Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Yet another first in Bihar - Now FIRs can be lodged through

Lodging FIRs (first information report) at police stations in Bihar is not a child’s play for the victims of crime. In fact, it’s a trial by fire: The victims have to face a volley of uncomfortable questions, make umpteenth rounds of the police station and, in many cases, they end up being made ‘accused’ themselves.

But in the next few months, all that will change. For, in the not too distant a future, it will be possible for the victim of a crime to send an e-mail to the higher police authorities, giving details of the crime committed against him/her. This would be treated as an FIR and follow-up action initiated forthwith. Lodging FIRs through e-mail will become a reality, once the government accepts the Administrative Reforms Commission’s (ARC) recommendations for police reforms. The ARC will submit its report by October-end.

ARC Chairman VS Dubey said the Commission would suggest ‘foolproof’ measures to ensure that commoners did not face difficulty in lodging FIRs and the cops were held to account if they refused to accept complaints.

The ARC is sparing no efforts to curtail the sweeping powers of the police so that the cops shed their ‘brute’ image and act friendly with commoners. The draft report makes a strong recommendation for taking away from the police the power to arrest anybody on mere suspicion that he/she might commit a crime (as per Section 151 of the Cr PC) or on the suspicion that a person holds stolen goods or if a person fails to give his/her correct address to the police.

“We feel that the sweeping powers given in the criminal procedure code to the police is the core reason why cops misuse their authority. This is why people perceive the police as tyrants and despots,” said Dubey. He also said that the ARC was intent on paving the way for civil control on the police so that the cops, especially at the police station-level did not act in an arbitrary or prejudicial manner. There will be recommendation to give powers to citizens groups, NGOs and ward committees to review pending cases in each police station of their area and also give suggestions to the police on important cases. “ We want an element of civil control on the police force,” said Dubey.

The ARC is of the strong view that shoddy investigation of incidents of crime is one of the core factors responsible for the spurt in crime in the State. So, the ARC is going to recommend a separation between the law and order duty and investigation work to avoid any overlapping of work. The ARC is also going to suggest strong measures to tackle organised crime and economic offenses by suggesting to the government to equip the investigation wing with sub-inspectors having professional knowledge of computers, law, commerce and economics.

“The poor training and knowledge of sub-inspectors vital for tackling professional crime is one reason why there has been an increase in white-collared crime. We will also suggest raising the eligibility bar for appointment as sub-inspectors requiring the candidates to be graduates besides reserving a certain percentage of seats for people with professional degrees. This will be a great help to better investigation of crimes,” said Dubey.

Besides, the ARC is also keen to suggest that the government bring in amendments in the IPC to make more offenses bailable so that those committing petty crimes could get bail at the police station itself and was not sent to jail.

The ARC Chairman said that the idea behind bringing more offenses (other than serious crimes like rape, dacoity, sedition, terror acts, murder) under bailable clauses so that petty offenders were not pushed into jail to live among hardened criminals.

Lastly, the ARC is also looking at ways to lessen the work pressure on police personnel, especially those on field duty, including sub-inspectors and constables. “Constables behave rudely with the people as they are overstressed and less educated. Once they are de-stressed, there could be behavioral changes in them,” said Dubey.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

NTPC to supply power to Goa, Maha from Bihar

State-run power major NTPC has signed power purchase agreements (PPA) with Maharashtra and Goa for supplying electricity from its Barh plant in Bihar.

The PPA was signed by representatives of NTPC, government of Goa and the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd in Mumbai on Thursday, NTPC said in a release here.

This is the first PPA signed by the company for supply of power from the second phase of its Barh plant, which is scheduled to be completed by 2012, said an official.

Earlier, the company had signed PPAs with Bihar and the Union territories of the northern and western region for the supply of power from the first phase, the official said.

NTPC is setting up a thermal power plant in the Barh district in two phases, with a capacity of 1,980 mw and 1,320 mw respectively, the release said.

The company will supply power to eastern, western and northern regions from its Barh plant.

Patna ki Deepali in the Gala III round of Indian Idol

Bihari Janta, She seems to be the best and it is our responsibility to see her through in the contest by voting her to win.

So please...please Vote for this Girl.

Friday, July 13, 2007

India wants high dam in Nepal to check Bihar floods every year

With vast tracts of north Bihar and adjoining areas in other states groaning under the severe impact of perennial floods caused by rivers emanating from Nepal, India wants early construction of the multi-purpose Saptakoshi high dam project in the Himalayan nation.

"A detailed project report will be completed by next year," Union Minister of State for Water Resources Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav told reporters here on Wednesday.

He said that soon after coming to power in 2004, the UPA Government took up the long-pending issue with Nepal and it was decided to prepare a detailed project report. A Joint Project Office was opened the same year at Biratnagar in Nepal.

Yadav said that to ensure expeditious action, 32 officials from India and 40 from Nepal were appointed.

He said Rs 30 crore was initially earmarked for preparing the project report in 30 months. But, since the progress has remained very slow because of Maoist activities in Nepal, the cost will go up to Rs 70 crore now.

Yadav said the External Affairs Ministry was in constant touch with Kathmandu and kept up pressure for early construction of the 269-metre high dam over Saptakoshi River that will not only check the surging waters, but also generate hydro-electricity and provide enhanced irrigation facilities.

He said crops and property worth thousands of crores were lost due to the floods.

Nitish to attend Bihar Week celebrations

A 30-member contingent headed by chief minister Nitish Kumar will be leaving for Mauritius on July 25 to participate in Bihar Week celebrations commencing from July 27 at Port Louis.

The list of delegates includes industries minister Gautam Singh, food and civil supplies minister Suchitra Sinha, culture minister Janardan Singh Sigriwal and Renu Devi (MLA).

According to official sources, Bihar’s advocate general P K Sahi will also accompany the CM to Mauritius. One representative each of Bihar Chamber of Commerce and Bihar Industries Association will also be the part of the delegation.

Among the bureaucrats, ADG (HQ) Abhayanand, information and PRD secretary Vivek K Singh, industrial development commissioner S Vijay Raghavan, culture secretary Anjani K Singh, principal secretary to the CM R C P Sinha and special secretary to the CM Chanchal Kumar will be there in the delegation. A 15-member cultural troupe led by Bhojpuri folk singer Manoj Tiwary will accompany the team.

Meet the visually challenged mechanic from Bihar

STRONG HOPE: He is visually challenged But his physical handicap does not come in the way of his skills.

They say where there is a will there is a way and Ram Kishun of Bihar is a classic example of this. He is visually challenged but that doesn’t stop him from being the best car mechanic in a Bihar town.

Meet Ram Kishun the most sought-after car mechanic in Birpur town of north Bihar. He knows the vehicles in and out. He is visually challenged But his physical handicap does not come in the way of his skills.

Kishun says, “I can work on the gear box, and brakes very well.”

A jeep driver Raja says, “He can't see but just by touching a vehicle he can detect the fault. If he has repaired a car once then he can tell whose car it is the next time it comes.”

Ram Kishun was born visually challenged but he always had a dream to follow. Instead of school he started spending time at motor garages and slowly picked up the skills of repairing cars and jeeps.

Car owner Shailesh Singh says, “He does such a good job with his dedication that I have become his fan.”

There are regrets though. When asked about his marriage he said, “Why who will marry me.”

Ram Kishun lives as a shining example inspiring the differently abled to fight back in life.

Watch the full Report on CNN IBN

NRIs volunteer to fund education of Bihar schoolboy

Moved by the plight of a Bihar schoolboy who pulls rickshaw for a living and education, some non-resident Indians (NRIs) have come forward to help him.

Rajiv Ranjan, a Class X student of a school at Ara in Bhojpur, about 60 km from here, has been working as a rickshawpuller for the last four years.

"After reading about the plight of Ranjan, I am really interested to help him," Ravi Verma, an American of Indian origin, settled in Silicon Valley in the US, said. He said he would help Ranjan complete his education.

Jay Verma, an NRI in Finland, approached bihartimes.com, a popular news portal of the state, and sought details of Ranjan.

"I would like to bear Ranjan's education expenses. Will you be kind enough to let me know his postal address. I will be happy to do whatever I can to ensure that he gets proper education," Verma, who is based in Helsinki, wrote in his letter to Ajay Kumar of the news portal.

Another offer of help has come from Saudi Arabia. "I would like to help Ranjan pay the registration fees for his board examination. Please let me know the amount required," Ahmad Rasheed, a native of Bihar, said.

Not only the NRIs, but also some Biharis settled in other parts of the country have come forward to help the schoolboy.

Ranjan, who is due to appear for the Class 10 board examination early next year, is the only earning member of his family. His father, Binod Kumar, used to work as a labourer but has been bed-ridden for over a year.

He attends school in the morning and pulls the rickshaw in the evening. He also pays the school fees of his two younger sisters with his meagre earnings.

A unique marriage fair in Madhubani in Bihar

Madhubani (Bihar), July 13: Saurath village in Madhubani District in Bihar holds a unique fair every year when marriages are arranged after holding negotiations in the midst of mango groves.

The marriage fair is called the "Saurath Sabha" and the patrons are mainly Maithili Brahmins. Hundreds of parents gather at the fair to find a suitable match for their wards.

After fixing the matrimonial alliance marriages are solemnised.

The practice of conducting such a fair had almost ended, as the parents of the boys started demanding dowry. The demand for dowry started picking up in the seventies.

Members of the Saurath Sabha, however, revived the old custom of conducting matrimonial fair. Youngsters have been prodding their parents that they are more interested in finding a match than getting dowry.

The social pressure has helped in the revival of the fair. The organisers of the Saurath Sabha have also been making arrangement for priests who help in matching horoscopes.

Dr. Shekhar Chandra Mishra, the secretary of Saurath Sabha, says: "After 1976, the practise of holding a marriage fair was on the verge of extinction. To bring it back to life, we have been calling upon the youth to come forward and take part in this fair. We have appealed to government many a times but in vain."

This matrimonial fair is usually organised during Jyestha - Aasadh (June to July) as per Hindu almanac. The popular venue of the fair is generally mango groves.The boys are keen to have an accomplished bride, and do not demand dowry and accept whatever 'gifs' are offered voluntarily.

Govind Kumr Jha, a bridegroom, said: "I will accept whatever will be gifted to me."

The parents generally look for an accomplished daughter-in-law.

Shailendra Mohan Jha, the father of a to-be-bridegroom, said: "I have no demands. If the bride's family wants to gift something to their daughter or organise a gala celebration after the event, we have no problem with that. As far as gifts are concerned, if they want to give something it is a welcome. The expenses of the wedding should be borne by the girl's parents. "

Saurath Sabha's priest and registrar of marriages, Vishwamohan Chandra Mishra, said: "Everyone comes here, doctors, big landlords and even big merchants".

Progressive Maithilis feel that Saurath Sabha is an ideal medium to curb the menace of dowry.

Boys from cities patronise the Sabha as they find educated brides to suit their lifestyle in a modern society.

Friday, July 06, 2007

After Nalanda, Aryabhatta University In Bihar

After initiating a move to set up an international university in Nalanda, the Bihar government has drawn up a blueprint for setting up a professional university here.

The proposed Aryabhatta University, an autonomous body, will grant affiliation to government and private technical institutes in Bihar and act as a regulatory body for maintaining standards in these institutes.

Medical colleges of the state will also be brought under the jurisdiction of this university.

The state government plans to get the nod of the cabinet soon in this regard after which the bill for the proposed university is expected to be passed in the next session of the legislature this month.

'The prime objective of setting up the university is to develop professional education in response to the changing demands of the competitive world,' officials said.

Once the university comes into existence, it will act as a single-window clearance system for maintaining a uniform policy as far as technical educational institutes in the state are concerned, they said.

Meanwhile, the work to start an international university in Nalanda has already been started by the Bihar government.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen will head a panel that will oversee the establishment of the university and its first meeting will be held in Singapore this month.

The proposed university will be fully residential, like the ancient seat of learning in Nalanda, which was once home to over 10,000 students and nearly 2,000 teachers. In the first phase of the project, seven schools with 46 foreign faculty members and over 400 Indian academics will be established.

The university will impart courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects. A renowned international scholar will be its chancellor.

The idea of the university was first mooted in the late 1990s, but it was President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam who gave shape to the initiative in early 2006.

Patna Museum to be modelled on Singapore Museum

The display of antiquities, light arrangement in the galleries and others in the Patna Museum may soon be modeled after the Singapore Museum. The culture department is planning to impart a modern, technologically advanced look to the interiors of the Patna Museum.

It is planning to work over the development project in collaboration with the Singapore Museum, seeking technological support and guidance from Singapore. A MoU for the joint venture is to be signed soon between the two museum officials.

Confirming this the culture secretary, Anjani Kumar Singh said in Patna on Saturday that the department had taken initiatives to join hands with the Singapore Museum. It had sought their technical support for the modernisation of the Patna Museum.

“A team of the Singapore Museum officials led by Gauri Krishnan visited the Patna Museum recently to study the number of antiquities, galleries, the display of museum collection and others. We are now waiting for the study,” he said.

Patna Museum is widely known for its rich collection of Natural history and Buddhist antiquities. But their display had remained to be the old and needed to be modernised, he added.

In Singapore there is a Civilisation Museum, offering visitors an opportunity to witness the development of civilization, especially in the region. The display of the collection and the light arrangement there are highly advanced and impressive.

The department is planning to adopt those technical advancements. It is also considering consulting architects there for any renovation in the galleries, he informed.

The culture secretary said that the department was also planning to organise an exhibition of art and antiquities of Bihar in Singapore in November this year.

“The South East Asia Summit is expected to be held there at that time and so the event will be attended by number of foreign delegates. The exhibition will provide a good opportunity to popularise rich cultural and architectural heritage of the state across the globe,” he said.

He said that technical expertise of the Singapore Museum officials would be sought in the exhibition also, he added.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The new Nalanda

This could be the New Bihar Story. From the thousand-year-old ruins of an ancient university, a blueprint is being unveiled to build a world-class institute of learning...

Nearly 90 km from Patna lies a morsel of the past. Though dead and mostly buried, it jibes at the present: it speaks of a legacy that the state of Bihar perhaps so undeservedly lays claim to. Till recently, no one listened to the ruins of Nalanda. Now, their silence is being heard.

In a visionary gesture, the Nitish Kumar Government has decided to revive the university that was perhaps the biggest international seat of learning between 5th and 12th centuries AD, the first residential academic centre that attracted scholars from as far as China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. Some of these countries, including China and Japan, are now coming together to bring Nalanda to life.

“You can gauge the enthusiasm from the fact that the issue figured in the recent talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao and then with the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. It also figured in the East Asian Summit held in January in Philippines this year and is likely to be raised again at the summit in November in Singapore,” says N.K. Singh, Deputy Chairman, State Planning Board.

Though countries from East and Southeast Asia—for whom Bodh Gaya and Nalanda were crucial pilgrimages—had always wanted to revive the university, it took concrete shape when it was pursued by outgoing President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He had outlined the contours of the proposed university during his special address to the Bihar Legislature last year. Of the 10 suggestions for a prosperous Bihar, revival of the university figured as crucial.

The Nitish Administration lapped up the idea, with the Chief Minister taking a keen interest in the project. He, perhaps, realises that the project can transform Bihar’s image in the international arena and yield long-term benefits for the state in terms of investment. Within a short span and at a surprising pace, the Government identified around 500 acres of land for setting up the international university and had a bill enacted by the state assembly. “By next week, we hope to take possession of around 450 acres,” says Nalanda District Magistrate Anand Kishore.

The proposed university will be situated 16 km from the ruins of Nalanda at the foot of the hills in Rajgir (earlier known as Rajgriha) and start functioning from 2009. It will be unique in the sense that it will be owned jointly by several countries, especially from South and Southeast Asia. The University Act clearly talks about setting up a consortium of international partners and friendly countries, and the project has already attracted the attention of some of the most dynamic economies of East and Southeast Asia, ringing hope in a state lagging far behind in all indices of development. The Nalanda project hopes to revive the historical ties this region enjoyed in areas like trade, science, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy.

Possibly the first of its kind in the world, it intends to recreate the spirit of its ancient counterpart. “The architecture and the buildings for the university and its campus shall be carefully designed so as to reflect its vision and mission as set out in the objectives of the university,” the Act for the university states.

History has it that Nalanda was an architectural marvel and its sprawling campus could accommodate nearly 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. It had a nine-storey library, eight compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. The ancient university was multidisciplinary and the scholars jostled to take lessons in subjects ranging from fine arts and medicine to philosophy and astronomy. Mathematics and politics were the other crucial disciplines along with warfare. Nalanda’s most celebrated scholar was perhaps Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang, who not only studied here but also taught and spent nearly 15 years at the university. In fact, India and China have recently erected a memorial at Nalanda to honour Tsang.

The Union Government has also set up a Mentor Group, which would be headed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, have members drawn from different countries and Foreign Secretary as its ex-officio member-secretary. Singapore Foreign Minister George Hui, Wangei Hui, Director, Institute of Indian Studies, Beijing, Prof Sugata Bose (Harvard), Lord Meghnad Desai and Prof D.N. Jha of Delhi University are some who have consented to be members.

“The Mentor Group will give a report on pedagogy, syllabus, academic calendar, funding and organisational structure of the university. The group’s first meeting is scheduled in the middle of July in Singapore. After that it will hold three more meetings in Tokyo, Beijing and India to give a final shape to the plan. The report is expected by the end of the year,” says Singh.

“The report will be given a final shape in consultation with the university’s Visitor—likely to be Kalam after his term as President ends—and it will then be submitted to international agencies for funding,” says Bihar Human Resource Development Secretary Madan Mohan Jha. Nitish Kumar will formally offer the Visitor’s post to Kalam after he leaves the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The Bihar Government has already had a detailed project report (DPR) prepared by Educational Consultants of India Limited (EDCIL) for the establishment of the university, which is expected to incur a total expenditure of Rs 630 crore and an annual recurring expenditure of Rs 375 crore. Once international funding is assured for the University of Nalanda, the state government hopes that its other projects for developing tourist infrastructure would also receive international support.

To begin with, the new university will have seven Schools of Learning, including Philosophy and Buddhist Studies, Information and Communication (Informatics), Basic and Applied Sciences, Development Studies, Natural Resource Management, International Studies and Languages. The final structure will, however, depend on the report of the Mentor Group.

In the first phase, the university will offer only postgraduate, research, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees, and it expects to attract students from several countries. A scholar of international repute will be the university’s chancellor.

According to the DPR, in the first year, the university will have 1,137 students and the number will increase to 4,530 by the fifth year. The university will maintain a 1:10 teacher-student ratio and a minimum proportion of academic and non-academic staff in the ratio of 70:30. The faculty members shall be so selected that they are culturally tuned to the vision and mission of the university.

Realising that history could repeat itself in the modern context, the Nitish Kumar Government has already chalked out an ambitious plan to develop Nalanda and Rajgir as per international standards. A state-of-the-art tourist park, township, airport and golf course have been planned, targeting foreign investments, which will be used to build world-class infrastructure in the region to help boost tourism.

The biggest challenge before the state, Centre and others involved in establishing the university would be to arrange funding and get the best faculty. Only then can it hope to attract students from across the world. Only then may the clamouring ruins of Nalanda finally fall silent, the dead past laid to rest.