Wednesday, February 7, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Invitation to disaster
ROM the debris of the earthquake devastated region of Gujarat have emerged tales of the nexus between the builders and corrupt politicians and civil servants. The scale of destruction of life and property would have been much less had the realtors helped by a corrupt administration not violated the building bylaws.

A dangerous turn
HE situation is taking a turn for the worse in Kashmir, perhaps as scripted across the border. After the migration of over three lakh Pandits from the valley, it may now be the turn of the Sikhs to say "alvida" to their Muslim compatriots, with whom they have lived for generations. 

Churning in TN politics
OLITICS in Tamil Nadu is blatantly promiscuous. Walking out of one marriage of convenience to another hastily rigged one is the most popular sport. 


Fresh signals from Kashmir 
February 6
, 2001
A delayed decision
February 5
, 2001
Lessons from disaster
February 4
, 2001
Timid tremor tax
February 3
, 2001
A budget for disaster
February 2
, 2001
Disaster mismanagement
February 1
, 2001
Earthquake economics
January 31
, 2001
The world responds
January 30
, 2001
Mother earth as killer
January 29
, 2001
The Kumbh mela — a tradition that lasts
January 28
, 2001
Wheat man’s burden
January 26
, 2001


Indigenous fighter aircraft
LCA flies, but has long distance to cover
By R. S. Bedi
ANUARY 4, 2001, will go in the annals of Indian aviation history in golden letters. After 17 years of labour and Rs 3000 crore of investment, the much-maligned LCA (light combat aircraft) took to the air at 10.15 a.m. with Wg Cdr Rajive Kothiyal at the controls.

China towards political uncertainty
By S. P. Seth
RESIDENT Jiang Zemin behaved oddly when he delivered a stern lecture to a group of Hong Kong journalists last October. The reporters had apparently been invited to a photo opportunity during a meeting in Beijing between President Jiang and Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa.


By Reeta Sharma
Did Clinton’s visit help women of Naila?
OMEN of Naila village in Jaipur district of Rajasthan were suddenly on all TV channels of the world on March 23 last year. And why not ? After all they had the super power of the world — America’s President Bill Clinton — visiting them as a guest. He had broken all barriers of security to dance with them while they were performing a traditional folk number in his welcome. 


Flexibility at work means happiness at home
little flexibility at work can stretch a long way when it comes to keeping employees happy and productive, a new report shows. According to a study published in Family Relations, individuals who believed that their manager was flexible with their work hours and work location were able to work more before reaching their breaking point — where competing demands felt overwhelming.

  • Hair dyes and bladder cancer
  • Finally a ministry for women
  • Ships spread micro-organisms




Invitation to disaster

FROM the debris of the earthquake devastated region of Gujarat have emerged tales of the nexus between the builders and corrupt politicians and civil servants. The scale of destruction of life and property would have been much less had the realtors helped by a corrupt administration not violated the building bylaws. In the popular BBC programme "Question Time India" neither former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankersinh Vaghela nor the state's Home Minister, Mr Haren Pandya, had satisfactory answers to the the searching quake-related questions from the audience. Mr Pandya was made to admit that nearly 80 per cent buildings in Ahmedabad were illegal. Which builder would be foolish enough to invest in making illegal structures safe for human habitation? Mr Pandya kept fumbling for a satisfactory reply to the question whether samples of the collapsed structures were taken for analysing the quality of the material used by the builders. A large number of builders have gone into hiding, not to escape the benevolent arm of the law, but the collective wrath of the people. The Gujarat tragedy has, in fact, shaken the entire nation and uncomfortable questions are now being asked about the safety of multi-storey structures in other parts of the country. Karol Bagh and Shahdara, in and around Delhi, have been identified as being located in seismically high-risk zones. The experts all along knew about the risk factor involved in constructing buildings not designed to cushion the effect of the kind of tremor which took less than 30 seconds to cause havoc in Gujarat. The tragedy has forced them to break their silence on the subject.

Several devastating fires in high-rising buildings in the past few years in Delhi too have exposed the builders' lack of respect for safety. Mr Jagmohan has announced a drive for assessing the structural safety of the multi-storey structures in the national capital. But will such knee-jerk reactions help the authorities concerned draw up a comprehensive policy of safety for buildings in the country and ensure its compliance? It has been recognised that the Himalayas are the most unstable range of mountains and yet no effort has been made to check the reckless construction of high-rise apartments at most hill stations. The tremors which caused massive destruction in Kinnaur, Kangra, Chamoli and Uttarkashi in Himachal and Uttaranchal have evidently not shaken up the administrations of the two hill states to the need to check the haphazard construction activity by private and public builders. However, an administration which allowed the construction of a high-rise High Court complex in Shimla cannot be expected to the rise to the stature of bringing down the height of other buildings in Himachal to the prescribed level of safety.


A dangerous turn

THE situation is taking a turn for the worse in Kashmir, perhaps as scripted across the border. After the migration of over three lakh Pandits from the valley, it may now be the turn of the Sikhs to say "alvida" to their Muslim compatriots, with whom they have lived for generations. What else does the hotheads in Islamabad and their agents on this side of the Indo-Pak divide want? Ever since they began their unholy operations they had been working on a strategy to destroy the meticulously woven secular fabric of Kashmiri society. This, as per their miscalculations, may pave the way for the realisation of their dream. It is a different matter that India will see to it that this turns out to be a wishful thinking. But the enemies of New Delhi, as also of peace, might be feeling happy at the reports that the Sikhs too have begun chanting, "We want migration". Going by their history, it is difficult to believe that the community as a whole will take such an extreme step. However, their reaction on these depressing lines is natural after the horrifying incidents of Chhattisingpora and Mehjoornagar. In this hour of crisis, giving them sermons like the one that has come from Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah will not do. After all, the Sikhs' confidence in the capacity of the law-enforcing machinery to protect their lives and property has shaken beyond expression. It is a pity that the grief-stricken people are dealt with bullets, as it happened in Jammu on Monday, when they deserve sympathy. Instead of hammering at Pakistan's evil designs, the Chief Minister should assure those thinking to migrate that the state government and the Centre will redouble their efforts to restore the shattered confidence of the Sikhs. There is no harm in training them to deal with the militants in the language they understand.

The truth is that the time has come to devise urgent measures to thwart the unholy plans of the enemy while fighting the disruptionists with all the might the nation has. No one knows how long militancy will take to die down. But the people who have the will to stay put in Kashmir must be provided with the necessary wherewithal to handle the killers on their own. This will give them enough courage to weather the storm blowing in the valley. 


Churning in TN politics

POLITICS in Tamil Nadu is blatantly promiscuous. Walking out of one marriage of convenience to another hastily rigged one is the most popular sport. So it is that the DMK, the pillar of the anti-BJP United Front of 1996-99 vintage is these days a key element of the BJP-led NDA and Ms Jayalalitha who gifted the BJP a toehold is busy putting together a secular front. The latest political divorce was announced on Monday when the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) asked its two junior Ministers to quit the Vajpayee government as a prelude to joining hands with the AIADMK. With just five MPs and a pledge not to vote against the government, there need be no fear of instability at the Centre. But the NDA will do badly in the coming Assembly election. The importance of the PMK lies in its brazen caste appeal; it consistently polls more than 10 per cent of votes in at least 50 Assembly constituencies in about a dozen northern districts. The Vanniars, a backward caste, are fiercely loyal to the founder-president of the PMK, Dr Ramadoss. Its entry into the Jayalalitha-led combination will hurt the NDA in two ways. The caste vote will go against it and it will also admirably neutralise the weakness of the secular forces. This is obvious from the fact that in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections almost all NDA gains came from the northern part of the state where the Jayalalitha-led group of parties did badly. If the two pool their electoral strength, they can pose a formidable challenge to the NDA. That is the calculation behind the PMK move. That party has been having a running quarrel with another NDA partner, the Ramamurthy-led TRC, over his defeat in 1999. Since then Dr Ramadoss and Ramamurthy have engaged in a slanging match with increasingly heated exchanges. Both are Vanniars but one is a leader and the other is a puny pretender.

The PMK’s shifting loyalty will pose a painful dilemma to all but the AIADMK. Ms Jayalalitha has extended an open invitation to all anti-DMK forces and hence is happy with the addition of the PMK. But the Congress is worried that there will be that many seats less for it in the new arrangement. It is uneasy with the new entrant’s unabashed support to the LTTE of Sri Lanka. Another problem is the all-out attempt of the PMK to capture power in Pondicherry, now ruled by the Congress. The Left parties feel uneasy with its loud casteism and hostility to the dalits. With the AIADMK’s base among the Thevars in the southern districts, another anti-dalit caste, the new front will lose the scheduled caste vote. This possibility has fuelled speculation that the Tamil Maanila Congress headed by Mr Moopanar may form a third front mainly to provide a platform to the dalits. With caste coming to the fore, the last vestiges of the Dravidian movement are about to fade away. The movement furiously fought against the caste system, forcing everyone to drop caste surnames, long before the Sikhs did. 


Indigenous fighter aircraft
LCA flies, but has long distance to cover
By R. S. Bedi

JANUARY 4, 2001, will go in the annals of Indian aviation history in golden letters. After 17 years of labour and Rs 3000 crore of investment, the much-maligned LCA (light combat aircraft) took to the air at 10.15 a.m. with Wg Cdr Rajive Kothiyal at the controls. Eighteen minutes of maiden flight ended with a flawless landing, relieving the pent-up tension instantly. With this significant milestone, India enters a new era of aviation history and joins the select band of a few countries with design and development capabilities for contemporary fighter aircraft.

The euphoria notwithstanding, the LCA’s debut performance is just a step forward in its long and arduous journey. It’s no more than a flash in the pan in an otherwise uncertain future. The development of airframe, the flight control system, the power plant, digital electronic controls, the multi-mode radar and modern avionics all are to be fully integrated, being at present behind the schedule by varying degrees. Unlike what is being stated in the Press, the LCA was scheduled to fly first in 1990-91. Instead, it took another 10 years to launch. The frequency with which LCA deadlines were changed over the period did not instil confidence in the user service.

From 1983 till date, the LCA has been a saga of hope and despair. A simple idea conceived by the IAF in 1983, well within the reach of DRDO scientists and engineers somehow, turned into one of the most ambitious and technologically complex projects. Getting technologically beyond reach, the hunt for foreign technologies and collaborations followed soon. Political constraints and strategic compulsions expectedly came in the way of the project’s progress.

So far two Technology Demonstrators (TD-1 and TD-2) have been rolled out by HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited). Following this would be three proto-types (PT-1, PT-2 and PT-3), all of which would be powered by US General Electric, F-404 F2 J3, engines. To prove the LCA across the entire performance envelop would take at least a dozen more years. It has to measure up to the challenges of operating safely and efficiently over the entire spectrum of speed, height, stability and complex manoeuvres without any residual vices. This often calls for major modifications in the basic design itself and also in onboard operating systems. It’s a formidable task requiring years of strenuous and toilsome efforts. Unscheduled delays are bound to occur in such an exercise. Even the advance countries in the West take seven to 10 years for this phase of development.

Recent observations by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence that the LCA would not be ready for induction in the IAF till 2012 are not without substance. Aware of the problems being faced by the DRDO, the IAF was least surprised at these observations. It has reasons to feel that the LCA would go beyond 2012 to at least 2015, if not more. In the light of this fact, the IAF is not even considering its induction in the Eleventh Plan. There are many reasons for this perception.

The first and the most important reason is the total uncertainty about the indigenous Kaveri engine. It is still far from being operational. It is in the process of undergoing tests on multiple test beds in India and abroad. It has been recently subjected to airborne trials in Russia. It’s not measuring up to the LCA requirements in power generation and hence not likely to come up for integration with it by 2005, as is being claimed lately. However, the prototype trials will go through since the DRDO had imported eight US F-404 engines in 1985 knowing full well that the indigenous Kaveri would not be ready in time. After the Pokhran tests in 1998, the Americans slapped the sanctions against India which included, among other things, these engines.

Second, the flight control system being developed at Lockheed Martin, USA, was abruptly frozen after the tests and DRDO engineers, under Dr K.G. Narayanan, routed back unceremoniously without the wherewithal so far developed. The US embargo on the power plant, FCS, and the avionics is bound to impede the LCA progress.

Third, the process of system integration is a time-consuming and tiresome exercise, requiring all onboard system to interface satisfactorily with each other, besides performing fully to their individual specifications. Unforecast delays are integral to this type of activity. The indigenous Kaveri engine, avionics, the radar, and the weapon systems are all yet to go through the process of integration.

Fourth, the test-flying process will take at least a decade plus. With all the wherewithal and infrastructure, the European consortium took more than seven years to induct the Eurofighter in the service. First, the HAL pilots will clear the LCA platform and its operating systems. Then the IAF test pilots at the Armament Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) will take up the LCA for weaponisation which involves, among other things, the platform and the engine stability while firing weapons. Only when the LCA is proved safe and capable of performing the assigned roles, it will be inducted into the squadron service.

Surprising but true, the IAF, which conceived the project in 1983 for its MiG-21 fleet replacement, gradually found itself edged out of the decision-making loop with little or no say in the matter. Its observations and advice remained unheeded. Besides, the changing nature of the LCA’s deadlines affected the IAF’s Long Term Reequipment Plans (LTREP) adversely. As per the DRDO’s projections, the first proto-type was to fly in 1990-91 and the serial production to commence five years later. Accordingly, the IAF worked out its LTREP with the induction of 10 LCA squadrons by mid-1990s. But nothing materialised. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which was charged with the responsibility of funding, monitoring and managing the project, failed to come up to the expectations. As the project became more and more complex, entailing capabilities not visualised hitherto, it began to slip in its schedule. The initial cost estimate of Rs 560 crore catapulted four times to Rs 2185 crore by June, 1993, and by the time it got airborne in 2001, a staggering Rs 3000 crore had been spent on it.

The DRDO forecast was incredibly optimistic and ambitious by any standards. It was a clear manifestation of its inexperience and knowhow in regard to the technological complexities likely to be encountered in executing such a project. Frequent changes in the schedule became the order of the day. At no time did the DRDO take a realistic view and come out honestly with attainable forecast. This created a sense of uncertainty among the IAF personnel as regards the final outcome. The IAF slowly lost interest in the LCA which continued to steer course of its own. The induction within the next six years as is being claimed by the DRDO is once again totally off the mark.

The country had no experienced aircraft designers. The only fighter ever designed was Marut (HF-24) in the fifties with the help of a German team under Dr Kurt Tank. But the aircraft died a premature death for want of an appropriate engine. Since then HAL has been producing aircraft under licence only. The experience gained in the fifties was allowed to fritter away. India thus lost five decades and it still remains at the threshold of aviation technology.

The IAF finally started looking for an alternative to replenish its dwindling assets. It worked out a dual policy of having a mix of medium technology not too old upgraded aircraft, and altogether high technology new aircraft straight from outside vendors. It is upgrading MiG-21 bis, MiG-27s and MiG-29s besides acquiring additional 10 Mirage-2000s, seventeen Jaguars and 40 Su-30 MKIs which will also be licence-produced later in large quantities. Unfortunately, the upgradation and new acquisitions are also getting delayed. MiG-21 bis is already behind schedule by four years and Su-30 MKI by two years.

The Army waited for the Arjun main battle tank for years and finally had to go in for 300 Russian T-90 tanks when the security scenario vis-a-vis Pakistan required immediate action. It is not being pessimistic but the LCA story is not going to be any different from that of the MBT.

No single country, other than the USA and Russia, is in a position to design and develop modern aircraft all by itself. Nations are constrained to form consortiums in order to reduce the cost.

The UK, Germany, Italy and Spain all are following the consortium approach. The Eurofighter produced by them is an obvious common effort example, which took 17 years to come up.

It is not out of place to mention here that the Israelis abandoned midway the development of their indigenous fighter called LAVI when they found the cost ($ 20bn) and time overrun were no more affordable. Even if we are able to develop the LCA, its final cost will escalate many times that of the currently assessed cost of $ 20 million, making it unaffordable by the IAF. Unless HAL finds some global market for the LCA, its cost based on about 300 aircraft for domestic use will be unacceptably high.

Being the DRDO’s captive customer, the IAF is worried about the cost as well as the delay. Nearly 40 per cent of the IAF’s 39.5 fighter force would face depletion in the next five years or so. How to fill this gap is one aspect, but what is still more disconcerting is the uncertainty whether the LCA after 32 years will still be the state-of-the-art aircraft. Before it enters the squadron service in 2015, it will have already undergone technological upgradation in order to keep it among the front-line fighters.

The Parliament Standing Committee on Defence has rightly castigated the government for its indifference and the DRDO for its lack of accountability and lackadaisical approach to vital defence projects. Performance audit will at least ensure accountability and transparency. The DRDO has kept the IAF on tenterhooks for too long and frustrated its attempts for re-equipment repeatedly because of the lack of professional integrity and honesty.

— The writer, a retired Air Marshal, is a former Director-General, Defence Planning Staff, Ministry of Defence.


China towards political uncertainty
By S. P. Seth

PRESIDENT Jiang Zemin behaved oddly when he delivered a stern lecture to a group of Hong Kong journalists last October. The reporters had apparently been invited to a photo opportunity during a meeting in Beijing between President Jiang and Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa. But it took a bizarre turn when a reporter queried Jiang if Tung’s reappointment after 2002 would be in the nature of an “imperial order”? It was enough to send Jiang into a tantrum.

In his five-minute harangue, jabbing his finger in the air, he called the reporters “naive” and “inexperienced”, comparing them poorly with their Western counterparts. He warned, “if your reports are not accurate enough, you will have to be held responsible.” The tag of “imperial order” is really hurt by blurring the transition from British rule.

But it was just a trigger, which caused the explosion. Having cultivated a cool, calm and measured image for international audiences, Jiang wouldn’t have normally let himself go off the handle just like that. Hong Kong, after all, is communist China’s political and economic showcase of an erstwhile imperial colony returning to the motherland and enjoying autonomy. Hong Kong’s example is supposed to lure Taiwan into a similar arrangement, even though Taipei hates comparison with the former British colony.

Hong Kong is taxing Jiang’s patience with its insistence on special treatment. By seeking to reappoint an obviously unpopular Tung (opinion surveys point in that direction) for another term in 2002, Beijing is sending an important message. The message is that it is not bound by public opinion in Hong Kong. Tung has Beijing’s confidence because he is willing to do its bidding. At the same time, he is sophisticated and suave enough as its international pointman in projecting China’s “moderate” image on Hong Kong. Tung has so far performed this role quite well. Therefore, his description as an “imperial” appointee was too close to the truth. And too painful for Jiang to maintain his cool and composure.

In a larger context, Jiang is under enormous pressure in the lead up to the 16th party congress in 2002. Tung himself might not be so pivotal to the power parleys among China’s top leadership, but Jiang is in a hurry to fix up his own men in powerful positions. The pressure on Jiang is at two levels. One: he is supposed to retire after the 2002 party congress. He is obviously not too keen on it. But if it were to happen, he would like to be another Deng Xiaoping exercising power behind the scenes.

But Jiang is no Deng, though moves are afoot by his supporters to put him on a par with Mao and Deng Xiaoping. He is, therefore, seeking to control the levers of power before and during the 2002 party congress. As part of this process, he will like his protege, Hu Jintao, to succeed him as President and, possibly, the party General Secretary. Jiang is also trying to manipulate the composition of the party politburo to his advantage. And he would dearly like to retain the chairmanship of the military commission.

In the midst of such political machinations, the issue of Tung’s forthcoming reappointment as Hong Kong’s Chief Executive tended to expose the wider power game in the portals of China’s leadership. Jiang’s unrelated outburst on the occasion to say that he had “personally experienced a hundred battles” in his lifetime, was quite indicative. One doesn’t have to be a Freud to sense that things are really cooking up in China’s political hothouse, and that President Jiang is facing resistance.

When one puts Jiang’s remarks against Zhu Rongji’s confession during an earlier Tokyo visit (before a television audience) that he had “suffered injustices more times than you can imagine”, the picture does become quite murky.

It would appear that China is engaged in serious political manoeuvring in the transition to power after the year 2002. The recent comment by Politburo member Li Ruihuan that the Chinese Communist Party should “open up and unclog the democratic channels through which the masses from all walks of life can express their views” is also telling. And no less important is the unauthorised release of documents airing sharp differences among China’s top leadership before the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, where Deng’s hardline prevailed. Apparently, there are important elements in the party trying to queer the pitch in the lead up to the 16th congress.

Jiang obviously is not having it all his way. A confident leader, totally in command, would not have exploded the way. Jiang did when queried on Tung’s forthcoming reappointment as Hong Kong’s Chief Executive. Jiang wants to be treated and remembered in the tradition of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. But as he himself said some years ago, Mao and Deng were unique leaders. He has apparently changed his mind and has come to believe in his uniqueness.

Jiang was never China’s paramount leader. Under Deng Xiaoping, he was his protege. After his death, he was part of China’s collective leadership. He can’t now suddenly claim and exercise paramountcy. China, it would seem, is entering a difficult phase involving a political tug-of-war at the highest levels. The resultant political uncertainty is likely to impact on its external relations.

In this connection, Taiwan could become a hot political issue. At present, though, Beijing is relatively non-threatening on Taiwan, obviously relishing political infighting on the island after the election of Chen Shuibian as President. It is acquiring a new political leverage by fishing into Taiwan’s internal politicking. But this might not produce quick results in terms of reunification. Therefore, the military option of annexing the island remains. To this end, Beijing will probe and test the new US administration concerning its commitment to Taiwan and the American missile defence system.

The next few years, therefore, will be important in terms of China’s internal power politics, and its likely impact abroad.


Did Clinton’s visit help women of Naila?
By Reeta Sharma

WOMEN of Naila village in Jaipur district of Rajasthan were suddenly on all TV channels of the world on March 23 last year. And why not ? After all they had the super power of the world — America’s President Bill Clinton — visiting them as a guest. He had broken all barriers of security to dance with them while they were performing a traditional folk number in his welcome. The enviable power of the world had told his possessive security guards: “You have nothing to fear from these innocent Indian women.”

So, frail but sprightly, Mohini with a beaming smile had tied a “rakhi” on the wrist of Bill Clinton. Kamla Devi had applied a “tikka” on his forehead and 38 other women of Naila had showered flowers while singing welcome songs in chorus. Yet the total 40 women of Naila were given security badges to enable them to meet the US President.

But the meeting was not a mere traditional welcome of an important political power visiting India. He was to interact with them to know about the grassroot reality of Indian villages. Through these women Clinton could feel the nerve of the villages of India, their level of basic infrastructure, health system, education, employment opportunities and of course the poverty of the Third World.

Women of Naila gave Clinton a comparable vision of women of India and Pakistan, of democracy and dictatorship, of progressivism and feudalism. It was also the spontaneous exuberance and child-like excitement of these village women that inspired Clinton to break all shackles of class, culture, language and the world’s highest security ring to join steps with their folk rhythm.

Has Clinton’s visit helped women of Naila to bring in a change in their attitude and existence ?

The Agra road leading to Naila bewitches you with the Vidyadhar memorial with its fascinating design. The entry to Naila village is as majestic as was the dance of its women with Clinton. The ancient gate, an extension of “Thakuron Ki Haveli” with all its original paintings, stands erect and tall.

Naila has a population of 7,000 poor people who sell milk or handicrafts made by women for their livelihood. But this village is not the story of poverty. In fact it is about how women of rural Naila have acquired wings. These women who till recently lived in “parda” and were oblivious of the new century’s arrival, have begun to break away from their shackles of subjugation, of suffocating conventions and of slavery of the mind.

Women of Naila were already learning to walk when President Clinton arrived in their village. Did his visit make any difference to them ? Yes, it did. He held them by their finger and helped them walk more confidently. He certainly has opened a new chapter in their life.

It was Clinton’s visit that inspired the Government of Rajasthan to announce upgradation of the existing girls’ school from Class VIII to Class X. Now the girls who often dropped from school after Class VIII will certainly be matriculates. The boys’ school was also upgraded from Class X to Class XII. Clinton also gifted 10 computers to the people of Naila.

To the urbanites it might appear a trivial matter. But 10 computers for the village students who had only one computer to share among thousands, will certainly make a huge difference. Now the newly formed “Gramin Vikas Sanstha” will ensure a fair distribution of time to not only students but also women groups to learn and operate computers. Of course there are educated women as “Gram Sathins” who are working among uneducated women.

Tara Bai Rajput, a coordinator from the Department of Women’s Welfare, besides monitoring various activities also extends legal advise to the women.

Many women are Anganwari workers. Laxmi and Gita have taken basic training as “Daees” (midwives). Kamla Devi makes footmats out of raw jute, colours it in fascinating shades and sells them in the market.

Women of Naila had lapped up the Centre’s Self-Help Group (SHG) scheme in 1992. This has helped them form their own groups which are given loans by the banks to promote any productive activity to generate their own income. So under the SHG scheme Savitri bought a buffalow and now sells milk. Similarly, Kamla Devi is busy making colourful “churies” and Saraswati owns a knitting machine thanks to the SHG scheme.

Reservation for women in panchayats has made an enormous difference to the women of Naila “Aurat panchon ko ham apni baat aasaani se keh sakte hain aur voh aasaani se samajh sakti hain”. (It is easier to share our problems with women panches and they also understand them instinctively), says Aruna Gaur, an Anganwari worker of Naila. Of 15 ward panches, five are women in this village.

Chirpy Mohni (who tied the rakhi on Clinton) is almost the uncrowned leader of Naila. When asked about the controversy about 10 gifted computers whose use had been stalled briefly she bursts in a typical rustic style: “Yeh to bas teen nikamme aadmion ki karistani thi.” (This happened because of three useless men). However, the active and positive role played by the American Embassy in India has sorted out the confrontation. Now computers are available for everybody’s judicious use rather than being locked away by jealous government employees. Incidentally, the computer training programme was inaugurated by a Gram Sathin Kailashi Devi, a matriculate, with Clinton leading the applause.

What is amazing is that even the uneducated women of Naila have gradually gained wisdom on all fronts, including healthcare, awareness about the education of their daughters, refraining from child-marriages, hygiene, nutrition etc. So when Mohini distributes iron tablets on behalf of UNICEF to girls in homes and schools every mother knows the use and benefit of them. the growing awareness can be attributed to exposure by the electronic media, the role of NGOs, active involvement of woman panches, and many other agencies.

Child-marriages were largely in practice in Naila too. However, during the past decade the practice has almost ceased. Reveals Mohini, “I was myself married at the age of 13 and by the age of 15 I had given birth to two sons. Then suddenly my husband died. With the in-laws having deserted me, I brought up my sons with great difficulty in my parents’ home. I ensured that my sons did not marry so early. My elder son got married only when he was 22 years old”.

Mentioning of Bhanvri Devi, a Gram Sathin, who was “punished” with rape by six men when she had tried to stop a child-marriage, unfolded the women’s touching unity and strength on the issue. They expressed wild anger against those rapists and the menace of child-marriages. Then came the revolution from none other than Mohini of course. “I travelled with Bhanvri Devi to Bombay when she was given the Nirja Bhanot award. Later we were taken to see Elephanta Caves.... etc.” Little did she realise that their exposure was already growing elephantine.


Flexibility at work means happiness at home

A little flexibility at work can stretch a long way when it comes to keeping employees happy and productive, a new report shows.

According to a study published in Family Relations, individuals who believed that their manager was flexible with their work hours and work location were able to work more before reaching their breaking point — where competing demands felt overwhelming.

In an interview with Reuters Health, Dr E. Jeffrey Hill from the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, likened flexibility in the workplace to “a shock absorber for the stress of long work hours.’’

For example, having flexibility at work provides employees with more options for where to live and allows them to spend more time with children and on household chores — at little or no expense to the company, Hill and colleagues explain.

In this era of increasing workload, “flexibility in when and where work is done offers exciting possibilities for helping families to thrive,’’ Hill said.

For two-career couples with children, trying to juggle work and family responsibilities can be a precarious balancing act. What’s more, people who feel inundated with work and family demands tend to fight more with their spouse, have less knowledge of their children’s experiences, are more likely to abuse alcohol and have a poorer quality of life, overall.

All of this can spill over into an employee’s performance at work.

And whereas balancing work and family was previously considered a woman’s issue, it now affects men who have begun to take on more responsibilities for childcare and household chores, the researchers note. (Reuters)

Hair dyes and bladder cancer

Women who regularly use permanent hair dye may be putting themselves at increased risk of bladder cancer, new research findings suggest.

“Our novel observations are provocative and carry enormous public health implications,’’ Dr. Manuela Gago-Dominguez told Reuters Health. “Yet it is a little premature to make any recommendation about stopping the use of permanent hair dyes,’’ the researcher added.

“However, this is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies ever conducted on the issue and we think our results should not be ignored,’’ Gago-Dominguez said.

The study is also the first to show that how often you use hair dyes affects your bladder cancer risk, Gago-Dominguez, of the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles, noted.

Gago-Dominguez and her colleagues analysed 897 cases of bladder cancer where information about hair dye use was available, and compared these patients with a similar number of adults who did not use permanent hair dye. Study findings will be published in the February issue of the International Journal of Cancer.

The investigators found that women who used permanent hair dye at least once a month were twice as likely as women who did not use permanent hair dye to develop bladder cancer. They took cigarette smoking — a known risk factor for bladder cancer — into consideration in their calculations.

Those who reported regular use of the hair dye for at least 15 years were more than three times as likely to develop bladder cancer as non-dye users.

Even some hairstylists and barbers were 50% more likely to have bladder cancer than those who did not experience occupational exposure. (Reuters)

Finally a ministry for women

Fortythree years after Independence, the Malaysian Government has finally created a Women’s Affairs Ministry in an attempt to recognise the importance of women’s contribution to the country. Women groups in the country have welcomed the government’s decision since more funds will now be allocated for projects that would cater to the needs of the women.

The minister in charge, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, said that the government’s move is a great honour to Malaysian women who have constantly struggled for the betterment of women in the country. Jalil is seen as an acceptable choice by the government and women’s groups, as she has experience in working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The women’s groups in the country hope that during policy making, Jalil will raise issues highlighted by the NGOs. Meanwhile, the transsexual community in the country wants the ministry to persuade the government to declare them as women instead of using the unofficial term “third sex”. They also want to be accorded the same status as women so that they too can enjoy the rights conferred on women. A group representing transsexuals will try to meet the minister to put their proposal across. (WFS)

Ships spread micro-organisms

Scientists have come up with a finding about the role of commercial ships in long-distance dispersal of micro-organisms, including human, plant and animal pathogens.

Researchers from USA show that global movement of ballast water, used for the stability of ships since the 19th century, creates a long-distance dispersal mechanism for micro-organisms as ship discharges large volumes of it at ports en route, according to a report in Nature.

Ports can receive relatively large volumes of ballast water. For instance, the USA receives more than 79 million tonnes of ballast water from overseas each year.

Ballast tanks carry a diverse community of organisms, resulting in many biological invasions. Pathogens, including those affecting humans, are common in coastal waters and can also be transferred in ballast water.

Researchers measured the concentrations of total bacteria, virus-like particles (VLPs) and the bacteria Vibrio cholera, which causes the human epidemic cholera, in the ballast water of vessels arriving at Chesapeake Bay, on the US east coast, from foreign ports.

The samples revealed an average of about a billion bacteria and seven billion VLPs per litre-concentrations that exceed those reported from other texonomic groups in ballast water by six to eight orders of magnitude. (PTI) 



Even the least work done for others awakens the power within; even thinking the least good of others gradually instills into the heart the strength of a lien. I love you all ever so much, but I wish you all to die working for others....


If you are ready to sacrifice your life for others, God will certainly provide some means for them. Have you not read in the Gita (VI. 40) — "Never does a doer of good, O my beloved come to grief"?....


Without renunciation none can pour out his whole heart in working for others. The man of renunciation sees all with an equal eye and devotes himself to the service of all....


At your threshold, Narayana Himself in the form of a poor beggar is dying of starvation! Instead of giving him anything, would you only satisfy the appetites of your wife and children with delicacies? Why, that is beastly!


Serve your own fellow countrymen? Go, all of you, wherever, there is an outbreak of plague or famine, or wherever the people are the distress, and mitigate their sufferings. At the most you may die in the attempt — what of that? How many like you are being born nad dying like worms everyday? .... Die you must but have a great ideal to die for, and it is better to die with a great ideal in life.

— The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. V. "Conversations and Dialogues", XI.


By oneself evil is done

By oneself one suffers.

By oneself evil is undone,

By oneself is one purified.

—The Dhammapada, 16

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