Global Urban Vision – November 2007

(Compiled and Published by J.N. Manokaran   ( ) on behalf of Glocal Resources Development Associates)

Indians top sex searchers on Google:
Internet users in Egypt, India and Turkey are the world's most frequent searchers for Websites using the keyword "sex" on Google search engines, according to statistics just provided by Google Inc.

Germany, Mexico and Austria were world's top three searchers of the word "Hitler" while "Nazi" scored the most hits in Chile, Australia and the United Kingdom, data from 2004 until now on the "Google Trends" website reflects.

Chile also came in first position in searching for the word "gay", followed by Mexico and Colombia. We are not saying this, but it is the 'God of Search' which has revealed so.

Interestingly, Morocco, Indonesia and Pakistan were among world's top three countries to search for the word "Jihad" while Pakistan, Philippines and Australia sought the word "Terrorism" the most.

The statistics also revealed that the Internet users in Ireland, United Kingdom and United States searched most for the word "Hangover."

Top searchers for other keywords were as follows (in order from first to third place). Burrito: United States, Argentina, Canada. Iraq: United States, Australia, Canada.

Taliban: Pakistan, Australia, Canada. Tom Cruise: Canada, United States, Australia.

Britney Spears: Mexico, Venezuela, Canada. Homosexual: Philippines, Chile, Venezuela.

Love: Philippines, Australia, United States. Botox: Australia, United States, United Kingdom.

Viagra: Italy, United Kingdom, Germany.

David Beckham: Venezuela, United Kingdom, Mexico.

Kate Moss: Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden.

Dolly Buster: Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia.

Car bomb: Australia, United States, Canada. Marijuana: Canada, United States, Australia.

IAEA: Austria, Pakistan, Iran. ( assessed on 19th October 2007)

I            India

1.          City going for green:  The most Green Buildings certified in India are located in the city of Chennai.  Out of the 80 buildings with a built up space of 25 million square feet, 15 are located in Chennai.   The Green Buildings in Chennai are: Grundfos Pumps India Pvt. Ltd, Vestas Wind Technology India Ltd., L&T EDRC I, Olympia Technology Park, ABN Amro, L&T TC II building, Turbo Energy Limited, ETL BPO Park, World Bank Building, Chennai Tech Park, Rane Institute for Employee Development, AMTI Tech Park, RMZ Millennia Business Park, Ashok Leyland Properties, Sunhera Realty Pvt. Ltd.   Only one building in Hyderabad has Platinum rating outside USA.  Grundfos Pumps building is rated as Golden, whereas there are only 50 building around the world with this rating.   The building claims to recycle 100% of its water and uses 40% less of portable water when compared to other structures of similar size.  More than 75% of the building uses daylight and there is 28% energy saving when compared to conventional buildings.   The cost of building Green buildings is only 3% more than conventional buildings.   (Sriram V J, Madras Musings, 16-30 September 2007. p.1)

2.          Housing shortage:  According to ASSOCHAM, there is a shortage of 19.4 million units of houses in India.  (Business Today 7 October 2007, p. 40)

3.          Indian techies:  Rs. 620000 is the annual average salary of Indian techies in 2007.  (Business Today 7 October 2007, p.40)

 4.          In Haryana, caste justice kills Mahatma's ideals: The nonviolent integration of Harijans was one of Gandhi's greatest dreams. But now those very children of God who Gandhi loved have turned their back on Ram-Rajya and violence comes to them as easily as it comes to the dominant castes. In Gohana for instance, simmering caste dispute flared-up after the murder of a youth of the lower caste Valmiki community by the dominant Jats. And leading the charge of the Valimkis was Dashrat Rattan Rawan. For many years now, Dasrath has been spreading the word of the Adi Dharm Samaj, a faith celebrating Ravan instead of Ram. Gandhi's Ram-Rajya to him is just another name for world dominated by the upper castes. Rejecting Gandhi's Ram-Rajya, the followers of Dashrat now await the arrival of Rawan-Rajya, an aggressive assertion of their dalit identity aimed at dismantling the caste hierarchies in the society. (Asim Khan, assessed on 2nd October 2007)

5.          Amravati tribals worship Ravana idols: Dussera is marked by the burning of effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad symbolising the victory of good over evil across the country. However, in some villages in the tribal-dominated areas of Melghat (Amravati district) and Dhanora (Gadchiroli district) worship the demon king Ravana and his son Meghnad. And the tradition—which has been primarily popular among the Korku and Gond tribes—has been religiously followed for generations. Each year at the time of Holi, there is a festival of called 'Phagun', in which the Korku tribals perform the puja of Meghnad. The Amravati-based Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP) has been following the tribal culture of worshipping statues of Ravana and Meghnad on the eve of Dussehra at Rani Durgawati Square on 20 th October, Saturday, with a view to put a stop to the burning of effigies of Ravana and Meghnad. Addressing media persons, ABAVP state president Mahananda Tekam, said the tribals considered Ravan and Meghnad as the gods of tribal people. And burning their effigies is tantamount to insulting the lord of the tribals. "This practice will not be tolerated any more. The local administration should ensure that the three effigies (Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad) are accorded due respect,'' Tekam said. The Ravan puja began as scheduled at Rani Durgavati square at 10 am, following which a meeting was organised at Vimalbai Deshmukh hall. However, the police objected to the organisers' not seeking prior permission to perform the puja at a public place. When contacted, M D Rathod, police inspector of Gadge Nagar police station said, "A case will be registered against the organisers for unlawful gathering and performing puja at a public place without the requisite permission from the authorities.'' In Dhanora tehsil, the tribals have been worshipping Ravana for many years. The villagers install idols of the demon king and worship him. This year, tribals from village Paraswadi installed an idol of Ravan ahead of the Navratri festival on October 12, it is learnt. Dhanora being a tribal-dominated area, the tribals have traditionally been worshipping Ravana and the tradition continues. The tribals consider Ravana as a learned person who was well-versed with the Vedas and an ardent Shiva devotee. On Saturday, it is learnt that a huge procession was taken out in praise of Ravana, on the eve of Dussehra.

( Kirti Pande, assessed on 21 October 2007)

6.          Recovery agent admits: We bank on third degree: Standing tall at 5 ft 11 inches, Lucky is a daunting and an imposing sight on the streets of Delhi. This 38-year-old has just started a detective agency of his own, but that's only a front for his real job. Lucky is a recovery agent. Big private banks hire him to make sure their loans are returned on time. Eighteen years in the business and he knows exactly how to get customers to pay up."We threaten people, we land up at their place and sometimes even use third degree," he admits to CNN-IBN. Welcome to the world of corporate sponsored violence, a dark underbelly of the swanky banking sector where local goons and ruffians are hired by banks to terrorise customers into settling their dues. Where threatening calls, verbal abuse and even physical violence have become part of routine collection system. These recovery agents are not on any bank's rolls but stand to get a hefty cut of booty they help recover. "Not just lathis, some agents even pull out their mousers, they stop cars on gunpoint, drag the owners and drive away with the car," Lucky says. Blame it on over-aspiring consumers who borrow more than they can return or overzealous lenders who then bend the rules to recover their debts, the paranoia continues.

(Anu Jogesh, assessed on 3rd October 2007)

7.          Welfare's willing executioners:  Of the 1.4 billion people who face chronic hunger world over, one in three in an Indian.  Every third Indian goes to bed without food; more than 10000 of our compatriots die of hunger each day.  It is not the poor state of the economy or the lack of funds that is killing about 4 million Indians every year, it is the cancer of corruption and the colonial character of the Indian bureaucracy.   India currently has four major schemes in operation that aim at fighting hunger and food insecurity: the Public Distribution System (PDS), the Integrated child Development Scheme (ICDS), the Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDM) and, most importantly, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).   Very few Indians would ever have to go without food if we could just ensure that these schemes were corruption free. According to a report by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, : "Last year alone, Rs. 11336.98 crore worth of food grain that the government is supposed to distribute to the needy at subsidized price found its way into the market illegally.  Every year India's poor are cheated out of 55.3 per cent of wheat and 39% of rice meant for them."  A survey of 100 Orissa villages has found that of the Rs. 733 crore spent under the NREGS during 2006-07, over 500 crore, or around 70 per cent, has been siphoned off and misappropriated by officials of the executing agencies.   Orissa Government claims that each household had been given an average of 57 days of wage employment under NREG, the study revealed that a large number of impoverished households had been denied not only jobs but even job cards, and that not more than five days' wage employment on average had been given to any of these families in the 19 districts.   To put Rs. 500 crore of siphoned NREGS funds in perspective, this amoung of money would have given about 90 days of wage employment to about 10 lakh severely impoverished families.   Each of these families would have got Rs. 5000 as wages.  This amoung would have given each family two subsistence meals a day for four to six months; it would have supplied each family one meal a day for an entire ear.   Orissa bureaucracy has robbed 10 lakh chronically hunger families of a meal a day for a whole ear.  During the last two months, hundreds of adivasis in Rayagada, Koraput and Kalahandi districts have died to 'consumption of contaminated water and rotten food' and 'hunger and severe food insecurity'.   When all anti-poverty programmes in the region have been hijacked and converted into money-minting machines for Orissa's babus, who then is the real killer of Orissa's adivasis?   Orissa's babus have converted even this historic employment guarantee scheme into nothing but an income guarantee scheme for themselves.  On the Human Development Index, many sub-Saharan villages would fare better than most KBK (Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) villages.   Abject poverty and chronic hunger manufactured by a corrupt bureaucracy are the main reasons behind these tragic deaths.   (Parshuram Rai, Tehelka 6 October 2007, p. 50-52)

8.          Lust for minors growing in India, says survey: Unlike rest of the world, the lust of men in South Asia, especially India, is growing for younger women, said Gary Lewis, South Asia head of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). This is resulting in trafficking syndicates targeting younger women in Nepal, Bangladesh, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, trafficking hot spots in south Asia.   A recent study of trafficked women in Nepal to India had revealed that there is an increased demand for younger women. In 1980s, women between 14-16 were preferred, then the age in 1990s went down to 10-14 and now it is even less than 10 years. Desire for younger women is not the prime reason. The growing fear of catching sexually transmitted diseases from older women and belief that having sex with younger women is a cure for many diseases had caused this increase in demand. Many believe having sex with young virgin girls would cure them of diseases. For others, chances of catching STD from younger girls is less. What most of these girls get in return at a tender age is the dreaded HIV/AIDS. Study of trafficked women in Nepal showed that 60 per cent of positive HIV cases were of girls below the age of 15. And, all of them had got the disease from their male clients going for unprotected sex because the kids are not in a position to protest. It showed,   lower the age higher the risk to get HIV/AIDS. For these HIV positive girls, life has been cut short. Trafficking in south Asia is a most organized crime and third most profit earner after weapon smuggling and drugs. (Chetan Chouhan,'Lust+for+minors+growing+in+India ' assessed on 4th October 2007)

9.          HC calls for probe into exploitation of girls in mills:  The Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered the constitution of district-level panels to probe complaints on the exploitation of girls under the guise of apprenticeship in cotton and spinning mills in Tamil Nadu. The first bench comprising chief justice A. P. Shah and justice P. Jyothimani directed the state legal services authority to nominate a woman NGO and a representative from the state legal services authority to initiate surprise inspection of textile mills in 17 districts in the state in respect of the "camp coolie system" of employment and submit a report to the registrar general within three months. The bench also ruled that the panels should visit the residences of the female workers and collect particulars from them on the conditions of employment.  The orders were passed while hearing a petition challenging a government order on the appointment of a committee to identify and monitor the implementation of  "camp coolie system" or "sumangali system" in the mills across state. The petitioners, who are cotton mill workers affiliated to the District Anna Panchalai Thozhilalar Sangam, Dindugal and State Panchalai Anna Thozhilalar Sangam, Chennai, contended that the "camp coolie system" was in vogue in 406 mills across Tamil Nadu. The mills recruited 38,461 girls in the 15 to 22 age group as apprentices for a period of three years. They were paid a stipend of Rs 30-40 a day and Rs 500 to 700 was deducted every month from their stipend for accommodation and food. Their services were terminated at the end of the third year and they were given Rs.25,000 to 30,000 towards marriage expenses. Benefits like PF, bonus and regularisation were denied to them.  The petitioners charged that instead of taking action on the erring mills, the government merely constituted a committee after quashing the earlier committee. ( assessed on 4th October 2007)

10.        Govt distributing animal feed as food for poor: Worm-eaten, full of dirt, used as animal feed — this is the food for the poor, the red winter wheat imported from Australia. What is imported is actually the shell of the red winter wheat. It is not definitely the best kind of wheat available and is being given out through the public distribution system for the poorest, who can't afford to buy wheat from the market. It is being given to the country's children in anganwadis, the old and the disabled and the young and the penniless. The country was told it needed to import food grains for the poor, but what the poor got was the worst quality of red winter wheat — sometimes used as animal feed in the west. In spite of the wheat imports, the quota of food grains for the poor has gone down, from 35 kilos to 23 kilos. The biggest irony perhaps is that local wheat is available with the farmers. It's unfair that the Government does not buy from them, yet pays a better price to farmers abroad.   The betrayal is too deep for words and it is a failure that even reason cannot justify — low grade wheat imported for the poorest while the stocks of Indian farmers begin to rot and hunger grows.

( Rupashree Nanda , assessed on 4th October 2007)

11.        Grocery bill up 25% in just one year: Prices of essential household commodities are 25 per cent higher now than they were this time in 2006. Data from the Price Monitoring Cell of the Department of Consumer Affairs — which tracks 15 essential commodities from 18 centres across the country — reveals this alarming rise. Even though inflation is down to 3.2 per cent, the price reality continues to bite. But then the inflation rate is based on the Wholesale Price Index of 450 items — not just milk and eggs, but also petrol and steel. Household budgets have gone awry. In Delhi, mustard oil costs almost 20 per cent more and milk is Rs 2 per litre more compared to last year. But the Oscar for the biggest jump goes to onions — from Rs 9 a kilo to Rs 23 in the last year. A rise of more than 150 per cent. Wheat, a staple for most Indian households, is selling almost 10 per cent higher than in the same period last year. Analysts fear that wheat will be costlier as the government is importing 5,11,000 tonnes of the grain at Rs 16 a kilo, against the Rs 8.5 a kilo procurement price it paid to domestic growers. Even the prices of pulses are moving north — arhar dal costs Rs 4 more. India is a major importer of pulses and prices of these items have been shooting up   internationally, as in the case of wheat. The one sweet spot in this grim picture is the steady decline in price of sugar, from Rs 21 to Rs 16 a kg.

( Saikat Neogi , assessed on 6th October 2007)

12.        Gujarat's model for justice lauded: As the wait outside the Bombay High Court gets longer and longer, the caseload only gets heavier. There are 3.7 lakh pending cases, and on average, there's a five to ten year wait for justice. But in neighbouring Gujarat, a solution that has come up is night courts that are delivering justice at a furious pace, which is a first for any state. In the first 45 days since these courts were set up 10 months ago, 16,000 cases were disposed off. So if Gujarat can, why can't Maharashtra? With over three lakh cases pending in the Bombay High Court itself, an advocate has filed a public interest litigation, urging the judiciary to keep up with the changing times. Nearly 60 per cent of cases taken up every day are routine matters and this only serves to slow the wheels of justice. With a staggering 40.5 lakh cases pending in Maharashtra's lower courts, that's no exaggeration. There are over three crore pending cases all across the country. Legal experts insist, if the judiciary puts in more hours at work, the backlog of pending cases could drop in a matter of years. Otherwise the number of pending cases could simply become unmanageable. (Tejas Mehta assessed on 6th October 2007)

13.        MTC-Is it turning corner?  The Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) in Chennai recently began a trial run of a global positioning system for buses on two routes 21G (Tambaram-Broadway) and 70 (Tambaram-Avadi).   Electronic display boards to inform commuters on arrival times of the next bus were to be gradually introduced across the city.  There are 2675 buses in the MTC fleet of which 12% are deluxe, 10% are Limited Stopping Service (LSS), and 13% Express.   Last year 3.5 million people used MTC buses per day and it has increased to 13.5 million this year.  In June 2006 MTC was incurring Rs. 10 crore loss, in June this year the cash profit is 1.11 crore.  (Shobha Menon, Madras Musings, 1-15 October 2007, p.1 &7)

14.        1000 errant drivers charged in Mumbai: With the police intensifying their drive against erring motorists, nearly 1000 people have been convicted and another 6000 have been booked so far under various charges like drunken and dangerous driving. The drive by city police's traffic branch has been successful in getting conviction for over 1,000 motorists who have been awarded simple imprisonment terms by the city courts, which have also suspended driving license and imposed fine on the motorists. Recently after three drivers, who were caught riding while speaking on their cell phones, were awarded jail terms. Earlier police was not serious about prosecuting traffic offenders and they used to make away by paying fines, but getting a conviction and a jail term for the offender has been a key feature of the drive started on June 20.   Police officer were trained to make the case stand in the court due to which, police were successful in getting the jail terms. Over 1,000 offenders have been sentenced to simple imprisonment under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, for drunken driving and dangerous driving.  The department has also been successful in booking 6,000 motorists of the "city that never sleeps" for drunken driving alone as part of the drive, which is way higher than the annual average of around 1,200 people. ( assessed on 7 October 2007)

15.        Rajasthan extends mid-day meal to middle schools: The Rajasthan Government has decided to extend the mid-day meal scheme to the students of 6th to 8th standards in all Government and State-aided schools, thereby covering all the students of primary and middle schools under the exhaustive scheme providing hot food free of cost in the afternoon. The decision follows the Centre's approval to a proposal to extend the mid-day meal scheme from primary to middle classes in 186 educationally backward blocks supported by it in the State. The Centre's decision came into effect on October 1.   This year's Budget had made a provision for widening the scope of mid-day meal scheme in 51 blocks, other than the 186 blocks supported by the Centre, from the State Government's own resources. The State Government's decision, brought into effect on 4th October, would ensure the supply of mid-day meals to students in all the 237 blocks in the State. The State Government will bear full cost of preparation of food in 51 blocks and contribute 50 paise for each student in the 186 blocks. ( assessed on 8th October 2007)

 16.        Girls return to brothels after rescue: A very large number of women and girls rescued from human trafficking gangs are forced back into prostitution and slavery while some even return willingly, a senior UN official has said. The issue of human trafficking has emerged as a serious problem globally. In India, around 10,000 human trafficking victims, mostly women and young girls, are rescued annually from traffickers or touts. But at least 2,500 women and young children are re-trafficked into prostitution and slavery, either through force or on their own wish to return to the place from where they were rescued. Laws relating to human trafficking in the country were adequate and powerful, but the slow conviction of those behind the trafficking and lack of awareness among police officials handling such cases have contributed to the phenomenon in a major way. The number of cases registered or the percentage of convictions of traffickers is low. The victims often feel harassed when brought in contact with law enforcement officials. A recent National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) survey says that only seven per cent of the police personnel have received any kind of training related to human trafficking. Rehabilitation and repatriation of the rescued women and girls was not possible as the resources were inadequate to support them, even within NGO sectors. They (victims) prefer staying back in the trade as most of them are underprivileged and have no other livelihood option. Sometimes the victims deliberately choose such a profession. According to UN estimates, approximately 150,000 people are trafficked within South Asia annually with children and young women being lured from their homes with promises of a good job, good marriage, or stardom in the entertainment industry. Many are forced into prostitution or slavery where they suffer unspeakable indignities and hardship. In some countries women are sold as brides in forced marriages, in others children are forced to work as jockeys in camel races. In cases where a victim is trafficked across the national border everything changes for her. She is told that she owes a large amount of money for the passport and her travel to the trafficker. She is forced to work as a prostitute until the debt is paid, but as most of the money she makes is taken from her she is never able to repay the debt. She becomes a slave and is afraid to go to the police thinking that they might simply deport her.

( assessed on 9th October 2007)

 17.        1.2 Lakh people commit suicide every year: As many as 1.2 lakh people end their lives every year in India by committing suicide. Besides that, more than four lakh people attempt to commit suicide. A majority of them have been found to be suffering from some sort of mental disorder or depression. A special suicide prevention programme is now being planned that would counsel and protect mentally depressed patients from harbouring thoughts of ending their life. According to Union health minister, 60% of the deaths caused by suicide could have been prevented with proper counselling. The main reasons behind such actions have been found to be depression, addiction and alcoholism.
As part of the programme, the ministry will give basic mental health training to doctors at the primary healthcare centres in the villages. MBBS doctors will also be trained on how to identify and counsel patients with mental health problems at the sub-division and district levels. Over 7.5% of the Indian population is facing some sort of mental problem, of which over 1.75% (16 million) needs institutional intervention. The country is also facing an acute shortage of psychiatrists. Of the 3,300 trained psychiatrists, 3,000 are in the four metros. India actually needs 32,000 psychiatrists. According to health ministry figures, over 900,000 women females in India need treatment for mental illness. Of these, nearly 280,000 fall in the age group of 10-29 and nearly 250,000 in the age group of 30-50. Though women attempt to commit suicide more, men usually become successful more often in their attempts. Unfortunately, mental illness in India is considered a taboo — a behavioural disorder rather than a health menace. So the rate of people coming out in public and looking for medical intervention for their condition is low.
(Kounteya Sinha, 10 October 2007)

18.        Superstitious docs kill son in Rohtak: Two days after Haryana police booked a Hisar farmer for allegedly attempting to starve his five-year-old son to death, another horrific incident came to light in which a teenaged boy lost his life because of his parents. The incident also shattered the myth that only illiterate is prone to superstitions. Instructed by a 'guru' who appeared in their dream, a doctor couple in Rohtak believed that transfusion of blood from their younger and talented son to their elder son, who was average in studies, could make the latter more bright. The operation, however, went haywire and the younger sibling died of excessive bleeding. What's shocking is that the mother, Dr Promila Malik, is a professor in Pandit Bhagat Dayal Sharma Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS) in Rohtake and the father, Dr Ashok Malik, is employed in a hospital at Amritsar. Apparently, the 'guru' used to appear in the mother's dreams. Police arrested the parents after registering cases under sections 304 and 120 B of IPC. Police had also seized material like mustard and kerosene oil, incense sticks and matchbox, indicating that tantrik rituals had been performed in the house. Superintendent of police Haneef Quraishi said some family member could be involved in the incident. Investigations revealed that while Piyush, a class VI student, excelled in studies, 18-year-old Abhishek, who was preparing for medical entrance examinations, was an average student. The couple was desperate to get him enrolled in an MBBS course. The superstitious mother reportedly saw the 'guru' in her dream, who advised her to transfuse the blood of Piyush to Abhishek for his sure admission to a medical college. He also directed her to spill oil and burn something to create smoke in the house during the transfusion. ( Deepender Deswal, assessed on 11th October 2007)

19.        Craze for ABS:  Urban Indian men are not just pumping iron or downing steroids to look better.  Now, surgeons say, a rising number are asserting their manliness by taking recourse to new and even controversial, procedures in cosmetic surgery.   Some cosmetic surgeries: Abdominal etching in which stomach fat and skin is removed to give flatter, tighter stomach.  Body contouring:   After a major weight loss, the stretched skin is removed.  Fat transplant: Fat from one part of body is used to fill wrinkle in another part, mostly face.   Abdominoplasty: Washboard-flat stomach is achieved, by tightening or removing abdominal muscles.  Hip therapy: Hip reduction, inch loss, toning and firming is done.   Face procedures:  Volume is built up in areas of bone loss with filters, lifting, repositioning and finally by reducing inelastic tissues.  One doctor says that the male patients have increased three times more in the past five years.  Software professionals, engineers, businessmen, sports people, film personalities and media professional have the same, insatiable desire to look god.   84% of male patients are urbanites.  70% are socially and financially independent.  88% are men between 25-45 years who are unmarried.   Who seek surgery? 1.  Those who wish to enhance looks, show rise in self-esteem and confidence levels. 2. Those who believe surgery will turn their lives and fortunes around.   3.  Those who are in unstable relationships and want to save failing relationships, need psychological counseling. 4.   Those who are in shobiz, where appearance has a premium.  5.  Those who have minimal deformity but disappropriate body anxiety, may be suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder.   Indian males seem to be on the verge of a seismic shift.  And they are willing to spend any amount in pursuit of their personal look.   AC Nielson survey in four metros among 1000 men reveals that three in five single men claim they try to look stylish at all times.  An ASSOHAM survey on 5000 consumers indicate that men's spending on grooming is up as much as 20 per cent in more than half of Indian families.   The craze is not just in Metros, it is spreading to other cities also.  For example Ahmedabad had 8 cosmetic surgeons in mid – 90s now has crossed 50.   17-25 year olds go for surgical procedures – Enlarged breasts, scar removal and nose job; 25-35- Face and body contouring; 35-45 – making the chin more prominent, body contouring, abdominal liposuction, abdominoplasty and abdominal etching; 45 plus – Lines and wrinkles, especially around the eyes and face rejuvenation; all age groups – enlarged breasts, making the chin more prominent, nose job. Today's buff-ad-ready man stands squarely at the intersection of beauty, vanity and health.   But in forging new standards for himself, he has opened up a Pandora's box: will unrealistic images lead to greater body image dissatisfaction, mental health issues, and threats to healty physical functioning?   (Damayanti Datta, India Today, 15 October 2007. p. 46-60)

 20.        Cell phones banned in TN schools:  The Tamil Nadu Government on Tuesday imposed a blanket ban on the use of cellphones by students within school premises all over the state. State School Education Minister said it had been brought to the notice of the Government by educationists, parents and the public that the students' attention was getting diverted due to the use of cellphones. The number of students who were keen on sending SMSs instead of concentrating on studies had also increased, he said in a statement. The Minister expressed the hope that the ban on cellphones would be beneficial to students as they would show more interest in studies and emerge as outstanding students.   With this, Tamil Nadu becomes the second state to ban the use of cellphones in schools, after Karnataka. (,008700010014.htm assessed on 18th October 2007)

21.        Indians top sex searchers on Google: Internet users in Egypt, India and Turkey are the world's most frequent searchers for Websites using the keyword "sex" on Google search engines, according to statistics just provided by Google Inc. Germany, Mexico and Austria were world's top three searchers of the word "Hitler" while "Nazi" scored the most hits in Chile, Australia and the United Kingdom, data from 2004 until now on the "Google Trends" website reflects. Chile also came in first position in searching for the word "gay", followed by Mexico and Colombia. We are not saying this, but it is the 'God of Search' which has revealed so. Interestingly, Morocco, Indonesia and Pakistan were among world's top three countries to search for the word "Jihad" while Pakistan, Philippines and Australia sought the word "Terrorism" the most. The statistics also revealed that the Internet users in Ireland, United Kingdom and United States searched most for the word "Hangover." Top searchers for other keywords were as follows (in order from first to third place). Burrito: United States, Argentina, Canada. Iraq: United States, Australia, Canada. Taliban: Pakistan, Australia, Canada. Tom Cruise: Canada, United States, Australia. Britney Spears: Mexico, Venezuela, Canada. Homosexual: Philippines, Chile, Venezuela. Love: Philippines, Australia, United States. Botox: Australia, United States, United Kingdom. Viagra: Italy, United Kingdom, Germany.
David Beckham: Venezuela, United Kingdom, Mexico. Kate Moss: Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden. Dolly Buster: Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia. Car bomb: Australia, United States, Canada. Marijuana: Canada, United States, Australia.
IAEA: Austria, Pakistan, Iran. ( assessed on 19th October 2007)

22.        Item girls sizzle at garba venues: Boys hooted as the crowds cried "once more" at Maninagar and Maniyara — a popular garba venue in Ahmedabad. The trigger was Mumbai girl Priyanka dressed in a jazzy silver mini-skirt and pink tube top gyrating to 'Bring it on, bring it on, forever sanam'. The spiritual index of this garba ground suddenly dropped to don a raunchy mood as Navratri organisers roped in the glamour factor to keep the crowds pegged on and the cash registers ringing. The spirituality at the heart of this festival that celebrates the 'shakti' in Maa Amba becomes the casualty as the traditional garba sangeet of 'Aaj maa no garbo ramto jaye...' gives way to the hip-n-hep 'Crazy kiya re'! And, this 'unspiritual' break came minutes after Chief Minister Narendra Modi praised the traditional sheri-garba songs that were being played at the 'Maninagar na Maniyara' venue which falls in his constituency. Soon after Modi left the venue on Tuesday, a break was announced and the item-song 'Crazy kiya re' performed on-stage much to the cheering and leering of the crowd. There are also reports of similar raunchy numbers being performed as item songs in Jetalpur and Daskroi areas by Mumbai-based girl dancers. Similarly, sources said organisers had roped in dancers to dish out raunchy Bollywood performances in Jetalsar and Surendranagar. Organisers said the concept of staging item numbers during garba breaks has been introduced to keep the crowds coming. Meanwhile, experts said the state is also witnessing influx of bar girls from Surat and Mumbai during Navratri. "Girls who used to work in Mumbai's bars have started commuting to cash-rich parts of north-Gujarat like Mehsana and Unjha during the Navratri festivities," an activist working with sex workers told. ( assessed on 19th October 2007)

23.        Hindi press more popular: The Hindi press is more popular than the top selling English newspapers among the masses, according to the latest survey. Not just Hindi, even the vernacular press edged out English newspapers, with Daily Thanthi in Tamil having 209 lakh readers, followed by Lokmat in Marathi (207 lakh), Ananda Bazar Patrika (158 lakh) and Eenadu in Telugu (142 lakh). Among the top 10 positions in readership of the English press, surprisingly non-news magazines are more read than newspapers, according to the readership survey conducted by the Media Research Users Council, an audience and readership research body. The Times of India (TOI) leads in English with 135 lakh readers, but it goes down to the fifth position compared to the Hindi press with Dainik Jagran at 536 lakh, Dainik Bhaskar at 306 lakh, Amar Ujala at 282 lakh and Hindustan at 235 lakh on the readership ladder. India Today comes after TOI with 71 lakh readers, followed by Hindustan Times (61 lakh) and The Hindu (49 lakh). Surprisingly, non-news magazines grabbed four positions among the top 10 in the English press. Reader's Digest occupied the fifth position with 49 lakh readers, followed by General Knowledge Today with 44 lakh, Filmfare with 37 lakh and Competition Success Review 33 lakh. Though rather low down in circulation, the Kolkata-based The Telegraph and the Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle commanded 30 lakh readers each.

According to the latest figures maintained by the Registrar of Newspapers in India, the largest circulated multiedition daily is TOI (six editions) with a circulation of 25,42,075 copies. The second largest circulated multiedition daily is Dainik Jagran in Hindi (15 editions) with a circulation of 21,11,316 copies. Among single editions, the largest circulated is Ananda Bazar Patrika in Bengali, with a circulation of 12,34,122 copies, followed by The Hindu (11,68,042) and Hindustan Times (11,36,644).

( assessed on 19th October 2007)

24.        World Wide Villages:   Enter the age of communication, where each of the 13693 village panchayats in the Gujarat state is connected to the World Wide Web at the speed of 256 kilobits per second.   Thanks to the State Government's IT mission programme.  It took two years and Rs. 150 crore for the E-Gram Vishwa-Gram Society – a special purpose vehicle set up by the Gujarat Government – to install computers, tie up with Internet service providers ad train villagers, particularly patwaris and sarpanches.   The computerization was made possible by another scheme-Jyotirgram, under which all villages get 24 hour, three-phase domestic power supply.  Broadband connectivity has made it possible for villagers to connect online with taluk, district and state headquarters through video conferencing.  Now they can apply for birth and death certificates and book train tickets without having to trudge miles.   Union Government is looking forward to replicating this effort in other states.  (Uday Mahurkar, India Today 22 October 2007, p.12)

25.        More Women Join the Workforce: According to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the number of women employed in the organized sector (public and private) has risen from 495000 in 2001 to 502000 in 2005.   And this number is expected to double in the next three years, say experts.  At present, the total women workforce in the unorganized sector is around 80 million, their numbers are expected to grow at the rate of 8-10 per cent.   But the data has its flip side, too, and shows the number of people employed in the organized sector, both public and private, as having come down by over 1.3 million between 2001-2005.    (Manu Kaushik, Business Today, 21 October 2007, p. 19)

 26.        Small-town India is Paying More Taxes:  During April-August, corporate tax collections from Lucknow jumped over 140 per cent to Rs. 182 crore, while Patna reported a 146 per cent jump to Rs. 220 crore.   Ahmedabad bought in Rs. 1249 crore to the tax kitty, a 38 per cent increase over the previous corresponding period.  In personal income-tax, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Pune and Bhubaneshwar have all reported a more than 50 per cent rise in collection.   (Amit Mukherjee, Business Today, 21 October 2007, p. 19)

27.        It's Still Not Very Easy to Do Business in India: Doing Business 2008 report – the fith in an annual report issued by the World Bank and IFC, India improved its overall rank on ease of doing business to 120 out of 178 countries, up from 134 last year.   Improvement in mainly two areas, getting credit ( a jump of 26 points) and cross-border trade (a jump of 63 ranks helped.  However, India has shown a decline on the other eight parameters, mainly due to the other countries reforming much faster.   The most serious slippage of 18 places was in case of starting a business.  India requires entrepreneurs to go through 13 procedures – double the average for developed nations and 50 per cent higher than its regional peers.   And it needs 33 days to start a business.  Only Brazil trails India in case of doing business, and surprise, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are ranked higher. The rankings: 1. Singapore, 2. New Zealand, 3. United States, 4. Hong Kong, 5. Denmark, 6. United Kingdom, 7. Canada, 8. Ireland, 9. Australia, 10. Iceland, 76. Pakistan, 83 China, 101. Sri Lanka, 106. Russia, 120. India and 122. Brazil.     (Shalini S. Dagar, Business Today, 21 October 2007, p. 22)

28.        Future Cities: A Business Today-DTZ study indicates that billions of dollars are to be poured into setting up more than 200 integrated townships across the country.  These could be the answer to India's urban problems.  There's a big scramble to set up integrated townships (ITS) across the country.  At last count, there were more than 200 ITS, covering over 200000 acres, under various stages of approval, planning and construction.   Developers see it as a panacea to the ills plaguing large Indian cities-from overcrowding to creaking infrastructure to sky high real estate price.  Conceptually, ITS are meant to be self-sufficient enclaves comprising offices, houses, shops, and recreational activities all within one compound and within a stone's throw awy from each other.   ITS are also expected to have superior infrastructure network (water, sewerage, power) and support services (education, healthcare, security), all integrated to provide a better quality of life for their inhabitants.   It's not just the white collar or skilled workers who will gain from the new townships.  The survey indicates that ITS could open up employment avenues for the local semi-skilled and unskilled workers by employing them in maintenance and upkeep of the completed projects.  Growing income levels have also led to changes on consumption patterns.  People are spending more on education, recreation, healthcare and transportation in a bid to improve their lifestyles and quality of life.   They look for modern amenities such as swimming pools, clubs, landscaped gardens, and round-the-clock security and housekeeping.  ITS hopes to emerge with the expectation of continued growth in the economy.   (Business Today, 21 October 2007, P. 102-116)

29.        Chennai to webcast funerals for overseas mourners: Chennai is planning to videotape and webcast Catholic funerals for the benefit of overseas mourners unable to attend, the city's cemeteries board said today.   The treasurer of the Madras Cemeteries Board said that they are talking to a few software companies to undertake this project. A Singapore company and few Indian companies have given their proposals. The board would charge a fee for family members abroad to register to view a funeral online on the board's website.  The service would be launched in next two months.   Some 250,000 people in the city of seven million are Catholics who bury their dead in one of the city's three cemeteries. ( assessed on 19 October 2007)

30.        Beer Market:  1060 million litres is the estimated volume of the Indian beer market in 2007, second only to China in Asia.  (The Week, 21 October 2007, p.6)

31.        Shoeshine men:  1000 shoeshine men are there on Mumbai's railway stations.  (The Week, 21 October 2007, p.6)
32.        The angry Lingayats:  Of the 5.5 crore people, Lingayats constitute 24 per cent of the population.  Gowdas account for around 19 per cent of the population.   Muslims for 13 per cent, Kurubas 11 per cent, Edigas 7 per cent and Brahmins 3 per cent.  The scheduled castes –Holeyas (11%) and Maadigas(9%) form 20 per cent of the population.    (N. Bhanutej, The Week, 21 October 2007, p.18-20)  Lingayats favour Bhartiya Janata Party and want to capture power in the next election.  

33.        Click, enter campus:  Online study is the shortest, most convenient route to higher education for many Indians. In the new era of higher education in India, exclusively online is OK.   A regular face-to-face learning is not a necessity.  Convergence is the buzzword.  And many young Indians and even the not-so-young, are willing to experiment-choosing the best suited, shortest, and the most convenient path to higher education.   Driven and delivered by broadband and dedicated high bandwidth, with or without the use of the Internet and World Wide Web, online education has become a boon for people.   At a time when the gap between the seat capacity of premier institutions and the number of aspirants to it is widening with every passing year, communication software has proved its utility.   Students in remote areas can now take lessons without really budging too far.  In a way, they can choose their teacher, virtually.  IIM-Kolkata studio is linked to remote class rooms with dedicated broadband two-way-audio-video equipment.   Professor would speak live while students could hear and also talk to the teacher at the click of the mouse. Video cameras ensure that the teachers get feedback from students and sustain their interest in the class.   Online students have the benefit of the best of teachers and the latest technology, delivering education in a focused and interesting manner.   According to the chairman of the Distance Education Council, there are 2.2 million students pursuing higher education through distance and online learning.  About 10 per cent of the total higher education is through the online and distance mode.   In the next three to four years, this could double as more institutes are offering courses online.  Apart from this, over a lakh students are in pursuit of degrees from reputed foreign universities, without moving out of India.   At the end of the programme, students are conferred a US degree.  It is as good as getting an education in the US, while being in India.   As virtual classrooms are gaining popularity, the distinction between online and regular students seems to be fading.  IIM Ahmedabad plans to give alumni status to    students who have done its online programme.  The utility of online education in India is immense.  While education for children under 14 is a millennium goal to be achieved by 2015, around 30 million children in the age group are not in schools.   It will take one million more teachers to provide them education, and all the country's teacher training schools put together cannot churn out so many teachers.   E-learning worldwide is expected to grow to $21 billion by 2008.  In India, the current value of online education industry is around $200 million and within three years, it is expected to touch $1 billion.    (Vijaya Pushkarna, The Week, 21 October 2007, p.50-58)

34.        Hell has five rivers: Punjab, in this shining new century, is not any more the land of milk and honey.  30 per cent of the population is now BPL (Below Poverty Line) and surviving on subsidized wheat and dal.   This is the latest in a string of subsidies the cash-strapped government has been forced to provide-as part of fulfilling its election promises.  Add to this falling agricultural incomes, a huge salary bill, mounting farmer suicides, growing unemployment and outstanding debts of a staggering Rs. 52764 crore.  Punjab, which boasted the highest per capita income in 2000-01, is expected to slide to number seven at the end of the 11 th Plan.  During this period, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Haryana will overtake Punjab.  Successive governments have failed to harness the gains of the green revolution, invest it in social development.   The result is that at a time when agriculture is in decline in Punjab, the education and health systems too are in shambles.  If there are few jobs within the state, Punjabi youth are unfit for jobs in other states too because of the poor quality of education.   There is also a growing exclusion of rural students from university education.  In the past five years, production of food grains has increased by just 2 per cent and the state's population has grown by 8.6 per cent.  Massive use of nitrogenous fertilizers has reduced the soil's fertility and led to widespread soil erosion.  Intensive irrigation, especially from the over million tube wells, has depleted the water table to the extent that between 1993 and 2003 it fell by 55 cms each year.   But mounting debt has not prevented the Chief Minister from going ahead with the subsidized wheat and dal plan for 14 lakh BPL families. (Chander Suta Dogra, Outlook, 22 October 2007, P. 12-14)

35.        Study finds smoking among school students on rise:   A study published in the Indian Journal of Cancer has found that last year 41 per cent of Chennai city students in Classes VIII-X tried tobacco.   Of this 46.3 were boys and 31.6 per cent were girls.  Some parents send their children to buy cigarettes, which makes the children think smoking is not wrong.   There are three main causes according to psychologists: imitation, peer pressure and accessibility.  Even though there is a law against selling cigarettes to children under the age of 18, this is not followed and school students have easy access to them.    (Zubeda Hamid, The Hindu, 22 October 2007, p.2)

36.        Beware of 'bumping' into pumpkins:  In spite of appeal by Government officials in the city of Chennai, people smash pumpkins in front of h0omes and business establishments on festival occasions to ward of the 'evil eye'.   Some break coconuts, while others place lemons under the wheels of their vehicles and run them over.  Persons who smash pumpkins on road could be charged under Section 75 (causing nuisance) of the City Police Act.   However, no case was filed.  Chennai Corporation has also distributed pamphlets to shop-owners advising them to avoid the practice.   Corporation had also employed additional workforce to clear the pumpkin pieces from the road.  (The Hindu, 22 October 2007, p.3)

37.        Jharkhand Schools to be bookless till class IV: On the lines of Andhra Pradesh, the Jharkhand government will do away with books till class IV in all government schools.  The schools would follow the Montessori model of teaching and the move will ensure that students need not carry heavy bags to school.  This move is expected to bring down the number of dropouts from government schools.   The bookless teaching model is aimed at educating children more by playful methods than by simply making them memorise certain texts. The teaching mode includes introduction of models and colourful sketches of fruits, animals and playing equipment.   Figures and models of apples, balls, cats, and dogs will be used to impart alphabetical knowledge.   "Learning by Doing" model would be followed.   (The Statesman, 24 October 2007, p.4)

II          Indian Diaspora

Bobby Jindal becomes Governor of Louisiana : US Rep Bobby Jindal, the Oxford-educated son of Indian immigrants, became Louisiana's first non-white Governor since the 1870's. Four years after he lost a heated battle for Governor, the 36-year-old Jindal was well ahead of the pack in a repeat run. He won the elections outright. He also became the youngest US Governor currently in office. Polls suggest that Jindal had the support of nearly half the state's voters, and no one else was even close in the field of a dozen candidates. ( assessed on 21st October 2007)

III         Global

1.          Cambridge students working as call girls: Report: According to a report published in the institution's student newspaper Varsity, a large number of "cash-strapped" students are selling their bodies to make quick bucks. "Undergraduate life is expensive these days, especially for those who enjoy the odd luxury. But why are 350 Cantabridgians working as escorts?" the report said. It also said that a "plethora" of undergraduates were also raising money by selling essays. Varsity claimed it spoke to one such student who "admitted" spending her first year as an undergraduate working as a 50-pounds-an-hour call girl. The newspaper also interviewed another undergraduate student, without revealing her name, who said she earned "up to 100 pounds per dance" while working as a stripper. However, university teachers are worried. "I was very concerned to read the report. Senior tutors would want to do everything they could to give support to students well before any found themselves in such a situation," Dr Rob Wallach, the Secretary of the University's Senior Tutors' Committee, told a British daily. ( assessed on 11th October 2007)
2.       Living Green: The best livable countries are: 1. Finland, 2. Iceland, 3. Norway, 4. Sweden and 5. Austria.  The bottom five countries are: 137. Chad, 138. Burkina Faso, 139. Sierra Leone, 140. Niger and 141. Ethiopia.   In air quality, Moldova stands first, Finland eighth, United States at sixty three, Ethiopia at 126 and India at 138.  The five top cities which is green and most livable are: Stockholm, Oslo, Munich, Paris, Frankfrut.   Five worst cities to live in are: Bangkok (rank 68), Guangzhou (69), Mumbai (70), Shanghai (71) and Beijing (72).  Other Asian cities are: Honk Kong (18), Tokyo (20), Seoul (52), Chennai (65), Taipei (67).   The ranking for water quality: Norway (1), Finland (2), United States (22), Ethiopia (127) and India (137).  Greehouse gases –rates carbon emission per capita and by GDP: Chad (1), Ethiopia (18), Finland (75), India (96), and United States (107).   Energy efficiency-rates conservation efforts and use of renewables such as hydrogen:  D.R. Congo (1), Ethiopia (17), Finland (66), India (70) and United States (106).   Environmental health – rates childhood mortality, diseases, deaths from intestinal infections:  Austria (1), Finland (8), United States (16), India (77), and Ethiopia (125).   For full country and city rankings and more details, go to <>   (Matthew E. Kann and Fran Lostys, Readers Digest, October 2007, p. 106-116)
3.          Indian IT professionals among worst paid: While Indian IT managers stood fourth on the ten lowest paying countries with an average of $25000.  Vietnam topped the list with a meager average salary of $15470, followed by Bulgaria and Philippines averaging $22240 and $22280 respectively.   The others countries on the list were Indonesia at fifth with average wages of $31720, followed by China-Shanghai with earning of $33770, Malaysia ($35880), China-Beijing   ($36220) and Argentina ($43180).  Also, large pay gaps exist between the junior and senior career streams in India, Indonesia, Chile, Braxil and Vietnam.   In terms of the best IT salaries paying countries' Switzerland topped the list with an average annual remuneration of $140960.  The same job if taken in Denmark, second on the list, would pay $123080.   Belgium stood third in the best paid list with salary in the IT sector averaging $121170.  The UK and Irelandwere ranked fourth and fith on this list with average packages of $118190 and $108230 respectively.   (The Statesman, 22 October 2007, p.10)


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