A Tribute to Neerja Bhanot – The National Hero.

Neerja Bhanot, the purser on Pan Am flight 73 which was hi jacked to Karachi; laid down her life saving the passengers on the flight, helping them escape through the Emergency Door. She was shot by the terrorists.  She was honored with Ashoka chakara Posthumously her brother Aneesh Bhanot, now a Rotarian in Chandigarh has undertaken to help the Visually Impaired students in Chandigarh; as a tribute to Neerja Bhanot – the National Hero. The Times of India has covered his latest tribute.

Rotary Chandigarh Shivalik (RCS) presented scholarships worth Rs 1.80 lakh to nine visually-challenged college and university students. The funds had been raised through a unique fundraiser, “Rotary Dinner in the Dark”, held in September and October. Part of the funds came through a number of people pledging additional support to RCS for ensuring that visually impaired students were able to complete their education and achieve success in life.

A jury headed by J S Jyara, headmaster, Institute for the Blind, decided to confer the scholarships of Rs 20,000 each. The nine students include Manpreet Kaur (Late Col Harsharan Sandhu Scholarship), Labh Singh (Late H S Malik Scholarship), Yogita (Late Sarabjit Singh Scholarship), Sadanand (Late Santosh Mehra Scholarship), Hussna (Late Bimla Devi Laroia Scholarship), Princy Rani (Late Bimla Devi Scholarship), Prince Wadhwa (Adhiraj and Nandini Scholarship), Sajan Singh (Late Veena Gill Scholarship) and Ravi Paswan (Rama Bhanot Scholarship).

Jyara said while cheques of Rs 10,000 each were handed over to each awardee, the balance Rs 10,000 would be given in the next semester provided the student performed well in academics in the current semester.

Manjit Kaur, president, Rotary Chandigarh Shivalik, said, “We achieved our basic objectives, to ensure that ‘sighted’ people respect the blind by understanding how they smilingly face the problems they face in their daily lives as well as raise funds for providing scholarships. We are making this an annual event and there will be two Rotary dinners in the Dark in the New Year on January 4, which is Louis Braille Day, and on October 15, which is White Cane Day.”

Giving details of the January 4, event, Rotarian Aneesh Bhanot said this would also be a fundraiser for scholarships for the next academic session and would be limited to 50 people on a first-come, first-served basis. As RCS wants to spread the message of ‘Respect the Visually Impaired’ among the youth, there is a special discounted offer for students in the age group of 13-18 years.

The team of visually impaired youth who have selflessly volunteered to be part of RDID included Shiv, Amarinder, Kuljeet, Mohit, Meeta and Soni. They are being assisted by a number of volunteers.

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Kamal Haasan lauds NGO for exposing Chennai Corporation’s Scam

Unearthing a scam to the tune of crores of rupees by the Chennai Corporation, NGO Arappor Iyakkam has exposed corruption in the laying of roads along bus routes in Chennai.

In a first in a series of promised “exposés”, the anti-corruption group has alleged a scam in the laying of ‘Devanathan Street’ in Mandaveli.

The Chennai Corporation had allocated Rs 345 crore for the re-laying of roads along the bus routes most frequented in 2015.

The RTI states Santhanam was issued the contract to relay Devanathan street.

The task of re-laying Devanathan Street was given to a contractor named J Santhanam and RTIs show it was completed on 30 May 2016 at the cost of Rs 36,97,776.

In a month’s time, the road was closed to the public and ‘patch work’ costing Rs 2,00,092 was carried out. The contract for this ‘patch work’ had been given to another company, MPK Enterprises. The height of the road had been increased and the RTI clearly states that no quality check was done before the added work was done on the road.

But that wasn’t all.

In December, another bill was raised for Rs 26,50,104 by J Santhanam, the original contractor for the road, citing ‘Metrowater road cut repair’.

That is, a bill which was 70% of the cost of the original road was raised in just over 6 months.

How bad should the quality of the road be that it is being repaired thrice in 6 months?

Arappor Iyakkam, however, alleges no road was even laid in December.

When The Quint cross-checked with Corporation records, it confirmed the NGO’s claims that work was done for ‘restoration of road cut made by Chennai Metro Water.’

According to the Bus Routes Roads Department, roads are to be re-laid every 3 years. So how does that explain Rs 65 lakh spent in 6 months? A first re-laying usually costs around Rs 25 lakh. What does it say about the quality of the road repair if only six months later, Rs 65 lakh must be spent again?

And after all that expenditure, is Devanathan Street a model road? The answer is no. Times of India did a spot check on this key bus route road and found that a bus stop had been left dug up for more than a month, making it unsafe for both motorists and pedestrians.

All the lakhs spent on relaying hasn’t translated to fantastic results.

Arappor lyakkam is planning to file a formal complaint with the Ombudsman of Local bodies immediately and follow-up the case legally until the corrupt are brought to book.

Actor Kamal Haasan, who has been fearless in calling out the state government’s corrupt practices, tweeted lauding the NGO for their exposé .

The Quint reached out to the Corporation Commissioner and SP Velumani, Minister for Municipal Administration, Rural Development and Implementation of Special Programme, but they were unavailable for comment.

Also Read: Illegal Roads Are Choking Chennai’s Coastline

Corrupt Contractors Continue Damage

In February 2014, the Corporation conducted a series of tests on the quality of 1,300-odd roads, and one third of them failed. The then architect of the quality control initiative, Joint Commissioner Vijay Pingale, was held responsible for employing corrupt contractors.

From March 2015, the Chennai Corporation has listed the names of all the road contractors along with details of the roads, nature of repair, commencement and completion dates of the projects.

The Corporation has now listed the names of contractors along with their various projects.
The Corporation has now listed the names of contractors along with their various projects.
(Photo Courtesy: Chennai Corporation)

But these individual contractors almost never figure in any debate about the state of Chennai’s roads. They are never named or rated.

They have never been held up for potholed roads, except for once when the Corporation drew up a list of blacklisted contractors.

Will Better Roads Remain a Mirage?

It has become a standing joke in Chennai for students to tune into the news everyday during November and December and expect a holiday. Not always because of the rains, but the bad roads!

The images of the entire city submerged in water during the disastrous 2015 floods gives nightmares to residents even today. Because the problem is still unresolved. The floods, then followed by Vardah cyclone in 2016, exposed the archaic British laid sewage and stormwater drain system and poor urban planning.

Even the shortest spell of rains renders roads ridden with potholes, that a smooth ride during monsoon has become a rarity.

Also Read: Chennai Rains: Boats on Roads, Buses Under Water, It’s That Bad

Did the Droughts Help Reduce Damage?

The monsoon of 2017 was a much awaited one after a long summer of drought. The city’s four reservoirs had dried out completely and the monsoon helped fill up only one thirds. But when it came to the roads, they just got more battered and water-logged because after all they have been laid without abiding by the specified norms and so are bound to give in to pressure.

According to initial estimates by the Chennai Corporation, at least 15% of the 471 bus route roads were damaged.

Unfinished metro work has added to the difficulties. And sinkholes are so frequent as to no longer be news. Prominent roads like Anna Salai are caving in and there is very little that is being done to prevent such an incident.

State Just Doesn’t Get ‘Prevention Is Better Than Cure’

According to Deccan Chronicle, after this year’s monsoon, the restoration work was taken up in 32 roads by Public Works Department (PWD) and Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewerage Board. The inability of the departments to pay Rs 34 crore delayed the re-laying work. Corporation officials also claim that 80 percent of the roads that are now listed as ‘severely battered’ and ‘unusable’ have been delayed for the last five years because of non-payment.

But the solution is not re-laying. The roads needs to be desilted six months before the onset of the monsoon. Once the roads have been scraped of the layers of silt deposited, water is more able to percolate and flow to the sides. But this needs to be done well in advance of the rains, and constant maintenance must be performed throughout the monsoon season.

Re-laying roads is only a quick and temporary measure.

When will Chennai learn to be prepared, rather than sorry?

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NGO – Advantage India booked by CBI

The NGO, Advantage India, received Rs 90.72 crore from European missile manufacturer, MBDA, and aviation major Airbus.

The CBI says NGO, Advantage India,  its former vice president and four others misused CSR funds  received from European missile manufacturer, MBDA, and aviation major Airbus.

 

The CBI has filed an FIR against a non-government organisation, its former vice-president and corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar and four others for alleged misuse of CSR funds received from a leading European missile manufacturer, MBDA, and aviation major Airbus.

The investigation agency on Friday conducted searches at several locations in Delhi, including offices and residences associated with the NGO, Advantage India, and the accused, over alleged misuse of the corporate social responsibility funds amounting to Rs 90.72 crore.

They violated norms under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), said CBI spokesman Abhishek Dayal.

All NGOs are required to be registered under the FCRA with the home ministry to receive foreign funding.

CBI officials said it is matter of investigation as to why the NGO was donated huge funds by defence and aviation firms.

Talwar told HT that he has nothing to do with the NGO any more: “I am no longer associated with it.”

Home ministry sources said Advantage India was first registered under the Societies Registration Act in 1999 with R Chand as president and Deepak Talwar as vice president.

It got FCRA registration in 2003.

The income tax department had conducted searches at the NGO’s premises in June 2016 and submitted a report to the home ministry last April.

The HT accessed the report.

The investigators found the NGO had shown purchases of mobile medical units (MMUs) from Accordis Healthcare Private Limited. They suspected that the Accordis showed bogus expenses and over-priced the MMUs, allegedly bought with the CSR funds.

The CBI also named Accordis and its then managing director Raman Kapoor and representative Sunil Khandelwal as accused in the FIR.

It was also found that non-existent addresses were written on the invoices, bank statements and vouchers of Accordis.

The report further revealed the NGO provided over draft facility to the tune of Rs 6.30 crore against its fixed deposits to Wave Impex Private Limited, a company allegedly controlled by Talwar.

The MBDA and Airbus did not offer any comment.

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NGO writes to Trump on concern against Elephants Poaching

Wildlife SOS, an NGO based in India, has petitioned US Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke against President Donald Trump’s proposed move of lifting a 2014 ban on import of elephants trophies from two African nations.

 

On Thursday, the Trump administration had reversed an Obama-era ban to issue permits for elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe, which environmental groups said would lead to more poaching.

However, after facing criticism from animal rights activists, Trump had yesterday put on hold the decision to import elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe into the US to “review all conservation facts”.

Co-founder of Wildlife SOS Kartick Satyanarayan said, “The argument has no scientific justification. As an organisation based in India where the government permits no such trophy, we can attest there are many other scientific ways to help wild populations without the need to hunt them.”

There is a need to not remove the existing protection measures that are in place for them, he said in a statement.

Nikki Sharp of the NGO, stationed in the US, said, “The announcement came as a shock to all of us. It’s an insult to everyone working to protect and conserve elephants, in particular in light of this supposed reasoning behind the decision — that hunting of these animals will enhance the survival of the species in the wild.”

“It is a massive step backward that will have direct and lethal effects on elephants,” Sharp said.

The number of elephants in the wild plummeted 30 percent overall between 2007 and 2014, despite large scale conservation efforts. In some places it has dropped more than 75 percent due to ivory poaching.

In 2016, there were just over 3,50,000 elephants still alive in the wild, down from millions in the early 20th century.

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Act against female genital mutilation, NGO urges Modi

Gandhi had assured us, that there would be a law for abolishing such practises and the government would bring in a new law to ban ‘khatna’.

(Representational image)

 

We Speak Out – An non-governmental organisation (NGO) of Bohra women’s group working to end female genital mutilation (FGM, also known as ‘khatna’), launched a new campaign urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action against FGM in India on Sunday. With the help of social media, the group is spreading awareness to end FGM. Politicians made promises to change these months ago, but action has been stalled, said one of the members of We Speak Out, the NGO.

The letter was tweeted to the PM on Sunday, on the juncture of World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse. Survivors of FGM associated with the NGO, which is practised by the many communities, have written an open letter urging him to declare FGM illegal in India.

Talking to The Asian Age, assembler Masooma Ranalvi (50), for We Speak Out said, “We have written on this matter to the Union minister of women and child development, Maneka Gandhi, six months ago but there has been no response from her side. Gandhi had assured us, that there would be a law for abolishing such practises and the government would bring in a new law to ban ‘khatna’. But an anything has moved from her desk till now so we have taken help of social media to spread a word across and make a strict law for this,” added Ms Ranalvi.

The letter written by We Speak Out, contained a plea to the Government of India to issue the advisories as promised, declaring FGM as an offence under the Indian Penal Code and The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The letter also said that, “FGM is a form of sexual violence that has deep emotional, sexual and physical consequences, with many of these consequences continuing throughout an adult woman’s life. It is time to end this harmful practice that causes pain and suffering to women and girls. We urge you to issue a statement to all concerned, especially the leaders of the community who protect and promote this tradition.”

 

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