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Sonagachhi Girls, Footpath Dwellers, Children as Bonded Labour,Rainy Season, Refugees, Drug and Woman Traficking and Slum Dogs in Kolkata and sub Huma

Sonagachhi Girls, Footpath Dwellers, Children as Bonded Labour,Rainy Season, Refugees, Drug and Woman Traficking and Slum Dogs in Kolkata and sub Human Sub Urbans

Indian Holocaust My Father`s Life and Time - Forty NINE

Palash Biswas

Sunday July 26, 2009
Tricked by sex syndicates
Reports of young foreigners being lured by syndicates that traffic them into prostitution are a matter of great concern, and the authorities are set on stemming the tide with the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

SOON, when you board a flight to Malaysia from China, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Thailand or other South-East Asian countries, don’t be surprised if you are handed a multi-lingual pamphlet asking “Are you being trafficked?”

The pamphlet in 10 languages has a brief checklist meant for those coming into Malaysia for work. It asks if they have an official letter offering the job, if they know the address where they are going to work and stay, the nature of the job offered and whether the agent wanted them to be secretive about their new job.

Are you being trafficked?: Pamphlets cautioning foreigners entering to work here to pay heed to the possibility of being trafficked are going to be distributed on planes and entry points.
It also asks if they have detailed information on the recruiting agency that hired them, if they have advice from their respective embassies before coming, and if they know where to get assistance in the country they are going to (i.e Malaysia).

An emergency hotline number is included in the pamphlet, which is part of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s efforts to get those heading here for work to think and to be better prepared in case of a worst-case scenario.

“We hope it will also be distributed at the immigration and other entry points to the country,” says the Department of Women’s Development director-general Datuk Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur.

She says a number of people from these countries come over because they have been promised jobs only to find themselves in the hands of syndicates that traffick them into prostitution and other gains.

Unesco estimates that there are 250,000 prostitutes or (to use the politically correct term) sex workers in Malaysia.

It is hard to say how many of them are local or foreign and how many are voluntary or forced as the industry is secretive and fluid.

Tenaganita’s director Irene Fernandez who works extensively with trafficked victims and in rescuing them believes most of the sex workers here are forced.

(Fernandez insists on the term sex workers, not prostitutes, because the former gives them dignity and recognition as they are providing a service while the latter is discriminatory and degrading.)

She is concerned there seems to be an increase in the number of young foreign people being brought into the country for prostitution.

“Some of the kids are as young as 14 and they are very traumatised by the whole experience. The demand is for younger people because of the concept that you become young when you have sex with a virgin and customers concerned about HIV think there is less risk of this with a younger person.”

She hopes there is “very strong monitoring” by the immigration on foreign children being brought into the country, citing the case of a Sri Lankan recruiter who managed to bring in four Sri Lankan young boys to be sex workers.

There are no statistics as yet to indicate how serious the problem of young prostitutes is becoming but Fernandez believes it is a growing trend and “if even five boys have been sold and their lives are lost, that’s serious.”

The government-run shelter for rescued trafficked victims has received children as young as 16 over the past year but there are only very few cases thus far.

Fernandez is concerned that some minors have been passed off as voluntary sex workers just to keep the numbers down.

The recently passed Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act makes a clear distinction between voluntary sex workers and those who are trafficked.

“In some of our rescues, we have seen the police send off minors as voluntary sex workers but when we get hold of their documents, they show they are underaged or are children. So for me there is some problem in the screening process.

“This is also the case with trafficked women whom we have rescued. I feel Malaysia wants to show that it has a low level of trafficking in persons and so we have more and more people classified as voluntary than actually trafficked persons. This is not a good trend as our interviews with the victims show they are trafficked,” she says.

Under the new Act, traffickers face up to 20 years in prison, fines and whipping for “recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring, providing or receiving of a person for purposes of exploitation” while victims are not liable for prosecution for illegal entry into the country, unlawful residence or possession of fraudulent travel or identity documents obtained to enter the country.

(Before the Anti-Trafficking Act, the police were using a host of other laws such as the Child Act, the Immigration Act and Restricted Residence Act to nail the traffickers.)

Of the estimated 250,000 sex workers in the country, it is interesting to note that since the Act was enforced last year, only 141 have passed through the Government shelter for trafficked victims in the past year.

Does this mean that the rest are voluntary?

Dr Noorul too wonders about the low numbers and why no local victims are sent to their shelter in KL.

Still, the ministry is concerned enough about the situation on the ground and only days ago set up another shelter in Kota Kinabalu and is planning for another spot in Johor.

For Fernandez, most sex workers especially foreign ones are forced or tricked into it.

She says while some do come into the country using social visit passes and stay on to work voluntarily as sex workers, those numbers are minimal as the syndicates that control the sex industry will try to force them out.

So most are forced into prostitution and work for almost nothing because the syndicates take in all the money. The girls are given pills to prevent pregnancy and also drugged so that they sleep till it is time to work. When they get up, they are given their meals and then it is time to go back to their work.

She says from interviewing those rescued it is obvious that the industry is very organised and that the syndicates give the girls GPS mobile phones to keep track of their movement. They are followed by a pimp wherever they go and they are watched all the time so they have little chance of getting away.

“When it is organised in such a manner, to me it is forced,” she says.

The sex industry too has gone clandestine. Other than the usual spas and clubs, according to Fernandez, the syndicates have taken the sex business to some select bungalow houses and golf clubs.

And she claims that blacksheep immigration and police officers are helping the syndicates.

“The girls tell us some of their first clients are police and immigration officers so this is another revealing factor of involvement by the enforcement agencies within the sex industry.

“In our rescue work too, we have found that when we deal directly with the police stations, the syndicates get a tip-off and the girls are removed very fast.

“So now we work through Bukit Aman which has set up a special trafficking in persons unit. And we are quite happy with that and are able to rescue the girls faster this way.

“The immigration has an anti-trafficking council and we would really like to co-ordinate with them but it operates at a snail’s pace,” she says.

As for local sex workers, Fernandez says while some do go in voluntarily, most enter the business due to poverty, violence or they are simply cheated into it and remain in it because they feel they have lost all dignity.

“In that situation, you can’t draw a line at which is forced and which is voluntary. For me, to some extent, this is forced because it doesn’t stem from free choice,” she says.

The economic crisis too, she says, has impacted on some families so badly that there have been cases of husbands convincing their wives to become sex workers.

“The understanding is that you are earning so the morality issue is thrown out because the financial issue becomes the priority,” she says.

Which is why the ministry’s Dr Noorul has decided in the present economic situation to step up efforts and road shows to empower local women with information of how much help is really out there for those in dire need.

“We are aware that the crisis has a big impact on women especially single mothers who don’t have anybody to depend on,” she says, adding that it is really quite amazing how much help they can get.

For example, she says, single mothers can get funds to pay for their kids’ school uniforms, tuition, school bus fare, housing and loans to start up small businesses from bodies like Tekun, Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia, Mara, and SME bank, while those with five kids to support can even get RM450 from the Welfare Department.

There are also various free training programmes which teach them skills like how to sew as a way of earning money or they can even baby-sit in their homes and earn RM1,000 each month looking after five kids at RM200 each.

“One of the reasons our women go into prostitution is they need the money but they don’t know the avenues of making money and what is out there for them,” she adds.

Whatever the case, there appears to be a bit of a shift in thinking with the new Anti-Trafficking Act and all the teething problems need to be ironed out quickly if Malaysia wants to be serious in combating the problem.

And if the world’s oldest profession is here to stay, as many expect it would, Fernandez says it has to be made more transparent and the whole support system established, and the problem of syndicates that push trafficking addressed agressively.

Related Stories:
Secret hideout for rescued girls
Duped into coming to Malaysia
Feel free to report against enforcement officers

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A scene in Sonagachi, 2005
Sonagachi, translated as Golden Tree, is the largest red-light district in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. It is an area with several hundred multi-story brothels and some 10,000 sex workers. [1] Sonagachi is located in North-Kolkata at 22°35′15″N 88°21′35″E / 22.5875°N 88.35972°E / 22.5875; 88.35972, near the intersection of Chittaranjan Avenue Sova Bazar and Beadon Street, just north of the Marble Palace.

1 Rehabilitation
2 Popular culture
3 References
4 External links

[edit] Rehabilitation
Today, several NGOs and government organizations operate here for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases [STD] including AIDS. The book Guilty Without Trial by the founders of the NGO Sanlaap based much of their research into human trafficking in India on this area.

Sonagachi 2005
The Sonagachi project is a sex workers’ cooperative that operates in the area and empowers sex workers to insist on condom use and to stand up against abuse. It was founded by public health scientist Smarajit Jana in 1992 but is now largely run by the prostitutes themselves. It is credited with keeping the HIV infection rate among the prostitutes at 5 per cent, much lower than in other Indian red-light districts, and has been called a best practices model by the UN AIDS programme. [2] The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) runs the Sonagachi project and several similar projects in West Bengal, organizing some 65,000 prostitutes and their children. The organization lobbies for the recognition of sex workers’ rights and full legalization, runs literacy and vocational programs, and provides micro loans.[3] “Durbar” means unstoppable in Bengali. The DMSC hosted India’s first national convention of sex workers on November 14, 1997 in Kolkata, entitled ‘Sex Work is Real Work: We Demand Workers Rights’.[4]

[edit] Popular culture

Sonagachi, 2005
The documentary Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids won the Oscar for best documentary feature in the year 2005. It depicts the lives of children born to prostitutes in Sonagachi.

[edit] References
^ Girl-trafficking hampers Aids fight BBC news. 30 November, 2004
^ “The Prostitutes’ Union”, Scientific American, April 1, 2006
^, home page of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee
^ Sex work is real work: We demand workers rights, announcement of the 1997 sex worker convention

[edit] External links
Report on Sonagachi, critical of DMSC, by Tom Vater, The Irish Independent, 2004.
The Red Lights of Sonagachi Positive Nation, Dec 2003/Jan 2004; issue 85/86
Report on the Dunbar NGO, India Travel Times
A photo report by Zana Briski, 2002
The Sex Workers, 2004 PBS Frontline documentary comparing anti-HIV efforts in Mumbai and Kolkata
Giving AIDS the Red Light, The Village Voice, September 18, 2002
The Network of Sex Work Projects: Promoting Health and Human Rights
Changing prices for sex work in Sonagachi, a Kolkata red-light district
[show] v • d • eProstitution in India

Devadasi • PITA • Indian Penal Code • Chukri System • Aadhiya System • Shivdaspur • Kamathipura • Sonagachi • Sanlaap • All Bengal Women’s Union • Born into Brothels • AIDS in India • Tulasa • Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee • Bachara • Dance bar • Prostitution in Kolkata • Nagarvadhu • Tawaif • Ambapali • Hijras

[show] v • d • eProstitution in Asia

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Italics indicates an unrecognised or partially recognised country. 1 Sometimes included in Europe, depending on the border definitions. 2 Officially known as Myanmar. 3 Sometimes included in Oceania, and also known as Timor-Leste. 4 Transcontinental country. 5 Commonly known as Taiwan.

[show] v • d • eNeighbourhoods in Kolkata

KMC Alipore · B.B.D. Bagh · Bagbazar · Ballygunge · Barisha · Behala · Belgachia · Bhowanipore · Bowbazar · Bow barracks · Brahmapur · Burrabazar · China Town · Chitpur · Chowringhee · Cossipore · Dhakuria · Dharmatala · Entally · Esplanade · Garia · Jadavpur · Janbazar · Jodhpur Park · Jorabagan · Jorasanko · Kalighat · Kasba · Kidderpore · Kumortuli · Lalbazar · Maniktala · Metiabruz · New Alipore · Park Circus · Parnasree Pally · Pathuriaghata · Posta · Santoshpur · Sarsuna · Shyambazar · Shyampukur · Shobhabazar · Sonagachi · Taltala · Tangra · Tollygunge · Ultadanga

KMDA Baguiati · Baidyabati · Bally · Bansberia · Baranagar · Barrackpore · Barasat · Batanagar · Belur · Bhadreswar · Bidhannagar · Budge Budge · Chandannagar · Dakshineshwar · Dankuni · Dum Dum · Garulia · Halisahar · Howrah · Hugli-Chuchura · Jaynagar Mazilpur · Joka · Kalyani · Kamarhati · Kanchrapara · Khardaha · Konnagar · Madhyamgram · Narendrapur · New Barrackpur · North Barrackpur · North Dumdum · Nungi · Panihati · Pujali · Rajarhat · Rishra · Serampore · Sodepur · South Dumdum · Titagarh · Uluberia · Uttarpara

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India@ 62: Bullish PM offers more for common man

New Delhi: With undeniable sightings of green shoots of economic recovery, this would have been Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Independence Day speech of triumph.

That it was, but in parts. For good measure, he had to temper it because of the two spoilsports that have come into play in recent weeks: The spectre of a drought and swine flu.

Still, speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort (which perhaps saw the tightest security ever), the Prime Minister made the upbeat declaration that the effects of the global economic slowdown would recede by the end of this year. “We expect that there will be an improvement in the situation by the end of this year,” he said after unfurling the Tricolour to the sound of the ceremonial 21-gun salute.

Speaking in Hindi from a prepared text, he said the challenge for India — even as Europe rejoices because the 16-nation Eurozone shrank just 0.1 per cent in the second quarter — was to quickly restore the growth rate to 9 per cent. The government would bring in more overseas investment, encourage exports and increase public investment and spending to meet this “greatest challenge”. He appealed to businessmen and industrialists to support the government.

The economy grew 6.7 per cent in the 12 months ended March, the slowest pace of expansion since 2003. Growth averaged 8.8 per cent in the previous five years.

As a light drizzle kept him company, Singh said: “Some people question whether India will ever be able to attain its true potential. I have no doubt about this.”

In keeping with the United Progressive Alliance’s leit motif, Aam Admi hogged large parts of the Prime Minister’s speech. He was also careful to skip Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka (relations with each of which have been less than excellent). Instead, he merely said that India wanted a peaceful and developed South Asia.

The deficient monsoon, he said, would affect the economy and therefore debt repayment by farmers had been postponed. The government would provide assistance to drought-hit farmers. But he acknowledged the rising prices of foodgrain and pulses and asked state governments to prevent hoarding and black marketing of essential commodities.

Monsoon rains in India are 29 per cent below average so far, raising concerns of weaker farm output and inflation. Economists say a bad monsoon could knock as much as 2 percentage points off growth. But India has adequate stocks of foodgrain, and the government would keep food prices in check, Singh said.

“All efforts will be made to control rising prices of foodgrain, pulses and other goods of daily use,” he said, speaking from behind a bullet-proof enclosure. “The goal is 4 per cent annual growth in agriculture, and I am confident it will be achieved in the next five years.”

Speaking about the H1N1 virus, which causes swine flu, he asked everyone to tackle the situation calmly and without anxiety.
He also touched upon the beleaguered national carrier, Air India, and said its problems were being given careful consideration and would be resolved soon.

He promised further improvement in the National Rural Employment Guarantees Scheme, including new types of work, a food security law that will provide every family living below the poverty line with a fixed amount of foodgrain every month so that no Indian went hungry, and extension of the Integrated Community Development Scheme (ICDS) to every child below six by March 2012.

Hailing the Right to Education Act, Singh announced a new scheme to help poor students by way of reduced interest rates on education loans. This will benefit half a million students in getting technical and professional education.

He announced the expansion of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to cover each family below the poverty line. Stating that Bharat Nirman had reduced, to an extent, rural and urban disparities, he said more ambitious targets would be set for schemes for house construction and telecommunications in rural areas.

Discounting reports that the Jawaharalal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) was not working, he said the programme would be accelerated, and the Rajiv Awas Yojana would provide better housing to slum dwellers. A Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission will be launched on November 14 to harness solar energy and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The government will redouble its efforts to deal with Naxalite activities. “Every government should be sensitive to people’s complaints and dissatisfaction. But nothing is achieved by destroying public property and indulging in violence against one’s fellow citizens. Our democracy has no place for those who resort to violence to express their disagreement, and the government will deal firmly with such people,” Singh said.

Rejecting the notion that development of the minorities and the deprived sections of society was tantamount to ‘appeasement’, he said every effort will be made to address the problems of minorities. Women’s welfare will be especially monitored.

“We respect the special assurances and concessions provided to Jammu & Kashmir in our Constitution. We will continue to honour these special provisions,” he said.

The Right to Information Act will be improved to make it more effective. The Unique Identification Authority of India will issue the first set of identity numbers in the next one to one and a half years.

Source: Business Standard

Indian ECONOMY is heading to SEX Tourism, DRUG Addiction and FAMINE!Ironically enough,
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday exhorted the judiciary “to wipe every tear of every waiting litigant” by eliminating the scourge of a huge backlog of cases - the largest in the world!While, this Clarification reflects the general Mood and Mode!

Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan said that the judiciary was not against declaration of judges’ assets and that it was ready to “implicitly” obey Parliament if it passes a law in this regard.

Original US Agent in India, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy today termed as ‘ridiculous’ the outcry against detention of Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan for about two hours at the Newark airport in the US.

Meanwhile,Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday shot off a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking an assistance of Rs 23,071 crore
to meet the financial burden caused by the ‘unprecedented drought’ situation prevailing in the state.

Before leaving for New Delhi to attend the Chief Ministers’ conference convened by the Prime Minister, Kumar’s letter which was released to the press said that the financial requirement to deal with drought situation could go up in case the other districts also received scanty rainfall in the coming weeks.

The Bihar government,a few days ago, had declared 26 out of 38 districts drought hit affecting around 1.26 crore families with paddy coverage showing an overall shortfall of 57 per cent.

With the coverage of other main crop maize also coming down to 27.4 per cent during the current sowing season due to scanty rains, the government might consider declaring the remaining 12 districts as drought hit, the letter said.

“We are requesting the Centre for an allocation of Rs 23,071 crore for meeting the financial burden caused by the drought which is somewhat unprecedented in recent times,” the letter said.

Of the Rs 23,071 crore allocation sought for tackling drought, Rs 10,845 crore has been sought for employment generation under NREGA and other sectors.

Swamy said the detention had nothing to do with Khan bearing the Muslim name because some months ago, senator Edward Kennedy of the iconic Kennedy clan was off-loaded at Washington DC airport because his namesake, an Irish terrorist, was on the airport watch list.

Despite Kennedy producing his ID that he was a US senator and not an ‘Irish terrorist’, he was not allowed to board his flight, Swamy said in a statement here.

“The outcry against US homeland security agents, for detaining Mumbai cine actor Shahrukh Khan at the Newark New Jersey Airport for about two hours to verify his antecedents is ridiculous”, he said.

After the 9/11 terrorist attack,the US has prevented every possible attempts since then by ‘Islamic terrorists,’ he said, adding, “this feat they have achieved by being over cautious.”

Hired Economist Iconised as Nobel Laureate and recntly on India Tour to BOOST Genocide Econmy justifies Injustice and Indo US Nuclear Deal! Nilekani, Rangrajan, Shashi Tharur and Sunil Mitra have been Inducted in the Kilers Gang beside Sam Pitroda, Montek Singh Ahluwali along with Bastardised political and Human Faces! Ideologies and Mass Movements , Resistance have been Progrrmed as well as PROSTITION and Drug Adiction, SWINE Flu as well as Recssion!

Now,Amartya, the Flag Bearer of Rothcild and Rockfeller who NEVER EVER Mentions Imperialism as the cause of Famine, Stravation and Poverty, Who shamelessly justifies ENSLAVEMENT Infinite and Manusmriti as well as Aprtheid, says that The way most governments measure poverty by basing it on income may be a flawed perception of well-being! So Called Nobel laureate Amartya Sen argues in his new book.

Sen, a former Trinity master, economist, philosopher and mathematician, all rolled into one, in his latest book ‘The Idea of Justice’ says the income approach to poverty, which considers people earning less than a certain amount annually as poor, is not an accurate measure of how well people live.

Instead the laureate gives precedence to one’s capability or the capacity that people have of choosing and leading their lives.

Based on the capability approach, he says, “Poverty will be much more intense than what can be deduced from the income data (rpt) data” due to variations in the distribution of wealth within the family.

For instance, if the family’s income is used disproportionately to advance the interests of only certain individuals, then the “aggregate family income” may not adequately reflect the deprivation of neglected members.

The link between resources and poverty is rather complex. “It is variable and deeply contingent on the characteristics of the respective people and the environment in which they live -both natural and social,” he notes.

Sen says income is not an indicator of one’s standard of living, the kinds of lifestyles that people can lead depend on many factors, including diversities in the physical environment, variations in social climate, differences in relational perspectives.

“Handicaps, such as age or disability or illness, reduce one’s ability to earn an income. But they also make it harder to convert income into capability, since an older, or more disabled have to work more to achieve the same functioning,” he adds.

Sen points out that different kinds of disadvantage related to capability deprivation can be a “critically important consideration” in understanding poverty and in preparing a public policy to tackle poverty.

ILLUMINATI happens to be in FULL Control as Indian Society, Culture , Polity and Economy have been SUCCESSFULLY Corpotarised in an ENVIRONMENT of Feverish Celbration and Excitement INTOXICATED! Governance and Security, Exteranl as well as Internal has been VESTED in Global Weapon Industry under survillience of CIA and Mossad with Strategic Realliance in US and Israel lead in the background of Indo Us Nuclear deal. While the West claims RECOVERY from RECESSION Current, the India Inc Government of India is Indulged in BAIL OUT Syndrome. Latest Draft Direct Tax Code is the best Example how the Ruling Manusmriti Apartheid Zionist Triiblis Hegemony sustains itself FEEDING the Killer Greedy Money Machine and accomplishing Mass Destruction Agenda with Complete Mind control!

SEX is the most powerful basic INSTINCT very hard to bypass. The Illuminati has been using it with SURGICAL Precision as BRICE Taylor to Pamela Bordes to Merlyn Munro to MOnica Leunisky affairs expose very well. Open Market in India and the Genocide culture use the WOMANHOOD as a REFINED COMMODITY for Strategic marketing and Manipulation at Highest Level!

Today only, I witnessed a family of young simple Middle class family travelling in Princep ghat Down train. They got everything BRANDED from PETER ENGLAND To NAKSHATRA! This is the EFFLUENT Class Emerging for which the Bell Tolls nowadays!

The Metros have been overtaking by SEX Rackets with Human Trafficking and Intense DRUG Abuse! And friends it is completely a ROTHCHILD Affair! Sonagachhi Girls have been Modified accordingly though they have been destined to SURVIVE as SEX Workers under rain!

ICONS are made to PURIFY our Blood on Fascist line! economy is ICONISED as well as Branding! Thus, we react accordingly!


Shahrukh detention in US: Obama’s effigy burnt in UP
Allahabad: Congress workers today staged a demonstration and burnt the effigy of US President Barack Obama here for detention of Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan at an American airport.

The party workers, who gathered in front of the historic Anand Bhawan, raised slogans against the US administration and termed as an “insult to one billion Indians” the questioning of Khan at Newark airport.

The 43-year-old actor was detained and questioned for two hours at the Newark Airport near New York yesterday.

Source: PTI

My name is Khan? Too bad. SRK feels the heat of American paranoia
Chidanand Rajghatta and Bharati Dubey, TNN 15 August 2009, 09:33pm IST

WASHINGTON/MUMBAI: ”My name is Khan.” ”Oh it is, is it? Step aside, please.”

The way it was related, that might well have been the opening exchange between Shahrukh Khan and an unnamed, uniformed, super-empowered US immigration official who had no idea (and didn’t care) that the man in front of him is the star of a film by the same name (My Name is Khan), much less that he is a universal Bollywood icon. ( Watch Video )

SRK, as the actor star is known by his popular acronym, was asked to indeed step aside for a ‘’secondary inspection” at Newark’s ironically named (in this context) Liberty International airport on Friday en route to an event to celebrate India’s Independence Day in Chicago, President Barack Obama’s hometown. But that was only after a ”primary inspection.”

A ‘’secondary inspection” is when the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer manning the immigration counter asks a visitor (or even a US citizen) to move to a separate area for questioning if he cannot initially verify the visitor’s information or does not have all of the required documentation, so as to not hold up the rest of the queue.

It is not clear why Khan, who is a frequent visitor to the US, and only recently spent a month here shooting for “My Name is Khan,” was subjected to a ‘’secondary inspection,” which in itself does not constitute detention.

But the actor surmises that it was because of his last name; in other words, his Muslim identity. He was questioned for nearly two hours, asked what he thought were irrelevant questions, denied the use of his cell phone (which isn’t unusual; visitors cannot use mobile phones before clearing immigration) and was finally allowed to make just one phone call under the rules.

”I told them I was a movie star and had recently visited the country for the shooting of my film. Nothing seemed to convince the immigration officer. There were other immigration officers who even vouched for me but this particular officer did not listen to anyone. I even told them I had an invitation from the South Asian community and was there to attend an event.” Khan told ToI.

Indian and US officials rushed into damage control mode after word came in from Khan’s family that that the actor had been ”detained” and Khan’s vast fan base went ballistic. Timothy Roemer, the new US ambassador in New Delhi whose first week on the job it is, said he was trying to ascertain what exactly had happened at Liberty, and that Shahrukh Khan was a global icon whose film were much loved even by Americans and he was always welcome in the US.

But Khan, from all accounts, doesn’t feel so welcome and says he will review his plans to visit the US again. In a slew of media interviews after the incident, he said his papers were in order, it seemed to be a case of religious profiling, and the incident was a ”little embarrassing” for an entertainer of his stature.

Khan’s upcoming film ”My Name is Khan,” a movie about an Indian Muslim setting out on a journey across the United States, is certain to get a boost after the incident.

It is not the first time that an Indian entertainer with a Muslim identity has been asked to step aside for additional scrutiny. Actors Aamir Khan and Irrfan Khan have had similar experience. So has the Canadian-Indian writer Rohinton Mistry, a Parsi, who once cancelled a book tour of the US soon after 9/11 because he felt he was being needlessly profiled. Other Indian visitors, not necessarily Muslims, have felt singled out.

The incident comes days after a US government panel, gratuitously in the eyes of many Indians, panned New Delhi for its “inadequate protection of religious minorities,” even as the US President and Secretary of State lavished praise on Indian democracy on the occasion of the country’s Independence Day on August 15. It also comes on the heels of the flap over security procedures former President APJ Abdul Kalam has been subjected to in violation of protocol.

But there is an American side to the story too. US officials who have spoken to this correspondent on the subject in the past feel that some Indian visitors are needlessly huffy about routine security procedures, and there is a broad cultural mismatch or misunderstanding between the two countries in their view of rules and authority. India, one official said, has too much of a ”VIP culture” that gives some people a false sense of privilege and entitlement that does not sit well in a world of ever increasing security threats. Even minor delays and inconveniences are exaggerated and conflated into major protocol breaches by some Indians.

The conversations took place during the kerfuffle over then Defence Minister George Fernandes’ visit to the US, when he said a ”pat down” was frequently described in the Indian media as a ‘’strip search.” The official also said the US VIP list was much more restrictive and even Senators and Congressmen underwent security screening. In the US, except Presidents (who usually travels on Air Force One), former Presidents, and Cabinet principals, there’s no VIP treatment to others – as former vice-president Al Gore has experienced more than once. In one recent incident, an airline employee who helped Gore circumvent security screening at the Nashville airport was pulled up and the former Veep was brought back to go through security, which he did willingly and without making a fuss.

For now though, the cry has already gone up in India for ”pay back” and subjecting US VIPs visiting India to the same treatment as the Khans say they get in US. Even senior government ministers have jumped into the fray. ”I am of the opinion that the way we are frisked, for example I too was frisked, we should also do the same to them,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told a news agency. Others have suggested the ”Brazilian model,” where Brazilia adopted similar security protocol as Washington, including photographing and fingerprinting visitors. Khan himself is said to have joked that Angelina Jolie must be subjected to the same treatment.

Of course, if Jolie or Clooney or Pitt (or Congressmen and Senators) are subjected to such treatment, it is unlikely we would ever hear about it — since they seldom make a to-do about such things. But then it is even less likely that they would be subjected to such a welcome, given the Indian mix of VIP culture and Athithi Devo Bhava – even at the risk of imperiling security.

What happens at a US port of entry (POE)

Inspection at a US Port of Entry: What to expect/What do CBP officials do?

* Upon arrival at the POE you must present your passport and other required documents. CBP officers will review these to determine whether to allow you to enter the US.

* Your first encounter with CBP officers will be at a primary inspection station where they ask foreign nationals questions to determine their identity and nationality.

* If they decide to admit you the CBP officer will also determine how long you will be allowed to stay in the US, and in what status you will be admitted.

* CBP officers review passports, visas, and other supporting documents of each and every foreign national arriving at a US POE. The CBP officers also compare fingerprint records and name check databases for recent derogatory information, ask questions about the foreign nationals general qualifications for the visas they have, review the Form I-94 Arrival and Departure Record (or, for Visa Waiver travelers, Form I-94W).

What Kind of questions do the CBP officers ask?

CBP officers at US POEs will ask you questions to determine the true intent of your trip to the US. Inspections Officers are trained, and have the experience to back up their training, to identify if a foreign national has a pre-conceived intent behind their trip to the US, i.e., they are looking to see if you are actually coming to go to school or for a job interview when you say you are coming to visit Disneyland. If an officer is not convinced with your initial statements, they may ask for additional supporting documentation be allowing you to enter the US.

CBP officials – their power and authority – what they can do?

CBP officers have complete power and authority at the POE. It is up to their discretion to conclude whether or not a foreign national is eligible to enter the US. It is only after a CBP officer stamps and dates the I-94 form, places an admission stamp in the foreign national’s passport, and the foreign national passes through the inspection station that the foreign national is admitted to the United States.

Secondary Inspection – what leads you to a secondary inspection?

If the first CBP officer that a foreign national meets feels that the inspection requires additional time for review to determine a foreign national’s eligibility, the officer may refer the foreign national for a “secondary inspection.” This secondary inspection is a much more comprehensive review, and can take several hours to complete. Generally a foreign national referred for secondary inspection is not considered to be “admitted” to the United States.

What generally happens in a secondary inspection?

In secondary inspection, CBP officers will ask a foreign national more detailed questions about their travel plans for the US. Foreign nationals may even be asked to produce additional identification and other documentation in order to determine their actual identity and purpose of their visit to the United States. The foreign national and their belongings may also be searched, and the foreign national may be required to give a full set of fingerprints.

Any person, foreign national or person with a claim to US citizenship and presenting a US passport, may be sent to secondary inspection if the CBP officer has reservations about admitting him to the United States. A person may also be sent to secondary inspection if there is a possibility the person is smuggling contraband or violating any other customs or immigration regulations, or federal law in general.

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The Information Pandemic
In a major relief for jobseekers, India Inc’s hiring activities are picking up once again as economic conditions are looking up considerably, experts say.

Most of the Indian companies which had frozen hiring due to the downturn have started to look at fresh recruitments now with indications of an economic recovery becoming visible across the world, according to HR experts.

“Hiring trends are picking up with companies opening up again for fresh recruitments… the days of downturn seem to be over and an upswing has begun.

“The resume posting activity is picking up again as people are testing the waters for changing their jobs,” International Management Institute (IMI) Director C S Venkata Ratnam told PTI.

Global consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers Executive Director R Sankar said the hiring conditions were turning for the better even as a long way remains for companies to regain their previous year’s levels.

“The job scene has improved but is still to reach the levels of euphoria we were accustomed to in earlier years. We don’t see a ‘flurry of resumes’ but cherry picking of key talent continues to happen,” Sankar said.

“Much would depend on the pace of the economic recovery. The green shots are springing up but the poor monsoon is cause for concern,” he added.

Venkata Ratnam also said that retail and realty sectors are the ones to pick up strongly in the coming months, while IT sector will continue to suffer as it is not driven by domestic demand.

“In any event, sectors such as FMCG, pharma, telecoms etc which have been relatively less affected by the slowdown will continue to hire, albeit cautiously,” Sankar pointed out.

In June, corporate India’s hiring activity had surged significantly with recruitment in banking and financial services sector increasing 22 per cent in the month, according to a survey by a job portal.

“The economy has pulled out of the stagnancy in hiring. Although, there is an uptrend in hiring, this may be only indicative of replacement hiring,” Info Edge National Head - Marketing and Communications Sumeet Singh said.

The job trends in Indian companies’ is in line with their global peers and a recent survey by Deloitte revealed HR executives globally now have new concerns about building up of a ‘resume tsunami’ which may be ready to hit once the economy turns and employees begin to consider new opportunities.

“Once recovery begins to take hold, business executives and talent leaders can expect a ‘resume tsunami’ as voluntary turnover rises with leaders and workers with critical skills seeking new opportunities,” Deloitte LLP Consulting Principal (Human Capital) Jeff Schwartz said.

HIV infection: 50 mln Asian women at risk, UN warns

AFP reports:

NUSA DUA, Indonesia — More than 1.5 million women living with HIV in Asia were infected by their partners and 50 million more are at risk of infection, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The “HIV Transmission in Intimate Partner Relationships in Asia” report by UNAIDS said the women at risk are either married or in long-term relationships with men who engage in “high-risk sexual behaviours.”

“That is, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, the clients of sex workers,” UNAIDS regional director Prasada Rao said.

“(It’s) a problem of great magnitude that the countries have largely ignored (and) a challenge that we may no longer ignore,” Rao told reporters on the sidelines of the ninth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), which is being held on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Women accounted for 35 percent of all adult HIV infections in Asia in 2008, up from 17 percent in 1990, according to the report.

In Cambodia, India and Thailand, the largest number of new HIV infections occur among married women and in Indonesia the virus is now spreading to long-term partners and sex workers, it added.

“The facts speak for themselves. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of the 1.7 million women living with HIV in Asia became infected (by) husbands and partners while in long-term relationships,” Rao said.

“These women are often perceived as low risk… women who have not been adequately covered in our national responses.”

UNIFEM regional director for South Asia Jean D’Cunha said a “culture of silence” surrounding the issue of sexuality exists among Asian women and this diminishes their ability to protect themselves.

“There are unequal relations within marriage and the taboo around sex and sexuality makes it difficult for the women to talk openly to their partners. Their partners may not disclose their status or may not know their status,” she added.

“The women also fear violence if they talk about sexuality openly… or if they demand safe sex or pleasurable sex, they may be castigated as being too loose or too forward,” D’Cunha said.

The UNAIDS report calls for more HIV/AIDS prevention efforts among men who have sex with men, removal of punitive laws preventing intravenous drug users from access to clean injecting equipment and greater interventions with sex workers and their clients, Rao said.

“We must re-double our efforts to avert needless infections among these women,” he added.

The Bali congress, which runs until Thursday, covers topics ranging from HIV risks among transgenders and migrant workers to biomolecular advances in HIV treatment and the impact of the financial crisis on those with HIV/AIDS.


Economic downturn poses an added risk
Writer: ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT Published: 14/08/2009 at 12:00 AM Newspaper section: News
BALI : HIV/Aids patients could lose out if governments divert resources to fight the flu pandemic or cut costs to cope with economic problems, an Aids conference has been told.

The type-A (H1N1) flu pandemic and the global economic downturn could tempt governments to cut support networks, but this could lead to higher health bills in the long run, health advocates told the 9th International Congress on Aids which ended here yesterday.

Vulnerable groups, particularly migrants, were denied support in the wake of the 1997 economic crisis, which set back efforts to fight the disease, said the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organisation and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids).

”It is critical that policy-makers don’t make the same decisions that were made during the 1997 financial crisis,” said Caitlin Wiesen, the UNDP official working on HIV in Asia and the Pacific.

”Aids spending for a comprehensive response represents a mere 1% of some of the massive stimulus packages seen in the region.”

Prasada Rao, director of the UNAids regional support team, said even before the financial crisis, HIV programmes and services for migrants had fallen through the cracks.

Cutting back HIV programmes would hurt disease prevention efforts and set back progress on achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, Mr Rao said.

The goals include halving extreme poverty and halting the spread of HIV/Aids by 2015.

Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said support should go to high-risk groups such as inmates, men having sex with men, injecting drug users and sex workers.

”Aids is not in recession like the economy. Governments should prioritise their responses to make the most of limited financial resources,” Mr Kazatchkine said.

Experts from the Commission on Aids in Asia said improving the human rights of vulnerable groups would also help curb the spread of Aids.

Jeffrey O’Malley, UNDP’s HIV/Aids director, said strict laws could hamper efforts to keep people healthy.

Laws which regard sex work and male-to-male sex as criminal acts made people reluctant to seek help.

”Aids will stay with us for the next 25 years and we need cost-effective measures and specific targets,” he said.

Anand Grover, director of the Lawyers Collective HIV/Aids Unit and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, said some courts in Nepal, India and Pakistan had upheld the rights of sexual minorities, so progress was being made.

Sex workers to get beauty training in Delhi

Times of India reports: Sex workers in the capital will receive free training in hairstyling, beauty and make-up thanks to a 24-hour fund raising event starting
on Friday.

Spearheaded by beauty and hair expert Amzadd Habibb, ‘Salute to the Nation’ will raise money to purchase equipment needed for hair setting like blow driers and hair colours.

“We will provide free training and transportation to the sex-workers who are willing to learn the art of hair and beauty. But I can’t afford to provide them basic machinery and equipments that will be needed during training,” Habibb said.

“Hence I asked my regular clients to help me with this endeavour and they came forward with their full support. They also helped in spreading the word and we are getting fantastic response,” he added.

Habibb said that a hair-cut during the fund raising event would start from Rs 1,125 and it’s up to customers to pay more if they wish to.

The event is organised in association with Delhi Tihar administration and Delhi Police and is taking place at Amzaad Habibb Academy of Hair and Beauty in South Extension-II and will end Aug 15 at 10 a.m.

“This is my way of giving back to the society. I have always wanted to do something for these people and I was just waiting for right opportunity and right people,” Habibb said.

Apart from getting a hair-cut, one can also opt for nail-art by Poonam Sivia, beauty and make-up tips from make-up expert Sanam Habib and tattoos by Jerry.

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‘Removal of punitive laws essential for effective AIDS responses’
Nusa Dua, Bali: U.N. agencies, legal experts and human rights defenders at the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) concur that crafting an effective AIDS response in the region will require addressing legal barriers that are impeding progress, according to a press release issued by EurekAlert.

Throughout the week, scientists, legal experts, activists, people living with HIV and community representatives will discuss challenges and progress in addressing legal barriers to achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.

Experts from the Commission on AIDS in Asia concluded that in order to prevent and control HIV in the region, there must be a significant focus on improving human rights protections for people living with HIV and typically marginalised populations such as men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who use drugs, prisoners and detainees. According to Kyung wha-Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), “we have known for years that human rights are the bedrock upon which effective AIDS responses are built.

In spite of this, human rights violations continue to proliferate. Human rights frameworks and principles must be translated into real protections for people living with HIV, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who use drugs, prisoners and detainees. We must also pay specific attention to ensuring protections for women and children.”

According to J.V.R. Prasada Rao, Director of the Joint U.N. Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) Asia-Pacific Regional Support Team, “in spite of recent progress, insufficient coverage of services for people living with HIV, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs is still a reality and the lack of legal protections just drive these populations underground — far out of the reach of the meager services that do exist. If we don’t invest in strengthening legal protections for people living with HIV, women, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs, we will jeopardize the gains we have made in the region. This is why the U.N.AIDS family has recently reinvigorated its collective efforts to advocate for the removal of punitive laws, policies and practices which are thwarting effective HIV responses. This also means stepping up action to tackle inappropriate criminalization.”

According to Jeffrey O’Malley, Director of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) HIV Group, “the law can and should be instrumental in scaling up a rights based AIDS response. Instead, we often have situations where laws and their arbitrary, inappropriate enforcement are increasing risk and vulnerability – thereby posing formidable barriers to effective HIV responses for those most vulnerable and the general population.”

According to Mr. O’Malley, “laws which criminalise sex work are used to blackmail, exploit and harass sex workers and sex workers often experience violence at the hands of police and service providers. Violence and harassment often extends to outreach workers, service providers and human rights defenders.

“Laws which criminalise drug use hamper the implementation of evidence based harm reduction services. Laws which do not uphold women’s property and inheritance rights can set off a downward spiral of lost economic opportunities, reduced security and increased risk and vulnerability for women and girls. Many countries in the Asia Pacific region criminalise male to male sex and these laws often lead to violations of the rights of men who have sex with men and transgender people. ”

According to Anand Grover, Director of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit and U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, “there have been a number of success stories in the region which give us hope. Courts in Nepal, India and Pakistan have been instrumental in recognising and upholding the rights of sexual minorities. This means that they will no longer be considered criminals in accessing life-saving prevention, care and treatment services. We hope that other countries in the Asia-Pacific region and across the globe will follow suit.”

Community representatives and activists note in order to effectively overcome legal barriers and remove punitive laws, it is critical to build robust strategic alliances across traditional and non-traditional constituencies and between groups of people living with HIV and other key populations, women’s groups, affected communities, service providers, the legal profession, law enforcement agencies, human rights bodies, parliamentarians and policy makers.

The momentum for reversing the tide of punitive laws, policies and practices must be sustained for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support to be effective. And in the context of a global financial and economic crisis, it is both cost-effective and a moral imperative to implement legal and social programmes which counter discrimination and stigmatisation.

Why Pune is H1N1 Ground Zero?
Kounteya Sinha, TNN 14 August 2009, 03:30am IST

NEW DELHI: Even as the swine flu storm rages through India, Pune is taking the worst battering. Almost 65% (14 out of 22) of the H1N1 deaths in
India have been in the city. Nor is it looking any better now after the first rash of cases. In fact, Union health ministry officials fear ‘‘clusters of H1N1’’ are emerging in the city, which means that large groups of people from certain localities could start getting infected even if they don’t have any travel history.

The larger question — raised by both officials and ordinary people — about this localized crisis is: why Pune? What went wrong there for the flu infection to virtually spin out of control? The answer lies in a combination of reasons that includes administrative lapse as well as some climatic features peculiar to Pune.

According to scientists from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, the state government failed in the early stages to put in place an effective ‘‘contact-tracing programme’’ — that is, tracing down each and every person who has come in contact with those who tested positive.

They say the answer lies in a combination of reasons that includes administrative lapse as well as some climatic features that are peculiar to Pune.

The protocol for the contact-tracing programme is laid down. Delhi, for instance, is said to have followed it closely and that’s helped it to keep the virulent edge of the flu under control. Records show that out of 6,249 people found to have symptoms and then tested for swine flu, 1,107 were identified through contact tracing. ‘‘The state (Maharashtra) didn’t take contact tracing seriously. By the time it started, the virus had already got entrenched in Pune and had spread,’’ Union health ministry officials said. NICD director Dr Shiv Lal added, ‘‘We are working towards scientifically establishing why Pune is worst hit.’’

Director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research Dr V M Katoch said he was fairly certain that the virus started circulating in Pune much before the first positive case of infection was reported in the city on June 22 when a 24-year-old tested positive after returning from US. Dr Katoch said the virus’s spread was because the community in Pune didn’t take the threat seriously. ‘‘They didn’t report early nor did they visit the designated government hospitals for H1N1 testing. Crucial time was therefore lost in controlling the virus’s spread,’’ he said.

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Freedom to live with HIV | Suniti Solomon

‘My biggest fear is a resistant virus’

Anupama Chandrasekaran

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She was a little over 13 when she was kidnapped and forced into the sex trade. In 1986, this young girl was one of the first six people in India that Suniti Solomon detected as being infected by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi: He was so simple, humble and quite unlike what we see in the politicians of today. M. Laxman / Mint

Since then, Chennai-based Solomon’s life has revolved around people affected by AIDS, the condition that HIV causes. “The minute someone says he or she is HIV positive, the word which crops up in most people’s mind is ‘immoral’,” says 69-year-old Dr Solomon, sitting in her office in south Chennai. “She was the first girl we tested that I spoke to, and she changed me.”

The young girl, who resisted her assailants for three days, gave in after being starved for 72 hours. Six months later, she managed to escape, reached a remand home in Mylapore and was one of the 100 sex workers that Solomon tested. After spending six years at the remand home, she joined Dr Solomon’s non-profit YR Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education (YRG CARE), established in 1993, but died soon after.

“It was frightening really,” says Dr Solomon, herself the only girl among eight children born to the Gaitondes, a Chennai-based Maharashtrian Hindu family in the leather trade. “My husband was a little worried and didn’t want me to work with HIV-positive patients, most of whom at that time were homosexuals, those who self-injected drugs and sex workers. And I said, look, you have to listen to their stories and you wouldn’t say the same thing.”

The former teacher of medicine continues to be a counsellor, matchmaker, doctor, researcher and educationist for HIV patients. While most of the work in this field in India is geared towards spreading awareness about the disease, Dr Solomon’s organization provides medical help, counselling and employment opportunities for HIV/AIDS patients.

Her interest in medicine was triggered by the health officer’s annual visits to the Gaitonde home, when the eight children would line up for smallpox vaccine shots. She studied at the Madras Medical College, where she met her husband, a cardiac surgeon.

For a little under a decade, she trained in pathology in Britain, the US and Australia, while travelling with her husband. But in 1973 the couple returned to settle in India, and work at a government-run hospital.

She went on to do her doctorate in medicine (MD) in microbiology and after serving as an assistant professor for a few years at the Madras Medical College, became a professor. That is when Dr Solomon, who was reading up on HIV/AIDS, decided to track the virus in India. With no openly gay community in the country in the 1980s—the first cases of HIV in the US were detected among gay men—she and one of her doctoral students decided to check the blood samples of female sex workers in Chennai. “The results of the first six tests were frightening,” she recalls.

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, an estimated 2.5 million people in India are HIV-positive or are afflicted by AIDS—the third largest population, after South Africa and Nigeria, among the 33 million people affected by the virus worldwide. “Even if three million are infected, only 20-30% of them know their status,” Dr Solomon says.

The weekly traffic at the YRG CARE clinic has gone up by 10 times since 1993; it now has 12,000 registered patients. More and more people are able to live longer with the help of drugs that in some cases now cost just 2% of the earlier rate.

But what is distressing to Dr Solomon is the rising percentage of Indian women infected by this virus (from 10% of the affected population in the 1990s to 50% now) even though 80% of them have single partners. Several Indian men often don’t disclose their illness to their families and give in to parental pressures to marry, endangering the life of an uninfected woman. Even if the man practises safe sex after counselling, there comes a time when the wife wants a child. “In some part of India, being childless is still a bigger stigma than being HIV-positive,” adds Dr Solomon, who herself faced a lot of societal pressures before she had her son, nearly 13 years after her marriage.

For Dr Solomon, the biggest joy is when she tests children of infected parents, usually brought in at 18 months, and the result is negative. At the time of our interview, her fridge was stocked with Mysore pak, a sweet, because a girl who had been brought to the centre had tested negative. Her HIV-positive mother had contracted the virus after a transfusion.

The problems persist. Parental disclosure to HIV-positive children is an issue most elders choose to postpone. And then there is the constant pressure of ensuring her patients take the prescribed medicine. “My biggest fear is a resistant virus,” says Dr Solomon. “Then we would need new drugs, which means more money for research to find new drugs.”–Sun.html?h=B

Gates gives another $80m to India’s fight against HIV
Kounteya Sinha, TNN 24 July 2009, 03:47am

NEW DELHI: India’s fight against HIV just got an $80 million push. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) on Thursday increased its funding
commitment to Avahan — its initiative to reduce the spread of HIV in India —to $338 million or Rs 1,652 crore.

Prior to the announcement, the foundation had committed $258 million to the programme.

The announcement by Microsoft founder and one of the world’s richest men Bill Gates, who is in India, comes at a time when the foundation has been facing allegations that it failed to make a lasting impact in India’s HIV fight.

It has also faced criticism for deciding to “shut down” Avahan and hand over the programme to government-run National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), which does not want to bear the burden.

However, officials of the foundation told TOI, “BMGF does not believe in continuous funding. Avahan’s whole purpose was to equip India in its fight against HIV. We were to build the programme, help scale it up, make it sustainable and give it to its natural holders like members of the community or the government. The foundation launched Avahan in 2003 to help fight HIV in India for a decade.”

The foundation said it was inaccurate to suggest that Avahan was about to wind down. Gates told TOI, “In fact, we have already awarded grants that extend into 2014. It’s not that the foundation is leaving India. The amount we spend in India on health and development will actually go up but will focus on other things like nutrition, maternal and child health and vaccines.”

Avahan was helping India to expand effective HIV prevention programmes that target sex workers, injection drug users and other groups at highest risk of infection.

Gates said there was no evidence for the claim that Avahan had failed to make a serious difference in India’s fight against AIDS. “Lot of research is being done on the numbers — effect of Avahan on HIV, its effect on the community, condom usage, how much has it reduced violence among high risk groups or sexually transmitted diseases,” he said.

The foundation said there was no reason why NACO could not run the programme. “It was always clear to the government that we would build capacity, scale up the programme and then step back. The goal was always about transition,” a foundation official said.

Gates will meet health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Friday to discuss India’s response to HIV/AIDS. “Prevention is absolutely essential for fighting HIV, and will ultimately save millions of lives,” Gates said.

Gates and Azad will discuss gradual transition of Avahan to the government. Avahan has already awarded more than $100 million in grants for this transition.

As of July 2009, the foundation has committed nearly $1 billion for health and development projects in India. Globally, it has committed approximately $11.95 billion in grants for health projects.

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Durga Puja Calendar

When is Durga Puja 2009

26th September 2009 Durga Puja - Saptami
27th September 2009 Durga Puja - Mahashtami
28th September 2009 Durga Puja - Navami
29th September 2009 Durga Puja - Vijaya Dasami

6th October 2008 Durga Puja - Saptami
7th October 2008 Durga Puja - Mahashtami
8th October 2008 Durga Puja - Navami
9th October 2008 Durga Puja - Vijaya Dasami

18th October 2007 Durga Puja - Saptami
19th October 2007 Durga Puja - Mahashtami
20th October 2007 Durga Puja - Navami
21st October 2007 Durga Puja - Vijaya Dasami

Durga Puja Timing

Men can reduce HIV burden on women: ICAAP9
August 13th, 2009 - 4:30 pm ICT by IBNS

By Ranjita Biswas

Bali, Aug 13 (IBNS) Men with their image of ‘macho-ness’ are often seen as being on the opposite side of gender imbalance scale. It is particularly true in the context of the Asia –Pacific region with its continued patriarchal norms. But new thoughts and new ideas are blowing in a change in attitude as the session Men can change-Reducing the Burden on women and girls and their vulnerabilities to HIV demonstrated.

For one, the need for involving men in gender-sensitive programs has well been recognized policy making by national and international bodies which were discussed and elaborated on during various sessions of the ongoing ICAAP9 in Bali.

As chair Kiran Bhatia, (Gender Advisor, UNFPA, Asia and Pacific Regional Office APRO) pointed out, in any program on women empowerment and sensitization the involvement of their partners is an
essential element. However, for a long time, this segment, so vital in this region’ was not given adequate focus but now is getting recognition. After all, women and girls account for more than half of the new HIV infections in the Asia-Pacific region. A recent report (March, 2009) by the Commission on the Status of Women emphasizes the need to reduce women and girls’ vulnerabilities to HIV and AIDS
including by gender based violence; and men can change, as works by people at the grassroots demonstrate.

Firstly, as young innovator Muhammad Shahzad Khan of Pakistan pointed out very rightly, “Men too have to suffer from the ‘image’ construction society imposes. Men have to prove they are
‘manly’ they have to behave in a certain way which is often imposed on them.” Khan established his NGO Chanan Development Association and is also National Y-PEER Focal Point in a deeply conservative part of his country out of his own personal experience.

In his native area girls are married off early, and they are not able to have their say. He saw it happening in his own home but when his 15 year old elder sister was going to be married with a 50 year old man- he was only 12 then, took the support of the women in the house and along with them went on a hunger strike to stop the marriage. His father was afraid of societal pressure but relented’ ultimately they had to leave their village for defying the local society. This experience moved Khan to begin his work of sensitizing adolescent boys and men through various programs. His motto “Treat women as human beings.”

Sujit Modak works in the Sonagachi , the largest red light area in Kolkata in eastern India. The Sonagachi Project is famous for programs of empowerment of commercial sex workers who have rallied

together under the Durbar Mahila Samnwaya Committee (DMSC) and the success of their condom promotion through a peer-worker network drawn from among themselves. Many of the sex workers have regular customers (babus). However, many of them do not like to use condoms or are not sensitive to their needs. Hence the women have also introduced a project to involve the babus in their campaign for safe sex. Today, many of the babus willingly register themselves as participants inthe project.

Nur Hassyim of Indonesia shared his experience of working as a media manager at Research and Training at Rifka Annisa on how introducing gender-sensitization among men and also adolescent boys at the schools, football clubs etc. have paid dividends. “We try to tell them about the ‘new image’ of men which is not necessarily an aggressive, male one but one which is humane and caring.” Clearly it is time to advocate this New Image not only in the fight against HIV/AIDs but also gender violence programs which are linked, the participants felt.

Retail spreads wings to ride festive wind to revival
- Food, apparel and lifestyle brands brave downturn to increase presence in malls before Puja

SHOP TILL YOU DROP: The interiors of South City Mall
After a season of shutdowns, a slew of big brands is braving the downturn to roll out expansion plans in anticipation of a festive turnaround for retail.

Pizza Hut, KFC, Subway, Fabindia, Sony Centre, Kaya and Prime Watch World are among the 15-odd brands setting up shop at South City Mall, on Prince Anwar Shah Road, over the next month.

Mani Square, on the EM Bypass, is also not missing the action. Fashion Bazaar, from the Future Group stable that includes Pantaloons, is ready to unveil a 10,000sq ft shop at the mall. The market buzz is that more brands will follow suit in the weeks leading to the start of festive buying beginning with Puja.

“We are delighted to bring to our property such a strong cluster of brands. The idea is to refresh the overall product-mix and break the monotony,” said Sanjeev Mehra, the vice-president of mall operations at South City.

For KFC, the quick-service chicken restaurant chain, the South City counter will be its fourth outlet in Calcutta after the ones at City Centre in Salt Lake, Park Street and New Market.

Pizza Hut isn’t chickening out from expanding either despite the shadow of the downturn still looming large. South City will be its fifth stop after the outlets at 22 Camac Street, City Centre, Forum and Sector V.

“Calcutta has been wonderfully receptive to all our formats, and our Salt Lake outlets have recorded 21 per cent growth even in these lean times. That gives us the belief that our upcoming stops, both at South City Mall and City Centre New Town, will do just as well,” Hridesh Sarna, senior manager of business development at franchisee Devyani International, said from Delhi.

The group will also bring Costa Coffee to the two malls despite a dip in sales forcing the Sector V outlet to shut shop. The only operational outlet of the UK coffee-shop chain in town now is at Mani Square.

City Centre New Town, which is dolling up for a festive unveiling, will be anchored by INOX, Pantaloons, Hangout — The Food Court, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC.

The city has witnessed a spate of shutdowns this year with the list of casualties including the bookshop-cum-music store Odyssey, Adidas’s flagship store, Reebok Classics, Guess and Next.

Lashkar makes I-Day plans for metros

7 Aug 2009, 0320 hrs IST, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: The Lashkar-e-Taiba is plotting to strike once again around August 15, this time in the three metros of Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata,

according to specific intelligence inputs with the Centre.

Home ministry sources disclosed that the fresh terror threat follows an increase in infiltration from across the western border in the recent months. Intelligence agencies have specific inputs that several of these infiltrated terrorists have already moved beyond J&K to the country’s hinterland, and may be holed up in cities like Kolkata, preparing for a fresh strike around the Independence Day.

The Union home ministry has already alerted the states concerned by sending out advisories seeking heightened vigil at key buildings and crowded places around August 15. The alert would extend to the upcoming religious events and festival season as well, starting with the month of Ramzan that begins on August 21 followed by Durga Puja, Dussehra and Diwali.

More than 200 cases of infiltration have been recorded so far in 2009, compared to just 263 cases in the whole of 2008. This has the security agencies worried as they feel that intruders may be lying low, waiting for the right opportunity to unleash terror.

To cite an instance, though 300-400 terrorists are estimated to be holed up in and around Srinagar, there has been no major attack so far. The intelligence agencies had feared that the Amarnath Yatra would be targeted, but it ended peacefully on Wednesday. Now, with intercepts hinting at the presence of intruders in cities like Delhi, Kolkata and Hyderabad, the agencies are busy tracking their movements and hope to intercept them before they can strike.

“The infiltrators into J&K are lying low as they have not been able to strike in view of the stepped up vigil in the Valley state…but some have already fanned out to other states and may carry out an attack by going for easy targets,” warned a senior MHA official.

The threat of a terror attack or an insurgent strike grows manifold in the run-up to the Independence Day. Keen to defy the state, the rebel/terror groups aim to make a political point by hitting around the two days of national importance: Republic Day and Independence Day.

Stating that there is no indication of Pakistan having done anything so far to contain terrorist groups operating from its soil, a senior MHA official cited Wednesday’s multiple infiltration bids, during which 11 terrorists were neutralised, as well as the recent discovery of a tunnel dug across the Indo-Pak border to emphasise that terrorists continued to have a free run in the neighbouring country.

There is no way, the official insisted, that such large-scale infiltration as well as construction of the tunnel could happen without the knowledge of Pakistan.

Look out for new releases, magazines at pre-Puja book fair
TNN 27 July 2009, 05:04am IST

KOLKATA: Popular Puja magazines, book releases by well-known authors, little magazines expect these and a lot more at the 10-day prak-sharad boi

bazaar (pre-Puja book mart) being planned at upcoming mall Barnaparichay at August-end.

All the six publishers’ associations have put their differences aside and agreed to participate in the fair to be organized on all five floors of the mall at the College Street-MG Road crossing. At least 300 publishers should take part in the fair.

“Apart from our usual puja numbers, each of us have a slew of releases slated for the pujas. We have agreed to release these formally during this book fair,” said Tridib Chatterjee, secretary of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, that organises the Kolkata Book Fair. Patra Bharati, his own publishing house, will bring out a book dedicated to fathers. It anthologizes the work of 125 poets with each work dedicated to a father figure.

Dey’s will bring out Tapan Sinha’s Chalachchitra Ajiban. Mitra-Ghosh, another big name in the publishing world, will unveil a special issue of Katha Sahitya celebrating its diamond jubilee with works by famous authors published in the magazine over the years. Natak Samagra, a collection of playwright Badal Sarkar’s works, will also be released.

Popular Puja magazines like Kishore Bharati, Shuktara and Nabakallol are expected to be released, apart from most of the Puja numbers published by newspaper houses. Publishers and Booksellers Association, Consortium for Publication, Culture and Readership, Prakashak Sabha will also participate in the fair.

We got a Telephone call fromTehri dam Project, Uttarakhand where Sabita`s eldest Brother Satyada works. It was sabita` Sister In law, a real Black beauty and youthful lady even in late fifties! She called us just to inform that the Mother back home in dharmanagari, Bijnore is very critical! Well, I have to visit places on Priority base ans have little time to go back to UP or Uttarakhand. The Old lady is ailing for years! But we could not go home after the untimely demise of my Mother! We planed to go back in June, but Sabita fell ILL! My son STEEV is busy in his studies and would not acompany us! We are planning for Visit Home for years as we we dream to have a HOME at least! Some or other Hinderance always obstructs us!

My TV is dead since the news broke about Subhasda`s death! Perhaps the picture Tube is gone!

Eight marmosets (Brazilian monkeys) in Alipore Zoo here were stolen after breaking open the cage, zoo authorities said


The matter came to light when attendants this morning found a part of the monkeys’ cage broken and eight of them missing, director of the Zoo, Subir Chowdhury, said.

We happen to be always in CRISIS! And it is Never SUBJECTIVE or Particular case! Everyone around us at work place or Hoem is in Intense trouble and suffering! Even we may not bail out each other!

I have been seeing the SONAGACHHI Girls and the Foothpath Dwellers in Intense Pain for years and they happen to be UNDER Classes as we Never find us to ADDRESS them at any Level. Some NGOs do some work. There is a movement running for SEX Work Rights! I have seen a few issues of DURBAR BHavna, published by the SONAGACHHI NGO Durbar! But I know very little though our car always have been intruding the Red Light areas beyond the ROMANTICISM about the livelihood and the general hatred and pity in Masses thanks to Films and literature! The real life is always different from the Real life!

Despite Ten Fold growth of Indian Copnies, the Ruling Hegemony Feed the Killer Greedy Money Machine with our Fleahs, Blood and bones! All on the name of false recession! While NON plan Expenditure and DEFENCE Budget beyond arms shopping escalates the DEFICIT Economy. Jobloss is the Prime Trend! How our people suffer, just see:

Second arrest in rly job racket, 43 complaints filed
TNN 9 August 2009, 03:55am IST

KOLKATA: The city police on Saturday made a second arrest in connection with the fake railway recruitment racket busted last month.

Uma Shankar Singh (42) was arrested from Jehananabad in Bihar. Preliminary probe revealed that he had trapped at least 66 youths from Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.

Police had first arrested Suprakash Singh, an MCA student, from Delhi on July 24. He was cheating job-seekers through his fake website The matter had come to light when D K Srivastava, the chairman of railway recruitment board, Kolkata, had lodged a complaint with police. Since then, the city police have received 43 complaints from job-seekers.

Police came to know about Uma Shankar Singh when Rajesh Kumar, a job-seeker, visited the railway recruitment board office on R G Kar Road and claimed that he had got the job. When the officers asked how he was so sure, he mentioned his roll no 720018 having featured in the website. He was shown as being chosen as an RPF constable.

Understanding that Kumar was yet another person swindled, the railway officials lodged another complaint. On interrogating Kumar, police came to know about Singh. Police raided his house in Jehanabad and arrested him.

The website, investigators said, has been designed in a very professional manner, which made job-seekers more vulnerable to the racket. On entering the roll number, one finds a certificate where it is written: “Results of some candidates have been kept in abeyance. The candidature of these candidates is under verification. While every care has been taken in preparing the above result, the possibility of inadvertent error cannot be ruled out. The Board does not undertake responsibility of such errors and reserves the right to rectify the same later on”.

However, in case of Kumar, it was written that “Roll numbers of Rajesh Kumar has been qualified for constable/gdrpf/ rpsf”, said investigators.

It is rainy season in kolkat! Rain came long after AILA! Monsoon is in deficit! But the AUTUMN is knocking the DOORS with COMMODITY Market BOOM as PUJA COUNTDOWN is in swift Progress!

Though PRICE Rise and Drought Conditions Never allow RESPITE, FOOD is very HOT on the Plate, it is ZERO Inflation Bull Time of celebration in Corporate India! Commodities are very High in demand! The Goverment of India is said to be following the Kaines Economics to deal with recession for Higher GOVT. Expenditure. But the day to day ESSENTIAL commodities do MISS!

No more hoarding potatoes and other essential commodities in the market. But not only Potatoes, CERELS, dals, Vegetables, Fishes and mat Prices are RUNNING as ROCKETS and Missiles!

Indian newspapers carried the following stories in their print or Web editions on Tuesday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

* A delay in clearance of imported consignments of edible oil, pulses, sugar and perishable goods at the Kolkata Port by the Central Food Laboratory is threatening to push up prices of these commodities further in the domestic market.


* Tea gardens in Darjeeling, which remained shut for about a week due to the bandh declared by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, resumed normal work on Monday.

Looking for more information from local sources? has 25 sources. For details about our products, please call your local help desk. To find out more about ThomsonReuters visit

(Compiled by Nandita Bose; Editing by Prem Udayabhanu)

BUSINESS Line reports:

Even as consumers are reconciling themselves to dearer sugar, they are being served a double whammy – this time from milk.
The last few days have seen retail milk prices go up by Rs 1-2 a litre in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune, with other cities, too, bracing for similar increases.

Coming ahead of the festival season – starting with Eid-ul-Fitr towards September 20, followed by Dussehra on September 28 and Diwali on October 17 – there could be no worse news, given that these two commodities or their derivatives such as khoa and channa are the main ingredients in the making of practically every sweet savoured during this time.

In Mumbai, all major liquid milk brands – Mahananda, Aarey, Gokul, Amul, Mother Dairy, Warana, Krishna, Govardhan, Shivamrut and Govind – have announced Rs 2 a litre hike effective from this Friday.

Full-cream milk, with six per cent fat and nine per cent solids-not-fat (SNF) content, will now cost Rs 30 a litre, while prices of toned milk (3 per cent fat and 8.5 per cent SNF) have been raised from Rs 22 to 24 a litre.

In Pune, too, consumer prices have gone up by Rs 2 a litre, as a result of the Maharashtra Government’s decision on July 29 to hike its reference rate for purchase of milk from farmers by Rs 2.50 a litre.

Procurement price hiked
Dairies in the State will have to pay the higher procurement price over the next three months, before the ‘flush’ season begins in November.

In Delhi, the market leader, Mother Dairy, has effected a Re one a litre increase in prices of its double-toned (1.5 per cent fat and 9 per cent SNF) and bulk-vended toned variants.

These will henceforth retail at Rs 19 and Rs 20 a litre respectively, even as prices of full-cream and toned milk sold in pouches (as opposed to loose milk against tokens) have been retained at Rs 21 and Rs 26 a litre.

“Mother Dairy is also likely to shortly raise prices of full-cream and toned milk as well. Given that full-cream in Delhi is now Rs 4 a litre cheaper than in Mumbai, this is bound to happen.

And once the market leader does it, Amul, Gopaljee, Paras and others will automatically follow”, industry sources pointed out.

A Re one a litre consumer price hike is also said to be in the offing in Kolkata.

Pending with EC
In Chennai, the Tamil Nadu Government has already given the clearance for raising procurement prices of milk by Rs 2 a litre, though the decision is pending with the Election Commission in view of the by-elections to five Assembly seats on August 18.

“The higher procurement prices may take effect after the by-polls, which, in turn, will also necessitate a corresponding correction in retail prices”, the sources added.

Milk prices, unlike sugar, have witnessed a gradual increase over the last couple of years.

Gradual rise
While retail sugar prices have shot up from Rs 18-19 to Rs 28-29 a kg in the last one year alone, full-cream milk prices in Delhi have risen from Rs 19 to Rs 26 since February 2006.

Dairies’ defence
Dairies justify the higher milk prices by laying the blame on soaring cattle feed costs, along with the impact of the current drought on green fodder availability.

Prices of major feed ingredients such as de-oiled rice bran, rapeseed extractions and molasses have hardened by 40- 60 per cent since last year.

Moreover, the recent increase in diesel prices has added to the cost of transporting milk from the primary collection centres to the consumer point, they pointed out.

The Children have to miss the Total food! We forget the Lalgarh children who have been made to depend on Mid day Meals in the Closed scholls handed over to Security forces to Flush out the Maoists!

It may be some Consolation as National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Ltd (NCDEX) is planning to introduce 15 agricultural commodities that are currently being traded in the futures in the spot market, a top official said here on Saturday.

“In the futures we have around 52 commodities out of which 15 are very active. We will try to get all the 15 into spot,” R. Ramaseshan, managing director and chief executive officer of the exchange, told reporters here.

It is planning to introduce all the 15 agricultural commodities in the spot market by next fiscal-end (2010-11), he said.

At present, the exchange has spot contracts in chana with delivery centres at Bikaner and Indore and in mustard with delivery centre at Sri Ganganagar.

NCDEX plans to introduce maize contract by October-December.

“The maize contracts would be launched in the Rabi season. The crop is a three-state phenomenon grown in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and we plan to launch contracts for these varieties,” Mr. Ramaseshan said.

“Spot market is an inherent part of the reform in the agriculture marketing but we are facing lot of challenges in popularising the spot market and we have long way to go,” he said.

Regarding the recent move by sugar processor Shree Renuka Sugars to acquire 5 percent stake in NCDEX, he said: “As per the government norms, foreign enterprises cannot hold more than 5 percent in the exchange and that is the reason Goldman Sachs (7 percent) and IntercontinentalExchange (8 percent) have divested their stakes.”

Shree Renuka is acquiring the shares these two foreign firms divest.

The present shareholders of NCDEX are Life Insurance Corp, National Stock Exchange, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Crisil, Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO), Canara Bank and Punjab National Bank.

I am based in Kolkata. I am here since 1991. Though I visited the Metro as earlier as in 1973 with my father, the Social activist, just after 1973.

The Kolkata, we knew is DEVELOPING! It is not Dying, of course!

I have to come from sub Uraban SODEPUR where I reside in a Rented Premises to my workplace and have to return late in Night every day for my job requirement!

The Resistance Heroine Ms Mamata Banerjee is also Pursuing all ways of Corporate Development, though fighting against Indiscriminate Late Acquisition. Her Development Plan has every scope for private public partnership! She is also interacting with India Incs to develop Kolkata!

I am an OUTSIDER even today in Kolkata and happen to be an outcaste Refugee by heart and mind. Thus, my prespective may be quite different! What I see or Observe , others may not even feel. Because the Effluent Ruling class, Media and High Profile Civil Society as well as Brahaminical hegemony are quite detached with the PLIGHTS of the Underprevileged, Persecuted and Underclasses who have been ejected out forcefully to EVACUATE Kolkata and Sub Urban for REALTY BOOM!

I have to interact with SCAVANGERS, Workers of locked mills and factories! I have to visit the Grave yards of closed COTTON or Jute mills across the Great Ganges! I have to OBSERVE as EYE Witness the DEATH Procession Infinite!

At the same time, I have to locate my people in Slums and refugee colonies STARVING deprived of Home, Job, Livelihood, knowledge and education, Citizenship and even Civil and Human Rights!

I wander alon with the Indo Bangla Border line transformed into FREE Zones or Transit points of Woman and Drug Trafficking!

I have to mix up with hawkers and daily commuters in local trains!

But, I am Helpless that I am not in a position to bail out this lot of balck Untouchables predestined for Sustained Injustice and Inequality under Manusmriti Rule!

The BHADROLOK caste Hindu Bengalies are PROUD to be the Super Citizens of the City of Joy!

I see lots of People buying Hilsa fish at the rate of SIX Hundred Rs per KILO. They never bargain! They just pay down! But we the majority People may not AFFORD day to day Sustenance!

Rainy Season is quite a Hell for Kolkata and specilly for the Sonagachhi girls, Fotpath Dwelleres, slumdogs and refugeees taking shelter anywhere!

I have been witnessing year after year that the SONAGACHHHI Girls, now described as SEX Workers, wait under UMBRELLA in the SUBMERGED City in the Heart and Mind everywhere! I see the RED LIGHT Areas ESCALATING! I have to witness the CALL Girls Domestic fighting for evrey breath!

Anywhere in Kolkata, at any RLY station, under any bridge, around any Public place, you may just notice the Generation Next indulged in DRUG ADDICTION! Drug Paddlers are quite FREE to Loiter anywhere! Police dares not to touch them anywhere!

We also see the landscape as well as humanscape Marginalised where from the Valley of death transforms into UNDER world Overwhelming!

Kolkata is changing very first as Multi storied realty Properties destroy Homes and colonies anywhere from Kalyani to Kolkata, Sonarpur or Dimond harbour! Infrastructure or NGOs or Flagship Programmes my not help!

In New Delhi, realising the gravity of food situation in the country, Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar summoned the state Chief Secretaries , even as Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar assured Parliament that the government had sufficient buffer stock of rice and wheat for the next 13 months.

Pawar also told the Lok Sabha that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might meet the Chief Ministers on August 17 to address the problem of hoarding and profiteering. Acknowledging that the food situation in the country was grim and delayed rains had contributed to this crisis, the minister assured members that the government was taking both long and short-term measures to meet the situation.

Replying to a two-day debate on price rise, the Agriculture Minister said amidst repeated interruptions from RJD chief Lalu Prasad and SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav, “I am not saying prices of essential commodities are satisfying. I also admit that there is a crisis on the pulses front. We might have to correct this either through import or some subsidy.”

Giving reasons for shortfall in pulses, the minister said production had stagnated while the demand has gone up, resulting in a gap of 3.5-4 million tonnes. He also revealed that the greatest scarcity was for tur, moong and urad, but assured the House that 9.30 lakh tonne pulses had already been imported by public sector entities and private enterprises to met the shortfall.

Pawar denied reports that pulses consignments were lying in the open outside Kolkata port and said the STC, NAFED, MMTC and PEC, Ministry of Shipping and Pulses Importer Association have written to him denying these reports. He added that a 6,000-tonne consignment of pulses belonging to NAFED was released by the custom authorities recently.

Pawar said the government had paid highest MSP for wheat and rice. He also assured that there was buffer stock of 252 lakh tonnes of wheat and 356 lakh tonnes of rice in government godowns.

But a day earlier Pawar also conceded that “retail price of sugar is ranging between Rs 25-30 per kg” and said lower production of sugarcane this season had put pressure on the open market prices of levy sugar. “The steep rise in retail price of sugar has prompted the government to extend duty free import of sugar for another eight months,” he said.

Pawar told the Rajya Sabha earlier this week that sugarcane acreage across the country had declined from 5,055 hectares in 2007-08 to 4,395 hectares in 2008-09. Official figures put Punjab’s sugarcane acreage at 81 acres hectares down from 110 hectares in 2007-08 and in Haryana the fall it has come down from 140 hectares to only 81 hectares.

The great sale bazaar
Stores are offering never-heard-of discounts. Should the buyer blame — or thank — the downturn?

Steal a deal: Showrooms at South City Mall and (below) Mani Square are giving huge discounts. Pictures by Anindya Shankar Ray
The signs could be seen the moment one stepped into the mall. At Mani Square, first up was Little Shop’s annual sale. Further down VIP was offering up to 40 per cent discount, Woodlands promising a flat 40 per cent off on apparel and United Colors of Benetton displaying an “up to 70 per cent” sign as one looked up. On the floors above, the signs became more frequent.

If a mall is designed in such a way that every store attracts eyeballs, now they are making the eyes pop out with the discount tags dangling from every shop window. Blackberry, Reebok, Lilliput, Zapp, AND, Starmark, American Tourister…one feels dizzy with discount.

At South City Mall, the scene is much the same. International labels, sportswear, suitcase brands, books, spectacles, sari shops and designer boutiques are all falling over each other to offer discount — one bigger than the other.

At City Centre too, high-end and international labels are offering mouthwatering discount, on a scale not seen in the city earlier.

The sale season is not restricted to the malls. Streets are covered with sale signs. At the Camac Street-Shakespeare Sarani crossing, standalone stores Levi Strauss Signature, Benetton, Wills Lifestyle and others have created a discount zone. At the Spencer’s hypermart in Rashbehari, a table has been placed in the middle of the grocery racks, on which are piled cotton kurtas. A giant “70% off” sign dangles from the ceiling.

Less is more

End of season (summer-end, winter-end) sales are not new to the city. Retail experts say a discount works for the customer psyche. “It gives buyers the courage to enter and explore. Once they get a taste, they come back for more. It breeds new customers,” explains Sanjay Jhunjhunwala of Mani Square.

The developer tried this theory with success at Mani Square. The Ikkis Ka Dum promotional promised food items, movie tickets or other entertainment options at Rs 21 each, plus taxes. The drive transformed the fate of Mani Square, which had acquired the dubious tag of being “the mall at the wrong place at the wrong time” after it opened shop in the middle of the downturn last year.

Brands insist this year is no different. Vijay Dugar, the Bengal distributor for Reebok and Levis, says both his brands had offered similar discount in the last two years. “There are two reasons behind the end of season sales: to sell old stocks and to get rid of certain products that don’t sell in all sizes. That holds true for every year,” he says.

Besides, there are huge pre-Puja discounts every year.

Up, up and away

But there’s a difference in the show this year. “I have never seen such huge discount across brands and stores in Calcutta before. I wonder what’s driving these up to 70 per cent sales,” exclaims Anita Kalra, a self-confessed shopaholic.

If brands insist nothing’s new, shop floor attendants tell a different story. An employee at Benetton’s Shakespeare Sarani outlet says he remembers the discount last year was “up to 50 per cent”. This year it is “up to 70 per cent”. Mufti, another apparel brand, has struck out its “up to 40 per cent off” sign to announce “Now up to 50 per cent off”. Wills Lifestyle, located close by, is offering a flat 50 per cent off — “a first for this brand”, says a staff member.

not for the faint-hearted
Since discount sales are a way of life now, here’s how to make the most of them:

● You need to know the market, to understand whether the discount is really as much as being promised or there are hidden costs

● You usually can’t exchange stuff bought during a sale

● Is it really worth it to buy three shirts for the price for two, when they look almost the same?

● Or you may not want the half-its-original price salwar-kameez at all

● Be ready to do some quick calculations in your head. There’s no time to pull out the calculator

● Be prepared to wait — at the trial rooms, at the cash counter

● Avoid rush hours — in the evenings, weekends and the last day of the sale. You have a better chance of shopping well if you go when few others are expected

● Keep a check on your temper. The crowd, the chaos, the hours are going to make you want to snap — but that will spoil the fun

Discount announcements on Shakespeare Sarani
The floor attendants’ memory could be faulty, but retail analysts point their fingers at the statistics of the downturn. “The discount being offered in monsoon 2009 appears to be driven by the downturn. Retail brands have taken a big hit, particularly in the last two quarters,” says Anand Ramanathan, KPMG advisory service manager.

“Any discount above 50 per cent is not just a marketing strategy, it’s aimed at liquidation of stocks or clearing out the racks,” he adds.

Taposh Bhattacharya, a textile industry expert concurs. “This year’s discount offers are unlike any other year’s. The downturn has taken its toll on retail. Business is down by 15-20 per cent. So retailers are desperate to cut down the inventory because a lot of capital is blocked,” he says.

He feels retailers are offering heavy discount to increase the cash flow. They want to get whatever returns they can on this stock and introduce a fresh collection before the festive season.

Desperate measures

The scenario is the same in other cities too, says Bhattacharya. Everyone is offering a discount. Brands like Mango and M&S, which are not associated with sale, are now offering huge discounts. Sportswear brands Nike, Reebok and Adidas are all offering up to 60 per cent discount. Traditionally Nike would never offer more than a 15-20 per cent off. “The situation is worse abroad, where luxury brands are being forced to offer 30-50 per cent discount,” says Bhattacharya.

“Unfortunately, we do not have enough data available to say so with authority, but visually at least, it does seem that more extensive discounts are being offered this year, both in terms of number of brands going on sale and the extent of the discount offered,” says Abhijit Das, a retail consultant who runs the company Lemongrass Advisors.

“There are approximately 50 per cent more brands offering discount this year,” feels Avishek Auddy, who teaches retail management and corporate strategy at the P.C. Chandra School of Business.

Auddy insists that these are not stock clearance sales. “Stock clearance sales are given on old, last-season stocks. But these discounts are being offered on fresh stocks,” he says. Stocks are not moving, sales are sluggish, he adds. Brands are desperate to have more footfalls at the stores.

Trying times

Brands at the most will concede that the drop in sales in the past year has been marginal, but admit to the success of offering discount in these trying times.

“Sales had dropped by 10-15 per cent. But we made it up by announcing a price slash. Our earnings were worth Rs 45-50 lakh during the July 9-31 discount period. This time business during the discount period was 10 per cent more than last year,” says Kamal Jain, a franchise owner of Benetton.

“Across the retail industry, an end of season sale usually leads to a three or four-fold jump in the numbers of buys,” says Amit Saha, the brand head of Turtle India.

A manager at Pantaloons agrees. “On just the last day of the sale, we sold merchandise worth Rs 1 crore at each of our Kankurgachhi and South City outlets,” he says.

The impact of the downturn may not always be in terms of a drop in net sales or revenue. City-specific figures are not available, but national data throws light on how organised retail has been hit by the downturn.

Pantaloon Retail had planned 5.9million sq ft of floor space for the financial year 2008-09, but managed to achieve only 3.8million sq ft. For the year 2009-10, it has planned to cover 8 million sq ft, but consultant firm KPMG says the retail major is expected to achieve only 4.8 million sq ft.

Organised retail, which was expected to comprise 16 per cent of business in 2012 from the current 5 per cent, is likely to reach just 10.4 per cent, says a KPMG survey.

Goenka-owned Spencers Retail has plunged into a Rs 289 crore loss in the last fiscal, as was disclosed by the company in its regulatory filing to the stock exchange. Spencers had posted a Rs 150 crore loss in 2007-08 over a turnover of Rs 812 crore. Last fiscal, it recorded sales of Rs 1,070 crore.

There may be too many malls. “Calcutta is still a small city, with a restricted customer base. Too many malls have opened up in the past few years and more are coming up. Supply is exceeding demand,” says Auddy. Few in the city are fashion conscious enough to overhaul their wardrobe every season to follow trends. The struggle for shelf-space might just become a part of Calcutta retail. And discounts too, which is the best way to get rid of surplus stock.

In any case, there are too many T-shirts on offer. “Bare Denim is offering three T-shirts for Rs 399. Almost everyone in my office has bought these tees. Some even have the same colours. We can make it the office uniform,” laughs Joyeeta Chakraborty, a media professional.

Temptations galore

The desperation may at times lead to doublespeak. Gairik Das, co-ordinator, PGP retail management, IISWBM, says that most retail outlets offer huge discounts only on their own-label (local) or smaller brands, which have little production and distribution costs. “You can’t play around much with national FMCG brands the way you can with own-label brands,” he says.

Abhijit Das of Lemongrass Advisors agrees. “The whole concept of sales is that it draws in the crowds. At a store offering up to 70 per cent discount, only a small percentage of merchandise will be under so much discount. The idea is that the customer will walk in and see something that he likes that might not be on sale at all and buy it. It encourages impulse buying,” says Das.

So a lady, whose wardrobe didn’t have a single designer outfit, walked into a boutique and bought a salwar-kameez set for Rs 3,500, tempted by a 50 per cent cut. Then she realised that the ensemble was everything that she wouldn’t wear.

The discerning customer realises that he has been taken for a ride, though he might not still be able to resist the sale tag. Sambit Adhikari, 30, a Sector V techie, ordered two suits from a premier brand on seeing the 60 per cent sale tag. “It was an impulse buy and I am not happy with the quality of the cloth,” he rues. Sometimes a willing suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy a sale.

But for every single sceptic, there’ll be 10 others who will shop till they drop at a sale, and go home grinning from ear to ear.

Discount shopping may also replace partying.

On Friday, Sayoni and her friends were rushing to make it to Camac Street within the “happy hour”. Only, their destination was not a pub, it was the Benetton store at the crossing. The high-end apparel brand has come up with a novel one-for-one scheme at off hours (8am to 10am and 8pm to 11pm). And happy hour made them happy, very happy.

Hang on, the “up to 70 per cent” tag might just become a flat 100 per cent off! That means you get the object of your desire free. Hang on even more, and you may get a 200 per cent discount. That means you will be paid the price of the T-shirt for choosing to buy it.

But better than that is the prospect of the downturn coming to an end.


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