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Posted by on in Editorials by Kanchan

August 15 is celebrated in Delhi, the national capital of modern India and the Indraprastha of ancient India. Amid the never-ending whiff of corruption, inflation and economic growth, one wonders if the government has become irrelevant. It is collective strength of money power, business and power of information (and disinformation), which seems to be running the world. The scenes in Hastinapur and Indraprastha, depicted in the Mahabharata, has come back to haunt us.

Actions of many world leaders, including in India, remind us of the Kaurava hero, Duryodhana. Asked whether he was aware of his misdeeds, he retorted, "I know what's a righteous behavior, I know what's evil. I, however, act according to the dictates of some forces who dwells in my heart." At least, he was an epitome of frank candor.

Unfortunately, a similar yardstick of honesty doesn't apply to many world leaders, more so in India, and also a large section of the citizenry, who stand accused of dereliction of their duties and responsibilities.

Every newborn in the country learns corruption and black money as the first few words. Every hour about 2,000 babies are born in India alone. It indicates that the demand for resources like land, water and food is increasing exponentially. Besides, air will require more oxygen, and fewer pollutants. The environment will be hotter than before. There will be a complete depletion of underground water table from major Indian cities. An ever-increasing number of plant and animal species are near-extinct. Population explosion and misuse of natural resources remain the biggest worry. Population growth is not the only culprit, misuse and mismanagement of earth's resources is the most important factor.

There is an Indian phrase, gyan papi, which literally translates to "knowledge sinner" or wrong doing even after being aware of the misdeeds. David Maister summed it up well in Strategy and the Fat Smoker: "We often know what we should be doing and why – just as fat smokers know they should stop smoking and lose weight. Real strategy lies not in deciding what to do, but in devising ways to ensure we do more of what we know we should do".

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Posted by on in Editorials by Chandran

Around a month ago, one of my former students from India -- after having completed an MBA in media management -- shifted to Dubai with a media marketing profile. He took up the Dubai assignment at the expense of his marketing communication profile with a well-known media organization in Mumbai.

Let us first note what are the usual inferences attached to such a movement of a skilled Indian in various associated circles!

The person in question might feel elated, thinking that the market in Dubai must be easier to manage than Mumbai, along with the quality of life and remuneration much higher. The employer in Dubai might not get the right talent required at the desired wage locally, and hence wants to get him from India, though unsure of the return on investment as the talent is raw in the Middle East market. The colleagues in Dubai may look at him with apprehension: not sure as to how he will add value since he is unaware of the difference between Deira and Satwa, or Knowledge City and Academic City!

The parents are happy because their son's income has gone up exponentially, and yet are unhappy that he is far away. The friends back home are jealous and analysing how and why he could manage the relocation. Ideologues back in India would consider it a brain drain. Ideologues or conservatives in the Middle East might consider him just another expat coming to make a quick buck in Dubai sans any commitment to the society and economy here!

There is an error of judgement perhaps in all of these stereotypical views. Let me take them up one by one.

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Posted by on in Editorials by Chandran

How come Krishnan becomes Chris, Ramaswami becomes Rums, Harikisan becomes Harry, Dixit becomes Dick or Mangala becomes Maggie when they join a firm in the US? Is it just to shorten their name so that their American friends can pronounce it with ease, or is it a reflection of a deep-seated sub-conscious inferiority in their own name and culture?

I certainly would like to believe that it is to help their US counterparts pronounce their tongue-twisting names with ease because the perception of India in the eyes of the West has undergone a monumental change in the last few years. India is no longer viewed as the land of snake charmers and beggars but as a country with brilliant software entrepreneurs, engineers, and visionaries. But still some foreigners like to paint a gloomy and ugly picture of India sidelining its tremendous growth and development.

The first film made by a foreigner to portray India's poverty and squalour was Louis Malle. Malle made a documentary film, Calcutta, about India, 

Chandran-Iyerwhich was released in cinemas in 1968, and later broadcast as a seven-part TV series called L'Inde fantôme (Phantom India) on the BBC.

Concentrating on real India, its rituals and festivities, Malle fell out with the Indian government, which disliked his portrayal of the country and consequently banned the BBC from filming in India for several years.

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Posted by on in Editorials by Haimanti

Nobel laureate and doyen of Bengali literature Rabindranath Tagore wrote 'Amar Sonar bangla, aami tomay bhalobashi' (Oh! my golden Bengal, I love you) almost a century ago. As we celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of the litterateur per excellence, we're confronted with a pertinent question: has Gurudev's dream of a golden Bengal is in Utopia? He did not live to see a free India, but he had great hopes and expectations from the people Bengal, who could contribute handsomely to a resurgent India. Has Bengal fulfilled his wish? A trip down memory lane illustrates a job well begun is only half done.

During the period of legendary West Bengal chief minister Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the state flourished in many areas of development. However subsequent governments and leaders failed to up the tempo. Bengal, the land of Atish Dipankar, Sri Chaitanya, Bankim Chandra, Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and many legends took to Communism. Though the ruling Marxists took the democratic route to come to power, their inaction for a record 34 years proved to be its undoing. Bengal plummeted as far as progress and development are concerned. Ironically, the believers of 'rule of the proletariat' gradually appropriated the role of the bourgeois. The word comrade lost its meaning among the members of the ruling class. Political imbalance and poor governance, strikes and militant trade unionism became a norm.

Though there was some visible economic progress lately, the state has lagged behind its leading counterparts, leading to a poor Human Development Index and abysmal healthcare systems. Chronic power failures and inadequate infrastructure have failed to attract much needed investments in industry, which severely hampered the state's socio-economic growth.

A political change has, indeed, happened, leading to the installation of new non-Left state government. Naturally, hopes are very high. One can draw a parallel to US president Barrack Obama's election to office. It remains to be seen whether new West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee would be able to deal with the situation aptly to fast track growth? Yes, we can?

People of Bengal are looking for a change for some very basic needs. Impartial and non-corrupt governance, good healthcare, infrastructure and uninterrupted power supply along with education and industrial growth.

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The connections between India and Sri Lanka are of epic proportions. Ramayan, is the link between two neighbors. But, the public memory is short. A total recall is unlikely even after seeing the satellite images of the legendary Ram Sethu that loosely connects the two countries.

While scholars and believers spar over the Ram Sethu, shared cultural, economic and political ties have all along strengthened the bonds. Though Lanka was vanquished in the title clash for the cricket World Cup by the men in blue, the healthy rivalry brought to bear the inextricable link between two nations, powered by sports. Both the countries share Buddhist and Tamil-Hindu traditions for millennia.

Kanchan-BanerjeeOriginally part of the Non-Aligned Movement after the Independence (India gained freedom in 1947, and Sri Lanka a year after), both joined the SAARC and are co-signatories of the SAFTA and more recently the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade treaties.

Though there have been sporadic ups and downs in the relationships between the two, the nations have been let minor hiccups to spoil the cordial ties. The bonhomie had peaked when both the countries were led by women — Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandarnaike. India had provided air and naval support to Lanka to quash the armed uprising of JVP. But unfortunately the transit facilities given by Lanka to Pakistani Air Force, while India was helping Bangladesh in its liberation struggle in 1971, caused much damage to the relationship. Later, the Tamilians' bid to self-determination caused further turmoil.

The India Sri Lanka Agreement (ISLA – 1989) and the presence of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) had led to diplomatic fallout, until the IPKF was withdrawn in 1990. Though, the Lankan government has managed to quell the Tamil militancy, the Emerald Isle is in dire need of a slew of reforms. The need of the hour is a sustained truth and reconciliation mission between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamilians to make both warring communities to be at peace with each other.

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Is Indian democracy bracing for a change? The premise for the argument is the paradigm shift in power in various states like Bengal, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Naturally, hopes are high that the changes are to the heart's content of the masses, who have been instrumental in the change of guard.

It is well known now that credits for building many important pillars of our civilization such as the introduction of the number system was not clearly given to India till very recently. History reveals that though glory is given to Greece for the birth of democracy, albeit short lived and merely a prototype, various parts of India at different times had similar concepts at work.

India, if not the oldest, is definitely the largest democracy, representing over 1.2 billion people. And people of Indian origin live in numerous countries carry core democratic values such as pluralism of thoughts and practice which is the foundation of Indian society.

While India has adopted the path of a secular democracy, this system rests on many contradicting and sectarian factors; caste and religion play a major role in the elections of thousands of representatives at different levels. Rigging, stuffing of the ballot box and manipulation of the EVMs have all along been the major perils, and booth capturing has been the de rigueur.

The real challenge is to rescue Indian democracy from being reduced to a caricature of a political ideology and from creation of a privileged ruling class.

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Posted by on in Editorials by Chandran

"If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done? This utterly simple question put to Canadian politician Stephane Dion who was in the running for the prime minister's office in 2008 by the anchor of CTV Steve Murphy made Dion so jittery that he clammed up. Dion made the anchor repeat the question thrice, and yet he could not answer and only fumbled awkwardly.

The embarrassed MP then requested CTV not to air the footage, but the channel decided against it making the Canadians gasp in astonishment. This goof-up by a seasoned politician is regarded as one of the most embarrassing political blunders in Canada.

Dion was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and the Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian House of Commons. Dion resigned as Liberal leader after the party's defeat in the 2008 general election, but remained in parliament and was re-elected in the 2011 polls.

But, Dion is not an exception. Internationally several politicians have made bloomers in front of the media. Some have been harmless and hilarious, while others have been serious and they had to pay a price.

The then Vice President George Bush committed a faux pas during his presidential campaign. In one of his speeches, he said, "For seven and a half years, I've worked alongside President Reagan. We've had triumphs. Made some mistakes. We've had some sex ... uh ... setbacks."

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Posted by on in Editorials by Chandran

In 1982, the American bestselling author and screen writer Irving Wallace wrote a thrilling book " The Almighty" about a newspaper tycoon who was so obsessed with increasing the circulation of his newspaper that he would stop at nothing to get the most exclusive and sensational story in his paper .

It was the story of a man who gets so intoxicated with power that he becomes a megalomaniac. In the novel the newspaper tycoon Edward Armstead who inherits a vast news empire, first wants to shape the news, then manipulate and control it and finally tries to create it by paying money to the most dangerous elements to trigger horrendous crimes in the city which are exclusively covered in his newspaper. As a result of these exclusive sensational stories, the circulation of this newspaper zooms to stratospheric heights. This novel indicted the news media which manipulates the news to boost its circulation.

I read this novel when I was in the college and wondered whether any news organization could stoop this low just to get a great sensational story. I was happy that it was just a fiction.

Television channels in India which are so obsessed with TRPs to attract advertising revenues should take a cue from what has happened to News of The World

Come 2011 and see what is happening in the world of news media. Engulfed in a massive scandal Britain's biggest selling tabloid News of the World which was 168 years old summarily shut down its edition. Rupert Murdoch, the Chairman of the News Corp which owns the tabloid was forced to take this extreme step because of allegations that its journalists had hacked the voicemails of thousands of people from child murder victims to the families of Britain's war dead. It was accused of hacking into cell phones of a number of celebrities including film star, politicians and sports figures. Politicians were too scared of the power of Murdoch to make, break and shape government policies. The tabloid lost advertising revenues and alienated millions of readers.

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Posted by on in Editorials by Kanchan

While celebrations of Ganesh festival takes off in Mumbai and Mumbaikars embrace a season of euphoria, which is expressed in million voices and in a million ways, the United Nations' representatives from 192 countries prepare to come together in New York for hair-splitting discussions on various world affairs in the annual General Assembly meet.

The Big Apple wears a festive look, thanks to the mélange of attires and potpourri of languages spoken by the delegates and heads of states. Perhaps Ganapati and the United Nations have something in common.

Although Mumbai and Los Angeles are official sister cities since they are home to Bollywood and Hollywood, there is much more in common between Mumbai and New York.

They are like two brothers, more so in the convergence of activities on two famous venues of the megapolises -- the Dalal Street and the Wall Street. If Mumbai is the financial hub of India, then New York shares a similar status for the world at large.

Every up and down of the stock market in New York affects the world economy. Similarly, the fate of investors at the Mumbai stock exchange has had an impact in some of the biggest corporate houses in India.

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Posted by on in Editorials by Ujjwal

Author Nirad C Chaudhuri dedicated his ' The Autobiography if an Unknown Indian' to "the memory of the British Empire in India.../ Because all that was good and living within us/ Was made, shaped and quickened/ By the same British rule".

Nothing can be further from truth than this.

The richest 'nation' (though the Western concept of nationhood was not there then), one of the strongest civilizations with five thousand years of history was plundered, ravaged; people's confidence broken, history forgotten through five hundred years of wars, conflicts, slavery, etal.

It is seen that civilizations, in a stage of decay, have historically turned parochial and anti-universal, and nothing can be a better example than Hitler's Germany.

However, the historic moment that we are today in is about negating both of these: phase of decline, and getting parochial. The best and the most beautiful of the past of this nation need to be learnt and nurtured for knowledge and national pride, people's confidence, and that takes care of the obliterating history. Alongside, parochialism has to be fought with a greater global role and better standards of living domestically. On one hand the 30 million diaspora has a historic role, going beyond the rhetoric. And, on the other, the 50% of the population untouched by the 7 to 8% GDP growth-rate needs to be brought within the ambit of development.

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Perhaps, it has been consigned to oblivion that Indian merchants roamed the world, and were, inarguably, the best for many centuries.

Prior to the advent of the East India Company, India had the best ships in the world. But, as history reveals much of the entrepreneurial activities were first stolen, and later destroyed by the British. After Independence there was tardy progress, thanks to the government policies to empower this key sector.

Ahead of August 15, 2010, the 63rd independence day of India, what intrigues me is that while the or nation, personified by Goddess Bharti, was freed in 1947, and the economy, personified by say Goddess Lakshmi, has had the taste of liberalisation in 1991, when the shackles will be broken of education in this country, personified by Goddess Saraswati.

Whither New Education Policy & Knowledge Commission?

While the terms of the game in the world of education were planned to be changed when the new Education (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal took charge, there is little progress on ground. There were promises galore. Examination pressure to be gone, one school education system across India, single higher education authority to come in and end the corrupt raj of multiple bodies often working at cross purposes, liberalisation of education by allowing people sector bodies, corporate houses and foreign universities also to enter the domain of education in India, and the like. Progress in all of these is largely in terms of decisions to be taken, paperwork being done, after more than one year now.

A large nation like India needs more than 1500 Universities - we have just above 400 many of which are below par - and more than a hundred thousand colleges, of which we have just above one-third irrespective of the standards. And this is what the Knowledge Commission headed by Sam Pitroda had observed during the first UPA government, and the report is gathering dust now. Instead of bureaucratising the system more,we need to liberalise it further for more players to come in and provide education at various levels of quality and costs, with the minimum standards assured (applicable to both private and public education systems).

A large nation like India needs more than 1500 Universities - we have just above 400 many of which are below par - and more than a hundred thousand colleges, of which we have just above one-third.

And, then we need widespread use of the digital medium at affordable costs without barriers to entry at both producer and consumer levels, to make education and training really mass based. Networked India will bring in education to the doorstep of even the low income groups. Using satellite technology, having a blended mode of educational delivery converging the online (internet) with offline (by courier) and on air (television-radio) and on ground (brick and mortar), we can create myriad ways of training the masses with low or no costs.

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The news of a new currency symbol for the Indian Rupee gives every person of Indian origin a great satisfaction. Only a few centuries back, Indian rupee was valued as much as the Dollar and Pound today. Many feel that the time has come for India to re-emerge.

Samrat Ashoke's name is famous for sending emissaries to different parts of the country and different countries around the globe via edicts or messengers. He even sent his closest family members like his sister and brother to various places including Sri Lanka, as well as missions to Burma. It is also known that Ashoke sent a medical mission to parts of Europe with the goal to educate people about the medical healing systems of India, not only for humans but also to treat ailing animals! Many think that the idea of 'Temaues' of Plato originated in the Ayurvedic idea of The serpentine symbol used in medicine is also believed to have come from India. Samrat Ashoke's time was around 300 BCE.

It is noted by some historians that a Buddhist teacher named Acharya Adho brought Indian science, culture and spirituality to Korea in the year 372 CE which later spread to Japan. It is well known how India influenced South East Asia, China and other countries in the Middle East and Europe via trade, science, mathematics and language. Many countries like Indonesia and Cambodia are still preserving some of the heritage brought to by migrants and messengers.

Only a few centuries back, Indian rupee was valued as much as the Dollar and Pound today.

All persons of Indian origin (PIO) living in any country also are in a way messengers of India and they have their foremost obligations to serve their own country. They feel connected to and sometimes obligated to India not only for their roots, but also for their unique culture and heritage. Of course, many people who never visited India or have no ancestral links to India also are in love with India. However this love and connectivity does not automatically translate into acceptance of elements which do not allow them to appreciate her, especially while dealing with administrations, systems, bureaucracies and sometimes even some people of India!

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Posted by on in Editorials by Kanchan

Is Indian democracy bracing for a change? The premise for the argument is the paradigm shift in power in various states like Bengal, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Naturally, hopes are high that the changes are to the heart's content of the masses, who have been instrumental in the change of guard.

It is well known now that credits for building many important pillars of our civilization such as the introduction of the number system was not clearly given to India till very recently. History reveals that though glory is given to Greece for the birth of democracy, albeit short lived and merely a prototype, various parts of India at different times had similar concepts at work.

India, if not the oldest, is definitely the largest democracy, representing over 1.2 billion people. And people of Indian origin live in numerous countries carry core democratic values such as pluralism of thoughts and practice which is the foundation of Indian society.

While India has adopted the path of a secular democracy, this system rests on many contradicting and sectarian factors; caste and religion play a major role in the elections of thousands of representatives at different levels. Rigging, stuffing of the ballot box and manipulation of the EVMs have all along been the major perils, and booth capturing has been the de rigueur.

The real challenge is to rescue Indian democracy from being reduced to a caricature of a political ideology and from creation of a privileged ruling class.

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Bengal is up for change. And that has been in the offing and due for long. No multi-party pluralist liberal democratic largely capitalist system can and should have the same ruling dispensation for such a long time. It has been more than three decades in the case inWest Bengal! It is a case-study by itself, indeed.

But what we now need to debate is not whether the change is happening. That is written on the wall. The debate should be on what type of change, change to what new ruling dispensation, and to what short-term, mid-term and long-term impact.

On the one hand is the beleaguered Left Front led by its sulking Chief Minister, and with a disillusioned Party. The party and the leadership (not just the CM) must understand the mood of the people, brace up to accept the impending electoral defeat, not create further situation of intransigency now, and not use the remaining loyalty of police and armed cadre to further unleash terror in the country-side. Acceptance of the changing political reality will be graceful and in the long-term interests of the CPI(M) since the main opposition is not yet proven as rulers. Sitting in the opposition itself will purge CPI(M) of the myriad forces it now needs to distance itself from, while failure of the new rulers (if it so happens as in the case of Janata Party rule in Centre) will allow Left Front to catapult to power again (as was the case in Indira led Congress).

Acceptance of the changing political reality will be graceful and in the long-term interests of the CPI(M) since the main opposition is not yet proven as rulers.

But of much more significance to the average Bengali on the streets is the attitude and preparedness of the main opposition, Trinamool Congress and its effervescent leader Mamata Banerjee, to be the responsible rulers of a state where two generations have not seen any second set of rulers.

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Posted by on in Editorials by Kanchan

The old and new are equally treasured by the people of Bengal, though many may argue about the dearth of new things Bengal can showcase to the world today. The old Howrah Bridge and Howrah Station next to the Bhagirathi (Ganga) river with boats and steamers crisscrossing belong to the old era. The siren and horns of the water vehicles as well as the trains and automotives resonate with the pilgrims' chants on the ghats of Ganga. The new Vidyasagar Bridge gives a modern look to the landscape of this 300 year old city Kolkata which is the face of Bengal in many ways.

Tatas left Bengal with Nano. Lately this was the biggest news from Bengal, the most densely populated state in India. People were sad and angry. There were protests, violence and deaths. Many say thiswas the last blow to the power centre of Bengal, the Marxist government of over 3 decades.

Soon after Calcutta renamed itself to Kolkata, there is a wind of change in the political scene. Change is inevitable. Each change comes with losing some and getting some new. The empty unfinished structures of Tata Nano project in Singur casts long shadows of lost hopes and silent memories of the now quiet battlefields of Nandigram and other villages. Bengal is the birthplace of the Naxal movement which is occupying the front page of the newspapers almost on a daily basis. Though violence is unacceptable in a democracy, sympathisers are not hard to find. The oldest freedom fighter who gave life fighting the British, Smt Matangini Hazarawas from Midnapore, (literally the 'City of the World') has become the hotbed of the Naxal movement lately. The Gorkhaland movement has its ups and downs, but still kicking. Some inhabitants of Kolkata complain about the crowd, pollution and other problems; others boast of the New Town and the euphoric growth of the Real Estate developments in and around the city.

Some inhabitants of Kolkata complain about the crowd, pollution and other problems; others boast of the New Town and the euphoric growth of the Real Estate developments in and around the city.

There are many successful Bengalis around the world. If a proper environment, conducive to do business is created, it will draw in many people to do something big, perhaps more than the Gujarati or Bihari NRIs have done for their states; after all aren't they supposed to be an emotional people?

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Posted by on in Editorials by Kanchan

Certain incidents in history may seem like not so significant during its time, but may have hidden reasons, the seeds to some epoch of great significance in future! Let us think of the exodus of people from India. First, many people went to England in the 19 century to claim a share of the British Empire's pie. Many people settled, but among those eminent ones who returned actually helped India to become free from the British rule. Prime examples are Sri Aurobindo, Veer Savarkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhas, Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel.

After the decline of the British Empire, America rose. People started flocking to the US, mostly as students. And now, people set out mostly for professional reasons, to have better opportunities and better lives. Many also went to some communist countries, especially to Russia.

The Indian Premier League has been at the receiving end even as the glamorous version of 20:20 cricket in India, which has brought in Indian city-based but multinational cricketing teams play a much marketed series of matches, just turned three. Let us first look at the arguments that have been going around against it.

Online critics have come out with a veritable list of arguments against IPL. First, cricket and Bollywood do not go well together. Shahrukh's Knight Riders, Preity's Punjab Kings XI, Shilpa Shetty's later entry to Rajasthan Royals have all been doing very badly. Second, the purists of the game note that the IPL3 came along with commercial breaks, strategic timeouts, advertisements in the middle of the overs, loud music, insipid commentators, irritating studio guests, et al, and killed the fun ofwatching the actual game. Your home is where Lalit Modi's heart is. Hence, Deccan Chargers had to play 'home' games in Nagpur and Navi Mumbai, and Rajasthan Royals in the dry state of Gujarat!

The biggest criticism is that IPL is an 'invite only' club. IPL Commissioner's friends and family have been winning media and technology service contracts. A franchisee owner's stepchild working for the Commissioner. His school chum owning a franchisee. The Mauritian route to own franchisees, at least partly, is all too obvious in case of manyteam ownerships.

An online critic noted megalomania of Lalit Modi and narcissism of Shashi Tharoor clashed to ensure that both lost and the muck in the whole exercise unravelled! Several more ask whether India has anything better than towatch cricket, and some 90 matches in a row! Samajwadi Party leader MulayamSingh Yadav has turned his ire on cricket itself, describing it as a 'videshi' or foreign game distorting the sporting scene of India. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury has accused industrial magnates of exploiting the popular passion for the game to make money. Bal Thackeray of Shiv Sena has also entered the fray to call for saving the "gentleman's game"!

Since the IPL was interpreted as a manifestation of the spirit of free enterprise with its intermingling of sporting talent, business acumen and uninhibited entertainment, exemplified by the introduction of attractive women as cheer-leaders for the first time in India, its fall from grace has been grist to the mill of its detractors. While the CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta described the frenetic 20-20 format as a 'caricature' of cricket and preferred returning to the five-day test matches (!), social commentators are moaning over the huge expenses for the gala events even as the poor suffer in silence.

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This issue of our magazine is dedicated to two great states of India: Gujarat and Maharashtra. When the National Anthem 'Jana Gana Mana' was composed, the first two regions mentioned in it were Punjab and Sindh. On 15th August 1947, more than half of Punjab and whole of Sindh were no more within Indian bounds. Then follow Gujarat and Maratha. 50 years for a nation's history is like a blink of an eye. Yet, 50 years can have a grand meaning for the nation. Though the British left the Indian economy and social harmony in smithereens, the nation today has trouced even monumental challenges.

Gujarat has over 50 million people (5% of India's population) and contributes 21% of exports and 13% of India's industrial production. The state has the distinction of achieving the highest GDPover 11%in the country.

As part of the Indus-Saraswati civilization, Dholavira and Gola Dhoro were highly developed urban centers of the region in ancient times. Lothal had the largest port of that period and conducted business world wide. In recent times, Gujarat has gifted some of the most influential people to India. Though the field of action for Jamshedji Tata was Maharashtra, he was born in Gujarat. Mahatma Gandhi's name comes next, followed by Jinnah, the key player in the partition of India and the unfortunate division of people of the sub-continent.

However, when the call came, another great individual, Iron Man Sardar Patel, stepped up to create a strong and 'United Republic of India' almost single handedly. Dhirubhai Ambani, whose name is synonymous with the Reliance industries, hailed from Gujarat. Gujarat also gave the nation a Prime Minister, Morarji Desai. Today, the leadership of Narendra Modi is known beyond Indian borders. He has converted the region into a symbol of progress, leading from the front in transforming India into a 'developed' nation. Modi's Gujarat and his leadership stand as role-models not only for other Indian states, but also for many other countries around the globe.

Maharashtra, with about 97 million people (second largest in the country), is India's leading industrial state contributing 15% of national industrial output and over 40% of the national revenue. The Ajanta and Ellora murals showcase the ancient traditions and arts of the country. Tukaram, Dhaneswar, Ramdas, and Sai Baba are only a handful of the great spiritual masters of Maharashtra. Chhatrapati Shivaji's memory lingers in every speck of dust of the state. Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi showed the world that Indian women can be equally if not more capable of holding onto their own while fighting an enemy.

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Posted by on in Editorials by Ujjwal

"The walls around my home are only 20 centimeters thick, but they keep out an entire world." These are the words of a leprosy-affected individual, languishing in one of the 700+ so-called 'leprosy colonies' of India, which are inhabited largely by the cured but still stigmatized people.

For centuries, leprosy was a feared disease. A malady with no remedy. An ailment that disfigured hands, feet and face, and scarred the mind. The affected were ousted from their homes, banished from their communities and estranged from society.

In the 1980s, largely due to the generous contributions and concerted efforts of Yohei Sasakawa of Japan, and focused research by WHO, the once feared disease became curable. Thanks to WHO, Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation, Novartis Foundation, national health ministries and numerous local NGOs, each subsequent year reported a dramatic drop in the number of new cases.

Since then, almost a crore of Indians have been successfully treated of the disease. However, the lamentable fact is that most of them are still marginalized while leading their lives in despair, humiliation and ignominy. Today, the actual number of leprosy afflicted individuals in India is less than a lakh, which is, roughly one percent of the nation's population.

The lamentable fact is that most of them are still marginalized while leading their lives in despair, humiliation and ignominy.

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