Getting intimate with life-giving oceans

It was in 1998 when the Centre for Marine Living Resources & Ecology (CMLRE) was established directly under Ministry of Earth Sciences (MOES) by upgrading the erstwhile Sagar Sampada Cell with exclusive facilities for implementing Marine Living Resources (MLR) Programme. Since then, CMLRE has been organizing, co-ordinating and promoting ocean development activities in the country which inter-alia include mapping of the living resources, preparing inventory of commercially exploitable living marine resources, their optimum utilization through ecosystem management and R&D in basic sciences on Marine Living Resources and Ecology.

Coming forward from that modest beginning about 20 years back, it became apparent that CMLRE has scaled a long journey towards progress and development when Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Union Minister, in the presence of Dr. M. Sudhakar (Director CMLRE) and senior scientist N. Saravanane, stressed the need to develop CMLRE as a national centre to coordinate all spheres relating to the sector and to develop further the country’s ecosystem-based management strategies relating to the seas,during his visit to the CMLRE institute at Kakanad, Kochi.

Dr.M. Sudhakarwho has years of experience with the CMLRE says it is the only institute in India that is dealing with marine living resources in the deep waters. Elaborating on the major role played by CMLRE, he says: “CMLRE being the national centre established exclusively to address the marine living resources of our country has already made several focussed studies to assess the ecosystem processes, preserve and harness living resources. Our understanding has improved on these aspects to a large extent though still there are many unresolved issues, the prominent being (i) Is coastal pollution really significant and affecting marine living resources; (ii) what factors influence the marine fish distribution and their stocks; (iii) their breeding and recruitment grounds; (iv) effect of adverse environmental conditions like during El-Nino years of sea warming and ocean acidification; (v) wealth and records of bio-diversity in our Indian seas; (vi) unconventional fishery resources of deep-sea and its connection to coastal ecosystem, etc. Several concerted efforts have been planned based on our understanding of the seas, mainly by switching to the Ecosystem approach based studies. Towards this, in the first instance, CMLRE has taken-up two intensive projects during 2017-20: (a) Marine Ecosystem Dynamics of Eastern Arabian Sea (MEDAS), a mega multi-disciplinary ecosystem approach based time-series study involving multi-institutional expertise; and (b) Resource Exploration and Inventorization Scheme (REIS), both aimed to address major issues outlined above.”

CMLRE’s active engagements in deep seas can be understood by its various collaborations with several international activities viz. (i) Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS); (ii) Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); (iii) Belmont Forum – Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; (iv) Convention on Biological Diversity and (v) Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) – a new legal instrument proposed under United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). Through these collaborations and negotiations combined with in-house focused research, India stands to showcase its strengths in assessing and sustainably harvesting our marine biological resources for future needs.

“As part of its marine biodiversity program, we try to identify the various species that are available in the Indian waters and we are now working on deep sea fisheries and distant water fisheries,” tells Dr.Sudhakar adding that CMLRE has also identified 5 species of ornamental fishes, which are in great demand abroad, and has developed the technology to breed them and multiply them.

Exploration and exploitation of Antarctic marine resources too is of paramount importance, particularly when 26 countries including India, that too from far off countries like Norway, have taken quota allocation in the Antarctic region for research and exploration. While countries like Norway are looking at Antarctic for its food alternative requirements, Dr. Sudhakar says “we will have to see how viable it is for our country and its requirements.” However, it is clear that CMLRE will require a lot of support from Govt of India if it is to carry forth its deep sea mission and work on distant water fishing and deep water fishing. The CMLRE director agrees that he is getting the desired support from the Government.

Somasunder, working as Adviser with Ministry informs that the Government of India is now planning for sustainable development which mainly covers life below the water. The UN has lately come up with a charter specifying special goals for oceans and India is a signatory to it. In a conference held recently to address the sustainable development goals mainly conservation, preservation and sustainability of ocean resources particularly in terms of pollution and its impact, the UN put forth national as well as global indicators. These are as follows: (i) Prevent, reduce, minimize pollution; (ii) Preserve, conserve and sustainable use of marine resources; (iii) enhance the scientific capability; and, (iv) Implement the UN framed laws to harness resources in sustainable manner.

Entire activities that are conductedpresently can be divided into four broad segments: living resources, non-living resources, ocean observation and infrastructure expertise, says Dr.Sudhakar. As part of its work on non-living resources, water currents are being used to meet energy and fresh water requirements. There are three plants working which produce 1 lakh liters of fresh water every day. Work is going on to commence 4 more plants in 4 different islands of Lakshadweep. Besides, a plant is going to come up soon which will generate energy from water and the same energy will be used to operate a desalination plant.

Elaborating further on this, Dr. Purnima Jalihal, the Project Coordinator with National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) says: “We work with ocean energy forms which are waves, tidal (marine) current and thermal radiant. We have developed the first wave-powered navigational BUOY which will be useful for ports in our country. Also for the first time, we have developed a hydro-kinetic turbine which runs using the water velocity (marine current). Additionally, we have developed an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) which uses the difference in surface temperature of water and the temperature at depth to generate power. Power is used to generate steam which is again condensed using colder water from the deep sea and thus absolutely fresh drinking water is obtained. This technology has gone a long way in solving the fresh water requirements in three islands in the Lakshadweep.”

Dr.Jalihal further informs that NIOT is working to scale up the technology for use on islands with larger population. “NIOT has already been able to successfully show offshore one million litre per day desalination plant. This plant, to be powered by OTEC will be put up at Kaviratti. A two million litre per day plant design is now ready at Tuticorn Thermal Power Plant station which we have scaled up for use by the industry on commercial basis.”

Oceans possess a lot of non-living resources as well, and technological advances have made it possible to harness these resources. Wakdiker, the Program Head with the Ministry informs that a great deal of activity is concentrated on deep sea resources in saline, international waters. India was the first country which has been awarded an area of one lakh sixty thousand square km in the international waters of Central Indian Ocean for exploration of polymetallic nodules. The nodules are potato-like structures which are found at the sea-bed, about 4 to 6 km below the water surface. Tells Wakdiker, “We had the contract with International Sea Bed Authority, which is a UN body, and which looks at the governance of such areas in the deep seas.” Incidentally, Dr.Sudhakar is an elected member of the Legal & Technical Commission for Internal Sea Bed Authority.

The polymetallic nodules, available on the sea-bed in the form of potato-like structures, contain copper, nickel and cobalt, apart from manganese. However, it has still not been possible to develop the technology to extract the minerals from these nodules. China and Korea, besides India, are the three countries in the process of developing the technology for extraction of metals. It is envisaged that India will be able to develop first pilot demonstration mining by 2021. In this regards, lot of efforts have been made by scientists from NIOT.

NIOT is also working on another program for exploration of polymetallic sulphides. Consequent to India’s explorations in the Indian Ocean, a contract has been awarded last year to National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR) to carry out further research in this field.

Informing further about NCAOR’s areas of work, Ravichandran says his organization is responsible for carrying forth scientific research in the Southern and Northern Poles besides the Central Pole, consisting of the Himalayan belt. Additionally, NCAOR is trying to study monsoon and also trying to map the entire Exclusive Economic Zone around India, a mammoth task considering the size of our country.

“In the polar areas, we are monitoring various parameters, looking at both and non-living,” says Ravichandran. NCAOR is running a station continuously, and analyses data collected from the stations in various poles in its labs on continuous basis. Elaborates Ravichandran, “We are the only organization working from North to South Poles. Scientists from all streams are working with us.” NCAOR also conducts various missions to the Antarctic on regular basis, in which scientists with expertise in various streams take part.

NIOT along with INCOIS is also doing its bit by providing advisory to the fishermen. Informing further on how it locates the potential fishing ground using the satellite data and tell the fishermen where to go for fishing, Shenoi, Director with INCOIS and NIOT says the data related to surface temperature and chlorophyll content in the ocean, till about 50 km from the shore are provided to the farmers which help them locate when and where to go in their search for more fishes. Today more than 4 lakh active fishermen out of the total estimated figure of about 10 lakh traditional fishermen in India use these services.

Elaborates Shenoi: “Fishermen wish to know how safe it is for them to go out fishing. We started providing them information called Ocean Page Forecast, where we provide forecast on wave, ocean current, ocean temperature and other related indices. Update is provided daily for the next 5 days. Normally small fishermen go out fishing for 2-3 days. These forecasts help them decide whether it is safe for them to go out.”

Third activity that is carried out is the Tsunami early warning system. Tells Shenoi: “We have the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System and UNESCO has designated us as regional Tsunami Service Provider. This means we have to provide Tsunami services for all the countries in the Indian Ocean whenever earthquake of magnitude more than 6.5 occurs. This information is provided to 22 other countries, besides India.”

In addition, now climate change issues are assuming greater importance. “This year we have started new activity for modelling from the point of view of climate change in relation to the Indian Ocean, which is warming up faster than all other oceans. We have constructed a global model and downsized it for the Indian Ocean region. Another new activity being taken up is to study Indian Ocean from the point of view of increased pollution levels as well as study the bio-geochemistry of water around India.”

All this would not have been possible without the high-tech Fishery Oceanography Research Vessel (FORV) SagarSampada with CMLRE besides two other smaller vessels. SagarSampada, now 33 years old, has served tirelessly to the needs of our country and continues to do the same even today, albeit with lesser efficiency. Dr.Sudhakar tells that “the process for the replacement of FORV has already been initiated and after lots of discussion and consultations, its technical specifications have been finalized. The new FORV with ultra-modern infrastructure will be the only deep-sea fishery vessel of the country after FORV SagarSampada and will hopefully serve as the backbone for further marine biological studies, very much on the lines of the services provided in the past by the now ageing SagarSampada.” Therefore, it is a matter of time when a state-of-the-art vessel will carry the Indian flag and torn past the waters of the Ocean in its attempt to get intimate with life-giving oceans.

Aziz Haider




Karnataka: Fulfilling promise of a transparent, responsible and people-friendly government

Siddaramaiah got elected as Chief Minister of the State of Karnataka on 13th May 2013. People of the State had shown great confidence in Siddaramaiah’s promise of a transparent, responsible and people-friendly government by giving the Indian National Congress a thumping absolute majority in the Legislative Assembly election. There was no doubt whatsoever that it was Siddaramaiah who had led the party in the State to victory, and electing him as the Chief Minister was a natural corollary to it.

More than four years have elapsed during which the Chief Minister has carried out several measures to stand up to the people’s choice. The recent launch of Pratibimba – a comprehensive web-based platform – was meant to showcase the government’s performance and achievements to the citizens and show to them to what extent the Chief Minister has stood up on path to fulling the promises of a transparent, responsible and people-friendly government.

Elaborating on the idea behind Pratimba, the Chief Minister himself had said at the time of its launch: “Pratibimba will help people across the state and the country to get a detailed information regarding the steps taken by us in fulfilling our promise of transparent, responsible and people friendly government.”

As LK Atheeq, the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister describes it, “Pratibimba, which means reflection, has been developed as the Chief Minister’s dash board, and will serve as a tool to improve efficiency in governance and allow citizens to track government’s progress.”

Further, Atheeq said: “’Pratibimba’ is a reflection of the growth story and development of the State, and the dash board will reflect the works of all the departments across flagship schemes, key programmes and projects undertaken in the State.”

Summing up, the Chief Minister had said: “This (Pratibimba) will be reflection of how much we have walked the talk by showcasing the efforts made by us in meeting people’s aspiration with our achievements.”

Walked the talk, he surely has! And with such deftness that there seems to be no incumbency factor working; his core supporters even hint that his vote base might have only increased during the last four years. Undoubtedly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah today is the biggest sore throat for the chief opposition party eyeing an easy cakewalk when the State goes to polls sometime in mid-2018. It speaks of his work and how he has gone ahead on path to fulfil his vision of a progressive and developing Karnataka, and his efforts aimed at creating a system of reporting, tracking and measuring various departmental performance on programmes, projects and promises made, so as to enable departments to become more transparent, accountable and efficient.

A vocal champion of Kannada and its heritage, Siddaramaiah seems to know what clicks and what doesn’t, when it comes to politics. The dynamic CM is not the one who minces his words, when it comes to issues of national importance. He came down heavily on the demonetization drive, stating that black money constituted hardly 0.002% of the country’s economy.  Only recently, CM Siddaramaiah has put the ball back in the court of PM Narendra Modi by demanding loan waiver for farmers. Earlier, the State government had issued an order to waive loans worth Rs. 8,163 crore taken by over 22 lakh farmers from cooperative banks in the State. Likewise, the Karnataka government has constituted a nine-member committee to submit a report on the possibility of designing a separate flag for the state.

The Chief Minister is also known for his socialist, secular and people-friendly outlook. This was reflected in his staunch stand in support of holding ‘Kambala’ – a traditional annual buffalo race – holding of which was stayed by the Karnataka High Court’s division bench, on a petition challenging it in view of orders passed by the Supreme Court on jallikattu. Siddaramaiah had given his full support to people’s stir in support of Kambala. On an occasion, he had said: “We are in favour of Kambala, we are for Kambala. We pressurize the Union government to take a stand in favour of this (Kambala), similar to the way it favoured jallikattu in Tamil Nadu.”

Siddaramaiah also tried to take maximum benefit of both by-election wins in Mysuru-Chamarajangar districts of Karnataka earlier this year, which were portrayed as wins because of personal charisma of the Chief Minister. Needless to say, it was a big respite for the Congress which bucked the nation-wide trend seemed going in the other direction.

In another reflection (pratibimba) of his people-friendly policy, Siddaramaiah government recently regularized housing by STs and backward castes on private land. In an unprecedented move, the scheduled tribes and micro backward castes, who have been deprived of housing rights so far, a law was passed unopposed in the State Assembly granting ownership of houses to agriculture labourers living in over 300 unrecorded habitations on private land.

With this, an estimated two lakh people living in Lambanithandas, Gollarahattis, Vaddarahattis, Kurubarahattis, Nayakarahattis, Majaregramas, Haadis, Doddis, Palyas, Camp and Colony, all belonging to the poorest segment of society will come under the revenue department’s purview. It also fulfils in part the Congress’ 2013 manifesto promise of converting unrecorded hamlets into revenue villages, underlining the party’s image as the flagbearer of the poor, ahead of the state assembly polls in April-May 2018.

Talking about it, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said: “This is a major revolutionary decision taken after the famous ‘land to the tiller’ legislation was passed four decades ago. Whoever is residing in hamlets will henceforth become the owners of the houses in which they are staying. These are people who have been oppressed for years. Today they are liberated.”

The State’s budget for this year had been nothing short of remarkable. Another unprecedented move in the State was the announcement for ‘Namma Canteen’ (our canteen) where breakfast will be given for Rs. 5, lunch and dinner for Rs. 10 each. Such canteens will initially be started at one centre each in each of the 192 wards in Bengaluru.

The Chief Minister also announced setting up of Saviruchi mobile canteens in all 30 districts through the Stree Shakti self-help groups, a mid-day meal scheme for 12 lakh pregnant women, milk supply to over a crore school and anganwadi children five days a week and eggs to the malnutrition-hit anganwadi children twice a week.

The school children, who were earlier getting milk three days a week under Ksheera Bhagya scheme, will now be getting milk five days a week. The caring Chief Minister wants that milk is given seven days a week in future.

The CM claims that the midday meal scheme and Ksheera Bhgya have helped contain malnutrition among children and improved attendance in schools. Similarly, the Anna Bhagya scheme has helped prevent migration of people in search of jobs, he says.

Karnataka is the second largest milk producing state in India and the State government is committed to encourage dairying as an allied activity of agriculture. Currently, the State produces around 72 lakh liters of milk per day and the target is to increase it to 100 lakh liters in two years. In a bid to encourage farmers to take up dairy farming, the Government has enhanced the incentive on one litre of milk from Rs. 2 to Rs. 5 and it is spending Rs. 3.5 crore everyday on this count. The Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) which is now procuring 2.20 lakh liters of milk per day plans to increase the procurement to 5 lakh liters per day, in the light of CM’s special focus on the area and his promise of providing necessary financial assistance.

In a statement that will be quoted again and again in the times to come, particularly because of the great vision that it envisages, the Chief Minister said: “Darkness will not cast on the future of the land where women and children are the focus of development.”

It was amidst much thumping among the treasury benches that the Chief Minister announced laptops for 1.5 lakh students entering government and aided medical, engineering and degree colleges, and even louder cheers greeted his announcement of 49 new taluk, and also increased free rice under the flagship Anna Bhagya scheme from 5 to 7 kgs.

The most telling part in his budget was the scheme under which he announced to give LPG connections to two lakh families belonging to SC/ST and below poverty line in collaboration with the food and civil supplies department, mirroring the Ujjwala scheme and applying it more specifically to the Dalits and the poor.

The Chief Minister also announced special privileges for various tribal communities. “Assistance will be provided for the development of Jenukuruba, Koraga, Soliga, Kadukuruba, Erava, Gowdalu, Hasaluru, Iruliga, Siddi, Malekudiya, HakkiPikki, Thoda, Meda and other tribal communities and for taking up self-employment. For this, a grant of Rs 200 crore will be provided,” he said.

He also allocated Rs 100 crore for the development of tribes such as Budbudke, Gondhali, Helava, Pichakuntla, Jogi, Golla, Shikkalgar, Haavugara, and other nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes.

The CM also said: “A proposal will be sent to the Government of India under the provisions of Schedule V in the Constitution, seeking approval for constitution of Karnataka Tribal Advisory Council to give guidance and advice to the state government in formulating and implementing development plans for Scheduled Tribes.”

Other than allocations for Muslims and Christians, he has also earmarked Rs 10 lakh for Gurdwaras and Rs 5 crore for a cultural centre “to protect the culture and tradition of Sikh community” at Bidar on the occasion of 350th birth anniversary Guru Gobind Singh.

In an attempt to keep pace with fast moving states in the field of industrialization and technological growth, the Chief Minister is of opinion that Karnataka has an investor-friendly policy. “We continue to remain the No. 1 in the IT sector and Bengaluru remains the Silicon Valley and knowledge capital of the country because of that. Following our Global Investors Meet in 2016, investment inflow is much higher. In the last three months, we have surpassed even Gujarat in investments inflow. You will be surprised that we have a special impetus for industrialists from the scheduled castes and also women entrepreneurs. They are very happy with our initiatives.”

The State claims that during the last 4 years when Siddarmaiah has been the Chief Minister, 6,000 MW has been added in power generation. Special emphasis has been laid on the skilling of youth. Two lakh youth underwent skill development in 2016-17 while the targets for this year are to train 5 lakh youths. A separate department for skill development has been formed and the State’s efforts have resulted in the creation of about 2 lakh jobs (new jobs plus the filling of existing vacancies) in the government sector in the last 4 years.

The various steps of the Chief Minister suggest that he is aiming at the holistic development of the State.  As the CM said on an occasion: “Our goal remains the same – the last man/woman in society, the vulnerable sections and the farmers should benefit the most. We are accountable to the people of Karnataka as it is they who have voted us to form the government, and this is one of the ways of showing our accountability.”

Aziz Haider

(Article Exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)




JKSRTC responsible of killing of 17 Amarnath pilgrims

Expressing serious concern over the accident at Ramban in which 17 Amarnath pilgrims killed and over 30 injured, State President, Shri Ram Sena, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajiv Mahajan has asked State government especially Governor, who is also chairman Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, to take strict action against the bigwigs of Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation who are responsible for this mishap.

Officials of JKSRTC, who deployed old buses for boarding Shri Amarnath pilgrims, are responsible for this mishap that claimed the lives of 17 Amarnath pilgrims, who were travelling in a vehicle owned by the corporation,” said Rajiv Mahajan in a statement.

Poor condition of JKSRTC buses is not only causing considerable inconvenience to pilgrims but also creating a bad impression in the country.

He said that Jammu and Kashmir, being a popular tourist destination, should have better JKSRTC bus service on the lines of other states.

He said only constitution of inquiry committee to look into the circumstances that led to this tragic accident involving an SRTC bus carrying the Amarnath Yatris by government is not enough and sought immediate action against JKSRTC officials.

Expressing grief and sorrow over the accident, Rajiv Mahajan also prayed to God to grant eternal peace to the departed souls and courage to bereaved families to bear  irreparable loses. He also prayed to God for early recovery of injured and asked government to provide free and world class treatment to the injured persons.




From DELHI to DILI

Iram Saeed

Iram Saeed

Timor-LesteHave you ever heard of Timor-Leste? For those unaware, Timor-Leste is one of the world’s newest countries and also one of the poorest. Situated in South Asia between Indonesia and Australia, the half-island nation is home to a young and culturally diverse population of just over 1 million. The long fight for freedom that people of the region undertook resulted in nearly one-third of the population perishing. Nearly each family of the newly made country has seen near and dear ones killed during the struggle period.

Bella Galhos with colleagues

Bella Galhos with colleagues

Timor Leste has significant petroleum resources, but owing to the fact that most institutions are young and inexperienced, having limited human resource capacity, and poor infrastructure, the country is facing severe health challenges, particularly those affecting women and children. The country’s capital Dili is remotely connected to the Indian capital Delhi (interestingly, Delhi too in Hindi is written as Dilli). Despite the challenges, Timor-Leste has worked with diligence and courage since independence to establish its democratic institutions and a viable economy.

There is also a great need to improve agricultural capacity and performance; encouraging private sector competitiveness; building democratic institutions and good governance mechanisms, including anti-corruption systems; protecting the natural environment; and helping populations adapt to climate change. Due to great need for social work, USAID is working closely with Timor-Leste to cope up with the challenges that this new country is facing.

Bella with students

Bella with students

Most people in Delhi (Dilli) may not be aware about this new capital Dili, but there are unsung heroes from Delhi who continue to work selflessly even in as far and remote a country as Timor-Leste. One such hero is Iram Saeed, a Jamia Millia pass out social worker, and now an international development professional with expertise in empowerment of women and youth as well as community development. Having earlier worked for organisations such as Marie Stopes International, United Nations and other international NGOs, Iram moved to Timor-Leste to initiate and execute a social welfare project Santana Unipessoal.

Iram is a co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the project Santana Unipessoal, along with Bella Galhos, founder and a freedom fighter. Since moving to this new country, Iram is working among young Timorese children (along with youth and women), endeavouring to make leaders who will go on to rebuild Timor-Leste, which has only recently come out of the ashes of a brutal occupation and bloody struggle, and is still struggling with hunger, poverty, poor access to education and inefficient agricultural practices. Timorese, says Iram, are still scared of expressing themselves and a lot need to be done to bring them out from the trauma of brutal suppression that these people have been subjected to in the past.

Ambassador Gurjit Singh calling on H.E. Mr. Kay Rala Xanana of Timor-Leste during his visit to Timor-Leste

Ambassador Gurjit Singh calling on H.E. Mr. Kay Rala Xanana of Timor-Leste during his visit to Timor-Leste

In Bella Galhos, Iram has found an able leader and co-worker, who herself suffered dearly during the occupation period. During the 1975 invasion of her country by Indonesian forces led by regional strongman Suharto, Bella’s two brothers, aged four and six, were beaten to death by rifle butts. Her father was jailed for two years, placed in solitary confinement where he lived in his own filth on a ration of rotten food, occasionally having fingernails and toenails removed with pliers during interrogations. During the years of occupation, there was frequent gunfire in the tiny island country, the constant threat of rape and the mysterious deaths or disappearances of friends and family.

Bella was merely 13-year-old in 1985, when Indonesian soldiers caught her from a small East Timorese schoolhouse and forcefully injected Depo Provera, a contraceptive drug the Indonesian government used in its forced contraception and sterilization program, an injection that was again given to her during the two succeeding years. These atrocities suffered during the early years made Bella Galhos a strong woman with a strong drive to work for the liberation of her country and to experience for the first time life without military occupation. As a teenager, she got involved with the underground resistance, risking imprisonment, torture or death.

In fact, after each wave of violence, Galhos stepped up efforts to free East Timor from Indonesia’s grip. When a young political organizer was killed in 1991, Galhos helped organize a massive funeral procession and demonstration in Dili. When that event erupted into a mass killing, Galhos enlisted in the Indonesian military while secretly supporting the resistance. And when she endured the constant sexual assault at the hands of soldiers in Jakarta, she resolved to win the trust of the Indonesian government to represent East Timor in the Canada World Youth exchange program as an example of a compliant, pro-integration East Timorese youth.

Years later, Galhos along with her equally resolute co-worker Iram, are working to rebuild Timor-Leste through their untiring efforts. Iram is closely involved with Leublora Green School, the signature project of Santana, and the only educational institution in the country dedicated to teaching about and promoting economically and environmentally sustainable growth and development for the people of Timor-Leste.  It offers courses free of charge to school children, as well as other Timorese people (with a focus on youth and women), to build leadership, encourage environmental stewardship, promote sustainable and efficient agricultural practices and inculcate the value of respect for oneself, other people and the world.  Leublora Green School aims to become a source of inspiration for the country to protect and promote its unique natural heritage.

Leublora Green School is a unique concept in itself not providing classroom education alone but practical education as well into farming, rearing and other essential needs that the growing up Timorese children will face in future. And Iram does not only have to carry chalk and duster to teach but even sickle and spade, seeds and dung. Courses provide beneficiaries with: practical skills to engage with those around them and their natural environment in a productive and sustainable way; knowledge to lead their country towards sustainable development in an ethically and environmentally responsible manner; and, wisdom to understand the importance of respectful human resource and environmental management to the future of Timor-Leste and the world.

Interestingly, India’s ambassador to ASEAN and Timor-Leste, Gurjit Singh, visited Timor-Leste sometime back, to meet the then Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, to discuss ways and means of increasing bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Ambassador conveyed the offer of Government of India to establish Centre of Excellence in Information Technology (CEIT) at Timor-Leste. In this regard a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been handed over by Ambassador to the Prime Minister. Welcoming the offer, Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao appreciated the initiative of Government of India in the field of Human Resource Development. To enhance economic cooperation, Ambassador offered to bring delegation of business people from India Business Forum (IBF), Jakarta which warmly accepted by the Prime Minister. Prime Minister also conveyed that Timor-Leste values its friendship with India greatly. India has also announced scholarship to teach 10 Timorese students in India each year.

India will surely do its bit to improve the lot of Timorese population but it is always heartening to note that there is an Indian, belonging to our own Delhi (Dilli), who is working a little distance away from Timorese capital Dili, with a resolve to change Timor-Leste, one life at a time.




Citizens face epidemic, accident and death while Delhi and UP Governments fight out in Court

Pic1 (1024x768)RNI, New Delhi:

It is a classic example of the apathy that an insensitive Government could show towards citizens!

Residents of South Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh are face to face with the worst disease and epidemic. Several accidents have already taken place in the open drain that has been dug right in the centre of the road and left open. There have been cases of people falling in the open drain and also a case of a car that went in the drain while reversing. Huge swarms of mosquitoes can be seen breeding on the filthy smelling water of the drain. Even the toilets of apartments on both sides at times see inflow rather outflow of water as the previously existing sewage system has been removed. The excretion from the Pic2 (1024x768)modern toilets seats only come out in the open drain that flows right in the center of the road. While the Governments of UP and Delhi are fighting out in court for their right over the road, the residents on both sides of the road are going through a nightmare. Until the court decides either way, they can see no respite from their troubles!

Pic6 (1024x768)Residents of Shaheen Bagh, a stone’s throw from the posh Sarita Vihar and Kalindi Kunj, flash Delhi’s voter cards. Apartments on both sides of the road come under Delhi’s jurisdiction. But, interestingly, the road that lies in between the apartments is an issue of contention because both Delhi and UP governments claim their ownership.

Pic3 (768x1024)When the land in the area was sold and apartments came up, the purchasers didn’t never knew that the road in between was a bone of contention. Due to the strategic location of the area close to South Delhi’s posh colonies, well-to-do people purchased the apartments. It was only later that they got to know that while the apartments on both sides of the road came in Delhi’s jurisdiction, the road in between was claimed by UP as it leads to a canal managed by Uttar Pradesh’s irrigation department. The builders of apartments made makeshift sewage system under the road for toilet excretion and water drainage and sold the apartments. Lately, the local MLA Asif Mohammad Khan ordered construction of new sewer system to replace the old one. The existing sewer system was dug up so as to replace it with the new one. At this point, UP’s irrigation department woke up and went to court, where it was granted a stay. With no sewer system, all the water from buildings on both sides come to the dug up area right in the midst of the road, thereby making it an open drain, with varying width at several places.Pic4 (768x1024)

Pic7 (1024x768)The residents of the area are angry. They fear falling in the drain even while going to grocery shop, the barber or even the mosque. The gate of the mosque as well as the buildings on both sides is barely a few feet from the open drain. As the drain has varying width, there have been cases of people falling even when they were taking caution. Children too keep falling time and again. And even the kitchens in the apartments on both sides smell of the filth that fills the drain.

Pic5 (1024x768)As the governments of neighbouring states fight it out in court, the residents of the area are facing a tough time. Their fate depends on which way the court decides this road belongs to.

Real News International News Bureau




Police need to be freed from the clutches of politicians: LG

10 DEC BAHUGUNA POLICE BEAT WOMENS

Policing the police the need of the hour

RNI, New Delhi:

In a meeting of Chief Ministers of various states held at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan recently, Lieutenant Governor – Delhi Tejender Khanna mooted a point that the problems related to efficacy of police force and their efficient functioning cannot be sorted out until the police is removed from the clutches of politicians. When this reporter asked an insider in LG’s office regarding the response to this statement, he said that the LG has made his point clear, thereby making this clear as well that this statement met with lack luster response from the political bigwigs assembled there.

No doubt, the Lieutenant Governor has made a pertinent point. On the contrary, the Delhi Chief Minister, whenever quizzed about inefficiency of police force, makes it a point to stress vehemently that the police force should be brought under the CM’s ambit.

LG may have presented a sincere solution to the problems that plagues the police personnel but the relevant question is whether the politicians who feel safe to boss over the regulating agencies will ever be willing to lose their stranglehold over them.

Question arises that if a policeman in Muzaffarnagar hangs a year-and-a-half old child from the terrace or another policeman slaps a lady in Delhi, where are politicians to be blamed. Since long, the policemen had been giving the excuse of low pay-checks, irregular and long working hours and over stress for each and every blame that was put on them. The new pay commission has ensured fatter pay to all Government employees, including policemen. The matter of long and irregular work hours too has been sorted out to an extent. But the willingness of the lower-level police personnel to seek additional income in the form of bribes has not diminished as yet. Whereas the workforce in private companies has to work longer hours at lesser pays, there are neither so widespread problems of stress nor those of bribery.

This is why the people in the know back LG for his statement. The real stress comes out of handling and managing all the valid and invalid demands of the politicians. Handling the invalid demands also endears them to politicians and creates a sense of security, which emboldens them to break law and shirk duty.

Ranjan Mukherjee, OSD to the Lt. Governor puts forth another relevant point. “True that there are a lot of fault lines but the Police cannot be insulated from the rest of the citizens. There is a general deterioration of morals and ethics in all sections of society. Lot of vigilance enquiries, sackings and other corrective actions take place within the police which we do not hear from outside. To emphasize his point, Mukherjee cites the recent case of policeman slapping the girl where CP took immediate action not only against the officer but also initiated an inquiry into alleged late filing of FIR.

Mukherjee says that post 16-12 LG has enhanced lot of emphasis on training, gender sensitization and providing of courteous treatment. The spurt in crime cases against women is partly due to the strict instructions that all such cases be registered.

Mukherjee tells further that LG has issued strict directives to Delhi Police. Sudhir Yadav, Addl. Commissioner is meeting all political and social organizations on weekly basis. Largely due to these measures taken recently, the process for change has started, says Mukherjee, but adds instantaneously that it’s still miles to go before we sleep.

It’s not just the LG who feels that police needs to be freed from politicians. Social Workers Association, a NGO based in Delhi too has in a communiqué emphasized on the need to de-politicize the police forces. It says that various independent studies have shown that several other Government departments are far more corrupt than the Delhi police. If there is anger against the police, it is more due to political build-up. For instance, Vijay Goel and Arvind Kejriwal are leaving no stone unturned to paint the police in the dark.

Avers Nikita Doval, Special Correspondent with The Week that leaving the path of social welfare state that we once used to be, rampant corruption, wide scale discrepancy in earnings and the neo-rich culture which believes in flaunting their power and money have created large extent divisions in society, which are hard to remove. The police force has remained one and the same over the years whereas crime of all sorts, including crime against women have risen steeply and therefore mere regulating the police force or bringing in harsher laws won’t make much of a difference. Hailing from the hills, Nikita sees this as a more cosmopolitan problem and says that if the problem has reached smaller towns and villages to some extent it is because of TV which has carried its evils there.

However, Nikita agrees to the need to improve upon the functioning of police and cite at a lot many problems that need to be rectified.

Ranjan Mukherjee too is of the opinion that policing the police is the need of the hour. Discipline, alertness, corruption and other such issues need to be taken care of on immediate basis if we are to give Delhi a better police system.

 

Real News Intl News Bureau




“Government must review its relations with the United States and Israel”: Sunni Ulama Federation

Real News Intl. (RNI), New Delhi:

The strongest federation of Sunni Ulamas in North India – All India Sunni Ulama Federation – has urged the Indian Government to review its foreign policy in respect of relations with the United States and Israel for its anti-Muslim and anti-Sunni policies. The apex organization is concerned over the hidden agenda of United States and its dubious role in backing and promoting the policies and agenda which pose threat and danger to the sanctity of the revered religious sites of Muslims in Makkah and Madina. These views were expressed by Ghulam Abdul Qadir, Secretary General of All India Sunni Ulama Federation as he elaborated on the danger posed to the world by the United States and Israel during conversation with our correspondent regarding the great success of Azmat-e-Mustafa (Peace Conference) held in New Delhi recently.

“The Government of India must be sensitive and vigilant on the increasing attempts by forces backed by these countries to tarnish the image of our beloved Prophet, Muhammad Mustafa (PBUH),” said Ghulam Abdul Qadir and warned “all stakeholders who are involved in law enforcement that we have zero tolerance on any event of this nature.” He said that those who promote such insulting material are the worst enemies of the humanity as they have threatened the world peace.

Leading lights and Ulamas of Sunni Muslims and prominent Muslim Intellectuals adorned the stage during the Azmat-e-Mustafa (Peace Conference) organized by All India Sunni Ulama Federation (AISUF) in New Delhi to discuss on the burning issues of contemporary world particularly related to Islam and its impact on Muslim world including India and the role of Muslim in general and Ulama in particular under this scenario. Thousands of Sunni Muslims who comprise 80% of the Muslim population in India attended the Conference.

Hazrat Maulana Peer Syed Mohd. Khalid Ashraf (Sajjada Nasheen Dargah Ashraful Ulama Kichaucha Sharif & President Sunni Darul Uloom Mohammadia, Mumbai), Hazrat Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan (President, Ittehad-e-Millat Council, Baraili Sharif, UP), Dr. Mufti Mohd. Mokarram Ahmad (Shahi Imam, Fatehpuri Masjid, Delhi), Hazrat Maulana Syed Mohd. Hashmi Mian Kichaucha Sharif, Dr. Hasan Raza Khan (Director Arabic and Persian Research Institute Patna), Maulana Abul Haqqani Mohd. Husain (Director, R.S. Memorial Darbangha, Bihar), Dr. Abdul A. Azizi (Former Member, Backward Commission, Govt. of India), Dr. Khwaja Ikramuddin (Director, National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language, Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India), Kamal Farooqi (Former Chairman, Minority Commission of India and presently National General Secretary, Samajwadi Party) were some of the speakers during the Conference.

These distinguished orators were unanimous in pointing out that the constant publication of blasphemous material, cartoons and the making of profane movies insulting the Prophet was part of a consensus strategy promoted by the US and Israel and the Indian Government would be wrong if it continues to foster relationship with these countries without bothering to understand that these countries, who claimed to be greatest champions of world peace and human rights were in fact the worst enemies of peace and humanity.

Through this conference, the AISUF also demanded that the Saudi Government clarify its position regarding its relations with US and demanded an answer regarding measures taken in order to ensure the safety and security of sacred places inside Saudi Arabia.

Real News Intl. News Bureau




Extortion Arrests Fuel Credibility Crisis for India Media

New Delhi-based journalist Shantanu Guha Raya warns of “a dark and ugly side of the Indian media” in this article and speaks of impending need for immediate corrective measures

India’s best journalists are producing impressive investigative reporting these days. But the unprecedented arrests last week of two journalists for extortion highlights a troubling problem for the country’s free-wheeling media: widespread payoffs and a worrisome lack of credibility. Veteran Delhi-based journalist Shantanu Guha Ray reports on what one prominent editor calls “our News of the World moment.”

On a balmy Tuesday, November 27, 2012, the Delhi Police arrested two senior television journalists on extortion charges leveled by a steel baron.

The arrests – following a daylong probe over tea, biscuits and a frugal meal at a non-descript interrogation center in the heart of the city – was the first of its kind in India.

So were the charges.

Last month, steel baron Navin Jindal, also a member of Parliament of the Congress Party-led ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and a top polo player, had distributed at a press conference compact discs of a coffee shop recording showing the journalists, Sudhir Chaudhary and Samir Alhuwalia of TV channels Zee News and Zee Business respectively, demanding cash for not airing their investigation into what they claimed were corrupt practices by Jindal’s company, Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL).

Zee News is India’s third largest Hindi-language channel. Zee Business is one of two Hindi business news channels in the country.

The two journalists denied the charge against them and said they were – actually – offered bribes by JSPL, a $3.5 billion turnover company that had already drawn flak for being allegedly favored by the UPA government while sanctioning coal mines under a first-come-first-get basis.

The trigger for the scam was a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the country’s auditor, which highlighted a whopping Rs 1,000,000 crore (US$180 billion) loss to the national exchequer because of what it called a flawed disbursal process.

The coal scam story was broken by India Today, a top weekly, in October 2011. Subsequently, several Indian publications and news channels carried details of companies benefitting from the scam. It was alleged that JSPL had reportedly pocketed nearly one-fourth of the mines offered by the Coal Ministry, then headed by the country’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Zee Telefilms, the parent company of the two channels (and several others) denied the JSPL charge and claimed their editors had gone to meet the JSPL officials to discuss an advertising contract stretching over four years.

But investigators of the Crime Branch of Delhi Police didn’t buy the Zee theory, nor did officials of the Indian Broadcasting Association (IBA) who previewed the CD and squarely blamed the two editors for trying to negotiate a deal with JSPL. Chaudhary, who was an IBA treasurer, was instantly removed from the post.

For almost three weeks since the Jindal press conference took place, the Crime Branch investigators continued their probe and sent the CDs offered by JSPL for forensic tests. Unconfirmed reports said the cops even had access to telephone conversations between the editors and their owners that conclusively proved their complicity in the extortion case. Initially, the editors avoided the summons for almost a month and lobbied hard with rival political parties to make it a big, prestige issue of what Zee claimed was the government’s pressure tactics to “muzzle the media.” No support was forthcoming.

It was a clear signal for the cops in India’s politically sensitive capital. The editors were told if they avoid the summons again, they will be raided and arrested. The two instantly fell in line.

During the interrogation, the two editors repeatedly blamed Jindal and the ruling UPA government for their arrest and said the act was comparable to the days of the Emergency (1975-77) when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s government had gagged the media. But – for some strange reasons – the two remained silent when confronted with proof of their negotiations with JSPL officials.

“They were sweating profusely when confronted with the evidence,” said a senior police officer privy to the probe. “They first asked for a Rs 20 crore rupee (US$3.6 million) deal for four years and then hiked it to Rs 100 crore (US$18 million) for the same period. They first said they wanted to do a sting operation on JSPL officials. Then they claimed they went to discuss advertisement possibilities. The editors were trying their best to cover up.” A few family members of the editors, present in the police station, started weeping when the two were being taken to the court.

At the same time, another drama was unfolding in the capital. Zee News officials had called a press conference to claim their editors were being punished for exposing corruption. “This is the darkest day for the Indian media,” claimed Alok Aggarwal, CEO, Zee Telefilms. “We did nothing wrong. Our editors were being told to drop news reports of the coal scam involving JSPL by Jindal and other Congress Party leaders.” During the pressure, Aggarwal reminded journalists of the Rs 150 crore rupee (US$27 million) defamation charge the channel had leveled against JSPL.

“The arrests have been made to sensationalize the issue and to lend a cover to the coal scam and in particular to favor Naveen Jindal, Congress MP, and his company JSPL,” Aggarwal read from a statement at the press conference.

Aggarwal also claimed that Zee promoter Subhas Chandra never asked the editors to raise cash for the channel. This was contrary to the report submitted by the investigators that said while striking the deal, the two accused had contacted Chandra which reflects his alleged involvement in the case.

The media baron, who models himself as India’s answer to Rupert Murdoch, was issued summons by the Delhi Police but he managed to duck the dart. His office told the Crime Branch that Chandra, whose other non-media business interests include exports, packaging and entertainment parks, was out of India and would be back only next month.

Zee News staffers, however, received an e-mail from Goyal – wherein it was written that the channel was paying a “heavy price” for taking on the ruling Congress Party.

But the e-mail and the Zee News press conference found little support and sympathy from political parties and thinkers across the country. Worse, former judge Markandey Katju, chairman of the Press Council of India, a state-owned media watchdog, demanded that the government cancel the broadcasting license of Zee News while investigations are on. “Prima facie evidence shows Zee is guilty. They should not be running the news channel till the probe is on,” Katju told reporters.

Emboldened, JSPL – which had also slapped a counter Rs 200 crore (US$36 million) extortion case against the channel – held its ground. “The case is sub-judice. I will not offer any comments but we will fight to the end,” Jindal told reporters in the afternoon of Wednesday, November 28.

A few hours later, a local court sat till late evening to hear arguments from both sides and remanded the two editors for an additional two days of police remand in a lock up close to the city’s diplomatic zone.

In the night, India’s primetime television anchors, who often pride themselves for setting the national agenda, were seriously debating credibility jitters among the country’s news companies and its news gatherers.

“Indian media is suffering from a serious credibility issue,” remarked Vinod Mehta, a veteran journalist and former editor of India’s widely circulated Outlook newsweekly.

Dilip Bobb, a veteran editor who was part of the team that started India Today, India’s largest newsmagazine, said the Zee News incident reflected a dark and ugly side of the Indian media. “What was horrifying was to watch two young editors sipping tea and nibbling on biscuits and cookies and reassuring Jindal’s men that the demand for cash is routine in Indian media and not an one-off case. If editors cut deals, then God save us.”

Shoma Chaudhury, managing editor of India’s iconic Tehelka magazine, called it the biggest media scandal the nation has ever seen. “It’s our News of the World moment,” Chaudhury wrote in her column on the magazine’s website.

Many were also upset because some months ago, the Mumbai-based Daily News and Analysis (DNA), a newspaper owned by the Zee group, had advertised a front-page slogan: “Money cannot buy our integrity”, an apparent jibe at a rival daily known for giving favorable coverage to companies driving the revenue in the subcontinent’s $6 billion strong advertising market.

“The very objectivity of the Indian news media is now in question,” Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express daily that is known for its investigative journalism, told a television debate.

To many, the Zee episode was worse than the scandal that erupted in 2010 after two weekly news magazines published audio recordings of PR agent Niira Radia revealing a cozy relationship between the journalists and subjects they are supposed to cover objectively.

“The tapes revealed that the Indian media looked fiercely independent but was ready to be influenced,” says Mehta.

Manish Tiwari, the country’s suave information and broadcasting minister, says it is Indian media’s biggest wakeup call.  “Paid news or plugs for cash has replaced serious newsgathering in the Indian media,” he told journalists in Delhi.

He should know. Lost in the biggest media scandal is the story whether JSPL actually violated norms to earn the coal blocks.

Sadly, no one is chasing JSPL. Reporters are stationed outside the prison where two journalists are holed up with other criminals. That’s saleable, breaking news for them.

A senior journalist, Shantanu Guha Ray broke the US$180 billion coal scam story in 2011 while working for India Today, the country’s largest weekly. He is currently associated with the Vienna-based Central European News as its India representative.




‘Visit and stay of foreigners in Lucknow suspicious’

British soldiers looting Qaiserbagh, Lucknow (1858)

Real News Intl. (RNI), Lucknow:

The regular visits and stay of several Europeans and Americans in the city of Lucknow for reasons beyond merely sightseeing is being viewed with suspicion by the members of the community. The matter got highlighted further when the Shia leader Kalbe Jawad, in his speech from the pulpit of Ghufranmaab imambara asked Lucknowites to beware of the American and Israeli agents who have penetrated the common masses.

In his speech, Kalbe Jawad hinted at the enhanced focus of various foreign powers towards Lucknow, due to the repeatedly changing dynamics in the Middle East. Several other people in Lucknow have lately been raising concern over visit of foreigners in the State capital and their alleged suspicious activities and more than frequent meetings with people with dubious backgrounds. A case in point is also the recent visits of British, Israeli and US diplomats to Lucknow with the express purpose of meeting various Muslim leaders, media persons and other dignitaries. Other than the dinner hosted mostly for various Muslim invitees, a select group of people from the community is reported to have personally met these diplomats in their hotel rooms for a confidential one to one meeting.

The question being raised in certain sections relates as to why there is so much of enhanced focus on Muslims by British, Israeli and US diplomats and what is the purpose behind their more than usual visits to Lucknow and places of religious interests like Deoband.

Speaking to Real News from Khajwa in Bihar where he had gone for Moharram commemorations, Dr. Amanat Naqvi raised the issue of frequent visits of foreigners and more than usual stay of these persons for purposes like studying Islamic jurisprudence and other contemporary Muslim issues, which makes it easier for them to mix with the Muslim masses as well as the clergy. Dr. Naqvi said that keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issue, the Government should probe the antecedents of these people visiting Lucknow and other cities and also make checks on Indians who meet these people. He hinted that the increased frequency lately suggests that a big nefarious plan is underway.

Real News’ enquiry has revealed that the people among whom these foreigners are moving are seen to be moving among those very people and propagating those very issues that are part of American and Israeli agenda for Muslims in India. Besides working to destroy or weaken various tenets related to Islam, the Indians among whom these foreigners move frequently are also seen to be targeting the Ulemas of the Muslim community who are known to take stand against the policies of Britain, Israel and the US.

Real news intl. news bureau




Problems galore for the aam-aadmi

 

Real News Intl. (RNI), New Delhi:

Roadside vendors abound every nook and cranny of the multi-layered city that Delhi is – from the computer sales shops in Nehru Place to the electronic markets in Bhagirath Palace; from the chaat wala round the corner to the challi (corn) selling chap down the road; from the key maker to the egg and omelets selling push-cart down the street. The issues related to these people remain the same in all the cities across the country, about which we are mostly concerned the least. The unfortunate side of their story is that even the self-confessed champions of aam aadmi (common man) cause are least bothered about their miseries and problems and look towards the movers and shakers of society for issues.

When the municipal corporations decide to clear roadside encroachments, it is these petty vendors who are at the receiving end while the major encroachers get scot free. When the food department makes raids, it is again these roadside small vendors who are at the receiving end.

A similar incident was witnessed recently by Real News correspondent, when a vendor’s push cart was taken away by a group of men, who refused to reveal their identity despite being asked so. The vendor, who revealed his name as Raj Kumar, was selling chaat when all of a sudden few people surrounded him and removed all the chaat, utensils and other belongings from the push-cart. In the accompanying photographs, all the belongings of Raj Kumar can be seen scattered on the roadside while the push-cart is being taken away in a truck.

Real News talked to Raj Kumar to the wailing Raj Kumar who said: “My fault is that I have been born in a poor family. I am trying to make the ends meet through selling chaat. The government does nothing to help the poor but if the poor themselves try to stand up on their feet by doing petty jobs, they are harassed and tormented in this manner.”

Raj Kumar further revealed that he was sending his children to a primary school so that they don’t have to face such hardships in their lives. “I have to pay school fees for all my three children. With my push-cart taken away, how can I feed the family, leave alone arrange money for their school fee.”

Real News Intl. News Bureau