Friday, 26 September 2014

Niger celebrates Navarathri with dazzling stamps 

Chennai, September 26: Niger,  a small West African country, too is celebrating the Indian festival of Navarthri with special, dazzling stamps.  The Niger government on Thursday released two stamps – of Ganesha and Lakshmi Ganesha--with a golden foil in India exclusively for the Navarathri festival. The stamps are sold online- with limited edition of 1,500 stamps - for Indian collectors.   

Within seven hours of launching the sale, Alok K Goyal, authorised dealer for the special Niger stamps in India, received 42 orders from Chennai. He has sold 140 stamps across India on the launch day.  “The highest number of orders is from Chennai and next is  Bengaluru with 12 orders. The sale will be open till the stock is available,” he said.

Speaking to DC over the phone from Kolkotta, Alok K Goyal said that the Niger government produced these special stamps to mark Navarathri and earn revenue. “The growing popularity of Indian art and culture internationally has initiated the government of Niger to issue these two special stamps during the current festive season in India."  The Ganesha stamp, which is in a hexagonal shape and is made of gold foil, is priced at Rs.1001,” he said.
The other stamp in the shape of lotus has Lakshmi and Ganesha decorated with a Swarovski stone and is priced at Rs.1, 111. Goyal said that he wanted to launch these stamps for Ganesh Chathurthi but got delayed because of the special printing with gold foil. Goyal’s site has the images of stamps and the facility to order them.

A resident of St.Thomas Muount, Aggarwal (32), has decided to add the glittering Niger stamps to his rich collections of 500 stamps. “I have been collecting special stamps right from my school days. These two stamps are so special during the Navarathri festival. These two will add to my fifth album of special stamps,” he said.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

60 per cent donated organs go to private hospitals 

negligence of govt hospitals allow private sector to make huge business

Chennai, July 31: Organs donated by brain dead people benefit patients in private hospitals more than in government hospitals. Statistics available with the Tamil Nadu Cadaver Transplant Programme (TNCTP) reveals that 60 per cent of the organs harvested from the brain dead end up in private hospitals because very few government hospitals have registered for organ transplant programme.

Experts say that the negligence shown by government hospitals to register for the transplant programme and the delay in enrolling additional doctors in government hospitals are intended to allow the private hospitals to take advantage of lucrative organ transplant surgery in Tamil Nadu. Other reason is government doctors experienced in transplant procedure preferring private hospitals with better facilities and salaries.

Of the 58 hospitals registered for kidney transplant in Tamil Nadu, only seven are government hospitals whereas 51 private hospitals offer this facility, according TNCTP. In the case of liver transplant, among the 12 registered hospitals, just two are in the government sector. Heart transplant facility is no different from other organ transplant hospitals. 11 out of 12 hospitals carrying out heart transplant are in the private sector. 

 A senior health department official said that lack of sophisticated equipment and facilities, including labs, are major factors for the low percentage of organ transplantation in government hospitals. “In the case of private hospitals, transplantation department is a cash cow. It is equipped with updated technologies. Whereas in government hospitals one nephrologist has to attend to several patients and kidney transplant becomes an additional work. This is same with other transplants too,” the official said.

Reasoning how private hospitals are in the forefront in transplantation, a senior retired health department official pointed out that many doctors who join the government hospitals gain experience only to enrich their knowledge and leave for private hospitals. “The scene in Coimbatore government hospital is a case in point. In the last three years, four doctors who joined the urology department left in a short time and joined private hospitals,” recalled the official.

Private hospitals exploit patients; make a killing
Though the norm is that the receiver does not pay for the organ, private hospitals add up the bills for the organ transplant surgeries in the name of room service, medical reports, post-operative care charges and so on, say activists. There is a need to fix uniform fee in all hospitals based on the facilities instead of allowing them to fleece patients.

Dr.G.Ravindranath, state general secretary, Doctors Association for Social Equality, said that the brand image of the hospital determines the size of the bill. “There is no regulation of medical bill charged by hospitals. While private insurance companies determine the expenses for treatment and surgeries, the government could do it in a professional manner. When kidney transplant in a popular private hospital costs Rs. 6 lakhs, the same is performed for a little less in a hospital in Madurai. Liver transplant would cost up to Rs.40 lakhs in a well known corporate hospital in Chennai and another hospital charges between 30 and Rs.35 lakhs,” he said.

Madurai based RTI activist C.Anand Raj, who campaigns for uniform fee fixation for private hospitals, said, “Similar to fee fixation committee for private schools, a committee should be formed to fix fee for private hospitals. There are 20 government medical colleges. But compared to private hospitals, very few transplants are performed in government hospitals. This makes patients from middle class and lower middle class to queue up in private hospitals and spend all the money for the treatment.” He said that several corporate hospitals register for organ transplant and make huge profits. They receive patients from other states also.

Thursday, 26 June 2014


 24 kids died in four years in Tamil Nadu after falling into open borewells 

Chennai, June 26: Over 20 children in Tamil Nadu have lost their lives as they stepped into bore wells and died during the rescue operation since 2010. Due to the negligence of the farm owners and conventional rescue mechanism by the fire and rescue services officials took the lives of little children, say child rights activists, who released a fact finding report on deaths of children in open bore wells and wells in Tamil Nadu, in Chennai on Wednesday.
Releasing the report Thomas Jayaraj, director of Centre for child rights and development said, “More than 500 children in India including 24 children in Tamil Nadu have died in the last four years struggling to survive in the abandoned borewell and wells. On an average the rescue process takes 9 to 45 hours to dig the child out of bore well and very rarely children are saved.”  He added that Supreme Court guidelines on safety measures related to open borewell are not implemented. “The National and state child rights commission officials have not taken any serious measures to address this issue,” he said.
R.Jone (20) and S.Shine (17), both engineering students, who were part of the fact finding team said that government officials blamed the model code of conduct by the election commission for not circulating the supreme court guidelines on open bore wells. “We were quit upset that even after so many deaths, officials are not informed about the problem and they blamed the election commission for not carrying out their job. 

In one case, a three-year-old child Harshan fell into bore well in Kuthalaperi village in Tirunelveli and he was rescued. But even after ten days, the bore well and the deep pit dug to bring him out were not closed,” said Jone and Shine, representatives of children’s movement for climate justice.

The voluntary organisations have asked the government to introduce modernized rescue methods and take preventive steps to avoid deaths of children in bore wells in future. They also demanded immediate disbursal of compensation for parents who had lost their children instead of making them wait for years to receive the money. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Temple elephants need ‘humane’ treatment

Pramila Krishnan
Chennai, June 10: Maduravalli (60), elephant belonging to Koodal Alagar Perumal temple in Madurai, suffers from severe foot rot and has developed joint pain. She is obese and has been undergoing weight reduction treatment. Thanjavur temple elephant, Vellaiammal, aged around 65, also suffers similar health disorders and added to that she is struggling to manage bedsores that she developed from lying on a rough concrete floor. Veterinarians, who treated Maduravalli and Vellaiammal, conducted periodical medical check ups and recommend change in diet and maintenance by the temple authorities. Medical experts who have treated temple elephants observe that many elephants die because of poor maintenance and negligence of temple authorities in providing natural ambience and nutritious food to the holy animal.

A recent social interaction session organised by researchers among three different groups of elephants - temple elephants, zoo elephants and captive elephants - revealed heart-wrenching stories of cruel treatment to temple elephants in India. Researchers, who studied some 267 elephants, including 67 temple elephants from Tamil Nadu, found that more than 60 per cent of temple elephants did not like to interact with other elephants. While the zoo elephants were quirky and mischievous and the captive elephants were engaged in talking with their tribe, the temple elephants remained withdrawn. The experts said since temple elephants are kept all alone for years together, they have no inclination to interact and failed to mix with other elephants. Even worse is that temple elephants did not show interest in mating though the experts set up a conducive environment for the cow and bull elephants.

The study states that temple elephants are forced to learn at least 50 commands in languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Urdu. They bless devotees some 2,000 times during festivals. As per the study, food provided by devotees includes fruits, coconut, ghee, rice and other unnatural food - sweets, biscuits and chocolates. This leads to obesity and indigestion when the devotees feed elephants with unwashed hands. Researchers say that on average the chain tied to the legs of the elephants weighs close to 50 kgs.

Environmentalists and animal rights activists across the country have been raising their voice against keeping elephants in temples to bless devotees and to carry out rituals for temple deities.
Raman Sukumar, member of Project Elephant Steering Committee of the government of India, said since temples get huge donations, they take good care of elephants. “Elephant is a highly socialising animal and lives in large families. Keeping the elephant in solitary spaces affects their interaction skills, which could be termed as behavioural cruelty,” he said. He added that when temple authorities want to keep an elephant, they should take adequate care to provide natural food substitutes; provide opportunity for elephants to interact with other elephants. “Enough space should be provided for elephants to move around instead of being chained to a close circuit that prevents their movement,” said Sukumar.

When contacted Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department Commissioner P.Dhanapal about improving maintenance for temple elephants he said, “These days temple elephants receive good care. Veterinary doctors check the elephants every month and ensure they are healthy. Annual rejuvenation camp is conducted every year for elephants to protect them.”

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Song by a grandma with unconditional love

1st June 2014- I thought it was a just another Sunday for me. But a different evening for me. I was in Virdhunagar to interact with members of elders self help group. It was an overwhelming moment for me. Valliamma from Vellalore village in Virudhunagar sang a song. Tears welled up my eyes as she was singing and mentioned me in the song as a person who could take care of elders more than their own children. She sang that ‘Pramila is like Prithianga Devi’ who would support deprived elders like her own grandfather and grandmother. I was touched. My grandfather Ramu came to my mind and I could feel him. He was telling me that he was very much present in the hall and was hearing the song by Valliamma. Thathas and Pattis present there were all in smiles.

What have I done to steal  her heart is the following story: on 26th January 2010, I published an investigation article in my newspaper Deccan Chronicle on how many elders in Virudhunagar, down south district of Tamil Nadu, were killed by their own families in the name of a traditional killing practice- Thalaikoothal.(Bathing the sick old man or woman in cold water and force feed coconut water to the elder. The aged person would suffer renal failure and die within a day). Young people who did not wish to go through this elaborate process opted to kill the elders with lethal injection availing the ‘service’ of quacks. In my story I revealed my risky trips to talk to such quacks and seeking their help to kill my grandpa. A quack who agreed to ‘help’ me promised that her injection would work effectively and she was successful in her earlier attempts.

After this story, the district administration asked its officials to come up with census of elders in the district and ensured every single death of elders should be properly investigated by the local authorities. My friend R.Elango of  Helpage India, who gave the tip off about the killings, and I wanted to bring change in the lives of elders beyond the news reporting. Now over 500 elders self help groups were formed in Virudhunagar. Regular meetings are conducted by these groups which give an opportunity to elders to share their sorrows and happiness. Every member in the group supports another needy elder. The Sunday evening meet was one such meet and Valliamma was one of the members of the group who electrified the people with her song. 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Hubby seeks compensation for wife's coma

Chennai, May 1: A man in Kanyakumari is taking the state health department head on as his wife slipped into coma after a family planning operation. His writ petition filed before the Madurai bench of the Madras high court says that his wife, who was admitted to the Nagercoil government medical college hospital (NGMCH) for family planning, slipped into coma as the doctors provided nitrous oxide instead of oxygen for breathing. He asked the court to take action against the government hospital and the gas agency for negligence and also sought compensation to raise his two children. 

Petitioner S.Ganesan (45) Semponkarai village in Kanyakumari told the court that presently his wife Rukmani, who has been under treatment in the intensive care unit of the Madurai Rajaji government hospital since April 2011, needs specialised treatment at Vellore CMC hospital. “When Rukmani was admitted to the NGMCH in March 2011 for family planning, she was quite healthy. Doctors told me that she suffered severe blood loss and she had to be moved to emergency care. Within hours they informed me that Rukmani was unconscious and she would be all right within a week. But her condition did not improve. Sources in the hospital told me that nitrous oxide was given to Rukmani instead of oxygen,” said Ganesan, a tailor.  

Ganesan said he had no option but to take his wife to the government general hospital in Madurai for better treatment in April 2011 as the chief doctor at NGMCH told him that there were no medical experts and equipment to save his wife. “The chief doctor asked me to admit my wife in the Madurai hospital. She was weighing 65 kg before the family planning. Now she has gone down with 45 kg. Her parents are taking care of her, staying on the corridors of the government hospital as they couldn’t afford to rent a house there. I am unable to raise my children living all alone in Kanyakumari,” said Ganesan. So far, he has spent more than Rs 3 lakh on medical expenses. He said he had pledged Rukmani’s jewels and took loans for the expenses. He said he had approached the court with lots of hopes.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

என் புத்தக  அலமாரி

தோட்டக்காட்டீ - இரா.வினோத் ,அறம்  பதிப்பகம் 

இலங்கை  மலையாக  மக்கள் பற்றியும் , தேயிலை பறிக்கும் வேலைக்கு சொற்ப கூலி, தொழிலார்களின்  வாழ்கை அந்த தேயிலை  எஸ்டேட்குள் தொலைந்துவிடும் நிலை பற்றியும் இந்த கவிதை நூல் தெளிவாக கவிதை நயத்துடன் பேசுகிறது:

குப்பை  ரத்தம் 


கூலிகள்  குடிக்கும்
குப்பைத்  தேநீர்  மட்டுமல்ல
மரவள்ளி  தின்னும்
மறத் தமிழனின்


பட்டினி நிலா 

சோறூட்டச் சொல்லி
பால் நிலா !

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Madras high court gives justice to child Suba

  • Court ordered the accused to pay medical bills
  • Suba wants to play as she did earlier 

Chennai, March 19: The Madras high court came to the rescue of the Mercedes crash victim Subarakshitha, a poor class six student, by directing the hospital where she has been undergoing treatment for multiple fractures for almost a year, not to charge her family.

The high court on Monday ordered that the millionaire Merc owner should bear the costs as he allegedly drove the car rashly over a pavement while drunk, killing a boy and badly injuring Subarakshitha.

Shaji Purushothaman, son of Empee group owner, allegedly drove on the pavement in front of Egmore children’s hospital and severely injured Subarakshitha in May 2013. Since then she has been undergoing treatment in a private hospital.

Though Shaji paid Rs 5 lakh initially for the surgery, Subarakshitha’s parents - father Kumar, an auto driver, and mother Manjula -housemaid, did not hear anything from him about the post-operation medical bills. They often took loans to pay medical bills.

Speaking to me , Kumar said, “For all these days, I couldn’t take my daughter to the hospital whenever needed only because I didn’t have enough money. There were days when I waited for more than a week to get her scan reports. The court verdict has given me big hope. Suba manages to write her lessons on her own. But she would cry often asking me whether her severely injured right wrist and shoulder would become alright.”

Milton, counsel for Subarakshitha, said the hospital authorities would produce the medical records in court and Shaji would pay the bills. “Suba’s family lives in utter poverty. The court’s directive would help the family look after her medical needs. We believe this would bring the smile back on Suba’s face,” he said.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Maniamma, an exemplary politician  

Chennai, March 18: Very few politicians these days can match the personality of Manaloor Maniamma, a Brahmin widow who defied the customs and rituals in the 1950s and hit the road on her bicycle to take up people’s issues. Rejecting the family’s demand that she should shave her head and stay indoors, Maniamma sported a close-cut hairstyle, wore mundasu vesti, learnt silambam martial art and took part in freedom struggle, besides networking with farmers of Thanjavur as a Communist leader.

Writer Gnani has profiled Maniamma in his book ‘Neruppu Malargal’, a collection of stories on great but unsung women. Excerpts from the book: Maniamma was married to an advocate as his second wife - when she was just 10 years old. Her husband arranged English tuition for Maniamma. After he died, she taught English to Dalit children in her neighbourhood. She challenged the atrocities being heaped upon Dalit farmhands by the rich landlords. Not just landlords, even her relatives were angry about her association with the underprivileged.

After participating in a meeting addressed by Mahatma Gandhi in Thanjavur, Maniamma decided she should lead a meaningful life. She shunned the saree and stopped doing the rituals prescribed for a Brahmin widow. She rode her own bullock cart and shocked the locals riding a bicycle. Though she began as a Congress supporter, she got drawn towards the Communist movement as it gave her a more comfortable platform to work for the coolies and fight for better wages, against caste discrimination. Thousands of Dalits in Thanjavur and Nagapattinam considered Maniamma as their family member.

When the Communist party was banned in India in 1948, Maniamma was among the many comrades who got jailed for their political activities. “There cannot be a better role model for a good politician of any age, any time, than Maniamma”, said CPI leader R. Nallakannu, himself a man of acknowledged virtues such as simplicity and honesty. “She inspired men and women to fight for a good cause till the very end. Her presence would simply electrify any rally”.
Pointing out how most of the present day politicians are only after money and power, octogenarian Gandhian Krishnammal Jaganathan said, “Her name still gets mentioned in the themmangu songs of farmers. Her death still remains a mystery. People say she was killed by the landlords”. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

30 years on, justice not delivered for victimized woman 

Chennai, March 17: Police will file complaints; courts can hear petitions and deliver judgments but who will ensure that the victim gets final justice after the tiring journey through various courts? 

That’s the sad saga of Sundari (names changed), a retired bank employee in Chennai, who knocked on the doors of several courts for 30 years before finally getting an order from a magistrate at Egmore court directing her engineer husband to pay her Rs.30 lakh as compensation for ill treatment.

But even two years after that verdict, the distressed woman is yet to get the money. Cops tell her they cannot find her husband to enforce the court order.

“I got married in 1977 to chemical engineer Raghavan and lived with him for just five years. I learnt he was having some illicit relationships and when I questioned him, he harassed me and told me to get out of the house. I moved out so as to bring up by son in a better environment. My husband applied for divorce but I did not consent", said Sundari, recalling her trauma.

While balancing her time between work at the bank and bringing up the boy as a single mother, she also attended the courts seeking justice as by then, she learnt that Raghavan had married a third time after the second wife passed away. “These two marriages were illegal because Raghavan has not divorced me. I showed his voters’ ID and ration card to prove to the courts that he married two other women”, Sundari said.

Four arrest warrants issued by the Egmore and Ambattur courts since 1992 went unanswered, so she filed a petition under the ‘Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act’ (PWADVA) in 2012 and got that extraordinary verdict that Raghavan must pay her Rs.30 lakh for his abusive conduct. “He gave just Rs.One lakh and disappeared. My son is now 30 years old. I am still fighting for justice”, Sundari told DC. 

There is a thin silver lining though. With help from a woman PWADVA officer, Sundari recently managed to gain a small space in Raghavan’s house to live since she remains his legally wedded wife. An iron grill separates the two.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Indian scientists quit DRDO jobs 

Chennai, February 28: Several students exhibited their scientific study and projects in their schools as part of the National Science Day celebrations on Friday(28th February 2014). But a recent report from the DRDO (Defence Research Development Organisation) revealed that scores of scientists are leaving their jobs. And many important projects like light combat aircraft; aero engine and long-range surface-to-air missile have been postponed to 2016. On this National Science Day, DC spoke to scientists and organisations that promote scientific temper among students about the real science world.

In his recent report to the Rajya Sabha, Union defence minister A.K. Antony said a total of 358 scientists (338 resigned and 20 opted for VRS) had left DRDO from 2009-2013. While the minister claims that many scientists leave the organisations because of personal reasons or for pursuing higher studies, scientists and voluntary organisations that work for child scientists have a different tale to tell.

Reasoning that bureaucratic red tape, non availability of necessary infrastructure are major issues that push young scientists to leave jobs, a senior scientist with the department of science and technology said, “Unlike other government departments, research centres and DRDO cannot be expected to deliver the targeted output every year. The scope and investments for trials should be provided. The red tape that dies down many departments, kills the spirit of many scientists.” On condition of anonymity, he said, “Lack of encouragement and opportunities to try out new projects is yet another hurdle.”

N. Mani of Tamil Nadu Science Forum, a voluntary organisation that organises science exhibitions and awareness programmes, said, “Political appointments and unfriendly working environment are some of the factors that drive scientists to the exit gate of premier research institutes. Based on our interactions with scientists, we understood that nexus between senior authorities and appointment of unqualified persons for top jobs de-motivate the talented persons.” 

The following table gives the details of number of projects being delayed in DRDO. This information was shared by union defence minister A.K.Antony in Rajya Sabha.  

Probable Date of Completion (PDC)
Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Phase-II
December 2008
December 2015
Naval Light Combat Aircraft (LCA, Navy), Phase-I
March 2010
December 2014
Aero-engine Kaveri
December 1996
December 2009#
Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) System
October 2011
March 2014
Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LR-SAM)
May 2011
December 2015
Air-to-Air Missile, Astra
August 2012
December 2016

Thursday, 27 February 2014

INTERVIEW WITH CALLUM MACRAE, London based journalist and documentary film maker

He produced 'No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’ documentary that talks about war crimes in Sri Lanka

Blind support to Colombo can boomerang on India: Callum Macrae

Chennai, February 24:  Slamming the Indian ban on the screening of his much-acclaimed documentary ‘No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’, celebrated journalist-documentary maker Callum Macrae said such softness towards Colombo in trying to even ignore serious human rights violations during the final phase of the Eelam war could boomerang on India’s long-term interests in the region.

Reacting to the Indian censor board refusing certificate for his documentary, Mr Macrae said one of the grounds cited by the censor board was that allowing its public showing would ‘strain friendly relations with Sri Lanka’. “I am afraid it is impossible to see this as anything other than an act of overt political censorship. There was no suggestion that this (refusal) was because the film was wrong in what it says. The accuracy of our journalism has been vindicated at every stage by independent examination and by the continuing emergence of more video evidence”, he told me in an e-mail interview from his London office.

“In effect, this ban is an act of short-term political expediency. It was an attempt to smooth over relations with the Rajapaksa regime. The problem is the long-term effect”, Mr Macrae cautioned. “The fact is that without truth, you cannot have justice and without justice, you cannot easily move forward to peace, political solutions and reconciliation. And so, despite difficulties, India has to take the lead”.
If India chose to become part of the attempts to prevent truth from coming out, it would slow down the progress towards justice and political solutions. “That is not in India’s interest; nor is it in the interests of ordinary decent Sri Lankans, of all ethnic backgrounds who just want to live in peace and harmony”, said Mr Macrae, whose documentary has already been seen by thousands of viewers on YouTube and select screens across the world, such as the UNHCR venue during the last Geneva session.

The documentary shocked the world after UK’s Channel 4 played it through several TV stations, and triggered an increased cry for international investigation of alleged war crimes during the final phase of Eelam war, when an estimated 40000 civilians were killed. Mr Macrae’s team was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Sri Lanka, however, dismissed the documentary as falsehood sewed up by clever manipulation of irrelevant images through technology, sponsored by pro-LTTE elements in the Tamil Diaspora. Mr Macrae in his DC interview reiterated that his film was “three years of investigation” and had been “subjected to the closest scrutiny”. Detailing the extensive ‘scrutiny’, he said: “The fact is that our film tells the truth…we are merely one of the messengers of that truth. Attacking us will not change that”.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Oven friendly pots in the making

Chennai, February 25:  In a marriage between traditional expertise and cutting-edge technology the potters of Kanyakumari and researchers of IIT-Madras and Central Institute of Glass and Ceramics (CIGC) in Kolkata, are engaged in designing a clay vessel that could be used in a microwave oven. 

A sample clay vessel, created after several deliberations between the scientists and potters, was tested in the CIGC lab two weeks ago and gave positive results. Now potters in Kanyakumari expect the government to help them by funding the trial production of the clay ware.

In order to revitalise the business of potters and also to reach clay products to the urban markets, P. Bagavatheeswaran, director of centre for social development, a voluntary organisation that works with potters in Kanyakumari, approached the RuTAG (Rural Technology Action Group) in IIT-Madras in 2011. Based on his request, researchers in IIT-M took a shot and involved CIGC scientists to design the microwave clay ware.
Scientists sweated it out to arrive at the right combination of clay materials to design the vessel, which will be compatible for use in microwave ovens. Giving details of the project, Bagavatheeswaran said, "I witnessed the lab test of oven-friendly clay vessel in the last week of January 2014 at the CIGC lab. I am impressed and hopeful that this project would help the potter's community." He said, "We need funds for trial production. Based on response from users, the clay ware would be modified. Scientists have agreed to help us in designing the final product."
Speaking to me, S.Gopalakrishnan, project consultant of RuTAG, said, "This oven-friendly clay vessel will be a sure hit in city markets. Scientists had tried out various combinations of clay and other materials to create this vessel. Commercial production of oven-friendly clay ware is an immediate solution to improve the livelihood of scores of potters and also for many urbanities who want to avoid plastics."

Thursday, 6 February 2014

RTI -Right To Insane        

Chennai, February 6: Every citizen in India is bestowed with the right to question any government department under the Right To Information act, 2005. But that doesn’t mean all the departments would react promptly and provide answers to such petitioners.

For instance, the experience of Mr K.Neelamegam of T Nagar, who filed a RTI petition with the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), shows how difficult it is get RTI answers and how the process could drain both the money and the spirit of the petitioner.

Social activist Neelamegam filed his RTI petition with the SHRC in March 2013 listing five questions on the functions and publications of reports by the commission. He had sought to know how many days the commission took to respond to a public complaint. “The reply was disgusting. I was told that SHRC would not be able to provide answers to speculations. I merely wanted to know the number of days SHRC takes to clear cases and I can’t understand how that could be termed as speculative question,” Neelamegam told DC.

Worse still, when he asked for publications by the SHRC on human rights law, he was told that he could find those books in bookshops. “In the first reply I was told that the SHRC did not publish any books on human rights law. When I mentioned that I would file an appeal with the State Information Commission (SIC) to get correct answers, the second reply landed; it said I could get those books in a bookshop. That’s not a proper answer for a RTI query,” said Neelamegam.

Unhappy with such responses, Neelamegam filed an appeal with the SIC but its hearing held in Chennai on Thursday was even more disturbing. “During the hearing, a SHRC official said the information I had sought would run to 3,000 pages and I would have to pay Rs.6,000 to get that. I have no clue why I was forced to wait for this answer for almost an year,” he said.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014


Mobile van zooms to relax stressed schools students  

Chennai, February 6: Class 12 student K. Anbarasi of Maraimalai  Adigal high school in Pallavaram complains of severe headache within an hour of her study. For the last one month she couldn't spend more than an hour with her books. She needs frequent breaks to get back to preparations.

On Wednesday Anbarasi shared her plight with child psychologist Deva Kiruba, who was sent by the school educationdepartment in its mobile counselling van, at her school. Ms Kiruba listened to her and offered solutions to overcome the headache.

In order to relieve students like Anbarasi from mental stress and other psychological problems, the government has been operating 10 mobile counselling vans across the state since October 2013. As the public exams are approaching and many students are worried about their scores, child psychologists in mobile vans are zooming to schools to conduct stress management sessions. The multi-media presentation and an hour's interaction with psychologists encourages students to sort out their problems.

Just after the session, student Anbarasi could realise that unwanted fear and stress were the major reasons for her headache. "Thepsychologist taught me breathing exercises and how to balance my study and leisure hours. I understand that there is no need to worry and stress myself. I will practise stress management techniques regularly and concentrate on my studies," said Anbarasi.

Speaking to me about the counselling sessions, Ms Kiruba said, "In many cases children are severely stressed when family members do not care for them. They long for love and affection. Some students are depressed about having failed in previous exams and are unable to get themselves out of the rut. I give them tips to handle stress and to improve their positive thinking."

Psychologists do not only counsel students, but also provide orientation for teachers on how to handle children with learning disabilities and psychological problems.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Facebook post helped to rescue a child worker

Chennai, February 4: Facebook posts are not full of fantasy messages.A BE student in Tiruchy learnt about Chidline helpline (1098) through Facebook and alerted the volunteers to rescue a 12-year-old boy who was bought by a trader in Ramanathapuram for Rs 50,000. The trader has been remanded and the child worker is in a care home for rehabilitation.

Mechanical engineering student M. Vijaykumar said Facebook posts and media reports on Childline helped him know about the problems of child workers and how to rescue them through Childline. "I visited my native town Manickamkottai in Ramnad last week. I found Ravi tending a large herd of goats. I learnt from my friends that Ravi has been working for the past one year under a local trader named Udaiyar. And Ravi's family sent him to work because of poverty," he told me.
Vijaykumar said during his interaction with Ravi he understood that he worked almost 20 hours a day. "He was half-clad and half-fed. He cried convulsively when asked about visiting his family. Udaiyar did not feed him properly and not allowed to be with his poor mother who was ditched by his father. I alerted Childline and told them all the details about Ravi," Vijayakumar said.
Childline director S. Devaraj and coordinator K. Balamurugan along with local officials rescued Ravi and filed a complaint with the police about the child being exploited as a bonded labourer. "Ravi told us that he had to take care of 132 goats. He was severely beaten up if a goat went missing. Udaiyar has been remanded; Ravi will be produced before the child welfare committee shortly," Balamurugan said. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Money, money everywhere, Chennai corporation not ready to spend

Chennai, January 28: An RTI petition filed by DC with Chennai corporation reveals that Rs174 crore, collected as education cess, is in the corporation's kitty that has remained unspent for the last eight years. The cess money, which should be utilised for the improvement of infrastructure of schools and to upgrade the quality of education in the corporation schools, has not been spent. 

Educationists say that there are schools in Chennai where 100 children are squeezed into one classroom and quality of education has not been improved with library and lab facilities using the cess funds.
According to the RTI reply, elementary education tax is collected along with property tax at the rate of 2.50 per cent of annual value of the building. The expenditure from this tax is spent especially to improve corporation school infrastructure and special works in and around the school area.
Social activist A. Devaneyan points out that schools in Kannagi Nagar and Chemmenchery do not have adequate classrooms and the children in these neighbourhoods are forced to travel to the city for better quality education.

"There are just three middle schools and one each higher secondary and high school in Kannagi Nagar. Whereas, the student population crosses more than 15,000. In case of Chemmenchery there are more than 6,000 children in the neigbourhood. There is just one middle and a high school for children. These two schools are not adequate to cater to all the 6,000 students here," said Devaneyan. He added that due to lack of additional classrooms, more than 100 students are pushed into one classroom in Chemmenchery.

Schools in Korukupet, Nehru Nagar and other north Chennai neighbourhoods are worse still. For instance, students of the middle school in Coronation Nagar attend school on shift basis because the construction of school building, started almost two years back, is yet to be completed. "Since the construction of new classrooms has been going for several months, students were asked to attend school on different shifts. Students from class one to five attend school in the mornings and students from class six to eight occupy the same classrooms in the afternoon," a parent, who sends her two daughters to the school, said, requesting anonymity.

Locals suggest that the corporation could spend the education cess to rent a spacious area to provide regular classes to the children. SFI state president Uchi Mahali complains that in some instances, education cess is diverted for works like road laying and providing drinking water facility to neighbourhoods close to the schools. "Education cess should not be used for any other purpose other than upgrading the school premises and the quality of education provided there. We strongly condemn the under utilisation and mishandling of education cess," says Uchi Mahali.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Disabled students charged fee despite fee waiver 
Chennai, January 8: The University of Madras is in the soup. Disabled rights organisations have complained that the university charges disabled Ph.D. students while the government ordered fee waiver way back in October 2008. After their meeting with the vice-chancellor on Tuesday night failed to bear fruit, the disabled students have now approached Governor K. Rosaiah, who is also the chancellor of the university, for help.

Two weeks ago, T.M.N. Deepak was recommended by the selection committee of the University of Madras for admission to do Ph.D. programme in the department of politics and public administration. He was asked to pay Rs8,080 for his programme. “A  government order issued in 2008 clearly states that disabled persons are exempted from paying the fee for the Ph.D. programme, I told the university management that I am qualified for fee waiver. But they insisted that I should pay the fee,” said Deepak.

When Deepak explained about the fee waiver, the university staff strictly told him that he must pay the fee. Along with other disabled rights activists, Deepak met vice-chancellor R. Thandavan to redress the grievance. “We told the vice-chancellor about the existing G.O. and the fee waiver. But even he did not respond properly. I am raising this issue because despite this G.O., several disabled persons would have been asked to pay the fee for the last five years. And so all the students who qualified for waiver would receive reimbursement,” he said. Efforts to contact vice chancellor Thandavan went in vain.