Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Women, men and Virginity!!!!

Recently, when I was discussing my holiday plans with my parents about visiting a place alone or with my (male) friends, they said I couldn't go alone or with my friends. Though I knew they were disinterested in allowing me to go with my friends, I had asked them why they disliked the idea. My father tried to do away with the situation by saying "I hope you understand."  Because I wasn't sure of what he actually meant, I asked him, again. He told me that "you are a girl, you should understand."  By then, I had understood that if I  dig deep into the issue, it will get dirty. And, therefore I shut my mouth and left the place.
The whole point behind a big "NO" was about a caring father being worried about his daughter. Simple as it sounds, the complexity in it is about his daughter's virginity. Yes, VIRGINITY. 
This point got me thinking about the issue further. Though I come from a god-fearing family where issues like sexuality etc are discussed openly among each other, sex before marriage still  remains a taboo. And, while you are reading this, you have to remember that my parents believe that their daughter is a  virgin.
Though the point here is not about my virginity, but virginity in general. Losing one's virginity is one's choice. But, women losing their virginity are spoken about a LOT. And, sometimes, called sluts. (for god's sake its their choice)  For instance: If there's a girl named A who is having sex with a man for the first time (which means she is losing her virginity), what if she tells her friends (if asked) that she is not a virgin. After that, the poor girl who enjoyed the experience with the man, is bombarded with 1000 questions from various people who start judging her. Why do we have to judge her about her personal experiences and life?
But, the same doesn't happen with men. If a MAN loses his virginity, its not so big or just not a matter of consideration, unless he wants to make it BIG (Pun intended). And, the sooner (the younger) the woman/girl looses her virginity, she is seen as "someone who sleeps with everyone" or tagged as "characterless" etc. While the man is not even talked about in this case. In fact, the contrary happens, he is viewed as someone "powerful". 
And, if the man, before having sex with a virgin (girl), gets to know that she is a virgin, it is a boost to his ego and gives him a feeling like  "Yeah! I'm the one who is going to nail her" and that's when whole male-chauvinist theory comes alive (in BED). And, the poor girl is, however, nailed!! 
Why is "girls losing virginity" such a big deal? Why is it that the same doesn't apply to men? Why do we think that women become "characterless" and men become "powerful" once they lose their virginity? 
Even this, is one of the several ways in which women are discriminated, exploited, harassed (mentally), irrespective of what situation they go through.   
Well,  just give it a thought. That's the whole point behind writing this. 
And if you think, the WEST has influenced me, NO! The Indian society's influence has gone beyond limits in my case. I also am an Indian, a woman who thinks differently, who questions (may be not everything) but at least something which (I feel) is quixotic.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Racing: A Road to Perdition?

Now that the news of Mohd. Ayazuddin's (son of former cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin) death is out, media in AP (print and broadcast) have crossed their limits in a race to provide their readers the juciest news regarding street racing in Hyderabad.
For those who are unaware of the incident, let me give you a brief background of what had happened. Ayazuddin (19) and his cousin, Ajmal-ur-Rahman (16) had gone for an early morning ride on the Outer Ring Road on Ayaz's Hayabusa, a superbike,  rammed into the divider at a high speed following which Ajmal who was a pillion rider died instantly while Ayaz sustained severe injuries. Both of them were then rushed to  Apollo Hospital by the police where Ajmal was declared brought dead and Ayaz was undergoing treatment. After a week's observation, Ayaz also succumbed to injuries.
While this happens to be incident, media in Andhra Pradesh had gone a step further by publishing or airing stories on the 'perilous' bike racing scene in Hyderabad. Stories on the technical details of the bike, escalating number of foreign or sports bikes in Hyderabad, Illegal bike and car racing in the city, betting on the races, condition of roads in the city and whether they are suitable to drive these bikes, security checks and presence of toll gates on roads like the Outer Ring Road (ORR), craze for expensive automobiles increasing among youngsters, legal bike racing scene in the city, protective gear to be worn by bikers and process to become a professional biker and be a part of the racing scene et all.
Though the media's effort to proceed in various directions and get different perspectives on the central point was laudable, they over did every single thing. Beginning with the story on how dangerous street racing is, the media had portrayed it in negative light, creating a stereotypical image that racing is bad. Instead, the media should've focussed on how bike racing is also chosen as a career and why many cannot opt for it in our country, given the fact that we enjoy the back-breaking rides on those bumpy roads. A better story would be on how roads in Hyderabad were not suitable for such bikes and how the government should have or has given permission to the "sports racing committee/body" for such roads to exist in this city.
Another thing that the media always highlights during such accidents is the security aspect. While the media highlighted the fact that there was no toll gate or security checks on the outer ring road and blamed the city's police for not being vigilant about such illegal races, it should remember that police bear the brunt of every single thing here.
While many of the rich kids in the city own these bikes, the media should've highlighted the fact that these bikes belong to those houses where the head of the family is either a "big-shot in the city" or a politician". Even the police cannot do anything in such cases, knowing the fact that these races are illegal, only because their job is at stake if they say anything to the "rich kids with big bikes". while everyone knows it, no one raises a voice. the media should've highlighted on how many such imported or foreign or sports bikes in the city are still unregistered, their process of registration and why they haven't been registered so far.
Even after Azay's death, Time of India carried stories of how Jwala Gutta spoke to them and expressed her condolence over Ayaz's death from China. I mean....the boy is dead and the story still continued to run in TOI just to get more readers to read the story?
Whatever has happened to Ayaz is inconsolable and it definitely proved to be a road to perdition for him. For all those who want to make their first in racing, a small advice for you. BEWARE!
Well, the "media in AP" can make money through everything under the sky. Even Death.

RIP: Ayaz.

Monday, September 12, 2011

That feeling of an athlete and more.....

Now that I work for a newspaper, supposedly a national newspaper, as a sub-editor, I haven't been doing a lot of what I thought I would be doing. And that is reporting, reading and exercising. Currently my life revolves only around my work where I edit copies which come from the moffusil centres in case of which the reporter assumes himself/herself to be the master of the copy and writes shit!!! Yes I mean shit.
People say I'm obsessed with work and office because I love it. But, the point is, everyday there's so much to learn that I find a new challenge at work which keeps me going. Unfazed by their criticism and appreciation, I carry on with my work. But the work is HECTIC (yes I capitalized it on purpose). Sometimes, I have nightmares where my editor scorns me for being careless while editing a copy and sometimes, I dream of reporting human interest stories which I though I would be doing as soon as I was done with my PG.
But, slowly and steadily I've been learning that I am supposed to learn a lot more than what I can see. Something beyond the obvious like my college's Vice-dean always says.
Now talking about reading and exercising. I had this great determination to begin reading books, assuming I would have a few free hours in my hand before and after work. But, laziness can be victorious many a times in my case! Every time I pick a book from the book shelf, I have this thing going in my mind like "oh! you can complete it in a week or two...start reading it!" But I realize that I have somehow lost the interest in reading books and wouldn't complete it in a week or two with that irregular sleeping routine. I'm struggling hard to regain that 'lost patience' waiting to turn every page of the book to know what happens next!  Similar thing happens when I think of exercising. Every time I wear my jogging shoes feeling like "Usain Bolt", thinking to jolt my parents by losing those extra pounds. But the very thought of exercising (which, once upon a time, used to give me a 'high') now bores me only because I'm not paying to exercise by visiting a gymnasium, which I had done for two years continuously, but exercising on a cross-trainer that I bought recently.
I have started exercising lately but I do not know how long this would continue and my forever-dream of losing weight would remain a bubble that would never burst. Though this cribbing doesn't stop, I need to get going and am waiting to see whether this exercise regime that I've created for myself continues or comes to a grinding halt. And, I hope the same with reading too, though its a different case for reporting, given my immense love for it. However, I would go nuts if my editor calls me to his cabin one fine day (in the near future) and asks me to shift to the reporting section of the office from the editorial section. And, I would definitely say "Shut Up!" to him in a similar fashion that Anne Hathaway said to her grandmother in the movie 'Princess Diaries' when she is asked to become the Princess of Genovia.

Monday, July 11, 2011

FAKE YOU!

"Are you a Chowdary? (one of the dominant castes in Andhra Pradesh) No, I have asked you because I heard that the caste you belong to doesn't go well with the one I come from" said miss "I Always speak to people of my caste only." This conversation lasted for about two minutes until I finally realized how caste and power/status/money/class are connected in this state where I live. The very question of hers shocked me to death making me realize how people are just FAKING everything and anything in the name of caste, money and status. As a firm believer in humanity and an individual who opposes caste system (though I belong to the so called upper caste in AP), I hate it when people talk to you based on your caste. Here, most film actors (Read MALE) are from a community called the Chowdaries or Kammas. Apart from these, the castes that are considered superior are Rajus, Reddys, Velmas, Kaapus, etc. I do not know why people are so obsessed with their caste.
My cousin was recently telling me how she hated the whole "caste-feeling" thing among her friend who comes from the Chowdary community and boasts of how everything runs on their "community's" name in the city. She told me how this friend of hers takes her out to various events in the Tollywood film industry and how she meets actors who are so self-obsessed with themselves and their caste that they do not strike a conversation with the other person unless he/she feels their status, property et all are either equal or higher than his/hers. I have observed this at almost every place I visit as a journalist and otherwise too. As looking for stories has become my habit, on the other side, I see people dying to attract attention and do all the things possible to stay in the limelight. This attention seeking disorder (as I call it) is making people lose their individuality. There is nothing unique about a person anymore. Everything is lost in being a person which the "society" demands. For example: I wouldn't care if a youngster smokes because it is his/her individual choice. But, looking at that person, his/her friend thinks it is cool, it is the "fucking latest fad", "I could impress girls/boys" and what not kind of an attitude, which makes this friend lose his/her individuality in trying to imitate his/her friend who knows what he/she is doing. 
While many of them think all that glitters is gold, most do not know how there is something fishy behind that glitter. The same is with every film industry and those in power. They appear as the most sober people on earth to you because cameras as tracking every move of theirs, but ask them if you could talk to them over the phone, they first ask their assistants if the person talking to him/her belongs to the which caste. Or he /she shuns you away from home. They do not even look at you thinking you do not have the same property or a class of theirs. Money matters to them if they have to be friends with someone, or have a chat with someone or grab the limelight or just turn a blind eye if you do not have the money to "show off". 
Another intriguing thing about caste/money/power/status-obsessed people is that every person in their house -  a maid, a car driver, gardener and all the assistants - belong to the same caste. Their cars have the same number plates with the so called "magic numbers". They do not need a reason to buy the latest car. Just because it is out in the market, "I need to show it off" is the primary cause of buying it. In reality, go check their houses, you will find cars lined up like dogs tied with a chain that they cannot drive (keeping in mind their status). After all, what is a car that you cannot drive and enjoy, after having bought it with crores on money?
There is nothing great about their money/class/caste unless people make them their demi-gods, which they cunningly take advantage of and pose/pretend to be one. They are the most FAKE people around. FAKE YOU! 


Note: The caste I have stated is just an example. I do not have anything against any caste. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

An Evening with Queer friends :):)

A man walks to me introduces himself and then we begin talking. He introduces me to his friend. Three of us begin talking about various things. We met with each other because we were supporting a single cause. Another friend who is almost an hour late, joins us. We talked, discussed, planned out things and finally ended up assigning duties to each other. They told me what they expect from me, how I could contribute to support the cause. And, the cause is 'queer'. We were discussing about LGBT rights in Hyderabad.  They have a lot to say and a lot to do. And, they had asked me if I was queer? And, I laughed. I loved the question. Actually I liked the way they put the question to me. I could see excitement in them when they had asked me that question. They thought I was. I had to disappoint them and say NO. They said "We thought you were".
What's best about them is they identify themselves as Queer Hyderabadis and are happy to be that way. They are open about their sexuality unlike most of us (who are confused). They are the most respectable people I've ever met in Hyderabad. They are gays.
I have always wanted to have friends who are homosexuals. I was curious to know about them, their life, what kind of challenges/criticism they face on a daily basis if they told someone they were queer. One of them told me he spoke to a writer recently who said "I can lift my skirt and sit and not be worried if the man opposite to me is looking at my legs, only because I know you are gay." I felt the same when I was with them. For the first time ever, I felt I was very safe with unknown men and even if my cleavage was seen, I wouldn't be worried because they wouldn't be provoked and blame it on me for "provoking" them. Knowing that I was listening to them, they spoke about what kind of guys they like hooking up with. What I loved the most was listening to their conversation. It was funny and they were like any girl who thinks of her "dream boy." They spoke about where one could  find HOT guys on weekends and told me there was a pub for gays in Hyderabad, which I have never heard of, staying in Hyderabad all my life
They told me how gays were open about their activities while lesbians in Hyderabad were very private about their lives. (I'm looking forward to meet my lesbian friends too, If I get a chance). During our conversation, I realized how queer people are more humane, more courteous and more sensible. They know how it feels to be discriminated in the society. They are aware of how people shun them away from their lives in the name of Religion, customs and traditions. They know a lot more than many of us do.
They celebrate when they listen to the news about gay marriages being legalized in New York. They celebrate, they rejoice. They know that these small steps would some day make it big for them to come out in the open without fearing the stigma associated with being queer.
It is FUNNY and stupid when people argue homosexuality is against nature. What the Hell! Every person has the right to live his or her life the way he or she wants to, irrespective of their sexual orientation. I'm sure most of them who are (Young Indians) are not aware of the difference between gender, sex and sexuality. This is either due to ignorance or may be they just think that this a world where only straight people have live in.
And, on the whole, I think everyone should have queer friends. They are funny and witty. I'm happy to be associated with them and glad to support them.
To end on a decent note, I'd like to quote my gay friend who says " Don't blame the homosexuals. Blame the heterosexuals for having GAY babies" :)

P.SS Every girl should have gay friends :):):)



Sunday, May 22, 2011

Caste discrimination through language

Subversion of "lower" castes in India has been a result of the hierarchical caste system. I used the quotes when I mentioned the word 'lower' because how you say something differs from what it actually is. This brings us to something all of us (Indians) have been using or uttering for decades now. One of the directive principles of the Indian Constitution states that "provisions have to be made for the upliftment of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other  Backward Classes." In this context, the language matters.

Terming people from "backward" classes as BCs. Similarly using "Scheduled Castes", "Scheduled Tribes", "Dalits" or "Harijans" (Though it means servants of god, they are treated as "our" servants)  to describe a particular set of people, referring to their caste, is derogatory. For example: The use of the word "Nigger" or Negro" referring to African-Americans (who were racially disadvantaged people), is considered extremely disparaging and the most offensive word in English, which has given rise to a revolutionary movement in the world.

Usage of such terms has to be stopped. Such terms, used intentionally or unintentionally or officially in texts, manuals, scripts, etc, cause harm or often, degrade people belonging to socially and economically disadvantaged groups. Having arrived at this point, it is necessary to replace such terms which publicize inequality, with words that do not perpetuate caste. However, this will not be a major contributor to abolish caste system, but will make a difference in eliminating caste system, at least in our daily lives.

While the Civil Rights Act of 1871 in the United States prohibits discrimination of African-Americans and protects them under the law,  our country needs a law or probably, rules or a nationally accepted or "politically correct" book with such words  (because, for a bill to become a LAW takes decades) which doesn't perpetuate caste and prevents the discrimination of socially disadvantaged groups, at least through the use of language.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

First day jitters

I probably thought this post will be different from the others because I would be explaining how my first day at work was. But, it turned out to be dramatic and unexpectedly, sad. So, Here I go....
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I do not know if I had expected too much  on the very first day ( I mean work at office), but it was disastrous. I was asked to join around 11 a.m. But, because of my mom's superstitions or beliefs or whatever you call it (I don't blame her for it), she had advised me to join after 11 a.m. because of "auspicious time." And, expecting the "auspicious" time to be auspicious, I reached office by 11.20 a.m. and was asked by one of the assistants to finish the formalities of joining.

I had to meet the head of the personnel department and fill some form, which had questions almost like I was joining another institute. I finished the formalities and was about to meet the Resident Editor and then, then an incident happened. Probably the auspicious time was gone, I was stuck in the elevator for 20 minutes. It was quite funny. It was stuck in between two floors and the auspicious time was so "auspicious" that I couldn't escape at all. I cursed my luck for it. Whatever! I got out of it once the assistant saw me - expressionless, speechless and motionless. The trick was to switch off the main power and switch it on. I felt like the elevator was diseased. Finally, I met the resident editor and he smiled and asked me to come to office at 5.30 p.m.

To add to my misery, I had to go back home in the scorching sun and come back in the evening. I nodded my head cursing the resident editor and walked out. It was 5 p.m and my dad was sick of driving me to the office in the morning and had asked me to take a bus. I got to the office at around 5.45 p.m. I did not know anyone and therefore, one of my classmates from IIJNM came to my rescue, because she is also working in the same office.

I felt like I was in a land of aliens,. May be I was too nervous, scared and what not. I was shown my desk and a computer and then, the News Bureau Chief came and asked me to edit a story to check my editing skills.  It was worse that a moffusil copy because the language was not understandable. I had to understand what the reporter meant and  re-structure it well until the whole story made sense. I did it. But, another tragedy happened. After I finished, I refreshed the page assuming it was the "SAVE" option. Everything got deleted.
And then, I had to re-type everything and it took me an hour. I was tensed because I was taking a lot of time and then, the tragedy made my life worse. At that very moment, the News bureau chief walked up to me and asked why I was taking so long. He was not-so-humble or not-so-rude, but I was petrified at his arrival and somehow, took it negatively. (which I shouldn't have).

I spoilt my mood and my day. I was feeling scared, unworthy and flushed out completely. Probably, because I never expected this to happen on the first day. But , it did and I had to accept it. In that mood, I drank three cups of coffee, which ruined my night's sleep. I was drooped back home by a kind but irksome cab driver. I was not happy. My first day at work wasn't good at all. I was thinking about the same thing again and again and therefore, couldn't sleep too. My best friend came to my rescue and brought me out of it, just by texting. And I thank him for bringing me out of it because, if it were not him, my disaster management skills would be worse.

Today is my second day at work. Few faces look familiar because I met them yesterday. Still, a few look at me as if I'm standing NAKED in front of them. Anyways, hope to start loving this place and get to know a few more people.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Is Lokpal really of a few, by a few and for a few?

In the last three weeks , we have witnessed Anna Hazare and team campaign against corruption. The demand for much awaited Lokpal Bill, which has been in the making for 43 years, has brought the urban population (mostly middle class and upper-middle class) to the streets to voice out their opinion on the cacophony of corruption in India. While so many participated in the fight against corruption, many did not know who Anna Hazare was or what the Lokpal bill was.

In one of his interviews, Anna Hazare said that he had announced two months ago that he would be campaigning against corruption." I do not understand how it came as a surprise to people", he said.However, his fast-unto-death (the literal meaning of which has never been clear to anyone) brought the media's attention and it harped on to this issue, after Lelyveld's Great Soul controversy. The media brouhaha in this regard was appreciable, but what the media has overlooked is to probe whether the members of the drafting committee were really worth being in the committee.

It is said that " a collegium consisting of several different kinds of people – Bharat Ratna awardees, Nobel prize winners of Indian origin, Magasaysay award winners, Senior Judges of Supreme and High Courts, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the Chief Election Commissioner, and members of the outgoing Lokpal board and the Chairpersons of both houses of Parliament," should be members of the drafting committee. Does this mean people like V.S Naipaul (Bharat Ratna awardee) should be a member of the drafting committee? If this is what we are looking at, well, we need to think again!

A few critics pointed out that the movement was more a right-wing kind of one, with Baba Ramdev, Swami Agnivesh, Kanchi Swami and RSS members grabbed the limelight. Also, questions were raised whether the Anna Hazare campaign would remain apolitical.

As usual, (especially) the broadcast media kept repeating shots of people shouting slogans against corruption in all the major cities and towns in the country. Even if there were very few, the TV channels portrayed this as if millions were a part of this movement. What most of us haven't observed is:  people who are denied basic rights every time, the ones who are oppressed, the ones who are subjected to violence almost everyday were not a part of this so called "movement against corruption."

For example: The Times of India carried a headline on April 9, 2011 "India wins again" which is quite misleading. The headline was referring to Anna Hazare calling off his fast. but this portrayed it as if the Lokpal bill came into force. Because, the bill was proposed in 1968 when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister of India and had accepted for an institution like Lokpal be established. It was revived in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2001.But, each time it was proposed, a committee was set up and the matter ended there. As a result of series of scams in 2010, an alternative drat of the Jan Lokpal Bill has been proposed by activists from India against corruption, under the guidance of Karnataka Lokayukta Chief, Santosh Hegde and senior lawyer, Prasanth Bhushan.

In the entangled mess, accountability is a question. Who are the members of the drafting committee answerable to and how do you make sure that they are not corrupt or have no records or being corrupt? It is a good a step to bring out a provision to set up an institution like the Lokpal which protects the whistle-blowers and investigates cases of corruption. Having said this, will setting up another institution and another law, apart from outmoded laws India, bring any change in the system? How will the corrupt ones be punished when or if the members of the drafting committee themselves are corrupt? When institutions like CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) are corrupt, how credible will Lokpal as an anti-corruption institution be?



Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pilling on those pounds? Think twice!


“Three bites diet” of Victoria Beckham or Jennifer Aniston’s diet - green salad with nuts, kalku and cheese with lemon sauce on the lunch menu or planning to live only on juices? Which one of these would you prefer?

While the world seems to be obsessed with fitness routines, ostensibly-successful slimming treatments and crash diets, it is the time we do some reality check.

We have 100 people suggesting 100 different ways to stay fit and fine. We are flooded with suggestions from friends, relatives, boyfriends and sometimes enemies, too, that confuse us.

With umpteen weight-loss programs and treatments available for people to choose from, one wonders whether shedding few pounds by working out is worth it.

An advertisement board outside a slimming powder selling company says, “Lose weight now, ask me how!” and another says, “lose up to 10 kg for just Rs.10, 098.”  People are trapped by such superficial benefits the ads portray, which is not the case in reality. However, not many prefer physical activity or working out over these “cost-effective” slimming treatments.

Special discounts are offered to brides and grooms depending on the duration and the type of weight -loss treatment they choose. The moment they enter a weight-loss clinic their statistics are detected by a machine through radiations. Then they are advised to lose weight accordingly, depending on their height and weight.
Weight-loss programs have become an obsession among youngsters. Without realizing whether it is the right age to start working out, youngsters blindly opt for such treatments because it is a matter of self-image and beauty.

On Facebook’s photo albums, comments like “OMG! Look at me…I’m luking so fat” or “Plz delete this picture, I look so ugly and fat” make us wonder whether there is a smoke screen that masks the real identity of people.

“Most of them opt for such programs to look slim and pretty. Very few of them know the importance of health and fitness,” says Rachna T.V., an engineering student. 

Another student, Akhila Neeraje, points out that most girls are offended when people tell them that they have put on weight. “Some lose weight to fit into smart and trendy clothes which they otherwise wouldn’t fit into.” 
The very appeal of the weight loss clinics and gymnasiums is attractive. People would kill to lose weight at such lavish places. Cost is another factor that allows a lot of people to experiment with these treatments. 
According to Savita Date Menon, a psychologist, there is lot more to it than just weight loss. People who obsess about their weight “slip into depression, panic, get dark circles, perspire at any time of the day, become restless and act cranky sometimes,” she says.

Talking about the constant need to prove that one looks better than the other, she says that peer pressure also plays a vital role in planting such thoughts in people’s minds. 
“What happens if you are fat? Is it a crime or a curse?” Menon asks.
“I spent Rs.1, 500 to lose 4 kilograms of weight in a month and it is quite affordable,” says Sowjanya J., a housewife.

 When we opt for such treatments, we ought to know whether these will keep us healthy or ruin our health. If one goes through procedures like liposuction et al, he or she has to maintain his or her physique or figure going forward. Otherwise, the treatment is equal to trash.

Explaining the significance of exercising, Deepa Ananth, a nutritionist residing in Bangalore says that there is no shortcut to lose weight. 

 “People should remember that they gained the extra weight over a period of time and they can’t burn it all up overnight. So, have patience and lose that extra weight over a period of time. Don’t take up crash diets, because you will definitely gain the lost weight back,” she says.

 The success rate of the weight loss treatments in comparison with physical exercises is much lesser. Such treatments lure people with glossy ads showing puffy guys turning into hot models.

 Sanjay Y., a software engineer enrolled for a four-month program that said “lose 15 kg in 3 months.” The next day, he got instructions stating that he should follow strict diet and should exercise for an hour every day.

 “The boys would put some massagers and magnetic strips all over your body and watch television. After three months, I did not lose even 3 kg and had to shell out Rs. 28,000 to realize that this was a moneymaking business,” says Sanjay.

 When Sanjay enquired about the staff’s training, he found out that they learn terms like fat, burn, kilos, cellulite, etc. to please the customers.

“This is a marketing strategy. Try discussing about a health ailment, they go topsy-turvy over it.” 

 Exercising or spending time on any physical activity should become part of your daily routine.

Anitha Ravi, a gym trainer at Hyderabad says that working out is not only about burning calories, but also increasing your stamina.

 “Any form of exercise keeps you active throughout the day. It also helps in proper blood circulation, which makes your skin glow,” Ravi says.

 Exercise increases basic metabolic rate (BMR) which keeps your digestive system active as your food is digested faster. (Generally, BMR is high as soon as you exercise and all that you eat after exercising doesn’t get converted into fat).  And, if you do not exercise, your BMR will remain low.  

According to Ravi, weight loss depends on the body type. There are three types of bodies: ectomorphic, endomorphic and mesomorphic.

An ectomorph may have long fingers, toes and neck. Ectomorphs do not put on weight easily but once they put on, it is very difficult for them to lose weight. 
 A mesomorph has well-defined muscles and large bones. Mesomorphs gain and lose weight easily. 
The body of an extreme endomorph is round and soft. Endomorphs put on weight faster than they lose weight.

 Another fitness trainer, Gavin Z., says that there is no particular routine that one can follow and it depends on how long one can work out. 
 
“But, if you want to maintain your figure or physique, burn 300 calories per day. If you consume about 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day, you need to burn at least half of it,” Gavin says.

Working out four or five times a week keeps you fit. If you are bored of your routines, change your schedule so that you do not lose interest in working out. If you are tired of walking on the treadmill, go for aerobics, yoga, cycling, swimming or kick-boxing. 

Cardio workout and breathing exercises are a must because they enable overall functioning of the body and blood circulation. 

Also, before you start your workout, warm up your body to avoid muscle blocks or sprains. Do not get disappointed or feel inferior looking at someone leaner than you. Work out regularly and you will see the positive results.
 Do not expect results overnight and be disappointed with your trainer or your routine. Loving your body and having patience to see the results is very important.

Apart from your work out sessions, a balanced diet is very important. You can eat well without cutting down your favorite food. All you have to do is know what is good for you and what is not. Starving will not help because it might adversely affect your health and make you fat. 

 So, all you have to do is eat well, exercise regularly, love your body and feel confident. Stay healthy, stay safe.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why are we chasing the nuclear power mirage?


With more and more nations taking to nuclear energy and accepting it as a cleaner and efficient source of energy, arguments against the use of nuclear power are building up at a greater pace.
The total nuclear power capacity in India is 1840 MWe against 346000 MWe in the world.

The Japan earthquake and tsunami has jolted the whole world and compelled everyone to re-think about the use of nuclear power. While Germany has planned to shut down a third of its nuclear reactors manufactured prior 1980, India is still reviewing its safety measures in this regard.

If we consider the economics of installation of nuclear power plants, the cost of nuclear power depends on the cost of electricity generated by the nuclear power plant compared to the cost of generation of electricity from coal from a thermal power plant.

Because the coal deposits are concentrated in Eastern India, setting up a thermal power plant in Western India would demand transportation of coal for long distances. In such cases nuclear power becomes favourable.

“The method for comparison such as single station cost and system cost also influence the feasibility of the coal vs. nuclear power plant. The comparison between coal and nuclear options on the basis of station cost method may give misleading results because single station method fails to take an analytical account of system interactions. This could result in the plant being pushed lower down in the operational merit order as it ages and as new; more advanced plants with lower marginal operating cost join the system,” says Prof. Alagah.

Like Prithviraj Chavan, chief minister of Maharashtra, says that in India nuclear power plants have been built at locations with the potential for earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or lower in the Richter scale, while in Japan and in the US, plants have been built where earthquakes of 4.0 or 5.0 in the Richter scale are possible.

But what happened in Japan shows how it was miscalculated and destroyed everything million times than what was predicted (magnitude of 9.0 compared to 5.0 on Richter scale).

Even scientists and engineers who have designed and worked at nuclear power plants warn about nuclear accidents because of uncontrollable nuclear fission chain reactions which result in the loss of coolant. Once the coolant is lost, the core starts melting which leads to disastrous consequences.

All the nuclear power plants in India are either on the coast or linked to rivers or water bodies. The 2004 tsunami brought into focus the vulnerability of nuclear power plants situated along the coast.

LV Krishnan, a veteran of the Department of Atomic Energy, who retired from the Kalpakkam plants, said that a tsunami was not taken into consideration when designing the plant. The official line has remained that the tsunami did not cause any radiation leak. It is very possible that our nuclear scientists have not taken the impact of climate change into consideration while designing their nuclear power plants. (Source)

According to the Prof. Yoginder K. Alagah who works for the ministry of power in India, “nuclear power is a genuine economic option in terms of Long Range Marginal Cost (LRMC) advantages for power supply at locations far remote from coal reserves, particularly if hydel sources are not available in these areas.”

The ones who argue for nuclear power say that it is necessary to develop nuclear power because:

·         There is a need to develop alternative energy systems
·         Utilizing Uranium resources and large amounts of Thorium deposits can sustain about 300,000 MWe of electricity generation capacity for about 300 years
·         Nuclear energy does not emit greenhouse gases
·         Fossil fuels are a finite source of energy while nuclear energy, produced with the correct technology could become a renewable energy source

For example: The energy produced by 1 gram of uranium is equivalent to that produced by 3 tonnes of coal. As fission is not an oxidation process, there is no smoke or carbon waste (Source)

While the ones who support nuclear energy say it is a cleaner source of energy, but there are arguments against it too.

Disposal of nuclear waste remains a growing concern. Because nuclear waste is not bio-degradable, it causes many health hazards to anyone who comes into contact with the waste. . An average nuclear reactor produces 20-30 tonnes of highly radioactive spent fuel each year, which remains radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

Nuclear power plants withdraw large amounts of water from nearby lakes, rivers, and oceans. In doing so, aquatic life is adversely affected. For instance: A 2005 study of impacts from 11 coastal power plants in Southern California estimated that the San Onofre nuclear plant impinged nearly 3.5 million fish in 2003 alone. (Source)

Nuclear waste can cause skin cancer and also alter the DNA in a person which can have a long-term impact on the descendants of that person.

Nuclear power plants raise the temperatures of a region resulting in the damage to the flora and fauna. For example: nuclear plants being shut down in Europe was because the outflow from the nuclear plants would have raised temperatures in the surrounding water.

Nuclear power generation routinely exposes occupational workers and the public to radiation and harmful isotopes for whose effects, including cancer and genetic damage, there’s no remedy. Radiation is unsafe in all doses.

The debate around Jaitapur nuclear plant is that it is located in a seismically active zone and is based on untested reactor design. Areva’s (French company) reactors haven’t been cleared by any nuclear regulatory authority and we (India) have planned to install six reactors.

Also, it will become the world’s largest nuclear power station generating 9,900 MW, or more than double India’s current nuclear capacity. Given its size, the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) will generate seven times more toxic iodine-129 than normal reactors, posing many problems. (Source)

Another problem with the Jaitapur plant is that the high temperature of the coolant water discharged into the sea will destroy mangroves, corals and numerous marine species, reducing oxygen availability.

While governments see compensation for land as the only issue that has to be addressed while permitting installation of nuclear power plants, it also has to consider the hazards related to it.

In China, a 10 metre high concrete protection is built for reactor at Hainan while India’s Koodankulam nuclear reactor has a 7.5 metre-high concrete protection against tsunami or flooding. Such measures should be taken into account.

While EPR’s are said to be missile-resistant and can prevent hydrogen accumulation, explosion of Fukushima reactor has invalidated its claim. Therefore, the alternatives to nuclear power are seen as wind energy and hydel power. So, we should stop chasing the nuclear power mirage and concentrate on alternative sources for power generation to avoid another Chernobyl-like disaster in India.



Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How the U.S woos us...

The India cables leaked by Wiki Leaks have given another reason for India to worry, apart from the series of scams it is plagued with. The cables confirmed what people already predicted. India's 'diplomatic' ties with the U.S, Pakistan, Bangladesh and every other country were exposed and are currently at stake because of the cables' startling revelations. 

While the confidential information was leaked by Bradley Manning, an American soldier and a whistle blower to Wikileaks, what one has to critically analyze is how our politicians and dignitaries put out extremely important information of Indian government to U.S Embassy officials through clandestine meetings. For example: One of the cables said M.K. Narayanan, former National Security Advisor (NSA) in 2009 revealed to Timothy Roemer of U.S Embassy that PM, Manmohan Singh and his advisors differed in policies regarding Pakistan. Not only did Narayanan scoff the PM but also disclosed crucial matters amounting to breach of national security.

An editorial on Hindustan Times said that Narayanan retorted to the PM: "You have a shared destiny; we don't." The editorial also quoted Roemer's cable which said: "Narayanan noted that all matters related to nuclear and space issues, defense and foreign policy, should be directed to him."

Our politicians and dignitaries lose their minds when they talk to U.S officials, still considering themselves as those from a subverted class. Congress member, Satish Sharma, showed the U.S official Rs.50 crore to 60 crore to explain how he was bribed to vote for the Congress government in order to win the confidence vote in the Parliament. In such conversations, they do not realize that they are letting out information crucial for India to maintain its relations with other countries and deriding the country.

However, the diversity also brings up differences in any way it can. And, this time, the cables have brought out how we (Indians) are easily wooed by Americans and what we do in order to impress them every single time we meet them. While Condoleezza Rice said " We (U.S) will make you (India) great," our politicians obliged to madame's powerful lines  and nodded their heads like a bunch of yahoos, but never thought that it was not possible.
Why is there a need to impress the superpower at the cost of the country's national security?



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Weed out the weeds

During this turbulent phase where India is plagued by a series of scams, corruption looks like an indelible scar deeply ingrained in every part of the country. Leaders who look like simple bunch of inept clowns spend massive amounts on elections and amass money for contesting the next elections. If corrupt practices become a way of life, political stability is endangered and society degenerates.

Indian ranked 87th out of 178 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception index in 2010. The below poverty line (BPL) households paid Rs.8830 million as bribe in 2006-2007. The poorest households of India paid Rs. 2148 million to police as bribe in 2006-2007. These are some startling facts about how corruption has penetrated into the interiors of India. 

We cannot hope to weed out corruption completely but can minimize it. Though we have government organizations like the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), officials belonging to these organizations themselves are corrupt. On the other hand, we have very less or often, no convictions on the charges of corruption. The situation is dire.

There are umpteen number of ways to tackle corruption at the central, state and the local level. Outmoded laws like the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988 have to be reviewed at the state and the central level. Amending a law is a tedious process and requires a lot of cooperation among the members of the parliament to accept the changes, after which it would be sent for the president’s consent. Amendments in essential laws are not accepted by most members of the legislatures because they are the primary law breakers. Unenforceable laws cannot be enacted because they become levers of corruption.

Nehru’s remedy for politico-electoral corruption was to clearly demarcate the functions of the executive and judiciary bodies at all levels. He also recommends an autonomous role for the bureaucracy so that civil servants would perform their duties without interference of politicians.

Poor salaries compel lower officials to be corrupt. When senior officials are questioned about lower officials taking bribes, they condone the act because they pity their subordinates’ financial position. Public servants should never be allowed to control commercial activities like licensing or placing defence contracts.

Citizens should be well-informed about their rights so that the officials do not pretend to have the power they do not possess. The right to information act of 2005 enables every citizen to obtain information and question the government. If this is used as an effective tool, there will be some amount of transparency.

The much awaited Lokpal bill should be passed. Lokpal at the central level and Lokayukta at the state level will initiate investigation and prosecution against any officer or politician without needing anyone’s permission.  Within a year, investigation and trail have to get over and the corrupt has to be convicted. Punishment should be given depending on the level of corruption.

A separate public grievances cell should be established and public’s grievances should be resolved in a particular period of time, not exceeding six months. Whistle blower protection is a must. It is the job of the police to protect the one who complains against corruption.

And, an audit should be conducted every week in every village to ensure that misappropriation of funds doesn’t happen at any level. Finally, the press as a “watchdog” should discharge its duties honestly in reporting unbiased information to the public.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The poverty line is a superficial measure of food security

In fiscal 2008, India produced 250 million tons of food grain—the highest amount in recent years. But on the flip side, we have food grain rotting in godowns and cannot even store half of it. While India struggles to provide food to 320 million people who go to bed hungry every day, it also needs to find ways to get out of this mess it is entangled itself in.
The very definition of food security is based on how India has defined its poverty line. Whether this has worsened the hunger and poverty levels in the country or improved the state of affairs remains a question unanswered. While poverty looks like an ostensible entity and superficial measure of hunger, it ends up perpetuating it further.
Food security, as understood internationally, involves physical, economic and social access to a balanced diet, safe drinking water, environmental hygiene and primary health care.
M.S. Swaminathan, a renowned agricultural scientist, explains that “such a definition will involve concurrent attention to the availability of food in the market, the ability to buy needed food and the capability to absorb and utilize the food in the body. Thus, food and non-food factors (i.e., drinking water, environmental hygiene and primary health care) are involved in food security.”

The Supreme Court has interpreted Article 21 of the Indian Constitution to mean that access to proper food is a basic human right. But millions in the country are denied this right through no fault of their own.  This contradicts the whole concept of democracy, which India proudly boasts of, because a basic right of people has been denied.
Causes for food insecurity in India
Understanding the causes of food insecurity is as vital as understanding food security. Large-scale displacement of people, migration from rural to urban areas and suppression of the lower castes and tribes (based on caste hierarchy) are identified as key factors for the same.
The reason for large-scale displacement of people is mainly due to construction of dams, which has displaced almost 8 million people, mining and land grabbing as the archaic Land Acquisition Act, 1894, has compelled people to become landless laborers.
Displacing the indigenous people from their natural habitat itself forces hunger to become a part of their lives. Rehabilitation remains a mere promise. Neither compensation for land nor any financial assistance to the ones displaced is provided, leaving them vulnerable and reducing them to a state of destitution and helplessness.
Migration is one of the repercussions of displacement. Other reasons for migration include lack of adequate health care services in rural areas, no proper water and sanitation facilities, and massive crop failure due to the advent of genetically modified crops. As a result, the population of the urban poor is on the rise in towns and cities, which by extension, requires providing more resources to more people. This has ultimately led to unequal distribution of resources that also increases the gap between the rich and the poor.
Adding to the problem, caste has always been an impediment to development in India. Given the history of subversion and oppression of lower castes in India, the caste factor crops up every time poverty and hunger is discussed. Untouchability is a part and parcel of the caste system, which is practiced even today and deprives the Dalits and tribes of their rights.
The government’s role
Meanwhile, the government has come up with many proposals for the National Food Security Act. It states: “The act would be formulated whereby each below poverty line (BPL) family would be entitled by law to get 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3/- per kg. The above poverty line (APL) population will be excluded from the targeted public distribution system (TPDS).”
Another draft of the act which was prepared by a team headed by Jean Dreze in 2009 said that the entitlements were all in place through eight food and nutrition-related schemes.
The NAC’s recommendations on the bill said that “in the first phase, food entitlements should be extended to 85 percent of the rural population and 40 percent of the urban population. Full coverage of food entitlements as enumerated above should be extended to all by March 31, 2014.”
The obscure poverty line
While the government has set up various committees which came up with alternative recommendations for the National Food Security Bill, the division of families into APL and BPL itself looks unclear. In one of his articles, P. Sainath, an eminent rural affairs journalist, says that “the government has seen people in the APL category as the enemies of those who are BPL.”
The government calls a family a BPL family if its members consume less than 2,100 calories a day. If a single member’s consumption exceeds 2,100 calories a day, it is categorized as an above poverty line (APL) family. But, most BPL families in rural areas live on Rs.17 per day per person and Rs.20 per day per person in urban areas, which cannot buy anything that equals 2100 calories. However, in the process of watching calorie intake, we have forgotten the importance of nutrition in enabling people to lead a healthy, productive life. At this point, we need to question whether 2,100 calories would make a person healthy.
If providing rice and wheat at subsidized rates meant nutrition, why does India have half of world’s malnourished children? Why do we rank 128th in the Human Development Index among 185 countries? Why do a majority of women in more than 10 states suffer anemia during reproductive age?
PDS and its problems
In the backdrop of food security, a universal Public Distribution System (PDS) was proposed as it promised food security to every citizen in the country. According to the Eleventh Five Year Plan, under the PDS, “the central government is responsible for transportation and procurement of food grains.”  However, small amounts of food grain are pilfered and sold on the black market.  Thus,  corruption is on the rise that is marring the purpose of the system proposed.
The PDS has not been instrumental in curbing poverty and hunger in other parts of India except for Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The irregularities in the PDS are the biggest drawback of the food security bill. Estimating the amount of grain required to sustain a universal PDS, the National Commission on Farmers (2006) said that 60 million tons of food grain would be required.  
Possible solutions
To tackle food security, there are various models we can follow. Brazil’s “zero hunger” program is one of them. This measure involves steps to enhance productivity of small land holdings and the consumption capacity of the poor. Our farmers will produce more if we are able to purchase more. Emphasis on agricultural production, particularly small-farm productivity, is a single step which makes the largest contribution to poverty eradication and hunger elimination.
In Kenya, BAACH (Business Alliance against Chronic Hunger) has partnered with 30 companies to tackle chronic hunger. These companies bought local farmers’ products and helped them find new markets to add value to their produce. This eliminates middlemen enabling the farmers get the market value for their products.
Swaminathan suggests that “combining universal and unique entitlements, the four-pronged strategy indicated in Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s budget speech should be implemented jointly by gram panchayats, State governments and Union Ministries speedily and earnestly.”
Transparency, decentralizing the procurement and distribution of food grain to local-level bodies, allowing farmers to directly sell their produce in the markets at fair prices and conducting a monthly social audit in every village on PDS are some of the few steps we can follow in tackling food security.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Macro problems with microfinance

The whole concept of lending money has just got a makeover and re-branding through the new set of institutions called microfinance institutions (MFIs). These are welcomed overwhelmingly by a few people who make money out of this too. It is seen as a darling of development, a step that could control inflation, alleviate poverty and open domestic markets to imports and multi-national corporations.

Micro finance institutions have replaced the traditional money lenders. The poor, often tagged as beneficiaries, were exploited by money lenders previously and now, by a set of educated class of people who run these MFIs. Exploitation of the poor has just gotten easier and more organized in this way.

In the recent years, though money lending through MFIs has become a major financial activity in the villages, barbaric and inhuman methods such as harassing borrowers, intimidating, abusing, mentally and physically harassing them have been incorporated into the whole process of money lending. The borrowers are always under the pressure to repay the loan (on a weekly basis) at a heavy compound interest for petty loans they take.

Another argument is that MFIs lend money at exorbitant interest rates which range from 20 percent to 40 percent. This ugly face of MFIs gives us a vivid picture of the dark underbelly which is now making its way into the media.

In the name of empowering the poor, this form of organized exploitation has given many reasons for businessmen to make money at the cost of the poor, who are often seen as “fortune at the bottom of the pyramid.” Previously, money lenders lent money at higher rates of interest because it was the individual who was lending money, but now, it is an institution comprising of a group of individuals who are lending money and in turn, pocketing extra money from the poor in the name of interest rate.

For example: In Andhra Pradesh, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wanted to de-recognize many MFIs that were indulged in compelling women from Khammam, Warangal, Mahbubnagar and several coastal Andhra districts to enroll themselves to be beneficiaries at MFIs.  Caught in a debt trap, many borrowers committed suicide. In the name of loan recovery, human rights were grossly violated.
When the policy makers say that MFIs are a medium of financial inclusion of the poor, one must read this example published in the Economic Times to know whether MFIs are including or isolating the poor from the society.

A woman who takes Rs 10,000 loan from a microfinance institution has to pay Rs 225 every week. If she is unable to make this payment or has another emergency in the house, she will take a loan. The existing lender will not give you a fresh loan till the old one is at least 35 weeks old, so she will borrow from another MFI.

That's another Rs 225 every week. Weighed down, she will take a third loan in a matter of months. Now she has to pay Rs 675 every week! And so, a fourth loan. Such women are forever wondering where their next installment will come from. Some are working as far labour to repay loans. If they are unable to fully repay, they sell cattle, land or jewellery."
While we analyze how MFIs are more or less like slow poison to these “beneficiaries”, what one has to look at is that the RBI allows MFIs to reach those places where banks cannot make their way. But, under certain norms, which are often changeable or overlooked at the cost of poor people’s lives, MFIs have set up shops.
But, there have been models of lending money through MFIs in Indonesia and Pakistan, which have been successful. In Indonesia, 13 banks under the Central Bank, 12 NGOs have lent money to 420 self-help groups (SHGs) in which internal lending among the beneficiaries was allowed and no credit would be granted to an SHG without savings by the individual members of SHG. This helped every member save money to repay the loan as well as to save it for them.
In Pakistan, an organization called “Akhuwat” provided loans to beneficiaries at zero percent interest, except that the time period for repaying the amount was fixed. This led to the creation of pool of money for the poor and has attracted more than 50,000 honest people to be a part of this.
Now, if we compare MFIs with rural banks (public sector banks), rural banks give loans to members of SHGs at 14 percent interest rate and can increase the loan repayment period, considering the economic status of the beneficiary. Also, rural banks provide the beneficiaries with extra loans to clear other debts (if any). But, the SHG members have to save money every month in order to deposit it in the bank as their savings. These banks also allow internal lending of money which enables each member to save money, apart from generating income.
So, if financial inclusion of the poor is the main agenda, then increasing the flow of funds to the informal sector would be an advantage because the profits will reach the low income group borrowers.  Access to the flow of funds in the formal sector would facilitate competition within informal sector and increase the efficiency.
Secondly, participatory budgeting model followed in Venezuela exemplifies how people participate in a community’s activities and plan the budget according to the requirements of the members in the community who are represented by elected leaders. Money lending is a part of this structured process in which a member of the community is appointed to check the flow of capital. This brings in transparency and gives power to the people to make decisions based on their needs and necessities and also to generate income.
An institution that would combine the strengths of an NGO and that of a financial institution would be beneficial to a community. But, the reliability factor on such institutions is always questionable because there is a risk of these institutions becoming like the regular MFIs which petrify the beneficiaries to repay loans. So, this model should enable members of a community to have access and control over the financial resources.
Finally, it all boils down to a question which tests the credibility of these suggested solutions. Corruption, lack of proper implementation and misuse of funds have dogged everything in our society till date, so why wouldn’t these suggestions be victims of such cruelty? Transparency is the only way out.
If we think that only the traditional money lenders are guilty of such heinous crime, so are the micro finance institutions.

A boost to organic farming


The Chief Minister of Karnataka, B.S. Yedyurappa has allocated Rs. 200 crore for Organic Farming Mission in the Rs. 17, 857 crore agriculture budget announced for the state.

Under the Organic Farming Mission, each taluk has about 500 farmers who practice organic farming.  Farmers of Bagepalli Taluk who were watching the CM present the agriculture budget, said they had expected about Rs.500 crore for Organic Farming Mission.

According to Suryanarayana Reddy, president of Gummanayanaalaya Savayava Krushi Trust, organic farming is the best way of farming because the crop produce is consistent.

“The funds allocated last year for our taluk were Rs.16, 6900 and we expect more than Rs.25 lakh funds for Organic farming for our Taluk,” he added.

According to L. Krishnappa, a farmer who has been practicing organic farming from three years said that, using chemical fertilizers and pesticides for farming is very dangerous. “It is like a lottery, either we get a great crop produce or we are at a total loss.”

The agricultural growth in Karnataka has remained as low as 0.5 percent in the last decade. So, when the agriculture budget was announced, about ten thousand farmers applauded at CM’s allocation of funds to organic farming.

According to A.S. Anand, chairman of Organic Farming Mission of Karnataka, previously 100 crore was allocated under the mission and the amount allocated is double the amount allocated last year.

“I hope that the prices of horticulture products like onions and tomatoes have to be fixed because if the prices of these products are low in the market, then the farmers should be provided incentives or subsidies,” he added.

Explaining that many farmers fear taking to organic farming, Manjunath.T, said that it takes three years for a farmer to recover how much ever he or she spends on the crop input.

“If the harvest for the first year is less, the produce in the second year is more and the third year gives a good produce. Because, the chemical content in the soil will gradually be gone, after three years of practicing organic farming, the crop produce will be equal or more than the cost spent on the input,” he said.

Chukki Nanjundaswamy, member of Karnataka Riathu Raksha Samithi (KRRS) described the agriculture budget as a welcome change.

“Zero budget natural farming also should be included under the Organic Farming Mission because farming should de-link the corporations from farmers,” she said.

But, in the budget, when the CM spoke about allocating agriculture projects under the public private partnership (PPP) model, the relevance of an exclusive budget for agriculture is lost because this involves corporations.

The CM said that each Taluk should enroll at least 3000 farmers under the organic farming mission and he will be a part of this every week.

“Most of these Savayava Krushi Trust committees in the taluk level are controlled by BJP and Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) members and therefore, there is interference of politics and corporations, even here,” said Chukki.

In the agriculture budget, 50 crore was allocated for “Bhoo Chetana" programme which creates awareness on reducing the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

“Awareness on the dangers of using chemical pesticides and fertilizers has to be created in the farming community. Farmers do not produce food for themselves anymore, but for the people,” explained Chukki.

What we also have to look at is that the agriculture budget forms the basis of the Agriculture Expo that is going to be held in June, she added.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My FLIGHT

This is a post on my first flight experience on 14/1/2011 which happened to be one of the best days in my life. I have never traveled  in a flight before or rather never felt the need to fly. For this, I have to thank my best friend who has made it a good experience.

How it all began...
At 2.30 a.m.on 14/11/2011, I got a call from this best friend of mine who was compelling me to take a flight from Bangalore (where I'm currently staying) to Hyderabad (my home). I denied. But, as he always manages to convince me, he did it this time too. He booked it and send me a copy of the ticket on my e-mail.

My journey to the airport:
Because I stay in one corner of Bangalore city (almost on the outskirts of the city), I had to start 4 hours before the flight's departure time. I took an auto from college around 11.45 a.m. to get ot the main road and then took a bus to Kengeri and reached the bus depot by 12.15 p.m.

I did not wait for long at the bus stop because of greater frequency of buses from Kengeri to Hebbal (where I was supposed to go). But, I didn't know that getting into this bus was like inviting trouble for myself. The idea behind taking that bus was to reach early, which couldn't have happened if I had listened to the bus conductor who was more obsessed with women around him than answering their questions.

I was traveling for the first time in that bus route and it wasn't problematic at all, until a point. I thought there wasn't much traffic in the city because it was already afternoon. But, I realized it was the biggest premonition I had about Bangalore, which has horrible traffic congestion at every corner of the city at any time of the day.

We reached a place and I thought we almost reached Hebbal, which was about 10 stops away from where the bus was. I was waiting desperately to get down and go to the airport. And, this was what created more tension and my anger levels on Bangalore traffic, the bus driver and conductor were escalating. I was frustrated, annoyed and was in a haste to reach the Bangalore airport. It seemed like I am never going to reach the airport. Atleast at that point I wish I became Superman (woman) and had the power to put all the traffic on the other side of the city. Alas! I was stuck!

Finally, I managed to reach the after I got a taxi to the airport. I reached 2 hours before my flight's departure. I was excited and at the same time very impulsive about how my first flight travel would be. I started contemplating. I had various thoughts running across my head. I boarded the plane. I was travelling alone and this gave me more reasons to be happy.

Fortunately, I had no one sitting beside me. I was alone. This made me happier. then came the drama. Kids crying, mom yelling at them, air hostesses trying to get everyone in their place and the Captain announcing that the flight was about to take off. I enjoyed every single bit of it. A beautiful air hostess dressed in red, came up to me and asked if I was comfortable, I felt good and smiled at her. After 2 minutes, she gave instructions on how to fasten the seat belt and not to use electronic gadgets during our journey. (I do not know the exact logic behind that, but I knew that the wavelength would interfere with that of the flight's and cause some problems).

So, I had to switch off my mobile (I was being a good passenger). I started reading "The age of Kali" by William Dalrymple. But in a few seconds, the flight took off with a loud sound. It was speeding through the runway. The pace increased and I realized I was up in the air, in no time. It was great. For a while, I did not feel like the flight was in motion, but it was. I heard people saying objects look smaller when you reach a certain altitude, but experienced it 20 years after I was born. I smiled and kept quiet with so many thoughts running through my mind. 

I stopped reading. Was looking through the clouds, admiring nature's beauty. Everything looked beautiful. I was sitting at the window seat  which was close to the right fan (whatever you call it) of the plane. The sound it made was louder than ten elephants shouting at a time. At that moment, I was thinking of how  humans invented the flight. I was thankful to Wright brothers. and, then slipped into those pages lettered with black ink. The journey time was about an hour and half.

Then came the landing. Most of my friends always told me that it is scary. But, I wasn't scared like they mentioned. It was pretty fine and I loved that too. In fact, I thought that's the most thrilling part in the entire journey. It was lovely. The journey, the experience and my first flight ticket. Feels good to travel alone......All the time :):)

And, my day ended with my bestie picking me up at the airport and it was a happy but, adventurous day, altogether :)

Thanks Precious Kalia :)