Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tag, I'm forcibly It

Okay fine, I did this only because I was blackmailed into doing so by a persistent younger sister who would have adopted her usual policy of punishing me when I refuse her something - by sitting on me. Since life is dear to one and all, I go ahead with this tag:

Ten things you wish you could say to people right now (without taking their names):
You’re an ass and a fraudster and I’m going to kick you
You’re not as smart as you think
I was smarter than you even before I was born
Where is my debit card, you son of a bachelor?
Your mere presence makes me reach for a barfbag
This is tea? Seriously?
I would love to break up with you but I’ll just take you back some day
Get up and apply, you whatnot. Do you honestly think they are going to call you?
Oh please. Since when have you become Vir Sanghvi?
Maar de saale ko

Nine things about yourself:
I love filing stories
I like my food to have all or some of the following: cheese, butter, stroganoff sauce, crunchy chicken
I am severely technologically challenged
How sarcastic I get depends on how angry I am
I hate hitting anyone. But I do it when required
I feel nothing when I make someone cry
I can go for days together without a shower
I hate being the ugly duckling in the family
I changed from being a nervous kid to an impossible adult

Eight ways to win your heart:
Give me a back massage
Listen when I talk, not because I yell if you don't but because you're genuinely interested
To appreciate that it is okay if I am different from my sisters
Oil my hair
Buy me stuff I need without asking my permission
Appreciate my efforts
Tell me I look pretty. Not mind when I accuse you of lying
Plan an evening out for me

Seven things that cross your mind a lot:
Gosh darn it, will she stop talking?
I want to go home
Nobody loves me
Yeah, she’ll start bitching about me next
I didn’t charge my iPod again??!
Okay. You asked for it, sucker
That will make me famous...

Six things you wish you never did:
Take up architecture
Meet Atul, Jesse, Prasad Sathyen, Gaurav, all of National’s classmates, Turja, some senior reporters
Cut my hair off
Get into an accident :(
Occasionally like my job
Not trying to forgive being the last to be told, and by a relative stranger, that my dad had suffered a heart attack and had been taken to hospital

Five Turn offs:
Pretend modesty
Assumed talent
Fishing for compliments
Unwashed clothes

Four turn on’s:
Midnight snacks

Good photographs

Three things you want to do before you die:
Raise a smart, polite, fun kid
Cook well
Write a bestseller

Two smiley’s that describe you:

One confession:
I keep thinking I will meet a violent end. And that it's going to happen any day now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What a bunch of duffers

March 21, 2008

H/l: Only 5.1 pc Std 2 kids can read Marathi
Intro: State has faltered on education in rural Maharashtra
Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Will the Rs 1,400 crores set aside in the Budget for the state’s education this year plug some major deficiencies in rural areas’ education? As per estimates for rural Maharashtra as enumerated in the Economic Survey 2007-2008, just 5.1 per cent children can read class II Marathi texts.

Even more shockingly, 12.2 per cent children cannot read at all, even their mother tongue Marathi. English capital letters seem to stump students right from class I to class VIII - 72 per cent of the former can’t and just 5.7 per cent of the latter can read capital letters in English.

The survey, titled ‘Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)’ was carried out by NGO Pratham, that surveyed the state’s villages during October and November 2007, to understand the educational status of children aged 6 to 14 years.

As per the survey, arithmetic fares even worse than the languages. While 10.5 per cent children in class I cannot perform any arithmetic operation, only 5.1 per cent and 0.7 per cent children can do subtraction and division.

Apart from these problems, there seems to be a marked absence of basic infrastructure for rural schools. 16.9 per cent class I to VIII rural schools in the state have no water and 8.6 per cent have no toilets provided. A huge 28.5 per cent class I to V schools have no water and 15.5 per cent schools in the same category have no toilets.

Other figures from the ASER findings:
- 1.2 pc class 8 students can read Marathi words
- 67.5 pc class 8 students can read easy English sentences
- 33 pc class 5 students can read simple English words
- Only 8 pc class 8 students can recognise numbers between 10 and 99

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hic and fine

March 13, 2008

H/l: Medicinal liquor coming your way
Intro: …so are soaps, oils and cattle feed, courtesy the mahua flower that state produces

From: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: At a time when the state is focussing on creating a booming grape wine industry for potential export, CM Vilasrao Deshmukh is about to add cheer to Maharashtra’s plans with a great new addition – Herbal Liquor – courtesy the mahua flower that is produced in huge quantities here.

Responding to a Calling Attention Motion moved by MLAs Nana Patole and others, who demanded to know why the state was not putting the over 3.35 crore mahua trees’ produce to good use, Deshmukh said, “This is an untapped territory, but we will shortly put together a scheme under which we can establish wineries using seeds to produce liquor, and set up units to produce soaps and oils using the mahua flowers.”

He added that this would benefit the tribal belts and unemployed especially in areas like Vidarbha, where the mahua trees grow in abundance.

Earlier, responding to the Motion, forest minister Babanrao Pachpute had extolled the virtues of the mahua trees. “With over 3.35 crore mahua trees, the state produces 50,000 tonnes of flowers and 20,000 seeds. One kilogram of mahua flowers gives 320 ml of liquor, which is healthy and herbal in nature,” he said.

He added that the flowers can also be used in making soaps and perfumed oils, so that those are two other industries that the government may consider.

Deshmukh explained that the government would work towards bringing the mahua flower business under one common programme, which would oversee everything from collection to manufacture of allied products. Legislators have been urged to meet him on the issue and offer inputs.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dear Potential Terrorist,

March 6, 2008

H/l: Biometric ID cards on the anvil
Intro: Your biometric visa card to the UK may just become your ID card for use all over the EU

From: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: The United Kingdom is tightening the screws on internal security and immigration frauds. On Thursday, UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced in a radio interview that foreign nationals and visitors to the UK would be required to obtain national biometric identity cards this year onwards.

“Increasingly, we need to be able to prove our identity in a whole range of ways: when we’re travelling, when we’re opening a bank account or accessing government services. We’re all better protected if we can be confident that other people are who they say they are,” The Times quoted Smith.

The biometric visa to the UK has already been introduced in India from December 2007 onwards, in which every applicant has to submit fingerprints and allow a digital photograph to be taken at the time of applying for a visa. With this new initiative, applicants will also have to surrender personal details apart from fingerprints, to be stored in a microchip on the card. The card must be carried whenever the person travels, and must be produced whenever asked for by authorities.

The ultimate aim is to get visitors’ and nationals’ biometrics into the national identity register, so that even those foreign nationals who have so far resisted submitting their personal details will come into the purview of the security agencies.

The Home Office is yet to decide on how to implement the scheme for foreigners who come from countries such as India, where there is the most widespread abuse of the immigration system. It may be noted that the biometric visas were also introduced in India after Mumbai police unearthed a huge fake visa racket in December 2007.

Here's to male empowerment

March 2, 2008

H/l: Wife harassing you? Join the rally now
Intro: Men who are victims of legal misuse are rallying to fight for their rights
Vrushali Lad

Mumbai/Pune: Amitabh Dasgupta runs a BPO in Pune and has a stable business. But very few are aware of Dasgupta’s other surprising occupation – he counsels men and families who are victims of women misusing the laws meant to help them. “I am a volunteer who is fighting with over 5,000 others in the country against ‘legal terrorism’,” he says.

Dasgupta is part of a band of 50-odd volunteers in Pune, who are waging a war against legal loopholes that allow married women to land their husbands and in-laws in jail after a single complaint of harassment. “I operate a 24x7 helpline for people seeking legal help in case of a police complaint made against them, in cases where women have alleged mental or physical harassment towards some ulterior motives,” he says.

The volunteers are part of the Save Indian Family group and the MyNation website started in Mumbai in 2005, for men and women who become targets of the dreaded 498(A) section of the IPC. The section deals with ‘Husband or relative or husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty’. Today, there are over 175 volunteers operating in Mumbai.

“Not all women are manipulative and not all men are innocent, and vice versa. There are scores of women being harassed daily by their husbands and in-laws. But there are also cases where women are harassing their husbands by filing police complaints because of some selfish motive as getting a divorce, taking over the husband’s property, or getting the aged in-laws out of the house,” says Dasgupta.

He tells this reporter of one such case in Pune. “A man living in Bhandarkar road had a flat in his mother’s name. After marriage, his wife moved her own parents into the house. Slowly, they started interfering in the marriage and one day, there was a big fight after which the man moved out of his own house with his parents.” The woman later filed for divorce, but continues living in the house to this day. “She wants the house and stated ‘mental cruelty’ as the grounds for divorce. Is this fair to the husband?” Dasgupta asks.

He adds that interfering parents and high personal ambitions sow most reasons for such discord. “We have seen women filing wrong police complaints after their husbands did not fall in with their every wish. Sadly, most women who are abused daily by their husbands are not aware of the laws meant to protect them, while educated women who know the laws end up misusing them.”

Save the Indian Family, largely comprised of such victims themselves, believes that ‘the laws are good, but have not been framed properly.’ Says Dasgupta, “Every day, we are receiving an increasing number of distress calls from people in Pune, who have been convicted of cruelty. We sometimes accompany the person to the police station, examine the entire case thoroughly and offer the person legal advice if the case is genuine.”

Getting clawed? Get help
The group holds weekly meetings at Koregaon Park every Sunday, and is holding a rally in front of the family court, opposite Alka Talkies on March 29. Call Amitabh Dasgupta on 9225620460 for details and counselling. The first session on appointment with a legal expert is free.