by a Ludhiana based NGO reveal that money collected for Kargil war relief and rehabilitation of tsunami and cyclone victims was misused by senior public officials. Bureaucrats heading local branches of the Indian Red Cross Society diverted this money to pay hotel bills. This case further highlights the importance of strict implementation of the RTI Act to cleanse the system of possible corruption.

Common men and women have both benefited from this Act. For example, a case of a petitioner who waited for 18 years to get compensation for a plot acquired before independence was resolved through the RTI plea. However, if we specially talk about women empowerment, then yes this Act has contributed in its own way in creating conditions for the woman to take recourse to a better well-informed decision-making process, even in her day-to-day life.

An issue that concerns women most is that of food security. In Delhi, women spearheaded the campaign to reform the public distribution, that is, the ration distribution system. Ration shopkeepers either used to keep their shops closed or enough supply was not available with them as prescribed. As soon as these women took recourse to the RTI, the ration shops opened, some shopkeepers even apologised to the people, the ration supply improved and licences of some corrupt shopkeepers stood cancelled. Thus RTI has added another dimension against corrupt practices. Moreover, with this Act in place, women can also access information on issues like domestic violence, harassment at workplaces, whether police is refusing to register an FIR in serious dowry related cases and deaths.

Thus RTI has helped people in making an informed choice. People have access to the decision-making process, reasons for government delays, for example, why a ration card is being unduly delayed. Common citizens can now escape harassment from public officials. However, the efficacy of law does not depend on its content but on its proper implementation. Governance has to be an open book and officials conscious of the fact that they are liable for omissions and commissions during their tenure for just and systematic work rather than doing things at the whims and fancies arbitrarily and getting away with it—after all the affected are the country’s common masses who bear the brunt of mismanagement. The RTI has to play a critical role in systematic corrections rather than limiting its success to individual cases. Then only the RTI Act can be considered a step towards ensuring a stronger and vibrant democratic process in India.

By Dr Bharti Chhibber ,Lecturer in Political Science, University of Delhi


Here I would like to mention Shailesh Gandhi who is spearheading the cause of RTI through his Team and website.He is Renowned RTI Activist, Social Crusader, ex-chairman of the IIT Bombay Alumni Association, Founder of , Working Committee Member of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information

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

A dedicated and comprehensive website for Senior Citizens to be Launched on 10th April,Mumbai,India

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

In Booming India, Hunger Kills

Two million children in India die and turn into statistics every year. That's about 6,000 deaths everyday. A CNN-IBN Special Investigation travelled to the rural heartlands of UP to document deaths and cases of malnutrition for a special edition of 30 Minutes. Here's the first installment from UP's Varanasi and Lalitpur districts.

Jaharunnissah lost her only son to hunger about two months ago. Four-year-old Khusbuddin was emaciated and weighed a mere 6.5 kg at the time of his death.

"Woh kuposhan ka shikar tha usko main doodh dava poora nahin kar paati thi paise ke kaaran is vajay se uski maut ho gayi. (I could not fend for his food and medicine. He died of malnutrition)," she says.

Abandoned by her husband, Jaharunnissah is trying to piece her life together. But at the end of one day of toil embroidering sarees, she is paid a meager Rs 10 or Rs 15.

"Aaj agar mere bachhe ka ilaaj ho jaata to mera bachha bach jaata is baat ka mujhe dard rehta hain ki paise na hone ke kaaran aaj maine apne bachhe ko kho diya. (I wish I hadn't lost my son. The pain of losing a child because of lack of money to feed him is unbearable)," says an inconsolable Jaharunnissah.

A few kilometers away, in another village near Varanasi, six-year-old Shamim is also battling malnutrition. Unlike other kids his age, he is neither playful nor talkative. A severe deficiency of proteins and calories has given him a bloated belly and reduced his immunity.

Says his mother, Zohra, "Isko TB aur gurde mein kharabi hai. haath per fool jata hai, saas phul jata hai (He is suffering from TB and has kidney trouble too. His limbs swell up and he faces breathing difficulty).

Nearly 60 per cent children in Lalitpur district of Uttar Pradesh are malnourished. In the last 9 months, in Talbahat block alone, 183 cases were reported, out of which 116 were categorized as "severe".

Local doctors say the biggest challenge is convincing parents that their children are undernourished.

"Pata hi nai hai unko. Yahan aake unko samjhaya jata hai ki bachcha bahut hi zyada weak hai. apko yahan treatment dene ki zaroorat hai. admit kijiye, bahut convince karke unhen yahan admit karna padta hai (They don't even realise there's something wrong. We have to tell them their child is weak and needs treatment. It takes a lot of convincing for them to realise this),"says nutrition counsellor, Community Health Centre, Shilpi Sahariya.

Very often, there are no medical facilities. Primary health centres in many places are understaffed and almost non-functional.

Says Dr Sanjeev Kumar of Primary Health Centre (Hingora), "PHC mein rehne ke liye doctors ko staff milna chahiye, ward boy hona chahiye, sweeper hona chahiye, nurses honi chahiye kuch bhi nahin hain. final toh patient ko hi face karna hoga (We need doctors, sweepers, nurses and ward boys to run a PHC. There's nothing here. Ultimately the patient has to suffer.)"

Abject poverty, lack of basic health care facilities and poor health of rural women are all killing India's underpriviledged, malnourished children. The country has consistently has let down children like Shamim and today malnutrition rates in India are even worse than Sub Saharan Africa.

By Mridu Bhandari


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

Friday, March 28, 2008

Literate or not, rural women spread the education message: An impotant Lesson

They may be barely literate but for the women at the forefront of this people's movement the focus is clear - education.

For the nearly 500,000 members of the National Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education (NAFRE), it's a matter of pride that 32 of their 48 leaders in different parts of the country are women.

Hailing from rural backgrounds and belonging to minority communities, they understand the ground realities of their lives and have a deep commitment towards the movement's objective.

Take Tara Kranti of Jharkhand for instance.

Clad in a multicoloured sari and wearing bright red vermilion on the parting of her hair, Kranti was one of the over 500 members of NAFRE in the capital this week for the conclusion of their two-month 'Jann Haq Yatra' (Journey for the rights of people).

The yatra began Jan 23 in 15 states where the movement is functional, bringing to the forefront specific issues. So if West Bengal concentrated on the issue of special economic zones, Jammu and Kashmir demanded repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

The representatives of each state came together in the capital, putting forth their demands to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

'NAFRE works for a number of issues but our primary focus is education. And I strongly believe in this objective. Education, especially for women, is an absolute must. Without that, she doesn't know her rights which the law of the land has endowed upon her,' Kranti told IANS.

Having studied till Class 10, Kranti said education was the only tool to curb the negative trend of female foeticide.

'So many girls are getting killed every day, sometimes even before they are born. People have to be made to understand that if their daughters are educated, then even they can seek employment like their sons and support them financially. They are therefore not a burden to the family,' she said.

Nasreen of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh added that education was important because it taught people to question.

'Education helps break barriers and teaches one to question, ask why this is happening and why that is not. There are so many laws which are aimed at protecting women, but because most of the rural women are illiterate, they are oblivious to these things,' Nasreen said.

But in their endeavour to spread the message of education, these women have understood there are various limitations as well.

'When we go from house to house in the villages and tell the people the importance of education, most of them and especially the women, give us bored uninterested looks. Their question is how education is going to benefit them immediately.

'That made us realise that we need to change our approach. So instead of giving them books right away, we started telling the women what their rights were if they got beaten up by their husbands or harassed for dowry. That got them interested and made them eager to know more,' said Lakhi Das of Jharkhand.

Agreed Bhaleria Guriya of Sambalpur, Orissa: 'We had similar experiences in our villages. To encourage more girls to join school, we told the parents that if their girls are educated, they could seek employment like their sons and support them financially. That seems to have worked because a larger number of girls are now going to school in our village than before,' she said.

By Azera Rahman


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

A unique corporate move initiates donate organs

Several hundred employees of HCL Technologies, a computer major, Thursday pledged to donate their organs in response to their company's initiative to promote organ donation in India.

It is the first time that a major corporate house has taken such initiative.

The community service council of HCL Technologies, Chennai, organised a camp here in association with Mohan (Multi Organ Harvesting Aid Network) Foundation, a non-governmental organization, to clear misconceptions about organ donation.

Sunil Shroff and Sumana, two physicians from the Mohan Foundation, made a presentation on what is 'brain death', how and when does it happen and about how to donate the organs if this happens to oneself or to a dear one.

Hundreds of geeks and upwardly mobile techies gathered at the camp were told to 'give a thought to the myths and facts about organ donation.'

'This is the first camp of its kind,' said HCL deputy general manager Ravi Kishore, who is steering the campaign.

'It is a novel experience,' said T.S. Seema, a 24-year-old computer engineer. 'I had never thought about this, now I feel proud that my organs may one day help someone else live.'

Kishore said similar camps would be held in all the HCL offices in Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Noida and Hyderabad, in collaboration with the Mohan Foundation.

The Foundation issued donor cards and handed out brochures explaining the process in organ donation.

HCL Technologies employs nearly 20,000 people.

About 200,000 people in India die every year of liver failure and only about 200 transplants are possible annually as organ donation is yet to catch up in the country.

The Foundation says that in India every year over 100,000 people are diagnosed to have kidney failure but due to non-availability of organs, only about 2,500 kidney transplants are done.


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

All of 74, Still waits to clear Class 10 - and get married

If anyone exemplifies the never say die spirit, it has to be 74-year-old Shiv Charan who is once again appearing for the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education's Class 10exam - for an incredible 39th time. All with the hope of eventually getting married!

He is a little hard of hearing and age has slowed him down, but on Thursday Pappu, as he is known, used the help of a stick to walk four kilometres from his village in Alwar district, about 140 km from the state capital Jaipur, to the examination centre in Maharajawas village.

That the average age of a student appearing for Class 10 examination is 15 years was no dampener for the eager student, who took his first board exam way back in 1969 and vowed to get married only after he cleared it.

Almost four decades later, he is still at it. Too weak to continue farming but with enough stamina to take another exam.

'For me, success is not merely about clearing the examinations. It will also throw open the doors of marriage,' Pappu told IANS.

His ambitions haven't waned with age either.

'Only a girl of below 30 years of age would be my wife,' he said confidently, adding that he was hopeful of clearing the exam this year.

So it was on Thursday that he gave the English paper with 'complete concentration', as the invigilator put it.

Maths is a bit of a problem for the student, who last year failed in all the subjects except Sanskrit, getting only 103 of a total 600.

'It's the mathematics paper that always pulls me down,' said Pappu.

'Sometimes invigilators throw me out of examination halls because they think I am the guardian of a student. Whenever I go to the exam centre, people converge in hordes to see me,' he added.

He's right. On Thursday, Pappu was the cynosure of many eyes. Children looked at him curiously and others also gathered to take a look at the aged man sitting down like any other student with paper and pencil in hand.

'I have come here from a nearby village just to see him', Kamal Meena told IANS.

'I first thought that he had wrongly entered the examination centre. I was really surprised when I was told that he was also appearing for the examination,' said Vijay, a student.

But Pappu is undeterred.

'Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye. (I'd rather die than go back on my words). I will continue taking the board examinations till I pass it,' he said determinedly.

Now the question is when will the cry go out, 'Pappu pass ho gaya' (Pappu has passed). The man is waiting.

By Anil Sharma


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

Chance to Get Trained in Elder Care: DIPLOMA IN GERONTOLOGY

The Centre for Lifelong Learning at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai announces a one-year part-time DIPLOMA IN GERONTOLOGY (A Course to Work with Older Adults)* that will be conducted from Monday to Friday from 5.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. at TISS. The Course Duration is from June 2008 to April, 2009.


(a) Goals of the Diploma Programme in Gerontology

To prepare learners for interdisciplinary practice with older adults and their families while providing professional leadership in the
field of Gerontology.

To generate a trained cadre of functionaries for effective intervention based on a Human Rights perspective for enhancing the Quality of Life' of Older Adults

(b) Objectives of the Diploma Programme in Gerontology

The Educational Objectives are as follows:

To offer a comprehensive interdisciplinary 'rights-based' perspective in the field of gerontology

To inculcate a holistic understanding of the biological, social, political and economic issues involved in working with Older Adults

To impart the necessary attitudes and skills for making effective interventions in the field of Gerontology


(a) Eligibility

Graduate in any discipline. Preference to be given to those with work experience in clinical, social and developmental settings.

All NGO personnel involved with geriatric services in fields such as health, mental health and education; administrators of human service organizations and corporate sector personnel.

The Course will cater to all who intend to branch out or initiate services for the elderly.

The Diploma Programme has an interdisciplinary focus and so it will invite those from medical, legal and financial backgrounds who wish to address issues of elderly and to audit specific subjects in particular.

(b) Work and Employment

Gerontology is a growing and upcoming field thus after graduating the Course participants will be able to:

Engage in direct services

Initiate and sustain programmes and services for Older Adults

Be active members of inter-disciplinary teams working with Older Adults

Supervise and train field functionaries especially paraprofessionals and volunteers

Application of the Course inputs will be possible in all human service organizations: social agencies, medical and educational institutions as well as the whole gamut of initiatives for Older adults ranging from Institutional Care to Day Care Centres, Community-based interventions and Senior Citizens' Associations


Gerontology: A Multidisciplinary Perspective

Health and Wellbeing I

Health and Wellbeing II

Policies, Programmes and Management of Services for Older Adults

Family Dynamics, Skills and Interventions

Collective Action, Advocacy and Networking

Developmental Interventions with Older Adults

Older Adults with Special Needs

Ageing and Media

Training for Human Resource Development

Creative Arts and Work with Older Adults

The Professional Self (Non-Credit Compulsory Course: 15 hours)

Term Paper: Case Study of an Organisation

Field Practicum (Exposure Visits and Direct Field Work)


Call 022- 25563290-96 ext: 237/682/681/680


The last date for receiving application forms is June 13, 2008.

Sabiha Vasi
Assistant Professor and Programme Coordinator
Centre for Lifelong Learning
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Posted by Sonali Gupta,Student Counsellor,TISS

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

How Older Women Can Shield Themselves From Poverty

Elderly women are highly vulnerable to poverty. On average, they are likely to live 13 or 14 years longer than their male partners. And they are more likely than men to run out of resources in late life.

Divorced or separated older women are the most vulnerable, because they have lower incomes and fewer resources. It's a group that will grow in size as the baby boomers age and as more women divorce or separate, said Timothy Smeeding in a presentation and webcast interview at the Population Reference Bureau on Feb. 28, 2008. Smeeding is director of the Center for Policy Research and distinguished professor of economics and public administration at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, and studies the social and economic vulnerability of older women in developed countries.

The income and asset poverty rate varies by marital status among elderly women. In the United States, the share of elderly women living in poverty is highest among divorced or separated women (37 percent), followed by widowed women (28 percent), never-married women (22 percent), and married women (10 percent).

The elderly women that Smeeding studied were ages 65 and older and lived either alone or with a spouse or partner. Those living in poverty were surviving on less than half of the national median income (income poverty) and had liquid assets of less than one-fourth the national median income (asset poverty). These income and wealth measures included such factors as pensions, public transfers such as social insurance or public assistance, earnings, capital income, and real estate.

The United States has more of these poor than any other country and is more likely to have larger shares of divorced and separated older women who are poor than other countries, Smeeding noted. In Sweden, for example, nearly 4 percent of divorced/separated elderly women fall into the same category (see figure). In Germany, 22 percent of divorced/separated women are as poor.

It's possible that in northern and western European countries, the public sector acts as a buffer against poverty, Smeeding said. With a safety net under everyone's income, divorce doesn't make as much of an economic difference. In the United States, it does. American divorced women often get less than one-half of the pension and other assets of their former husbands.

Divorced Women Are Especially Vulnerable

Divorced women are especially vulnerable, because divorce can cut them off from their ex-husband’s assets unless they get a favorable legal settlement. A woman who either took time off to raise the kids or never entered the labor force could find herself with neither assets nor job skills needed to keep her out of poverty.

In a divorce, the house is always a bone of contention, Smeeding says. Besides being the biggest middle class asset, it's been a good investment over the last 20 years. At the end of life, a divorced or separated woman who owns her own residence would be better off than those who rent. She could use the home as a hedge against long-term care risks. For example, one might trade the house in for assisted living arrangements or take out a second mortgage and use that to fund some home care.

How can women who might face divorce when they are older protect themselves from poverty? Smeeding has some advice. For starters, he recommends women find a good job that pays a decent salary with good health and pension benefits. Says Smeeding: "Insure yourself somehow. The best way is to have a career and a job."

As women approach retirement, they should also set their sights on owning a home, says Smeeding. The reason? Women with homes fare much better over the long term than those without one. If a woman gets divorced, she should try to bargain for the home. If she doesn't own her home, home ownership should be a long-term goal. And, as women financially plan for the future, they should take into account the fact that they are likely to live longer than the national averages, which include men. Therefore, they will need more savings and assets to support them through longer lives.

By Sandra Yin


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


Governemnt of India Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs today gave its approval for continuation of a dedicated Fund called the ‘Social and Infrastructure Development Fund’ beyond 2007-08 for funding the initiatives taken by the Government towards Social and Infrastructure development. The initiatives include upgradation of 1396 ITIs, Training of Farmers, Employment for Physically Challenged, Means cum-Merit Scholarships, Ground Water Recharge, Social Security through provision of death and disability insurance cover through LIC to rural landless households, and support to various institutes of Historical, Cultural, Economic and Agricultural significance, for improving infrastructure.

The fund will be augmented as per requirement of the Government. In the current year 2007-08, an amount of Rs.6000 crore will be transferred to the ‘Social and Infrastructure Development Fund’.

As most of the schemes / programmes envisaged are capital in nature (funds being provided in the form of loans to create a corpus and earnings thereon deployed for funding the initiatives without depleting the corpus), the amount will be continued to be transferred to the Fund from the Capital section of the Consolidated Fund. However, owing to the nature of social sector expenditure, utilization of the Fund for incurring revenue expenditure will also be permitted in deserving cases.


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

Indian tribe an epitome of women's rights

It's a tribe that practices what others preach. A small tribe in Tamil Nadu has a highly progressive system of gender equality that includes property rights for women and simple, low cost, dowry-free marriages.

The 2,000 people strong Kotha tribe has simplified every social milestone in its members' lives into just the bare necessities.

The tribe inhabits seven villages in Udhagamandalam, some 650 km southwest of Chennai, the bustling southern Indian metropolis.

A huge marriage bill is conspicuous by its absence here. What is more, no priest or politician presides over it.

R. Vishwanathan, one of the elders of the Kotha tribe, said: “Our matrilineal family ethos ensures that women take all important decisions, including marriage without the interference of priests or politicians. After the groom and the bride meet and agree to marry, an alliance is fixed virtually the next minute."

Immediately, the groom's mother adorns the girl with a white shawl - a deed that completes the betrothal. A few days later, the girl is welcomed into her in-laws' home with a small black-bead garland by the groom's mother.

“A token fee of Rs 1.25 is offered to the eldest man in the family marking the completion of the marriage ceremony. Our costs are a hundredth of what is spent in the plains. The number of guests may be as little as ten," he said.

Both the sexes have equal rights over movable and immovable assets and they can choose their life partners.

“Though we have several deities and different festivals, most of us are Hindus. After living in the hills for hundreds of years, the commonalities with the people of the plains are very few. We live our lives to the fullest, are choosy about liquor, cook vegetables and meat to certain peculiar specifications that suit the cold climate here and have community dance festivals very often," Vishwanathan added.

T.M. Kullan, retired principal of a government college, who belongs to the Badaga tribe but has knowledge of all the major tribal customs in the region, said, “Most of us can trace back our lineage to some family in ancient Mysore, Mesopotamia or Europe. Though we do not possess a script, our dialect is a mix of Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and English.”

“The expenses of marriage, childbirth and funerals are borne by the entire community. Pregnant women are given a good diet so that they can have healthy babies,” he said.

“Ostracising of widows is unheard of. When breadwinners die due to illnesses or snakebite, the women remarry and give their children the new husband's name. In most tribes, the onus is on the men to maintain the family in some style,” said Kullan.
“The biggest is the Badaga tribe followed by Todas, Kurumbas, Irulas, Paniyas and Kothas,” he said.

By TSV Hari


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

Parents fear children's safety online

According to a research from F-Secure, the global leader in providing security as a service through Internet Service Providers and mobile operators, the majority of parents in both USA and Europe are worried about their children's safety while using the Internet. Only 5.5 per cent believe their children are totally safe, with a further 18 per cent feeling somewhat safe.

Nearly half of the parents questioned disagree with the statement that 'my kids are safe online'. F-Secure found that despite the widespread availability of parental controls for Internet usage, parents are fearful about their children's safety while using the Internet.

Fears for children's safety were worst in Germany, where 77 per cent of parents disagreed that their children are safe online. People felt safest in the UK, where 38per cent disagreed - however, only four per cent of UK parents felt their children were totally safe, compared to seven per cent in Canada and six per cent in the USA and France.

Children's exposure to questionable material was also a major concern for parents around the world. Just 7.5 per cent strongly agreed that their children are not exposed to questionable material, with nearly half of respondents disagreeing with the statement 'my kids are not exposed to questionable material online'. Parents in the US and Canada felt most confident that their kids are safe from such material, with 12 per cent in both countries strongly agreeing with the statement.

Parents in North America were also most confident that their children do not exceed time limits they set for time spent online: 27 per cent in the US and

23 per cent in Canada strongly agreed that their children keep to online usage time limits, with numbers dropping to 17 per cent in Europe, F-Secure's research found.

"Parents are clearly aware of the potential dangers facing their children online, but it is saddening that more don't feel empowered to protect their children by limiting their time online and controlling the content they're exposed to," said Pär Andler, Director of Communications and Brand at F-Secure.

Andler continued: "Responsible parenting now includes being responsible for your children's online safety, but this doesn't need to be a major headache.

Internet security software often comes with 'parental controls' as standard, so you can prevent children from being exposed to questionable content and take simple steps to avoid Internet mis-use, such as setting limits to the time children spend online. Parents are right to be cautious, but this should not prevent the family from taking full advantage of the fantastic opportunities the Internet can offer to children in terms of education, creativity and social connectedness."

For more information about F-Secure's parental control tools, please visit

About the research

The survey was carried out by a third party in January 2008 across 1,169 Internet users aged 20-40 across the US (225 respondents), Canada (228 respondents), the UK (227 respondents), France (256 respondents) and Germany

(224 respondents). F-Secure asked respondents a series of basic online security questions and, using a Likert scale, asked them to rate the extent to which they were confident in the security of given online activities.

About F-Secure Corporation

F-Secure Corporation protects consumers and businesses against computer viruses and other threats from the Internet and mobile networks. F-Secure's award-winning solutions are available as a service subscription through more than 160 Internet service providers and mobile operator partners around the world, making F-Secure the global leader in this market. The solutions are also available as licensed products through thousands of resellers globally.

The company aspires to be the most reliable security provider, helping to make computer and smartphone users' connected lives safe and easy. This is substantiated by the company's independently proven ability to respond faster to new threats than its main competitors. Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Finland, F-Secure has been listed on the OMX Nordic Exchange Helsinki since 1999. The company has consistently been one of the fastest growing publicly listed companies in the industry.


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

How to get Business Visa to India

Hi, there is an request from one blogger with regards to Business Visa to India,so Iam giving below a write up and links where the procedure is given for the same.

Foreign Nationals desirous of coming into India are required to possess a valid passport of their country and a valid Indian Visa.

There is no provision of 'Visa on Arrival' in India and no fee is charged for immigration facilities at the airports. Foreign passengers should ensure that they are in possession of valid Indian Visa before they start their journey to India except nationals of Nepal and Bhutan who do not require visa to enter India and nationals of Maldives who do not require visa for entry in India for a period up to 90 days (a separate Visa regime exists for diplomatic/official passport holders).

The Consular Passport and Visa (CPV) Division of the Ministry of External Affairs is responsible for issuance of Indian visas to the foreign nationals for their visit for various purposes. This facility is granted through various Indian missions abroad.

Visa fees are non-refundable and subject to change without notice. The High Commission reserves the right on granting and deciding type/duration of visa irrespective of the fees tendered at the time of making application. Granting of Visa does not confer the right of entry to India and is subject to the discretion of the Immigration Authorities.

Specific Visas are granted for a variety of purposes. Listed below are the types of visa; categorised on the basis of purpose of staying in India:

Tourist Visa: 6 months stay, Docs supporting the applicant’s financial standing

Business Visa: One or more years stay, Document required: Letter from the sponsoring organisation

Student Visa: For the duration of the academic course of study or for a period of five years whichever is less, Document required: Proof of admission to recognized Universities/Institutions in India

Transit Visa: Maximum For 15 Days stay, Document required: Evidence of onward travel to a destination outside India

Conference Visa: For the duration of the conference or seminar, Document required: Letter of invitation from the organiser of the conference

Important links for Visa to India:

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

PIB info campaign on flagship programmes

The Press Information Bureau (PIB), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, will be organizing a Public Information Campaign in Mokokchung from March 26 to 28. Deputy Director of the PIB (M&C), Government of India, Guwahati, Pankaj Pandey, today during a press conference at the Longkumer Kilem, Mokokchung, informed that the campaign is being organized to highlight various schemes and programs of Government of India to help disseminate information to the public as a part of the National Common Minimum Program of the UPA government. "Focus is being given on the core flagship programs which are being implemented by various ministries," he also informed. "The campaign is to spread awareness on various programs and policy initiatives of the central government to educate the people to take advantage of programs implemented by the government for their economic uplift," he added.

It is learnt that as per decision taken at the level of Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, six 'flagship programs' of the Government of India, namely, Bharat Nirman, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), SSA with Universalized Mid-Day Meal Program and RTI Act have been identified for organizing extensive public information campaigns in the rural areas. Bharat Nirman program is a component of six schemes – RGGVY, Accelerated Rural Drinking Water Supply Scheme, Rural Telephony, Rural Irrigation and PMGSY.

On this regard, Pankaj Pandey informed that seminar with interactive sessions will be organized at the Town Hall, Mokokchung on March 26 and 27 and at Mokokchung village on March 28. Information and 'status reports' of the various programs being implemented in the district will be deliberated upon during the seminar. Besides the technical sessions on flagship programs, an exhibition will also be organized at the Town Hall by the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity. It is also informed that 'Song and Drama Division' will make theme based cultural presentations. As a follow-up to the campaign, the Directorate of Field Publicity will organize special interactive programs in villages, organize meetings, group discussions and collect feedback, reports and success stories on the implementation of schemes, it is informed.

Apart from the PIB, all media units of the Ministry of I&B, such as Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity, Directorate of Field Publicity, Song & Drama Division, All India Radio and Doordarshan are actively participating in the campaign. District Administration, Block Development Officers, school authorities, Village Councils, village headmen, NGOs, SHGs and GBs are also associated with the campaign. The District Public Relations Officer, Mokokchung, is the co-host of the campaign program.

The over all objective of the campaign is to empower poor and illiterate people living in rural and remote areas by giving them access to information on various policies and programs of the central government under the 'flagship' schemes; to make people aware of their rights and responsibilities and to motivate them to participate and get benefit of the schemes; to record success stories of both direct and indirect benefits accrued by implementation of the policies and programs if the central government; to create a network of information channels for faster flow of the information to the public; to collect responses from the general public on various schemes implemented by the government in a particular area for policy corrections, if required, according to the conditions of the particular areas.

The PIB has invited all Heads of Departments, village councilors, ward authorities, NGOs, and interested individuals to attend the seminar to be held on March 26-28.

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

Let's work out the 'cost to country' of our babus

An unseasonal Santa Claus in the guise of the Sixth Pay Commission has handed out goodies to the tune of Rs 12,500 crore for this financial year (plus Rs 18,060 crore for arrears) to 45,000 Central government employees, some of whose salaries will go up three times. If the Centre gives, can the states be far behind?

Certainly not. Under pressure from state government employees, states too will have to substantially jack up salaries, never mind that the aggregate states' budgetary deficit in 2004 was already a humongous Rs 1,16,000 crore.

The Pay Commission's largesse is in stark contrast with export-related private sector industries, like IT, which in the face of a US recession (and a domestic slowdown in terms of infrastructure and tight monetary policy) have had to pare down pay and personnel to keep themselves in business.

There is no denying that the private sector, by and large, still pays far more handsomely than the government. However, in order to be economically viable, the private sector must ensure that each employee brings more to the company than that employee takes out. Private sector employees have to perform or get the push.

Despite the proposed performance related incentive scheme (PRIS), our babus are far less accountable. Our babus' 'performance' is not assessed by the public — whom they supposedly serve, but in reality routinely stymie — but by another member of the self-serving super-scheduled tribe/caste known as babudom .

Private sector employees are subject to an implacable assessment based on CTC (cost to company). The moment an employee's CTC outweighs the benefits the company derives from that employee, the employee is out. CTC takes into account everything from the employee's pay and perks, to the paper clips and office stationery that the employee may be pinching for personal use.

If we want to make our babudom truly accountable, the public sector should also be made to adopt the CTC formula — cost to country. In the case of babus, CTC would include not just pay, DA, subsidised housing, etc, but also, and far more importantly, the costs incurred by the delays and time-overruns caused by bureaucratic inertia or inefficiency.

Several years ago, a guesstimate exercise suggested that if the delays in all the country's public sector projects were to be added up, they'd total more than 500 years. Which means that, theoretically, we should all be living at the time of the emperor Akbar, or thereabouts. The fact that we are not might be attributed to the get-up-and-go of private enterprise. And, of course, to the efforts, against all odds, of the relatively few, dedicated, hard-working and incorruptible public servants the country can be proud of, and who are, sadly, the exceptions that prove the misrule.

The extent of this misrule — the result of an unholy nexus between an exploitative political class that patronises sycophancy and a complaisant bureaucracy — can be gauged by the fact that of a total of 890 Central infrastructure projects (power, railways, petroleum), 267 are currently running between two months and 16 years behind schedule, at an estimated delay-cost to the exchequer (apart from the budgeted cost) of Rs 20,948.69 crore.

While many of these delays can be attributed to problems like shortage of funds, land acquisitions, controversies and law and order issues, ultimately most of these bottlenecks can be traced back to a lack of anticipatory thinking and forward planning on the part of the administration.

NGOs and local self-help groups, using the Right to Information Act, have been conducting 'social audits' of the national rural employment guarantee scheme and in many districts have stemmed the corruption and misuse that has been rampant in the programme.

Perhaps what we need now is a larger 'social audit' of our babudom — not just to affix blame, but, equally importantly, to identify and reward praiseworthy performance, using the cost to country rubric. The only problem is that the babu audit would be run by — who else? — babus. With the result that it might end up costing the country too much to figure out just how much our babus are costing the country.

By Jug Suraiya


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

Café culture redefining U.S. senior centers

At a cheerful café and neighborhood gathering spot, eight women squeezed around a table, with bottomless cups of 35-cent coffee and plenty to do between the salads and paninis.

Mercy Prindes, 69, said she liked to "stop in just to see who's there" when she was running errands. Charlaine Ryan, 69, said it was the perfect "hen house; a place where we can sit and yack and yack and yack." And Margaret Rogers, 82, raved about "real food" - appealing and under $5 - to attract neighborhood young people, who liven things up.

There is a new café society in Chicago's Norwood Park neighborhood, one of three storefront hubs for the elderly here that have become models for reinvigorating America's senior centers.

"Kids have their hangouts," said Marion Joyce Lindgren, at 67 the youngest in the group. "So why shouldn't we, too?"

This is a time of ferment for America's 15,000 senior centers, many of them vestiges of the 1960s and '70s when federally financed meals for the elderly were a pillar of the Great Society. Under the Older Americans Act of 1965, centers are subsidized according to how many hot midday meals they serve. Nutrition and companionship remain worthy goals for senior centers but are no longer the draw they once were.

A handful of studies show that those younger than 65 say they are too busy to use senior centers. But the main reason for staying away is the stigma associated with aging.

In New York City, with a network of 329 centers, almost half are underused, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said. A plan by the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make the city more user-friendly to the elderly includes modernizing the nation's largest system of senior centers, and including cafés, according to the mayor's office and the department of aging.

The 40-year-old model is not "serving the seniors of today or attracting the seniors of tomorrow," Gibbs said.

Tomorrow is a far bigger worry. Experts predict that baby boomers will not walk in the door of outdated centers - which are often in church basements and reminiscent of high school cafeterias before the advent of food courts, with few activities besides bingo and transportation to the mall.

"If they don't innovate," said John Krout, director of the gerontology institute at Ithaca College, "they will die."

Fierce competition for the senior market has inspired a search for new models and an emerging consensus about the elements that the senior center of the 21st century should include.

Among them are fitness activities, chronic-disease management, fall prevention and other aspects of healthy aging; continuing education, both practical and intellectual; volunteer and work opportunities for those not ready for retirement; a handsome environment that accommodates the physical limits of age without looking institutional; and some programs aimed to the "young old," those aged 55 to 65, to begin changing their negative view of senior centers.

Here in the Chicago area, these "best practices" are on view at the cafés operated by a not-for-profit social service agency, Mather Lifeways, in dense working-class neighborhoods like Norwood Park, and by the North Shore Senior Center, which serves 32 suburbs from a 40,000-square-foot, or 3,700-square-meter, building. The center includes a fitness center, sculpture studio, classrooms and a sun-drenched atrium.

At North Shore, where members pay $60 a year, these goals are met under one roof - something that Sandi Johnson, the center's director, says may be too costly for many communities. With 4,000 members and 700 volunteers, North Shore receives $1 million a year from donors and raised an additional $15 million in a capital campaign for the new building.

One way North Shore cultivates relationships with the young-old is by helping them care for elderly parents, with a daughters support group and geriatric case managers. Another attraction is the fitness center - members pay $350 extra - where fliers advertise boomer-friendly "brain fitness" classes for the worried well and a conference on female spirituality.

The Mather cafés strain less to bring younger people into the mix. There is nothing in the name, decor or menu that shouts "senior center," and the cafés are located in neighborhoods short on stylish, well-priced breakfast and lunch spots. So, as at Starbucks, people of all ages mix over a cup of coffee or a salad. Cafés boast open kitchens, not just for the entertainment value of watching chefs at work but also so new customers or those who come alone are greeted by a friendly face.

The gentle yoga classes, Spanish lessons and the like are reserved for older adults. The main room - with its bright colors, floating ceiling panels and Swedish modern light fixtures - remains a "neighborhood place, not a senior place," said Betsie Sassen, Mather's executive director of café development.

Cathie McCormick, 72, leads an exercise class for those with arthritis. The gym equipment is pneumatic, so resistance is regulated without having to move weights. There is no television set in the gym, or elsewhere, because old people watch enough TV at home and would rather talk to the person on the adjoining machine.

Mather says it will not franchise but is training other organizations to start their own cafés with workshops and how-to manuals. Valparaiso, Indiana, and Sun City, Arizona, already have cafés, and more than 100 social service providers from 30 cities have attended $975 startup workshops, according to Sassen.

Café regulars here in Chicago cite the lively ambience and menu choices as the main reasons they switched their allegiance from a local senior center. On a recent weekday, a few women were toweling off after exercise class. Some had signed up for a body-fat screening.

At computers scattered throughout the room, they shopped online and caught up on e-mail correspondence with grandchildren. From early morning until late afternoon, the conversation drifted from utility bills, to the latest romance novel, to cellphones they liked best.

By Jane Gross


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

NGO study: Pesticides found in EU wines

Wines sold in the European Union may contain residues from a number of different pesticides, a study by environmentalist groups showed Wednesday.

The study by Pesticide Action Network Europe and other NGO groups said even expensive wines from world-famous vineyards run the risk of being tainted with toxic or carcinogenic substances.

The groups analyzed 40 bottles of wine purchased in the EU, including six organic wines. They found that each of the 34 conventionally produced wines contained pesticides, including some classified by the EU as health-threatening. Of the six organic wines tested, five contained no pesticides.

"The presence of pesticides in European wines is a growing problem," said Elliott Cannell of PAN Europe. "Many grape farmers are abandoning traditional methods of pest control in favor of using hazardous synthetic pesticides."

The samples included 13 French, 10 German, 10 Austrian, three Italian, one Portuguese, one Australian, one Chilean and one South African wine. Pesticides were found in wines from all of the countries tested.

On average, each bottle of conventionally produced wine contained more than four different pesticides. The study did not specify at what level the substances are harmful to health.

Despite accounting for only 3.5 percent of the EU's agricultural area, grapes receive around 15 percent of synthetic pesticides applied to major crops, according to EU data.

In 2006, the European Commission proposed new rules banning the use of 23 harmful pesticides on food crops in the EU. The plan, which needs approval by EU governments, also seeks to strengthen and simplify the rules for authorizing new pesticides in the EU market.


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

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Skoch awards recognize emerging financial technologies in rural India

Better governance and delivery of finances to and through panchayats and highlighting best practices was the focus of the awards.

The sixth annual Skoch Summit Challengers 2008 took up issues concerning panchayat finances and emerging technologies for rural India. Attended by over 430 delegates, ielf Help Groups and women Panchayat representatives from Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand shared their experiences and case studies.

State IT Secretaries, Panchayati Raj Secretaries, and Planning Secretaries, who were present in large number took questions from those who had worked on the field, helping refine strategies and methodologies to bring about greater transparency and efficiency.

Mani Shankar Aiyar, minister of panchayati raj addressed the session on ‘State of Panchayats – Focus on Finances’. “Women, who are the backbone of our villages, have become an important part of our Panchayati Raj Institutions. They are coming to the fore and using the space provided by Panchayats to address issues that concern them and the village community at large,” said the minister.

The conference provided a plurality of view that facilitates cross country participation with both rural and urban stakeholders sharing the platform with equal zeal and passion. “The aim is to achieve the larger objective of social, digital and financial inclusion,” informed Sameer Kochhar, chief editor & CEO, Skoch Consultancy Services.

The thrust of the conference has been on how better governance and better delivery of finances to and through Panchayats, facilitated through decentralization and e-governance, can be used to improve these infrastructure services and what are the best practices that one can emulate. Issues concerning infusion of technology and available choices, in rural India, were examined apart from policy and its implementation.

Skoch Challenger Awards were conferred by Dr C Rangarajan, chairman, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. The award recognizes and salutes best practices in e-governance, education, ICT enablement, empowerment, capacity building and digital and financial inclusion. 17 awards were given to K C Chakrabarty, CMD, Punjab National Bank for financial inclusion through initiatives like the setting up of Farmers’ Training Colleges, financing rickshaw pullers, and setting up biometric ATMs; to M S Sundara Rajan, CMD, Indian Bank for total financial inclusion of the Union Territory of Puducherry, and extending similar efforts to other districts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala; for Customer Relationship Management to B Sambamurthy, CMD, Corporation Bank amongst others.

Some of the projects that were termed winners included the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana; Jeevan Madhur by Life Insurance Corporation; MCA21 by Ministry of Corporate Affairs; JNNURM by Ministry of Urban Development; e-Gram by Department of Panchayati Raj, Gujarat.


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

Corruption in India: A vicious nexus

IN INDIA, corruption is so deep and pervasive, and its ramifications are so wide and varied that it would be facile to capture the problem through some anecdotal information, as attempted in the Reporter’s Notebook. A qualitative counterpart to the quantitative scoreboard should mean at least dissecting samples from every aspect, which the scoreboard covers. This may not be possible without a compendium of corruption reports, which in any case is not available. Though the Reporter’s Notebook is on the whole correct, some elaboration of the issues is in order.

As Delhi is India’s political capital and its capital of sleaze, it is possible to pick up some cases from Delhi. But that may provide a good idea of the magnitude of the problem, considering that India is a large country, in terms of its population, geography, social, economic, political, commercial and cultural diversity. And, Delhi is only a tiny part of the country.

To restate the perception of some laypersons, in India corruption is rampant and appears in different forms with different intensities and degrees of salience.

One problem of describing corruption in India is that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is concerned only with corruption relating to Government of India institutions and its auxiliaries or undertakings. As each state has its own anti-corruption agency. What the Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau does is very important. As the CVC is of high profile, it is in the media. This is not the case with the state bureaus, and there is a lot of corruption in all Indian states.

Another problem is, when a citizen has to get his or her work done, he or she has to deal with the central or state bureaucracy at different levels, depending on what he or she has to get done. If a person has to get her driving license, then they have to deal with the state agency; if they have to buy or sell land or related items, such as buildings and apartments, they have to again deal with the agency; if they approaches a government hospital for treatment, they have to deal with the agency. In all these and similar agencies, there is always some corruption in one form or another. But it is generally accepted that of all state agencies, corruption is highest in the revenue department, which deals with land and related registration issues. Often, citizens may not even be aware that they are paying bribe for getting their work done, as they work through intermediaries.

In understanding the complexity of the problem of corruption in India, there is a need to group citizens and institutions into different categories. Though occasionally, some high-profile case is reported in the media, often corruption in high places and in high cases goes unnoticed. What is noticed and booked under corruption laws are small cases.

For example, when the Madras High Court dismissed an anti-corruption case against former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J. Jayalalithaa, there were rumors that the concerned judge had accepted a bribe. Reason, the judge dismissed the case by comparing the market value of land (the case involved a land scam) to the market value of onions – as reported in the media, appeared ludicrous.

If one were to categorise professionals, probably the most corrupt and corruptible class is politicians. There have been exposes here and there after one sting operation or another. But, there is hardly any report of anyone getting punished or imprisoned because of corrupt activities.

Another class, which is highly corrupt, is the legal class, involving both the bar and the bench. Most lawyers insist on getting their fees in cash and do not give a receipt. The fee is not standardised or rationalised by the state or the judiciary. It is only to be presumed that the lawyers fudge their income tax returns. If one has to believe media reports, some judges, starting from the lowest level of magistrates, are also corrupt. But the legal class has never been a media target.

A third class, which is highly corrupt are the doctors, particularly those in private practice. There is hardly any report on corruption involving doctors. A recent expose, after a sting operation by the CNN-IBN TV channel, detailed doctors in north India, amputating legs and arms of healthy people, as part of a thriving ‘beggar industry’ made news for a couple of days. There are cases of kidney sales in which the doctors make a good fortune, that too in government hospitals. But the cases have only news value. The state is not known to act persistently.

The Indian health and education sector (besides, of course, the revenue department) are generally perceived as highly corrupt. Both are also highly neglected state sectors.

India has an extremely weak and sloppy public health system, and those who can afford to pay will never go to a government health center or hospital. This makes the private medical profession lucrative and totally unaccountable and arbitrary in what it does, and gives a lot of scope for corruption in the private sector also. I have not come across any doctor, issuing a receipt for fees collected.

The neglect of the education sector by the state, combined with the ongoing globalisation and entry of private agencies has made the education sector highly corrupt. This is seldom reported in the media. An engineering seat in a deemed University or private college is sold for Rs. five to 10 lakhs. The cost of a medical seat is about Rs. 25 to 40 lakhs. Only those who take hefty bribes can afford to pay such hefty sums, and having paid, after completion of the course, the first aim of the person and those who invested in them is to recover the money. So corruption breeds corruption and India is a fertile ground for it.

The reference in the Reporter’s Notebook on police is correct but needs elaboration. The police department in India is probably the most dreaded organisation of the state, as far as ordinary citizens are concerned. Generally, people are scared of going near a police station; leave alone lodge a complaint with it.

I have had my own experiences with the police. To cite only one, when the treasurer of an apartments owners welfare association was threatened by the builder of the apartments, as a secretary I wanted to lodge a police complaint. But the treasurer refused to have anything to do with the police. When he was threatened again and the builder’s brother trespassed into his flat, I prevailed on the office-bearers to go with me to the police station and lodge a complaint. Since the builder’s brother and I share the same name, the police turned the table on me and began phoning, stating that there is a case filed against me. A sub-inspector even went to my office, from where he telephoned my residence. I sent a copy of the complaint to the commissioner of police. Nothing happened. I sent him a reminder and sent a copy of it to the home secretary with my visiting card attached to it.

The police commissioner did not act. But the home secretary, known for her efficiency, and who presumably also knew me through my writing in the press, overreached the police commissioner and directed the deputy commissioner of police of the concerned city zone to submit a report within a week. After this, the president of the association and I received a series of phone calls from the assistant commissioner of police to get an appointment with us and settle the matter.

The police’s inaction and indifference in the matter was mainly because of the moneybags of the builder and was circulated among all the agencies concerned with his real estate business. Ideally, the controversial demolition drive going on in Delhi should have taken place in Chennai long ago. But it may not happen at all, as the Madras High Court is highly politicised, and in Chennai the nexus between the builders and the City Corporation, Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and Revenue Department, is very strong, and the judiciary, as elsewhere in India, is lackadaisical.

Far from reducing globalisation seems to be increasing corruption in India, though it is not yet highly visible. One has to compare the salary and perks paid in multi national companies (MNCs)with those paid in the state sector. The choice is for employees of the state sector to join MNCs, or offset their loss" with bribes. As most of them are either misfits in MNCs or are reluctant to leave their permanent jobs in government, as they prefer to remain low paid and corrupt.

What Gunnar Myrdal, characterised as the ‘folklore of corruption’ in Indian context is still very relevant. What one may have to add is in that in developed countries, corruption is ‘institutionalised’ through incentives built into the salary, whereas in India it is ‘institutionalised’ through illegitimate speed-money.

The Right to Information Act and introduction of e-governance, etc., are expected to add to good governance, transparency, efficiency in delivery mechanisms and reduce corruption. But often these innovative efforts end up as appendages of the government. Only some agencies like the media and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) activists are able to use them, but not the ordinary citizens.

To conclude, India persists with its old politician-bureaucrat-middle-man-fixer-criminal nexus in breeding corruption. Corruption in India is a vicious nexus and a vicious circle. How to break this nexus and circle is a big challenge.

By Shelendra


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

Lecture: Gender Inequality in India and the Power of TV

The experience of listening to Economics Professor Emily Oster’s lecture was similar to reading Freakonomics in discovering innovative relationships between seemingly unrelated trends. The young professor from the University Chicago gave a lecture entitled Gender Inequality in India and the Power of TV yesterday. Oster gave a PowerPoint presentation of her paper that observed the relationship that the growing prevalence of cable network in India is one cause in boosting women’s status in villages.

Oster’s paper is part of her collection of research focusing on economic development and primary health economics. Her paper on Gender Inequality, coauthored with Robert Jenson from Brown University, stemmed from previous research that analyzed the connection between the disease Hepatitis and gender imbalances in developing nations. India, particularly, has “the most salient gender inequality,” said Oster. “When people get access to media, attitudes towards women improve. Women get more autonomy, can go out without telling without telling their husbands, and are more enrolled in school.”

Autonomy from men was the main indicator of women's progress. Oster prefaced the centerpiece of her research by presenting a slew of statistics to show the powerlessness of women in India. 33% of women said that it was acceptable for a man to beat his wife, while 20-40% said that it was accepted conditionally in some situations. “The slides show the decision making things that women don’t have control over,” said Oster.

Families tend to undervalue their daughters because of costs of dowries and dominance of son earning income. Part of the reason sons are the dominant bread-winners are because daughters are not sent to school as often. Economics, however, argues that educating women is more worthwhile than educating men. Educated women tend to spend household budgets more wisely and impart their knowledge onto the children. The heart of the problem lies in the attitudes towards women.

Oster’s data included families in 160 Indian villages that recently acquired cable network in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Through graphs, the research showed that attitudes towards women trended upwards in families who acquired televisions in 2002 and 2003.

But why television? Popular Indian shows include soap-operas, game-shows and sports channels. Although gender equity is not the focus of the soaps, the attitudes towards women on the shows are different than the viewers own environment. The featured families were upper-middle class urbanites with problems of Desperate Housewives.

One specific hypothesis argues that the shows families’ demand in goods to more “stuff,” as in the shows and a shift in preference to have fewer kids. The role of television in new family life also changed time use in opportunity cost to streamline time efficiency.

When Oster opened the floor to questions, one main issue lingered. “Is there going to be a backlash?” One audience member cited a 2004 study that showed that domestic violence began to increase. The question, however, remained unresolved.

By Ramya Gopal


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

A WISH LIST to serve Senior Citizens in better way

According to me following will surely help us to serve the Elders in much better way, This is my Wish List:

4 digits National Helpline

Community Centers in each City

Recreation facility in each municipal ward

Support Group in each area/locality

Counseling Center in each city for: Legal, Consumer Protection, Finance, Health and Psychological

Geriatric ward in all the Municipal Hospitals/ District Hospitals - can be in all Hospitals

R & D in Ageing and Health Problems like Dementia

Support/ Promotion to Alternate Therapy for aged

Certified Alternate Therapy Center/Wellness Center in ach City

Uniform Age for Senior Citizens all through out Country

Uniform Concession in Medical, Tax, Utility services, Transport

Social Security for all the Senior Citizens in line with USA

Employment Bureau / Exchange/Websites for Second careers, Concession to companies who appoint them

Concession for Children’s/ Relative who look after ageing parents/relative

Concession / Support for Elderly who look after incurable illness of children's/dependent

An active Federation of all the organisation/Individuals working for Elderly

Elder Friendly City/ Infrastructure in the country - Architects, Communication, Transport- Traffic, Consumer Items etc

Home base services for ill/sick elders

Promotion of Elder care products – concession for manufacturers

Gerontology and Geriatric courses in all University

Special Ministry for Elders in line of Women and Children's

Fast Trac court exclusive for Elders

Life Long learning opportunity in all University for Seniors

I hope this will happen one day with United, Aggressive and Constant Approach. This is vision we share at Silver Innings - a website dedicated for Elderly and their family members..................................................................

So what's your Wish List ???????? ,We will publish some good ones in upcoming Website for Elders.

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

Balochistan: Developing Private-Public Partnerships for Education Service Delivery

With limited economic opportunities, lagging social indicators, and large gender gaps, Balochistan is the poorest of Pakistan’s four provinces. The challenges of internal strife are further exacerbated by the delicate situation on Pakistan’s western border.

The overall literacy rate in Balochistan, at 38% (20% for females), compares unfavorably with the Pakistan average at 54% (42% for females). While gross primary enrolment rates in primary education in the Province improved from 62% in 2001-2 to 65% in 2005-06, it lags behind the nationwide average of 72% and 87% respectively.

The difference in enrolment rates is mostly explained by the expansion of non-government and private provision of education in the rest of Pakistan where they account for 38% of all primary enrolment. In contrast, the corresponding figure in Balochistan is 11% only. Over the years, low public investment in education and dissipating administrative capacity at all levels has led to a system that is characterized by low enrolment, high teacher and student absenteeism, little or no engagement by communities.


To actively engage the communities on a long-term basis, and tap the entrepreneurial spirit of private and non-government sector to deliver primary education, in particular for girls, and to the poorest communities.


As a first step the Balochistan Education Foundation (BEF), originally mandated to encourage private sector participation in education service delivery, was identified as a potential pivot for all project activities. The Bank team and the Government of Balochistan worked together to restructure the BEF into an autonomous, well-governed and private sector managed apex financing and monitoring body. BEF in turn competitively selected NGOs’ and other organizations as Implementing Partners to help identify and establish schools, and teachers, monitor and build capacity of communities in poor rural areas.

The BEF was tasked with setting up 650 free-of-charge Community Schools in poor rural communities. The communities were given control of all school resources, including teacher hiring, salaries, and school construction. School construction will start in the second year of each schools operation and will be linked to students and teachers’ attendance and adequate community supervision. For urban and semi-urban areas, BEF selected private school operators to set up 300 low-fee schools over the project period, with a promise to subsidize them up to US$6 per student per month for 3 years. In addition, they were allowed to charge up to US$5 in monthly fees. Over 90% of schools actually charge less than US$2 per month. In all cases, schools were built in communities without schools, with an emphasis on enrolling out of school children, especially girls.

Impact in the First year- 2007

BEF and its partners have set up 195 new rural Community Schools in 17 districts of Balochistan, with an enrolment of over 8,000 students, including over 3,900 girls, as against an initial target of 50 schools with an enrolment of 1,500 students. In addition, 95 new low-fee Private Schools in peri-urban and urban areas have been set up in 22 districts of Balochistan, with an enrolment of over 6,000 students, including over 2,900 girls as against an initial target at appraisal stage of 50 schools with an enrolment of 2500 students. Capacity building activities, including intensive and regular training of teachers, communities, NGOs, and BEF staff is underway.

The Road Ahead

BEF and its partners are on target to identify 450 additional community school sites in 2008. 250 of these schools are scheduled to open by March 2008, with a further 200to be open by March 2009 (one year ahead of schedule). In addition, BEF has received some 500 applications for the 200 remaining private school sites, and progress is being made to open all these schools by March 2009 (two years ahead of schedule). Efforts are being made to intensify the focus on improving quality of education through off-site and ongoing on-site teacher training, and regular student and teacher assessment.


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