Bootlegging in Delhi

The village of Brahmpuri, in South West Delhi, is still in a state of shock. Villagers say 16 people have died there recently after drinking spurious liquor.

Police disagree on what caused the deaths of those residents. The people differ and say the police are not doing enough to protect them. Here's a report...

Politicians and foreign tours

Indians are parsimonious people. But, when it comes to our politicians, most of us will agree that they are spendthrifts. Their various foreign tours taking a large part of their expenditure. With Chief Minister Shila Dixit it is not so. Not that she is a miser. But she is frugal in her expenditures in her foreign tours. At least this is what the Chief Minister Office report helps us to conclude.

In a reply to a recent Right To Information petition filed in order to find out about the expenditures of the chief minister on her foreign tours from 2007 till date, the office of the Chief minister has provided the following information.

In her visit to Kuwait in March (from 16-04-07 to 17-04-07) to take part in the Asian Olympic Council Meeting, the Chief Minister spent only Rs. 10,192. Interestingly, the fare for Kuwait is approximately Rs 20,000.

She was also a part of the meeting of “Large Cities Climate Change” at New York in the United States of America from 14-05-07 to 17-05-07. Her expenditure on this tour was Rs 6,13,072.

Later in the year, (from 04-09-07 to 09-09-07) she visited Yerawan and Misk in Belarus to attend the 940th anniversary of the city of Misk. The amount that she spent during her six day trip was Rs 1,68,660. Even this is quite an economical account taking in view the number of days.

In May this year (from 25-05-08 to 31-05-08), she also visited China. The trip to Beijing and Tianjin and her six day of stay there cost her Rs 1,83,745.

The Chief Minister Office, Government of NCT of Delhi has provided this information.

Restore peace process: Indian peace delegation to Pakistan

Fresh from their visit to Pakistan, members of the Indian Peace Delegation addressed a press conference at the Indian Women’s Press Corps on Friday. A 13-member team led by veteran journalist and former diplomat Kuldip Nair had left for the neighbouring country on 22nd February.

The four-day visit was organized by South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) and included other eminent personalities like film maker Mahesh Bhatt, president of World Council of Arya Samaj Swami Agnivesh, prominent historian K.N. Panikkar, social activists Sandeep Pandey, Hanif Lakdawala and Sabnam Hashmi, former diplomat Salman Haider, Human Right Activist and Educationist Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Peace Activist Ramesh Yadav, Social Scientist Kamla Bhasin and well-known journalist Seema Mustafa.

After the Mumbai attacks, the peace process between India and Pakistan has come almost to a standstill, remarked Kuldip Nair. “We had gone in response to the visit of the Pakistani delegation to India so that the peace process between the two countries is restored at the earliest,” he said.

What came out again and again from the people of Pakistan is that they wanted peace with India. They said that they were non-state actors and should not be denied visas by the Indian Government, said the members who had gathered at 5, Windsor Place.

Swami Agnivesh pointed out that in his visits to the neighbouring country before 26/11, there could be no talks beyond Kashmir. People always said, first resolve the Kashmir issue and then talk about anything else. “After the Mumbai attacks, there is hardly any mention of Kashmir. They want to get back to composite dialogue between the two countries,” he said. “They told us that their country is a greater victim of terrorism. You support us and help.”

Asked if the response of the Pakistani government was the same as that of members of the civil society, the delegation said that they had gone as part of the civil society and met similar people there. “The ministers in the Government that we informally met also wanted restoration of dialogue and peace with India. We stressed that action by the Pakistan government on the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack should be taken to its logical conclusion.”

Security in Pakistan has deteriorated to a large extent, in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in the country. This was felt by the peace delegation too. “For the first time when we went to Lahore, we were accompanied by armed guards,” remarked Prof. Chinoy who was also part of the delegation.

The five members of the Peace Delegation who had gathered for the Press Conference recommended that people to people contact and cultural and sports exchanges between the two countries were necessary in these “difficult times”. The Indian Government had cancelled India’s cricket tour of Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks and the series between the two countries was called off. The cancellation of the tour has put a question mark on the sporting ties between the two countries.

Dipu Shaw

A healthy soft drink - cow's urine

Are you fed up of carbonated soft drinks that have bad impact on your health? Here's a solution. You can go for "Gau jal" or cow water.

Here's a drink for the true connoisseur - a new soft drink made from cow urine.

Indian inventors have spent months concocting the brew which (they claim) doesn't smell and will have a pleasant taste.

It's also meant to be very healthy.

How makers at the Hindu nationalist movement have accomplished this using waste products remains something of a mystery.

The drink has been devised by the Cow Protection Department of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who are based in Hardwar, one of four holy cities on the River Ganges.

Rather coyly, they've called it 'gau jal,' the Sanskrit for 'cow water' and say it is in the final stages of devlopment.

It is currently undergoing tests and should be launched by the end of this year. Om Prakash, the head of the department, said: 'Don't worry, it won't smell like urine and will be tasty too.'

'Its unique selling point will be that it's going to be very healthy. It won't be like carbonated drinks and will be devoid of any toxins.'

He added that it would be cheap and good competition for the American cola brands, which are popular in India.

'We're going to give them good competition as our drink is good for mankind,' he said.

'We may also think of exporting it.'

Gau jal is made from a blend of cow urine and medicinal and ayurvedic herbs.

The RSS, founded in 1925, claims to be the biggest Indian nationalist society with eight million members.

The cow is sacred to Hindus and the RSS has already promoted its urine as a cure for many things, from liver disease to cancer.

So! what next? Export it and let the foreigners too give it a try. They already consume most of its products and grow vegetables in its manure.

The struggle to keep alive the Tibetan culture

Dalai Lama at Jamia Millia Islamia Pix: Gargi Nim

About 50 years ago, the 14th Dalai Lama and leader of Tibet took a long arduous journey to cross the Himalayas and come to India. As Chinese pressure was mounting in Tibet, this monk knew that his people would fight till death to defend him. A strict adherent of peace and non violence, he chose to escape to India, to prevent any loss of Tibetan lives for his sake.

The Dalai Lama has since then stressed on the “middle path” as a solution to the Tibetan issue within the constitutional framework of the People’s Republic of China. The middle way approach aims to achieve greater autonomy within China through dialogue.

Some Tibetan exiles – particularly youths – have increasingly questioned the Dalai Lama's methods and goals. They are pushing for greater agitation worldwide to force China's hand. Many also want a fully independent Tibet.

However, the exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, has managed to keep his fragmented flock united by averting a split. He has furthered the Tibetan cause in many subtle and ingenious ways.

Well-directed leadership

The role of the 73-year-old monk in preserving and promoting the Tibetan culture has been phenomenal. Dalai Lama has been the unifying force for all the Tibetans.

One of the first things that the Tibetan leader did on coming to India in 1959, was to set up an institute to preserve and promote the Tibetan culture. Therefore, at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA), Dharamsala, the efforts of the Tibetans in exile are geared towards their rich ancient culture and its preservation.

Lobsang Samden, Art Director of the Institute, feels that preserving culture is even more important than independence. He says “Culture is the identity of any nation and freedom without culture has no meaning”. Almost everyone at TIPA echo the same feelings. They strive to keep their culture alive, not only because it gives them satisfaction but also because they believe in something much larger than themselves.

Samten Dhondup was born on the way when his parents were fleeting to India from Tibet. He is now an opera instructor at the institute. Early in his career, he had the option of comfortably settling in America with an offer of a handsome salary. However, he chose to do his bit for the Tibetan cause. “Here I get a meager salary but there is satisfaction, of doing something for my country.” His efforts help to keep Lhamo, the ancient dance form of Tibet alive.

“Manipulation of the Tibetan traditions”

The stories of the Lhamo or the Tibetan opera are ancient traditional tales based on Buddhist teachings. The Tibetans complain that in their country, the stories are getting manipulated by the Chinese. Mr. Dhondup says, “The people in Tibet have Chinese instructors. They portray our kings as cruel and torturous, and show to the people that this is ancient Tibet.” The theatre instructor asserts that even the techniques of performance of the Tibetan opera are different.

The music in Tibet is also not spared from Chinese influence, say the members of TIPA. Tenzing Phuntsok, a musician at the institute makes the distinction of the Tibetan music from that of the Chinese. “The Chinese sing like an orchestra using a lot of waves. We, unlike the Chinese have single notes and melodies”, he says.

The members of TIPA make sure that even instruments used in the Institute are made according to the traditional Tibetan style. “In Tibet, under Communist China, the instrument makers have to work at gun point”, says Tenzing Thinley, instrument maker at TIPA. “Here, at TIPA by the grace of the Indian Government, we can work according to the traditional culture of Tibet.” He also lays down the details of how the shapes and music of Chinese instruments are different.

The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts has systematically kept the original art forms of Tibet alive and pure. This is one of the reasons that Dharamsala has earned the reputation of being the “Little Lhasa”.

The effort of the Dalai Lama has unquestionably been most successful here.

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The aftermath of the Pakistan attack

The details of the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in the Pakistani city of Lahore is still unclear. But one thing which is clear is that cricket in the country has been mortally wounded. And that it is a blow to the nation's peace and security.

Pakistani government should now take firm action against the terrorist elements and terrorist hubs inside the country.

These are some of the things that need to be done before the world will take Pakistan seriously:

1) Admit and recognize that the problem lies in Pakistan and it’s not some weird conspiracy of the outside world.

2) Find the terrorists

3) Punish them to highest possible extent of the law.

4) Cancel ANY deals with the terrorists.

5) Do a complete over-haul of the intelligence agencies. Root out the corruption on all levels.

6) Ensure public and guest safety.

Seems like a place to start don’t you think?