NRIs not eligible to file RTI: Centre’s reply to Lok Sabha triggers protests

Union Minister Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha in a written reply that Non-Resident Indians are not eligible to file Right to Information (RTI) applications. The Minister said, responding to a question asked by a Member of Parliament (MP) Jugal Kishore Sharma.

“Only citizens of India have the right to seek information under the provisions of Right to Information Act, 2005. Non-Resident Indians are not eligible to file RTI applications. He said subject to the provisions of the Act, the citizens of India could file an online application under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

“Currently, systems of 2,200 public authorities have been aligned to receive, process and reply to online RTIs from the applicants”

Speaking to TNM Sunil Kumar KK, an NRI living in Oman, said that it reveals that the government doesn’t see them as Indian citizens.

“This is a shame. Why can’t we enjoy the facilities that Indians living in India do? We ask only those questions which can be asked according to the Act. So, why should they deny us the online facility?” Sunil asked.

“Additionally, isn’t it impractical to visit the embassy if we are located in a remote area in a foreign land? Many other countries are organising a voting facility for their non-resident citizens. We don’t have that either. And now, they have said no to this (RTI) too,” Sunil added.

Shameer PTK, another resident of Oman, said that he is surprised to hear that the government has denied them the right in the time of Digital India.

“On one side, the government is upholding the theme of Digital India and on the other side, we are being denied the online facility to seek information from government through RTI Act,” Shameer said, adding that it amounts to discrimination.

“Even for Pravasi Bharatiya Divas participation, the government provides online registration only. But to seek information through RTI Act online, they are saying no. It’s like the Orange Passport issue,” he said.

The government had earlier planned orange-coloured passports for Emigration Clearance Required Category Indians for when they travel abroad for a job. However, it was scrapped after protests.

“It looks like the moment you leave India for a job, you are stripped of rights and are seen as an alien. In foreign lands too, you don’t get the basic rights that the locals enjoy and then your own home country denies them,” said Jacob Koshy, an Indian resident in Qatar.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Thursday took to Twitter to state that denying NRIs the right to file RTIs is wrong.

 

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After years of heady growth Patanjali Ayurved is facing a slowdown

A while ago, we featured Patanjali Ayurved, and it was the fastest growing FMCG company in India. Our feature (link).

Patanjali Products

A few recent articles in the Indian media seem to indicate that Patanjali Ayurved is facing a slowdown after years of heady growth. According to an article in Economic times,

It closed the last financial year at around the same level as the previous fiscal year’s revenue, Rs 10,000 crore.
However, there could be a bigger worry for Patanjali than flat revenues. According to a recent Credit Suisse report, consumer offtake has declined in many product categories. While the company continues to hold sway over toothpastes with Dant Kanti, and in ghee, incremental gains in these categories are said to have declined. “Patanjali is facing headwinds with FY18 sales  ..

Another article also reviews if Distribution could be Patanjali’s Achilles heel? 

There is a huge gap between demand and supply, admits Acharya Balkrishna, MD of Patanjali Ayurved, who’s recently been in the news for his 94% stake in the organisation. (A development touted as a strategic move to take the limelight off Baba Ramdev who has been the face of the company all this while). Balkrishna tells us that besides 1200 Patanjali Chikitsalayas, 2500 Aarogya Kendras, 7000 open stores in villages, and 5600 marketing vehicles, his team is working on launching 250 mega stores in .

According to industry estimates, Patanjali products are currently available in 2 lakh traditional retail outlets popularly called as kirana shops. That’s 1/30th the presence of Hindustan Unilever in the kirana universe (over 60 lakh outlets) — the market leader in FMCG space who Patanjali has reportedly been giving sleepless nights to. As for Colgate and Nestle — players Baba Ramdev took a direct dig at and threatened to oust within a year — the numbers are 47 lakh and 35 lakh, respectively.

Largest worldwide Green action by Sikhs celebrating Guru Har Rai!

EcoSikh is a response from the Sikh community to the threats of climate change and the deterioration of the natural environment.

In 2010, it had launched the celebration of the Sikh Environment Day on March 14 marking the Gurgaddi Diwas of Guru Har Rai ji. This has captivated the imagination of the Sikhs all across the world. Hundreds of gurdwaras, schools, and colleges have joined to celebrate 7th Guru’s vision this year and they have taken green actions. This worldwide activity surpassed last year’s count of 4100 hundred institutions marking this day.

During the last couple of months, the Sikh community has been very active in environmental activity throughout the world.

  • Established in 16 Nations
  • 22 districts of Punjab
  • 18 Indian states
  • 9 Gurdwaras switched to steel thalis including GGSF, banned styrofoam
  • 4 historical gardens revived; Naulakha, Nabha Sahib, Baouli Sahib, Patto Hira Singh Wala
  • Plantation at four national forests in Hong Kong, Kenya, Derby UK and Maryland
  • Flower shows, katha-kirtan on nature, bicycle rallies, kitchen gardens, clean-ups
  • Buta prasad gone viral
  • Green Holla Mohalla Green kitty parties started

Bappi Lahiri Honored by The World BOOK OF RECORDS, UK, as the Originator of Disco beat in Indian cinema, ‘JIMMY JIMMY’ is World’s most popular song

After winning four Lifetime Achievement Awards this month, veteran singer-composer Bappi Lahiri has now been honoured by The World Book of Records, UK as Originator of Disco Beat in Indian Cinema, Jimmy Jimmy is World’s Most Popular song.
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Bappi Lahiri – Wikipedia

The World Book of Records – London,  one of the mammoth organisations that catalogues and verifies a huge number of world records across the world with authentic certification, has acknowledged the contribution of Bappi Lahiri to global music with his immortal song ‘Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja’, which is an anthem in Russia and has been translated in Russian and Chinese, has been part of the original score of Adam Sandler’s Don’t Mess With The Zohan and Top of The Chart number, rendered by Mia. Besides the above, ‘Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja’ is also sung by various singers the world over. Such is its popularity. 

 
Bappi Lahiri is also acknowledged by the global organisation for being the Originator of Disco Beat in Indian Cinema. World Book of Records – London is a paramount international organisation inspiring people to showcase their talent. Under the gracious patronage of Virendra Sharma (Member of Parliament, England) , Dr. Diwakar Sukul (London – England), Karin Heschl (Vienna – Austria), Dr. Ulrich Berk (Wurttemberg – Germany), M. Vasconcelos da Silva (Sao Paulo – Brazil), Abel J Hernandez  (Bogota – Colombia), Anil Audit (Port Louis – Mauritius) and  Santosh Shukla, Supreme Court , Advocate (India) , it encourages people to break or set new records at national or international level. 

Says Santosh Shukla, President – World Book of Records,  “We all are born with a specific purpose to contribute something exclusive to the world through our exclusivity, through our hidden and extreme potential. It is a platform for all humans in this world to showcase their unique and remarkable talent and inspire the world to go one step further and progress from strength to strength.”
 
Adds Bappi Lahiri,  “It has been one long journey with innumerable accolades over nearly five decades and over 600 films. But there is something special about ‘Jimmy Jimmy’. It always has followers in every part of the globe. Such adulation brings tears to my eyes. It is the love of my fans that keeps me going.”
About Mr. Lahiri: Bappi Lahiri Bappi Lahiri 2016.jpg Lahiri in 2017 Background information Birth name Alokesh Lahiri Born Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, India Origin Kolkata, India Occupation(s) Music composer, music director, actor and record producer Instruments Tabla, piano, drums, guitar, saxophone, bongos, dholak, singing Years active 1972–present Labels BL Sound, Saregama, Venus Records & Tapes, T-Series, Tips Industries, Universal Music Group, Abbey Road Studios, Planet LA Records Website bappilahiri.com Alokesh “Bappi” Lahiri is an Indian music composer, music director, singer, actor and record producer. He popularized the use of synthesized disco music in Indian cinema and sang some of his own compositions. He was popular in the 1980s and 1990s with filmi soundtracks such as Wardat, Disco Dancer, Namak Halaal, Dance Dance, Commando, Gang Leader, Sailaab and Sharaabi.  (Wikipedia).

The myth of the Indian vegetarian nation

An insightful article by Soutik Biswas that first appeared in the New York Times and also BBC:

What are the most common myths and stereotypes about what Indians eat? The biggest myth, of course, is that India is a largely vegetarian country.

But that’s not the case at all. Past “non-serious” estimates have suggested that more than a third of Indians ate vegetarian food.

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Image: BBC.com
If you go by three large-scale government surveys, 23%-37% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian. By itself this is nothing remarkably revelatory.

But new research by US-based anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and India-based economist Suraj Jacob, points to a heap of evidence that even these are inflated estimations because of “cultural and political pressures”. So people under-report eating meat – particularly beef – and over-report eating vegetarian food.

Taking all this into account, say the researchers, only about 20% of Indians are actually vegetarian – much lower than common claims and stereotypes suggest.

Hindus, who make up 80% of the Indian population, are major meat-eaters. Even only a third of the privileged, upper-caste Indians are vegetarian.

The government data shows that vegetarian households have higher income and consumption – are more affluent than meat-eating households. The lower castes, Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and tribes-people are mainly meat eaters.

Vegetarian cities in India

  • Indore: 49%
  • Meerut: 36%
  • Delhi: 30%
  • Nagpur: 22%
  • Mumbai: 18%
  • Hyderabad: 11%
  • Chennai: 6%
  • Kolkata: 4%
    (Average incidence of vegetarianism. Source: National Family Health Survey)

On the other hand, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob find the extent of beef eating is much higher than claims and stereotypes suggest.

At least 7% of Indians eat beef, according to government surveys.

But there is evidence to show that some of the official data is “considerably” under-reported because beef is “caught in cultural political and group identity struggles in India”.

About 20% of Indians are vegetarians, according to new research. Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP promotes vegetarianism and believes that the cow should be protected, because the country’s majority Hindu population considers them holy. More than a dozen states have already banned the slaughter of cattle. And during Mr Modi’s rule, vigilante cow protection groups, operating with impunity, have killed people transporting cattle.

The truth is millions of Indians, including Dalits, Muslims and Christians, consume beef. Some 70 communities in Kerala, for example, prefer beef to the more expensive goat meat.

Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob conclude that in reality, closer to 15% of Indians – or about 180 million people – eat beef. That’s a whopping 96% more than the official estimates.

Delhi, where only a third of residents are thought to be vegetarian, may well deserve its reputation for being India’s butter chicken capital.

But, the stereotype of Chennai as the hub of India’s “south Indian vegetarian meal” is completely misplaced. Reason: only 6% of the city’s residents are vegetarian, one survey suggests.

Many continue to believe that Punjab is “chicken loving” country. But the truth is that 75% of people in the northern state are vegetarian.

So how has the myth that India is a largely vegetarian country been spread so successfully?

Some 180 million Indians consume beef, according to new research. For one, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob told me, in a “highly diverse society with food habits and cuisines changing every few kilometres and within social groups, any generalisation about large segments of the population is a function of who speaks for the group”.

“This power to represent communities, regions, or even the entire country is what makes the stereotypes.”

Also, they say, “the food of the powerful comes to stand in for the food of the people”.

Why India is a nation of foodies

“The term non-vegetarian is a good case in point. It signals the social power of vegetarian classes, including their power to classify foods, to create a ‘food hierarchy’ wherein vegetarian food is the default and is having a higher status than meat. Thus it is akin to the term ‘non-whites’ coined by ‘whites’ to capture an incredibly diverse population who they colonised.”

Migration

Secondly, the researchers say, some of the stereotype is enabled by migration.

So when south Indians migrate to northern and central India, their food comes to stand in for all south Indian cuisine. This is similarly true for north Indians who migrate to other parts of the country.

Finally, some of the stereotypes are perpetuated by the outsider – north Indians stereotype south Indians just by meeting a few of them without thinking about the diversity of the region and vice versa.

The foreign media, say the researchers, is also complicit “as it seeks to identify societies by a few essential characteristics”.

Chicken is thought to be the most popular form of meat eaten by Indians
Also, the study shows up the differences in food habits among men and women. More women, for example, say they are vegetarian than men.

The researchers say this could be partly explained by the fact that more men eat outside their homes and with “greater moral impunity than women”, although eating out may not by itself result in eating meat.

Patriarchy – and politics – might have something to do with it.

“The burden of maintaining a tradition of vegetarianism falls disproportionately on the women,” say Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob.

Couples are meat eaters in about 65% of the surveyed households and vegetarians only in 20%. But in 12% of the cases the husband was a meat eater, while the wife was a vegetarian. Only in 3% cases was the reverse true.

Clearly, the majority of Indians consume some form of meat – chicken and mutton, mainly – regularly or occasionally, and eating vegetarian food is not practiced by the majority.

So why does vegetarianism exert a far greater influence on representations of India and Indians around the world? Does it have to do with “policing” of food choices and perpetuating food stereotypes in a vastly complex and multicultural society?

I want to explain arranged marriage to white people

A recent article in BBC.com features Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala and her views on arranged marriage.

When Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala produced a board game about arranged marriage, most news reports about her wrongly assumed she was dead against it. Actually her position is far more nuanced. And one goal is to explain to people in the UK and elsewhere how it works.

Balagamwala’s kickstarter campaign generated a lot of buzz and raised thousands of dollars more than what she was seeking.

Balagamwala was at the Rhode Island School of Design in the US when she came up with the idea.

“I was about to head home to Pakistan at the end of the year, and I had some proposals waiting for me, so I started stalking the Facebook accounts of those guys to find something about them that my parents wouldn’t approve of, so I could get out of meeting them. And then I thought to myself, ‘Why not get rid of the problem once and for all?’ So I created a list of every ridiculous thing I’ve done to get out of an arranged marriage and turned it into this light-hearted board game.”

 

She tested her game out on her friends, a mixture of South Asians and white Americans.
An American male friend was in fits of laughter while playing. He admitted to Balagamwala that he’d been worried the game would trivialise the subject, but said that he now had a better understanding of it.

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Link to an article in scroll.in

Man seeking Non Resident Indian (NRI) bride duped

One frequently hears of NRI brides and women seeking NRI alliances being duped by unscrupulous men. In a strange twist.

According to media reports, Sadar police in Ludhiana (Punjab) have registered a case  against a Non Resident Indian (NRI) woman’s family, for allegedly duping a Ludhiana resident of Rs 5.50 lakh on the pretext of marrying him and and sending him abroad.

Image result for indian police cartoon

Krishan Kumar Khatri had placed a matrimonial advertisement the local newspaper calling for alliances for his daughter who is settled in Australia.  After initial conversations, the  bride’s family asked the family of Kulwinder Singh, the prospective groom for 90,000 Australian dollars. They agreed to take the money in three installments, and were paid Rs 1/2 million rupees as the initial installment. After receiving that money, the bride’s family ended all connection with the prospective groom and his family.

The father of Kulwinder complained to the local police, who registered a case under Section 420 (cheating) of the IPC against Mr. Khatri. The investigating officer from Sadar police station, ASI Ravinder Kumar, confirmed that although the ‘negotiations’ had taken place a few years ago, the family filed a complaint only in 2016. A case was registered recently after the initial investigation was completed.


 

In another unrelated news – Matrimonial website fraud: Mumbai schoolteacher claims Rs 11.5 lakh cheating by ‘NRI’