Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blogosphere 2006 is a revolution you brought

They react, they express their views, and sometimes, they do rap songs. Bloggers are changing the face of the world by turning the web into a forum – for the people, by the people and of the people


You made it to Time’s Person of the Year, helped get justice for Jessica, spoke out against reservation… and did a lot of that through blogs. And ‘You’ encompass the millions around the world who have made their voice heard through blogs. And it is no longer about chronicling your day online, this new online activism is issue specific, educated and very, very powerful. The reason: It is person to person.

And it is just going to get sharper and better from here. A recent study by the US analysts Gartner has predicted that this trend will plateau at about a 100 million dedicated blogs next year. DT focuses on people who are driving this revolution of ideas…

Dawn of the individual

As blogging in India comes into greater focus, how powerful a voice is it now? Very, if filmmaker Anurag Kashyap is to be believed. “But it’s still under the surface,” he says. “It’s a bit like a revolution.”

Even filmmaker Shekhar Kapur shares that belief. “Blogging is going to be a rising phenomena that will bring information to a far more democratic level than anyone ever believed possible. The governments and the power structure will have to contend with the power of the individual blogger,” he says.

‘Me’ is the word

Many like Kapur find a release and satisfaction in keeping a sort of a diary that they can share with others online through their blogs. Saket Vaidya, an avid blogger, feels many bloggers have evolved in their writing.

“Take any Indian blog which has been running for more than a year, and compare the writing that you see today with the writing in the archives over a year ago. Veteran bloggers often get a ‘Seriously, I wrote that!’ feeling while browsing through their own archives.” It’s a chance for people to look at a computer screen and wonder who’s out there looking back at them. This translates into the success of sites like YouTube, Orkut etc.

As Kapur says, “Blogging is no longer for the casual blogger. It needs commitment. You’d better be seen as someone who is passionate about what you are doing.”

The other side of things

Influential bloggers also say that encountering conflicting views has enriched their perspective. Bombay Addict, a blogger, is among them. “We have our own causes and beliefs that we support or defend when we write posts or comment on other blogs. Personally, I know that I’ve gained a lot in terms of insights and appreciating the merits of opposing views when I read blogs.”

“Because of the scale of users on blogs today, and the democratic nature of the discourse, blogs are making mainstream media take notice of online conversations. This is perhaps what is enabling blogging conversations to emerge in the public sphere,” says a representative of My Times, My Voice – the Times of India’s reader-interactive platform that incorporates multiple blogs. “Someone who otherwise does not have a visible platform to speak from, can also become a powerful voice through a blog on a popular site like Blogs are today opinion builders in their own right,” says a senior official of the site.


Monday, December 11, 2006

'Children's Summit for Disposable Wooden Chopstick'

'Children's Summit for Disposable Wooden Chopstick' Held in Home of
Japanese Noodles

The First Kodomo Waribashi Summit in Kagawa, a children's meeting for recycling wooden chopsticks, was held on August 27, 2006 in Takamatsu,Kagawa Prefecture, western Japan. The event attracted about 2,000 people.

Under the theme "Let's start recycling wood from forests in our daily lives," the Green Consumers Takamatsu, a Japanese non-profit organization,proposed and hosted the event as an NPO collaboration project with the Kagawa Prefectural government. The event was also supported by other organizations involved in chopstick recycling and green consumer activities.

Kagawa Prefecture is the home of Sanuki Udon, a famous Japanese noodle brand, and large numbers of disposable wooden chopsticks are being consumed.

The event aims to encourage local citizens to pay more attention to recycling disposable wooden chopsticks as well as working on local environmental problems, with the aim of creating a recycling-based society in local communities.

At the event, Mr. Tetsuro Mukai, an activist in the disposable chopstick recycling movement since 1994, gave a lecture and local children had a discussion about the recycling of disposable chopsticks. Children also gained hands-on experience of the methods used to recycle disposable wooden chopsticks, including traditional papermaking using chopsticks as a fiber ingredient, pictorial letter cards drawn with chopstick brushes, and chopstick crafts such as toy guns and decorative articles. The entry fee of the event was six pairs of used disposable chopsticks.


Now, rickshaw only in the reel life

Somdatta Basu | TNN

Kolkata: What is common between Balraj Sahani and Om Puri? Both have pulled the rickshaw on Kolkata streets.

Be it period drama (Parineeta ) or old classic (Do Bigha Zameen ), pure love story (Amar Prem ) or the West glorifying the Indian slums (City of Joy ), filmmakers, time and again, have turned to the shaft-yoke imagery whenever they wanted to portray Kolkata in its elements.

The screen travails of the hand-pulled rickshaw from Satyajit Ray to Rituparno Ghosh will fortunately assure the carriage at least lives in reel life even as Bengal’s Marxist lawmakers handed the death sentence to it.

For Pradeep Sarkar, who directed Parineeta, the rickshaw brings out the ‘‘slow, yet steady’’ Bengali attitude: ‘‘The rickshaw is part of Kolkata’s psyche. The time-frame (1960s) of Parineeta warranted portraying hand-pulled rickshaws. They were an integral part of the city then.’’

Kolkata alone has claim on the hackney-pullers, say the directors. ‘‘It may be seen as a form of slavery, but the handpulled rickshaws should be preserved as part of our heritage. There can be certain routes on which they can still be allowed to ply. If they are abandoned, the city will lose part of its tradition. And we shall not be able to use rickshaws in films any more,’’ rues Sarkar.

But the rickshaw is very much there in Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s forthcoming flick, Two Boys and A Girl . ‘‘There is a parity between the hackney carriage and the city. It has been repeatedly used in films simply because of its familiarity with Kolkata,’’ says Dasgupta. Personally, though, he would never take a ride. ‘‘But it is one of the non-polluting vehicles the city will ever have. Before banning it, we should get rid of our autos and buses.’’

Decades ago, middle-class women on hand-pulled rickshaws was a common sight on city streets. ‘‘Naturally, it found reflection in cinema,’’ says veteran filmmaker Tapan Sinha. The rickshaw has been a ‘‘common’’ prop in many of his movies.

Om Puri, who lived with rickshawpullers for some time to get into the skin of his character in City of Joy , says, ‘‘When there is flooding in Kolkata, handpulled rickshaws are the only solace. They are symbolic to the City of Joy.’’

While City of Joy was happening, a rickshaw was parked in the garage of the Oberoi Grand. ‘‘Fifteen days before the shoot, I would get up at 5.30 am, dress scantily, cover my face with a dirty towel and practise,’’ recalls Puri. His two passengers were real rickshaw-pullers; one would guide him, while the other warded off inquisitive passengers.

The experience lingered on his mind. ‘‘When we went to Hong Kong for a promo, I took my wife for a rickshaw ride, She sat on the passenger seat, while I pulled the rickshaw,’’ signs off Puri.

The Trivia

Most of the rickshaw-pullers are migrants from Bihar who leave their families at home & spend 10 months of the year in Kolkata

In July 2005, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government heralded a total ban on this antiquated form of transport. But this was not the first conflict between the pullers and the government

24,000 rickshaw-wallahs are enrolled with the All Bengal (hand-pulled) Rickshaw Union

Rs 30 was all a rickshaw-wallah would need to renew his licence.

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From Bihar to Kolkata: The Mahato saga

Ajanta Chakraborty | TNN

Kolkata: Till now, it’s been a cosy, if not happy, family on the pavements of Calcutta Technical School on Dharamtolla.

Basudeb Mahato and his two sons with their three ‘‘rented’’ rickshaws ‘‘parked’’ on the sidewalk may not have painted a pretty picture of Darwinian struggle. ‘‘But we are still here, alive and working and sending money home,’’ sighs Mahato.

‘‘The government’s ban will not only throw us out of work — and probably out of this place (pavements),’’ he says, sure that the rickshaw ban will send them packing to Samastipur in Bihar ‘‘to starve’’. It’s mid-afternoon. The 65-year-old human horse (as the West call them) is negotiating his 11th and final fare of the day with an obese woman and her equally chubby son. After they agree on Rs 20, the two passengers climb aboard.

‘‘Sit here and I will be back in 10 minutes,’’ Mahato says as he positions himself between the rickshaw’s shafts, assuming the yoke as he has every day for the past 25 years.

Ten minutes later, he lights a bidi and looks at it fondly, ‘‘Before I became a rickshaw-wallah, I used to run my own bidimanufacturing business. Now that my business is gone, I don’t know what I’ll do in Samastipur. I have some land, though. But can hardly earn a living with it.’’ But won’t that be better than being a pavement dweller? No way. Mahato is happy to live aasman ke neeche . ‘‘Except for the rain and occasions when police drive us out of here. It’s difficult finding another place. But the ordeal is over in a day or two,’’ says Mahato. He still remembers the day he was rendered ‘‘homeless’’ two years ago when the owner sold off the crumbly building on Colin Street.

Mahato’s balancesheet goes like this: Between the two generations, the Mahatos have been sending a modest packet of Rs 10,000 to Rajo Devi, mother of Basudeb’s nine children.

The three rickshaws have each been rented from one Md Tahir at Mehndi Bagan Road for Rs 20 a day. ‘‘Each of our daily incomes range between Rs 150 and Rs 200. From this, Rs 20 must go to the rickshaw-owner. We have no establishment cost and our lunch and dinner are from roadside eateries.”

The menu comprises daal and roti or bhaat. Machhli-bhat), the typical Bihari palate is a luxury they indulge in off and on. “Kalkatta sasta hain. Yahaan garib aadmi ka achhi khasi guzara ho jata hair (Kolkata is a cheap city. The poor can eke a fairly good living here).”



Source: Times of India, dated:05-12-2006
The Clatter Of The Iconic Rickshaws On Kolkata Streets Was Outlawed By The Assembly


Kolkata: Bengal lawmakers on Monday voted out and bade farewell to a friend of Kolkatans’ through thick and thin — the hand-pulled rickshaw. The Calcutta Hackney-Carriage (Amendment) Bill, 2006, to phase out handpulled rickshaws sailed through the state Assembly easily, courtesy a boycott by Trinamul MLAs.

The bill, when enacted, will undo what Chinese traders did for Kolkata’s transportation in the late 19th century by introducing this eco-friendly transport. That was years after Shimla boasted of it in 1888.

Incidentally, the first handpulled rickshaws that plied on Kolkata’s streets were freight carriers. Only later did they become the much-chastised man-carrying-man vehicles of today.

Though the government insists the bill will be signed into law immediately, it will have to seek legal advice on pending applications for licences which Calcutta High Court has ruled must be accepted. Monday’s legislative action is the culmination of over 15 months of debate set off by an unprecedented chief ministerial press conference last year to announce that hand-pulled rickshaws would be off Kolkata streets. The bill amending the Calcutta Hackney Carriage Act, 1919 was introduced in the Assembly on July 20 this year and referred to a select committee.

While piloting the bill, CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reiterated what he had said earlier. ‘‘We must agree on one point that in the 21st century it is not right for a human being to pull another human being. Wherever I go, be it Delhi, Mumbai or abroad, people ask me how long Kolkata will have hand-pulled rickshaws? This is a shame for our city. We should have done this much earlier.’’

All that was needed to put an end to hand-pulled rickshaws, was to remove the words ‘‘and palanquins and to make certain provisions with regard to rickshaws’’ from the original act. The MLAs agreed to it.

The CM promised rehabilitation for rickshaw-pullers. ‘‘Rehabilitation will go along with removal. It isn’t that we will remove the rickshaws and give the rehabilitation package later on,’’ he said and claimed that rickshaw-pullers’ unions had accepted the alternative vocations the government had proposed.

‘‘I have talked with the Kolkata mayor about setting up cooperatives to run car parking lots. This way they will earn more than what they used to earn. The number of cars is going up and we need more parking lots. At least 2,000 people will be involved here,’’ Bhattacharjee said.

For rehabilitation, the first task is to find out the exact number of hand-pulled rickshaw wallahs. The number of licensed hand-pulled rickshaws is 5,937.

‘‘We assume there are as many rickshaw-pullers as there are licenced rickshaws. We are also talking with NGOs about helping some of them set up small trading units. Those who cannot do anything will be given financial compensation,’’ he said.

And an ode to ....

By Shankar
Kolkata’s rickshaw-pullers have given us a lot but we haven’t reciprocated. Every great city has an USP. Kolkata’s USP — whether we like it or not — is the rickshaw. No other great city can boast of it.

Banning hand-pulled rickshaws to alleviate the rickshaw-wallah’s misery is like throwing out the baby with the bath water. In a city sparsed with narrow lanes and bylanes, rickshaw-wallahs meet a very important transport need. They are Kolkatans’ friends through thick and thin.

Come floods or riots, the rickshawpuller is only a hail away. Ever heard of a rickshaw-puller betraying his passengers’ trust. Now, to Kolkata’s peril this very dependable mode of transport is sought to be abolished and their operators uprooted from a vocation handed down from generation to generation.

Crocodile tears are shed on their behalf to justify this. ‘Exploitation’, cry proponents of the law who claim they aim to end this ‘man-pulling-man’ beastliness. This argument doesn’t hold water. After all, our venerable rickshaw-wallah renders voluntary service.

The exploitation cry belies facts. Whoever said a rickshaw ride is cheap. The passenger km cost is among the highest, certainly exceeding a taxi ride. But unlike a taxi or a bus, a rickshaw can manoeuvre along Kolkata’s serpentine lanes. I can’t recall an instance when rickshaws have caused Kolkata’s notorious traffic jams. The city’s traffic managers would vouch as much. I think it might be a good idea to have a thanksgiving day for the rickshaw. To honour the rickshaw-wallah. We could at least give him tea or lunch because no one takes care of our needs better than him — be it taking our child to school, reaching the sick to hospital or helping a tourist find his destination in the city.

When I was young I read this famous novel, Rickshaw-wallah, by a Chinese author. Some years ago, I wrote a story myself — Ekjon Jatri O Rickshaw-wallah — of a man returning to Kolkata after many years and hiring a rickshaw-wallah to revisit his past. He had a luxury car at his disposal but he asked the chauffeur to return home.
(Shankar is one of Bengal’s best known contemporary writers)


‘Most Indian youths want to emigrate’ Viewed on 05-12-06

Rashmee Roshan Lall TNN
London: India’s Generation Next leads the world’s young, along with the Kenyans in wanting to emigrate and secure a better future, a BBC global survey of 15- to 17-yearolds in 10 cities has found.

Today’s youth also appeared to thirst for a world without borders, with four out of five respondents telling the survey that people should be able to live in any country they choose.

Overall, two-thirds of 3,000 representatives of Generation Next in New York, Nairobi, Cairo, Lagos, Rio de Janeiro, Baghdad, Delhi, Jakarta, Moscow and London said they would happily leave their mother country and emigrate. 81% Indians say no need to follow customs of adopted homeland London: One in seven representatives of the Generation Next said they would even risk their life to reach another country, according to a BBC survey. Indians and Kenyans led the list of potential New Age émigrés with 80% displaying a marked desire to be world citizens rather than stay-at-home wage-earners.

Somewhat surprisingly, however, Baghdad’s youth movingly attested to a firm desire to stay home despite the high levels of violence that leave Iraq bloodied every day. Half of all Baghdad’s youth emphatically said they would not emigrate, which the BBC said was the biggest negative response to the question of all the 10 cities. Analysts said the survey underlined the narrowing distance between the developed and developing world Generation Next attitudes to big-ticket issues such as immigration, quality of life and mobility. Young people everywhere, overall, are seen to display a strong desire to be highly mobile, the survey found.

But the survey found huge disagreement amongst young people in the developed and developing halves of the global economy on immigrant integration. A significant 38% overall, which includes 81% of Indian Gen Next, said it was not essential to adopt the customs and beliefs of an adopted homeland and immigrants were entitled to live separate lives. But 61% of New York’s young called for immigrant assimilation, a high figure that pushed up the overall — 49% — tilt towards the need for immigrants to adopt the culture of their new country.

Young Indians also appeared to be more concerned about terrorism than the wristband-generation anywhere else on the planet. Sixty-six of all Indians said terrorism was the most important issue globally right now, with New Yorkers following close behind at 63% and Baghdad at 59%.

Overall, just 36% of the respondents listed terrorism as the most important issue facing the world. BBC explained its interest in sampling Gen Next attitudes with facts and figures that show “the number of young people in the world has never been higher. In all, there are about one billion 12- to 18-year-olds. Almost nine out of 10 live in the developing world.”

The broadcaster said: “The proportion of young people per country is highest in Africa and lowest in Europe.” BBC, which said on Monday that its key areas of interest in the survey were immigration, climate change, terrorism and war, crime, religion, education, global population and honesty.