Monday, 26 January 2015

A visual story on rain water harvesting. How it improved the water table in Chennai city and also helped the residents to quit buying water from private agencies.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

These are the stories published on thalaikoothal, a traditional practice followed in down south districts of Tamil Nadu by which family members kill their elderly parents. My stories brought the issue to the light and the government took action to bring the practice to an end. With the help of voluntary organisations, elders in Virudhunagar district have now formed self help groups to guard themselves from errant children and fight for their rights.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Niger celebrates Navarathri with dazzling stamps 

Chennai, September 26: Niger,  a small West African country, too is celebrating the Indian festival of Navarthri with special, dazzling stamps.  The Niger government on Thursday released two stamps – of Ganesha and Lakshmi Ganesha--with a golden foil in India exclusively for the Navarathri festival. The stamps are sold online- with limited edition of 1,500 stamps - for Indian collectors.   

Within seven hours of launching the sale, Alok K Goyal, authorised dealer for the special Niger stamps in India, received 42 orders from Chennai. He has sold 140 stamps across India on the launch day.  “The highest number of orders is from Chennai and next is  Bengaluru with 12 orders. The sale will be open till the stock is available,” he said.

Speaking to DC over the phone from Kolkotta, Alok K Goyal said that the Niger government produced these special stamps to mark Navarathri and earn revenue. “The growing popularity of Indian art and culture internationally has initiated the government of Niger to issue these two special stamps during the current festive season in India."  The Ganesha stamp, which is in a hexagonal shape and is made of gold foil, is priced at Rs.1001,” he said.
The other stamp in the shape of lotus has Lakshmi and Ganesha decorated with a Swarovski stone and is priced at Rs.1, 111. Goyal said that he wanted to launch these stamps for Ganesh Chathurthi but got delayed because of the special printing with gold foil. Goyal’s site has the images of stamps and the facility to order them.

A resident of St.Thomas Muount, Aggarwal (32), has decided to add the glittering Niger stamps to his rich collections of 500 stamps. “I have been collecting special stamps right from my school days. These two stamps are so special during the Navarathri festival. These two will add to my fifth album of special stamps,” he said.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

60 per cent donated organs go to private hospitals 

negligence of govt hospitals allow private sector to make huge business

Chennai, July 31: Organs donated by brain dead people benefit patients in private hospitals more than in government hospitals. Statistics available with the Tamil Nadu Cadaver Transplant Programme (TNCTP) reveals that 60 per cent of the organs harvested from the brain dead end up in private hospitals because very few government hospitals have registered for organ transplant programme.

Experts say that the negligence shown by government hospitals to register for the transplant programme and the delay in enrolling additional doctors in government hospitals are intended to allow the private hospitals to take advantage of lucrative organ transplant surgery in Tamil Nadu. Other reason is government doctors experienced in transplant procedure preferring private hospitals with better facilities and salaries.

Of the 58 hospitals registered for kidney transplant in Tamil Nadu, only seven are government hospitals whereas 51 private hospitals offer this facility, according TNCTP. In the case of liver transplant, among the 12 registered hospitals, just two are in the government sector. Heart transplant facility is no different from other organ transplant hospitals. 11 out of 12 hospitals carrying out heart transplant are in the private sector. 

 A senior health department official said that lack of sophisticated equipment and facilities, including labs, are major factors for the low percentage of organ transplantation in government hospitals. “In the case of private hospitals, transplantation department is a cash cow. It is equipped with updated technologies. Whereas in government hospitals one nephrologist has to attend to several patients and kidney transplant becomes an additional work. This is same with other transplants too,” the official said.

Reasoning how private hospitals are in the forefront in transplantation, a senior retired health department official pointed out that many doctors who join the government hospitals gain experience only to enrich their knowledge and leave for private hospitals. “The scene in Coimbatore government hospital is a case in point. In the last three years, four doctors who joined the urology department left in a short time and joined private hospitals,” recalled the official.

Private hospitals exploit patients; make a killing
Though the norm is that the receiver does not pay for the organ, private hospitals add up the bills for the organ transplant surgeries in the name of room service, medical reports, post-operative care charges and so on, say activists. There is a need to fix uniform fee in all hospitals based on the facilities instead of allowing them to fleece patients.

Dr.G.Ravindranath, state general secretary, Doctors Association for Social Equality, said that the brand image of the hospital determines the size of the bill. “There is no regulation of medical bill charged by hospitals. While private insurance companies determine the expenses for treatment and surgeries, the government could do it in a professional manner. When kidney transplant in a popular private hospital costs Rs. 6 lakhs, the same is performed for a little less in a hospital in Madurai. Liver transplant would cost up to Rs.40 lakhs in a well known corporate hospital in Chennai and another hospital charges between 30 and Rs.35 lakhs,” he said.

Madurai based RTI activist C.Anand Raj, who campaigns for uniform fee fixation for private hospitals, said, “Similar to fee fixation committee for private schools, a committee should be formed to fix fee for private hospitals. There are 20 government medical colleges. But compared to private hospitals, very few transplants are performed in government hospitals. This makes patients from middle class and lower middle class to queue up in private hospitals and spend all the money for the treatment.” He said that several corporate hospitals register for organ transplant and make huge profits. They receive patients from other states also.

Thursday, 26 June 2014


 24 kids died in four years in Tamil Nadu after falling into open borewells 

Chennai, June 26: Over 20 children in Tamil Nadu have lost their lives as they stepped into bore wells and died during the rescue operation since 2010. Due to the negligence of the farm owners and conventional rescue mechanism by the fire and rescue services officials took the lives of little children, say child rights activists, who released a fact finding report on deaths of children in open bore wells and wells in Tamil Nadu, in Chennai on Wednesday.
Releasing the report Thomas Jayaraj, director of Centre for child rights and development said, “More than 500 children in India including 24 children in Tamil Nadu have died in the last four years struggling to survive in the abandoned borewell and wells. On an average the rescue process takes 9 to 45 hours to dig the child out of bore well and very rarely children are saved.”  He added that Supreme Court guidelines on safety measures related to open borewell are not implemented. “The National and state child rights commission officials have not taken any serious measures to address this issue,” he said.
R.Jone (20) and S.Shine (17), both engineering students, who were part of the fact finding team said that government officials blamed the model code of conduct by the election commission for not circulating the supreme court guidelines on open bore wells. “We were quit upset that even after so many deaths, officials are not informed about the problem and they blamed the election commission for not carrying out their job. 

In one case, a three-year-old child Harshan fell into bore well in Kuthalaperi village in Tirunelveli and he was rescued. But even after ten days, the bore well and the deep pit dug to bring him out were not closed,” said Jone and Shine, representatives of children’s movement for climate justice.

The voluntary organisations have asked the government to introduce modernized rescue methods and take preventive steps to avoid deaths of children in bore wells in future. They also demanded immediate disbursal of compensation for parents who had lost their children instead of making them wait for years to receive the money. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Temple elephants need ‘humane’ treatment

Pramila Krishnan
Chennai, June 10: Maduravalli (60), elephant belonging to Koodal Alagar Perumal temple in Madurai, suffers from severe foot rot and has developed joint pain. She is obese and has been undergoing weight reduction treatment. Thanjavur temple elephant, Vellaiammal, aged around 65, also suffers similar health disorders and added to that she is struggling to manage bedsores that she developed from lying on a rough concrete floor. Veterinarians, who treated Maduravalli and Vellaiammal, conducted periodical medical check ups and recommend change in diet and maintenance by the temple authorities. Medical experts who have treated temple elephants observe that many elephants die because of poor maintenance and negligence of temple authorities in providing natural ambience and nutritious food to the holy animal.

A recent social interaction session organised by researchers among three different groups of elephants - temple elephants, zoo elephants and captive elephants - revealed heart-wrenching stories of cruel treatment to temple elephants in India. Researchers, who studied some 267 elephants, including 67 temple elephants from Tamil Nadu, found that more than 60 per cent of temple elephants did not like to interact with other elephants. While the zoo elephants were quirky and mischievous and the captive elephants were engaged in talking with their tribe, the temple elephants remained withdrawn. The experts said since temple elephants are kept all alone for years together, they have no inclination to interact and failed to mix with other elephants. Even worse is that temple elephants did not show interest in mating though the experts set up a conducive environment for the cow and bull elephants.

The study states that temple elephants are forced to learn at least 50 commands in languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Urdu. They bless devotees some 2,000 times during festivals. As per the study, food provided by devotees includes fruits, coconut, ghee, rice and other unnatural food - sweets, biscuits and chocolates. This leads to obesity and indigestion when the devotees feed elephants with unwashed hands. Researchers say that on average the chain tied to the legs of the elephants weighs close to 50 kgs.

Environmentalists and animal rights activists across the country have been raising their voice against keeping elephants in temples to bless devotees and to carry out rituals for temple deities.
Raman Sukumar, member of Project Elephant Steering Committee of the government of India, said since temples get huge donations, they take good care of elephants. “Elephant is a highly socialising animal and lives in large families. Keeping the elephant in solitary spaces affects their interaction skills, which could be termed as behavioural cruelty,” he said. He added that when temple authorities want to keep an elephant, they should take adequate care to provide natural food substitutes; provide opportunity for elephants to interact with other elephants. “Enough space should be provided for elephants to move around instead of being chained to a close circuit that prevents their movement,” said Sukumar.

When contacted Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department Commissioner P.Dhanapal about improving maintenance for temple elephants he said, “These days temple elephants receive good care. Veterinary doctors check the elephants every month and ensure they are healthy. Annual rejuvenation camp is conducted every year for elephants to protect them.”