III        Indian Diaspora

1.         South Asia Global Conference:  SAGC 2007 August 1-5th, 2007 London, UK 2nd International Gathering of South Asian Youth and Young Adults for Mission Mobilization  www.SAGC2007.com. South Asian Connection www.southasianconnection.com

2.         Surge in Indian Diaspora in New Zealand: Report:

There has been a surge in the population of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand, growing by 68 percent between 2001 and 2006 and on track to catch up with the ethnic Chinese, a report has said.

The ethnic Indians growing 68 percent between 2001 and 2006 to 105,000, a report released by statistics New Zealand said. People identifying themselves as Hindu, Sikh and Muslim rose, reflecting the immigration patterns. There was a decline in the population identifying themselves as Christian, from 60.6 percent in 2001 to 55.6 percent in 2006. New Zealand's 4.03 million population was dominated by ethnic Europeans making up 67.6 percent, followed by indigenous Maori at 14.6 percent and Asians at 9.2 percent. Koreans, Filipinos, Japanese, Sri Lankans and Cambodians are the other significant ethnic groups, the report said. 

Most of the Asians live in Auckland, the country's largest city. English-born people are the largest group of immigrants by individual country, with China pushing Australia out of second place.

IV        Global

1.         Lefties:  7 per cent of the world’s population is lefties. (The Week 22 April 2007, p.4)

2.         Porn found on 25 per cent of corporate PCs: The study, which involved auditing about 10,000 personal computers in 125 businesses and public sector networks, found that 12.4 per cent of the 12,000 e-mail accounts and 5.4 per cent of 26,000 file server shares scanned were similarly affected, according to online technology weekly InformationWeek. With over a third of all images found created in the last 12 months, it is clear that a significant number of employees continue to ignore corporate policies and in some cases are going to extraordinary lengths to bypass protection systems in order to obtain and distribute inappropriate material. Corporate officers wrongly assume that boundary protection systems stop all digital pornography from entering the organisation but, in PixAlert's experience, almost all corporations will have a significant amount of pornography on their networks. While all organizations actively discourage access to inappropriate images at work, audits show that the reality is that all establishments have a lot of digital pornography residing on their networks that they don't know about..( assessed on 18 April 2007)

3.         Infections in UK hospitals drive Brits to India for treatment: Prospects of long waiting lists and fears of contracting lethal infections in UK hospitals drove 50,000 British patients to fly to India and other countries providing low cost and high quality treatment last year.  The figures marked an increase of over 25 per cent compared to the previous year and is expected to further increase by as much as 50 per cent in the next 12 months, according to a survey by Treatment Abroad, a website on medical tourism.

 India is the most popular destination for outbound British patients, with around 23 per cent heading to the country, particularly to Kerala. Other popular destinations include Costa Rica, Hungary, Turkey, Holland, Sweden, Norway and Brazil. Reports suggest that worries about hospital infections such as MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureaus) are driving people abroad.  Other reasons for people seeking treatment outside the UK include the rise in cost of hospital and healthcare treatment and the chance to combine foreign treatment with a holiday.

4.         Motorcycle deaths becoming health epidemic in Asia: WHO: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday expressed alarm over the growing number of accidents involving young people on motorcycles in Asia, warning that the situation has become a public health epidemic.  The WHO noted that young motorcyclists make up a significant percentage of injuries and fatalities among road users in many Asian countries, such as Cambodia and Malaysia. Factors such as speed, no helmets, risk-taking behaviour and drink-driving contribute to the rising trend.

 It suggested “simple measures” that could be taken to help make roads safer for young people as the WHO marked observance of the first United Nations Global Road Safety Week dedicated to youth and road safety on April 23-29. The measures include setting and enforcing appropriate speed and blood alcohol limits, as well as introducing and enforcing mandatory seat belt, helmet and child restraint laws. Authorities can also provide safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists, construct speed bumps, separate different types of traffic and improve emergency services from the crash scene to the health facility. The WHO noted that nearly 1.2 million people worldwide die as a result of road traffic collisions every year. Of these, 40 percent are under the age of 25.

Millions more people are injured and often remain disabled for life. In low and medium-income countries, victims are often pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists and users of public transport. A motorcycle is also a family vehicle, with children routinely transported as passengers. Helmets are rarely used, partly because of their cost and partly because of a lack of helmets for children, the WHO said.

5.         What ails the Thai family: Family bonds are fraying, nuclear households are taking over from traditional extended families and family members are forced by economic pressures to leave for the big city, recent studies show.  A survey by the National Statistical Office confirmed that 60 per cent of families in Thailand are nuclear families.  Growing numbers of kids and youths ‘living alone’, increasing teenaged moms and dads, and rising divorce rates are the top three concerns.

 One in every four primary students is living away from his or her parents, while for secondary students it is one in every three, and one in every two among university students.  The disintegration of the extended family has seen the number of ‘teen’ moms and dads exploding. In a year, the number of teen girls giving birth at hospitals is as high as 70000, accounting for 10 per cent of all new mums-nationwide.  Some women are grandmother at the age of 30 due to this. 36% of families earn insufficient to live.  39% of families have problem of domestic violence.  One divorce among four new marriages has become the norm. 62 per cent of families had one alcoholic and 16 per cent one gambler in the family.  (Kamol Sukin, The Sunday Nation, 15 April 2007, p.1)

I           India
1.         Wanted: a vibrant mass public transport system: The vehicular population has grown from 5.44 lakh in 1981 to over 18 lakh today; road space, meanwhile, has not increased proportionately; and there is no reliable public transport system in the city of Chennai. The Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC), on a daily average, carries close to 41 lakh passengers. The suburban services of Southern Railway, including the MRTS, cater to close to 13 lakh persons a day. Even by conservative estimates, the number of residents who use private transport in the city is humungous. There are around 14.4 lakh two-wheelers and about 4 lakh cars registered in the city. The number of vehicles registered outside the city is substantial. Add to this list the 45,000 autorickshaws in the city, and it is safe to assume that the number of commuters using private transport is more than those using public transport. In Chennai, the number, according to senior MTC officials, has actually fallen from 2,775 to 2,300 now. And this includes the recent addition of new buses. The old buses — that had outrun their lifespan — had to be replaced.

2.         Indian handicrafts industry:  227 million men are involved in Indian handicrafts industry.  (The Week, 1 April 2007. p.4)

3.         Number crunching:  The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), during Pratinidhi Sabha meet in Lucknow,  has put the number of shakhas in the country at 44117, a drop of over 5000 since last March. (The Week, 1 April 2007, p.14)

4.         Physical violence:  60.3 per cent of women in Bihar are victims of violence, says the National Family Health Survey.  (The Week, 25 March 2007, p. 6) The national family health survey showed that Chennai stood second in domestic violence against women.  (The Week 25 March 2007, p.68)

5.         Primary School teachers:  25 per cent of government primary school teachers in India are absent from work, says a World Bank survey.  (The Week, 25 March 2007, p. 6)

6.         Unemployment in major cities declines: survey:  Here are some highlights of the 61st National Sample Survey. The unemployment rate has declined from 4.4% to 3.4% in Class I cities of India.  Class I cities have population over one million, Class II – population between 50000 and 1 million, Class III with less than 50000.  The unemployment rate in rural India stands at 2.1 for males and 3.1 for females.  The worker-population ration (WPR) among men in rural area was highest among Christians (56%), followed by Hindus (55%) and Muslims (50%).

 The WPR for men in urban areas was highest for hindus at 58%, followed by Muslims 53% and Christians 51%.  Christians have the lowest illiteracy levels in the country but the highest unemployment rate.  Nearly 40% of Muslim households in urban areas were self-employed, as against 36% Hindu households and 27% Christian households.  Only 30% of Muslims worked for regular wages as compared to 47% Christian households and 43% Hindu households.  (The Economic Times, 2 April 2007, p. 11)

7.         India on top:  India remains the world’s no.1 choice as an offshore sercies location for the third year in a row, according to a survey carried out by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.  The study, which rated countries on more than 40 different metrics, compared the financial attractiveness, people skills and business environment of 50 countries.  The report says India’s wage cost advantage in offshore services will last for another 20 years.  The problem areas are chronically high attrition levels and an uncertain tax and regulatory environment.  ( Business Today 8 April 2007, p. 22)

8.         Indian firms and charity:  Indian firms donated Rs. 22000 crore to charity in 2005-2006.  (Business Today 8 April 2007, p.32)

9.         Urban Indian women:  16.6 per cent of the urban Indian women are engaged in gainful economic activity, the highest in the last 25 years.  (Business Today 8 April 2007, p.32)

10.       Media and Entertainment Industry:  1000 billion rupees will be the size of the media and entertainment industry in the next four years in India.  (The Week 8 April 2007, p.4)

11.       Elephant Must Remember: There is a feeling that India, with its 9 per cent plus growth, is ready to take on the world and make a mark on the global map.  But still, there’s a huge chunk of population -250-300 million people – who have been categorized as poor.  The numbers will swell if one includes the households whose earning s is below Rs. 10000 a year. 

Statistics cannot deny that at least a third of India’s population lies outside the periphery of the ongoing economic boom.  Rural poverty seems to be down but urban poverty is a problem area.  A higher percentage of urban poverty is some states imply that more people are running away from the villages to the cities in search f livelihoods.  While the urban poor may be better off than the rural one, the former face space constraints more health problems due to lack of civic amenities and spend more on transportation.

 Lack of an efficient delivery system that can ensure that the huge budgetary allocation for welfare schemes reach the people they are meant for.  In fact, Government capacity to deliver has declined over the years.  Many policy makers feel that 85 per cent of the funds are spent on the delivery infrastructure – on teachers, doctors, contractors etc.  No country can ever become an economic superpower if it cannot quickly climb up the social indicator’s ladder.  Whether it’s in education, primary health, or access to basic amenities (water and sanitation).  India is way behind other nations.

 In fact, it ranks 126, behind Sri Lanka on the Human Development Index.  Nobel Winner Economist says: “Our vision of Indian can’t be one that is half California and Half sub-Saharan Africa.  Moreover, close to 50 per cent of Indian children under three years of age are clinically underweight, a sure sign of malnourishment.  Agriculture sector has grown little over 2 percent in the last ten years.  Urban incomes have been growing in all probability at 14-15 per cent per year, and urban middle –class incomes at a higher rate. 

Compared to China, India now has more billionaires, but it also has twice as many people below the poverty line.  The Government has helped in the formation of 2.4 million Self Help Groups (SHGs), with members being taught how to operate bank accounts and run business.  The target for eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012) is to ensure that at least one member of every BPL (Below Poverty Line) family becomes part of an SHG and has a bank account so that he or she is able to benefit from the marketing infrastructure, that Government would help create. 

A recent survey by NCERT concluded that the state run schools impart a ‘questionable” qualify of education.  It found that nearly a fifth of the 2.5 million full time teachers in primary schools were untrained, and the figure was similar for the over 1.3 million teachers in upper primary schools. In Punjab, only 7 per cent rural and 8 per cent households use public health facilities for non-hospitalized illnesses. A World Bank study reveals 39 per cent doctors play truant in State-run Institutions. 

The Government has estimated that 23 per cent of the urban population is slum dwellers, and most of them below the poverty line.  In most cities and towns, around 20-30 per cent of the population is slum dwellers, while the number is 30 per cent in the case of Delhi.  (Outlook, Special Issue, State of the Nation, 9 April 2007, p. 20-76)

12.       Suicides in Mumbai:  361 homemakers committed suicide in Mumbai 2005.  (The Week, 15 April 2007, p.4)

13.       Conviction for rape:  4 to 12 per cent is the conviction for rape crime in India.  (The Week, 15 April 2007, p.4)

14.       Over 53% children face sexual abuse: Survey: In a shocking revelation, a government commissioned survey has found that more than 53% of children in India are subjected to sexual abuse, but most don’t report the assaults to anyone.  The survey, covered different forms of child abuse — physical, sexual and emotional — as well as female child neglect, found that two out of every three children have been physically abused.

Parents and relatives, persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility were mostly found to be the perpetrators of child sexual abuse in the country. According to the women and child development ministry-sponsored report, which assumes greater significance in the backdrop of the Nithari killings that brought into focus the issue of children’s safety, those in the age group of 5-12 years reported higher levels of abuse.

Child abuse is shrouded in secrecy and there is a conspiracy of silence around the entire subject. The ministry is working on a new law for protection of children’s rights by clearly specifying offences against children and stiffening punishments. The survey, carried out across 13 states and with a sample size of 12,447, revealed that 53.22% of children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse, with Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and Delhi reporting the highest percentage of such incidents. In 50% of child abuse cases, the abusers were known to the child or were in a position of trust and responsibility and most children did not report the matter to anyone.

The first-ever survey on child abuse in the country disclosed that nearly 65% of schoolchildren reported facing corporal punishment — beatings by teachers — mostly in government schools. Of children physically abused in families, in 88.6% of the cases, it was the parents who were the perpetrators. More than 50% had been sexually abused in ways that ranged from severe — such as rape or fondling — to milder forms of molestation that included forcible kissing.

The study also interviewed 2,324 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, almost half of whom reported being physically or sexually abused as children. When it comes to emotional abuse, every second child was subjected to emotional assault and in 83% of the cases, parents were the abusers. ( assessed on 10th April 2007)

 Mothers 'abuse' children more than fathers: Report: Most of the emotional and physical abuse suffered by children in Indian families is inflicted by mothers, says a government-conducted survey. The study released by the women and child development ministry says out of the 15,000 child respondents, 50.9 percent children were subjected to physical abuse by their mothers while 37.6 percent faced abuse from their fathers. According to the study, 44.13 percent reported facing humiliation.

The report has taken humiliation - referred to as degradation of self-esteem of a child by shouting, belittling, name-calling and using abusive language - as well as comparison with other children as indicators of emotional abuse.  Shockingly, around 44.09 percent reported being humiliated by their mothers and 35.35 by their fathers. The report said 45.5 percent 5-12 age group, 42.24 percent in the 13-14 age group and 43.54 percent in the 15-18 age group reported being humiliated in the family environment. Among the 13 sample states from where the data was collected, Assam reported the highest incidence of emotional abuse followed by Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar. 

At least 48.4 percent girls wished they were boys as more than two out of three girls felt they were neglected. Seventy percent of the girls did household work and 49 percent of the girls took care of their siblings. ( assessed on 11 April 2007)

 15.       "146.2 million motorised violations daily in Delhi": The Delhi traffic police on an average prosecute nearly 8,000 violators of traffic laws every day, but if the latest Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) study is anything to go by it is not even a patch on the real picture. According to the study supplemented with camera recordings, a whopping 146.2 million motorised violations are committed every day in the Capital's roads. Disclosing the findings, IRTE president said there was "total crisis'' on the traffic front in the city. Conducted over two months, the study reveals that an estimated 33 million violations are not because of the driver's fault but happen due to faulty traffic engineering systems.

Daily violations showed an increase of 36.2 million from that of last year, a pointer to the worsening situation. The study, began by identifying the two most accident-prone areas in each of the nine districts of the Capital as per the Traffic Police Accident Report of 2004. The team randomly followed vehicles including buses, lorries and two, three and four-wheelers over a distance of 1-3 km in these areas and recorded their movements. The team divided traffic violations into moving and parking violations as well as driver or passenger-related violations and vehicle or equipment-related violations.

Moving violations included over-speeding, wrongful overtaking, driving in wrong lanes and others. The spot speed survey conducted by the team revealed blatant violations that happen at night. Violations pertaining to not wearing the helmet and seat belt and use of mobile phones while driving were also recorded. The study also showed that almost 90 per cent of motorists did not respect the right of way of pedestrians who are the most vulnerable road users.

16.       Chennai second cleanest city:  Lifebuoy, India's biggest selling soap brand, has takne a pioneering step in spreading awareness about health, hygience and cleanliness in the county by conducting a city cleanliness survey called, "Lifebuoy Swasthya Chetna City Meter. The survey was conducted by AC Nielson Org Marg. Chandigarh emerged winner with a score of 144, followed by Chennai and Kolkata with scores of 118 and 108 respectively. Bangalore was in fourth position. (Sunday Express 8 April 2007, p. 6)

 17.       Teen population:  163 million is the total teen population of India.  Nearly half of India’s one billion populations are under the age of 20.  By 2015, the under 20 crowd will make up 55 per cent of all Indians.  (Business Today 22 April 2007, p.30)

18.       Poverty in Delhi:  1.6 million people live in penury in the city of Delhi, which is one tenth of the city population.  (Business Today, 22 April 2007, p.30)

19.       Mumbai gains on LA, Singapore:  Technology and Gen-X drives the entertainment industry on fast growth track.  The Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimates a whopping $3.6 billion annually over the next five years.  There are now 12000 cinema screens across the country, and more come up every day.  With digitization, many films see simultaneous releases all over India.  The turn over from the entertainment industry stands to be $10 billion by 2010.  With enough tax initiatives, it could tap around 15 per cent of the global entertainment market over the next five years.  There is also vibrant television market also.  (Shalini Singh, Tehelka, 7 April 2007, p. 20)

20.       Living the Dream:  Out of 145 million urban women 42 million are in the age group 18-30.  The survey done by India Today reveals that 86% of women feels it is imperative to be financially independent.  77% asserted that they would work after marriage.  32% women are willing to break traditions or rules while 44 were willing to take risks.  67% women feel Saturdays are a time to party while 25 per cent seem overworked and want to use time off to sleep.  47% women choose family over career while only 22 per cent opt for career over family. 

80% of women feel that 22-28 is the ideal age to marry while only 22% believe 18-22 is fine.  45% of the monthly salary of the average women is spent on eating out, buying clothes and on watching movies.  65% women say that even after they get married, they will decide how they spend their money.  40% of women would like to join the fashion industry and carve out a career in modeling.  (Cover Story, India Today, 16 April 2007, p. 34-64)

21.       Transfats – The New Threat:  India is one of the largest consumers of fast foods that contain harmful trans fats.  These are becoming a major cause of chronic life style diseases like heart attacks and strokes.  Also, 80 per cent of trans fats come from stree food- as revealed by the latest National Report on Street Food Survey – 4800 people interviewed in 16 cities. 

Most of the consumers are in the prime of life (59 per cent between age 35 and 50), overwhelmingly male (67 per cent), working class (31 per cent) with modest education (43 per cent between high school and graudation and earning less than Rs. 100 a day (34 per cent).  Most of them have been frequenting mobile vendors daily for years (78 per cent for 10 years).    As one of the largest snack markets of the world, India consumes more than four lakh tones of snacks every year.  Three-fourths of this is made of 1300 ethnic snacks and savouries.  Edible oils command a fifth of the total food beverages industry.  Hotels invariably use vanaspati. 

A 2006 AC Nielson study revealed that 46 per cent of Indian consumers can figure out food labels ‘only in part’ and five per cent not at all.  The Government has made it mandatory for food manufacturers to put warning labels.  But will it work? In urban India, trans fats are all around us – biscuits contain 9 per cent, vanaspati 30 and milk products 0.12.  Between, just these three items, the total count for trans fats comes to 1.26 gm a day.  The recommended daily ceiling determined by the World Health Organization (WHO) is just 5 gm.   (Damayanti Datta, India Today 23 April 2007, p. 64-66)

22.       Zero Watt in my bulb:  The power crisis in India is going from bad to worse.  Indian firms lose 9% output, due to power shortage.  In China and Malaysia this figure is 2%.  Also, power cost 74% more in Indian than Malaysia and 39% more in China.  There is 20-25% power shortage in Maharastra, 20% in Uttar Pradesh and 10-15% in Gujarat, Madya Pradesh and Delhi.  Currently 60% of firms in India own a generator which is 30% in China.  There are some power surplus states like Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal and would benefit from trading.   (Lola Nayar, Outlook 23 April 2007, p. 56-57)

23.       Child marriage rampant in Rajasthan:  ''Aakhaa Teej'' traditionally is considered the most auspicious day for weddings. But in Rajasthan it's a day when countless child marriages are held in violation of the Child Marriage Prevention Act. Ironically many lawmakers in the state were themselves married as minors. With one out of every three MLAs in the state married while under age it's hardly a surprise that few are keen to implement the laws to curb Child Marriage.

It's not just locals even prominent politicians are involved in this practice. Sixty-five of the state's 200 MLAs were married off as minors including five ministers of the Raje government. Marrying girls below 18 is illegal. But 48 per cent of girls in Rajasthan are married by the age of 15. Politicians claim it's social tradition and the poverty of parents that force child marriage. But experts say it's the pursuit of votes that prevents a check. Politicians fear that if they fight against this tradition, they will lose votes.

That's why they do nothing to stop sarpanches and caste leaders who support child marriage but are crucial to get votes in rural areas. With rulers reluctant not even a dozen cases are registered in a year for violating Child Marriage laws though hundreds of minors are married annually. And so long as politicians are focused mainly on votes, the future of countless children will continue to suffer.

24.       Dalit groom creates history: Akshay tritya, considered the most auspicious day for weddings, will yet again see thousands of couples coming together this year. But one wedding in Madhya Pradesh will stand out. Though Sagar is only 30 kms from Baamnaur, it's taken centuries for a dalit to cross over on a horse. Bridegroom Surendra Ahirwaar perhaps created a history of sorts, at least in the region when he became the first Dalit groom to sit on a horse and lead his wedding procession.

Horses are reserved for the upper caste. This is an unwritten rule thats been followed for centuries in the Yadav dominated Baamnaur village without any opposition. So when Surender announced his intentions, the upper castes were far from pleased. Not surprisingly, the upper castes boycotted the wedding. And even the preparations had to be carried out under security. It was indeed one wedding that has given people something to talk about for years.

25.       Cow urine used to 'purify' kids: Teachers of a primary school in Bhandara district of Maharshtra sprinkled cow's urine in the school premises and on students. They did this because the previous headmistress was a Dalit and they wanted to purify the school and the children of the lower castes. It was no educational trip to the police station for the school children – they were witnesses to the case of the violation of civil liberties committed when their new principal allegedly sprinkled cow urine or goumutra in their classroom and on them.

The upper caste principal apparently did this to purify the school and its students because the woman she replaced was also a Dalit. The act and the reason have obviously angered the parents. But the school authorities refute the very allegation. Though a case has been registered, the police have taken no action against the principal yet.

 26.       Cancer deaths:  550000 people in India die of cancer every year.  (The Week, 29 April 2007, p.6)

27.       Junk food leading to cancer in food pipe, says study: Junk food is not only causing obesity but heartburn or acidity leading to ulcers and even cancer in food pipe, a study claimed. The nation wide study has found that heartburn is affecting about three out of five urban Indians.  The study conducted in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Bhopal and Hyderabad showed the irregular food eating habits is a cause for heartburn among 71 per cent of the urban adult population. 

Heartburn happens when the esophagus comes to contact with stomach acids.  If it is overlooked it could cause ulcer and also cancer.  Spicy and chilly-based food like pizza, spicty curries, chips and snacks are main culprits (10 per cent).  People in Lucknow, Mumbai and Chennai are the ones who are eating out more as compared to the other cities that were surveyed.  Long workings hours, stress and lack of sleep are other reasons for heartburn.  (The New Indian Express 24 April 2007, p. 10)


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