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A harrowing scream greeted us as we walked into the Advantage Elder Care home in Kothanur. It came from an old woman completely bent over with arthritis, whose closest companion is utter agony. She can barely turn her head to face us as we say hello. On the one other bed in the room is another old woman, who smiles cheerfully as we enter, extending her hand in greeting. She introduces herself very politely and then says, “Nobody wants me, I know that,” before breaking into sobs. This lady has dementia. Her speech might sound grown up, but in most other ways, she knows less than a child of four.

With Shaji Philip leading the way through Advantage Elder Care, a home for rehabilitation and palliative care, the lives of the 30 other patients at the centre slowly come to light. Many of the people here are affected by dementia, crippling arthritis, cancer, paraplegia, Parkinson’s disease and even muscular dystrophy, a rare group of muscle diseases that weakens the musculoskeletal system and can bring all locomotion to a complete halt. Some patients are still left with the presence of mind to recognise a newcomer and sit up to say hello, others continue sleeping, unaware that anything has happened at all, while others just stare blankly ahead, as if there is nothing left to be said any more.

Though they lead a pitiful existence, they are still fortunate in having someone take care of them. Most are incapable of performing even the simplest activities on their own, need adult diapers, catheters and nasogastric incubation (for long-term feeding through the nose, the throat and into the stomach).

“All the patients here require constant monitoring, feeding happens every two hours. The catheter has to be changed every 15 days, and physiotherapy is given every day,” says Philip, who, having worked in the hospital industry for nine years, realised the urgent need for good geriatric and palliative care.

“Bed sores need to be treated, they can take up to seven months to heal, and nursing care is of the utmost importance,” he says. At the AEC, each patient has an attendant who never leaves his or her side, along with full time physiotherapy to help rehabilitate patients with arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. Young girls from the rural parts of Karnataka such as Raichur, Gulbarga and Hubli, most of them between 18 and 25, are given a year’s free training in nursing before they begin work at the centre. Their job can be traumatic, both because of the kinds of chores they perform and because of the psychological ordeal of staring death in the face.

“We have about two deaths a week on an average,” says Philip. In a bid to keep his employees in good spirits and help them remain optimistic through the suffering they are witness to, Philip takes them on excursions and short holidays to cheer them up. In one room lies a woman who doesn’t speak at all. There is much anger in her eyes, even though she refuses to look our way. Six months into her marriage, she suffered a severe brain haemorrhage and has been at the centre since. “Her husband comes in once in a way to make a payment. He came this morning, but he didn’t bother to go up and see his wife,” says Philip. “He argues that they were only married six months, not long enough to warrant a commitment.”

The young woman’s parents won’t have anything to do with her either because she is a married woman and no longer their responsibility. So she lies there, alone, with no hope of recovery and no real prospect of death. She is just skin and bones and furious at the raw deal life has dealt her. A young paraplegic has occupied his bed at the AEC for four years, from the age of 26, when he met with a serious accident. “Watching his parents come and go is the hardest part; they take it in turns each day,” says Philip. The young boy cannot even swallow his food, feeding him takes a good three hours each time, Philip explains.

As far as care-giving goes, AEC makes sure that no holds are barred. The patients have the best diet, including milk and fruit on a daily basis. “I want biscuits,” said one very old lady, completely beaten down by dementia. The biscuit is produced at once and she pushes it into her mouth eagerly. At that moment, all was well with the world. Despite the countless complications, life can become as simple as that.

The most frightening part is that many of these people — doctors, engineers, nurses, journalists, an author and even a bureaucrat who was defeated by drugs and suffers from dementia now — once led an active, normal life. Today they lie on those beds, completely helpless. There is not an inkling of the success they once knew. “Philanthropy is what this field needs,” says Philip. “People need to reach out and help because there are many, many people out there who cannot afford care like this, but deserve it all the same.”

Geriatric care should be a growing area of health care as the population greys at a faster rate. Yet, in India, there are very few places like AEC that give people unable to look after themselves, the level of care they need. If these people could speak, they would all be storytellers, telling the same sad story in a hundred different ways. Life is a terribly lonely experience once the illusion is gone. Nothing remains now, not success, not power, not relationships. They have only themselves to live with. 
 
THE GOVERNMENT is making efforts to improve access to microfinance by the poor though self-help groups of women. This is thought to provide financial independence to women and also improve the economic condition of their families. Mohammad Yunus of Grameen Bank of Bangladesh was given the Nobel Peace Prize for taking microfinance to more than 40 lakh families constituting about 15 percent of the population of that country.

However, experts say that microfinance is not leading to much improvement in the conditions of the poor. Economist Farooque Chaudhury of Bangladesh writes in an article in The Nation that the wage rate for the agricultural labour increased from Rs 20 in 1984 to Rs 28 in 2003 — an increase of about two percent per year. Bangladesh continues to be counted among the poorest of countries. The situation in India is no different.

This writer had the opportunity to study the impact of microfinance in many states of India and found the condition of those taking loans to be generally worse than those not taking loans. In one study in Gulbarga district of Karnataka comparison was made between incomes of people from two villages — one with many self-help groups and other with none. The incomes of the villagers without self-help groups were higher.

Reason is that microfinance often sucks out incomes of the poor, instead of adding to it. Say, you borrow Rs 1 lakh at an interest of 12 percent. You have to pay Rs 12,000 towards interest at the end of the year. Now you are better off if the earning from the loan is more than Rs 12,000, but worse if the earning is less. In other words, the final impact of microfinance depends upon the difference between the rate of interest paid and the rate of profit earned from the deployment of the loan.

The microfinance movement is suspect because virtually no discussion is made of the rate of profit on the deployed loans. It is implicitly assumed that the rate of profit will be higher than the rate of interest. But this assumption has no basis whatsoever. Rather, it is seen that people in the villages often deposit their savings at low rates of interest of about 5-7 percent in fixed deposits with the banks. They wouldn’t do so if they could earn more than 30 percent from the same money by opening a shop or establishing a mini rice mill. It is also seen that the price of many items produced by the poor such as paper envelopes, candles, buttermilk and vegetables is falling.

The microfinance movement becomes an instrument of expansion of poverty in this background of declining prices and rates of profit. The poor become poorer because they have to pay a part of their meagre earnings as interest to the banks. But neither Mr Yunus, nor Dr Manmohan Singh talk about the prices of commodities made by the poor.

Some evidence of the negative impact of microfinance is available. Taj Hashmi, a fellow student of Yunus writes: “I personally know Yunus since our Chittagong University days. He is not the type who would make money from this project. So where is the problem? I was a big admirer of Grameen Bank. In 1996, I spent a few months in Bangladeshi villages examining the impact of NGOs on the poor villagers. By 1971, I was a changed man. Later in 2002, I spent two months in villages in Comilla, Sylhet and Dhaka districts with my students as their supervisors. My students, without my prompting, told me that they found non-Grameen villagers were much better off than those taking Grameen loans. Some villagers proudly asserted: ‘Sir, we did not allow Grameen to open its branch in our village. As a result we are much better off than some neighbours’.”

Indeed such anecdotal evidence cannot be relied upon blindly. But there is logic here. The reason for non-microfinanced people being better-off can be that the income of the milkman who takes loan is less than one who does not do so. The borrower milkman has to pay interest out of his meagre earnings, while the non-borrower retains all of his income. Since both undertake the same business with same technology in the same market, the price received by the two is same and the non-borrower is better off.

THE PROBLEM of microfinance is that attention is given only to the increased lending. There is no assessment whether the money is being deployed in the establishment of profitable businesses. The borrower and the non-borrower compete with each other in the same market, and the non-borrower emerges winner because he does not have to pay interest.

The beauty of microfinance is that it sucks out the income of the poor without causing much pain. Rather the poor thanks the lender for impoverishing him. Just as the bonded labour thanks the moneylender for giving him a loan, similarly the members of self-help groups thank the microfinance institutions for providing loans. They forget that the same institution is also taking away their incomes.

Governments of India and Bangladesh and foreign donors promote microfinance because this movement is successful in pacifying the poor into believing that the government is trying to do something to improve their conditions. The poor have to borrow from the moneylender at 5 percent per month. The same loan is provided more efficiently by the microfinance institutions at 2-3 percent per month. The poor face much harassment in borrowing from the banks. The cost of red tape and paper work and bribes is prohibitive. Microfinance delivers the same credit without much hassle. In the process, those who have escaped the lock of poverty due to the high interest rate charged by the moneylender or due to red tape in the banks are now locked into poverty through microfinance. This movement is more efficient in securing peaceful expansion of poverty than the moneylenders or the banks. This suits the governments of the day. They could not have it better. Instead of spending money in programmes like Employment Guarantee Scheme to pacify the poor; they can extract incomes of the poor through microfinance while pacifying them!

Well-intentioned social workers who want to secure improvement in the conditions of the poor people should give more attention to securing higher prices for the good produced by the poor. The poor will find some way of raising the money for investing if the business is profitable. This is a straightforward method of removing poverty instead of the suspect route of microfinance.

Bharat Jhunjhunwala is a former economics professor at IIM Bengaluru. The opinions expressed are his own.
bharatjj@gmail.com 
 
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CHENNAI: Ultratech Cement, park of the Aditya Birla group is mulling a massive 5.50 million tonnes per annum integrated cement complex in Karur, Dindigul district in Western Tamil Nadu. The investment details are not known, but industry sources say it could be in the region of Rs 5000 crore minimum. 

Documents accessed by TOI indicates that Samruddhi Cement, now part of UltraTech Cement is planning a 5.50 million tonne cement plant, a 4.5 million tonne per annum clinker facility, a 3X25 MW captive power plant for the complex, a 15 MW waste heat recovery project in Karur, in Dindigul district. 

Ultra tech is already in the process of implementing several expansion projects including the 3.0 million tonne cement plant at Nawalgarh in Rajastan with an investment of Rs 2500 crore, a 3.5 million tonne plant at Satna in Madhya Pradesh with Rs 2,200 crore investment and a 4.25 million tonne plant at Malkhed in Gulbarga district in Karnataka with a cumulative investment of Rs 3000 crore, CMIE's projects monitor said 

 
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Handling and transportation of goods at the goods shed at the Gulbarga Railway Station is a total mess, lacking in basic facilities for transportation of goods from the rake point.

The Gulbarga Handling and Transportation Contractors’ Association has time and again brought to the knowledge of the Railway authorities the woeful conditions at the goods shed and the insufficient protected space for storing goods that arrive from different parts of the country, to little effect.

WORSE IN MONSOONThe situation worsens during the rainy season, with the ground turning slushy and goods dumped from the wagons being placed in the open with only a tarpaulin for cover, exposing them to damage. The association said, in a press release here, that the goods shed was initially open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but was now operated round the clock.

The unavailability of labour to download the goods at odd hours, particularly at night, was another major problem.

It said godowns operated by the State government were open from 9.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m., making it difficult for workers to download goods from the wagons and transport them to the State godowns.

If the goods dumped at the goods shed were not lifted in nine hours, the Railways charged them.

Another problem faced by the association was that they could not run their vehicles during the daytime, owing to the restrictions placed by the authorities on the movement of heavy vehicles inside the city.

Meanwhile, RTI activist Shaik Shafi Ahmed has filed an application with the Public Information Officer in the Office of the Divisional Railway Manager in Solapur, Maharashtra, seeking details of the facilities available at the goods shed in Gulbarga Railway Station. Mr. Ahmed, in his application, sought to know the facilities available at the goods shed, including whether the goods shed had sufficient sheltered area, a motorable road for heavy vehicles to ply, and drinking water and toilet facilities for labourers as stipulated under the law.


 
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Tamil Nadu Minister for Agriculture S. Damodaran was all praise for the transparent system of electronic bidding for produce introduced at the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) in Gulbarga on a pilot basis, and said his State would consider introducing a similar measure.

Mr. Damodaran, accompanied by senior officials of his department, including Agriculture Production Commissioner and department Secretary Sandeep Saxena, visited the APMC market yard here on Friday, along with Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) R. Ramaseshan, APMC chairman Mallikarjun Lingadalli and its secretary H.K. Chandramohan. They also inspected the grading of agricultural produce, particularly red gram, done by CommGrade, a subsidiary of NCDEX.

Briefed

The Tamil Nadu team was briefed by officials of NCDEX about electronic tendering of agricultural produce and how it meant a competitive price for farmers.

Officials of NCDEX and APMC told Mr. Damodaran and Mr. Saxena that e-bidding was totally transparent, eliminating the need for middlemen. Farmers had the choice of accepting the price offered during bidding or refusing it on the spot Only traders who had licences from APMC were allowed to participate in the bidding.

Besides, the officials said, APMC also carried out awareness programmes in villages to educate farmers on the need for maintaining the grading of the grain to get better prices in the market.

In a brief chat with presspersons, Mr. Damodaran and Mr. Saxena said that although they were impressed by the e-bidding process introduced at the APMC here, they would study the process further before taking a policy decision on introducing a similar system in Tamil Nadu.

The team was also visiting Mumbai, the NCDEX headquarters, to see the working of the NCDEX spot exchange of agricultural commodities.


 
GULBARGA: A Special Investigation Team has been formed to trace the murder of veteran writer Linganna Satyampet. Speaking to The Times Of India SP Praveen Pawar said that Aditional SP Bhooshan Bhorse will lead the five teams. 

Veteran writer of Hyderabad-Karnatak region Linganna Satyampet was allegedly murdered and his body thrown in a drain in front of Sharanabasaveshwara Temple in city here on Thursday. 

Praveen Pawar said he has yet to get the postmortem report, which has been sent to the laboratory in Bellary. No arrests have been made. 

On Wednesday, Linganna was invited for a special lecture in Sharanabasaveshwar temple and had left for Gulbarga by the 4pm bus. He reached Gulbarga at 6pm. He called the organizers and told them that he would be there at the temple soon. However, he did not turn up at the temple. His son filed a missing complaint at Brahmpur police station. On Thursday noon, his body was found in a drain near the temple. 
 
The Hyderabad Karnataka Environment Awareness and Protection Organisation has taken exception to the establishment of a 3.23 million tonne per annum (MTPA) cement plant at Kiranagi village on the outskirts of the city.

Raising objections to the environmental clearance proposal submitted by Gulbarga Cement Ltd. — which proposes to set up the mega cement plant — at the public hearing chaired by Deputy Commissioner Vishal R. here on Wednesday, president of the organisation Deepak C. Gala said the location of the site for the factory was “unscientific”.

‘Dangerous’

He said the company proposed to set up its plant in the vicinity of the Mega Thermal Power Plant designed to produce 1,320 MW by Power Company of Karnataka Ltd., and the blasting activity of the cement factory and the high tension wires running from the proposed thermal plant would make things dangerous.

“The site selection was not proper as per the guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the location of such industries side by side.”

Water requirements

Mr. Gala said the cement plant also proposed to draw 45 lakh litres of water from the Bhima to meet its water requirements.

However, the environmental assessment report did not mention the hydrodynamics of the transportation of such a large quantity of water, which was not available in the Bhima throughout the year. While the environment assessment report said the peak discharge in the river would be for 11 months, Mr. Gala said the ground reality was just the opposite.

No proper estimate

There was no assured peak discharge in the river for 11 months, and at present the river met the total requirement of Gulbarga and other cities, Jewargi town, and villages on its banks.

There was no proper estimate on the quantity of water available in the river.

 
Mothers fail to give a proper reply about such infants


Poverty stricken Banjara tandas deep inside the thick forests in Konchavaram in Chincholi taluk of Gulbarga district are back in the news after about a decade for the same story but with a difference.

There are several instances of newborn girls, particularly in Banjara families that have more than one girl child, mysteriously disappearing. Tandas such as Vanti Chinti were in the news for many weeks a decade ago over large-scale sale of newborn girls to orphanages across the border in Andhra Pradesh. While newborn girls were being sold for Rs. 500 then, now many such infants are going missing.

According to reports reaching the district headquarters, midwives who performed deliveries in these tandas where the number of institutional delivery is very low due to the inaccessibility to hospitals, found to their shock during subsequent visits that the newborn girls were missing. Their mothers failed to give them a proper reply about the missing infants.

According to Anandraj, president of the District Child Welfare Committee, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for development and protection of children, discreet enquiries by midwives in the tandas revealed that mothers themselves were allegedly denying the newborns milk and medicines, leading to their death.

Visit

Mr. Anandraj said when a team of officials from the Women and Child Development Department, led by Deputy Director Ratna Kalamdani, visited some of these tandas last week, young mothers volunteered to give away their newborn girls to the officials. They said it was not be possible for them to raise the girl child and face the difficulties in getting her married by giving hefty dowry. After the government tightened the screws on orphanages and maintained a close vigil on such tandas to check trafficking of newborn girls, poverty stricken families appear to have chosen other ways to do away with the infants.

Chincholi Assembly constituency is represented by Minister for Infrastructure Development Sunil Valyapure. 

 


MANGALORE: Rainfall was widespread in five districts of the state, fairly widespread in two districts, scattered in two others, isolated in 14 and negligible in seven districts in the last 24 hours up to 8.30am on Tuesday.

South-west monsoon was normal in five districts and weak in 25 districts. Heavy rain was recorded in two districts, rather heavy in five districts, moderate rain in six districts, light rain in 10 and very light rain in 17 districts.

Rainfall over the state in the last 24 hours was considered isolated as 24% of hoblis and gram panchayats recorded rainfall greater than or equal to 2.5 mm. Gadikeshwar in Chincholi taluk of Gulbarga district recorded maximum rainfall of 77.5 mm, according to Bangalore-based Karnataka State Natural Disaster Management Centre ( KSNDMC).

Uttara Kannada, Kodagu, Udupi, Shimoga and Dakshina Kannada reported widespread moderate to heavy rain; Chikmagalur and Haveri received fairly widespread, moderate to heavy rain; scattered, moderate rain in Davangere, and Bidar; isolated, light to heavy rain in Bijapur, Gulbarga, Bangalore Urban, Mysore, Ramanagar, Chikkaballapur, Hassan, Yadgir, Belgaum, Dharwad, Chitradurga, Raichur, Tumkur and Gadag.

For the period from June 1 to July 23, the State has recorded deficit rainfall of 39%. Against normal weighted average rainfall of 412.4 mm in south-interior, north-interior, malnad and coastal parts, state received 251.5 mm rainfall. For the 24-hour period ending 8.30am on Tuesday, the four geographical regions of Karnataka received 4 mm actual weighted average rainfall against normal weighted average rainfall of 9.4 mm, a deficit of 57%.
 
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The State government has set out on an ambitious plan to develop five cities across the State - Gulbarga, Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum, Mangalore and Mysore - as national centres of information and communication technologies (ICT) by 2020.

The task has been entrusted to the eight-member Karnataka ICT Group 2020. The ICT Group has T V Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education Services, as its chairman. B V Naidu, chairman and CEO of Sagitaur Ventures India, is the vice-chairman. Among the other members of the Group are Sadagopan and Sudip Banerjee - IIIT Bangalore Directors; Sanjay Nayak, CEO and MD of Tejas Networks. 

The airport, being developed on a PPP model in Gulbarga, is likely to be operational next month. The city is also making strides towards becoming a technology hub. An Apparel Park and IT Park are already being developed in the city. There is a proposal to set up a Tur Industry Cluster in the city, besides an Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT). The city is already home to a Central university. All these are likely to create huge employment opportunities for people in the region.

The ICT Group is expected to work towards increasing the annual revenue from ICT industries from the present Rs 1.35 lakh crore to Rs 4 lakh crore by 2020; increase employment in ICT sector from eight lakh to 20 lakh; create/help incubate 1,000 start-ups/entrepreneur-driven companies. Experts have predicted a 15 per cent annual growth in the ICT industry and an increase in the State’s share in the global ICT market.

The other goals before the ICT Group include making Bangalore the global city of choice in ICT; suggesting policy initiatives to promote entrepreneurship in the five national ICT centres; and setting up incubation facilities there.

Formed in partnership with Singapore, Japan, Australia, France, Taiwan and Germany to accelerate business cooperation and entrepreneurship, it has also been entrusted with the task of creating centres of excellence in major universities of the State.

    Basavaraj Harsur

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