India Travel News

Window on India
November 01, 2006

News Bullets

Sikhs and Turbans
The most visible symbol of the Sikh faith, the turban, has begun to disappear in a noticeable way in the Punjab, the homeland of the Sikhs. Elders in families are fighting a losing battle against the zeal of young Sikh men ready for the shearing. This has caused concern to the orthodox. The new generation has not understood the principles of the faith properly and is giving way to western influences, said Avatar Singh, Makkar, president of the Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, the highest decision-making body for the religious-minded.

Dalit Priests
Things are changing in other religions too. Dalits can become priests in temples after proper training, according to a recent report in Panchajanya, the Hindi mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. Hindus are themselves to blame for the pitiable state of religious shrines in India, it noted. But it frowned on the holding of Iftar, the breaking of Ramzan fast, by Muslims on the bank of the river Ganga. On the other in several places hand Hindus and Muslims jointly celebrated Diwali and Id which coincided this year.

Shabana on the Veil
Shabana Azmi, the celebrated film actress and social activist, has drawn the wrath of the clergy by speaking out against the practice of wearing of the veil imposed on Muslim women. She spoke out to newspapers after receiving the international Gandhi Peace prize in the House of Commons in London.. Some clerics have called her a non-Muslim.

Rudolph Heredia, a sociologist and scholar of Christianity, has differed , though mildly, from the Pope's recent controversy-ridden observations regarding against Islam.

Film on Beatles
NRI film maker Meera Nayar is making a documentary film on the famous Beatles focusing on the heady days that they spent years ago with Maharshi Maesh Yogi in his ashram at Rhishikesh in the late sixties.

No more wife beating
A law protecting women against domestic violence came into force last week. Within three days it had its impact. Joseph, a government office peon in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu , allegedly beat up his wife with an umbrella , and became the first to be arrested under the provisions of the new law.

Sensex soaring
After flirting with the 13,000 mark for a few weeks, the Bombay Stock Exchange sensex finally crossed the line on October 23 . The index rallied 117 points to close at 13,024 points eliciting hurrahs from investors.

The market reacted positively to corporate results that were either at par with expectations or exceeded them. And strong inflows from foreign investors provided the liquidity it needed to move to higher levels, said Naresh Kothari, executive VP, Edelweiss Capital.


Making World Class Cities - By Vidyadhar Date

The political and business elite in India is obsessed with converting major Indian cities into world class cities. Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior opposition BJP leader L.K. Advani are united in the resolve to convert Mumbai into Shanghai.

Many people do not know that Shanghai is actually traditionally a dirty word. There is a film made by Charlie Chaplin way back in 1915 called Shanghaied. The word Shanghaied came into being because Shanghai gained notoriety in the 19th century for forcibly taking sailors in ships overseas without even informing them where they were being taken.

The Jawaharlal Nehru urban renewal mission programme is intended to upgrade various cities in India. What this really means is that the cities are to be made fit for foreign capital so that it feels cosy. At the same time basic infrastructure for the poor is crumbling, basics like primary schools, postal offices and subsidized foodgrain shops.

On the brighter side Mumbai is projected prominently at the 10tth international architecture exhibition on `cities, architecture and society' at Venice being held from September 10 to November 19. Mumbai was the only Asian city chosen for the exhibition.

A presentation on Mumbai was made by the Mumbai-based Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) and a highly informative 375-page book Mumbai Reader, containing articles by various experts , was brought out. It has good reference value apart from analytical content. UDRI's trustees include industrialist Ratan Tata, architect Charles Correa and prominent corporate leaders Keshub Mahindra and Deepak Parekh.

In a memorandum to the Prime Minister UDRI has called for investment in cities for the underprivileged as well. Unfortunately, all the major centrist and right wing parties are united in serving vested interests rather than the poor.

There is very limited resistance from isolated civic groups. In New Delhi Hazards Centre has made a film with a rather self-explanatory title New Delhi Pvt. Ltd which shows how global capital is invading the city and becoming more and more visible through such glossy symbols as shopping malls and high-rise housing. The 37-minute documentary directed by Ravinder Randhawala is based on interviews with the powerful and the powerless.

Two internationally acclaimed urban experts David Harvey and Neil Smith, both distinguished professors in the City University of New York made excellent presentations at a recent international conference on globalising cities organized by the geography department of Mumbai Univerity and its committed expert Prof Swapna Banerjee Guha.

They said flow of global capital and dishousing the poor were the major characteristic of the process of urbanization the world over. The powerful have always sought to shape the cities in their own interest, not the interest of the poor. This was most visible in Paris after the revolutionary upsurge of 1848 and in New York after the fiscal crisis suffered by the civic body.

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