Friday, November 29, 2013

India shocked by high-profile rape case

File photo of Tarun Tejpal (Pic:
MUMBAI (AA) – Allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment that have been leveled against a prominent media personality and judicial official respectively have sent shockwaves across India.
Media baron Tarun Tejpal, founder and editor-in-chief of Tehelka, an investigative weekly magazine, has been accused of sexually molesting a 28-year old colleague in the elevator of a posh hotel in the coastal state of Goa.
The alleged incident took place during a high-profile media event organized by the magazine from November 8 to 10. Hollywood actor Robert De Niro and Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan both attended the event.
Tejpal has been slapped with a rape charge and accused of "outraging the modesty of a woman" by Goa police. The alleged victim didn't register any complaint with the Goa police, but police nevertheless filed an FIR (First Information Report) based on an email complaint sent by the victim to Tehelka Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury.
Tejpal, 50, is an internationally-acclaimed writer and one of the country's best known journalists, considered by many to be the pioneer of investigative journalism in India.
Goa police are relying on an alleged apology that Tejpal emailed to the woman journalist in which he allegedly confessed to his misdeeds.
"It wrenches me beyond describing, therefore, to accept that I have violated that longstanding relationship of trust and respect between us and I apologize unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgment that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me," Tejpal allegedly wrote in the email.
Later, however, Tejpal changed his mind, describing the alleged incident as "light-hearted bantering" – a comment that met with severe criticism from feminists and Indian rights groups.
Tejpal has been granted interim bail until Saturday morning by a judge in Goa, where his anticipatory bail plea is being heard in a court in Panaji city. The court will continue to hear the bail plea on Saturday when it will possibly issue a ruling.
During Friday's bail hearing, the judge seemed to reject arguments put forward by Tejpal's lawyers. At one point, he came down hard on the defense counsels when they revealed the name of the alleged victim. Under Indian law, the name of a rape victim should not be revealed.
"Are you trying to malign her? We aren't playing to the gallery. This is not a minor mistake," the judge said, reprimanding the lawyers.
He did not appear impressed by the argument that the case was politically-motivated, engineered by the ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP party in Goa state.
In the recent past, Tejpal has published a number of exposes of the BJP, revealing corruption within the party.
The bail plea was filed by Tejpal's lawyers on Friday morning after a non-bailable warrant was issued against him by the Goa police for failing to show up for questioning by 3pm Thursday.
The alleged victim, meanwhile, has issued a statement to the media in which she asserted that what Tejpal did to her fell within the legal definition of "rape."
"I'm fighting to preserve nothing except for my integrity and my right to assert that my body is my own and not the plaything of my employer," she said.
She also dismissed allegations that her accusation was part of a political conspiracy.
"I'm deeply concerned and very disturbed by insinuations that my complaint is part of a pre-election political conspiracy," she said.
A number of senior journalists at Tehelka magazine, meanwhile, resigned in the aftermath of the sex scandal that has shocked the nation.
Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury, who first received the victim's email complaint, also resigned on Thursday morning after allegations that she had tried to "cover up" the sexual assault and had "failed" to act on the woman journalist's complaint.
In another case, the country's Supreme Court revealed that retired Supreme Court judge AK Ganguly was facing allegations of sexual harassment. 
Ganguly, accused of sexually harassing a law intern, has denied the charges, saying he had been "shocked and shattered" by the allegations. He currently serves as chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.
"I deny all the charges," Ganguly told English-language news channel IBNLive.
"She came to my house on a number of occasions. The intern is like a child to me. The intern has worked with me, but she has never raised the issue with me," he said.
The woman lawyer had earlier written a blog post in which she accused a former Supreme Court judge of sexually harassing her while she interned with him in 2012, prompting the court to form a committee to investigate the claims.
Last week, the intern appeared before the committee to record her statement, requesting that the committee maintain the confidentiality of her testimony. 
The woman lawyer had written in her blog: "In Delhi at that time, interning during the winter vacations of my final year in the University, I dodged police barricades and fatigue to go to the assistance of a highly reputed, recently retired Supreme Court judge whom I was working under during my penultimate semester."
"For my supposed diligence, I was rewarded with sexual assault (not physically injurious, but nevertheless violating) from a man old enough to be my grandfather," she alleged.

The inquiry into Justice Ganguly began only days before Tejpal was accused of rape. The two cases have sparked a national debate over men in positions of power violating women in the workplace.
Anadolu Agency, November 29, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Indian cricket fans bid farewell to legendary Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar on the final day of the Test (Pic: Imtiyaz Shaikh, Anadolu Agency)

MUMBAI (AA) – Indian cricket fans are shedding tears about the retirement of the legendary Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, the man known as "god of cricket”. They are skeptical anyone could ever fill the void he is leaving in international cricket.
"My heart is heavy. I feel numb," Hiren Kamod, Mumbai-based young intellectual property lawyer, told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.
"The vacuum will never be filled. Cricket will not mean the same thing," he said.
Kamod watched Tendulkar play his final game on Friday from the Sachin Tendulkar Stand - a stand named after Tendukar at Wankhede Stadium.
"The adjectives will get exhausted but the legend of Sachin Tendulkar will continue to stay on with me, within me," he said.
Kamod said the spectators came to the stadium just because of Tendulkar.
"Though there were 15 people on the ground (including the umpires) each and every person sitting in the stadium had his/her eyes only on one man," he asserted.
"Every movement that he made was being observed meticulously. Everything that he did was being registered consciously and subconsciously," added big-time Tendulkar fan.
Kamod said that the mere thought of Tendulkar never coming on the field to bat again was enough for everyone to become emotional and have tears in their eyes. 
"Cricket without Sachin for all of us would be like a temple without its god," he suggested.
Sharique Mashhadi, a cricket enthusiast, became emotional when Tendulkar was leaving the ground.
"It was emotional moment for me. His each step towards pavilion was observed closely and I was trying to keep it in my long term memory," Mashhadi, head of the USAID-funded School Dropout Prevention Program in Bihar State, told AA.
"Sachin enjoyed his play and created amazing opportunity for everyone to discuss and dialogue over his cricketing attitude," he said.
"He knows how to carry himself on the ground, off the ground and also over the ground," added Mashhadi.
Kamod, intellectual property lawyer, said Tendulkar has given him different kinds of inspiration in each phase of his life.
"At 7, Tendulkar gave me reason to be happy and to go out and play cricket," he recalled.
"At 12, he gave me a reason to follow my passion, take responsibility and be modest," Kamod added.
"At 17, this man gave me the reason to be dedicated, determined, devoted and to make and break records. And today at 27, he gives me a reason to understand that one’s power is not determined by age, height, weight, muscles but by the sheer determination."
Throwing light on the biggest quality of the star cricketer, Kamod said Tendulkar was able to connect with people from any group; be it an 8-year-old boy or an 80-year-old man.
He noted that the two words of "Sachin Sachin" chanted in the due course of a cricket match had the potential to unite a nation of different race, caste, creed, religion.
Kamod said that even complete strangers were united by Tendulkar.
"I have seen and experienced that concerts, movie halls, rallies, discs and pubs have randomly erupted with the chant of Sachin Sachin."
Amit Surti, a 31-year-old certified Chartered Accountant at Tata company, is perhaps one of the biggest Tendulkar fans.
"Today I literally feel orphaned though my parents are still alive," Surti told AA when asked about his thoughts on Tendulkar’s retirement.
Surti’s accountancy career has been deeply influenced and motivated by Tendulkar’s rise in cricket.
After three consecutive failures to pass a tough and prestigious government examination of chartered accountancy, Surti virtually gave up.
During 2011 Cricket World Cup, Surti jokingly made a remark to his friends that if Tendulkar lifts the World Cup trophy in the final match against Sri Lanka, then he will pass his accountancy exam.
Surti’s friends laughed and made fun of him for making such "silly" pledges.
"That historic moment came on April 2, 2011. The joke was on me to prove my own worth. Tendulkar was the sole inspiration," Surti said.
His exams started exactly after a month and he passed out with flying colors.
"This belief in Tendulkar is beyond reasoning and imagination," he noted.
Surti hopes Tendulkar would open a non-commercial cricket academy to teach and train young and poor children about the finer points of cricket.
"It is our responsibility to keep away the kids from mobile and internet and to make sure that more children play sports on the field rather than on computers and tablets."
-India First-
Mashhadi said Tendulkar didn’t play to win or lose, but played for the nation.
"Tendulkar played for cricket and his contribution for making cricket and inspiring individuals from smaller cities," he noted.
"That is his best contribution for the nation."
Mashhadi said Tendulkar’s presence in the team was enough to instill fear in the opposing team.
Lalit Kumar Adlakha, Senior Branch Manager, Bank of Baroda, agrees.
He insisted that all through his career Tendulkar never played for "self-reward" but for the nation.
"The rise of Tendulkar is the story of India Rising," he told AA.
"Tendulkar is an epitome of India’s middle class because he himself came from a very humble background," Adlakha added.
He said that Tendulkar has successfully inspired and enthused young blood in the Indian team.
Adlakha hoped Tendulkar would remain attached to the cricket in any capacity, except the post of a manager.
"Tendulkar is one person who can never scold anybody. To be a successful manager, one has to be very firm at times."
Addressing media in Mumbai a day after retirement, Tendulkar said despite many challenges, playing for India for 24 years was the most important thing and it was his "dream journey."
He said cricket is his oxygen and he will continue to be associated with the game in some capacity but not in the immediate future.
Tendulkar said in all spheres of life, he thinks "India first."
"Even if I am not psychically playing for India, in my heart I will always play for India. I will pray for India’s victory. It doesn’t matter whether I am part of the team or not. In everything, I always think, India comes first."

Sachin Tendulkar: India's 'god of cricket' bids farewell

Sachin Tendulkar at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium (Pic: Imtiyaz Shaikh, Anadolu Agency)

MUMBAI (AA) – At 3.33pm on Thursday, a 40-year-old gentleman walked down slowly from the dressing room of South Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium to the field, as 33,000- spectator crowd screamed waving Indian flags and his pictures.
The opponent team assembled in two neat rows to give Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, the man known as "god of cricket," a guard of honor, a rare gesture of magnanimity and respect.
Even the two neutral umpires joined in paying tribute to the man who has dominated the landscape of world cricket for almost a quarter century.
Tendulkar, the highest run scorer in international cricket history, enthralled millions of cricket lovers in his last 200th Test match against West Indies with an impressive figure of 74 runs.
Rajni, Tendulkar’s mother, came to the stadium for the very first time to witness her son’s final test match.
Draped in white shawl, the wheelchair-bound Rajni counted prayer beads as her son played some of his favorite strokes down the ground.
Tendulkar’s wife Anjali and eldest daughter Sara, 16, sat in the pavilion cheering him while his youngest son Arjun, 14, played the role of a ball boy, collecting and returning the ball each time it crossed the boundary line.
Tendulkar stayed on the crease from Thursday afternoon to Friday (second day of the test) morning and faced West Indies bowling attack with the ferocity of a lion and composure of an experienced striker.
The stadium roared and chanted "Sachin" "Sachin" each time Tendulkar hit a boundary mesmerizing the spectators and reminding them of his old days when, as a youngster, he pounded the ball in each direction thrashing the pacers.
Tendulkar scored 74 runs on 118 balls with 12 boundaries to his credit.
At 10.38am Friday morning, the magical bat of the "master blaster" fell silent forever.
In the post-match presentation on Saturday afternoon, an emotionally-choked Tendulkar made a teary farewell speech watched by millions of viewers on live television.
"My life, between 22 yards for 24 years.....has come to an end," he said.
Tendulkar thanked his late father Ramesh who allowed him to play cricket at the age of 11.
"He gave me freedom at the age of 11, and told me, 'Chase your dreams, but make sure you do not find short cuts. The path might be difficult, but don’t give up'," he recalled.
He also thanked his wife, children, relatives, friends, teammates and even strangers who have supported him throughout his career.
World record
Tendulkar started playing cricket at the tender age of 11 making his international debut at the age of 16 against arch-rival Pakistan in 1989 in Karachi.
He has been tipped as one of the most complete batsmen of all time; a living legend and iconic cricket figure.
Tendulkar is known for his trademark batting style which consisted of a perfect balance, economy of movement, precise strokes and his perfect quality of anticipation of the ball.
He played 200 tests (each Test match consists of 5 days) matches in which he scored 15921 runs in 329 innings at an average of 53.78.
In tests, Tendulkar scored 51 centuries, which remains a world record. 
Tendulkar played 463 One Day International (ODI) matches in which he scored 18426 runs in 452 innings at an average of 44.83.
In ODI format, Tendulkar scored 49 centuries, which remains a world record.
Combining these two formats of cricket; Tendulkar is the only cricket player to have scored one hundred international centuries. 
He also holds the record of first batsman to score a double century in ODI matches.
Together in these two formats, he is the only cricket player to have scored more than 34000 runs in international cricket. 
Apart from a formidable batsman, Tendulkar is a successful part-time bowler who has taken 46 and 154 wickets in ODIs and Tests respectively.
Tendulkar is the only cricket player who has played six World Cups starting from 1992 to 2011.
He also holds record of the leading run scorer in World Cup history with 2278 runs to his name. 
In 2011 World Cup, Tendulkar played an impressive inning in which he scored 85 runs out of 115 balls helping India defeat the arch-rival Pakistani team.
He was the second-highest run scorer in the 2011 World Cup.
In recognition of his achievements, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided to confer on Tendulkar Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, making him the first sportsperson to get the country’s top award.
Tendulkar dedicated the Bharat Ratna for his mother and millions of Indian mothers who make all kinds of sacrifices to keep their children happy.
"I am humbled and honored that this award is bestowed upon me," he told a press conference Sunday.
"The award is for my contribution to the cricket for the last 24 years. The award belongs to the entire nation," he added.
"It doesn’t matter whether I am part of the team or not. In everything, I always think, India comes first."
Anadolu Agency, November 17, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

India marks Children's Day, Nehru birthday with film festival

18th International Children's Film Festival to be held in Hyderabad

HYDERABAD (AA) – A weeklong international children's film festival kicked off on Thursday in the southern city of Hyderabad as part of India's Children's Day on November 14, which coincides with the birthday of the country's first premier, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, known for his love of children.
"The aim is to promote the ethos of healthy and wholesome entertainment for children by bringing the best films from all diverse cultural backgrounds," Shravan Kumar, CEO of the Children's Film Society India (CFSI), said in a statement.
The CFSI, an autonomous body that operates under the federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, is devoted to nurturing a dynamic children's film culture in India.
The society was responsible for organizing the 18th International Children's Film Festival India (ICFFI).
The ICFFI, popularly known as "The Golden Elephant," was inaugurated by Andhra Pradesh State Chief Minister N. Kumar Reddy at the prestigious Lalitha Kala Thoranam Theatre.
The ceremony was attended by Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tiwari, noted Bollywood lyricist Gulzar and up-and-coming Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor.
The ICFFI, organized every two years on November 14, strives to bring the best and most imaginative of national and international children's cinema to young Indian audiences.
Some 200 films from 48 countries – sourced from the prestigious Cannes, Berlin and Toronto film festivals – will be screened in 12 cinema halls across the city.
An estimated 1.5 million children are expected to take part in the event.
Indian states typically send delegates to the festival to represent them.
-Child delegates-
Field Publicity Directorate chief S. K. Malviya said that 111 child representatives from India would participate in the festival, along with two child delegates from Chicago.
Sixty-five child delegates from Japan, Germany and Morocco are also expected to attend the festival, Malviya added.
The "Country Focus" of this year's festival will be on Czech films.
The festival will showcase 15 children's films, including live-action and animated features and shorts, in collaboration with the Zlin Film Festival, the world's oldest children's film festival.
The event will feature debates and conduct open forums on topics such as filmmaking, animation, scriptwriting and child rights.
"The aim is to promote the ethos of healthy and wholesome entertainment for children by bringing the best films from all diverse cultural backgrounds," said Festival Director and CEO Shravan Kumar.
There are only two Indian animated films out of the 12 competing in the festival's newly introduced "International Animation" category.
A total of 54 international and national films will compete in three other categories: "International Live Action," "Shorts" and "Little Directors."
The best film will bag the prestigious Golden Elephant trophy, along with Rs. 200000 in cash.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Indian textile towns strike against power tariff hike

Motorcycle rally against power tariff hike in Malegaon

MALEGAON, India (AA) - Thousands of slogan-shouting powerloom weavers on Monday marched on their motorcycles through the narrow lanes of Malegaon, a textile town 300kms north of Mumbai, to protest a recent government hike in power tariff.
"We will no longer tolerate the double-standard policy of the state's government," Asad Zeeshan, a small-time powerloom weaver who joined the motorcycle rally, told Anadolu Agency.
The middleclass weaver owns 24 powerlooms – a weaving machine invented by Edmund Cartwright way back in 1785 and is still in vogue in a developing country like India.
"Beginning tomorrow, there will be complete shutdown of Malegaon’s powerloom industry for six days," Zeeshan said.
Malegaon will become the third textile town to join a call for voluntary strike over the recent decision of the Maharashtra State's government to hike power tariff.
On September 5, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission, a government-appointed body, increased the power tariff per unit from Rs. 3 to Rs. 4.40.
Bhiwandi, a textile town 60kms north of Mumbai, began a ten-day strike from November 6.
Icchalkaranji, another textile hub 425kms southeast of Mumbai, followed suit on November 7.
On October 18, people in 70 places in 20 districts participated in a unique protest of burning power bills.
Mufti Mohammed Ismail, the state legislator from Malegaon, came down heavily on the state's government.
"According to one estimate, government collects Rs.2000 tax annually per powerloom while it only gives the subsidy of Rs.750 in power tariff," he told AA.
"The state government is testing the tolerance of more than a million people in three different textile towns," he fumed.
According to the Federal Textile Ministry, Bhiwandi, Icchalkaranji and Malegaon are the three most important powerloom clusters mainly controlled by Muslim weavers.
Out of total 2.4 million powerlooms in India, Maharashtra State has 1.2 million powerlooms.
Bhiwandi boasts at least 600,000 powerlooms while Icchalkaranji and Malegaon, once known as the Manchester of Maharashtra, each has approximately 150,000 powerlooms.
Mahavitaran, the power distribution company, denied accusations of exploiting hapless weavers.
"We have improved the power distribution and have successfully brought down the company’s loss," an official told AA on the condition of anonymity.
"It is the Regulatory Commission who decides the power tariff not us," he said.
Faizan Azmi, a veteran powerloom expert and chairman of the Bhiwandi-based Maharashtra State Powerloom Federation, a textile NGO, urged the state government to reconsider its position.
"The state government must resolve this issue at the earliest because the powerloom industry is literally in doldrums," Azmi told AA.
Dr. Rehan Ansari, a political commentator from Bhiwandi, says small weavers will suffer the most because of the shutdown as their earnings entirely depend upon the production.
He does not expect a solution soon.
"It is highly unlikely that a favorable decision will be taken by state government," he told AA.
"At the most, they will adopt conciliatory tone and try to delay this under one pretext or another as the shutdown or strike is not indefinite," he added.
Ansari says that the government may delay the issue of power tariff by appointing a review committee.
Pratap Hogade, Secretary of Icchalkaranji-based Indian Powerloom Federation, said the power tariff in Maharashtra is almost double than other states.
He accused the state's government of adopting delay tactics.
"On October 23, a cabinet meeting was called and a committee was formed to resolve this issue," he recalled.
"There has been no word from the committee yet. State is adopting delay tactics to sabotage this mass protest," Hogade charged.
"We immediately want a stay on the tariff hike. The state committee can take from 6 months to 6 years to decide."
Azmi, the industry activist, says so far there is no sign that the state's chief minister has intervened in the matter.
"Efforts must be made to include powerlooms under the category of ‘domestic industry’," he asserted.
"Hundreds of thousands of people, including migrant laborers from North India, will be jobless if this industry collapses," he warned.
But Rasheed Tahir Momin, a state legislator from Bhiwandi, is still optimistic.
"The government has already appointed a cabinet sub-committee to find a solution to the ongoing stalemate," he told AA.
"It is expected to file its report within a couple of days," he added.
"I am constantly in touch with chief minister’s office. I am getting a strong feeling that the chief minister will intervene in this matter soon and the outcome will be positive," said the lawmaker.
"With the kind of pressure and protest, I am hopeful of a positive outcome soon."
An official in Maharashtra chief minister’s office told AA that they are closely monitoring the situation in three textile towns.
When asked whether there will be any decision by the chief minister to resolve the shutdown crisis, he refused to divulge any detail.
"Everything is on the table. We are meeting various delegations and deliberating all the possibilities," said the official, declining to be named.
"The cabinet sub-committee will submit a report soon," he said.
Yusuf Ilyas of the All-Malegaon Powerloom Consumers Association expected the state's government to bend this time.
"Time and again, the government has played the role of hide and seek," he told AA.
"But this time, we will not relent to their persuasion. We will only back down when there is a decision to withdraw the hiked tariff."

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Kuwaiti PM on landmark India visit

Kuwaiti Prime Minister being received by Indian Minister (Pic: Syed Akbaruddin, MEA Spokesperson) 

NEW DELHI (AA) – Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah arrives in India on Thursday for a three-day state visit at the invitation of Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.
The visit is the first by a Kuwaiti head of state since the Gulf emirate separated the post of crown prince from the head of government in 2003.
Sheikh Jaber will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including ministers, senior officials and businessmen.
In addition to talks with Singh, Sheikh Jaber will also meet with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.
The Kuwaiti premier will also attend a business luncheon jointly organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.
The emir of Kuwait paid a landmark visit to India in 2006.
VP Ansari visited Kuwait in 2009, while the last visit by an Indian head of government to Kuwait was in 1981 by then premier Indira Gandhi.
The Indian government is according major importance to Sheikh Jaber's visit.
"Kuwait is a major supplier of our energy needs. Almost ten percent of our petrol imports are sourced from Kuwait," Mridul Kumar, joint secretary for the Gulf at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, told a press briefing late Wednesday.
He asserted that India was one of Kuwait's most important trading partners.
"In the last three years, we have seen bilateral trade doubling. We had almost $17 billion of bilateral trade with Kuwait," he added.
Kumar noted that India exported a plethora of products to Kuwait, including foodstuffs, bovine meat and marine products.
He asserted that countries like India needed huge investments in infrastructure.
"The money will come from people who have got investible surpluses," he said, noting that Kuwait boasted some $350 billion in sovereign wealth that was increasing by $25 million every year.
He hoped India would benefit from such long-term Kuwaiti investments.
Kumar stressed that India did not want to limit itself to a mere buyer-seller relationship with Kuwait.
"We are telling our Kuwaiti friends that let us not only buy oil…. why don't we do some more for us in terms of mutual benefit. And that more is joint ventures in petrochemical complexes," he explained.
"We are looking at possibly working together in third countries also," the diplomat added.
Kumar said Kuwaitis had invested over $100 billion in terms of refurbishing the oil sector and pursuing clean fuel projects.
"They are building new refineries and there are huge opportunities for our companies," he noted.
Kumar said India was also looking at ventures in the fertilizers sector.
"The reason that we have this visit is to ensure that these aspects of our relationship are taken into account [and] we solidify them further," he asserted.
He said India was also looking at textiles, electrical equipment, trucks, machinery and security.
Kumar said India had launched a dialogue with Kuwait on security.
"The countries in that region are located in a very volatile region and it is extremely important for us to engage with them in terms of security dialogue," he said.
"This is another aspect of our relationship we are looking at very seriously with the Kuwaitis," he added.
The diplomat highlighted the importance of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including Kuwait, to India.
"The first and most important aspect of our relationship with Gulf countries is the presence of over seven million Indians in the Gulf," he said.
"They are our ambassadors there and also they provide us huge remittances," he added.
"Out of the World Bank's report of $70 billion [worth of] remittances annually that we received last year, over $30 billion came from the six rich GCC countries," the diplomat noted.
He went on to point out that there were 12 Indian billionaires in Dubai.
"So you can imagine the kind of riches we have earned out of working with Gulf countries."

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

India's Mars mission: between national pride, criticism

MOM before the heat shied closure (Pic: ISRO)

NEW DELHI (AA) – India on Tuesday launched its first inter-planetary satellite, the Mars Orbiter Mission.
As the launch was broadcast live on national television, millions of Indians remained glued to their TV sets.
If the mission proves a success, India will join an elite club of terrestrial powers to have explored the Red Planet.
Anadolu Agency spoke to eight different Indians of diverse backgrounds, whose reactions to Tuesday's spaceflight ranged from national pride to criticism of government priorities.

Name: Zeenat Shaukat Ali
Occupation: Director-general, Wisdom Foundation; former professor of Islamic studies, St. Xavier College
Location: Mumbai
Gender: Female

I think our scientists in India need to be congratulated for this monumental effort. Every country has a vision. And of course a budget!
The question once asked was, 'Why do we in Mumbai need to spend extravagantly on gardens given that millions of Mumbaikars [Mumbai residents] still live below the poverty?'
The answer given was, 'The poor and downtrodden are human and need to rejuvenate their lives. Where can their families go for a breadth of fresh air without spending much?'
Every country in the world needs a budget to fulfill its goals. As Gandhiji [Mahatma Gandhi] said, there is enough in the world to satisfy everyone's need but not everyone's greed.
If we can take care of corruption, we can achieve many such goals. Hurrah to India. Maybe we can cover the costs by organizing safe trips!

Name: Nazia Erum
Occupation: Communications consultant
Location: New Delhi
Gender: Female

Upgrading its science and technology is as essential for a nation, as is ensuring good governance and social protection and upliftment for its citizens. There has to be a balance if we wish to ensure India's position in the world.

Name: Dr. Saud Ansari
Occupation: Resident doctor of pulmonary medicine, Hiranandani Hospital
Location: Powai, Mumbai
Gender: Male

Frankly speaking, I really don't care about it. I hate the way Indian democracy functions and implements its laws. There is rampant corruption presided over by inefficient and corrupt politicians.
And what are they [the politicians] going to achieve by spending millions on these kinds of satellite programs? India signed a nuclear deal with the US some years ago.
What's the outcome of the deal? When are we going to see change? After 50 years? India will remain the same. Nothing is going to change.
Neither I nor anybody else is bothered about an inefficient governance system. We are happier in our own lives. Our outburst against the system is temporary, and after sometime we tend to forget.

Name: Amol Vhatkar
Occupation: Model-turned-Bollywood actor
Location: Pune City
Gender: Male

I am very positive about the Mars Orbiter Mission. As we prosper in life, we all desire to have little extra in life.
I don't know if India will be in the elite space club or not, but this mission, I am sure, will open doors for many more aspirants in the field of space exploration. Since India is already a superpower country, so I guess it's already in the elite club.
The result of this project is uncertain at this moment, but I believe you have to take a step to reach to a new level and, hopefully, India is moving in the right direction.

Name: Kinshukh Jain
Occupation: Advocate and executive member, Rajasthan High Court Bar Association
Location: Jaipur city
Gender: Male

I most humbly submit that it is basic human nature to explore new things and it is in this sequence we have reached here and discovered many things in all the fields of science.
In my considerate view, expenditure on such programs is necessary. With regards to the success rate, one has to take that risk as failure cannot be a reason not to try again.
These projects are very sensitive and involve the best care and expertise to make them successful. I see no link between poverty and expenditures involved in such projects. There are many other areas to check so as to eliminate poverty. 

Name: Nihal Khan
Occupation: Textile laborer
Location: Malegaon Town
Gender: Male

I am not aware about any Mars Mission by India. I don't even know what Mars is. The only mission of my life is to earn enough money to feed my family members.
Is this mission akin to the rocket launches which I occasionally see in the skies in the form of smoke trails? If yes, how can a rocket launch benefit and increase my livelihood?

Name: Nitasha Singh Borah
Occupation: Clinical psychologist
Location: New Delhi
Gender: Female

The question to be asked: to what end? Are we spending all this money so that someone can validate us as a 'developed' space program and consequently a developed nation?
If so, that's a lot of money to spend for external validation. On the other hand, if the objective is to explore something, why set out to explore what other countries have already successfully explored? Why not set original targets?

Name: Rakesh Sharma
Occupation: Documentary filmmaker
Location: Goa
Gender: Male

I hope the mission is successful and huge reserves of gold, diamonds, coal and oil are found on Mars, triggering an exodus by the Indian political class and their dishonest corporate brethren – preferably on one-way flights!
It will then pave the way for campaigns to combat some of the basic problems that plague our society. We will become a superpower only after we ensure no more starvation deaths, child malnutrition or farmer suicides.
We need policies and campaigns to ensure clean drinking water and sanitation for all, along with universal healthcare and education to allow all our citizens a chance to live a life with dignity and realize their talents/skills to ensure a better life for themselves and a better future for coming generations.
No one is opposed to technology or scientific progress, but we must have our priorities very clear. Even within the space program, I'd like to see a focus not on some showcase mission, but on aspects like more satellites for improving telecoms, weather prediction, river mapping, flood/cyclone forecasts and suchlike. 
Let's get our gullies, gutters, bylanes, streets and expressways in order before we hurl ourselves on the space super-highway!
Anadolu Agency, November 5, 2013

India's Mars Mission launched successfully

MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) being launched (Pic: PTI) 

MUMBAI (AA) – Millions of curious Indians were glued to their TV sets on Tuesday as the country's maiden odyssey to Mars was broadcast live on national television.
"The launch rocket has placed the Mars Orbiter spacecraft very precisely into an elliptical orbit around earth," Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman K Radhakrishnan said from the mission-control center amid thunderous applause.
At 2:38pm local time, India's first inter-planetary satellite, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, a barrier island off the coast.
The giant rocket rose into a cloudy sky, leaving behind a trail of orange flame and thick dark smoke amid cheers at the mission-control center, located about 7km from the launch site.
Hundreds of scientists, dressed in milky white shirts with "Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)" inscribed in blue letters on the back, stared intensely at their computer screens, monitoring the MOM's speedy voyage.
The 1,350-kilogram launch vehicle carrying an unmanned probe was monitored by dozens of scientists who spent a sleepless night at the control center.
At 3:22pm, the tension was finally broken with the announcement that the MOM, or Mangalyaan, had completed the fourth crucial stage of entering earth's orbit.
The successful launch marked the 25th mission of the Indian-made PSLV launch vehicle.
India first launched its space program in 1963.
-Caesarian baby-
The next ten-day phase, dubbed "orbit raising operations" by scientists, will be crucial for the MOM.
The 1,350-kilogram launch vehicle will orbit earth for nearly one month in order to build up the velocity necessary to break free of the earth's gravitational pull.
On December 1, the orbiter will leave the earth's orbit for a 300-day journey to the red planet.
It is expected to enter the Martian orbit on September 24 of next year. The closest distance between Mars and Earth is about 56 million kilometers.
This second stage of the nine-month journey will test India's technological capability five years after it sent its first unmanned probe to the moon, called Chandrayaan.
The Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission encountered a number of technical difficulties and operated for less than one year, instead of the planned two.
Chandrayaan-1 had carried scientific instruments from a host of countries, including the US, one of which – NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper – detected water on the moon's surface.
The MOM instruments, by contrast, were all manufactured in India.
It carries a color camera, a thermal infrared spectrometer, a Mars exospheric neutral composition analyzer, and a lyman alpha photometer.
Ramakrishnan, the ISRO director, described the MOM mission as a baby born of a caesarian operation.
"Now it is the job of the spacecraft team to make sure that the baby remains healthy in space," he said.
The MOM program was unveiled barely 15 months ago by Indian Premier Manmohan Singh, shortly after China's Yinghuo-1 Mars orbiter was destroyed when its carrier spacecraft – Russia's Phobos-Grunt – failed to leave earth orbit.
Singh called the ISRO chairman personally after the successful launch and congratulated the entire ISRO team.
If the Mangalyaan proves a success, India will join an elite club of terrestrial powers to have explored the Red Planet.
Out of a total of 51 Mars missions by various countries, only 21 have been successful to date.
In 1999, Japan's Nozomi Mars spacecraft failed in its bid to orbit the planet.
Anadolu Agency, November 5, 2013

Sunday, November 03, 2013

India counts minutes for milestone Mars mission launch

PSLV after heat shield closure (Pic: ISRO)

MUMBAI (AA) – At 6.08am on Sunday, four minutes after the sunrise, the 3,390-minute official countdown for the launch of India’s first inter-planetary satellite Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) began at Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, a barrier island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
"The countdown started as per schedule and it is running smoothly," an official with the Indian Space Research Organization of (ISRO), India’s space agency, told Anadolu Agency, refusing to be named.
At 2.38pm on Tuesday November 5, the 1350-kilogram MOM - an unmanned spacecraft - will be launched from an Indian-made Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV C25) to Mars, when the red planet will be closest to the earth.
ISRO sources told AA that it is expected to take about 40 minutes to inject the satellite into Earth’s orbit after the take-off.
If successfully launched, MOM, or Mangalyaan as it is called in India, is expected to go around the Earth for 25 days before embarking on a nine-month space travel to Mars on December 1.
It is expected to reach the red planet orbit on September 24, 2014.
The closest distance between Mars and Earth is 56.4 million kilometers.
On November 1, decks were cleared for the launch after a successful launch rehearsal a day earlier.
Mangalyaan has a launch window between October 28 and November 19.
ISRO earlier scrapped the scheduled date of launch on October 28 because of bad weather in the Bay of Bengal.
In 2008, India launched a mission to Moon Chandrayaan-1.
That mission encountered a number of technical difficulties and operated for less than one year, instead of the planned two years. 
Chandrayaan-1 had scientific instruments from a number of countries, including the US, one of which – NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper -- detected water on the lunar surface. 
The MOM instruments are all from India.
It carries a color camera, a thermal infrared spectrometer, the Mars exospheric neutral composition analyzer and a lyman alpha photometer.
If Mangalyaan is successful, India will join the elite club of space powers to have explored the Red Planet.
Out of total 51 missions to Mars, only 21 have been successful.
In 1999, Japan’s Nozomi Mars spacecraft failed in its bid to orbit the planet while in 2011 China’s Yinghuo-1 Mars orbiter was destroyed when its carrier spacecraft — Russia’s Phobos-Grunt — failed to leave Earth orbit.
Indian's Mars Mission is being done in collaboration with NASA, which will provide tracking assistance to ISRO using the Deep Space Network.
"This is just a revolutionary step towards space invention," Professor Upendra Lad, Head, Department of Physics at Associate Professor Studied at MSG Arts Commerce and Science College, told AA.
When asked about the amount of money India is spending on this mission – estimated at $70 million - given the abject poverty in India and the number of Indians living under the below poverty line, he dismissed the comparison.
"It’s foolhardy to evaluate this mission in terms of extravagant space spending and growing poverty. One never knows the impact and future gain of the mission," he asserted.
Mujahid Ansari, assistant professor at the department of chemistry, AIT College of Arts, Commerce and Science, agrees.
"There may not be any immediate gain of Mars mission as space exploration is a time-consuming process," he told AA, dismissing the unwarranted criticism of the space mission.
"Bringing in the poverty politics into science, technology and space exploration is a reflection of a sick and hypocritical mind," Ansari insisted.
He cited the recent coal allocation scam in India where the Comptroller and Auditor General put the loss to public exchequer at $28 billion.
"Did anybody raise and compare India’s poverty when CAG tabled its report in Indian parliament stating $28 billion loss?" Ansari fumed.
When asked whether India’s mission to Mars is a desire to beat China, Ansari dismissed the suggestions.
"It is purely driven by science and nothing else. If in doing so, India overtakes China in space exploration, why make a fuss about it?" he said.
Some experts believe that MOM focuses more on technological than scientific objectives but Ansari disagrees.
"It is harmonious balance between technology and science. MOM will not only demonstrate the capability to enter Mars orbit but it will also search for methane in the Martian atmosphere," he argued.
Presence or detection of methane is potential sign that life may have once existed on Mars.