Child- and Gang-Rapes Are Running Rampant in India

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The family of a five-year-old girl who was raped stage a protest on Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road seeking treatment for her at a private hospital in Gurgaon, India, and fast disposal of the case.

Of all the many and oh-so-varied cultures in the world, India’s seems to be among the least appreciative of the concept enshrined in the US Declaration of Independence, that: “All men are created equal.” Women there, only second to the second-class treatment of women in predominantly Moslem countries, far too often are made victims of brutal rapes. Even, even more sadly, when they are but children.

Two recent reports on Newser (and here) paint a horrid picture of the problem: A 10-year-old being raped, made pregnant, then having to struggle to get (as she finally did) permission to get aborted, and another couple of women getting gang raped – one in a moving car (the mind boggles!) – in a culture that, in too many instances, still also accepts revenge killings.

I am not a religious person, and I have trouble getting my mind about how, and why, practitioners of various religions – any of them – faithfully accepting, as they do, what they do.

My wife and I watched a “Law & Order” show recently about a case where a super-religious girl was taken advantage of – raped, in short – by a fellow believer in her ‘faith’ that him having sex with her – “curative sex” – would free her of her desire for another woman. Guess what? The spiritual leader who encouraged his flock to so behave, ended up, as the encourager of illegal actions, in prison. So, of course, did the rapist. And the saddest news what, they both believed they did nothing wrong.

Air India Addressing Groping Incidents with Restraints

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A BBC report said yesterday (1/25) that in response to some females complaining that they’d been groped by other passengers, Air India is setting aside the first six rows in the coach class area for females only.

The airline also announced that cabin staff would have physical restraints available to them and crew will be authorized to use them to contain unruly passengers who refuse to cooperate voluntarily.

The station said that Air India is seeking to “enhance comfort level to female passengers” and reassure female passengers traveling alone.

In my limited experience flying Air India I’ve witnessed no groping incidents or anything of the sort. But I have been offended – to the point I felt I was being assaulted – by both bad breath and excessive body odors when flying with that carrier. And on transatlantic flights, that’s nevertheless a good deal less offensive than being groped – an experience I underwent once, on a NYC subway train at the 34th Street/6th Avenue station. That was more than 45 years ago, and the memory lingers on. I can only imagine what an unsuspecting female’s reaction would be.

I have no idea if air marshals continue to accompany all or most flights, but I were involved with security for Air India, I would work to address that issue – and let them, not ordinary cabin crew, deal with super rude fliers.

Throw Something Away In Mumbai, Win Free WiFi Time

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A five-year-old startup in Mumbai, India is aiming to help keep discarded “stuff” off its home city’s street by rewarding users of its WiFi Trash Bins with free WiFi access. Called ThinkScream, the idea behind the company’s initial product was “to solve everyday problems in an innovative way, one solution as a time,” company co-founded Raj Desai told The Economic Times of India.

The company’s 4.5-foot (1.4 m) tall plastic bins are equipped with an LED screen that produces an access code when someone tosses something in the bin. Desai told The Times that the bins employ several technologies “to enable this seemingly simple function; The first is the WiFi technology, which is optimized to make sure that all codes work in sync; The second is the technology used for motion sensing totrace thee movement of the trash as it hits the bin; The last is to link the motion sensor with the WiFi network for a seamless operation,” he explains.

The company premiered the bins at a music festival in 2014 to provide attendees easy access to WiFi. Since then, ThinkScream has hooked up to similar networks in retail stores and at trade shows. They’ve also received queries from companies seeing the bins as offering a great branding opportunity, but that was never the premise behind the product’s creation, Desai says. “It was always to trigger positive changes in deepp-seated behavior around public cleanliness in India,” he declares.

Though no timetable has been announced, the company’s aim is to eventually see their bins set up alongside streets.

Worsening Air Pollution In Africa Costs Many Lives, Untold Sums

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Air pollution in parts of Africa has reached near crisis levels. The Guardian reported recently that between 1990 and 2013, deaths from airborne particulate matter increased 35% across the continent. Deaths from polluted air in houses also increased during that period, but ‘only’ by 18%, a researcher at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development told the paper.

The air pollution problem has become so bad that it is resulting in more premature deaths than either unsafe water or childhood nutrition issues. A study by a global policy forum has found that at current rates of increase in outdoor and indoor pollution, a number of African countries appear to be headed for crisis conditions not unlike those found in China and India. (Schools were closed for three days earlier this month in Delhi, India, because the air pollution was so bad, the BBC reported on November 6th.)

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The worst pollution in Delhi air in 17 years.  Getti Images via The BBC

Exhaust fumes are a large contributor to the problem, as are open cooking fires, power plants and the burning of rubbish – a widespread practice because, as one wag put it a few decades ago, “there’s no such place as ‘away’” when stuff is discarded: Once thrown out, most waste tends to stay ‘there’ for very long periods of time, and as more and more stuff is thrown out, viable storage areas become fewer and fewer.

By one measure, Onitsha, Nigeria, is the world’s most polluted city. By another measure, that dubious title goes to Zabol, in eastern Iran, on that country’s border with Afghanistan.)

For Africa as a whole, the estimated economic cost of premature air pollution deaths in 2013 was roughly $215bn (£175bn) a year for outdoor air pollution, and $232bn for household, or indoor, air pollution.

“This mega-trend is set to continue to unfold throughout this century<, says Rana Roy, the author of one study on the problem. “It suggests that current means of transportation and energy generation in African cities are not sustainable,” said Roy. “Alternative models to those imported from industrialized economies, such as dependence on the individual automobile, are necessary.

“It is striking that air pollution costs in Africa are rising in spite of slow industrialization, and even de-industrialization in many countries. Should this latter trend successfully be reversed, the air pollution challenge would worsen faster, unless radically new approaches and technologies were put to use.

“The ‘new’ problem of outdoor air pollution is too large to be ignored or deferred to tomorrow’s agenda. At the same time, Africa cannot afford to ignore the ‘old’ problem of household pollution or to consider it largely solved: it is only a few high-income countries – Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritius, Morocco, Seychelles and Tunisia – that can afford to view the problem of air pollution as being a problem of outdoor particulate pollution alone.”

The study stresses that there is not nearly enough knowledge of the sources of air pollution and its impact in much of Africa. It quotes UK scientist Mathew Evans, professor of atmospheric chemistry at York University, who is leading a large-scale investigation of air pollution in west Africa.

“London and Lagos have entirely different air quality problems. In cities such as London, it’s mainly due to the burning of hydrocarbons for transport. African pollution isn’t like that. There is the burning of rubbish, cooking indoors with inefficient fuel stoves, millions of steel diesel electricity generators, cars which have had the catalytic converters removed and petrochemical plants, all pushing pollutants into the air over the cities. Compounds such as sulphur dioxide, benzene and carbon monoxide, that haven’t been issues in western cities for decades, may be a significant problem in African cities. We simply don’t know.”

Whereas China has reached a level of development that has allowed it to concentrate on solving air pollution, most African countries must grapple with several major environmental burdens at the same time, said the report.

Phone Scam Created by A Millenial-aged Indian Gets $74M From Americans

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Site of illegal call centers in Mumbai. Photo: Economic Times of India

A tele-scam initiated by a 23-year-old in Mumbai pulled in some $74,000,000 from Americans who believed his pitch that his ‘agents’, who staffed three call centers, were IRS agents set on collecting monies owned from the individuals called via VoIP (Voice Over Internet) protocols. The scheme continued for roughly year before it was reported to Indian authorities by a disgruntled employee, The Economic Times of India reported yesterday (Oct. 10).

The scam artist, Shahgar Thakkar, who sometimes went by the name Shaggy, is on the run, the Times’ website said.

Handsets dialled in the U.S. were supposed to show the calls came from +911 – but not all did. The half dozen or so of those calls I received showed random, usually not-in-service numbers around the U.S.

The ‘agents’ supposedly received extensive training in American accents, but the ones who left call-back messages from me sounded pretty Indian to me!

Victims were first asked for $10,000-$20,000, then when undoubtedly told nothing like that amount of money was available, the ‘agents’ agreed to settle the account for $5,000 or as little as $3,000, the website said.

The numbers called were bought by accomplices in the U.S. at a rate of roughly $1,500 for 10,000 names. The money scammed through the scheme was split among the U.S.-based participants in the ring, the calling ‘agents’, and, of course, Shaggy, who undoubtedly took care of the call center costs.

The ‘agents’, who were recruited through flyers and social media, were paid in cash – some as little as $2,200  a month (still a goodly sum to an uneducated Indian) or, if they were more talented and successful at what they were doing, they received as much as 4.5 times that amount.

Around 100 calls were made per day per agent – a relatively low number for a U.S.-based call center, where agents typically make 300 or more calls per day – and it was typical for 10-15 of the successful calls/callbacks resulted in money being wormed out of the victims.

The scheme was shut down recently when Mumbai police raided the illegal call centers.

Indian School Kids’ Milk Is Awash with Water

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Indian school kids awaiting midday meal, and watery milk.

A surprise, sunrise inspection of a food preparation facility servicing 11,000 school children in India’s Uttar Pradesh province found 292 liters (308.5 quarts) of water in just 192 liters (202.8 quarts) of milk.

Radha Krishan Tivari, assistant director in the basic education department who held the surprise inspection, told The Times of India that schoolchildren were drinking milk that was more than 150 per cent water.

“We were simply stunned,” he told the paper last Thursday. “The visit to the kitchen of Nav Prayas, an NGO [non-government organization] we hired to supply milk and midday meals, left one dismayed.” He said the NGO supplies food to 131 schools, including 107 primary and 27 higher primary government schools.

He said that one student, speaking anonymously, said that many kids are unable to eat the food “as the quality is so bad.”

A report on the surprise inspection will be forwarded up the government chain, and the NGO will not be receiving payments for at least two recent months.

Technology Disrupts Technology Project In Indian Offices

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Photo: The Economic Times of India

An ambitious Indian government plan to digitize all office files, to create paper-free work places, is being obstructed by desk staffers who, to the tune of 70% of them, use their desktop units to play YouTube videos – consuming huge amounts of bandwidth in the process.

The Economic Times’ New Delphi bureau said the issue was discussed last week at an e-office conference for all ministries. A presentation was made by the Rural Development Ministry, among the first to execute the ‘e office’ plan. It featured a demonstration of how a 700-page file could be scanned in about six minutes and how a digitized file could be retrieved in roughly five minutes.

But the high use of bandwidth for YouTube viewing has become such a problem that unless ministries curb their workers’ enthusiasm for them – whether they are or aren’t watching Larry David – the e office initiative simply won’t succeed, RDM Joint Secretary Santosh Mathew said.

Also impeding it, Mathew noted, is the fact that many junior-level workers are using monitors so small that they can’t read digitized files.

The glut of small monitors in the hands of lesser staffers is a result of them having been handed down through the ranks as higher-ups were upgraded to larger screens.

Mathew also sees a challenge in getting junior-level workers to go along with the e office scheme because it will enable managers to monitor their activities. High-ups already have the ability to determine who is spending ‘company time’ on video-watching, and the government is encouraging them to do so.

Mathew also noted that Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha would soon be writing to all ministers, asking them for a cut-off date after which they’d no longer be accepting paper files.