I           India

1.         Kids strangle friend, nail him to wall: Two teenagers aged 14 and 15 years allegedly strangled their 13-yearold friend with a copper wire and then pinned his body to a wall using iron nails. The children were paid Rs 20,000 by a 35-year-old woman, Sabroon, to commit the murder. She was angry with the victim as she suspected he was stealing from her shop and wanted to get rid of him. The two kids have been arrested by the Vijay Nagar police. The woman is on the run. Ghaziabad police said the victim, Nishran, was a resident of Shraveri village. He was found dead in an under-construction building on the outskirts of the village on April 21.The police said Nishan was killed so brutally that blood was splattered all over the floor and walls. During the course of our investigation, we found that Shaukat and Aziz (names changed) were last seen with the boy. We detained them and began questioning. What they revealed was a horrifying tale of murder planned over days, the police said. The police said the kids took Nishran on their cycle to the outskirts of the village around 1 pm on April 21.When they entered the under-construction building, Shaukat attacked Nishran from behind and strangled him with a copper wire. The duo then nailed him to the wall and fled. They said Sabroon,the wife of a local shop owner, told them to kill Nishran as he and his cousin were stealing money and goodies from her shop for the past one year, the police said. The police raided Sabroons house but she had already fled. We have questioned her relatives and will arrest her soon, the police said. (Dwaipayan Ghose, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Kids-strangle-friend-nail-him-to-wall-/articleshow/5866257.cms accessed on 28 April 2010)

2.         Half of city lives in slums and illegal colonies: MCD:  Nearly half of 15 million Delhiites live in slums, JJ clusters and unauthorized colonies which have little or no garbage collection system. About 49% of the total population lives in slum areas, unauthorized colonies and about 860 JJ clusters. There are also 20,000 jhuggies and according to a rough estimate about five persons stay in each jhuggi besides a sizable population living in unplanned areas having no proper system of collection, transportation and disposal of municipal solid wastes. What is more startling is that despite formulation of the Master Plan 2021,the government has not been able to bring most of the residential areas under its purview. The MCD said: As a rough estimate only about 5% of the population lives in planned areas. This means nearly 73.5 lakh people of the 1.5 crore population live in slums and unauthorized colonies and that only 7.5 lakh Delhiites enjoy civic amenities to the fullest being residents of planned development areas. This affidavit was filed by the civic body to highlight the urgent need for an alternative sanitary landfill (SLF) site as the one next to the Ghazipur slaughterhouse was more than full and unable to take any more load. (Dhananjay Mahapatra, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Half-of-city-lives-in-slums-and-illegal-colonies-MCD-/articleshow/5866268.cms accessed on 28 April 2010)

3.         Astrology is a 'time-tested science', says Union government: Astrology is an ancient 'science' and cannot be banned, the Union government has said in an affidavit filed in the Bombay high court. The high court is currently hearing a petition filed in the public interest, which seeks a ban on the practice of astrology, vastu-shastra, etc. It also seeks action against advertisements of astrologers under the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954. But in an affidavit filed in reply to the petition, Dr R Ramkrishna, deputy drugs controller, government of India, said, "Ban on astrology and related sciences sought by the petitioner, which is a time-tested science more than 4,000 years old, is totally misconceived and unjustifiable". The affidavit relies on a Supreme Court judgment, which had held that the introduction of a course in astrology did not militate against the concept of secularism enshrined in the Constitution. Further, the affidavit said, the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act does not cover astrology and related disciplines. The act can be used only against misleading advertisements relating to drugs and magic remedies, such as an advertisement of a drug assuring the prevention of pregnancy, improvement of sexual power, etc, without any scientific basis. The high court adjourned the hearing till June as several of these astrologers have not yet filed their replies. (http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_astrology-is-a-time-tested-science-says-union-government_1376683 accessed on 29 April 2010)

4.         Wed as a child, 17-year-old gets marriage annulled: Renu Yadav was 13 when she was married off. Barely able to care for herself, she was asked to care for a husband. But even at that age, Renu refused to be a docile victim. The child bride was adamant she would not leave home with her groom, insisting she wanted to study. "I did not understand what marriage meant. I refused to go even though the groom's parents were forcing my father. I stood firm, I wanted to study," says Renu. And she did just that. Her father recalls, "My daughter pressurised us. She said she wanted to pursue her studies and take up a job. She wanted to either join the police force or become a teacher." In school Renu learned of the Child Marriage Prevention Act and earlier this year filed a petition seeking that her marriage be annulled. A Haryana court ruled in favour of annulling the child marriage.( http://www.ndtv.com/news/cities/girl-gets-her-child-marriage-nullified-21184.php accessed on 29 April 2010)

5.         India’s wastelands endanger 5m poor: India’s waste disposal industry is one of the world's largest. But less than 5,000 recycling units are registered. Most businesses operate informally, away from any regulation. A huge waste processing accident in Delhi, where one person died and seven were taken ill after radiation exposure, has caught the media’s attention. But far from the media glare, five million of the country’s poorest are exposed to hazardous waste — including radioactive — every day as India turns into the wasteland of the world. In the last three years, India’s hazardous waste import spiked 48 per cent. Last year, the developed world dumped 64 lakh tonnes of waste in India, adding to the 59 lakh tonnes produced domestically. Shipments of discarded plastic, electronics and metal enter India through six major ports, where port and customs officials lack the wherewithal to check them. Agents truck the waste to villages and industrial towns where it is taken apart. The agents then buy these components and sell them to the makers of second-hand goods. The finished products end up in markets all over India. Along the way, hundreds handle the waste, often with their bare hands. India’s waste disposal industry is one of the world's largest. But less than 5,000 recycling units are registered. Most businesses operate informally, away from any regulation.There are only 16 firms registered to handle hazardous waste, said SP Gautam, chairman, Central Pollution Control Board. India has a capacity to treat only one-third of its domestic hazardous waste. With no safety mechanism in place, disease isn’t far behind. “People who handle industrial waste that hasn't been treated properly suffer radiation, cancer and blood disorders,” said Bir Singh, professor of community medicine at AIIMS. Many suffer subtle symptoms, so doctors don’t always make the connection, said Singh.  (Anika Gupta & Chetan Chauhan, http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-s-wastelands-endanger-5m-poor/H1-Article1-538185.aspx accessed on 2 May 2010)

6.         Soldiers of misfortune:  India has about 7 lakh paramilitary forces which include the Central Reserve Police Force (strength 2.30 lakh); Border Security Force (strength 2.15 lakh); Central Industrial Security Force (strength 1.12 lakh); Assam Rifle (strength 50,000); Indo- Tibetan Border Police (strength 74,000) and a Sashastra Seema Bal (strength 29,000). The tasks of these battalions range across fighting internal counter-insurgencies, protecting heritage sites and national installations, providing relief during calamities, controlling riots, providing VIP security and executing election duties. (Their motto is ‘Any Task, Any Time, Any Where’ and ‘Duty unto Death’ — as opposed to the army’s which is ‘Shoot to Kill’. But far from pride, this seems to evoke cynical scorn in jawans now.) According to official data, an unprecedented 14,422 jawans applied for premature voluntary retirement from service (VRS) in 2009 — up 85 percent from the previous year and 112 percent from 2007. Compare this with the fact that only 4,622 soldiers sought voluntary retirement from the Indian Army — which is three times larger than all the paramilitary forces put together — in the same period, and the contrast becomes painfully stark.  The desire for these jawans to quit forces are:  country does not honour them; poor work conditions; demeaning terms of service; long years away from families; arbitrary orders and a niggling sense that their life is cheap and death would come without honour. There are reports that officers live in concrete houses with three servants while jawans are in torn tents with large holes.  The officers do not allow the welfare schemes to reach them.  Jawans pay is cut even if they are injured on duty.  (Raman Kirpal, Tehelka 8 May 2010, p. 28-36)

7.         Diabetic:  India has 51 million diabetic cases the highest in any country it the world.  (India Today 3 May 2010, p. 61)

8.         Top central universities have 34% teaching posts vacant: The top 22 universities in India have 34% vacancy in teaching jobs. Twenty-two central universities with 11,085 sanctioned posts have 3,777 vacant posts, Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday. Sikkim University is the worst of the lot with a whopping 84% vacancy (169 vacancies out of the total posts of 201). HRD ministry's claim that all the posts have since been advertised and 32 posts have been filled on contractual basis is hardly a consolation. In many like Allahabad University there is 43.5% vacancy, JNU has 32.5% vacancy (237 out of 728), Indira Gandhi National Open University has nearly 40% (273/692) teaching posts lying vacant. It is interesting to note that Allahabad University is just completing its first five years as a central university but there has been hardly any change since its days as a state university. The government has said that though Delhi University has around 51% vacancy, it has also explained that out of the 1,500 sanctioned posts, 202 posts (out of 646 posts sanctioned for OBC reservation) have not been permitted to be filled. The total vacancy is of 763 posts out of which 729 have already been advertised and interviews are in the process of being scheduled, the ministry said. Maulana Azad National Urdu University has 118 vacancies out of 248 posts. In Aligarh Muslim University, there is a vacancy of 235 posts against the sanctioned strength of 1,387. In Banaras Hindu University, the government has explained that though there are 1,842 sanctioned posts, 553 have not been allowed to be filled. It has 352 vacant posts. Hyderabad University has 184 vacancies out of 541 sanctioned posts. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Top-central-universities-have-34-teaching-posts-vacant/articleshow/5895118.cms accessed on 6 May 2010)

9.         Chain snatching scares commuters at Chepauk: A chain-snatching incident inside a moving lift at the Chepauk station on the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) has not only reinforced the notion that the MRTS is unsafe but also scared commuters away from that station premises. Doordarshan employee Swarnamalaya Dhandapani (58) was waiting for a lift at the basement of the Chepauk station when it arrived with a young man on board. As he stayed put, she joined him. When the lift began its ascent, Dhandapani asked him why he had not stepped out at the basement. In response, he whipped out a knife, snatched her eight sovereign gold chain and slipped out in a flash as soon as the lift stopped at the ground floor. Before the stunned Dhandapani could gather her wits together and raise an alarm, the doors closed and the lift started moving again. By the time she managed to draw the attention of the people, the man had fled. Besides, there were hardly 25 people in the sprawling station building at that time. After the news spread by word of mouth, many regular commuters — most of them working in the offices close to the Chepauk station like VSNL, Doordarshan, Prasar Bharati and Kuralagam — stopped using the Chepauk station. The MRTS network was a sitting duck as most of it stations were not just deserted, they were also ill-lit and had turned into a den of lumpen elements. There has been no improvement in the overall security situation. In fact, many elderly people are apprehensive of using it after 8.30 pm. Besides, robbers have been found hiding at MRTS stations, a police officer said. On an average, over one-lakh passengers use the MRTS services daily. It is the job of the Egmore Railway police station to provide security. But their total strength is just around 100. Their brief includes providing VVIP cover, platform security at major stations and guarding suburban and MRTS stations. Granted, 68 Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel have been deployed at MRTS stations, but their role is limited to protecting railway property. (Gokul Vannan, http://expressbuzz.com/cities/chennai/chain-snatching-scares-commuters-at-chepauk/170885.html accessed on 6 May 2010)

10.       Eclipsed at dawn: The voluntary group Save the Children in its report has said that 2 million children below 5 years of age die every year in India.  50% of the death happen in the first month. The major reasons:  mothers get little or no pre-natal care; Deliveries take place without medical access; infants are not breast-fed; children are not immunized and childhood diseases go untreated. Children die of respiratory track infection, diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, measles, protein malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, tetanus..etc.  Indian Government has said that there is a shortage of personnel:  74000 accredited social health activists (ASHA) and 21000 auxiliary nurse-midwives (ANM).  The States with higher infant mortality rate are:  Assam (64), Rajasthan (63), Uttar Pradesh (67) and Orissa (69).  The States with low infant mortality rate are: Kerala (12), Goa (10) and Manipur (14).   (Amba Batra Bakshi, Outlook 10 May 2010, p. 26-27)

11.       Army officer held for child pornography. Lt. Col. Jagmohan Balbir Singh was arrested by the Cyber Cell of the Crime Branch police here on the charge of uploading sexually explicit images and clips of children on child pornography websites. Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy told reporters that Lt. Col. Singh was charged under Section 67 B (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act. It was the German police who first spotted the activity from Mumbai on a server located in the United States. They sent a report to the Interpol, which in turn forwarded it to the CBI Delhi, and subsequently to the Mumbai Crime Branch. The Cyber Cell tracked the server activity to the Internet Protocol (IP) address of Lt. Col Singh. “We believe a similar offence has been registered against Lt. Col Singh in Germany,” Mr. Roy said.The officer would be questioned about the source of the material he uploaded; if he had distributed it to others and if there were any accomplices. (http://www.hindu.com/2010/05/08/stories/2010050863221100.htm accessed on 7 May 2010)

12.       Trashing the guidelines: According to Comptroller and Audit Genera Report:  Indian generates 70 lakh tones of hazardous industrial waste, 15 lakh tones of plastic waste, 4 lakh tones of electronic waste, 1.7 lakh tones of medical waste and 480 lakh tones of municipal waste which includes toxic elements annually.  Also 50 lakh of prohibited consignments of medical waste, municipal waste and e-waste comes from abroad every year according to customs data.  There are laws and guidelines for waste management, but 75% of States do not implement them.  Pollution Control Board estimates 4.2 lakh medical waste generated every day in India and only 2.4 lakh tones are treated and rest is dumped probably with municipal waste.  India has 84 809 health care facilities, but only 48 183 use biomedical waste treatment facilities.   (The Week 16 May 2010, p. 14)

13.       SC upholds OBC quota in panchayat polls: The Supreme Court upheld the validity of reservation for SCs, STs, women and backward classes (OBCs) in panchayat elections but said quota in local self-government should be for a much shorter period than that for jobs and admissions to educational institutions. It also upheld reservation of the posts of chairperson of panchayats in favour of SC, ST, women and OBC candidates in rotation. However, in reserving seats in panchayat elections for SC, ST and OBC candidates, the quantum of quota cannot breach the 50% limit, ruled a five-judge constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran, D K Jain, P Sathasivam and J M Panchal. In the absence of empirical data about the OBC population, the constitution Bench expressed its inability to decide whether the quantum of reservation for backward classes in local self-government was valid or not. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/SC-upholds-OBC-quota-in-panchayat-polls/articleshow/5918225.cms accessed on 12 May 2010)

14.       Cabbies in the net: Transport commissioner of Mumbai has proposed to have control room with 24 hours helpline to help passengers who travel by autos and taxis. Around 5 lakh passengers ride on 1.6 taxis and autos each day.     (Nishika Patel, India Today 24 May 2010, p. 20)

15.       Motherlode Low Mark:  (India has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of maternal deaths at 68000 every year and under-five deaths at 1.83 million.  It also has the greatest shortfall of health workers (doctors, nurses and midwives), estimated to be over 515000.  (Damayanti Datta, India Today 24 May 2010, p. 59)

16.       ‘Madras eye’ targets scorched city: Conjunctivitis cases have shot up in the city, with an average of at least 3-4 people a day trooping into eye clinics in the city for treatment of their swollen ‘Madras Eye.’ The unseasonal rains have caused a spurt in viral infections, doctors say. “The sudden storm and the pooling of water have triggered the infection. Though there is no worry that it has reached epidemic proportions, it is advisable that people with conjunctivitis maintain good hygiene, and stay put in their homes for 2-3 days,” says leading eye specialist Dr Amar Agarwal. While sharing of towels and handkerchiefs is a strict no-no, interestingly, door handles are the most vulnerable spots for contracting the air borne, contagious infection. People with conjunctivitis should ideally wash their hands before they touch the handles, says Dr R.R. Sudhir, senior cornea consultant, Shankara Nethralaya. For those who indulge in self-medication, the use of the wrong eye drops could severely damage the cornea, leading to blindness, cautions Dr Agarwal. “The eye drops with steroids are dangerous, and no drops should be administered without consulting a doctor, as not all people with a reddened eye have conjunctivitis. Fermenting the infected eye with a warm handkerchief soon after pressing it with an iron box is the best treatment,” Dr Agarwal points out. (http://www.deccanchronicle.com/chennai/%E2%80%98madras-eye%E2%80%99-targets-scorched-city-718 accessed on 25 May 2010)

17.       City to be beggar-free from June: After the successful drive to pick up mentally-ill persons from city’s streets, the Chennai Corporation on Monday announced a mission to make the city beggar-free. Speaking to reporters after holding a consultative meeting with NGOs, Mayor M. Subramanian said that 18 NGOs have come forward to provide safe home and rehabilitate beggars wandering in the city roads and signals. “The corporation would launch the drive from June when the beggars will be caught and handed over to the rehabilitation centres,” he said. He also said that 11 persons were handed over to their relatives after their details were uploaded in the corporation website. (http://www.deccanchronicle.com/chennai/city-be-beggar-free-june-712 accessed on 25 May 2010)

18.       Private Hospitals:  84 percent of the private hospitals in India have less than 20 beds.  Only 1 percent of the hospitals have 200 or more beds.  (India Today 31 May 2010, p. 74)

19.       Citadels of learning:  India has 504 universities, and 25951 colleges in India.  It includes 2565 women colleges.  136.42 lakh students get enrolled in various courses.  56.49 lakh girl students enroll in colleges.  Uttar Pradesh has the highest girls in colleges with 8 lakh students.  5.89 lakh is the regular faculty strength – 0.9 lakh in universities and 4.99 lakh in colleges.  The top ten universities are:  Banarus Hindu University; Jawaharlal Nehru University; University of Delhi; University of Calcutta; University of Madras; University of Mumbai; University of Hyderabad; Indian Institute of Science; Jadavpur University and Osmania University. According to Human Resources Ministry, there is a need for additional 600 Universities and 35000 colleges in the next twelve years.     (Sharda Ugra, India Today 31 May 2010, p. 54-72)

II         Diaspora

H1B visas lose charm as recession stalks US: The once prized H1-B visa, which permits foreign professionals to work in the United States for a limited period, appears to be losing its appeal in India. The US sets limits for the number of H1-B visas each country is annually entitled to. For India, the cap was lowered in 2004 from nearly 2 lakh to 65,000 in the 'regular' category and 20,000 more for those with postgraduate degrees from US universities. Usually applications for H1-B visas exceed the number that will be issued, within the first few days of a new financial year. But in 2009-10, the number exceeded the cap only in the third week of December. In this financial year, until the third week of April, there have only been around 16,000 applications in the first category and 6,700 in the second, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services figures. With the US economy yet to recover from financial meltdown and unemployment remaining high, it is no longer the El Dorado for professionals it once used to be. (Anirudh Bhattacharyya, http://www.hindustantimes.com/H1-B-visas-lose-charm-as-recession-stalks-US/H1-Article1-537378.aspx accessed on 30 April 2010)

Meltdown hit 2 lakh seeking jobs abroad: At least two lakh job-seekers across the country, mostly unskilled and semi-skilled workers, were hit by the economic slowdown last year. Official figures show that in 2010, for the first time in 10 years, there was a decrease in the number of Indians going to take up jobs in the Gulf and West Asian countries. According to data released by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs, only 6.10 lakh candidates travelled abroad in 2009 to take up jobs in 20 countries excluding the US and European countries as compared to 8.48 lakh of the previous year. Singed by the global meltdown, corporate giants in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Malaysia resorted to large-scale retrenchment last year, severely affecting their largely Indian workforce. Prior to the downturn, labour outflow from India had since 2004 recorded a steady rise. Around 4.74 lakh Indians left to countries excluding the US and European nations that year. The number rose to 5.48 lakh in 2005 and touched eight lakh in 2007. According to the report, people from Tamil Nadu and Kerala were the worst affected. Tamil Nadu’s outflow of contract workers dropped to 78,841 in 2009 from 1.29 lakh the previous year. From neighbouring Kerala, the state with the highest inflow of Gulf money, only 1.19 lakh workers went abroad in 2009 as compared to 1.80 lakh in 2008. (http://www.deccanchronicle.com/chennai/meltdown-hit-2-lakh-seeking-jobs-abroad-019 accessed on 23 May 2010)

III  Global

Motherlode – Global loss:  Every year 350000 women died during pregnancy or child birth every year.  24000 mothers mourn the loss of a child every day.  (Damayanti Dattan, India Today 24 May 2010, p. 59)

Facebook has greater impact on girls:  Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have greater impact on girls than boys, a new survey has revealed. The study, commissioned by National Family Week, surveyed 3,000 parents and 1,000 children across Britain, reported telegraph.co.uk  When asked to name what is most important for them, the top three choices for girls were popularity and having friends, followed by family, and then social networking sites. However, the top three priorities for boys were family, followed by money and then popularity and having friends. Just six percent of boys chose social networking, compared to almost 40 per cent of the girls. The study also revealed that parents over-estimate the role they play in their child's life. Two third of the parents said they thought they were the biggest influence in their child's life, but only 49 percent of the children said the same. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/Facebook-has-greater-impact-on-girls/H1-Article1-546950.aspx accessed on 23 May 2010)

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