Archive for December, 2009

Good Samaritans: Bangalore


She Helps Those Lodged In Jail

Sruthy Susan Ullas | TNN

Bangalore: While others are pondering over how to celebrate Christmas and New Year, Sister Adele Korah is busy contemplating what to gift her 5,000 friends for X-mas, all of them in the Central Prison, Bangalore. Sister Adele Korah works 24 hours for this neglected section of society.

For those appearing for exams, she is a tuition teacher helping them out with spoken English. To the sick, she is a nurse, attending to them like a mother caring for her child. She treats them, brings fruits for them and tries getting medicines that the government doesn’t provide.

She runs institutions like Karuna Ashram for the terminally ill so that their last years are peaceful and well cared for. Another area where Sister Adele, a nominee for the Namma Bengaluru awards, concentrates is helping the repented get out of prison.

While a prisoner is serving his/her term, she also makes sure that the person’s family is taken care of. She helps in admitting their children to good schools and sees to it that they don’t suffer. All this with the help of 35 other volunteers.

For Sister Adele, it is all about redemption and reformation. “Even the most hated criminal in the world is precious before the eyes of God. He would have erred in a moment of frustration. But my duty is to free them from the world of unforgiveness, hatred and anger,” she says.

It was after her retirement in 2004 that Sister started serving the prisoners fulltime. Till then she was principal of a teachers’ training institute, where she worked for 35 years. She joined the Sisters of Charity as a nun when she was 20.

“I don’t know much about awards. My greatest joy is to see a human turned away from darkness towards light,” she said. Indeed, hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray for this nun.


Differently Abled Man Assists Motorists On Narrow Stretch

Aarthi R | TNN

Bangalore: In these times of infuriating traffic gridlocks, Salman, 25, is a blessing for late-evening commuters at this busy junction in Benson Town. The way this differently-abled young man does it puts many able-bodied men to shame and surprise.

Though cramped by limb deformities, he’s very active, supporting himself with a stick, wielding a sharp whistle and ensuring there’s no chaos at this narrow junction. Nothing stops him from being there between 6.30 pm and 10 pm, trying to bring some order to the vehicles as they squeeze through the connecting road.
A resident of Jeevanpalli on Tannery Road, Salman has been doing this for almost nine years.

“I’ve seen the traffic grow by leaps and bounds. Initially, it was a bit difficult to handle but now it’s part of my daily life and helps me support my family,’’ he says. Earlier, he worked at a parking lot at the nearby Haj camp.
When he was 11, he lost his hands and a leg while flying a kite from a terrace. He slipped and fell on electricity wires. But that hasn’t deterred him in his chosen work. Some residents have also nominated him for the Namma Bengaluru Awards instituted by ABIDe. He is thrilled: “It feels good. I didn’t realize people would recognize me for this. With the whistle in my mouth, I’ve never felt disabled.’’

His father Sheikh Hyder was a fruit vendor but now laid low by lung infection. Mother Zarina is a homemaker. His younger brother is married and lives elsewhere with his wife. Salman earns anywhere between Rs 150-200 a day to around Rs 3,000 a month or even more. He earns more during Ramzan, but cold December and rainy days are lean. “The traffic police also pay me Rs 10 a day, that’s only if they pass this way,” he says.

The only thing he feels handicapped by is lack of education. He’s never been to school. Initially fluent in Hindi and Urdu, he has now picked up some English and speaks a few words. he also manages to understand many words as he interacts with commuters.

“I want to get married. First, I need to get a decent and regular income so I can support a family,” Salman says.


IT Park owned by workers


School drop-outs who once crushed stones at granite quarries have now become the directors of a Rs 600-crore info-tech park in Kerala.

Apart from the directors, 943 manual workers are also part-owners of the Uralungal Labour Contract Cyber Park, a 100-per cent subsidiary of the Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society (ULCCS).

The park, spread over 25 acres in Kozhikode, got Special Economic Zone (SEZ) status early this month.

A major construction co-operative venture in north Kerala, ULCCS has executed several showpiece road and bridge projects. Headquartered in Madappally, a village in Kozhikode district, ULCCS was established in 1925 with 14 members to fight poverty and caste oppression, to generate employment for the poor and the backward.

Over the years, the number of permanent members grew to 950-odd, around 10 per cent of them disabled. All members of the society are daily-wagers from Madappally and surrounding areas.
ULCCS has its own system of enrolling a worker-cum-member. On approaching the society for job, a labourer is first asked to crush stones at the quarries it owns. If the aspirant’s performance is satisfactory, he would be taken in as a member after a year. From the quarry, he would move on to road projects. If his performance is good, he gets promoted—as site supervisor and later as project manager.

M M Surendran, 44, a director of the cyberpark and a Class IX drop-out, joined the ULCCS as a stone-crusher 30 years ago. “After one year at the quarry, I became a permanent member and became a road worker. Later, I became a site leader,” said Surendran, who has been a director of the cooperative for nine years. He said seven other directors of the park have only school education. All members of the society, including the directors, draw daily wages. The directors get 15 per cent more than member workers. Workers retire at 60 with various benefits, said Surendran.

Paleri Rameshan, an ITI certificate holder who joined the society as a site supervisor, is now the president of the ULCCS and the Chairman and Managing Director of the proposed IT Park. “In the future, the society might have to diversify to meet the changing aspirations of the generations to come. For last three years, we have been facing shortage of fresh hands as Kerala youths are least interested in manual work. Hence we logged in to the IT venture as an investment for the next generation,” said Rameshan.

Rameshan said the society used to purchase land adjacent to major project sites to house its mixing plant and other equipment. “Thus, we had bought nearly 15 acres on the outskirts of Kozhikode city as part of the NH bypass work there. After completing the work, the plant site was lying idle. As the society wanted to do something meaningful for the next generation, we thought about an IT park and bought 10 more acres of private land,” said Rameshan. He said the Kerala government had wholeheartedly supported the venture, which would be the first IT park in north Kerala. The profits from the IT venture would also get divided among the members.

To run the proposed IT Park, the labourers’ society has roped in K G Girish Babu, founder CEO of state-owned Info Park in Kochi. “The society is known for its quality work and track record for finishing work on time. Society members have not wasted a single day in its history on labour problems. It is not their educational background, but the directors’ vision that attracted me,” said Girish Babu, who joined the project as its CEO.

The IT Park, expected to give employment for 15,000, would be implemented in three phases. A part of the funds for the project would come from the society’s resources, while the rest would be raised from banks. The project has already advertised for an architect for its green building.

The ULCCS has assets worth Rs 125 crore. Last year, the society executed projects worth Rs 75 crore. The paid-up capital is Rs 4.18 crore, 40 per cent of which comes from the workers and the rest from the government in the form of loans. Ten per cent of the daily wage of a worker is kept apart and converted into a share at the end of the year. Members increase their stake till they retire.

CPI(M) leader and Kozhikode MLA A Pradeepkumar said, “The project would prove that ordinary people can do great things in life.  The social ownership of an IT park may be the first in the country. We would see the park-owners constructing it brick by brick.”


“Conditional Charity” : Javed Anand takes on Zakir Naik


The disgraceful conduct of a UK-based Muslim charity with the victim-survivors of the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat could have been ignored as an isolated, if highly deplorable act. Sadly, this is no isolated incident. If anything, it is but the latest manifestation of a malignancy common to many Muslim outfits, in India and internationally.

For those who missed the news in the November 15 edition of this paper, here is the gist. A UK-based NRI charity named Muslim Relief Organisation (MRO) had built a colony in Detral village in Bharuch district to rehabilitate the victim-survivors of Gujarat’s state-sponsored carnage (2002). Even in charity, it seems, conditions apply.

The MRO has now issued an ultimatum to the Muslims it had helped rehabilitate: Shariah-compliant beards are a must. No rubbing shoulders with fellow Muslims in the village mosque, namaaz only in the special (sectarian) mosque we have built. Banish TV sets from your homes, all music is prohibited. Follow the “Shariah rules” or out you go of the homes we built. For you.
It can’t be an easy choice for Detral’s Muslims who, dispossessed by Hindu extremists seven years earlier, now face a second dispossession: by co-believers this time. My salaams to those village folks who at great cost to themselves have chosen freedom over capitulation to mean despots masquerading as custodians of Islam! A Google search doesn’t tell us much about the MRO or its broader ideological affiliation. But it’s easy to see where they are coming from.

The Detral ignominy is no isolated incident. Last year, televangelist Dr Zakir Naik’s flush-with-petro-dollars Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) launched a scholarship scheme for Muslim students. That you might think is a good idea. But here again, conditions apply. Before all else, the aspiring candidates must pass the “Islam test”. Since IRF is the screening body, it is reasonable to assume that the would-be grantee must match-up to the sponsor’s brand of an intolerant Islam. So here is free tuition to future aspirants on IRF’s ‘model answers’ to frequently asked questions:

Is it OK for Indian Muslims to sing Vande Mataram?

Model answer: Forget Muslims, even Hindus must follow the Vedas and refrain from such sinful act. (Rigveda, page…, para…, mantra…; the IRF is pretty good at playing the memory game).

Why can’t non-Muslims practice their faith in Saudi Arabia?

Model answer: Simple, stupid! Islam is the only true religion. How can sinful ways of worship be allowed in the land of the only true religion?

Were the Taliban justified in demolishing the Bamiyan Buddhas?

Model answer: But of course! Since there were no Buddhists in Afghanistan and the territory belonged to the Afghans, they were right in destroying their own property. (How did Buddhists disappear from Afghanistan? Don’t act smart!)


Model answer: Un-Islamic.

Burqa for women?

Model answer: It’s a symbol of women’s dignity while their participation in the Olympics, alongside men, symbolises degradation of women.

How to promote peace in the world?

Model answer: Through a 24/7 ‘Peace TV Channel’ and mega-budget ‘International Islamic Peace Conferences’ in Mumbai, London, Tokyo. Message: “My dear Hindu, Christian, Jews and the rest of you, brothers and sisters, Peace be upon you! We are here to prove with reason and logic how ignorant you are, clueless about your own faith and guilty of the greatest sin: idol worship. Convert to Islam for “Global Unity and Peace”.

(No Islam, no peace? At an estimated expenditure of rupees one crore per convert, IRF’s must be the most cost-inefficient model in the conversion business).

The Sachar Committee’s report convincingly establishes the fact of institutionalised discrimination against Muslims in our ‘infidel’ state? But the Muslim Relief Organisation, the IRF and their types do a much better inside job in discriminating: between Muslims (good) and Muslims (bad) in Islam’s name. It’s a discrimination that’s inevitable when faith is converted into a totalitarian ideology.

“There is no compulsion in religion” (“La ikraaha fiddeen”), says the Quran. “Diversity of opinion in my ummah is a blessing from Allah,” said the Prophet. For the despots of Islam, however, not only is Islam the only true religion, “their Islam” is the only “true Islam”. No space for doubt, no question of choice.

For sensible scholars of Islam, the Shariah is only a problem-solving methodology for those who seek to unravel the Divine Intent with the help of the Quran, teachings of Prophet Mohammed (Ahadith and Sunnah), consensual approach (ijma) and critical reasoning (ijtehad). But when a methodology (Marxist or Islamic) is elevated to the status of Law — frozen in time, all fresh approaches outlawed — you cannot but end up with a totalitarian ideology that by its own internal logic must aspire to the establishment of a totalitarian state (Marxist or Islamic).

It may seem like an ugly utopia for you and me. But to the hopelessly indoctrinated, a school in Mumbai, a village of bruised and battered Muslims in Gujarat, the Swat valley in Pakistan, a country named Afghanistan, or any social space big or small will do as a laboratory for the pursuit of their totalitarian fantasy.

Fortunately for the world and for the ummah itself, when given a chance to express themselves, the vast majority of Muslims — Indonesian, Malaysian, Bangladesh, Pakistani — continue to deliver a resounding ‘No’ to the enemies of freedom and choice. But beware of the dangers of the malevolent, modern-day messiahs. Unlike the poor maulvi sahib from a Muslim mohalla, this seemingly sophisticated lot comes draped in suit and tie, speaks fluent English, swears faith in “reason and logic”, quotes from the Vedas and the Bible as comfortably as from the Quran, oozes cash and promotes disharmony and discord in the name of peace. Don’t take them lightly for many among the new generation of otherwise well-educated but theologically ignorant Muslims assume this out-of-date medievalism to mean ‘Modern Islam’.

The writer is co-editor, ‘Communalism Combat’ and general secretary ‘Muslims for Secular Democracy’.


Trickle of hope in the parched Himalayas

Source :


POKHRI: It’s a sparkling morning, the dawn chill lifting as the sun’s rays light up this little village in Pauri Garhwal. Situated nearly on top of a hill, and facing east, the villagers get the early sun. It helps, because morning is the time for fetching water from the three public taps in this small village of 235 people. Each family gets two buckets, no more, and then the tap is put under lock and key, using an ingenious contraption made from a metal dabba.

This is a fairly common story in the parched Himalayas, often called the ‘‘Water Tower’’ or even the Third Pole of the world, because these mountains contain the largest store of freshwater in the world after the north and south poles. Most of it is in the form of snow and glaciers. Life-giving waters of 10 major river systems originate from the Himalayas, sustaining nearly one-fifth of humanity from southern China, through the Mekong delta in Vietnam and the Irrawady in Myanmar to the Indo-Gangetic plains in north India

But for the people here, water is arguably the greatest hardship. Spring water, the main source of water in the hills, is drying up. In Pokhri, it trickles in at about 11 litres per minute, while the need of the villagers — for personal use, as well as for animals and kitchen gardens — will get fulfilled only by 24 litres per minute. And, this is leaving aside irrigation needs.

With changes in rainfall pattern, deforestation and growing population, the springs are going dry across the hills. This has unleashed many responses, ranging from government schemes to lay pipelines to more lasting efforts by NGOs at rejuvenating water sources.

One of the most innovative efforts is the result of an unlikely collaboration between villagers of Nagrasu, in Rudraprayag district, and nuclear scientists of the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (Barc),  Mumbai. Using isotope analysis, the scientists traced water flows inside the mountain. This helped locate the areas from where water starts percolating into the ground to finally reappear at the spring. Water conservation structures were built on these areas so that the water doesn’t flow off but gets absorbed into the ground.

Gursharan Singh, head of Barc’s isotope division explained the process to TOI. ‘‘Naturally occurring isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen were analysed from water collected at various points above the spring by the scientists.


Literacy Projects: Nadakhanda & Kumar Para, Orissa

Nadakhanda Nov09 Puri 001Nadakhanda Nov09 Puri 002There are over 100 children in two villages, with 3 teachers, who get together for 2 to 3 hours a day, learning Oriya, arithmetic, English, GK etc. They also learn poems, songs and play games.

These photos were taken in Nov 09.

This is a part of Srijan Foundation’s Literacy Campaign for the under privileged children,

Nadakhanda Nov09 Puri 003