Goa : A secure haven for tourists even now


         Mr Ramkrishna and his family have been visiting Goa on and off for decades now.

        When I put the question of security of tourists in Goa, his answer based on personal experience was this.

    “Goa is indeed a tourist paradise. The locals are friendly and hospitable. People keep walking all around even late nights, unlike other cities in India.

      Night life for which Goa is-famous is also safe.

       Problems arise when foreigners especially some women  appear to become overly friendly with certain categories of persons, of the types ,Indians, especialy those with families will avoid. These foreigners either are unable to appreciate the differences in the social and cultural structures in India or are just out for fun, without realising what the consequences can be.

        Many foreign men and women travel alone, no harm in itself,  come with limited funds, and when the funds are exhausted take up petty work, and even in bars. Some even act as conduits for drugs.

     The recent case of a teenager getting in to trouble: ” Look how she had been moving around, and landing up in a bar all by herself fully sozzled. She would be asking for trouble anywhere in the world.”

      Goa Police trying to brush the matter  under carpet: Yes. The Goa Police has a tough job on hand. Tourism is the money earner and they would like to keep things under wraps.

      Their reaction was only to be expected.

        Drugs are available in any tourist destination around the world and Goa is no exception.

        Remember,  many of the foreigners who  seem to come only to escape pressures in their own countries. They suddenly seem to abandon many of the normal inhibitions . No wonder you have cases of drug over doses ona regular basis.”

      Family members of Mr Ramkrishna agreed in toto.

NRI: Dr Pallavi induced into Florida Women Hall of Fame


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Dr Pallavi inducted into Florida Women Hall of Fame 

         Eminent philanthropist and physician Dr Pallavi Patel has been inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame for advancing the role of women in the US and other parts of the world.        Based in Tampa, Florida, Dr Patel is the first Indian-American to be included in this prestigious hall of fame. The Florida Commission on the Status of Women so far has inducted 74 women in this exclusive list.       ”It is a great feeling,” Dr Patel told NDTV.Com in an interview after being inducted into the Hall of Fame by Florida Governor, Charlie Christie, at a ceremony in Tallahassee, Florida on March 11.

       ”I was a little surprised when I was informed about it as I never work for award or reward. It is a great honor to be recognized and inducted in the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame,” said Dr Patel, who along with her husband Dr Kiran Patel are well known for their philanthropist works in the US, India and Zambia having donated millions of dollars for charity work.

       The couple donated $5 million to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in 2004 to establish the Dr Pallavi Patel Performing Arts Conservatory, which enables thousands of young people in the State to pursue their dreams in music and the performing arts.

       Born and brought up in Gujarat, Dr Patel started her medical career with her husband Dr Kiran Patel in the African country of Zambia.

        Besides continuing her practice as a pediatrician she is passionate about issues related to teen pregnancy, single motherhood, adolescent self-esteem and women’s health and education. ”These are issues very dear to me and I keep on working,” she said.

        Dr Patel said she has plans to expand the 50-bed hospital that they have build in Motafofalia village near Daboi in Gujarat which serves around 1,00,000 people in and around the village.

        Termed as true role models for Florida and its citizens by the State Attorney General Bill McCollum during the induction ceremony, Dr Patel said she would continue to work for welfare and betterment of women. 

NRI:Trafficking racket: Indian workers file case against US employer


Trafficking racket: Indian workers file case against US employer

Extracts from TOI


       WASHINGTON: Some 500 Indian workers caught in what they claim is a human trafficking racket have asked the Indian government to protect their families in India from vengeful recruiters even as they filed a class action anti racketeering lawsuit in the US against their American employer.

       While the workers sought a meeting with the Indian ambassador in Washington DC to explain their case, the embassy has already directed the consulate in Houston to investigate the matter. Meantime, the workers also sought the minister’s intervention in preventing the recruiting company in Mumbai, which sent them to the US under false assurances, from intimidating their families in India following the flap.

         The case involving the Indian workers and their alleged exploitation is more than a year old Sometime in 2006, hundreds of welders and pipefitters, mostly from Kerala, responded to a series of advertisement placed by a recruiting company run by Mumbai-based Sachin Dewan promising green cards and permanent residency in US. Over 600 workers from all around India and some from the Gulf paid Dewan up to Rs 10 lakh (about $ 25,000 in today’s rates), often selling their homes and raising loans, for the promised “American dream”.

When they arrived in US, they discovered that there were no green cards. Instead, the workers found themselves working for Signal International, a major marine construction company, on ten-month “H-2B’’ visa that bonded them to work for it. Most of the work stemmed from the post-Hurricane Katrina labour shortage in the Louisiana-Mississippi region.

     The workers, many of them sent to Pascagoula, Mississippi, say they found the living conditions horrible. They were placed in cramped quarters, 24 to a 24×36 room equipped with bunk beds. They were given substandard food, for which Signal charged them $ 1050 per month, although the company claimed to have hired an Indian cook from New Orleans.

            “I was desperate…I was ready to die,” he says. Signal, on its part, denies all charges and say the company has gone out of its way to make the workers comfortable, spending up to $7 million to build plush new housing facilities.

      The living condition has been inspected by local authorities and found to be adequate (dissenting workers say the company dressed up the living quarters before the inspections). The company also denies it has anything to do with promising green cards or permanent residency to the workers, who come under the H2B guest worker visa.

       The workers allege that Signal was fully aware of Sachin Dewans misleading ads and that company representatives worked closely with Dewan in the recruitment process.

       Meanwhile, the workers, acting under the aegis of the Alliance of Guest Workers for Dignity, filed a lawsuit in federal court in New Orleans late Friday against Signal, which is a sub-contractor for Northrup Grumman

Seventh Day Adventists :Kerala HC allows separate exam time


        Seventh Day Adventists :       Kerala HC allows separate exam time for Christian sect
 

     KOCHI: In a controversial decision, the Kerala high court on Friday asked the state government to fix a separate time for two students of the Seventh Day Adventists, a Christian sect, to write their SSLC exam scheduled for Saturday.

The HC decision came on a petition filed by the students who pleaded that giving exams on Saturday would violate their religious rights as the day is usually set apart for prayers.

Allowing the petition, Justice Thottathil Raveendran asked the government to hold the exam for these students only after 6 pm on Saturday.

The court also perused a 1961 order of the state government which specifies that important exams need not be held on Saturdays. If it was inevitable to hold the exam on Saturday, the order provided for fixing the time after 6 pm.

The state government opposed the plea saying it was impossible to make separate arrangements for the exams. It would also lead to a leakage of the question paper as majority of the students would already have given the exams in the morning, the state maintained.

The state rushed an appeal which was heard in a special sitting of the HC in the evening. But the division bench while refusing to reverse the single bench order, however, asked the students to present themselves in the school at 1.30 pm — when the exams are scheduled to start – and wait there till 6 pm and give their paper.

Goa CM blames Scarlett’s mother and tries to evade responsibility


 Goa CM blamed Scarlett’s mother  and tried to evade responsibility for providing good administration and security for all tourists in Goa. 

           As Ms Teesta Setalvad a ( prominent lawyer who has been consistently taking up cases of persons persecuted by central and state governments) put it “it is immaterial weather a person  is a week older than fifteen or less, it is incumbent upon the government to provide security for all”.

            She further added, “Thechief minister by such  comments brings about a feeling that the administration is not worried about tourists. This will have adverse effects on tourism in India”. 

             Scathing remarks, some may say well deserved, were passed on police forces across the country for improper investigations, protection of criminals and nexus between criminals, politicians and the police.

Extracts of the comments are below.

        The Chief Minister of Goa, Digambar Kamat rejected the request for a CBI inquiry in the Scarlett Keeling death case on Tuesday (March 11); and charged an offensive on her mother, Fiona MacKeown, saying Scarlett’s mother is equally responsible for her daughter’s death.

       Fiona MacKeown had requested the Goa CM for a CBI inquiry into her daughter’s death, stating that she was frustrated with the Goa police’s handling of the case. Refusing a CBI inquiry in the case, Digambar Kamat said, “Inquiry in the case by the Goa police is on the right trajectory.”

       Kamat held Scarlett’s mother, Fiona equally responsible for her daughter’s death. “How can a mother let her minor daughter go out so late in the night?” said Kamat.

        “Tourists should take care of themselves.” he added.

Tourist Security in Goa: It is Time to Wake Up


Tourist Security in Goa: It is Time to Wake Up 

      Today as ever, bad news travels faster and gains more embellishments and gory details with every telling. Instant coverage, repetitious coverage of unsavory incidents with pointedly sickening language and visuals render incidents with a life of their own.   

        Even though as per official statistics the number of rape and murder cases in Goa have shown a decline in the last four years even though  the number of tourists and floating population have increased many times over, incidents involving safety of tourists bring on negative publicity far beyond their numbers.

         The latest incident of Scarlett Keeling, a British teenager whose body was found on the beach in Goa has been added to the list of tragic incidents that have marred the tourist circuit in India. The sad fact is that the Goa police who claim  “Improving police – community relations is another thrust area…..This can happen only if we are able to perform not only on the law & order and crime front, but also in our public dealings by our helpful and sympathetic behavior towards people who come to us in their moment of distress. ……..Cases where women, children and the elderly are victims of crime should always receive our prompt attention” did not respond appropriately in the Scarlett Keeling case. 

        The actions of the local police to brush under the carpet what was obviously a homicide have not helped. Insistence by the mother of the victim who claimed her daughter was raped and murdered and demanded a second autopsy was casually brushed aside by the local police.

         It was under great pressure from the media, UK and New Delhi that the second autopsy has been performed, and the autopsy proves that the contention of the mother was right, her daughter’s end did not come through suicide but was due to violence. 

        Goa seems to be losing its lusture and is no more a pristine tourist paradise it once was. Is it reverting to the bad phase of hippies, drugs and overdoses coupled with violence?Today the hippies are not there but the availability of drugs appears to be on the increase.

        According to one report three foreign tourists have died of drug overdose in the last one week. While this may be dismissed as self induced aberrations by a few psychotic individuals, what cannot be wished away is the presence of Mafia and incidents of, rape, and murder. Add to this the sickening reports of pedophilia, practiced openly. (Seven cases of pedophilia involving tourists are in the courts). 

      Goa has received over 30,000 tourists from abroad every month in the last four months. Of course Indians are there in much larger numbers with their families especially during school holidays and long week ends.

       The numbers are not many, as foreign beach resorts attract many more.  Before the Tsunami struck Phuket in Thailand there were over forty five star hotels and attracted over 200,000 tourists every month.  

       Families, men women and children, come to Goa, to its famed beaches and tonne of bright sunshine, a free carnival atmosphere and a feeling of freedom. Indian authorities  cannot  afford any  relaxation in maintaining the atmosphere of tranquility and feeling of security for its tourist guests either local or from far off lands.  

       The fact that the Chief Minister of Goa has pledged to follow the case personally is welcome. What is more welcome is the semblance of acknowledgement of an existing problem of security for tourists from the ministry of tourism and the central government. 

        The Government of Goa must wake up.

      The proposals for a special police taskforce for tourists should be implemented in the right spirit immediately.

      Additional patrolling on the beaches especially after dark should be taken up seriously by the Goa Police.

      Goa police must live up to its own set goals to earn the confidence of the public.

Andher Nagari: West Bengal : Children’s Education


A colossal wastage of human resources in West Bengal

 For a party which does not believe either in freedom or in justice, popular education is an anathema, because educated persons can neither be driven nor easily ‘enslaved’ for narrow selfish and sectarian gain and private profit and advantage,
says D BANDYOPADHYAY 

Extracts from an article in the Statesman

      Following that judgment and other action by the civil society groups, Article 21A ~ Right to Education ~ was inserted in the Constitution by the Eighty-Sixth Constitution Amendment Act 2002.

        The Article reads as follows: “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may by law, determine”.

 

       The term State has been defined by the Constitution (Art.12) as follows “the State includes the Government and Parliament of India and the Government and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India”.
It is a comprehensive definition which includes all Statal  and para-statal organisations and entities. Thus the Constitution recognises free and compulsory education of all children between 6 and 14 years of age as a fundamental right.

        It may be of some interest to the members of the self-professed Marxist party which controls the State apparatus in West Bengal what the Marxian education policy is. The main component of the Marxian education policy is the following: “Free public education, compulsory and uniform for all children, assuring the abolition of cultural and knowledge monopolies and of privileged forms of schooling… This has to be an education in institution”. (A Dictionary of Marxian Thought: ed by Bottomore et al Oxford, U.K. 1983 pp 145-45).

       Thus apart from the Constitutional mandate, those who proclaim themselves as Marxists at least in public have the moral obligation to provide free and compulsory education through publicly run schools.

       As against this Constitutional and philosophical background, let us look at some of the hard facts of primary and secondary education in West Bengal.

       Statistical Handbook: West Bengal 2005-2006 (combined) published by the Bureau of Applied Economics and Statistics, Government of West Bengal, July, 2007, provides some interesting and dreadful facts.

        At the primary stage the total enrolment was 1.04 crore (see chart). As against this, the enrolment figure at the middle school stage was 33.92 lakh and the same for secondary stage was 14.05 lakh. Only 6.81 lakh out of the universe of 1.04 crore of primary student population could reach the Higher Secondary stage where the formal school education ended.

        One shudders at the colossal wastage of human resources in this process of moving from the lower to the higher stages of school education. If only 33.92 lakh students could go to the middle school from the primary stage, it meant 70 lakh (approx.) students fell by the wayside to lapse back to illiteracy soon, thus turning this human resource into brawnish biological entities. In fact, society’s time and money spent on them had become infructuous.

       More shocking was the fact that only 6.8% of the students who entered the primary stage could make it to the Higher Secondary stage which completed the period of school education.
Modern industries require knowledge-based workers. All sophisticated industrial units have to be highly automated. Some of them at the higher end of the technological spectrum would be robotised. 

       Workers in these units would require more cerebral power than muscular energy. Thus out of the student population of 1.04 crore at the primary stage, only 6.8% of them would be eligible to pursue higher courses to enable them to enter knowledge based labour market.

       What would happen to the other 93.2% of the student population? In all probability they would be hewers of wood and drawers of water for the miniscule elite of the Bengali society, including the super elites of the ruling establishment.

        This gigantic dissipation of blooming child power cannot be ascribed to personal failure of students only.

       Firstly, there is no infrastructure to accommodate about a crore or so of students at the middle and secondary stages.

         Secondly, the state did not provide any backup support system for the students who could not make the grade. “Free and compulsory education” implies that the state should provide for infrastructure and system to prevent such wanton destruction of massive potentials of young boys and girls.

        They are being forcibly pushed beyond the margin of civilised living. That is the supreme achievement of the CPI-M’s “glorious” mal-governance of three decades.

          One should also look at the quality of instruction that these students received at the school, particularly at the primary stage. In 2005-06 there were 50,522 primary and junior basic schools to cater to the educational needs of children between six and fourteen years.

        The average number of students per school was 208 (approx.) There are four classes I-IV in a primary school. Thus each class would have 52 students against the norm of 40 per class. To manage these four classes one would expect at least 4 teachers with one among them acting as the Head Teacher per school.

        The same Handbook (p 60, Table 3.4) shows the total number of teachers at the primary stage as 1,53,220 in 2005-06. It meant that on an average there were three teachers per school. Each teacher had to mange 69 students, perhaps, spread-over two classes. With the norm of 40 student per class total number of teachers should have been 2,02,088.

        Thus there is a shortage of 48,868 teachers. With this shortage of 48,868 teachers for the student population of 1.04 crore, the quality of teaching should better be left to the imagination of the readers.
It is no longer a matter of surprise that primary schools in this state generally turn out almost illiterate students at the end of a 4-year spell. It also, perhaps, partially explains this massive dropout of 70 lakh students between the primary and the middle stages. In course of time almost all of them would become stony men and women without letters.

        A slight scrutiny is also required about the enrolment figure at the primary level. There are some micro studies which showed that in the schools surveyed there were inflated figures. Since sanction of posts of teachers depended on the figures of enrolment, there could be an inherent bias to inflate the number of enrolment. But for this analysis I shall take the published figures as given and I would not contest them.

        A point which would arise would be, did this figure of 1.04 crore enrolment at the primary stage cover all the eligible children between 6 and 14 in this state as mandated by Article 21A of the Constitution? The Census of 2001 gave the figure of 1,54,48,428 children between 6 and 14. That was 2001. The rate of growth of population in this state according to the Registrar General of India was 1.93%. Thus the figure of eligible children in 2005-06, inclusive of incremental annual growth, would be 1,69,39198 (1,54,48428 + 14,90770).

          Against this target child population of 1.69 crore, the total enrolment figure of 1.04 crore indicated enrolment percentage of 61% which was way below the national Gross Enrolment Ratio of 93.54%. (Eleventh Five Year Plan Vol.II – Major Educational Statistics 2004-05, p 38).

        These figures are so self condemnatory that any further comment would be superfluous.

          hese 65 lakh children who had had no chance to get into any primary school and would have no chance of any formal schooling would constitute the hard core of illiterates of the state.
The situation would look more appalling if one added the figure of roughly 70 lakh dropouts between primary and middle stage with the hard core illiterate figure of 65 lakh making a total of 1.35 crore.

         Devoid of any education and even of literacy, they would eke out a miserable life of initially petty and then serious crime requiring the protection of the ruling party. In return they would provide the soldiery of the ruling party for all their heinous and abominable political crimes including the “cleansing operations” in Nanur, Chhoto Angaria, Garbeta, Nandigram and the like and would manipulate votes illegally to ensure safe return of the ruling party’s candidates.

         The ruling political establishment in West Bengal has thus a massive political vested interest in denying children between six and fourteen their fundamental right to be educated compulsorily and freely by the state.

      A savant once said: “Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained”. But for a party which did not believe either in freedom or in justice, popular education was an anathema, because educated persons could neither be driven nor easily “enslaved” for narrow selfish and sectarian gain and private profit and advantage.

       Hence, children of West Bengal between six and fourteen are condemned to see darkness at noon as they grow up.

(The author was secretary to the Government of India, ministries of finance [revenue] and rural development and executive director, Asian Development Bank,Manila)