NRI: Dr Dev Chopra & Dr Salim Yusuf Acievements recognised


US varsity honours Indian physicist

New York: Indian-American physicist Dev Chopra has been honoured as Professor Emeritus by the Texas A&M University, which has also recognised him as the most successful science professor in first 100 years of the university’s history.

Chopra, who graduated from Panjab University, was declared Professor Emeritus by university president Dan Jones at a function recently, an official statement said.

“It is a great delight and a great honour, on behalf of the students, faculty, and the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, to bestow upon you the honour of Professor Emeritus,” Jones said.

Chopra, who worked as physics professor and department head at A&M-Commerce for 33 years, said: “I always told my students I wanted to give them their money’s worth.”

He was named Regents Professor of Physics in 1995, becoming the university’s first recipient of the award.

He published over 70 refereed articles and contributed to several books, coached a large number of masters students, and received $1.5 million as research grants from external sources.

“Dr. Chopra is the most successful science professor in the first 100 years of the university,” said Ben Doughty, a professor of physics at A&M-Commerce and former department head.

Chopra had his masters in physics from the University of Nebraska, and PhD in the same subject from New Mexico State University.

Source: Indo-Asian News Service

Thursday, 13 November 2008


Indo-Canadian doc bags US award

New York:

The American Heart Association has awarded eminent Indo-Canadian scientist Salim Yusuf with its Clinical Research Prize for 2008 for his work in cardiovascular disease.

A professor of medicine and director of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Yusuf received the award from the American Heart Association president, Timothy J. Gardner, over the weekend during its annual convention in New Orleans.

“A cardiologist and epidemiologist, Dr. Yusuf has carried out a highly regarded international research programme utilising large scale clinical trials, meta-analyses and epidemiologic studies using innovative designs to definitively address, and provide reliable answers to, questions of great consequence to the health of populations around the world,” Gardner said in his speech.

A graduate of Saint John’s Medical College in Bangalore, Yusuf coordinated the first International Study of Infarct Survival, which demonstrated the benefits of beta-blocker drugs in treating acute heart attacks, Gardner said.

At the National Institutes of Health, Yusuf led the studies of Left Ventricular Dysfunction and the Digitalis Investigations Group study.

“These seminal studies revolutionised the management of patients with heart failure and have set the approach for much clinical research in the field,” Gardner said.

With a PhD from the Oxford University, Yusuf is known for establishing the world’s first study examining the impact of societal changes on health behaviours, risk factors and disease in more than 400 communities in 18 countries.

Source: Indo-Asian News Service

Andhra Pradesh Govt Initiative on NRIs


Other state Governments must take notice of how the Government of Andhra Pradesh has helped out returning NRIs from Middle East.

The Government of Kerala must make special efforts in this matter to resettle NRIs returning from Gulf.

AP Gulf returnees enter construction biz

Most Gulf returness have found employment in the construction sector under a AP government programme. Other repatriates, mostly unskilled workers, have been rehabilitated through funds from the Rajiv Yuva Shakti Yojana used to procure agricultural implements

Hyderabad: Almost 70 per cent of those who had returned to Andhra Pradesh in November 2007 under the amnesty declared by the United Arab Emirates have got jobs.

Most have found employment in the construction sector under a special state government programme. Other repatriates, mostly unskilled workers, have been rehabilitated through funds from the Rajiv Yuva Shakti Yojana used to procure agricultural implements.

Around 70,000 Indian illegal workers had taken advantage of the amnesty scheme to return home, but there were many who did not have the money to pay for their return fare

The Indian consulate in Dubai arranged for the return of a large number of the impoverished workers through special loan schemes, which allowed them to pay when they returned home.  The Andhra Pradesh government, however, brought back about 13,000 penniless illegal migrants at government cost in special chartered flights last year.

Many of the returnees were skilled and semi-skilled workers, like turners, fitters, masons, framers, joiners, finishers, shuttering workers and had experience of working methods on large-scale projects in the Gulf.

holding job fairs in collaboration with construction and other business enterprises. These fairs were held in districts with high illegal migration, such as Adilabad, Karimnagar, Nizamabad and East Godavari.

The state government’s Overseas Manpower Company of Andhra Pradesh Ltd (OMCAP) has also been able to help about 700 people locate jobs overseas. The agency assisted a group of young men to find jobs as security guards in Macau. Jobseekers have also found employment as skilled workers with proper work permits in Gulf countries like Oman.

The manpower corporation was one of the recommendations of a six-member panel headed by Minister for Minorities and NRI Affairs Mohammed Ali Shabbir. Set up two years ago, OMCAP acts as a facilitator for prospective migrants, who register with the agency; they are helped to find jobs and are assisted in obtaining passports, visas, air tickets and occupational competency certificates.

According to M.V. Ramana Reddy, special secretary, NRI Affairs, Andhra Pradesh, the state government is in discussions with private insurance companies to come up with “attractive insurance packages for unforeseen circumstances for the migrant workers.”

There are around a million people from Andhra Pradesh in Saudi Arabia, forming the largest segment of Indians in the country. In other Gulf countries like the UAE and Kuwait, Andhra Pradesh residents form the second largest group of Indians.

A large number of these workers living in the Gulf countries are illegal migrants, who are exploited and unable to return home. Most of the illegal immigrants have gone to the Gulf countries on visit visas and have then disappeared to work at jobs without work permits, turning themselves into illegal workers at the mercy of their employers.

The workers get trapped, as they are unable to return home without the necessary exit documents. A large number of them have been tricked by labour or travel agents who promise them regular work visas.

The relatively lax method of giving visas has aggravated the problem of illegal migrants.  While visas to several countries with high immigration carry the applicants’ photograph on them, the Gulf countries are yet to adopt these modern visa issuing methods. The screening for visa sponsors is inadequate and all this results in fraud and exploitation of the migrants.

The state government has requested the ministry of external affairs to streamline the process of issuing visas in consultation with host countries in order to protect the interests of migrant workers.

Source: IANS

Thursday, 13 November 2008


Indian Judiciary Sets a record (of sorts)


What Speed

new-picture-74 The wheels of Indian justice grind slowly, but there are times when they don’t move at all—as has happened with the record breaking case of an erstwhile Bengal royal family’s property.

The matter, which is now in the Calcutta high court, has been pending for 175 years, making it perhaps the country’s longest-running case.

The property belonged to Raja Rajkrishna Deb, an 18th century landlord of Bengal’s Shovabazar royal family. Now, the Raja’s descendants—some 200 of them—are demanding it.

The stakes are high—some seven mansions in north Kolkata, nearly 100,000 acres of land in what is now Bangladesh, large tracts of land in at least three districts of West Bengal, and half of erstwhile Sutanati, one of the three villages that make up modern Kolkata.

“We are kings in name only. There is no money even to take care of the temples and do puja,’’ a descendant of the raja told TOI. Incidentally, the Shovabazar Durga Puja is an institution in Kolkata.
The problems began when Raja Rajkrishna Deb died in 1823, bequeathing his estate to his seven surviving sons. But the sons started selling off the property to fund their luxurious lifestyles.

The matter first came to court in 1833, when an executor of Rajkrishna Deb’s will lodged a case to try to stop the sale. After pondering over the case for 22 years, the judges appointed a British lawyer to oversee the property and the case dragged on.

Now the heirs want it back but legal experts say it won’t be easy for the high court to take a decision on a case file that has been gathering dust for nearly two centuries. National and state boundaries have since changed and a substantial portion of the land once owned by Raja Rajkrishna Deb is now in Bangladesh. But all this is still in the hands of a court-appointed receiver.

RTI: Maharashtra SIC imposes penalty on PIO of Urban Dev Dept


Delaying info costs state dept dear

Viju B I TNN


Mumbai: The state information commission (SIC) has imposed a penalty on the public information officer (PIO) of the urban development department for delaying information to an RTI activist who had sought the copy of an inquiry report on the Laxmi Chhaya tragedy.
Kandivli resident S K Nangia had filed a query under the RTI Act in March this year asking for a copy of the report drafted by a state-appointed committee that investigated the building collapse in Borivli. The seven-storey building came down like a pack of cards on July 19 last year killing 30 residents and injuring 17 others.

“I had filed the RTI query in public interest. But the babus withheld the information for about six months,’’ Nangia said, adding that he had filed the RTI query with the BMC’s building proposal department.

The civic officials initially said that the files were with the state urban development department. “But I informed the officials that under the RTI Act, they were supposed to forward it to the department concerned,’’ Nangia said. He then filed an appeal after he did not get any response for three months.

But to his dismay, the urban development officials said that they had forwarded it back to the municipal commissioner’s office. “The civic chief ’s office then forwarded it to the city engineer with whom I had filed my original RTI query,’’ Nangia said.

“This shuttling continued for a few more months and I received six intimations from various authorities about the pending status of my query,’’ he said. Finally, Nangia filed a complaint with the SIC under section 18 of the RTI Act in August.

State chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi, after hearing the case, observed that the department should have provided the information in one month’s time. “The manner in which the appellate authority of the urban development dealt with the query was appalling. When the query was forwarded to the urban development department,
there was no reason for the appeal to be sent back to the BMC.

This shows negligence, carelessness and tendency to shirk work on the part of the appellate officer… who had to be reprimanded about the serious lapses in discharge of his duties,’’ Joshi, in his order, said.

The SIC also directed the municipal commissioner to inquire into the lapses by the PIO of the City Engineer’s office that forwarded the RTI query to the urban development after 26 days.

The PIO of the urban development department, Rajesh Govil, has also been penalised for withholding information for a delay of more than 100 days.

Neelam Raaj | TNN

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Info law helps Dadar man get refund for delayed courier

Viju B I TNN

Mumbai: What if an important document couriered to you through the postal service reached you after a day’s delay? You would have either cursed the system or may not even have noticed it as most courier parcels hardly reach their destinations on time.

But Dadar resident Milind S Mulay decided not to take it lying down. Mulay used the Right to Information (RTI) Act to get a refund when two articles he had sent through speed post reached their destination after a day’s delay. He had sent two couriers to Thane and Kalyan from the Shivaji Park post office at Dadar.

“I had sought some information from the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) and from the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) under the RTI Act. But when I realised that the couriers had reached late, I decided to check what went wrong,’’ Mulay said.

He first did some leg-work and found out from the website of the Indian Postal Service about the rules and regulations in case of delay. “I found that the website also had an option by which one can track the path of the courier. But the website had not updated the path of my courier. So I went to the post office’s west division headquarters and asked them to give a copy of the delivery slips,’’ he said.

The receipts showed that the parcels were not delivered on time. Mulay then wrote a letter to the post office asking for compensation for the delay. “The officials at the post office did not bother to answer my letter and I filed an RTI query,’’ he said.

He sought information on the progress report of his complaint and what action has been taken on it. “I asked why there has been a delay in providing me the compensation as per the rulebook,’’ he said.

The senior superintendent of the Mumbai city west division responded within 10 days and refunded the entire amount—Rs 50—for the delay. “He also said this was in accordance with the money-back guarantee scheme. The delay occurred due to a service fault and a detailed report has been sought from the respective section,’’ Mulay said.

Mulay said he was prompted to file an RTI query as numerous people in the country faced this problem. “More than the financial part, I wanted to show that the RTI Act can be put to everyday use and cut the red tape in the government,’’ he said.

Though Mulay was happy with the positive impact of the RTI Act, he would have been happier if the official had added a line of apology to the RTI response. “But maybe that is asking for too much,’’ he said.
viju.balanarayanan@timesgroup.com