Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Skewed comparison

Editorial
27 September, 2016



It is difficult not to recall Arun Shourie’s barb that the present government’s focus is limited to “managing headlines” when taking note of the Prime Minister’s plea to emulate Lal Bahadur Shastri’s clarion call of jai jawan jai kisan, and channelize positively the anger and emotion over the terrorist strike at Uri. Clearly Narendra Modi is “hurting” at criticism demanding more than a verbal threat of a “befitting reply” a week after 18 soldiers were martyred.

With his party having lashed out at previous governments for weak-kneed responses to Pakistani provocations, and making an electoral promise that he would not prove “chicken”, the Prime Minister is squirming at the flak he has invited from the hawks he has nurtured. And his opting to try and echo Shastri appears a desperate effort to redeem the image he had “sold” to the masses when reaping a bumper electoral harvest. This is not to suggest a desire for “hard” options Rs the immediacy for that has probably run out Rs but to point out that what is easy to demand from a poll-platform is often too complex to deliver from the gaddi. And, that though physically small, Shastri proved himself an example too tall for many of his successors.

That is where the comparison ends. On the military front, Shastri proved bold enough to open a” second front” that relieved the pressure on Kashmir and had the Pakistanis worried about defending their backyard, he committed the air force that used its unsophisticated Gnats to strike down the more-reputed Sabres, but more importantly he united the Indian people behind their forces as never before.

The sight of women in Amritsar preparing hot meals for troops on the western side of Wagah was truly a highlight of a national effort. So too on the food-front: households across the country willingly opted for a cereal-free day, conjured up were suitable alternatives and the kitchen-garden effort was supported across the board. It was an inspired India, it set the stage for the Green Revolution and the dismemberment of Pakistan’s eastern wing.

How things have changed, in recent times particularly. That Mr Modi almost simultaneously called for a re-look at the way India treats its Muslims (other minorities too) is an admission of thep olitical narrow-mindedness of the saffron brigade that supports him Rs now Dalits are being targeted too.

Divisions of religion, caste and community are being openly exploited for political gain and the “national” leadership lacks the capacity to stem the rot: if it is indeed sincere about doing so. Trying to resurrect the spirit of Shastri’s much-too-brief stewardship of the nation is a hollow endeavour, Modi must rise above himself and his fawning minions.

The above is from the editorial of "The Statesman"
It is obvious from the above that that paper too is not very impressed at what Modi blabbers.
Arun Shourie, very appropriately says "Managing Headlnes". 
You can easily do so when you have pet dogs in leash in "India TV" and "Zee News" and a whole captive Twitter and FB accounts under your government.

The Muslims are our own, not vote banks: Modi

Garibi Hatao” just got a re-launched with the BJP formulating a transformative exercise aimed at showcasing the party’s “pro-poor, pro-deprived sections, pro-Dalit, pro-Adivasi” credentials in the next year that coincides with its ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s birth centenary celebrations.

Antyodaya (empowerment of the last man in the last row)” and “Garib Kalyan” are the BJP’s replacements for “Garibi Hatao” of yesteryear politics.
Muslim outreach


The repackaging of Brand BJP as the purveyor of social justice and empowerment also had a new formulation for another section, the Muslims, whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted are not “vote banks”. Nor were they to be “appeased or humiliated”.

The Muslims are, said Modi quoting Upadhyay, “are our own”, they ought to be “empowered”. This seemed to be another significant “misunderstanding” of the BJP’s attitude and philosophy vis-a-vis India’s largest minority, which the PM sought to correct.

“There are people who misunderstand and those who deliberately try to misrepresent us. On the subject of Muslims, Deen Dayalji had very clear views. These days, there is an atmosphere because of a twisted definition of secularism in our country where even patriotism is slandered. Deen Dayalji said Muslims need not be appeased or rebuked. They should not be treated as vote banks in a market. They are our own and should be empowered,” he said.

Modi made these remarks while inaugurating Upadhyay’s birth centenary celebrations at the BJP’s national council meeting here on Sunday. A formal resolution was adopted at the national council which celebrates the year as “Garib Kalyan Varsh”.

Like the renaming of the road that houses the Indian Prime Minister from Race Course Road to Lok Kalyan Marg last week, a move that symbolises the country’s “return to the Bharatiya roots”, “Garib Kalyan” is now the new mantra for policymaking under BJP’s leadership.

“Calicut of yesterday became Kozhikode of today, symbolising a return to its roots. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh of yesterday became the BJP of today and we have come to this city because we want to reaffirm our commitment to our ideological moorings. Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay said politics should be rooted in India’s roots.

“We want to give a new life to that mantra… The basic character of our party is to work towards Jan Kalyan, politics for us is not the end, it the means to Antyodaya, towards Lok Kalyan,” said Modi.
As the programme coordinator for the national council, BJP leader Vinay Sahastrabudhe, pointed out, “Garib Kalyan” is Modi’s new formulation in the political lexicon just as “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” was formulated by Lal Bahadur Shastri and “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan and Jai Vigyan” which was popularised by Atal Behari Vajpayee.

“Narendra Modi is the architect of Indian aspiration. He has democratised aspiration in India. Political lexicon now has a new formulation called Garib Kalyan,” Sahastrabudhe said.
Garib Kalyan” is thus the BJP’s answer to barbs from the Opposition, especially Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who made a famous reference to the BJP running a “suit-boot ki sarkar”, a snide reference to the expensive suit donned by the PM during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Delhi.
It is also an effort to reach out to the deprived sections, especially Dalits, who have been agitating in different parts of the country following incidents of violence against cow slaughter by self-proclaimedgau rakshaks.

Dalit appeal


The PM made references to the Dalit, peedit, shoshit varg, kisan aur majdoor (the Dalits, oppressed, farmer and the daily wage labourer) at least four times in his speech.
“The welfare of Dalit, peedit, shoshit varg, kisan aur majdoor is our commitment. It is not a mere slogan for the BJP,” said Modi.

The PM, who is a big advocate of holding simultaneous elections for Parliament and State legislatures, said the time has come for big electoral reforms in India.
“In our country there needs to be a wide debate on electoral reforms. We have a large democracy and there are many issues in the electoral process that need to be reformed. What happens when there are elections of one kind or the other every year? Or there are rules that do not make sense in the current context, the use of money power. It is the need of the hour to reform our electoral process and make it commensurate with the current context,” he said.

“In the birth centenary year of Deen Dayal Upadhyay, can the party not hold seminars across the country on this issue? It shouldn’t be that I said something and it gets done. Democracies don’t function like that nor should they. Let there be a churning and let us see what comes out of it. The time has come,” he added.

(This article was published on September 25, 2016)

Modi says that the Muslims are not vote banks.
True.
They are not vote banks for the BJP but they are vote banks for the Congress, SP and TMC.Of course, now even Mayawati is attempting to make them a vote bank by mentioning them in the same breath as the Dalits.
That is why the Congress under Rajiv Gandhi, reversed the Shah Bano judgement of the Supreme Court and Maulana Mulayam is alway flirting with the Muslims and Mamta Banerjee gave a greater compensation to the people who died in Haj stampede than the armymen from Bengal who died in URI massacre by Pakistanis.
For the BJP, the Hindus are the vote banks. That is why, the BJP instigates communal riots just before elections so that the Hindus vote for them.
Modi says that the Muslims are our own but the BJP cannot keep those that our own within their fold, the Dalits. The BJP is driving the Dalits into waiting the arms of the Muslims.
Modi's new found pangs for the poor is not something new or off the cuff. This was planned right from the day he became Prime Minister. He had then said we have to look after the rich capitalist (Ambanis & Adanis?) for the first three years. We will look after the poor after the 3rd year. He has started voicing concern for the poor before the end of the 3rd year as elections are due in UP and Punjab next year.

Like a master strategist, all his moves are well planned in advance by Amit Shah.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

How I almost became the victim of a Credit Card Scam

I had recently got an SBI Credit Card.
On the 23rd, I got  a call from a lady named Khusboo from Delhi from 7836083905 who wanted to verify that the card had reached the proper person. 
She asked my name, Address, DOB, Mother's name, Address,Floor, Nearest Landmark and then my 16 digit Credit Card No. 
I gave her all the details but since I did not have my card with me at that time, I told her sorry, I can't give you that and if she wanted that should phone me the next day. 
She telephoned me on the 24th using the following numbers, 7836082054, 8750180032, 8750031600 as the calls were disconnecting quite often, and again asked me my 16 digit card number. 
I gave it to her. 
Then she asked me for the CVV number on the reverse side. That is when I got suspicious. 
I told her I cannot give her the CVV number. She tried convincing me but I did not budge.
She then asked me to speak to ber boss, one Mr. Rahul who also tried to convice me saying that my card was protected by my PIN and I am supposed to give the CVV for verification.
I told him, no matter what you say, I shall not give the CVV number and disconnected.
I then went to our local SBI branch and informed them.They told me that since I had given them the 16 digit card number, my card was at risk. 
They asked me to go and lodge a GD at the local police station and also to phone the credit card helpline number given on the reverse of the card and have it blocked. 
Since I know the police are useless would take no action, I did not go to the police station.
I however, called up the credit card helpline number and had my card blocked and also asked them to issue a new card.
Now, I am wondering how these people came to know that I had just received an SBI Credit Card.
It just means that someone from the SBI is involved in passing this information to these scamsters.
Further, I do not find any online contact details of police or any other investigating agencies to whom we could forward the contact details from where we receive these scam calls so that the people are caught.
If you try to call the above numbers now, they are either not reachable or switched off. It only means that the numbers are one way.They can be used to make call but cannot be called.
QED.

The forest on their plates

The sun flits in and out of the clouds, spotlighting the hills around Muniguda and Bissam Cuttack blocks in Rayagada district, Odisha. Their emerald green colour is so resplendent and bright that it almost hurts your eyes.
The sound of laughter and conversation bounces off the houses and trees at Khalpadar village nestled in the base of the hills. Music can be heard. A goat has been butchered for a community meal. I have arrived in the middle of some festivities.
The forests that surround these villages have for years been a vital support system for tribal communities across Rayagada, providing food, medicine, fodder, fuel wood and water. Generations had grown rain-fed millet and vegetables here, until the government set its sights on the land. Large chunks of forest were chopped down by the forest department to make way for cash plantations like teak, eucalyptus and timber.
That is when the women in these villages decided to take on the responsibility of protecting their forests. Today, thanks to their efforts, the hills are flourishing again with indigenous trees, plants and flowers. This, in turn, has brought back diversity to their plates.
“When they came to persuade us to plant eucalyptus and teak, we refused. They said ‘paisa zyada milega’ (you will get more money),” says Timoli Kurunjelika. “But we had seen that these trees suck the life out of surrounding areas. No roots can grow; no tubers, mushrooms or fruits. The soil gets damaged too. But the forest department insisted and planted their own trees. Three years later, all the native plants in the undergrowth and the trees were destroyed.”
This is when the diet of the tribal people in these villages began to suffer. The children did not get enough nutrition. The women decided that, despite the offer of money, instead of enabling the destructive development of their forests and hills, which they call Bamni Boirohoru, they would pave the way for a more sustainable future. They began to see that the new forest policy had led to malnutrition in their communities and they got down to get back what they had lost.
The first thing they had to do was reclaim their millet-growing fields. “We decided to cut down plantation trees and replant our traditional crops — dates, mangoes, moa, jackfruit, tamarind,jaamkoli,” says Balo Shikoka. “The forest officials informed the police, who said we have to go to prison for this. We said we will go. All of us — women, children, elders — will stay in jail. We will go to prison for the jungle. But when we stay there, we won’t eat your city food. Give us our mandua (finger millets). The forest guys quietly left. There was no sign of them till last month. They came again. We told them ‘You know what we think. They left again’.”
It’s the women who are leading the change, going around telling other villagers to replant their forests. Last year, in nearby Nanduwadi, the forest department planted eucalyptus nurseries. The villagers went to the officials to reason with them. When repeated requests failed, the villagers cut the eucalyptus trees and set them on fire. “One afternoon, the police came in two vans,” recounts Sukhomoti Shikoka. “Most of us were in the forest or in the fields. Two women in the village ran and informed us. We all went running with laathis — women, men, elders, and youth. The police left. The entire village had protested. Finally, the forest department agreed to plant saplings of indigenous trees.”
It requires a lot of work to bring back diversity. The trees take at least five years to grow. The soil, damaged by plantations, takes time to replenish and thrive again.
The Adivasi women have formed informal groups to monitor the jungles and informal rules for gathering forest produce. “This year — from June to July alone — we have regrown jungles in 35 villages in Muniguda block,” says Sukhomoti. “About 6,000 families from Muniguda to Bissam Cuttack are involved — each planting 10 to 15 trees. Now the nutrition needs of our children will be met, even after the rains.”
Living Farms, a non-government organisation working in the region on food and nutrition security, conducts assessments of dietary diversity every six months. In 2014, the number of families with low nutrition levels was 58 per cent. Now it is 18 per cent. “A major area of focus is to link agriculture, natural resource management, and nutrition,” says Bichitra Biswal of Living Farms. “In the last couple of years, we’ve come to realise that government schemes like ICDS cannot ensure nutrition security. Chhatua, midday meals, eggs — these are supplements. In Rayagada area, we have traditionally had immense food diversity — many varieties of pulses, millets, grains, fruits, vegetables, greens and mushrooms. We need to protect this, not destroy it.”
A typical diet for an adivasi family starts with millet porridge. Lunch is another variety of millet, with wild onions, greens like gondri saag, foraged from the jungle, sometimes mushrooms, meats or fish. In the evening, they have rice, vegetables, pulses and cowpeas. The women talk about a time not so long ago when their diets were richly varied. Kosla, gurji, jari, sua, fruits, birds, animals, insects. They would eat the seeds of mango and tamarind, and roasted, ground roots.
They also depend on the forest for healing. One woman hurries off and comes back with a bunch of leaves and roots. She lists out their medicinal benefits. One stems bleeding, these roots control diarrhoea, this one is for toothache...
“My daughter knows what to do for toothaches,” says Landi Shikoka. “She has treated many people in the village. Her jejema (grandmother) taught her. The knowledge is passed from one generation to another. And the people are chosen. Jejema did not tell me, she chose my daughter, who has always had a knack for identifying plants and spends a lot of time in the jungles and hills. Once a man came from outside asking for treatment. ‘Are you sure it will heal me’, he asked. I said, ‘daat na theek kortey parley, pahaar niye niyo (if your tooth doesn’t get better, you can take our hill).”
All this slowly vanished when the city people came. “They’d say ‘Yeh cheez ghatiya hai’. They thought we were moorkh (stupid). Someone in a pant-shirt would ask what we eat and be disgusted when we told him.” This hurt their sense of identity and pride. Then, when their children travelled to towns for education, they were exposed to another kind of food. “They started asking for soya nuggets and Maggi.”
“We noticed that the adivasis had developed an inferiority complex about their diet,” says Biswal. In order to combat the growing alienation from traditional food systems, Living Farms began organising a series of local food festivals in the villages to showcase the richness on their plates. Indigenous seeds and recipes were shared. Children and youth saw the diversity of their food. This has brought back pride in traditional food systems and the community has realised how the forest is a major source of their food. “Adivasis know about the jungle,” says Landi Shikoka. “When adivasis disappear, so will the knowledge, and the forests and the hills.”
Anuradha Sengupta is a freelance journalist who focuses on issues affecting women, youth, environment and urban subcultures.
The above is from "The Hindu".

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Patient Served Meal On Floor In Ranchi Hospital, Was Told 'No Plates'

Reported by , Edited by 
RANCHI: In one of the most disturbing visuals to surface in the middle of a debate over poor facilities in hospitals across the country, a patient eats straight from the floor of a hospital ward in Jharkhand capital Ranchi.

The horrific visual was captured by the newspaper Dainik Bhaskar at the state's biggest government hospital, the Ranchi Institute of Medical Sciences.

Palmati Devi, her right arm wrapped in bandage, ate her meal of rice, dal and vegetables from the floor on Wednesday. Ward boys allegedly first made her clean the floor, despite the fractured arm.

A patient at the orthopaedic ward, Palmati Devi didn't have her own plate and had asked for one, but was rudely told off by kitchen staff who said there were none at the large hospital that has an annual budget of Rs. 300 crore.


The man who served her food on the floor has been sacked and disposable plates have been commissioned.

"It's not a common practice but we have started an inquiry and will take action those who served the food on the floor and then forced her to eat from there,"  BL Sherwal, the hospital's Director, told NDTV.

The state of hospitals and how patients are treated came under intense media glare after a poor tribal in Odisha, Dana Majhi, walked 10 km carrying his dead wife's body on his shoulder after being denied hearse facilities.

Cow Dung Capitalism: Milking the Holy Cow

by Lhendup G Bhutia

“We have got it wrong all this time.” The voice on the other end of the line in Bengaluru is crisp and energetic. Inflected with a slight Kannada accent, it has the distinct quality of someone filled with the certainty of his new business model, perhaps a startup man full of entrepreneurial zeal who believes he has stumbled upon something novel and disruptive.

“The milk is not the main revenue you can source from the cow,” he says. “It is urine and dung.”

What? “Yes, that’s right,” he says in all sincerity. “It is cow urine and dung.”

You would expect a hermit holed up in some Himalayan cave to come up with that. May be even one of the numerous insincere voices you hear in newspapers pulling down butcher shops and wailing for the rights of the Indian cow. But a working professional in the startup capital of the country?

“You don’t believe me?” he asks, and then delves into the math of his business model, launching into a speech with several short pauses, as though he is punching numbers on a calculator while talking. “A cow will live for 15-20 years. Let’s say 15. It will give milk for only some of those years. Say, 12 years. One cow will yield an average of seven litres per day. One litre will get you a maximum of Rs 60 or Rs 70. Now multiply all those numbers. That’s the most you can get from milk in its lifetime… But just consider cow urine. It is always available, however old the cow gets, and with the right marketing, every litre will fetch you a product that costs Rs 150 or more.”

Convinced of his reasoning, Shiva Kumar, the general manager of Maa Gou Products (MGP) who heads the company’s production and distribution, is confident of everlasting success: “Do you see what I mean?”

MGP is one of several businesses aiming to profit from cow urine and dung that have mushroomed in the country over the past few years. This Bengaluru-based firm makes and retails several products, ranging from ayurvedic medicines and ointments to daily consumables, an offer basket that includes many of the classical ‘panchgavya’, the blessed five: cow milk, curd, ghee, urine and dung.

Since its inception in 2011 with a line- up of 20 cow-derived products, MGP has grown rapidly. Today it retails 40 such items, with several more in the pipeline. And it has gone from sales of around Rs 5,000 in its first month of existence to over Rs 25 lakh per month now, as its promoters claim. The brand’s range is available in over 500 ayurveda pharmacies and other outlets across several South Indian cities, with plans of expanding to other parts of the country. Orders can even be placed on e-commerce websites like Bigbasket and Amazon.

“You have to understand us,” says Mahavir Sonika, one of MGP’s promoters who is also the founder of the Bengaluru-based export house Suneeta Impex, “We are not gau rakshaks (cow protectors) out on the roads screaming ‘gau raksha, gau raksha’. We are businessmen. And this is a huge untapped market.”

IN INDIA, SOMETHING strange is occurring. The cow—a symbol both of religious reverence and communal vigilantism— whose value in a modern economy, irrespective of the politics around it, one would assume should decline as increasing numbers adopt urban lifestyles far removed from an agrarian culture, is finding itself the fount of a new form of business. A unique marriage is unfolding here, between ancient belief systems and the market forces of capitalism. Gurujis are turning into businessmen, and businessmen are turning to cows. With demand for alternate systems of healing and therapy on the rise in urban India, the cow is being marketed as a source of infinite well-being. Tradition is now tradition chic. And the cow, a market choice.

Unadulterated cow urine and dung have always been procured from cow-shelters by the traditional for use at home and in temple pujas. What’s recent is the array of therapeutic and beauty products flooding the market that use these as ingredients. There are face packs, bath scrubbers, mosquito coils and incense sticks that contain cow dung. There are creams, cough syrups, body oils, health tonics, weight-loss tonics, and floor disinfectants that contain distilled cow urine. You name it, they have it. And the names of gau mutra or gau arka (cow urine) or cow dung are not hidden away in long lists of fine print on the packages. It is star-lighted right up front as the chief ingredient in bold letters. You can go to a neighbourhood shop and buy it, or drop by a fancy mall and have it bar-code billed before it’s popped into your shopping bag. And, if you so wish, you can even go online and click—or finger tap—yourself a delivery.

“There was always a demand, I think,” Kumar says. “In the past, people only used urine and dung, and you needed to know somebody in a gaushaala (cow shelter), to get them. But who has the time these days, especially in the cities? So what we have done is just made it more accessible, in a more variety of products, in these busy cities.”

Most of these companies that have sprung up are professionally run, with well-planned business models and supply chains. MGP, for instance, was set up with an investment of Rs 1.2 crore by five promoters— among them, apart from Sonika, was Radhye Shyam Goenka, one of the founders of Emami, a well-known herbal products company. “We were clear when we began that we were not going to produce just another bunch of cow products,” Sonika says, “We wanted something very serious and professional, a brand that people could trust.”

The clever marketing of the Indian cow and the growing demand have had a ripple effect on the supply chain all the way back. Cow shelters, for example, are being equipped with computers to address inquiries and keep track of orders. Distillation units are being set up to process hundreds of litres of cow urine. Some shelters have turned partly into manufacturing units. While some make incense sticks and floor disinfectants on a small scale, others ship vast quantities of intermediate goods—distilled urine and dung, mostly—to large companies that specialise in producing ayurvedic, cosmetic and home-care products for mass distribution. Pathmeda Godam in Rajasthan, one of the country’s largest according to its national spokesperson, Poonam Rajpurohit, has two ayurvedic companies housed on its premises: Parthvimeda Gau Pharma Pvt Ltd and Parthvimeda Panchgavya Utpad Pvt Ltd.

We are not gau rakshaks (cow protectors) out on the roads screaming ‘gau raksha, gau raksha’. We are businessmen. And this is a huge untapped market

In Barsana, Uttar Pradesh, employees at a cow shelter wake up before dawn, at around 4 am. With pails and buckets, they bustle around the backsides of cows, hundreds of them, trying to decode telltale signs like a sudden tail or limb movement so that they can catch the first stream of urine. The first discharge of the morning is believed to be especially beneficial to humans. This shelter in Barsana began distilling cow urine to make products like incense sticks two years ago. Today, it has four distillation units that can each process up to 100 litres of urine. Mahesh Soni, a 40-year-old ayurvedic doctor associated with this shelter, believes that Indians in ancient times used to understand the value of cow urine and dung well, and would use these in a variety of ways, but as we have moved on from an agrarian society, we have lost this knowledge. “The cow is a treasure trove of medicines. Its products like urine and dung have several many medicinal qualities. It can treat so many ailments, boost up our immune systems, remove toxicity. In the past, we used to know all this and value the cow. But we have destroyed that system now. Slowly, people are experimenting and creating these products and we are getting to know about it once more.”

When Laxmi Rao, a 63-year-old corporate trainer in Delhi, first raised a glass filled one- fourth with a mixture of one drop of gau ark (distilled cow urine) and water to her lips, she didn’t feel the slightest twinge of nausea. She has an interest in alternate forms of therapy and had been suffering from knee pain and acidity for several years. A recommendation from a friend and some quick online research on the medicinal attributes of cow urine led her to give the mixture a shot. “I wasn’t queasy at all,” she says. “I was more like, ‘What the hell, let me give this a try’.” She knocked back the concoction in almost one whole gulp.

Determined to make a routine of it, Rao began increasing the dosage every day, one drop at a time, until she was soon consuming an entire bottle-capful of urine in a little more than a quarter-full glass of water. “My God, I had such a rush of energy, you know,” she says. “I remember walking around wondering what I should do with all this sudden energy.”

Go out to a nightclub, perhaps? “Yeah,” she laughs, “that crossed my mind.” Anyhow, she began to dilute the dosage. Although she is not sure whether to credit the drink for it, her knee pain and acidity also began to reduce. Rao now consumes the drink only in the winter months because she finds her body heating up after the drink during summers. But she grew so impressed with the therapeutic qualities of cow urine that she began to use other products of similar origin and recommended them to her neighbours and friends.

She recently purchased a face-pack made of cow dung for a friend. She began applying a pain-relief oil made of cow urine on her knees. Her 90-year-old mother, who lives in Coimbatore, is now so habituated to using that oil that she apparently feels nervous if several bottles of it aren’t within reach at any given point of time. The cow dung-based incense sticks—marketed as chemical-free products—that would earlier only be lit for prayers in her house are now a regular feature of her living room. The number of mosquitoes around, she’d observed, tend to dwindle whenever an incense stick is lit. And the ash, dumped in the soil of indoor potted plants, have proved to be such great fertilisers, according to her, that news of this secret manure has spread throughout the neighbourhood. Gardeners have been talking about it with each other and their employers, so much so that she often has to answer calls from absolute strangers who want to know where they can get this fertiliser for their plants.

Almost everyone whom she has spoken with has turned a believer, she says, except her son-in-law. Her daughter’s husband, a business manager at a Singapore-based multinational corporation, has been sceptical of Rao’s belief in cow-based products. But he has now begun to call asking for the pain relief oil. “He now uses it after his gym sessions. Can you believe that? He now calls it ‘the miracle oil’,” Rao says. “From my 90-year-old mother to my 30-year-old son-in-law, and me in between, we all love these products.”

WHAT IS PERHAPS most interesting about these products is how they are being developed and packaged for upmarket consumption in metropolitan cities. About three years ago, for instance, when Anuradha Modi, an animal welfare activist in Delhi, got involved with cow welfare programmes through her NGO Holy Cow Foundation, she began to use products made of cow urine and dung on herself. “I was very surprised. I had no idea that there were such things. The packaging was so tacky, so shabby… But the quality of those products was just so good,” she says. “So I began to say to myself, ‘Why don’t we do something with them?’ ‘Why don’t we take the same products, package them much better, and take it to the cities to the upper classes?’”

Modi began to tie up with cow shelters and get involved in the manufacturing of these products. She began to make small suggestions, like the shampoo (consisting of cow dung) be made less oily. “I told them, ‘Nobody uses it like this anymore’,” she says. She asked a chemical engineer acquaintance, who is involved in the running of another cow shelter, to help her mask the odour of a cow urine-based floor disinfectant. The result, Gaunyle, a much-talked about floor cleanser, has been championed even by Maneka Gandhi. And Modi began to pay a lot of attention to the packaging and marketing of the products. “I wanted to help in cow welfare. But I didn’t want to get tied down by running a cow shelter,” she says. “I realised that there are so many people to whom the cow may not mean much religiously, but who are conscious of their health. Who don’t want to pump chemicals into their bodies and want to lead a more organic lifestyle.”

So Modi came up with The Thela, a snazzy stall in Delhi’s Select Citywalk Mall, where she sells beautifully-packaged face packs, shampoos, creams, body oils, health tonics, weight- loss tonics, and floor disinfectants, among other things, that contain cow dung and distilled urine. She initiated an annual music festival in the mall where she promoted these products. She began to retail them via online stores and introduced corporate gift options for festivals like Diwali. She is currently in the process of putting up three more such stalls in two other posh malls of Delhi.

I wanted to help in cow welfare. But I didn’t want to get tied down by running a cow shelter. I realised that there are so many people to whom the cow may not mean much religiously, but who are conscious of their health

“What I have learnt is that there is a big and growing market for these products out there,” she says. Having seen the popularity of her products, she has begun to tie up with several more cow shelters, even aiding and training employees who don’t work with dung and urine to make simple useful products like incense sticks. “This way, cows become viable even after they stop milking. And they won’t be sent for slaughter.”

LESS THAN A year ago, four computer engineers in Delhi, began to develop a business idea. They visited several cow shelters in and around Delhi, a tour to study the availability of cow-based products, and soon noticed a stark imbalance. “Almost every state had cow shelters making such products. Everyone was doing it,” says Rajesh, who requests his last name be withheld. “But there was no one marketing it.” So, taking a cue from the business model of online stores, the four of them opened GauKranti, an e-commerce portal that sells only cow-based products. Like any other online store, this website has special offers and discounts, a ‘trending’ section of the fastest selling products, and a window that lets customers track their orders. In all, 20 vendors, some of them trusts that manage cow shelters and make these products, sell a total of 650 products on the portal. Although the first few months saw only modest sales, the website now claims a monthly average figure of Rs 5-6 lakh as a topline. “It’s crazy,” says Rajesh, “People are buying from all parts of India. There are often orders even from the US, Europe, New Zealand and Japan.”

As of now, the business is still in startup mode. The four entrepreneurs take turns to field customer calls and queries. The products are mostly stored in their own homes. They are delivered through a courier service from either their homes or directly from vendors, and often take a week to reach the customer. But the business has begun to grow so rapidly that the four plan to rent a warehouse soon to stock their products. And with the portal now showing signs of sustainability, like any other new business venture, they hope to raise a round of funds from investors and venture capitalists. “The business model is there. It’s already doing well. With some funding, we hope to make it more efficient, employ a customer support staff, and advertise the portal and the products more.”

But despite the slick approach of several of these businesses, at the heart of it, the broad objective of almost all of them is to protect the Indian cow from slaughter. The profit surpluses generated by many of them are either entirely offered or generously shared with cow shelters. They believe that unlike cows of foreign species, which have undergone many genetic mutations, the Indian cow is special. Sonikar of MGP says that the company has even been testing a range of ayurvedic medicines based on cow urine and dung to treat various forms of cancer. “The hump of the Indian cow you see acts like an antenna,” he elaborates, “So when you provide the best of feeds or allow the cow to graze freely, the food processed within the body and the sun’s beneficial rays harnessed through the hump create dung and urine that is extremely helpful.”

Several of the cow shelters that have taken to the market are associated with religious leaders or right-wing organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Many of the businessmen and entrepreneurs have themselves been goaded on by their gurus to look for ways to promote cow products. The founders of MGP, for instance follow Sri Sri Raghaveshwara Bharathi, guru of the Shri Ramachandrapura Math in Karnataka. The entrepreneurs of GauKranti are followers of Guru Gopal Mani Ji Maharaj, who delivers sermons at various venues in north India.

Soumitra Banerjee, a professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata and general secretary of Breakthrough Science Society, which promotes scientific and rational thinking, believes there is nothing special in cow excreta. “There is no basis to any of these claims. Sometimes it is said cow urine is like jet fuel for ancient airplanes and now we have beauty products with cow urine and dung.”

Sonikar, however, is convinced about the special qualities of the Indian cow. Talking about the several new products MGP is currently developing, including a soap which can be used as shaving lather as well, Sonikar lets on that some years ago, Baba Ramdev, whose Patanjali brand also has a vast range of cow urine-based products, approached the promoters of MGP. At the time, they had invested about Rs 1.2 crore in the business and it still hadn’t quite picked up yet. Claims Soniker, “Baba Ramdev was offering to buy all our distilled cow urine at a very good rate.” But the promoters declined the offer.

“Why should we [sell out]?” he asks. “We just had to wait a while. The urine is just a raw material. The real business is in making urine products.”

The above is from "OPEN", 16th September, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

NASA: We Didn't Change Your Zodiac Sign, Astrology isn't Real

There are actually 13 astrological signs instead of 12, meaning that 86 percent of all people were actually born under a different sign. 
This is old news, but Capricorns, Sagittarii, and everyone in between flipped out last week and incorrectly blamed NASA. However, the space agency would like everyone to know that they didn’t change anything. 

NASA’s reasoning? 
Astrology isn’t even real in the first place, so chill out, you superstitious dolts.

“Did you recently hear that NASA changed the zodiac signs? Nope, we definitely didn’t,” the agency posted Tuesday on its Tumblr, which feels like the appropriate medium.

“Here at NASA, we study astronomy, not astrology,” the post — which is a masterclass on shade — continues. “We didn’t change any zodiac signs, we just did the math.” NASA then proceeds to explain that the former is a science that intelligent people devote their lives to, and the later is hooey.

“Astrology is something else,” NASA says. “It’s not science. No one has shown that astrology can be used to predict the future or describe what people are like based on their birth dates.”

NASA goes on to explain what happened. 
Some 3,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians divided the Zodiac into an even 12 pieces. Each “slice” was represented by a constellation that the sun would appear to pass through at differing points of the year as the Earth orbited around the sun.
The Babylonians, NASA says, cheated a bit. The sun didn’t actually pass through each constellation for a consistent, month-long timespan. It varied immensely. On top of that, the Babylonians knew there was a thirteenth constellation, Ophiuchus, but that wouldn’t have lined up with their calendar, so they just didn’t include it. Also, the sky has shifted because Earth’s axis has changed a bit over the course of 3,000 years.

To summarize, all NASA said it did was actually show what the Zodiac really looks like. It didn’t change Zodiac signs because, honestly, NASA doesn’t give a shit about whether you’re a Leo or a Virgo since astrology isn’t real.

But … you know, if it were real, here’s what sign you’d be under with the current 13-sign Zodiac chart. 
NASA added the thirteenth sign, Ophiuchus, and actually noted the dates when the sun actually passes through each sign, rather than dividing them up evenly and arbitrarily. 

On its website, NASA explains how, since the axis of the Earth has tilted over the course of 3,000 years, the dates are slightly different than they were back then, since the path of the sun through the constellations has changed. It’s unlikely that there will be another axis tilt large enough to change the dates in our lifetimes, so the chart below is what you’re stuck with.

Capricorn: January 20 - February 16
Aquarius: February 16 - March 11
Pisces: March 11 - April 18
Aries: April 18 - May 13
Taurus: May 13 - June 21
Gemini: June 21- July 20
Cancer: July 20 - August 10
Leo: August 10 - September 16
Virgo: September 16 - October 30
Libra: October 30 - November 23
Scorpio: November 23 - 29
Ophiuchus: November 29 - December 17
Sagittarius: December 17 - January 20

Do you have faith in astrology?

This is a question often asked by people who believe in astrology and horoscopes.

I had a brother-in-law who swore by it and a son-in-law who also studies and horoscopes and predicts.

NASA says that the signs of the Zodiac was first invented by the Babylonians some 3000 years ago but predictions have been made right from the time of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. We had predictions during the time of Buddha and also during the time of Christ when the three wise men went to Bethlehem on seeing a Star.

My view is that Astrology is not an exact science but an approximate science. It does not tell you that 2 + 2=4. It tells you that 2+2 may be 3, 4 or 5. It is something like the slide rule used by engineers, giving approximate results which may vary, depending upon the angle from which you view the lines.

It is like doctors examining patients. 
Three doctors, examining the same patient will see the same pulse, BP, tongue and temperature readings but they will give different interpretations, diagnosis and medicines. Thus one doctor may be may be considered very good if the patient is cured and the others, well so so.

Yes, after blood reports, X-rays, ECGs, Doppler, MRIs, the diagnosis is more accurate but the medicines may vary. One doctor may give one or two medicines and another may fill the whole page with medicines.

Similarly, the interpretations of the same horoscope of the various astrologers vary and so do their accuracy. But even the most accurate predictions will vary greatly from the actual events.
Astrologers, mask this by intentionally being very ambiguous.
Once a palmist in Patna, was looking at the palms of my landlord's family. He took my palm and asked me if I believed in Palmistry.
I told him, I do not, but I enjoy what you say, but say only good things.
I keep the same attitude for astrology.