Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Acute Hair loss

This seems to be a common problem faced by majority of the youth today. Most of them are prematurely going the bald way. Is it the stress, the life-style (including bad eating habits ) that one leads now a days that is leading to this? Yesterday I saw a 18 year or so (looked like a boy in college) a stunner but balding, and it got me thinking are these also factors in addition to heriditary factors that we see so many balding so soon?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Now what is this?

I have read/heard of a lot being said about stars and signs influencing a person's behaviour. But THIS?

If I am not driving well, all I need do is blame my stars..he he..

Another suggestion to the Authorities that issue driving licences, check the stars of the applicants and issue. Good idea?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What is in a Name?

"Rose by any other name would smell as sweet".

This is what my mother would tell me time and again when I as a small girl used to ask her why she named me this. My name with the spelling as it is, used to cause a lot of confusion whether I was a male or female, no..most of the times it never caused confusion, it was decided that I was male. It used to embarrass me no end. The few occasions when I have felt very upset at being called is when I was felicitated because I got the highest marks in class 10 in our locality. I had specifically gone upto the compere and told him that my name was Rama with the 'a' sound longer in the second 'a' and not Raamaa. But to my horror, he called out not just my name but saying Mr. Raama. I did not want to go up stage and receive the certificate. But I had to. I just went up took the certificate and told everyone out there that I am Ms. Rama Hariharan and I am proud of my name. Now it makes me laugh in amusement to think about that. But to me as a 15 year old, it was the worst humiliation possible.

I came home and wept like never before. My mother who could not stand my state came upto me and told, we had named you this as the meaning of the name Rama is harbinger of happiness or one who gives happiness. I asked her why did my spelling not be Rema instead and she said "you are Rama and not Rema. But if this is bothering you so much, you choose a name you like most and we can officially get your name changed". It was then that I realised, Oh God, no way can I change my name. It is part of me and I like it. I am proud of my name and so if people cannot pronounce it right, well it is their problem not mine. Since then I have had no qualms about my name though I do have some light moments when people do goof up.

Like for instance, recently one person called up and said I want to talk to the advocate, can you please give the phone to your husband. I with a smile told my husband, someone wants to talk to you. The person on the other end started querying about Trademarks and Patents and hubby dear told him, Oh, you should be talking to my wife, she is the advocate. He apologised profusely both over the phone and also later when he came to the office to meet me saying he did not know as he saw the spelling "Rama". It is fun at such times and boy I do love it at such times. Makes up for all the times when I used to feel bad about my name.

I read this the other day about how names influence and it brought back some memories.

I personally feel it all depends on how your attitude is shaped and the environment you are exposed to, in addition to your inherent likes, dislikes which mould your personality. Name is just part of it, not that important a factor. After all, what is in a name?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Allegation against Rahul Gandhi

Is this true? If yes, he should not be spared at all. There is an online petition being circulated.

It is not new particularly in politics to try to sully the names of persons. If wrong, then the rumour-mongers should be brought to book.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Views from my Windows

Out of my office Window

Out of the train window in Irinjalakuda Station

Out of my car window

Another one out of my car window

Out of my office window

Out of the front glass of my car

The Rocket Launch Pad from my bus window in Kennedy Space Center, Orlando

The Statue of Liberty from the boat

An abandoned shack across the road again out of my car

Pictures- Rama R.Iyer

Thursday, May 24, 2007

IIT and Union Carbide

The Indian Institutes of Technology, some of the most advanced schools in the world, known and respected worldwide for their commitment to excellence.

But why are they considering a partnership with Dow Chemical? Dow Chemical is the mother company of Union Carbide. Union Carbide being the fully owned subsidiary of Dow.

To jog our memory Union Carbide, the culprit in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, also called the Hiroshima of the Chemical Industry was responsible for the leak of the poisonous gas, Metyl Isocynade. On Monday, the 3rd of December, 1984, in a densely populated region in the city of Bhopal, Central India, a poisonous vapor burst from the tall stacks of the Union Carbide pesticide plant. This vapor was a highly toxic cloud of methyl isocyanate. Of the 800,000 people living in Bhopal at the time, 2,000 died immediately, and as many as 300,000 were injured. In addition, about 7,000 animals were injured, of which about one thousand were killed. “A series of studies made five years later showed that many of the survivors were still suffering from one or several of the following ailments: partial or complete blindness, gastrointestinal disorders, impaired immune systems, post traumatic stress disorders, and menstrual problems in women. A rise in spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, and offspring with genetic defects was also noted.” (The Bhopal Disaster) This incident we now refer to as the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, which has also been called “Hiroshima of the Chemical Industry” one of the worst commercial industrial disasters in history.(Cohen)

The issue is settled, those involved say - " $500 is plenty good for an Indian."

However, the culprit, Union Carbide remains a fugitive from Indian law. Dow says it will not allow Carbide to appear for trial in India because India has "no jurisdiction."

In 2005, the Global IIT Conference tried to honor Dow's Chairman by inviting him to keynote the event. 1300 IIT alumni called for his invitation to be recinded, and he quietly withdrew.

Now Dow is trying to buy their way into the IITs. All IIT aluminus whoever know about his are signing a petition asking the IITs not to deal with a company that scorns India's laws and perpetrates the suffering of its citizens.

To help in dissuading IIT from involving with Dow and ensuring they do the right thing, these people can be contacted:

Priya Ranjan, IIT alum:
Sudarshan Suresh:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stand up to RTI

Make your local MLA/MP/Councillor responsible and accountable for everything. Don't get water? Roads potholed? Drains overflowing? It takes virtually nothing to ask for information from an information officer. And they're bound by law to provide information. Find out what the government is spending, what the local Corporation or Municipality is spending on, who they're giving the contracts to. All financial details are up for scrutiny.

Not many of us are aware of the existence of a powerful Act enacted by the Centre and a few States pertaining to the right to information called the Right to Information Act or simply called the RTI.

The enactment of this Act is the fallout of many years of hard and persistent pressure applied on the “authorities that be” by a handful of people and a few non-government organizations. Some states had this Act in place (Tamil Nadu in 1996, Goa (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Maharashtra (2000), Karnataka (2000), Delhi (2001), Madhya Pradesh (2003), Assam (2004) and Jammu and Kashmir (2004)), but not at the national level.

This Act strives to bring about transparency . The National Act was passed in October 2005 and Shahid Burney of Pune filed perhaps the first application under the National Act in Pune.

The Central government issued its rules for applications and fees under the new regime. Under these rules, citizens will have to pay Rs 10 as application fee, Rs 2 per page of A4/A3 size paper on which copies of information are received, and Rs 50 per floppy diskette. Inspection of records for the first hour is free, but citizens will have to pay Rs.5 for every 15 minutes of subsequent time.No fee will be charged for people living below the poverty line. The Central rules notification has also been followed by several State governments with their own rules on fees and costs, with many states making fee schedules similar to the Centre’s.
A combination of intimidation and mindless application of the letter of the law threatens to dissuade citizens from putting the RTI Act to use. And politicians are only happy to offer solutions that further dilute the law's purpose.There are incidences where huge bills have been handed over to poor people asking for information thus dissuading the effective use of this Act.

One or more officers in every public authority designated as Public Information Officers(PIO)are the nodal officers, who are supposed to accept any application under RTI,collectinformation from that Department and provide it to the applicant.If the desired information is not provided within 30 days of application or if the information provided is incomplete,the concerned officer becomes liable for a penalty of Rs 250 per day of default up to a maximum of Rs 25,000 per application. And if wrong information is provided, a penalty up to a maximum of Rs 25,000 can be imposed on the officer.An RTI application is to be submitted along with application fee.Fees may be paid by cash, DD or banker’s cheque.Fees will not be charged for BPL applicants.The PIO is bound to respond with the requested information within 30 days. It is not necessary to state the purpose of application or what is intended to be done with the information.The PIO may request the applicant to deposit an additional fee. The PIO should provide detailed calculations on how this additional fee was calculated.The period taken to deposit the amount(from the date of notification of extra fee)will not be counted for the 30-day time-period.The PIO should provide the reasons for rejection of application.The applicant may file an appeal against this decision within 30 days of the rejection.An appeal against the appellate authority’s decision can be filed with the State/Central Information Commission.The Union and State Governments have constituted CIC and SIC respectively.
Exception- The PIO should provide information that concerns the life or liberty of a person within 48 hours. The PIO may take upto 40 days to provide information if a third party had provided this information to the public authority under the presumption of confidentiality.

Tips-Questions should be precise and crisp and not vague. Obtain acknowledgement of all correspondence with the PIO. Maintain copies of all correspondences with the PIO including DD, acknowledgment etc.

After information regarding public works or whatever information is sought is procured, and verification of these done meticulouly to give the exact amount of defalcation, can be made public and submitted to various agencies including vigilance OR the findings can be presented before a gathering of the local people. This is JANSUNWAI. Parivartan of Delhi is one organization which conducts these jansunwais regularly.

There is a great sense of achievement once we use the RTI, it is after all our right to know things. It is not necessary that you need be in a particular place to use the RTI. A person sitting in Tirunelveli can ask about the cost incurred in laying of a particular road in Guwahati.

And in case you're thinking, where's the time for this? There are lots of people who are willing to help. There's a website called Mahadhikar( for Maharashtra), PAC (for Karnataka) Parivartan (Delhi) etc. ... I know more than a fair share of activists who will guide you every step of the way.

So... it's the first baby step towards getting the city/state/ country you want. Find out where the money is going. There are lots and lots of dedicated people who have put their heart and soul into RTI and into making officers, MLAs, MPs and everyone more accountable.

And if we keep using this, it will make the authorities stay on their feet and be more accountable. Transparency should be the mantra. Though we cant stop a terrorist attack, dont we have the right to live life a little off the edge?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Cobbler's Kiosk

Bangalore Mahanagara Palike or BMP had donated these kiosks to cobblers. One of them in disuse opposite Cauvery theatre near Sadashivanagar. No takers for this?

Picture - Rama

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Know Your Food

Talks about the intentions of the Multinationals of the world and those entering India. Well it is no longer about India alone, it is about the World...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Letter of a Tree Warden

I am posting this letter of a Tree Warden, Mrs. Almitra H.Patel which she sent to Dr. Sharath Chandra, the Chairman of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board.

Dr H C Sharatchandra
Chairman, KSPCB
Bangalore 560001

Dear Dr Sharatchandra


Greetings. I write this to you in my capacity as Karnataka Tree Warden since 1973.

Bagalur Road is being widened from 5m asphalt to 9 m carriageway currently and eventually to much more. In the process I have observed that many trees between Kannur and Kothanur are being felled and even where this is not necessary, they are severely damaged by the JCB arm tearing down overhanging branches and shaking them loose (like a musth elephant) so that the trunk is shredded on one or more sides, endangering the tree's survival. This must be happening everywhere nowadays.

Even worse, giant banyan trees are being auctioned and sold wherever they come in the way of the necessary widening. It is not clear by whom: the road contractor says it is the Forest Dept, the Forest Dept denies this and says it is the PWD, which again denies responsibility but does not say where the decisions are made and who does the auctioning or how. Whenever roadside trees are felled, the timber contractor who is felling them takes away the main trunk and major branches, and swarms of villagers immediately take away the lops and tops lying around. This of course is fine and useful, except that in the case of banyans, these are precious and hard-to-get planting materials for at least 1000 rooted stakes per full-grown tree.

I therefore request you to please ascertain the exact responsibility for tree-felling during widening, and accordingly issue the appropriate instructions to all concerned for the following:

1, All ficus trees auctioned/felled should be subject to the condition that all branches 5" diameter and below, shall be first be cut into plantable stakes and removed by the Forest Dept either to their mist chamber for sprouting, or preferably planted in situ along the new tree-line alignment which shall be marked out in advance by the PWD or road-widening agency alongside the widened road. Only thereafter can the tree-purchaser take away the main trunk and branches. The Forest Dept should be responsible for harvesting rootable branches, at the cost of the ficus-tree-buyer if necessary.

2, If the Forest Dept does not wish to have so many rooting stakes, they can ensure that they reach the hands of tree-planting NGOs who will utilise this scarce resource wisely elsewhere, like the Navachetana Trust (Srinivasa Raju, 94495 96880, which plans to afforest the Melkote area especially with ficus species. The Forest Dept is probably already aware of such green NGOs, to whom the availability of ficus stakes can be publicised. (Also of any other roadside species like erythrina which can root from planted branches).

3, The Forest Dept or its designated tree-trimming agents shall be asked to move ahead of the road-contractors to decently trim all branches that need to be cut back, so as to inflict minimum damage to surviving roadside trees which do not need to be felled. As there is a cost to this service, it should be budgeted for and included in the Tender for that stretch of road as an activity as necessary as preparing the road-bed etc, and paid by the PWD or equivalent to the Forest Dept (or Electricity Dept if they have spare mobile ladders) as tree-trimming charges. the PWD or equivalent should not give the go-ahead for road widening until the professionally correct tree-trimming activity is completed. Ideally, a vehicle-mounted ladder with an electric saw powered by the vehicle/tractor engine, should be a standard advance item of road-widening equipment.

Please publicise the above directions after issue for the benefit of all environment-conscious citizens. I would be grateful for a reply and an email copy of the same.

As I do not have the emails of the Ministry of Environment and Forest and the Forest Dept, please forward this email to the concerned agencies as you think fit, copy to me.

Thanking you and always with pleasure at your service,

Yours sincerely,
Almitra Patel

Mrs Almitra H. Patel
Member, Supreme Court Committee for Solid Waste Management
50 Kothnur, Bagalur Road
Bangalore 560077
Phone: 080-2846 5365
Fax/Phone: 080-2846 5195

This was sent to me too. Thought it might interest tree lovers and so posting it here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Privatization of Water in Mumbai

It has been proved beyond doubt that privatization in different fields have led India be a global player and a force to be reckoned with. But is this privatization in the essential services good for Indians?

Water is increasingly becoming a crisis issue everywhere, assuming threatening dimensions since it affects all life forms. Over the last 10-15 years, it is slowly being turned into a commodity through privatization of water resources. Fortunately, citizens’ groups have been active internationally, sometimes militantly, resisting moves to commercialize drinking water supply.

In Mumbai, the K-East ward has been selected for water privatisation through a Water Distribution Improvement Project (WDIP) with an objective to improve the water supply. The K-East ward has been chosen for the pilot project, as it comprises industries, commercial and residential complexes and slums. If the project is a success, then it will be replicated in all the other wards. In January 2006, an agreement was signed with Castalia, French consulting firm based in New Zealand to develop a pilot project for privatisation of the water system in K-East. This consultancy has been funded through a US$ 692,500 (approx Rs. 2.6 crore) grant by the Private Public Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF), a multi-donor agency run by the World Bank.

Though the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) denies that this project involves any privatisation and they will never outsource, sell, or privatize its water and water assets, reality is quite different. The terms of reference (TOR) given to the consultant states, in “A Precise Statement of Objectives” that “MCGM envisages to award a "Water Distribution Improvement Contract" to a professional Operator to demonstrate, in a selected pilot area, that it is possible to achieve an improved water supply service....”. Indeed, the very involvement of PPIAF indicates that privatisation is involved, for the PPIAF has been set up with the express aim of “helping developing countries improve the quality of their infrastructure through private sector involvement.” Also the TOR indicates that privatisation even deeper than management contract may be possible, and even sale of assets cannot be ruled out. In fact, as part of its water privatisation drive, the Brihanmumbai
Municipal Corporation (BMC) is in the final stage to implement its proposal for putting ‘pre-paid water meters’, similar to a pre-paid phone card, in the slums and chawls in order to phase out public taps and reduce the use of non-revenue water.

In fact, the World Bank pushed for exactly the same kind of management contract in Delhi Jal Board in Delhi that Castalia has been asked to develop for K- East ward. But this project was dropped under massive protests by the Delhi citizens. Previous attempts to privatize water supply have taken place in Cochabamba (Bolivia), Atlanta and Pekin (U.S), Argentina, Philippines, Nicargua, Turkey, Ghana and South Africa. However, all of these attempts have been failures. In fact in countries like Ghana, Gambia and Philippines, Castalia involvement has led to water delivery being contracted out to private companies and increase in tariffs.

he citizens of Mumbai have a bitter experience of steep hike in the electricity bills after BSES was handed over to the Reliance Energy.

An organization called Mumbai Paani is involved in getting the support of citizens of Mumbai to protest against this move and tell people that as concerned citizens it is important to keep our water in our own hands. Only time will tell if privatization of water, if indeed it is privatized, is beneficial or does it bode bad times.