Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Not Easy To Bully India, Now!

By Gajanan Khergamker

When around 50 students were either deported or stopped from boarding a United States-bound flight at Hyderabad,which incidentally sends in the highest number of students to the U.S. for higher studies, it made news in India.

Being deported or stopped from boarding a U.S.-bound flight has been a regular occurrence and would always be met with deep-rooted servility also not considered worthy of being published. After all, going to the U.S. was always an achievement of sorts. And that view: “There must have been some issue with our people…we’re like that only,” would pervade. So, a rap on the knuckles for trying to enter into the U.S., however legally, would be met with little or no resistance. This time around, things were different. India took umbrage.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate, in New Delhi on January 26, 2015

“We were treated badly by the U.S. officials. Even after confirming I had all documents in place, they said I cannot be allowed into the U.S. They gave me the option of withdrawing the visa or said they could cancel it, barring my entry into the U.S. for five years,” said a student while others and their family members were left furious over the on-going deportations and the “embarrassment and insult” they have to suffer.

Apparently, one section of the U.S.administration — Customs and Border Protection — refused to honour the visa given by the other — the U.S. Consulate. This underlined the fact that a visa issued was not a guarantee for U.S. entry. What is important is that immigration officials at the port of entry should be satisfied with the intent of one’s visit leaving it open to subjective interpretation and discretion which would almost always be arbitrary.

The Indian government swiftly sought an explanation from the U.S. on why so many Indian students with valid visas were denied entry into the country and took up this matter with the U.S.government. “We have asked the U.S. authorities to explain the reasons for denial of entry on a large scale to Indian students holding valid visas. The response of the U.S. Government is awaited,” said the Ministry of External Affairs.

Concurrently and in a similarly tough tone, India warned the U.S. of consequences for its companies if lawmakers tighten visa rules on high-tech firms as part of an immigration overhaul. India perceives a decision to restrict certain temporary visas for skilled workers as a sign that the U.S. economy is becoming less open for business.

Taking an aggressive stand, probably for the first time after the Khobragade imbroglio, India has underlined the fact that U.S. can’t treat it lightly as in the past. In 2015, international students contributed more than $30.5 billion to the U.S. economy and India’s role was colossal. In the 2014-15 academic year, 1,32,888 Indian students were studying in the U.S. up 29.4 per cent from the previous year. India held the second leading place of origin for students coming to the U.S. and comprises 13.6 per cent of the total international students in the U.S. In 2015, Indian students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed $3.6 billion to the economy.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi with students...a formidable force in the nation

India had been the leading place of origin for international students in the U.S. for eight years from 2001-02 through 2008-09. In 2009-10, China replaced India as the top sender and remains in that position today. The number of Indian students in the U.S. is more than double of what it was in 1999-2000.

Now, let’s examine the role of China. In all 3,04,040 students from China are studying in the U.S. today. The number is up 10.8 per cent from the previous year. China remains the leading place of origin for students coming to the U.S. for the sixth year in a row and makes 31.2 per cent of international students studying in the U.S. In 2015, Chinese students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed $9.8 billion to the U.S. economy.

The Indian Diaspora particularly comprising students, has grown from strength to strength. Now, in particular, no foreign nation – however powerful - can afford to take India lightly. With purchasing power on the rise coupled with the newly-fangled tough-speak and positivity, India has arrived. In 2014, over 3,00,000 Indian students went abroad for further studies as did more than 6,50,000 students from China. Though the number of students going abroad is higher in China, India has shown a 10 percent increase as compared to China’s 8 percent. Almost 85 per cent of Indian students going abroad to study head to U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Now, let’s examine the viability options for India where students from the U.S. are concerned. India isn’t a preferred choice for U.S. students to study abroad. A U.S. student is likely to opt for UK, Italy, Spain, France, China and so on before considering India, which comes 12th in terms of hosting U.S. students.

In the academic year 2013-2014, only 4,583 students - a meagre 1.5 per cent of total students who leave the U.S. to study abroad - came to study in India and fetched a pittance by way of contribution to the Indian economy. Compare that to the whopping $3.6 billion, Indian students contributed to the U.S. economy in 2015. Stopping them en route seems like shooting oneself in the foot.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Goan Feni Is Now A 'Heritage Spirit'

DraftCraft's year old campaign starting December 2014 to promote Goa's hidden treasures through its Goa Chapter through campaigns that include the controversial resumption of mining in the state, promotion of a 30,000-year-old petroglyphs at Usgalimal, projection of heritage zones like Fontainhas and the popularisation of quaint and fragile Goan Feni that risks extinction finally gets vindicated as the Goa government decides to promote Feni as a Heritage Drink.

On 24 January 2016, Goa's Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said Feni has a lot of useful qualities, especially its medicinal value due to which it can be used to cure a number of ailments, while speaking as chief guest at the first stakeholders’ meet for the development of Feni organised by department of excise in collaboration with The Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association and All Goa Toddy Tappers Association at Taleigao.

“We have missed the bus in promoting Feni to outsiders and cashing in on its popularity with tourists. Both coconut and cashew Feni are not mere liquors and the cashew and coconut trees are part of our culture,” he added.

So, we could expect nature tourism to receive a fillip in the state which will soon have tourists dropping in to see cashew plucking and the process of making Feni. Mr. Parsekar seems to be leaving no stone unturned to promote Feni as an intrinsic part of Goa's culture.

Steps in the production of Feni - A Walk-Through!

Step 1 - Cashew fruit being loaded in a motor crusher for crushing

Step 2 - Cashew fruit pulp being collected for juicing

Step 3 - Cashew fruit pulp being squeezed in a mechanical juicer

Step 4 - Juice from cashew pulp being collected

Step 5 - Cashew fruit juice being stored in barrels for fermentation for 8 days

Step 6 - Fermented cashew fruit juice being transferred into pots for distillation

Step 7 - Fermented juice being brought to a boil in earthen pots

Step 8 - The vapours pass through pipes submerged in water tanks for cooling

Step 9 - Once cooled, the vapours condense into a distillate collected at the other end

Step 10 - The first distillate is called Urrack which is then added to fermented cashew juice in the subsequent rounds to form Feni

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Goa: Perception vs Reality

Despite a majority population in Goa and in Arambol, being Hindus, the temples and architectural marvels are hardly talked about or find mention in news, historical references or tourist itineraries. It is the skewed perspective of a pro-West media and a pseudo-liberal tourism industry that popularises fairly recent architectures during the Portuguese rule. There is an urgent need to change the perception.
Bharat’s smallest state has been in the news for a host of reasons, mostly for wrong reasons. However, and sadly too, the news has almost always revolved around beaches, churches, cheap alcohol and molestations. Why, look at Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses which won the BNL People’s Choice Award at the 10th anniversary of the Rome Film Fest. The film also picked up the runner’s up Audience Award in Toronto. Plugged as the first Bharateeya ‘female buddy movie’, with, a rape in Goa thrown in for effect, it went on to win awards much like Masaan.
Most recently, mining and the associated issues of “growth and development being affected adversely,” created ripples in Goa till the Apex Court had to intervene. Incidentally, the economy of the state is driven mostly by tourism and mining. With mining under pressure from all quarters, the focus has shifted to tourism. The state’s economic dependence on Foreigners vis-à-vis Bharateeyas to bolster the sector has been debatable though. Statistically, only a fraction of foreign tourists contribute to Goa’s welfare as compared to a colossal majority of Bharateeyas. And, the scales continue to tip even further, year after year.
For decades, tourism in Goa has been synonymous with rave parties, drugs and more recently, a pseudo-dependence on Russian charters and Israeli travellers. Next on the mind of tourists are the churches and towns reminiscent of the Portuguese and their occupation of Goa. And, that’s it. There is nothing else about Goa that grabs the tourist’s fancy. A whopping 66 per cent of the state’s population bear allegiance to Hinduism. Goa houses thousands of temples built by Hindu dynasties ruling for centuries, long before the Portuguese even had a home state of their own, yet the structures never find mention in travel guides or tour packages.

Now On Fast Track

Mangalyaan ensured that the admiration for Credible Bharat should grow, particularly at a time when the nation’s Prime Minister spoke with distinct pride about (MOM ) Mars Obiter Mission. Out of the 51 missions made across the world to Mars, only 21 had succeeded. And, Bharat got it right at the very first shot. And now Bharat has signed a MoU with Japan for Bullet Train.
So, Bharat is going to get its first bullet train and predictably, everyone is upset about it since the simmering bears an uncanny resemblance to the upsurge that followed Bharat’s maiden trip to Mars at a record cost of Rs 4.5 billion rupees (Rs 7 per kilometre) a fraction of what NASA’s own Maven cost the USA.
The cost mattered because it, in a way, muffled the cacophony a mission of this nature would elicit from “critics” anywhere in the world. Critics feel that “What was the need to spend money on going to Mars when there is so much poverty, lack of education, lack of good roads, lack of power and so on and forth…”
Mangalyaan ensured that the admiration for Credible Bharat should grow, particularly at a time when the nation’s Prime Minister spoke with distinct pride about (MOM ) Mars Orbiter Mission. Out of the  51 missions made across the world to Mars, only 21 had succeeded. And, Bharat got it right at the very first shot.
But that would never impress those whose agenda was, has and will be to thrive by showcasing Bharat’s misery to the world. Lobbies across minority communities spoke, and patronisingly too, about how Bharat managed to make the Mangalyaan Mission possible without the intervention of IITians . And how, the scientists responsible for MOM were, in fact, those from smaller institutions in towns across the nation and so forth.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Gandhi vs Gandhi

On December 9th 2015, when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi proudly proclaimed that he would rather go to jail than apply for bail or sign a personal bond when he appears in court in the National Herald case ten days later, the mainstream media was swift to drew parallels between him and Indira Gandhi.
‘Like grandma, like grandson: Rahul prefers jail over bail’ screamed a Hindustan Times article. A Telegraph story too followed suit as it quoted Congress party sources as saying that Rahul would not seek bail as he is ‘convinced’ that the Narendra Modi-led government “plotted” the legal trouble for his mother and himself.
He tried hard to draw parallel with his grandmother, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was jailed in 1977 by the Janata government of the time. Indira Gandhi’s arrest, then, helped bolster public sympathy as she defied arrest by Delhi policemen in what was alleged to be “vendetta,” by the Janata government. The Congress hoped that, in a similar repeat of sorts, Rahul’s move would fetch favour. That, however, didn’t quite happen as Rahul swiftly ate humble pie, paid up the bail of Rs 50,000 and walked. Announcing a resolve and living up to it are two very different things.
While bail is the prerogative of an accused in any democracy, as bail is preferred to jail, it doesn’t absolve the accused of guilt as is commonly and wrongly perceived. Yet, that didn’t stop Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi from walking out of court grinning at people and the media, claiming a victory of sorts. The symbiotic media, on its part, went on to report, of all things, that “bail was granted in five minutes”!!!
Now, the time in which bail is granted has little to do with the merits of the case. It is a preliminary procedure and has to satisfy a few tests to hold good. That bail would be granted was a given. Headings such as ‘The Congress turn legal setback into political victory in just three minutes’ leading to stories that elaborate a Congress stand and absolve it of implications seem like a parallel trial of sorts and qualify as ‘contempt.’ The issue is sub-judice and has to be treated in a manner such.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Tolerance is a Misnomer, Ahimsa More Apt

Bharat is credible because that’s the truth. Despite the world beyond its borders pitted against the largest democracy and a sea of dissidents within, threatening to derail the process, Bharat continues to surge ahead in the myriad indices that matter to the ‘developed’ world. Today, armed with a 5,000-year-old culture, five times older than the English language, Bharat is the world’s third largest when it comes to purchasing power parity and has the world’s third largest army. Bharat possesses the oldest mantra of all times i.e.the Middle Path that was evolved by Gautam Buddha 2,500 years ago and the Ram Rajya concept symbolic of the softening of a king’s otherwise-unrelenting stand.
The inevitable induction of Narendra Modi as Bharat’s leader with an overwhelming never-before-registered majority was fought tooth and nail by a parallel force that works with stealth and speed through non-Governmental networks professing to “address” issues as seemingly innocuous “yet crucial” as “climate change”; an “unbiased media” powered by politicians yet run by “Journalists” now being flayed as presstitutes and “paid media”; and Sections across the world whose interests are directly subverted by the ‘Make In India’ campaign.
The tolerance tattle was inevitable. With the Bharat’s economy picking up in the second quarter ending September 2015 and growing at 7.4 per cent during the quarter on the back of strong growth in manufacturing, trade, hotels, transport and communication services, there had to be a hurdle. So, on September 28th 2015, when a mob attacked and killed 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi, it was turned into an issue of national importance that had direct and dire relevance to the surge of “Intolerance” in Bharat. Bharat’s scholar, academician and former vice-chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi, Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi’s murder on August 30th 2015 triggered a spurt of protests among nondescript writers across Bharat, returning their Sahitya Akademi awards.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Indian media followed closely by the foreign media is replete with stories of a poor, dirty, unsafe and corrupt India? It’s almost as if there’s nothing nice about India at all. The nation’s cities seems to be spilling over with garbage, streets peppered with molesters and rapists, politicians a hugely corrupt lot, the police force poorly equipped to tackle crime, tourist spots hazardous to foreigners and the nation is in dire straits. The Indian media, the new-age ‘citizen reporter’ and social media activists continue publish one-sided stories while the State has little by way of right to defend itself. Any attempt to do so is construed as a violation of personal freedom. There is a fashionable tendency to generalise and portray India in poor light among self-styled liberals and ‘secular’ enthusiasts. ‘India Positive’ aims to bring stories of hope, success and pride in India that are constantly overlooked. DraftCraft does not, repeat does not, maintain that all’s hunky dory about the Indian state but firmly assert that not everything is that dismal either.

'India Positive' is a campaign initiated under DraftCraft's 'Being The Change' movement to document and showcase stories of gloryhopemiraclebraveryleaderstrendsetterssuccess and truth about India and her lot. These are the stories routinely ignored by a populist media and systematically fail to reach masses. The stories threaten to crush myths about India, its society and the people. An ordinary man scorn by officials turning things around and creating a system to boost accountability to benefit masses; a child from an impoverished background with a distinct disability making it big in the city; A brutally handicapped man running a marathon with able-bodied participants stopping to cheer him and prod him on; A child blinded by a disaster going on to clear a public examination without a writer or extra time and score on par with his ‘normally-sighted’ counterparts and more. The stories inspire and should be told.

We feel it is important to create this platform for people to read, be inspired and feel a sense of pride as a nation. Most of the news about India, making rounds within the country and outside, spreads mostly morbid stories almost making one believe that nothing good ever happens here. India Positive is a platform to break this myth. Come…join!