Father told me that stealing is wrong. But what the hell, let´s hear it for Roopa of Hanumanthanagar, who Deccan Herald reports has been “resorting to vehicle-lifting as a means to earn fast and easy bucks”. Ms. Roopa, 22, took to stealing cars, but unfortunately was nabbed at Russel Market in Shivajinagar while trying to drive off with a Maruti 800 of someone other than herself. I am sorry that she was nabbed, only sociologically speaking, for women turning car-thieves is in this sense a positive phenomenon. Let´s debate if you so like. Go to the other extreme of the sociological scale, in Pakistan´s Punjab where 266 women (some barely in their teens) were victims of honour killings during the past year. In all of Pakistan, about 600 women were burnt to death or otherwise murdered by own family members viciously angered by true or untrue allegations of impropriety. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which published these statistics, also noted “a significant increase in the death of married women because of stove bursts”, reports the United News of India. We all know what that means.
Back to some levity. It seems to me, reading this Associated Press of Pakistan piece carried by The News that someone in that land of the pure is trying to turn back the clock on women´s emancipation. Housework, its seems, “can benefit your body in addition to putting a sparkling shine in your home”. So what´s the breakdown? An average (lady) of 130 pounds will expend 1.0 calorie per minute while sleeping and 1.2 while surfing the Net, but watch the walloping exercise potential of household chores: making the bed 2.1, carrying out the trash 2.6, carrying an infant 3.6, sweeping floors 4.1, washing windows or walls 4.6, carrying 1-15 pound loads upstairs 5.2 and carrying groceries 8.3. Ah so, house-cleaning 15 minutes in the morning is equal to three hours of slogging at the gym a week, so what purpose the latter?!
Rangoon´s military authorities have allowed the first privately-owned newspaper in Burma, and I welcome it so far as it goes. The Myanmar Times will be an all-colour weekly printed in “high quality imported paper” and priced at a steep USD 2 a copy. The editorin-chief is afirangi, a Mr (no first name given) Dunkley who was previously involved with Vietnam´s government-owned Vietnam Investment Review. This gentleman, presumably Australian, who has teamed up with a local investor, U Than Naing, to publish the paper, writes in a front-page announcement that the “joint venture is the first major step in aiming to broaden the world´s perspective on Myanmar”. Now that as far as I can see is code-speak, for the world does understand Burma and its fine and upright military rulers. Editor Dunkley says that his paper is aimed at a while collar audience and 60-70 percent of its readership will comprise of ´Myanmar people´. He adds that the The Myanmar Times represents “the first truly free press in the nation for more than three decades”. One certainly hopes, and one shall see, for all indications thus far point to someone trying to make a fast buck on a depressed country.
A three dayMillennium Cytopathology Conference was opened in Islamabad by the Federal Health Minister Abdul Malik Kansi, “who lauded the efforts of the organisers for holding the first conference of the world in new millennium on cytopathology in Pakistan”. Other than the question of Pakistani Pride, which I would not grudge the good minister for a moment, I wonder if he went away from the ribbon-cutting any wiser than he was when he came to it, on the meaning of cytopathology, which neither you nor I know.
In his Deccan Herald media column Blue Pencil, G.S. Bhargava decides to turn his attention to an all-too neglected institution in these days of television and informatics: radio, and Akashvani in particular. Bhargava rues the fact that in media-related debates in India, All India Radio hardly ever figures. After all, 80-year-old Akashvani has a reach of 97.3 percent of India´s population covering 90 percent of the country´s area. It has all of 300 transmitters, and reaches 100 million radio sets in the country. It broadcasts in 18 languages. Talking of programme content, Bhargava praises AIR for presenting a “fairly comprehensive fare”, including classical music, talk shows that focus on public health, education and science, and programmes targetted to women, children and the elderly, as well as linguistic minorities. Here, at last, is an analyst who knows to look through the maze of print and video to realise that indeed the most democratic of media is radio, never mind that it is the most neglected by the economic elite and policy-makers of all our countries.
If my Indian geography serves me right, the Lalbagh botanical gardens of Bangalore is a fair distance from the Indian Northeast. And so I felt good upon seeFlower Show (accompanying picture). Of course they might well be Nepalis or Bhutanese.
Thankfuly , the furore over children trying to copy Shaktiman and jump off high rooftops has died down, as I never really did believe that the show should have been penalised. But for something not entirely different, here´s news from Rawalpindi from the agency PPI that parents are demanding the recall of “lizard shaped candies” from the market. Why? “Children mistake the original lizards for toffees. They catch the rough-skinned reptile and try to swallow it without knowing that they are tasting death,” a mother said.
ournalists, long known to journalists all over South Asia for his promotion of regional cooperation in media affairs, is now nicely ensconced once again as Pakistan´s information minister (the actual title in these semi-martial laws is “Adviser” to Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf Information and Media Development). Jabbar was minister long before this, for a while, under Benazir Bhutto. And the adviser has apparently used his knowledge of media issues to push through the cabinet a decision to allow private cable television channels to operate in Pakistan. The government is accordingly inviting applications. Clarifying that allowing cable television channels was not the same as allowing private television channels (“which is content origination”), Jabbar said that the cable would in time allow even the poor and the middle class to access the Internet, for which presently you need to own a computer. The adviser-saheb seems to be on the right track.
In a self-congratulatory note upon achieving its 10th anniversary, the editor of a Kathmandu English weekly in mid-February fell for the misplaced journalistic heroics that seems to afflict so many of his Nepali media colleagues. He bemoans “the erosion of political values” as the reason why his own paper and the Nepali media scenario as a whole has not done well, which is case of being quite clueless. Who is kidding whom? Does the editor not realise that the fault lies in the lack of caring and daring journalists rather than in the constitution, the laws, the bureaucracy or the political situation and politicians?
The only real hurdle to economic advance in Bangladesh at this stage seems to be the enmity between the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Awami League, and their leaders Begum Khaleda Zia and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed. It was therefore appropriate that the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry decided to open their annual meet in Dhaka by giving the two ladies a unique gift two identical saree pieces, “to symbolise the thirst and urge for national unity for boosting the economy”. The colour, print and stripe of the two pieces are the same. Now the question remains: will Madam Zia and Sheikh Hasina be caught wearing the same saree to the same function?
An obit in The Bangladesh Observer says that “Shahajadi Bibi, a linguist of Mirpur, died on Tuesday night due to old age complications.” She was 101. Oh, well.
Sri lanka is small enough and its bureaucracy diligent enough for it to have a Presidential Task Force on Prevention of Suicide and to put this announcement in the press: “Facilities for counselling and guidance of young people are being established via Youth Empowerment Programmes at divisional level. Measures have been taken to reduce the accessibility and availability of pesticides, which is the most popular method used for attempting suicide.”
If prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of India insists on completing the fencing project on the Indo-Bangladesh border at a cost of INR 1335 crore, then that should be the concern of the Indian taxpayer. But perhaps a thought should be given to the practicalities and whether this may be nothing more than an incredible bonanza for steel shaft and barbed-wire manufacturers. Indeed, has a genuine and thorough study of cross-border migration been done, and do some planners in India at least see a scenario whence an economically advanced Bangladesh not many years hence, may actually be attracting rather than exporting migrants? Think, oh ye foolhardy policymakers!
Two cheers for Raju Lama, who protests in a letter to Kuensel the rule set by the Bhutanese Road Safety and Transport Authority that all taxi drivers should wear the national dress, gho. No, Mr Lama seems not to be a ngolop, or anti-national, and his ire is more due to the inequity that this rule reflects. He writes, “I say this because (the regulation) is applicable only to taxi drivers and not to those who drive private or government vehicles. What is so special about the others or so wrong with taxi drivers?” The ball is in the court of the Road Safety and Transport Authority, and I await their response.
Ufff! is a very South Asian onomatopoaeic exclamation, and gives the flavour of someone being landed a hefty punch in the belly. That is my exclamation of choice when it comes to this The Times of India headline of 2 March. The NDA refers to the National Democratic Alliance, JMM is Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, RJD is the Rastria Janata Dal and BSP is Bahujan Samaj Party. The state is B, for Bihar.