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  AOL's Manavta Yatra comes to a glorious conclusion
  Delhi, May 10: The Art of Living's (AOL) 'Manavta Yatra' that flagged off a new era of transformation for slum dwellers in East Delhi has drawn to a close. Spearheaded by AOL Director and socio-political leader Maheish Girri, the yatra that commenced on October 13, 2012, covered 130 slums and re-settlement areas of East Delhi.

Addressing the press briefing, and explaining the reasons that prompted him to take up this prodigious task, Maheish Girri said that India has set many milestones in the field of education, technology, science, space and sports.

However, pitted against these achievements are the stark realities of India’s poor and disadvantaged masses. "Are we really on the path to becoming a developed nation when the desperate cries that emanate from the slums of India are turning louder by the day?", he asked emphatically. The major population of this country still resides in villages and slums. As long as the people of these villages and slums won't prosper mentally, physically and economically, the country cannot be labelled as 'developed'.

The Manavta Yatra was also designed as a mass mobilization initiative to ignite a sense of responsibility among people to take ownership of their surroundings at the grassroots level, and hence achieve the greater good of nurturing and sustaining development in the villages and slums of India.

Throwing light on the objectives, Girri said, "Manavta is what binds and unites us all. It is the true measure of a country's development. To lay the bricks for a progressive society, we have to start by educating the masses on the basic tenets of ‘Manavta’ i.e humanitarianism."

Citing the spiraling crime rates in the capital as a strong indication of the degrading moral values in society, he said, "Most crimes are rooted in the slums. When we scratch the surface, we find that lack of basic amenities, sanitation and inability to fulfill elementary needs is causing a gradual decay in human principles, which manifests itself in unlawful and inhuman acts."

So what is the solution? "Strengthening the legal framework alone would not solve this problem. The need of the hour is to focus on eradicating crime from its very root, and re-establishing the morals and ethics at all levels in the society."

Addressing this need, Maheish Girri embarked on the Manavta Yatra. He dovetailed into the slums of east Delhi to understand the core issues that plague the residents and carve out effective solutions. He found out that majority of children were using some kind of an intoxication. Moreover, their lives being deficient in all aspects -- education, hygiene, health, morals etc, they are easily instigated by local gangsters, who themselves have also been a victim of the same circumstances, to commit petty crimes. It's a vicious circle that needs to be addressed.

"Today in our country, we find various means to fulfill ill-desires, but almost none to cure them, leading to the constant increase in crime rate", said Girri. He further added that those who ruled the country for the last 65 years are clearly responsible for this twisted thought process and ever-increasing poverty. Instead of addressing the concerns of the Indian slums and taking proactive measures to ensure their holistic development, they have only contributed to their growth."

More than seven lakh people attended the Yatras, and many have had life-changing experiences, while others have worked towards their new found aspiration for better living. At each Yatra, Girri personally met all the slum dwellers and addressed their grievances, and implored the communities to exercise their rights, including voting rights without any greed or fear. Serving the larger objective of eradicating the root of crime, his messages especially addressed those who had fallen into crime and wayward activities. To mentally and physically empower the youth and show them the right path, a free character building programme of Art of Living called the ‘Nav Chetna Shivir’ as well as workshops on health, hygiene, physical well being and employment were conducted in these slums, as a follow up to the Manavta Yatra.

At the culmination of each Yatra, people come forward in great numbers to share their grievances and concerns with the Art of Living members, and pledge their support in transforming themselves and their surroundings.
  Amartya Sen calls for restoration of parliamentary democracy
  "Only those who have weak arguments are afraid of debate", says Nobel-laureate Amartya Sen.

With the Parliament unable to function for weeks on end, critical social legislations are being held up. As political parties blame each other for this stalemate, the Indian people – especially the poor – are paying the price. Casualties of this blame game include the Food Security Bill, the Grievance Redressal Bill, and more.

Speaking at a press conference organized to discuss important social legislations that are being held up by the paralysis of Parliament, especially the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) and the Grievance Redressal Bill, advocates and critics of these bills expressed a shared concern about the Parliament;s failure to initiate reasoned debates on these critical matters.

Amartya Sen came down strongly on the irresponsible behaviour of the Opposition parties. If the Opposition had objections to certain practices and policies of the government, he said, the responsible response would be to debate these issues in parliament rather than disrupt and kill all debate. "Killing debate" raised the suspicion that the opposition's arguments were weak.

MR Madhavan from Parliamentary Research Services presented some alarming statistics on the steady decline of parliamentary norms. While in the 1950s and 1960s, the norm was 140-150 working days per year, this has crashed to 50-60 days in recent years. He pointed that even a small number of MPs can disrupt Parliament and hold it to ransom. Informed debate is also a casualty of this situation: Bills are passed without any discussion since there is no space or time for debate.

Nikhil Dey (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information) stressed that the Grievance Redressal Bill was important for a successful implementation of all social programmes, and that all political parties support it. He said that people "cannot wait" any longer for this Bill, which is closely linked to their survival.

Speaking on behalf of the Right to Food Campaign, Kavita Srivastava began by saying that "if there is any Bill that really needs to be passed, it is the National Food Security Bill which would affect the lives of millions". However she also stressed that the campaign has some serious objections to the current version of the Bill, such as the absence of a time frame for implementation and the provision for cash transfers in lieu of food entitlements. She felt that the amendments that have been moved by the CPI-M, CPI, JD-U and the TMC – all parties other than BJP (no amendments have been moved by the BJP) - will strengthen the Bill and must be discussed in Parliament. In particular, she said, the main opposition party must allow these to be discussed.

Responding to Srivastava's criticisms of the Food Bill, Sen agreed that the current version of the Food Bill was a "moderate" bill, yet he argued that it would lead to a substantial enhancement of the entitlements of the poor through the PDS. Whether the Bill goes far enough, he said, is another question, but the case for passing it without delay in the best possible form, he felt, was very strong.

Asked about his views on the Ordinance route for the NFSB, Sen said that he would be very sad if it went the ordinance way. Ordinances, he said, are brought because Parliament did not function and that the correct question then would be, why did the government have to go the Ordinance way? Who is responsible for Parliament not functioning?

In his concluding comments, Jean Drèze reiterated that aside from the food bill and grievance redressal bill, other important social legislations were also being held up by a political paralysis for which all political parties bear some responsibility. The stalemate must be resolved whatever it takes – even an extension of the Budget session of Parliament if need be.
  Northeast will get warmer as climate changes
  New Delhi -- Climate Change in the Eastern Himalaya will lead to significantly warmer temperatures in the North East of India and its neighbourhood, placing increasing existing stress on human relations, as well as ecosystems including wildlife and fish, agriculture and water resources, an International Conference on the issue says.

Health hazards are also likely to increase as the ice and snow retreat in the 'water towers' of Asia, the Himalaya Range and the Tibetan Plateau, while the frequency of longer drought periods, forest fires and shorter but more intense stretches of heavy rain and floods are predicted, said experts and participants in the March 7-8, 2013, Conference, 'The Eastern Himalaya: Climate Change, Livelihoods and Poverty' at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

A senior official of the Indian Government's Environment Ministry said that while forest-dependent communities needed to be involved in their management, there was also the issue of capacity and utilization of Central funds for major programmes. The official, RR Rashmi, Joint Secretary in the Ministry, noted that Rs. 15,000 crore Central funds remained unused from forestry compensation. Mr. P. D. Rai, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha from Sikkim also went on to stress the need for the government to play a greater role in the issue of climate change and adaptability. "There should be more dialogue between research groups and the government to develop a climate friendly and gender sensitive state and public policy."

The conference was organized by the University's Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research and drew over 100 persons, including resource persons from across the Eastern Himalaya, including Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh as well as the North-east, Thailand, the UK, the US and France. While many of the presentations looked at specific problems within the region, they also stressed the need for a participatory, inclusive approach to deal with the growing crisis by involving communities through better dissemination and capacity building instead of a top-down approach by governments.

Mr. Kanak Mani Dixit, founder and editor of Himal Southasian Magazine linked the issues of Southeast Asia and the Northeast in terms of climate change and identities. He went on to emphasize, "There is a need to properly channelize available funds to cope and adapt to the changing environment." The increase in black carbon emissions has had had a detrimental impact on the mountains leading to receding glacier mass and snow lines and there is a need for greater rigour in research.

Those working in the health sector said warmer weather has meant more vector-borne ailments such as dengue, encephalitis and malaria, the emergence of new pests and pathogens and that the incidence of water and food-borne diseases could also grow.

Speakers expressed concern over how additional pressure on resources could sharpen existing tensions between communities and groups in the region over resource management and control, posing a fresh non-conventional security threat in a place like the North-East which has seen extensive conflict over political and other issues. The poor, with little adaptive resilience, would be most vulnerable

Agriculture would suffer the most: 80 per cent of the region's population is farm-based. Speakers cited the failure of Sikkim’s primary cash crop, the large cardamom, as an example. "High temperatures from June to August invited many diseases in the field" while "fluctuating and torrential rainfall" also caused poorer yields. A surge in forest fires is also predicted as is loss of agricultural land, hit by flash floods and landslides in the hills, and soil fertility below. There had also been an increase in the mean minimum temperature in Sikkim, which has also witnessed a decline of spring water availability especially in the dry season. Weather pattern has changed drastically with earlier summers and delayed monsoons, impacting pastoral patterns of indigenous people in the region.

Although an eco-friendly country like Bhutan contributes the least to global warming, the conference asserted that it too was seriously affected by the climate change.

Warmer weather has led to the north-ward migration of species and ecosystems across the region as well as pests and diseases while shallower water levels, for example, in the Brahmaputra, caused by continuing silt and sand deposits, is also forcing large mammals like the Gangetic dolphin to move to deeper 'ponds' within river systems, the conference said.

Specialists and others urged Governments, scientists, scholars, NGOs and media need to "stop talking in silos" and take an inclusive approach that would reach the most vulnerable. The steady growth in vulnerability in Bangladesh's coastal and central areas to climate change, including tidal surges in the low-lying deltaic regions, was cited by a scholar from Dhaka as leading to the loss of livelihoods and "slowly triggering displacement and internal migration".

Among the predictions are that in the short term of 20-to-40 years, the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh as expected to receive "much less monsoon precipitation" while rainfall is likely to increase in Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland. .

"Most of the districts in the central and northern parts of North-east region are projected to experience increased drought weeks," said Dr. Ruth Kattumuri, Co-Director of India Observatory and Asia Research Centre at the London School of Economics (LSE India Laboratory). Dr. Kattumari also noted that not less than 10 districts in eight states (including two each in Arunachal and Meghalaya) were classified by a study as Most Vulnerable over a 30-to- 40 year period. The Least Vulnerable in the same timeframe in the states included Cachar in Assam, Tamenglong and Ukhrul in Manipur and East Siang in Arunachal.

Specialists said that in the areas of developing adaptation, mitigation and coping mechanisms, experience had shown that it was essential to have diverse resource portfolios (such as a wide range of crops) which would improve resilience. An integrated water resources management strategy at different levels of usage, from households to local communities and watershed to catchments areas was also emphasized.

Citing best practises which were functioning across the Himalaya region, speakers stressed the need for improving market linkages and extension services for livestock care as well as the promotion of community seed banks which could play a key role at times of erratic rainfall. However, researchers said that the lack of extensive data is a problem as is the lack of cooperation across national boundaries.

This assumes importance in the light of the need to disseminate information extensively and comprehensively to vulnerable communities, which most needed to understand adaptation and coping opportunities. Such information should be developed and conveyed in their own languages.

Dissemination through effective partnerships between stakeholders, institutions, community organizations, civil society groups and the media was seen as another critical element as most local governments—and media -- had limited financial capacity and were not adequately aware of climate change issues.

It is proposed that such collaborative, interactive programmes can be designed and developed by various scholars and institutions in partnership with the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, which initiated this Conference, through the University framework and network. It was noted that the sessions drew scholars and representatives from different disciplines in a robust and packed exchange but also attracted many students and faculty.
  Smoke Free Patna Chetna Yatra flagged off
  PATNA, January 11: Mr Sanjay Kumar Singh, District Magistrate, flagged off the Smoke Free Patna Chetna Batra at the Collectorate here today in the presence of Mr Lakhindra Prasad, Civil Surgeon, Dr Rajneesh Choudhary, District Nodal Officer-National Tobacco Control Program-Patna and Mr Suman, District Program Manager.

Enthused by the efforts being made by the District Administration to enforce the provisions of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003, personnel appointed by Population Services International, a non-profit organization, have been undertaking the yatra using two vehicles branded with 'Smoke Free' messages. The vans will cover all 332 gram panchayats in the entire district over a two-month period.

The key message of "Chalo pehnaya apne jile ko dhumrapan mukti ka taj" is mentioned on the van body. The campaign seeks to infuse pride among citizens for a 'Smoke Free' campaign and urges them to avoid smoking in public places. The crowning glory for people is 'Smoke Free Declaration', a feat achieved only by a few districts in India. This is depicted by the royal turban with 'No Smoking' symbol in the middle.

The public address system in the van will play slogans to discourage people from smoking in public places. Further, PSI personnel will educate key officials and tobacco retailers about different provisions of the COTPA Act, including ban on sale of tobacco to minors.

There are three criteria for declaration of 'Smoke Free District'. First, activation of challan mechanism wherein violators of the ban on smoking in public places are fined up to Rs 200; second is installation of No Smoking signages in all public places in the district and third, minimal instance of violation of the smoking ban by the public as observed during an observational study.

As the aim is 'Smoke Free Patna' district, it is vital that 'No Smoking' and COTPA-mandated tobacco retailer signages are put up in rural areas as well. A particular challenge in rural area is access to signages, including lack of vendors who can produce signages. This means that more efforts, time and money need to be expended by individual officers, in-charges of public places or by the individual tobacco retailer. PSI personnel will also make available signages at low cost and facilitate installation of signages using drilling machines and nails as appropriate.

As per Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in 2010, 14.2 per cent of people in Bihar smoke. However 24.7per cent of all surveyed people in Bihar reported being exposed to dangerous second hand smoke in public places. Smoke-free laws protect the health of non-smokers, do not harm business and encourage smokers to quit.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Lakhindra Prasad, Civil Surgeon, said that every person should be able to breathe smoke-free air. 'Smoke Free Patna' campaign is a step to ensure the same.

There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer. In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death. In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight. There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

Tobacco continues to be a silent killer with not many people aware of the staggering costs it imposes, both on the economy and citizen's health. Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year, of whom more than 5 million are users and ex-users and more than 600,000 are nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke. An estimated 1 million people die every year due to tobacco in India alone. Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco and this accounts for one in 10 adult deaths. Up to half of current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease.

Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development.

Important two provisions of COTPA Act

Section 4 of COTPA mandates that every owner, manager or in-charge of a public place display the "No Smoking" signage of dimensions 60 by 30 cms prominently at the entrance, and additionally displaying at every entrance, every floor in addition to other conspicuous places within the public place. If the manager, owner or in-charge of a public place fails to act on report of violation, s/he would be liable to pay a fine equivalent to the number of individual offences. Enforcers can challand upto Rs 200 for violations for Section 4.

Section 6 of COTPA 2003 provides a clear need to protect the children and youth from tobacco use by restricting easy access of tobacco products to and by minors. As per Section 6 a, All tobacco selling shops/establishments should disaply a minimum size of the board should be 60cm x 30cm with white background. The board should contain the warning "sale of tobacco products to a person below the age of 18 years is a punishable offence", in Indian language(s) as applicable and a pictorial depiction of ill effects of tobacco use on health. Any violation will attract a fine of upto Rs 200.

About Population Services International ( )

PSI is a global health organization dedicated to improving the health of people in the developing world by focusing on serious challenges like a lack of family planning, HIV and AIDS, Non Communicable Diseases, barriers to maternal health, and the greatest threats to children under five, including malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition.

PSI is supporting district administrations in Patna, Munger and Nalanda in enforcing the COTPA Act through workshops, sensitization programs and technical assistance on tobacco control issues.

For more information, please contact:-

• Abhilash Philip, Senior Manager-Programs, Population Services International at 09873590278
• Dr Rajneesh Choudhary, District Nodal Officer-National Tobacco Control Program at 9431021409
• Vishnu Sah, State Coordinator-Tobacco Control, PSI at 9771479669
  Reduce rhetoric, spread goodwill in Assam, say scholars
  New Delhi, September 9 -- The riots and violence in Assam have moved away from the headlines of the metro media. But the state -- and indeed other parts of the North-east as seen in a recent explosive confrontation in Nagaland over as minor an issue as an alleged theft -- appears to be on a knife edge. It seems to be an unending cycle in a challenging humanscape. The news of the region, for all these reasons, has acquired an international resonance.

Angry rhetoric and mobilization of groups along ethnic, community and linguistic lines have not helped; indeed an already complex situation seems to be in a state of drift with neither the Central or State Government able to assert a sense of decisiveness or win back the confidence of all groups.

As in the past across the country, in such situations, the worst sufferers in the recent riots and violence have been the poor and vulnerable, especially women and children. Rural schools have been converted into relief camps - while giving temporary succour to a large number of people who have fled fear and bloodshed, such a situation also blights the lives of those children who study at these schools.

The situation in the Bodo Territorial Administered Districts remains tense. Lakhs are homeless and fearful of returning. Trauma is writ large on their faces. In addition, hate speech and abuse of new media has created a situation where tens of thousands fled their places of work and residence, in places like Bangalore and Pune, and returned to the NER.

Thankfully, that flow has begun to be reversed. However, instead of merely curbing hate speech, Governments need to firmly handle acts of hatred and racial discrimination.

As has been seen, the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh remains an explosive and unresolved issue 27 years after the signing of the Assam Accord. This surely represents as much a failure of all sides in this process as of the Centre and State Governments.

The signatories to the statement had met at a discussion on the current situation at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) on Sept. 3, 2012, convened by the Centre for NE Studies at JMI and are issuing this statement after further discussions.

It is their view that the Centre and state governments must assert in no uncertain terms that those migrants who have illegally slipped across the Indo-Bangladesh border to any part of the country since March 25, 1971 -- the agreed cut off date -- will be tackled under due process or even through a system of Special Courts to speed up the process. This is a problem facing all of India. This primarily represents a labour flow from Bangladesh, and needs also to be raised with Dhaka.

Tragically, however, passions are whipped up by the use of unverified figures on either side, leading to greater anger, suspicions and fear.

There are no easy solutions to this situation in Assam although some of them are known, have been in the realm of discussion and policy framing.

First of all, the Assam Government's decision to update the 1952 National Register of Citizens is welcome -- but there are disturbing reports, which say that in at least 10 districts the records are incomplete or unavailable. This has to be fixed by looking at the available data in the Registrar-General's Office in New Delhi.

To complete such a process is in the interests of all groups, including the student unions at the forefront of agitations and

In addition, they strongly believe that:

People in relief camps must be assisted to return home, in conditions of dignity and safety.

Border patrolling needs to be more robust especially in the riverine areas.

Tackle the sense of Impunity and Immunity that armed groups have enjoyed

A deadline must be set for the handing in of illegal weapons and these must be registered and decommissioned (i.e. destroyed.

Economic cooperation on joint projects on the Bangladesh side of the border could help reduce the flow and make remaining at home more attractive.

Work Permits, as have been discussed extensively, could be issued to people to come and work in India for short periods but only after the NRC process is completed and ID cards issued to all Indian citizens of the North-east.

All sides must abide by the Constitution and the law.

The word 'Bangladeshi' must be used to define those who have come post-1971 (the creation of Bangladesh) and should not be used casually to refer to people who are Bengali-speaking or of Bengali origin, whatever their religious persuasion, who have settled in Assam before 1971.

Intimidation and hate speech must be shunned and any group or groups involved in hate acts and incitement to violence must bear the full force of the law.

State governments need to appoint Task Forces manned by respected scholars and researchers as well as senior officials to review and verify land records and the ownership of land so that the rights of all who are protected by law remain inalienable. Till date, this has been observed more in the breach: a large number of political conflicts in the region are rooted in disputes over land, territory and natural resources. Yet, in this complex situation, the rights of any one group cannot be protected at the expense of the rights of others.

Land and natural resources are finite; matters are not helped by ratcheting up the political rhetoric.

In closing, they called on all political and other groups at this time to reduce the rhetoric, to help Assam and the region – and other parts of the country as we have seen -- pull back from an abyss. The violence of past decades are unacceptable. Today, all sides have the capacity to inflict harm on others. It is time to spread goodwill and end ill-will. Otherwise, as we have seen, all of Assam and the NER as well as in a larger sense, India, will suffer irreparable harm.

The signatories are: Najeeb Jung, IAS, Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI),Sanjoy Hazarika, Director, Centre for North East Studies, JMI, New Delhi, Prof. Binod Khadria, Chairperson, Zakir Hussain Centre for Educational Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU, Dr. Abdul Malik, Deputy Registrar, JMI, Prof. Udayon Misra, Prof. Anil Boro, Gauhati University,Dr. Monisha Behal, Chairperson, North East Network, Dr Bulbul Dhar,Hony Director, Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women's Studies & Coordinator MA Human Rights Programme, Department of Political Science, JMI, Dr. Monica Banerjee, Director, National Foundation of India, Mr. Kishalay Bhattacharjee, NDTV, NE Editor, Dr. Roshmi Goswami, Feminist, researcher and activist on women's issues, Mr. Suhas Chakma, Asian Centre for Human Rights, Mr. Jamal Kidwai, Director, Aman Trust, Mr. Harsh Mander, Centre for Equity Studies, Dr. Rajesh Dev, Dept. Of Political Science, Delhi University, Dr. Mujibur Rehman, Asst. Professor, Dr. KR Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies, JMI, Mr. Helal Choudhury, Advocate, Supreme Court, Mr. Mirza Rahman, PhD candidate, Indian Institute of Technology, Gauhati, Mr. Mehfuz Islam Bora, C-NES, New Delhi, Mr. Kaisii Kokho, Asst. Prof, Centre for NE Studies, JMI and Mr. Kaustabh Deka, doctoral candidate, School of Social Sciences, JNU.
  Murder cuffs on high-flying evangelist
  By G.S. Radhakrishna |

Hyderabad, May 21: K.A. Paul, the high-flying Indian American evangelist whose organisation once owned a Boeing 747, was arrested in Andhra Pradesh today on the charge of having had his brother murdered two years ago, police said.

Circle inspector Srinivas of Ongole town alleged that Paul, 48, offered him Rs 1 crore when he arrived to arrest him and produced Rs 3 lakh on the spot as "advance payment".

The Andhra-born Paul had become a naturalised US citizen in the 1990s but returned to India five years ago and floated a political party. He was in Ongole, 350km from Hyderabad, to campaign for a by-election when he was arrested and remanded in 15 days' judicial custody.

He has been charged under IPC Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 307 (attempt to murder), PTI quoted Prakasam superintendent of police Raghurami Reddy as saying.

Paul has also been booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act for the alleged bribe offer, apparently on the basis of tapes of the conversation produced by the officer.

Sources said the evangelist and his brother David Raju had fallen out over the control of the assets of Paul's foundation, Gospel for the Unreached Millions, which had set up a 1,000-acre "charity city" near Sadashivpet in Medak. In 2010, David was mysteriously found dead at the wheel of his Innova car on a highway.

The same year, the police arrested the alleged contract killer, Koteswar Rao. Circle inspector Srinivas today claimed Koteswar had recently confessed that it was Paul who had hired him to murder David.

According to PTI, Paul told reporters before being taken to prison that some Congress leaders and Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy had conspired to send him to jail. Paul and Jagan's father, former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, had been at loggerheads since YSR ordered a probe into allegations of land-grabbing by the evangelist for his charity city.

Paul was born Anand Kilari, son of a poor fisherman in the northern coastal district of Vizianagaram. He became a full-time evangelist at 19 and later moved to the US.
  Attempt to burn down Holy Family Catholic Church at Srinagar
  By A.J. Philip

New Delhi, May 24: An attempt was made to burn down the Holy Family Catholic Church, MA Road, Srinagar, in Jammu and Kashmir on May 14, around 8.15 p.m.

According to Fr Mathew Thomas, Vicar of the church, two youths scaled the boundary wall of the church, opened a bottle of petroleum, poured it on the church's main door, lit it with a match stick and ran to safety.

The fire was soon detected and extinguished before it could damage the church building and the furniture inside. The church door was partially destroyed. The incident was captured by the camera installed in the church.

On informing the police, they arrived, watched the CCTV footage and prepared a preliminary report. On their suggestion, a First Information Report (FIR) was also filed. No arrest has been made so far.

It is the second such incident in the 109-year-old church. In January last, some unidentified miscreants barged into the church premises and burnt the motorcycle belonging to the priest. It was kept in the veranda of his residence. The motorcycle was completely destroyed.

The incident has shaken the small Catholic community in the state Capital.
  "American witness to India's Partition" Phillips Talbot is no more
  Phillips Talbot, an American diplomat who helped mediate crises in South Asia and the Middle East during the cold war, died on Oct. 1 at his home in Manhattan. He was 95.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his daughter Nancy Talbot said.

Mr. Talbot was assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs from 1961 to 1965 and ambassador to Greece from 1965 to 1969. For 11 years after his diplomatic career, he was president of the Asia Society, the organization based in Manhattan that promotes American understanding of Asian cultures. He assisted John D. Rockefeller III in founding the organization in 1956 and wrote extensively about the region.

Serving in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Mr. Talbot worked to avert international conflicts, among them the tensions between India and Pakistan before their 1965 war over control of the Kashmir region, a struggle that continues to this day. He also dealt with Pakistan's closing of its border with Afghanistan, Greek-Turkish confrontations over violence on Cyprus, and Arab refugee resettlement issues with Israel.

Mr. Talbot was ambassador to Greece on April 21, 1967, when George Papadopoulos, an army colonel, led a bloodless coup that overthrew the parliamentary government. Mr. Papadopoulos asserted that he was saving Greece from Communism and civil war. Eight months later, a countercoup mounted by King Constantine II failed. Mr. Papadopoulos's repressive military dictatorship lasted until 1973, when it was ousted by another group of officers.

There was criticism that the United States, in the interests of maintaining Greece's role in Western military preparedness, had not opposed the Papadopoulos junta. Mr. Talbot later responded: "Some Greeks have asserted that the United States could have restored a civilian government. In fact, we had neither the right nor the means to overturn the junta, bad as it was. The Johnson administration made clear its distaste for the coup, but maintained limited relations with the new government."

Relations were normalized in 1968.
Born in Pittsburgh on June 7, 1915, Mr. Talbot was the eldest of three children of Kenneth and Gertrude Phillips Talbot. Besides his daughter Nancy, he is survived by another daughter, Susan Talbot Jacox, and a grandson. His wife of 61 years, the former Mildred Fisher, died in 2004.

Mr. Talbot graduated from the University of Illinois in 1936 with two degrees, in political science and journalism. He was a reporter for The Chicago Daily News in 1938 when he received a fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs to travel to India and study it. While there he lived in a hut and met Gandhi.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Mr. Talbot returned to the newspaper, which sent him back to India to report on its independence from Britain, the creation of Pakistan and the violent upheaval the partition caused. He recalled his time in India in a 2007 book, "An American Witness to India's Partition" (Sage Publications).

Returning to the United States from India, Mr. Talbot studied international relations at the University of Chicago, receiving a doctorate in 1954. He helped found the American Universities Field Staff, an interuniversity program for the study of nations emerging from colonialism. (Courtesy: The New York Times)
  Hidden language discovered in Arunachal Pradesh
  A "hidden" language spoken by less than 1,000 people has been discovered in Arunachal Pradesh by researchers who at first thought they were documenting a dialect of the Aka culture, a tribal community that subsists on farming and hunting. But they found an entirely different vocabulary and linguistic structure.

Even the speakers of the tongue, called Koro, did not realise they had a distinct language, linguist K David Harrison said Tuesday. Culturally, the Koro speakers are part of the Aka community in Arunachal Pradesh, and Harrison, associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, said both groups merely considered Koro a dialect of the Aka language. But researchers studying the groups found they used different words for body parts, numbers and other concepts, establishing Koro as a separate language, Harrison said.

Only around 800 people are believed to speak the Tibeto-Burman language, and few of them are under the age of 20, according to the researchers who discovered Koro during an expedition as part of National Geographic's "Enduring Voices" project. Koro is so distinct from other Tibeto-Burman languages -- around 150 of which are spoken in India alone -- that the expedition team was unable to find any other language from the same family that was closely related to it.

"Koro is quite distinct from the Aka language," said Gregory Anderson, director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. "When we went there we were told it was a dialect of Aka, but it is a distant sister language."

People of the Aka culture live in small villages near the borders of China, Tibet and Burma (also known as Myanmar). They practice subsistence hunting, farming and gathering firewood in the forest and tend to wear ornate clothing of hand-woven cloth, favouring red garments. Their languages are not well known, though they were first noted in the 19th century.

The region where they live in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains requires a special permit to enter. There, the researchers crossed a mountain river on a bamboo raft and climbed steep hillsides to to reach the remote villages, going door-to-door among the bamboo houses that sit on stilts.

Harrison and Anderson announced this in Washington at a press conference organised by the National Geographic Society, which supported their work.

The National Geographic expedition, which also included Indian linguist Ganesh Murmu of Ranchi University, was, in fact, in search of two other languages, Aka and Miji, known to be spoken in a small district of Arunachal Pradesh.

The Northeast is known as a hotspot of language diversity and researchers were documenting some of the unwritten tongues when they came across Koro in research started in 2008. The timing of their discovery was important.

"We were finding something that was making its exit, was on its way out. And if we had waited 10 years to make the trip, we might not have come across close to the number of speakers we found," said Anderson. Previously undocumented languages are "noticed from time to time" Harrison said, so such a discovery is not rare. But at the same time linguists estimate that a language "dies" about every two weeks with the loss of its last speakers.

Counting Koro there are 6,910 documented languages in the world, Harrison said. But he added that is really just a best estimate that can change regularly. Many languages around the world are considered endangered, including Koro, he explained, because younger people tend to shift to the more dominant language in a region.

Surprisingly, Koro has been maintained within the Aka community, the researchers said, even though there is intermarriage and the groups share villages, traditions, festivals and food. In addition to the estimated 800 to 1,200 Koro speakers, the West Kameng and East Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh contain 4,000 to 6,000 Aka speakers.

The Koro speakers "consider themselves to be Aka tribally, though linguistically they are Koro. It's an unusual condition, such arrangement doesn't usually allow for maintenance of the minor language," Anderson said. The threat, however, is from the spread of Hindi, a dominant language in India, and many youngsters go to boarding schools where they learn Hindi or English.

The researchers said they hope to figure out how the Koro language managed to survive within the Aka community. They said Koro is a member of the Tibeto-Burman language family, a group of some 400 languages that includes Tibetan and Burmese. While Koro differs from Aka, it does share some things with another language, Tani, which is spoken farther to the east.

The research was started in 2008 to document two little known languages, Aka and Miji, and the third language, Koro, was discovered in that process. "We didn't have to get far on our word list to realize it was extremely different in every possible way," Harrison said. They said Koro's inventory of sounds was completely different, and so was the way sounds combine to form words. Words also are built differently in Koro, as are sentences.

The Aka word for "mountain" is "phu," while the Koro word is "nggo." Aka speakers call a pig a "vo" while to Koro speakers, a pig is a "lele."

"Koro could hardly sound more different from Aka," reported Harrison, author of a new book "The Last Speakers," about vanishing languages. Joining the two was linguist Ganesh Murmu of Ranchi University in India. The researchers detail Koro in a scientific paper to be published in the journal Indian Linguistics.
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  Mar Thoma Church's special school gets new building
  From Perumal Koshy

THELLIYOOR (KERALA), OCT 6 -- Head of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church Dr. Joseph Marthoma Metropolitan inaugurated the jubilee building of Navajyothi School for the mentally challenged children, run by the Marthoma Centre for Rehabilitation and Development, here today.

The function was preceded by a dedication ceremony of the building conducted jointly by Bishop Joseph Mar Barnabas and the Marthoma Metropolitan.

The new building will house the Speech Therapy Unit, the Occupational Therapy Unit and the Physiotherapy Unit. It has facilities for running a number of special programs for taking care of the mentally challenged above 18 years of age.

Bishop Jospeh Mar Barnabas, who is chairman of the MCRD Executive Board, presided over the inaugural function. Prof. P.J Kurien, M.P, delivered the keynote address. Mr. Joseph M. Puthussery, MLA, Mr. K.C Rajagopal, MLA, Mr. K.S Mohan Nair (Block Panchayat President), Rev. K.S Mathew (Marthoma Sabha Secretary) and Rev. K.M Mammen spoke on the occasion.

The school was set up in 1981 by the Marthoma Church, to commemorate the episcopal silver jubilee of the late. Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan, Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan, and Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Marthoma Valiya Metropolitan.

The Navajyothi school provides vocational training to enable the mentally challenged children to earn an income, however nominal it may be. At present, the MCRD provides vocational training programs in weaving, candle making, envelope makings, screen printing etc.

The school also imparts training in horticulture and farming-related areas.It has facilities to train children in fish farming as well as cow and goat farming. The Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of Pathanamthitta district is situated on the MCRD campus.

Students benefit from the various programs there that enable them to better integrate with the society later. Rev. Eapen Cherian is the director of MCRD.
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