Tag Archives: Floods

TEDxHitechCity – Karuna Gopal – The Truth about Indian Cities

Karuna Gopal from the Foundation of Futuristic Cities was the main speaker at a recent Tedx conference (TEDx: TEDx is a new program that enables local communities such as schools, businesses, libraries, neighborhoods or just groups of friends to organize, design and host their own independent, TED-like events.).

As always Karuna’s fiery talk was about Indian cities and their state. She highlighted the poor state our cities are in and the need for their development on our future.

The topic of Karuna’s talk was: The Truth about Indian Cities.

Watch her talk about the issues and how important they are:

Karuna’s organization the Foundation for Futuristic Cities has done pioneering work in the area of City Development and is determined to carry it forward.

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Being Apolitical Helps

Seva Bharati volunteers @Work

Seva Bharati volunteers @Work

After being at the helm of many relief efforts aiding people affected by natural disasters and running social service programs under different flagship organizations, a which made it to the front page of the Indian national daily “The Telegraph” illustrates how effective and extensive Sangh Parivar has been in India. The report may become center of discussion and argument amongst the national parties as well as other politically affiliated bodies like trade unions and student bodies.

Sangh Parivar (Family of Associations) refers to an umbrella of organizations that have been started by the volunteers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or are inspired by its ideals. The ideology of the Sangh Parivar has been seen to have a diverse set of thoughts and opinions that has made it difficult to be categorized by the Western stereotypic divisions of ‘Leftists’ and ‘Rightists’. While some of their policies are seen as ‘Conservative’ and ‘Rightist’, on a range of different issues, they have shared similar concerns as Leftists, Liberals and the Green activists.

Sangh Parivar organizations claim that being away from power and politics has proved to be an advantage, and that the national party inspired by Sangh ideology; the Bhartiya Janta Party’s departure from the power at Centre and loss of ground in some state strongholds has actually helped Sangh. Today the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) (Indian Labor Association), the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) (All India Students Council), the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) (Indian Farmers Association) and the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (A tribal welfare organization of Sangh) have high enrollments and attract sizeable volunteers.

The BMS, India’s largest trade union alone has over 10 million members. Just to compare the scale of popularity and reach of BMS the last official count by the labor ministry in 2002 had put the BMS membership had 6.2 million members while the Indian National Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) had 3.8 million and the Communist Party of India’s (AITUC) had 3.3million members.

Though both the BMS and INTUC now claim the membership to be about 10 million each, when prodded about the reasons for the leap, INTUC President and Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) member G. Sanjeeva Reddy sounded cautious and said: “A Congress government at the Centre has certainly helped us make inroads into the organised and unorganised sectors.

On the other hand BMS chief Girish Awasthi had a different viewpoint. He felt that the “government affinity” and affiliation was a hindrance rather than being of any help.

Trade unions virtually don’t exist in the private sector. We draw our strength and sustenance from the public sector. So each time there’s a major divestment project and we raise our voice, the PSU employees rally round us,” Awasthi said.

Because the BMS is not attached to a political party but to a service organisation like the RSS, we are not encumbered by compulsions to back a party’s agenda.

The leaders of some other RSS front outfits too cited their “autonomy” from the BJP as the main reason for their survival and growth.

Similarly the BKS which started in 1979 with a mere 1500 members is today a body representing 900,000 members. Though the Sangh Parivar has supported the BJP due to its pro-Sangh ideology, the BKS was vocal about the seemingly anti-farmer decision of the BJP led Gujrat government’s decision to hike power tariff. So much so that after the arrest of farmers who could not pay up the dues and some BKS activists for protests the Sangh went into a sulk and in the impending elections people felt that the farmer led revolt by the Sangh could topple the BJP govt. BKS and Sangh in line with their policy to remain “neutral” in politics, didn’t work against the govt. either.

Dinesh Dattatreya Kulkarni, organising secretary of the farmers’ union, said: “Our only competitor used to be the Shetkari Sangathan of Sharad Joshi. But he too converted it into a political party, the Swatantra Bharat Paksha. Not being in politics gives a core of integrity to our work because we are not forced to make compromises or deals, or to defend the indefensible.

Similarly the ABVP, which is the student arm of the Sangh, is convinced that “political neutrality” is the way to success. ABVP claims membership of around 1.9 million (the Congress-backed NSUI did not reveal its figures saying its elections were on). The fact that ABVP has largest membership in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh where the BJP is almost non-existent amazes some people and disproves the claim of some organizations that Sangh Organizations don’t have widespread acceptability.

Students are attracted to us because we work beyond the campus for the betterment of society. Our biggest slogan is against the commercialisation of education and that affects one and all,” said Ravi Kumar, ABVP national secretary.

Ekal Vidyalaya

Ekal Vidyalaya

The Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram is an organization which has been working in Naxal-infested tribal areas for betterment of the tribal masses. It runs programs like schools in tribal areas and projects for socio-economic upliftment of tribal masses. It runs projects like the Ekal Vidyalaya (single teacher schools) which is like any other Sangh run project based completely on the concept of volunteer service. These schools are run in some of the most inaccessible areas where even govt. runs schools don’t exist. The Joint Secretary of the organization, Kripa Prasad Singh, is also of the view that an “apolitical” outlook was the best way of ensuring that state governments did not stand in the organization’s way. Vanvaski kalian Ashram today runs more than 14,000 seva (service) projects throughout India.

Congress governments have never harassed us because they appreciate the services we render to the tribals,” Singh said.

Even the CPM government in Tripura has been friendly. But not the (West) Bengal government — they deprive the tribals who use our schools and hostels of the monthly stipend they are entitled to.

Tribal students in India are entitled to various scholarships under central and state led programs.

EU MPs visiting Seva Bharati Facility

EU MPs visiting Seva Bharati Facility

Seva Bharati is another Sangh affiliated body which has been rendering humanitarian services. In the recent floods that killed hundreds and affected millions of people Seva Bharati volunteers pitched in their services.

The volunteers of Seva Bharati today are involved in more than one lakh service projects in remote areas of the country. Seva Bharati runs 13,786 projects in education, 10,908 in health care, 17,560 in social welfare and 7,452 self-reliance projects. These projects, serving the economically weaker and socially neglected sections of the society range from medical assistance, crèche, library, hostel, basic education, adult education, vocational and industrial training, upliftment of street children and the lepers.

Sangh Parivar organizations have been at the center of many blame games by many national parties and organizations of running activities that help only Hindus. Charges of religious hatred have also been leveled against the Sangh but the fact remains that none of such charges has ever been proved in any enquiry by national or international bodies. Further the rescue missions in the face of natural disasters help people across the board irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. The growing popularity and reach of Sangh also defies such claims leveled against it.

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After Parma and Ketsana it’s “cruel” Lupit

Lupit — a Filipino word for cruel — is the 18th tropical storm to threaten the country this year.

Tropical storms have claimed more than 800 lives till now in Philippines and as the nation tries to speed up help and rescue operations another storm is scheduled to hit Philippines. Typhoon Lupit or Ramil as it being locally called is following a similar path like Parma which had hit Philippines on October 3 this year killing more than 400 people. Ketsana which had hit on September 16 had triggered the worst floods faced by the nation in 40 years.

Lupit, which is now over the Pacific Ocean is holding up winds in the range of 108 mph (175 kph) and gusts of 130 mph (210 kph), may skip the capital, Manila, but is projected to slam into other parts of north Philippines in about three days, chief weather forecaster Prisco Nilo informed.

The typhoons have killed people, ravaged properties and left millions homeless. While as an aftermath of the destructive rains and floods the health officials say 1.7 million people exposed to floodwaters in and around metropolitan Manila were being threatened by Leptospirosis, a disease spread by water contaminated with urine of infected animals. The disease has already claimed 96 lives among the 1,336 reported cases.

If the NEC projection of (leptospirosis) attack rate of 10 to 25 percent is right, we can expect some 4, 000 people to be admitted for confinement, and more deaths in the coming days or weeks,’’ she (Dr. Yolly Oliveros, director of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (NCDPC)) stressed.

The government has been readying plans and is stocking up relief material in strategic locations as a precautionary measure before Lupit hits. About 85 tons of rice, canned sardines, noodles, blankets and mosquito nets were being packed and will be delivered to the areas in north which were cut off by the earlier cyclones.

People in the high risk areas have been asked to move out to safer shelters and army is coordinating in such efforts with civil authorities. President Gloria Arroyo has ordered the police to guard abandoned homes in the path of the typhoon, to protect them from looters.

Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) is helping the mission but is wary of the issues like internal strife with the armed groups which has been put on an informal cease-fire.

Wala tayong time line dito. As soon as ma-assess natin with the NDCC itong epekto ng kalamidad, kung nakakaahon na ang local government, maari na mag-pullout ang tropa nang sa ganoon maari tayong mag-focus sa internal security operations (We do not have a time line for this. Once we assess that local government can handle the work and our troops can pull out, we can focus again on internal security operations),” Brawner (AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr.) said in an interview on dzBB radio.

NP NowPublic

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Bright Side of Gloom

Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Flooded Village in Bihar
Flooded Village in Bihar

This has recently been proved in the India’s North-Eastern state of Bihar. With floods wrecking havoc, ripping apart local economies and life’s the state has faced nature’s fury to the max. The recent flash floods have left more than 3,00,000 people homeless and in immediate need to humanitarian support of basic amenities. Rivers in the region are usually filled with water from the monsoon rains and the uncontrolled release of water from check dams in the upper courses of Kosi river from adjoining Nepal worsened the situation. This region has a pre-dominant Hindu population who cremate their dead using firewood from mango trees. The recent floods have either washed away completely or submerged the mango orchards rendering the wood unusable for cremation purposes.

Finding it difficult to cremate the bodies of their dead the local people have now slowly moved to an alternative which was accepted as a funeral pyre fuel source mixed with wood in South India. This news was recently captured in a BBC news item. Though the idea is not new to the Hindu religion it was surely novel to this part of the country. What is heartening is that the acceptance of the practice has been well received in the region. Cow dung is considered sacred and pure in Hindu religion and has always been used to light up sacred fire during puja and yagnas. Moving from a pure wood fueled pyre to pure cow dung pyre is a good move due to many reasons.

Perhaps the most important fallout is the low ecological impact due to use of renewable energy source. Cow dung being sourced from the waste of an herbivorous animal has a relatively very low impact when compared to using wood from trees. The region already has a scarce forest cover and this move can surely slow the deforestation rate. The amount of fuel used to cremate a body is also relatively low as compared to traditional wood fuel.

If this practice continues to flourish and accepted in other regions too it will not only save millions of mango trees but also result in saving of substantial money for the families of decreased. This region houses some of the poorest communities and this will surely be a boon for them. The cost of fuel used for cremating a body is around INR 400-500 using cow dung as compared to INR 3500-4000 spent on wood fuel.

This region especially the districts comprising of districts like Darbhanga, Sitamarhi among others surely needs such low-cost, low impact and socially accepted practices given the fact that it remains almost waterlogged for three-four months every year due to floods during monsoons.

Also posted here>>

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