Tuesday, 30 July 2013

From my book shelf

I want to note down every single line from Ramachandra Guha's
book - Patriots and Partisans

Excerpts from the book: 

Page number 22:
As that wise Indian, Andre’ Be’teille, always points out, what we must strive for is reasonable equality of opportunity, not absolute equality of result. That we have plainly not achieved, hence the disparities noted above. The life chances of a Dalit remain grossly inferior to those of a Brahmin; of a Muslim to those of a Hindu; of a tribal to those of a Hindu or Muslim; of a villager to those of a city dweller; of an Oriyan or Jharkhandi to those of a Maharashtrian or Tamil.
One consequence of market-led economic growth shall be to accentuate these differences. Since upper castes tend to have higher levels of education and greater mobility across India, they are likely to garner the most profitable jobs. Since well developed regions have a reputation for being rich in skills and open to innovation, the bigger investors will flock to them. Since cities have more resources and better infrastructure as compared to small towns and villages, they will continue to get the bulk of new investment. In this manner, the already substantial gap between(for example) Bangalore and rural Karnataka, south India and eastern India, city-dwellers and country-folk, will grow even larger.

Page number 23:
Less acknowledged, perhaps, is the part played in leveling inequalities by the outstanding system of public schools and publicly funded universities in countries such as Canada and the United States.
The situation in India is all too different. The inequalities in access to good education and health care are immense. The school my children went in Bangalore is world-class; the school run by the state a few yards down the road is worse than third-rate.

Page number 24:
There appear to have been three,overlapping, phases in the evolution of political corruption in India. The licence-permit-quota Raj of the 1950s and 1960s was the first stage. Favours were granted to particular individuals or firms in return for a consideration. The second stage, inaugurated in the 1970s, involved the ruling party taking a cut of large defence contracts.  The third stage, which began at the same time but which really intensified only in the 1990s, has rested on the abuse of state power to allocate –or misallocate-land and natural resources to friends and cronies.

Page number 26 & 27:
The mining and power sector boom is in part propelled by the fetish of achieving nine per cent growth, which, it is said in some circles in New Delhi is necessary for India to achieve superpower status. Those who most actively promote this ambition are a certain kind of Cabinet minister, a certain kind of corporate titan, and a certain kind of newspaper editor. They are all, I believe, best with a deep inferiority complex, whereby they wish desperately to be placed on equal terms in international for a with the politicians, billionaires and editors of the West. Their hope is that at such places as the World Economic Forum in Davos, they are treated with as much respect-not to say reverence-as the leaders, entrepreneurs and editors coming out of Paris,Berlin,London and (especially) New York.

In truth, the superpower aspiration is as much a male, macho thing as Naxalism or Hindutuva. It is likewise a fantasy, and an equally dangerous one. It has already spawned much conflict in its wake. With public policy overwhelmingly determined by the desire to achieve nine per cent growth, we have handed over peasant and tribal lands for the most destructive forms of industrial and mining activity. By making that one number the sine qua non of national pride and honour, the central government has encouraged state governments to promote corruption, criminality, social strife, and massive and possibly irreversible environmental degradation.

The cost of narrow-minded focus on GDP growth, and of a fetishization of a particular number-8,9,10 per cent-can be colossal. For, the GDP accounts do not subtract for the loss of water, and the pollution and destruction of land and vegetation caused by opencast mining.

Page number-28
The market can promote efficiency and productivity, but not ecological sustainability or social justice. The market does not value the needs of poor people who have no money; it does not value the future; and it does not value the right of other species to exist.

Page number 33:
However, in the eyes of the new, excessively market-friendly media, the environment is only about pretty trees and tigers. They wish their readers to have their cake and eat it too-to live resource-intensive lifestyles and yet to be glory in the beauties of the wild. They cannot, or will not, that the one imperils the other. Nor will they acknowledge the persistence and significance of more local,less glamorous, environmental issues-such as the state of the air and the water, the conservation of energy, the provision of safe and affordable housing. These issues affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians. However, by succumbing so readily to the cult of wealth and celebrity, the media can find no space for them.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Disabled sisters get loans 

Pramila Krishnan
Chennai, July 29: The Tamil Nadu State Apex Co-operative Bank (TNSC) in Chennai has come forward to provide loans to the disabled sisters in Dharmapuri following the article published in Deccan Chronicle newspaper last week, about how they were waiting for an year to get loans from banks in their town to expand their shop.
Not just that, many Deccan Chronicle readers have called the sisters encouraged and assured to help them to expand their petty shop. Some readers took details of the sisters and charted plans to improve the petty shop into a small departmental store by adding products apart from eatables, which they are selling now.

Bubbling with energy, paralysed sisters Malliga (22), Kavitha (20) thanked me for the story. Victims of Lysosomal disorder, which stunts their growth, these sisters wanted to expand their petty shop and meet their medical expenses in order to unburden their parents. But the banks delayed the disbursal for the last one-year. After the article, TNSC and DC readers volunteered to help them.

Sharing the joy, Malliga and Kavitha said, “We are touched by the calls by readers. Many of them encouraged us. This news story gives us confidence and dream for big in life. A reader from Chennai told us that he would send us a fridge so that we could start selling soft drinks in our store. Another reader told us that he would send a stock of slippers shortly.”

The TNSC bank officials said that they would issue Rs.40, 000 to the sisters as loans on Wednesday. “We have made a special provision by which the monthly monetary assistance given by the government to Kavitha and Malliga would be treated as surety for the loans and they could start buying products for their shop. A savings account would be opened in their names and loans would be disbursed immediately,” they said.

Able hearts fight disability

Disabled sisters stand on their own feet

They cannot walk, need help to move anywhere. But their spirit
and confidence will steal you. 

Pramila Krishnan

Chennai, July28: Paralysed from waist down, they cannot walk but these sisters wish to stand on their own feet. Malliga, 22 and Kavitha, 20, have been wheel-chairing to every bank in their neighbourhood for over an year but are unable to convince any of them that their application for Rs.50000 credit to expand their petty shop deserves consideration.

Perhaps their tiny physique, which makes them appear like kids below ten years, is putting off the bankers, or may it’s their address: a pavement shed at Periyanur Colony in Dharmapuri. The sisters suffer from a rare genetic ‘Lysosomal disorder’, caused by the parents’ consanguineous marriage that stunted growth.

“Our parents carry us like babies for the periodical visits to hospital four km away. We feel very sad that we are being such a burden, literally. The government gave us both wheel chairs two years ago but they have gone bad, perhaps fatigued by the many trips to various banks”, Malliga said.

Kavitha said they could not get educated as it was not possible for their daily wager parents to carry them to school. “The state disabled welfare department sends us monthly aid of Rs.1000 each and we make a little money from our petty shop selling biscuits and small eats. We could lead a more dignified life and even help our parents financially if we get a bank loan and expand our shop”, she said.

The family almost found a solution to that problem through the chief minister’s revolutionary scheme that provided green greenhouses to the poor. “The civic authority started building us the greenhouse but stopped midway. Now an official says the house can be completed only if we pay Rs.50,000. Where do I go for that kind of money?” mumbled Murugan. To reach out to these sisters contact: 09566844534

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Pramila Krishnan

Desalination plant affects fishermen

Chennai: Environmentalists and residents living next to the Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board’s (CMWSSB) desalination plant at Nemmeli, 35 km from the city, complain that their quality of life has declined greatly ever since the Board decided to more than double its production to supply water to households.
The plant, which started functioning in February, has a capacity of 100 million litres per day (mld) which the Water Board authorities aim to increase to 250 mld. R. Masilamani, 53, is one of many aggrieved fishermen who points to the problems. Their catch of fish, their staple food, has reduced. 
“Our ice plant, community hall and a few houses close to the shore, have fallen down. We are witnessing a disaster in our village now,” he says, adding that the plant was releasing brine on to the ocean bed. When he and 19 other fishermen protested about this, they were put in prison for a month in May.
Green activist Nithyanand Jayaraman, who works on coastal zone protection projects, says that the plant is neither economically nor environmentally viable. “Desalination plants are mainly operated in countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel where fresh water resources are scarce. Instead of conserving the local water bodies and aquifers, we continue to invest in desalination plants which are not viable.”
He says that the beach area in Nemmeli had already been eroded and the residue from the plant’s overflow pipe had killed marine life. His question is to do with why marine livelihoods were being sacrificed for desalination when the government could take other steps to conserve water bodies in Chennai.  
Desalination plant Superin­tending Engineer C.R.Yogesh­waran said that the water was drawn one km from the sea and the residue released 600 m away from the shore. “Residue will become normal sea water before it reaches the top layer of the sea,” he explains.
Erosion had been arrested and initiatives were on to control environmental damage, he adds. According to a top official, the environment impact assessment study was conducted before commissioning the plant.
Multipronged plan needed to tackle city water woes
The government can solve the city’s water woes by first fixing its leaky pipelines, improving rain water harvesting systems and raising the water tariff rather than allotting vast sums of money to new water supply projects. This is the conclusion that Ph.D. scholar Veena Srinivasan has made after doing five years of research on Chennai’s water crisis at Stanford University, USA.
The research included, groundwork, such as interacting with the residents of Chennai, tanker operators, government officials and documenting the water supply and drought hit areas in Chennai. Veena has explored scenarios of what the city’s water supply may look like in 2025, using reasonable projections of population, land use and income growth.
Speaking to DC over the phone she said, “While the rich are allowed to draw unlimited amounts of water as they have a sump facility at home, poor families which live without a pipe connection are forced to buy water from private firms or to wait in line to fill their pots whenever the metro tankers arrive.
Water should be metered and the poor provided water at hugely subsidised rates.” She said that good quality water should be supplied for drinking, cooking and dish-washing while low-quality water or ground water could be utilised for non-potable needs.
Talking about desalination plants, she said, “Leave alone the environmental degradation they cause to the marine ecosystem, the government has to pump in huge sums of money for their continuous operation. It is more expensive than any other existing water supply models operated in the city.”
Pointing out that leakage of water in the pipelines was estimated to be between 15 and 35 per cent depending on the zone, she said, “Most developing world cities suffer from pipeline losses as high as 50 per cent compared to as low as 5 per cent in the world’s best run utilities. Unless the leakages are fixed, efficient water supply would continue to be unachievable for the government.”
Though rain water harvesting was laudable, she said that the system remained as enhanced aquifer recharge rather than a collection of rain water in cisterns for end use. “Without harvesting, only an estimated 9 per cent of rain water in Chennai makes it to the aquifer; the rest runs off into the ocean,” she pointed out.
She reiterated that the way out for Chennai was to adopt a multi-pronged strategy involving raising water rates, repairing pipes harvesting the rain water.


Pramila Krishnan

Cop gets award for helping disabled wards see success

All his three children were born blind but that did not break policeman M Murugan. When the first daughter was born, he thought he was just unlucky getting a blind child and when the next girl too was born blind, he was convinced that the tragedy was manifestation of some sin done in the previous birth. But when the third child, a son, too was born blind, he turned to medical help.
“Dr Mary Abraham in Sankara Nethralaya told me my children were born blind because of my consanguineous marriage to cousin Prema. She said it was impossible to give sight to the kids and exhorted me to give them education as only that would empower them to handle life independently”, recalled Murugan.
He learnt Braille himself so that he would be able to teach the basics in the various subjects at the school for blind in Chennai, to which he sent the three children. “My children understood their predicament and took the challenge boldly. They worked very hard and I must say they have succeeded in life just like any normal person”, said the proud father, who will receive a special award from the Tamil Nadu Handicapped Persons’ Welfare Federation.
“We have been giving prizes all these years to the achievers among the physically challenged people. This year, we decided to honour even others if they have significantly helped the handicapped persons. Murugan is a great example for others to emulate”, said federation general secretary P Simmachandran. He was particularly impressed that the Murugan couple took their children whenever they went out without feeling embarrassed.
While Prema helped the children with their Tamil lessons, Murugan taught the kids English and other subjects. “My superior officers were kind. They would allow me to leave the station at 3.30 in the evening to take the children home (from the school for blind) and help in lessons. It’s unthinkable in the police department to get home so early in the evening”, recalled Muruguan, who retired from the prohibition enforcement wing last year.
He said while the eldest daughter Venkateswari works for State Bank of India, her sister Muthuchelvi is with the Allahabad Bank and the youngest, Mani, is a clerk in Canara Bank’s Anna Salai branch.