Friday, December 25, 2015

Maharashtra :3 resident docs get TB, seek better work norms

AURANGABAD: Three resident doctors in government hospitals across the state have been detected with pulmonary tuberculosis in the past one month, prompting the Maharashtra Association for Resident Doctors (MARD) to seek reduction in working hours.

The three TB cases reported in the past one month were from Mumbai, two from JJ hospital and one from KEM. One junior resident doctor was working in the gynaecology department of the JJ hospital and had contracted lymph node TB, while the other doctor was detected with lung TB.

JJ medical college dean TP Lahane said, "Both residents had joined the hospital in August and were diagnosed with TB in November. They may have contracted TB before joining the hospital, but they do not reveal the details."

He added that all precautionary measures are being initiated at the hospital. "We have made it mandatory for the staff, including the doctors, to wear mask before entering the TB ward since last year," he said.

Resident doctors said that they have to work for long hours, often lasting for 100 hours a week, which causes inadequate sleep and irregular eating hours. They said that the residents living in hostels do not get proper nutritious food.

Mangala Borkar, head of medicine department, Aurangabad GMCH said tremendous stress, long-working hours, lack of nutritious diet for students staying in hostels and high exposure to TB patients in the hospitals put resident doctors at a higher risk.

"Resident doctors tend to have fewer meals as a result of hectic work schedule and night shifts. This reduces their immunity and makes them vulnerable to various infections," said MARD secretary Ayudh Magdum.

About 90 resident doctors at 15 state government hospitals have undergone TB treatment in past three years. MARD members said that some of the resident doctors had contracted drug-resistant TB. About 50% of the cases were from the medical colleges in Mumbai, including the state-run JJ hospital.

MARD president Sagar Mundada said that 45 cases were of resident doctors in Mumbai, 10 from Nagpur, seven from Aurangabad, six from Pune and five from Nanded. "We have been demanding high-protein breakfast to be made available for resident doctors and reducing working hours. Resident doctors are working for an average 100 hours per week, which leads to lack of sleep and decreased immunity," he said.

Dismissing the MARD claim, Aurangabad GMCH authorities said that they had not recorded any cases of resident doctors contracting tuberculosis in the past three years.

Avinash Lamb, TB and chest ward in-charge, said that the hospital records do not show any such cases in past three years. "One case of a resident doctor from medicine department suffering from extra pulmonary TB was reported few years ago. But the medico underwent treatment, recovered and completed her degree. She is no longer attached to the college," he said.

Hyatt Hotels infected with payment-card stealing malware


  • The following is from the Business Line

Hyatt Hotels Corp said on Wednesday that its payment processing system was infected with credit-card-stealing malware in an attack discovered three weeks ago, the latest in a series of breaches at hospitality firms.
Company spokeswoman Stephanie Sheppard said in an email late on Wednesday that the attack was discovered on November 30.
She did not say if the attackers succeeded in stealing payment card numbers, how long its network was infected or how many of the chain’s 627 hotels were affected.
“Customers should review their payment-card account statements closely and report any unauthorized charges to their card issuer immediately,” she said.
Hyatt, controlled by the billionaire Pritzker family, is the fourth major hotel operator to warn of a breach since October. Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc last month disclosed attacks on payment processing systems. Donald Trump’s luxury hotel chain, Trump Hotel Collection, also confirmed the possibility of a data security incident.
FireEye Inc said that Hyatt had hired it to help the company investigate the attack. FireEye’s Mandiant unit is one of the biggest providers of response services to companies that are victims of cyber attacks.

Representatives at a Hyatt call centre set up to handle inquiries about the breach said the malware was programmed to collect payment cardholder names, card numbers, expiration dates and internal verification codes.
“We have taken steps to strengthen the security of our systems,” Sheppard said in the email.
“Customers can feel confident using payment cards at Hyatt hotels worldwide.”
Hyatt did not disclose the type of malware used in the attack.
The company said that customers should look for information on the attack at protectingourcustomers.
Cyber intelligence firm iSight Partners in late November warned merchants about a new strain of payment-card-stealing malware dubbed ModPOS that it said evades almost all security software.
iSight held briefings with dozens of firms, including hospitality companies and retailers, to provide them with information on how to uncover ModPOS infections.

Is your micro-wave safe? A check.

When was the last time you checked your microwave for radiation?
Leakage? Yes, I did say radiation leakage, because any microwave can
start leaking radiation any time, for whatever reasons. And such a
leakage is hazardous to humans and pets in the house. You don't need
to call in experts or to send your microwave to the dealer's workshop
for a le
akage test. That's time consuming, inconvenient and costly.
Here's how you can test your microwave for radiation leakage, right in
your own house, at no cost. Just follow these simple steps.....
1. Switch-off and unplug the microwave from the electrical socket.
2. Place your mobile phone inside the microwave and shut the door.
3. Using another mobile phone, dial the phone that's inside the microwave.
4. If the outside phone says "the number you are dialing is not reachable, or is out of coverage area, or is switched off; then your microwave is safe.
5. But if the phone inside the microwave
lights up and rings, your microwave is leaking radiation. Just throw away the damn thing and get a new one. (Believe me, the medical
treatment of the side-effects of radiation leaks is costlier than the price of maybe 10 new microwaves.)
Remember, just because the door of
your microwave appears to shut properly does not conclusively mean
that it is not leaking radiation. Stay safe, and test your microwave regularly at frequent intervals; the frequency of testing depending on the extent of usage, and you are the best judge of that

Is the CBI the Pet poodle of the Central Government?

Vishwanath Chaturvedi has a pleasant demeanour, but he can still irritate you with his persistence. For many years, the 50-year-old has been going on mostly about a single topic since he landed in Delhi with his Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court. He was a much-sought-after figure in the initial years of his Delhi visits, but as time rolled on, his PIL, sensational initially, began to lose its news value, and reporters no longer sought him out.
The subject of his PIL, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family, meanwhile, continue to flourish in Indian politics, packing in many of their extended clan into Parliament and the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly. Mr. Chaturvedi’s allegations against them, that the Yadav family had accumulated assets worth over Rs.100 crore between 1999 and 2005, remain merely that, allegations.
Josy Joseph
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which was tasked by the apex court with investigating the allegations, has amply demonstrated during the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government what is wrong with its conduct and what hampers its independence.
The story is not isolated to the case against Mr. Yadav alone. It is the larger story of most other high profile, politically important investigations by the CBI. A disproportionate assets case against Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati is dragging along in a similar fashion.
Pattern of swings
Other than political scandals, the other high-profile cases handled by the CBI in recent years have regularly been big defence scams. Starting with the Bofors scandal, in which people close to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were accused of accepting kickbacks from the Swedish arms company in the mid-1980s, the CBI has occupied much public mindscape with claims about defence scandals. But the fact remains that in not one of those cases has the CBI successfully prosecuted the accused.
The direction of the CBI investigation into the Bofors scandal kept swinging depending on whether the Congress party was in power or not. During the tenure of the UPA, the CBI told the U.K.’s crown prosecutor that there was no case against the key accused Ottavio Quattrocchi, put up a weak case for extraditing him from Argentina and withdrew the Interpol notice against him.
The fate of other arms scandals investigated by the agency has not been very different. A slew of cases registered by the UPA government against arms purchases sanctioned by the previous Atal Bihari Vajpayee government have mostly been closed without any evidence in recent times.
Sometimes the political efforts to control, or manipulate, the CBI emerge in public. In 2013, the Supreme Court severely criticised the then Law Minister, Ashwani Kumar, for trying to interfere with investigations into irregularities in coal block allocations, forcing his resignation from the Cabinet. The court said the “heart of the report was changed on the suggestions of government officials”.
A visible pattern of the CBI becoming a handmaiden to the party in power is now a permanent theme in Indian politics. As a result, high-profile cases either get dragged on, or appear to be argued poorly.
Given this backdrop, it was not very surprising to see the CBI receive widespread flak for carrying out araid in Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Secretariat early this week, albeit on his principal secretary. Unleashing the CBI on political rivals has been a standard practice in Indian politics for years now. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Congress party leaders, all have cried foul about the misuse of the CBI sometime or the other, but once in power at the Centre, they turn defensive about charges of interfering in the agency’s functioning.
The shifting sands of politics
The case against Mulayam Singh came to the apex court first in November 2005. On March 1, 2007 it ordered a CBI enquiry into the case. On October 26, 2007, the CBI completed its preliminary inquiry and submitted a damning indictment of the Yadav clan. “On the basis of result of aforesaid enquiry, registration of a Regular Case” under various sections against Mr. Yadav, his son Akhilesh and “others is warranted,” the CBI concluded.
Citing the seriousness of the case, the CBI in March 2008 demanded early hearing into the case. Mulayam Singh Yadav, by then, was out of power in Uttar Pradesh and without much sway at the Centre, even though he was supporting the UPA government from outside.
However, the unpredictability of Indian politics came to his rescue, with the Left Front refusing to budge from its stance against the India-U.S. nuclear deal — on which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh soon staked his premiership. Changing tack, the Samajwadi Party reversed its opposition to the deal and backed Dr. Singh, bailing out his government in a confidence vote in July 2008.
On December 6, 2008, the CBI filed in the Supreme Court: “In view of the legal advice and directions of the Union of India, the IA (intervention application) filed by CBI may be allowed to be withdrawn.”
As relations between the SP and Congress nosedived soon after, the premier investigating agency filed a fresh affidavit before the court on March 30, 2009. This time it said that it “still stands by its status report dated 26.10.2007,” referring to its original recommendation for cases against the Yadav clan. In less than a year’s time, the CBI had gone from recommending criminal investigations against the Yadav clan to seeking permission to end it all to expressing readiness again to investigate the case — stances that reflected the shifting sands of politics.
By December 2012, the apex court exempted Dimple Yadav, Akhilesh’s wife, from the case, and in September 2013, then CBI chief Ranjit Sinha said he was sending a closure report to the apex court because of insufficient evidence. However, there is no such official communication with the apex court yet, and no court order.
CBI officials and other observers are not surprised by the fate of the Mulayam case. “The conviction rate of CBI is actually quite poor if you were to look specifically at cases involving senior politicians or business houses,” says a veteran CBI officer. “Even in ordinary corruption cases, we often find that the witnesses turn hostile, and the investigation officers get transferred out.”
Political manipulation and internal sabotage are twin challenges that have dogged the CBI throughout. Many old-timers in the agency point towards the career graph of Ranjit Sinha, who is now under probe by a Supreme Court-appointed committee for allegedly interfering with high-profile cases and scuttling them, to understand how the government of the day continues to have a stranglehold over the agency. As a DIG associated with the investigation into the fodder scam case involving Lalu Prasad and others, Mr. Sinha was accused of favouring those under investigation. One officer who was involved in the internal reports on Mr. Sinha, which led to him being forced out of the CBI in 2006, says: “Years later, he returned to head the CBI, and we, the ones who had caught him favouring the accused, were now reporting to him.”
The way out
The arrest of Ashfaq Hussain Lone, an alleged militant belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen, on March 25, 1991, wasn’t anything out of the routine. However, as investigations picked up pace, the CBI raided the premises of well known hawala dealers Surendra Kumar Jain and his brothers who had supplied money to Lone. The CBI recovered two diaries and two notebooks from the Jain brothers. The diaries contained details of payments made by them to various people. All of them were identified by initials. The names of over 115 senior politicians and bureaucrats were matched to the initials in the diaries. Among those who figured in it were L.K. Advani, V.C. Shukla, Balram Jakhar and Sharad Yadav. Over Rs.65 crore had allegedly been distributed by the Jain brothers to the persons on the list.
Outraged over the way case was moving, journalist Vineet Narain moved the Supreme Court to ensure autonomy for the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). The landmark judgment in Vineet Narain v. Union of India in 1997 laid out several steps to secure the autonomy of CBI. Says Mr. Narain: “Limited autonomy was granted. Still the administrative and financial control wrests with the Ministry of Personnel, and thus the government can directly control CBI.”
Of late, especially since allegations against Ranjit Sinha emerged, Mr. Narain points out that many have come to realise that if you give absolute power to CBI, it could end up becoming draconian. “It is a fine line,” he says.
A retired CBI officer points out that many would argue that greater autonomy to the CVC could be the solution. “The CVC monitoring is working to the extent possible. However, we never had absolute power over them, given the kind of pressure faced by the CBI from government,” says a former Vigilance Commissioner.
The CBI, run by IPS officers on deputation, is also susceptible to the government’s ability to manipulate the senior officers, because they are dependent on the Central government for future postings. One of the demands that has been before Supreme Court, and in line with international best practices, is for the CBI to develop its own dedicated cadre of officers who are not bothered about deputation and abrupt transfers. The CBI did recruit some officers in the past to its cadre, but that effort has gone nowhere, and all senior posts in the CBI are now held by Indian Police Service (IPS) officers.
Parliamentary oversight
It is also possible to consider granting the CBI and other federal investigation agencies the kind of autonomy that the Comptroller and Auditor General enjoys—he is only accountable to Parliament. A more efficient parliamentary oversight over the federal criminal and intelligence agencies could be a way forward to ensure better accountability, despite concerns regarding political misuse of the oversight.
The CBI continues to operate under a notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on April 1, 1963, for investigating crimes under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which derives its legacy from concerns during World War II regarding misappropriation of war spending. “A comprehensive act of Parliament setting out the autonomy, powers, etc. is the first step towards improving the CBI’s autonomy,” says a CBI officer.
Will Parliament rise to the challenge?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Although many eyebrows were raised but there was no hide and sick when disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, appeared at the gala celebration of the marriage of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s daughter last week (see news below). Of course, the marriage party was also attended by other BJP leaders and top Bollywood stars. Last year, it was a lavish party to celebrate the marriage of Desai’s daughter in Ahmedabad where most BJP leaders including the party president, Mr. Amit Shah and several sitting central ministers joined the party.
There is no secret anymore about the cozy relationship between the BJP-led central government leaders and corrupt Dr. Desai who is still facing criminal trial for alleged bribery and corruption for which he was caught red-handed by the CBI in 2010 when Desai was still the MCI president. While the CBI case against Dr. Desai is still going on in the court, the top bosses of the government are shamelessly roaming in the public with the accused Dr. Desai. Affidavits filed in the Apex Court in another related ongoing case showed that Dr. Desai even secretly met with the CBI Director while the case against him was still being investigate. As Supreme Court has said on many occasions that justice should not only be done but it must also appear to be done – Is there any hope to see Dr. Desai ever brought to justice? And what about our PM who swept to power on the band-wagon of “anti-corruption”?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


In an open debate before a public forum aired in NDTV today (Dec. 6), top leader of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and several private hospital as well as diagnostic center owners argued that government must impose a “cap” or limit on the maximum amount of compensation that the negligent doctor/hospital may have to pay for causing wrongful death of a patient. Although the doctor-leaders did not explicitly say what would be the amount of this “cap”, IMA has been claiming for a long time that no hospital or doctor should pay more than Rs. 10 lakh for death of a patient under any condition. Dr. K.K Aggarwal, IMA Secretary-general and a long-time close associate of disgraced ex-MCI president Dr. Ketan Desai, attempted to make a laughable argument that IMA is demanding for a “cap” in medical negligence cases not to protect the doctors/hospitals but only for the sake of the “poor” patients of India. The doctor-leaders also asserted that Judges in the consumer courts or even in the Supreme Court are not equipped to adjudicate appropriate compensation in “medical negligence” cases because Judges are not able to understand the complex science of medicine. However, PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha also participated in this discussion through the Internet from his residence in USA and strongly argued that the idea to put a “cap” for compensation in medical negligence cases is totally misguided. Dr. Saha also argued that despite medical rules and regulations, private hospitals and doctors charge exorbitantly and bankrupt many patients and their families, often through bogus testing and medical procedure. He demanded that government should assure strict accountability for all doctors and hospitals if there is any hope to end the rampant incidence of medical practice in India. Mr. Sishir Chand, PBT coordinator in Delhi (Tel: 9810919282) also attended this public forum. The entire NDTV program may be viewed at the following link:

Lack of transparency in finances of parties affects governance, trust of people:

Lack of transparency in finances of parties affects governance, trust of people: 
ADR round table general consensus

New Delhi: Over 20 speakers, including Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj (AAP MLA, Delhi), former CEC, Dr S. Y. Quaraishi, Former Information Commissioners, Shri Shailesh Gandhi and Shri M. L. Sharma, and eminent journalists including Shri Amit Baruah (Managing Editor, The Hindu) and Shri Satya Prakash (Legal Editor, Hindustan Times) spoke on the issue ofTransparency in finances of political parties, at the Round Table organised by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) at India Internal Centre, here today.
The Round Table began with a brief introduction by Founder-Trustee of ADR, Prof Trilochan Sastry, emphasised the need for ushering in greater financial transparency in the functioning of political parties and hoping to get concrete suggestions from the panel for action to improve the current scenario.

While speaking on the session titled ‘Legal recourse to oppose the blatant disregard of rules on financial transparency by political parties’, Shri M.L. Sharma stated, “…. the only way to achieve transparency in finances of political parties is that the Supreme Court upholds the decision of the Central Information Commission bringing political parties under RTI but the Apex court also ensures that all parties obey the order by imposing such a penalty that would deter them from being opaque in their finances”. “….. transparency only in the finances of political parties through the Right to Information Act and not other aspects of functioning, such as ticket distribution, will set a dangerous precedent”, said Shri Shailesh Gandhi.

Shri P.K.Dash, former Director-General (Expenditure) at the Election Commission of India, who is currently the Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, felt that the current laws on finances and functioning of political parties is ambivalent. He felt, “…. a further opaque layer in the funding of political parties has been created due to the presence of Electoral Trusts which are created and managed by corporate houses”. He also added, ”The future course of action for ushering in transparency would depend on the decision of the Supreme Court bringing political parties under RTI, pro-active interest of the ECI and public pressure through PILs and mass media campaigns”.

While talking about the various legal roadblocks faced in ushering in transparency in the finances of political parties, noted RTI Activist, Shri Subash Chandra Agarwal agreed with Shri Shailesh Gandhi’s views on transparency and added that the issue could be sorted out by focusing on filing RTI applications and PILs for larger public interest.

President of PRS Legislative Research, Shri M.R.Madhavan, spoke on the issue of ‘Conflict of Interest and its repercussions on Indian Democracy’ and stated, “Unfortunately, the Rajya Sabha has a Register of Members’ Interest while the Lok Sabha, with a comparatively larger number of MPs, does not. While it is important to have members of the parliament from various spheres such as educational experts and businessmen, it is also crucial to not let conflict of interest come in the way of effective law making”.  

Talking on the session titled Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance – their presence and absence”, ShriSatya Prakash, Legal Editor, Hindustan Times, opined that the founding fathers had blundered by not providing any provisions in the Constitution nor the Representation of the People Act to deal with the finances or functioning of political parties. He said, “The ECI can register political parties, however in case of gross irregularities, it does not have any power to deregister the parties”. He stressed that the focus must shift from individual candidates to political parties themselves, because the party system is ultimately running the entire political system.

Shri Venkatesh Nayak of the CHRI, speaking on the same issue felt that the political parties are an instrumentality of government hence they cannot have private interests, as they publicly claim to represent the people’s interests. He said, “There is no credible mechanism within the government to scrutinize filing of statements such as audit reports, donations report and the expenditure statements by parties”.

Saurabh Bhardwaj, MLA, AAP, personally felt it was an uphill battle. He felt there was not enough coverage given to the counter affidavit in the UOI vs Political parties under RTI in Supreme Court. He said, “…. there is a nexus between politicians, media and corporates”. He fully supported transparency in political parties, and mentioned loopholes like no limits on political parties’ expenditure during elections lead to increase use of black money. He felt that there should be more public opinion building through debates on this issue. Prof Chhokar, Founder-Trustee of ADR suggested that the AAP should pro-actively appoint a Central Public Information Officer and provide information to the public for promoting transparency. He also felt that all parties should commit to come under the ambit of the RTI as it would benefit them in the longer run.

Speaking on the session titled “Exploring the possibility of scrutiny of statements submitted by political parties”, Shri Shahid Khan, Former CBDT member, said, “On the one hand, RTI is a tool that every citizen needs to utilize to learn more about the finances and functioning of political parties, whereas filing of PILs in the courts is also one of the strengths. But, that alone will not bring about the change that is required to improve transparency in parties. The need of the hour is to bring in a law exclusive to regulate the registration and functioning of political parties.”

Final speaker of the session was Shri Amit Baruah who said that the people now have an opportunity to bring political parties under the ambit of the RTI Act. A wholesome solution will not be achieved unless the funding of political parties are not looked into.

For a copy of the Agenda and the background notes, please refer to

Association for Democratic Reforms
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New Delhi-110 049

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

A study in contrast - The normal People with the Devilish Politicians

From Biju Verghese
The Spirit Of Chennai

While the entire nation is debating on the"Non-sense" called "Intolerance", there is humanity at its best in Chennai. I can tell this for sure because, I stay in Qatar and my family (wife and 2 kids aged 11 and 7) are in Chennai. 

With all the floods and problems, I am getting the message from them, "We are safe".
In the wake of calamity, Chennai is "One". It has only one religion, "Humanity"; 
It has only one enemy, "Water"; there is only one aim "Help". 
And they did it in style. 

When they were offering help, they didn't ask whether you are"Hindu" or a "Christian" Or a"Muslim". They didn't ask whether you are"Rich" or "Poor". They didn't ask whether you are a "Tamlian", "Malayalee", "Telugu","Kannadiga" or "North Indian". Only one question they asked; "Do you need any help?

The rich people, my neighbors who never interacted with anybody in the neighborhood in last 4 years, opened the gates of their huge house. The man stood outside and welcomed people to his house. 

"We will eat whatever we have. We will share whatever we have. You can stay here until the water recedes" thats all he had said.. He accommodated around 35 people in his house. 
He is a Hindu Brahmin. He provided mat for the Muslims to do Namaz. He allowed Christians to pray in his Pooja room.There were volunteers outside helping people to reach safe places. 

They used anything and everything as tools until the army people reached. Once the experts came, they gave the leadership to the more experienced and helped them to help others. 

My wife told me that, there were groups of people going through the streets with neck deep water and asking "Sir / Madam, do you need any help?" in front of every house. They provided whatever help they could and they distributed food and essentials. There were groups providing cellphone batteries for 5 minutes to anybody who wanted to talk. 
I have seen people fight for food when there is a calamity. Even the most modern countries, when there is a calamity, people fight for food. They think only about themselves at that time. But, when the food was distributed in Chennai, it was calm. People stood in queues and they have given food for the people who are not able to stand in queues (elderly, mothers and kids). 

They brought boats. They made temporary rafts and just went on helping people. 
On top of all these things, this is what my kids are seeing. This is what they are learning. How to help each other at the time of need. It goes straight into their brain. The images gets implanted there. And then, when there is another calamity, they know what to do.. How to survive..How to get help and how to help others... 

This is what I want my kids to learn.. Humanity, without boundaries....There is no wonder that, Chennai is one of the oldest cities in the world. It has survived everything thrown at it.. It will definitely remain so for ever. They are united.They can beat anything.. They can survive anything...

I am a proud Chennaite... I will never forget this in my life!  A city which gave me and my family safety in the hour of need..
Thank you Chennai!.. Thank you Indian Army!  Thanks you India!!!

Jaya stickers hijack relief effort
- Largely missing during crisis, Amma back in view on rice bags
G.C. Shekhar
Chennai, Dec. 5: Jayalalithaa's benign smile is greeting flood victims when they receive relief materials, whether from the government or from private or voluntary agencies.

Her party functionaries and officials are ensuring that "Amma" will be the face of the humanitarian operations by pasting her stickers on relief material before they reach the beneficiaries.

The chief minister has been seen in public just once during the floods, zipping through her RK Nagar constituency for an hour when the first phase of flooding occurred in late November.

After the December deluge she undertook one aerial survey a few hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived for his survey. She did not address the media on Friday, deputing her ministers and officials instead.

But when it comes to relief operations, Amma's visibility will increase manifold. At government offices, rice from 20kg bags are being repacked into 5kg packs with an Amma sticker on top, so whoever receives a bag will see it as a gift from Jayalalithaa.
Relief materials sent to Chennai by voluntary agencies or individuals from other districts too are being intercepted and pasted with the Amma stickers.

"Six of our trucks with relief materials were stopped by AIADMK cadres at Sriperumbudur. They unloaded them, stuck the stickers and put them back in the truck," complained Coimbatore businessman William Daniel.
The practice had begun in Cuddalore, the first district to suffer badly in the November rain.
Initially, there were complaints that AIADMK cadres had hijacked the supplies and distributed them at colonies of their choice, with Jayalalithaa banners displayed behind them to portray the effort as a ruling party initiative.
After complaints, the administration asked all relief materials to be routed through the district collectors. It was here that officials and party workers resorted to the repackaging and labelling.
When the donors discovered this, many of them protested and some stopped sending the material.

But after the December 1 floods, there was again a spurt in relief materials arriving in Chennai. Ruling party workers, facing flak because of the invisibility of their ministers, MLAs and councillors, saw their chance to make it appear as though a caring government had swung into action.
"They printed thousands of Amma labels in no time," a relief volunteer from an NGO said.

The brazen branding of the relief materials has invited snide remarks on the social media. The AIADMK, which usually shrugs off such complaints, has reacted quickly with a media release promising punishment for party cadres hindering relief or threatening volunteers.
"This is nothing but mischief to discredit the government's good work in flood relief," the release said, listing phone numbers, email accounts and Twitter handles where complaints can be sent.

"Wherever pictures of the chief minister are being used on relief material, it is the official relief that is being distributed," it added.
The party's anxiety to stem the controversy comes at a time its ministers and MLAs have been facing public anger whenever they venture into the field to inspect the damage and monitor relief.

On Friday, at Jayalalithaa's R.K. Nagar constituency in north Chennai, ministers N. Viswanathan and Gokul Indira were asked to get off their cars and chastised by angry constituents, who asked them why the mayor and councilors had been missing all these days.

Viswanathan, the power minister, had no answer when asked why electricity had not been restored three days after the rain.
As the crowd got restive, the police whisked the two ministers away while the former MLA Vetrivel, who had vacated the seat for Jayalalithaa, was punched.
The defence forces and the National Disaster Response Force have earned praise for their rescue efforts, but the flood victims are critical of the poor follow-up by the state authorities.

"They have not managed to distribute even packaged drinking water after four days. Where is the Amma mineral water they had marketed with such fanfare?" asked M. Bhaskar, a resident of West Mambalam.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Highway cash detour sting

Calcutta, Dec. 3: A Calcutta High Court bench wondered today whether central funds meant as land compensation for expanding a key national highway in Bengal had been "distributed from the Netaji Indoor Stadium recently".

The judge did not specify which programme he was referring to.
At a state sports department event on December 1, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced a grant of Rs 140 crore for 10,000 sport clubs.

"The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had already handed over funds for compensation to the state government. Then why haven't the land losers got their compensation? Am I to understand that the sum has been distributed from the Netaji Indoor Stadium recently?" Justice Sanjib Banerjee asked the state-empanelled standing counsel.

Pranab Dutta, standing counsel of the state, remained silent. The court granted five days to clear the compensation dues to hundreds of people from whom land was acquired for the expansion of NH 34, which links Calcutta airport to north Bengal and is often described as the backbone of the state.

The court was hearing petitions moved by a section of landlosers of Murshidabad, who said they were yet to get the compensation five years after their plots were acquired.
A week ago, the judge had directed the state to start the process of disbursing compensation and report the progress. Today, no one appeared from the government pleader's office and only the standing counsel was present.
"This is like cutting of (the) nose to spite the face," the judge said, referring to the state government's approach vis-à-vis the expansion of the highway.
"I will have to take adverse action," Justice Banerjee told the state-empanelled lawyer, asking him to complete the process of distribution of compensation in five days.

The Mamata government had come under criticism earlier in connection with the highway expansion because of the administration's unwillingness to acquire land for the project in line with the ruling party's hands-off land policy.

After waiting till late 2014 for handover of the land by the state government, the NHAI offered the land losers higher compensation.
Land for national highways is acquired under the National Highways Act, 1956. Under the provisions of the act, the additional district magistrate (land acquisition) in a particular district acts as the nodal officer for the acquisition process on behalf of the NHAI.
"The NHAI transfers the amount required for compensation to the account of the nodal officer.... It is the nodal officer's responsibility to distribute the compensation to the landlosers," said a senior NHAI official.

Separate protests - for compensation and against acquisition itself - have brought to a halt the highway expansion between Beldanga and Farakka in Murshidabad.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Female hormone supplements can increase breast cancer risk

Post-menopausal women who use female hormone supplements containing estrogen and progestin ("combination" therapy) are at an increased risk for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, says a new study.

The study found that the overall increase in risk was 50 percent, with greater increases for recent and long-term users.

Prior epidemiologic studies have been based largely in white women, which stated, use of combination therapy was associated with an increased risk of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, the most commonly occurring breast cancer subtype, which is known to be sensitive to hormonal factors.

Whether postmenopausal female hormone therapy has the same effects in black women has been unknown up to this point.

Researchers from the Boston University in the US led an investigation of this association in data from the four large studies of black women.

Two types of postmenopausal female hormone use, combination therapy and use of estrogen alone were assessed in relation to risk of estrogen receptor positive and negative breast cancer.

Similar to findings in white women, use of combination therapy was associated with increased risk of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, with risk increasing as the duration increased.

"The present findings establish that combination therapy in black women is associated with increased risk of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, similar to the pattern in white women," explained co-author Lynn Rosenberg from the Slone Epidemiology Centre in the US.

The risk declined after cessation of use but was still somewhat elevated up to 10 years later.

There was no increase in risk associated with use of estrogen alone, nor was there any increase in risk of estrogen receptor negative breast cancer associated with use of either combination therapy or estrogen alone.

The study appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The above is from the newsletter I receive from ET

Mark Zuckerberg inspires Indians to write to their children

Now that Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg have written an open letter to their new-born daughter, Max, many of India's illustrious wealthy are crafting their own letters. 

Here is a sneak preview of a letter that a typical Indian industrialist family is writing to their children. 

Dear Beta and Beti: 

Every time we fly to meet you at your finishing school in Switzerland or your Ivy League university in USA, your mother and I don't have the words to describe the hope you give us for the future. 
Your life is full of promise. When I was studying in USA after having grown up in India, Dada and Dadi had to use hawala channels to send money for our tuition. Dada and Dadi had to send many gifts to their foreign collaborators to ask them for help to get us admission. Or they had to buy machinery from well-connected companies. It is a matter of constant amusement to us that people still don't know whether we have graduated or not from those universities we enrolled in - sometimes even we forget what the truth is and what the honest fact is! 

Now it has become so much easier to get admission for you. All we have to do is create a University Fellowship for some Professor on a course like Ethics, Corporate Governance or Climate Change or - if your application form is weak - we have to help build a new Center of Excellence on their campus. In any case, admission is guaranteed - and we can give you the branding you need to take over from us one day in the future. 

Come to think of it, all our ticket costs and your ticket costs are borne by those foolish people called minority shareholders. We have shown you as Directors of the Company so even all your studying costs are borne by the Company, as part of the continuing education. If those poor sucker retail investors grumble we give them a 1:1 stock bonus: which is their own money that goes back to them! Accounting tricks that make us look very generous! As one Italian person called Don Mafia said, "You must keep your friends close to you, but keep your enemies closer!" Be liked by all even if you hate them. 

Anyways, we are deviating from the point. Yes, we were talking about the great future you have.... 

You see, in the days of Dada and Dadi - and even in our days - it was not easy to get big business deals. We had to bribe many people to get things done. Whether it was for coal mines, iron ore mines, spectrum or just bank loans. Those deals can get unstuck if questioned in courts. This was a disease that needs to get eradicated for this disease can potentially threaten the entire foundation of our business empire. One other famous person said, "It is not what you know but who you know". What do we really know about anything? Frankly, nothing. But we got to know many people. That was important. So when this disease cropped up, we were not willing to wait 20 years for you to grow older and live in a mediocre world. We created a new way of doing the same old thing. 

Today, we follow the integrated supply chain system: we ensure that every minister, every bureaucrat - directly or indirectly - has a share of some upstream or downstream benefit from our business. They win only if we win. It is this integrated approach to doing business which ensures they can never pull you down because, if they do, they will also collapse. This system has just started and will accelerate in the future. The poor government thinks that by putting things under the auction system as ordered by the courts, they will bring in more transparency. Ha! All it takes is for a few of us to get together and rig the system: openly, online - and legitimately! This Zuckerberg fellow created Facebook and then bought out WhatsApp. We now have easy ways to connect to each other and share the spoils. 

Beta, Beti: you must marry rich. Keep the money within the rich people. You don't owe anyone anything. You owe the country nothing. It is all in your karma. Let others worry about their own karma. Don't feel guilty about being rich - even if that wealth came by questionable means! All those natural resources owned by the government and the PSUs which were transferred to us would have remained useless resources - not utilised for our private good. Those babus and polyester-suited bureaucrats running the PSUs have no vision. Marry someone who is rich so that you never have to worry about getting college admission for your children: build your own schools and universities. To help you choose your lifetime partners, we have even created the FB group called "KeepTheLootInsideBetaBeti". 

And when you have your babies, write them a letter and post it on Facebook. Tell them how 99% of what you have you will give to them - just as we are giving 99% to you. And that extra 1% will go to charities. Even that 1% will not come from your pocket, as such. The government is forcing us to give 2% of profits to charities. We will give it from those listed companies of which we own 50%. Therefore, we are already giving 1% from there. Use that CSR money to build temples. One Russian person, a relative of some tycoon called Karl Marx, told Dada and Dadi - when we were making money from importing/exporting goods from/to Russia under the Rouble trade - "Religion is the opium of the masses". Keep the people happy. Let them get high on chanting the names of gods. Once in a while let them watch sports and get drunk on sports. Buy cricket teams, football teams and F-1 teams. Distract them from the real issues of how money is actually made. A few critics will still grumble and write articles or return government awards in protest of corruption or something silly like "intolerance". Luckily, you won't have to tolerate them for long. Send them on foreign trips and photograph them doing things which Hindutva would not permit. They will be forever compromised and silenced. 

There are a lot of diseases in the world. Be careful. Travel only by the private jets we have bought you. We are trying to get the helipads working but that is taking a little longer than we expect. Once it is part of the Smart City policy criteria, then we will get it. Wherever you go, the maharaj will cook food for you and reduce your chance of falling ill. But your karma is good. Keep the money. Make more money. Get more power. Let people say what they want but this is the age of Kalyug, and we will reign supreme. 

Beta, Beti: let me close by telling you how much you both mean to us. We will always wish the best for you and pray every night that you have more money than happiness. 

Our loves, 

Mom and Dad 

The above is from "The Honest Truth", a newsletter written by Ajit Dayal and I receive from The Equitymaster