- Anger fumes in Manesar after Death of Baby Girl Mahi
- Don’t underestimate talent in India says Animator Arjun Rihan
- Up Police going for a major Revolution
- Goa readies Sao Joao feast on Sunday
- Free-medicines-for-all programme launch in October
- PM assures growth, reforms, stable rupee
- India, Spain share a laugh over cartoons
- Air India Pilots go for Hunger Strike on Jantar Mantar
Posted: 24 Jun 2012 07:44 AM PDT
About 90 hours of anxiety and hope turned to despair and disgust Sunday as rescuers who had furiously dug a parallel tunnel to save a girl who fell into a narrow and deep borewell here found her dead, the body beginning to decompose.
The grieving parents of Mahi, who slipped into the dingy 70-feet deep tubewell close to midnight Wednesday, were inconsolable. They accused the administration of delaying the rescue efforts.
“Who will give us back our daughter now?” asked her father Neeraj Upadhhyaya, soon after the ESI Hospital in Manesar town handed over to the family the body of the girl whose tragedy occurred on her birthday.
A senior army officer admitted that the rescue operation was slowed down by the rocky terrain.
“We could not dig as fast as we wanted,” Brigadier S.P. Singh told reporters here. “There were too many rocks. We couldn’t blast them for fear of hurting our own men or the girl. This slowed down our work.”
Although the nationally televised attempt to rescue the young Mahi was intensified after Delhi Metro and Haryana’s Rapid Metro brought in their specialized equipment, doctors said the girl may have died a long ago.
Seeing the decomposed state of her body, doctors felt she could have died on Wednesday night or Thursday.
“She may have died the same day or the next day,” Deepak Mathur, who along with B.B. Agrawal conducted the post-mortem, told IANS.
But until the clock struck noon Sunday, the thousands gathered at the borewell site at the Industrial Model Township, where the girl’s father worked, were praying and hoping that the army would somehow succeed.
Soldiers had begun digging a parallel tunnel Thursday morning but by Friday evening they were thoroughly exhausted, forcing the army officials to bring in a fresh military unit.
By late Thursday, worried army officers reported that a miniature camera dropped into the borewell was not showing any signs of movement by Mahi.
On Saturday, the army took help from a group of civilians adept in digging borewells and tunnels.
Finally, after nearly 90 agonizing hours, a soldier and one of the civilian rescuers reached the spot where Mahi lay. The girl — the body — was gently lifted and rushed to the nearest hospital.
It was too late. IANS broke the story of the girl’s death when Chief Medical Officer Praveen Garg of the Civil Hospital here said that Mahi was no more.
A short time later, Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner P.C. Meena confirmed that Mahi died before any help could reach her.
Mahi’s mother Sonia alleged that the family had been virtually kept under house arrest during the entire rescue operation.
She said she could only look at the operation from her window. “For the last few days, the district administration was not giving us any update on
Vikram Singh Yadav, the sarpanch of Koh village where the incident happened, said the army and the National Security Guard (NSG) came quickly Thursday but fought publicly on who should do the rescue.
Dharmendra Yadav, owner of a private hospital in Manesar which supplied oxygen and pipes for Mahi inside the borewell, accused the army of shooing away civilians.
“But it was a civilian who finally brought out the child from the borewell,” he said. “The army should have cooperated with the local people.”
But we did that, Brigadier Singh said, thanking the locals for all the cooperation they gave. “We are sorry for what happened. No mother and father should face such a situation. May the girl’s soul be in peace.”
Earlier, the local administration quietly distributed safety helmets to officials involved in the rescue operation, fearing unrest and violence if the girl died.
Amit, a resident of Sector 14 here, said when the news of Mahi’s death came, he was about to have lunch. “But I could not eat and I rushed to the
So did hundreds of others, many unable to hold back their tears.
Sanjit Sehrawat from Sukhrali village said his family was upset over what happened to Mahi.
According to police, a four-year-old girl had similarly fallen into a deep borewell in the same area Feb 26, 2004. But she was rescued, thanks to the initiative of a police officer, Usman Ali.
Posted: 24 Jun 2012 05:37 AM PDT
Indian animator Arjun Rihan had a fulfilling experience while working on his first international project, Disney-Pixar’s just released 3D animation film “Brave”. But he says it would be a mistake to underestimate Indian talent and feels that this country should hold on to its cultural context and tell its own stories.
Rihan, a software engineer who worked in Pune for 16 years, said: “It’s an exciting phase for animation movies globally and India as well.”
“The cycle of inspiration is good. But apart from the technicality, most animation films in the West revolve around the storytelling. It’s important for us to hold on to our cultural context and tell our own stories rather than getting influenced (by the West). The technicalities will fall into place. I think it’s a mistake to underestimate the existing talent in India,” he told IANS in an e-mail interaction.
Rihan, who has now shifted his base to the US, termed his experience of working in the Hollywood movie as “fulfilling” and that it had made him a “better” professional.
“My role was to create characters for the movie. ‘Brave’, unlike other animated films, has a complex story. If we don’t want any errors to crop up in the latter parts of the story, we need to sort out all design and animation-related issues on the drawing board itself. Everything that has gone in the making of the film has only made it better,” he said.
“Working independently meant having to work at the basics of every department. I knew my ideas inside out and I knew how to build on them best. It’s very fulfilling. It has helped me at Pixar because my vision was always on the final picture, even while doing the details,” he added.
Released Friday, “Brave” is about Princess Merida. Determined to make her own path in life, she defies a custom and brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
The job of a software professional never interested him and in his bid to do something creative, Rihan enrolled himself at the University of Southern California where he studied animation.
“My interest in animation was sparked by American character animator Preston Blair’s books at the age of nine, and today I am working with the same animation group,” Rihan proudly said.
“While growing up in India, I saw ‘Spiderman’ and would practise drawing from Blair’s books. But I found it difficult to pursue animation in the country because there was no formal curriculum. So when I came to the US to do software engineering, I enrolled myself in a film school,” he added.
Before bagging his first international project, Rihan worked on short animation films “Topi”, “Arjuna” and “Abridged” on home turf.
Asked how different it was to create animated action scenes from live action, he said: “Unlike a normal feature film where only actors have to film at a given location, here we have to create a location for the characters to fit in.
“First, we would make a drawing and then model it in 3D. Then camera angles need to be decided. The actors come in only in the last part.”
Posted: 24 Jun 2012 04:36 AM PDT
From monitoring bloating waistlines to logging on to Facebook to leveraging the benefits of IT, the 125,000-strong Uttar Pradesh Police, hitherto infamous for its acts of omission rather than comission, is attempting a complete makover – on orders from the top.
Senior officers have been asked to not only get their “act together” in the wake of a poor law and order situation but to also ensure that the change in behaviour – a more pro-people one – is for all to see in the nation’s most populous state of nearly 200 million people.
Admitting that there was “still a lot of roughness at the chowki levels”, Uttar Pradesh police chief A.C. Sharma said since the lower levels of the constabulary were the face of the entire force, they are being trained and groomed into being “better and more effective policemen”.
“The situation at my office and at the chief minister’s janta durbar is mind-boggling. We are disappointed that such a large number of complaints has to come to Lucknow which ideally should have been resolved at the lowest level or the zonal level,” Sharma told IANS, adding that the state police’s establishment department, akin to the HR department of the corporate world, has been asked to “hammer out the chinks at the bottlenecks”.
One such move is to create a system whereby policemen would be able to directly interact with their superiors, express their problems and discuss issues without the “long red tape of hierarchy in between”.
Inspector General of Police (Establishment) Sandeep Salunke, while confirming a “host of fresh incentives”, informed that very soon, constables would be able to interact with their superiors through SMS.
A police officer said that soon every district would have a Facebook page of its own on which would be posted pro-people initiatives every day as also responses to complaints posted on the site.
A 24×7 helpline is also likely to begin operating at the zonal levels in July and a detailed data base of the entire force is being compiled from “many loose sources” to create a unified command data base, the officer said.
An exercise has also begun to monitor the waistlines of policemen to ensure that lean and fit officers get prime postings in various districts. “This will mark a major makeover as bloating waistlines are generally synonymous with the sagging image of the police force,” a senior officer told IANS.
Other than this, the establishment branch of the police is also trying to “give their best men” in response to requests made by agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the National Investigative Agency (NIA) for probing various cases.
The CBI recently requested the Uttar Pradesh Police for 10 inspectors to probe the National Rural Health Mission scam and the NIA, which is setting up shop in the state capital this year, has asked for three sub-inspectors, one head constable and 11 constables.
Posted: 24 Jun 2012 03:34 AM PDT
Amid the din of drums and rhythmic thumps of thick, fibrous coconut leaf stems slapped hard against the ground, Goa will celebrate the monsoon feast of Sao Joao Sunday.
A rollicking affair, the celebrations are highlighted with drunk revellers wearing wreaths of flowers and leaves (called copels) diving into wells and ponds across Goa’s villages.
If Goa’s ‘Carnival’ is a glorified commercial window of its popular Luso culture to the world, the feast of Sao Joao (or the festival of Saint John the Baptist) presents the state’s commercial yet uncorrupted Luso side.
Recalling the merriment in his youthful days, Pedro Rodrigues says, “Traditionally, people gather at a cross in the village and after a small prayer begin their serenading through the village – wishing people and offering them fruits as they move along. The procession usually culminates at a well and revellers jump into it shouting ‘Viva re Sao Joao!’”
The feast of Catholic prophet St. John the Baptist comes exactly six months before Christmas and has its roots in a Biblical story.
According to the Bible, when Mary, the mother of Jesus Chirst, was told that she would conceive the Jesus, through an angelic apparition, she paid a visit to her cousin Elizabeth, who was carrying John (who later became St. John the Baptist) in her womb.
John, according to the Bible, leapt with joy within the womb on hearing Mary’s greeting.
Hence, the revellers drenched to the bone in water and soaked to the soul in feni (a popular beverage manufactured from fermented cashew-apple juice) yell ‘Viva re Sao Joao’ in remembrance of St. John the Baptist’s leap of joy in his mother’s womb.
However, one man is trying to make a difference this year during the revelry.
Call him a spoilsport, but Mario Fernandes, a resident of Salvador do Mundo, a small beautiful pastoral village in north Goa, believes that the celebration should be traditional in essence, but also insists that the feni bottle be knocked out of the festivities.
“We do not want the celebrations of the feast to be a ‘drunken orgy’. We want children and housewives to have their share of fun, games and dancing along with everyone,” Mario says.
With the annual feast coinciding with that time of the year when feni, which is generally distilled in April, has just matured, Sao Joao has of late become synonymous with excess drinking.
Mario has brought together a group of people who organised a unique Sao Joao in Salvador-do-Mundo, where the festival was celebrated without feni – the first of its kind in Goa.
Can it be repeated this year?
“We are doing our bit… It’s difficult to change the mindset of people but with the media attention we have received so far, this idea would strike others too and may gradually become popular,” Mario says.
Sao Joao is also associated with some other beliefs.
Young brides wishing motherhood offer seasonal fruits, flowers and vegetables at ponds, wells or other water bodies to seek blessings of ‘fertility spirits’. Young girls hoping for good match are also known to make such offerings.
Although Sao Joao has not been promoted by the tourism industry as much as its popular counterpart, the Carnival, in north Goa this festival is celebrated with great verve in Siolim, a coastal village 20 km from the state capital.
The highlight of the day is a traditional boat parade, which glides across a nearby creek.
Posted: 24 Jun 2012 02:34 AM PDT
India’s ambitious plan to provide free medicines to all will be launched from October, says a government report.
Strongly backed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself, the free-medicines-for-all scheme has received its first financial allocation of Rs.100 crore from the Planning Commission for 2012-13. The entire programme is estimated to cost Rs.28,560 crore over the 12th Five Year Plan.
Report of a working group on drugs and food regulation in the 12th Plan said the plan will be operational from October this year.
An announcement on the prime minister’s official Facebook page Saturday said the Prime Minister’s Office has asked the health ministry to set up a central procurement agency (CPA) for bulk procurement of drugs as early as possible.
At present, 78 percent of the entire health expenditure in India is from out of pocket (OOP). Purchasing drugs alone accounts for 72 percent of this expenditure.
Public sector provides healthcare to only 22 percent of the country’s population.
According to health ministry’s estimates, this will increase to 52 percent by 2017 once medicines are provided for free from 1.6 lakh sub-centres, 23,000 primary health centres, 5,000 community health centres and 640 district hospitals.
A list of medicines has been prepared by the central government, which has 348 drugs including anti-AIDS, anti-psychotic, sedatives, anaesthetic agents, lipid lowering agents, steroids and anti-platelet drugs. States have also been asked to create their own lists, keeping in mind the diseases that worst affect their populations.
The central government will bear 75 percent of the expenditure under the plan.
Posted: 24 Jun 2012 12:33 AM PDT
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sought to assure investors of every step, including reforms, to restore confidence on India while also hoping for higher growth, lower inflation and correction in the depreciating rupee.
“We need foreign investment – both portfolio and direct investment,” the prime minister told reporters on his way back from G20 and Rio+20 summits in Mexico and Brazil, when asked about the ratings downgrade of India.
“If there are any obstacles which come in the way, and if there are any policy impediments, we will address them effectively and credibly,” the prime minister added when also asked about the perception of policy paralysis in India.
Manmohan Singh, who has been away to these two summits since Saturday last, said he owed it to the country to take all the necessary decisions that would return the economy to a high growth path.
“There are problems with regard to the fiscal management. We will tackle that problem effectively and credibly. There are problems with regard to management of the balance of payments deficit on the current account. Those problems also we will tackle.”
“It will not be proper for me to talk about these things in detail,” he said when asked about specific measures, but said people wanted growth momentum restored and that he will not disappoint them.
The prime minister also felt that there was no sign of any serious threat to the Indian economy even as he felt the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was competent to act on interest rates, inflation and the value of the rupee.
“There is no stagflation. There is a slowing down. I am still confident that we can ensure that the growth rate of the economy in the rest of the year will improve to about 7 percent per annum,” he said.
“As far as rupee is concerned we operate in a system that is a market based exchange rate. We intervene only to curb violent fluctuations. I am confident that measures that I outlined will return rupee also to a more stable path.”
The prime minister, who looked relaxed and at ease during the 25-minute media interaction, was also candid enough to maintain there were issues that needed immediate attention, but assured action.
“A lot of things that are not going right they have their origins outside India. The 2008 financial crisis affected our growth. Our growth rate fell from 9 percent to 6.7 percent,” he sasid.
“But then came the Eurozone crisis and therefore there is a flight of capital from large number of developing countries,” he said, adding the money was going to Germany and the US for want of safety.
“Therefore all developing countries, including China, are experiencing a deceleration of growth rates. Having said that let me say that there have been problems in our own country. We have to work harder than ever before in restoring fiscal balance,” he said.
“We have to work systematically to ensure that the balance of payment problem is managed properly and the climate for foreign investment, both direct and portfolio is also favourably motivated.”
While expressing confidence on the Indian economy, he also appealed to all political parties to come forward in pushing forward measures that will restore global investor confidence.
“I am still confident when it comes to dealing with basic fundamental problems of our country, all political parties will join hands, whether it is the Trinamol Congress or other parties. I expect each one of them to play their role in moving this country back to the high growth path that we are capable of.”
Posted: 23 Jun 2012 11:32 PM PDT
What did the Indian man tell his fat wife clambering up a pole for safety in a Spanish bull ring with the beast charging at her? “Didn’t I tell not to wear the red sari?”
Humour and art can create easy understandings of cultures and diverse geography. India and Spain on Saturday opened a humorous cultural dialogue with a mammoth exposition of cartoons and animation art by late noted Indian cartoonist Mario de Miranda and Spanish pioneer Ramon Gomez de la Serna.
The showcase with more than 100 cartoons coincides with the San Juan Day, the biggest summer party in Spain, at the Institutes de Cervantes in the capital. It is a collaboration between Instituto Cervantes, the Embassy of Spain, the Tourism Office of Spain and the ABC Museum.
Mario’s caricature art illustrates a unique Indo-Spanish connection with Indian stereotypes and Spanish characters sharing space in one frame. In 2007, the Goa-based social cartoonist and illustration artist visited Spain. In his memoir, Mario recalls that, “one of the most exciting things was a grand tour through Spain, a lovely country steeped in romance and history”.
“We visited some of the great cities of Spain like Madrid, Barcelona and Seville although we could not make it to Toledo, which I had visited in the past. It was an unforgettable experience to travel through the French countryside dotted with olives and orange trees, rich in art and history, with its museums, castles, fort and famous names”.
Mario’s experience of Spain creeps into his body of “Spanish” art with a section of humorous cartoons and documentary illustrations of Spanish architecture and cultural landmarks using his trademark layered animation technique.
The results are amazing. Mario puts Indian and Spanish musicians together in a joint orchestra with a portly Bharatanatyam dancer doing the Flamenco in the traditional style. Classical Hindustani vocalists sing “Sa Re Ga…” to the horror of the Spanish audience and a group of Indian musicians sweat over a western style Spanish orchestra. The cartoons comment on cultural assimilation – and the impressions Spain leaves on the Indian tourist.
The 1931 doodle drawings of Ramon Gomez De La, a friend of poet Octavio Paz and one of the country’s celebrated artists, are simple, meditative and minimal in comparison to Mario’s.
Ramon’s sketches were reflections of a new Spanish world influenced by European vanguards and fractured by the imminent civil war. His cartoons ferreted out the contradictions of modern life with swift wit.
Inaugurating the exposition, political cartoonist Ajit Ninan said: “Cartoonists like Laxman and Mario stole the entire cartoon space in India. Mario was an intricately detailed cartoonist – and we are a land of details.”
He said Mario had the advantage of being a social, political and international cartoonist. “He was the master of architectural layers,” Ninan said.
Comparing history in the tradition of cartooning in India and the Latin American world, Ninan told IANS, “We are totally controlled by the English and American style of cartoons but the richest cartoons come from Latin America because they have no language. They are silent powerful illustrations.” He said the natural talent of Indian cartoonists was drawing brisk animation trade to India.
The Institutes de Cervantes is talking to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to carry showcase to Kolkata, Mumbai and other cities of the country.
“This is not a flash in the pan. Spain has declared India as one of its top foreign policy priorities. The king of Spain might come to India at the end of the year,” a spokesperson for the Embassy of Spain said.
Posted: 23 Jun 2012 10:31 PM PDT
Eleven striking pilots of Air India Sunday went on an indefinite hunger strike demanding the reinstatement of their 101 sacked colleagues.
“Eleven pilots belonging to Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike from today (Sunday). Our protest (hunger strike) is only for the reinstatement of our sacked colleagues and for the reputation of our union. We want to bring the strike to an end as soon as possible,” Rohit Kapahi, committee member of IPG, told IANS.
The Air India management earlier sacked 101 pilots belonging to the IPG. Around 440 pilots had struck work since May 8 against the management move to train pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines in the merged entity on the soon-to-be-inducted Boeing-787 Dreamliner.
The pilots’ announcement on their “Anna-type” protest fast assumes significance as this will be one of the first instances in the country where highly paid professionals such as pilots would sit on a hunger strike.
However, the government has been giving feeler to the pilots to end the strike. Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh June 6 had invited the pilots to come back and resume their duties first and that they (sacked pilots) will be reinstated on case-to-case basis.
“We are not waiting for them for ever. We earlier asked them (pilots) to come back and said that no one will be victimised. We had even given a chance to sacked pilots that they can also come back and we will take them back on a case-to-case basis,” the minister earlier told IANS.
The strike Sunday entered its 48-day and has reportedly caused a revenue loss of Rs.530 crores.
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