The real scam is the fake (pro-poor) image

South Bengal goes to elections just as the Saradha chit fund scam is exploding in the face of Mamata “Didi” Banerjee. Millions of poor were robbed, and the daku-in-chief Sudipta Sen cultivated favors with the one (wo)man ruling party by buying Didi’s paintings for a few crores. A most ingenious way to rob Peter to pay Paul.

What makes the hypocrisy so glaring is that this is the same lady who is supposedly fighting 24/7 for the poor. She refused to raise train fares and caused the Indian railways to nearly collapse from a lack of funds. As Chief Minister of Bengal she refuses to raise bus fares, so much so that bus owners have reduced frequency and even stopped plying their vehicles. In the absence of buses, poor people have  to pay ten times the cost and travel by auto-rickshaws (who are often non-cooperative and rude). It is difficult to believe that even Communists were not so moronic.

Those training guns against the UPA-II for a
series of scams — 2G, Coalgate, the Commonwealth Games — may find it
amusing but in Bengal, the Rs 2,400-crore Saradha Ponzi muddle looms larger
than the other scams. Mamata Banerjee’s “honest” brand image has
taken a beating
in the last two phases of the LS polls spread over 23
constituencies in south Bengal where the “twin flowers”, the TMC symbol,
have a monopoly.

On Friday, a group of Saradha victims were
beaten up, allegedly by Trinamool supporters, when they blocked railway tracks
at Garia station.

“The government has cheated us. It
promised us compensation. But we are yet to get it,” said an injured Bijoy
Sapui. Ashim Chatterjee, a former Naxal leader who is now the president of the
Chit Fund Sufferers’ Association, lodged a complaint with the police.  The
Saradha story is not just about a Ponzi bubble that burst a year ago,
devastating 18 lakh people who had parked their money in the schemes. Bengal
had had a similar experience in 1980, when the chit fund Sanchayita Investments
mopped up more than Rs 120 crore from small depositors, only to shut shop

But the recent Saradha scam has drawn into
its vortex a host of individuals and institutions — from senior politicians and
bureaucrats to football clubs, Tollywood and even the media, where some of the
ill-gotten money was sunk.

The embers of resentment were fanned by BJP’s
Narendra Modi during his campaign in Bengal. While Congress president Sonia
Gandhi had earlier harped on the loot by the Saradha Group and the alleged
inaction by the state, Modi touched a nerve because he hinted that
politicians had directly benefited from the Saradha money. Modi didn’t name the
Saradha Group, but he hit the right notes by raising an obvious question:
“Who bought Mamata Banerjee’s paintings for Rs 1.8 crore?”
boss Sudipta Sen, now in custody, muddied the waters further by coming up with
a rebuttal: “I didn’t buy Mamata’s paintings. I don’t know who bought
them,” Sen said.

Taking a cue from Modi, former CPM minister
Gautam Deb hit the TMC chief where it hurt the most. Deb revealed the
income-tax returns filed by Trinamool that show that the party earned Rs 2.53
crore by selling Mamata’s paintings in the 2012-13 fiscal.
“How could
then Mamata give Rs 3.93 crore to party mouthpiece ‘Jago Bangla’ in the 2011-12
fiscal?” Deb asked.



A million donors needed (registry for stem cells)

Garvit Goel is a lucky kid, he got a match for blood stem cells from a stranger and was saved from a life of pain. Wonderful news and hopefully more people will register with Datri (and the Tata Memorial registry) and qualify to save lives (too easy).

Given the complications caused in South Asia due to endogamy, health experts believe that at least half million donors required. NGOs should consider partnering with religious bodies (similar to the intervention for polio drops) to remove myths about stem cell donation (will cause pain and weakness in donors).

two-year-old Delhi boy suffering from thalassemia got a new lease of
life after a Bangalorean donated his blood stem cells to him.  
This is
the first reported case in India of a thalassemia patient receiving
blood stem cells from an unrelated donor.

Garvit Goel was
advised to go for a blood stem cell transplant a year ago. None of his
family members qualified to be potential donors. That’s when Sumeet
Mahjan (34), a software professional from MindTree, stepped in.

For Sumeet, the turning point came in 2011 when his colleague’s
11-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia. MindTree requested Datri,
an NGO working on networking stem cell donors to help people suffering
from blood disorders, to look for a potential donor. Datri conducted a
workshop and awareness campaign at MindTree to make techies aware of the
life-saving benefits of stem cell donation. The boy died, but the
sustained campaign ensured many registered their names for blood stem
cell donation.

“In January 2013, I was asked by Datri if I
could donate stem cells for a two-year-old thalassemia patient from
Delhi. I was chosen as a potential donor. After consulting Datri and the
doctors, I felt responsible and went ahead with donation,” Sumeet told

For five days Sumeet was given growth factor injections.
He then underwent a half day’s non-surgical procedure. “Garvit underwent
the unrelated peripheral blood stem cell transplant in April 2013 and
is now free from thalassemia and saved from the trouble of constant
blood transfusion. We need 3-5 million blood stem cells per kg of
recipient’s body weight. Over 150-200ml of blood was used,” says Dr
Dharma R Choudhary, director, BLK Super Specialty, New Delhi.

As per the rule book, the recipient’s details cannot be disclosed to the
donor till a year after the transplant. In March 2014, Sumeet met
Garvit in Delhi.

“I wanted to see him. After a year, I got the
chance. His parents were very humble and thankful. I was satisfied that
Garvit was healthy and normal like any other kid of his age,” says
Sumeet, himself a father of two. He was backed by his family.

Thalassemia is caused by variant or missing genes that affect the
production of haemoglobin. Nearly 12,000 babies are born in India every
year with this disorder. In fact, 10% of the world’s thalassemia
patients are from the Indian subcontinent, with 3-4% of them being

With very few
registered donors in India, the possibility of finding a genetically
matching donor for an Indian anywhere in the world is low. Datri Blood
Stem Cell Donors Registry is working towards creating a wide and diverse
database of potential donors who can be accessed by any patient, living
anywhere in the world, in need of life-saving blood stem cells.

Datri has facilitated 51 transplants.

there are four registries in India but only two are functional – DATRI, a
south India-based stem cell registry started in 2009 which has around
56,000 registered donors, and Marrow Donors Registry India at Tata
Memorial Hospital in Mumbai.

a result of evolutionary history, endogamy and consanguinity,
populations of the Indian subcontinent demonstrate high genetic
differentiation and extensive sub-structuring. Ancestry is unique to
India,” said Dr N.K. Mehra, head of Immunology and Immunogenetics at the
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

“Indian groups have inherited different proportions of ancestry from
the ancestral North Indians and the ancestral South Indians. Hence,
consistent with social history, northern regions show closer affinities
with Indo-European speaking populations of central Asia as compared to
those inhabiting southern regions.”

Mehra said the southern Indian population may have been derived from early colonizers arriving from Africa. “This genetic matching is difficult to find for an Indian donor,” he said.

transplant from a healthy unrelated donor replaces flawed stem cells
with healthy ones that can generate healthy red blood cells and cure
Thalassemia. The goal of the transplant is to rebuild the recipient’s
blood cells and immune system and cure the underlying ailment, and avoid
or obviate the need for frequent blood transfusions.

“The existence of a large variety of alleles and haplotypes (genetic
components), both unique and representative of other ethnic groups in
the Indian subcontinent, poses additional challenges in the
transplantation context, particularly with regard to hematopoietic stem
cell transplantation,” Mehra said.

after patients find suitable donors, there are low chances of the donor
turning up due to myths related to donation like pain and weakness,
doctors claimed.

For a
successful transplant, the donor and recipient should have a matching
set of genes known as Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA). At least one third
of patients have a chance of finding an identical set of HLAs within
their family while two-thirds are dependent on unrelated donors.





Meeting your lost brother (after 42 years)

Bangladesh vs. Pakistan.

Perhaps it was too painful for the author to acknowledge but to us the most significant comparison (and contrast) point is that while cricket is akin to religion in both countries, only in Pakistan, there is no international cricket (and will not be for a long, long time), thanks to the Taliban targeting the Sri Lankan team in 2009. Even in the age of television, for domestic cricket to thrive in Pakistan you need international matches. Else we shall see the slow-poisoned demise of what used to be one of the most formidable cricketing machines in the world.
time ago, I visited Bangladesh to see the T20 World Cup and meet my old
Bengali schoolmates from 55 years ago. We attended a PAF boarding
school in Sargodha, half of whose occupants had to be from East

Forty-five years after the last visit, (when one served
as a sub-divisional officer, SDO, equivalent to our assistant
commissioner, in Sylhet district), Dhaka is more crowded. The commuting
time from one part of the city to the other is in hours. Cycle rickshaws
still provide the bulk of the transport; apparently there are 11 lakh
rickshaws in Dhaka alone. One pleasant side effect is the non-existence
of motorbikes.

While the warmth and hospitality of old buddies was
profuse, there was a palpable embarrassment at the way we parted in
1971. They described their ordeal of repatriation from West Pakistan,
(some of them being officers in the Pakistan armed forces) in as soft
terms as possible. One listened with as much tact and sympathy as
possible. The feeling is difficult to describe. One felt like the member
of a family accused of murder, visiting the family of the aggrieved

Politics and detailed discussions on 1971 were avoided, in
order not to spoil the pleasant ambiance generated by the reunion. But
the execution of a prominent member of the Bangladesh Jamaat-i-Islami
and the sentencing to death of half a dozen others, being current
events, could not be kept out of discussion. The Pakistan high
commission in Dhaka was stormed by an angry crowd, protesting the
National Assembly resolution condemning the execution of the JI leader.

response of Bangladeshi friends was that it was insensitive on part of
the Pakistan government to pass judgement, without knowing the facts.
The feeling conveyed was that a few people would have to be punished
(read hanged) to heal the wounds of 1971.

After a few days, one
got the impression there was a war going on in Bangladesh, between
people who love India and people who dislike India. Those who dislike
India would rather be branded India-haters, rather than Pakistan
supporters, as that would reduce their credibility. ‘Lovers’ of India
are led by the Awami League while the party which opposes India is the
Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which would prefer to downplay any overt
connection with Pakistan.

The most surprising thing was that many
in the country do not even recognise Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the father
of the nation. Some in earnest sarcasm say that the actual father of
the nation is Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but then go on to say that Gen Ziaur
Rahman was the one who physically fought the Pakistan Army.

the constraints, Bangladesh has done much better than Pakistan. While
we have foreign exchange reserves of around $10bn after unexplained
gifts from friendly countries and kowtowing to the IMF, their reserves
are at $19bn.  

While the Pakistani rupee, after much jugglery, was
brought below 100 to the dollar, in Bangladesh the dollar is worth 78
taka. This is quite an indictment of our economic performance,
considering the taka was worth 50 paisa when we parted.

startling comparison is that while East Pakistan had more population
than West Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh is now at 150 million, while we
are close to 190 million. So despite the predominant religious values in
the country, they have controlled their population. In Pakistan no one
is even talking about the crisis.

As for social indicators
monitored by international agencies measuring progress in health and
education etc., we are at least 25 positions lower in the country
rankings. So both financially and socially, Bangladesh seems to be
moving in the right direction, despite its chronic political crises.

Bangladesh was
geographically and ethnically so far away from Pakistan it would have
separated, if not in 1971 then a few years down the line. The only
regret is that the two brothers could have parted in a more civilised

Pakistan is still popular amongst the Bangladeshi masses,
but not with the government. The best way to restore the bond is to
resort to low-profile diplomacy with patience.



So…the Modi interview was doctored

The Indian bureaucracy is always eager to please their political masters, even if the stupidity is obvious to others. So what if Modi called Ahmed Patel (Gujarat Congress boss) his one-time friend and that he considers Priyanka Robert Vadra like his daughter. Priyanka has now come-back with the (silly) retort that she is Rajiv’s daughter and Patel has denied that he was ever friendly with Modi.

Given the hair-raising stuff that politicians of all stripes are saying to get the masses excited, mobilized and yes, polarized (sample: Abu Azmi says today that muslim voters in UP who did not vote for the Samajwadi Party must be forcibly DNA tested) this is all very thin milk.

that certain portions of the Narendra Modi interview on Doordarshan
“were apparently edited”, Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar on Friday
said the public broadcaster had failed to get the autonomy it was
seeking and pointed a finger at information and broadcasting minister
Manish Tewari for the failure to break the stranglehold.

In a
strongly-worded letter to the Prasar Bharati board, under which
Doordarshan and All India Radio function, Sircar said “It appears that
while portions critical of Doordarshan were telecast, certain comments
on other personalities were apparently edited” in the Modi interview
telecast on April 27.

Stating that “since questions have been raised in the public domain
about the impartiality and motives of the public broadcaster”, the
Prasar Bharati board had “taken several resolutions in the last two
years, seeking more operational autonomy from the ministry, but it has
failed to do so”, Sircar said.

He said that “in a way,
therefore, the ministry of information and broadcasting lost an
opportunity to convince a young minister (Manish Tewari) to break this
long traditional linkage between the ministry and the News Division,
which has continued unabated even after Prasar Bharati was born and
assigned its distinct role in 1997”.

Indicating the manner in
which the ministry controls the Prasar Bharati, he said: “The mechanisms
of appointment, transfers, career assessments and even punitive actions
against senior officials of the News Division are bound to cast a
‘shadow’, in some form”.

A copy of the letter is available with IANS.

Doordarshan had edited out portions from Modi’s interview where he had
referred to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and to Congress president Sonia
Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel.

The move had created a
political storm with the Bharatiya Janata Party alleging government
control over the public broadcaster.



The many avatars of Veena Malik

a) Dancing away her first Holi in India with her lady-bits dangerously exposed (fun girl Veena)

b) FHM photo-shoot (celebrity girl Veena)

c) Murdering the Mullah for having dared to bare in Big Boss (liberal hero girl Veena)

d) Married to Pakistani businessman, leaves India for good (with gaalis as parting gift for her hosts), conservatively dressed with a dark shawl on head, says she has “matured” (sharif aurat aur patriotic girl Veena)

Famous actor Veena Malik returned to Pakistan for the first
time after her marriage, complete with conservative garb and claims of
having “matured”, DawnNews reported.

Upon her arrival at
the Benazir Bhutto International airport in Islamabad, Veena said the
country had given a lot to her, and she had come back as a “matured
girl” as it was time to give back to the country.

She did not
confirm if she would return to the showbiz industry, but the star, who
was visibly in an emotional state, said that whatever she would do from
now on, be it showbiz related or social work, would be inside Pakistan

The actor, known to make headlines and court controversy, has returned following a long stint in neighboring India’s Bollywood industry and had claimed to have undergone “a change within” after marrying singer and businessman Asad Bashir Khan.

Recently, the actor had also caused a stir with her apparently anti-Indian remarks which were taken as an indication of her return to her native country.

star entered a controversy in 2011 when semi-nude photos of her were
published in Indian magazine FHM with the initials of Pakistan’s premier
intelligence agency appearing on her arm.

She had sued the magazine for damages claiming the published image had been morphed without her knowledge.

The actor made her debut in 2000 and since then has appeared in a number of Pakistani films and tv programmes.
After moving to India she performed in many commercially successful movies including, Daal mein kuch kaala hai, Zindagiu 50-50, Super model and Kannada.
She also appeared in a season of Indian reality show “Big Boss.”



Bodo vs. Muslim battle restarts (Kokrajhar, Axom)

From now and forever it will be open season on muslims in India (and the wrong type of muslims in Pakistan). The Hindus in Pakistan and in Bangladesh are of course already dead or in the process of mass migration to India (where they will rot as non-recognized refugees).  

These alliances will take all different forms, in Assam and in the North-East now there is considerable evidence that the tribals (Christians, Hindus) and the Hindu upper-caste Axomiya and Bengali populations have all united in their animosity against illegal migrants (as they see it) from Bangladesh. 
It will be interesting to know what the Church and Christian activists (such as John Dayal) have to say about all this killings by Bodo forces. RSS is not a significant presence in  the North-East (except in the Barak valley, South Axom). The Church in Nagaland, Bodoland, and Meghalaya has been very active in stoking anti-muslim rage. Axom is ruled by a popular Indian National Congress chief minister (Tarun Gogoi) who seemingly has no credible opposition and is expected to deliver a handsome seat count towards the Mission 115 plan.
Eleven Muslim villagers were killed and others wounded overnight when
suspected separatist militants opened fire on them in the high tense
northeastern Indian state of Assam.

police official was referring to an incident in which the militants
shot dead three members of a family, including two women, while wounding
a baby in the Kokrajhar district of Assam state.

In a second
attack in Baksa district in western Assam, eight people were killed by a
group of guerrillas as their sat in courtyard on Thursday night.

The dead included six women and two children.

Police said they suspected the militants behind the overnight killings were members of the Bodo tribe.
people have frequently attacked Muslims they say have illegally entered
from neighboring Bangladesh and encroached on their ancestral lands in
the hills.

Police blamed the attacks on the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

The incident comes in the middle of India’s ongoing general election battle.
groups feel that the community has come under attack because the rebels
feel that they had not supported Bodo candidates, Rakibul Islam of All
Bodoland Muslim Students Union said.

Local Muslims had been
threatened by Bodo groups “because they thought Muslims had voted for
non-Bodo candidates” during elections in Assam on 24 April, Islam told

In recent years, Hindu and Christian tribes have vented strong sentiments against Muslims, calling them Bangladeshi immigrants.

August 2012, sectarian violence rocked the city after four youths were
killed by unidentified men in the isolated Kokrajhar district.

In retaliation, armed men from Bodo tribes attacked Muslims for suspicion of being behind the killings.
The violence spread to the neighboring Chirang and Dhubri districts, leaving at least 22 people dead.
Thousands of people were also left homeless as their villages were set on fire in the violence.


2,800 dead (Nahrin, Afghanistan)

As if man-made miseries are not enough now nature makes a cold call as well. There was a major earthquake on March 03 which killed 100 people, however this appears to be much more severe in terms of human impact. The tremors were felt as far away as Islamabad.

More than 1,500 people are feared dead and 4,000 injured after a
series of earthquakes struck northern Afghanistan on Monday night and
Tuesday, government officials said. A Foreign Ministry official
said the district capital of Nahrin, near the epicentre in the rugged
Hindu Kush mountains, had been destroyed and a Defence Ministry
spokesman said 1,500 homes had crumbled.

Defence Ministry spokesman told Reuters: “Our reports say there are
1,500 dead, 4,000 injured, at least 1,500 homes destroyed and 20,000
people are homeless.” “The district capital of Nahrin was destroyed,” he said of a city of mainly mud buildings in the foothills of the Hindu Kush.

“We are sending rescue teams but aftershocks make relief efforts dangerous,” the spokesman said.

is the second major earthquake to hit northern Afghanistan this month.
More than 100 people were buried by a landslide in a remote village in
neighbouring Samangan province on March 3 after the last quake.

workers in the northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif, some 200 km (120 miles)
northwest of Nahrin, said they felt the quake on Monday night and ran
out into the streets. Light shocks were also felt in the Pakistani
capital Islamabad.

Seismological Office in the Pakistan city of Peshawar said the
earthquake struck at 1457 GMT on Monday and measured 6.0 on the Richter
scale. “It’s epicentre was in the Hindu Kush mountains,”

said official Lataf Gul. “Since
then aftershocks are being recorded. The last recorded was at 0655 GMT
today (Tuesday) with an intensity of 5.0 on the Richter scale.”

Earthquakes are relatively frequent in the Hindu Kush mountain range. In 1998, two earthquakes killed about 8,500 people and destroyed tens of thousands of houses in Takhar and Badakhshan provinces.



Cold war alliance restored in Afghanistan

Pakistan as a loyal friend of the Saudis has promised arms for Syrian rebels in support of a pro-Sunni, anti-Shia (Alawaite) cause. Hafez Assad will not be pleased (he himself gets support from Iran/Hezbollah).

Now it is the turn of Afghanistan to request India to supply arms presumably with US funding. The only problem is how to get tanks across Pakistan. The solution is to have Russia supply weapons for which there is now a green signal. It is unlikely that the Chinese who have considerable mining assets in Afghanistan and who are also suffering from Islamist attacks are going to take the side of the Taliban (and Pakistan).

With Czar Putin ready to play patron, the situation is similar to the decades spanning the 1950-1970s when Afghanistan under Mohammed Daoud Khan pulled closer to Moscow (and away from Islamabad). When the communists seized power in April 1978, the Americans launched a counter-offensive and backed the Islamist resistance (with Pakistan in the lead). The key difference this time may well be Iran on the Indo-Russian side.

Thus the rival alliance formations are complete: Russia-India-Iran (with USA and China in soft support mode) vs. Saudia-GCC-Pakistan. Whatever happens after 2014, it is clear that lot of misery is left in store for beautiful Afghanistan (and the equally beautiful Syria, Ahmed Rashid please note) in the future.
India has signed an agreement under which it will pay Russia
to supply arms and equipment to the Afghan military as foreign combat
troops prepare to leave the country, in a move that risks infuriating

Under the deal, smaller arms such as light
artillery and mortars will be sourced from Russia and moved to
Afghanistan. But it could eventually involve the transfer of heavy
artillery, tanks and even combat helicopters that the Afghans have been
asking India for since last year.

India has already been training
military officers from Afghanistan, hosted a 60-member Special Forces
group last year in the deserts of Rajasthan and supplied equipment such
as combat vehicles and field medical support facilities.

But the
decision to meet some of Afghanistan’s military hardware demands —
albeit sourcing them from Russia — points to a deepening role in
Afghanistan aimed at preventing it from slipping back into the hands of
the Taliban and other groups that are hostile to India.

It comes
as China, another big player in the region which borders Afghanistan via
a small, remote strip of land, is preparing for a more robust role in
Afghanistan, also concerned that the withdrawal of Nato troops will
leave a hotbed of militancy on its doorstep.

Like China, India is
unlikely to put boots on the ground to reinforce its strategy in
Afghanistan. “We can’t commit troops on the ground, we can’t give them
the military equipment that they have been asking us for, for all sorts
of reasons including the lack of surplus stocks,” said an Indian foreign
ministry official.

“Involving a third party is the next best
option,” the official said, referring to plans to source military
supplies from Russia for Afghan forces. The lack of direct access to Afghanistan poses additional hurdles to arms transfers.

An Indian team visited Moscow in February to firm up the deal, the official said. “We’ll work with India directly as well as trilaterally involving Russia,” said an Afghan official in New Delhi. “Most of India’s weapons are made in Russia or co-produced with Russia, so it makes sense.”

Pakistan is likely to be angered by any move to help arm Afghan forces, even if indirectly.

Rashid, an author and expert on the region, said the deal could
aggravate relations between India and Pakistan if the arms supplied were
heavy enough to be deemed “offensive”.

“Diplomacy and political dialogue are what will bring peace to Afghanistan,” he said.
“What is not going to bring peace is more weapons.”