Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Monday, April 27, 2009

Press Note:National Dementia Strategy Consultative Meeting of Experts ‘Western India’

A National Dementia Strategy Consultative Meeting of Experts ‘Western India’ was held at the YMCA International, Mumbai Central on 25th & 26th April 2009. The Theme of this meeting was : “INTEGRATED DEMENTIA CARE “ .This meeting of experts was Organised by Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) National Office and Mumbai Chapter in association with Department of Psychiatry, Nair Hospital, Mumbai And Silver Inning Foundation.

This important meet was inaugurated by Chief Guest: Dr. Jairaj Thanekar -Executive Health Officer, Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Guest of Honour: Dr.R.V.Rananavare - Ag.Dean,Nair Hospital.

Dr.Jairaj Thanekar assured to help the cause of Dementia in creating awareness and providing services.

Around 29 multidisciplinary organization and family members participated in this important meet, the list of organization is given below:

  1. All India ARDSI Chapters
  2. Dept of Psychiatry, Nair Hospital
  3. Silver Inning Foundation
  4. Dept of Health , Mumbai Municipal Corporation( BMC)
  5. Geriatric Society of India
  6. TISS
  7. Majlis
  8. Dept of Psychiatry, KEM Hospital
  9. The Family Welfare Agency
  10. Forum for Improving Quality of Life
  11. Jhunjhunwala Foundation
  12. Harmony
  13. Dept of Nursing, Wockhard Hospital
  14. Tata Trust
  15. Anand Rehabilitation center
  16. Dept of Nursing, Nanavati Hospital
  17. Akashwani
  18. Memory Clinic, Sion Hospital
  19. Memory Clinic, Nair Hospital
  20. S.V.T.College (SNDT Juhu)
  21. Bombay Psychiatrist Society
  22. Elder Helpline, Mumbai Police
  23. Helpage India
  24. Sir Tata Dorabji Trust
  25. Department of Neurology, K.E.M. Hospital
  26. Department of Neurology, Grant medical college
  27. Sir J.J.Group of Hospitals, Mumbai
  28. Dept of Nursing , Holy Family Hospital ,Niagaon
  29. Dept of Nursing , Minatai Nursing College

Dementia is a general term to denote a progressive degenerative disease of the brain resulting in loss of Memory, intellectual decline, behavioural and personality changes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of Dementia. Mostly older people are affected by this condition.

It is estimated that there are more than 28 million people affected by this mind crippling tragedy globally. This number is expected to double by 2025. More than 70% of people with dementia live in developing counties like China and India. Although we don’t have the actual members, it is estimated that there are over 3 million people in India who are victims of dementia. Compared to any other chronic illness, more than the patients, often, it is the family members who bear the brunt of this devastating illness. It is often termed as a cruel disease, because it strips the person of all the skills and intellectual achievement the person has acquired during his life time and leaves the shadow of the person he used to be. The family members often have to watch the deterioration of their loved ones helplessly. Despite the magnitude, there is gross ignorance, and is often neglected in our country.

Many countries in the world have recognized Dementia as a health priority eg. Australia, South Korea. Similarly countries like UK, France have developed National Dementia Strategies. This has resulted in greater recognition, improved awareness and more fund allocation by their governments.

Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) is the first Afro Asian National Alzheimer’s Association to get full membership in Alzheimer’s Disease International the world federation of 74 national Alzheimer’s Associations way back in 1993. ARDSI continues to be in the forefront in raising awareness and providing much needed services to those affected. Taking cues from the countries with better dementia awareness and care, ARDSI has taken the bold initiative to develop a National Dementia Strategy for India. The number of people with dementia in India is expected to double by 2025. There is gross ignorance. Most people with dementia go undetected. There are hardly any service available. Research in this area is scanty.

The aim of the National consultative meetings are to explore, discuss and share views on how to develop a National Dementia Strategy for India. This will be a road map for the country for the next five years in Dementia care. The first meeting was held in Jamia Millia, New Delhi on 30th-31st Jan 2009. The meeting in Mumbai is to get the views of the experts from the Western region. Similar meetings shall be held in other parts of the country, drawing experts from medical, nursing, social work, legal, media and governmental agencies. A final meeting shall be held in New Delhi by the end of 2009 to draw a national plan. Raising awareness, promote early diagnosis and provide effective management shall be the key areas, the Strategy shall be based up on. Final document shall be used to influence the government of India and state governments to include dementia in all the key Ministries of health, social welfare, science and technology’s, programmes. We hope to work towards making dementia a health priority in the country in the coming years.

The below are some of the points discussed in the meeting that needs to be a part of the National Dementia Strategy. The points have been categorized under various headings, with each topic in a different page.

1. Improve awareness/ Advocacy
Improved public and professional Awareness of dementia among GPs, healthcare skilled/semi-skilled professionals (nursing, physiotherapists, SLPs), healthcare policy makers and media resulting in better understanding of the disease and its care.
Mobilize support from government, foundations, public and private sector organizations, and philanthropists
Generate interest in students and younger faculty members to contribute time and services, as a society that does not provide necessary social services to its members is doomed to fail.
§ Type of messages
o Simple messages on Alzheimer's Disease
o The awareness should focus on different components such as diagnosis, treatment etc
§ Where the messages should be given
o Make use of as many media as possible
o Public - National Social Service (NSS) of Universities, all service organizations, senior citizen forums, police, bar associations, schools and colleges, local self governments, NRHM, social work colleges, management institutes
o Media – documentaries in theatres, street theatre, TV, newspaper, FM radio. Use print and electronic media, public hoardings in PHCs and hospitals,
o Include dementia in as many public awareness programs as possible
o Include information about Alzheimer's Disease in the curriculum of medical colleges for doctors, nurses, Social Science and supportive health care personnel
o Target conferences of medical professionals, nursing bureaus and home care services, RMPs,
o There should be a comprehensive website
§ Content of the messages
o The goal of awareness should be very clear from the outset and there should be a distinction between what is a public health approach and what accounts for individual strategy (care giving is a individual strategy while generic awareness of the disease is a public health strategy).
o Differentiation between normal aging and age associated memory impairment (AAMI) and benign senescent forgetfulness (BSF) of normal aging process.
o Clarification of the 3 words that are used inter-changeably - aging, dementia and Alzheimer's Disease
o Lack of permanent cure (warn people against high expectations from various drugs and others substances such as ginkgo biloba) and importance of care for the patient and support for the caregiver
o Right information on ethical dilemmas such as tube feeding and palliative care in the terminal stage
o Right information on the experiments conducted on curcumin
o The demographic impact of Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias in developing countries such as India
o Clear signs of Alzheimer's Disease such as forgetting names, loss of interest in hobbies, unable to manage money, unable to do simple housekeeping tasks or cooking should be highlighted in the awareness campaigns so that people can identify Alzheimer's Disease in the elderly

2. Early diagnosis and intervention
Encourage family members to take the elderly to a doctor in time without waiting for the Disease to progress and obtain necessary medical care.
§ How to promote early diagnosis
o Through workshops for training professionals for diagnosis in urban and rural areas.
o Organize memory clinics and camps

3. Improved quality of care / Rehabilitation
Improved health care through Informed family carers
Relieving of carer stress and burnout
Improved quality of care through the public health system
Informed and Effective Workforce
§ What to watch out for
o The urban rural divide should also be accounted for in the strategy and one should be realistic about what rural health workers can do in 6 hrs of full-time work as they are already overburdened.
§ Diagnosis and care services
o Offer high quality care and support through memory clinics, day-care centers, and respite care centers.
o Set quality standards for care. Simple guidelines to be used for ensuring minimum quality standards in these clinics and in public health systems
o Focus on priorities for care-givers - access to continuity of support, access to good-quality information about dementia and local help available, access to good-quality care at home, in hospital or in a care home – provided by people with an understanding of dementia, access to peer support.
o Through support groups empower carers to make choices in caring for their family member suffering from Alzheimer's Disease
o Support and inspire carers to improve the quality of care rather than just have the basic needs of the patient, attended to
§ Training of personnel in dementia”.
o Stress on the benefits of training – the task of caring for a dementia patient is extremely difficult as it involves handling of wandering patients, aggression, incontinence and eventually round-the-clock care. Training is needed to enable caregivers to provide appropriate, competent and sensitive care and support and at the same time, prevent burnout.
o Who should be trained?
o Persons with dementia, immediate family, care staff, general health care professionals, and volunteers from community.
o Other aspects of training - levels of training need to be appropriate for the corresponding group of people. Critical focus areas in training include understanding the disease, skills to manage challenging behaviour and strategies for helping families and caregivers cope with the emotional challenges of caring for a resident with Alzheimer's disease.
o Standardise content of geriatric/dementia care training
o Have at least one trained care giver in care homes- incentive and/or legislation
o Make funds available for training programs, workshops

§ How can we identify Alzheimer's disease in people living alone?
o Through telephone, friends and relatives should be encouraged to be in touch; reverse help line approach where the NGOs can contact them periodically should be promoted
§ What ARDSI should do
o Each local chapter should engage with the local govt for advocacy and fundraising.
o The Delhi chapter should do advocacy with govt on policy planning through the planning commission, other departments etc. There has to be a dynamic national presence in the national capital to help ARDSI get access to both governmental and private support.
§ A few other issues for focus
o Legal issues - Doctors look after the patient and support groups focus on the care aspect. No one focus on other legal issues relating to property. ARDSI should liase with advocate and promote information on these aspects as in Alzheimer's Disease the patient’s decision making ability is impaired
o Advocacy with NSSO (Delhi) TISS and IIPS for including Alzheimer's Disease in their research to estimate incidence of Alzheimer's Disease
o Study of WHO report of 2001 to outline minimum action required for dementia care given the uniqueness of Indian context compared to the west.
o Dementia strategy paper should be distributed to all stakeholders and their comments invited
o To have National Dementia Registry
o To advocate with corporate to include Elderly/Dementia in CSR
o Dementia to be included in National Mental Health Prorammes
o To advocate to include Dementia in Disability ACT
o Have Multidisciplinary Dementia Day care Center
o Have Respite Care facility
o Have 24 x 7 Long Term care facility for the needy
o To include Dementia in Senior Citizens Maintenance ACT 2007
o To have more support groups for care givers

About Department of Psychiatry, Nair Hospital, Mumbai:
Department of Psychiatry at Nair Hospital offers services to Elderly as part of OPD and Inpatient Facility. Special Emphasis is on detection & treatment of Psychology disorder in Elderly including Dementia, which forms part of its therapeutic outreach programme. In recent years importance is being given to research on MCI –Mild Cognitive Impairment – patients have a high risk of converting to Alzheimer's disease.

About Silver Inning Foundation:
Silver Inning Foundation is registered NGO dedicated for Senior Citizens and Its family. It is part of Silver Innings.Com a comprehensive and dedicated Website for Elderly. Dementia is one of the focus areas for Silver Innings. Providing need base service, networking and advocacy for Senior Citizens forms important aspect of Silver Innings. It promotes the concept of Successful Ageing among various forums.

Dr.Jacob Roy
National Chairman, ARDSI

Dr.Charles Pinto
Project Head – NDS –I, Mumbai
Prof Emeritus, Dept of Psychiatry, Nair Hospital ,Mumbai

Sailesh Mishra
Chief Coordinator, NDS –I, Mumbai
Founder President, Silver Inning Foundation
Email: ;

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Child Sexual Abuse – it’s closer home than you thought

With the current spate of child sexual abuse cases coming out in the media nationally and internationally it finally seems the society will start believing, sexual abuse does happen and not necessarily anywhere outside but could be within one’s own home. A no. of incest (sexual relations with a family member) cases that have cropped up show that maybe homes are not that ‘safe’. The National Study 2007 says that 50% of the sex offenders (family member, relative, friend, neighbour) are known to the victim. At Arpan, an NGO based in Mumbai that works to Prevent the occurrence of Child Sexual Abuse and heal those who have been affected by it has found that in a damning 94% of our cases the offender was known to the victim. When safety is not guaranteed even with people a child knows, then it’s time for society to come to the child’s help. The only answer seems that the child must be empowered with skills to protect him or herself from sexual abuse. Just like we teach them general safety rules like staying away from fire, looking before we cross the road, etc. so should we teach them about personal safety.

Arpan is teaching Personal Safety in schools and it’s imperative parents teach their children the following key things:

  • Children are special.
  • Its their body and they are the boss of their bodies.
  • Difference between safe touch and unsafe touches; any touch that leaves them happy and comfortable is a safe touch and any touch that makes them feel bad, scared, confused or uncomfortable is an unsafe touch.
  • Give Vocabulary; Parts covered with a swimming suit are called Private Body Parts.
  • Personal safety rules to keep their private body parts safe.
    Ø Rule 1: It is never alright for someone to touch, look at or talk about their private body parts except to keep them clean and healthy.
    It is never alright for some one to ask the child to touch, look at or talk about their private body parts.
    Ø Rule 2: If some one breaks this rule they must “SAY NO and RUN AWAY”.
    Ø Rule 3: Tell a trusted adult about it and keep telling till they get the help they need.
    Even if someone breaks this rule it is never the child’s FAULT.

Tips for parents:
· Keep open communication channels with children so that they come and share things that bother them.
· Don’t force them to kiss, hug people they don’t feel comfortable about.
· Keep vigilance on where the children are, who are their friends and the people around them.
· Most children don’t report sexual abuse. Look out for symptoms that can indicate something is wrong. Symptoms could be:

Social: Social Withdrawal ,Increased hostility or aggression ,Overly pleasing behavior ,Drastic change in achievement patterns.

Sexual: Sexualized behavior ,Early sexual activity,Use of abusive sexual language

Medical: Psychosomatic illnesses ,Pain or swelling in genital area,Repeated urinary infections

Psychological : Eating disorders ,Anxiety or Indifference ,Depression,Suicide attempts

The above symptoms are only indicative and do not necessarily mean the child has been sexually abused. Only with further probing when the child reveals can one be sure.

If abuse has happened believe what the child has disclosed and be positive and supportive. Tell the child it’s not his or her fault. Get the child away from the abuser and try and help to see that other children don’t become prey to the abuser as well.

Most importantly take help from mental and medical health professionals. Whilst most people seek medical help mental health is not thought of as very important. However, in cases of sexual abuse what is UTMOST important is mental health intervention. We often think the child will cope, forget about it and move on with life but this is far from truth. The truth is that the more time goes other complications manifest in the psyche of the individual leading to long lasting trauma as an effect of abuse that never seems to go away. The healing never happens with time. One never forgets. Hence the earlier the healing process is started the better it is for the individual. However not all children might require counseling as this depends on the severity of the abuse. Therefore, professional advise must be taken to decide what’s best for the child.

Arpan provides counseling services and can be contacted on +91.98190.51444 or write to Website:

For children who’ve been sexually abused, life ends before it even begins. We as parents, adults in the society can at least do so much that we empower our children to prevent abuse and help them heal if it happens. If we are not able to do even this, then somewhere we adults have failed to provide the basic right a child has: to safety.

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

Monday, April 20, 2009

‘National Dementia Strategy’ Western India Round Table Conference

Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) National Office and Mumbai Chapter has pleasure in inviting you for the the National Consultative meetings of Experts from Western India to develop a ‘National Dementia Strategy’ on Saturday April 25th 2009 at YMCA International, Mumbai Central at 9.30 am to 6.30 pm.

Dementia is a general term to denote a progressive degenerative disease of the brain resulting in loss of Memory, intellectual decline, behavioural and personality changes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of Dementia. Mostly older people are affected by this condition.It is estimated that there are more than 28 million people affected by this mind crippling tragedy globally. This number is expected to double by 2025. More than 70% of people with dementia live in developing counties like China and India.

Kindly accept our Cordial Invitation and Contribute to the development of the National Dementia strategy for the country with your valuable participation.

This meeting is organised by Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) National Office and Mumbai Chapter in association with Department of Psychiatry, Nair Hospital, Mumbai and Silver Inning Foundation.

We request you to kindly confirm your or your organisation participation for this important national meeting.

Contact Email Ids: ;

Warm Regards,
Sailesh Mishra
Chief Coordinator,NDS,ARDSI-Mumbai
Founder President,Silver Innning Foundation
Tel: 91-022- 23742479
Website: ;

Remember Those who Cannot Remember

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

Let’s rock the elections

“Youth” and “change” are the most bandied about words in the run up to the 15th Lok Sabha elections. With an estimated one quarter of voters aged between 18 and 25 years, every party is trying to woo young voters through campaigns specially designed for them and young candidates are being projected as “important faces” of the party.

Are young people really impressed? To an extent yes, with some youngsters even starting voluntary campaigns to enrol voters and inspire them to walk to the polling booths on the day of polling. But many also feel that there is a need to dissect and understand what really hides behind the Obama-inspired “Yes we can!” political rhetoric.

Sense of disillusionment
The young are disillusioned with the older generation of leaders and their power battles and feel a great disconnect. Palakdeep Bamrah, 22, in Mumbai, remarks, “We have already seen how old politicians are busy in their games.” But not many names come to mind of young politicians, apart from a Rahul Gandhi or a Milind Deora.

Occupied with their academic demands and employment prospects, the young find no identification with any of the tactics for luring vote banks. “Politicians create rifts in society. They are not interested in listening to us, understand our needs,” says Shivamraj Singh, 17, again from Mumbai.

That is a sentiment shared by many. “When someone talks politics, it is like noise. We shut it out,” says Aruna P.R, a visual communications student in Chennai who just turned 18 and is waiting for her voter-id. “We have better jobs to do.”

For her, a leader is someone who should inspire. “Make people realise their duties, make them think.” And she is of the firm opinion that people do not think. “Analyse what is right and wrong. Don’t just follow.”

She may be surprised that though at the other end of the politically-aware spectrum, Rupesh Kumar in Chennai, a student of social work, agrees with her. “It bothers me that after ages, people are still voting for the same politicians.” Hence, he is part of a campaign for 49-O, the right not to vote. “We want to register a protest legally that no one is eligible to vote for.”
The need among the youth is for an indefinable “change”. It’s not just about having less number of years, but bringing in newer outlooks to politics and to the process of nation building. “We need to change with changing times. Young politicians would think like us. They would interact with the common man. That’s what the country needs,” says 18-year old Shayne Gomes in Mumbai.

For many, Rahul Gandhi has become the symbol of the young blood and the change that they speak about. Varun Gandhi on the other hand does not strike a chord. Clearly, in the eyes of the youth, much of the political skulduggery is old fashioned.

“The country needs change and new ideas. I am glad that the parties are thinking about youngsters and putting up at least some young candidates,” says Leo Peter, who has just finished his pre-university course in Electronics in Mumabi. They may lack experience, he admits, but argues that it is important to give them a chance to gain experience. “They are setting an example and telling us that politics is not an area of darkness for the young.”
It is certainly not an area of darkness for Sarath Babu, a graduate of BITS, Pilani, who has carved out a multi-million business in catering in Chennai, starting from scratch. He is contesting as an independent in Chennai South. He will be hoping to duplicate his success in politics too.

Dynastic politics
But Kushal Bhimjiani, a fourth year student in the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, takes this brouhaha about young faces in politics with a pinch of salt. “Yes, it feels nice to know that there are young people in fray. But let us not forget that ‘who are you?’ and ‘whom do you know?’ remain very important questions for every young politician,” she says. After all, with dynasty rule firmly in place in all political parties, it is sons and daughters of senior politicians who dominate in the line up of young politicians contesting polls this time. “It is not easy for others to break into the system within a party and its strict hierarchy,” says Kushal.

There are many issues that concern the young. Palakdeep identifies the economy, security scenario and people getting their dues as some of the areas needing urgent action. She thinks young politicians can have better ideas.

Anisha Sheth, a student of media studies from Mangalore, says that two issues — the economic crisis that has led to huge job losses and blatant communalism — are weighing heavily on the minds of young voters rather than the age of the contestants. The bottom line for Anisha is: “The government which comes to power should ensure social security for all citizens and in an equitable manner.”

Kushal cautions that the business of political parties wooing the young is double-edged and can be used as a tool to divide them. “Sadly a section of young people are swayed by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rhetoric about terrorism,” she says, adding that this is turning into hostility for the minority community.

Sofiya Ashraf, a student of graphic design in Chennai, was part of a “voting is cool” campaign aimed at fellow students. “‘High-class’ colleges are not considered vote-banks,” and rightly so, she says. She is also bothered about the rhetoric on minority issues. “But when you vote, media and rhetoric should not sway you.” Base the decision on policies and their implementation, she adds.

Observers say the youth are not a vote bank, even as 40 per cent of voters are below 35, as pointed out in the media. How many will vote for the Samajwadi Party’s manifesto of doing away with computers or English education? But then, what options do the youth have?


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

'Green Nobel' for forest champion

A campaigner who was jailed during his battle to save the rainforest in Gabon has received a top international award.

Marc Ona Essangui was honoured for his fight to stop what he describes as a destructive mining project in the Ivindo National Park.

He is one of seven people from six continental regions to be awarded an equal share of the $900,000 (£600,000) 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize.

It has been described as "the Nobel Prize for grassroots environmentalism".
Mr Ona has campaigned for three years against the Belinga mine project - a deal between the government in Gabon and the Chinese mining and engineering company, CMEC, to extract iron ore.

The project includes the construction of a large hydroelectric dam, which is already underway, to provide power for the mine.

The dam is being built on the Ivindo River, near the Kongou Falls, Gabon's highest waterfall.
Mr Ona, who described the falls as "the most beautiful in central Africa", said that Gabon's government had failed to consult the local population and had not assessed the impact of the development on the environment before it gave permission for construction to begin.
He told BBC News that he hoped his receipt of the Goldman Prize would "draw international attention to just how precious this area is".

Political protest
Mr Ona, who uses a wheelchair, dedicated his early career to improving education and communication infrastructure in Gabon, including working with the United Nations Development Programme. He later turned his attention to environmental issues.

He eventually decided to focus his efforts full time on the work of his own environmental NGO, Brainforest, which aims to protect the rainforest for the benefit local of communities.

"The government established 13 national parks here, and I became interested in all the activities within them," he said.

"In 2006, my colleagues and I noticed that roads were being built within Ivindo."

When Mr Ona investigated, he discovered that there had been no environmental impact studies carried out before the road building started.

On its website, the Gabonese government describes the national parks as having been "classified for the conservation of Gabon's rich biodiversity".

The key goals of the national park scheme, it says, are preservation of "the wealth of the ecosystem… for current and future generations" and stimulating "the development of ecotourism as an economic alternative to the exploitation of natural resources".
Mr Ona said: "All of this construction was carried out illegally and against the code of the national parks."

He also unearthed and leaked a copy of the Belinga mine project agreement between the government and CMEC, revealing that CMEC had been offered a 25-year tax break as part of the deal.

"When we really started to look into the deal, we noticed that it was China, not Gabon, that was the major beneficiary," he said.

Under pressure
He and his colleagues embarked on their campaign, working with other environmental NGOs, holding news conferences and meeting with local communities.

"The government even motivated some protests against the NGOs involved," he recalled.

"They alleged that we were working [on behalf of] Western powers, and we received a lot of pressure to stop the campaign."

This culminated in Mr Ona being arrested and charged with "incitement to rebellion".
He was jailed by the Gabonese judicial police on 31 December 2008; but following an internationally co-ordinated campaign for his release, he was freed on 12 January 2009.
Since June 2006, however, he has been banned from travelling outside the country.

His passport was returned to him only 24 hours before he was due to travel to San Francisco for the Goldman award ceremony.

There has been no construction in Ivindo for almost a year, but Mr Ona says this has more to do with the economic crisis and the price of iron ore than with the Gabonese government backing down.

He has no plans to give up his quest.

"Some of the money from this award will go to the functioning of Brainforest, and the rest will be allocated to setting up small- and medium-sized businesses for local communities," he said.
"I want to set up a clinic near Ivindo where the local people can be treated using traditional medicine. Some of the money will serve to establish this health centre for all of those communities."

No fear
The organisers of the Goldman Prize describe the six winners as "a group of fearless grassroots leaders, taking on government and corporate interests and working to improve the environment for people in their communities".

Among the other 2009 recipients are Maria Gunnoe from West Virginia, US, who has faced death threats for her outspoken activism to stop destruction of the Appalachia by the coal industry.

Also rewarded are Russian scientist Olga Speranskaya, who connected NGOs across Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region to identify and safely remove toxic chemical stockpiles, and Rizwana Hasan, Bangladesh's leading environmental attorney, whose legal advocacy led to tighter regulations on the ship-breaking industry.


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

Saturday, April 18, 2009

One day course at Global Vipassana Pagoda, Mumbai

The grand opening of the Global Vipassana Pagoda was a memorable event, a major milestone achieved in the Vipassana movement. The mega one-day course was attended by more than 11,000 meditators from various parts of the world. Goenkaji wishes to conduct several one-day meditation courses in the Global Pagoda to benefit meditators worldwide.

Therefore, the Global Vipassana Foundation has decided to conduct such mega one-day Vipassana courses every month from April 2009.

The course will be in the presence of Goenkaji.

The schedule of the courses is as below:
19th April 2009 — Third Sunday
9th May 2009 — Saturday, Buddha Purnima
7th June 2009 — Sunday, Purnima
7th July 2009— Tuesday, Guru Purnima
16th Aug 2009 — Third Sunday
20th Sep 2009 — Third Sunday
4th Oct 2009 — Sunday, Purnima
15th Nov 2009 — Third Sunday
20th Dec 2009— Third Sunday

Course time: 11am to 4pm

All meditators have to register at:Email: ;

Or call at ……Registration timings : 10.00 am to 5.30 pm.Tel no: 022- 28452111 or 28451204Cell: 098928-55692, 098928-55945

Please note that there is no facility to stay overnight at the venue.All meditators are required to get a photo identity card such as driving licence, voter ID card or passport. This is mandatory for security check by the police at the pagoda site.

Kindly register for the course, so that the Global Vipassana Pagoda trust can serve you better.

May everyone progress and establish themselves in Dhamma and inspire others!

With All Metta,

Global Vipassana Foundation (Trust)

Posted by Mr.Om Nath Garg

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


Did you suffer the July 26 deluge or the temperature hitting 410C lastweek? Do you believe that Climate Change (CC) and Global Warming (GW)are not just gimmicks of the scientific community?

And yet, at the same time, you feel helpless and tiny to undo thismonstrous catastrophe? Then join SPROUTS Environment Trust's EARTHMELA 2009 - `A Carbon Reversal Movement', a movement thatstrongly believes in making tomorrow a greener and cleaner one.

Earth Day - April 22, 2009, is the day in your life, when you need toapply for leave from work and spend the whole day with family & kids,neighbours, friends and even office colleagues. On this day, SPROUTS isgoing to transform the premises of the Maharashtra Nature Park (Mahim,Dharavi) into an engaging, fun, interactive festival to empower all theparticipants with easy-to-implement ideas to reduce our carbon footprint(carbon emissions) & to create more ways to fix carbon via carbon sinks!

So here's your chance to join in making this world a better place tolive in, for all Earth inhabitants!

Cycle for Carbon Reversal (a bicycle rally) 7:00 am - 9:00 am

Encouraging citizens to go low on their vehicular emissions

Picture (I'm) Perfect (a film festival) 10:30 am - 4:30 pm

Screening of short films about our wildlife and efforts across the worldworking towards stemming the effects of climate change & global warming.

Door-Step Biodiversity (a photo-exhibition) 10:30 am - 6:00 pm

Taking the viewers to the beautiful lap of Nature and Natural Treasuresand create a sense of love for our biodiversity, while highlighting therisks they face due to climate change.

The Butterfly Effect (stalls/demos) 10:30 am - 6:00 pm

Giving children, youth, adults, seniors and professionalseasy-to-implement ideas which will cumulatively contribute to a bigchange in our attitude and the global environmental scenario.Essentially, triggering the `Carbon Reversal Movement'!

The Spirit of Adventure (training) 10:30 am - 6:00 pmRock-climbing, rappelling, Zip-line or Commando Bridge, not only prepareyou for helping each others in critical situations of floods,environmental disasters or accidents, but also make you mentally readyto engage in some serious conservation!

Ecological-Footprint Game (game) 10:30 am - 6:00 pm

Allowing you to calculate your own Carbon & Ecological Footprint. It isa fun way to learn about how you are impacting the Earth and how you canreduce your personal carbon emission and try to become `CarbonNeutral'.

Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Venue: Maharashtra Nature Park, Mahim

Timings: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Event Organiser: SPROUTS (Anand Pendharkar, Gaurav Shirodkar & team)Contacts: 98201-40254/98705-05785 Email:

Posted By:
Anand Pendharkar
68/4 Tarun Bharat Society,
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Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How Dahanu epitomises the environment vs development debate

Whether the battle for ecological equity inevitably compromises opportunities for economic development is a question the communities of Dahanu have grappled with for over a decade. While there may be no simple answer, Dahanu's communities live in a paradoxical reality. Even as the environmental movement has sheltered them from the hazards of unregulated industrialisation, it has been unable to provide an alternative viable reality, while restricting many of the benefits of the modern economy.

Situated in the picturesque Sahyadari mountain range in western Maharastra, merely 125 km north of Mumbai, is the serene and sleepy region of Dahanu. Sandwiched between the chemical corridor of Vapi, Gujarat, to the north and the industrialised zones of Palghar-Boisar to the south, Dahanu remains one of the last surviving green zones in this region.
One amongst 15 talukas of Thane district in the Konkan division of Maharashtra, Dahanu is known as the fruit and food bowl of the region.

Home to a predominantly large adivasi community of Warlis forming 64.84% of the total population of 3,31,829 lakh (Census 2001), Dahanu also has a large fishing and farming community. With a total of 174 villages and only one municipal area, the main source of livelihood is agriculture and its allied activities.

A notification declaring it a special ecologically fragile zone by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 1991 put Dahanu on the national map with nine other regions. The Notification restricts industrial development and disallows a change in land use for environmentally sensitive areas.

The Supreme Court, in 1996 also appointed the Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA) to ensure that the Notification is implemented and Dahanu remains a protected region.

This legal regime changed the options for Dahanu. Many of its dreams of rushing headlong into the neoliberal economy were thwarted, if not crushed.

There were conflicting responses from the communities of Dahanu ranging from hostility and anger to gratitude and acceptance. However, having closed many of the options for conventional development, the challenge before the environmental movement was to chart a sustainable path for growth.

History of conflict
Historically the struggle for minimum wages, land rights, and forest rights by the adivasis had dominated the discourse of the region. The period from 1945 to 1947 where the All India Kisan Sabha under the banner of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) mobilised the Warlis on the issue of land rights with the guidance of Comrades Godavari and Shyam Parulekar is well documented.

The region's struggle for control over natural resources also came to the fore with the rise of social movements such as the Bhoomi Sena and Kashtkari Sanghatana in the late-1970s that took up the battle on behalf of the adivasis.

While many of these conflicts were centred around access and rights over natural resources of land and forest, they were not necessarily articulated in the language of environmental discourse. It was only in the late-1980s, following opposition to the setting up of a thermal power plant, that an environmental campaign focused around conservation and protection emerged in Dahanu. It was led by the Dahanu Taluka Environment Welfare Association (DTEWA), with members consisting of a handful of local orchard owners who sought environmental protection of Dahanu via the courts. While they lost the struggle against the thermal power plant (a 500 MW plant was set up in 1996), they continued to work for the implementation of the Dahanu Notification.

“We believed that Dahanu's natural resources needed to be protected. We are today safe from threats like the SEZ because of the Dahanu Notification that has ensured that no dirty industry enters Dahanu,” states Kitayun Rustom, founder-member of the Dahanu Taluka Environment Welfare Association.

“In the beginning when we campaigned against a local power plant,” she continued, “we had the support of various institutions, traders, orchard owners, politicians and social movements like the Kashtkari Sanghatana. However, once the Notification was put in place and the matter went to the Supreme Court, several proposals and plans were stalled or frozen. For example, all stone quarries were shut down and no further quarrying has been permitted in Dahanu after 1991. These kinds of restrictions built up antagonism against us especially from the traders, commercial interests and political parties.”

A form of environmentalism that was not led from the ground had its limitations. Over the years, the environmental campaign divided Dahanu, with the disgruntled traders, commercial interests and politicians making every attempt to undo the laws that had caused them very clear losses.

However, the impact of environmental restrictions on the resource-dependent communities that form a majority of Dahanu are not so clearly apparent to all, and it will be interesting to study those.

Dahanu's communities
Topographically, Dahanu taluka can be divided into a 10-12 km-wide bandarpatti, the coastal belt of lowlands and flats extending from the seacoast to the railway line situated at the foot of the Sahyadri range. The junglepatti (forest belt) which is to the east of the railway line is a belt of approximately 20-25 km that runs parallel to the coast at a distance of 15 km from the shore.
The entire coastal belt with its rich natural resources, wetlands, mangroves and river deltas, forms a lucrative fishing area. With a coastline of 35 km, fishing is an important economic activity of the region. The Thane District Gazetteer (1982), puts Dahanu as one of the five most important fishing centres along the coast of Maharashtra with 21 fishing hamlets and seven fish landing centres.

Along with the Notification, Dahanu's coasts were classified under the most stringent clause of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification [CRZ I (i)], 1991 that did not permit any development 500 metres from the high tide line.

This led to a protective cover being cast on Dahanu’s coast, shielding it from the acquisitive reaches of commercial tourism and landgrabbers. Other than the thermal plant situated in the creek, there is no other major development activity on the coast that could directly affect fishing.

Over the last decade, construction of new projects that violate both the Notification and the CRZ have been brought before the Dahanu Authority and resolved.

One of the most significant cases was the setting up of a multi-berth industrial port by global giant Peninsular & Oriental (P&O) in the coastal village of Vadhavan in 1997. The entire coastline of Dahanu with its fishing communities was threatened by this proposal which involved the acquisition of large tracts of land.

For the first time, the environmental campaign became broadbased, with fisherfolk, local farmers, NGOs like the DTEWA, as well as the Kashtkari Sanghatana joining in the campaign against the port.

The Dahanu Authority held a series of hearings with activists, communities and the company and passed a landmark order in 1998, that the port could not be permitted in ecologically fragile Dahanu.

The environmental regime, along with civil society action, was able to prevent the setting up of a large industry that would have destroyed the coast and its communities.
However, a decade later, the residents of many fishing villages are struggling to live off the natural resources.

Ganesh Tandel, fisherman and resident of Dhakti Dahanu, a fishing village near Vadhavan states, “We were definitely relieved when the port was canceled, since we would have lost our livelihoods and been displaced. However, if you look at our community today, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to sustain ourselves and most of the younger generation is opting for jobs outside Dahanu.”

Statistics reveal that while the fish catch was 11,503 tonnes in 1996-97, it has now increased to 19,816 tonnes (District Socio-economic survey, 2006-07, Thane), indicating that the real problem may be the changing aspirations of the youth who do not think that their traditional occupation will give them access to the consumerist economy.

The fishing community continues to benefit from the restrictions of the Notification. However, the bigger challenge is to create sustainable and economically viable alternatives in a rapidly changing economy and a constantly evolving community.

Dahanu has the third highest area (47,606 ha) under forests amongst the 15 talukas of Thane district (Regional Plan 1996-2015). The proportion of forest area to total geographical area is 45.91%, making it the predominant land use of the region (estimates provided by Deputy Conservator of Forests, Dahanu division).

A large part of the adivasi community resides in this zone, in remote, almost inaccessible, villages. In spite of a rich history of resistance, the adivasis are today either marginal farmers or work as daily wage labourers in orchards, brick kilns, or on boats earning a wage of Rs 50-80 a day, struggling to live off their slowly eroding forests. Many migrate for several months of the year to nearby places for work.

It can be safely assumed that the entire tribal population is Below the Poverty Line (BPL) in Dahanu given that the figure of BPL families is a high 69% which is approximately the population figure of the region.

Shiraz Balsara of the Kashtkari Sanghatana, a social movement working with the adivasis of Dahanu for the last two decades, discusses their role in the environmental campaign. She states that the Sanghatana is opposed to an elitist kind of environmentalism that is not pro-people, but that they have in fact supported the environmental campaign from its initial stages.

However, it is interesting to note that in the last decade there has been no mobilisation or inclusion of the adivasis in the environmental campaign in any significant form.

On the contrary, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which disagrees with the environmentalists, has held rallies and demonstrations of adivasis demanding the removal of the special environmental status granted to Dahanu.

“A blanket ban on a number of industries is not a balanced view of development, and while concerns about the environment are important, the creation of jobs and livelihoods for a marginalised community are equally critical,” states Mariam Dhawale, member of the Maharashtra state secretariat of the CPI(M) and of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, an organisation of the CPI(M) active in the region.

The adivasi community has remained largely unaffected by the environmental campaign. Kitayun Rustom admits that it was impossible for them to create a consciousness amongst the adivasis regarding the Notification, given that most of their time went in opposing violations either before the Dahanu Authority or at various courts.

Discussions with the adivasi community in various villages (Sogve, Raytali and Jamshet), reveal that while some of them acknowledge that pollution from the thermal power plant is an issue, very few are even aware that Dahanu is a notified zone.

The forest department is unable to provide a systematic assessment of the potential benefits of the Dahanu notification on the forests and consequently on tribals. Anecdotal accounts indicate that there has been considerable degradation in the last ten years, suggesting that the Notification has not led to any meaningful ecological improvement of Dahanu.

Between the sandy soils of Dahanu's coast and the coarser earth of the hills, the plains with their black cotton soil have created a lucrative horticultural economy with chickoo as the primary commercial crop (6% of land in Dahanu is under horticulture) and subsidiary plantations of coconut and mango.

Aware of the havoc pollution can wreak on their crops, most orchard owners have supported the environmental movement and the resulting restrictions on development.

The campaign to ensure that the local thermal power plant does not pollute has been primarily supported by the orchard owners, organised under the banners of the DTEWA and more recently, the Dahanu Parisar Bachao Samiti, concerned about the impact of emissions on their crops.

However, the farming and orchard-owning community in Dahanu also grapples with its own realities. With declining yields since the late-1990s post the attack of a seed borer and reduced viability of the orchard economy, the challenge facing farmers is to be able to retain their tranquil way of life while still redefining their sources of livelihood.

Prabhakar Save, a progressive orchard owner running Tarpa, a rural tourism centre on his farm at Gholvad, states, “The constant monitoring and vigilance of the environmental campaign has played a critical role in ensuring that the region is largely protected from the impact of industrialisation and pollution. However, as farmers in a constantly changing economy, it is our responsibility to innovate and ensure that horticulture and associated activities can bring about increased incomes while still protecting the environment.”

Dahanu may have been saved from becoming a toxic hotspot like its neighbour Vapi. Additionally, the legal restrictions on industrialisation may have played some role in protecting the cultural identity and livelihoods of the diverse communities of Dahanu.

However, for environmental justice and equitable growth to happen in tandem, much more would need to be done. Efforts to create a parallel economy based on rural tourism are options that need to be urgently explored. The need of the hour is to demonstrate alternative and sustainable forms of development that are economically and ecologically viable.


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

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Establishing NGOs in China

The establishment of not-for-profit, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in China is becoming increasingly popular as the necessity of providing private alternatives to social, economic, political, and cultural issues becomes apparent.

Indeed, if China is to continue to flourish and expand, NGOs will play a critical role in making sure that it is done in a socially the a healthy and constructive manner that will be beneficial to individuals both foreign and domestic. Recently, a slew of international NGOs have taken an interest in China such as trade and industry associations, charitable foundations, educational institutions and business societies.

Some of the more famous international NGOs currently operating in China are the International Youth Foundation, Save the Children, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Wildlife Conservation Society, Greenpeace, AIDS Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Christian Action, Islamic Relief and the World Bank/IMF Staff Marco Polo Society.

This article will take a general look at the national policy and conditions related to establishing NGOs in the country. The application process is still tightly controlled by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and even well-connected organizations should be prepared to wait a few years and go through a painstakingly thorough review before approval.

China’s bureaucratic legal system can make running an NGO in the country difficult and trying. The country’s system is based on the general principles of civil law and separates nonprofit NGOs into three categories: foundations, social organizations (SOs) and civil non-enterprise institutions (CNIs).

It should be noted that, while these three categories of NGOs are technically not government agencies, the Chinese government still has an influence over them through various establishment and oversight mechanisms inherent in the national legislation.

A foundation is defined as an organization that undertakes projects with the intention of benefiting the public and is funded by donations from individuals, legal persons, or other organizations. The issuance of the 2004 Foundations Regulations has also made the distinction between public foundations and private foundations and regulates fundraising activities by public foundations.

Under the law, NGOs are allowed to establish a representative office in the country. An NGO must first find a relevant ministry in China that is willing to sponsor its registration. This can be hard to come by because ministries will not want to be associated with a potentially controversial organization.

If approved, the proposed foundation will then need to be reviewed by the Ministry of Civil Affairs but if the registration is rejected, there is no appeal process. Both social organizations and civil non-enterprise institutions can only be established by Chinese citizens and/or legal entities. The Chinese government is currently reviewing this policy and restrictions on foreign SOs and CNIs may be lifted in the future.

According to the United States International Grantmaking’s Council on Foundations (USIGCF), social organizations are formed to advance “the common desires of their members,” and are the primary NGO category in China.

They may also be formed for mutual benefit or public benefit. CNIs are usually institutions established by companies, institutions and other social forces using non-state assets and conducting non-profit-making social service activities. Private, not-for-profit hospitals, research institutes and private schools fall under the CNI category.

NGOs are subject to joint oversight by a civil affairs authority as well as a line ministry or a state organ which has jurisdiction over the organizations activity.

There are various laws that exempt NGOs from tax under the Article 26 of the Enterprise Income Tax of PRC, passed last year. NGOs are exempt from income tax if they meet the following criteria:
1) It has completed the registration for not-for-profit organizations according to law;
2) It engages in public interest activities or not-for-profit activities;
3) Income obtained is used entirely for the public interest or not-for-profit undertakings as registered, approved, or stipulated in the charter, with the exception of reasonable expenses related to the organization;
4) Pursuant to the registration, approval or stipulations of its charter, the surplus properties of the organization after write-off shall be used for public interest or not-for-profit purposes or shall be donated via the Registration Administrative Organ to another organization of the same nature and with the same tenets, and shall be publicized to the general public;
5) Properties and the benefits thereof are not to be distributed;
6) No sponsor shall reserve or enjoy and property rights to the properties the sponsor gave to the organization in question; and
7) Expenses for the salaries and fringe benefits of staff members are controlled within prescribed limits, and none of the organization’s properties shall be distributed in any disguised manner.

Other indirect taxes and subsequent exemptions, such as the business tax and value added tax (VAT), may also qualify certain NGOs in China. The business tax is applicable for the provision of services while VAT is for the sale of goods.

According to the Interim Regulations on the Business Tax, policy dictates that NGOs in the service fields of nursing, medical, education, religious, cultural, or activities that employ the disabled be exempt from paying business tax.

Similarly, the Interim Regulation on the Value Added Tax exempts goods that are used towards education, experimentation and scientific research for the disabled. Goods donated by foreign governments and international institutions are also exempt from the VAT in China.

Furthermore, individuals working in China may deduct up to 30 percent of their taxable income for donations to organizations like NGOs. This may vary slightly depending on the type of taxpayer, the organization receiving the donation, and how the contribution will be used. NGOs are also exempt from real estate and urban land use taxes.

Setting up an NGO in China is a difficult and regulated process. It is unsure when China will relax restrictions currently in place although many believe it is in China’s best interest to do so sooner rather than later.


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

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Election commission lists 13 documents accepted as ID proof for voting

The ration card, once considered the most sought after document, has lost its significance at least for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The reason: The Election Commission (EC) has refused to accept it as proof of identity or residential address.

"Apparently, the EC took the view that as there are no photographs on the ration card, it can't be accepted as a proof of identity. So, the ration card does not figure in EC's list of acceptable documents,'' a senior official told TOI on Thursday.

Ever since the EC started insisting on identity proof, besides the I-cards it provided, ration cards were also acceptable.

The Representation of People Act, 1951 empowers the EC to take all possible steps to prevent impersonation of electors. In a move to check bogus voting, the EC had taken up a massive programme to provide electoral identity card to voters. It was proposed that if a voter failed to produce the i-card issued by the EC, he should not be allowed to vote.

Subsequently, the EC found that despite all the efforts, all the voters across the country were not covered.

It was decided that besides the i-cards issued by the EC, any one proof of identity out of 13 documents would be accepted.

"The model code of conduct rules stipulate that where the electors have been provided with i-cards, they shall have to produce them at the polling station and failure or refusal to produce those cards may result in the denial of permission to vote. As we have not been able to provide the i-cards, we have no option but to permit them to produce other documents for voting,'' the official said.

* Passport
* Driving licence
* PAN card
* Service identity card
* Passbook
* Property documents
* SC/ST/OBC certificates
* Pension documents
* Freedom fighter ID card
* Arms licence
* Certificate of physical handicap
* Job card issued under NREGA
* Health insurance smart card

Source: and

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

Friday, April 10, 2009

A prayer for India’s progress

N Vidya says her generation strives to be traditional yet modern in its outlook. She believes in the power of the legal profession to bring about social transformation and wants to be an independent, activist lawyer fighting for those who have suffered injustice and who don’t have access to legal aid.

It’s morning peak hour one March day on the Delhi Metro, and the coachis crammed with students headed for Delhi University. N. Vidya , 22, is on her way to the Faculty of Law. Clutching a mobile phone in one hand and a library book in the other, the first-year law student is composed, oblivious to the noisy chatter of students around her.

The train speeds past billboards that advertise products of the era of economic openness Vidya grew up in. A mobile phone company invites her to send more text messages while a private sector bank beckons her to try its free Internet banking service. And a health ministry billboard pitches yoga as a cure for “depression” in the “age of recession”—a reference to the hard times the economy is experiencing after years of rapid growth.

Vidya is happy at the way India’s economy expanded in the era she was raised. But she is sorry that the focus on frenzied economic growth in more recent years has masked social and economic divides that have only widened while social ills such as dowry still flourish.

Vidya applied for a three-year degree course in law last year because of a belief that the legal profession can bring about social transformation.

It was in the early years of liberalization, when Vidya was in primary school, that the legal profession underwent change.

New market-friendly government policies aimed at boosting economic growth created demand for corporate lawyers to advise on foreign investments and complex commercial transactions. And a spirit of public interest entered the profession as lawyers took on both corporate giants and the government over issues such as human rights and environmental damage.

Vidya wants to be an independent, activist lawyer. Her ambition is to fight for those who have suffered injustice and those who don’t have access to legal aid. She says she will do pro bono work and take on the poor as clients rather than pursue an attractive career in corporate law that she feels will be “helping rich companies evade taxes”.

Vidya will be a first-time voter in the April-May general election. She has a voter identity card and intends to cast her ballot. She supports the Congress “because it is the only true secular party”.

Politics is something she enjoys “as a subject”, Vidya says, although she has never felt the need to volunteer or work with a political party. Before signing up for the law course, she completed an undergraduate programme in arts, specializing in political science.
“Discussing politics is important in my household,” she says.

Her father M.R. Narayan Swamy, chief news editor at the wire service Indo-Asian News Service, covered Indian politics and Sri Lankan affairs as a reporter for around two decades. Her mother Ranjini teaches English literature at St Paul’s School in Hauz Khas, New Delhi.


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

Statement by Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of India:Bonn Climate Talks

Dear Friends, representatives of the Media,

I welcome this opportunity to interact with you and to share with you our perspective on the ongoing multilateral negotiating process leading up to the 15th Conference of Parties in Copenhagen at the end of this year.

Let me begin by affirming categorically that India, as also other developing countries, have a vital stake in the successful conclusion of our multilateral negotiations. The reason is not far to seek. It is developing countries like India which would be most impacted by the adverse consequences of climate change. It is our prospects for social and economic development which would be significantly eroded if we fail to agree upon an effective global response to an urgent and compelling global challenge. Our response has to be collaborative. This would lead to an ambitious outcome which citizenry all over the world legitimately expects. It should not be aimed merely at reconciling competitive interests and positions. This would only deliver a least common denominator outcome.

We believe that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change represents an international consensus arrived at after very protracted and complex negotiations. This must be the basis on which we pursue a successful outcome at Copenhagen. Yes, the situation today is different from 1992 when the Convention was concluded; but the situation is different only in the sense that it has made the implementation of the principles and provisions of the Convention more urgent and compelling, thanks to the heightened concerns over climate change. Which is why the Bali Action Plan reaffirmed the validity of the Convention and mandated us, as negotiators, to seek the enhanced implementation of the Convention with the 4 pillars- mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance as a comprehensive package, within an agreed shared vision of long term cooperative action. The Copenhagen outcome should be able to demonstrate clearly and unambiguously, that each of the decisions that it takes, conforms to the enhanced implementation of the specific provisions of the Convention as elaborated in the Bali Action Plan.

We believe that not only must the outcome at Copenhagen be ambitious, it must also be equitable. The principle of equity is a theme which underlies the entire body of the Framework Convention and cannot be set aside through appeals to selective emissions arithmetic, in particular the neglect of the principle of historical responsibility. The stress we lay on this consensus principle is sometimes misinterpreted as an avoidance of our own responsibility to contribute to tackling the challenge of climate change. As a developing country, we do have a responsibility, which is to pursue ecologically sustainable development. We take our responsibilities very seriously and this is evident from the fact that in the past decade, we have delivered 9% annual growth in our GDP with only 4% annual increase in our energy use.

To ensure that climate change is one of the top priority items on our national agenda, the Prime Minister has set up, under his own Chairmanship, a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary Council on Climate Change. It is under the guidance of this Council that India has adopted an ambitious and comprehensive National Action Plan on Climate Change with 8 National Missions covering both mitigation and adaptation and has a significant R&D and technology development component. These Missions are being elaborated through a process of wide ranging consultations among all major stakeholders and are likely to be unveiled shortly. With the implementation of these National Missions, India would have significantly enhanced its own sustainable development strategies.

India is not waiting for external support in pursuing its sustainable development objectives. However, there is no doubt that a supportive and equitable climate change regime would enable us to significantly scale up our own efforts.

We are participating actively and constructively in the ongoing multilateral negotiations. This is in our interest. We have suggested a number of cooperative initiatives and sought to promote consensus on some of the key issues still outstanding in the negotiations. We are encouraged that our proposal to set up a network of Climate Innovation Centres to accelerate the development, dissemination and transfer of key climate relevant technologies, has received broad support from both developed and developing countries. India has contributed to the articulation of an effective architecture which can respond to the ongoing challenge of adaptation to climate change, an issue as important as mitigation, particularly for developing countries. And we have also contributed to the ongoing deliberations on financing, by contributing ideas on how best to mobilize the resources required for dealing with climate change as well as the institutional and governance mechanism this requires. These and other contributions by India may be accessed on the web-site of the UNFCCC.

We have only a few months left in which we must come up with concrete and significant decisions to be adopted by the 15th COP. The progress achieved so far has been disappointing from our perspective. We still have no clear indication about the emission reduction targets which our developed country parties are ready to commit to. There is still no clarity over the scale of financial and technological resources that would be available to developing countries to enable them to meet the additional burden imposed by adaptation and also to meet the full incremental costs of nationally appropriate mitigation actions. Nevertheless, we are optimistic that sooner rather than later, a sense of shared challenge and a collaborative spirit will inform our subsequent deliberations as we write the final and decisive chapter of what could become an epic and historic journey towards Copenhagen. Leaving the chapter unfinished is not really an option in the face of an escalating challenge for humanity.

Shyam Saran


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

Monday, April 6, 2009

Take a pledge “I won’t vote for criminals”.

A National Campaign for NO CRIMINALS in Politics

The recent Mumbai attacks have once again highlighted the need for individuals with a high level of personal integrity to provide effective leadership for our country. It is well known that across party lines, a number of individuals with criminal antecedents are given tickets to contest elections.

There is little public pressure on political parties to not give tickets to such individuals. In 2004, about 20% of those who were elected to Parliament had criminal antecedents. This problem is prevalent across most political parties. This tears into the moral fabric of the country and has an
impact on governance.

The ‘No Criminals’ Campaign Idea
The upcoming general elections offer citizens an opportunity to make an appeal to political parties not to give tickets to persons with criminal antecedents. The core idea therefore is to launch a nationwide campaign to enable citizens to express their opinion on this issue in a visible way.

The Campaign
The campaign will cover the whole of India. It will build on the public mood in the country to appeal to all political parties. A series of efforts, including widespread use of audio-visual media, print, internet, mobile phones, etc., will be made to reach out to a large number of people across
the country. Efforts will also be made to leverage the strengths of existing groups that have done work in the area of not having people with criminal antecedents contest in elections such as the Association for Democratic Reforms, the National Election Watch, etc.

The Timeline
It is expected that general elections will be held in phases beginning in April 2009. This gives us a short window to reach out to citizens across the country.

The Desired Outcome
No political party to give tickets to people with criminal antecedents in the 2009 general elections.

An Appeal

Sixty two years after winning independence, India waits to be free again. To be freed from criminals who have muscled their way into power. In 2004, about one in five MPs had criminal records, including some with charges of heinous crimes such as murder, rape, dacoity and kidnapping. This seriously tarnishes the image of honest and eminent leaders who are committed to building a greater India. It is time for every citizen of India to become a freedom fighter and unite to free India from the clutches of criminals. As citizens of a free nation, we appeal to all the political parties to refrain from giving tickets to persons with criminal backgrounds. And take an oath to free India from criminals forever.

To show your support, please visit

This is an initiative of the Public Interest Foundation.

Silver Inning Foundation supports Campaign for NO CRIMINALS in Politics.

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

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Top Management Required by NGO

Job Title: Human Resources and Administration Manager

Location: Delhi

Reporting to: Director – Operations, Oxfam India

Oxfam India is a result of the merger of the different Oxfam’s that have been operating in India for the last fifty years as separate entities: Oxfam Trust, Oxfam GB, Oxfam Novib, Oxfam Australia, Oxfam Hong Kong and Intermon Oxfam (Spain).

It undertakes all the activities of an Oxfam affiliate: international and national rights-based programming, international and national advocacy and campaigning, humanitarian response and fundraising. As a national member of an international confederation, it plays a strategic role in campaigns and advocacy, both domestically and internationally. It is expected that Oxfam India will become a full member of Oxfam International (OI), subject to fulfilment of membership criteria, after the organisational integration process is successfully completed.

Oxfam India will be expected to significantly contribute towards objectives defined in the new OI Strategic Plan (2007-2012). The Strategic Plan covers 4 main areas: economic justice (sustainable rural livelihoods through work on agriculture, trade and climate change); essential services (with a focus on health and education); rights in crisis (includes humanitarian work) and gender justice (women’s leadership and ending violence against women).

It is envisioned that Oxfam India will be capable of raising significant resources from India. Combined resources based on current funding and anticipated income growth from national fundraising will be in the order of USD20m by 2010, of which at least 25% will be from the Indian public.

The Human resources and Administration Manager will have overall responsibility for overseeing and managing all HR, Information Systems/Technology, Administration, Legal and Infrastructure activities across Oxfam India’s offices.

Key Roles and Responsibilities:
  • Provide advice and support to managers across the country on all aspects of employment practice, ensuring that employment legislation and best practice are followed.
  • Provide support on appropriate workforce planning to support program objectives and delivery. Manage and oversee large scale change management process ensuring adherence with local legal requirements and organisational policies.
  • Contribute to the operational planning and implementation of HR and organisation development initiatives to ensure roll out in an appropriate manner within India.
  • Develop and maintain staff handbook covering policies and procedures. Provide advice on the interpretation and implementation of the full range of Oxfam India’s HR policies and procedures.
  • Lead on and manage key HR business processes, e.g. pay reviews, performance reviews, HR records and data systems.
  • Line manage HR, IT and Admin team in Delhi and coach and mentor teams in other locations across Oxfam India.
  • Contribute to the organisation’s ability to respond to Humanitarian situations by leading on all HR preparedness activities and developing Humanitarian skills of relevant staff.
  • Develop and maintain information management policies and ensure systems/technology meet Oxfam India’s business requirements.
  • Work closely with the Director Operations to ensure all legal and ethical compliances are in place, e.g. FCRA.

Must Haves:
  • Minimum of 8 yrs experience and significant HR experience in a dynamic and evolving organisation.
  • Knowledge and experience of HR practices and employment legislation within India.
  • Knowledge and experience of information management systems and policies related to HR, administrative and infrastructure processes.
  • Strong interpersonal skills and ability to communicate both verbally and in writing, coupled with the professional credibility required to influence and motivate others.
  • Ability to deal with difficult situations and use judgement to solve problems.


  • Exposure to change management and development of HR systems and processes within that
  • Professional qualification in HR.
  • Interest in development issues and previous experience of working with NGOs/development sector.

Contact: Third Sector Partners, a leading CxO and board search firm in the Not for Profit sector has been retained by OXFAM India . Interested candidates can send in their CVs along with three references and a cover letter to or Contact us at: +91 22 6660 3558/6660 3559.

Only short listed candidates would be contacted. The last date of receiving applications is 10th April 2009.

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

First cousins: The ties between rural and urban India

The Government of India’s 2001 Census Report states that 285 million citizens live in urban areas, a figure that approximates the entire population of the US . Thus, if Urban India was perceived as a distinct nation, it would be -- on its own- - the fourth largest nation in the world!

But of course, that still leaves 742 million Indians living in villages, a figure that immediately compels urban studies scholars to concede that the urban scenario here, and perhaps in all of South Asia , is drastically different from that in many other parts of the world.

Thus, even now, the percentage of urban population to the total population of the country stands at only 27.8. If you keep in mind that the percentage of urban population to total population in the 1991 Census (including interpolated population of Jammu & Kashmir where the Census could not be conducted in 1991) was 25.7%, one still finds that there has been an increase of just 2.1 percentage points.

Thus, as urban studies scholars such as Amitabh Kundu have time and again pointed out, the level of urbanisation in India actually remains quite low even though its contribution to the national economy has become extremely high--calculated at 60% in 2001.
At the same time, urban poverty levels are high too and in 1993-94, almost 76 million Indians living below the poverty line were from urban areas. If we still want to think in terms of nations, then that itself is the size of Mexico !

All this information never really allows us to forget that 742 million rural Indians continue to play an important role in the lives of many of the urban dwellers and a fair proportion of them are actually related, in more ways than one. A small proportion of urban residents are recent migrants to cities, continuing to have close ties with their native homes. Their urban habitats may be relatively better equipped, even having a comparative advantage in accessing basic resources such as water and electricity, but by and large their living conditions are built with kutcha (temporary) material reminiscent of poorer homes back in the villages. And more disappointingly, their right to their homes is highly contested, often classified as illegal, putting them in a situation of insecurity that eats into their incomes, leaving them more or less as economically depressed as they were when they had started out.

Thus, to actually treat urban India as a separate nation because it contributes 60% of the national income would be very short-sighted. Not only because it is organically connected to rural India but also because this relationship is strongly reflected in the nature of the urban economy itself. It is largely energised by what is called the informal economy, and more than 60% of all employment, according to the same census, actually comes from this sector in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. What we often refer to as the informal economy is simply the vast, decrepit reality of Indian cities, where the majority of citizens are left on their own to get shelter and jobs for themselves, being part of a system that feeds off their contractual, unorganised status and where much of their social security comes from a tiny piece of land back home in their native village or through families that have stayed behind, who even as they are dependent on their urban family member also land up providing basic security to her or him when the city cannot absorb more skills.

According to the ' Food Insecurity Atlas of Urban India' by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation and the World Food Programme, 2002, more than 38% of children under the age of three in India 's cities and towns are underweight and more than 35% of children in urban areas are stunted. According to the report, the poor in India 's expanding urban areas do not get the requisite amount of calories or nutrients specified by accepted Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) norms. It also suggests that absorption and assimilation of food by the urban poor is further impaired by non-food factors such as inadequate sanitation facilities, insufficient housing and woeful access to clean drinking water. It reminds us that more than 21% of India 's urban population lives in slums, 23% of urban households do not have access to toilet facilities and nearly 8% of urban households are unable to find safe drinking water.

In many ways the above description reminds us painfully of the situation in many rural areas as well.

But this picture of urban India is not what illustrates the dominant narratives of contemporary life in Indian cities, especially as portrayed in the mainstream media. Those narratives are celebrating the relatively recent entry of middle class India into the world of global consumption and the transformation of their urban landscapes into some version of the landscapes they associate with that world. Shanghai and Singapore have now achieved the status of archetypes of such urban aspirations. What is significant is that these aspirations are also expressed as policies of governance for urban infrastructure and planning, best epitomised in the move to create world-class business centres and high quality roads favouring private transport, while ignoring the concerns of the poor in all kinds of ways. The poor as entrepreneurs, the poor as residents and the poor as consumers of mass transport systems -- an ironical situation, if you consider that this section of society actually got plenty of attention when other celebrated cities, including New York, London and Paris, transformed themselves from chaotic, slum-infested sprawls into modern habitats in the early 20th century.

Showering attention on urban India by itself is not a bad move. After all, historically, urban India has much to demonstrate in terms of a refined and complex attitude towards urban habitats. A tradition that was sadly ignored in the 20th century, when all attention was directed towards modernising ‘real’ India , the India of the villages. A process of modernisation that also displaced people, depleted natural resources and forced large numbers to migrate to cities.

So when today one part of urban India stakes a claim for improving its situation, when leading industrialists and representatives of the corporate world fold up their sleeves to transform their urban habitats -- one understands where they are coming from -- and where they want to go.
But unfortunately, a hard-headed study of urban habitats around the world reveals that their goals may just not be achieved. And this could have everything to do with the situation of the 745 million rural Indians that shadow the horizon of all Indian cities. A shadow that may darken over a period of time when one finds that to feed the ever-consuming cities with electricity, water and natural resources, the habitats of rural India gradually become more and more depleted, forcing larger and larger numbers to migrate to cities, thereby further straining resources, especially since all the existing policies are doing little to absorb the needs of the urban poor.

It is through such a narrative that Urban India, which never really forgets the rural, can best be understood. However, even this narrative is not as straightforward, if you take into consideration the following facts:
According to the Government of India’s Census report, the net addition to population in rural India during the decade 1991-2001 has been 113 million while in urban areas it has been 6 million. If you calculate the percentage decadal growth of population in rural and urban areas you get figures of 17.9 and 31.2% respectively. These statistics energise many loud arguments which claim that India is getting urbanised at a rate higher than ever before. However, we can also read the statistics slightly differently. The addition of 6 million individuals distributed across all Indian cities and towns over a decade could not really have led to the major crisis of urban infrastructure we find in many Indian cities and towns. And in reality it has not. The crisis in infrastructure, most strongly visible in terms of quality and quantity of roads, presence of slums and water scarcity, is more a manifestation of the increasing aspirations of the middle class in terms of access to private transport -- cars -- and a high-consumption lifestyle. It is not directly related to the increasing population of the poor. Of course, the poor are increasingly visible and find that their basic needs are competing more and more with those of the higher-end consumers -- land for slums is increasingly making way for private transport facilities and shopping malls, for instance.

The other urban crisis that hits the poor more strongly than others is water scarcity. This too cannot be blamed on the 6 million recently urbanised citizens but on the increasing consumption of water by various consumer industries. Both these crises are a function of increased consumption of certain kinds of goods, commodities and services and not due to population pressures alone. It is reported that our cities will very soon be severely ill-equipped to handle urban water requirements which are expected to double from 25 billion cubic metres (BCM) in 1990, to 52 BCM by the year 2025. Actually we may become water stressed by the year 2017 itself. Before we blame the increasing population alone for the huge scarcity we must note that it is the way we consume water too that is responsible. Urban conglomerations are water-intensive by their very nature. The lifestyles adopted by its inhabitants (piped water supply, flush toilets etc) make things worse. Environmentalists point out that urban-dwellers eat more meat- and water-intensive crops: each kilo of wheat requires some 500 litres of water, a kilo of rice upto 2,000 litres, while a kilo of meat requires some 20,000-50,000 litres of water. Automobiles, the hallmark of urban centres, have production processes that are highly water-intensive. The production of one car directly and indirectly consumes about 400 cubic metres of water.


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

Street dreams

Kitted out in denim jeans and a tee, a Nikon camera slung across his five-foot-six-inch frame, Vicky Roy, 20, hardly cuts the figure of a prototypical Indian streetchild. But scratch the surface and he recounts an engrossing tale of a penurious past and a marginalised existence as a street kid in Delhi.

But before he does that, Roy proudly points to a swathe of some 25-odd photographs shot by him that were part of his well-received exhibition titled ‘Street Dreams’ at the Experimental Art Gallery at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi recently. The exhibition, presented by the Salaam Balak Trust (SBT), was co-sponsored by the British High Commission and the UK’s Department For International Development (DFID).

A riveting collage of black-and-white images, Roy’s photographs focus on the issue of child rights, offering an engaging retrospective on the life of Delhi’s streetchildren. The kids’ daily battle for survival, their trials and tribulations, moments of joy, their pain and pathos, camaraderie… all are captured with the depth and dexterity of an insider.

“I’ve lived this existence, so I knew about the nuances of such a life,” elaborates Roy, occasionally breaking into chaste Bengali to speak into his frequently-beeping mobile phone. “I chose the theme because I’ve lived it. But I also wanted the world to know about streetchildren and how they can be helped. There’s a message in it for streetchildren too -- that education and the will to excel can transform their lives forever, just like it has mine.”

That it has. Born to abysmally poor parents in Purulia (West Bengal) -- a tailor father and a housekeeping mother -- Roy was disenchanted with his humdrum existence. “All the family talk revolved around the next square meal for me and my six siblings,” he says. “There was no freedom, no creativity in my existence then.” So, all of 11 years, Roy stole money from his father and caught the next train to Delhi.

He arrived at the New Delhi railway station penniless and friendless, but full of dreams to “make something out of my life”. He was soon taken under the wing of the station dadas (henchmen) who helped Roy eke out a living, playing ‘coolie’ by day and dhaba ‘mundu’ at night.

After a while, Roy was spotted by volunteers of the Salaam Balak Trust (SBT), a pan-India NGO that works for the welfare of street children, and taken to a shelter in Delhi. “The Trust gave me clothes, food, and enrolled me in school (Nutan Marathi Mandir). There were many other boys of my age there, each with a dream of his own,” he says.

Roy’s own ‘dream’ was realised only in 2004 when he was chosen by SBT to assist a British photographer documenting the lives of Delhi’s streetchildren. While helping the photographer for three months -- fixing the tripod for him, loading camera rolls, marshalling unruly streetkids together for a good ‘photo op’, travelling through the streets of old Delhi -- Roy picked up the nuances of the profession. And that triggered an interest in photography.

In the meantime, Roy cleared his Class X board exams and, aided by SBT, began looking around for employment as the shelter caters only to children below 18 years. Fortunately, with his experience, Roy was chosen by Delhi-based fashion photographer Anay Mann to help him in his studio.

For the past two years, Roy has been working as a studio assistant for Rs 4,000 a month even as he pursues his studies by correspondence for the Class XII boards. He has moved out of the SBT shelter and rents a flat along with three other youths. He enjoys living the life of a ‘jetsetter’ -- travelling by air on assignments to Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, even Kashmir and Nagaland. “Once I used to dream of seeing the interiors of a plane,” smiles Roy, “now I’ve managed to collect over a hundred boarding passes!”

The budding photographer has also bought himself a digital camera from the seven photos he sold at his exhibition, each for Rs 10,000. This was after he donated 20% to SBT. “I’m now looking for sponsors for my next exhibition, ‘The Widows of India’, for which I’ve just begun work,” says Roy. The ambitious lensman’s future plans include “setting up a state-of-the-art photo studio, and becoming one of India’s top 10 photographers.”

It’s been over an hour now… and Roy is keen to excuse himself. He has a flight to catch in the evening, another scribe waiting for him, and a beeping mobile phone to attend to. He says ‘bye’ and is off in a trice, his slender frame melting in with a hundred others on Delhi’s crowded streets that Roy once called home.

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