Monday, 4 January, 2010

What poverty, what hunger: SRK made 5 crores in 10 minutes at a party

Justify Full
Hindustan Times - 2/1/10
- Zabeeh Afaque & Minakshi Saini

King Khan spent new year's eve performing at a private bash in Gurgaon...and while he was at it, he also made a whopping Rs 5 crores for a 10 minute performance on Thursday night at a private party at Gurgaon's Umrao Resort.

The party, high on the glamour quotient with Bollywood and TV stars flown in, was clearly the most lavish display of wealth. With Rolls Royce Ghost and Hummers parked proudly in the arena, the guests, close to 3,000 in number, were brought inside in decorated horse carriages after the valets took their cars for parking. Every round table had expensive imported liquor, juices and dry fruits, with more than 250 varieties of dishes from world cuisine being served for dinner. A coffee bar, with over 20 flavours of hot and cold coffee, a make-shift ice bar kept at a temperature of minus 11 degrees and a counter with over a 100 varieties just of paan were the biggest crowd pullers. There was also a special lavish buffet, in the side lawns, for over 400 drivers of the guests.

Saturday, 24 October, 2009

Wanna refer a dictionary anymore? Coz its newest word is - NaMo

Times of India - 22/10/09

His name springs hundreds of options on any internet search engine — books, poems and blogs. NaMo, as Narendra Modi is popularly known in Gujarat, will now figure in a Gujarati lexicon — probably a first where a proper name has jostled its way into a dictionary.

‘Lok-kosh: Bhasha Ni Asha’, an online project will compile popular Gujarati words which have not yet found mention in dictionaries, to include words like NaMo which is described as ‘how people of Gujarat affectionately refer to chief minister Narendra Modi’ (Normal usage of the word means ‘to bow’), Swine Flu and BRTS, for Bus Rapid Transit System.

‘‘Gujaratilexicon’s Lokkosh is an effort to compile exceptional words. People can exchange and share their Gujarati language knowledge by contributing words,’’ said Ashok Kaneria of Gujaratilexicon. The lexicon will also have usages popular among NRGs (non-resident Gujaratis) across the globe. For instance, it has Bwana (gentleman) popularly used by NRGs in Kenya.

Labour pains: Look at the plight of the Commonwealth Games 2010 construction labourers

The Times of India - 22/10/09

For thousands of labourers and their families, working on the Commonwealth Games ‘‘world class’’ infrastructure projects has meant nothing more than the usual — they earn lower than the stipulated wage and have no access to even the most basic sanitation and health facilities.

Forty-four-year-old Tekchand (name changed), a head mason, worked at one of the Games sites for a meagre wage of Rs 100 after putting in long hours daily. He says even the number of toilets provided to the workers are inadequate. Tekchand had taken up work at the Shivaji Stadium Games site hoping work conditions would be better and the ‘‘world-class’’ character would trickle down to touch the lacklustre lives of construction workers as well. But he was soon disillusioned. ‘‘I used to work from 9.30am to 6pm for a measly amount of about Rs 100. Even on working late till 8pm, I would not be given any overtime,’’ he said.

Tekchand finally moved to an NDMC project involving the revamp of Hanuman Mandir.

According to estimates, nearly one lakh workers have been employed for the sports facilities and major infrastructural projects in Delhi. Three studies commissioned by the labour department of Delhi government, Commonwealth Games-Citizens for Workers, Women & Children (CWG-CWC) and People’s Union for Democratic Rights reflect that the working conditions for labourers have undergone very little change since the Asiad in 1982.

The study conducted by CWGCWC on a sample of 702 workers at 16 major Games sites revealed that 77% workers were unskilled or semiskilled while 83% were casual workers. Significantly, as many as 45% identified late payment, non-payment and low wages as the primary problems.

In a shocking revelation, a survey under the study estimated there were on an average 113 workers per toilet at the major sites.

An excerpt from the study carried out by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights at the Commonwealth Games Village site reads: ‘‘Unskilled workers at this site were getting Rs 85-Rs 100 per day for eight hours of work as against the stipulated minimum wage of Rs 142 till February 2009. No overtime is being paid as per the rules wherein a skilled worker should be paid Rs 284 for 12 hours of work. Instead, the workers are being paid Rs 150.’’

Saturday, 19 September, 2009

History chaptered in Saffron

Hindustan Times - 17/9/09

"The primary objective of a Hindu marriage is following dharma (religion), while the primary objective of the Muslim marriage is to establish sexual relations."

"The Muslim League was formed on the directions of the British government after Muslims developed feelings of suspicion against Hindus."

These are excerpts from two textbooks that class XI and class XII students in Rajasthan have been studying for five years.

Now, after a five-member panel of academics studied the textbooks, Rajasthan's Congress government wants the state education board to delete these references. The panel's 75-page report, made available to HT, pointed to what it called attempts to "nurture a communal ideology among the youth as opposed to the spirit of the Constitution" by the government of former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister Vasundhara Raje.

The books were introduced in 2004, when the BJP was in power in the state. The National Democratic Alliance, of which the BJP was the main constituent, between 1998-2004, ordered extensive rewriting of history textbooks when Murali Manohar Joshi headed the Union human resource development ministry.

"The authors have been members or office-bearers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or affiliated organisations," said the report. "They are making an abhorrent attempt to implement a hidden agenda through education."

"An explanation will be sought from textbook writers who have propagated the RSS' ideology," Education Minister Bhanwar Lal told HT.

The authors of the textbooks are unapologetic. "What I have written in based on facts," said Manroop Singh Meena, one of the authors of the class X social sciences textbook, now used by more than 4,00,000 students.

"Only whores can choose their partners", "Education has contributed to this dirt", "Lovers will be hanged, tortured & nailed to death": Khap Justice

Times of India

Sanghi, like most villages in this prosperous belt, has dark secrets to keep. Here, rape is casual, murder-by-pesticide of teenage daughters acceptable and it is routine to dispose of their bodies by burning them in cattlecarts. Here, young women are routinely threatened, abused and killed.

Girls who survive their mother’s womb are brought up as daughters of the village. Not just Sanghi’s daughters, but of 12 neighbouring villages, says a khap member. All 12 villages form the Khidwali Bara khap, a Jat territorial unit. It decrees that boys and girls within these 12 villages cannot marry. Interestingly, the entire onus of ‘siblinghood’ rests on the girl. She is the keeper of village honour. Exceptions may be made for a boy, if the khap decides, but a girl is never allowed to bend the rules.

If a couple runs away, the women in their families run the risk of being raped, gang-raped, and boycotted. At times, khaps also ‘fine’ the families lakhs of rupees.

Fearing their daughters would go astray, many parents marry them off early. In the government senior secondary school, two Class IX students just got married, some others are engaged.

Squatting on his haunches, dhoti-clad and bare-chested, Mahendra Singh Tikait declares: “We live by a moral code where honour has to be protected at any cost.’’ As the chaudhary of the Baliyan khap, the 79-year-old farmer’s views matter. He presides over a system of justice that is almost medieval and disdains the laws of the Indian state.

Tikait’s moral code is simple. In his own words:

- LOVE MARRIAGES ARE DIRTY - “I don’t even want to repeat the word…Only whores can choose their partners.”
- EDUCATION HAS CONTRIBUTED TO “THIS DIRT” - “Recently an educated couple married against the samaj’s (community’s) wishes in Jhajjar. We hail the panchayat’s decision to execute them…The government cannot protect this atyachar (immoral behaviour).”

Those who dare to cross the line must suffer the consequences. Like Radha of Muzaffarnagar’s Fugana village. Three years ago, she was stripped, burnt and hung from a tree. Her crime was to fall in love. Anecdotal accounts say she is one of many.

He scoffs at the laws of the Indian state, calling them “the root of all problems’’. “That’s your Constitution, ours is different.’’ Daryal Singh, one of Tikait’s retainers, adds that “shameless people (lovers) deserve to die.’’ He gives graphic accounts of lovers being “hanged, tortured or nailed to death”. Irked at being equated with the Taliban and kangaroo courts, khap panchayats in Haryana are now determined to get some legal sanction. Soon, they will draw up a set of recommendations for making ‘‘suitable’’ amendments to the Hindu Marriage Act (1955) at the state level so that their rulings become valid under law.

Justice (retd) Devi Singh Teotia, a former judge of the Punjab & Haryana HC, who actively participated in the Sarv Khap Panchayat, said: ‘‘Khap leaders are keepers of Jat tradition and they have lately been facing flak for it. If the amendments come through, there will be no more clashes between tradition and the law, and they (the khap leaders) won’t be maligned.’’

Tuesday, 1 September, 2009

The media guide on 'How to get on Page 3'

Hindustan Times - 1/9/09

- Trick 1:

Get yourself into the guest list of every event or simply gatecrash. One way is to bribe the security. They are the ones who check the invites when you enter the venue. Model Amanpreet Wahi says, "Some 'designers' from Mumbai, wearing glares at night and looking so sidey, gatecrashed at my pre-wedding bash. I was so shocked. Some PR people also came uninvited".

- Trick 2:

Tag along with a page 3 photographer or a journalist friend and get them to pass your pics around. Or simply pose as one of them. PS: Make sure you carry phoney business cards, no one looks too hard at what's written. Once you're in, pose pretty for the cameras.

- Trick 3:

Flaunt a firang accent and hang out with regulars. An accent can get you mistaken for a loaded NRI. You may even be allowed to hang out with the diplomatic crowd. Click! You have your visa card. Talking about this trend, Wahi adds, "I have seen these 35-40 year old men who just get a skimpily clad girl with them and get clicked with her. All they have is a loaded wallet (or the pretence of one) and an arm-candy. That's the way."

- Trick 4:

Pick up a fight, lock lips or do something really crazy. A smooch or a smack works wonders. Also, sport skimpy clothes and crazy tattoos. Designer Rahul Jain says, "People start kissing and touching the moment they see the lensman.These are people who otherwise don't even say Hi to each other. A male designer comes wearing a necklace and another wears something really bizarre"

Saturday, 29 August, 2009

The DUSU Fraud - If this is how it all starts, imagine how it will go on

Times of India - 27/8/09

The DUSU (Delhi University Student Union) elections have been announced, and it’s that time of the year again when Delhi University’s top wannabe political honchos compete for the prize of who gets to pull the strings of power on campus. DT brings you the intrigue, scheming, politics and power play from behind the scenes:

- Pretty & Pimped

Notice how all the faces on the posters are well nigh flawless? The parties look for an attractive face, preferably a female’s. Also, to rephrase Rakhi Sawant, ‘Jo bhagwan nahin deta, woh photoshop de deta hai!’ The candidates’ photos are airbrushed to look good. It’s not possible for the candidate to meet everyone in the Univ, so it’s the face that gets the votes. “I asked a senior who he’d vote for, and he replied, ‘Jo sundar ho woh.’ I think I’ll do the same!” says first year student Ranvijay Mahla. And by the way, the Lygndoh Committee’s guideline prohibiting the use of printed posters and pamphlets unless handmade, can go take a hike!

- Keep ‘em happy

It’s also important to let students know that you’ll keep them happy. So it’s free trips to Fun and Food Village, free movies, and free lunches in the college canteen. Richa Jha, a third year student of Satyawati College, says, “Students were given free trips to Fun and Food Village
and free lunches.”

At nights, crates of booze are sent to the boys’ hostels and sometimes even the candidates are present. An insider confirms, “The leader of the group is called and the booze is given to him. It’s important to have the leaders on your side.”

- What’s in a name? lots!

It’s all about where your name appears on the EVM. Buzz has it that voters who don’t know whom to vote for usually press the first button, and some candidates take this pretty seriously. An extra A or AA added before their name ensures that they enjoy the top spot on the ballot list. An insider confirms, “AA Deepak Chaudhary, AA Rohit Chaudhary, etc, are all names just for the elections!”

- Outside help

Every year, some major parties get about 2000 outsiders to help them in the elections. A veteran DUSU leader says, “One has to make the most of these ten days. The parties get people from other states. These people help cover the vast DU campus. Jeeps, cars, etc, are hired to ferry around these ‘supporters’ and the publicity material. The candidate should be followed by cars and supporters, it looks impressive.” But don’t the Lyngdoh Committee guidelines forbid the use of vehicles?

- Bring in the moolah

Contesting an election needs big bucks. A li’l birdy tells us that a candidate from a major party needs at least Rs 10 lakhs to get noticed, not to mention a few lakhs more from the party and some from supporters, to keep going. The petrol alone costs more than 10,000 bucks. The Lyngdoh Committee’s guidelines, on the other hand, limit maximum expenditure per candidate to Rs 5000.

- Power show

To get an election ticket, a candidate has to prove to the party that he enjoys campus-wide support and influence, for which a display of strength or, in DU lingo, a ‘shakti pradarshan’ is organised. The ‘supporters’ there are DU students, IP students, people from different states and professions and some who join the crowd for money. The candidates travel through the campus with their entourage, who shout slogans, throw pamphlets in the air, and wave banners; dhols and whistles complete the show.

- Campaign capers

Once the nominations have been filed, the campaigning begins. With each candidate vying for visibility, a fight for space ensues. You paste your posters, others paste theirs, so what do you do to have an edge? Tear those of the others and put yours up there. An ex-chhatra neta gives us the lowdown – “The real campaigning happens at night. The supporters of the candidate get into cars; one car carries posters, another carries the gang of students who will tear the other party’s posters, and a third has mazdoors who will paste theirs. Also, the boys who tear the posters have to have brawn. One more car carries laths (bamboo sticks) that are made to order from Chandni Chowk.” Why, you ask? “When you tear posters, the other party’s members might spot you and then there’s always the chance of a fight.” Sometimes, the palms of the police have to be greased, so that they don’t stop you from pasting posters on any but the ‘democracy’ walls. Once this tearing, pasting, retearing and re-pasting has gone on for a couple of days, the parties reach an agreement. The posters at unauthorised places can be managed later by either paying the fine or like some netas, attending the court cases filed by MCD. And thus, the dance of democracy goes on in DU!

Thursday, 6 August, 2009

The execution of a fake encounter


Official police version:

Sanjit’s encounter death at 10:30am on July 23, a team of MPC personnel was conducting frisking operations in Imphal’s Khwairamband Keithel market. They saw a suspicious youth coming from the direction of the Uripok locality. When asked to stop, the version goes, the youth suddenly pulled out a gun and ran away, firing at the public in a bid to evade the police.

The youth was finally cornered inside Maimu Pharmacy near Gambhir Singh Shopping Arcade. He was asked to surrender. Instead, he fired at the police. The police retaliated and the youth was killed. The account states that a 9mm Mauser pistol was “recovered”.

A govt survey says 5400 families in Delhi are headed by children, the sole breadwinners

Hindustan Times - 6/8/09

One fourth of these children do odd jobs like scavenging
Another one fourth of these children are employed in the construction sector

Gaurav (13) is an unusually pensive teenager. He weighs every word before he speaks, almost fearful of reprisal. At his age, he knows how to cope with loss. His parents are dead. His younger brother Sumit and he were abandoned by his elder brother. But at his age, he also knows how to earn a living.

The two boys work in a local sweatshop in East Delhi's Harsh Vihar and earn Rs 1,000 per month. "We manage fine," said Gaurav when asked if he felt lonely. They live in a one-room brick house with no water or power supply.

A survey carried out by the Delhi government for identifying socially and financially vulnerable groups found there are over 5,400 such families headed by children in the city. These were just the results of the first phase of the survey. Many of these children are orphans, others were abandoned by their parents.

Usha (17) was sold by her parents to an old man. When she managed to escape and return to her home in Sunder Nagri, an unauthorised colony in east Delhi, her parents abandoned her and her five siblings and disappeared overnight. Usha and her siblings lived in the shack their parents owned for a while. While the other children were eventually taken in by their relatives, she was left behind. The teenager now works as a cook with St. Stephen's Hospital's Community Outreach Programme in Sunder Nagri.

Wednesday, 5 August, 2009

Education is now a right in India

Times of India - 5/8/09

Under the law, children in the 6-14 age group have to be in school
No student will be failed till Class 8th
No capitation fees, no screening of parents for admissions
25% reservation for ‘disadvantaged groups’ in neighbourhood schools
No pvt tuition by teachers
School management committee to have 50% women members

India on Tuesday joined a select global club with the passage of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, setting in motion an ambitious, if much-delayed, scheme of providing education to every child in the age bracket of 6-14 years.

The law is unique as while providing compulsory education, it would not fail any student till Class 8th while enjoining upon all government and private schools to provide 25% quota to “disadvantaged” children. The law provides for building neighbourhood schools in three years whose definition and location will be decided by states.

The legislation which has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha will soon be enacted after getting the assent from President Pratibha Patil.

Crucially, the bill aims to do away with the practice of schools taking capitation fees before admission and subjecting the children or parents to any screening procedure.

The RTE would empower the seven-year-old 86th Constitutional amendment that made free and compulsory education a fundamental right. The RTE Bill sets down guidelines for states and the Centre to execute and enforce this right. Earlier, education was part of the directive principles of state policy.

Both Centre and states will be responsible for the finances. The Centre will prepare the capital and recurring expenditure and provide it as grants-in-aid to each state.