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Friday, February 22 2013 | Vol. 32, No. 8

Indo American erican News

RAHAT & ADNAN TO ROCK HOUSTON Published weekly from Houston, TX

7457 Harwin Dr, Suite 262, Houston, TX 77036 713.789.NEWS (6397) • Fax: 713.789.6399 •

APRIL 20, 2013

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Russell Peters performed at Bayou Music Center on Friday, February 15 as a part of his new show, “Notorius World Tour 2013”. The highlights of his show were impromptu dialogues with the audience and playing out various cultural caricatures.


Hardeep Singh Helps Max Healthcare Set up EHR

Special 26 Movie Review



Guests after dinner at the home of Mahinder and Hardip Singh.

IAPAC on the Floor of the Texas Legislature




February 22, 2013



February 22, 2013


If You Sit in the Front Seats, You Just Have to Play Along with Russell Peters !

BY JAWAHAR MALHOTRA HOUSTON: Was he stalling? Or was he just fishing around for a lead that would send him off on a comedic wild goose chase that would end in another witty climax? After the fourth time, you understood that Russell Peters’ mind was multitasking – making the chit-chat work so that he could associate some dots from his treasure chest of escapades. So maybe he had some pieces that he had used before, like the whole bit on Arabs and their inability to say “No” to anything or being directed in the Amman Mall in Jordan to the escalator – “straight ... then left … then right” only to find himself facing a bored security guard who sent him back the same way - “straight ... then left … then right”. He did it in his best Arabic accent with wideeyed facial expressions to match. Peters used the first three rows of people as fodder for his associations, and though many played along and took it goodnaturedly, his barbs could sting, as was evident from the video that was projected on the two large screens a t the Bayou Music Center (the former Verizon Center) on Texas and Smith downtown. He was the headliner for the show, part of his 2013 Notorious World Tour, that took place last Friday, February 15. As was the case when Peters tore into the woman who started to text, a strict no-no at these shows. He turned his attention to a white Texan couple, then a black man in a wheelchair, the really dark South Indian who confessed to having a tattoo (“like really? I mean, did you do it in fluorescent ink?”) and the young guy who volunteered he was from Pakistan (“you mean India?’). His observations weren’t mean, just cynical, and built

South Asians, the majority of whom were young, chic, jeans clad (not a desi outfit among them) out-on-the-town types whom you seldom see at the more sedate community functions around town. For a moment there, Houston became an intense melting pot of open-minded liberalism that forgave the city its geographical location. After the backup music from DJ Spinibad, the bald-headed, up and coming comedian George Perez was the opening act for the night. His routine was built up on the L.A., Hispanic experience, much in the

Comedian George Perez was the opening act for the night.

up to the point of caricature. But the audience in the jam-packed auditorium (capacity 2,400) had come for the brand of comedy that Peters is internationally known for – the diverse, multiracial experience of a GenerX product of firstgeneration immigrants – which reflected the mix of the people who came to see and hear him. He pitched it perfectly down to the imitations of Trinidadians, Brazilians, Latinos, Anglos and Indians along with the heavy sprinkling of adult, pantomimed humor that is a staple of the standup comedy circuit.

same w a y t h a t Peters harkened to his Indian roots. Perez warned up the audience for twenty minutes with his street smarts humor before Peters strode onstage. Peters was born in Brampton, a subu r b

of Toronto, Canada into a South Indian family although for the past seven years he has lived in Los Angeles. He is the best known South Asian comedian among the growing band like Asif Ansari, Paul Vargehese, Daniel Ninan, Raj Desai, Rajiv Satyal, Samson Koletkar, Danny Bhoy, Vir Das, Aparna Nancherla, Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, Raj Sharma, Jay Mandyam, Kabeezy, Anu Kalra, Amod Vaze, Nikki Chawla, Rahul Siddharth, Tarun Shetty, Akaash Singh, Abhay Nadkarni, Paul Singh, Paul Chowdhry, Shaun Majumder and Aman Ali. And Peters often turns back to his childhood, growing up in Brampton and his late dad for inspiration, like in the incident when he had to make a right turn. “I mean, I asked him, ‘Dad did you MAKE the turn?” Peters went on into it. Or when he pointed with all the fingers of his right hand to his forehead and mimicked in a thick Indian accent and eyes bulging, “It’s going to explode! Its going to all come out!!” explaining his dad’s exasperation with a trifle. The desis roared with glee as they related to the situation.

The audience was easily made up of over 60%



February 22, 2013



February 22, 2013


Slain Houston Cell Phone Store Owner Identified

BY ANITA HASSAN (Houston Chronicle) Hamid Waraich had never experienced any violent crime at his southeast Houston cellphone store. In the few years the 53-year-old father of three owned the business, his son, Omar Waraich, could only recall one incident - a burglary that didn’t happen during business hours and in which no one was hurt. But this past Monday afternoon, two masked robbers wearing hooded sweatshirts, at least one of them armed, forced their way into the Boost Mobile store at 5307 Telephone where they shot Hamid Waraich, police said Paramedics took Hamid Waraich to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he later died. “Taking someone’s father, such a good father, for money,” Omar Waraich,28, said. Police are still searching for the two robbers who entered the store around 4:30 p.m. and forced Hamid Waraich to the ground. The two men demanded cash from Waraich and the customers who were inside the busi-

ness at the time. One of the men allegedly shot Waraich after the store owner triggered an alarm, police said. The robbers then fled the scene. Omar Waraich, 28, can’t wrap his mind around his father’s callous shooting. He

described his father as a strong-willed man who was loving and devoted to his three sons. Hamid Waraich immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when he was only 18, his son said. Although he came from a family of prominence, Hamid Waraich left to start from scratch in a new country, working hard for everything he had. “He was the kind of father that you emulate,” Omar Waraich said. “Anyone can become a father. Not everyone can be one, not like that.” Anyone with information in this crime is urged to contact the Houston Police Department Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

Indo American News (ISSN 887-5936) is published weekly every Friday (for a subscription of $40 per year) by IndoAmerican News Inc., 7457 Harwin Dr., Suite 262, Houston, TX 77036, tel: 713-789-6397, fax:713-789-6399, email: Periodical postage paid at Houston, Texas. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to Indo American News,7457 Harwin Dr., Suite 262, Houston, TX 77036



February 22, 2013

Desis Fill In San Francisco’s TV News Channels

BY JAWAHAR MALHOTRA SAN FRANCISCO: In the city by the Bay, the thing that’s certain is that the population diversity has created a remarkable mix of people which is skewed towards Asians in general, but not Asian Indians per se, as they constitute but a small percentage of the melting pot. The 80-X bus that goes crosstown from Fisherman’s Wharf south towards Market Street fills up with middle-aged Chinese, mostly women, who have done their grocery shopping, and talk loudly in Cantonese or Mandarin as they vie for seats in the standing room only bus. A few older men and some high-school and college students get on in Chinatown. The pre-recorded bus stop alerts are in Chinese, Spanish and English. Only a couple of Indians – yours truly included – rode it and there wasn’t in sight! Even though they aren’t as visible in the central district (although further south, in Silicon Valley, they make up a majority), desis have made up for it with many restaurants like New Delhi, India House and a few more in the Tenderloin District by the Powell Muni Station, competing against the Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese sushi places. But where they shine the most – and you could say that literally – is on the small tube, every night on the evening news. On NBC Bay Area, the handsome Raj Mathai is the co-anchor every night at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Raj is an award winning television journalist and has even reported from the Olympics in Salt Lake City, Athen, Turin and Vancouver. Born in Trivandrum, India, he grew up on the Bay Area Peninsula, graduated from Los Altos High School, and graduated from San Diego State University. Raj was the country’s first sportscaster of Indian descent. Raj is often joined on screen by Ahmed Fareed, a studio host and reporter for American TV channel Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, who just covered the Super Bowl. Fareed is a native of Sparta, Michigan, where he played quarterback for the Spartans. He is a graduate of Syracuse University S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. And not to be outdone or pushed aside, Indian women have made their mark too in a field that is outside the normal that you’d

COMMUNITY Bobby Jindal’s Approval Rating Declines: Survey

Raj Mathai

WASHINGTON (TOI): The approval rating of Indian- American Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, considered among the frontrunners for the Republican party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, has dropped significantly. According to a survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, only 37 per cent of the people in Louisiana surveyed for this poll approved the performance of 41-year-old influential Republican leader, while 57 per cent disapproved. In the last poll carried out by Public Policy Polling in August 2010, Jindal had a approval rating of 58 per cent, while only 34 per cent disapproved.

Ahmed Fareed

Indian-American Lawmaker Welcomes Obama plan

expect for TV journalism: metrology. The pretty, young and petite Sandhya Patel takes care of the weather forecasting on ABC 7 News and is the weekday anchor at 5 and 11pm. She grew up in San Francisco and Monterrey Bay and turned to the weather center in 1993. Sandhya is married and a mother of three, a girl and fraternal twins. Of course Houston, has its own crops of desi television journalists and print journalists. It’s nice to see the cultural and racial pool spread all over the country even as many of us have made our mark in other areas of public service.

Read us online at

WASHINGTON (TOI): Ami Bera, the only Indian-American member of the US Congress, has welcomed President Barack Obama’s plan “to restore an economy that works for middle class families by investing in infrastructure, innovation, and education.” “America is at its strongest when we have a strong middle class, and growing jobs and the economy for the middle class should be our number one priority in Congress,” said Bera, the third Indian-American to be ever elected to the US House of Representatives. “We can do this by investing in our infrastructure,” he said in a statement o nObama’s State of the Union speech to the US Congress. Bera, a medical doctor who represents California’s Sacramento County in the House, said he was also pleased the President showed strong support for early childhood education. “We must invest in our children, make sure they’re being taught real world skills and are ready to compete in the 21st century economy,” he said urging the Congress to “do its part.” “Most importantly, now is the time to set aside petty partisanship and begin working together to move America forward,” said Bera identifying himself as a member of a 40 strong bipartisan “No Labels Problem Solvers” group.


February 22, 2013


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February 22, 2013

Honor for Indian Engineers during Engineering E-Week

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HOUSTON (Chronicle): Each year during E-Week, Houston-area engineers gather to acknowledge young professionals in the varying disciplines ranging from civil, chemical, mechanical, petroleum and electrical for their contributions to the economy, the community and to the public’s understanding of engineering. This year 16 technical and engineering organizations have chosen to honor their own at the annual Young Engineers Award Recognition Dinner Monday, Feb. 18. Of the 12 young engineers selected, two were Indo-Americans. Akshat Agarwal, American Society of Mechanical Engineers Akshat Agarwal is a drilling and completions project consultant at T.H. Hill Associates Inc. He manages complex projects in failure analysis and design of drill-string components. Agarwal received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the National Institute of Technology Jalandhar in 2007 and attained a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida in 2008. Since moving to Houston, Agarwal has been an active member of Society of Petroleum Engineers and Society of Manufacturing Engineers. He holds an

Vishal H. Merchant, ASIE

Engineer-in-Training certification from the state of Texas. Vishal H. Merchant, P.E., Asian American Engineers and Architects; American Society of Indian Engineers The Asian American Engineers and Architects and the American Society of Indian Engineers have selected Vishal H. Merchant, P.E., as Young Engineer of the Year. Merchant is a project manager at Aguirre & Fields, LP, Sugar Land. He received his education at Mumbai University, India, earning a bachelor’s degree in Engineering in 2003, and a master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Lamar University, Beaumont in 2006. At Aguirre & Fields, Merchant designs municipal and private land development plans for residential, commercial and industrial development as well as for low-impact development projects. In 2012, Merchant worked on several projects in the greater Houston area, including the Caroline Street improvements project in the Midtown area of the City of Houston and the Houston Independent School District’s Dogan Scott Elementary School and Almeda Elementary School. He is working on the design of Schlumberger’s office facility in Midland.



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February 22, 2013


Second Vedic Fair on February 23

KATY: The Second Ashirwad Vedic Fair 2013, a Par-Excellence free event for all, will be held on Saturday February 23 from 4-10pm at Cinco Ranch High School in Katy. Second vedic fair is categorized into learning and entertainment. In the learning category, more than 75 heritage presentations will be made on a multitude of topics along with sattvik cooking competition, Authentic “How 2 do workshops” consisting of Yoga, Meditation by Shriram Sarvotham, Raas Garba Dance by Daksha Nagar, Rangoli Art by Sangita Bhutada, Ayurvedic Tips for daily living by Ushadevi Pillai, Wear Saree Styles by Radhika Kaparaju, Pagdi by Jigyasa Anand & Dhoti by Ravi Sethuraman, In the entertainment category prime time shows include “Vedic Walk” a show case of Mahabharat icons & Arjun – The Chosen a play by Geetha Ravula, along with the Highlight “Neon Raas Garba” with live band & DJ. All in all second vedic fair management is assuring a fun and flamboyant evening for all. For regular updates visit facebook event Vedic Fair 2013. Megha Neelala (11), one of the presenter at first vedic fair shared her experience, “this program was a great experience and I really enjoyed it. My topic was Amazing Facts about India”. Vedic Fair is useful for our generation because it grooms us in our culture and exposes us to Hinduism. It opened my eyes to the myriad hues that comprise Hinduism, the religious rituals, and the cultural celebrations that are unique to every festival. I was amazed at the unity in diversity in food habits, clothing, mannerisms, and the social customs prevalent in the Indian com-

Megha Neelala munity. The classes at Ashirwad enlighten me about this rich Indian culture. I have inherited from my ancestral country. We, the younger generation of Indians feel indebted to the instructors at Ashirwad for the many things that are taught to us every week. I always look forward to Ashirwad classes every Saturday, where I am taught the Vishnu Sahasranamam in level 5 along with yoga, meditation and aarthi. The Vedic Fair is a great opportunity to learn and gain more knowledge about the Indian heritage, and participating in it is an unforgettable experience. I can’t wait to attend the upcoming second Vedic Fair on Sat Feb, 23rd. Hope to see many smiling faces there!” Sameera Dabbiru (9) who was a presenter in first vedic fair 2012, said “This is my third year with Ashirwad. At the first Vedic Fair event, I presented one of the wonders of the world “Taj Mahal”. I prepared a display board with details about Taj Mahal, like where and when it was built, who built it and some interesting facts about the monument. To prepare for this presentation, I read books about Taj Mahal and researched on Internet. I was amazed by the details I found about the monument. After

this research, it is one of my dreams to visit this gorgeous monument. I am grateful to Vedic Fair for providing me this great opportunity to learn more about Indian heritage and culture. Vedic Fair has encouraged us to research about various topics about

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Sameera Dabbiru India. Also, we have learned so much from other presenters. At first, I was very shy to present a topic in front of so many adults. I was nervous, too. After seeing that there were so many kids participating, I was a little relaxed. I am not shy to go on the stage anymore. I am proud to be part of Ashirwad.” SEE AD ON PAGE 26

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February 22, 2013


Baylor’s Hardeep Singh Helps Max Healthcare Set up Electronic Health Records

BY ULLEKH NP (ET) Dartmouth University professor and author Vijay Govindarajan is a passionate advocate for the advancement of telemedicine as a crucial tool to improve access to medical care by the rural poor in countries such as India. He says digitising health records is the “first crucial first step” towards the goal of universal telemedicine which helps doctors treat patients hundreds of miles away in the hinterland through the internet or on the phone. Gangadharan also dreams big of India “exporting” its “model of effective long-distance medical treatment of its rural poor” to the rest of the world. Clearly, that lofty goal remains a far cry in a country where electronic health records (EHR) not to mention talk of interconnecting of labs and pharmacies to clinicians via the internet and letting them seamlessly communicate one another are just beginning to take shape. Fortunately, though, efforts are in full swing in many hospitals across the country to put in place an EHR system and while some of them are still grappling with inertia, others are ahead, such as Max Healthcare in Delhi and Cloudnine in Bangalore. Hardeep Singh, assistant professor of medicine at Houston-based Baylor College of Medicine who assisted Max Healthcare with its EHR drive, says there is a lot of difference between theory and practice. After all, the Vista software system of digital medical recording developed first to keep the medical records of American war veterans is as good as free at $25. “But to make that into a product that could change the lives and

In this “first stage”, the Delhiheadquartered hospital group has so far spent `10 crore for the purpose, says Rajan Bir Singh, CIO, Max Healthcare. It all starts with doctors being asked to type in, not write in their prescriptions. But then that is only the beginning, says Dean F Sittig, associate professor at University of Texas’ Memorial Hermann Center for Healthcare Quality and Safety, who also advises Max Healthcare in its transition to EHR. Of course, illegible prescriptions would soon be history and so will misreading by pharmacists. “What is key is that For an apartment complex in Houston technology is the future. Medicine has been around for thousands of Contact: years...we are finding out that we can’t trust all doctors. We need to or call: (832) 860-3200 start making measurements to decide whom to trust, which hospital to trust,” explains Sittig. EHR software such as Vista or Bangalore-based dWise Solution’s eClinical Station measure not just performance of individual doctors, but they collect data of continuous interaction among doctors, patients, labs, pharmacies and other stakeholders. While several Indian hospitals that had embarked on the EHR route aren’t as successful as Max or Cloudnine are, Dr Ashok Seth of Fortis Escorts Heart Institute says EHR offers numerous benefits. “It helps collect and retrieve data about diseases and •Quality Advocacy •Creating Working Relationships •Honesty and Objectivity look at ways to tackle them,” says he. “It is reThe law firm of Donnelly-Ashby & Nguyen, PLLC is ally the way fordedicated to providing quality immigration advice and ward.” legal counsel to domestic and international


Last year, Singh received the 2012 Alice S. Hersh New Investigator Award at the society’s annual research meeting in Orlando, Florida. This award, initiated in 1986, recognizes the contributions of new scholars to the field of health services research and Singh is its first recipient from Texas as well as the first who graduated of an Indian medical school.

healthcare in a country like India despite the challenges deserves a lot of recognition,” he says, and warns against inertia and resistance in changing the system. “It is disruptive and everyone will have to start working differently and train themselves anew,” admits Dr Anurag Krishna, director of paediatrics and paediatric surgery at Max Healthcare, which has now connected five of its 11 hospitals to the EHR platform, linking its labs and pharmacies to the doctors.

Sri Meenakshi Temple’s VHS School Felicitates It’s Teachers and Volunteers

BY MAHALAKSHMI PANCHAVATI PEARLAND: The teachers and the volunteers of the MTS Vedic Heritage School were felicitated for their tireless efforts on January 20 at the Sri Meenakshi Temple Youth Center. The MTS Vedic Heritage School or VHS as it is popularly called is a beacon of our Cultural Heritage. It follows Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s “Poorna Vidya” curriculum. The vision of the VHS program was not only to teach the children the stories from our epics but to also equip them with a value system and the discipline and dedication they would need to face in their practical world. The first MTS VHS class was started about 13 years ago in February 2000. The very first project started with only 26 students, 5 volunteers and a coordinator. Since its inception, the value of such classes and the vision of VHS has been so realized that the program has grown immensely. VHS now

has over 240 registered children and over 30 teachers and many more active parent volunteers. ‘Children are not vessels to be filled, but lamps to be lit’- Swami Chinmayananda. To realise this, volunteers selflessly dedicate their hours to impart the rich knowledge of our Vedas and epics in a way that children learn and enjoy. This is evidenced by the testimonials of the children from the various classes. To give a few examples: From the Ramayana class (6-7 yr old) “ our teacher gives knowledge and knowledge grows like a tree”. From Bhagavat Gita (15-16 yr old) “ helps us to understand and get a deeper view of the subject and relates it to real life”. In appreciation of all the efforts of the teachers and other volunteers the MTS board members and the VHS coordinators led by Suraj Subramaniam hosted a felicitation event. The Chairman, MTS Board, Tupil Narasimhan, other

board members Padma Golla, Rajendra Mikkilineni, Jeyam Thiagarajan and Meena Subramanian were the dignitaries present. Meena Subramaniam is the VHS representative and oversees the Educational and Youth program committee at the MTS board and has been very supportive and encouraging about the activities of VHS. The felicitation started with a beautiful rendering of a CONTINUED ON PAGE


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Getting to Know You in Conviviality BY JAWAHAR MALHOTRA HOUSTON: With the amazingly busy and full calendar that IndoAmericans have created for themselves over the past two decades, it’s not often that one takes the time to relax, without an agenda, and share a few moments with the connected people in this Metroplex. So it came as a pleasant surprise that the Indian Consul Anil Matta had gathered a dozen leaders and opinion makers of the community and their spouses for a sit down dinner at India’s restaurant this past Sunday, February 17. The conversation was light and jovial as people traded stories and ideas. The leaders represented a crosssection of the organizations that form the nucleus of the community. Matta, who has recently been promoted to the rank of First Secretary at an Embassy level, which is equivalent to the Consul level at the Consulate, revealed that he had just returned from New Delhi after attending the marriage of his daughter Parul to Mudit Marwah. Matta also explained that the waiting times for visas, especially the OCI card, had been reduced considerably as the process had

Indian Consul Anil Matta spoke to community activists as Ashok Dhingra (left) and Rajiv Bhavsar look on at India’s restaurant last Sunday, February 18.

been streamlined. For the OCI card, it had been brought down to between 30 to 45 days; the PIO card down to a few days and a visitor’s visa could be granted within days. “I was instrumental in making our office move from the rented facility on Post Oak to our own building on Scotland Drive,” added Matta. “We have also initiated a time every Wednesday afternoon from 4 to 5pm for people to come and air their grievances.”

Ever since the arrival of the new Consul General P. Harish, the Consulate and its staff have been making efforts to promote the services that they offer and the efficiencies that have been instituted. These steps are a welcome change from the antagonism that had been built up during the past two years over the granting of visas, OCI and PIO cards and the general behavior of the staff, including those at Travisa, the outsource processing center on Westheimer.

Indo-Americans Make Their Presence Felt at the Texas Legislature

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The Indo-American Political Action Committee of Greater Houston (IAPAC) organized the trip to Austin to meet the elected State Representatives on Wednesday, February 16

BY JAWAHAR MALHOTRA AUSTIN: It was an idea whose time had come and was long overdue and this past week, just before Valentine’s Day, a group of 13 community activist from the Bayou City and its environs took to the highway to make a day trip to the Texas House of Representatives to make the presence of the community known. The Indo-American Political Action Committee of Greater Houston (IAPAC) organized the trip to Austin to meet the elected State Representatives on Wednesday, February 16, in an effort coordinated by IAPAC President Sujeeth Draksharam and Board Member Karun Sreerama. The delegation included board members from IAPAC, IACCGH, ICC and IACF. The delegation called on Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and other elected officials from Harris and Fort Bend counties.

The State House of Representatives officially passed House Resolution No. 371 recognizing February 13 as the Indo-American community of the Greater Houston Day. This resolution was authored by Rep. Mary Ann Perez of District 144 and co-sponsored by Rep. Rick Miller of District 26 and by others in the greater Houston area. One of Rep. Perez’s committee assignments is International Trade, and she indicated that trade with India will be one of her top priorities. Rep. John Davis of District 129 chairs the Economic and Small Business development committee and along with Perez has requested community input to assist the Indo-American business community and which they view as a successful community. On the floor of the House of Representatives, the logistics and the business conduct of the

House floor were demonstrated by Rep. Dennis Bonnen, District 25 and Speaker Pro-Tempore and Temporary Chair. Miller met with the delegation and asked them to join a committee to be put forth by him (further information and volunteering information can be obtained by contacting the IAPAC). Rep. Miller is part of the election committee and is focusing on the electoral issues. Rep. Phil Stephenson, District 85, who has a background in finance, explained to the delegation the pension reforms he is trying to work. Lastly, the delegation called on to the Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, who, as the Senate presiding Officer, explained the procedure on the floor of the Senate and indicated his interest in meeting and working with the community. IAPAC is working to host a meeting with Dewhurst sometime in March.



February 22, 2013

VHS Teacher Appreciation Day



tion. Tupil Narasimham extended his gratitude to the teachers and continuing support of MTS to the VHS program. Tupil Narasimhan, Meena Subramanian, Padma Golla, Jeyam Thiagarajan and Rajendra Mikkilineni presented the awards to all the teachers and active volunteers.

prayer by a young VHS student, daughter of VHS teacher, Lakshmi Venkateswaran. The welcome address was given by assistant coordinator, Garuda Rao. The testimonial of the children was ably read by Malini Randeep to much amusement and apprecia-

The program was concluded by a vote of thanks by assistant coordinator Mahalakshmi Panchavati. For more information about VHS, visit www.mtsvhs.blogspot. com or email vhscoordinators@


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February 22, 2013

Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya MAHASIVARATRI

Come, celebrate and receive Lord Siva’s grace and blessings Saturday, March 9th 2013

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Special Pravacana (for adults) on Siva Manasa Puja by Acarya Sri Gaurang Nanavaty

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Aisha Salon & Spa Inaugurates Its Newest Establishment in Sienna Plantation MISSOURI CITY: This past weekend, on February 17, Aisha’s newest salon opened on 8720 Hwy 6, # 200, Missouri City, TX 77459 in the HEB Shopping Center. Eyebrow threading was offered free of cost only for the grand opening day and a huge turnout of women visited the salon and took advantage of this offer. 50% off on all other skincare and hair services was offered only for that day. The Music Masala Radio crew entertained the gatherees in Masala Style. The guests enjoyed

the refreshments and cake served at the event. Aisha has numerous locations of her salons in Houston, which are achieving a very high level of customer satisfaction. Aisha also has her own line of skin care and cosmetics which are exclusively sold and used at all of their locations.

Aisha’s offers premium skincare, haircuts, make-ups, makeovers, threading, waxing, and facial services. For more information, call 281778-8600, or visit Aisha’s Salon and Spa at 8720 Hwy 6, # 200, Missouri City, TX 77459.

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February 22, 2013

Silence is Not Golden

The gang rape of a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist in Delhi on December 16, 2012, had left the nation - and the world- horrified. For many, it was the first time they could muster courage to reveal that such a thing had happened to them. One such person is musician Anoushka Shankar. On Wednesday, Ms Shankar bravely admitted that she had “suffered various forms of groping, touching, verbal abuse” as a child at the hands of a man her parents “trusted implicitly”. Ms Shankar’s admission came ahead of the launch of the ‘One Billion Rising Movement’ which was started by American playwright Eve Ensler. This worldwide movement is a call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rapes and the rape culture end. Ms Shankar’s admission will hopefully encourage many others to come out, speak about their experiences of sexual harassment and also help them realise that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Moreover, it is not always about the victims themselves, but in many cases even parents need support and courage to speak up for their children and such incidents. According to studies, in as many as 90% of situations where a child is sexually harmed, he/ she (and often their family) knows the adult, youth or child who is acting in a sexually inappropriate way. The December 16 gang rape led to a lot of soul searching and debates on women’s security, sexual abuse and related issues. It will now be criminal to lose that momentum. Only sustained public pressure will ensure that the government fulfils the promises that it made after the incident.

Reforms: No Longer a Luxury The Annual Survey of Industries, a deeper study of factory performance than the monthly index of industrial production, finds the investment cycle had turned as early as 2010-11. Capital formation in manufacturing had shrunk in that year despite the economy growing 8.4% and an almost 9% rise in manufacturing output. The survey’s findings for 2011-12 will appear a year from now, but it will in all probability confirm the trend of declining investments in an economy that grew 6.9% and where industrial production limped along at 3%. By 2012-13 the bad news is available in the monthly data on factory output, when the gross domestic product is expected to grow less than 6% and factory output has actually shrunk in the first half of the year. These findings corroborate a Planning Commission study on productivity that says the Indian economy may have been hit harder by the 2008 global credit crisis than its managers would have us believe. The productivity gains of the previous decade took a big knock from the relative capital scarcity after 2008. The policy implications for an economy running a persistent trade deficit are clear: foreign direct and portfolio investments into India must be sought with a renewed vigour. Reforms are no longer a political luxury. Hindustan Times

Inflatable History BY MANAS CHAKAVARTY Alexander the Great invaded India. But King Porus defeated Alexander and chased him away. Which narrative should we teach our children? This was Karnataka education minister Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri’s poser. The minister said, “The first one is what we have been taught for years. This perspective breeds an inferiority complex. The second narrative helps children swell with pride.” — TNN, February 8 Ha! Is that the best the minister can do? If we really want our children’s chests to swell with pride, this is the history we should be teaching: True, Porus beat Alexander. But that is a minor footnote. The big story is that Alexander wasn’t Greek at all, but an Indian king. The name Alexander is a distortion of Alakshendra, a ruler of one of our northern kingdoms. Conventional history tells us he came to India from Greece, conquering everybody along the way. Yes, his empire did stretch from Macedon to the Indus, but the liberal historians got their direction wrong — Alakshendra actually marched in the opposite direction, from India to Greece, crushing everybody beneath his chappals. Indeed, patriotic historians say his real name was Narendra Modi the First and that he irrevocably changed the history of Europe. That is why a synonym for change in English is ‘Modify’. The next time we hear of Indian rulers abroad is after the death of Julius Caesar, when a triumvirate was formed in Rome. One of the leaders was Mark Antony, an Indian affectionately called Anthony. The other two leaders were, of course, Amar and Akbar. Incidentally, Mark Antony was smitten by a very beautiful Bengali lady called Ms Patra, who was queen of Egypt. I forget her first name. Indian women have been at the forefront of world domination, with a lady called Maya going as far as Mexico to establish the Mayan kingdom. Hear the sound of buttons popping? That’s because chests have started swelling. The trouble with India in those


It was our early NRIs who did us proud. Take Jairaj, an Indian from Tirunelveli who settled in Washington and was known to posterity as George Washington. The Indian influence during the American revolution was obvious—they initially called it the American war of Hindependence, from ‘Hind’, short for Hindustan. days was that we didn’t have much cultural diversity. After a lot of headscratching, Turks, Afghans and other kings from Islamic countries were persuaded to come and rule over parts of India. It was one of the greatest triumphs of Indian diplomacy. And did you know the Mughal dynasty was started by a local holy man called Baba R? But it was our early NRIs who did us proud. Take Jairaj, an Indian from Tirunelveli who settled in Washington and was known to posterity as George Washington. The Indian influence during the American revolution was obvious — they initially called it the American war of Hindependence, from ‘Hind’, short for Hindustan. Two of Jairaj’s descendants, Jairaj V and Jairaj VI, aka George V and George VI, were the British monarchs during the two world wars. Did you hear the sound of shirts being ripped? Those chests are really swelling. We also modified technology to create the Industrial Revolution in the West. It was originally known as the Hindustrial Revolution, of course. Unfortunately, vested pseudo-secular interests were preventing us from hindustrialising India, so the great nationalist Jagat Seth bribed Mir Jafar to betray Siraj ud-Daula and let the British win at Plassey, so that they could unite the country and build railways. Once that job was done, we kicked them out and declared Hindependence. But those chests have swollen to alarming proportions and it’s time to stop here before they burst. Manas Chakravarty is consulting editor, Mint

Holy Comfort

BY MANAS CHAKAVARTY Do you want to be cleansed of your sins in a relaxed and stress-free environment in a spacious weather-proof heated luxury tent at the Mahakumbh at Allahabad, with running hot water and multi-cuisine vegetarian dining facilities? Thankfully, they’ve now found a way of getting people like us our ticket to Nirvana without the experience being sullied by the smelly presence of the masses. The first step in your spiritual journey begins with the selection of the proper type of tent. I would recommend the Super Deluxe one, which will enable you to combine your status with your spirituality. The tents are heated, so that you can preserve the warm glow created by your inner faith. And while the dip in the river may be cold and dirty and you just have to grit your teeth and get over it, the thought of coming back and washing up in your ‘En-suite bathroom with wooden floors, running hot and cold water, showers & western toilets’ will help you cope with the trauma. ‘Soft pliant bath towels’ as well as ‘herbal bath and shower accessories’ will soothe your troubled soul. The wall-to-wall carpeting in your tent will heal your poor feet, which suffer terribly during the dreary trudge to the river and back again. And a massage therapy session at the Ayurveda spa will ease any lingering aches and pains. The problem is, how do you get the Kumbh experience without being contaminated by contact with the masses? One camp has the ideal solution - it advertises ‘A special viewing terrace with a panoramic view of the entire Mela has been set up for guests to enjoy from a distance the vast melee stretching out in front without leaving the comfort of the camp.’ They even have a telescope on the terrace, so you can see the holy men up close and soak up their spirituality. Don’t forget your suntan lotion. As Mark Twain put it in his book Following the Equator: “It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes…. enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining.”


HOUSTON: MANU SHAH, CHETNA SAMAL CHICAGO: NAND KAPOOR, INDIA: RAJ KANWAR ®All rights reserved. No material herein or portions thereof may be published without the written consent of the publisher. The deadline for advertising and articles is 5 pm on Monday of each week. Please include self-addressed, stamped envelope for return of all unsolicited material. Published at 7457 Harwin Drive, Suite 262, Houston, Texas 77036. Tel: 713-789-NEWS or 6397 Fax: 713-789-6399, email:, website:



February 22, 2013


VHPA Donates Food Aid to Pakistan Hindu Refugees

The refugee camp at Jodhpur, Rajasthan

JODHPUR, RAJASTHAN: It was 15 degree Fahrenheit in the ‘blue city’ of Jodhpur, a truck load of 771 pounds (350Kg) of processed wheat flour and 110 Lb (50Kg) pulses and chocolate bars were distributed to Pakistani Hindu refugees who are based currently at Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The donation was sponsored by Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA). There are around 50 women, 84 men includ-ing 76 children who are staying at this temporary camp on outskirts of Jodhpur, all having Pakistani passports and Indian tourist / religious VISA’s. The administration of Jodhpur was king enough to help process BPL cards and provide place for dwell. Along with moral and emotional support, a letter requesting Jodhpur district collector to provide clean drinking facility and govern-ment land was also submitted. On asking how was their first Diwali in India ‘ the leader of that group

From left: Jodhpur General Secretary, Bhawar Lal Chowdhury; VHP President Jodhpur, Prahalad Goyal; Ram Swaroop, Prof. B.L. Mathur, Working President VHP Jodhpur; VHPA Governing Council Member Rahul Chandra with Pakistani Hindus at Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India on December 24.

said with tears in his eyes ‘Saab, aisa Diwali kabhi nahi dekha, baccho ne khub patake jalaye bina dar aur khaf ke, zindagi me pheli martaba” meaning we have never celebrated Diwali (Hindu festival) with such vigor and happiness before in life, children

busted fire crackers with much joy and w/o fear and terror in India. For more information or to donate aid, call VHPA activist Rahul Chandra at 713-429-4037 or email

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NEW YORK: “Hum Aapke Hain In-Laws” premiered on SAB TV starting January 14 at 10pm ET and will be aired from Monday – Friday. It’s all about loving your family – of in-laws. “Hum Aapke Hain InLaws” is a cheerful and light-hearted comedy on SAB TV that traces the journey of protagonists Gulshan Grover and wife Damini along with that of their in-laws who happen to be a blessing as well as a nightmare by the sheer power of being neighbors. They are unconditionally loving but also unintentionally interfering. While the loving and adoring in-laws strive to make life simple for the young couple, in the bargain they only land up complicating things. For Karan Grover, who plays Gulshan Grover, and Pooja Pihal, who plays Damini Grover, this is their first tryst with comedy. Karan

said, “My role is of an affectionate husband, who goes to unreasonable lengths for his wife. My character is hilarious and extremely lovable because I am always innocently and unintentionally funny! I have never tried my hand at humor but I’ve given it my best and I hope my audiences love my new avatar.” Jaideep Janakiram, SVP International Business-Head of North America stated, “Hum Aapke Hain In-Laws is a comedy filled show full of laughter and life lessons. The show teaches you to appreciate family while giving you a new perspective to relationships.” Hum Aap Ke Hai In-laws is all about the blessings, struggles, suggestions, and tensions we get from our in-laws because whether you want it or not, you like it or not, they will rectify all your flaws because

as they say; “Hum Aapke Hain InLaws!” About Sony Entertainment Television Asia:

Since its launch on the Indian subcontinent in 1995, Sony Entertainment Television (SET) has enjoyed rapid success, leading to the establishment of European, North American and African feeds known as SET Asia. SET and SET Asia are now available in over 150 countries. The channels offer their viewers a distinctive blend of entertainment programs twenty four hours a day, including, soap operas, dramas, sitcoms, concerts, movies, and game shows. Besides SET Asia, SET also has three other leading channels: MAX, India’s #1 premier movies and special events channel, SAB, the only dedicated comedy channel and Aath, the only dedicated Bengali Movie channel. For more information, visit

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February 22, 2013

Mama’s Punjabi Recipes Atte ki Chapatti (WHEAT FLATBREAD) A normal Punjabi meal cannot be complete without hot, round chapattis to scoop up the veggies and meat dishes. Chapattis are the staple food for most of Northern India and ithe Punjab, although they are found in many cuisines all over India. Traditionally, Punjabis would eat rice on special occasions, although in large cities, rice has now become a part of the meal due to its convenience of preparation. Still, chapattis or rotis as most Punjabis call them, are central to the meal. Interestingly, the word chapatti comes from the Kannada “chappate thatti” meaning “flattened round”. The are made from whole wheat flour and cooked over a tava (flat skillet). Traditional Punjabi rotis are thick and about 6 to 8 inches in diameter, though some people make them thin and smaller as they think these look less rustic and more refined. It is a common belief that rotis are better for you than rice because of the lower carbohydrate content (about twice as much) in rice. But while each roti packs from 70 to 120 calories (if you chopad (glaze) them with butter its much higher), rice has twice as many. So, while many homes make rotis, I have noticed that the techniques vary a lot: some are very thin and don’t have the ability to scoop food; others are tiny and a person could eat a dozen or more! Others don’t allow the flour to rise; some smother the rotis to cardboard texture! So, this simple recipe is to help people understand how to make rotis which are soft, have good texture and quick to make. These days, many young women, especially the second generation, don’t know how to make rotis, choosing to buy the ready made or frozen ones. I hope they can learn

that this is an easy, traditional recipe to follow and that a hot roti is very much appreciated! I prefer to use Sujata or Swarna brand flour, both of which have the right wheat grain size. Ingredients: 4 cups atta (unbleached wheat flour). Makes 12 rotis 2 cups pani (water) Directions: • Pour the flour in a bowl and slowly pour the water in while kneading the dough till it becomes a nice, tender by firm ball. Dab the surface of the ball with a little water to keep it moist, cover the bowl and set aside. If the

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dough is too hard, the roti will also be hard. • Pinch off a portion of the dough and make into a 2 inch round ball. • Pour a little dry flour on the counter and roll the ball in it to coat it. Now use a velna (rolling pin) to roll the ball into a nice round, flat pancake, about 1/8 inch thick. Don’t worry if you don’t get it nice and round, it will get better with practice. • Place the tava on the stove and heat on medium. Now carefully place the flattened dough on the tava. Once the dough starts to show some bubbles, then turn it over. Let the other side also cook till bubbles appear. Now flip the dough again and when you see small brown spots, gently press the top with a clean, soft cloth. The roti should then start to rise and fluff up into a nice round bubble. • Take the roti off the tava and keep on the side. If it is overcooked it will shown large dark spots. Cover with a clean soft cloth to keep warm; do not place in a plate right away as the roti will shed some water vapor. • Now repeat the process till the rest of the rotis are made and the dough is finished. Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable recipes.

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Get Set for a Delightful Ride in Special 26 BY MARTIN D’SOUZA (Glamsham) To take a real-life incident and give it a ‘reel twist’ that is captivating calls for a ‘genius streak’. For this delightful twist in the tale itself, Neeraj Pandey the writer deserves a round of applause. We all know how 26 fake CBI sleuths walked into a well-known jewellery shop one afternoon in March 1987, and walked away with the booty vanishing into thin air as it were, as his team of ‘recruits’ held fort. But the manner of the heist we see in Special 26 is indeed special! It’s a jaw-dropping sequence in the end. Right from the first frame onwards the screenplay yanks you into the goings-on. A female recruit is being interviewed by the conmen. The banter between the two is razor sharp. ‘’Milkar ukhadenge Sir,’’ is her riposte to the question of her enthusiasm to clean the system. For this scene alone, and for the interest he creates in what is to follow, director Neeraj Pandey deserves another round of applause. From then on, Special 26 tickles you and even entrances with the manner in which fake raids are conducted and the ‘soft targets’ with stacks of ill-gotten wealth, easily giving in. Akshay Kumar (Ajay), Anupam Kher (Sharmaji) are ‘CBI Sleuths’ who conduct meticulous raids across the country. Rajesh Sharma and Kishore Kadam are two of their accomplice. They all live mundane lives but swing into action when in an officer’s garb. Watching the quartet in action conduction raids with such conviction is a delight. Inspector Ranveer Singh (Jimmy Sheirgill) from Chandigarh is like a man possessed when he realizes he has been conned into a fake raid at a politician’s bungalow. He vows to get the four behind bars and seeks the support of CBI officer Waseem Khan (Manoj Bajpai). Reluctant at first, Waseem soon absorbs him in his team realizing that Ranveer is the only person who has seen the four. On their part, the four go on undeterred because not a single matter has been reported. But their luck runs out when Waseem insists on an Income Tax raid in Calcutta being reported. This unnerves the four and they plan their last big heist before ‘retiring’. Anupam Kher is mind-blowingly brilliant in his act. Every nuance in his body language and dialogue delivery is a lesson. Such brilliance from him has been seen after a long, long time on screen, saddled as he is with roles that do no justice to his talent.

Akshay Kumar as the master-planner, switching gear in between raids is a delight. Straight-faced, he gets his way through the most difficult of situations. Their allies, Rajesh Sharma and Kishore Kadam join in for an acting fest that is sure to give you the thrills. Manoj Bajpai as the honest CBI sleuth who asks his boss whether he should start taking bribes since he has gotten no increment is in a zone of his own. Watch him in the last scene. It’s a cracker of a performance. Jimmy Sheirgill and Divya Dutta both fit in in their diverse acts to make this a special film. But what pulls Special 26 back a little is the plot between Akshay Kumar and Kajal Aggarwal. It’s an annoying interference. For one, minus this, the film would have been tauter and pacier. Secondly, the pair is

mis-matched. You can see a huge gap in age, which no amount of make-up can hide. It’s like watching Amitabh Bachchan and Soundarya in the 1999 flick, Sooryavansham. There are also a few logical flaws, one of which being how did the hotel in which the conmen conduct a CBI interview not know that these were not the real guys? I guess, a little cinematic liberty for a movie of this brilliance is pardonable. But still, A Wednesday was a taut thriller from Neeraj and he should have seen through these flaws. I would have easily gone for a 4 star rating if not for this. Nevertheless, get set for a delightful ride in Special 26. The music pounding in the background transcends you to the 80s. Neeraj Pandey has now established himself as a director of repute.

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February 22, 2013

Women’s World Cup: Australians Trump WI for Sixth Win BY ABHISHEK PUROHIT Australia 259 for 7 (Cameron 75, Haynes 52, Quintyne 3-27) beat West Indies 145 (Perry 3-19, Sthalekar 2-20) by 114 runs MUMBAI (ESPNCricinfo): On the day it mattered, every aspect of Australia’s game came good to earn them their sixth Women’s World Cup. The batting, wobbly for most of the tournament, started with a bang and ended with a bang, despite another wobble in between. The bowling and fielding, top class through the tournament, choked West Indies in the chase. Jodie Fields, a captain who wants to get wickets at all costs, took her aggression to another level, consistently targetting the opposition’s best batsmen with her best bowlers. Ellyse Perry did not disappoint her captain, neither did Lisa Sthalekar. It was no surprise and indeed no shame for West Indies to be outclassed by a team that lost just one of seven games, that too, by eight runs. All three day-night games at Brabourne Stadium in the tournament had been won by sides who batted first and posted big totals. Australia did the same after winning the toss and left West Indies needing to chase the highest total in a World Cup final. Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning went after the new ball, and No. 3 Jess Cameron ensured no let-up for the West Indies bowlers with 75 off 76. Australia’s middle-order worries came to haunt them, though, as they slipped from 181 for 3 to 209 for 7, before Fields and premier fast bowler Perry helped the side rebound with an unbeaten stand of 50 off 40. The pressure of their maiden final seemed to get to West Indies as they

Australian women celebrate their sixth World Cup victory.

fielded rather poorly and conceded too many runs upfront. Mediumpacer Tremayne Smartt was especially ordinary with her lines and lengths and was taken for 43 in five overs. Smartt rounded off a horror day when she hurt herself following a couple of misfields at point and had to leave the field. All three top-order batsmen, Lanning, Haynes and Cameron were severe on anything wide or short. There were several cuts and pulls in the innings, with Cameron also lofting down the ground for boundaries. Lanning departed after an opening stand of 52 in ten overs, as she found mid-off when trying to hit Stafanie Taylor for successive fours. That hardly hurt the progress of the innings, as Cameron arrived. Haynes swept frequently and also used the reverse-sweep, and Cameron carted Smartt for two sixes in an over.

Most of the Australia batsmen fell going for more shots. The 17-year old legspinner Shaquana Quintyne helped West Indies claw back with a spell of 10-1-27-3. Haynes top-edged an attempted pull to midwicket off Quintyne. Cameron blasted a Shanel Daley full toss to deep midwicket in the 36th over. That began a period of about seveneight overs when West Indies regained some lost ground. Sthalekar, Sarah Coyte and Erin Osborne went cheaply trying to go after the spinners. But Australia had more left in the tank. Fields, who had done little with the bat in the tournament, came good with an unbeaten 36 off 38 while Perry, returning after missing the Super Six stage with an ankle injury, contributed 25 off 22. The highest Australia’s bowling had conceded in the tournament was 227, and West Indies needed

their key batsmen Taylor and Deandra Dottin to fire. Perry and Sthalekar were to end the game soon. Perry gave Australia a scare when she aborted her run-up for her first delivery twice and felt her left leg. That didn’t stop her from striking off the last ball of her first over, the tenth, trapping Kycia Knight in front with a length ball that straightened into the left-hander. With the first ball of her second over, Perry found the outside edge off Taylor’s bat and Lanning took the ball at slip but the batsman stayed after replays proved inconclusive. Bowling with superb rhythm now, Perry needed three more balls to take out Taylor, who pushed a length delivery back to the bowler. In her third over, Perry sent back Natasha McLean, who swiped across at a full delivery and was caught plumb in front. West Indies delayed the arrival of the powerful Dottin, who eventually came out in the 22nd over after No. 4 Kyshona Knight retired hurt following an extremely defensive stay. The asking-rate was over seven now with Sthalekar’s spell reading 7-2-12-0. Fields brought back Perry against Dottin, giving her two more overs, but Dottin played them out calmly. Sthalekar responded at the other end, flighting the ball and turning it in through the gate to bowl the captain Merissa Aguilleira. Four overs later, the game was all but over as Sthalekar lured Dottin down the track with another flighted delivery, which Dottin completely missed and was bowled. Dottin had hit a few meaty blows, but Fields had stuck with her best bowlers, and got the reward. At 109 for 5 in the 31st overs, it was game over for West Indies and though they lasted until the 44th, there was no doubt over who would be crowned world champions. Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


India A Draws vs. Visiting Australians CHENNAI: India A 451 (Tiwary 129, Gambhir 112) drew with Australians 235 (Watson 84, Dhurv 5-51, Saxena 4-61) and 195 for 3 (Watson 60, Cowan 53) India A’s spinners ran through the Australians’ lower order to force the tourists to follow-on on the final day of warm-up game in Chennai which ended in a draw. Gujarat’s left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhurv grabbed five wickets and Madhya Pradesh offspinner Jalaj Saxena took four as the Australians folded for 235 in the first innings in the final practice match before the first Test starts later this week. The visitors fared better in second innings, posting 195 for 3, and would have been buoyed by the form of Shane Watson and Ed Cowan, both of whom made solid contributions in both innings. Watson followed up his aggressive 84 on the second day with an equally quick 60 before he was run-out following a mix-up with Cowan. Watson’s innings included four consecutive fours off Dhurv to raise his half-century. There was also time for Usma Khawaja, Phillip Hughes and Matthew Wade to get some batting practice before the game ended. Wade had batted over 100 deliveries in the first innings, but the other two had been dismissed cheaply.

Rakesh Dhurv took 5 for 51 for India A



February 22, 2013

Need to overhaul India’s defense procurement procedure

A Chopper at Rs. 300 Crore for VVIPs

BY RAJ KANWAR IAN INDIA CORRESPONDENT Scandals and defense purchases seem to be made for each other. Thus the latest to hit the headlines globally about the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from Augusta Westland, an Italian conglomerate, has not come even with wee bit of a surprise. The deal valued at rupees 3,600 crore reeks with stench of bribery that even involves Air Marshal SP Tyagi, a former Air Force chief. All the murky and lurid details about who got how much of the bribery millions have dominated newspapers’ headlines and discussed ad infinitum and threadbare on numerous news channels during the past weeks. The first of these defense scandals came about within a year of India’s independence when Krishna Menon, the then Indian high commissioner in London had signed a deal worth only rupees eight million; he was accused of bypassing the then prevailing purchase procedures. The amount involved was just peanuts by current standards but nevertheless it had then left a bitter taste in the mouth. Many more scandals involving millions and millions of dollars kept on dominating the headlines over the years. The 420-crore purchase of HDW submarines from Germany that involved the family of a retired naval chief too raised much stink. Then the purchase of BOFORS 155mm howitzers in 1985 became a big scandal since it allegedly involved the late Rajeev Gandhi even though nothing was proved against him. So much heat had been then generated by all and sundry in opposition par-

AgustaWestland denies corruption charges over India helicopter deal

ties that Rajeev Gandhi’s Congress party lost the 1989 general elections that followed. There were some more murky purchases raising much hue and cry. Interestingly, all these scandals provided a tempting opportunity to opposition parties which they exploited to the hilt. The question arises why has corruption become an inalienable part of defense purchases? The unfortunate truth, however, is that corruption today is built into all large and small purchases by the government and even public sector undertakings; every construction contract involving roads, bridges, buildings et al too reeks of corruption. It is also part of many of the purchases made by public sector undertakings both at the Centre and in the states. It is a pity but regrettably a bitter truth. The defense deals, however, steal the limelight since most of these are high value purchases running into millions and even billions of dollars. Globally, the defense industry is

not only one of the largest but also fiercely competitive. There are generally two or three manufacturers specializing in a weapon or aircraft or any other defense related product; the competition among them is often bitter and no holds barred. No quarter is given or asked when the manufacturers of defense related equipment vie against one another in competing against global tenders. It is a winnertakes-all scenario, the entire order going to the lone victorious bidder. There is too much at stake for the losers; retrenchment and bankruptcy stares them in the face. Some of the manufacturers are so desperate that they would be willing to go to any extent in securing a particular order; paying bribes is the easiest of the options. Thus, in a way, the agent becomes a sine qua non of any international marketing effort especially in the lucrative defense industry. It is here that the role of agents become of vital significance. Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

was blunt enough to speak the truth and say that bribes were inevitable in global defense market scenario. Here it would be interesting to look at the position that India today occupies in the international defense market. It ranks at # 7 in the world in respect of defense budget behind the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Japan, according to a 2011 data compiled by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). However, the country is now the world’s biggest importer of arms in the process replacing China which has had this dubious distinction for quite some time. India today accounts for 10 per cent of the total world arms sales volumes with China and South Korea accounting for six per cent each and Pakistan five per cent. China today ranks # 4 as the world’s top arms importer, primarily due to the development of its own indigenous arms industry. Simultaneously, China has been able to successfully develop its indigenous arms industry to such an extent that it has now emerged as the world’s 6th largest exporter of weapons, trailing behind the USA, Russia, Germany, France and the UK, that have been known to be the traditional arms manufacturing countries. However, China’s debut as arms exporters on the global map is largely due to its exports to Pakistan with which it enjoys a cozy bonhomie, even though it has not made much impact in other important markets. An important benchmark for military spending by nations is its percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The worldwide average


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comes to 2.5 per cent of GDP. The most profligate country in this respect is Saudi Arabia spending 8.7 percentage of its GDP while the USA is # 2 at 4.7 per cent. Both India and the UK spend 2.6 per cent of their GDP which is just about approximates the world average of 2.5 per cent. Russia spends 3.9 per cent of its GDP. Even though China’s share at two per cent seems low but one must remember that its GDP is so enormous that even this two per cent would transform into many more billions of dollars. In the past five years alone, India’s imports of major weapons rose by 38 per cent. An estimate by SIPRI says that India is likely to spend more than US$ 100 billion on weapons and systems in the course of the next 15 years. Some of India’s high value deals related to “purchase of 126 fighter jets and other combat aircrafts such like 120 Su-30MKs and 16 MIG-29Ks from Russia and 20 Jaguars from the UK”. Her shopping basket also includes transport planes, submarines and a range of naval vessels, tanks, small arms and artillery. It will indeed be an ideal goal if corruption and bribery could be totally eliminated from defense purchases, though that would look like an optical illusion. However, every possible effort be made and measures taken accordingly to eliminate this evil as much as possible. Instead of totally eliminating agents, it would be prudent to recognize and regulate their trade by setting in place a suitable agents’ regime and making their working transparent. This would necessitate their registration with full details of the overseas companies and manufacturers that they represent and the terms and conditions of such relationship. Forcing the foreign bidders to sign the Transparency International’s “integrity pact” is easier but to enforce its compliance is quite another matter. Both the bidders and their “unofficial” agents whether based in India are abroad then have no alternative but to resort to underhand tricks in order to achieve their objective. This is what exactly has happened in the latest case of VVIP helicopters purchase. Hardly any columnist or analyst barring Tavleen Singh has questioned the very need for purchasing 12 socalled VVIP helicopters at the staggering cost of rupees 3,600 crore. In her latest column in The Sunday Express Tavleen has challenged the very raison d’être of such a purchase. “Why should we waste taxpayers’ money on VVIP travel when we could do so much better by spending this money on upgrading living stan-




February 22, 2013

3 Friday, June 10, 2012011 m ry 22, ebrua F y n a a -ne c i Frid r e m indoa www.


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BY RAJESH KUMAR (Mint) India recorded a trade deficit of $20 billion in January, one of its highest monthly shortfalls, indicating that challenges on the external front will not subside in a hurry. Interestingly, the rupee has remained by and large stable in recent months. This trend is a sharp contrast to the nervousness witnessed in mid2012 when the rupee was almost in free fall. The rupee has gained from Rs.56 per dollar in July to Rs.53/54 now. It has also gained in terms of the real effective exchange rate. True, a lot has changed on the ground since then, but is that sufficient to alter expectations so dramatically? Alternatively, is the rupee level a real reflection of the fundamentals or is it just the making of a bigger crisis? Globally, things have changed for the better because of direct or indirect interventions by large central banks such as the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. Consequently, equity markets across the world rose and the stress eased significantly in the debt markets of the troubled euro zone. For India, while higher readings on the ticker raised investor confidence and market activity, foreign inflows came in handy in supporting the rupee. But all this can change very quickly once again. External finances continue to remain the single biggest source of threat to Indian financial markets—or for that matter to overall

Why the Rupee Remains a Concern

No matter which way one looks at it, the currency and the external account remains potential source of risk. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

financial stability. The rupee has gained at a time when the last reading on the current account deficit (CAD) was 5.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter of the current fiscal. CAD is now widely expected to have been in excess of 6% of GDP in the third quarter. To put numbers into perspective, India needs about $80 billion a year to fund the gap on the current account. Therefore, if the numbers are anything to go by, the rupee should have been depreciating. But that is not the case and the reasons are not very difficult to identify. The developed countries are busy competing with each other in devaluing their currencies and, as a consequence, flooding the world with cheap cash. Some of it is landing on Indian shores as capital flows. Strong capital flows are bridging the gap created by the current account and holding up the

rupee. However, this easy money will not last forever, and even if it does for a considerable period, it poses a different set of challenges. A sudden stop or a slower pace of inflows can quickly turn the tables for the rupee. Though the liquidity in the global financial system is expected to remain comfortable, surprises in fragile economic conditions can emerge anywhere, any time. Tensions in the international financial markets could potentially rise due to slow progress over budget talks in the US, or due to differences in bailing out a country as small as Cyprus in the euro zone. Even if it is assumed that India will keep borrowing easily by liberalizing the capital account to fund the current account and push currency to higher levels, the idea is being increasingly questioned. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), so far, has maintained that it will only intervene in the currency market to curb volatility and not to

manipulate the exchange rate. This exchange rate policy is advisable in ideal conditions, but the present conditions are a lot different from those that find mention in the textbooks. The exchange rate policy, therefore, needs a critical examination. Writing in The Hindu Business Line on 24 January, former deputy governor of RBI S.S. Tarapore noted: “With the inflation rate persistently above that in major industrial countries, the rupee is clearly overvalued. Adjusting for inflation rate differen-

tials the present nominal dollar-rupee rate of around $1 = Rs.54 should be closer to $1 = Rs.70. But our macho spirits want an appreciation of the rupee which goes against fundamentals.” An overvalued currency will continuously increase import dependence of the country and could turn the high CAD into a structural problem, undermining financial stability and growth. Therefore, no matter which way one looks at it, the currency and the external account remains potential source of risk.

A Chopper for VVIPs

24 dards for the brave men guarding Siachen?” She bemoans that “our tolerance of VVIP culture has allowed an ugly kind of feudalism to masquerade as democracy.” Imagine buying a VVIP ‘Toy’ at rupees 300 crore just to be used sparingly. And pray how many such VVIPs are in India eligible to use such flying machines. It is very difficult to disagree with Tavleen Singh. The elaborate and complicated procurement procedure laid down by the defense ministry itself breeds protracted delays resulting not only in immense cost overruns but also makes the original Services Qualitative Requirements (SQRs) totally redundant by the time the purchase actually comes to fruition after 10 or more years. The purchase of these VVIP was initially proposed


in August, 1999 and a global tender issued in March, 2002, nearly 30 months later. Thereafter, it took 10 years for the final deal to be signed by the ministry of defense. In this weird rigmarole, even the price must have substantially gone up from what was initially quoted. It is high time that India’s defense ministry totally overhauled its archaic procurement procedure and modifies the same in line with such procedures in countries like the USA, the UK, Singapore and others. If corruption cannot be entirely eliminated, at least the procurement process must be made absolutely transparent. One cannot simply understand the rationale for secrecy in this age of Google and institutions such like Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and Jane’s Defense Weekly.

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February 22, 2013


February 22, 2013


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