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Tag Archives: indians

#Freedom: Tens of thousands of Indians back call to ‘Save the Internet’


Tens of thousands of Indians have joined a public campaign to ensure equal access to the Internet as an impassioned debate engulfs the country on what is called "net neutrality." 

The controversy heated up after one of the country's main telecom providers launched a new marketing platform, Airtel Zero, where Internet businesses could pay to have users browse their sites for free.

This triggered a nationwide backlash from those who fear that this could deny equal access to the Internet.  They are demanding that the Internet remain a level playing field with all data getting equal treatment - whether it is a student's blog or an online company with deep pockets.

Celebrities, professionals, entrepreneurs and students, are among the tens of thousands who have signed up for an online campaign "savetheinternet."

Most notably the comedy group All India Bakchod (AIB) threw its support behind the initiative.

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#Lure: Uttar Pradesh in new bid to woo Non-Resident Indians

The government of the northern Indian state Uttar Pradesh has unveiled new plans to encourage NRI’s from the region to invest in the state which was ravaged by devastating floods last year.  A new website – www.upnri.com – will offer information on investment opportunities as well as being a gateway …

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#GAFFE: US politician mistakes senior Washington officials for INDIANS

A newly-elected US congressman has caused embarrassment in Washington after mistaking two senior Indian-American officials for foreigners.

Representative Curt Clawson - a Republican Congressman from Florida - was addressing Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia at the US State Department, and Arun Kumar, who works for the US Department of Commerce, during a congressional hearing on Friday.

During a minute-long monologue, Mr Clawson said, "I am familiar with your country.  I love your country.  I'm hopeful with the new change in regime that the future and the land of promise and the land of opportunity of India can finally become so".

As Ms Biswal and Mr Kumar - two of the most senior and prominent officials of South Asian extraction in Washington - stared in disbelief, Mr Clawson requested that India become open to more investment from the United States.

“Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcomed there,” he said. "Can I have that?"

There was a moment of silence before Ms Biswal answered.

"I think your question is to the Indian government," she said. "We certainly share your sentiments and will advocate that on behalf of the U.S. government."

Realizing his mistake, Mr Clawson said he was merely "asking for their opinion" but it was too late as bloggers and commentators seized on his gaffe.

According to USA Today, the politician has since apologized.

“I made a mistake in speaking before being fully briefed and I apologize. I’m a quick study, but in this case I shot an air ball,” Clawson told the newspaper.

It's extremely rare for officials of foreign countries to testify before congressional committees and Mr Clawson had been given information about Ms Biswal and Mr Kumar prior to the hearing with detailed background information. 

Nisha Desai Biswal heads the US State Department's South and Central Asia bureau, which oversees US policy and relations with crucial states such as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Biswal has enjoyed a long and successful career in several important international aid and development organizations, including the American Red Cross, Office of US Foreign Disaster  Assistance and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Mr Kumar was confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service in March 2014. 

In his role, Mr Kumar leads the trade and investment promotion efforts for the U.S. Government in key markets around the world.

Their 'inquisition' comes as US Secretary of State prepares to visit India, the first visit by a prominent US politician since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May.

"The United States and India can and should be indispensable partners for the 21st Century, and that is, I assure you, the way we approach the Modi government," Mr Kerry said in a speech to an American think tank in Washington on Monday.

"India's new government has won a historic mandate to deliver change and reform and, together, we have a singular opportunity to help India to be able to meet that challenge," he added.

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#S**tHappens: 600 million Indians still practice OPEN DEFECATION – UN

One billion people worldwide still practise "open defecation" and they need to be told that this leads to the spread of fatal diseases, U.N. experts said on Thursday at the launch of a study on drinking water and sanitation.

"'Excreta', 'faeces', 'poo', I could even say 'shit' maybe, this is the root cause of so many diseases," said Bruce Gordon, acting coordinator for sanitation and health at the World Health Organization.

Societies that practice open defecation - putting them at risk from cholera, diarrhoea, dysentry, hepatitis A and typhoid - tend to have large income disparities and the world's highest numbers of deaths of children under 5 years old.

Attempts to improve sanitation among the poorest have long focused on building latrines, but the United Nations says that money literally went down the toilet. Attitudes, not infrastructure, need to change, it said.

"In all honesty the results have been abysmal," said Rolf Luyendijk, a statistician at the U.N.'s children's fund UNICEF.

"There are so many latrines that have been abandoned, or were not used, or got used as storage sheds. We may think it's a good idea but if people are not convinced that it's a good idea to use a latrine, they have an extra room."

India is the world's biggest culprit, according to the UN, with a staggering 600 million people forced to "do the business" outdoors.

The country's relatively "hands off" approach has long been at odds with the more successful strategy of neighbouring Bangladesh, which has put a big focus on fighting water-borne diseases since the 1970s, Luyendijk said.

"The Indian government did provide tremendous amounts, billions of dollars, for sanitation for the poorest," he said.

"But this was disbursed from the central level to the provinces and then all the provinces had their own mechanisms of implementing. And as their own data showed, those billions of dollars did not reach the poorest," added Luyendijk.

India's government has now woken up to the need to change attitudes, he said, with a "Take the poo to the loo" campaign that aims to make open defecation unacceptable, helped by a catchy Youtube video.

"What is shocking in India is this picture of someone practising open defecation and in the other hand having a mobile phone," said Maria Neira, director of Public Health at the WHO.

While the number of "open defecators" is rising in India, other countries have made steady progress in tackling the issue, most notably Bangladesh and Vietnam: in 1990 one in three people in both countries were relieving themselves under blue skies but the practice had been virtually stamped out by 2012.

The global number has fallen from 1.3 billion in 1990.

But one billion people - 90 percent of them living in rural areas - "continue to defecate in gutters, behind bushes or in open water bodies, with no dignity or privacy", the U.N. study said.

The practice is still increasing in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria was the worst offender, with 39 million open defecators in 2012 compared to 23 million in 1990.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 14 percent of the population are open defecators.

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