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Denim catches India's fancy
2018.01.20 18:33:30

Denims today have become items of universal wear in India. These seem to have become favourites of every one – whether a billionaire or a lowly workman, urban socialite or a rustic plebian. The differences, if any, will be only in the quality of the cloth or its design and stitching - the basic material however remaining the same, the fabric.

It is amazing to contemplate the way the things have changed over the last few decades in regard to the usage of denims. In urban India or in its rural hinterland denims have won general favour and acceptance so much so that a retired judge of a high court, while talking of her tenure as a chief justice, made a mention of how she prohibited the staff  from coming to work in denims. It is not unusual to find workers coming to work in government offices in denims. Even in villages denims have become the favourite daily wear, most probably because of its amenability to rough and regular use.

A recent report, however, indicated that the demand for the cloth in the country did not build up in the manner it was expected. Sometime back the demand had strengthened and to meet that new capacity for manufacture of the cloth was added. New mills came up but they are functioning only up to 60 or 70% of their capacity on account of a shortfall in off-take of the fabric. One wonders whether it is a case of shrinking demand or over-capacity in the sector that has pulled down the production. It is well known that we have what is known as a herd mentality. Maybe tat was the reason that more than necessary number of mills came up flooding the market. Denim manufacturers had a flourishing run ever since Kasturbhai Lalbhai group’s Arvind Mills pioneered its manufacture in India. Today Arvind Mills with its capacity of more than 100 million metres per annum is one of the leading manufacturers of denim in the world. It even varies the quality according to the needs of its designers who are based both, in India as well as abroad.

When we were young we knew that the cowboys of the US wore “jeans” – the word that was used for special trousers made for them of denims. They would ride horses wearing them. In fact, their entire outfit including the shirt used to be made of denims. In the wild-west movies actors like John Wayne and those of his ilk would always be in denims with guns sticking out of their holsters that would be within their easy grasp enabling them to be “fast guns”. Their hulk with a muscular and hungry look decked up in denims topped by a Stetson and other accoutrements, made them exude muscle power and toughness that sometimes made even the sheriff in the movie squirm before them.

While today boys and girls wear denims to colleges, or, for that matter, every and anywhere, we had no such luck in our times. Sixty-odd years ago jeans were scarce in India, more so in the backwaters of Gwalior where I was growing up. Once, however, I happened to see my friend Anand’s older brother Jagat Bamroo, a class mate of my sister wearing jeans in the college. I gave it a good look and was impressed by the indigo of the warp and the bold stitches in red along the seams and for the bold patched hip-pockets. The bottom cuffs were turned up like those of the trousers of yore revealing the whites of the weft. That was my introduction to “cowboy jeans” but I did not get into one till much later in life when the cloth started flowing out of the Indian mills.

Denim can be used for all kinds of dresses, particularly for women. While in men’s wear denims find use in making of trousers, shirts, jerkins, fashionable caps, etc., in the area of women’s wear sky is the limit for its usage. Women use it for “jeans”, skirts, shorts, jerseys, dungarees, caps and even shoes or sandals. In India it is used for designing women’s “kurtas” and “kurties”. Fashionistas let lose their imagination and have a field day in designing dresses for their clientele and every year new designs flood the market. Already, the fashion trends for 2018 are in the print media for women to choose from to suit their sartorial tastes and the mix that is there in their wardrobes.

Denims come in different varieties. There are crushed denims or stone washed or acid washed denims or even marble denims – each is used by the designers according to the fancy of the fashionista. Then the designers go further up and add value to the garments by working on them with embroidery or patch work and such like. Some go much farther and add laces to the hems to give them a formal or celebrity look. Those who have stacks of money go and get diamonds attached to various parts of their dresses and they do so even with shoes made out of denims. Then there are others who make fashion statements out of ripped or frayed jeans. Some ripped jeans are so weird that a substantial part of legs around the thighs and knees remain uncovered.

The burgeoning population of India’s shanties or what are known as “JJ colonies” have not missed out on denims. One would find boys and girls emerging from them wearing whatever is trending. If it is the current body-hugging skinny denims, they have it and love to flaunt them. A whole new system of marketing has emerged to cater to the demands from this unlikely source. Used clothes markets, or markets that deal in indifferently stitched material or even duplicates of popular brands – all are oriented to cater to this genre of clientele. Some from this clientele are quite choosy as I have known people from these sections who would not be satisfied unless a pair of trousers carried a sticker of a well-known brand on its back pocket.

Denims have thus firmly established themselves in the imagination of Indian youth whether in the metros or in the back-yards of rural India. The traditional “dhoties or pyjamas” of ordinary people have yielded place to garments made out of denim. It is amazing how a fabric originating in France in the 19th Century that somehow getting purchase in far away United States in its ranching days of 19th Century has firmly established its authority world over and, more so, over India. If Indians take home something as their own, none would be able to compete with them, generally, because of sheer numbers. No wonder, out of the 700 million metres of the fabric produced world over 100 million are produced in India, feeding the ever-escalating demand from what seems to be the Rising India.


Tags: india | denim

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India's scourge -malnutrition
2018.01.20 18:26:21

“Save The Children”, an NGO is seeking donations for helping out the mal-nourished children in India. By ‘malnourished” it obviously means severely under-nourished children. It claims it has been saving children’s lives since 2008 and that last year it provided medical care and nutritional support to 1.46 lakh children.

The extent of under-nourishment in India being what it is providing succor to only a lakh and a half children is actually no big deal. The problem is huge and perhaps it would need a thousand organizations like the Save the Children to liquidate under-nutrition from among the Indian children. It needs huge amount of resources, both of well-trained men and women and financial. Both being scarce, large-scale under-nutrition of children is not likely to be eliminated any time soon.

It is, basically, a failure of the government despite its reach in the remotest recesses of the country where poverty is most manifest. Besides, the government has all the paraphernalia for the very purpose to extend relief to the stricken lot. An NGO can only do so much and not more. Any amount of donation is not going to be of help. It will not be like even a drop in the ocean.

According to a Rapid Survey of Children conducted by UNICEF about 30% of Indian children below 5 years in age are malnourished. What is more alarming is that 20% of them, which is more than a third of children of the world, suffer from wasting due to acute under-nutrition. This distressing situation does not quite match with technological boom in the country and its progressive economic growth.

One would tend to think that the government’s weak outreach has also affected the nutritional levels of children. These could be, inter alia, weak implementation of governmental nutritional schemes, inadequate health infrastructure, services, unsafe water, lack of sanitation and hygiene. All these, in addition to the reigning poverty in the country, particularly in its rural areas have contributed to severe under-nutrition of people across various age groups.

Quite clearly a high economic growth rate does not take care of the entire population, especially those who are precluded from its benefits. It has been consistently held that the gross product based growth is veritably iniquitous. India has witnessed this phenomenon as since 1991 when the country opted for the capitalistic system after opening up of the economy rich have become richer and poor have become poorer if they have not stayed where they were.

While the economy registered high growth rate it did not in any way make a difference to the deprived lots of rural and semi-urban India. The aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats” has not yet proved to be true for India. The country is almost always seen to be scraping the bottom as far as its social indicators are concerned.

And, yet the country is chasing GDP-based economic growth. A recent release indicating fall in the GDP growth rate was made an occasion by the Opposition to take pot shots at the government. Censure, condemnation, criticism, denigration, et al were hurled forgetting that under its own stewardship for fifty-odd years the country had achieved what is deprecatingly called the Hindu Rate of Growth of only 3.5%.

But that is neither here nor there. What is important is that growth or no growth a large section of the country’s population has been wallowing in poverty for decades giving rise to all kinds of scourges, like hunger and diseases such as anemia, tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS and so on. But what hits them most is under-nutrition that is carried from one generation to another. Perhaps, it is time the fetish of GDP-based growth is given up in favour of growth based on improvement of general wellbeing of people, a better and healthier life for all.

While tackling children’s malnutrition is important for the reason that on attaining adulthood they should, instead of being a drain, become productive members of the society, more important would seem to be tackling the under-nutrition of mothers. If women suffer from the results of under-nutrition, they would be incapable of providing the required nutrition to their new-born and other older children in the early years of their lives.


Traditionally in the country’s patriarchal society nutrition of daughters is neglected from childhood. On attaining adolescence or maturity, with all the handicaps developed due to their under-nutrition, they are married off early and are made to slog in the kitchen. Patriarchy also deprives women the right to decide about spacing of children which is seldom observed, draining further the strength of an emaciated mother. Besides, patriarchy demands that women in the house get to eat only the leftovers which may not even be enough to satiate their hunger. So the chain of under-nutrition continues. This has got to be broken by providing succor to them by ushering in social change.

While hunger, child-marriage, depressed social status due to the prevailing caste system, unemployment and poverty are major reasons for under-nutrition, the situation is exacerbated by unsafe water and lack of proper sanitation and hygiene. Add to these the governments’ weak implementation of its policies and the prevailing unhealthy feeding and caring practices in addition to ignorance about healthy diets and what one gets is a lethal mix.

It is in these areas that the government needs to mount an all-out assault, instead of chasing a higher figure of GDP. A healthy nation will be more productive than one that is stunted, wasted and under-nourished; in that event the gross domestic product will take care of itself. The World Bank estimates that India loses around 2 to 3% of the GDP on account of widespread under-nutrition. Laws like Food Security Act etc are useless, just as inefficiently implemented nutritional Missions of the Centre and various states. What is needed is concentrated sustained extension work in the affected areas to educate people about all matters relevant to under-nutrition.

Curiously, India has not used the leaves of the Moringa plant in the way Africans are using it to eliminate under-nutrition. Several researches have proved that the leaves of the plant have much more of the minerals and vitamins than what are found in conventional diet of vegetables and eggs. For instance, Moringa’s powdered leaves have 7 times more vitamin C than in oranges, 36 time more magnesium than in eggs, 50 times more vitamin B3 than peanuts and 50 times more Vitamin B2 than bananas. Even its seeds have been found to be capable of eliminating contaminants from water that cause so much of rural distress in India. It is a cheap way of dealing with under-nutrition. The plants grow with ease in almost every part of India and can be useful in greening the countryside. Since Africans are reported to be reaping benefits from this plant, sometimes called the miracle tree, there is no reason why India should not follow suit. The leaves of the plant are exported but curiously are not used to the desired extent in India.

Despite the Constitutional provision in Article 47 the state has not discharged its responsibility to raise the level of nutrition and improve public health. It is, therefore, for the government at the Centre and in the states to seriously take up the responsibility to deal with this huge problem instead of leaving it to ill-equipped NGOs who can only touch it only on the fringes.

Tags: india | malnutrition

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India decides to privatise Air India
2017.07.01 14:41:29

Happy tidings have arrived from Delhi indicating the decision of the Central Cabinet to privatise Air India. A very bold decision for a vital economic reform that, perhaps, only this government could take blocking the drain that it had become on government finances.

Tags: privatisation | india | air

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Nehru thwarted two winnable wars
2016.09.16 18:46:13

Aroop Raha, the Indian Air Force chief recently articulated his disappointment that the country’s air power was not fully utilized during the first war with Pakistan in 1948. Likewise, he said, the airpower was not used during the 1962 war with China.

Tags: india | disasters

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India - 1.27 billion and counting
2015.07.31 16:02:22


e have hit the 1.27 billion mark. This only means that we are only less than three quarters short of 2 billion. In 2011 we were 1210 million and in less than four years we have added more than 60 million. It is now estimated that at this rate we will overtake the Chinese population by the middle of the next decade or thereabout.

Tags: india

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India's scam of the year
2015.07.17 15:26:07

This is one scam that the Hindu right wing party ruling in Delhi and in Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian province of Madhya Pradesh, will have to live through for a long time. It is so big that most parts of the country are involved in it and its reverberations have travelled far and wide.

Tags: india

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Common Man's Party chief turns authoritarian
2015.04.23 19:48:49

There is something unstable in Kejriwal’s persona that makes him behave in the way he mostly does. He has that penchant for ‘self-destruct’ and, in the process, he betrays the faith reposed in him by hundreds and thousands of common, educated and well-meaning people as also civil society organizations. One wonders whether he has that inscrutable split personality like that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as it seems there has been a sea change in his personality and conduct since the days of the movement appropriately known as India Against Corruption (IAC).

Tags: india

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Heavy poaching of Indian rhinos
2015.03.15 19:18:09

Whether in South Africa or in India poaching of rhinos has assumed alarming levels. In South Africa, which has the largest population of rhinos and which is an important country for their conservation, poaching has reached a crisis point so much so that if the killings continue at the current rate, it is estimated, the species could be pushed close to extinction. In 2014 as many as 1215 rhinos were killed and the South African Department of Environment calculated that that amounted to poaching of one rhino every 8 hours.

Tags: india | poaching | rhino

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Vulnerable Indian rhinos
2015.03.14 19:05:58

Whether in South Africa or in India poaching of rhinos has assumed alarming levels. In South Africa, which has the largest population of rhinos and which is an important country for their conservation, poaching has reached a crisis point so much so that if the killings continue at the current rate, it is estimated, the species could be pushed close to extinction. In 2014 as many as 1215 rhinos were killed and the South African Department of Environment calculated that that amounted to poaching of one rhino every 8 hours.

Tags: india | poaching | rhinos

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Modi's clarion call for cleaning up India
2014.10.15 18:40:52

About thirty years ago while on a visit to the Peoples’ Republic of China I used to watch Chinese films on the small black & white TV set having nothing to do in the evenings. True, I did not understand a word of what was said and yet, for understanding emotions one does not need to know the language. The films used to be mostly about peasants and workers with young boys and girls working together.

Tags: clean-up | india

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Modi's victory proves leadership is vital in elections
2014.08.27 18:24:41

The recent statement of the chief of much-maligned Right-wing Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS), Mohan Bhagwat on the massive win of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the last General Elections was true but only partially so. Bhagwat is reported to have said that the victory at the hustings for the BJP was not because of one man, as claimed by many, but because the people wanted a change. He went on to say that an individual alone could not have ensured the Party’s victory unless people were keen on a change. He went on to ask why is it that the Party was not voted to power when the same individuals and the party existed earlier, too? The Party won because the people desperately wanted a change.

Tags: india

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Indian Railways need profile-change
2014.07.14 19:08:31

Derailment of the prestigious New Delhi- Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express the other day near Chhapra in Bihar is virtually a wake-up call for the Indian Railways and its newly appointed minister. It is not yet certain what caused the accident that reportedly took four lives. Whether it was sabotage or plain neglect and incompetence on the part of the tracks inspection staff is yet to be ascertained. Inquiries are going to be conducted but a later report said that the Intelligence Bureau had sent an alert about a Maoist threat. The area is Maoists-affected. Nonetheless, it would be premature to arrive at any conclusion.

Tags: india

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Indian Railways need to change its profile
2014.07.13 15:16:37

Derailment of the prestigious New Delhi- Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express the other day near Chhapra in Bihar is virtually a wake-up call for the Indian Railways and its newly appointed minister. It is not yet certain what caused the accident that reportedly took four lives. Whether it was sabotage or plain neglect and incompetence on the part of the tracks inspection staff is yet to be ascertained. Inquiries are going to be conducted but a later report said that the Intelligence Bureau had sent an alert about a Maoist threat. The area is Maoists-affected. Nonetheless, it would be premature to arrive at any conclusion.

Tags: india

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Tea in Indian politics
2014.04.09 18:57:01

By being undiplomatic in his language in a talk he delivered at a recent All India Congress Committee session Mani Shankar Ayer, a Cambridge graduate, a former career diplomat and a Tamil Brahmin to boot brought chai (tea) back into politics. Ayer promised to the gathering that the BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi would never become prime minister of the country in the 21st Century. And, he went on to add, “But if he wants to distribute tea here, we will find a place for him."

Tags: india

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India falteringly heads towards sustainable transport
2014.03.05 19:49:44

Almost every city in India is being choked today with traffic. There has been an automobile revolution since the economy was opened up and infestation of automobiles in Indian roads has progressively increased to an alarming extent. While before 1991 only a few thousand vehicles used to be manufactured, that number went up to 3.9 million in 2011. Almost all major producers have descended on the country to establish manufacturing facilities. Despite a claimed slow-down in off-take in the succeeding years a few more lakh vehicles must have been added in 2012 and 2013.

Tags: india

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Hunger and riches in 'incredible India'
2012.01.31 22:20:11

A national daily presented the other day two contrasting pictures of India. On its front page were the findings of a research indicating the extent of hunger and malnourishment in the country and in one of the inside pages was a report on the explosion on its roads with millions of private vehicles causing traffic jams in its urban centres.

Tags: india

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India - a subcontinental refuge
2011.12.23 15:04:58

A group of 140 overstaying Pakistani Hindus have expressed the desire to remain in India and make Delhi their home. They came to India from Sindh on tourist visa and for fear of being targeted are afraid to go back. With visas expired, they live in utter penury in Majnu Ka Tila in Delhi and have only one appeal for the Government of India that their visas should be extended. They would also like the government to provide them proper accommodation. These people from 27 families waited for years for their visas and were so desperate that once they got them they walked across to India. According to them they always felt unsafe in their own country and were subjected to discrimination. Not only they had no religious freedom, their children were ill-treated in schools, i.e. if they were allowed to join one. Always being told to convert to Islam, they would like to give up their home country and live in India, they said, just as numerous Bangladeshis, Nepalese and Tibetans live here.

They are mistaken if they think they are the only Pakistani Hindus who want to permanently make their home in India. Before them, hundreds and thousands of them came here with or without valid visas and never went back. And, all of them did not come only at the time of partition. Off and on, whenever, there were atrocities against Hindus, India would see an influx of Sindhi Hindus from Pakistan. A large number of them came after the 1971 War that resulted in dismemberment of Pakistan, arousing in it great antipathy for India and, of course, local Hindus. Even in normal times the process of ethnic cleansing has been continuing. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are two states which seem to have been receiving them in large numbers. In fact, the two states have been welcoming them more or less with open arms, presumably, for political gains. They constitute a solid vote bank for the BJP. An August 2011 report said that around 3500 Sindhis who migrated more than a decade ago on long-tem visas and residing in Madhya Pradesh are still awaiting citizenship. If anything, this is a great under-statement. There are far, far more than 3500 Sindhis in the state. Many of them have merged with the local population without observing official niceties and have established themselves in business.

Those now camping in Majnu ka Tila are right when they say numerous Bangladeshi and Nepalese are also living in India. Hindu Bangladeshi refugees always made a beeline for India whenever they were subjected to atrocities. Their numbers were never accurately determined but it is estimated that a million came post partition, another million in 1950s and around 5 million in 1960s, most came after the 1965 war with India. During the struggle for independence in 1970-71 about 10 million East Pakistani Hindus crossed over to India to avoid a veritable genocide. Not all of them went back; around 1.5 million are estimated to have stayed back.

But there has been no respite for India even after Bangladesh came into being. Migration, in fact infiltration, into India has been continuing and, currently, 20 million illegal Bangladeshis, mostly Muslims, are reportedly in residence in India. There is practically no state in Upper India which does not have their colonies.  They have swamped several districts of Assam and border districts of West Bengal changing their demographics. In Assam as many as six districts now have Muslims in majority and in two in West Bengal. In Assam a violent socio-political movement was launched for their eviction.  While the porous borders have helped easy accessibility, poor enforcement and rampant corruption has ensured the illegal immigrants to avail of the benefits they are not entitled to. Their presence in large numbers, largely by design, especially in the states of West Bengal and Assam (where their number is reported to be 5 million out of 26 million) has given rise to fears of Islamic fundamentalism and consequential security threats to India. There have been frequent reports of these illegal immigrants promoting the idea of a “Greater Bangladesh” inclusive of the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam.

The case of Nepalese in India, however, is entirely different. They are here in pursuance of the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950. Each, seemingly, fell into other’s lap out of fear on the emergence of the Red Dragon on their northern borders. The rise of Communist China in 1949 and its subsequent invasion of Tibet heightened their security concerns. Under the Treaty, Nepalese citizens in India have all the rights of an Indian citizen and they do not require visas to enter India, except a valid identification card while entering India by air. Both countries have also agreed to grant, on a reciprocal basis in each other’s territories, the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of property, participation in trade and commerce, etc. Curiously, however, while the citizens of Nepal have been exercising the rights granted under the Treaty Indians have not only have to have visas for entering Nepal but also are prevented under Nepalese laws to own and acquire property in Nepal. An estimated 10 million Nepalese are, as a consequence, residing and working in India, doing all kinds of jobs, including in the public and private sectors and in the Army, strengthening their country’s economy by remittances – largely informal – which amount to approximately 10% of its GDP.

Although the Nepalese find the 1950 Treaty unequal, strategic concerns apart, it appears to be highly unfavourable to India. The open borders between the two countries have allowed Nepalese to flood the country and take away from the locals millions of jobs in formal and informal sectors and share the resources that are increasingly becoming scarce. Besides, the open borders have been freely used by the Pakistani jihadists to spread mayhem and chaos in the country. While Nepal exports its so-called labour as a national policy, illegal Bangladeshis are plain and simple intruders having no right to be in India in such large numbers. Sadly, the Centre has hardly made any effort to prevent their ingress and has made, if at all, very feeble efforts to send them back. Even a rich country like the US adopts a very uncompromising attitude against those who breach its frontiers. Pakistan, on the other hand, is solving its communal problem by easing out its unwanted Hindus in hundreds and thousands. India, however has never taken up with Pakistan the question of crude treatment meted out to its Hindus even though President Musharraf during a press conference in Delhi had the audacity to make a comment about treatment in Indian Muslims. Surely he was aware that India hosted far more Muslims than Pakistan. He was, however, put in his place by one Maulana Madani who happened to be present at the meeting.

This is not all. Apart from millions of Pakistani Hindus, Nepalese and Bangladeshis, there are a few thousand foreigners including Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who have overstayed their visas having entered the country with valid documents. Add to that hundreds and thousands of Tibetan, Afghan, Sri Lankan and Burmese refugees to complete the picture. In India’s 1.2 billion people its neighbours have, thus, made the substantial contribution of close to 10%. Had the country – virtually a sub-continental refuge – not been weighed down by these foreigners, its economic profile perhaps would have been far different.

Tags: india

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The great Indian ferment
2011.10.25 16:22:13

India these days seems to be in ferment. If one picks up a newspaper one gets hit by headlines that certainly do not bode well for the country, at least, not in its immediate future. While one can discern a severe churning taking place in the country’s social, political and economic life, the government, at the same time, is largely perceived to be drifting along.

Tags: india

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Indian iconic lake under threat
2011.10.08 18:53:43

Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, could have been such a beautiful city. It was endowed with everything a place could aspire for – green hills and valleys, several lakes and a few small gurgling streams. Climatically it was bordering on the ideal – equable, with mild summers, plenty of rains and moderate winters. All that has been lost because of “development”, now a dreaded word for those who are sensitive about the city’s environment that they have seen progressively deteriorating. The unrestricted urban expansion has been gobbling up the surrounding farmlands, colonising the green hills, transforming the city’s streams into sewers and its lakes into septic tanks. The developmental assault on the city’s iconic millennium-old Upper Lake, a drinking water source for the locals for centuries, unmindful of its vital importance for the city’s environment, water security and green cover.

Tags: india

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Demise of India's small change
2011.07.21 17:32:26

The Indian central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, had been making quite a song and dance about the 25 Paise coins ceasing to become legal tender from the 30th June this year. It had been asking people to exchange them for equivalent amount of currency. A report the other day said only a little more than a hundred thousand rupees worth of these coins had been deposited in the banks in Bhopal till the 30th June.

Tags: india

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