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Fractal Enlightenment

हम सब एक है ~ We Are All One

Updated: 2018-03-06T23:49:31.224+05:30


Goodbye Global Warming


If you are a regular reader here you would have come across one of the many articles on Global Warming that we have blogged about. But as change and understanding is never constant with us, we are going to close down this section that we started off in mid 2006.It could be considered as a hilarious thing to do when Global Warming is supposedly at its peak. But as strange as it may seem, we are now inclined to believe that the whole Global Warming entourage was a well thought and executed business plan.A few months ago a friend of mine asked me if I had watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and went on about the awesomeness of it. It is perhaps the bible of an eco-friendly geek, is what I assume without watching it as yet.Mr Al Gore has got his facts and data skewed, and even worse its done intentionally. Take a look at this article on how the data has been falsified (do read the comments as well), stating various credible sources like the Telegraph etc. on how the data is just put there to scare the masses and introduce new taxes. Himalayan Glacier Size Increasing We all know how important the Himalayas are, considering that they house the most Glaciers in the world it would be important to see how these Glaciers are fairing with the whole earth heating up.According to the Times of India article, "Himalayan glaciers here to stay" The conclusion was drawn by glaciologists after studying the behaviour of 35 Himalayan glaciers. The Mentossa glacier in Miyar valley of Lahaul-Spiti in Himachal Pradesh has, in fact, expanded in the last few years while there is no change in the Kangriz glacier in Zanskar valley of J&K since 1913.Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that produces global warming reports, are under scrutiny for giving an exaggerated prediction about the Himalayan glacier meltdown. Its funny that if the glaciers are melting at a normal rate, what does Mr Al Gore have to gain with his prophecy on Global Warming? While he has gone and got half the world scared, Gore has invested in business that will benefit from the entire green revolution he desires. Gore will be the first carbon billionaire! Hope this justifies the reasons why we shall no longer support the global warming bandwagon and embrace climate change with open arms. The truth is we all need to reconnect with nature and play a role in saving the climate.[...]

Kashmir, where are you Now? : Part 2


In the first part of Kashmir where are you now? we took a look at the trauma that the woman in Indian occupied Kashmir go through with rape cases. In this post we shall take a look at Half widows, what are half widows and their suffering.Many people mostly males and some of the rape victims end up disappearing, sometime huge graves are found where bodies have been buried to hide the evidence.So what are half widows? When a woman's husband goes missing, the mostly never reappear. They are half widows, unable to remarry because their husbands are not dead, unable to have a right to the property, and sometimes with children they are ostracized by society.How does this happen, heres' a short documentary on how a husband is taken from his home by the Rashtriya Rifles a regiment started specifically for Kashmir, in front of his wife and children, never to return on the claims of being a militant. Half widows who marry generally have to face the wrath of not only their previous in laws but society as a whole. There are few NGOs who are working to help these woman not only by supporting them but also trying to find clues as to their disappearance.If you watched the video above you would realize that the numbers are not small, there are over 20,000 woman who have been widowed in this manner, and still every month that count gets higher.The future is bleak for the half widows of Kashmir, according to, during the last 15 years the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, an organization of the relatives of the disappeared in Kashmir, claims that about 10,000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearances by state agencies, mostly taken by armed personnel. Of the disappeared, they say between 2,000 and 2,500 people were married, and almost all were males.[...]

Kashmir, where are you Now? : Part 1


Kashmir, if there's heaven on it they said its Shangrila in Kashmir, I have been deviating from this topic for a long time. Every India for some reason perhaps its what we are born and brought up with this inborn hatred towards Pakistan and that Kashmir is ours.We spend millions of our tax rupees to enforce law and order in Kashmir, as usual the main stream media does not cover issues that glorify the pain and suffering of the day to day Kashmiri. So after going through Kashmiri blogs, the picture of heaven on earth seems to be taking a change at least when it comes to the lifestyles of people over there.I shall start off with Rape cases in Kashmir, a study done by Medecins Sans Frontieres in mid 2005 reveals that Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. It further mentions that since the beginning of the armed struggle in Kashmir in 1989, 11.6% of the Kashmiri woman are sexual abused or molested.In Kunan Poshpora, a small village in Kashmir, the soldiers of fourth Rajputana Rifles allegedly raped about 30 women on the night of February 23, 1991, during a search operation while men were taken away from their homes and interrogated. The ages of women raped ranged from 13 to 80 years. According to newspaper reports, on June 17,1994, troops of Rashtriya Rifles accompanied by two officers Major Ramesh and Major Rajkumar entered into village Hyhama and allegedly raped and molested seven women. In another incident, troops raped a mentally ill old woman in her house in Barbarshah in Srinagar on January 5, 1991. Medical reports confirmed rape and locals lodged an FIR with the concerned police station, but the police did no investigation. She later died in 1998 while the FIR still awaits action from the state government. In another gruesome incident, an army Major in Badra, Handwara, raped Aisha, a 29-year-old woman and her 10-year-old daughter, Shabnum. These are few of the incidents that I have picked up from this article on Wailing woes from Combat Law, the heading of the article states, women in Kashmir suffer rape, molestation, kin's disappearances, psychological trauma and torture, while the much-hyped slogan of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proclaiming 'zero tolerance' towards human rights abuse stares him in the face! According to Dr Maiti, a professor of political science at Rurdwa University, West Bengal, explains, "Rape continues to be a major instrument of Indian oppression against the Kashmiri people while the majority of victims are civilians. This concept stands fortified by a report of ICRC dated March 6, 2001, where it has been mentioned that women are raped in order to humiliate, frighten and defeat the enemy 'group' to which they belong. Rape in a war is not merely a matter of chance; it is rather a question of power and control, which is 'structured by male soldiers' notions of their masculine privilege, by the strength of the military line of command and by class and ethnic inequalities among women."One of the reasons given by Radhika Coomaraswamy for sexual violence in armed conflict is that violence against women may be directed towards the social group of which she is a member because 'to rape a woman is to humiliate her community'. Complex and combined emotions of hatred, superiority, vengeance for real or imagined wrongs and national pride are engendered and deliberately manipulated in armed conflict.We have also written about the sexual molestation of woman by the Indian army. Here is the firs part of a documentary called Kashmir - The Truth.Kashmir, where are you Now? : Part 2 will be published shortly.[...]

India to get a New National Animal?


(image) The tiger the national animal of India, is suppose to evoke patriotic feelings is now bringing in nothing but agony. According to a census in February 2008 the number has fallen to 1,411, down from 3,642 in the last major survey in 2002. Bhavika had done an article on how India's pride the Tiger is disappearing fast.

The situation is dire, even though the central government has allocated a sizeable amount of funds to conserve the Indian tiger, there seems to be even larger fall in the tiger population. Fed up of the government waiting to do something about it, Sanctuary Asia Magazine has launched a thought-provoking campaign to save the tiger. Vote for a new National Animal!

The New National Animal website states that due to poaching, shrinking forests and weak political will has nearly wiped out the tiger, panthera tigris, our national animal. With just about 1400 tigers left, even with the most optimistic calculations, the tiger will probably survive only a few more years. And still our government refuses to take adequate steps to save it.

(image) What the vote for a new national animal is to put forth an idea that maybe the tiger can't be saved. Maybe the time has come to replace the tiger with a new national animal. A more resilient, and less vulnerable candidate like the goat, the donkey, the rat and the monkey.

Since these animals have more longevity, and have special characteristics that can be watched in a little video that plays on the site. This way Sanctuary Asia is trying to put part of the onus of saving the India Tiger on the youth of India.

After you place your vote you can sign a petition that will be sent to the Prime Ministers office to urge them to take up the responsibility in saving the tiger. Just a passing thought shouldn't the Shiv Sena, a political party in India, actually take this up with the poachers since their mascot is the Tiger?

What is Israel Doing?


Its been a while since I posted here, to be honest everytime I go through the news I have been depressed. Every time I want to post, this particular post, I end up not doing it, its gotten delayed and even more delayed as the death toll has now crossed 600 mostly civilians, my heart goes out to the Palestinians who are being massacred by the Israeli bombs. A long time ago I had done a post on Israel is No Holy Land, and just after Christmas a fresh war has been waged. Most Christians in India hold Israel close to their heart, close, because the Bible that has been given to us talks about Jerusalem and how it is the chosen land. But for me or anyone else who has begun to question what it really is, this is what the reality of the situation is. I spoke about how every third Sunday, every Christmas mass and every easter the collections are sent to the holy land, Jerusalem, under Israel's control. Every Christian in India needs to see where their money is going and what's happening with it. Out of the 600 most of the people who are massacred have been civilians, woman and children as well. I have been following the Israel Palestine scenario for years now and personally I have had enough of it and its time for some intervention, the masses need to awakend to whats really happening in our world. One last point to end with, if you recollect during the Mumbai terror attacks we had a picture of young Moshe Holtzberg who was orphaned, but not killed. The terrorists had the heart to spare the young boy but Israel has killed more than 1050 Palestinian children since September 2000.I have put in a few videos that you need to watch on Israel.We are all one, the same body, the same blood, the same heart, the same soul, the some consciousness, the same love. Brothers, fathers, sisters, hair, nose, cheeks, lips, hands that caress and some that kill. Our minds filled with hate, walls built to differentiate, how easy it is to hurt and hate another. But to love and serve the rewards shall be much greater. Peace Pace سلام שלום Hasîtî शान्ति Barış Мир[...]

The Story of Tibet as China Warns France


(image) As the Chinese increase pressure on France to stop the meeting between the Dalai Lama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on December 6th this Saturday in Poland, it becomes an even more interesting subject for us to divulge into.

The chinese state that the meeting will have negative implications between the two countries in terms of trade and future progress related to China and the European Union.

The Dalai Lama in Prague said, "I'm always telling my friends that a good, a close relationship with a huge country like China is very essential, and not only for the economy. But in the meantime, there are principles, like freedom of expression, human rights, democracy... for which you have to stand firm. Genuine friendship leaves a space to be firm, and at the end the other does appreciate that."

In our bid to get to the bottom of this we came across this video on Youtube, 47 years in Tibet. If you have had too much depression over your weebend due to the Mumbai terror attacks, you should probably skip watching it as its depressing as well but will give you a gist of the Tibet issue.

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From the video you would have realized that China went back on its word and in the last few years the Tibetans have been getting even more agitated. Prior to the Bejing Olympics there have been widespread protests where theres has been massive damage to chinese property and even more damage to the lives of Tibetans.

The Dalai has recently stated that his talks with Bejing have been fruitful, its only us who can help decide the faith of Tibet now. If you have time to watch Tibet The Story Of A Tragedy its an indepth story of Tibet since the 1930s to now, its an hour long and insightful.

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The Dalai Lama on Tibet and China


His holiness the Dalai Lama recently spoke about how he is loosing hope of progress with the Chinese government on the Tibet issue that we have spoken about quite often. The Olympics went by, a testing time for the Chinese, but there was no respite for the Tibetans, many who lost their lives in the protest.But the Dalai Lama is a person with profound compassion, I went through many news reports and found some similar points, this particular report was quite nice to read, its based on the Dalai's talk on Monday morning in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.A journalist asked the Dalai Lama on reincarnation, "You said you might not return. My question to you is where are you going to go?". "To hell," the Dalai Lama retorted, bursting out in hearty laughter. Then on a more serious note he stated a line from his favorite prayer, "So long as sentient beings' suffering remains, I will remain in order to serve, to share their suffering." Buddhists believe in a continual pattern of rebirth, once he dies, he'll be reborn in another body, "but where born I don't know." In broken English he went on to say, "If something useful, as I mentioned earlier, half joke, if something useful, some benefit, at least to some needy people or needy sentient beings, I'm ready to go there (to hell). If not much work, I'm going to heaven!"That was one part of the conference, over the last few year there has being growing criticism towards the Dalia from Tibetans who say that he is being to lenient in his approach with the Chinese officials but on the other hand China portrays him as a troublemaker, rebel and an evil person.The Dalai has admitted that his stand of peace and compassion has not worked with the Chinese and he is now ready to step out from the direct negotiation with the Chinese officials. "Tibetans are being handed down a death sentence. This ancient nation, with an ancient cultural heritage is dying. Today, the situation is almost like a military occupation in the entire Tibetan area. It is like we're under martial law. Fear, terror and lots of political education are causing a lot of grievance," said the Lama.He has now decided to let the people take over and express their real feelings and he would not be hindering their opinions. He ended his meeting with a satirical statement that the Media people are troublemakers so he wants to join as a member of the troublemakers club, Chinese officials have always clamped down on the media.But whats even more interesting is to see what the Chinese citizens are fed by the mainstream media, the same report according to a Chinese Daily, states that, the self-proclaimed spiritual leader, who betrayed his home country and fled Tibet in 1959, made a cliche-ridden statement when he said the current situation in Tibet is "very sad." Having never made any efforts for or contributions to the protection and development of Tibetan culture, the Dalai Lama absurdly claims himself as "the protector of Tibetan culture." The accusation of the so-called "cultural genocide" in Tibet and "death sentence" to Tibetans betrayed facts and were aimed at arousing concerns over Tibet to add weight to his separatist ambitions. Despite the Lhasa riot in March this year and disruptions and sabotage of the Beijing Olympic Games by a handful of elements seeking "Tibet independence," the central government has agreed to hold contacts with private representatives of the Dalai Lama. However, the Dalai Lama again played the trick of "retirement" and said he was disappointed about the talks with the central government and that the prospects for such talks would "become thinner and thinner." Facts have shown that his "disappointment" was groundless.Its very interesting to see how the media works in keeping people under control and feeding them information, heres a 56 minute video on the Dalai Lama, interviews, talks and a whole lot of information that wi[...]

America's Recession Felt in China


Hundreds of workers protested Friday for a third straight day outside the factory that closed amid a global slowdown that has begun hurting Chinese manufactures. The laborers are demanding unpaid wages from the factory's Hong Kong owner, Smart Union Group (Holdings) Ltd. If you recollect we have written about the toys made in China, that were sold around the world. A few days ago one of the biggest toy manufacturers in China that made toys for Mattel, Toys "R" Us, Hasbro and other American toy companies were shut down.Wang Wenming, a laborer at the factory, who was angry at this boss for the massive scale shutdown where 7,000 employees lost their job, said, "This financial crisis in America is going to kill us. It's already taking food out of our mouths."Earlier companies in China were competing to win bids from foreign buyers that were demanding unrealistically low prices. The American and European consumers were the ones who enjoyed the benefits of the rock-bottom prices.But today's scenario is not really good for these industries who are scrimping on materials and stiffing their suppliers just to survive.The Toy industry in China has already taken a massive blow, the official Xinhua News Agency reported this week that 3,631 toy exporters, which amount to 52.7% of the industry's enterprises went out of business in 2008."When these companies go bust, the outcome is higher prices," said Andy Xie, an independent economist in Shanghai. "Labor costs have gone up 70 to 100 percent in the last three or four years. But these guys have not been able to raise their prices because Toys "R" Us, Home Depot and Wal-Mart are saying no price increase. How is that possible?"According to the report some of the causes are higher production costs, wage increases for workers and the rising value of the yuan. Although China's exports were dropping because of the slowdown in America and Europe before this financial crisis. This is the first time in three years, the growth rate for Chinese exports has declined.Mass Scale protests have begun in China as the employees who have been laid off have not been paid their dues in most cases as the management states they have not received payments from their American counter parts.[...]

Are We Not Nature?


We are part of nature, although it sounds like an easy answer, we do not understand the significance of this sentence. As we continue with our progress and developments we are destroying the natural habit of a wide range of species in turn affecting our very own ecosystem.What we fail to realize, that as we continue on our destructive path we are only making it more difficult for our own existence. As the weaker species become extinct, death progresses through the chain until it will finally reach the top, the so called thinking species, man.Its so easy to leave the job up to the people who are taking initiatives to help protect our environment, but the crux of the matter is that we, as individuals need to take small or large steps in this direction because without each one of us realising and working towards averting these disasters, the forerunners will get nowhere.Why do you have to play an important role, the reason is clear especially for us here in India and around the world except Europe. In 2002 nearly 200 governments met at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in a bid to curb biodiversity loss by 2010. Apart from Europe all the other governments around the world have failed to do anything about the problem.Let me cite one example of whats happening here in India with my limited knowledge, take a look at Tata's Port to be set up in Dhamra on previously protected land for the Olive Ridley turtle that swims to India from Australia and the Philippines to nest, the land also has a great amount of rate species like the crab eating frog. The government dropped part of the land so that the Tatas could go ahead with the port, the Olive Ridley turtle is also on IUCN's Endangered Species list. While in Kerala 35 mammals have made it on IUCN's list while the Malabar Civet is on the critically endangered list.You can take a look at all the species that are on the endangered list, do hope you help conserve in your own way. [...]

Cell Phone Towers Causing Cancer


All of us are aware that cell phones transmit radiation which is harmful, you may have also experienced some symptoms like irritation or a headache when you talk on your cell phone for long periods of time.But when it comes to cell phone towers or masts the radiation levels emitted are much more, considering that they are transferring and emitting to multiple cell phones simultaneously lets take a look at what kind of problems they have led to in the UK, which definitely has a more robust system as compared to ours when it comes to identifying the harmful effects of these towers.Seven clusters of cancer and other serious illnesses have been discovered around mobile phone masts, studies of the sites show high incidences of cancer, brain hemorrhages and high blood pressure within a radius of 1200 feet of mobile phone masts. But thats not as bad as one of their studies that showed a cluster of 31 cancers around a single street in Warwickshire.A quarter of the 30 staff at a special school within sight of the 90ft high mast have developed tumours since 2000, while another quarter have suffered significant health problems.Eileen O'Connor, who is suffering from breast cancer blames it on the phone mast that was erected in their hometown, Wishaw, ten years ago. Along with it a variety of health complaints from many local residents ranging from nosebleeds, headaches and cancer. But the Department of Health and the Mobile Operators Association insist that their masts conform to international safety standards and there has be no research that has proved these towers are linked to cancer.Finally the residents in Wishaw decided to take matters in their own hands and brought down the cell phone tower on their own. They brought it down and straight away people started reporting that their headaches had stopped, the dizziness stopped and rashes cleared up.Alright enough from the UK, the situation in Bombay is worse, out here telephone operators do not find the space to set up a tower, so they end up paying buildings to put a cell phone mast on it. The residents are more than happy as their monthly outgoings drop down a certain percentage with the rent they receive from the telephone operators. But at what cost, not only do they and the surrounding buildings are exposed to this radiation, in Mumbai the mobile phone tower radiation is ten times more than the permissible limit. Loss of appetite, irritation, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, headaches, problems in vision, infertility and deformity of foetus are the most common problems associated with cell phone radiations.Resources:Cell Phone Towers Causing CancerCancer clusters at phone masts[...]

Is Globalization Really Working?


Globalisation, a fairly difficult concept to understand, yes when you look up Globalization on wiki, it seems fairly simple, in its literal sense is the process or transformation of local or regional phenomena into global ones. It can be described as a process by which the people of the world are unified into a single society and function together.

I urge you to take the time to listen to this lecture by M.R. Venkatesh, an economist during a seminar on Global Economy in Chennai held in February this year, its old but the punch it packs will help you understand, a lot more about not just the chaos the global economy is facing, it explains the war on Iraq, why America wants to go to war with Iran and so much more.
It was mind boggling was it not, I was truly amazed by it and was waiting to put it up here for more than a week, was looking out for adequate material, but now after that heavy session lets take a humours look at the American economy by an investment analyst and entrepreneur, Dr. Marc Faber.

He concluded his June 2008 bulletin saying, "The federal government is sending each of us a $600 rebate. If we spend that money at Wal-Mart, the money goes to China. If we spend it on gasoline it goes to the Arabs. If we buy a computer it will go to India. If we purchase fruit and vegetables it will go to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.

If we purchase a good car it will go to Germany. If we purchase useless crap it will go to Taiwan and none of it will help the American economy. The only way to keep that money here at home is to spend it on prostitutes and beer, since these are the only products still produced in US. I’ve been doing my part."

That's a humorous take on it, but the fact is that there is an unequal distribution of wealth and its beginning to create a lot of debates. Is globalization only going to protect the capitalists and leave the poor behind, if you want to know more I suggest you read the transcripts of this conversation between Jagdish Bhagwati and Joanne J. Myers, based on his book, In Defence of Globalization.

China's Yin Affecting its Young


The Chinese seem to be having a spot of bad luck at the moment, and a last few moments as well, when the Tibetan protests started off during the planing stages of the Olympics they were met with brute force, murdered, vanished without a trace and clamped down unable to practice their own culture.But with all the negativity the Chinese built where is it going to go? If we believe the laws of the universe its so easy to understand that everyone gets back what they do to another. The Olympic torch met with worldwide protests, but the Chinese went on to fake the opening ceremony and alter the climate to make it feasible for the games, even after witnessing a shattering earthquake the choice to meddle with mother nature makes me wonder if they have no respect for her.After two earthquakes, flooding, China makes it back in the headlines with contaminated milk, an industrial compound called melamine has mysteriously found its way into dairy products infecting more than 50,000 young children. If you recollect during the earthquakes it was the children who were most affected by the earthquakes due to shoddy construction work where the officials end up making money rather than providing strong constructions.This time China's top quality control official resigned as a result of the scandal that has seen the arrest of at least 18 people. Two brothers arrested last week on charges of selling contaminated milk could face death if convicted said a local newspaper. But moving on to the little ones who have been affected the most, some of them have developed Kidney stones, can you imagine a 15 month old boy screaming out in pain because of the stones in his Kidney?China's Health Ministry stated that 13,000 children were hospitalized while another 40,000 had undergone outpatient treatment, they do not know when the count will end when you consider the population of China theres a possibility of far more cases cropping up. So far at least four children have passed away because of the milk problem, unfortunately because of China exporting dairy products two children in Hing Kong developed kidney stones due to consuming these tainted milk products. When you keep in mind that the parents are allowed to have only one child the situation becomes even more difficult to handle for the parents.To stop this situation from escalating in their countries at least 10 countries have banned Chinese dairy imports some of them are Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. In previous times Chinese Toy imports were found to contain toxic substances that were harmful for children. China seriously needs to look at its quality standards and manufacturers need to stop thinking of only cutting costs but show some consideration for the end user itself.[...]

Governments Crack Down on Bloggers


Millions of people blog around the world because it gives them the freedom to express themselves and write on topics that stir their emotions. There are certain countries that find it difficult to cope with this freedom of expression and arrest bloggers who write on political issues or events, organising social protests, etc. The recent arrest of the Malaysian blogger, who was accused of posting an article that insulted Islam, made me think that such an act is on rise around the world, and on doing some research I found out dramatic facts. According to World Information Access (WIA) report, in 2007, 36 bloggers were arrested because of what they wrote on their blogs and personal websites, the number has increased three times as compared to 2006. The countries which are repressive in their outlook, and who like to control every source of information, are China, Egypt, Burma and Iran. The governments’ control what people read or listen to, that’s why blogging served as a medium for the locals to revolt or voice their concern. But with government monitoring people’s opinion, it becomes difficult to freely write on blogs. In Japan a blogger who was a whale activist with Greenpeace was arrested for writing about an underground whale meat racket.The number of bloggers who have been arrested would be much more, as many cases go unreported in the media. This year so far, six bloggers have been arrested – two from Eqypt and one each from Syria, UK and Burma. Other countries like Thailand, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, bloggers have been put behind bars. The average sentence for the bloggers who were arrested has been 15 months while the maximum punishment has been 8 years a terrible punishment for exposing the truth. The report excluded arrests of social networking site members, who have been imprisoned for talking against the government. You don’t have to look too far, its happened in India in May, when a 22-year old boy was arrested for starting a ‘I hate Sonia Gandhi’ community. Its disheartening to read about bloggers being arrested, what’s happened to freedom of expression. With these cases emerging, a site called ‘Committee to Protect Bloggers’ speaks about the plight of bloggers arrested. Take some action below to help the bloggers who defend the truth get out of Jail! src="" style="width:100%; height:750px; border: none;">[...]

Poverty Drops by 27% in India?


(image) There are contradicting reports when it comes to assessing the poverty situation in India. On one hand World Bank claims in its survey that nearly 1/3rd of world’s poor are in India and a higher proportion of its population live on less than US $2 per day.

The World Bank estimates also show that the rate of decline of poverty in India was faster between 1981 and 1990 than between 1990 and 2005. In fact I had done a similar story on this blog, on India ranking high on hunger scale, according to Global Hunger Index 2007 from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

However, the United Nations report has presented a different picture. It says that poverty in India has declined by over 27%. But how can poverty decline if nearly 40% of world's underweight children below 5 years of age are in India, and infant mortality is also high.

Seeing is believing, and the truth is all around us. We know the grim situation the poor in the country are living in. In fact every day I see more number of people living on the footpaths, on open grounds, below bridges, everywhere.
Even the government is concealing the real picture, new figures show that about 26% of India's population are officially classed as poor, who are not even getting the minimum amount of calories necessary to survive. The figure does not include people who don’t have access to proper sanitation, health, education, running water.

The country’s economy might be booming, but that doesn’t really reflect on poverty reduction. Without proper intervention and planning, rich will grow richer, and poor will become poorer.

Beware ICICI Bank Credit Card Customers!


(image) I wouldn’t advise anyone to use a credit card, unless they really need it. After the recent experiences that reaffirmed my belief that credit card companies can easily take their customers for a ride, and levy unnecessary charges.

If you know about the poor track record of ICICI bank when it comes to customer satisfaction, you won’t be surprised to here this incident.

I have been paying a monthly installment for the past five months for a purchase I made, the deal was that the EMI would be interest free and only the first installment would include the processing fees, service charges etc. I have been paying my installments on time, and the last statement I received from ICICI bank had a big error.

As you can see in the image below, it included interest of Rs 490.17 and service tax of Rs 60.59. Now I was wondering how is this possible when my EMI amount is Rs 5317 every month and this time they are charging me Rs 5866.55.
(image) When I called up the customer service to ask them the reason for levying these additional charges, they said that the interest charges and service tax will be waived off since their back end department made a mistake in the statement. That is ridiculous, because if I had paid the amount mentioned in the statement, I would have suffered a loss and ICICI never intimated me about their mistake.

ICICI is the largest credit card issuer in the country, having issued around 9 mn credit cards and according to the banking ombudsman in India, who are in charge of resolving the issues between the bank and the customer, ICICI comes second when it comes to credit card complaints.

Most of the complaints include using strong tactics to recover money, harassing customers, charging of excessive interest rates, charge backs where a customer is not willing to wait for 45 to 60 days for the completion of investigations of a disputed transaction, etc.

This is not it, last month ICICI forgot to include the EMI amount in the credit card statement, and again I pointed out the same to their customer service and they said it was their mistake. Maybe its their tactic so they could levy extra charges on delay of payment. Beware of such additional charges, and always check your statement. No wonder they give away so many free credit cards.

China Stopped Rain, Faked Song at Olympics


Everyone was in awe of the opening ceremony at Beijing Olympics 2008. It was a spectacular show, was the common reaction among people who watched it. But it was only after the ceremony did the level of deception come into the picture. Desperate to put on a perfect Olympics to get a passport to the global stage, Beijing swept its streets of fake designer handbags, pirated DVDs and phony corporate logos. They wanted everything to be authentic, but that didn't apply to the Olympics opening ceremony. If you watched the fireworks display and wondered how the Chinese managed to put up such a show or was it for real, then you were right. The ceremony, which was watched by nearly one third of the world's population, had parts which were pre-recorded to ensure that viewers remained glued to their TV sets. The footprint-shaped fireworks in the skies were computer-generated shots, because of the potential danger in filming the display live from a helicopter. Maybe faking the fireworks display is not a big deal. The organisers went a step further and faked the ceremony song as well. The girl who sang the patriotic ballad was in reality just lip-synching the song “Ode to the Motherland.” The voice was of another girl, who was dropped last minute because she didn't have the 'perfect face', and was replaced in the name of national interest.It doesn't end there. In a country where the government controls the media and websites, the story was removed from several major Chinese news websites, including that of the broadcaster, Beijing Radio, which broke the story. The Central government has often censored access to content considered to harm national interest. Somehow the truth always manages to surface in spite of the policing. In fact China also defied Mother Nature and stopped rain for the opening ceremony. The Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau used a technology called cloud seeding. It involves shooting rockets containing silver iodide and other chemicals into clouds. The icy particles freeze drops in the clouds, then the drops continue growing and eventually fall out of the clouds. All this to ensure that rain doesn't spoil their party. China is known to manipulate the weather way back in 1958 when they started their "war on nature," a disastrous period that also brought a massive famine. China boasts of spending around US $90 million annually on weather modification projects and have nearly 30,000 scientists to research and conduct experiments. However, no matter the money you have pumped into this technology, one can't beat Mother Nature. [...]

Tigers Mistreated in a Thailand Temple


When I read that Tiger Temple was a place in West Thailand where the mighty creature walked around freely once a day and visitors could pet them and play with them, I was wondering if that was true. Well, it is to some extent, but on digging deep in to the matter, it brought out some unpleasant facts of this Tiger Temple.Up to 300 tourists visit this place every day, and sometimes it touches 900, paying 300 Thai baht (US $9) to pose with the tiger or play with them. The temple's popularity is based around 'claims' that its tigers were rescued from poachers and others who wanted to get rid of their tiger "pets", and here they were allowed to move freely and peacefully amongst the temple's monks, who are actively engaged in conservation work. However, the real story is something else. Following a two-year investigation, a report published by British conservation group Care for the Wild International (CWI), tells a disturbing story. Not only are the tigers treated in a cruel manner, but they are also illegally traded with a tiger farm in neighboring Laos. Tiger-swappingThe report says, "...rather than rescue orphaned tiger cubs, the Temple operates as an illegal breeding facility and is involved in the clandestine exchange of tigers with the owner of a tiger farm in Laos." Approximately 15 tigers live at Temple at any one time. CWI found that though the first cub may have been donated legitimately, the rest were purchased from a farm in Laos. Exporting or importing tigers across borders is obviously illegal, unless valid permission has been issued with a conservation purpose. There is no evidence that the temple had such a permit, besides, the temple is a sanctuary to temporarily keep animals, not a conservation facility. Chained to be tamed? Tigers are confined for 20 hours a day in their small, barren concrete cages. They often beaten by the staff with poles and metal rods and compelled to maintain poses for visitors. Sometimes the big cats is pulled into position with their tails, and punched and kicked. "Temple staff tower over the animals and control them by squirting urine into their faces from a bottle. In the wild, tigers use urine as a territorial or aggressive signal. Sprayed by staff at close quarters is extremely aggressive," says the report. The temple collects donations for feeding and upkeep, and to fund the building of a larger tiger sanctuary which would allow the animals to live in an almost natural environment all day long. Well, they sure don't know that tigers raised in captivity cannot be successfully released in the wild. The temple is not contributing towards conservation of wild tigers, it is merely a theme park, which is merely fooling visitors into believing that they are saving the tiger. [...]

CCTV Images and You - II


In the second-part of CCTV images and You, we will speak about the reality of a modern day society that becomes a nightmare. The use of CCTV cameras in malls, shopping centres, banks etc., is a known fact and we are all use to that.But a school in Nagpur - The Mahatma Gandhi Centennial Sindhu High School - has gone a step ahead and installed as many as 250 CCTV cameras in the school premises. From classrooms, staff rooms, corridors, to canteen, playground, labs, these cameras are constantly monitored by the principal, who takes great pride in introducing CCTV cameras in his school. The documentary was called 'The Great Indian School Show', made by Pune-based filmmaker Avinash Deshpande. It shows whether this kind of monitoring is justified and healthy. The students and teachers are constantly being watched by the principal from his 'control room', making them so conscious of how to behave. "When we want to watch them at close quarters, we zoom. If a student at the back bench is trying to copy, he is immediately caught. The sound-system is two-way, so I can talk to the class and hear the teacher, too," says Deepak Bajaj, the principal of the school. He points out mistakes, gives direction etc., right from his room. I found this rather ridiculous, it seemed worse than a military school. To add to that, the principal spoke about this technology with great delight, he also said that his school would be the only one in Asia to install CCTV cameras. Obviously, who would want to put their students under so much pressure of being disciplined all the time. A school is suppose to fun for the kids as well. A student was interviewed as well, and she said that having cameras is a good thing. (It felt as if she was compelled to say that). "The students needn't gather in an assembly hall for announcements, the principal can do it directly from his room. We were never so mischievous, but cameras is a good thing." So the main questions after the discussion at Camputer was, what do we (citizens) do and how do you try to protect your space when you are being watched? One of the camera operators in Manchester said, he tends to stay at home more often after he knows he's being watched. In a system that's trying to control you to an extent where you are being watched at every moment, it leaves no room for human error. Is this what it all boils down to, in the end there is no place to escape the watchful eye but behind closed doors.I think innovation is the best way to deal with this, the videos showcased many new ideas born in places infested with cameras. Unfortunately the masses always seem to fall in place and allow barriers like these to be built without much thought. The evening came to a twisted end, it was the day of the bomb blasts in Gujarat. There was a police check on our way home, the friend who was driving realized she had forgotten to carry her license. The cop took us to the nearby police station to pay the fine. The cop, who was with us in the car, said that they had caught 150 to 200 people that night.The woman who was collecting the fine asked for Rs 350 and handed over a receipt for Rs 300, we noticed it and she embarrassingly handed over Rs 40 back and said that the remaining Rs 10 was for stamp duty. When the Police try to rob you, you tend to wonder what exactly is this system trying to police with these CCTVs? [...]

CCTV Images and You


On the weekend, we attended the Camputer Video Art Show Part II, which showed the way Closed Circuit TVs (CCTVs) are used around the world and in India as well through various eye-opening documentaries. Not only were these documentaries thought-provoking, but it also opened up a new dimension in this world of closed circuit cameras with a range of views and perspectives from the controllers, the controlled and the ones who manage to find some of the loopholes. Living in an environment where you constantly being watched and your every movement is monitored, and how some of these CCTV clippings are stored only if there is an occurrence of 'death'. We will speak about this in a two-part series. It started off with a documentary which showed a couple of prisoners playing basketball in a US jail, two of them get into a scuffle, the rest of the inmates, citing danger, run to a corner and lie face down flat on the ground. As the two continue with their fight you begin to notice a patch of white smoke, one of the fighters decides to lie flat down on the ground and the next instance of white smoke gets the next guy flat on the ground.In a while, all the inmates begin to leave but the one who fell to the floor last doesn't move, it takes the prison officials nine long minutes to get there with a stretcher after they place him on it, two people with business suits arrive and look at him slowing the process of taking him out. The next moment the inmate is dead. Unlike this prison in US another prison was showcased where a water canon attached to a camera took care of the violent inmates without injuring them. The water was mixed with tear gas, which will cause a bit of itching, but not kill the inmate. The wired city of Manchester I do not want to be a robot and just repeat what happened at the event, but I would like to write my thoughts on it as well. One of the documentaries, which was made by Shaina, in Manchester, was quite disturbing and at the same time make you want to think of people can live in such an environment. The city has CCTVs installed at every nook and corner of the street, and operators monitor what's happening outside at every moment. Any person who just wants to take a stroll or just have some time by themselves, can't do it in peace without being observed by the CCTV operator, which can be either a private or a state agent. People would tend to argue that this makes it safer for them to live in, but the overall crime rate in Manchester or UK to that matter hasn't dropped, the crime just moves to places behind the camera. Documentary made with CCTV footage by Manu LukschSo when you are being watched no matter what you do, is there any escape from it? Well London-based filmmaker, Manu Luksch came up with a brilliant idea, she used the Law to make her film 'Faceless' entirely from images of real life captured by CCTV cameras. Under the Data Protection Act (DPA), in UK, one has the right to retrieve CCTV images of oneself if you provide the date, time and location you were at, with a processing fee of 10 pounds. With great difficulty, she procured as much footage as she could of herself, after writing to operators and making them aware of the citizens' right to their own images. She then edited them, threw in some potent text in places and some groovy music to make a video without using a single camera. The film draws us into a nightmarish vision of society under surveillance, where everybody is faceless. A woman panics when she wakes up one day with a face. With the help of the Spectral Children she slowly finds out more about [...]

Climate Change Blamed for Disease Propagation


Its no longer news anymore the climate is changing, but along with the temperature rise the world is noticing adverse effects of human health. As mother earth gets hotter, nature is trying to evolve to adapt with the situation, but we are the only part of nature caught up with our daily chores that help us loose focus on the grim realities of these changes.Most people already know that the climate change has resulted in a lot of unpredictable extremes like the heat waves across Europe, the hurricanes in America, the floods in Mumbai, the cold waves and others like these that push the human death tolls higher. But over the last three decades the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified thirty new or resurgent diseases.Dr. Paul Epstein, the lead author of Climate Change Futures, said, “Malaria is becoming more common in the traditionally cool mountains of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where 10 percent of the world's people live. Colonizers escaped to mountainous areas to avoid the swamps that bred malaria. Those areas are no longer safe."Epstein told reporters upon presenting the study yesterday, noting that malaria cases have quadrupled in the past 10 years and kill 3,000 African babies a day. Scientists have warned for more than a decade that climate change would broaden the range of many diseases. The spread of disease is affected by many uncertainties, including unforeseen resistance to antibiotics, failures of public health systems, population movement and yearly climate swings.The West Nile virus that is found in both tropical and temperate regions, mainly infects birds, but is known to infect humans, horses, dogs, cats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, and domestic rabbits mostly through mosquito bites has begun to move into areas where it never existed before. West Nile virus that made its appearance seven years ago, has infected more than 21,000 people in the United States and Canada and killed more than 800.Epstein is also a faculty member for the Harvard Medical School said that, "Things we projected to occur in 2080 are happening in 2006. What we didn't get is how fast and how big it is, and the degree to which the biological systems would respond, our mistake was in underestimation."Mosquitoes, ticks, mice and other carriers are surviving warmer winters and expanding their range, bringing health threats with them. Climate change is already claiming more than 150,000 lives each year, with causes ranging from heat waves to respiratory illness, WHO concluded last year. Climate change is also blamed in the increase of Kidney stone cases over the last couple of years.[...]

India's Horrific Uranium Nightmare


(image) Underground water in Varanasi and some areas in Uttar Pradesh is contaminated with uranium content varying from 2 to 11 ppb (parts per billion) above the permissible limit of 1.5 ppb.

The study was conducted by a group of scientists - G.C. Chowdhary, former Professor at the Geology Department of Banaras Hindu University, and S.K. Agarwal, also a professor of Geology, have said that even the drinking water in the University premises and some other places in the city contains radioactive uranium more than the recommended limit.

The scientists collected samples from 11 tubewells which showed the presence of uranium and also other heavy metals such as chromium, manganese, nickel, ferrous, copper, zinc and lead. But the Centre and the state government are unaware of the fact. Health experts have also warned that if this contamination is not sorted out, it may lead to disease akin to Parkinson's disease and also involve psychic and neurological disorders.

(image) Last month during brief heavy spells of rain, radioactive uranium waste dumped into a pond of Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL), in Jamshedpur, spilled over into nearby ponds of villages in Jharkhand, the state in eastern India. While UCIL authorities admit that radioactive waste is flowing into villages, they maintain that it would not pose any health threats to villagers. They said this in spite of villagers complaining that large amount of their crops were destroyed.

Villagers and miners in Jadugoda area in Jharkhand, India's first uranium mining site, have been exposed to nuclear radiation as a result their health is getting affected. The production of uranium ore here is reported to be 1000 tonnes per day.

Miners often suffer from fatigue, lack of appetite, respiratory ailments, impotency, infant mortality, skeletal deformities and different skin diseases, children with big heads, thalassemia have been reported.

Image Source

Living by India's uranium mine

Now Orangutans to be Extinct


(image) Human activities will result in extinction of yet another endangered species. Orangutans, the apes found only in the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia, could be the first great ape to become extinct, since their numbers have dropped drastically over the past four years. Their name is derived from the Malay words "orang hutan," which literally means "Person of the Forest". And the person of the forest will get extinct because of their connection to the forest.

Orangutans are the world's most intelligent animal other than humans, with higher learning and problem solving ability than chimpanzees. They are 97% genetically close to humans and share many similar traits with us, and ironically human activities like deforestation will cause their extinction, if urgent action is not taken.

Illegal logging and fires has resulted in deforestation, and growing palm oil plantations has put orangutans on the path to extinction because they spend 95% of the time on trees along with vines and termites, provide more than 99% of their food. Without forests Orangutans cannot survive. (image) They were listed endangered but since 2004 their numbers have fallen, like in Sumatra the number of orangutans has fallen from 7,500 to 6,600 while in Borneo it has dropped from 54,000 to around 49,600, according to the survey on the endangered apes, for the science journal Oryx.

Both these countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, are largest palm oil producers in the world, and since biofuels are more cleaner and cheaper than petrol, they have been expanding their plantations. Not only that, but people are also killing these great apes to supply their meat. To add to that, their own biology also could hinder any recovery in numbers, as female orangutans give birth only once every eight years.

The situation is grim, and conservation efforts would have to be much more stringent, to save the Man of the Forest.

Image Source:

Orangutans: The Red Apes

Plight of Borneo Orangutans

Left is Right About Nuclear Deal


The Communist party in India who aligned with the existing government to bring it to power, has clearly stated that they will end the alliance if the government goes ahead with the nuclear deal in India.What the left states is that the government needs to currently tackle the rising inflation and feed the hungry before it can look at the energy problems which are above the grass root level. I have to agree with this point, especially when you can see a big division between the rich and the poor here in Mumbai itself.But what I really liked about what the left had to say in the statement issued by their polit bureau in March 2006. That the government should go ahead with the nuclear deal provided it keeps these points in mind.India’s compliance with the terms of the Nuclear Deal should be fully reciprocal with US compliance, especially no steps on implementing the deal should be taken by India till the deal is approved by the US Congress and necessary changes are brought about within the Nuclear Suppliers Group to ensure uninterrupted and unconditional supply of nuclear fuel and nuclear technologies/materials to IndiaIndia must reject the US offer to join their Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) as a ‘client state’ under which, going by the statement of President Bush on February 22, 2006, US and other nations such as Great Britain, France, Japan, and Russia would merely “share nuclear fuel” with India. India has an advanced nuclear energy program and the Government must ensure India’s right to develop and reprocess all nuclear fuels.India should not be “boxed-in” to a nuclear energy route for our future energy programme without a detailed examination of the techno-economics of nuclear energyIf you read the points highlighted in bold, you will clearly see that since the nuclear pact was put forward the left have well thought about the issues surrounding the deal, but the Government has only stated that it would be beneficial to control our energy problems, which I do not see how.Today's papers are flooded with stories of a congress veteran who supports the Indo-US nuclear deal. The Indian government is mustering support from its ex leaders? That does not make the deal anymore buy able for the common man now does it.While the media tries to convince the people the Nuclear Deal is the future? Let me tell you, that nuclear energy is not really passe, but the countries who implement it are trying really hard to sell it. After the Chernobyl mishap, countries like Italy actually shut down all their Nuclear plants untill recently and in more recent times Japan had a 3 mile island meltdown, what would happen if Bombay had a 3 mile meltdown?The media has conveniently left out the thousands of students who are protesting by fasting to death so that the nuclear deal does not go ahead, they recently were visited by Arundhati Roy. If India is not allowed to produce our own fuel for the nuclear reactors that makes us dependent even more on a bunch of terrorists who forcible occupy other countries!Prakash Karat, general secretary, CPI(M), said, "The Prime Minister's approach towards the deal shows how deeply the government is entrenched with US interests. For a government that is a coalition minority government which is dependent on Left parties, the only correct and honest thing would have been to say that we believe that the deal is good for the country but since we cannot carry our own Parliament or the supporters of our c[...]

Is Your Diamond Conflict-free?


Diamonds are forever, and every women loves adorning them or purchasing at least one in her lifetime, but the question is from where do these diamonds come from or how are they acquired? I recently watched the movie 'Blood Diamond' which showed how diamonds are mined in African war zones and sold in the underground diamond market to finance conflicts, army's war efforts, support a warlord's activity and also sold to diamond companies. These are known as Blood Diamonds.Its a gory story when you realise the manner in which it was acquired was at the cost of so many innocent lives. Majority of such cases takes place in Western and Central Africa in places like Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, although it in not limited to this region. Lets take a look in this matter.Blood diamonds of Africa Most Blood diamonds come from Africa because these are alluvial diamonds, which are easily accessible as they are not far below the earth's surface, and in many cases, are on the surface of the Earth. So they can be easily found by simply panning, and doesn't require heavy use of machinery or deep mining.On doing some research I found that rebel armies have forced thousands of people to mine diamonds in gruesome and dangerous conditions, and they would get paid as little as a cup of rice per day. In Sierra Leone, a war-torn country, rebels would chop off people's hands, arms, feet, lips, and ears randomly for years during a civil war, which was financed in part by the trade of illicit diamonds. 50,000 people were killed and millions had to flee their homes. Diamonds didn't bring them joy, it was a curse. In fact it is known that the Al Qaeda also used blood diamonds to fund their activities. Investigations have shown that 9/11 was most likely funded by conflict diamonds. What has been done to curb this?Finally to tackle this grave problem of blood diamonds and to curb the illegal trading, the Kimberley certification process was initiated in November 2003 by the governments, NGOs and diamond industry. Under this each member, from 74 countries, has to certify that all rough diamond exported are produced through legitimate mining, and are free of any conflict. However, many countries haven't even committed to this process. This whole certification process is done by the chair country and this year India is in charge of this process. These certificate state that the diamonds were produced, sold and exported through legitimate channels. While the diamond experts estimate that conflict diamonds now represent only a fraction of one percent of the international trade in diamonds, compared to estimates of up to 15 percent in the 1990s, there are loop holes in the process. Blood diamonds still exist. Amnesty International says "... until the diamond trade is subject to mandatory, impartial monitoring, there is still no effective guarantee that all conflict diamonds will be identified and removed from the market."The statistics say that some $125 million worth of diamonds were legally exported from Sierra Leone in 2006, as against almost none at the end of the 1990s. But illicit trading still takes place. Diamond diggers continue to make only about 30 cents a day, condemning full time workers to starvation. So wars in these African countries have decreased, but conflict diamonds from Côte d'Ivoire, in West Africa, and Liberia are still reaching the market labeled as conflict-free diamonds.So next t[...]

Smoke Cannabis, No Tobacco in Amsterdam


You can toke, but you can't smoke, says the Dutch government, who has banned smoking tobacco in public places from July 1st. Amsterdam is known for its open culture towards cannabis and the notorious coffee shops where marijuana and hashish can be smoked legally. So from next month onwards, if you want to smoke a joint it has to be pure and not mixed with tobacco. This seems quite ironical because in a restaurant people come to eat, in a cafe to drink and in a coffee shops mainly to smoke pot.The ban on tobacco is presumably to protect employees from second-hand smoke, which makes them susceptible to diseases. Its a rather bizarre law, how could you smoke a joint, and not have tobacco in it? Employees at such coffee shops join the place knowing that there will be smoke in the air. In fact most of them are smokers. Out of fear that they will be out of business, owners of coffee shops have done something innovative. They have introduced a machine, that is like vaporisers sometimes used for medicinal purposes, works like a water pipe but without any combustion, and it produces a new kind of high. Many European countries have banned smoking tobacco in public places, so Amsterdam is just following suit, but its also the only European country where marijuana is legal.If the government is actually able to implement such a law, then there are chances that people would turn to hard drugs or chemicals or since tobacco is anyway harmful to health, it could also do them some good. The country's 720 coffee shops sell everything from pre-rolled joints for 3.50 euros each to hashish for as much as 18 euros a gram. They also sell drinks, food and rolling papers, but of course large portion of income comes from marijuana. Lets wait and watch whether a country so liberal in many ways would spoil the spliff!Image Source: Coffee shops will survive the smoking banAmsterdam Travel Guide[...]