Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hindu Mahasabha, seers oppose VHP yatra

LUCKNOW: Voices of criticism from Hindu organisations and seers against the VHP's proposed 84-kosi yatra have started becoming louder.
UP president of the Mahasabha, Kashinath said that VHP and RSS start activities to polarize Hindu votes in favour of the BJP whenever elections are round the corner but thereafter puts Hindutava on the back burner. Similarly, he said, they are using the Yatra for political gains and would throw away seers once their purpose was solved. "If VHP is really cares about Hindus, it must tell people what it has done for other places of Hindu worship," he said. Mahasabha state coordinator Rita Rai said that they will support VHP'sYatra if it is organized after elections. She also accused BJP leaders NarendraModi and Yogi Adityanath for using Hindu seers for electoral gains.

In Ayodhya, Mahant Gyandas, head of the committee of seers which organizes parikrama every year, said that parikramas, be it 14-kosi or 84-kosi, are performed during the Chaitra month of the Hindu calendar, which this year was in April. "Holding Yatra in the Bhadon month is neither a tradition, nor mentioned anywhere in religious scriptures. The chief priest of Ram Janmabhumi temple Acharya Satyendra Das said, "The parikrama has already been performed between Chaitra Purnima to Baisakh Navami (in April 25 to May 2, 2013) as per Hindu calendar. The VHP's Yatra is political."

Mahamandaleshwar Swami Kailashanand Brahamchari, the seer of Dakshin Kali Temple, Haridwar, also came out in support of the SP and its leader Azam Khan who met him on Thursday. Kailashanand said that the government should respect views of Hindu seers but also see that communal harmony is not disturbed.

Earlier, Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth in Mathura, Swami Adokhshajanand Teerth Saraswati, had written to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav asking him not to allow Sangh Parivar to turn religious yatra into a political one. Accusing the VHP of using the Ram temple issue to divide the nation on religious grounds, he had also demanded VHP to furnish the detailed account of the funds it received through donation for construction of the Ram temple.

Decoding Winston Churchill's hatred for India

When the Independence Bill was being debated in British Parliament in 1947, Winston Churchill had angrily remarked, "Power will go into the hands of rascals, rogues, and freebooters. Not a bottle of water or loaf of bread shall escape taxation; only the air will be free and the blood of these hungry millions will be on the head of Attlee."
While reading Kuldip Nayar's autobiography, "Beyond the lines", I came across a portion which is a brief account of his interaction with Lord Mountbatten - wherein Nayar threw an allegation at Mountbatten: "But your act of advancing the date by ten months resulted in the killing of over a million on both sides of the border, I charged. It was as if I had touched a raw nerve because he suddenly became pensive and lapsed into silence. After a while he said that in the 1947 Partition riots nearly 2.5 million people had died but he had saved three to four million people from starvation during the 1943 Bengal famine by giving 10 per cent of the space on his ships for the transport of food grains to Calcutta despite Churchill's opposition. 'Well, before Providence I can say that the balance is in my favour', said Mountbatten, adding: 'Wherever colonial rule has ended, there has been bloodshed. This is the price you pay.' (Some books subsequently revealed that Churchill had intentionally denied food grains to India.)"
Quite a number of books like Richard Toye's new biography, "Churchill's Empire: The World That Made Him and The World He Made", William Manchester's "The Caged Lion" and "When illness strikes the leader" by Jerrold Post, a professor of psychiatry at George Washington University and Robert Robins, a professor of political science at Tulane University, written in 1993 and published by Yale University Press, throw new light on Churchill, his mental depression, his racist views, his early life that shaped his thoughts and his hatred of Indians.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (November 30, 1874 - January 24, 1965) was a British Conservative politician renowned for his extraordinary leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century. He served as the Prime Minister of England twice (1940-45 and 1955. A noted orator, Churchill was earlier an officer in the British Army and had served in Bangalore. He is also a historian, a writer and an artist. He is the only British Prime Minister to have received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values", and was the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.
Churchill was voted as the greatest British gentlemen of the last century and his words that power will go into the hands of rogues in India is oft-quoted by those fighting 'corruption' in India.
Benjamin Disraeli, former British PM, called India "the brightest jewel in the crown," acknowledging India's valuable resources that Europe exploited like spices, mineral ores, textiles, the huge pool of cheap labour and the large market for British goods. As its largest colonial territory, India was the most important of all the overseas possessions of the British Empire. India became independent in 1947. In 65 years, India has crossed many hurdles. It is the world's largest democracy, a nuclear power, a human resource powerhouse and is emerging as an economic giant.
Why really did Churchill have to speak so disdainfully of the unborn Indian republic?
"When illness strikes the leader" unravels the mind of Churchill at the time he made this statement: "At the beginning of World War II, Winston Churchill was a healthy man of sixty-four. By the end of that conflict, the natural process of aging, six years of hard work under tension, heavy drinking and the frequent use of sedatives had taken their physical toll." His physician, Charles Wilson 1st Baron Moran, said Churchill's mental and physical health began to wane in 1944. In his diaries, Sir Francis Alan Brooke, Churchill's chief of the Imperial General Staff, observed on March 24, 1944, "He seems quite incapable of concentrating for a few minutes on end, and keeps wandering continuously."
The book reports that "The inner circle noted Churchill's rapid decline soon after the election. On some days he was nearly his old self, but more often than not he was unable to cope. The private secretary to the queen reported that Churchill often could not follow the trend of a conversation. At one point he even forgot that the electric power industry had been nationalized. He was frequently unable to contain his emotions often irritable and short of temper, at other times breaking into tears or becoming extremely maudlin. He also suffered from delusions of grandiosity, believing that only he could prevent a third world war."
Churchill, always a showman, kept criticism at bay by his continuing, though less frequent, personal flamboyance. Harold Macmillan, the most open and persistent of those in the inner circle who tried to get Churchill to resign, recollects visiting Churchill one morning by invitation and finding him in bed "with a little green budgerigar sitting on his head.... A cigar in his hand and whisky and soda by his side, from which the little bird took sips from time to time... while Gibbonesque sentences were rolling from the maestro's mouth about the Bomb. From time to time the bird said a few words in a husky kind of voice like an American actress. This was not senility but self-confident eccentricity in the grand manner."
Eventually, however, the book reports that "The press began to comment on the extent of Churchill's disability. Even he began to acknowledge it. On August 29, 1954, he said to his doctor, 'I have become so stupid, Charles, cannot you do anything for me?' Six weeks later, however, he boasted, 'If they try to get me out I will resist.' In March 1955, he spent much of his time depressed and staring vacantly ahead."
On April 6, 1955, after six months of almost total inactivity, he finally succumbed to the persuasion of his friends and the pressure of his adversaries and left 10 Downing Street. Having painfully learnt the folly of confronting the magnitude of Churchill's disability directly, the inner circle based its most effective arguments not on a criticism of Churchill's poor health and impaired leadership but on the positive state of the nation. They argued that he had fulfilled his promises to the people about improving housing, stabilising prices, reducing taxation, ending rationing, creating a balance of payments surplus and increasing the rate of growth. Parliament had been sitting for four years and now was a good time for an election. Churchill was told that he could finish on a note of triumph. Otherwise, he would have to undergo an election campaign. Ever mindful of the judgments of history, Churchill yielded.
Churchill did not however die soon after but lived for another decade in declining health.
The South African president President Thabo Mbeki made news recently with a withering attack on Winston Churchill and other historic British figures, calling them racists who ravaged Africa and blighted its post-colonial development. He said British imperialists in the 19th and 20th centuries had treated Africans as savages and left a "terrible legacy" of countries divided by race, colour, culture and religion. He singled out Churchill as a progenitor of vicious prejudice who justified British atrocities by depicting the continent's inhabitants as inferior races who needed to be subdued, and pointed out that Kitchener and Wolseley had waged ruthless campaigns in Sudan and South Africa.
Mr Mbeki quoted a passage from "The River War", Churchill's account of Kitchener's campaign in Sudan, which described shortcomings in "Mohammedanism" - Islam. It said: "Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity."
Richard Toye opines that Churchill's racism, was acceptable in the early 1900s because almost all white people held racist views at that time. He writes that Churchill's dysfunctional family forged his attitude to race, imperialism and war. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, briefly Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, "actually loathed Winston", wrote William Manchester. "His mother, a beautiful American named Jennie Jerome, devoted most of her time to sexual intrigue, slipping between the sheets with handsome, powerful men in Britain, in the United States, and on the Continent. Her husband was in no position to object. He was an incurable syphilitic. A father who loathes you and a mother who embarrasses you (one of her lovers was the Prince of Wales) are not a recipe for a happy childhood and Winston's was not. He went to Harrow, came last in class, flunked Oxford and Cambridge and was packed off to Sandhurst as a consolation prize. Churchill's lack of a university education nagged him throughout his adult life and he acquired many affectations to disguise it."
Churchill arrived in India in 1895, aged 20. He reportedly spent his time in Bangalore, reading Plato, Aristotle, Gibbon, Macaulay and Schopenhauer, honing his skill with words and ideas. By 1899, he was in South Africa, covering the Boer war. He was imprisoned, escaped heroically and became nationally famous at 24. He was elected to Parliament and, by 33, was a cabinet minister. It would take him, it reads, despite ambition and single-mindedness, another 32 years to become Prime Minister.
Toye notes Churchill's pathological aversion to India and how he wished Partition upon the subcontinent. "The mere mention of India," he writes, "brought out a streak of unpleasantness or even irrationality in Churchill. In March 1943, R A Butler, the education minister, visited him at Chequers. The Prime Minister "launched into a most terrible attack on the 'baboos', saying that they were gross, dirty and corrupt." He even declared that he wanted the British to leave India, and - this was a more serious remark - that he supported the principle of Pakistan. When Butler argued that the Raj had always stood for Indian unity, Churchill replied: "Well, if our poor troops have to be kept in a sweltering, syphilitic climate for the sake of your precious unity, I'd rather see them have a good civil war."
The Partition of India with Pakistan caused the death of about 2.5 million people and displaced some 12.5 million others.

Brijesh Kalappa

Friday, August 23, 2013

Google, Facebook and others got money from US govt to spy on users

Google, Facebook and others got money from US govt to spy on users
The report by Guardian noted that the money was paid by the NSA to technology companies after a US court ruled out some part of surveillance programme illegal in 2011.
NEW DELHI: Several US-based technology companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo, not only helped the National Security Agency in spying on their users but were also paid millions of dollars by the US government for their efforts.

The latest revelations are made by Guardian website that has received thousands of leaked NSA documents from Edward Snowden, who worked at the agency.

The report by Guardian noted that the money was paid by the NSA to technology companies after a US court ruled out some part of surveillance programme illegal in 2011. While the court order did not stop the surveillance, it reportedly asked NSA to implement several additional measures to safeguard the privacy of American citizens. This reportedly required change in the surveillance gear and mechanism used by the technology companies.

"While the ruling did not concern the Prism program directly, documents passed to Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden describe the problems the decision created for the agency and the efforts required to bring operations into compliance," noted the report.

Prism, as alleged by Snowden, is a surveillance programme run by the NSA with the help of technology companies. Technology companies had earlier denied that they worked with the NSA for any programme called Prism.

"Last year's problems resulted in multiple extensions to the certifications' expiration dates which cost millions of dollars for Prism providers to implement each successive extension — costs covered by Special Source Operations," NSA reportedly noted in one of its documents in 2012.

Don't allow VHP's political yatra: Shankaracharya to CM

LUCKNOW: In a fresh twist to the government ban on the 84-kosi yatra of the VHP, Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth in Mathura, Swami Adokhshajanand Teerth Saraswati, has written to chief minister Akhilesh Yadav asking him to ensure that the Sangh Pariwar was not given the permission to turn this "illegal" yatra into a "political" yatra.

The Shankaracharyas' letter, a copy of which is with TOI, refers to VHP's international president Ashok Singhal as a politically motivated individual who brings a bad name to the entire Hindu community. It also alludes to VHP and its activities as those of an organised gang. It reads, "By giving undue importance to such persons and organisations, the state government's own prestige stands dented. All such political attempts should be foiled in the interest of communal harmony."

Speaking to TOI, Adokshajanand said, "The VHP's attempt to disturb the prevailing communal harmony is a cause of major concern. The political outfit is using a religious issue -- the Ram Mandir -- to divide the nation on religious grounds. This should not be allowed."

The shankaracharya also alleged financial foul play, on Thursday, saying the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had used the Ram temple issue to amass funds to further the party's political interests. "Hindu devotees are being fooled by the VHP into giving donations meant for the construction of the Ram temple. Registered under the Societies Act, it has sought exemption from paying income tax. Now, they are claiming paucity of funds. They should be asked to furnish detailed accounts," he said.

Meanwhile, in Allahabad on Thursday, Singhal kept up his attempt to garner support for the proposed yatra. Maintaining that the VHP would continue with its plan despite the government ban, Singhal also accused SP leader Azam Khan of "flaring up the issue". "Our talks with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav were held in the most cordial and peaceful manner. However, things reached a flashpoint only after Azam entered the scene and adopted a policy of confrontation and the government was forced to buckle under the pressure of vote bank politics," he said.

Singhal also said he had met with PM Manmohan Singh before seeking an audience with Mulayam. The PM, he said, had asked VHP to postpone the yatra in the wake of the threat from China and Pakistan. According to the existing plan saints will begin assembling at Paraspur in Ayodhya from August 25.

On Thursday, a PIL was also registered at the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, asking for the state government to lift the ban on the yatra.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

'Our onion sells cheap in Bangla'

MALDA: Even as the sizzling price of onion that touched Rs 80 in districts across Bengal is scalding average consumers, Bangladesh is being spared the heat despite importing the commodity from India. Not only is 1,500 tonnes of onion being exported daily to Bangladesh via Bengal, it is retailing at Rs 50 a kilo in the neighbouring country, nearly 40% lower than the price it is commanding in markets across Bengal.

According to traders, had the huge quantity of export onion been diverted to the domestic market, it would have arrested the price in the state and brought relief to citizens. "In the past, whenever onion prices zoomed, curbs were placed on export to prevent this situation. But with the government failing to act this time, price of onion continues to zoom in the domestic market," said Samir Ghosh of Federation of the Bengal Exporters' Association.

With the government failing to impose restrictions on exports, truck loads of onion continue to roll into Bangladesh from India through five export centers in the state - Petrapol and Gojadanga in North 24-Parganas, Hijli in South Dinajpur, Changrabandha in Cooch Behar and Mahadipur in Malda. The vegetable is now among the most prized export to Bangladesh that also imports fruits, pulses, cement and stone chips.

Though the recent political unrest in Bangladesh did disturb the supply chain in spurts, demand for onion never declined. Being a non-perishable commodity, the consignments always found their way to the market. Around 150-200 tonnes of onion are exported daily through Mahadipur alone.

Hundreds of trucks carrying onions from Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh find their way into the markets at Rs 50 a kg.

Mahendra Jadav of Bihar, who was on way to Bangladesh with a truck laden with onions, said more than 10 lorries, each carrying 15-18 tonnes of onion, had queued up at the border. There were also trucks from Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, all carrying onions that would find their way into markets at Rs 50 a kilo.

Exporters' Coordination Committee joint secretary Uzzwal Saha said the skewed pricing of onion in the domestic and export market was a result of the pricing fixed by National Agricultural Co-operative Marketing Federation (Nafed).

"The agreement on export price and quantity was fixed long ago. The contract has to be honoured even if price shoots up in the domestic market. As a result, Bangladesh is getting onions at a cheaper price. We are facing losses and have asked Nafed to revise the export price. Unless that is done, we will suffer," he said.

20,000 houses for the destitute last year will constuct another 30,000 this year[not in Maharashtra]

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has bucked a countrywide trend to register the steepest decline in the number of homeless people among all states in a decade.

According to the summary report of the directorate of census operations, the number of homeless people in the state dropped by 41% between 2001 and 2011. While the number of the urban destitute increased by 20% across the country in this period, it fell by 35% in Tamil Nadu.

In rural areas of the state, 52% fewer people were homeless in the state in 2011 as compared to 10 years earlier. The number of rural homeless dropped by 9% nationwide.

The report was released online on Monday but was taken down immediately. Sources said the report is likely to be released next week.

Officials from the municipal administration and water supply department say the state did not have any significant changes in social schemes from 2001 to 2011 as compared to the decade before that (1991 to 2001), but the state has implemented these projects meticulously.

"The state built 20,000 houses for the destitute last year," an official said. "It will constuct another 30,000 in the state this year. The houses were built at a cost of 2,000 crore under the Basic Services For the Urban Poor Scheme."

An additional 90,000 houses will be built under the Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme (IHSDP). "Under the scheme, the funding must be 50% from the Centre and 50% from the state. But invariably, the state ends up paying 60% to 75%. Tamil Nadu has managed to do this and that has made the difference," the official said.

According to the 2001 census, Tamil Nadu had 7.3% of the country's urban homeless and Chennai accounted for 75% of the state's urban homeless. "People from all over the country come here in search of work," the official said.

Experts say the census numbers may not always reflect ground reality, but Tamil Nadu has done well to cut the number of destitute people in the state.

"The state's schemes are progressive and have been implemented well. You have to give credit to the government," said Vanessa Peter, policy researcher at the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities who also co-authored the SC guidelines.

"But the government should set up a single authority to coordinate welfare schemes. A homeless person needs to avail of four different schemes," she said.

Enumeration also remains a problem for this invisible community. "The Supreme Court in 2012 came up with detailed guidelines on how enumeration of the homeless has to be carried out," Peter said, adding that enumerators may not have always followed the guidelines.

The percentage of homeless people in the state has dropped from 0.14% of the overall population in 2001 to 0.07% in 2011. In urban areas, it fell from 4.5% to 3.4%.

With 1,098 shows, Hindi play among longest-running in Mumbai

MUMBAI: She has seen it eight times in the last 16 years. Dancer Tanushree Gupta would've caught the 1,098th show of Hindi play 'HaiMeraDil' on Saturday and taken the tab to nine if there was no urgent work. "It is funny but hard-hitting ," says Gupta, who keeps catching plays repeatedly for their craft and sometimes, laughs. Re-runs are hardly boring for those like Gupta. And a few plays in Mumbai easily sport the longest running tag, whether it is IPTA group's satire 'ShatranjKeMohre' or AnkTheatre Group's 'HaiMeraDil'.

"Some of these repeat viewers have offered to play a part in case any of the crew doesn't show up," laughs Preeta Mathur, who plays the suspicious wife to a hypochondriac husband in the play, which opened in 1973. Ramesh Talwar, director of IPTA's satire , has stopped counting the number of shows. "We didn't want to get into numbers. We started the play in 1970 and this is its 31st year," says Talwar.

The appeal is in part due to the social drama that is set in a light-hearted environment. "It is not very intellectually complicated but connects with every man. I don't find it boring as every time I watch it I get a fresh thought," says Govind Swaroop, retired civil servant, who has seen 'Hai Mera Dil' four times. The humour is in the details. For example, the husband , who is all set to die soon, wants to ensure that his mathematicallychallenged wife can manage without him. "He asks her the price of 1kg paneer and she replies that she bought only half a kilo from the market," says Mathur.

Though the premise looks simple, the play reflects the complexities of life. "There are hypochondriacs around you and suspicious wives. When seen in a good comedy, it is entertaining ," says Swaroop. 'Shatranj' draws people because there is a timeless appeal to classic humour, says actor Anjjan Srivastav, who joined the play in 1997. "It is not vulgar but socially relevant, pure humour of P L Deshpande ," says Talwar. The fans laugh indulgently and repeat lines even before they are mouthed. "People who have seen it in Marathi, Gujarati and Punjabi come up to us to tell which all actors they have seen play the same role," he says.

But these feats are nothing compared to the well-established Marathi theatre tradition. "There are plays that have completed thousands of shows. 'Vastraharan' , which completed around 5,000 shows, is still running ," says Deepak Karanjikar, actor and secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Natya Parishad. Most such plays are primarily social dramas that touch upon the universal themes of family and society in a lighter vein. "Also, people find it comforting to regurgitate the jokes while relishing the opportunity to sit back and relax," says Karanjikar.

The actors also find it easier to work from their comfort zone while constantly modernising their act. Shatranj's makers have trimmed the length from a bulky three hours to a manageable two. 'Hai Mera Dil' keeps adding contemporary references to jazz up the show. On Saturday , Kasab made an appearance in a dream sequence. But that could well be Narendra Modi or Manmohan Singh the next time as their real life political drama has hit an all-time high, says Mathur.

Long shots

The longest-running play in the world remains Agatha Christie's ' The Mousetrap' , a murder mystery, with more than 25,000 shows

'Love Letters' with more than 250 performances is one of the longest running English plays in India

Marathi play 'Vastraharan' has completed around 5,000 shows and is still running

Cancer patients forced to camp on Mumbai street

Cancer patients forced to camp on Mumbai street
A cancer sufferer stands outside his temporary shelter outside the Tata Memorial hospital in Mumbai. (AFP Photo)
MUMBAI: With just a patchwork of colourful plastic sheets to shield patients from the heavy monsoon rains, a Mumbai street acts as an unofficial ward to one of India's top cancer treatment centres.

Every year, the Tata Memorial Hospital draws tens of thousands of cancer sufferers thanks to its heavily subsidized medical care. But the city's steep hotel and rental prices force scores to sleep on nearby pavements.

"There's rats, mosquitoes and dirt," said farmer Suresh Patidar, who stays with his wife Leela, 55, as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer.

"We tried to settle on the other side of the street but the police didn't allow it.

"A hotel is very costly. It's impossible," he said.

With their home in the central state of Madhya Pradesh at least 12 hours away by train, the Patidars' cheapest option has been to sleep on the roadside for the past month, despite the regular torrential downpours.

The bandages and surgical masks worn by others on the street betray their common suffering.

The Tata centre offers some free or cheap rooms around the city to poor outpatients, and more are being added, but numbers are difficult to manage as cancer cases increase.

"There will always be more people," said hospital spokesman S H Jafri. "Many NGOs give them food and things on the footpath, so because of that they tend to stay there."

The pavements have offered such patients and their families a temporary home for years, but there are signs that local residents are growing impatient over their sick neighbours.

At the nearby police station, senior inspector Sunil Tondwalkar said he had written to Mumbai's municipal authorities asking them to move the sick street-dwellers to more suitable lodgings.

Locals have complained they are blocking the pathways, and that "they're eating and going to the toilet on the footpath and the streets. It's not hygienic," Tondwalkar said.

He also wants the streets cleared because he says hospitals can be a "soft target for terrorists", while "anti-social elements", such as thieves or beggars, can infiltrate the patients.

Despite their uncomfortable lodgings, the families for now have little alternative.

Few hospitals offer the range of cancer care and cheap costs of the Tata centre, where 60 percent of about 50,000 yearly patients are subsidised and 14 percent are treated for free, according to Jafri.

Those on the street said they were contributing to their medical costs, and had sold their land or livestock to help fund their treatment. "People living on the streets are people who earn daily, eat daily, so they aren't people with long-term savings," said H K Savla, founder of the Jeevan Jyot Cancer Relief and Care Trust.

His charity feeds 600 patients and their families in Mumbai twice a day, and he said 150 to 200 people were usually camped outside the Tata hospital.

"They have to save whatever they have to manage their treatment," he explained. A hotel is an extra cost that could be more effectively spent.

Now a government-run centre, the Tata hospital began life in 1941 as a philanthropic venture by the industrialist Tata family after a relative died of cancer, despite going to Britain for expensive treatment.

"They said, what about the poor patients in India? So they started this," said Jafri.

The need for such services is only set to grow in the huge nation, where more than half a million people died of cancer in 2010, according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal last year.

Pankaj Chaturvedi, a professor and a head and neck surgeon at the Tata hospital, said cancer is a rising blight as society becomes more affluent.

While breast and cervical cancers are the most common among women, lung and mouth cancers are the biggest killers for men owing to the widespread use of tobacco -- especially chewing tobacco -- across the country.

"Increasing tobacco and alcohol use, unsafe food and lack of exercise -- these are the four factors that lead to an increase in non-communicable diseases of which cancer is a top one," he said.

On top of these factors, improvements in medical science mean people are living longer, and "the longer you live, the higher the chance of cancer".

For some however, it still strikes early.

Ponmuth Rajaram Haridas, 22, has been camping outside the Tata centre for four months with his parents while he is treated for blood cancer, having sold off all the sheep on their farm and taken out a loan.

On doctors' orders that he eats home-cooked food, his small and spritely mother makes him simple meals of rice, dahl and vegetables on a tiny stove in a corner of their makeshift tent.

Speaking through a surgical mask to keep out the germs, he said he hopes to return to their village in another couple of months after he finishes two more sessions of chemotherapy.

"I can't get to sleep here. The atmosphere is much better at home," he said.

Mumbai camera collector breaks own world record

MUMBAI: City-based photo-journalist Dilish Parekh has claimed to have broken his own world record of holding the largest collection of mainly antique cameras.

"I have broken my own record, and this is for the first time I am revealing it," said Dilish, a resident of Pedder Road in South Mumbai.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Dilish has a collection of 4,425 cameras. His earlier world record was a collection of 2,634 antique cameras.

"Cameras are my life. I can't stay without them," said the photo-journalist.

He said he was breaking the news of holding the world record twice on the eve of World Photography Day.

Dilish's collection, which includes Leicas, Rolliflexes, Canons, Nikons, Kodaks, Zeiss and Linofs, has taken 25 years of effort.

The avid collector rummaged through flea markets, approached old studios, interacted with connoisseurs and even put advertisements in newspapers to get a prized collection.

Dilish' most valuable possessions include a 1934-made Leica 250, a rare antique hard to come by, since there were less than 1,000 pieces produced.

Also accorded a royal treatment was the Bessa II, manufactured in 1962 by Voigtlander, one of Germany's oldest optical concerns.

"Bessas were a status symbol in Japan with even the royalty patronising them," informs Dilish.

The one that almost misses your eye is the Tessina L, considered to be among the world's smallest and lightest cameras using 35 mm and weighing just five-and-half ounce. The twin-lens reflex camera, manufactured around 1959, was designed and produced by Concava company of Switzerland.

Dilish started out when his father bequeathed him a collection of 600 cameras. He found them so interesting that he decided to see if he could find some that weren't already in his collection.

It started from there, and over years Dilish went on adding literally hundreds of cameras to his collection.

Most of the cameras in his collection are antiques, and many are hard-to-find and treasured by collectors.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Curb pilfering of electricity during festivals: PIL

MUMBAI: A PIL has urged the Bombay high court to direct a special cell, which was formed to detect and prevent power theft, to carry out physical checks at Ganpati and Navratri mandals.

Ganeshotsav commences on September 9. The petition filed by activist Ketan Tirodkar states that there is an "increasing trend" by mandals to instal parallel connections hijacked from "meters and poles" to satisfy the high-utility requirement of decoration and lighting. "The public bodies organizing Ganeshotsav and Navratri hijack power from electric poles, residential and commercial connections over and above the temporary supply granted to them for the festival," it states. It added, "Private consumers—residential and commercial—get hefty bills in many areas on account of such theft during post-festival periods."

The petition states that there is no physical check carried out by the energy department's vigilance cell and its wings such as BEST and MSEB during the festivals so as not to "hurt" public sentiments. The transport undertaking and the state electricity board suffer distribution losses to the tune of 15% overall and up to 50% in some pockets during the festive season, the petition states. "Theft of electricity is one of the major reasons for heavy distribution losses," it added.

Tirodkar's petition states that residents from of Parel, Lalbaug, Girgaum, Thane, Kalyan and Pune have told him that the mandals collect hefty donations and seek heavy concessions from the government for electricity usage. It states that during the hearing of a PIL in 2010 on electricity pilferage, the HC was informed that a special cell had been formed by the BEST and police to check, prevent and detect power theft in Mumbai. The petition will be heard on August 16.

Broken promise: Mr CM, metro won't roll in September

MUMBAI: Mumbaikars' long wait for the first phase of the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar metro rail is far from over. Chief minister PrithvirajChavan won't be able to keep his promise of commissioning it next month. It has now been deferred to December.

This is one of several infrastructure projects that keep getting delayed in the city.

Sahar Elevated Road, connecting Western Express Highway to the new airport terminal, was to be ready by May. It has been deferred to December. Work on the project began over three years ago.

The worst of the delays is that of Santa Cruz Chembur Link Road (SCLR), announced way back in 2003. It was to be ready by October this year. The new date is March 2014.

Chavan has been promising that infrastructure projects worth Rs 5,000 crore will be commissioned by the year-end. Repeated delays in commissioning the metro had led Chavan to promise that it would be done in phases. The first phase between Versova and the international airport was to be commissioned in September.

Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority commissioner U P S Madan said metro cannot be commissioned unless the commissioner of railway safety (CRS) gives the nod. "Inspections and trial runs are on but certificates may take a while.'' MMRDA, which is executing the project with MMOPL, said the deadline may be shifted to December.

Sources said the interiors are still to be completed. "How can the CRS be expected to give a nod when the work itself is not complete?'' asked an MMRDA official.

On Sahar Elevated Road, Madan said, "The road leads directly to the terminal and both are being completed. The underpass for the elevated road is to be completed. Since the road ends at the terminal, it is a happy coincidence that both will be ready in December.''

The need for SCLR is even more pronounced as the shift of business districts to Bandra, Andheri and Malad has seen a spike in east-west travel for work. Madan said SCLR was delayed as the heavy monsoon led the railways to refuse to allow piers to be set up across railway tracks.

Mumbai Metro to be operational this financial year: Anil Ambani

IANS | Updated Sep 05, 2012 at 11:33am IST
Mumbai: The Metro service in India's commercial capital will commence this fiscal with the completion of more than 95 per cent of its civil construction, Reliance Infrastructure Chairman Anil Ambani said on Tuesday.
Addressing the annual general meeting of the company, he said 700,000 passengers will be able to travel in Mumbai Metro, cutting the commute time from what it takes 90 minutes now with the existing modes of travel to under 20 minutes.
He said there was a huge growth opportunity in infrastructure, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announcing $1 trillion investment in ongoing 12th five year plan, of which 60 per cent is expected to come from private players.
\'Mumbai Metro to be operational this financial year\'Anil Ambani said 700,000 passengers will be able to travel in Mumbai Metro.
He said Reliance Infra had now become one of India's leading power engineering players, with a turnover of Rs 11,700 crore last year, implementing 13 projects - seven in power and six in roads.
The company, he added, had also become the largest private power distributor, delivering over 5,000 MW to 5.7 million customers in Mumbai and Delhi. The license in Mumbai, he added, had now been renewed till 2036 to serve 2.8 million residents.
He said in Delhi, the transmission and distribution losses, which were at an alarming 55 per cent, had been cut to less than 18 per cent, resulting in a saving of Rs 30,000 crore to state government.
The company's shares ended the day 1.36 per cent higher at Rs 446.35, after touching a high of Rs 448 in the interim.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Death centenary of man who put Matheran train on tracks

MUMBAI: In 1907, when the price of gold was Rs 18 per tola, a Bohra philanthropist spent Rs 16 lakh to build a railway line so the common man could gain access to Matheran hill station. Sunday, August 11, marks 100 years since the passing of Sir AdamjeePeerbhoy who founded the Matheran Light Rail.

A rough trip on horseback set him thinking about constructing a rail network for common Indians with nomeans to travel to the holiday spot. There was no possibility of an aerial survey or proper transport or electricity, yet the mountainous task was accomplished within six years of starting work in 1901.

The Matheran Light Rail crowned several acts of charity by Peerbhoy, including schools, hospitals, cemeteries and shelters. It also earned him knighthood from the British government.

"Sir Adamjee was also appointed the first Indian sheriff of Mumbai over such stalwarts as Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy and Sarojini Naidu," says his great grandson Hussain Peerbhoy, who has requested CM Prithviraj Chavan to issue a postal stamp to mark his 100th death anniversary. He has also demanded that Matheran railway station be renamed after Sir Adamjee.