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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Despite an elaborate and dynamic policy framework, the road to the next level for MSMEs continues to be hindered.

Globally considered as the driver of all economies (developed & developing) and a medium for promoting equitable development, SMEs in India contribute significantly to the manufacturing output, employment and exports of the country. According to the 4th All India Census by GoI, Ministry of MSME, it is estimated that in terms of value, the sector contributes 45% to manufacturing output and 40% to total exports. The sector is an umbrella for around 30 million units and is the biggest employment provider after agriculture; providing employment to 59 million people (2006-07), which is supposed to grow to around 70 million by 2010. However, the sector is still suffering from some fundamental problems.

Of all the problems faced by MSMEs, non-availability of timely and adequate credit at reasonable interest rates is the most significant. Despite its commendable contribution to the nation’s economy, SMEs do not get the required support from the concerned government departments, banks, financial institutions and corporates, which hampers its competitiveness in the national and international markets. One of the major causes for low-availability of bank finance is the high risk perception of the banks in lending to SMEs and consequent insistence on collaterals (despite strict RBI guidelines not to insist upon collateral against a loan), which are not easily available with these enterprises. Manas Kumar Nag, CGM-SME, SBI, adds another perspective to the problem, “Generally, SMEs coming for loans are not aware of their financial position, which leads to lack of transparency and hesitation from our side.” The problem is most acute for micro enterprises and first generation entrepreneurs requiring small loans.

In India, the situation is further complicated by the fact that the preferred mode of finance is either self or other sources. According to the MSME Annual report 2009, more than 85% SMEs source finance either through the self-finance route or are unable to get funds, while only around 15% of the total approach financial institutions and non-institutions like moneylenders. In addition to the above, the government has recently emphasised on the importance of ‘credit rating scheme’ to help smoothen the loan facility process by banks and financial institutions for the SMEs. Under this scheme, the credit rating agencies assess a company’s credit worthiness and give it a rating which is widely accepted by the financial institutions. This certainly helps SMEs by facilitating hassle free flow of credit. To add to it, the government reimburses 75% of the fees charged by the rating agency subject to a ceiling amount. T. R. Bajalia, Executive Director, IDBI Bank says, “Credit agencies have played a vital role as we wel
come independent and reliable credit assessment. As credit agencies have done due diligence for an enterprise, it lessens our work and fastens the entire loan granting process.” Still, MSMEs are facing a lot of trouble as most of them are not aware of this credit rating facility. And it's clear from the fact that only 1.5 million of the 30 million odd MSMEs are registered in the country.

Micro finance is another booming industry, which directly comes to the rescue of the MSME sector. In India, micro-credit programmes are run primarily by NABARD in the field of agriculture and SIDBI in the field of Industry, Service and Business. In case of programmes in partnership with SIDBI, the institution accepts security deposits from MFIs (Micro Finance Institutions)/NGOs and in lieu of the deposits (25% by the MFI/NGO and 75% paid by the government) doles out loans to MFIs/NGOs. The cumulative loan amount provided by the Government of India so far under these schemes stands at Rs 12.99 billion (March 31, 2010) benefiting around 2.021 million individuals.

However, the lead sources of funds in the micro-finance space in India are global Non–Profit Organisations (NPOs) like Unitus and the Grameen Foundation-US. Overseas funding had dropped from 31.4% in 2002 to 25.8% in 2005 after the government imposed regulatory restrictions external commercial borrowings (ECBs) as it was the cheapest loan provider for the MFIs charging a minimal interest of 2% to 6%. However, after the removal of the restrictions in 2005, in flow of funds through this route has flourished like never before. But in the mean time, usage of domestic funds too have surged notably. According to a CRISIL study, while the share of traditional sources of funding like NABARD and overseas funds dropped from 63% to 59%, MFI borrowings from banks have more than doubled from 13% to 28% in 2005, mostly due to the removal of interest rate ceiling on MFI loans and declaration of treatment of the sector as a priority sector lender.

Despite easing of restrictions, MFIs continue to face major problems. And the biggest of the lot is the financial viability, which refers to maintaining the operational costs of running small-scale firms. MFIs have always been criticised for charging high interest rates to lenders (SHG’s charging 24% to 36% per annum). But then, the average borrowing costs are already at a high (12% in 2005). Thus, high borrowing costs coupled with high operating expenses (ranging between 4% to 19%) constrain MFIs’ ability to offer competitive rates. Nevertheless, the government has been pressurising them to reduce their lending rates.

MSME sector has always provided the thrust of progress both in the economic and social sense by creating large scale job opportunities, which, in turn, help in reducing regional and rural-urban disparities in terms of growth. Apart from this, it has acted as a shock-absorber during crucial times like the 2008-09 global economic crisis. When developed economies were reeling under complete financial instability, powerful developing economies like India were not affected to that extent, in part due to the strong resilience of MSMEs. India, after all, has largely been a bottom up story; unlike the Chinese. But it need not necessarily stay that way. MSMEs need to be able to fulfil their entrepreneurial ambitions and expand in scale to unleash the next wave of growth, which would be a great boost for the Indian economy as well. For that to happen, it is a must for the capital impediments to be removed.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Candidates in Bihar's latest elections have dumped pamphlets and posters and embraced Munni with gusto, so what if she is 'badnaam',

When, sitting in her dingy, cramped quarters in Muzaffarpur's Chaturbhuj Sthaan, famed courtesan Munnibai penned and sang the bawdy composition Launda badnaam hua Naseeban tere liye, she could scarcely have imagined that one day a brazen rip-off of her composition would catch the nation's imagination. And how!

She would also never have imagined that the people would bowdlerise raunchy the ditty and throw her own name into the mix. Decades later, standing amid the madding crowd at an election rally just a furlong from Chaturbhuj Sthaan, one can hear the rip-off and the rip-off of that rip-off blaring from out-of-sync CD players. From Muzaffarpur to Mumbai and back to Muzaffarpur, life has indeed come full circle for Munnibai.

Unmindful of its history and the intended irony, some listless policemen are seeking some excitement. For the last two hours, they have been treated to old patriotic songs and are clearly not amused. The man they, and the madding crowd, are waiting for is none other than Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. Over-enthusiastic sycophants, probably the only species that is not endangered, shouted slogans every now and then. A few street dogs mill around the place. It appears these canines aren't aware of the modus operandi of “the greatest festival of democracy”. Chances are, most of them were not born when the last time it was held. Boredom hung heavy in the air.

Suddenly, the campaign SUV of an influential Independent candidate comes to a screeching halt. Its Xplod speakers and Blaupunkt music system are in overdrive. The song? You've guessed it, Munni badnam hui. The policemen leap to their feet and try to match their steps with those of Salman Khan's. The paunch restricts their performance drastically. But clearly, the unknown face with an unknown election symbol has managed to catch their attention with a tawdry rip-off – what the supporters of the Gandhi-Nehru scion could not do with their patriotic songs. Welcome to Munni's own Bihar.

Munni badnaam hui is indeed the flavour of the season. Every party worth its salt, Independents included, have made parodies of this rendition to woo the electorate. Parodies have always been used here; but clearly they are the most potent tools this time around. The strict expenditure norms imposed by the Election Commission had clearly taken the lustre out of the campaign. Free liquor and non-veg feasts are on their way out and so are posters, cut-outs, banners and insignias. When it appeared that the traditional campaign was on its way to the ICU, Munni, the arch-angel of rustic pop-dom, intervened. Bihar is anything but a monolith. The agenda, inspiration, priorities, differ from region to region. The only shashwat satya, universal truth, is that Munni is badnaam everywhere.

A national leader concedes, “One has to read the pulse of the people. It is all market.” The Leftists can keep distributing their boring manifesto pamphlets. The mainstream is riding hard on Munni. No intended pun here.

The pedigree of the song is such that you can fit any lyrics on it, it can never be even remotely as bawdy as the original. Performed during Launda naach prior to a marriage, the Hindi heartland equivalent of a bachelor's party, the song describes sexual union by using household objects and kitchenware as rough and ready metaphors. It is not a “double meaning” song. It means just one thing.

Braj Bihari Mishra, a veteran of election parodies for 15 years, says, “No song ever caught the people's imagination like this. It is the first choice for every candidate. Lots of them come with already penned lyrics. If Munni decides to fight today, everybody will lose their deposit.”

Such is its impact that JD(U), which tried to keep a respectable distance from the song, lost its guts when candidates of the rival RJD came up with their version. The Chatth numbers and patriotic songs were soon discarded. Munni was ushered in with fanfare. And guess what, she has the party swaying.

Sitting in his recording studio in Patna's Dariapur Gola, Pradeep Gupta does not know what hit him. His studio is cutting 10 CDs every day on an average. He has prepared a catalogue of 50 popular Bhojpuri and Hindi songs that he shows to every prospective customer. Here, too, Munni gets special treatment. Every CD has 4-8 renditions punctuated at regular intervals by rhetoric and shayeri. Pradeep says, “While preparing the songs, we give preference to the latest hits. This catalogue of mine is now a complete waste. It's of no use anymore. Munni has vanquished everybody hands down.”

And mind you, Munni is certainly not without merit. The metre of the song is so tight that it is easy to spin out its parody. The tune, with due respect to the original composer, is also pretty catchy and, as the entire nation has discovered, foot-tapping. There are other lesser mortals in the fray too. Mehengayi dayan (from the Aamir Khan-produced film, Peepli Live) is a popular song for the opposition parties everywhere. NDA is naturally wary of it here in Bihar,” adds Gupta.

Another popular Bhojpuri composition, Tu lagawelu jab lipstick is also a mega hit with the poll candidates. It has been adapted in every language from Angika to Maithili. A sexist rendition that equates parts of the female anatomy with desserts and beverages, the song is a first choice for female candidates.

But between Munni and Lipstick, there are some surprise entries. Welcome break is provided by, hold your breath, Mirza Ghalib and Meer Taqi Meer. One particular Meer couplet talking about communal harmony has all-rounder status.

Since the candidates do not have much to say to the electorate on real development issues and visionary politics, the old, time-tested lines of Meer and Ghalib come in handy as fillers. These fillers are necessary to break the mundane monotone talking about candidate's biographies.

The singers, musicians, lyricists and sound recordists; everybody is making merry. Who said capital does not trickle down in India?

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Section 377 may have been reworked, but not social attitudes.

Sylvester Merchant at Lakshya Trust continues to struggle for acceptance for homosexuals like him in the hearts and minds of people.

The quiet corner, the isolated building and the climb up the creaky stairs could never lead one to guess that the office on the first floor housed a chirpy group of people devoted to a cause that raises eyebrows at best and draws violent abuse at worst. In Vadodara (Gujarat), the ‘queer’ group at Lakshya Trust serves as a benefactor for homosexuals who have been rejected by the society.

The foundation of Lakshya starts with the story of a young boy, Sylvester Merchant, who at a very young age of 20, courageously stood for his identity. “I always kept myself abreast of what was happening in the world, which is how I knew that this world also has homosexuals. It also helped me identify myself as one,” explained Sylvester who dedicated himself to Lakshya along with a few kindred souls.

Sylvester’s personality catches one’s attention for not only the obvious, but also for his knowledge and confidence. When questioned about his struggles, Sylvester held forth willingly, “The first thing I learnt when I realised I was gay was not to get into the trap of self-pity. I started reading a lot about homosexuals, socialised with them, and began interacting with the media. I think one of the reasons I did not invite comments about my sexuality was because I was very comfortable and confident about what I was.” Having counselled many gays, lesbians, and their parents to accept their children as they are, Sylvester laments the fact that he could not convince his own mother to accept his identity. “She’s still not comfortable with the fact that I’m gay. I’m dealing with the situation… managing it… it will happen,” he said with a calm smile.

Sylvester’s association with Lakshya Trust, established in 2000 for the benefit of the LGBT community, was like a dream come true. Harbouring dreams of becoming an activist and establishing a legal and respectful status for homosexuals, Sylvester found the perfect platform in Lakshya. “I can never thank Prince Manvendra (Gay Prince of Rajpipla) enough for roping me in this association, which was his initiative,” he said. A close knit group of about 15-20 people – none heterosexual – this organisation works towards building awareness in the society and provide support to victims of abuse and disease. “There was a time when we faced a lot of cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but as people have become more aware, I’ve noticed a tremendous dip. One of our major focuses is on condom distribution campaigns where our people from different centres in Gujarat and other parts of India go to various areas within their city to distribute condoms. When gays or lesbians do this and talk to other homosexuals, i
t makes them accept the practice of safe sex more easily. The other issue that I’ve noticed is fear of discrimination. It badly scars homosexuals. And the only solution to this is education. I’d say that the Gay Pride Parade in 2008, and repealing Section 377 did make a difference,” he points out.

Our conversation was interrupted by an employee who strode into the room and gushed about her impending operation. I was introduced to Geeta by Sylvester, whose sex change operation (from male to female) was long due and she had just got a go-ahead from the doctors. After a breathless explanation of the process that was detailed by the doctor, Geeta almost flew out to share the news with the others in the organisation. “At Lakshya, we also provide funds to those like her,” said Sylvester.

Sylvester’s life wasn’t an easy ride and he intrepidly admits that it isn’t going to be so in the future either. What drives him is the desire to make the world a happy place; for homosexuals too. He talks of cases when his employees were harassed by the cops during their awareness campaigns and of situations where young gay boys were disowned by their families. “Imagine how traumatic such incidents can be at that age,” sighed Sylvester. Relentlessly working towards his ‘Lakshya’, Sylvester and his ilk bring hope to homosexuals of the world.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A 15-point plan has been in place for decades for the uplift of Muslims but it has led to no visible improvement in the community's lot

Succour punch

Beyond political speeches and public posturings lies the truth. The ruling class has paid lip service to the community for decades and large sections of India's Muslims have struggled to keep up with a nation on a rapid growth curve. Even the Prime Minister's 15-point programme, devised to eradicate the problems of the minorities, hasn't been of much help.

Says Nafees Ansari, former principal of Zeenat Mahal Government Senior Secondary School: “In our country, formation of committees is the only solution. These committees take forever to diagnose an ailment. The process is so lengthy that by the time a treatment is prescribed the ailment either takes a new shape or becomes incurable.” The 15-point programme, she adds, is no different. "The suggested remedies remain on paper."

Dr Zafar Mehmood, chairman, Zakat Foundation of India and former bureaucrat, echoes the same sentiment. He was associated with the Sachar Committee and is now aggressively pursuing the implementation of minority welfare schemes. “Solutions are available. The problem is at the bureaucratic level. The bureaucracy does lacks the need will.”

Dr Mehmood says: “There is need for proper monitoring of schemes. The ministry of minority affairs has now appointed state-level monitors in the hope that this would speed up implementation.”

Praising the work done in Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh, Dr Mehmood says: “Excellent work has been done in this district but the situation is rather disappointing in the rest of the country”.

He adds: “The Union government decided last year the Centre would pay salaries of Urdu teachers in minority-concentrated areas. An order on this was to be issued by state governments. Nowhere except Maharashtra has this been done."

In 1980, a high-level committee was constituted by the Union government under the chairmanship of Dr Gopal Singh. Based on the committe's findings, a 15-point programme was launched in 1983 to hasten the socio-economic development of the minorities.

In its early stages, the focus was on communal riots, representation of minorities in services and ensuring the flow of benefits to the targetted groups. In 2005, this programme was revised. On June 22, 2006, the revamped plan was approved by the Union Cabinet. The emphasis was now on education, modernising madarsa learning, healthcare facilities and recruitment of minorities in the services.

But five years on, little has changed for the minorities. Most initiatives taken under the programme have at best been symbolic in nature.

One of the agenda items at the Delhi government's last Cabinet meeting was “Action taken/proposed to be taken by various departments... with regard to implementation of Prime Minister's New 15-point programme..."

TSI accessed a copy of the Cabinet note. It revealed that the Delhi government has done virtually nothing for the minorities in the field of education with regard to points 2 and 3 of the 15-point programme – improving access to school education and modernising madarsa education.

The note states: “The Directorate of Education, government of NCT of Delhi has informed 10 additional classrooms have been constructed in Buland Masjid School, Shastri Nagar, District North-East, 14 classrooms (Nand Nagri-04, Chauhan Bangar-06 and Seelampur-04) have been constructed in MCD schools. It was further informed that four classrooms are under construction in Rouse Avenue, District-Central, New Delhi. It is proposed to open Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidaylaya in a rented building in Mustafabad, District-North-East”.

The Cabinet note is completely silent on modernisation of madarsa education. Another point of the programme is greater resources for teaching Urdu. With regard to this point, the Cabinet note states, “It was also informed that nine posts pf PMT and six posts of TGT in Urdu are vacant. These posts have not been filled in spite of a request to Urdu Academy.” The Delhi CM is chairperson of Urdu Academy.

Asked about this, the secretary of Urdu Academy, Marghoob Abidi, says: “Actually there were some problems regarding recruitment rules but now they are ready and have been sent to the department”.

The former chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission, Kamal Farooqui, told TSI, “Shiela Dikshit wanted appointment of Urdu teachers to be done immediately. In one meeting she even asked the Department of Education to form a separate selection board for appointment of Urdu teachers but nothing had been done”.

In the Cabinet note, there is a mention of the Delhi Police response with regard to recruitment to Central and State Services. The note states: “The Delhi Police informed that no posts are reserved for minority community. However, direct recruitments are made by advertising the vacancies in leading newspapers and Employment News. Delhi Police has developed a highly professional and transparent recruitment process, which has been given ISO 9000-2000 certification.”

It elaborates: “Delhi Police follows a transparent system such as video graphing of outdoor and indoor tests, rotation of interview board on a daily basis and only 10 marks for interview. One officer belonging to SC/ST category is nominated in the interview board. Moreover, efforts are also made to nominate a member from the minority community... It was also decided appropriate publicity of recruitment will be done (among minorities).”

Blaming the bureaucracy for non-implementation of the 15-point programme, Farooqui asks: “When the PM has himself asked for representation of minorities in every service selection board, why it is not being implemented?”

Senior journalist and columnist Zafar Agha says: “Minorities, particularly Muslims, were optimistic after the Sachar Committee report was tabled. But not even 1% of the work has been done.”

Rajya Sabha member Mohd Adeeb says: “The will to implement decisions is missing in the government machinery. Because of non-implementation, these decisions remain mere political slogans.”

“Muslims," he adds, "face an awkward situation. They get nothing, yet end up becoming targets of the majority community. One political party takes credit for being pro-Muslim, while the other screams appeasement of minorities”.

Blame it on what you will, the welfare of minorities on the ground level isn't visible. Problems continue to haunt the community. The disease has been diagnosed, the medicine has been prescribed, but the treatment has to begin in right earnest.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Shelter from the storm

An 82-year-old man runs his own free ration shop in a small town in Gujarat, helping more than 300 haplessly poor families, Hitesh Ankleshwaria reports

At first glance, it looks like a typical government ration shop. The sizeable crowd that has gathered for the doors to be unlocked adds to the perception. The faces are wrinkled and lustreless. These people are caught unaware by the mathematics that defines poverty line in this country. They are neither BPL nor APL. So, for long, they did not get the benefits of the BPL category. They did not even get enough food after working extremely hard.

But an 82-year-old man, Navneetbhai Manibhai Shah, decided to intervene about 10 years back. Navneetbhai has managed to change the face of Verasa village on the outskirts of Balasinor town in Kheda district of Gujarat. The mud houses have been replaced by concrete structures. Children study in a big primary school building with a huge playground.

Balasinor is a small town with 38,000 residents as per the records of the Nagarpalika. More than 45 villages surround it. Balasinor is peculiar in nature, it falls in the ultra-rich Kheda district but is bordered by the tribal districts of Sabarkantha and Panchmahal. The two main cities of Kheda district, Anand and Nadiad, are 65 to 70 km away from here. The land is rocky, the landscape arid, life is hard. The terrain is marked by small mounds every here and there. In Balasinor, Hindus and Muslims are in equal proportions and communal tension is a normal thing. Kshatriyas, Thakor, Targara, Muslims and tribals make up the population of the nearby 45 villages.

Verasa is a tribal village, 3 km away from Balasinor. Ten years back, it had only around 50 mud houses and lacked every basic amenity like a primary school, a health centre or a PDS ration shop. Poverty and superstition reigned supreme.

The man who changed all of that is just five feet tall and weighs around 55 kg. He says, “I can not walk easily.” But he gets up early in the morning and starts his work from 5 am. His day ends at 8 pm. At noon, he rests for an hour. He lives alone in Balasinor and does all the work himself. His family members live in Mumbai. Out of his six children, three are settled in the US and three are running businesses in Mumbai.

Navneetbhai retired at 70 from his hardware business. He had noticed how the government provides ration at a concessional rate to BPL families through Pandit Dindayal shops. BPL families can get grain, sugar, oil and kerosene from these shops. But the ration shop he launched at Balasinor’s Patva Sheri, named “Rahat yagya nu ration card”, is unique. Here, all things are distributed for free. For that, Navneetbhai has identified 300 needy families from the villages surrounding Balasinor. These families get grains, oil, sugar, kerosene, soaps and washing powder absolutely free of cost eight times a month. Navneetbhai has prepared his own ration cards for these needy families which contain their names, addresses and even photographs.

Navaneetbhai calls his work “Rahat yagya nu ration card”. He has created the Mahtama Gandhi Trust to oversee the work. He recalls, “After retirement from my business, I decided to spend rest of life in native Balasinor. I migrated to Mumbai as a 17-year old in search of a job. I came from an ordinary background. At that time, Balasinor offered virtually no employment opportunity. In Mumbai, I started my own business. Hard work made me prosperous and I bought a house near the White House in Valkeshwer. All my six children are well educated and settled. My eldest son is 63 years old and I have 11 grand children. I was not ready to sit idle after retirement. I intended to do some thing, not to earn but only to serve. In 1995, I returned to my native Balasinor. Everyday I went to the temple and prayed. And then it happened.”

The old man continues, “I can remember it very well. One evening evening, during my regular stroll, I came across a little tribal girl, malnourished and in torn, dirty clothes. She was transfixed on something and I stopped to see what she was up to. There was a dead lizard. She picked it up and was about to swallow it. I stopped her. She said she was very hungry. I had never witnessed something like this in my life. She was scared and hungry. I took her home and gave her some eatables. I got her name and that of her village. Next day, I walked to her village, Verasa. There I saw how tribal people lived in absolute penury.”

Navneetbhai takes off his spectacles, wipes off the small droplets of tears that have started rolling down his cheeks.

On that fateful day, he met his friends Dahyabhai Master and Rasikbhai Lakdavala. “I persuaded them to help these poor people. Our Dashnama Vaishnavite community has always stood ahead for the service of the poor. I decided that even if I had to stand with folded hands before anybody for the sake of these poor people, then be it. I decided to build a school and pakka houses for these people even if I had to go begging from house to house. I started visiting that tribal village regularly. Rasikbhai gave me Rs 2.5 lakh and I decided to transform the village. But after roaming here and there for a few months, I found that it was very difficult. So I decided to try another way,” says the crusader.

Navneetbhai made a list of his relatives, well wishers and friendsfrom India and abroad. He says to TSI, “I elaborated on my plans and surprisingly received positive responses with plenty of money.”He pauses and then starts again, “I did not want to run this scheme like a government scheme. So I did some research work. I got good support from Pravinbhai Sevak (a resident of Balasinor) who is a retired bank officer. We both visited Sabat, Karanpur, Sahiyawadi, Kotarbot, Sakaria, Sarola, Pepatiya and other nearby villages and went from hut to hut. We looked at the conditions of every family and prepared a list of potential beneficiaries. We also set up some rules e.g. to enroll only those families whose family members work very hard but hardly get two square meals a day, those who do not have any home appliance, where no male member has any addiction, so on and so forth.”

Navneetbhai shows TSI the ledgers, lists of donors and other documents. “We started our work with 250 families. The donations we received from donors were used to buy food grain from Ahmedabad. Then we called the beneficiaries, made their entries on the cards and distributed the grain amongst them. We made a rule that no beneficiary would misuse or resell these grain or other items. To make the system foolproof, we frequently visited their homes and kept a watch on them. The card would be cancelled if any beneficiary was found to violate any rule,” he says.

Navneetbhai shows TSI a list of around 100 beneficiaries whose names have been cancelled for violating the rules. His passion towards this work was splendid. Pratap Rupanayak from Verasa is a beneficiary. He doesn’t remember his age, is illiterate and physically challenged and a bit short of hearing. He has been regularly getting essential commodities on the ‘Rahat Yagna’ ration card for the last five years. One of his sons is a labourer in Surat. Pratap and his wife don't have any other livelihood. TSI can see the changes Navneetbhai's efforts have induced. Bhuriben Bala, a 70-year-old lady, is from Karnapur, 10 km from Balasinor. One of her sons is mentally challenged, another one is a labourer. She used to struggle to feed her family of eight. After receiving this relief, Bhuriben has admitted her three grandsons in schools. Her eyes are full of satisfaction and gratitude.

Right now, Navneetbhai's ration scheme has 300 beneficiaries. In a country where lakhs of tons of grains rot in government godowns, 600 million live in abject poverty and the Union agriculture ministry finds it impossible to distribute grains for free, Navneetbhai’s ‘Rahat Yagna Ration Card’ scheme is a slap in the face of the establishment.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Why your wife or girlfriend seems "off sex" of late?

Dr Suman Bijlani lists women's common sexual concerns and what they mean for men

Wonder why your wife/girlfriend seems "off sex" of late? Why does Wife/Girlfriend seems off sexshe complain of a headache just when you are in the mood? Fact is, as with men, sex is a big issue for women too. Only, due to conditioning or lack of awareness, most women don't articulate them.

Generally, women realise they have sexual problems only when:
» It affects their relationship
» Their partner starts complaining
» When they are depressed
» When they themselves get involved in an extra-marital affair.

Also, the nature of problems differs slightly with age.

Younger women:
Sexual problems relate more to body image issues and 'performance anxiety'. Especially if they feel sex is the only way they can hold on to their relationship.

Older women:
Sex boils down to a chore or duty after years of marriage/relationship. It then manifests in pains, aches, lack of orgasm and other physical symptoms.

The bottomline:
Don't blame your dull sex life on her PMS or mood swings. Gynaecologist Dr Suman Bijlani of Gyneguide tells you how to read between the lines.

Problem: Lack of interest
Message: Foreplay continues throughout the day
A woman wants her man to make her feel special throughout the day. This sets up her mood for the special night. In a marriage, being interested in the house or taking care of the children is important. Conflicts with kids affects her relationship with her husband.
Hence make that special effort to show you care — through messages, gifts, a special outing etc.

Problem: Poor body image
Message: I want to feel beautiful when I'm with you
A woman might shy away from intercourse due to poor body image — a result of low self-esteem. If her partner nags her about her lack of perfection, it can affect her sexual confidence. It's foolhardy to say things like 'your hips are too wide' or 'breasts are too small' and later expect her to perform in bed. For a woman, the only solution is to work on herself as a person. Men get attracted by a woman's confidence.

Problem: Faking it
Message: Orgasm isn't everything
Men tend to focus only on orgasm, but often for a woman, great foreplay is enough. Hence, ensure she is happy with the quality of sex. If she fakes an orgasm, it means she isn't satisfied and doesn't trust you enough to tell you. Such a behaviour points to chinks in the relationship, hence work on them first.

Problem: Frequency issues
Message: I am no sex machine
Some men want sex every day, but with women, many other factors need to be in place. There is no ideal time or frequency for sex,but if the frequency of desire is very disparate, seek help. If a woman is stressed or has resentments towards her man, it reflects in lack of interest in sex.

Problem: Pain during sex
Message: Be considerate in bed
A common problem, painful intercourse can result from vaginal infection or if the partner is very aggressive. Pain is of two types. Superficial pain: which occurs at the time of insertion. Or deep pain: that's usually pathological or due to endometriosis or infections. This needs to be taken seriously. Using a lubricant or increasing foreplay can help.

Problem: Body odour
Message: Please be pleasant
Both men and women can suffer from fungal infections, tinea infection and similar problems that lead to body odour. To stimulate a woman's interest in sex, it is essential that the man maintains a pleasant personality and smells good as well. Taking the point further, he should make an effort to look good for his woman. It leads to a better response in bed.

Problem: Fear of pregnancy
Message: Take care of protection
It's often the fear of pregnancy that makes women shy away from sex. For good sex, it's important for both partners to be equally aware and responsible for contraception.

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