Welcome to my blog: this is the story of our adventures in India: the wonderful, the strange, the downright bizzare & the not-so-nice. So sit back & enjoy the ride as we take you on a journey across the sub-continent (& everywhere in-between).
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Some news articles
A collection of news articles from “The Telegraph” (UK):
Tesco 'helping India's Dalit caste out of poverty'
India's 'untouchable' caste has thrown its support behind Tesco and other foreign supermarkets' bid to open stores, believing they could help to lift them out of poverty.
The government wants Tesco, Walmart and others to bring their know-how to revolutionise its antiquated farming sector and set up refrigerated warehouses to stop so much food rotting before it reaches the market Photo: PA
The government wants Tesco, Walmart and others to bring their know-how to revolutionise its antiquated farming sector and set up refrigerated warehouses to stop so much food rotting before it reaches the market.
Up to 40 per cent of all food produced in India rots on slow, hot roads. Ministers blame this and the high number of high caste middlemen for slowing down the journey to market and keeping food prices artificially high.
Their move has won the backing of many poor farmers, who will be able to bypass middlemen and sell their wares direct to supermarket buyers for higher prices.
Now it has also won the backing of India's most persecuted and marginalised groups, the so-called 'untouchables' or Dalits who traditionally do some of the country's dirtiest jobs.
The chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce, which represents some of the Dalit community's most successful businesses, said Tesco and others could help break down caste barriers in business.
"At the moment the middlemen who control everything are high castes but there will be no role for middlemen and our firms will benefit. India's new shopping malls have created the maximum employment opportunities for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe – the Dalits. But the government has promised that the supermarkets will procure from small and medium enterprises and 20 per cent of them will be Dalit enterprises," said Milind Kamble, chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce (DICC).
Although India's Dalits suffer brutal caste-related violence and discrimination in education and the workplace, they have become a powerful political force in recent years as parties have courted them for their votes.
Almost one in six Indians are Dalits – 166 million people, many of them concentrated in key states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where the Dalit-based Bahujan Samaj Party was in power until earlier this year.
The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce champions those 'untouchables' and other lower castes who are transforming their families' lives through enterprise. Many have become multimillionaires running successful companies and their slogan is 'fight caste through capital.'
India's Parsis first came to the subcontinent more than 1,000 years ago from Persia where they faced persecution from the country's Muslim majority for their ancient Zoroastrian faith. It is believed to date from around the 6th Century BC and was once one of the world's most powerful religions. Its followers believe in a creator and the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster.
They worship fire as a sign of divine purity and traditionally buried their dead on 'towers of silence' where they were devoured by vultures.
Today they are one of India's most successful communities with Parsi figures playing leading roles in commerce, politics, the military and entertainment industry. Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of Queen, was born Farrokh Bulsara and came from an Indian Parsi family.
India's ruling Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has dominated the Congress Party since independence was created when Feroze Gandhi, a Parsi freedom fighter, married the then Indira Nehru.
Ratan Tata, India's most successful industrialist and owner of Jaguar Land Rover and Corus Steel, the late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, India's most celebrated soldier, and the acclaimed novelist Rohinton Mistry are all Parsis.
But despite their illustrious past and the continuing success of many Parsis today, their numbers are dwindling so fast that government and officials and community leaders have agreed a plan to increase its birth-rate and halt a decline towards extinction.
Their numbers have declined from just under 115,000 in 1941 to 69,601 in 2001 – the last fully published census. The numbers are believed to have declined further since then. In Mumbai, the heart of India's Parsi community, there are now only between 40,000 and 45,000.
According to Parsi leaders the community has been a victim of its own success. As it has become increasingly educated and wealthy, its young women have married later, while its men have wanted to wait until they have established successful careers before marrying. As a result, many wait until their fertility declines before they start to think of having children.
Khojeste Mistree, a member of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat and a leading community, said the government has earmarked around £250,000 to extend the work of successful fertility clinics throughout Parsi populations in Maharashtra.
"We have a project to encourage young couples to go to a special doctor we've identified as an expert in fertility. We've been doing this for the last seven years and we will now extend this programme. It has been successful – 232 babies have been born [as a result]," he said.
The group is also planning to build new, larger apartments for young Parsi couples to encourage them to have larger families.
Parsi couples should be having four children each, he said, but most were only having two at most. "Our boys are marrying at 31, our girls at 29, important fertility years are lost. They study and after study they want to get jobs, and then marry after they have a good job. if you study any successful community they tend to have fewer children," he said. Some had married outside the faith and their children are not accepted as Parsis.
Some Parsi figures have called for the children of mixed marriages to be accepted into the fold, but Mr Mistree said such a move would see the bloodlines of Parsis eliminated in a few generations. "If you open up to this kind of step, then within eight generations the Parsi identity won't be there. That's not acceptable for us," he said.
Indian minister says graft sum 'too small to be believed'
A senior Indian politician has dismissed claims that a colleague embezzled £83,000, saying the sum was too small to be taken seriously.
India's federal minister Salman Khurshid addresses a press conference in New Delhi Photo: AFP/GETTY
9:24AM BST 16 Oct 2012
Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma spoke out in defence of Salman Khurshid, the law minister who has been accused of siphoning off government money allotted to a trust that he heads to help disabled people.
"I believe Salman Khurshid could not have embezzled 71 lakh (7.1 million rupees). It is a very small amount for a central minister," Verma was quoted as saying by the Times of India newspaper on Tuesday.
"I would have taken it seriously if the amount was 71 crore (710 million)," he added.
A lakh is 100,000 rupees, while a crore is 10 million rupees.
The Times of India ran an editorial criticising Verma's statement as "grossly ill-timed and ill-phrased".
"The comments reflect the rather blase attitude that the political class has developed towards corruption," it added.
Verma later tried to withdraw his remarks, saying that corruption on any scale was wrong.
Graft has been one of the biggest political issues in India over the last two years, with a string of scandals hitting the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sparking popular protest movements.
Activist Anna Hazare, who models himself on independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, last year led hundreds of thousands in street demonstrations against endemic bribe-taking and corruption.
Khurshid has denied all the allegations against him.