Why can't India feed its people, asks Canadian media (Second Lead)
Toronto, July 18, 2011: In this Year of India in Canada, India is making news in the media here - not for the second highest growth rate in the world but for its "absolute poverty" and failure to "feed its people".
The Canadian media has also likened "the boom in Bihar" to "a whimper".
Writing under the headline 'Why India can't feed its people', the country's biggest daily Toronto Star reported from New Delhi, Sunday, "Food is an all-consuming crisis here. Waste is only one facet. Agriculture, infrastructure, inflation, innovation and corruption are others. It is a scourge and challenge for this country of 1.2 billion people..."
According to it, "40 percent of Indian children remain chronically malnourished" with this figure in some parts of India even higher than some sub-Saharan countries.
Citing reports of hungry children eating mud in parts of Uttar Pradesh, the newspaper story said, "Today, there is less food available for each Indian resident than there was 30 years ago. In 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, India produced 436 grams of food grains per person per day, a drop from 445.3 gms in 2006."
The report said, "As much as 40 percent of all the fruits, vegetables and food grains grown in India never make it to the market. The country wastes more grain each year than Australia produces, and more fruits and vegetables than the UK consumes."
Blaming the lack of R&D for the crisis in the Indian agriculture sector which has led to 200,000 suicides since 1997, the report said, "While China pumps $3.5 billion into agricultural research - Chinese farmers grew 6.2 metric tonnes of rice per hectare in 2008, double India's output - India spends a fraction of that."
In another story from Dharampur Mushahar Toll in Bihar, the national daily Globe and Mail reported Sunday that "the boom in Bihar sounds more like a whimper".
Bihar, which has the lowest literacy rate, the highest child-mortality rate and the lowest life expectancy in India, has become a synonym not for intractable despair, but for turnaround under a new reformist government led by "a pot-bellied, teetotalling socialist engineer named Nitish Kumar", the report said.
But "to travel in Bihar - in the rural areas or in the capital, Patna, where the streets are choked with garbage and the lights flicker out every couple of hours - is to see both how the place has changed, and how terribly far it has to go. And it is in this, more than anything else, that Bihar is emblematic of India - of its dark side of absolute poverty and exclusion, and how very difficult a task it is to change them", the report said.
The paper said, "Half the children (in Dharampur Mushahar Toll) are without clothes; a third of them have the deep hacking coughs and crusted snot of chronic respiratory-tract infections. In the newly built early-learning centre, a gaggle of three-year-olds sits beneath one tattered poster of the English alphabet - not that there is anyone around who can read it. Few people have any food in their tiny houses; they buy what they can each day after working on the land of higher-caste villagers."
But giving credit to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who inherited a "wretched mess" after "15 years of misrule by a theatrical thug Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife Rabri", the report said that under him "the reign of the criminals (has) collapsed; now, in the evenings, the city streets throng with shoppers and families out for ice cream".
Infrastructure construction is booming, school enrollments have doubled and doctors and teachers show up for duty on time.
But "Mr (Nitish) Kumar, however good his intentions, cannot leapfrog his state into the 21st century. He can drag it to 1950, or 1970. But not to 2011. And there are pockets just like Bihar all over India where this is true."
Foreign tourist arrivals up 24 pc
New Delhi, July 18: The number of foreign tourists visiting India rose by 24 percent last year, it was announced Monday. Delhi is among the top three destinations for foreign tourists.
"Foreign tourist visits to the country registered an impressive growth of 24.2 percent in 2010. Domestic tourist visits also showed a growth of 10.7 percent," an official statement said.
The number of foreign tourists who visited India in 2010 was 17.9 million, up from 14.4 million in 2009.
Among the top 10 popular states with foreign tourists were Maharashtra (5.1 million), Tamil Nadu (2.8 mn), Delhi (1.9 mn), Uttar Pradesh (1.7 mn) and Rajasthan (1.3 million).
For domestic tourists, Andhra Pradesh led the list followed by Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Indian IT to be worth $300 bn in decade
Ahmedabad, July 18: India's IT sector will grow to $300 billion in a decade if its expansion covers tier-I and II towns and cities in India, N.R. Narayana Murthy, chairman and chief mentor of InfoSys, said Monday.
Talking to mediapersons after a function at Ahmedabad University, Murthy said a recent McKinsey report had brought out the huge potential in the sector.
But there was a need for a forward looking approach by the industry and for the government to straighten out policy curves.
He said corruption thrived at the cost of merit and had a spiral effect.
"It has reduced the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) and must be countered with positive steps, which the government is taking."
Mercedes-Benz sells 90 C-class cars' to Carzonrent
New Delhi, July 18: German luxury automobile manufacturer Mercedes-Benz Monday gave away keys to 90 of its C-class brand cars to mobility solution provider Carzonrent.
"Indians today lead global lifestyles and their mobility preferences reflect this status," said Peter Honegg, managing director, Mercedes-Benz India.
According to the company, the trend of using luxury automobiles in the hospitality sector is of mutual benefit to both the original equipment maker and firms like Carzonrent, which cater to the demand for luxury vehicles from high-end customers.
"We see this trend growing in the future and already have in place a team dedicated towards serving the needs of corporate customers," Honegg said.
Honegg's views were corroborated by Rajiv Vij, managing director, Carzonrent, who said that the demand for luxury cars in the hospitality sector was growing at a faster pace than other vehicles segment.
"Today almost 25 percent or Rs. 40 crore annually of our car rental revenues come from this segment," Vij said.
The latest purchase has made the car rental firm the single largest owner of Mercedes vehicles in the country with a fleet of 160 cars.
Five Punjab players appointed police officers
Chandigarh, July 18 : The Punjab government Monday approved the appointment of five Asian Games and Commonwealth Games gold medallists as deputy superintendents of police in the police.
Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the home and sports minister, gave his approval for the appointment of Manjit Kaur (athletics), Avneet Kaur (shooting), Ranjab Sodhi (shooting), Palwinder Singh Cheema (wrestling) and Amandeep Kaur (hockey).
Badal said that players winning gold medals at international events will be appointed deputy superintendents, provided they are graduates.
He said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will soon hand over appointment letters to the players.
Earlier, the Punjab government had appointed Gagan Ajit Singh (hockey), Sunita Rani (athletics) and Harbhajan Singh (cricket) as deputy superintendents.
Australian school apologises to Sikh boy
Chandigarh, July 14, 2011: A Catholic school in Melbourne has apologised to a Sikh student for forcing him to shave off his beard, a communication from the union ministry of external affairs (MEA) to a Punjab MP said.
Following news reports of a Sikh boy being asked by school authorities to shave his beard, Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab Avinash Rai Khanna had raised objections and written to the MEA demanding government intervention into the incident.
The MEA conveyed the information to the Indian High Commission in Canberra.
Khanna said Thursday that he has received a communication from the ministry stating that the school principal has apologised to the student.
"The letter from the ministry states that the school is relatively a new one. As per school rules and regulations, it is mandatory for students to shave off their facial hair. In this particular case, two students, including a Sikh boy, were stopped by one of the teachers and were given a razor to shave off their facial hair," Khanna said.
"While the other Catholic boy shaved his facial hair, the Sikh boy said that he did not know how to shave as he had never shaved before. One of the senior students told him how to shave but he did not shave his hair," he added.
The Indian High Commission at Canberra was told by the school that, at no stage, the Sikh boy had indicated his religious practices which led to the incident.
The principal of school has apologised for hurting the sentiments, Khanna said.
India's diamond markets shut over Mumbai terror attack
Mumbai/Ahmedabad/Kolkata, July 14: For the first time ever, diamond traders across India shut shop Thursday after terror struck the country's largest diamond trading hub in Mumbai.
While India's largest diamond trading market located near the landmark Opera House in Mumbai will remain closed till Monday, resulting in loss of business of hundreds of crores of rupees, all major diamond trading markets across the country were shut to show solidarity against the terror attack on the country's financial capital.
Markets in Ahmedabad, Surat and Kolkata remained closed Thursday.
Hardik Hundia, a diamond merchant based at the Opera House, said diamond traders will lose around Rs.250 crore in business every day.
Three serial blasts struck the country's financial capital killing 17 people and injuring 131. Besides Opera House, terrorists also struck at Zaveri Bazaar, which is home to many jewellery shops.
According to Bombay Bullion Association, gold and diamond industry accounts for nearly Rs.10 billion (Rs.1,000 crore) trade per day, and over Rs.300,000 crore per year.
"From these massive business volumes, calculate our huge contribution to the national exchequer by way of VAT, sales tax and other levies," association president Prithviraj Kothari told IANS.
Kothari said soon after the blasts, the national and international customers were reluctant to enter the vicinity in view of severe security restrictions and a general fear psychosis, hitting the trade severely.
"Unfortunately, each time there is an attack, the industry goes on blink for nearly three months," he said.
Bullion trade associations in Mumbai Thursday convened an emergency meeting and decided to keep the markets closed till Monday, official said.
Diamond merchants have also decided to meet state Home Minister R.R. Patil to push for better security for the jewellery market.
The nearly two square km area of Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar has a working population of nearly 200,000 people directly or indirectly engaged in the jewellery business.
India, US to sign aviation safety agreement
New Delhi, July 14 - India and the US are set to sign a bilateral aviation safety agreement (BASA) during US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's visit next week, an official said Thursday.
"BASA has been approved by the cabinet and will be signed during the visit of Hilary Clinton, the US secretary of state," said Civil Aviation Secretary Nasim Zaidi on the sidelines of an event here.
According to the ministry, the proposed agreement will open up a huge market for export of aeronautical products manufactured in India to US and other regions of the world.
"This will open up huge potential for investment. It will also usher in mutual acceptance of aeronautical products and parts developed in either country," Zaidi said.
Aerospace products made in India would be inspected and certified by directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) and they could then be exported.
Zaidi further said the country's aeronautical products industry is fast growing as more design and manufacturing is being shifted to India.
The two countries have already completed two key processes prior to signing of the bilateral agreement - a "technical assessment" of the DGCA by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 11 defined areas and a shadow certification project involving review of DGCA's working by the FAA.
A six-member FAA team visited DGCA headquarters here to review the DGCA aircraft certification system and carry out a technical assessment, said the ministry. The FAA team observed that "the DGCA has a very sound aircraft certification system in place commensurate with the rules, regulations, working procedures, etc".
The Americans also executed the shadow certification project, examining the DGCA process of awarding works to its contractors.
Tomato compound may help prevent prostate cancer
Washington, July 14: Lycopene, a red pigment that gives tomatoes their distinctive colour, could help prevent prostate cancer, say scientists.
Lycopene is a potent antioxidant and some studies have shown that tomato-rich diets may lower the risk of certain cancers, especially those of the prostate, lung and stomach.
"We're not setting out to treat cancer, but to prevent it, and we're hoping to do so with lycopene," said Richard van Breemen, University of Illinois' professor of medicinal chemistry, who led the study, reports the journal Cancer Prevention Research.
Each day, half of the study's 105 participants aged between 50 and 80 years, received two gel capsules containing 30 mg of lycopene, while the other half received placebo capsules that contained only soybean oil.
The lycopene approximated the amount that can be ingested daily by eating foods rich in tomato sauce, such as spaghetti and pizza, van Breemen said.
Researchers wanted to see if lycopene would rise in the blood and prostate tissue, and if it could lower markers of oxidative stress -- a factor in many diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer's, and in the body's normal aging process.
Oxidative stress injures cells within the body, while antioxidants help cells cope against the damage, van Breemen said.
After receiving lycopene or placebo for three weeks, all subjects underwent needle biopsies to diagnose BPH (enlarged prostate) or prostate cancer. Two additional biopsies were taken to measure lycopene and DNA oxidation, he said.
The pathology indicated that 51 men had prostate cancer while 65 had BPH. Men who received lycopene showed "a significant increase" of the antioxidant in the blood, van Breemen said, compared to the placebo control group.
Indian casino king snubbed by Nepal court
Kathmandu, July 12: A self-proclaimed "inveterate gambler" from New Delhi who became the virtual king of Nepal's casino industry but then saw his control eroding received a fresh setback with the republic's top court turning down his petition to buy more time.
Rakesh Wadhwa, a 54-year-old chartered accountant whose Nepal Recreation Center once enjoyed monopoly over Nepal's eight casinos, will have to now seek new devices to prevent Nepal's government from scrapping his licence to run the casinos he controlled and auction the prime property belonging to the Center.
The new blow for the controversial businessman, who also advocates lifting the ban on smoking and business in tiger parts, comes after Nepal's Supreme Court Monday rejected the Center's petition seeking a stay order on the government's bid to cancel its licence to run casinos in Nepal.
A two-member bench headed by Chief Justice Khilaraj Regmi and judge Prakash Basti issued the order.
The blow came after Wadhwa had enjoyed a week's reprieve when the court had halted the government and asked for a meeting with both the disputing parties.
While Wadhwa has departed from Kathmandu a long time ago after reports that he would be arrested for failing to pay the casino staff's salaries and the royalties due to the government, that runs into millions of rupees, the Center went to court this month, seeking a reprieve.
It had contended that the government should collect the royalty from the five-star hotels from whose premises the casinos operate. It also challenged the tourism and civil aviation ministry's bid to cancel its licence, saying it was issued by the ministry of industry.
The late legal fight came after four of the eight casinos run by the Center slipped out of its control as Wadhwa remained preoccupied consolidating his position in Goa's floating casino industry. At the last count, it was left with only four casinos in Nepal, including Casino Nepal, the oldest casino in South Asia.
Of these, Casino Anna is now being claimed by the five-star hotel from whose premises it operates, Hotel de l'Annapurna.
Wadhwa's meteoric rise as Nepal's casino king came after a bitter and sinister battle with his mentor and the original chief of the Center, American entrepreneur Richard D. Tuttle, that also spilled over into a court in Hong Kong.
But after ousting Tuttle, Wadhwa's victory turned pyrrhic with other players more powerful than he, like the then Nepal king Gyanendra's son-in-law Raj Bahadur Singh, seeking a slice of the pie.
The casinos have a long history of paying the ruling parties and providing jobs to their cadre to stay in their good books. However, it backfired after the Maoist government of Nepal fell.
The new ruling communist party, smarting at Wadhwa's earlier neglect of it, went after his kingdom with vengeance, leading to frequent police raids.
A coup de grace for the casino industry came from a committee of MPs who branded the casino industry as a prime cause of growing crime in the capital and ordered the government to have them relocated outside Kathmandu..IANS/NRIpress.com