Children urge residents to kick the butt

Ahead of World No-Tobacco Day on May 31, schoolchildren and members of a non-governmental organisation (NGO) held a protest rally outside the office of a cigarette manufacturing company here on Saturday to protest tobacco sale among children.

Nearly 7 lakh people die every year due to consumption of tobacco products.

“The idea is to draw the government’s attention to the cigarette manufacturers’ lobby against whom it stands weak when it comes to stronger pictorial warnings on cigarette packets and the warning message that is ineffective,” said Pankaj Sharma from the NGO, Centre for Transforming India.

 “The pictorial warnings on cigarette packets are almost invisible, and the elite manufacturers place warnings in English which is again ignored by most smokers,” added Sharma.

The rally saw participation from over 100 children and school teachers who had gathered outside the office of Indian Tobacco Company (ITC).

According to the guidelines issued to educational institutions by the Delhi High Court, schools and colleges must take steps to prohibit sale of tobacco products inside the premises of the institutions. They must display signs on the main gate and on boundary walls and ban smoking or chewing of tobacco or tobacco products inside the campus.

A dummy cigarette of ten-foot height was also set up and people were told about the hazardous effects of smoking. Pankaj Sharma, chief trustee of the NGO, said that for every rupee earned by the tobacco industry, the government has to spend R5 on health care, besides several lives lost.

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IT sector failed to develop skills: Panel

BANGALORE: An industry whose very foundations are built on ‘skill’ has been accused of being tardy in identifying and nurturing it with ruinous implication for the future.

A recent Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources (HR) has made critical observations on talent and skill development initiatives taken by IT companies and industry bodies. However, these comments elicited strong reaction from the software industry which said enough and more is being done to enhance the skill sets of its labour force though the primary responsibility lies with the government in this area.

The committee said that the existing skill development activities carried out by enterprises and industry bodies are slow, directionless and it might have serious consequences for the overall growth of the IT sector, said the committee.

The committee was surprised to note that in spite of several initiatives taken for meaningful interaction between industry and academia for mutual benefits specific to technical education system, linkages between industry and technical institutions continue to remain weak. The committee has been given to understand that anticipated response from the industry is simply missing. The variety of initiatives has failed to evolve the desired level of participation of the industry, said the committee.

The committee observed that tieup with industry associations such as CII, FICCI, Assocham , Nasscom and with entrepreneurship promoting agencies such as NSTEDB-DST , EDI, NISIET, NIESBUD have failed to take off.

According to Pankaj Sharma, chief trustee, Centre for Transforming India, an independent body focused on skill development and education, the basic problem is that there is no skill mapping done for IT industry either by companies or by trade bodies. The industry is also marred with a massive attrition problem which leaves little time for actual investment in skills. The government is spending a lot of amount through National Skill Development Mission but that too is going waste. Industry bodies that are supposed to do such activities are merely busy conducting seminars and tall-talks and doing little towards skill development for the industry, the report said.

The response from the industry was the opposite. Responding to the committee observations, Nasscom president Som Mittal said, “We were not part of the committee report. IT is a highly peoplecentric industry. We are working independently and we also have strong partnerships with the industry, academia and universities to ensure capacity development and skill development.”

Mittal said training/skilling is happening at multiple-levels . There are several independent training outfits; companies have their own training and skill development facilities, plus Nasscom has a Sector Skill Council and Nasscom Foundation runs an Animation & Gaming Academy.

Per annum, the government spends Rs 11 lakh crore, how much of it is going into education and skill development? Where are the tax money collections diverted asks Mohandas Pai, chairman, Manipal Universal Learning.

“It’s the job of the education sector, both vocational and higher, to focus on skill development. The government has started the journey, but has a long way to go. The committee’s criticism is misplaced as the primary agent has failed in its task and the industry cannot be blamed for the ills of society,” added Pai.

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Memorials for Delhi rape victim a year on


MS ANKITA Thapliyal skipped college yesterday to attend one of the scores of memorials held for the physiotherapy student whose gang rape in a moving bus in New Delhi exactly one year ago shocked the world, and released a raft of measures including tightening of the rape law.

The sad thing, Ms Thapliyal said, is that women in India are no safer today.

“I used to come home at 10pm and even later, and my parents would not say anything. Now I have to be home by 6pm. The restrictions are on women. Nothing changes; instead, the pressure is on me,” the 21-year- old said.

“But then I don’t feel safe in Delhi either.”

Across the country, people lit candles, prayed and sang songs in memory of the victim.

At another event in New Delhi, the victim’s parents held a prayer meeting attended by politicians, social activists and police officials, who all came to pay their respects to the young woman whose rape and death triggered protests.

On Dec 16 last year, the student was gang-raped and brutally assaulted. She died two weeks later at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, where she had been sent for treatment.

Four men are currently appealing against a death sentence while a fifth killed himself in prison. A sixth accused, a 17-year- old, is serving a maximum sentence of three years for rape and murder in a reform home.

Since the rape, the government has made stalking and voyeurism a crime and set up a fast-track court for rape cases. It also made rape that leaves a victim dead or in a vegetative state a capital offence.

Women activists said the biggest change is breaking the silence surrounding sexual violence against women in India.

So far this year, more than 1,300 rapes have been reported in New Delhi, up from 706 last year. Similarly, 2,844 assault cases were reported there this year, compared with 727 last year.

Last month, a young journalist accused powerful editor Tarun Tejpal, 50, of molesting and raping her in the lift of a five-star hotel. Mr Tejpal is currently in police custody.

In another high-profile case last month, a lawyer wrote about being sexually harassed last year by now retired justice A.K. Ganguly. She was then a law intern and he had allegedly invited her to his hotel room.

Those cases came after a photojournalist who was gang- raped in August went directly to the police, leading to the arrest of her assailants.

Yet gang rapes continue. In October, a minor was gang- raped in the state of Uttar Pradesh and then set on fire after she threatened to go to the police.

“You can only control crime when (the) criminal gets punishment and (the) victim gets justice,” said Mr Pankaj Sharma of non-profit Centre for Transforming India. “There is no evidence of that happening.”

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PepsiCo Takes ‘Snack Smart’ Logo Off Lays, Moves Away from Rice Bran Oil to Cut Costs

NEW DELHI: PepsiCo has silently taken off the ‘Snack Smart’ logos from the packs of its snack foods like Lay’s chips, Kurkure and Cheetos as it gives up rice bran oil to cook its snacks four years after launching the snack smart initiative.

Starting March this year, the company has been using cheaper palm oil to cook its snack brands as a cost-saving measure, three officials in knowledge of the development told ET. A PepsiCo spokesman confirmed the switch. “Our analysis of consumer feedback on the use of rice bran oil showed that the consumer did not show any added preference to the use of rice bran oil,” he told ET.

The ‘snack smart’ logos used to claim that the brands, apart from being cooked in healthier oil, had 40% less saturated fat, zero trans fats and no added monosodium glutamate. Beginning the second half of 2007, PepsiCo had been saying across various multimedia campaigns and announcements that it had switched to cooking all its snacks brands in rice bran oil, instead of the earlier palm oil.

Pepsi’s website,, still shows actor Saif Ali Khan promoting the ‘snack smart’ logo for its Lay’s chips. It says rice bran oil, used to cook Lay’s, Kurkure and Cheetos, is “naturally high in good fats and 22% lower in saturated fats”.

Typically, the cost difference between snacks cooked in rice bran oil and palm oil is about .`8-10 per kg. PepsiCo’s decision to silently withdraw the logo and switch to cheaper oil has not gone down well with health activists. Centre for Science and Environment Director Sunita Narain said the move amounts to taking the consumer for granted.

“If Pepsi spent crores telling consumers about the meaning of the ‘snack smart’ logo in the past, they should now tell consumers why the logo is off on the same marketing budgets,” Narain said. “They should have Saif Ali Khan on TV telling consumers why the logo is off.” Narain had triggered an outcry against Pepsi and Coke in 2006 by saying their soft drinks in the country contained pesticide Pankaj Sharma, chief trustee of Centre for Transforming India (CFTI), a Delhi-based NGO that works on health and environment issues, said companies should have self-regulation.

“Either they should not bother telling consumers details of cooking medium (or)…they should tell consumers about changes as well.”

The PepsiCo spokesman insisted that the company is not taking its focus away from healthy food. Lay’s has significantly reduced sodium in Lay’s Classic salted and all its snacks are free of MSG and trans fat, he says.

The company has also launched a baked version of Lay’s potato chips. “A new range of baked, multi-grain products under the Aliva brand is next in the offing,” the spokesman said.

With growing health concerns and mounting criticism over widespread obesity, food and beverage majors have begun adopting nutritional labelling in the country, in line with global trends, to reduce portion sizes, reformulate existing products to reduce saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugars and sodium.

Several companies including the two cola majors, Unilever, Nestle, Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods and Mars came together in March last year to sign an India Pledge, a set of guidelines to restrict and regulate propagating unhealthy foods on the lines of the European Union Pledge.

The pledge involves the companies making individual commitments to social responsibility in marketing food and beverage products to children, and providing a framework to promote healthier dietary choices.

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Encroachers gobble up Hauz Khas heritage

NEW DELHI: The Hauz Khas heritage, in the midst of an urbanized village with high-end boutiques, restaurants and an upscale residential colony, is slowly turning into a hub of illegal construction and occupation.

The monuments, which have a medieval history tracing back to the 13th century of Delhi Sultanate reign, have fallen prey to encroachers over the past few years. Despite complaints by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), along with several notices, the violations only seem to grow.

Just a few feet from the monument’s main entrance, construction is in full swing on the ground floor of a building that houses several boutiques and eateries. Another few feet away, a floor has been added to a building with a polished look.

In the residential colonies, which are 10 feet away from the monument’s boundary wall, the process of getting permission from the competent authority has been allegedly bypassed in favour of unauthorized construction.

Numerous notices, accompanied by action in some instances, have not shown results; officials admit that keeping tabs on all the illegal constructions around the monument is very difficult.

“We have made several complaints about unauthorized construction in the past few years but we are not empowered to take action and are dependent on the local authorities,” said a senior ASI official.

A number of restaurants in Hauz Khas Village recently came under the National Green Tribunal scanner for discharging untreated sewage into sewers. The group, which filed the PIL in the tribunal, now plans to seek intervention for safeguarding the sanctity of the heritage sites.

“Massive illegal constructions and ongoing encroachment of the forest belt and public spaces has been seen within 100m of the periphery of Hauz-E-Elahi. The forest belt not only has residences but has seen unbridled commercial activities. Most of the buildings housing famed restaurants have come up in the past three years and within 100m of the monument.

“All of this has been in connivance with ASI officials and other government bodies that have wilfully neglected their duties. It is important to preserve this 700-year-old monument and the eco-sensitive zone of southern ridge, failing which India will lose yet another important chapter of its glorious history to corruption, government and public apathy,” said Pankaj Sharma, environment and heritage activist.

Sharma claimed that attention was being paid mainly to the frontier of the monuments, but not to the settlements at the rear occupying forest land.

The locals said these shanties, which have been around since 2010, have been slowing growing. “We tried to free up the land two years ago but the villagers have now turned hostile. Our jurisdiction is till the monument’s boundary and the land occupied by villagers is with DDA,” said the official.

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NGT shuts down Hauz Khas village eateries till Sept 24

Concerned over “health hazards” posed by eateries in Hauz Khas village which are allegedly running without proper permission,the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday directed that the eateries remain closed till September 24.

A bench headed by Justice P Jyothimani said the order would act as an injunction against any new eating joint which comes up in the area and listed the matter for further hearing on September 24.

The tribunal observed that over 40 eateries in the area “are not only operating without proper clearance as per law but are discharging effluents,drawing potable water,apart from causing nuisance and environmental hazards…”.

The tribunal was hearing the petition by Pankaj Sharma alleging that the eateries in Hauz Khas village are operating illegally. Observing that so many eating joints could not have “mushroomed” in the area without the Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s knowledge,the NGT sought the presence of authority’s member secretary on the next date of hearing to explain.

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