Friday, March 23, 2012

It really is a dog's life

Here's a photo of one of our local street dogs:

A 25yr search for family

Here are two feel-good articles I found on "The Age" website about a man who spent 25yrs trying to find his family back in India:

Coal mining in India

Here an article I found on "Telegraph" (UK) website:

Indian government accused of 'looting the country' over coal mining contracts

India's Congress-led government was yesterday accused of "looting the country" after a leaked report claimed it had lost $210bn (£133bn) by awarding coal mining contracts to hand-picked companies.

By Dean Nelson, New Delhi
4:36PM GMT 22 Mar 2012

The disclosure by the country's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) office caused uproar among MPs who called on Dr Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, to explain why the government had "favoured" certain companies in 155 coal fields.

Opposition MPs decried the waste of precious natural assets which they said should be for the benefit of the nation rather than corporate favourites.

$210bn is more than enough to feed every one of the 354 million people living under the poverty line in India for three years, according to government poverty figures released earlier this week.

Anti-graft campaigners said the scale of waste in this latest controversy indicated that a series of corruption scandals in the last two years had been just the "tip of the iceberg".

Several senior government figures, including former Telecoms minister A Raja and the head of Delhi's 2010 Commonwealth Games organising committee, have been jailed on corruption charges along with a leader of one of the government's key coalition partners.

Several top companies have had their contracts to operate 2G mobile phone networks cancelled following allegations that several were awarded fraudulently and that the government had lost $38bn in revenues because the licenses were give away too cheaply.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's Prakash Javdekar said the government would not be allowed to continue "looting the country"," while a leading Communist Party of India figure, D Raja, said the latest scandal showed the Congress-led coalition was "favouring all corporate houses and big business houses in the country".

Manish Sisodia, a leader of the India Against Corruption campaign group, said Indians should rise up and demand tougher anti-graft laws.

"The gravity of these scams and frequency with which they are being exposed makes one realise that all these scams so far were just tip of the ice berg," he said.

India needs a powerful Lokpal, or independent ombudsman, to "stop the ruling class from looting public money," he added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who oversaw the coal ministry during some of the period covered by the report, made no comment during his appearance in parliament on Thursday.

The prime minister's office called the estimated loss "exceedingly misleading".

The Comptroller and Auditor General's draft report, which was leaked to the Times of India, strongly criticised the government for failing to get the best return for India's people.

"Every action/decision of the State or its agencies/instrumentalities to give largesse/confer benefits must be sound, transparent, discernible and well defined policy. the natural resources cannot be allocated to private hands without ensuring that the benefit of low cost of the natural resources would be passed on to the citizens," it stated.

Following the outcry over its report, the Comptroller and Auditor General said the figures for the projected loss to the government had yet to be finalised and that the leaked report is a very preliminary draft. The Coal Ministry denied there had been any wrongdoing.

Indian parliaments are so much more interesting

I found this article on the UK Independent website:

Did they sex up their dossiers? Indian ministers 'caught' watching porn

Nikhil Kumar

Friday 23 March 2012

India's right-wing Bharatiya Janta Party is known for its staunch conservatism and hard-line religious views. But it risks developing an image problem after two of its lawmakers were accused of viewing pornography in the Gujarat state assembly, only weeks after two BJP ministers in the south-western state of Karnataka were forced to quit after being caught watching x-rated videos on a mobile phone.

Shankar Chaudhury and Jetha Bharwad are accused of being less than attentive while their colleagues in the assembly scrutinised the details of the Gujarat state budget on Tuesday.

Instead of discussing grants for the water resources department, the two are alleged to have been browsing "obscene" images on a tablet computer.

"First they started by watching the pictures of Swami Vivekananda [a 19th-century Hindu religious leader], then cartoons and then pics of women," Janak Dave, a journalist who was watching the proceedings from the press gallery, told the Press Trust of India. "I went to the speaker's chamber and complained to his PA, who informed the speaker and the viewing was stopped."

The two politicians denied the allegations and called for an examination of CCTV footage.

Although a journalist submitted a clip which showed the pair watching something on a tablet, the images were not clear enough. "The claim is baseless and without any truth," Mr Chaudhury told The Times of India. "I often draft letters and other official documents in the House just to get some office work done. That is all I was doing when the clip was made."

On Wednesday, the speaker of the state assembly, Ganpat Vasava, ordered an inquiry into the affair.

The opposition Congress party, whose lawmakers have been calling for the dismissal of the two BJP legislators, immediately drew comparisons with the controversy in Karnataka in February, when two BJP ministers, including the incumbent responsible for women and child welfare, were forced to resign after being filmed watching pornographic clips on a mobile. A third minister stood down after being accused of providing the clip.

"It seems the... party has not learnt any lessons from a similar episode in Karnataka," Congress party spokesman Rashid Alvi said. Having a dig at the BJP's conservatism, he added that the incident had "exposed the true face" of the party which keeps "harping" about Indian culture.

"We can only pray to God that such a thing is now not repeated in any third BJP-ruled state," he said.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A tour of Delhi with Salam Balak

The Salam Balak Trust is a charity organisation set up to look after Delhi street kids. It provides: drop in centres; shelters (for both girls & boys); clothing & food services; education services; recreation services; health services & vocational services to the Delhi street kids. It gives them a chance to a future.

Their website is:

Salam Balk conduct tours around Delhi station; with former street kids as your guide. The tours last about two hours. You wander through your guide’s former haunts; your told the guide’s history about how they came to be on the streets of Delhi; what they did to survive on the streets & what the trust has done for them, to get them off the streets.

It’s quite a fascinating side of Delhi that you wouldn’t normally think about & well worth it.

These are some of the former street kids taking us on the tour

If you're wondering why the dog has a slight pink tinge, it's because he's been plastered with Holi paint. He's a "Holi Dog"

These last two photos are of religous icons on the walls of a Delhi laneway. Why are they there ?? To stop guys pissing up against the wall !!

When visiting the boys shelter, we popped in to see the biys at school. They couldn't help themselves; they loved being in front of the camera

Thursday, March 15, 2012

An interesting fact from the Indian census

Here's an interesting article I found on "The Australian" website regarding the recent census (conducted last year) here in India:

More mobile phones than toilets in India, research shows

by: Francis Elliott
From: The Times March 15, 2012 1:53PM

SATELLITE technology has helped to reveal the deeply uneven development of India, where more households now have a mobile phone than a toilet.

Using imagery from space was the only way that the Government could track the mushrooming and mostly illegal slums of its cities as it carried out its vast ten-yearly census. Due to the rapid pace of expansion, printed maps are redundant as soon as they appear.

The final figures released this week show that a decade of rapid economic growth has made modest changes to most Indians' standard of living and none whatsoever to a fifth of the country's 1.2 billion population.

Optimists point to the extraordinary increase in mobile phone ownership as evidence of development. Ten years ago fewer than 4 per cent of rural households had a phone - today the figure is 54 per cent.

The growth of nuclear-family households, greater access to electricity and the dominance of television over radio are also seen as proof of improvement.

But the census has shown that just 10per cent more households in India have a private toilet than in 2001. Access to treated drinking water is also limited to just a third of homes and 17per cent still need to fetch water from more than half a kilometre away.

Two thirds of Indian households still use firewood, cow-dung, crop waste or coal to cook on - a statistic that helps to explain the scale of both health and environmental problems in India.

The fact that more households now have access to a phone than a toilet has provoked a debate on whether public policy or private consumption is responsible for skewed priorities. India's census chief, C. Chandramouli, blamed "cultural and traditional reasons and lack of education" for the persistence of poor sanitation.

Others, however, point to wide regional variations that they believe shows how enlightened public policy and good local government can make a difference even in poorer states.

A surprise finding was that only 3 per cent of Indian households have access to the internet at home.

Most Indians still travel on two wheels, and, although there was a 9 per cent jump in the number owning a motorcycle, just under half still rely on a cycle for transport. The number of Indian households that have a car is only 2.3 per cent.

Writing in the business paper Mint, Niranjan Rajadhyaksha said that the data had painted an incontrovertible picture of "gradual improvement" for India's aam aadmi, or common man.

"The positive message is that most Indians are living better. The ownership of a wrist watch or cycle used to be enough to be counted as middle class ."

He conceded it was worrying that a fifth of all households still had none of the basic assets surveyed. They had been "left out" of India's growth story.

An illustration of the complex mix of the sophisticated and meagre in India is provided by the census itself. Having identified illegal colonies via satellite, council workers were sent to paint numbers on properties to guide census-takers on their rounds. The numbers now act as residential addresses.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy Holi

Today (the 8th) is the Hindu Festival of Holi. It's basically an excuse to dress up in your daggiest clothes (prefereably white) & to then paint bomb your friends & passing strangers.

For information on Holi, click on this link:

Tania's work had a Holi celebration yesterday. Here are some photos of what exactly happens at Holi.

Next year....Tania & I are really going to get into it.

This is what you look like before the fun starts

This is what you look like after the fun & frivolities



Photos of way before it all started getting "colourful"

Photos of where it starts to get "colourful"

Some of us then had to go back to work !!

Another earhquake in Delhi

On Monday (the 5th), Delhi experienced another earthquake. It happened around 1.10pm & lasted for about 10 seconds.

We were outside having lunch when the ground started to shake. It felt like someone had grabbed your chair & was shaking it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spotted at the shops

Saw these at a recent trip to the Ambiance Mall at Gurgaon:

If you're into that sort of thing

Here's an investment opportunity for you

Found this article on the UK Telegraph website:

Slums in Mumbai sell for £100,000

Slums in Mumbai, scene of the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire, are selling for over £100,000 in a sign of the booming prosperity in India's financial capital.

A huge 496 families lived in the slum in 2008, but today over 350 have been paid an average of £100,000 and left Photo: REXBy Helen Roberts in Mumbai

4:05PM GMT 02 Mar 2012

The 250 dilapidated slums in the shadow of glass and steel office blocks housing multinational companies are being bought up by property companies as part of a swathe of redevelopment.

However, the huge increase in property prices means some slum-dwellers feel short-changed – even when corrugated iron shacks next to open sewers and the incessant rumble of Mumbai's trains from the nearby station are selling for 8,000,000 rupees (£102,000).

Abdul Rashid, 58, lived in Bandra Kurla Complex, next to where the rags-to-riches Danny Boyle film was shot. He accepted a developer's offer and was able to buy a proper flat in a building in a nearby suburb.

"It wasn't enough money though," he insists. "Mumbai is growing at such a rate that I regret selling when I did. I should've waited and demanded more money and then I could've got a bigger flat."

Sarah Pravin, 43, from the same slum has stuck her heels in the ground and stayed. She and her husband and two sons have been one of the few residents in her area who have refused developer's money.

"I don't want money, I want a new home," she says. "How am I going to afford a new flat for my family with the money these developers are offering? I know it sounds a lot of money, but realistically, in a city like Mumbai, £100,000 isn't."

A huge 496 families lived in the slum in 2008, but today over 350 have been paid an average of £100,000 and left.

But Ms Pravin is among a small minority still waiting and insisting on a home exchange.

"Many of us have watched as bulldozers have moved in to demolish the surrounding buildings. It's like living on a building site now, and it's become quite terrifying when the drug dealers move into crumbling buildings and hide," she said.

"But I will stand my ground. I love this neighbourhood. I've lived here 16 years. If I have to move to make way for developers and new buildings then I want a good deal that will help my family's future and security."

For other former slum-dwellers who have sold up, the payout has offered them a new life away from the squalor of the railway shacks.

Lubna Mamin, 23, and her husband Imran, along with his parents and sister, accepted a new apartment for their filthy slum in Bandra East.

Now life could not be better in Bazar Road, Bandra West, in a flat with a private shower and lavatory and a separate kitchen.

She says: "It's so nice to have our own private lavatory and shower. The security is lovely. We never felt so safe in our old place but now when we close our door at night we are home, our own home."

Ms Mamin and her husband’s family were set up in rented accommodation by their developers while the new apartment block was being built. Once it was completed they exchanged paper work, and the new apartment was theirs.

For the developers handing over ten or 15 apartments to slum families is nothing compared to the profits they made from selling the remaining 70 apartments at around £200,000 per flat.