Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Takeout Restaurant

Pittsburgh(America) has a restaurant with a bright blue stirefront sunny, yellow lettering among a city block of white brick building.; However, if you intend to go there alone or with friends ,sit around a table ,relish political or office discussions with the delicacies offered you will be disappointed.There are no tables and chairs. And if you think that it is packed food restaurant and approach the counter you will find that they have only one item to —a wrap sandwich from Iran called kubideh.

You may walk out rather dismayed but then you do not know what innovations the restauranters will adopt to establish their unique identities. But if you liked that Iranian sandwich and again call at the restaurant you will find that this Iranian dish is not available. Wondering if they have some other Iranian delicacy when you enquire you are dumbfound to know that it has now shifted to Afghanistan, then North Korea or Venezuela. It calls itself Conflict Kitchen. ,a takeout café designed and run byu artists hoping to start conversation with you customers and among you customers about countries which are at present in conflict with America.

They disarmingly admit that they are not expert cooks in foreign dishes.It is just taking a chance for the public to set thinking. May be their interest is culinary and they would like to have a formula for the dish. But there are also others who ask questions about the unusual restaurang and its ever changing menu. May be in some cases the conversation will lead to matters about Iran,North Korea of Venezuela or any other country whose dish they are marketing that day These talks then may turn to topics about these countries On weekdays the restaurant mayu host a live online discussion and meal with a group of people say from Iran, North Kiorea of Venezuela or any other country which is at cross purposes with America.

This was initially the brainchild of Robin who developed it with other artists and theConflict Kitchen thus evolved from friendly competetion with a neighbourhood hot doz stand

The artists wanted to offer something moiré than food. The food for thought. They found that moist people only know about certain countries through what they read of hear in the news. So they decided to use food from different countries as a medium to get people thinking

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Will it be a good idea of Shiv Sainik opening similar restaurants in Bihar offering only Marathi dishes. Or vice versa. May be the Biharees would relish the Marathi purunpoli and fall into discussion about its method of preparation .

Together with a better appreciation of the method of preparing purun poli the Biharees will find that the Marathas are after all not as bad as they thought when they were in Mumbai

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cow is our Mother : Authority USA and China.

Recently I was glad to read in the papers that the Governments of both USA and also China have granted patents of cow urine as a drug. We knew it all along over generations but such confirmation, especially by countries who value cow basically for her food value makes us all the more happy.. It appears that it has also received two similar patents earlier.’ --one conforming its drug availability enhancing property and theother for its anti-cancer and anti-infective properties. China has also recognized its anti-oxidant and cell permeability enhancing properties.

Thus the efforts of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) joint experiment onGomutra Ark formulation have now been validated. The Chinese patent (100475221) and the US Patent(7718360) was received on May 18,2010. Both the patents have certified that the composition is useful for protection of and/or repairing DNA from oxidative damages. DNA oxidation is known to be the cause cancer.

Mr. Tapan Chakrawartri, acting Director of told media persons at the press conference at Nagpur ‘Many patients, some of them terminally ill with diseases like cancer, have come to the Go vigyan Kendra for treatment and have claimed to have benefited from the Gomutra Ark .Earlier Mr.Raghunath Mashelkar Director General of CISR was impressed by the work of the Kendra and offered partnership of CSIR with it.

All this is indeed quite creditable. The RSS is actively associated with this project and in fact is a partner in it. In fact this is a pet project of RSS .While as Indian we have been aware of the drug potentialities of gomutra we had not taken an initiative to obtain a patent for it after following due procedure. Had it not done this some American company would have applied for the patent. This has happened in many cases and India (and even Pakistan) had to lodge strong protests and guard our interests. Had this not happened we would have to take the drug as a medicine by purchasing it from America.

The RSS whose popular image in the society is one of holding Shakhas only and even the shakhas are nowadays are very well attended. However, it has shown examplry initiative

Friday, June 18, 2010

Money Orders

Transfers of money otherwise than through post offices or banks is not new to India. In fact, it predates them. But more than that this parallel facility of transferring money not only nationally but also internationally still obtains and is going strong. In fact, it is resorted to more than these official venues especially where the money that is changing hands is Black Money.. So implicit is the faith among this fraternity that inspite of the fact there is no record of either receipt or transfer or receipt at the other end of the money being transferred and consequently no remedy available in case of accidental or deliberate default there is no remedy available except through the ‘Dadas’.The private mail carriers, an institution which has come up recently, is also a good medium for the purpose. However, there are specific indications on the acceptance of a mail for carrying that the maximum liability of the carrier is restricted to a mere hundred rupees in case of delay or failure in delivery or even loss in transit. Consequently resort to these services for transfer of money is subdued. Moreover even the legal validity of the mail carrier service is also problematic as sometime ago the Department of Post Offices was thinking of these services as an encroachment on their monopoly of the carrier business. Besides this the charges for the mail carrier services are also quite high vis-à-vis the proverbial penny postage also acts as a deterrent to its use. The availing of these services is restricted more of less to business houses.

For money transfers banks, which are spread all over come in very handy. With their efficient internal mechanism they are in a position to effect transfer of money from one end of the country to another quite efficient and quick.

However, with the introduction of Mobiles and its quick spread all over was destined to help the talkers not only in having a heart-full of talks(if that is humanly possible) but also come in actually handy(which it certainly is) in helping the jaw-jaw with also not only making oral promises but also actual transfers of money.

Of all countries it is Kenya from the so called Dark Continent of Africa, has pioneered this movement. It is almost like magic. By clicking a few keys on your mobile phone ,money can be rapped from one part of Kenya to another in seconds. For city workers wanted to send money home to their villages formerly they had to queue up before banks for hours. Similarly town-dwellers even where the municipal dues and school fees could be paid through bank had to similarly queue up. No wonder this service is used by 95 lakh people or almost a quarter of Kenya’s GDP each year. The service is run by Safaricom.

However, this apparently frictionless transfer of money through air needs a good deal of backstage effort. The basic idea of his scheme known as M-PESA is that one lakh small retailers who sell mobile phone airtime (Scratch cards) can also register themselves to be mobile-money agents. taking in and paying out cash. Approximately twenty thousand retailed have signed dup as M-PESA agents.When a registered customer he has to exchange physical money for the virtual sort called ‘e-float’.The money is credited to his mobile-money account He can then transfer the money by his mobile.It can then be exchanged for cash by the recipient by visiting other agent.

It is quite simple enough for the customer but the agents, especially in cities where most transactions are deposits accumulate cash and risk running out of e-float. At that point they cannot take in any more deposits. On the other hand the agents in rural areas where most of the transactrions are withdrawals accumulate e-float and risk running out of cash. This necessitates the agents to manage their liquidity .by regularly swapping cash for e-floatd or vice versa. This involves visits to banks affiliated with Safaricom.. In fact the whole point of the system or systems like it is to reach where banks cannot. For this purpose the organization relies on intermediaries between agents and banks. Through their own networs these intermediaries take onmuch of the work of ferrying cash around the country.On an average each M-PESA agent now handles almost one hundred transactions every day.

Organisations like Safaricom have sprung up elsewhere.The biggest among them is MTN. It is rolling out such scheme in severalAfrican countries. In Uganda they have signed up almost 10 lakh users within almost a year. And the number may reach 20 lakhs by the end of this year.

The use of mobile phones in increasing by leaps and bound in India. Can we make a better use of it than just jaw-jaw as above?

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Indinan Rice but Foreign Dal

Can you relish such a recipe?

But is recipe you are destined to have in future if the recommendations of the Group of Ministers(GOP) are accepted. We will have rice with dal from Canada, Mynamar ,Australia and Argentina.. Of course you can take relief in the knowledge that these pulses are grown on land there taken on lease by and perhaps also tilled and cultivated by Indians. And believe me what is going to happen is that the ‘apne gharme banlo mal’ dal will go to the rich houses and you and me would have to do with the imported stuff and while gulping it down with water try to remain contented with this realisation .Perhaps even the GOP was feeling rather guilty making this recommendation and so have added that ‘Don’t we get oil from foreign wells for our cars.?” Conveniently overlooking that we do this for we do not have enough oil wells.
But we certainly have enough land and to spare! Even under pulses and not too long ago we have been exporting pulses. I remember around 1983 when tur dal was available at Rs. 3/- a kg. It was fetching Rs. 12/- a kg. in the Gulf and was being exported to it on a large scale. It did lead to an increase in domestic prices to Rs. 7/- a kg. which was rather high but , as they say, we ‘stomached it.’ Besides the Gulf countries the country also exported pulses to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan UAE and Nepal. In the year 2005-06 India's total exports stood 447.440 thousand tones.. However, subsequently exports were banned,
One of the major supply constraints in pulses is its stagnant acreage over the years. Limited availability of cultivable land, stagnation in cropping intensity due to no growth in irrigation facilities and depleting water resources, have relegated pulses to poor returns/yields. Thus, pulses have gained the status of residual crop during kharif sowing season.

Sluggish growth in yield of pulses over the years is another major reason behind the sluggish growth/stagnation in their production. Even during the green revolution period, the yield growth in pulses remained subdued as the focus was on the major crops like wheat, rice and oilseeds.

Consequently pulses acreage is restricted to relatively poor and rainfed land, which further inhibits yield growth. Thus pulses sowing takes place as a last resort due to lack of ideal conditions for other major crops like grains and oilseeds. The pulses are not an important crop for human consumption in the other major developed and some of the developing economies and are mainly used for animal feed purpose(You may remember that Yellow Mello Jowar(The Red Jowar) imported from Argentina in the Rationing Days was actually animal fodder there). The exports to overseas markets are limited. Thus, if the production of pulses in the largest producing nation dips, it becomes difficult for the global markets to fill up the gap.

Further, in the scenario of depleting water resources in the country, pulses hold a great promise, as they require relatively less water than other major crops. With growing competition among various crops for the available land, the farmers are ignoring the pulses due to their poor returns on lower. Following is the production of pulses in India.

The Normal area under pulses is 224.60 lakh ha including Kharif, Rabi and Summer. The area under pulses during Kharif season of 2008-09 is estimated at 88.44 lakh hectare which is 81.42% of normal Kharif area. However, prolonged rainy season in Kharif has brightened prospects of increased production of Rabi pulses. The contribution of Kharif and Rabi/Summer seasons to the normal production of pulses is 37% and 63% respectively.

The production of pulses has increased from 83.50 lakh tonnes in 1966-67 to 151.12 lakh tonnes in 2007-08.

Among the cultivation promotion schemes of the government include-
1. Integrated Scheme of Oileeds, Pulses, Oil Palm and Maize (ISOPOM) in 14 major pulses growing State.

2. National Food Security Mission-Pulses launched in 2007-08 being implemented in 171 identified district of 14 major pulses growing States with objective to enhance production of pulses by 20.00 lakh tonnes by the 11th Five Year Plan.

3. Macro Management of Agriculture (MMA) Scheme which provides assistance to the States not covered under ISOPOM.

4. Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) under which States can undertake Pulses Development Programme.

It will be seen from the above that :Pulses production , even if it does not need highly fertile soil and lots of water has been neglected in the ‘Grow More Food Campaigns. From depending on every fourth roti we ate at the time on American wheat we have attained the status of exporters of wheat. Since many an Indian are vegetarians, pulses provide a necessary food ingredient of their diet they cannot be deprived of access to pulses at affordable rates . This factor should be taken into account and a determined efforts need to be launched to increase indigenous production of pulses and make up for the lost time since the Green Revolution As I said our abject dependence on foreign imports of foodgrains had at one time created the impression that India will be permanently begging at other’s door for ‘roti’ but with determined efforts we not only overcame it but because positive exporters. It should not be difficult for us to repeat the feat in pulses depending entirely on our land and resources. If we could spend the Thirty Thousand Crores that we are annually incurring for imports of pulses not only would this sum remain within our own borders but also used for the welfare of our own people.

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The GOP recommendations are defeatist in nature and should be fought back.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tobacco as a Cosmetic!

Tobacco as a Cosmetic!

The name tobacco has become almost an anathema now-a-days. The cigarette, smoking of which had almost assumed a status symbol has now to be indulged in when nobody is looking on and that too pull up a few, quick smokes and ward of the evil smoke. This was also so initially for it was bad manners to smoke in the presence of the seniors. I remember my visit to a village head, a senor man who had fallen on evil days. His two junior brothers were sitting by. Suddenly one junior brother asked the elder to look the other way. Thinking that he was pointing out to something interesting I also turned my eyes in the same direction but did not find anything noteworthy. When I brought my eyes to the original position I found the two juniors having a smoke and the senior’s eyes still turned away. It was apparently an attempt to keep up appearances of honouring the elders.

I was associated with tobacco in my career not as a smoker but as a revenue officer collecting taxes on the produce. The proposal for levy of tax on tobacco was first mooted in 1924 but each succeeding Finance Minister has tried to avoid going in for it. The popular phrase going round the finance ministries at the time was NIMTOL(Not in my time, O Lord). The imposition and collection of a tax on tobaccowhich was the first unmanufactured product to be taxcd was a challenge and no finance minister dared to risk his reputation by resorting to the levy. However, will-nilly the government was forced to it during 1942 , in the middle of the WWII years. The fears of the finance ministers were not misplaced. To build up a record of tobacco grown and ensuring that it reaches the market and pays the tax before it goes into consumption was indeed a difficult job. As a field officer I was never sure that I have registered all tobacco growers spread over the villages and that the produce had reached the market from where it went into consumption after payment of the duty due.We were strictly advised that our interest in registering the crops was only statistical in nature but as usually happens this statistical interest deteriorated into an instrument of harassment of the farmers. The inevitable effect was that cultivation of tobacco went down. I remember that in the Marathwada the banks of the river in the Gangakhed Taluka were always green with tobacco cultivation but soon they disappeared and replaced by other crops having no tax implications. The abrupt abolition of this tax by Mr..Charansingh ,the then Prime Minister for ‘Aut Ghataka’ did free the farmer from the ‘statistical interest’ of government but in any case the consumption of tobacco has progressively tended to come down what with the adverse health effect, the looking down upon chewing of tobacco(and spitting all over) and the smoking of the deshi biris Cigarette smoking remained in the upper echelons of the society as it always was and its smoking taken up largely by some under the fond impression that they looked like members of that society had also tended to come down. The prohibition of cigarette advertisements and looking down upon showing smoking scenes in pictures has further helped to wean away the smokers. The smoking of cigarette ,especially by girls was at one time taken as a sign of social liberation but even this has tended to come down. Even a matinee idol like SRK has been openly criticised for stubbornly pulling at it. There are also suggestions of making the No Smoking messages on the cigarette packets more aggressive than just tame suggestion ‘Smoking in injurious to health’ are also in the air(Hope they do not end into to make)

While this is happening for the greatest good of the greatest numbers a better way is to find alternative uses of tobacco for tobacco is still a significant produce of India. As the smoking ban is there almost the world over the prospect of finding out export market for tobacco are not very encouraging. However, alternatives and more constructive uses for tobacco could be found. Scientists have made a beginning in this direction from Israel. They have developed a substance from the plant that they claim could be used for, of all things, beauty enhancement. So far smoking of cigarettes the way Rajnikant does was considered an inimitable way to attract attention but no, the scientists have found out a way to use it as a beauty product as it is. Prof. Oded Shoseyov of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has succeeded in producing from tobacco plants a replica of human collagen—the main protein in skin,tendons,bone,cartilage and connective tissues. As we grow old this protein declines ,showing the effect in wrinkles that set in. Of course there are a number of beauty products which claim to help us to hide them but the new synthetic collagen which is currently being marketed for medical purposes such as bone and heart repairs may someday be used cosmetically.Then perhaps the use of tobacco by women will not be looked down upon.

Hope we are also undertaking such research in our universities. It will help protect the undulating tobacco fields. In any case initially tobacco cultivation had been undertaken in India (coming from America via Britain) was essentially for improving the quality of the soil. It had little, if any, commercial aspect. Fields used to be alternated between tobacco and grain crops, which ensured high yields. The cultivation of tobacco by itself had no marketing implications. With the demand for tobacco going down on account of the sustained campaign against smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption the discovery of an alternative and constructive use for tobacco may help the sagging tobacco plants in the fields.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Record Breakers

We frequently hear about somebody bringing this record or that record and that his name has been recorded in that years Guinness Book of World Records. Last year a 15 year boy has climbed the highest mountain peak –The Everest but this year two years’ his junior has achieved this feat.One wonder that a peak which was considered as unscalable by human till as late as 1953 has not only been captured but captured a number of times and not the peak or the bottom of it is this news as a child who has just touched the border of teenage has conquered it. The Everest must have bowed down not as an insult but with his head heavy with the pride of mankind which not only preserved this dream but also realized it again and again and again.

There are a few such records which remind us of the words of Hamlet,’ "What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! " Hamlet quote (Act II, Sc. II).

The minimum thermometer reading of an woman Mary Davis of Wisconsin(America) was 60 degree Farenheit.

A British hospital recorded the temperature of a patient as 114. The patient was Christopher. And the recording was on 9.2.1924.

The weight of the brain of the famous Russian writer Evon Turgnevh was 4 Lbs.6.7 ozs.The average weight of human brain is 2 Lbs.13 oxs.

In 1854 Dr. W.Dirge refers to man with four eyes. The additional two eyes were located on his forehead(like the Third of Lord Shankar). He used to see things with all his four eyes.

Giants are there but giantesses are almost unheard of even in mythology.Even the wife of the 10 heaeded monster Ravan was an ordinary one headed woman of normal build.But there was one Flora Jex who weighed 840 kgs.at the time of her death.

The the two ideal twins in the world were Bill and Brain.of Carolines(Caliphornia, America) One weighed 660 and another 640n pounds.

We say only Time is Two Faced-one in front and another at the back,looking to the future but also not losing sight of the past. One Englishman Edward had two faces similarly situated. But even though the face at the back was complete with eyes,nose and mouth . But while those eyes did have some vision the moutn could at most produce a sound of whistle. Good thing ,we may say, it saved him from double talk.

You may have come across people who are almost always yawning and yawning loudly. It need not necessarily mean they are tired or bored but is a malady.In 1888 there was a girl aged 15 which always yawned.. One such yawn actually lasted for five weeks.

The bonniest child ever born was Ellis How ,born on Ocvtober 12,1969.When he was just two years old he weighed 50 pounds and was 35.75 inches in circumference.

Dr.White says that one man had 13 fingers in each hand and 12 in each foot.

On 10th March 1967 a woman Maria Tery gave birth to eight babies in one birth. Their combined weight was nine and a half pounds. This is the only instance whtn so many children were delivered in one delivery.

Norway’s Heiss Langth has the longest beard—17-odd feet long.There was a competetor Rochard Litter whose beard
was six inches longer.But it is not as much thick.

A slim waist is a sign of beauty.The French actress Mali Polari. She has just a suggestion of waist—hardly13 inches.She was related to the French Court.

Luria Jebart of Mexico was the lightest living individual.

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