Archive for October, 2007

It’s A Free World: A New Beginning

Me and Nova together have started a new blog: It’s A Free World.

The vision behind this blog is make it a vocal mouthpiece for anyone with whom life has been unjust. Sing about unsung heros. Applaud all good things of life. Inspire changes that make a difference to life. This journey has just begun, we might get more as and when we get our vocal piece (our blog) working.

It is not by design, but by chance the first two posts in the blog have been largely about women.

You can read about Domestic Violence (DV) here.

Women’s No Pay Day to protest unequal pay for women in UK. Read more about it.

Small Victories at Jhalak Dikhla Ja

I am pleased to write this post. It was due since this Friday, 26 October when 10th episode of Jhalak Dikhla Ja was aired.

I had written earlier in my post Jhalak Dikhla Ja: Stars and Duds, that for me there are two eyesores on the show: Mona Singh and Mika.

The two reasons I disliked them was they were not good at what they came to do: Mona Singh is a awkward host in a stylish show as Jhalak while Mika hardly danced well. On top, Mika did not have enough spirit to take any constructive criticism. He never missed an opportunity to shun judges and their judgment.

So what is the victory that I am talking about? It was about the other reason why I despised both Mona Singh and Mika: they made voter appeals based on region or community. 😦 It is condemning to divide people on basis of region/community in simple matters as that of entertainment.

But in this 10th episode, not once did Mona Singh make a regional voter appeal. 🙂 Not only that, she was less forceful in pushing her Punjabi stereotype identity. For once, she looked like exuberant (yet gawky) host Mona Singh, and not a Punjabi girl next door.

Even Mika, who is these days very pompous about getting viewer votes, said that his several fans (does he really have many?) had emailed him to say why does he ask votes only from Punjabis, he would rather ask votes from entire India! I was gaping with surprise, what brought the change. I hope this trend continues into later episodes.

Suggested Links:
26 October episode video

Jhakal Dikhlaja Show Blog: Your resource to preview, videos, and updates
Jhalak Dikhla Ja Blog

Jhalak Dikhla Ja: Stars and Duds

We Need A Big Change: Law Enforcement 3

Well, I did not think that I will write a third post on law enforcement so soon. I could not keep myself from writing it. It is just one gross news story I watched on television tonite.

Whole nation watched with shame and horror when two Bhagalpur policemen tied a 20-year-old small-time pickpocket to their motorbikes and dragged him cruelly on the road. This unlucky youth tried to pull a woman’s chain. Assistant Sub-Inspector LB Singh and constable Ramchandra Rai, the two policeman involved, had been suspended after the incident. Yet the government probe panel gave these policemen a clean chit!

Something that the whole world can see on the video, probe panel failed to see. Is the Government blind? Blinded by perhaps wads of money or political greed. According to the probe panel report, it was the mob that was responsible for the gruesome treatment met out to the pick-pocket Salim. The panel report says: It was mob who beat him ruthlessly. Mob that tied Salim’s to the police motorbike.

What about these policemen who drove to motorbike to drag Salim mercilessly? True, mob had mercilessly beaten Salim, but what police do to stop them? A riot was caused outside Bhagalpur police station when people heard the rummor of Salim dying due to beatings. Police had to fire 8 rounds to scatter the mob! I would say we could have had another Godhra in Bihar!

Death of 52 karsewaks has caused so many deaths in Gujrat, wounds of which have not yet healed. Do you think we can maintain harmony with such insensitive behavior? National Minority Commission has already sought a report on the issue. I would hate to see any religious tempers flare just because of two insensitive law enforcement official and equally insensitive panel.

Government should instead punish those policemen to send a strong message to anybody who dares to misuse law. It should instead ponder why youth commit these small-time chain snatching or pickpocketing? Lack of jobs? Meagre salaries? Pathetic working conditions? Class difference? We have answers buried right in our backyard.

Watch this video of this gruesome act.

We Need A Big Change: Law Enforcement 2

I have already written before about dismal state of law enforcement in India. Recent cases like that of Rizwanur Rehman in West Bengal and Blueline buses-Delhi police nexus have forced me to reiterate some incidents. Before that, I need to ask you few questions.

How far can you go to lodge your FIR or get justice? What do you choose to do to exercise your rights: Will you commit suicide to gain justice or walk naked on streets to get heard by police or run pillar to post to higher officials or a court every time you want to register a complaint in your local police station. Or will you call news-hungry media channels to gain their support or do you take the easy way out by bribing the already-corrupt police? What would you do when very protectors of law become your tormentors?

If you think, I am getting hassled over nothing. Think of Rizwanur Rehman, recent casualty from West Bengal, who died helplessly fighting against the brute force of police. This muslim youth’s only fault was that he had married a Hindu girl, daughter of a rich industrialist called Ashok Todi. You can read here how police negotiated with Rizwanur to send his wife back to nurse her so-called ill father. And then Rizwanur realized that he had been duped by police and his wife will now never be sent back to him. Few days later, Rizwanur’s body was found on railway tracks. CBI is probing his death after West Bengal police investigation was found wanting in credibility.

The question is not if Rizwanur committed suicide or was murdered. The fact remains that, in either case, it was police that was his tormentor. The police instead of protecting him from clutches of rich was abetting with rich. I would not be surprised if even CBI bungles the investigation of Rizwanur case. I am already losing faith in the system.

I still remember Pooja Chauhan, the lady from Rajkot who had to parade in her underwear on city roads just to register a complaint against her husband and in-laws! I can’t think of more extreme step a woman can take just to be heard. She had been sacked from her house by her in-laws for not being able to give birth to a male heir. Since then she had been unsuccessfully trying to register her complaint in the local police thana. But our police refused to entertain her complaint till she made this desperate attempt to garner public and media support by walking semi-nude on the roads. So much for Domestic Violence Protection Act!

This was not a stray incident; there are dozen more that happen everyday right under our noses. Only we get to hear select few.

You are mistaken if you think such a phenomenon of not registering FIRs is confined to rural people or other lower strata of society. People in cities routinely bribe law enforcement officials. They bribe the police to register a FIR for their stolen vehicles or to escape traffic challans. Delhiites shell out bribe even to get their passports made! They gladly pay the police officer who comes for a routine verification of their address in passport application form. Is it surprising that sometimes malicious elements easily garner passport by bribing? Some of them also pay the guy who delivers passport at their homes! 😦Blueline buses in Delhi have claimed 99 lives (still counting!) this year. How? Simple by their connivance with corrupt Delhi police. Just bribe, and you get valid licenses for any defaulting bus or any unqualified bus driver. Who pays the price? The common men and women like me and you. We pay the price of their corruption with our life.

Corrupt practices such as not lodging FIRs or writing “missing” reports instead of “stolen” reports help our law enforcement officials to keep crime rate stats low. No wonder ruling parties then boast of low crime rates in blatantly crime-ridden states!

Let’s campaign against corruption in law enforcement! Let’s refuse to bribe these officials! Let’s knock the doors of courts whenever met with unfairness and unlawfulness! Let’s pitch in together for the rights of innocents or some day we might be standing in their place.

This article is part of We Need A Big Change series on this blog. You can read We Need A Big Change: Law Enforcement Part 1 here.

More about Rizwanur: Did cops tap Rizwanur’s phone?
Loopholes in Rizwanur’s suicide theory
Rizwanur case: tainted cops removed
Bengal has a history of mystery deaths
More about Pooja Chauhan: Rajkot woman stages semi-nude protest
Why Pooja Got Mad
More about Delhi Blueline buses: Delhi’s killer buses
Blueline-Police Nexus

Motivation of the Week-Acknowledgements

I have not blogged for a while. Not that there is nothing to write about, only motivation to write about anything is missing. 😦 I have saved so many drafts in my wordpress dashboard, so many half-written articles. But do not have enough motivation to research and review them or add the finishing touches.

So I decided to proactively think of something good, related to blogging, that recently happened to me. So two motivating things happened to me.

1. Ish wrote about me in his post to mark the event of getting 2 lakh and 10, 000 hits (!) in his blog. His views about me while narrating his blogging experience was motivating. 🙂 You will find his opinion about me/my blog toward the end of his post before the updates section. Thanks, Ish! It is things like these that make bloggers like me keep going.

2. Ashish created a green RSS icon for me. I am flaunting it in the right sidebar of my blog. Have a look, and your feedback is appreciated. He actually created two icons and I chose this green one because it goes with my objective of blogging (shouting) hoarsely about going green. Thanks, Ashish. Perhaps this increases my blog subscription. 🙂

What this means? It means you would soon see a new post on Visceral Observations. 🙂

Lead India Contest: Who Do You Want to Win?

Amul’s Take on Lead India Contest

Amul’s Take on Lead India Contest 🙂

Well, to be honest I have not been meticulously following the contest trail till recently.

Nevertheless, Lead India contest gives hopes to incorrigible optimists like me. It is an initiative by Times of India to give opportunity to a honest, enthusiastic citizens within 25-45 age group to dream a leadership project.

The prize? One year leadership programme at Harvard University and a grant of Rs. 50 lakh towards a project of the winner’s choice.

Out of 32, 682 applications received from all over India, now 8 finalists from 8 cities have been selected. The selection is based on 50% jury judgment, 25% audience jury judgment, and rest sms poll. Here is a brief about each of the candidates:

1. Sanjiv Kaura, Delhi: A 42-year-old who was earlier a MNC CEO overseas before he returned to India in 1998. As per him, he discovered India on a bicycle by cycling from Kalka to Kanyakumari, while staying in villages. He lead a nationwide grassroots movement on education (NAFRE) across 26,5000 villages in India. He also served part-time in Territorial army. It was there he was when his friends filed up his entry for Lead India contest. This social entrepreneur is said to be “a perfect blend of experience and idealism.”

2. Abha Singh, Lucknow: 42-year-old Director of Indian Postal Services division at Lucknow. Her dream project is to curb corruption. Other issues she feels strongly about are communalisation and castism, gradual erosion of systems and values, educational backwardness, especially rural areas and particularly women, and terrorism. She believs we can do it.

3. Devang Nanavati, Ahmedabad: 36-year-old top notch lawyer from Gujrat. He is a senior partner in Ahmedabad’s leading law firm of Nanavati & Nanavati, Advocates. Likes of Arun Jaitley and P.Chidambaram have fought cases on behalf of his firm. His interests: Billiards, human rights, and constitutional laws. Plans to embark a political career.

4. Dipayan Dey, Kolkata: 44-year-old environmentalist. He has indisputably won expert jury points, audience jury points and sms polls. He is a biotechnologist trained in sustainable development from the United Nations University in Tokyo. He has founded a NGO called SAFE that aims for poverty alleviation and protection of natural resources (such as water bodies) are judiciously exploited and the local population can earn more money. His take”curb defense budget, first fight hunger and poverty.”

5. Soumya Mishra, Hyderabad: 40-year-old IPS officer at Warangal. Has first hand experience of leadership and counseling at work. Her dream project? To start a community welfare project primarily to help redress the problems faced by people at the grass-root level due to naxalism. Not surprising choice, as she is a police officer from Naxalite-rampaged Warangal.

6. Rajendra K. Misra, Bangalore: 42-year-old entrepreneur. He retired willfully at 40 when he was MD of a successful company to devote time to public policy domain. Writing a book called Retire at 40 And Do What? Inicdentally, more can be found about him at his blog.

7. Ranjit Gadgil, Pune: 36-year-old programme director of Janwani is a technocrat-turned social activist. He returned to serve India quitting his IT consultancy job in US for. He was involved in education of underprivileged children. involved with organisations like the Nagrik Chetna Manch (NCM) and the Pune Traffic and Transportation Forum (PTTF). Talks about solid waste management and ragpickers issue (something you can read more about in this blog.) With his Lead India prize money wants to set up an organisation that can deal with urban planning and act as a source of information and support for slum dwellers.

8. Ujjwal Banerjee, Mumbai: 27-year-old, married to lawyer is an engineer-cum-MBA. Like most of us, started with MNC (in his case, TCS) and then later switched to work in a NGO after a through thoughtfulness. HE is now serving as an HR Manager in a NGO Akansha that shelters and educates street kids. He was involved to protect innocence of kids in a murkly world of brothels. His dream project? Opening internet kiosks in a couple of Indian villages to educate, benefit farmers, schoolchildren and adult learners.

My personal picks:
Abha Singh from Lucknow who aims to fight corruption. Ujjawal Banerjee from Mumbai, who gives up full-time lucrative job at young age to work for NGOs. Ranajit Gadgil for handling solid waste management system and rag picker’s protection.

Source: Check out more about finalists from Lead India contest.

Read more:
Time of India Lead India Intitiative
Lead India: Meet the Best of India

How Many Books Have You Read?

I am not reading books these days as much as I would like to. I came across this book meme in some of the blogs, I decided to do it to track my reading progress. I have kept the basic instructions same, though I have changed the book list.

Here are the instructions to do the meme:

Bold the ones you’ve read in the list. Italicize the ones you want to read or those you are reading. Leave blank the ones you aren’t interested in. And remember movies don’t count. 🙂

  1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
  2. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
  3. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  5. Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
  7. To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf)
  8. Who Moved My Cheese? (Spencer Johnson)
  9. The Inscrutable Americans (Anurag Mathur)
  10. Falconer (John Cheever)
  11. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
  12. A House for Mr. Biswas (V. S. Naipaul)
  13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
  14. A Painted House (John Grisham)
  15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
  17. India in Slow Motion (Mark Tully)
  18. The Stand (Stephen King)
  19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
  20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
  21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
  22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
  23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  24. Transmission (Hari Kunzru)
  25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
  26. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
  27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
  28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
  29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
  31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
  32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
  33. 1984 (George Orwell)
  34. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
  35. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
  36. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
  37. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
  38. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
  39. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
  40. Shalimar the Clown (Salman Rushdie)
  41. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  42. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
  43. The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  44. The Bible
  45. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
  46. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
  47. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  48. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  49. Bleak House (Charles Dickens)
  50. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  51. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
  52. Girls of Riyadh (Rajaa Alsanea)
  53. Great Expectations (Dickens)
  54. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
  55. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
  56. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
  57. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
  58. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  59. In Xanadu (William Dalrymple)
  60. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  61. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
  62. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
  63. Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice)
  64. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
  65. One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  66. This World is Flat (Thomas Friedman)
  67. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
  68. Les Miserables (Hugo)
  69. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  70. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
  71. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
  72. Beloved (Toni Morrison)
  73. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
  74. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  75. The Summer Tree (Guy Gravriel Kay)
  76. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  77. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
  78. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
  79. Notes to Myself (Hugh Prather)
  80. Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris)
  81. Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck)
  82. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
  83. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
  84. Emma (Jane Austen)
  85. The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins)
  86. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  87. From Russia, With Love (Ian Fleming)
  88. Black Beauty (Anna Sewell)
  89. Kane and Able (Jeffrey Archer)
  90. Animal Farm (George Orwell)
  91. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
  92. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
  93. Sons and Lovers (D. H. Lawrence)
  94. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
  95. A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth)
  96. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  97. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
  98. Matilda (Roald Dahl)
  99. Ulysses (James Joyce)
  100. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)

I have read only 36 books out of 100. So much for calling myself a voracious reader. 😦 There are actually some books I had not heard of before reading this list. And some of the books I had read years back. But there are some books that I look forward to read. Hope I get back to reading soon.

Books I am currently reading:
Best of Tehelka Part 2
The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru
Seagull by Anton Chekov

World Food Day

World Food Day Logo

October 16 is celebrated as World Food Day across 150 countries to recognize basic human right: “Right to have food.” The aim is to heighten awareness about hunger around the world. It is an initiative from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Statistics say that Approximately 1.5 billion people live on less than US$1 a day and every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger.

Take this World Food Day quiz. There are just 1o questions, and I bet you learn 10 astonishing facts about about hunger. I got only 2 right!

Click here at Hunger Site to give a free cup of food to hungry.

Source: World Food Day: Fight hunger to reduce poverty

Also See:
Action against hunger in India
Hunger Stalks Rising in India
Food for All Organization

Ban That Bulb!

Everyone I talk to seems to know that we should not use incandescent bulbs. Rather, we should use CFL bulbs that save money and help in energy conservation. Yet we have not been able to either ban or phase out incandescent bulbs. Forget rural areas, you will be appalled at the bulb and electricity statistics in the Capital city, New Delhi.

As per statistics, the peak energy demand of Delhi is 3600 mega watt but its supply is falling short by 750MW. This leads to long lasting power cuts. In the 2007 budget, the state government decided to hike its power budget almost five fold to Rs 1285 crores to fight the energy crisis to invest in building of thermal power plants. Thermal power plants will only increase Delhi’s CO2 emissions fostering climate change, resulting in even hotter summers in the capital.

An estimated 12.5 crores of ordinary light bulbs are still wasting electricity in the state! Surya, Philips and Bajaj, the three largest bulb manufacturers in India are still churning out those criminal bulbs. Changing these 12.5 crore light bulbs to efficient fluorescent lamps could reduce energy consumption by roughly 450 MW, reducing the present power shortage by 60%. Message is clear, some of us know it yet do not fail to use those “zero power” night bulbs and more.

Sign this ban the bulb petition here. I just did. Can you believe it in a country where we have Internet reach of 99 million, not even one million have signed for the campaign?

Here is another creative video from my favorite Common Craft on why you should use CFLs.

Why not use CFL bulb??

Greenpeace launches a signature drive against the inefficient bulbs in India

Also read:
We Need to Explore Renewable Energy Options: Interview (Do you agree?)
Get Ban the bulb posters from Greenpeace

Green Games and Kids: Blog Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Today is blog action day for environment. I could not have missed making this post today.

When I made post about Go Green-Activities, I tagged people for playing Flex Your Power challenge. Most people except Ish and Nishu found it boring. So I thought I would find more interesting games.

One most important comment in my last post about environment was that most people are aware about energy conservation, yet do not have motivation to do it. My first solution to motivate others is to catch them young.

When I was kid, my Dad told me I should not waste water because people in Rajasthan do not have water easily. They travel miles to get potable water in Thar desert. His teaching about water conservation has stayed with me ever since. I still hunt through the house to fix leaking taps lest a drop of water be wasted. Saving water is part of my everyday life, I do not go out of way to do it. We need to make kids aware, so that energy conservation and recycling is ingrained part of their everyday life.

In these gamer generation, kids can be informed about such serious subjects as energy conservation in an interesting way such as games, simulation or some creative web site. These should be discussed through activities in class. I tried one of the games on my very young cousin, she was hooked. This game called Myabodo (meaning my house) was meant to create awareness amongst UK children.

In Myabodo game, you can create your own house by making a series of choices. It is a basic principle of teaching to show the consequences of your choices and mistakes so that you learn from them. In Myabodo, you can see the consequence of each choice you make in your house. Every time you make a choice, you can see how much energy you used, how much water you used, and how much waste you generated. When you house is created, you can check how green was it. I made my house, only I do not know how to embed my code in wordpress template. 😦

There are more such games. Electrocity is a game where you are the Mayor of the city and you have to make decisions for the welfare of the city. These games and education about global warming should be part of school curriculum.

Learn more about green games at:
Blog Action Day Feature: Electrocity
Play Golf for Environment
Green Games and Puzzles for Kids
Also read on recycling:
50 painless ways you can help environment today
Recycle cans to make beautiful trays: A fun tutorial
Make fun paperbags out of newspaper

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