Tagged: India

A woman is killed every hour in India over dowry

One woman dies every hour in India because of dowry-related crimes, women’s rights activists have said.

The National Crime Records Bureau said that 8,233 women were killed across India last year because of disputes over dowry payments given by the bride’s family to the groom or his family at the time of marriage.

The conviction rate in dowry-related crimes remained a low 32 percent, according to statistics the bureau published last week.

Women’s rights activists and police said that loopholes in dowry prevention laws, delays in prosecution and low conviction rates have led to a steady rise in dowry-related crimes.

Dowry demands have become even more insistent and expensive following India’s economic boom, said Ranjana Kumari, a women’s rights activist.

Suman Nalwa, a senior New Delhi police officer dealing with crimes against women, said dowry practices extended to all classes in society.

Even highly educated people don’t say no to dowry,” she said.

Though the giving or receiving of a dowry is illegal under Indian law. Another demeaning icon of Indian culture is maintained by ignorance among the populace – and no enforcement, no real effort by the government to lift people up from the past.

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Salmonella link to spices making serious changes in farming

dried fruit, spices, Istanbul

Spices grown in the mist-shrouded Western Ghats here have fueled wars, fortunes and even the discovery of continents, and for thousands of years farmers harvested them in the same traditional ways. Until now.

Science has revealed what ancient kings and sultans never knew: instead of improving health, spices sometimes make people very sick, so Indian government officials are quietly pushing some of the most far-reaching changes ever in the way farmers here pick, dry and thresh their rich bounty.

The United States Food and Drug Administration will soon release a comprehensive analysis that pinpoints imported spices, found in just about every kitchen in the Western world, as a surprisingly potent source of salmonella poisoning.

In a study of more than 20,000 food shipments, the food agency found that nearly 7 percent of spice lots were contaminated with salmonella, twice the average of all other imported foods. Some 15 percent of coriander and 12 percent of oregano and basil shipments were contaminated, with high contamination levels also found in sesame seeds, curry powder and cumin. Four percent of black pepper shipments were contaminated…

Mexico and India had the highest share of contaminated spices. About 14 percent of the samples from Mexico contained salmonella, the study found, a result Mexican officials disputed.

India’s exports were the second-most contaminated, at approximately 9 percent, but India ships nearly four times the amount of spices to the United States that Mexico does, so its contamination problems are particularly worrisome, officials said. Nearly one-quarter of the spices, oils and food colorings used in the United States comes from India…

Westerners are particularly vulnerable to contaminated spices because pepper and other spices are added at the table, so bacterial hitchhikers are consumed live and unharmed. Bacteria do not survive high temperatures, so contaminated spices present fewer problems when added during cooking, as is typical in the cuisine of India and most other Asian countries.

…Sophisticated DNA sequencing of salmonella types is finally allowing food officials to pinpoint spices as a cause of repeated outbreaks, including one in 2010 involving black and red pepper that sickened more than 250 people in 44 states. After a 2009 outbreak linked to white pepper, an inspection found that salmonella had colonized much of the Union City, Calif., spice processing facility at the heart of the outbreak…

One more example of how “tradition” often means unhealthy. Dedication to clean conditions during harvest and processing for market can make all the difference in the world to the safety of consumers – with no loss of flavor or function.

RTFA for lots of anecdotal info on the raising of many spices. Interesting stuff. You can never have too much knowledge about what you eat.

Indian physician battled superstition – murdered in the street

For nearly three decades, an earnest man named Narendra Dabholkar traveled from village to village in India, waging a personal war against the spirit world.

If a holy man had electrified the public with his miracles, Dr. Dabholkar, a former physician, would duplicate the miracles and explain, step by step, how they were performed. If a sorcerer had amassed a fortune treating infertility, he would arrange a sting operation to unmask the man as a fraud. His goal was to drive a scientist’s skepticism into the heart of India, a country still teeming with gurus, babas, astrologers, godmen and other mystical entrepreneurs.

That mission ended Tuesday, when two men ran up behind Dr. Dabholkar, 67, as he crossed a bridge, shot him at point-blank range, then jumped onto a motorbike and disappeared into the traffic coursing through this city.

Dr. Dabholkar’s killing is the latest episode in a millenniums-old wrestling match between traditionalists and reformers in India. When detectives began putting together a list of Dr. Dabholkar’s enemies, they found that it was long. He had received threats from Hindu far-right groups, been beaten by followers of angry gurus and challenged by councils upholding archaic caste laws. His home state, Maharashtra, was considering legislation he had promoted for 14 years, banning a list of practices like animal sacrifice, the magical treatment of snake bites and the sale of magic stones.

In the rush of emotion that followed Dr. Dabholkar’s death, the state’s governor on Saturday signed the so-called anti-black magic bill into force as an ordinance. But Dr. Dabholkar never put stock in sudden breakthroughs, said his son, Hamid Dabholkar, as mourners filtered through the family’s home. “He knew this kind of battle is fought across the ages,” he said. “The journey we have chosen is one that started with Copernicus. We have a very small life, of 70 to 80 years, and the kind of change we will see during that time will be small.”

RTFA for the whole story.

Of course, on a different scale this could be the United States. Religious nutballs believe in lynchings and murders to “defend” their faith. They tend to restrict their killing to abortion clinics or uppity young Black men; but, the practice is approved by silence as much as assent in public.

No other Western nation is beset by superstition and ignorance as much as the United States. Blather against science is as sacred in Congress as any flat earth-fundamentalist church. So, let’s don’t condemn the nation of India for being a different kind of backwards – when that difference is only one of degree not disagreement.

Express train kills pilgrims – pilgrims kill engineer, burn trains

A speeding train has run over a group of Hindu pilgrims at a crowded station near Dhamara, a small town in Bihar state, killing at least 28 people.

Railways spokesman Anil Saxena said that some of those hit by the express train were Hindu pilgrims who had left two trains.

“Passengers got out of the train, came on the track and they were moving on that track. That is the time they got run over,” Arunendra Kumar, chairman of the Railway Board, told a news conference in New Delhi.

After the incident, a mob reportedly assaulted the train driver to death and set two trains on fire.

Many railway personnel have run away and left the station completely unmanned, according to officials…

About 40 people on average die every day on India’s vast but decrepit railway network. Some passengers fall off overcrowded commuter trains.

The train was an express – express by Indian standards since it was proceeding at 48mph – not scheduled to stop at the station. The death of the pilgrims was a tragedy though not unusual among folks who apparently think every train stops at every station.

Which logically precedes the vigilante behavior after the accident.

Coronary bypass surgery in the US? $106,000 or more. In India, at Narayana Hrudayalaya Health City? How about $1,583

Devi Shetty is obsessed with making heart surgery affordable for millions of Indians. On his office desk are photographs of two of his heroes: Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi.

Shetty is not a public health official motivated by charity. He’s a heart surgeon turned businessman who has started a chain of 21 medical centers around India. By trimming costs with such measures as buying cheaper scrubs and spurning air-conditioning, he has cut the price of artery-clearing coronary bypass surgery to $1,583, half of what it was 20 years ago, and wants to get the price down to $800 within a decade. The same procedure costs $106,385 at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“It shows that costs can be substantially contained,” said Srinath Reddy, president of the Geneva-based World Heart Federation, of Shetty’s approach. “It’s possible to deliver very high quality cardiac care at a relatively low cost.”

Medical experts like Reddy are watching closely, eager to see if Shetty’s driven cost-cutting can point the way for hospitals to boost revenue on a wider scale by making life-saving heart operations more accessible to potentially millions of people in India and other developing countries.

“The current price of everything that you see in health care is predominantly opportunistic pricing and the outcome of inefficiency,” Shetty, 60, said in an interview in his office in Bangalore, where he started his chain of hospitals, with the opening of his flagship center, Narayana Hrudayalaya Health City, in 2001.

Cutting costs is especially vital in India, where more than two-thirds of the population lives on less than $2 a day and 86 percent of health care is paid out of pocket by individuals. A recent study by the Public Health Foundation of India and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that in India non-communicable ailments such as heart disease are now more common among the poor than the rich…

“There has been fast urbanization in India that’s brought with it a change in dietary patterns and lifestyle,” said Usha Shrivastava, head of public health at the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation. “It’s leading to this huge jump in cardiovascular disease…”

The biggest impediment for heart surgery in India is accessibility. Shetty aims to bridge that by building hospitals outside India’s main cities. He said he plans to add 30,000 beds over the next decade to the 6,000 the hospital chain has currently, and has identified 100 towns with populations of 500,000 to 1 million that have no heart hospital.

A 300-bed, pre-fabricated, single-story hospital in the city of Mysore cost $6 million and took six months for construction company Larsen & Toubro Ltd. to build, Shetty said. Only the hospital’s operating theaters and intensive-care units are air-conditioned, to reduce energy costs…

“Global health-care costs are rising rapidly and as countries move toward universal health coverage, they will have to face the challenge of providing health care at a fairly affordable cost,” said the World Heart Federation’s Reddy, a New Delhi-based cardiologist who is also president of the Public Health Foundation of India.

Anyone in the American Medical Association listening? I imagine the few progressive thinkers in Congress are – and no one else in that useless body of corporate pimps.

Actually, given where I live, I hope there are more Mexican doctors paying attention. There are beaucoup grayheads from my neck of the prairie who already make their way over the border for much of their medical care.

India to send world’s last telegram. Full Stop.

In 1850, the British inventor William O’Shaughnessy — who would later become famous for his early experiments with medical cannabis — sent a coded message over a telegraph line in India. His telegram would usher in a new age of communication in and for India, connecting the country in a way that had never before been possible.

Now, sometime on July 14, 2013, someone in India will have a dubious honor: he or she will send the country’s last telegram. The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, India’s state-run telecom company, will shutter is telegram service, bringing the long era of Indian telegraphy from a dash … to a full stop.

The shuttering of the service is not surprising. In a country that has quickly embraced, if not fully adopted, mobile technologies, the telegram has become largely redundant as a method of quick, long-distance communication. BSNL’s telegram service had been losing money — and lots of it — for years. “We were incurring losses of over $23 million a year because SMS and smartphones have rendered this service redundant,” said Shamim Akhtar, general manager of BSNL’s telegraph services…

At their peak in 1985, 60 million telegrams were being sent and received a year in India from 45,000 offices. Today, only 75 offices exist, though they are located in each of India’s 671 districts through franchises. And an industry that once employed 12,500 people, today has only 998 workers…

Unions of the labor variety, given all that, have urged Indian telecom minister Kapil Sibal to keep the telegram service running, even as a shadow of its former self. “It is a valued service and should be kept as a skeleton service and preserved as a heritage,” one union told The Hindu. But niche uses weren’t enough to convince the BSNL to keep its doors — and its telegraph lines — open. The telegram service is a business. And like most business, an end to profitability means, simply an end. Or in this case: a STOP.

May as well put it to rest. Would you buy a car because it can play 8-track tapes?

Politicians think banning bikini-clad mannequins will reduce incidents of sexual assault in India

The civic body in Mumbai has passed a proposal to ban the display of bikini-clad mannequins in lingerie shops…The proposal, intended to reduce incidents of assault on women, is under active consideration by the body’s chief executive, Sitaram Kunte.

The proposal was unanimously passed by the assembly, which has 227 members from various political parties.

There have been a number of high-profile sexual assaults against women in India in recent months…Dozens of rape cases have been reported in Mumbai since the beginning of the year.

Ritu Tawade, a member of the civic body, first put forward the idea a couple of months ago, after a series of rape cases in the country.

She told the BBC that the public display of scantily clothed mannequins in shop windows “indirectly or directly leads to rape”.

Mrs Tawade believes that they are titillating for men. “It’s a Western thing, our society doesn’t allow them,” she said…

Mumbai Mayor Sunil Prabhu supports the idea. He told a local newspaper that he believed scantily clad mannequins invited the unwanted attention of men, in a city that has seen a surge of sex crimes.

I’m less certain that there has been anything other than an increase in the reporting of sex crimes. Blaming the victims is pretty standard behavior for any ignoranus lacking respect for women. That doesn’t change according to the city you live in; but, rather, the culture controlling social mores.

If rapes aren’t prosecuted, if sexual assault on the street or public transit is acceptable male behavior, the context of advertising or clothing only defines this year’s excuse. It will continue unless the legal system enforces a code of behavior that doesn’t build-in excuses for sexual assault.

Pic of the Day


Click to enlarge

This beautiful geometric assembly is Chand Baori – The Deepest Step Well in the World

Abhaneri, Jaipur, is a small village in Rajasthan. Abhaneri is famous for the deepest step well in world. The well is located opposite to a temple known as Harshat Mata temple. It is believed that the Chand Baori step well has some religious connection and that’s the reason to build it in front of the temple. The step well is a square construction measuring 35 mtr on each side. 3 out of the four side hve steps that lead down to the bottom of the well. These steps were used to draw water from the well.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Jihadi leader lives openly in Pakistan – no one wants $10 million reward offered by the United States

Lahore, Pakistan — Ten million dollars does not seem to buy much in this bustling Pakistani city. That is the sum the United States is offering for help in convicting Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, perhaps the country’s best-known jihadi leader. Yet Mr. Saeed lives an open, and apparently fearless, life in a middle-class neighborhood here.

“I move about like an ordinary person — that’s my style,” said Mr. Saeed, a burly 64-year-old, reclining on a bolster as he ate a chicken supper. “My fate is in the hands of God, not America.”

Mr. Saeed is the founder, and is still widely believed to be the true leader, of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, in which more than 160 people, including six Americans, were killed. The United Nations has placed him on a terrorist list and imposed sanctions on his group. But few believe he will face trial any time soon in a country that maintains a perilous ambiguity toward jihadi militancy, casting a benign eye on some groups, even as it battles others that attack the state.

Mr. Saeed’s very public life seems more than just an act of mocking defiance against the Obama administration and its bounty, analysts say. As American troops prepare to leave Afghanistan next door, Lashkar is at a crossroads, and its fighters’ next move — whether to focus on fighting the West, disarm and enter the political process, or return to battle in Kashmir — will depend largely on Mr. Saeed…

His security seemingly ensured, Mr. Saeed has over the past year addressed large public meetings and appeared on prime-time television, and is now even giving interviews to Western news media outlets he had previously eschewed…

Still, he says he has nothing against Americans, and warmly described a visit he made to the United States in 1994, during which he spoke at Islamic centers in Houston, Chicago and Boston. “At that time, I liked it,” he said with a wry smile.

During that stretch, his group was focused on attacking Indian soldiers in the disputed territory of Kashmir — the fight that led the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate to help establish Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1989…

“When there are no Americans in Afghanistan, what will happen?” said Mushtaq Sukhera, a senior officer with the Punjabi police who is running a fledgling demobilization program for Islamist extremists. “It’s an open question.”

A shift could be risky for Mr. Saeed: Some of his fighters have already split from Lashkar in favor of other groups that attack the Pakistani state. And much will depend on the advice of his military sponsors.

For their part, Pakistan’s generals insist they have abandoned their dalliance with jihadi proxy groups. In a striking speech in August, the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the country’s greatest threat came from domestic extremism. “We as a nation must stand united against this threat,” he said. “No state can afford a parallel system of governance and militias.”

Unfortunately, that last statement by General Kayani although truthful guarantees nothing. No one is confident that Pakistan’s military – and especially the ISI, their answer to the CIA – is at all interested in building anything more than bank vaults filled with looted gold. The blood of their fellow Pakistanis means nothing.

Mobile phones irreversibly disrupt India

mobile India

In 2012, India had 925 million mobile phone subscribers. The phones have helped organize protests by middle-class Indians, most recently against the savage rape and slaying of a young woman in Delhi.

They have also starred in one of India’s biggest-ever scandals. The country’s most prominent politicians, journalists and businessmen were incriminated in a rigged auction of 2G spectrum; they were exposed by the secretly taped phone conversations of a corporate lobbyist…

In the early 1990s, when I first started living in a village in the state of Himachal Pradesh, the local post office, which tellingly had a broken clock and a nonfunctional phone, was still the main center of communications.

Like most residents of Mashobra, I had no phone at home — the government’s waiting list for one extended indefinitely into the future. I went often to the bazaar to make calls from a public phone and to pick up my mail at the small post office, where a migrant laborer or two would invariably request I write brief messages on postcards and money-order forms to their loved ones…

My application for a phone was finally approved in 1999; and Daulatram, who had then started to officiate as a priest at weddings and funerals, become one of my Bakelite’s regular users, along with a couple of young men looking for jobs outside the village.

But the prohibitive cost of national and international calls meant that I had to monitor the conversations and put the phone in a padlocked wooden case, lest a reckless talker plunge me into penury.

Mobile phones had arrived by then in India. But they hadn’t reached our village. Doron and Jeffrey date their rapid proliferation to 2000, when the cost of mobile calls per minute collapsed from 16 rupees to 4 rupees (about 36 cents to 9 cents). But I kept scribbling messages in awkward Hindi at the post office until the middle of the decade, when cheap, prepaid connections became widely available and known.

Cold statistics tell the story of this dramatic transformation much more vividly. Subscribers grew from 45 million in 2002 to almost a billion in 2012.

Pankaj Mishra is the author of much more than articles for Bloomberg. That doesn’t diminish the information, the feeling of what this truly disruptive technology is beginning to mean to life in India.

RTFA and enjoy his descriptive color, experience. Learn more and more about the changes, good and bad, brought by a device small anough to fit in your pocket – and give you access to the whole world.