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Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011

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dr. arun sharma sentenced to 15 years, Forfeits $43 million

HOUSTON: An Indian-American doctor has been sentenced to 15 years in prison by a US court for committing health care fraud with his wife and has been ordered to forfeit over $43 million in cash and property gained through the fraud. Arun Sharma, 56, conspired with his wife Kiran Sharma and

Drs. Arun and Kiran Sharma in happier times.

This Week Inside:

committed a health care fraud over a 10-year-period in Texas, United States Attorney Jose Angel Moreno said. Handing down the sentence, US District Judge David Hittner ordered Sharma to forfeit over $43 million, including the couple’s $700,000 home in Texas, numerous parcels of real property, more than $700,000 in cash found during a search of their home, over $800,000 in cash found in two safe deposit boxes and a number of investment accounts funded with the proceeds of their fraudulent scheme. Sharma has been remanded to the custody of the US Marshals Service. Kiran, who also has been convicted of conspiracy and health

otos: Jacob David

care fraud after pleading guilty in April 2010, is scheduled to be sentenced on February 23. She remains in custody at the Federal Detention Centre in Houston pending sentencing. Sharma had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of health care fraud in April last year. During his plea, he admitted that from January 1, 1998 through June 10, 2009, he and his wife had fraudulently billed Medicare, Medicaid and private health care providers for medical procedures that were not performed. The couple owned and operated multiple medical clinics operating under the name Allergy, Asthma, Arthritis Pain Centre in Texas. “Arun Sharma was known as an easy touch for prescribing the ‘pain cocktail’ of hydrocodone, Xanax and Soma. He also prescribed stronger narcotics such as Oxycontin, morphine, methadone and fentanyl patches,” an FBI statement said. The couple also provided patients with injections of steroids for temporary relief from joint and muscle pain. The patients were billed falsely to the insurance companies. The number of patients coming to the couple grew from 50-60 per day in 1998 to more than 100 per day in 2003. By the beginning of 2000, Sharma had certain patients sign blank procedure notes and then used those forms to generate a superbill to bill the insurance companies . Kiran also hired several foreign medical graduates who helped add fictitious patient examination information to the blank forms.

Hats Off to Houston Fundraiser Page 2

daring Heist at Karat 22 Jewelers By JacoB DaviD & Jawahar Malhotra HOUSTON: In a daring midnight heist, thieves broke into Karat 22 Jewelers in Little India on Hillcroft, this past Saturday, February 5 and cleared out millions of dollars worth of jewelry. “This seems to be an extremely professional job. The thieves broke through the roof precisely into the control room that has the security access,” said Aku Patel, a pioneer in the Indian business community and owner of Karat 22. “Within minutes they knocked out the video cameras, switched off the alarm system and disabled the entire security system.” Patel surmised that the thieves used a sophisticated machine to saw off the vault lock, open its door and looted the entire contents. “Thirty years of my jewelry collections are gone. The value is guesstimated to be several millions,” he said in an exclusive interview with Indo American News. While no implications were directly made, Patel thinks that this had to be an inside job, carried out by individual contractors hired by the security company. “The way it was so perfectly done, it is not easy for ordinary outsiders to know where the security system and safe was located. It is only accessed by my family and the individuals who installed the security. The people who did this obviously knew the layout even from the roof. Only the alarm company knows the full details of our vault system. No one else would know where it is safe to put foot on the roof,” he added. The vault door weighs several continued on page

Haiti: One Year Later Page 13

A calm and poised Aku Patel, stands by the broken safe door. He is more resolved to enhance his security system at Karat 22 Jewelers, and open for business right after. Photos: Jacob David

Icy Freeze makes Traffic Vanish


This past weekend, all community functions were cancelled due to bad weather in the Metroplex. At the 610W and 59S interchange there was not a single car in sight. Photo: Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: In a winter freeze advisory issued for last weekend, with predictions of snow startin from early morning, Houston ended up having clear but dull gray skies and dangerously icy freeways. Most offices, business and schools were closed for the

day. Indo American News Business Manager Jawahar Malhotra caught this fabulous scene of deserted freeways where it looked like traffic had vanished by a magic trick. All desi community functions and events were also cancelled due to the freeze.

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Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011

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Hats Off to Houston

Houston Feted as city of diversity at Fundraiser

By Kalyani Giri HOUSTON: There was an explosion of hats of every kind. Baffling, colorful, and prodigiously imaginative, they perched capriciously on the heads of some of this city’s most daring-to-bedifferent citizens. They made for effective conversation starters and served as arresting fodder for voracious photographers hungry for the most apt picture to sum up a fun event benefitting the Houston Greeters. The Big Greet fundraiser, themed Hats Off Houston, held at the cavernous Winter Street Studios on February 5, 2011, reiterated the commitment of a dedicated group of volunteers who take pride in sharing Houston’s best places and activities with fellow city dwellers and out-of-town guests. The nonprofit organization is a free public service founded in 2006 by Susan Borches, a former Vice President of Corporate Communications at Shell Oil; Borches served as Houston Greeters first CEO. The Big Greet drew over 350 guests eager to support the Houston Greeters; serving as co-chairs

rector at 360 Degrees of Art. Gatherees browsed the open studios and perused the wide displays of art in every medium and technique and met and chatted with the artists. Ethnic food from popular local restaurants such as Cafe Caspian and Turquoise Grill offered a delicious array of food that guests could enjoy while listening to lively Flamenco music by Guillermo Serpas and blues by the band Don’t Worry ‘Bout It. Hats donated by celebrities were auctioned to the highest bidders. Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker dropped by and joined in the infor- Houston Mayor Annise Parker with Houston Greeters Board of Directors mal festivities. countries. ums as well as the Indian stores Greeters mingled with the “Guests are always fascinated and ethnic restaurants. Visitors crowd and enthusiastically told by the diversity of Houston,” sometimes expect a Texan with of the organization; Houston said Sesh Bala from the local cowboy boots and a hat to show Greeters boasts over 120 trained Indo American community who up, and are initially surprised to volunteers from a variety of cul- Board Member of the Houston see an Asian Indian couple, but tural backgrounds who are adept Greeters. His wife Prabha Bala, very quickly they adapt and are in specific subject areas. Among a well-known cultural activist, is happy. All of them like the people

The couple got involved with Greeters at the urging of Borches, a former colleague of Sesh Bala’s at Shell. “We were happy to join the program as the premise is great. Both Prabha and I enjoy hospitality and showcasing the city,” said Sesh Bala. “Our area of greets are the Meenakshi Temples in Pearland and the Swaminarayan Temple in Stafford. We also take visitors to the Indo-Pakistani areas, mostly the Hillcroft areas. We really enjoy doing this,” he added. Visitors or those interested in seeing sights listed on the Houston Greeters website make the request online. Greeters host individuals or small groups for two to four hour visits to one of city’s local attractions or cultural destinations such as the museum district, Galveston beaches, historic neighborhoods, the rodeo, the Houston tunnel system, to name a few. The aim of the organization is to promote Houston’s image as a friendly, culturally diverse and interesting city. The current President of the Houston Greeters is Mr. Gordon Quan, a high profile Houston area attorney. The Global Greeter Network is an informal virtual association of Greeter programs around the world. For more information about Houston Greeters, visit If you receive your paper more than four days after the dateline, please file a complaint with your post office or call the USPS Consumer Affairs Office at 713-226-3442

Guests in fun hats celebrating Houston Greeters

to the event were artist Sandi Seltzer Bryant and Michelle LaRocco, Founder and Managing Di-

them, they represent over 17 world languages and have thus far greeted visitors from 36 different

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Sri Meenakshi Temple Board Member Dr. Venugopal Menon and Houston Greeters Prabha and Sesh Bala taking travel journalist Janet Fullwood on a tour of the temple in Pearland

a Greeter. “We try to show them some oil wells, the sports stad-

of Houston, their friendliness and openness,” added Sesh Bala.

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Daring Heist at Karat 22 Jewelers Shakes Up Hillcroft continued from page 1

tons and is a good large room that measures a 12 feet square. The right corner of the ceiling of the vault shows a large two-foot square gaping hole where the thieves broke in and made their entry and exit. “We are working with the Houston Police Department and have hired our a private firm to help

Aku Patel shows Indo American News the now empty steel vault that was broken into, in the far right corner ceiling is where the thieves cut a 2 feet square hole to enter and loot all the jewelery. Photos: Jacob David

with the investigations to nab the thieves,” Patel said. “Insurance will only cover part of the inventory stolen.” Previously, two years ago, right after Mother’s Day weekend, Karat 22 was broken into. “The thieves were random people of whom we had complete surveillance video,” recalled Patel. “They broke through the front door and

The corner ceiling where thieves cut a 2 foot square hole to enter the vault from the roof and loot jewelery. The professionalism with which the heist was carried indicates that the thieves had complete knowledge of the security system and the layout where the vault was located inside Karat 22.


smashed some showcases. One of the thieves even dropped his driver’s license! The cops caught him and he is now serving a 30 year sentence for robbery. We made a lot of security changes after that, but this time it was very carefully executed, almost like what you see in the movies,” added Patel. Patel said that he did not want the community to get anxious because of the heist. “We are working toward restarting and re-opening the shop very soon,” he said. “We have a strong line of suppliers with quality inventory that we plan to bring as soon as the security system is back in place. I have to make absolutely sure that this does not happen again.” Patel is resolved to install the best technology and security money can buy to ensure this does not happen again. “The community has to know what happened. We do not want such an incident happening again. We’d like to ask our community to be more vigilant and take steps to secure their businesses better at night,” Patel added.“Let’s look at this in a positive light: at least my family and staff are safe.”

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dIrecTV recTV International Launches rec dIs Is Is sHA HA India

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EL SEGUNDO, CA: DIRECTV, the world’s most popular video service, is now the exclusive provider of DISHA India in the U.S., offering spiritual, social and cultural programming to uplift the spirit and stimulate the mind. This invigorating channel is now available in all of DIRECTV’s South Asian programming packages, as part of the DIRECTV International platform. “DIRECTV recognizes the desire within the South Asian community to stay connected to home through a diverse selection of culturally relevant programming,” said Toby Berlin, vice president of DIRECTV Programming Acquisitions. “The addition of DISHA India enriches our compelling selection of South Asian programming available on the DIRECTV International platform.” “We have joined the DIRECTV platform to be of offered alongside other leading South Asian programming that DIRECTV is bringing to the U.S.,” said Madhav Kant Mishra, DISHA India’s CEO. “With our programming, and DIRECTV’s South Asian offering that spans all genres and languages of interest to South Asian viewers, DIRECTV will now offer the most comprehensive South Asian multi-cultural programming platform available in U.S.A.” Kirit C. Mehta, CEO of Cosmic Broadcasting Network Inc., U.S.A., who has brought the DISHA service to the Unites States, adds, “We look forward to the relationship we will have with DIRECTV as a partner, affiliate and friend. With this expansion we will strive to satisfy the deeply felt need of spirituality from the vast community of Indian residents in the United States.” The multi-year agreement with DISHA India brings to viewers in the U.S. top-rated popular programs that have made DISHA one of the fastest growing spiritual networks and a preferred network to Asian Indians. The DISHA lineup features spiritual documentaries, “good news,” health shows, live events, socio-spiritual programming, cultural ceremonies, meditation, devotional music and astrology. DISHA broadcasts programming in Hindi, Gujarati and English. DISHA India is now available to DIRECTV International customers on channel 2005. The channel is included in the

HindiDirect™, HindiDirect™ II, TeleguDirect™ and BanglaDirect™ programming packages, and is also available a la carte for $14.99/mo. To receive one of DIRECTV’s International packages, customers must first subscribe to DIRECTV BASIC CHOICE™, PREFERRED CHOICE™, or any DIRECTV base programming package ($29.99/mo. or above). For more information on DIRECTV’s South Asian programming, please call 1-800-378-3309 or visit DIRECTV’s International platform currently offers a wide variety of programming in multiple foreign-languages, including Spanish, Russian, Hindi, Telugu, Bengali, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Korean, and Greek, to emerging ethnic markets throughout the United States. About DIRECTV DIRECTV (NASDAQ: DTV) is the world’s most popular video service delivering state-of-the-art technology, unmatched programming, the most comprehensive sports packages available and industry leading customer service to its 27.6 million customers in the U.S. and Latin America. In the U.S., DIRECTV offers its 19.1 million customers access to over 160 HD channels and Dolby-Digital® 5.1 theater-quality sound (when available), access to exclusive sports programming such as NFL SUNDAY TICKET™, award winning technology like its DIRECTV® DVR Scheduler and higher customer satisfaction than the leading cable companies for ten years running. DIRECTV Latin America, through its subsidiaries and affiliated companies in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, and other Latin American countries, leads the payTV category in technology, programming and service, delivering an unrivaled digital television experience to 8.5 million customers. For the most up-to-date information on DIRECTV, please call 1-800-DIRECTV or visit About DISHA DISHA INDIA TV CHANNEL of the New Delhi(India) Head Quartered Disha Media Pvt. Ltd., is India’s fastest growing spiritualsocio-cultural Network. It was launched internationally in Asia in the year 2009. Disha caters to the vast Indian populace who have as a race and ethnic group eternally placed socio-spiritual-cultural values above everything else. For more information visit www.

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Indian-American Arrested for Bribing U.s. navy Bureaucrats

WASHINGTON (PTI): Anjan DuttaGupta, an eminent Indian-American from Georgia, with close connections in the ruling Democratic establishment in Washington, has been arrested by federal authorities on charges of bribing navy officials for allegedly seeking software contracts worth millions. The kickback scheme involved approximately $10 million of naval funds, US attorney Peter Neronha said. The scheme dates back more than 10 years and involved bogus and inflated invoices and work that was paid for but never performed, prosecutors said. Dutta-Gupta, 58, founder and president of Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow (ASFT), was arrested on Sunday in Atlanta by the US customs agents and turned over to FBI as he entered the country from a trip to Chile. Born and brought up in Kolkata, DuttaGupta, who arrived in the US in the mid-80s made an initial court appearance in Atlanta on Monday and was released on $25,000 unsecured bond. He was ordered to surrender his passport and asked to appear before a magistrate judge in US district in Providence on February 15, 2011. Along with him, US authorities have also charged one Ralph Mariano, 52, a civilian program manager and senior systems engineer with NAVSEA, on accepting kickbacks from him. NAVSEA is the largest of the Navy’s five system commands and accounts for nearly one quarter of the Navy’s entire budget. A criminal complaints and supporting affidavits unsealed in US district court in Providence alleges the two participated in a kickback and bribery scheme in which Dutta-Gupta funnelled approximately $10 million to Mariano, his relatives, and associates in return for Mariano’s role in the funding of Naval contracts to ASFT. With offices in Middletown, Rhode Is-

Anjan Dutta-Gupta founded ASFT in 1992 and has served as President and Chief Executive Officer and a Director of ASFT since its inception

land, and Roswell, Georgia, ASFT is a technology services company that provides systems engineering, product assurance, program support, integrated logistics services and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle development to the Navy. The majority of ASFT’s employees support Naval Undersea Warfare Center contracts and are located at its Rhode Island office in Middletown. According to the affidavit, approximately $13.5 million in funding from the Navy was sent by ASFT to a subcontractor, mostly for work that was not performed. “Unfortunately, as the complaint alleges, a Navy employee and a DoD contractor conspired to corrupt the DoD’s procurement system and personally profit from their scheme,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Ed Bradley, DCIS, Northeast Field Office.


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With the launch of XFINITY in the Greater Houston area, Comcast is re-branding its products and services to: XFINITY TV, XFINITY Voice and XFINITY Internet. With XFINITY, Comcast continues to evolve and innovate and bring new and enhanced cross-platform services including: • 43 New HD Channels: New High Definition channels will be added to the new channel line-up bringing the total to more than 100 HD channels offered • 34 New SD Channels: New Standard Definition channels will

XFINITY is the new brand for Comcast’s technology platform and products, marking a new era of innovation, entertainment and service for the company’s customers as the company transforms the customer experience by providing more choice, more convenience and more control for the customer over their entertainment, information and communication needs. Comcast is upgrading its television delivery to an all digital distribution and Comcast customers in the Woodlands and neighboring communities will be the first to have access to new XFINITY services, beginning this month. “By adding new HD channels and giving our customers Comcast XFINITY TV, Internet and Voice, Comcast continues to invest in Houston to bring the best in entertainment and communications services to our local customers,” said Doug Guthrie, senior vice president for the Comcast Houston Region. “Our digital enhancements throughout Houston will allow us to provide the top HD entertainment and the most innovative products and services.”

be added to the new channel lineup thanks to new digital technology upgrade • 25,000 New Video On Demand Choices: Comcast already provides far more video on demand choices than the competition • 3,000 New HD On Demand Choices: Comcast will expand its Video On Demand content to include 3,000 new digital video choices due to an increase in popularity of their VOD programming • Fancast XFINITY TV: With thousands of choices available online, at home or on the go. • Increased Internet Speeds: Currently offer fastest Internet access speeds (50 Mbps) in Houston and the upgrade will enable faster speeds (up to 100 Mbps) in the near future. • New converged and wireless features that let our customers’ TV, phone and Internet work seamlessly together in new and innovative ways In order to be able to offer XFINITY services, Comcast will move its standard/expanded basic channels to an all-digital format. The vast majority of Comcast custom-

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ers already subscribe to a digital level of service and have a digital cable box in the home. These customers will receive all of the XFINITY services automatically and at no additional cost. To help customers with the transition, the company has provided up to three pieces of digital equipment for impacted customers at no additional cost, enabling them to continue receiving existing channels along with new networks and the many other benefits of Comcast Digital TV. Customers can call 1-877-634-4434 or visit www. to get their free digital equipment and learn more about the upgrade. About Comcast Corporation Comcast Corporation is one of the nation’s leading providers of entertainment, information and communication products and services. With 22.9 million video customers, 16.7 million high-speed Internet customers, and 8.4 million Comcast Digital Voice customers, Comcast is principally involved in the development, management and operation of cable systems and in the delivery of programming content. Comcast’s content networks and investments include E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, Golf Channel, VERSUS, G4, PBS KIDS Sprout, TV One, 11 regional sports networks operated by Comcast Sports Group and Comcast Interactive Media, which develops and operates Comcast’s Internet businesses, including Comcast. net ( Comcast also has a majority ownership in Comcast-Spectacor, which owns two professional sports teams, the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team and the Philadelphia Flyers NHL hockey team, and a large, multipurpose arena in Philadelphia, the Wells Fargo Center, and, through Global Spectrum, manages other facilities for sporting events, concerts and other events.

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Best Teacher Award for r rajarajeshwary Bhat Rajarajeshwary Bhat of Swaralayam Arts forum has been chosen by the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana Committee for the Best teacher Award for the year 2011. Bhairavi Fine Arts Society and Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana presents the Best Teacher Award to an individual who has tirelessly promoted the Carnatic Music in the North American continent by teaching in the community and providing opportunities for aspiring Carnatic musicians to showcase their talents. Vidushi Rajarajeshwary joined Swaralayam Arts Forum , the first non-profit Institution promoting classical music in North America, as a permanent faculty member in 2004. Originally the faculty comprised of visiting artistes Vidushi Prema Hariharan and Vidwan Vittal Ramamurthy. The organization has grown from part-time summer teaching for two students in 1996 to over the century mark full-time at present. Rajarajeshwary’s unique approach to teaching techniques, theory and training of Carnatic music is noteworthy as she has introduced several innovative and ingenious methods of imparting the art to many young children. Her introduction of “Gruha Sangeetham” and “Tender Voices” provides incentive for students to master their lessons, inspiration to pursue the art to the next level and enthusiasm to share with family and friends in a traditional concert format by children. For the past 3 years she has presented “Tender Voices” at Children’s Museum of Houston. Similar to” Seasons of Sharing” for Painting and Art, a musical presentation is presented at the Houston Children’s Museum, under the banner of Swaralayam Arts forum. Bhat along with its founder Ravi Iyer initiated the most popular musical festival at the Children’s Museum. This brings together young children from many faiths celebrating six major festivals such as Diwali, Hanukkah, Ramzan, Los Posadas, Luna and Swedish New year with a musical that is presented with both Vocal and Violin accompaniment. A pioneering work ventured into by Smt. Rajarajeshwary Bhat who provides the notation for music to all the partic-

ipants which distinguishes and familiarizes the nuances of Carnatic Music to a wider audience. Bhat is also responsible for the notable Kaisika Dwadasi musical event that happens for the past three years at Sri Meenakshi temple in Pearland. She provides notations, learning CD of all the songs and practice sessions to all age groups two weeks before event. In a span of five years, Smt. Rajarajeshwary Bhat has carved a niche in the music community of Houston. Many of her students have won top notch prizes in the Music competition held both in Texas and Cleveland, Ohio. She was invited to judge several music competitions and very recently by the one held by Saptami foundation in Dallas. She was invited to judge music related Science projects presented at the CCISD District Science Fair for the past five years and also at The Science Engineering Fair of Houston (SEFH) that provides a unique and benefi-

cial science educational service to public and private junior and senior high school students. Bhat hails from a family of musicians. Her initial training was from her mother Smt. Krishnaveni and many stalwarts in music at the present times. She holds a Vidwat degree (Master’s degree) in Music from Karnataka government. She has performed for many fund-raising events for charity organizations and festivals. Smt. Bhat’s vision to spread Carnatic music across the globe and has instituted several innovative educational program. The Best Teacher Award will be presented by Bhairavi Fine Arts Society and Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana on April 23, 2011 at the felicitation function held in conjunction with 33rd Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival. It was first celebrated in 1978 and the largest in USA with more than 8,000 attendees from all over USA and several renowned musicians from India.

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An Evening Honoring

The Honorable James A. Baker III and Y. Ping Sun Honorary Chair

Nancy C. Allen Co-Chairs

Vijay and Marie Goradia | Albert and Anne Chao Thursday, March 24, 2011 Cocktails: 6:30 p.m. | Dinner: 7:30 p.m. Hilton-Americas Houston | 1600 Lamar | Houston, TX 77010 For ticket information, contact Sylvia LeBlanc Watkins, 713-439-0051 Ext. 16

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Arabian Delights: Foreign Firms are Farming in India

By Debarshi Dasgupta PUNE (Outlook): That Indian firms, some of them backed by the government, have gone scouting for land abroad to farm crops for consumption back home is wellknown. Reversing the trend, now many Gulf countries are getting a toehold in India that will allow them to farm here and export the food back. A Bahraini firm, the Nader & Ebrahim Group (NEG), recently tied up with Pune-based Sanghar Group to do exactly that. Countries in the Gulf region, extremely deficient on arable land, are looking abroad to grow their food. India is where many are headed. Beginning with bananas (India is the largest producer), Sanghar has contracted farmers to grow the crop on their land—a total of 400 acres in Maharashtra—under supervision for consumers in the Gulf, European and north African markets. So far, 2.6 million kilos have been exported. Keeping long-term objectives in mind, the two have also formed a 50:50 joint venture to form a group called Dana Fresh. The group later wants to cultivate pineapples, grapes, pomegranates and sugarcane (to be processed into sugar for export since India has banned export of sugarcane) and also rice. A partner in Sanghar, Jital Shah, stresses that they will abide by all the necessary rules that govern agricultural exports, especially when it comes

Foreign feeder? Our harvest, their food

to rice and sugar. “We are just doing bananas now. Rice and sugarcane are part of the bigger plan for later,” he adds. This scenario, where even important food crops are grown exclusively for foreign markets, has become plausible after Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, on a visit to Muscat last December, gave an interview to an Omani paper where he stated that India was open to the idea of Omani firms farming in India through domestic partners. “Indian law does not allow foreign companies to buy land so therefore Omani companies can enter into a contract farming relationship for producing the type of crop they want,” he told Times of Oman. Such an arrangement will also include rice, part of the staple

diet in Gulf countries. “We feel there is scope for bringing Omani investment into (India) for producing rice through the contract farming system,” Montek had added. But why promote this, especially now when prices of most food crops have hit the roof? Montek chose not to respond to an e-mailed questionnaire sent to him over 10 days ago. Shah, mean-

while, says better techniques introduced by NEG have helped increase yield from 27 tonnes per acre to about 30. But Shalini Bhutani, an agricultural researcher who has studied global ‘land grab’ deals, says such arrangements are more about “organised business development rather than rural development”. “This reduces farmers to being just bonded growers rather than people having food sovereignty. This also goes against what many of us have been arguing for—relocalisation of food production and distribution, which means consumption of locally grown food... which makes sense climatically and socially.” Critics also say foreign contrac-


tors are more interested in exploiting the “land to the hilt”. Devinder Sharma, an agricultural analyst, points out that such deals, whether for fruits and vegetables or for more important crops like rice and sugarcane, end up diverting land that should be used to reinforce India’s food security. He says Montek’s statement is “very dangerous”, allowing the “food pirates to come in”. But shouldn’t farmers have the choice to sell to the buyer who provides the highest price? Sure, says Sharma. “But in that case, we should be prepared to go back to the preGreen Revolution days of our ship-to-mouth existence. Are we ready for that?”

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Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011

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By Jagtar Singh Heir I squirm as I recall sitting as a hopeful candidate in the Medical School Dean’s office and uttering some banal recitation of how I wanted to help people as the reason for wanting to become a physician. So when this latent desire resurfaced as the news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti filtered in, I tentatively discussed with my wife, a passing thought of “going down there.” To my great surprise, everyone was fully supportive of it. However, my hospital, citing concerns of safety and poor logistics, was at first somewhat reluctant to let me go. Nevertheless, after some perseverance, and cutting through the bureaucratic red tape, I was allowed to go as long as I would be serving in a medical capacity. Immediately upon my arrival in Haiti, I realized that I had no concept of the magnitude of the devastation that had taken place in this impoverished nation. In fact, things were so much worse than I had imagined and it didn’t escape me that I was arriving nearly three weeks after the earthquake had already taken place. It is my belief, that natural disasters are somewhat arbitrary; as massive earthquakes and category IV hurricanes could and have devastated even my own country. However it is difficult for any na-


Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011

Haiti: Reminiscing One Year Later tion to respond to the magnitude of damage I witnessed, much less a nation with little or no infrastructure. As we disembarked on the lone runway on the Haitian airport, I was amazed by the kindness and courtesy that the immigration officers showed us. After the “random” scrutiny I had received from the Transportation Security Administration back in Florida when we took off, this courtesy was in stark but pleasant contrast. However, at the airport an aroma - all too familiar to me from the Operating Room in my hospital back home - overwhelmed me. Reluctantly, I asked one of the U.S. soldiers standing guard if that was the smell of burning flesh; he solemnly nodded. I later learned that for hygiene and sanitation reasons, the refuse was being burned and some of it included remains of animals. On my second night, I felt completely exhausted after finishing an extremely long and arduous day, when I unexpectedly ran into some fellow Sikhs. The bellows of “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh” from the vibrant Sikh brethren made

the highlights of Superbowl XLIV that I was trying to catch with some U.S. soldiers seem somewhat less interesting. These particular Sikhs were part of a Sikh-Canadian contingent of volunteers that had come to do seva. During my short stay in Haiti, the medical team of which I was a part performed nearly 300 cases, but some of them are etched in my mind as if they happened yesterday. One clear memory is the face of a brave boy who had suffered terribly. His hand had been trapped beneath rubble, and he had lost several fingers. I was trying to control his pain since the nerve block was wearing off. I tried my level best to hide my sorrow as I told him he only had two fingers left now and I would do all I could to control his pain. My wife, a psychiatrist, has often told me that most of the communication is non-verbal and this young lad clearly sensed the emotional toils I was going through. So half-crying and half-laughing, he told me: “At least I have two and I guess that is better than none.” Never mind the excruciating pain and the disfiguring injuries or even the consequent social stigma he will endure, here he was more concerned about my feelings and trying to mitigate my anguish. I could not find the words to express my disbelief in his stoic acceptance of bhana (His Will). What words of mine could offer this poor child any comfort or solace? So I simply leaned over and hugged him and conveniently hid my tears. There were numerous medical cases that I will always associate with Haiti. However, one of the fondest memories I have is of seeing Sikh soldiers as part of the UN peacekeeping forces in Port-auPrince. “Veer ji, veer ji!” cried out one of the Sikh soldiers, and suddenly Balkar Singh and I embraced as if we were long-lost brothers meeting again. The other physicians marveled at our newfound closeness for each other and they asked quizzically: “Do you know him?” How could I articulate the connection that Balkar Singh and I felt, the great joy he reveled in knowing that I could engage with him in “pendu” Punjabi and the immense pride I felt in seeing his bright and distinctive dastaar amongst all those blue UN helmets. He invited me to their base camp and I went there taking with me some of the Sikh-Canadian brethren. We were all so warmly received and I recall so clearly the delight the Sikh soldiers took in introducing us to their colleagues and officers. They explained that


it was a matter of pride to them that here they were, part of a small minority and yet with the Guru’s mehar, we were all here doing his seva. I believe Waheguru has blessed me in so many ways. Here I was that lost Huckleberry Finn, only I was from the pind of Bermalipur but today the good Lord had put me in the position to go on this medical trip. Having been afforded this extraordinary opportunity, I realize that when someone is sick, hurt, in pain or dying, a deep impulse of altruistic seva arises from within and that is exactly what is expected from a physician. However, the key ingredient for this to work has to be that of empathy. It is this empathy that allows the physician and patient to bond and start on the road to recovery. More importantly, this extraordinary experience taught me that patience is a virtue I have yet to master. It can be argued that we have a skewed view of healthcare, some may say even of life in general. Perhaps ... but the folks there are not asking for minimally invasive or robotic this or that surgery, but rather they are simply asking to get medical attention. Period. Having returned, and observed our daily routine at my home institution, I could not help but think about the tremendous medical waste Western hospitals produce. For a moment, just think about our carbon footprint versus the real essential equipment and supplies we actually need. Think about it. Do we really need all that stuff or is it simply a luxury we are afforded as result of where we are. I also learned a great deal about the resilience of the human spirit and the will to survive against staggering odds. I was on call that night when they brought in Evan Muncie who had been stuck under the rubble for 27 days; it was simply remarkable to witness his will to survive. Looking back, on this one-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, I can’t help but feel that many of those cases and experiences will remain indelibly itched in my mind for a lifetime. Although initially I had gone in with a foolhardy notion of wanting to help the Haitian people or do my part in “seva”, I can now say with certainty that it was I who received more from this extraordinary experience and it is for that reason I encourage everyone to get involved in some type of seva. The author, 34, has been a Cardiovascular Anesthesiologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for nearly five years, where he also serves as an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine. He trained at Yale University in New Haven, CT, U.S.A. His medical schooling was at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has been living in the U.S. for the past 27 years, after he moved from his pind Bermalipur in the heart of District Ludhiana (Punjab), where he was born.

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For Promoting Telugu Indian Culture

nATA: A new Indo-American nonprofit organization is Formed HOUSTON: NATA (North American Telugu Association) is a brand new non-profit national Telugu organization formed on November 20, 2010 at a grand meeting of like minded prominent Telugu people at Omni Hotel in Houston, Texas. Majority of founding members have served on various Telugu organizations including ATA (American Telugu Association) and hence acutely felt a need for a better and focused association to serve the Telugu communities across the US and Canada. The purpose of NATA is to serve the growing needs of thousands of people of Telugu origin living in North America. Membership is open to people of Telugu origin living across the globe. An estimated three lakh Telugu people are living in the US and Canada. The inaugural function and 1st Board meeting was conducted last month with a glittering gathering of hundreds of people from across the country. Under the auspicious guidance of highly prominent Telugu leaders of USA, Dr. Prem Reddy of Apple Valley, CA and Dr. Pailla Malla Reddy of Long Island, NY, Executive Committee, Board of Directors, Regional Vice Presidents, Regional Coordinators, Standing Committee Chairs and Convention team for 2012

NATA President AVN Reddy (center) with President-Elect Dr. Sanjeeva Reddy (left) and Media Chair, Dr. Samba Reddy.

were unanimously selected with the recommendations of Advisory Council. The NATA constitution and bylaws are approved unanimously in the general body meeting. NATA Executive Elections The Executive Committee for 2011-2012 comprised of: President: A.V.N. Reddy, PresidentElect: Sanjeeva T. Reddy, Executive Vice-President: Rajeshwar Gangasani Reddy, International Vice-President: Haranath Policherla, Secretary: Pradeep Samala, Treasurer: Ramasurya Reddy, Joint Secretary: Srinivas Reddy

Anugula, Joint Treasurer: ChinnaBabu Reddy. Dr. Samba Reddy is elected as Media Coordinator (press, publicity spokesperson). The core Advisory council comprised of: Dr. Prem Reddy, a health entrepreneur from California, Dr. Pailla Malla Reddy, a business leader from New York, Dr. M.S. Reddy, a food scientist-businessman, Arjun Reddy Dyapa, a pharmaceutical businessman, Dr. Mohan Mallam, a prominent Telugu leader at the national level. The Advisory council, Executive committee, and Members of NATA have resolved to promote

the unique and rich culture of Telugu Indian-American community by organizing biannual conventions, which are mega events to celebrate Telugu culture. Apart from serving the people of Telugu living in North America, NATA has identified several critical missions such as exchange programs for students, scientists, artists and professionals, and also to advance the heritage of the Telugu culture, sponsoring events that enrich and enlighten society, and extending support back home for educational, business and overall development of Andhra Pradesh and India. NATA plans to do various charitable, cultural, educational and public health activities this year and hopes to foster the developmental programs for schools, colleges, health centers, community centers and temples. NATA Foundation will facilitate the members to help the villages in India by

various means. In his remarks, Dr. Prem Reddy and Dr. Malla Reddy said that NATA functioning will be more open and transparent– in a fair and equitable manner than other organizations. President AVN Reddy said that a special committee will be formed to help new students coming to USA and advise them to take term life insurance and health insurance. A special committee of NATA is created to help the newly arrived people of Telugu origin to USA and Canada, said the Council member Arjun Reddy. NATA intends to do “Seva Days”, a new program for assisting the development of villages and towns back home in Andhra Pradesh, setting vaccination drives, health camps said AVN Reddy. For more information about NATA visit

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Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011


Another Successful Year of “Health for Humanity” Yogathon salutations over this two week period. Eleven year old Srimitha Srinivasan from Reading, MA performed 3,876 Sun Salutations! Among the older participants, 66-year-old Mrs. Saraswati Rao, compleded Surya Namaskars setting a wonderful example for younger adults as well as children. India’s Padmashree Award recipient and renowned neurosurgen Dr. Kamaljit Singh Madhav Shakha performing surya namaskar during the weekly gathering. HOUSTON: Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA, Inc. (HSS) concluded its Fifth Annual “Health for Humanity Yogathon” on January 30, 2011. During this two-week Yogathon, despite unusual wintry weather throughout the US, over 10,071 participants warmed themselves up with 984,481 repetitions of the yoga routine known as the Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskar, in 225 cities and towns from 40 states.. Not only did HSS volunteers actively par participate but also health-conscious people across the nation participated regardless of their race, religion, gender, ideology, ethnicity, and age.. Seventeen public schools from California to the heartland of America, 25 Universities, 14 Yoga Studios, and many Temples actively participated in this project. HSS launched the “Health for Humanity Yogathon”, also known as Surya Namaskar Yajna (SNY),as an annual event in 2007 to create awareness about yoga and its advantages in achieving a healthy body, mind, and spirit. The Surya Namaskar yoga routine integrates simple postures of well-balanced movements in ten steps with an easy breathing technique to provide immense health benefits for everyone from beginners to yoga enthusiasts. One of the first-time participants commented on his experience, “The cost to participate in this Yogathon is zero, but its health benefits are priceless!” Shekhar Agrwal of Patanjali Yogpeeth (USA) Trust, commented to IndianAmericans, “This country has given us wealth; let us all give the health to this country by promoting Surya Namaskar.” Stephen Knapp, Vedic Friends Association President shared his experience, “I certainly notice a difference in my health, especially my energy and stamina, plus it helps motivate me.” “When me and my family do Surya Namaskars together we are able to spend time together and take some time out of our busy lives. Additionally my grandfather has been

Paul encouraged and guided the Yogathon participants at the Gurudwara of Fox Valley in Menasha, Wisconsin. He outlined the benefits of Surya Namaskars as beyond just muscle development and said that this particular type of Yoga exercise helps to keep our internal organs such as brain, heart, and liver healthy and also helps in proper blood circulation. With the assistance from HSS volunteers, the women’s health program “GLOW”, at Valley Medical Center, Rental WA, intends to continue this as an everyday required exercise for their member participants. HSS Yogathon National Coordinator Praveen Dhir summed it up by stating, “It is a real achievement of this project that many par participants continue this exercise year round and spread the message to stay fit and shape up with their friends, family and the society”

doing Surya Namaskras and teaching yoga for a long time. He is 80 years old and today he is as fit as a young man. This gave me the motivation to do Surya Namaskars to ensure a good and healthy future.” said Nikita Zamwar, an 11th grader Mayors of Tampa FL, Milpitas, CA, Cuper Cupertino, CA, Normal IL, and Bloomington IL, declared “Health for Humanity” day and encouraged their constituents to participate in the locally held Yogathons. Famous for his health conscious agenda, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of the City of New York integrated this Yogathon with “Shape up New York” program and urged his city employees and residents alike to participate and receive the health benefits. Similarly, Judge Ed Emmett of Harris County, TX, the third largest county in the US, declared January 29th, 2011 as “Health for Humanity Day”. Child members of HSS Balagokulam and young adults eagerly wait for this Yogathon every year and take a challenge. Many children around age 10 perform 500 +



Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011

Go South

Having never travelled south of Mexico City or the Bahamas, I had the opportunity to spend a week recently in Brazil. While on a business trip, I was pleased to experience the diverse culture of the South American nation. Brazil has its blue blood descendents of the white Portugese, native Indian tribes and Black descendants of slaves imported from Africa to work the sugar cane fields during the last century. More recent immigrants have come from Europe and Japan during the post World War II era. While there are class and economic differences, the various communities appear to be living more harmoniously than elsewhere in the world. Both Brazil and India are members of the BRIC nations of emerging superpowers that also include Russia and China. Brazil’s economic strength comes from its tremendous agricultural sector and newly discovered offshore oil fields. India’s economic strength is derived from its manufacturing, IT and software industries. In both countries you have the ghettos in the form of zopadpattis and favelas adjacent to opulent high rises. Brazil doesn’t have immigrants from India, although I suspect that our Goanese would find a familiar culture. There are virtually no Indians on Brazilian streets, other than the expatriates working for oilfield service companies. I was heartened to find several senior production engineers of Indian origin working on an oil and gas production platform 290 km from the shore. While there is available cuisine of virtually every region in the world, in Brazilian cities, there is a distinct lack of Indian food and other types of Indian retail presence. I didn’t come across Sindhiowned jewellery shops that are common in the Caribbean. Herein lies the opportunity for enterprising Indians in the emerging country’s industrial and agricultural secotor as well as in retail to open restaurants, spice stores and fashion outlets, in partnership with Brazilian entrepreneurs.

Hard Times

The economic recession is continuing the affect the American economy. Houston is not immune from job losses and financial hardship that results from business slowdown. One of the unfortunate results of hard times is the increase in robberies against individuals on the street, homeowners and businesses, the latest being Karat 22 on Hillcroft. We’ve received anecdotal evidence that several homeowners have been robbed, including one at gunpoint. Of course, one of the most common targets of the petty criminals are convenience stores. Just a few months back, there occurred the murder of a prominent South Asian convenience store owner. South Asian homeowners are particularly vulnerable as even common thieves are aware that we are likely to keep valuable gold and diamond jewellery at home and most of us are not armed with shotguns or even handguns. We need to as indiduals and as a community to become more vigilant through these hard times. Pramod Kulkarni


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Still Old at Heart By Sagarika Ghose Is it fun to be young? Not really. The Hindustan Times-CNN-IBN Youth Survey, studying urban 18-25 year olds, shows that for 50%, the source of happiness is parents, more want to join government service more than any other profession, 60% have never had a girlfriend or boyfriend and romance is far down their list of priorities. For most, a good salary, rather than new challenges, is most important when choosing a career. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ But to be young was very heaven,” wrote William Wordsworth about the heady times of the French Revolution. But the 18-25 generation in 21st century India doesn’t want revolutions. Far from it. In fact they are highly risk averse, more politically right-wing than before, extremely socially conservative and disinclined to opt for rebellion. With such a shockingly conventional generation, where are the free thinkers, the adventurers, the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Bill Gates going to come from? The young’s relationship with their parents is conventional. Priyanka Todi and Nirupama Pathak may have chosen life partners in defiance of parents, Manoj and Babli may have defied the Kaithal khap panchayat, but the overwhelming majority of young want to marry and live according to their parents’ wishes. While this may be good news for those worried about the breakdown of the Indian family, in some ways it also shows that in spite of films like Udaan and Three Idiots that interrogate parental diktat on children’s destinies, questioning or challenging parents is simply not part of the mentality of today’s young. This is borne out in the unquestioning way that sons and daughters today meekly follow in the footsteps of their actor or politician parents or even in the fact that young men are prepared to murder their sisters if they step out of the family line. In return for this devotion, parents provide absolute protection. Even educated mothers dote on their children to such an extent that, a la Manu Sharma, they will even bend the law to protect the offspring who

Facebook and Twitter may have created the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt. But in India, Facebook and Twitter are dominated by young people openly pouring scorn on ‘pseudo-secular liberals’, minorities and the so-called ‘anti-nationals’. Young Indians proudly call themselves ‘nationalist’ without quite spelling out what their ‘nationalism’ means. has committed murder. How healthy is this fierce attachment of parent-child, of total protection in return for total devotion? Rich parents in metros are rearing a generation of cosseted spoilt brats who will touch the feet of their parents in ostentatious mock respect but recklessly flout the law on the street in a bout of drunk driving, confident that Dad and Mom will get them off any trouble with the law. The Indian family — India’s most prized institution — was once a classroom of good behaviour both inside and outside the home. Today it can sometimes become a cynical trap of wealth and power where children and parents are united by a common rather feudal pursuit of status and family success, unmindful of social responsibility, public good or a consciousness of being part of a wider social world Obedience and respect towards parents is wonderful. Yet, it is individuals who tackle the world independently and on their own terms, who intelligently question their parents’choices, who choose to venture into the world in a spirit of discovery, who are likely to become leaders, risk-takers and original thinkers. The young aren’t only incredibly family-minded, they are also extremely socially conservative. Over 70% disapprove of homosexuality and over 60% want marriage partners to be virgins. As for politics,

four times more young people prefer right-wing politics to left-wing politics. If two decades ago, the political centre of gravity of the young was with the Left, in 21st century India, the urban youth are firmly with the political right. This is not a surprising finding. Facebook and Twitter may have created the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt. But in India, Facebook and Twitter are dominated by young people openly pouring scorn on ‘pseudosecular liberals’, minorities and the socalled ‘anti-nationals’. Young Indians proudly call themselves ‘nationalist’ without quite spelling out what their ‘nationalism’ means. While economic reforms have created an optimistic belief in private enterprise, hardline attitudes to minorities and preference for a hard State spell doom for liberal democracy. So why are India’s urban youth conservative and politically rightwing? The perceived loss of culture due to globalisation could be a reason why Indian “culture” is aggressively asserted even as ‘global’ lifestyles sweep through the metros. If rituals and religious rites were once the activities of grandmothers, they are now being adopted by the youth as aggressive demonstrations of identity. No wonder marriage remains central to the youth’s dreams and giving birth to sons is the preferred option even in the upmarket social strata. There’s a great deal to be proud of in the youth survey too. In spite of their own attachment to family, India’s youth has chosen the selfmade Sachin Tendulkar and APJ Abdul Kalam over scions born into privileged ‘royal’ families. But the survey contains portents of the future. India in the next two generations will be powered by a majority of successoriented, deeply conservative citizens whose ambitions are narrowly focused on money and status. Poets, bohemians, rebels, intellectuals, dissenters, freethinkers, adventurers or even risk-taking entrepreneurs may become a vanishing breed. Sagarika Ghose is Deputy Editor, CNN-IBN.

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Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011

IIT-Bombay May Set Up Campus in New York

MUMBAI (TOI) : The Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay could soon have a second address — in New York. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has invited IIT-B to submit a proposal to set up a campus in the Big Apple for applied science courses. The Mumbai institute will fill a lacuna that the city’s five boroughs have had all these years — a world-class facility for applied science teaching and research with a strong bent towards applied engineering. A committee at IIT-B is firming up the institute’s pitch, which will be sent to NYCEDC by April. The host city will make a capital contribution, in addition to possibly providing land and other considerations. Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, director Devang Khakhar, who was invited by The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to consider setting up a campus

there, has said the concept is being explored. “Yes, we may start with something small there. My team is working on a feasibility plan of going to New York.” New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the city must optimize its business strengths. “The city is committed to finding the right partner and providing the support needed to establish such a facility because research in the fields of engineering, science and technology is creating the next generation of global business innovations that will propel our economy forward,” Bloomberg said. “New York City has all the ingredients to complement an applied science and engineering

hub—a highly educated global population, an unparalleled financial and business community to provide capital and support for new ventures and existing top-notch institutions performing cutting-edge research. We want to capitalize on those strengths.” Apart from inviting top institutes around the world to send in their offers, NYCEDC has also broadened its hunt by allowing institutes wanting a presence in NY to apply under this scheme. IIT-B’s dean (international relations) Subhasis Chaudhuri, said, “The proposal is at a rather nascent stage. But we are considering it very seriously.” NYCEDC, which has received responses from a select group of top schools from around the world bidding for the same project, is likely to assess all the expressions of interest in April and later work toward setting up the school in a year. Terming this as a “oncein-a-generation opportunity”, Bloomberg said, “The impact of this initiative will be extraordinary.”

LONDON: Britain’s move to abolish the visa that allows Indian and other non-EU students to take up employment in the UK for two years after the completion of their courses is likely to reduce the number of Indians coming here for MBA degrees, an industry body has said. The London-based Association of MBAs, which accredits business management courses in 70 countries, including the UK, said the proposed move was of ‘significant concern’, and would restrict enrolment of international students from India and elsewhere. In a speech last week, immigration minister Damian Green said that non-EU students could not be allowed unfettered access to the UK labour market amidst growing unemployment in Britain. He said: “The post study work route was intended to form a bridge between study and skilled work, allowing all international graduates to remain for two years after graduation... To allow unfettered access to the jobs market for two years to anyone with a student visa from abroad is putting an unnecessary extra strain on our own

graduates”. Noting that India and China are two of the UK’s biggest markets for international students, the association said in its response to the consultation on the student visa review that the UK must do all it can to remain competitive in the highly skilled business education sector. “Turning students away by restricting their access to post-study employment puts their reputations at stake and threatens future viability,” it said. The association said that MBA courses have high fees, and does not attract the type of migrants which the David Cameron government was seeking to deter from entering and abusing the student visa system. Moreover, MBA international students bring “a high level of income for UK universities at a time when they are struggling for funding”, the association said. In British universities, MBA tuition fees range from 10,000 pounds to 50,000 pounds per year. The Association of MBAs surveyed 47 accredited business schools in the UK in early January 2011. Of the 34 who responded,

97 per cent said that they believe continued restrictions on student visas are likely to impact their enrolment numbers in the future. Of these, 56 per cent said that the impact was highly likely. “This supports deep concerns voiced in focus groups among business schools that prospective students will look elsewhere to competitor countries including Canada, the United States and Australia”, it said. The association added: “The focus on student immigration and the blanket restriction of visas across the entire student population poses significant risks to UK’s ability to remain competitive in global education and business”. “We urge the government to recognise that there are different categories of international students”. Green’s proposed restrictive measures on the student visa system has already raised a welter of protest from the education sector. Professor Edward Acton, vicechancellor of the University of East Anglia, and a spokesman for Universities UK, said the government’s plans amounted to a ‘hostile act’.

UK Visa Curbs will Hit Indian MBA Students




Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011

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India Included

Nirmala Menon has helped corporate India work towards a policy of inclusion at the workplace As a child, she loved to dance but didn’t feel she was “pretty enough” to be a dancer. Today, as one of the pioneers of diversity management and inclusion solutions in corporate India, Nirmala Menon looks back at instances like these that have shaped her ability to connect and understand the tyranny of prejudices and their impact on people. “We often don’t take social conditioning seriously but it has a longlasting impact,” says Nirmala, who works with organisations to help them create an inclusive and enabling environment for their diverse employees. “The challenges of an increasingly diverse workforce cannot be ignored. People want to feel valued everywhere and in return promise you commitment. If not, you will have employees who will come in and do just enough to get by, helping neither themselves nor their organisations,” adds Nirmala who applies the same rule in her personal and work life. No one is blind to differences and certain personal attributes can automatically pull up socialised stereotypes, which then reflect in small, ordinary gestures, comments and behaviours that could make a person feel excluded or inadequate. At a cumulative level such instances can corrode any environment. “People carry these slights within them and it shows up in their work interpersonal relations and productivity,” she says. Having spent 25 years in the Human Resources field, she knows that

Nirmala Menon. Photo: Special Arrangement

hiring people is easy – the money, the brand name and good policies can do the trick, but a long-term relationship solicits a truly inclusive work culture. Nirmala today helps organisations and employees break free of self-imposed social shackles, to understand their responsibilities in ensuring a fair, safe and inclusive workplace, where all employees have equal access to growth and opportunity. “The era of nurturing only a ‘certain kind’ of people is not sustainable anymore. The war for talent is intense and unless organisations are welcoming of and sensitive to the needs of a diverse workforce, its quest to attract and harness the right talent will not be successful,” she tells us. Breaking free of social conditioning is something Nirmala has done

most of her adult life. Coming from a typical traditional south Indian family, she was the first girl in her family who stepped out of home to study at the prestigious XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur. She went on from there to complete her masters from Temple University in Philadelphia — a decision she and her family had to defend when everyone her age was expected to get married and settle down. It was at Temple University, where she first heard of ‘diversity’, when a professor at the University invited her to be a part of his team working on ‘inclusion’. Her

cultural background, gender and immigrant experience were interesting aspects that helped her gain a firsthand understanding of the value of diversity and inclusiveness. Later, as a part of India’s growing IT corporate workforce at IBM, Nirmala had the chance to learn the tenets of diversity and inclusion.And all this was after she had taken a break to start a family. She values this experience tremendously, as the learning garnered helped her address the needs of the increasing number of women and returning mothers. Nirmala helps organisations become more inclusive and “enabling” for women. Men benefit just as much from these family friendly policies, she claims. “In

fact, if we can encourage our men to participate and contribute more at their homes, it will free up some of the ‘socialised’ pressures women feel in pursuing their careers. To get more women at work, we need more men to do more at home!” From the business point of view, initiatives in diversity and inclusion are not going to be a choice but necessary and key differentiators. And why not, for 10 years ago, most organisations thought it was impossible for anyone to work from home — today, is it becoming a norm for organisations to offer flexibility. Change in corporate India is certainly here to stay and women like Nirmala are charting out new roads every day.




Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011


In City’s Teeming Heart, a Place to Gaze and Graze

By Jim yardley KOLKATA (NYT): It is not precisely clear when, how or by whom it was decided that goats could graze in the heart of the Old City here. One local historian traces the decision back nearly three centuries, to the early days of the British East India Company. A different explanation says the goats were liberated to graze when India was liberated from Britain in 1947. Not in dispute is the obvious fact: in the middle of this city of 15 million people, the goats are still grazing. Right beside the mules. Not far from the white dome of the memorial built to Queen Victoria during the Raj. Or from the Pakistani tank that stands as a trophy from the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. Or from the statues of a British viceroy, a Hindu spiritualist, a Bengali social reformer and an Indian soccer star, among others. Yet perhaps the oddest feature in this quintessentially Kolkatan tableau is what unexpectedly dominates on many mornings in one of the world’s most clamorous cities: silence. There are only the occasional shouts in Hindi or Bengali of herders driving their goats. Or, on a recent morning, of Hindu devotional songs floating out of the open windows of a gold-colored sedan weaving down an empty street as a man in the driver’s seat stretched both arms out the window, blissfully, rhythmically waving, as if in a trance. “He comes every day,” said Mohamed Azad, a herder. Whoever he is, he is not alone. Few cities are more synonymous with the messy crush of humanity than Kolkata, which about a decade ago changed its name, if not its identity, from the old British assignation of Calcutta. And yet Kolkata, too, needs a place for people to breathe, to run and to stare at an open blue sky. So like the goats and the mules, they come to the grassy pasture in the heart of the city known as the Maidan. To the uninitiated eye, the Maidan is just a park. To Kolkata, it is the “lungs of the city,” a recharge zone for the soul. The problem, of course, is that there are a lot of souls in Kolkata and relatively few other open spaces for them to go. The Maidan, like the city around it, exists in a perpetual state of siege with humanity. The morning silence is quickly overwhelmed by the assault of daily life. On weekdays or weekends, thousands upon thousands of people play soccer or cricket or just walk. Or picnic or hold weddings or discussions. Yet the people also burn garbage or encroach on the Maidan by building illegal structures. Electioneering also presents a problem. Political season is just under way, with critical state elections coming, and rallies are known to draw anywhere from 100,000 people to as many as one million. Periodic efforts to ban rallies from the Maidan have brought mixed results. “Every big rally takes place there, every year,” said FaiyazAhmad Khan, who super supervised the Maidan for the city government until 2009. “You can’t even see the grass. You can only see the black grass — the color of people’s hair.” Given the pressures on the Maidan,

Children at an improvised stable in the Maidan, which serves as both a park and a pasture in the heart of bustling Kolkata. Photo: Sami Siva for The New York Times

it might seem fitting that the park’s custodian is the Indian Army, whose Eastern Command now inhabits Fort William, the former British military garrison in the heart of the park. The British built Fort William in the 1750s, after a Mughal prince overran the city’s previous fortifications. A star-shaped structure erected on the banks of the Hooghly River, Fort William dominated the city; fearing another possible assault, the British cleared a swath of jungle so soldiers would have unimpeded sight lines on approaching attackers. Yet as the British became more confident of their position, the space was planted and public access was granted, if restricted. When India became independent, the British Army handed over the keys of Fort William, and the Maidan, to their Indian counterparts. Depending on one’s perspective, this was a mixed blessing for the Indian Army. “It is a state of mind,” Col. Debasish Mitra said. “If you feel it is a headache, it is a headache. If you feel it is a pleasure, it is a pleasure.” A few years ago, Colonel Mitra was stationed on the Pakistani border, one of the more sensitive military postings in India. Then he was transferred back to his hometown, Kolkata, and placed in charge of the Maidan. Asked which job was more difficult, he smiled. He spent a year learning the overlapping laws, regulations and court judgments related to the Maidan. He estimated that every day about 20 people show up with grievances, suggestions or requests to rent space for a wedding or some other event. Inside an Army administration building, Colonel Mitra unfurled a satellite photograph of the Maidan’s 1,400 acres. Much of the land, roughly 900 acres, is dedicated to Fort William and is off limits to the public. (In military parlance, this is the Green Zone.) Then there is a small area

(the Yellow Zone) that houses the state’s High Court and legislative assembly building. Seventeen acres (the Red Zone) are the ground of the Victoria Memorial. Which leaves the Blue Zone, known to civilians as the grassy pasture of the Maidan. “The Blue Zone is open 24 hours a day,” Colonel Mitra said. “The Army is the custodian. We are here to facilitate access.” Without saying so directly, Colonel Mitra made it clear that his biggest headaches came from people more than animals. Herders pay the city police an annual fee for grazing rights and drive the animals through the streets to reach the pasture in the early mornings. (Mr. Khan, the former city official, equated the goats with lawn maintenance.) Asked if any linguistic problems arose with the animals in a city where residents speak Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, English and other languages, one herder seemed baffled by the question. “They are animals,” he said in Hindi. “If you speak to them in Hindi, they will understand Hindi. If you speak to them in Bengali, they understand Bengali.” The mules and horses, about 100 in number, mostly work pulling tourist buggies at the Victoria Memorial while grazing and living inside the pasture, some tethered, some not. Some are descendants of mules that worked around the Maidan during the Raj. Occasionally, a mule wanders into the maw of traf traffic, but most intuitively understand to remain inside, as if an unseen boundary surrounded the park. People have a harder time with boundaries. “There is always encroachment of the rules,” Colonel Mitra said. “So I act as a watchman. I have people spread all over the Maidan. I have some intelligence sources.” It is the ongoing battle of a crowded city where sometimes just an ordinary day can seem like a battle: the search for silence, for an open sky, for a day in the park.

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Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011


online edition:

Creating Memories on a Stove: Women Chefs in Goa

By Aimee Ginsberg LOS ANGELES (Outlook): Recently, at a working-class dhaba in Los Angeles called Taste of India, I ended up talking to the Punjabi cook about being homesick. “My husband only cares about the business,” she said, “but when I cook, I don’t have business in mind, really. What I like is giving the Americans a chance to love our Indian food. Better than that, I love giving the Indians here a chance to feel connected to home. Everything here is so different, every little thing, but when these guys bite into our famous bharta and bhuna gosht, they forget how far away they are from home.” I asked her how long she had been in LA. “Twentyeight years,” she answered. Isn’t this home, then, I asked. “Well, you know how it is,” she answered, pouring us another chai. I have met her mirror image, four mirror images, back home in India, Bardez, in north Goa. These four women—Elizabeth Sall of the Lila Cafe, Mariketty Grana of Thalassa, Yogini Rammacher of Villa Blanche, and Kornelia Santoro, who has just published a Mediterranean cookbook called Kornelia’s Kitchen—are among the most successful on the food scene in Goa, although there is nothing trendy, edgy, or PR-driven about what they serve their rainbow coalition guests. These women, all settled in Goa for years, are feeding their patrons food from their past, steeped in memories of the homes they’ve left behind. And yet, their

kitchens reflect their present in every way—be it the coconut trees swaying above the tables, the produce from the local markets and fresh fish from the local waters, or the bhajans playing while they cook. This is food that bridges their two worlds, and the two worlds of many of their customers. But what has changed drastically over the years is the great number of desi customers who want to walk over this bridge as well. “Oh, how lovely!” sighed the woman at the table next to me at Lila Cafe, Goa’s premier continental cafe, as she bit into her buttered croissant. Elizabeth, owner and proprietor (with husband Ingo) of the cafe, located on the banks of the Baga River, is pleased. “I love it when our food makes people feel comfortable in their own skin,” she says. “That’s what I wanted to achieve.” Elizabeth, in her signature elegant-bohemian attire, is the professed inspiration of many cafe owners in Goa. It has been over 30 years since she and Ingo started serving German and European food to the first wave of foreign travellers, many of whom almost wept in relief after months of constant fire on the tongue. “We were working in crazy conditions then, ya?” she smiles. “We were cooking on kerosene, we had hardly any ingredients to work with, we had to bring in blocks of ice to keep things cold.” Now the kitchen at Lila Cafe, gleaming in stainless steel and smooth surfaces, sets out German dishes like beef roast with dumplings, spatzle, fresh

Yogini Rammacher, Villa Blanche, famous for her Sunday brunch and cakes

salads and great desserts. The cafe, which recently won a food award, is on the must-do list of many travellers, and these days NRIs and visitors from Delhi, the Bollywood stars and tycoons (read Vijay Mallya) often outnumber the foreigners. “If I had been doing this only for business, I would have failed,” says Elizabeth, an ex-nurse from Germany, before she flies off to attend to a detail, the reins of her ship tightly wound in her manicured hands.

“I have been wondering what it is about so-called comfort food that has made it so important lately, essential even,” says Kornelia. “In these days of constant change and tension about the future, and with the fast pace that has now taken over much of India, people are going back to, and holding on to, real food, slow food, as a way to stay grounded and connected to what is important in life.” People are also talking about Kornelia’s book, subtitled Mediterranean Cooking For the Indian, and the former political journalist, who biked through India on a Harley, before marrying her Italian husband and settling down in Goa, has started teaching cooking classes in her lovely home in the village of Sangolda. The recipes in her book, and her companion website, highlight simple, healthy, yet delicious family food that can be made almost entirely with ingredients available from a basic food grocer in India. “So many people in India are now really into food other than what we call ‘Indian food’. That has really changed since I first arrived, and makes it easier to live here,” she says. “Ya, I used to say I would never consider living in India because I could not find pasta in the shops. And I wasn’t joking!” Yogini Rammacher smiles as she sips a glass of iced coffee with vanilla ice cream, while I enjoy her elderberry spritzer, served in a tall glass. We are in Villa Blanche, her pretty garden cafe, a favourite of the yoga crowd and genteel Delhiites settled in Goa. “For years I kept returning to India because spiritually, I craved being here, but could never stay too long,” says Yogini (she prefers to be known only by her Indian name), who used to run a fashion business in Europe. “Then, suddenly, Barilla pasta and olive oil could be found everywhere and I knew my time had come.” At her famous Sunday brunch, Yogini serves a startling array of dishes, each unique and perfectly seasoned, but she is best known for her scrump-

tious cakes. “Baking is our initiation into womanhood,” says Yogini, who has been baking since she was 10, in her native Germany. On a recent Sunday, a page-three crowd was clearly thrilled with the mix of great food and magical ambience she was able to create. Popular as Villa Blanche is, the place to eat in Goa these days is Mariketty’s Thalassa Greek Tavern. It is the place to go in a first date, or with an important client who has just flown in. Up on the cliffs overlooking Vagator beach, Thalassa serves abundant portions of expertly cooked Greek favourites, with the turquoise ocean below, and the clear sky a perfect backdrop to the great food. Mariketty, a zesty native of Corfu, used to sell souvlaki, pita wrapped around meats with piquant sauces, in Goa’s tourist markets for years but, at her customers’ insistence, Thalassa was born three years ago to critical acclaim, and Mariketty has now arrived. “Indians have a very strong connection to Greece,” she says modestly after a customer thanks her profusely for transporting her back to her Greek honeymoon. “Besides, I adore feeding people. That’s why my portions are so big.” Mariketty, like the other three women, says she never intended to move to India and that fate or God brought her here. They all stayed on to cook, and to feed, but much as they enjoy that, it seems to be a bittersweet love. “I always remember I am a guest here,” says Elizabeth, after more than half a life spent in India. “With the visa laws always changing and the term ‘foreigner’ slow to die, it is hard to feel settled,” says Yogini. And when Mariketty talks about her deep love of India but also of constantly missing her family back home in Corfu, I ask: after all these years, isn’t this home, then? She looks out westwards, past the horizon of the shimmering sea below. “You know how it is,” she answers, and we quietly down our goblets of fruity white wine.


online edition:


Five Tips for Your Better Financial Future

By Jimmy Abraham What is the sign of a good decision?SM It’s assessing and then addressing what is most important to your family and its financial future. If you are like many Americans, the recent economic downturn has thrown your family budget for a loop. Many have readjusted their spending habits to such an extent that there is now a new normal. For example, they no longer shop as much as or where they used to; they may indulge in a staycation, rather than a true getaway; and items that were previously considered to be necessities have been relegated to the “can’t afford” or “not needed” category. If you think these are temporary changes, think again. Many economic analysts feel that these new attitudes are here to stay. Your personal economy You probably know someone who has been laid off or personally impacted by these challenging economic times. And even if you have been fortunate enough to remain employed, you may have been affected by the fallout from declining retirement plan balances. And, similar to the changing financial attitudes that resulted from Great Depression, the difficult times resulting from what many now call the Great Recession have forced many families to take a step back and take a long, hard look at their finances—and where they want to be financially in the future.

Tips to help improve your economic future Here are some tips to help you take stock of your overall economic picture, with actionable steps designed to help improve your long-term financial security. Tip #1: Determine what is really important. Take stock of what is really important to you and your family—is the newest electronic game system or cell phone more important than creating a secure financial future? Start by developing your family’s mission statement. This is easier than it sounds: Simply write out what is important to you as a group. Be sure to include what your long- and shortterm goals are, and what you are willing to give up in order to make those goals a reality. Don’t forget that along the way, you may still want to decide what little luxuries your entire family can enjoy (like a video game system) that you want to keep in your budget – since these can help you feel less deprived and even save you money (by keeping you from going out to first-run movies, for example). Tip #2: Cut back, even if it hurts (a little). Figuring out what is most important to your family from a financial perspective is a smart move –and a good decision for your long-term financial security. Making even small sacrifices in your spending can help you meet your goals. Look carefully at how you and your family members spend your money so you can identify where you can make small changes to cut back on non-essential expenditures. And don’t overlook the bigger-ticket items you pay for every month, such as your cable TV/ Internet subscriptions and car insurance. Making minor adjustments to these items can free up more dollars than you might imagine, and play a significant role in helping you fund your family’s long-term financial goals. Tip #3: Become a dedicated saver.

If you are like many families, trying to juggle financial priorities can make saving extremely difficult in tough economic times. Successful savers use the concept of paying themselves first whenever they receive a paycheck. Over time, adopting that one smart move can help you reach your financial goal of saving for a car, a vacation, or whatever is a priority for your family. It’s the sign of a good long-term decision. To help make it easier, check with your employer to see if you can have part of your pay automatically deposited into one or more savings accounts. It can make saving automatic—and nearly painless. Tip #4: Run your numbers. Do you know if you are on track with your current disability coverage, life insurance, and retirement savings plan(s)? In other words, will these important items provide you and your family with the amount of financial protection you’ll need – when needed? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Take a checkpoint now

Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011


Advertorial to assess their adequacy and make the appropriate adjustments. Taking the right steps today can help to ensure a better financial future for both you and your loved ones. Tip #5: Get the help you need. When it comes to Tips 1 through 4, you may feel you need some assistance. Whether you need help in just one area or all four, start looking at your future through a new lens – one that has your family’s financial goals in focus, with a plan to help you get there. Contact a financial professional to discuss ways they can help you

put these tips into action—and your financial dreams on track. Jimmy Abraham is a financial representative with Strategic Financial Group, LLP, a MassMutual agency who represents Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and other companies, courtesy of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) © 2010 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. CRN201205-133776


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Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011


online edition:

If You Are Not Enjoying the Ride - Then Get Off the Bus Life is too short to be wasted doing things you don’t enjoy. Doing what you enjoy offers you your best chance of success

By Prakash Iyer IF you find yourself stuck in a job you hate, and if wealth and fame look like distant dreams, you should hear the story of a woman called Gail Kelly. It’s quite a fascinating story. Gail is a 54-year old South African who has risen to become the CEO of Australia’s largest Bank – Westpac. She is one of the wealthiest people in Australia today. But it wasn’t always like this. Born in 1956, Gail had an ordinary upbringing, culminating in a degree in Arts. At 21, she got married to her college sweetheart, and when his work took him away to Zimbabwe, she moved too. They came back a year later and Gail took up a job as a teacher in a government school. All she remembers from those days was the bunch of difficult students she had to manage.

She vividly recalls getting angry with a kid who had left his jersey inside a sports room she had just locked up. “I felt ashamed of myself for screaming at the little kid. I was allowing my unhappiness to affect who I was!” Next day, as she sat in the school bus, she wished the school didn’t exist. She hated the thought of going back to school. She decided she must do something. And she did. She got off the bus And that was the turning point in her life. She applied for and got a job as a teller in a bank. She did well, and soon got promoted into a role in HR. Some years later, at age 30, and pregnant with her first child, she enrolled for an MBA. After completing that, she went back to work for the same bank, and her career continued to zoom. She was soon pregnant again – and was surprised to discover that she was carrying triplets.

Five months after the birth of her threesome, she was back at work. Back to doing what she enjoyed doing. To provide for a better future for their children, Gail and her husband decided to migrate to Australia – at the age of 41. She went to work for a bank there. And the rest as they say is history. Gail credits her success in life to a lot of things: Passion. Hard work. Her MBA degree. A supportive husband. Fabulous teams. But most of all, she knows that none of this would have been possible if she had not decided to quit her teaching job and ‘get off the bus’ that fateful day in South Africa. Gail’s story could be yours too. Even a school teacher can become the CEO of the country’s largest bank. Just do what you enjoy. Work hard. Believe in yourself. And don’t allow excuses (no MBA, need to bring up kids, moving locations) to interfere with your progress. So what’s Gail’s message for her employees – and for all of us? It’s simple. If you are not enjoying the ride – get off the bus. There might

be more fulfilling careers waiting for you. Too many of us spend all our lives in jobs we hate. We hate every minute of it, we complain, we show our bitterness, it affects our performance – and yet we don’t do anything to change things. We lack the courage to call it quits. We hesitate to get off the bus. Life is too short to be wasted doing things you don’t enjoy. Doing what you enjoy offers you your best chance of success. It also gives you the strength to overcome all odds – like it did with Gail. And it’s never, never too late to get off the bus! So if you are not enjoying what you are doing, do a Gail Kelly. Take the first step. Get off the bus!




Indo American News • Friday, February 11, 2011


Barefoot With Different Abilities

Society mostly sees what ‘disabled’ persons can’t do, not what they can nor what they will be able to, if only we help them realise their potential and lead a fulfilled life…

For them, the world is beyond reach. The most ordinary of aspirations — to enter school, work in the fields, go out to worship, get married, the prosaic ingredients of even the most humble person’s workaday life cycle — are denied to them. Despite profound and consistent denial of their human rights, an estimated 50 million men, women and children with disabilities have remained on the outer periphery of both public policy and social action in India. Hidden away behind the walls of homes and institutions, they are most frequently victims of extreme social prejudice and ostracism, even as they struggle to achieve their potential of a fulfilled, dignified and useful life. More than any other large dispossessed social groups, people with disabilities are invisible: in political agendas, in human rights struggles, in development strategies, in social science research. But even more strikingly, rarely do we encounter disabled people in schools, farms, factories, playgrounds, cinemas, streets, mar markets, temples, mosques, churches, in family celebrations. We know almost nothing about the existential experience of persons, and even less about women and girls, who live with disabilities in the countryside. What life is like for them really, how do they cope, what do they suffer, what are their dreams? I recall some years ago being associated with a group of mainly disabled researchers, who sought answers to questions like these in a sample of villages in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. Huge barriers One striking finding of our investigations was of the nearly insurmountable physical and social barriers that people with disabilities confront in accessing public spaces and common proper properties. Gaps in village infrastructure like roads, drinking water sources and school buildings disproportionately constrain people with disabilities. Temples are built on hill-tops, and degraded forests require people with disabilities to walk longer than is physically feasible for them to gather fuel and food. Graver are social attitudes, of shame and ridicule, beginning often within the family, which further immobilise people with disabilities. The result is a sense of isolation, dependency and pervasive low self-esteem, which we encountered widely amongst people with disabilities. They felt humiliated by their sense of dependency for sometimes even the simplest acts of daily living, like bathing, eating, and attending nature’s call. On many occasions, we found in impoverished homes, all care-givers had to go out for wage work, and severely disabled people forced to remain without food

An uphill task: How disabled-friendly are our public places? Photo: K.K. Mustafah

and care for the entire working day. There was profound denial of schooling to children with disabilities. We could not locate a single teacher trained in working with children with disabilities, or special teaching aids; there were no ramps in any rural school. For disabled children of impoverished rural parents — agricultural workers and small farmers — the chances of going to school, and remaining within it, are especially low. Where mothers have to do wage work to sustain the family, they cannot take the child to school. Girls are more burdened than boys, because they have to look after the household work, and take care of their younger siblings. We consistently found, ironically, that disability was no barrier only to the conventional domestic duties of house-work of girls and women. Aids and appliances as well as correctional surgery can do a lot to assist a person with disability to overcome the constraints imposed by her biological condition. But even low-cost appliances are beyond the reach of most rural people with disabilities. We could not find medical records of even a single person with disabilities who underwent corrective surgery or modern medical interventions to reverse or improve their condition. We found that a third or more of people with disability who were in the working age-group had absolutely no opportunity to work and they were fully dependent on the members of their family. These included persons with leprosy, visual impairment, and severe mental and mul-

tiple handicaps. Although most of these persons were capable of productive work, their families and the larger community regarded them to be incapable. Those who could find work had lowend employment, uncertain, barely averaging 7 to 10 days a month, with paltry wages. But even this low-wage employment was available only when other workers were not available, or in peak agricultural periods. Even such employment was highest for persons with physical disabilities, whereas other disabled peoples like those hearing impaired were considered unsuitable because of difficulties in communicating work demands. Low and uncertain incomes mean that many people with disabilities and members of their family routinely live with hunger. Even the coping mechanism of seasonal distress migration is usually barred to such people. In the survey, we encountered very few people with disabilities who received any kind of disability pension, or food aid, to protect them through seasons of hunger. The situation is even more tenuous for old persons with disabilities who lack younger care-givers. Most vulnerable We found the highest, frequently tragic, levels of vulnerability and social exclusion among rural women with disabilities. Most were forced to marry in highly unequal situations, as second wives to older men, widowers or divorced men. Many reported that they were treated mainly as unpaid domestic labour and sexual objects, and suffered high levels of physical and psycho-

logical domestic abuse, sometimes desertion. Girls with disabilities, particularly those who are mentally challenged, were found to suf suffer from routine sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancies. Traditionally, the most positive response that society has been able to muster towards the disabled has been pity, reducing them to passive objects of our charity. However, interventions based on a philosophy of charity, however well-meaning, not only rob the disabled of their dignity, self-esteem and self-confidence, but also perpetuate their dependence and obstruct the possibilities of their achieving a life of selfrespect and relative self-reliance. They also reinforce further prejudice in society about disability and the disabled. In all work for the rights of disabled persons, it is important first of all to remember that people with disabilities are full individual human beings just like anyone else with independent per personalities, dreams, aspirations, interests, skills and potential. They have the right, as well as the potential, to lead fulfilled, productive and happy lives with dignity and relative self-reliance, just as much as anyone else. The success of our interventions should be judged by the yardstick by which these potentials are actually realised. Further, whereas institutions are important as specialised resource centres, they should not be instruments to confine or segregate the disabled; instead the striving should be for the full social, economic, educational and cultural integration of the disabled in the wider society. The reason why disabled persons are often denied this potential of achieving a full life of dignity is not related so much to the limitations of their disabilities, as to the way that society views and treats the disabled. We see only what they cannot do, not what they can do and even more importantly what they might be able to do. We offer them only our ignorance, prejudice, revulsion and rejection, and consciously or tacitly place insurmountable economic, social, architectural, educational, legal, transport, cultural, health and other barriers to their achieving a fulfilled life with their full potential. This is why most disabled people experience humiliation, segregation and indignity throughout their lives. Shrouded from our collective view and conscience, they somehow live out their lives, surviving, but only just, most often at the precipice of despair. It is only when they organise into a social and political collective of voice and assertion that an uncaring state and society will finally be forced to act. There are many examples of hope from across the country that disabled people are themselves ending their long exile from hope.

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