Archive for July, 2010

Mizoram Click as a Team, Finally

July 30, 2010

By Shamik Chakrabarty football seems to have arrived on the national scene finally. The win against Kerala in the Santosh Trophy pre-quarterfinal match on Wednesday, which took them to the elite quarter-final stage for the first time, has set the tournament alight.

Suddenly, Beingaichho Beokhokhei & Co, with their electrifying pace and short-passing game, are among the favourites to win the title.

Team manager Vanlal Ngheta is confident about going the distance. “The win against Kerala is a huge boost and now we are aiming big. The boys are young, very fit and agile. We are missing our top two stars S hylo Malswamtlunga and Lalram Luaha owing to injury.

But in Beokhokhei, skipper Zaidin Moya and Robert Lalthampuana we have quality. We are definitely a title contender,” Ngheta told The Indian Express.

This despite the lack of infrastructure in the state. “We don’t have a single proper football ground in the state. Boys practise on hard grounds. The local football set-up is also not something to speak of. Only six teams play in the first division league and there is not a single academy to groom the youngsters,” Ngheta said.

“The state government is interested in football. They support the game financially as private sponsorship doesn’t exist. The government is also planning to build a good stadium,” he said.

Notwithstanding the odds, there has been a steady flow of talents from Mizoram. Malswamtlunga, Luaha, Robert, Beokhokhei, PC Lalawmpuia — all have been representing the top clubs in the country. But unlike their next-door neighbour Manipur, they have so far failed to taste success as a team.

“Young talents are usually picked up by the spotters of the Tata Football Academy and SAIL Academy and are nurtured there. From there they burst into the big league. Sometimes there is help from the North-East Council as well,” Ngheta said.

Without a proper training facility back home, the Mizoram team arrived in Kolkata 15 days before the Santosh Trophy. They did some conditioning in Aizawl, and here they have been using the SAI facility.


Delhi Games Put Accent on Sounding British

July 30, 2010

By Sanjoy Majumder

Delhi Metro English class“Delhi Metro welcomes you. Before taking your seats, please check to see that no suspicious, unidentified articles are lying under it,” a young Delhi Metro trainee says, looking up nervously after finishing his announcement.

“S-u-s-p-i-c-i-o-u-s,” his instructor, Alka Gupta, prompts him. “Go on repeat after me.”
“Suspicious,” comes the hesitant reply.
I am at the Delhi Metro training institute where a special class is under way.

The class puts an emphasis on mastering a clipped British accent

It is a spoken English class and the students, all dressed in crisp yellow shirts with matching ties, are trainees who will eventually go on to work on the underground rail system.

Mostly in their early 20s, they have been hired after a stiff entrance test and interviews for a job, that for many of them, represents a major opportunity.

In October, the Indian capital Delhi will play host to the Commonwealth Games.

With large numbers of foreign tourists expected to visit the country during the event, India is taking steps to ensure that they have an enjoyable stay.

Regional accents

For the staff of the Delhi Metro this means brushing up on their English language skills and being trained to replace their local, Indian accents with clipped, British ones.

None of the students in the class are native speakers of English and the emphasis is on making sure they speak the language with the right pronunciation.

My English was never very good. But now I am much more fluent and a lot more confident”

Delhi Metro worker

Ms Gupta is from the Delhi-based British Academy for English Language and has been doing this for 17 years – teaching English language to those not familiar with it.

“The trainees who are here come from states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and have a strong regional accent,” Ms Gupta explains.

“So we first have to reduce their accent and then after neutralising it, we have to give them British accents, since that’s the correct way to speak English,” she says.

To try to simulate their working environment, the trainees are put through role-playing exercises.

So, in one exercise, a Metro staff member tries to assist a foreign tourist – played by one of the other trainers speaking in an accent that sounds like a cross between an American drawl and broad Australian.

“Since we have these Commonwealth Games coming up, they need to communicate with foreign nationals. If they cannot follow their English, it’s going to be a problem,” adds Ms Gupta.

Confidence boost

And with the Games just months away, there is a real sense of urgency.
Indian athletes with the Commonwealth Games baton at Wagah border on 25 June 2010“We are gearing up and we are training all our frontline staff, since we expect a lot of foreign visitors to come to Delhi and we want them to have a world class experience,” says Praveen Pathak, the vice-principal of the Training Institute.

The Commonwealth Games are set to take place in October
At the Delhi University station on the Metro’s Yellow Line crowds of passengers are coming up from the underground stations on escalators.
Others are gathering outside ticket counters with big glass windows, where metro staff deal with their queries – everything from tickets to which station to get off at and what local attractions there are to see.
“Good morning, how may I help you?”. Customer care agent Kailash Chowdhury smiles as he tries to help a student from north-east India find her way to her destination.

Like many of his colleagues, Kailash has been through the English training sessions and is anxious to put his newly acquired skill to practice.

“My English was never very good. But now I am much more fluent and a lot more confident,” he says. “My vocabulary has improved tremendously too.”
The Delhi Metro is the pride of India’s capital city. And why not? It is air conditioned, the stations are spotless, the trains are quick and always on time. It is a convenient way to swing across this vast city.

And for those foreign visitors who may choose to use the service, things may just have got a bit easier.

Northeast India Students Becoming Scam and Fraud Victims

July 30, 2010, Jul 30 : Apart from fraudsters cheating the gullible public of the Northeast through SMS and e-mail making lucrative offer of money, many young people from the region, particularly from Nagaland and Mizoram, are became victims of bank frauds.

Reserve Bank of India has found that dormant or hardly used bank accounts and debit cards of students from remote areas of Nagaland and Mizoram studying outside the region were used for transactions by such fraudsters.

Disclosing this, RBI regional manager Surekha Marandi told newsmen here that fraudsters are targeting account holders of banks in remote locations in Nagaland and Mizoram, particularly students, to allow their accounts and debit cards to be used by them for depositing and withdrawing money.

Although the account holders of such transactions become party to crime, in most cases the young people whose account numbers were used by the fraudsters failed to foresee the legal consequences of such transactions mainly due to lack of awareness, she said.

“A person allowing a fraudster to use his account for committing fraud in banking parlance is called a mule,” she cautioned and called upon the account holders to immediately report to bank branches or police if one found such transitions or lost his/her debit card.

‘A Beautiful Living Lab’

July 30, 2010
What do the stories of a million Indian deaths say about global health? A Toronto researcher aims to find out.

William Daniels/PANOS

On a cool day a few years ago in a village in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, a group of government workers approached a thatched-roof hut. They had learned that a young man in his late 30s had died there several months earlier, and they wanted to ask his family some questions. How did he die? Had he been sick? In India, a medical examination or certificate of death isn’t required before burying or cremating a corpse, and so the workers were conducting a kind of verbal autopsy.

As the young man’s father told them the story—his son had developed a cough, then become sicker until he had trouble breathing—a few children and then a couple of older neighbours gathered around. His son had started smoking at age 10, the man said, but they didn’t know exactly what had killed him, only that he was in the hospital for three days before he died.

The researchers were documenting this story for one of the world’s largest-ever health studies, which is examining one million deaths in India. The study, run out of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, which is partly funded by the Gates Foundation, aims to understand the changing nature of disease in a country undergoing massive societal transformation. It could have huge implications for global health. “By studying the dead, you can understand how to help the living,” said Dr. Prabhat Jha, a professor in public health at the University of Toronto and the founding director of the centre. Already, their model has been so successful it has been adopted by the World Health Organization and is being replicated in studies in places such as China and South Africa.

In India, the 800 field staff trained by Jha and his colleagues visit homes in every part of the country, where they know from census data—which tabulates births and fatalities twice a year—that someone has died recently. Researchers travel primarily by bus to big-city slums, middle-class apartment blocks, wealthy enclaves and the most remote villages to conduct these verbal autopsies. Unannounced, they knock on the door and ask family members to tell the story of how their children, spouses or siblings died.

Not everyone is as welcoming as the man in the hut, particularly in big cities, said Dr. Neeraj Dhingra, a Delhi-based doctor who is collaborating with Jha. “When you knock on the door, they won’t open,” he said. “The wealthy homes are more difficult because they ask more questions.” However, when they learn the research is for a not-for-profit study that may lead to better health services in their community, about 95 per cent participate. Sometimes researchers are invited inside and offered a cup of tea. Sometimes, most often in villages, they sit on a mat on the floor of a hut and pose their questions.

The stories they hear are often heartbreaking, said Dhingra. One case that stands out is that of a five-year-old boy, an only child, who died from enteric fever. His death was preventable, he said, which is true of so many—if only he’d been taken to a hospital. But field staff make no judgment. They record everything that’s said in the local language and never smile or show sorrow. “If someone cries, they say, ‘It is all in God’s hand,’ ” said Dhingra. After the stories are collected, they return to their offices and record the details, and pass the information on to two physicians who determine a cause of death. (A third is on hand in case of disagreement.)

Ten million people die each year in India—that’s over 27,000 people a day. And it is not only the elderly who are succumbing. If you live in India, you have a much higher chance of dying in childhood or in middle age than in Canada. Jha’s study began in 2001 and will continue to collect data until 2014. “In that period, there will be huge changes in India,” said Jha. Already, the country has seen booming urbanization and the growth of a new middle class. When people move to the city, they tend to burn fewer calories. From the 130,000 deaths they have tabulated so far, they have learned heart attacks are the biggest killer, and smoking-related deaths are on the rise, because when people move to the city, they tend to give up traditional beedis (tobacco hand-rolled in temburi leaf) for commercial cigarettes that contain more tobacco. There is also good news: AIDS death rates are four times lower than original estimates by the government and the WHO.

These changes tell the larger story of Indian society. Jha offers his own family history as an example. His grandmother, who passed away last year at 99, witnessed many of the diseases of her era. She remembered the Spanish flu of 1918, and the Bengal famine during the Second World War.

Her father-in-law had succumbed to tuberculosis when her husband was a child. Two of her children died of smallpox. After she moved to the city, one son died of a heart attack and she lost a daughter to diabetes. “What we find is a true snapshot of India at that time,” he said. “I call this a beautiful living lab of what’s happened to health as India has changed.”

Understanding what diseases are killing people in one of the world’s most populous regions is important to every human on earth. “In a globalized world, the main advantage you have is knowledge,” said Jha. “Global health is local health.”

Bordering on Darkness in Meghalaya

July 30, 2010

By Manosh Das, Jul 30 : “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.” This was India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s dream for the nation as projected by him in his famed speech Tryst With Destiny’ on the eve of Independence.

And though governments have come and gone and India has been purported to shine’, there are citizens of this great country who have been left in the darkness, quite literally.

Even after sixty years of the Partition and 39 years of attaining statehood, villages along the India-Bangladesh border languish in darkness with most of them having no electricity.

Bringing this dark fact to light, a 15-member delegation comprising headmen of 50 odd villages along the 70-km stretch from Mawpyllun to Khonjoi-Maheskola along the international border knocked the doors of the government Wednesday to apprise the state of their plight.

“We are still lying in darkness without electricity. We too deserve to live in the light of the modern world; our school-going children deserve to live and study and achieve like other children of the state,” said a memorandum submitted to home minister HDR Lyngdoh by the delegation under the banner of Synjuk ki Rangbah Shnong, Border Area. “Our region has been totally neglected due to which our children cannot read or write properly and become doctors, engineers, lecturers or big officers,” the memo went on.

The village headman brought to the notice of the government yet another surprising fact the government has put up signboards claiming that around 50 border villages in the West Khasi Hills have been electrified under the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Rojgar Yojana Electrification Scheme, while the reality is that there is not a single electric post in any of these villages, leave alone total electrification’.

The memorandum complained that the villagers are unable to set up even small-scale industries due to lack of electricity, and added that this has adversely affected the economic progress of the entire stretch along the Indo-Bangla border.

“The people have been left to fend for themselves as there are no proper roads, no workable healthcare, no facilities for education, and there does not even exist a rural water supply scheme or adequate police outposts for maintaining security and law and order in the border villages,” a member of the delegation, Nasar Marwein, told reporters after meeting the home minister.

The home minister, meanwhile, is understood to have assured the border representatives that he would look into their problems in earnest.

CWG Queen’s Baton Arrives in Mizoram

July 29, 2010

queens baton Aizawl, Jul 29 : The people of Aizawl turned out in large numbers to welcome the Commonwealth Games 2010 Queen’s Baton on Thursday.

The baton was received at the Lengpui airport near here by secretary-general of the Mizoram Olympic Association, Zoliana Royte, who then handed it over to chief secretary Van Hela Pachuau.

The baton was taken around the city of Aizawl by eminent sports personalities of the state, former Mizoram sports ministers, leaders of the sports federations and top officials.

A function was also held in hour of the baton at the Vanapa Hall here, which was addressed by Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who is also the president of MOA.

The baton would stay overnight here from where it would be head to Kolkata on Friday, officials said.

Bru Refugee Numbers May Spoil Tripura-Mizoram Talks

July 29, 2010

reang refugee children Agartala, Jul 29 : A dispute over the number of Mizoram tribal refugees sheltered in Tripura for 13 years might create a fresh imbroglio between the two northeastern states, officials said here Thursday.

A survey sponsored by the Mizoram government says the total number of refugees is 27,261 while the Tripura government says the figure is 40,504.

“Disagreement over the number of refugees might create a serious impasse and an uneasy situation over refugee repatriation,” a top Tripura official said on condition of anonymity.

Since October 1997, Reang tribal refugees, locally called Bru, have taken shelter in six camps in north Tripura’s Kanchanpur sub-division, adjacent to Mizoram. They fled western Mizoram after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.

“After the repatriation of 1,133 refugees to Mizoram in May, the total number of refugee families are 6,224 comprising 40,504 men, women and children,” Shiva Prasad Biswas, the Tripura government’s relief, rehabilitation and disaster management department director, told IANS.

“We are yet to officially get the survey or headcount report conducted during the past few weeks,” Biswas said.

Following the instruction and format of the Mizoram government’s home department, the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), the apex body of the refugees, has done a survey and headcount of refugees in the past few weeks.

Refugee leader Elvis Chorkhy told IANS: “Within the next one week we would submit the survey and headcount reports to the Mizoram government for taking subsequent actions.”

“During 1997 ethnic troubles, several hundreds tribals had also taken shelter from southern Assam and they have been excluded in the survey and headcount,” said Chorkhy.

Sangliana Asks Northeast States to Form Minorities Commission

July 29, 2010

HT sangliana Shillong, Jul 29 :The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) today asked states in the Northeast to form the State Minorities Commission (SMC) to protect minorities’ rights.

Among the seven Northeastern states, Assam has constituted the State Minorities Commission, while other states in region are yet to set up the commission.

”It is important for all states to form the State Minorities Commission as it can act as nodal agency to facilitate various development programs and welfare schemes for minorities,” NCM vice-chairman HT Sangliana told reporters here.

Mr Sangliana visited Meghalaya today and discussed with state government officials regarding issues relating to minorities.

He said states in the Northeast were mostly Christians-dominated and happened to be majority in respective states though they were minorities in the country.

Mr Sangliana, however, maintained that those who were majority in the country but happened to be minorities in states were also being taken care off.

He also made it clear that the NCM was not in a position to recognize tribes practicing indigenous faith from states in the Northeast, including Meghalaya, as minorities.

”Being the tribals (practicing indigenous faith) they are under the nomenclature of tribal but not minorities but it does not mean that their problems are not taken care. We are ready to handle any issues or problems being faced by them also,” Mr Sangliana asserted.

In Meghalaya within the Khasi community there are people who practice indigenous faith.

Mr Sangliana, who called on Chief Minister Mukul Sangna, took note on the implementation of various schemes in the state and discuss various issues on how to utilize the benefits of related schemes made available to the state.

He laid stress on better co-ordination between National Commission for Minorities and State Commission so as to have better understanding of the problems and needs of the minorities.

Mr Sangliana also requested the state government to organize more awareness and sensitization programs related to minority issues.

Census on Bru Refugees Completed

July 29, 2010

Kanchanpur bru camp Aizawl, Jul 29 : There are total 27,261 Bru refugees from Mizoram in six relief camps in North Tripura district as per a head count completed today, reports PTI

The head count exercise was undertaken as per the instruction of the Mizoram Government, which is regarded as the first step in the effort to repatriate all Bru refugees this year following instructions of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram that it be completed by October end.

Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), which undertook the exercise said the relief camps were located at Kanchanpur sub-division in North Tripura district and the refugees were classified into two groups – those who migrated en masse in 1997 and those in 2009.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who visited Aizawl on May 25 asked the Bru leaders to ensure that all refugees were repatriated to Mizoram and said he would visit Mizoram again to oversee the repatriation process.

Our Correspondent adds: The MBDPF, apex body of the Reang refugees, has sought investigation at appropriate level over the distribution of inflammatory leaflets involving its leaders.

In a letter addressed to Superintendent of Police (SP), North Tripura district on Tuesday, A Sawinbunga, general secretary of MBDPF informed that some leaflets containing malicious campaign against the MBDPF were found in several places in Kanchanpur subdivision recently.

The leaflets written in local dialect read that Elvish Chorkhy, R Laldawngliana and A Sawibunga – all MBDPF leaders – are heading the Bru National Army, an outfit and they are working for the community to target Mizo people in near future.

The distribution of such leaflets has triggered tension among Bru and Mizo communities in Kanchanpur subdivision.

A team of MBDPF has already met Officer in Charge (OC), Kanchanpur subdivision and handed over some leaflets to him. A letter has been sent to the SP urging him to conduct a probe into the matter and nab the people responsible for the cowardly act.

In the letter, it also mentioned that the move is aimed to destabilise the existing mutual understanding between Mizos and Reangs (Bru) in the subdivision where more than 30,000 refugees are sheltered due to ethnic strife in neighbouring Mizoram.

India Pledges Millions in Credit to Myanmar Regime

July 29, 2010

manmohan than New Delhi, Jul 29 : Myanmar’s military ruler Than Shwe flew to Hyderabad Wednesday on the latest leg of a controversial state visit to India that has garnered millions of dollars in grants for infrastructure projects.

The general left New Delhi having received a full, red-carpet welcome Tuesday and held talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Human rights groups have severely criticised India for bestowing a formal state visit on Than Shwe, arguing that it helps legitimise a military regime that has been widely condemned for systematic rights abuses.

The two countries signed a series of pacts Tuesday including one to strengthen security along their common border, where India is struggling to curb ethnic separatists.

India also offered a grant of 60 million dollars to build a road connecting Myanmar with the northeast Indian state of Mizoram.

India’s EXIM bank agreed to provide a 60-million-dollar line of credit to fund various railway projects, and New Delhi also pledged 10 million dollars for the purchase of modern agricultural equipment.

Once a staunch supporter of Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, India began engaging the junta in the mid-1990s as security, energy and strategic priorities came to the fore.

As well as needing the military regime’s help to counter the separatists along the common border, India is eyeing oil and gas fields in Myanmar — formerly Burma — and is eager to counter China’s growing influence there.

China is the junta’s key ally and trading partner, and an eager investor in the isolated state’s sizeable natural resources.

The Myanmar junta, which has ruled with an iron fist for nearly 50 years, has promised to hold the first elections since 1990 later this year, and Singh had been urged by rights groups and some Western countries to pressure Than Shwe on the need for a free and fair ballot.

A joint statement said the prime minister had simply “emphasized the importance of comprehensively broad-basing the national reconciliation process and democratic changes being introduced in Myanmar.”

Western nations have dismissed the proposed election as a sham, and Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is boycotting the ballot.

Than Shwe was due to meet Indian business leaders in Hyderabad on Wednesday. He flies to the eastern city of Kolkata the next day before returning home.