Thursday, June 25, 2009

Judicial system of two neighbours

Pakistan supreme court rejected review petition of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian citizen convicted for espionage and bomb blasts in various cities of Pakistan. The petition was rejected on the grounds that Sarabjit's lawyer was not present in the court for the procedings. (Link)

Contrary to this, in India the court will not prosecute Ajmal Kasab (a Pakistani citizen arrested for being responsible for the mumbai terrorist attacks) unless he had a lawyer to represent him. Even though everyone in the world saw Kasab live firing from his assault rifle at the commuters on VT station. This is a striking difference between the judicial system of the two neighbouring countries.

If Sarabjit Singh had a lawyer representing him in the court, the result might have been different. However, the court decided to reject his case because his lawyer deserted him. The judicial system has to be something better than this.

This should also be an eye opener for all the people who were lynching the lawyers agreeing to represent Ajmal Kasab, just to make sure that the trial moves forward. Also, the people who were against any trial for terrorism convicts and direct death sentence. We would never want our judicial system to reach those shallow levels. India has always been and should always provide proper legal assistance before trying any criminals. With proper working legal system we can solve these issues and earn respect in eyes of a common human being.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Invited speakers from AID India

Association for India's Development (AID) presents as part of its Distinguished Speaker Series, M Damodharan and Dharmendra Kumar, both noted social workers committed to the cause of sustainable and just development at the grassroots level in different parts of India.

Date : 9th June
Time : 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm (ADMISSION FREE)
Venue : 260 Willard Building, Penn State University

M Damodharan comes from the state of Tamil Nadu (TN) in southern India and has been with AID India for the past 9 years. He is the program head for community development, and content head for the language program at AID TN. Damu, as Dhamodaran is popularly known, has been the major driving force behind the widespread implementation of the “Padippum Inikkum” reading program launched by AID TN in 2006. AID India was awarded the Pratham 2006 Achievement Award for this reading program.

Dharmendra Kumar comes from the state of Bihar in eastern India. He was the state coordinator of All India People Science Network's (AIPSN) "Joy of Learning Campaign." Besides his interests in education, between 2004 to 2007, Dharmendraji coordinated public health initiatives such as the Hundred Block Program and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan. Since January 2008 he has been coordinating AID India’s activities in Bihar to promote social equity and development. He was also actively involved with the flood relief activities during the Bihar floods in 2008.

Please join us to hear their experiences of working in these interesting projects.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Providing food with dignity

The calamity times can be really bad on a person's dignity. In these times when one is fighting against the nature to feed his/her family, keeping ones dignity intact is even tougher. How to accept the relief material, the food, clothes and medicines. If it was from govt, there would be a right to ask for it. But if it comes from foreign corners, how would someone feel while taking it. What to do if there is no other alternative available?

Mukti, NGO being supported by AID made the dilemma easier for the people affected by cyclone Aila. The next biggest danger people in these areas were facing was the disaster coming in form of high tide at the full moon night. The embankments to the river need urgent repair to avoid the destruction by high tide. At one hand people are dying of hunger, on the other hand the embankment won't be repaired because of lack of manpower. Since the paycheck from govt comes really late, its hard to motivate people to work while their family is dying of hunger. Mukti volunteers proposed to give food to the people who worked to repair the embankment. "Mukti motivated the villagers by providing snacks (breakfast) in the morning session and 2kg of rice and 200 grams Dal and 250 grams potato 100 grams of onion at the end of the day in addition to wages which they will get in time." This was a good enough motivator to feed their family and save their village while keeping their dignity intact. There were 450 people working on first day and 900 from second day onwards. The model is being appreciated by the govt officials and other NGOs and is being replicated in other villages too.

So end of the story is that even in middle of such devastation there are people working really hard and coming up with intelligent solution to odd problems.

Another news: A supporter have pledged to donate $1500 if AID can generate $5000 for cyclone aila relief fund. So go ahead and donate generously. Every $10 of yours will mean $13 to the needy people.

News reports: TheBigPicture | Telegraph | ToI | ToI | IndianExpress | DeccanHerald

Monday, June 01, 2009

Cyclone Aila updates

Life is still paused in the areas affected by cyclone Aila. However, the relief given by AID is reaching to some parts of these areas. The most satisfying fact is that the money I saved from not eating my meal at a restaurant actually fed almost a whole village in these difficult times. If you are able to contribute even a penny to this effort, please do not think twice. Every dime and a dollar will be used to save human lives.

Here are few updates from the ground. The video has some stats and then pictures from the relief camp being run by Mukti, an NGO working with AID in the affected villages.

Here is a report from M. A. Wohab, Director of SHIS, another NGO conducting clinics everyday in the affected villages besides providing water and food. If you are a doctor, or know a doctor who might want to help these people let me know.

Here is a detailed survey from BTS/Mukti covered areas giving an idea of the damage and the type of relief available.

Budget from BTS/Mukti for the relief work in the villages.

For regular updated on the relief work click here

To donate to the relief fund click here

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cyclone Aila relief work

Cyclone Aila struck the coasts of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India killing more than 200 people and destroying 180,000 homes. Over 3 million people have been displaced as per the estimates.

The govt help is as always not adequate. Association for India's Development (AID) is partnering with local NGO partners to provide food, water and shelter. AID has already disbursed $21,000 to one of the partner NGO Baikanthapur Tarun Sangha (BTS) for this work.

If you would like to help the relief work please donate to AID All India Relief Fund.

Click here if you would like to follow the regular updates (from people working right in the middle of it and not from seasoned journalists)

If you would like to go and help in the relief work drop a hint in the comments section.

Cyclone Aila in press : BBC | The Daily Star | CNN | ToI | The Hindu

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Urban Legend - Act 49-O

While the parliamentary election were on in India, I received several emails to exercise my right of not giving my vote to anyone. The general email reads as follows:

"Did you know that there is a system in our constitution, as per the 1969 act, in section "49-O" that a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his identity, get his finger marked and convey the presiding election officer that he doesn't want to vote anyone !!!! Yes, such a feature is available, but obviously these seemingly notorious leaders have never disclosed it. This is called"49-O".
Why should you go and say "I VOTE NOBODY"... because, in a ward, if a candidate wins, say by 123 votes, and that particular ward has received "49-O" votes more than 123, then that polling will be canceled and will have to be re-polled. Not only that, but the candidature of the contestants will be removed and they cannot contest the re-polling, since people had already expressed their decision on them. This would bring fear into parties and hence look for genuine candidates for their parties for election. This would change the way, of our whole political system... it is seemingly surprising why, and election commission has not revealed such a feature to the public.... please spread this news to as many as you know... Seems to be a wonderful weapon against corrupt parties in India... show your power, expressing your desire not to vote anybody, is even more powerful than voting... so don't miss your chance. So either vote, or vote not to vote (vote 49-O) and pass this info on...

While there is some truth in the email, some of it is false.

Truth: Yes there is a clause in "Conduct of Election Rules, 1961" called 49-O, which is very similar to the one described in the email. The clause says:

"49-O. Elector deciding not to vote.-If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark." [Ref]

False: Although there is a clause named 49-O and it also give you a right not to vote, it has no tooth. I mean there is no provision for re-election, re-polling, or removal of the candidature of the candidates.

The clause is mainly to help avoid proxy voting. If you don't want to give your vote to anyone, and also don't want someone else to do proxy voting in your name, you can go and exercise your right to not to vote. This would make it impossible for someone else to cast vote in your name.

The problem in exercising this right is that your identity would be revealed. Earlier, in times of old Ballot Paper, you could leave the paper blank and drop it in the box. However, the new EVMs doesn't have an option of 'None of the above'. If you exercise this right, the polling official and the polling agent would come to know about it. The proposed election reforms have considered this issue, and have suggested an extra option on the EVMs. [Ref]

Now about the tooth part, there are PILs and several activists trying to convice Supreme Court and Election Commission to amend this clause and give it some tooth.

So there exists a clause named 49-O and it does take care of 'Negative / Neutral Voting'. However it doesn't have any option of cancelling the election in the particular are, or forcing re-polling.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do you play Sudoku?

Sudoku is a combinatorial number puzzle. You have to fill in a 9x9 grid with numbers 1-9 in each line and in nine 3x3 squares. I started doing it back in 2005 when they started it in Indian newspapers!! I still do it in the newspapers and sometime on this website: Link

Today while searching for computer accessories, I found this product on deal:

The description of the product says "We all know that having a sit down can be a time consuming and boring process. Some people read, others sing. Why not play Sudoku with your loo paper?
The perfect gift for the person who has everything!"

As they say, if you are addicted to it, you would find time and place for it.\

Picture courtesy