Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
09 June 2014

What a scorcher! Delhi swelters in record 47.8C heat as Capital gets its hottest day for sixty-two years

Sunday turned into 'Stunned Day' for Delhi residents as a weather station near the airport recorded a high temperature of 47.8ºC, the highest in over six decades.
The last time this happened was in 1952, five years after Independence.
Put another way, Delhi residents less than 62 years of age have just experienced the hottest day of their lives.
The more downtown weather station at Safdarjung recorded 45.1ºC, five degrees above normal and the hottest in five years.
People cover their faces to beat the heat
A foreign tourist protects herself from the sizzling heat
Brutal weather: People cover their faces (left) to beat the heat on Sunday, while a foreign tourist (right) protects herself from the scorching sun.

The forecast was even worse. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said clear skies and the heat wave are expected to hold, and there will be more of the same on Monday.
At this rate, Delhi could set an all-time maximum temperature record this week.
Delhi was not alone in its misery. North India reeled under a heat wave, with records being set and broken all over the region. Chandigarh baked at 45ºC, its second highest June temperature in 10 years. Hisar in Haryana boiled at 46.6ºC; Ludhiana touched 46.3ºC.
In Rajasthan, Jaipur hit 47ºC, eight degrees above normal, while Ganganagar burned at 48.6ºC. Uttar Pradesh wasn't spared: Allahabad recorded a high 48.3ºC.
Even the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh suffered. Una, a foothill town, saw the day temperature rise up to an incredible 45ºC, while Sundernagar, a town in the Beas-kissed Mandi district, saw the mercury breach 40ºC.

Power play

Youngsters beat the heat as the mercury soars in New Delhi
Youngsters beat the heat as the mercury soars in New Delhi

The dismal power situation made life highly uncomfortable in the Capital. The damage wreaked to major transmission lines by the dust-storm of May 30 added to the usual peak summer deficit of power to bring hell across the city.
Residential colonies in South, South-west and West Delhi continued to grapple with long power cuts. In Chittaranjan Park, Kalkaji and Greater Kailash, residents complained of nearly three to four hours of power cuts during afternoons, when the heat was at its worst.
Bearing the brunt of sweltering heat and power cuts, residents of the walled city, Patparganj and North-east Delhi even raised protests against the power outages.
"We are not able to even recharge our inverters. We haven't been able to sleep all night. The temperature is breaking all its previous records, and so is the government in not providing us electricity," said Eklayva, a resident of Patparganj.
Delhi was able to meet peak demand of 5152 MW on 7th June 2014, and with highest-ever consumption of 109.206 Million Units. However the unrestricted peak demand was about 5600 MW, resulting in load shedding of around 400 MW during peak time in several parts of the city.
"This was due to system overloading and constraints, mainly due to damage caused to three main 220 kV Transmission Lines," said a power department official.
As a result of this, certain pockets in East Delhi, West Delhi and Central Delhi are more vulnerable to system load-shedding, including Uttam Nagar, Dwarka, Ghazipur, Mayur Vihar, Geeta Colony, Daryaganj, and the Walled City.
"Power supply is interrupted. Power comes for ten minutes and then there is load shedding for an hour. This has been the pattern since the last 10 days," said a resident of Dwarka.
Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited, one of the two power distribution companies in the capital, claimed they are ready to meet the full load requirement.
"As far as TPDDL is concerned, it has arranged for adequate quantity of power to meet peak summer requirement of approximately 1,545 MW in its area in North Delhi. The current peak demand is hovering around 1,380 MW. The TPDDL network is completely ready to meet the full load requirement," a spokesperson said.
BSES said they have set up a team for internal monitoring and that they would put up the load-shedding schedule on their website. BSES, however, said the power crisis is due to failure of transmission of power.
"After the storm which hit the capital almost 10 days ago, transmission was hit badly. Delhi Transco Limited (DTL) is the one responsible for transmission of power but they have suffered the maximum damage. BSES is preparing its load-shedding schedule and will update it on website," said a BSES official on condition of anonymity.
Coming into action Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung directed the discoms to adopt measures to address this concern. The L-G has ordered discoms to announce a schedule of load-shedding.
Likewise, one of the strong measures will be to cut off the power supply to malls after 10pm, since power demand hits a peak between 10pm and 1 am.
Likewise, government establishments have also been asked to conserve their electricity consumption by switching off their air conditioning between 3.30 and 4.30pm when demand for power in residential areas hits an all-time high.
"Discoms are working out a schedule which will be shared with the public," an advisory from the office of the Lieutenant Governor said.
"Peak load conditions occur in the city between 3pm to 5pm and then again from 10pm to 1am during night. So, these measures will be adopted with immediate effect," the advisory said.
Five days of hell



L-G orders cut in malls' power supply after 10pm

By Heena Kausar in New Delhi
Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung
Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung

As Delhi reels under a severe power crisis, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung on Sunday ordered that power supply to shopping malls in the Capital be stopped after 10pm.
The L-G held a meeting to review the power situation and directed that people be informed in advance about load-shedding in their areas.
Jung also announced a slew of measures to address the power crisis.
The L-G directed that all government offices, including the Delhi Secretariat, universities and colleges, must switch off air conditioners between 3.30 and 4.30pm to conserve power during peak hours.
"This does not include emergency services and critical institutions such as hospitals," the LG said in a statement.
To ensure proper communication about power outages, Jung directed the discoms to prepare a schedule of power cuts and share it with public.
"Whenever there is less supply of power, the power distribution companies will announce a schedule informing people about the timings when electric supply will be cut. Discoms are working out a schedule which will be shared with the public," an advisory from the office of the L-G said.
"Power supply to malls will not be available after 10pm. High mast halogen lamps in the streets, which consume more power, will be switched off during night peak hours to conserve energy," the statement said, adding: "The discoms will strengthen their call centres by increasing the number of lines and deploying additional staff so that there is better communication with the public."
The advisory also said the measures should be adopted with immediate effect.
"Peak load situations occur in the city between 3pm and 5pm, and again from 10pm and 1am. So, these measures will be adopted with immediate effect," the advisory said.
Jung also asked people to run their air-conditioners at 25 degrees or above, and take all measures at home and in offices to conserve electricity.
The meeting was attended by the chief secretary, principal secretary (power), senior officers of Delhi Transco Limited and CEOs of all the power distribution companies.
Delhi registered its highest ever power consumption of 109.206 million units on May 7, leading to load-shedding of around 400 MW, which affected power supply in several parts of the city.

Water mafia still rules Capital's streets

By Shibaji Roychoudhury in New Delhi
Prolonged power outages have left its impact on the Capital's water supply. And in this hour of crisis, the water tanker mafia is making quick money.
While the usual rate for 1,000 litres of water is anything between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000, it has shot up to new heights as the water crisis is at its peak.
After the thunderstorm on May 30, people living in several parts of Delhi are not only suffering from erratic power supply, but are also unable to draw enough water using pumps for daily use.
Residents in areas such as Sangam Vihar, Malviya Nagar and Khirki Extension are finding it tough to pay high charges every day
Residents in areas such as Sangam Vihar, Malviya Nagar and Khirki Extension are finding it tough to pay high charges every day

"The power supply is inconsistent and due to voltage fluctuation, the wiring inside the pump burned. Once we got that fixed, there was barely any water to pump up. We have complained to the DJB office, but they said that due to the power shortage, the water motors too are working inconsistently. Hence, we have no choice but to depend on private tankers," said K.K. Paul, a resident of Chittaranjan Park in South Delhi, while paying Rs 3,000 to a private tanker for 1,000 litres of water.
Paul can afford to buy water from private tankers, but residents in areas like Sangam Vihar, Devli Village, Malviya Nagar, Adchini, Khirki Extension, Saidulajab, Madangir, Tigri and Khanpur are finding it tough to pay the high charges every day.
"We used to pay Rs 1,500 for a thousand litre of water, but now they are charging Rs 2,000 or Rs 3,000...Since we can't afford that much, the cost is being shared by neighbours," Khanpur resident Vishal Nagar said.
According to a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) official, the damage to the power transmission network has affected operations at various water treatment plants, affecting the supply of water in East, West and South Delhi.
The official added that the DJB is doing everything possible to bring the situation back to normal at the earliest.
The board has set up a 24x7 call centre and control room to register complaints.
The DJB supplies nearly 850 million gallons per day of water. This is far less than the Capital's demand of more than 1,000 MGD of water. It has roped in the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to construct tube wells in various areas that fall under its jurisdiction.
In Dwarka, which has been the most affected area, the DDA has been sending water tankers free of charge to the residents.

06 June 2014

Madhya Pradesh Home Minister: Rape Is 'Sometimes Right, Sometimes Wrong'


Demonstrators hold placards during a candlelight vigil to mark the first death anniversary of the Delhi gang rape victim in New Delhi December 29, 2013. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee/Files
Demonstrators hold placards during a candlelight vigil to mark the first death anniversary of the Delhi gang rape victim in New Delhi December 29, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee/Files
New Delhi, Jun 6 : Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Babulal Gaur has described rape as a social crime, saying "sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong", in the latest controversial remarks by an Indian politician about rape.

Akhilesh Yadav, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, where two cousins aged 12 and 14 were raped and hanged last week, has faced criticism for failing to visit the scene and for accusing the media of hyping the story.

Gaur, who is from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said on Thursday that the crime of rape can only be considered to have been committed if it is reported to police.

"This is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong," said Gaur, the home minister responsible for law and order in BJP-run Madhya Pradesh.
"Until there's a complaint, nothing can happen," Gaur told reporters.

Gaur also expressed sympathy with Mulayam Singh Yadav, head of the regional Samajwadi Party. In the recent election, Mulayam criticised legal changes that foresee the death penalty for gang rape, saying: "Boys commit mistakes: Will they be hanged for rape?"

The BJP dismissed Gaur's comments as an expression of his personal views, and not the party's.
Modi, who was sworn in as prime minister last week after a landslide election victory, has so far remained silent over the double killing in the village of Katra Shahadatganj, around half a day's drive east of New Delhi.

The father and uncle of one of the victims said they tried to report the crime to local police but had been turned away. Three men have been arrested over the killings. Two policemen were held on suspicion of trying to cover up the crime.

Although a rape is reported in India every 21 minutes on average, law enforcement failures mean that such crimes - a symptom of pervasive sexual and caste oppression - are often not reported or properly investigated, human rights groups say.

More sex crimes have come to light in recent days. A woman in a nearby district of Uttar Pradesh was gang-raped, forced to drink acid and strangled to death. Another was shot dead in northeast India while resisting attackers, media reports said.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he was "especially appalled" by the rape and murder of the two girls.

"We say no to the dismissive, destructive attitude of, 'Boys will be boys'," he said in a statement this week that made clear his contempt for the language used by Mulayam Singh Yadav.
(Reporting by Sruthi Gottipati; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
21 February 2014

DU students develop app for uncommon languages

NEW DELHI: The Indic Language application, when it goes live, may not help you discuss the geopolitics of oil in Ladakhi or Mao Naga (also called Imela) but you should be able to swear in them. After he discovered in school that he could impress friends by writing their names in different languages, Vikalp Kumar, 21, learnt eight. That interest has translated into a rather unique conservation effort for "lesser-known" languages at Delhi University's Cluster Innovation Centre.

A team of four undergraduates, including him, are gathering words from native speakers and will make that corpus-with audio versions -available through a web application. So far, it has completed work on two languages-Ladakhi and Mao Naga. More are in the works.

Vikalp, originally from Chennai, speaks Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, English and Sarazi (or Saradzi)-spoken in one district in Kashmir-and possesses a "workable understanding" of Persian and Sanskrit. Initially, he was thinking large scale-"We wanted to cover South Asia."

As mentor and coordinator of BTech in Humanities, Sukrita Paul Kumar's job was to keep ambitions realistic. An editor for People's Linguistic Survey of India, she knew just how massive an undertaking this project was. The students found out soon enough-spadework alone took a semester; the questionnaire took three months. Typically, this sort of exercise would claim large chunks of funds and field visits. The team found ways around both.

Delhi's 'melting-pot' status helped. "There are speakers of 80 northeastern languages in Delhi," says Vikalp. They found some through friends and student associations. Containing over 2,600 English words (covering 30 topics) and phrases in English, the questionnaire is circulated among native speakers of a language for the closest equivalents in it.

In September 2013, members of Ladakhi and Kargil student associations participated in what Vikalp calls a "rapid vocabulary collection workshop". In about four hours, 2,500 words in Ladakhi were "collected"-"enough for a basic dictionary"-and recorded. He found speakers of Dhatki, from in Sindh in Pakistan, at the South Asian University in Delhi.

Technology allowed Vikalp to cross borders. He contacted a speaker of Khowar (from Chitral, near Swat Valley) in Islamabad through Facebook. Words are "collected" by email and recordings, by instant messenger, Whatsapp.

"When we have about five languages," says Kumar, "We can go public." She's also considering letting future batches of students pick up where the current leaves off, adding to the number of languages.

But the app isn't another online dictionary. It has songs, subtitled videos and indicates the geographical spread of a language. "There aren't equivalents for all English words. In Sarazi, there's 'here', 'there', 'yonder' and 'out-of-sight' instead of 'front', 'back' etc," explains Vikalp, "Some languages have words for 'uphill', 'downhill', 'upper-stream' and 'lower-stream', others don't." "You can see how geography influences language formation," adds Kumar.

Himanshu Patel and Vivek Shekhar worked on "geography, culture and politics" for the first semester. The 'tech' team-Himanshu and Leelambar Soren-had to teach themselves Flash from internet tutorials; help was also sought from linguistics departments within and outside DU.

In his fourth semester, Vikalp is taking a few courses in linguistics from the university department-BTech in Humanities runs in the meta-college system allowing him to pick what he likes. A bachelor's degree isn't offered in it at any college.
17 December 2013

Narendra Modi’s personality cult is now available to download on your smartphone

The many faces of Narendra Modi.Zatun Game Studio
Last week, Abhinav Chokhavatia, a 32-year-old app developer from India, released his company’s latest offering, “Modified.” Built for Android devices, the app is a game that allows users to dress up Narendra Modi, the leader of the opposition and the man most likely to become India’s next prime minister, in a variety of guises.

Chokhavatia’s 18-person company, Zatun, is based in Ahmedabad, the biggest city in the state of Gujarat, of which Modi is presently the chief minister, and he was worried at first about a backlash from the politician’s supporters. ”We had this idea way back in June. But we were not too keen on going ahead and developing [it] because someone somewhere might go crazy and do something,” Chokhavatia says. But then he noticed how many other apps featuring Modi there already were.

Narendra Modi is something of an oddity in India politics. In a country with a Westminster-style parliamentary system, he has attained almost presidential levels of popularity, driving votes for his party on the basis of personality and a fiery oration. As the Economist notes in its latest issue (paywall), in a country where politicians routinely pay citizens to attend political rallies, Modi charges an entrance fee. He is also popular among the educated and the young; Modi is the most-popular Indian politician on Twitter, with some 3 million followers. The prime minister has fewer than 1 million. Modi even has a nickname: NaMo. 

There’s an app—or a dozen—for that

A search for Modi on the Google Play store produces a dozen games and apps featuring the politician.Google Play
There are already at least a dozen games featuring Modi’s name and likeness on Google Play, the store for Android phones. (The first result on a search for the presumed Congress candidate, Rahul Gandhi, is called “Narendra Modi vs Rahul Gandhi”.) Modi Run ”is an action game where politician Modi Runs through all the states and wins over the election to become Prime Minister of India.” It has been installed on between 500,000 and 1 million devices. Narendra Modi: Game, which has been installed between 50,000 and 100,000 times, promises, “in this journey you will get information about Narendra Modi’s development in every field.” Temple Lost Running Modi 2 Run, visible in the top-right-hand corner of the above image but which has vanished since this piece was written, combined the twin Hindu obsessions of Modi and the Ayodhya temple, which has simmered at the heart of India’s religious differences since 1992. Indeed, it is not just games. A group of businessmen claim to be producing a Modi-branded phone called “Smart Namo.” Supporters routinely don Modi masks for both political and cultural events.

To many, these are signs of a personality cult. But those involved in building the cult don’t believe that is the case. “We’re just giving people a fun game to play. We don’t think it is hurting or adding to his image,” Chokhavatia says. Similar games existed for film stars, he says, so he figured, why not make one featuring a politician? Strangely enough, he doesn’t plan to make an app featuring any other politicians.
10 December 2013

Climate change hits bamboo production in India


A child walks along a bamboo fence in northeast India. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Stella Paul

KUMARGHAT, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Changing rainfall patterns are slashing bamboo production in northeast India, leading to losses of jobs and businesses.
Erratic rainfall and dry spells have led bamboo to flower more frequently, then die back afterward, local people say. That has hurt families who are dependent on the grass for their livelihoods and even for food.
Savita Datta, 37, a former bamboo artisan from Unakoti district in India’s Tripura state, once split bamboo into sticks to supply incense factories. She and her husband earned a profit of 15,000 to 20,000 rupees ($240 to $320) every month, she said.
But starting in 2007 bamboo growers began reporting a record drop in production. As the supply of raw material fell, prices began to rise, climbing from about 15 rupees ($0.25) per bamboo cane to as much as 50 rupees ($0.80).
After struggling for a year, Savita and Ramapada finally had to shut down their business. She now works as a domestic servant and he pulls a rickshaw for a living.
“Some farmers said that all their bamboo plants had died because of sudden flowering, while others said that their bamboo shoots were not growing well due to heat and excessive rain,” Savita recalls
Amol Dutta, a manager at People’s Cooperative Society, a state government initiative that promotes rural entrepreneurs, estimates that at least 18 bamboo-stick-making units have closed in the past five years in North Tripura district alone. Those still in business have either moved their base elsewhere or are planning to do so.
Anuj Chakravarty, a resident of Emrapasa village in North Tripura, has been selling bamboo furniture for the past 20 years.  Last year he relocated his business to Mumbai.
“A thousand bamboos (bought at bulk rate) now cost over 4,000 rupees, which is more than triple the price we paid even five or six years ago. At this rate, we can’t run a business. So we decided to move out,” he said.
Besides offering a bigger clientele, Mumbai has another attraction, says Chakravarty: cheaper bamboo imported from China.
“Local suppliers gave us more varieties in raw material and design,” he admits. “With Chinese bamboos, you don’t get that. But they are two or three times cheaper.”
DECLINE OF THE BAMBOO HUB
The decline in bamboo production, and the import of cheaper Chinese products are signs of difficulty for a region of India that has traditionally been known as the country’s bamboo hub. Almost 56 percent of India’s bamboo production comes from the eight hill states of the northeast.
People here not only grow the grass for money, but rely on it extensively for sustenance too:  tender shoots are eaten as a delicacy, while mature bamboo branches are used to build fences, houses, furniture and household goods such as  baskets, grain containers and cutlery.
Pannalal Dhar, 47, of Sonamara village, has been growing the plant all his life. But this year, for the first time, Dhar was unable to re-fence his house because he was unable to harvest a single branch. The same is true of all 52 families in Sonamara.
“Earlier, I harvested bamboos that were as fat as a log. People bought them to use as pillars in their huts. Now all I get is sickly, thin bamboos that are useless,” says Dhar, pointing at the bare patch of land by his pond that until recently was his bamboo field.
According to Dhar, the decline is partly due to the bamboo’s natural cycle of flowering and dying, but it has been worsened by irregular rain and dry spells. Bamboo shoots require warm but moist soil to flourish, and the monsoon used to be predictable, with gentle rain followed by fierce rainfall for three or four weeks.
But for the past six or seven years, it has rained very hard from the onset of the monsoon in early June, followed by dry spells that last for weeks.
“Normally, before the monsoon, I would build a mud bank around the bamboo plants. This would trap moisture and help the shoots grow even when the sun came out. But now the showers are so severe, the mud banks are getting washed (away) quickly. The tender shoots are getting exposed to the sun,” Dhar said.
The climate in northeast India has been changing fast. According to a report by the government of India, average annual rainfall in the region, which was 2,450 mm a year, is now decreasing at a rate of 11 mm per decade.
Bamboo plants in northeast India usually flower only about every five decades. After flowering, the bamboo dies back, but a dramatic side effect of the blossoming plants is a huge increase in the local population of rats, which feed on the flowers and then go on to destroy other crops, further jeopardizing the residents’ livelihoods.
Suhagmani Deb, an 81-year-old bamboo farmer in Kumarghat, says that in her lifetime she has seen bamboo plants flower only three times, but the last two occasions have been in the past six years.
The recent flowerings have been irregular, occurring in different parts of the region at different times, and have seriously disrupted the bamboo supply. The region’s only paper-producing factory, the Cachar Paper Mill in Hailakandi, Assam, is one of the larger businesses affected. With an annual production capacity of 100,000 tonnes, it requires up to 350 tonnes of bamboo daily. Shortages of bamboo have stopped operations at the mill at least five times this year after the states of Mizoram and Tripura failed to provide their anticipated supply.
Lalnan Puii, a senior official in Mizoram’s department of agriculture, says that since the large-scale flowering in 2007-2008, bamboo production has fallen by half. Changes in climatic conditions have worsened the crisis, he adds.
“The gap in production should have been filled by now. But there are too many dry spells these days which is affecting the growth of the bamboo,” Puii says.
He adds that the government is trying to help farmers by exempting them from income tax and excise duties, and subsidising their electricity. It has also banned the sale of bamboo shoots.
While these measures are designed to help large farmers, small growers have few reasons to be hopeful. Some, like Deb, are already planning to stop farming bamboo, and feel increasingly uncertain about the future.
 “Nobody knows if the weather will be normal again in the coming days. So how do I know everything will be alright again?” she asks.
Stella Paul is a multimedia journalist based in Hyderabad, India.
05 December 2013

Cancer is Killing Northeastern Indians, and Suicide is Plaguing the southerners

In most rich countries, the bulk of deaths occur in hospitals. But in India, where 9.5 million people die each year, as many as 75% of those deaths happen at home, work or on the street. Until recently, health officials knew little about what causes these deaths since they aren’t accompanied by the paperwork drawn up by hospitals or police.

But the Million Death Study (MDS), a project led by Prabhat Jha, a University of Toronto epidemiologist and public health specialist, is changing that. Since 1997, the Jha and colleagues have used “verbal autopsy,” surveys of around 450,000 deaths, according to Nature. One thing they’re finding is that causes of death vary wildey by region:

As you can see, most of these factors have to do with the surrounding environment, whether the prevalence of malaria-carrying mosquitoes or stressful jobs.

The study also highlights which diseases are more prevalent in India. Take, for example, chronic respiratory problems like asthma:

Some of Jha and his colleagues’ findings vary dramatically from previous estimates on causes of death in India from the World Health Organization or other global institutions. The MDS results suggest that 205,000 people die from malaria and 45,900 from snake-bites each year in India—much higher rates than what the WHO and other groups project.

Some of the Jha’s estimates are lower than those of other international organizations. For instance, the MDS found that 100,000 Indians die of HIV each year, less than the 140,000 that the United Nations reports (pdf, p.A42). And the UN has actually come down somewhat in the 400,000 it once estimated, according to University of Toronto Magazine. Those lower estimates speak to some skewed priorities: Malaria kills twice as many people in India as HIV does each year, and yet it receives much less attention and funding. Here’s a look at grant money disbursements of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an international financing institution for public health:

Payments made by the Global Fund to grant recipients in India.The Global Fund

India’s Troubled Soldiers

India’s Troubled Soldiers
Indian soldiers on patrol
Image Credit: REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta
21 November 2013

India losing the battle against TB?

Two people die every three minutes in a country that accounts for 26 percent of cases globally.
Rafael Hasta, 58, has yet to benefit from the world's largest free TB care programme [Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera]
The days Rafael Hasta coughs up blood, his son Samuel gives him mashed papaya with boiled rice and red tea. Hasta refuses to eat anything else.

Diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) three years ago, Hasta - from Assam in India's northeast - has seen a doctor only four times. Samuel, 28, hired a wooden cart and took him to a public hospital in the town of Kokrajhar.
"I lose a day's work, wait for two hours, and the doctor meets the patient for only five minutes and never explains anything," he says. The doctor's visit was free, but X-ray and medicines cost $15 each time."

Rummaging under the bed, he pulls out four crumpled prescriptions and two fading X-rays reports. The $3 he earns as a day labourer feeds six people. Medicines for his father are "simply not possible."

Scared that the disease could spread, he built a shed with bamboo, tin and tarpaulin for his father. "I want to take care of him. I just don't know how," he says, pressing his father's scrawny hands. 

Many like Hasta are yet to benefit from the world's largest free healthcare programme for TB that India runs. India has the highest TB burden, accounting for 26 percent of cases globally.
It is the country's most fatal infectious disease and a rise in drug resistance has prompted many to ask if India is floundering to control TB.

India's TB burden
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2013 Global tuberculosis report, 8.6 million people developed TB and 1.3 million died from the disease in 2012. The rate of new cases has been declining at 2 percent per year for a decade.
Earning $3 per day, Samuel says its "simply impossible" to buy medicines for his father [Bijoyeta Das /Al Jazeera]
The scale of India's TB control measures is laudable but population, grinding poverty and a doddering healthcare system cause the problem to dwarf all efforts, according to experts. Prevalence has reduced from 465 to 230 per 100,000 population and mortality from 38 to 22.
Yet, the scale of the scourge remains scary. Every three minutes, two people die of TB in India, and one out of every four TB patients in the world is an Indian.
"You are running very fast but you seem to be standing in the same place because so many are getting infected," says Virendar Chauhan, director of International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.
For two decades, Indian government has been providing the WHO-recommended DOTS: Directly Observed Treatment courses under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP). It currently reaches 1.5 million cases in the public sector.
But about half of those affected go to the private sector, which is not involved in TB control. "Government and private sector efforts should integrate. There should be a push-and-pull mechanism," adds Chauhan.
It is a cruel irony that India is a pharmacy to the world. It produces many of the TB drugs that people in other countries depend upon ... The government has not been upfront in recognising the shortage and ensuring availability.
- Mike Fricke, Activists of Treatment Action Group 
Routine DOTS saves lives but is not very effective in curbing transmission, says Madhukar Pai, associate director at McGill International TB Centre. "By the time patients end up in the DOTS system, they have likely infected many others."
Poor living conditions, malnutrition, overcrowding, smoking, indoor air pollution, HIV infection, and diabetes increase the risk of TB in India.
Pai says India's scale-up of new technologies has been disappointing. Countries such as South Africa and Brazil are actively investing in new tests such as GeneXpert to improve case detection and multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB) diagnosis, but India is yet to "take such bold steps."
"Even easily available tools like mobile phones and ICT are yet to be harnessed for notification and treatment adherence monitoring," he says.
According to Soumya Swaminathan, director of National Institute for research in Tuberculosis, poor access and ignorance about the national programme, unfriendly health services, and the attitude towards the marginalised are roadblocks in extending universal healthcare.
"Our studies have shown that there is a huge out-of-pocket expenditure by the time patients get diagnosed and treated for TB, and that stigma compounds the problem," she says.
The WHO says there is a funding shortfall of $2 billion a year for a full response to the global TB epidemic. But Indian health officials say India's TB control is a success and there are no funding gaps.
"India's TB spending has not slowed down and India's budget on TB control has increased by 300 percent in 12th Five Year Plan as compared to the 11th," says Niraj Kulshrestha, a senior official of the Central TB division at the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. Spending on research increased by 80 percent since last year, he adds.
Fund shortage
International funds contribute 57 percent of India's total TB control budget. However, the RNTCP budget is only 2 percent of the total health sector budget. The ambitious National Strategic Plan that aims to treat 90 percent of TB cases by 2017 will cost $1.05 billion. But RNTCP has been allocated only $731 million.
Resistance to drugs is also compounding the problem. About half of the 450,000 MDR-TB patients are in India, China and Russia. Reports of recent drug stock-outs, particularly second-line MDR-TB, led activists of Treatment Action Group (TAG) to take over the stage with calls of "Shame India" and "the TB genocide must stop" at the 44th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Paris.

"It is a cruel irony that India is a pharmacy to the world. It produces many of the TB drugs that people in other countries depend upon," says Mike Fricke of TAG. "The government has not been upfront in recognising the shortage and ensuring availability."
Kulshrestha says there is no increase in MDR-TB and absolute numbers are high, proportionate to the population. "More cases are being reported because of diagnostic facilities made available by the government," he adds.
According to Leena Menghaney of Medicines Sans Frontiere,"Antibiotics are largely misused in the private sector, which is contributing to the rise of drug resistance in TB and needs to be regulated."
Often poverty makes people susceptible to TB, and TB worsens poverty, but it now affects all classes of people in India.
“If India and China are able to reduce the TB burden, it would mean progress for global TB control,” she adds.
TB-Infographic [Bijoyeta Das /Al Jazeera]

This story has been written under the aegis of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union)'s Media Fellowships for Reporting on TB.
14 November 2013

Who will raise INS Sindhurakshak? Five firms are in the fray to salvage sunken submarine... and find the truth about how her crew died

By Gaurav C. Sawant

It is the Indian Navy's biggest peace time disaster till date, and one that is still shrouded in mystery.
What caused the catastrophe on board INS Sindhurakshak, a frontline Kilo class submarine which had just returned from Russia after a multi-million dollar refit, remains unknown.

The navy is desperate to salvage the sunken sub and find out the truth, not least because 18 precious lives were lost in the blast.

Last week, technical bids were opened to bring the sub to surface.

What's next? Salvage work on INS Sindhurakshak has so far drawn a blank
What's next? Salvage work on INS Sindhurakshak has so far drawn a blank
"All the five companies that participated in the bid met the technical requirements. Now the commercial bids are being processed to identify the lowest bidder," Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral D.K. Joshi, told Headlines Today.
In an unprecedented move to cut down months of 'negotiation time' and files moving up and down different departments, an empowered committee has been formed and stationed in Mumbai to identify the lowest bidder.

"The files move between several offices for requisite clearances. At times that takes months. We have sought and got government clearance to cut down that time and quickly settle for the lowest bidder with all parameters being met," Admiral Joshi added.

The empowered committee is headed by the navy and features officers of both the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and a competent financial authority to clear the paperwork for defence minister A.K. Antony's final nod.

"The navy wants to know what caused the loss of lives of 18 service personnel. While they have been declared as 'battle casualties' since the submarine was about to leave for a patrolling mission, the families are keen to know what caused the incident.

"The navy has a fair idea but once the submarine is salvaged, an effort will be made to find out which ordnance blew up and which is intact," a source said.

Interest: Chief of Naval Staff Admiral D.K. Joshi has revealed five firms are vying to salvage the sub
Interest: Chief of Naval Staff Admiral D.K. Joshi has revealed five firms are vying to salvage the sub

"While within five minutes of the incident (on August 13) submarines in the adjoining berths had sailed out, we had a safety stand down immediately. We went through all our standard operating procedures and did a detailed internal audit," Admiral Joshi said.

But was it, as many in the navy describe it, 'a freak accident?'

"We should be able to know once she is salvaged," he added.

The navy is hopeful that by early next year the operation to salvage INS Sindhurakshak will commence.

The salvage firms include the one that was engaged in the operations to retrieve the ill-fated Russian Navy Oscar II class nuclear powered cruise missile submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea on August 12, 2000, killing all 118 sailors on board.
03 November 2013

I Ink, Therefore I Am

Tattoo studios and artists proliferate as an ancient art turns hip.

By Kaavya Chandrasekaran


 Some artists from Delhi, the country's tattoo capital
Some artists from Delhi, the country's tattoo capital It prevented the soldiers from deserting the army in ancient Rome, and marked the identity of prisoners. Today, a tattoo is a badge of coolness. "It is seen as a fashion statement," says Mo Naga, owner of Headhunters' Ink Tattoo School. "It must be the fastest growing industry, but it is going unnoticed."

Naga's school, attached to a tattoo studio, in Guwahati, Assam,  opened last December, and charges about Rs 1.2 lakh for a 10-week course. Many studios offer training programmes, and typically accept no more than five students at a time. Basic knowledge of sketching and painting is generally a prerequisite. Some of the more accomplished artists even do portraits - and these aren't cheap. Lokesh Verma, owner of Devilz Tattooz in South Delhi, specialises in them, and a 4X5-inch portrait takes about four hours and can cost as much as Rs 20,000.

Naga says he wants to revive traditional tattoo art in the North-east. "We don't have to imitate western culture blindly," he says. He is rese-arching the art, and says that traditionally, it was used by Naga men and women as a mark of achie-vement. In the past, that achiev-ement was sometimes headhunting, or the practice of preserving someone's head after killing them for reasons including ritual and warfare. For women, tattoos marked stages of life, such as puberty and marriage. The Nagas are a number of tribal groups from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Myanmar and Nagaland.

In the late 1980s, says Naga, tattooing began to be influenced by Chinese and Burmese designs. "In 2007 and 2008, it became influenced by western culture all over India," he adds. He says TV shows had a huge impact, such as Miami Ink, a reality show about a tattoo parlour in the US state of Florida.

"It was a craze for DJs a year ago. It's a huge market now. Before that, only musicians and artists had tattoos." Delhi, he maintains, is India's tattoo capital today.

Men usually want tattoos on their biceps
Men usually want tattoos on their biceps, shoulders and forearms, while women go for the bust, shoulder blades and ankles
Hardy Mitra, owner of Funky Monkey in Delhi, says it is the city's oldest tattoo studio. "The revolution was started by me 11 years ago, when I had parlours in Bangalore, Chandi-garh and Bombay," he says. He now has a studio in South Delhi and one in the neighbouring city of Gurgaon.

Funky Monkey's customers range from 18- to 63-year-olds. "The phobia has gone," says Mitra. "Tattoos are no longer associated with bikers and drug addicts. Now, even a mother of two gets tattooed. You see people at interviews with tattoos."

Tattoos may be popular, but they are not cheap. Studios typically charge Rs 1,500 for the first square inch, and Rs 500 for every additional square inch. Interestingly, growing demand does not seem to have affected prices. "It was Rs 1,500 ten years ago, and hasn't gone up since then," says Mitra.

Customers happily cough up the money to subject themselves to the pain. Men usually want tattoos on their biceps, shoulders and forearms, while women go for the bust, shoulder blades and ankles. Vaishali Nanda, a 26-year-old architect in Delhi, has five tattoos from different places in Delhi, Goa and Mumbai. She says: "The first time was really good, even though I was kind of nervous." She says all her experiences were smooth, except for one time when she blacked out. She was getting inked on her hip, a sensitive region. "I passed out for two seconds when it hit the pelvic bone area," she says.

It is difficult to estimate the size of the industry, given that it is not organised. Mitra says there are about 60 studios in Delhi.

Studios charge around Rs 1,500 for the first square inch
Studios charge around Rs 1,500 for the first square inch and Rs 500 for every additional square inch
It is also difficult to trace the growth of tattoo studios in India. Sameer Patange of Kraayonz Tattoo Studio in Mumbai's Bandra suburb says he is among the earliest to start one. He learned the art from psychiatrist J.A. Kohiyar, who doubled as a tattoo artist in his clinic in South Mumbai and got up to three clients a week. Kohiyar is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the industry. "When I joined him 15 years ago, he had been doing it for 25 years," says Patange. Back then, he adds, tattoos were much simpler and minimalistic in terms of lines, colour and shape.

"I became the youngest tattoo artist at 20, into my fourth year of tattooing," says Patange. He says he received extensive media coverage, after which other artists and studios came up. Now, his Mumbai studio averages two customers a day. His Bangalore and Pune studios get one or two customers daily. He says that although Goa is a seasonal market, business is good, with as many as six customers on a good day. "I get clients who know what they are getting into," he adds.

Kraayonz has follow-up sessions to ensure that the tattoo is healing well. "A tattoo is an open wound - different skin types may react differently," he says. Healing time is generally two weeks. During that time, the tattoo must be washed daily, and protected from direct sunlight.

A chunk of the business in some places is cover-ups of shabby tattoos or declarations of a love that did not last. Chennai's Irezumi studio gets 30 to 40 cover-up customers a month. Owner Naveen Nanda-kumar says Irezumi advises people against getting names tattooed. "They come here asking for their girlfriend's or boyfriend's names, but we tell them it's hard to remove. Very few listen." He adds that a few who have heeded the advice have later thanked Irezumi located in Nungambakkam. "Others return after three months with a sorry face," he says. Mitra of Funky Monkey backs this up. "Thirty per cent of our customers come in to cover up other tattoos," he says.

Cover-ups of shabby or regrettable tattoos account for a good chunk of business
Cover-ups of shabby or regrettable tattoos account for a good chunk of business
Irezumi's story is indicative of how business is growing. The lavish studio began with an investment of Rs 20 lakh in 2006 (a simpler set-up would need an investment of Rs 5-6 lakh). Nandakumar recovered his investment in about two years. He also owns a studio in Ooty and two in Coimbatore. "What Chennai was seven years ago, Coimbatore was three years ago," he says. His clientele has grown 20 per cent year-on-year since 2006.

Not surprisingly, more and more people are becoming artists. The money is not bad: at Abhishaik Madhur's Indelible Tattooz studio in South Delhi, artists earn around Rs 40,000 a month.

Irezumi's Nandakumar says: "Real estate agents and blacksmiths are getting into it. They buy a basic kit from me and start tattooing." He distributes equipment from a US-based supplier called Tattoo Gizmo. He says there are about 150 artists in Chennai.

Tattoo equipment has evolved rapidly. "In the old days, we had machines that made noise," says Mitra of Funky Monkey. He adds that newer machines are quieter, and cost 300-400 euros (Rs 25,200 to Rs 33,600).

Although there is hardly any regulation of the business, studio owners emphasise hygiene. This means using disposable equipment parts, protective plastic covers, and lots of disinfectant.

Given the absence of legal regulation, pretty much anyone can open a studio. "There are more than 375 artists on the loose and the competition is growing," says Naga. He adds that some artists offer "unbelievable discounts", and says vendors on the street can spread disease. A studio, he says, should be maintained like a clinic.

The art is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Madhur shares the story of a client who survived a horrible car accident unscathed. He wanted a tattoo to mark his life-changing experience. After four days of mulling over ideas, Madhur's studio came up with an image of light streaming in through an open door, signifying new life. The client has this tattoo on his forearm. 
01 October 2013

Mary Kom Urges Women To Learn Art Of Protecting Themselves To Combat Attackers

2012 Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom kisses her son in Mumbai on Monday.

2012 Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom kisses her son in Mumbai on Monday.

In view of the increase in number of rapes being reported in the country, Mary Kom urged women to learn some sort of self-defence to combat attackers.

In the city on Monday to receive an award, the boxer said, “Rapes can be minimised if women learn a thing or two about selfdefence.”

She recalled an incident from her younger days when she fought a rickshaw driver who was passing lewd comments at her.

“I will never forget the incident which happened when I was just learning my trade. I was going alone for mass in a rickshaw, clad in traditional Manipuri attire. On the way, when we reached a relatively lonely road, I realised that the driver was giving me dirty looks and was passing lewd comments. I got down from the rickshaw and punched him in the face, hitting him so badly that he couldn’t even get up.

“Had I not learnt a little bit of boxing then, there might not have been any Mary Kom representing India in the Olympics. God only knows what would’ve happened to me,” she added.

Recovering from a gall bladder operation, Mary, who idolises boxing legend Mohammed Ali for his will power, said she has begun light training for next year’s Commonwealth games in Glasgow.

“My utmost priority now is to qualify for the Commonwealth games, although a medal at Rio is very tempting,” she said.

The five-time world champion is currently dedicating her time to a boxing academy she has opened in Manipur in 2007.

“I started the academy because people came up to me and asked me to teach them the sport, and I couldn’t say no, because I want better boxers to emerge and make this country proud,” she said.

Though the state government has given her land, she is still looking for funds to have a state-of-the-art training facility.

“I want people to support my academy, but I’m not going to go and ask for funds. That should come spontaneously from people,” she added.

Speaking of popularising the sport, Mary Kom says she is excited about a movie being made on her life, starring Bollywood starlet Priyanka Chopra.

“Just like Chak De! India inspired people to take up hockey, I hope people will be inspired to take up boxing by watching the struggles I had to face. Though the movie is bound to have a little masala, like the after-parties, most of it is genuine and the producers are taking a lot of trouble to get everything perfect. Priyanka even came to my small house in Manipur to learn what it’s like to grow up there,” she said.

Asked if it makes sense to have a Punjabi girl playing the role of a boxer from Manipur, Mary Kom said Priyanka was the indeed the right person for the role.

“A superstar is playing my role, it couldn’t get bigger for me.

What more can I ask for? I’m sure she will fit the skin of my character and be able to inspire people,” she added.
26 September 2013

That's The Spirit: Why Indians Prefer Strong Beer, Liquor

Credit Danish Siddiqui / Reuters /Landov
A bartender pours Haywards 5000 strong beer into a glass at a restaurant in Mumbai. Strong beer, with alcohol content of 5 to 8 percent, accounted for 83 percent of all beer sold in India last year, according to research firm Mintel.
Sometimes we at Parallels see a story that's so compelling, we make an extra effort to chase down the facts. So it's in that spirit, this story from Reuters caught our attention:
"Strong beer, with alcohol content of 5-8 percent, accounted for 83 percent of all beer sold in India last year, according to research firm Mintel, a figure industry players say is the biggest strong beer share of any major market. Brewers expect that to grow to 90 percent over the next three to five years."
Alcohol consumption isn't high in India, mainly for religious and cultural reasons. Only a third of the country's 1.1 billion people drink regularly. And when people do drink, Samar Singh Shekhawat, senior vice president of marketing at United Breweries, told Reuters, it's to get buzzed.

That explains why strong beer outsells its low-alcohol counterpart; it also helps explain why spirits — like whiskey — are still the drink of choice in India, as this chart shows.

Of course, India isn't the only country where the consumption of spirits outpaces that of beer.
Russian vodka, French wine and rum in Caribbean nations outstrip the consumption of beer in those places.

Alcohol consumption in India remains low — but it's growing fast. That makes it an attractive destination for Western brewers and distillers.

Diageo, which makes Johnnie Walker, has a $2 billion stake in United Breweries, the world's largest liquor company by volume. As The Wall Street Journal noted in November 2012:
"Sales of such local whiskeys — which are dominated by United Spirits — doubled India's whiskey consumption to 1.2 billion liters between 2005 and 2010, making India the world's largest whiskey market by volume. Meanwhile, the market for imported liquors such as Diageo's Johnnie Walker has remained tiny because of India's high alcohol import taxes."
India's locally made whiskies dominate global whiskey sales, though few people have heard of them outside the country. For example, United Spirits' McDowell's No. 1 lives up to its name; it's the world's top-selling whiskey.

But India isn't the only country where local drinks dominate the market — and the world.

As NPR's Tom Dreisbach reported on weekends on All Things Considered, the the best-selling spirit in the world is one you probably haven't heard of: It's South Korea's Jinro soju, a rice-based drink that's about 20 percent alcohol.
11 September 2013

'Hang them'! Family of Delhi Gang Rape Victim Call For Death Penalty after 4 Men are Convicted of her Murder

  • Victim, 23, died after being gang-raped by six men on bus in New Delhi

  • One will appeal verdict claiming he was only driving the bus at time of attack
  • Crime shook India and lead to widespread protests about sex attack laws
  • Comes after teen accomplice given maximum sentence possible in India
  • Defence claim all four innocent saying it was a show trial to 'appease public'
  • By Matt Blake

    The family of a 23-year-old medical student who died after being brutally gang raped on a bus in New Delhi demanded that her attackers be hanged today as four men were convicted of her murder.
    Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur and Vinay Sharma were all found guilty of rape, murder, assault, kidnapping, robbery, and eight other charges at Saket Court, in South Delhi, India.
    They were among six people accused of tricking the woman and her male companion into boarding an off-duty bus on December 16 after they had seen a matinee showing of 'Life of Pi' at a shopping mall.

    They then raped her using a metal bar to inflict massive internal injuries before beating her friend. The victims were dumped naked on the roadside and the woman died from her injuries two weeks later.

    Speaking outside court, the father of the victim, who cannot be identified under Indian law, said: 'Now the court has held them guilty, we want them hanged. We expect nothing else but the death sentence.'

    'Hang them': As the four men listened to their verdicts inside the courtroom, chants of 'hang them' could be heard outside as demonstrators called for the death penalty and staged mock hangings
    'Hang them': As the four men listened to their verdicts inside the courtroom, chants of 'hang them' could be heard outside as demonstrators called for the death penalty and staged mock hangings


    Guilty! Indian policemen look out from a van carrying the four convicted men
    Guilty! Indian policemen look out from a van carrying the four convicted men


    Indian youth protest outside the Saket Court complex in New Delhi
    A.P. Singh (C), defence lawyer for one of the four men

    Appeal: W.P. Singh (left, centre), defence lawyer for one of the four men, said he planned to launch an appeal on behalf of his client as protesters called for his hanging yards away (right)

    As the men were told the verdicts in the courtroom, chants of 'hang them' could be heard echoing outside.
    The men, convicted on all the counts against them, including rape and murder, now face the possibility of hanging. They are expected to be sentenced tomorrow.
    One of the four, however, is to launch an appeal over his conviction claiming he was simply driving the bus when the attack took place and was unaware of what was happening inside.
    The crime, which left the victim with such extensive internal injuries that she died two weeks later, sparked widespread protests across the country and led to reforms of India's antiquated sexual violence laws.
    Guilty: A van carries the four men to court in New Delhi. They all now face the death penalty following today's guilty verdicts
    Guilty: A van carries the four men to court in New Delhi. They all now face the death penalty following today's guilty verdicts

    Attacker's mother: The mother of one of the four convicted men cries upon seeing the news on a court verdict on a TV inside her house at a slum in New Delhi
    A mother's tears: The mother of one of the four convicted men cries upon seeing the news on a court verdict on a TV inside her house at a slum in New Delhi
    Their conviction comes a week after their teenage accomplice was jailed for three years for his part in the atrocity.
    The sixth accused was found dead in his jail cell in March.
    Reading out today's verdict, Judge Yogesh Khanna said the men had committed 'murder of a helpless person.'
    The parents of the rape victim, who cannot be identified under Indian law, had tears in their eyes as the verdicts were read. They sat just a few feet from the convicted men in a tiny courtroom jammed with lawyers, police and reporters.
     
    Convicted: It comes after a teenager was convicted in August after being tried separately for the attack
    Convicted: It comes after a teenager was convicted in August following a separate trial

    Punishment: The juvenile faces a maximum sentence of three years under Indian law
    Punishment: The juvenile faces a maximum sentence of three years under Indian law

    AP Singh, a lawyer for the men, said all were innocent.
    'These accused have been framed simply to please the public,' he told reporters. 'This is not a fair trial.
    Outside the courthouse, where dozens of protesters had gathered, a chant began quickly after the verdict: 'Hang Them! Hang Them! Hang Them!'
    Protesters called the case a wake-up call for India.
    'Every girl at any age experiences this - harassment or rape. We don't feel safe,' said law school graduate Rapia Pathania. 'That's why we're here. We want this case to be an example for every other case that has been filed and will be filed.'
    The teenager, who was 17 at the time of the attack, was given the maximum sentence possible under Indian law.
    But despite having since turned 18, the attacker will not be publicly named.
    The victim's family called for the teenager to be tried as an adult, accusing him of being the most violent of the attackers.

    'He should be hanged irrespective of whether he is a juvenile or not. He should be punished for what he did to my daughter,' said the mother of the victim, said soon after the verdict was announced.

    Anger: Indian women participate in a silent procession to mourn the death of the gang rape victim
    Anger: Indian women participate in a silent procession to mourn the death of the gang rape victim
    Fury: Protesters demanded swift justice in the case and wide-ranging reforms to sex crime laws
    Fury: Protesters demanded swift justice in the case and wide-ranging reforms to sex crime laws
    Horrific: The girl was savagely attacked when she boarded a bus with a male friend after a trip to the cinema in Decembertacked when she boarded a bus with a male friend after a trip to the cinema in December.
    Horrific: The girl was savagely attacked when she boarded a bus with a male friend after a trip to the cinema in December
    Anger: The savage assault caused outrage throughout India. Protestors are pictured trying to break through a police cordon during a demonstration in New Delh
    Anger: The savage assault caused outrage throughout India. Protestors are pictured trying to break through a police cordon during a demonstration in New Delh
    A dream destroyed: A man bows his head at a candlelit vigil for the 23-year-old student - affectionately called 'Bitiya', or 'little daughter' by her parents - who died after being gang-raped on a moving bus in New Delhi
    A dream destroyed: A man bows his head at a candlelit vigil for the 23-year-old student who died after being gang-raped on a moving bus in New Delhi
    'You may as well set the juvenile free, if the sentence is only three years for heinous offences like rape and murder,' she added tearfully.
    The mother also said she would appeal against the verdict in a higher court.
    'I am not happy with this judgment. At least in this case, the juvenile should have been sentenced to life,' the victim's brother told Reuters news agency.
    The government, facing immense public pressure, had promised swift justice in the case.
    The convicted defendant was tried as a minor on charges including murder and rape. The time he spent in a juvenile home since he was arrested in December will count as part of his three-year sentence.
    v
    Terror: The 23-year-old woman died after being gang raped by six men who also used a metal bar to cause massive internal injuries
    Speaking out: The 28-year-old IT specialist friend of the rape victim has spoken about their closeness. This is a file picture of protestors
    The sentence is likely to cause further anger in a country attempting to turn a rising tide of violence against women and which has passed a new law toughening sentences for adults convicted of sex crimes

    The attack set off furious protests across India about the treatment of women in the country where police say a rape is reported every 20 minutes.
    A government panel set to suggest reforms to sexual assault laws rejected calls to lower the age at which people can be tried as adults from 18 to 16.
    On July 17, India's top court also refused to reduce the age of a juvenile from 18 to 16 years. However, it later agreed to hear a new petition seeking to take the 'mental and intellectual maturity' of the defendant into account and not just age.
    Four of the teenager's co-accused are still on trial and face the death penalty if convicted. Closing arguments began on August 22 and verdicts are expected within the next fortnight. A fifth accused, the alleged ring-leader, killed himself in his jail cell in March.

    'IT SENDS A BAD SIGNAL': CAMPAIGNERS CALL FOR CHANGE IN LAW AFTER TEENAGER WAS TRIED AS A JUVENILE

    The defendant could only receive a maximum sentence of three years because he was 17 at the time of the attack
    The defendant could only receive a maximum sentence of three years because he was 17 at the time of the attack

    The teenager, who may not be named, was tried as a juvenile because he was 17 at the time of the
    attack.
    The maximum penalty that could be imposed by India's Juvenile Justice Board was three years.

    In January, authorities ruled he was 17, citing school records, which shocked the victim's family and others clamouring for him to face the death penalty.

    In response to the public outcry after the rape, the government fast-tracked tougher laws against sex crimes, but it resisted calls to change the juvenile law and return the adult age to 16 from 18.

    India's Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition filed by Subramanian Swamy, an opposition politician and lawyer, that calls for the law to be reinterpreted rather than changed.

    Swamy wants the 'emotional, intellectual and mental maturity' of juvenile offenders to be assessed when deciding whether to try them as a juvenile, rather than basing the decision on age alone.

    'I felt that, with the kind of rape that took place, if (the juvenile suspect) got off lightly it would send a bad signal to society,' Swamy said.
    He plans to launch an appeal against the verdict reached today if the Supreme Court rules in favour of his petition later this year.

    The teenager pleaded not guilty to all 13 charges including rape, murder and robbery. His trial was held behind closed doors to protect his identity and media were barred from reporting on any details of the proceedings.

    During his trial, he has been held at a juvenile detention facility for violent young offenders in Delhi and kept away from other inmates for his safety.

    The youth left home when he was 11 and got work in a roadside eatery, his mother said in January.
    In recent years he lived as a semi-vagrant, washing buses and collecting fares, according to a police report.

    After leaving home, he never returned and his mother said she thought he was dead until police arrested him in connection with the gang-rape.

    Some 33,000 crimes were committed by juveniles in India last year, the highest number in a decade, but there has not been a large spike, according to Home Ministry figures. Juveniles commit a tiny proportion of total crimes in India and far less than other nations such as the United States.

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