Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

30/06/2016

Why You Need Near-Perfect Exam Scores to Bag a Place at the University of Delhi – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s prestigious University of Delhi on Wednesday released the grades students need to study at its various colleges.

With an excess of qualified students and a limited number of places, India’s universities have famously stringent exam-score requirements.

The University of Delhi is no exception. To get one of the 99 spots on offer for Ramjas College’s undergraduate business degree, Bachelor of Commerce (Honors) program, students this year need to have scored 99.25% in their senior-year exams. That’s the highest the so-called “cut-off,” as the score requirements are popularly known, has peaked to in the first round.

While the minimum score for admission to the university’s over 55 programs doesn’t demand a perfect 100% from students this year, they need to be pretty close.In the past, university administrators have said they raised the percentage requirements for students because they receive inflated scores in their school leaving exams. This year, for instance, an estimated 90,000 students across the country secured more than 90% in their exams. Until three years ago, there were less than half that number of students in that category.

There are about 54,000 spots available on the programs across the University of Delhi’s 61 colleges. Administrators say they have received an estimated 250,000 applications this year.

The score is an average of a student’s best results in four subject areas, including a language. Scores tend to be lower for applicants from marginalized and backward classes, who have a certain number of spots set aside for them under the federal affirmative-action program. And, colleges do slash score requirements as they invite students to apply in a second round of admissions, depending on the number of places available.

Rajendra Prasad, the principal of Ramjas College, told television news channel NDTV that fixing the requirement at 99.25% this year was a “calculated risk” to attract the finest students. Mr. Prasad added that the second round of admissions might bring the score requirement down marginally by at least 1%.

The university’s other famous colleges, such as the Shri Ram College of Commerce and the Lady Shri Ram College for Women, which started a trend of asking for a 100% score from students in 2011, have set their requirements slightly lower. Both colleges demand a 98% score from students to qualify for admission onto their Bachelor of Commerce program.

Despite their efforts, colleges across the university remain saddled with the number of applications. The university moved a preliminary registration process to an online platform this year that has contributed to the swelling of the applicant pool. Until last year, students could register to apply through forms available offline as well.

“Streamlining the process has led to more students applying when the number of seats has remained the same,” said Muneesh Kumar, a member of the academic council at the university.

Source: Why You Need Near-Perfect Exam Scores to Bag a Place at the University of Delhi – India Real Time – WSJ

27/06/2016

For single women in Maharashtra, owning land can be the difference between life and death | Reuters

Rajshree Gungoo, a chatty 27-year-old with a quick smile, speaks up at a gathering of about 40 women discussing the challenges facing single women in Maharashtra.”It’s very difficult. I don’t have a husband, I don’t have a son, even my father doesn’t want me,” she says, her voice breaking. “I am alone and powerless to do anything.”

She breaks off, using the end of her saree to wipe her tears. Around her, others nod and mutter.

In drought-hit Marathwada, the state’s poorest region, there is an unusually high number of single women. Some were widowed after their farmer husbands committed suicide because of debt; others were abandoned because they didn’t produce a son, while some were left behind when their husbands left to search for work.

Alone and without financial support, the women and their children are usually thrown out of home by their in-laws, denied ownership of the land they worked on and any compensation from the government.

They are also taunted and harassed by communities who believe a woman is nothing without a man.

“In this country, single women are the most vulnerable category – they are neglected by the government, by society, even their own family,” said Vishwanth Todkar, secretary at Paryay, a charity that works with marginalised communities.

“Every day, every hour is a struggle for them – to get a home, get land, even their identity cards, which are in the name of the father or the husband. They face humiliations constantly,” he said.

Source: For single women in Maharashtra, owning land can be the difference between life and death | Reuters

21/06/2016

India’s suicide farmers’ widows face living death | Reuters

At the age of 24, Joshna Wandile and her two children were thrown out of the house she shared with her in-laws after her farmer husband hanged himself. He left a pile of debts after years of drought laid waste to his land.Wandile is not alone. More than 300,000 farmers have killed themselves in India over the last two decades, leaving their widows battling with the state, moneylenders, in-laws and their communities.

While widows in rural India are often ostracised and abused, farmer widows have it particularly tough, activists said ahead of International Widows’ Day on Thursday.”I had nothing when my husband died – he sold everything in the house, even the cooking vessels, to pay the creditors,” said Wandile who lives in Vidarbha in Maharashtra, among the worst affected by farmers’ suicides.

“I couldn’t even feel sad. I could only think: where will we live? How will I earn enough money? How will I keep us safe?” said Wandile, who was married at 17.

Maharashtra, which is struggling with its worst drought in four decades, accounted for more than half the 5,650 farmer suicides in India in 2014, according to official data. Some estimate last year’s toll exceeded 3,000.

“Bankruptcy or indebtedness” was the most common reason cited. Most were small farmers, with holdings of under two hectares.

There is little information on the families left behind who struggle to claim their right to the land they till and the house they live in, while battling archaic stigmas that dog their every step.

Source: India’s suicide farmers’ widows face living death | Reuters

21/06/2016

Yoga Takes Over the World on Second International Day of Yoga – India Real Time – WSJ

A year after the first International Day of Yoga was celebrated the world over, yoga enthusiasts were back again Tuesday morning lunging forward, raising and stretching their arms, and slowly inhaling and exhaling.

The day was introduced when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully lobbied the United Nations to dedicate 24 hours to the ancient discipline in September 2013.This year, Mr. Modi joined thousands of people in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh as they pulled their mats out for a massive demonstration. World over, 173 countries will celebrate the discipline Tuesday.

“We are disconnected from ourselves in today’s times. Yoga helps us reconnect with ourselves,” Mr. Modi said, addressing participants at his event.

On Monday, Mr. Modi also released a set of commermorative postal stamps showing the various steps of the “surya namaskar,” or sun salutation.In India’s capital city, President Pranab Mukherjee conducted a Yoga class at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, his residence-cum-office located in the heart of Delhi.

Images of different Yoga postures were displayed at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York in the build up to Yoga Day.

“Practicing yoga can help raise awareness of our role as consumers of the planet’s resources and as individuals with a duty to respect and live in peace with our neighbours,” said Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General.

Source: In Pictures: Yoga Takes Over the World on Second International Day of Yoga – India Real Time – WSJ

16/06/2016

Reaping what they sow: Shaolin monks harvest wheat as a form of Zen practise | South China Morning Post

Monks at Shaolin Temple in Henan province have been harvesting wheat as a method to practice Buddhism, the China News Agency reported on Thursday.

The 1,400-year-old temple, famed as the birthplace of Chan (Zen) Buddhism and martial arts traditions, operates a farm of of about 70 hectares where they grow wheat, corn, vegetables and herbs.

During the wheat reaping season in June, groups of monks cut the crops, thrash the grain, bag it and carry it to the barn.

Farming is also a kind of self-cultivation,” said Shi Yanzi, the monk in charge of the farm. “We farm with the spirit of Zen, and plough and sow in our own mind too.

”Shaolin’s millennium-long tradition of farming was interrupted in the past decades, but was resumed by head abbot Shi Yongxin in recent years.

Shi believes producing food in the temple’s fields can also ensure food safety.

The Shaolin temple farm also opens to tourists to experience harvesting fresh vegetables or fruit.

Source: Reaping what they sow: Shaolin monks harvest wheat as a form of Zen practise | South China Morning Post

16/06/2016

Disney’s China fairytale begins with $5.5 billion park opening | Reuters

Walt Disney Co has opened the gates to its first theme park in China, prompting a rush from thousands of gathered Mickey Mouse enthusiasts to be the first to storm Treasure Cove, ride the Roaring Rapids or visit Disney’s tallest castle.

Disney’s largest overseas investment at $5.5 billion, the park is a bet on China’s middle class and booming domestic tourism. The U.S. firm hopes it will offset an otherwise lackluster international theme park business, better known for cash-burning sites such as Euro Disney.

“This is one of the proudest and most exciting moments in the history of the Walt Disney Company,” chief executive Bob Iger said at the official ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, where he was flanked by Chinese government officials.

Iger and Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang read out letters of support from Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping.

Not everything has gone quite to plan though.The opening gala – meant to be a bonanza of fireworks, live music and dance – was rained off on Wednesday night, while at Disney’s park in Orlando, Florida, a young boy was grabbed by an alligator and killed.

Disney, though, sees China as its biggest opportunity since Walt Disney bought land in Florida in the 1960s for what is now Walt Disney World – the world’s most-visited theme park.

With that in mind, Main Street has been replaced by Mickey Avenue to reduce the feel of Americana while attractions include the Chinese-style Wandering Moon tea house, a Chinese Zodiac-themed garden and a Tarzan musical featuring Chinese acrobats.

Disney estimates 330 million people within a three-hour radius of Shanghai will be able to afford to come to the park: that includes Zhao Qiong, 36, who was one of the first visitors inside the park on Thursday with her 4-year-old daughter.”Since she was young, my little girl has always loved Disney princesses, so I wanted to bring her to the park to fulfill her dream,” she told Reuters.

Source: Disney’s China fairytale begins with $5.5 billion park opening | Reuters

16/06/2016

Why an Indian Hindu Group Wants a Ministry of Cows – India Real Time – WSJ

Cows have long held a sacred place in India’s society, revered as holy by the country’s predominantly Hindu population. If one group gets its way they might soon have a government department devoted to their interests too.

The cow-protection unit of the right-wing Hindu group Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) is urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to form a dedicated ministry for the preservation and protection of cows.

“Gou mata (mother cow) is the symbol of life, soul of our culture. She is not being given enough importance,” an official at the Bharatiya Govansh Rakshan Samvardhan Parishad (Indian Cattle Protection and Promotion Council), who didn’t wish to be named, said.

He said the “whole idea is to save the cows from getting killed.” Rearing cows will also increase milk production in the country, he added.

Slaughter of bovines has long been a fraught issue in India, but a renewed push to protect the animals came after a Hindu mob killed a Muslim man in the town of Dadri, 31 miles from New Delhi last September over rumors that he butchered a cow. The murder unleashed a wave of violence and sparked a debate over religious intolerance in the country.

There is no central law on cattle slaughter in India, though various states have introduced their own rules since Mr. Modi took power. A number of states have also tightened restrictions on the consumption of beef.

Minority groups, including around 170 million Muslims, have expressed concern over the clampdown.

The official from the Indian Cattle Protection and Promotion Council said members of his organization plan to meet ministers and members of Mr. Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to ask them to take up the issue of a separate cow ministry in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament, which begins in July.

“Our goal is to restore cows of bharatiya (Hindu) breed back to the country’s economy,” he added.Despite the various bans, India is the world’s largest exporter of beef, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. India exported 2.4 million tons of beef last year, compared with 2 million tons by Brazil. India alone accounts for nearly 24% of global beef exports.

India has also ranked first among the world’s milk-producing nations since 1998, according to India’s department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries. Milk production in India during the period has gone up from 17 million tons in 1950 to 146.3 million tons till last year, it said.

Source: Why an Indian Hindu Group Wants a Ministry of Cows – India Real Time – WSJ

16/06/2016

India Is Making Progress on Reducing Malnutrition But Now Has a Diabetes Problem – India Real Time – WSJ

While India has dramatically reduced its rate of child malnutrition, a new report points to the increasing burden of diabetes in the world’s second most populous country.

According to the 2016 Global Nutrition Report released Tuesday, India is reducing childhood stunting at double the rate it was a decade ago. Stunting, or low height for age, is caused by insufficient nutrient intake and frequent infections.

“That is highly significant given that India is home to more than one-third of the world’s stunting children,” the study said.

However, the country is facing a new health issue. India has a 9.5% prevalence of diabetes, putting it ahead of the U.K., with 7.8%, and the U.S., with 8.4%, the report showed.

Experts say the high sugar and trans-fat diet Indians consume are a key cause of the growing occurrence of diabetes, which is caused by a deficiency or inability of the body to effectively use insulin. Genetic factors and environmental influences exacerbate the issue.

In April, the WHO said that in India, more men die from diabetes than in any other country. The condition accounted for 2% of all deaths across age groups in India.

As a region, Asia has the highest prevalence of the condition, according to the Global Nutrition Report. Globally, one in 12 people have type 2 diabetes, the report said.“We must stem and tide,” Corinna Hawkes, co-chair of the Global Nutrition Report’s independent expert group said in a statement.

India also has a way to go to reduce stunting. India has the 18th highest prevalence, 38.7% among children under five, of 137 countries included in the Global Nutrition Report. That rate is down from 47.9% recorded a year earlier.

Indian states must set specific targets to help them meet global nutrition goals, while the federal government should devote $6 billion a year to combat nutrition, 13% more than it currently does, the report said.“At current rates of decline, India will achieve the current stunting rates of Ghana or Togo by 2030 and that of China by 2055,” the report said.

Source: India Is Making Progress on Reducing Malnutrition But Now Has a Diabetes Problem – India Real Time – WSJ

15/06/2016

India Police Probe Trade in Human Organs – India Real Time – WSJ

Police in India’s capital Delhi have uncovered a complex network illegally trading in kidneys. Suryatapa Bhattacharya report.

Earlier this month, a woman marched into a police station in India’s capital to file a domestic-abuse complaint and then made another allegation: that her husband was involved in illegal organ-trafficking.

Police said that accusation sparked a probe that had yielded 12 arrests as of Tuesday after authorities said they uncovered a complex nationwide network that was illegally trading in kidneys.

Donors, mostly poor residents of rural areas, were paid about $6,000 to give their kidneys to wealthier people in need of transplants, police said. The recipients paid more than $37,000. Traffickers produced counterfeit documents to make it appear as though the donors and recipients were related, police said. A 1994 law outlawed organ sales but permitted donations between family members.

The suspects—including five middlemen and four people who allegedly sold their own kidneys—were held on suspicion of trafficking in human organs and forgery, police said. They were in custody and couldn’t be reached for comment. It was unclear if they had legal representation.

Most countries prohibit organ selling, in part because of fears the poor and sick will be exploited by unscrupulous brokers.

Source: India Police Probe Trade in Human Organs – India Real Time – WSJ

12/06/2016

Indian Home Ministry Rejects Google Street View Proposal – India Real Time – WSJ

Virtually roaming through India’s streets using Google Street View may not be possible anytime soon, after a government official said the company had been blocked from rolling out its street-mapping feature.

A spokesman for the Home Ministry said Friday that it has rejected a plan from Alphabet Inc.’s Google to expand its maps feature that provides 360-degree panoramic images in the country, citing security concerns.

The spokesman didn’t elaborate on the worries but noted that the final decision on whether to permit Street View in India could come, “hopefully during this year,” once other governmental bodies have had their say.

A Google spokesman declined to comment.

Source: Indian Home Ministry Rejects Google Street View Proposal – India Real Time – WSJ

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