Monday, June 25, 2012

An article on toilets in India

Here’s an article on toilets in India that I found on the “Telegraph” (UK) website:

India the world's largest open air toilet

India is the world's largest open air lavatory with three fifths of the world's people forced to do their ablutions outside, the country's rural development minister said.

Outdoor morning toilet in the river scenes from Kolkatam India Photo: ALAMY

By Dean Nelson, New Delhi
2:03PM BST 25 Jun 2012

Jairam Ramesh said spending on basic sanitation should match India's vast defence spending and that the country's best scientific minds should be deployed to make sure every Indian had access to an inside lavatory.

"Nearly 60 per cent of the people in the world who defecate in the open belong to India.

Even countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan have better records. We should be ashamed of this."

He was speaking at the launch of a new 'eco-lavatory' designed by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation, which is responsible for developing its new Agni Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles.

Of all India's states, Sikkim, the tiny former Kingdom in the Himalayas, has provided indoor lavatories for all its people. Kerala, in the south, is close to joining it, but the minister said it was disappointing that so many other states were not even close to meeting the target. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa had particular poor records.

In Orissa, only 280 of 6300 local authorities could claim to have 100 per cent lavatory use, he said.

He was launching the 'Bapu' named in honour of the country's 'father of the nation' Mahatma Gandhi, a 'bio-lavatory' which composts waste. The government is sign an agreement with its defence establishment to spend £50 million to lavatories in 1,000 local authority areas – mostly those without sewage drain systems.

An article on the provision of water in Delhi

Back home, water conservation is a part of life now & we’re all conscious of doing our best to save water.

Here’s an article I found on the “Daily Mail” website (I know….a great bastion of journalism) about providing water to a population of over 22 million:

The great water divide: VIP New Delhi area gets as much water as the entire Walled City

PUBLISHED: 22:41 GMT, 24 June 2012 | UPDATED: 00:27 GMT, 25 June 2012

Privileges are raining down on VIPs in the Capital. Two days after the LPG-guzzling propensity of political bigwigs tumbled out of the closet, it has come to light that the New Delhi area - which includes the elite Lutyens Bungalow Zone (LBZ) where ministers, other MPs and top bureaucrats reside - is brimming with water at a time when supply to the rest of the Capital is down to a trickle.

Mail Today has got to the bottom of the stark inequity in the water distribution pattern.

It has found that the exclusive preserve of those wielding power is kept awash in comfort by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), which feeds the New Delhi area around 350-400 litres of water for each individual every day.

By contrast, only about 100 litres is supplied to satisfy the daily needs of every common man even during the months in which there is no shortage.

A senior DJB official concedes: 'The daily per capita consumption of water by VIPs in the New Delhi area is 350-400 litres. Besides, they are entitled to a 24X7 tanker supply facility on a priority basis.'

Another measure of the skewed supply is the distribution of 32 MGD (million gallons a day) in the New Delhi area that has a population of approximately 3.25 lakh. As against this, just about 35 MGD is provided to the entire Walled City where almost 10 times the number (32 lakh) dwells.

The Chandrawal water treatment plant sets aside as much as 30 per cent of the estimated 94 MGD it produces for the New Delhi localities, which are largely inhabited by the country's decision- makers. Karol Bagh has as many people, but gets only 8 MGD.

In some south Delhi localities such as Vasant Kunj, Munirka, Saket and Mehrauli, the distribution losses are in excess of 50 per cent owing to leaking supply lines and poor maintenance. So, the 100 litres of water sanctioned for every individual rarely translates into reality.

 'Even now, despite the Capital's water crisis peaking and the plant functioning at 15-20 per cent below its optimum capacity, we have been instructed to ensure that there is no reduction in the water being supplied to New Delhi,' an engineer at the treatment plant told Mail Today.

The ongoing water spat between Delhi and Haryana, too, has not led to any drop in the generous levels reaching the posh LBZ, where elaborate sprinklers keep sprawling lawns green round the year and frequent car washes give that permanent gleam to VIP fleets.

Officially, the DJB takes refuge in legal provisions. A senior agency official cites the DJB Act and says: 'We are bound by the agreement with the NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Council)...It is laid down and we have to give it (water).'

The official appears to justify the VIP culture, adding: 'It's not as if they (New Delhi) are swimming in water. Ensuring that they get the regular supply without fail is important, considering the area's political significance. It is the country's seat of governance.

The area houses embassies, ministers, other top-ranking politicians, the bureaucracy and the most affluent persons of the Capital.'

To be sure, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit made all the right noises recently when she sought to get the water supply to her official residence slashed. But there is a slim chance of this having actually happened.

It is ironical that a senior bureaucrat in Union urban development ministry makes this succinct observation: 'The government allows itself abundance and takes the lion's share of resources…The privileges of a few are responsible for the problems of the vast majority.' Several other areas of the Capital are victims of the discriminatory distribution.

The Sonia Vihar treatment plant produces about 140 MGD of water and gives around 40 MGD to east Delhi. The rest is shared by the entire south Delhi that lies on one side of Ring Road - from Sarita Vihar to Vasant Kunj.

The result is that Vasant Kunj, which is home to 72,000 people, gets just about 2.5 MGD daily. In the vast expanse over which east Delhi extends, and where about 6 million people live, nearly 40 per cent of the city's population is left to survive on a mere 150 MGD.

This area gets water from the Bhagirathi as well as Sonia Vihar treatment plants. However, the current output from both sources is far from the peak level.

DJB's distribution records show that in crisis months such as May and June, Delhi's 'average per capita availability of water, which is usually 160-170 litres a day, dips even further'.

The agency points out that in this scenario, lowlying east Delhi localities and south Delhi colonies including Lajpat Nagar, Defence Colony, East of Kailash as well as Greater Kailash should consider themselves very fortunate if they get even 100 litres for a single resident's consumption.

The Capital, which relies heavily on neighbouring states such as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for raw water, has an average demand of potable water of around 1,100 MGD. But the DJB supplies only around 835 MGD. The soaring mercury this time led to a sharp 15 to 20 per cent spike in the demand.

The demand-supply gap during these crisis months, therefore, widened to 465 MGD. Sarcasm dripping in his voice, a senior NDMC reacts thus to the hopeless situation: 'They are VIPs and comparisons cannot be drawn with (New Delhi and) other areas because we all know that they are a pampered lot...The same logic applies when it comes to providing them security cover at the common man's expense.'

IGIA gets only one MGD but is managing well

Imagine managing more than 1.6 lakh people daily with just under 1 million gallons per day (MGD) of water and that too at the country's largest and busiest airport, the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA).

By Delhi Jal Board (DJB)'s own admission, the GMR-owned Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), which built the swanky IGIA, had requested for 6 million gallons a day (MGD) of water but had to be contended with just 1 MGD.

At least one lakh passengers use the airport daily, besides 55,000-60,000 employees working 24/7 in three shifts. DIAL has invested heavily on infrastructure for water recycling, rainwater harvesting and advanced water filtration.

As things stand today, the DJB is supplying DIAL just under 1 MGD, but the airport authorities are managing well and not throwing up their hands in panic like the rest of the city.

DIAL CEO I Prabhakara Rao said: 'Waste water reuse is a priority at the IGIA, which manages its water demand by reusing treated waste water from a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant. The plant operates round the clock to treat the waste water generated at the airport. The treated water then goes through multiple filtration layers and an aeration tank before it is used for flushing and horticulture purposes.'

The plant also comprises of advanced treatment systems such as ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis to process the waste water. Besides, IGIA has more than 300 rainwater harvesting wells.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Only in India

Here’s an article I found on the “Telegraph” (UK) website – only in India !!

'Dead man' runs for India's presidency

A 'dead man' is running in India's presidential election next month to prove he is alive.

He has written to the prime minister, without success, and has now registered himself as one of 12 candidates for the presidency in the hope that the paperwork will prove his existence. Photo: CORBIS

By Dean Nelson, New Delhi
2:50PM BST 22 Jun 2012

Santosh Kumar Singh, a 32 year old cook, has spent nine years trying to prove to officials that he is alive after his high caste relatives declared him dead following a row over his decision to marry a Dalit woman, known as an "untouchable".

He has written to the prime minister, without success, and has now registered himself as one of 12 candidates for the presidency in the hope that the paperwork will prove his existence.

He had left his village in 2000 for a job in Mumbai where he fell in love and married a Dalit woman. When he returned to introduce his new bride to his high cast relatives three years later they told him he was a disgrace and chased him away, he said.

"They filed a missing persons report which was later changed into my death report. The villagers even conducted post-funeral ceremonies and gave alms to the poor to prove I was dead," he said.

"Some of my relatives with help of police grabbed my 12.1 acres of land. I went to the police for help but they attacked me. They said: 'So far you are dead only on official papers, if you don't vacate this village you will be dead for real.'" he added.

A legal action to overturn his death certificate was dismissed last year, he said, and his mother-in-law has been ridiculed for allowing her daughter to "marry a dead man".

When he visited a police station in central Delhi to file a report challenging his 'death', he was told by officers he would need to commit a crime to generate case documents.

His manifesto contains only one pledge – to be recognised as alive – and he has no desire to be president.

"I filed nomination papers for the president's post to prove that I am alive. I don't want to be the president. All I want to do is prove I'm alive. If the government cannot declare me alive then I request them to kill me and issue a real death certificate in my name," he said.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A feel good story (not !!)

Here’s an article that surfaced two days ago but is only starting to appear in the papers:

Enraged father beheads daughter with sword in honour killing

June 20, 2012 - 9:46AM

A screenshot shows Indian marble miner Oghad Singh (centre) in police custody after turning himself in following the brutal attack on his daughter. Photo: AP

An Indian man is unrepentant after beheading his daughter with a ceremonial sword in a rage over her relationships with men, police say.

The man surrendered at a police station, carrying the head in one hand and the bloodied sword in the other.

Residents of his village in northwestern India expressed shock as they performed the last rites for the 20-year-old woman.

Police said the father, marble miner Oghad Singh, accused his daughter of bringing dishonour to the family and making it hard to find husbands for her two unmarried sisters.

Women wailing in grief lined the dusty road of Dungarji in Rajasthan state as a procession carried Manju Kanwar's remains to her funeral pyre.

As in many north and west Indian villages, the women, including her mother and four sisters, were not allowed to attend the funeral.

A coroner reattached Kanwar's head onto her body for the funeral.

About 100 men, many of them relatives wearing ceremonial Rajput warrior clan turbans, surrounded her muslin-wrapped body, and her brother lit the funeral pyre.

Villagers condemned the father's actions as extreme.

They said the father, his shirt soaked in blood, had carried his daughter's head through the village, describing what he'd done to neighbours.

"He told me that he took the sword out, and when the daughter was all alone in the house he beheaded her with a single stroke and the head fell on the ground," said Narayan Singh, a distant relative.

He said he persuaded Singh to surrender, and took him by motorcycle to a police station.

Police have charged Singh, 46, with murder.

"It was a ghastly sight," officer Ranjit Singh said, describing the father sitting in the station's waiting room holding the head in one hand and the sword in the other.

Police described Kanwar's recent life as difficult and unorthodox for the traditional community of about 1000 just outside the Rajasthani tourist town of Udaipur.

She left her husband from an arranged marriage two years ago and moved back home to live with her parents. She recently began seeing several men, which "disgusted" her father, deputy police superintendent Umesh Ojha said.

When she eloped with one man two weeks ago, her father forced her to return on Sunday and killed her.


This article was found at:

Monday, June 18, 2012

An article on beer brewing in India

Here’s another article from “The Independent” website – this one about beer brewing in India.

Developing a thirst for India pale ale

For centuries, English brewers have shipped beers to India. Now the subcontinent's entrepreneurs are developing their own. Andrew Buncombe reports

Monday 18 June 2012

The beer came in a chilled mug, gleaming with condensation, and was set down with the care and precision that indicated the barman did not want to spill a drop. "This is our ale," he said.

"It's one of our most popular." More than two centuries after English brewers shipped strong, heavily-hopped beer to India to quench the thirst of British troops and merchants, India Pale Ale (IPA) has returned to the subcontinent. In a parallel of the way that IPA's growth originally benefited from the mercantile class led by the East India Company, so its return has come about as a result of a boom in micro-breweries whose most loyal customers are India's new generation of corporate warriors.

It is a market with huge potential for brewers. While whisky is consumed in vast quantities, and although there is a growing middle-class with disposable income, the country consumes an average of less than two litres of beer per person each year – a fraction of the 74 litres drunk in Britain and the 107 litres gulped down in Germany.

As social attitudes that once frowned upon the consumption of alcohol loosen, Indian and international companies are racing to exploit the gaping potential not sated by established home-grown lager brands such as Kingfisher and Cobra. The market is said to be growing by 10 to 20 per cent a year and by 2016 could be worth £5.8bn.

One of the frontlines for this expansion is Gurgaon – an ill-planned and often chaotic satellite city of Delhi which has been developed over the past 15 years to house national and international businesses. Where once stood simple farms on the edge of a desert, there are now gleaming buildings of glass and steel, traffic snarls and power-cuts.

In recent years, Gurgaon has also become home to at seven least micro-breweries, whose staff make beer in shining steel kettles imported from Germany and China. Most of the outlets produce wheat beer and pilsner-style lager, but when Vikas Sachdeva opened his Downtown Diners and Living Beer Café last year, he wanted to do something different. "We decided we had to create our own hype," said Mr Sachdeva, 36, who studied engineering at college. "We knew that lager and wheat beer were already available, so we said 'How do we do something unique'. We decided to go for an ale."

This produced an immediate challenge. Despite India's celebrated role in the development of one of the world's most famous types of beer, until the arrival of the micro-breweries every drop produced here was uniform-tasting lager, kept in bottles and often treated with glycerine as a preservative.

As a result, Mr Sachdeva and his brewmaster Gagan Jain, 27, had to scour the internet for recipes and follow online forums. They were delighted to receive advice from brewmasters in Europe, and when foreigners visited the bar they listened to their comments and tweaked the recipe. Friends returning from European holidays also provided some bottles of the real thing.

"He gave me the challenge of producing an ale beer but I had never had an ale," said Mr Jain, who as a microbiology student in the city of Nagpur made experimental brews in his lodgings. The arrival of micro-breweries has been a hit and they are slowly emerging across India – first in Gurgaon and Bangalore and, more recently, in Pune and Punjab. Officials in Delhi are said to be considering whether or not to grant licenses for them. "I like this place. There is a buzz with a new place," said Gurav Balhara, a business consultant who was sitting sipping with a friend one recent evening at the Downtown café.

Next door at the Hops 'n' Brew micro-brewery, the operations manager, Ajay Rana, said most of his evening customers were corporate employees, while a younger crowd came during the day.

The most popular of the bar's beers is its wheat variety, with a refreshing, lemony taste. "Freshly-brewed beer is more smooth," said Mr Rana. "It also has health benefits."

India Pale Ale was named for the strong "October beer" first shipped to the subcontinent at the end of the 18th century by the East India Company. A number of brewers produced such beer but George Hodgson, of east London's Bow Brewery, benefited from his location on the River Lea, close to the headquarters of the East India Company. After the brewery was taken over by Mr Hodgson's son, there was some falling out and the trade was snapped up by brewers in Burton-upon-Trent, in Staffordshire, famous for the amount of sulphate in its water which helps the bitterness. It is commonly believed that IPA was brewed especially to survive the long sea journey to India. More recently, beer experts have suggested that already-existing October ale – designed to be laid down for some months – simply fitted the bill. Other strong beers, such as porter, also survived the journey, which could take six months.

The writer Pete Brown, whose book Hops And Glory recounts his journey escorting a barrel of IPA by sea to India, said beer was shipped to the country because it was too hot to brew it anywhere other than in the colonial hill stations. One of the few successes was a brewery set up by Edward Dyer at Kasauli in the 1820s. It produced Lion IPA under the slogan "as good as back home" for more than a century. Bought out by Mohan Meakin, the company has for decades produced only lager.

Mr Brown said IPA sent by boat would have had an alcohol content of between 7 and 8 per cent, almost twice as strong as most regular "real ales" brewed in Britain today. "The beer was designed to be cellared. And you could not do that if was not strong and hoppy," he added.

The IPA produced by Mr Sachdeva and Mr Jain, known as corporate ale, contains a relatively modest alcohol content of between 4.5 to 5 per cent, and is produced from local and imported malt and German hops. It has a distinctive mineral taste and, unlike most IPAs, is served part-filtered, which gives it a cloudy appearance.

Their mission to change Indian drinking habits is a major battle. At present, up to 80 per cent of beer sold is "strong" bottled lager. One company, Vijay Mallya's United Breweries Group, producer of the ubiquitous Kingfisher, had a 57 per cent market share last year.

Complicated laws tax alcohol by volume rather than strength, encouraging the sale of strong beers and spirits to those seeking the maximum kick for their money. Yet Mr Sachdeva remains confident of his product. He said: "I know what is going to sell. I known what will suit India."

An article on poverty in India

This is an old article (from Oct 2011) that I found today on “The Independent” website:

Can you really live on 42p a day? India needs to know the answer

Activists say poverty line is set low to save funds. Andrew Buncombe reports from Delhi

Tuesday 04 October 2011

As he neatly halved oranges and fed them into a hand-operated juicer set upon a wooden cart, Ram Naresh pondered his own precise position within the multi-tiered Indian economy.

Some days, he confided, he made up to 200 to 250 rupees (£3.30) in straight profit and while he regularly sent money back home to his parents in the state of Uttar Pradesh, he did not yet have a wife or family to support. His rented room was located in what many would term a slum, but twice a week he could afford to eat more than just vegetables.

"But I don't consider myself a poor man because I have enough to make ends meet," he said.

For millions of Indians, Mr Naresh would be considered comfortably off. But what exactly does it mean to be poor here? The Indian government has sparked an increasingly vexed debate by trying to fix the official poverty line at just 32 rupees (42 pence) a person per day in cities, and 26 rupees a day in rural areas. While remarkably low, this figure marked an increase on an earlier proposal by the government.

For Mr Naresh and his customers yesterday lunchtime in a neighbourhood of south Delhi, the government's suggestion that an individual can "adequately" get by on so little was laughable. Subash Basu, a driver employed by an international organisation, said: "I need at least 300 rupees, for myself, my wife and child. And that is not including rent, or education. What they are saying is just not possible."

In the 60 years since independence, India has failed to throw off the spectre of poverty and hunger. Today, amid all the talk of a new "Shining India" and a growth rate of more than 8 per cent, the truth is that hundreds of millions live lives of utter hardship. While there has been the highly publicised emergence of a small middle-class, India is failing to deliver to the vast bulk of its people on indicators such as malnutrition rates and maternal mortality.

The Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute last year placed India 67 out of 88 countries listed in its global hunger index. It is not uncommon for local Indian newspapers to report people dying or being close to death from starvation.

The fixing of a poverty line is hugely important because it is used to determine who is eligible to receive items from a public distribution system which provides subsidised food and fuel for the poor. Those who have below poverty line (BPL) status are eligible for more. "This debate has a momentous bearing on the future of the distribution system, as well as on the proposed National Food Security Act," said Jean Dreze, a Belgian economist who has written widely on development and poverty in India.

Aside from scorn from the country's poor, the government's submission on the BPL drew an angry response from those involved in trying to ensure food security for the nation's still growing population of 1.2 billion people. In an open letter to Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the planning commission which came up with the 32-rupee figure, activist Aruna Roy and other members of the Right to Food campaign urged him to withdraw his claim.

"The campaign challenges you and all the members of the commission to live on 25 or 32 rupees a day until such time that you are able to explain to the public in simple words the basis of the statement that this amount is normatively 'adequate'," they wrote. "If it cannot be explained then the affidavit should be withdrawn or else you should resign."

One of the challenges facing economists and politicians in India is that there is no single agreed measure of precisely how many people are living in poverty. According to the government, using its own measure, around a third of the population is living below the poverty line. But others suggest the percentage is much higher. In 2005, the World Bank suggested the global poverty line should stand at $1.25 (80p) a day. By that measure, many more Indians would be classified as living in poverty.

Meanwhile, in 2007 the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, a government-sponsored study group, suggested that a remarkable 836 million Indians survived on 20 rupees day. When viewed like that, the government's claim that a family of five could get by on 4,824 rupees per month (which works out as 32 rupees a day) may not be so extraordinary.

What is certainly true is that people manage to somehow survive on tiny amounts of money. Ratan Lal Sharma, who makes deliveries using the same bicycle-cart he has owned for more than 25 years, estimated his daily wage as 150 rupees. The 54-year-old, who is married with four children, two of whom have married and left home, said he received a BPL ration card two decades ago. "There is no way a person can live on 30 rupees," he said. "If it had not been for the ration card we would have all starved to death."

Prahalad Singh, an activist and academic from the city of Jaipur, said that despite so many people being affected by poverty, most educated and middle-class Indians failed to be moved by the issue. "People are shocked but they don't want to do anything about it," he said. "There has been this recent campaign against corruption because that strikes a chord, but for doing away with poverty there is no such thing."

Belatedly, the government has had to backtrack on its proposal. Yesterday, Mr Ahluwalia and the Rural Development Minister, Jairam Ramesh, said that a new economic survey was currently underway, using a variety of measures, and that this would be used to decide who was eligible for subsidies.

The new Food Security Bill due to be introduced later this year will also extend the number of those eligible for help. "The allegation is being made that the... commission is trying to understate poverty," said Mr Ahluwalia. "This is simply not true."

The cost of living

26 Rupees (34 pence) a day – the poverty line recommended by the government for rural areas

29 Rupees (38 pence) – the cost of a litre of milk

32 Rupees (42 pence) – the suggested poverty line for cities

67 Rupees (88 pence) – the price of a litre of petrol

43,479 Rupees (£572) per year – the per capita income for 2009-10, according to Indian government figures