Monthly Archives: July 2015

RIP Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam


kalam1 kalam2 kalam3 kalam4 kalam5 kalam6 kalam7


Nepal: Gadhimai temple pledges to look away from animal killings

Source: Indian Express

Breaking from a tradition of centuries, the trust of the Gadhimai temple in Nepal, notorious for the wanton sacrifice of thousands of animals on the premises every five years, has announced an end to all future killings. Pujaris at the temple will now “sacrifice” coconuts, pumpkins and sundry other offerings instead.

Gadhimai is a sacrificial ceremony held every five years at the temple in Bariyarpur, some distance from Kathmandu. A large number of Indians, especially from Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, travel to Nepal for the festival during which buffaloes, goats, pigs, rats and chicken are sacrificed to please the presiding deity of the temple, Kali, a practice that is said to date back 250 years. The last Gadhimai festival happened in November 2014, and an estimated 35,000 animals were sacrificed.

In a statement released Tuesday, Ramchandra Shah, chairman of the Gadhimai Temple Trust, said: “The Gadhimai Temple Trust hereby declares our formal decision to end animal sacrifice… We can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is free from bloodshed. Moreover we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life.”

Mangal Chaudhry Tharu, the temple’s chief pujari whose family has held the post for 11 generations and who has travelled to India to spread the word about the decision, said the bloody sacrifice every five years had disturbed them too but people’s faith always got the better of every other consideration. “We have been wanting to stop this practice too because it is very gory. But people have their own beliefs, they think Kali will feel happy by bloodshed, she will bless them with children. I am just a pujari, I would only pray for good sense among people. Now that it has happened we will sacrifice vegetables but no longer animals,” he said.

Animal rights activists who have campaigned for years to stop the vicious practice rejoiced at the initial victory in having won the temple trust over. They emphasised, however,the need to undertake development work in the area around the temple and also to spread the word among Indian devotees to ensure that the practice does not make a comeback on some pretext or the other ahead of the next festival in 2019.

“We commend the temple committee but acknowledge that a huge task lies ahead of us in educating the public so that they are fully aware. We will now spend the next three-and-a-half years till the next Gadhimai educating devotees in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal on the temple trusts’ decision not to sacrifice animals,” said Gauri Maulekhi, consultant with animal rights organisation Humane Society Internationale who had petitioned the Supreme Court of India to stop illegal animal trafficking ahead of last year’s festival.

Empow(d)ered woman -Indu Balachandran

Indu Balachandran is the author of "Don’t Go Away, We’ll Be Right Back: The Oops and Downs of Advertising"

Forget fairness creams and powders. Welcome to the bold new face of women in Indian advertising

Earlier, if an Indian woman was seen coming out of the closet, it was usually with some cleaning implements in hand; to make the floor sparkle and shine — before her husband brought his muddied boots home from the office. Now, it is to declare her sexual preference, not her floor-cleaner preference. Jai ho, Indian advertising!

Even as the recent Myntra commercial sold clothes woven around a story of two women (deeply in love with dressing, and each other), came the news of a shattering of glass ceilings; a noise heard around the world of international advertising. India had won the Cannes Grand Prix for a P&G campaign: The Glass Lion for addressing gender inequality and prejudices.

This brand new category created quite a buzz at Cannes, the ultimate award show celebrating the best of advertising from around the world. India, rife with gender inequalities and stereo types, seemed a happy Lion-hunting ground, and had some worthy contenders for this most coveted prize. And win India did — not once; but twice, with two path-breaking ideas for P&G.

‘Touch the Pickle’ for sanitary pads directly addressed and defied a ridiculous Indian taboo that a girl who has her periods should never touch the pickle jar, as it would cause its contents to rot. The phrase was a war-cry to challenge many other hushed no-nos that we in India know so well: don’t enter the kitchen, don’t play vigorous sports, don’t enter a temple. This provocative insight by Creative head Josy Paul’s team at BBDO, Mumbai, was the core idea that freed sanitary pads from coy references to ‘those four days’, not to mention doing away with the mandatory brand-demo every client insists on putting in; (undoubtedly confusing a lot of ignorant males that girls ‘bleed blue’ once a month).

The Indian win was even more creditable as it beat the Internet favourite #Likeagirl campaign from the American sanitary pad brand Always. After winning the Facebook Award just a week earlier, Likeagirl somehow paled into an already-heard-that-one idea. To the jury (eight women, two men) of the Glass Lions Award, ‘Touch the Pickle’ must have scored high on quaintness and Third-World charm, even as they exclaimed to the press: “This is a gender issue that impacts every single woman worldwide, it’s innovative and disruptive, entertaining and engaging…” They were also referring to the huge body of work supporting the idea — from TEDx talks to stand-up comedy routines — that made Whisper shout it out for young girls. (Curiously, not against male prejudice, but women themselves — elder women perpetuating age-old meaningless customs, despite suffering so much themselves as teenagers.) True, not one of those modern upper-class girls depicted in the ad would’ve even heard about that pickle superstition; but the insight became a curious catch-phrase to build up a huge ‘movement’ around the brand. The results were stunning too: Whisper’s share of voice went up from 21 per cent to a remarkable 91 per cent.

And then lightning struck twice in the same place: BBDO won for fighting gender bias — again! This time, not that strike of lightning we know so well telling us how to get whiter whites but a detergent brand that put laundry advertising in a new spin altogether.

The main TV commercial shows a very real-life drama unfold, even in the most liberated of Indian homes. An elderly lady comments on how far working women have come, and even shares with her friend, the fact that her daughter-in-law earns more than her son — said with a hint of pride, and no prejudice. Even if the commercial had ended right there, it would’ve been a strong message to society that it’s ok for a woman to earn more, even the son’s mother doesn’t have an ego problem… Just as we are silently applauding the moment, we hear an interaction between the daughter-in-law, busy with her laptop, and her banian-clad husband. “Why didn’t you wash my green shirt yesterday, yaar?” asks he, in mild annoyance. Three women turn very slowly to look at the man. In the moment of profound silence that follows, comes the sledge-hammer of a thought: Why is laundry only a woman’s job? Silence. Ariel. #ShareTheLoad.

It is easy to understand how this ad resonated with every member of the jury, even without cultural contexting. In 90 per cent of urban Indian households, laundry is considered a woman’s job — not just for ensuring promotions at work for the husband, or an impromptu dance with the adoring slave-wife, as she puts out the tightie-whities to dry. Housewives almost always operate the washing machines…as many men, it appears, who so love the knobs and touch-screens of their cars and music systems, can’t figure out the dials of washing machines, and anyway who has the time to separate coloureds and whites and dainties. Perhaps a dirty secret of even first-world Western households…

In a witty ad campaign that uses humour rather than strident berating, P&G pushed guilt-struck males into sharing the load, and even earn bragging rights, by blogging about it in a contest that took off like a washed handkerchief in the wind. Extensions of this huge core idea found their way to celeb fashion designers endorsing their labels, quite literally: “Can be washed by both men & women’’ said the label at the collar. Next, the most watched-space for young men and women was hit too, with Ariel. “Will you Share the Load of household chores with your partner” appeared on online Matrimonial websites. A moment for reflection for every male chauvinist contemplating marriage, for sure.

The banter-with-a-serious message continued with encounters with newly wed celebrity couples. The message Share the Load, percolated to many other household chores. The dabbawallahs of Mumbai carried the message on their shirts, even as they delivered lunch-boxes (lovingly filled by the wife at home, perhaps). But even as one senses the fun the agency must’ve had coming up with this good-humoured washing of dirty linen in public, the dazzling results came in: sales registered an increase of 60 per cent as women must have added Ariel Matic to their shopping cart to further remind the man of the house that it’s not about who wears the pants but who washes them too.

Cannes awards apart, we can look back on the past year and recollect a number of gender-benders that have hash-tagged their way to fame. Havells had ideas as endless as their gadgets. One laugh-out loud example: at a girl-seeing-ceremony, the mommy-ji laments that her darling phoren-returned son seeking a wife suffers so much in his bachelor life abroad, stepping out even for coffee. Thump! The defiant girl firmly places her coffee-maker before the startled boy, saying take this one and settle down, no visa problem either; as she herself wants to be a wife, not a kitchen appliance. Havells#Respectforwomen. Undoubtedly!

The much-hailed Titan Raga went on from its widow re-marriage theme, to showing poised single women moving with the times, despite running into ex-lovers at airports making dumb observations (“we could’ve made it work, if only you’d quit working”). Nimrit Kaur’s amused rejoinder said it for all of us who encounter retrograde male attitudes.

The Airtel wife-who’s actually-the-boss. The Bournvita competitive mom. The Fastrack convention-defying teen. The HDFC parent-supporting daughter. The Sofy imnotdown Gal.

What a different face of the woman of today! One wonders if planners in ad agencies arrive for work with a checklist in hand, ready to pin their next advertising message on a sharp arrow that carries a gender issue shooting out of TV screens. Well, we’ve had them push the pay-packet envelope already with the Ariel ad, but why, wonders my friend in advertising, didn’t they push that Whisper insight to a far edgier level than the rather unheard-of but cute ‘Touch the Pickle’ superstition? Isn’t ‘Enter the temple’ the more real and prevalent issue to highlight?

Meanwhile, it is refreshing to take the conversation away from the clichéd fairness creams and powders that once represented the empowered woman. Or the ‘empow(d)ered’ woman, as a wag put it. With gender-fighting enzymes and ego-boosting enhancers, Indian advertising is firmly keeping stride with today’s aware Indian woman.

Indu Balachandran is the author of Don’t Go Away, We’ll Be Right Back: The Oops and Downs of Advertising.

After Oil, India to build a ‘Strategic Uranium Reserve’


NEW DELHI: After a record production this year, India is working on creating a ‘strategic uranium reserve’ to ensure its atomic power reactors do not face shortage of the crucial nuclear fuel.

“The reserve pool could be anywhere between 5000 MT to 15,000 MT which can last for 5-10 years,” said a senior government official.

A proposal for stocking 5000 MT of uranium has been sent to the Cabinet for approval but the cap is likely to increase in the coming years.

Over the past one year, India has been pursuing its case to buy uranium from different countries including Australia and Canada. It is also procuring uranium from Russia for its indigenous reactors. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kazakhstan last week, India renewed a contract with the Central Asian country to procure 5000 MT of uranium.

After Hyderabad another Nuclear Fuel Complex is coming up in Kota in Rajasthan, sources said.

“For all these years, we could not think of having a reserve like other countries have due to the impending sanctions. But now we can think of working to build a reserve of nuclear fuel.

“We are mostly depending on the uranium from Australia. Once we start getting it, we can start building the reserve. Uranium from Kazakhstan will largely meet the current demand. It is a rare commodity, so one should keep piling it whenever it is available at a cheaper rate in the international market,” the official added.

Under the Indo-US nuclear deal, the latter is to support India?s initiative for having a nuclear pool. “The United States will support an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of India’s reactors,” the agreement states.

Indian reactors had been “under-performing” as they did not get enough fuel from the outside world prior to the historic Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement due to sanctions. However, since its inception, India has started importing uranium from Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and France.

In a major milestone, India this year registered a record production of over 1,252 MT of uranium, manufacturing close to double the annual fuel requirement of atomic reactors in the country. The production has far exceeded the country’s annual fuel requirement of 650 MT for the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), which means the country has surplus nuclear fuel that will last several months.

Every 700 MW of reactor needs 125 MT of uranium every year. However, with the rising number of power reactors in the country, the demand is expected to rise. In the near future, two nuclear reactors of 700 MW each in Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) and Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) are coming up. Four atomic reactors of 700 MW each are also coming up at the Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojana (GHAVP).

Fuel for Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu and Jaitapur in Maharashtra, coming up in collaboration with Russia and France respectively, will be made available by the foreign players.

Demand Justice for Animals campaign spreads to 20 cities

So far 76 animals, including seven elephants, have been rescued from seven circuses in India
“Recognise all animals as sentient beings”. This was the demand put forth by animal activists on July 17, which is celebrated as the International Day of Justice.

“Animals of all species are left outside the ambit of the justice system,” said campaign co-ordinator of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO).

The Demand Justice for Animals campaign began on July 3 and has spread to 20 cities in India with thousands of people standing up in support and popularising the hashtag #JusticeforAnimals on Instagram and Facebook.

“Each day, hens are made to live in cramped and confined conditions, cows survive in industrialised systems with painful udder infections, while animals are made to perform unnatural tricks in circuses that taught through methods which are nothing short of barbaric. A minimum sensitivity towards all animals is long overdue,” added Priyanka.

Dr. R.M. Kharb, chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), noted that the faces of injustice against animals are multifarious.

“Not only is the Kerala dog culling order in violation of the Supreme Court’s view, it also marks a regressive step for animal justice. In the light of such orders, demanding inclusion of animal justice into our laws and government has become the need of the hour,” he said.

Today, it is widely recognised that animals experience happiness, fear, anger and physical pain just like humans.

More and more countries are now recognising animals as sentient beings – New Zealand being the latest addition.

The movement notes that all animals deserve the right to live without fear, to express free will and to live in a natural environment without the threat of captivity, exploitation or cruelty by human beings.

FIAPO’s Arpan Sharma explains: “We’ve recently launched a campaign to end the suffering of animals in circuses. So far we have rescued 76 animals, including seven elephants from seven circuses in India.”

“With International Justice Day, the idea has been to invite the public to participate in a dialogue about animal rights, demanding sentience for all living beings, with over 34 events in 20 cities. We have been successful,” Arpan added.

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