Phalgun 18, 2065 Vik Samvat, Yugabda 5110, 1 March 2009

1. FESTIVALS: Phalgun (Chaitra), Krishan 6 (March 17 this year) is known as ‘Eknath Shashthi’, as Sant Eknath left for his heavenly abode by embracing "jalsamadhi" in sacred Godavari on this day. This great saint of Maharashtra was born sometime around 1530 AD at Pratisthan (present Paithan).
Eknath wrote his famous treatise on Chatushloki Bhagavat. Because of his all-out efforts, the legacy of Sant Dnyaneshwar could be restored in the form of undistorted version of ‘Dnyaneshwari’. He also devoted himself in fighting against casteism and other ills rotting the society. His life was perfect harmony in "Vichar, Uchchar and Achar" – i.e., purity of thought, speech and practices.
This month celebrates Holi festival, full of colours and fervour, on 10th-11th March. We wish Holi Shubhakamanye to all our sisters and brothers in all parts of the world.
2. SARSANGHCHALAK VISITS JHIRI VILLAGE WHERE EVERYBODY SPEAKS SANSKRIT: RSS Sarsanghchalak KS Sudarshan was moved hearing the people of Jhiri village in Madhya Pradesh talking fluently in Sanskrit. With a population of 976 people, the village comes under Rajgarh district. People of this village have been using Sanskrit in their daily conducts for the last six years.
Shri Sudarshan also felicitated Vimla Panna, an activist of Samskrit Bharati who first went to Jhiri in 2002 and played a key role in bringing this change. This village has become a model village not only in respect of Sanskrit sambhashan but also in many other fields like organic farming, water harvesting, etc. The atmosphere was like Diwali celebration when the Sarsanghchalak visited the village. He performed gopooja in the village. The whole proceedings were conducted in Sanskrit.Even the Sarsanghchalak started his speech in Sanskrit.
3. BHARAT A STEP CLOSER TO MAKING OWN CARRIER: The Navy's long-standing dream of operating two powerful carrier battle groups (CBGs), to project power as well as act as a stabilizing influence in the entire Bharatiya Ocean Region and beyond, took a big step closer to reality on Feb 28 with the keel of the first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being laid at the Cochin Shipyard.
“The IAC, to be delivered in 2014, will enhance the Navy's blue-water capabilities. We hope to operate two-three carriers simultaneously in the not-to-distant future,'' said defence minister A K Antony. With this programme, Bharat has joined a select group of just four nations (US, Russia, UK and France) capable of designing and building a 40,000-tonne aircraft carrier.''
The 260-metre-long first IAC, construction of which has seen some collaboration from Italy and Russia, will be able to carry 12 MiG-29Ks, eight Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and 10 helicopters like anti-submarine and maritime reconnaissance Kamov-31s on its 2.5-acre flight deck and hangars.
4. SECOND AUSTRALIAN HINDU CONFERENCE: Second Australian Hindu Conference, to be held on April 11,12 2009 at Sydney brings together Hindus and Australian leaders to foster better understanding of the diversity of the Hindu way of life and the proud contribution of all Hindus in the well being of Australia and the World. The theme of the conference is “Sustaining Australia through strengthening bonds amongst communities” and it will be presided over by Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati Ji.
There will be special workshops for Youth, women and cooperation among Hindu temples etc. For more information, Souvenir Advertisement, Sponsoring & Registration: visit
5. POSITIVE SIGNALS: MAOIST-HIT BASTAR WELCOMES INDUSTRY: In the Maoist stronghold of Bastar, a silent revolution is taking place. The young generation is coming round to the view that guns cannot change its fortune. It does not support the Maoists’ opposition to setting up of industry, and wants to embrace a life of peace and prosperity.
At least half-dozen major industrial projects are in the pipeline at Bastar which include Tata Steel’s Rs 1,000-crore project at Lohandiguda, Essar Steel's Rs 7,000-crore, 3.2 million-tonne plant at Kirandul and NMDC’s 13,000 crore Integrated Steel Plant at Nagarnar. Put together, the three projects would generate at least 25,000 jobs.
Government officials feel that industrialisation would not only provide employment opportunities, but it would also hit at the root cause of the Maoist menace.Bastar - comprising the six districts of Bijapur, Dantewada, Bastar, Kanker and Narayanpur - is the worst affected by left-wing rebel activities for over three decades.
6. SHRI GURUJI PURASKAR 2009: The Shri Golwalkar Guruji Puraskar of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Jankalyan Samiti of Maharashtra were awarded to Asian Agro Foundation ( for research on ancient scripts ), Deendayal Shodh Sansthan, and women’s boxing champion Smt. Meri Kom of Manipur.The function was held at Jalna, Maharashtra on 22 Feb.
Every year, these awards of Rs. 51,000 each are presented to dedicated social workers, institutions, artists, players who have made a significant contribution in various social fields. This was the 14th year of the award. Senior journalist Shri Tarun Vijay was the chief guest and speaker on this occasion.
7. I COME FROM A COUNTRY THAT GAVE WORLD THE WORD 'OM'-RESUL POOKUTTY: "This is a Shiv Ratri gift. It is absolutely incredible," an elated Resul Pookutty said after his triumph at the Oscar awards for sound-mixing in 'Slumdog Millionaire'.
"I dedicate this award to my country. This is not just a sound award but a piece of history that has been handed over to me," a beaming and emotional Pookutty said while dedicating the trophy to a billion Bharatiyas.
"I come from a country and civilisation that gave the world the word that precedes silence and is followed by more silence. That word is 'Om'. So I dedicate this award to my country," said Kerala-born sound technician.
8. IIM GRADS IN GOVT FORM RESOURCE POOL: In an initiative to dust off the image of bureaucrats as musty, file-bearing and status quoist entities, a group of civil servants who share a common link — they have all been to IIMs — have devised a resource directory to pool their diverse skill sets and experience.
After IIM-G, or IIM in government, was formed by a small nucleus of civil servants in 2004, the group has grown to about a 100 members most of whom chose a career in public service after completing their management degrees in the 80's and 90's. Several meetings and exchanges over internet led to the idea of a resource bank.
Ranging between five and 25 years of working in government, IIM-G feels it can offer creative and proactive solutions that could run counter to the popular, if somewhat pejorative, value attached to the term "babus". “Hardly any consultant has the experience this group possesses in terms of working in government and having a management base," said Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar, releasing the resource directory on Feb 21.
9. DELHI METRO GETS UN CERTIFICATE FOR PREVENTING CARBON EMISSION: Adding yet another feather to its cap, Delhi Metro has become the first rail network in the world to get a UN certificate for preventing over 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, doing its bit to fight against global warming. The report, given by Germany-based validation organisation TUV NORD found that the DMRC stopped the emission of 90,004 tonnes of carbon dioxide from 2004 to 2007 by adopting regenerative braking systems in the metro trains.
Under regenerative braking process whenever trains on the Metro network apply brakes, three phase-traction motors installed on them act as generators to produce electrical energy which goes back into the Over head Electricity lines.
10. NO JIHAD IN INDIA, SAYS DARUL ULOOM: Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband on Feb 22 said it regarded India as Dar al-Aman or a “Muslim-friendly country”. It ceased to be Dar al-Harb or hostile for Muslims with the end of British rule. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)’s Dharm Raksha Manch, issued a letter to the Deoband clergy demanding a fatwa, to declare Bharat as “friend of Islam to end religion-inspired violence”.
“How can a country where you choose your own government be Dar al-Harb?” the seminary’s Vice-Rector Abdul Khaleque Madrasi said.The VHP had also asked clerics to state that Hindus were not kafirs or nonbelievers and therefore jihad did not apply to them. Madrasi said the term kafir meant a person who did not follow Islam and not necessarily an enemy of Islam.
11. MUSLIMS CAN PROSPER UNDER MODI: IMAM: Mufti Shabbir Ahmed Siddiqui (52) - the Imam of Ahmedabad’s biggest mosque, Jama Masjid is pitted against hardliners who feel he is soft on the Narendra Modi government with which he has been building bridges in turbulent times.
But he is quite unabashed about it and would like Modi, who is popular among Shias, to gain acceptance among Sunnis too. The Imam blames Congress as much as BJP for the 2002 riots but feels the time has come now to move on. ‘‘Seven years after the riots, people have already started forgetting what had happened,’’ he said, adding that the projection of the riots was much graver than what had actually happened.
The Imam is full of praise for Modi for having ensured peace after 2002 and feels the CM had ‘‘lived up to expectations’’. ‘‘Muslims too have an opportunity to prosper in the peaceful environment that the Modi government has created. Modi has provided an atmosphere which is conducive for those who want to trade peacefully in Gujarat,’’ he said.
Stating clearly that Modi actually does not need Muslim votes to win the elections; he said it was up to the Muslims to make friends with the chief minister.
12. KERALA NUN UNVEILS DARK SIDE OF CHURCH LIFE: Amen, the autobiography of a nun, Sister Jesme, 52, revealing the darker side of life in a convent, including exploitation of nuns by priests and clandestine same sex relations among nuns, is bound to push the powerful Catholic Church into another controversy. Sister Jesme said she had quit the order as she could no longer bear the harassment at the hands of her superiors. She, however, said she continues to lead the life of a nun “outside the closed doors of a convent”.
“My attempt is to give a real picture of convent life, often shrouded in mystery and darkness,” Sister Jesme, now settled in Kozhikode, said.
Said Father Paul Thelekkat, spokesman of Syro-Malabar Church, “We are not denying what she said. We are not in paradise either. But she has sensationalised it to get cheap publicity. We believe in democratic values, so we have no plan to call for a ban on the book.
13. SBI MORE VALUABLE THAN CITIBANK: "May you live in interesting times," goes an old Chinese curse. And these are interesting times for sure. State Bank of India (SBI), the largest bank in Bharat, is now worth more than Citigroup, one of the world's largest banks.The market capitalisation (number of shares outstanding x the closing price of the share) of SBI on Feb 22 closed at Rs66,285 crore. This is around 25 per cent more than the closing market capitalisation of Citigroup on the New York Stock Exchange which was Rs52,931 crore.
Over the last four quarters, Citigroup has earned Rs230,485 crore as revenue, which almost eleven times more than the revenue earned by SBI.But when it comes to profits Citigroup over the last four quarters has suffered total losses of Rs83,474 crore.During the same time SBI has made profits of Rs8,262 crore.
14. CANADA TEMPLE ESTABLISHES TWELVE SACRED JYOTIR LINGAMS: The newly opened Hindu Heritage Centre Mississauga, Canada created history in North America by becoming the first ever temple to do the establishment of the twelve Jyotir Lingams. In an electrifying atmosphere of chanting of hymns, the 24,000 square feet temple was thronged by Devotees who came to see the Sthapana ceremony and take the blessings of Shiva during Feb 13-15.
15. SUKH RAM GETS 3-YEAR RI, RS TWO-LAKH FINE: “A corrupt public servant is a menace to the society and need of the hour is that the cancer of corruption should be checked immediately,” observed Special CBI Judge VK Maheshwari, while sentencing former Union Communications Minister Sukh Ram to three years' rigorous imprisonment. The CBI had alleged that Sukhram during his stint as Minister had abused his official position to amass disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 5.36 crore and had forfeitured Rs 4.25 crore from his possession.
16. DISCOVERY TO PROFILE SUCCESS OF BIHAR’S SUPER-30: The success story of Super-30, a Patna-based private coaching institute, will now draw worldwide attention with the Discovery Channel deciding to beam the success saga in a one-hour programme during March 14-29. Last year, all the 30 students from Super-30 cracked the IIT-JEE exam. Over the years, the success rate of the institute has improved. In the very first year in 2002, 18 students had got through the country's premier engineering entrance test.
The documentary captures all the aspects of the novel experiment started by mathematician Anand Kumar where students from underprivileged families successfully make it to IIT's and also depicts the journey of the young, talented Anand Kumar, his passion for mathematics since his childhood, early loss of his father and the struggle ahead, including the lost opportunity to study in Cambridge University due to poverty.
17. SMITA SALASKAR AND SHIRISH KARKARE AT SANGH FUNCTION: "I don't take pride in calling myself 'veer patni', because the very fact that my husband was the victim of terrorists who were illiterate and some ordinary people who could handle guns - is extremely disgraceful to the national security of the country. How many more veer mata and veera patni do we want? Everybody should readily perform one's duty if such a danger has to be avoided in future".
Said Smita Salaskar, wife of late Vijay Salaskar, while speaking at Panvel on February 24. She was one of the chief guests in a public program organised by RSS Konkan Prant on the occasion of ‘Rashtraraksha Ninand Ghosh Shivir’.
Smt.Salaskar further added that organizations like RSS would inspire people to perform their duties.
Shri Shirish Karkare, brother of former ATS chief Hemant Karkare, shared some memories of his brother and expressed that every citizen should understand one's responsibility and perform one's duty honestly. Vaishali Ombale, daughter of martyr police constable Ombale also spoke on the occasion.
RSS Sahsarkaryavah Bhayyaji Joshi appealed to the audience to preserve national safety and exhorted the citizens to be prepared to destroy the evil tendencies in the society
Noted singer and music director Shridhar Phadke welcomed the chief guests. Delightful demonstrations presented by 770 ghosh vadaks set the mood of the programme. Attractive deepotsav was also arranged on the occasion.
18. SEMINAR BY WOSY ON GLOBAL TERRORISM: World Organisation of Students and Youth (WOSY), an ABVP initiative, organised an international seminar on Global Terrorism at Bengaluru on Frebruary 14. A total of 142 delegates from 31 countries, including 30 girls, participated in the seminar. At the inauguration Lt. Gen. (Retd) SK Sinha, former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, deliberated upon the history and evolution, causes and consequences of global terrorism while Dr Chengappa, VC, University of Agricultural Sciences , Shri Sushil Pandit, chairman of WOSY and Ramesh Pappa secretary general also spoke on the occasion.
19. TALIBAN MAY TAKE OVER KARACHI: The Taliban's terror network is spreading across Pakistan so rapidly, it may be on course to strike the financial and shipping hub of Karachi, according to a police report submitted to the Sindh government.
The Taliban, which has already attacked Islamabad and Rawalpindi, has established hideouts in Karachi, "could take the city hostage at any point", the report said. Police said that the Taliban had systematically infiltrated Karachi, the hills on the outskirts of the city, slums and small motels had become Taliban nests and Taliban fighters have "huge caches" of weapons and ammunition and could strike in a manner similar to the Mumbai attacks of November 26.
20. JAGRITI PROJECT OF SEWA BHARATI IN J&K: Jammu & Kashmir unit of Sewa Bharati started a project at Siot village under Nowshera district of the state to impart training to rural youth so that they get employment in their village. A total of 24 kanal (about 2.5 acre) land was acquired by the Sewa Bharati in Siot and training and demonstration for vermiculture, composed fertilizer, mushroom and seasonal vegetable cultivation is being given with the help of three experts from Agriculture University of Jammu. About two acre land was tilled properly where wheat was cultivated with the help of enthusiastic local youth.
Sewa Bharati aims to motivate the youth of rural areas by imparting proper training in respect of cultivation of high yielding varieties of crops, latest knowhow, assistance and guidance from the experts, adopting allied agriculture activities for sustainable production and finally more and regular money generation. Apart from grains/serials cultivation, other activities like goshala, flower cultivation, mushroom cultivation, bee keeping, vegetable cultivation, agro forestry, ornamamental plantations, compost fertilizers, vermiculture, etc will be included in the awareness programme.
21. NOW, BYPASS WITHOUT CUTTING A SINGLE BONE: In what is claimed to be the first of its kind procedure in the country, doctors at Indraprastha Apollo hospital have used a minimally invasive technique to perform a multiple graft heart bypass surgery on a 53-year-old woman without cutting through a single bone.
The new procedure, being less painful, has many advantages over conventional bypass surgery and leads to much faster healing. "We don't require many blood transfusions. In this case, we didn't require any blood transfusion. The hospital stay is also short as compared to conventional surgery in which the patient stays in hospital for 7-8 days and takes 6-8 weeks for complete recovery," said Dr Yatin Mehta, senior consultant, anaesthesia, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.
22. IT'S NO SECRET: Switzerland's largest bank UBS was recently compelled to hand over confidential client data to US tax authorities. It is now at loggerheads with US regulators who want access to fresh information on 52,000 accounts held by wealthy Americans suspected of offshore tax evasion. The issue has snowballed into a major controversy. One side of the Swiss political spectrum seeks a constitutional safeguard for banking secrecy, glorified as a national tradition. The other side supports the internationally prompted move for transparency. The global fallout is that the issue of tax havens will be up for debate at a G-20 summit in April. Switzerland's not being invited looks like a rap on the knuckles.
Switzerland has long been a secret treasure chest for much of the world's offshore wealth. Its banks including financial giants UBS and Credit Suisse offer clients privacy and personalised service. But the discretion it treats as brand value is also associated with suspicious opacity. Swiss banks have a point in saying their contracts with clients are based on the promise of privacy. So, disclosures-on-demand are a breach of trust, so important in their trade. But client confidentiality is valid only so far as account-holders' assets accrue from legitimate activity. That indulgence can hardly be extended to law-breakers seeking tax havens or places to park illegal assets.
Nor should confidentiality mean stonewalling of regulatory scrutiny into tax fraud, diversion of embezzled funds, money laundering and other illicit activity. A UBS banker's confession last year that he facilitated his clients' tax evasion and diamond smuggling only reinforces the case for systemic change. Besides, tax evaders are just one kind of economic offender. Secret bank accounts have served offenders ranging from Nazi war criminals and American gangsters to African dictators and global druglords. In a world waging war on terrorism, bank secrecy serves terrorists as well. Osama bin Laden's resort to Swiss banks to park terror funds was part of the US's post-9/11 investigations.
The world is wracked by a financial and economic crisis, felt to have originated in reckless banking practices. There's been a paradigm shift in public discourse concerning institutional transparency and reform. And this isn't restricted to financial services. Whether it is Barack Obama's disapproval of corporate profligacy, India's post-Satyam focus on corporate governance or the G-20's call for a refurbished global economic order, the international mood favours creating responsible and responsive institutions. By fetishising banking secrecy, Switzerland runs the risk of appearing to side with the bad guys. Banks should maintain secrecy as required by professional norms but also consent to providing client data to regulatory authorities or criminal investigators. That may be the way out of this impasse. (Editorial, Times of India, 25 Feb 2009)
23. RAVIKUMAR’S VISIT TO SRI LANKA, THAILAND, HONG KONG AND SINGAPORE: During this pravas, at Colombo his talk on Women’s emancipation in Hindus and Women’s Right Movement in West was well received. Ravikumar participated in the Intl Workshop on i2i (Israel to Indonesia) and spoke about the achievements of Modern Bharat much to the delight of all delegates. The workshop was organized by Dr. B.K.Modi ji of Spice Group.
In Bharat also Ravi Kumar has been addressing several important gatherings viz scientists of ISRO and social workers of Rotary Club in Bangalore, professional students of Babasaheb Ambedkar Vidyapeeth, Aurangabad and Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam and several other Engg and medical colleges. .
In Chennai a workshop on Overseas Tamils was organized on Jan 10 ( just after the Pravasi Bharateeya Divas ) where over 100 prominent delegates including Ministers, Members of Parliament and prominent dignitaries from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Singapore took part. Prof. Surya Narayanan coordinated the workshop and Dr Shankar Tatwawadi ji and Ravi Kumar also attended.
24. JOURNEY FROM A TRIBAL VILLAGE TO IIT: Here is a story of remarkable grit and determination of a student, Lohar Sai Nag, who has come from a remote tribal village Sukavans in Chhatisgarh. Despite tremendous odds, he fought his way through school and got through the IIT.
"I come from a village where none goes to school. I worked as a child labour for a while," said Lohar.
"One day my mother got some food from Anganwadi. I liked the food so my mother began to send me to the government school where I used to get the food. There used to be huge crisis for money, but I always stood first since school," said Lohar. He managed to get through school with scholarships and then did his B Tech from Raipur. After working for a while, Loha decided to do his post graduation from IIT and now has two job offers despite the recession. And after fulfilling most of his dreams, he's now dreaming big for his village."I want to start a scholarship for talented students of my village because there is no opportunity for them," said Lohar.
25. MALAYSIAN OPPOSITION CONDEMNS ARREST OF INDIAN PROTESTORS: Malaysian opposition leaders condemned police use of water cannon against ethnic Indian demonstrators and the arrest of 17 protesting at the alleged ill-treatment of a detained rights group leader.Nearly 400 supporters of banned Indian rights group Hindraf had gathered on Feb 28 at a police station in the capital when police hit the crowd with chemical-laced water.
"This is clearly an example of an excessive and unjustified use of police force on the people," senior opposition parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang told AFP. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said the move by police to disperse demonstrators filing reports on the health of detained Hindraf leader P. Uthayakumar, was worrying.
Uthayakumar, arrested in 2007 under the Internal Security Act, has since complained of a lack of treatment for his diabetes while in custody and his lawyer says there is a fear that he may lose his leg because of a lack of access to medical care.
26. 2000-YR-OLD SHIVA SHRINE FOUND: Believed to be among the oldest brick shrines in Bharat, a team of Lucknow University’s department of ancient Indian history and archaeology has unearthed a 2,000-year-old Shiva temple as part of its excavation project recently in at Sanchankot in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district.
‘‘It’s actually a complex comprising five temples,’’ Prof D P Tewari of the Lucknow University said. ‘‘While four temples belong to the Kushana period (1st-3rd century AD or 2,000 years ago), it appears that the primary temple was constructed during the Sunga period (2nd century BC to 1st century AD or 2,200 years ago).’’
Spread across an area of 600 acres, the temple is made of baked bricks. In Bharat, most of the brick temples were built in the Gupta period which existed in the fourth century AD. The temple’s architecture is ‘apsidal’ (semi-circular or u-shaped) in nature. A shivling, trishul, nandi and a river are inscribed over the seal. The legend of ‘Kaalanjar peeth’ is inscribed just below the river.
27. JSW MAY PIP TATA STEEL TO NO. 1 SLOT: With the commissioning of three million tonnes per annum (mtpa) additional production line at Vijaynagar plant on February 18, taking its total capacity to 6.8 mtpa Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Steel is set to pip Tata Steel and become the Bharat's largest private sector steel producer.
With the start of commercial production from the expanded facility, JSW Steel's overall production capacity would reach 7.8 million tonnes from the present 4.8. As of now, SAIL is Bharat's largest public sector steel maker with annual production close to 15 million tonnes, while Tata Steel tops the list among private players with installed production capacity of 6.8 million tonnes at Jamshedpur. JSW intends to reach 32 million tonnes of steel capacity by 2020 for which the firm is estimated to invest about Rs 1 lakh crore.
28. BANKS NET GAIN AMID SLOWDOWN: The period of slowdown is proving to be a good time for the commercial banks as most of them have reaped in a good business and minted money all through this downturn. A government estimate says that between April and December 2008 the commercial banks operating in the country have earned a combined net profit of Rs 36,500 crore as against Rs 28,900 crore in the same period in the previous year, a gain of 25.6%.
The rise in profit is a result of increased business as well as higher interest income. Interestingly, private and foreign banks - which have refused to bring down the interest rates despite the RBI slashing its key lending rates to banks by 3.5% - have had higher profit margins than their PSU counterparts.
29. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Shri Arun Devani from Kenya; Shri Anil Pota and Smt. Neela Pota from U. K., Pandit Gangaram from Suriname.Pravas: Dr. Shankarrao Tatwawadi, Samyojak Vishwa Vibhag is touring ME. Shri Sethumadhavan along with Shri Shyam Parande visited Malaysia and Singapore.
30. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: If a person is constantly engaged in good actions then after sometime it becomes his habit and no amount of allurements and temptations can make him shun the virtuous path. He develops a strong character and firm belief in his convications. -- Sama Veda.

India’s bureaucracy rarely attracts accolades. Inefficient, corrupt, mired in red tape, hostile to change — these are the usual epithets used to describe it. But if the 18 awards for innovation in e-governance given away by the Department of Administrative Reforms in the Ministry of Personnel last week in Goa to government departments across 11 states are any indication, that is not the full story. Some of our public servants are making an effort to be just that, finding ingenious ways of using information technology to assist and empower the masses.
Hindustan Times profiles the five gold medal winning innovations:
Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s e-city
Almost every piece of paper a resident of Ahmedabad had to run around the offices of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation for is now mailed to him online. Birth and death certificates, licences to set up business establishments, sanction for construction plans — they can all be got by simply filling up forms online, without visiting the corporation’s office at all. Queues at the corporation have virtually disappeared, corruption has nose-dived, while transparency has taken a giant leap forward.
But heralding the IT era was far from easy. Palani Panneervel, formerly the city’s Municipal Commissioner and now Revenue Secretary, who began the process six years ago, recalled that there had been tremendous resistance at first from the corporation's 42,000 employees.
“Finally, once I had the software in place, I called in the news television channels and announced the changes,” he said. “The employees had no choice but to fall in line.”
The process Panneervel is being copied across 160 other municipal bodies of Gujarat. The AMC has now the gold medal for ‘Exemplary Horizontal Transfer of ICT based best practice’.
Jaankari, Bihar
The idea came from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar himself. “We had held a number of meetings on how to give more teeth to the RTI act,” said Amir Shubani, Secretary in Bihar’s Personnel Department. “One afternoon Nitishji asked, ‘Why can’t we have a call centre to take RTI applications? That will help even an illiterate person to get the information he wants.”
Thus germinated Jaankari: a facility unique to Bihar which allows anyone to phone in his RTI application and thereafter completely takes over the task of ferreting out the information sought.
Operators take down the complaint in writing, forward it to the department concerned, and keep following up. If the applicant doesn’t get his answer within a specified time frame — which varies according to the complaint — or is dissatisfied with the information provided, he is allowed a first and then a second, appeal. The charge is a nominal Rs 10.
In two years since it began, Jaankari has tackled 22,600 applications. It received a gold medal in the ‘Outstanding performance in citizen centric service delivery’ category.
Public Distribution System, Chhattisgarh
The Public Distribution System (PDS) is a mess in most northern states. A shining exception, however, is Chhattisgarh, where IT has been employed to completely turn it around.
Starting in 2005, the Food and Civil supplies Department of the Chhattisgarh Government began putting all the data relating to the state’s 37 lakh ration cards online. A year ago it began issuing computerised ration cards. All details of grain purchased from 8 lakh farmers across the state and supplied to ration shops, have also been stored online. A call centre in Raipur takes complaints from ration card holders and processes them within four weeks.
“It was a Herculean task,” said Rajeev Jaiswal, who heads the Food and Civil supplies Department. “We had to ensure that no false claimant gets a ration card, and yet no genuine claimant is left out.”
Chhattisgarh’s PDS was awarded the gold medal in the ‘Excellence in Government Process Re-engineering’ category.
Sujala Watershed Project, Karnataka
With the expert knowledge provided to them through information technology, farmers across Karnataka, living below the poverty line, have increased their crop yields by 15-20 per cent.
The knowledge they get is remote sensing data relating to the nature of their soil, along with suggestions on choosing which crops to sow, which nutrients to use, how to recharge the groundwater, and so on. The software to collate and analyze the information was developed by Amtrix, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
The project itself, called the Sujala Watershed Project, begun in September 2001, is a joint effort of the World Bank and the Karnataka government.
“We kept the big farmers out so that they do not influence the identification of tracts of land where the project should be implemented,” said Rajiv Ranjan, additional project director. The project has moved into other areas as well — organising self-help groups and empowering women by teaching them income generating skills like tailoring and pickle making.
Sujala won the gold in the Innovative usage of technology in e-governance category.
Tele-opthalmology in Tripura
Every day, from 10 am to 6 pm, a team of six ophthalmologists sits in a studio inside the premises of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital at Agartala, gazing intently at a large computer screen. The computer is connected to a ‘vision centre’ at each one of the state’s 11 administrative blocks.
“Patients who want their eyes examined gather at the vision centres,” said Dr Bijay Debbarma, an ophthalmologist involved with the project. “We take one centre at a time, but cover all centres daily. We have sophisticated devices installed by which magnified images of a patient’s eye can be seen on the computer. We examine it and prescribe remedies. The patient is then given a printout.”“The long queues at each one of the vision centres every morning testify to the project’s popularity,” said Dr Sukumar Deb, deputy superintendent at the Indira Gandhi Hospital. Begun in April 2007, it has provided long distance treatment to over 12,000 patients. The tele-ophthalmology project won the gold medal in the ‘Special Sectoral award’ category. -- Hindustan Times , Feb 23. 2009