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Sunday, December 31, 2006


Fortunate to be working with the differently-abled

Mr Suresh Kamath is Managing Director, Laser Soft Infosysytems Limited. An engineer by training, he holds an M. Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, and was given the `Distinguished Alumni' award by IIT-Madras in 2001. He set up Laser Soft Infosystems Ltd, a banking software company, in 1986 with a capital of just Rs 200. Laser Soft prefers to employ differently-abled software professionals.

Two things that my education/training has taught me:

Be humble. What you know is insignificant compared to what you don't know.

Apply whatever you know and have learnt to solve problems in the most efficient fashion.

Two things I have learnt from my work/real life:

I have realised how fortunate I am to be working in India and, that too, with differently-abled people.

I have to make every working day useful to my customers, colleagues, company and country.

One quality I look for most in a new recruit:

I would want to know whether the new recruit likes our unique company.

A book that I read recently:

Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

'Imprisoned heart' released through surgery

Coimbatore: A 50-year old farmer has got a new lease of life after a city hospital successfully operated and removed the diseased covering layer of the heart which was restricting proper breathing.

The farmer had come to K G Hospital with breathing problem while taking rest and was not able to lie down since two days which was suggestive of heart failure, the hospital chairman, Dr G Bakthavathsalam said here today.

He had recurrent fever and breathing difficulty while walking for the past six months, Bakthavathsalam said.

Upon evaluation by a cardiologist, it was found that the covering layer, pericardium had massively thickened, not allowing the heart either to contract or expand during every beat, he said.

This disease called as 'constrictive pericarditis' usually occur due to tuberculosis of heart, Bakthavathsalam said adding the patient was put on the treatment for TB and was referred to the hospital.

Dr T Jayaram Pai, chief cardiac surgeon operated the farmer two days back and removed the diseased pericardium.

The Parietal Pericardium-- outer layer of pericardium covering the heart-- was 1-1/2 inch thick against the normal 0.2 cm and densely calcified.

The calcium formation had to be chiselled out to make the heart function properly.

In addition, the Visceral pericardium --inner layer of pericardium covering the heart-- was also found thickened to one cm against the normal thickness of less than 0.1 cm. This layer was also stripped off, thus completely "liberating" the heart, Bakhthavathsalam said.

Upon completion of the procedure, the central venous pressure, which was 23 mmHg, dropped to the normal eight mmHG, restoring normal heamodynamics, he said.

The patient was given medicines and breathing equipments for a period of 10 days, which would restore the normal functioning of the heart.

Fun evening for special children

BAHRAIN:A SPECIAL evening of music and dance is being organised by the Indian Ladies Association (ILA) next month.

The event on January 18 at the Gulf Air Club, Salmabad, follows the ILA's recent highly successful programmes: the Workers Day, Suq Al Hind and the Indo Bahraini Craft Bazaar.

"This event will be part of the ILA's Golden Jubilee celebrations and will continue to follow the theme Building Bridges of Friendship," said ILA Sneha centre co-ordinator Meera Kamath.

"The evening of music and dance is inviting the participation of all centres that are run for children with special needs."

The ILA runs Sneha, a centre for children with special needs, at its premises in Al Baraka Building, Manama.

"'It is our experience with Sneha and our association with similar institutions in Bahrain that has made us aware of a need to bring these children into mainstream society by giving them a chance to display their talents," said Mrs Kamath.

"The programme, which is aptly named Expressions, will be held on Thursday, January 18 at the Gulf Air Club Auditorium, Salmabad."

The event will start at 7pm and is open to all.

At least eight centres are expected to participate in the event, with children presenting dances and songs in Arabic and English.

"We hope to have the presence of ministers, ambassadors and other dignitaries from the diplomatic level along with members of various communities," said ILA president Vani Krishnan.

"We have organised similar shows in the past from 1989 with the full participation of various centres in Bahrain."

For more information, contact Mrs Krishnan on 39873357 or Mrs Kamath on 39240695

Surgery can cure diabetes

EMINENT SURGEON from USA, Dr. Subhash Kini said that the time was not far when a permanent cure of diabetes would be in the hands of surgeons.

He was delivering a lecture on ‘Can surgery cure diabetes’ on the fifth-day of six-day annual conference of Association of Surgeons of India ‘ASICON-06’ at Swatantrata Bhawan in Banaras Hindu University here on Friday.

Dr Kini said that bypass operations were successfully performed on those patients suffering from diabetes-2 and whose body mass index is more than 35.

“The idea of operation is that extra glucose is not absorbed in the body but after the operation, the insulin of the body, which is resistant to act on glucose, digest the glucose,” he claimed.

He said that it was difficult to perform operation on those patients whose body mass index is less than 30. “For such cases, many operations are under trial but still not foolproof,” he said. He said that surgery could save a considerable number of lives as around 2 lakh people dies of diabetes each year in India and USA alone.

A symposium on ‘Management of gastroesophageal reflux disease-current status’ was also organised in which Dr. Hansa Shahi, Dr. Dinesh Singh and Dr. Praveen Bhatia were the resource persons. Delivering his lecture, Dr. Praveen Bhatia said, “Those who are not willing to unlearn, learn and relearn will be considered as illiterate in 21st century.”

Dr. Sanjay Narhari of Mumbai delivered a lecture on ‘Minimal access surgery in children’ whereas Dr. Indru Khubchandani of USA dwelt upon ‘Pruritus ANI: Many presentation of itchy bottom’. Dr Balvinder Singh discussed about ‘Laparoscopic colorectal surgery’.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Uzwaad Christmas issue released

BELGAUM: It’s a delightful moment to release the special Christmas issue on the occasion of Christmas, which is a festival of birth of Jesus Christ as well as light, said Rev Dr Peter Machado, Bishop of Belgaum.

Speaking after releasing the special edition of ‘Uzwaad’, a Konkani magazine in Belgaum on Monday, he expressed happiness over the efforts of ‘Uzwaad’ in uniting thousands of Konkani speaking people in north Karnataka, south Maharashtra, Konkan and Goa.

Journalist Louis Rodrigues briefed about the reach and efforts of the magazine toward the cause of Konkani and culture.

He said Uzwaad, which was established in 1998, reached Konkani speaking people across 150 places in the above said regions.

It was the only longest survived Konkani magazine in the region, he added.

Monsignor Lucio Mascarenhas, Vicar General of Belgaum diocese, J J Bardeskar, Alphie Monteiro, Girgol Rodrigues and others were present.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

With Mallaya on top, Indian liquor industry on a high in 2006

The liquor industry remained on high spirits in 2006 with the insatiable Vijay Mallya making strides on foreign shores, while foreign companies, including the formidable Diageo, went for a foothold in Indian market.

Mallya, who has gulped down rivals like Shaw Wallace, made it known that for him 'enough is not enough'. The 'King of Good Times', as he likes to be called, refused to be cowed down when his spirited Rs 3,000 crore bid for France's Champagne Taittinger failed.

Within months of the failure, the liquor baron announced that his UB Group would acquire winemaker Bouvet-Ladubay, a subsidiary of Taittinger, for 15 million dollars.

Mallya, who is also looking at foraying into China, entered into a tie-up with the Russian Standard Group for distribution of each others' products in India and Russia.

UB is also in talks with White and Mackay for a possible buyout as it intends to enter the high-profile European Scotch Whisky market, besides eyeing a wine firm in Africa and another spirit firm in New Zealand.

And just as the Indian liquor giant moved to new locales, Diageo, the global spirits major, formed a 50-50 joint venture with Radico Khaitan to roll out products in the Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) segment.

Diageo, which has a huge repertoire of brands like Johnnie Walker-Black Label, Black & White, VAT 69 and Smirnoff, is gearing up to launch a new whisky brand in India through the joint venture. It also plans to buy a domestic wine company as it intends to produce wine in India.

On its part, Radico Khaitan is also looking at expansion on a stand-alone basis and has kept aside around Rs 150 crore for organic and inorganic growth. Apart from Diageo, another premium brand maker that expanded in India was Beam Global Spirits and Wines, the fourth-largest premium spirits company in the world.

Beam Global, whose current portfolio in India includes flagship brand Teacher's, entered a new category in the country with the introduction of an 'Indian Made Foreign Liquor brand, Whisky DYC, adapted exclusively for this market.

The company, which will blend and bottle DYC in India, said India was a "focus market" for Beam Global and the launch of DYC was the first of many initiatives designed to tap the potential of the market.

Reinforcing the bullishness on the Indian market, SABMiller plc, one of the world's leading brewers, bought out Australian beer maker Foster's Indian subsidiary for 120 million dollars. SABMiller said it would extend Foster's Lager nationally through its network of ten breweries and seek significant cost benefits from brewing and distributing the brand locally.

Foster's India, the third-largest market for the Fosters brand globally, produced, distributed and supported Fosters Lager, Amberro Mild and Amberro Strong beer brands in India.

SabMiller was again in news for its interest in acquiring the beer business of Mohan Meakin and also for picking up an interest in Mount Shivalik group, makers of Thunderbolt beer. Both the deals remained confined to speculation with no official comment, but SabMiller's acquisition plans would certainly pose a risk to UB's dominating share in beer market.

The Indian beer market, which grew about 7-8 per cent over the last five years, is expected to grow by close to 20 per cent this fiscal. Industry analysts say tax and levies on beer are anticipated to fall over the next 2-3 years, driving down retail prices by 25-50 per cent. Beer will sell for Rs 15-20 per 330 ml can and Rs 20-30 per 650 ml bottle.

On the policy front, India and France initially agreed to resolve through talks a dispute over high import duties on wine and spirits. However, soon after, European Union dragged India to World Trade Organisation's dispute settlement body over import duties and taxes on wine and spirit.

The issue intensified when Indian spirit firms accused Scotch Whisky Association of Europe for blocking their entry into the high-profile liquor market by not permitting molasses-based whisky to be sold in Europe.

Notwithstanding the disputes, the liquor industry looks set for a bright future with the expected increase in alcohol consumption suggesting a robust growth of 20-25 per cent annually over the next five years.

Aircel launches mobile services in Himachal

Aircel Limited Wednesday launched its mobile services in Himachal Pradesh becoming the seventh player to enter the hill state's crowded market.

"Aircel will soon cover more than 75 towns and over 500 km of highways. Its initial roll out will be completed with setting up of 150 base transmitting station sites," said Jagdish Kini, Aircel chief executive officer.

"By the end of next year we plan to provide mobile services in all 12 districts of the state and capture 15 percent of the market which is registering an annual growth of 60,000 mobile connections," he said.

"Himachal is going to be our critical test as it will hone our skills before we launch our services soon in 14 circles and become a pan-Indian player."

"Himachal has a high penetration of mobiles and stiff competition is exciting for the company," said Rohit Chandra, CEO north and east zone.

"We plan to open 1,500 outlets as well as a call centre in the state to meet the people's need," he added.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Konkani Natakotsava

MANGALORE: Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy is organising `Konkani Natakotsava' competition for 2006-07 at six places during January and February.

Shivarudrappa, registrar of the academy, in a press release here, said the aim of the festival was to encourage Konkani dramas.

The competition would be held at Taccode on January 27, Moodbidri on January 28, Puttur on February 3, Pamburu on February 4, Modankaup on February 10 and Bantwal on February 11, the release said.

Drama troupes interested in participating in the event could submit an application with details of the play they would stage, it said. The time limit for a drama is two hours.

Last date for submitting applications is December 23. Applications should be sent to The Registrar, Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy, City Corporation Building, Lalbagh, Mangalore 575003. For details, call 0824-2453167.

KKSA stand on Konkani script is unconstitutional

MANGALORE: The stand taken by the Karnataka Konkani Sahithya Academy is unconstitutional, said Konkani language expert M Madhav Pai.

“In the background of the recommendation of the ‘Konkani textbook task force’ to use Devanagari script along with Kannada script for Konkani textbooks in Karnataka, it is clear that Academy decision was unconstitutional,” he added.

Addressing the special meeting of the Karnataka State Konkani Linguistic Minorities Education Institutions Association in Mangalore, Pai said Devanagari is accepted as the original and natural script of Konkani language by the governments and Konkani people of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala as well as the Government of India and National Sahithya Academy.

Association secretary Dr K Mohan Pai and others were present.

Konkani academy to translate famous works

MANGALORE: Vishwa Konkani Sahitya Academy, which is the first offshoot of the Konkani Language and Cultural Foundation, will take up literary works, including transliteration and translation of inter-language literary works, according to the foundation's president Basti Vaman Shenoy.

One of the "landmark" works that would be taken up by the academy would be the translation of Rashtrakavi Manjeshwar Govinda Pai's monograph from Kannada to Konkani and Hindi by Suneetha Bai.

Mr. Shenoy told The Hindu that there were a number of inter-State and inter-language books, which had to be translated into Konkani.

A panel of experts in Konkani, Kannada, Hindi, English and other south Indian languages had been entrusted with the job of identifying the books for translation.

Three Konkani books have been taken up for transliteration. They are `Moga Maka Shikay' by late V.J.P. Saldanha, `Tum Baro Za' by late A.T. Lobo, and `Angel' by late J.S. Alvares. He said Konkani books written in Kannada and Malayalam scripts had to be transliterated into Devanagari script. Senior Konkani researcher and writer Mark Walder had been put in-charge of securing the books for transliteration, he added.

Apollo Hospitals to spread wings in Bangalore

The Apollo Hospitals group has set the initial steps for building its network in Bangalore. Its multi-speciality 250-bed hospital will be formally launched in January 2007, and the group has already acquired two smaller facilities in north Bangalore.

In the next two years, Apollo would have six or seven facilities in Bangalore functioning as a hub and spoke model, said Apollo Hospitals Bangalore CEO V P Kamath.

The Rs 155-crore multi-speciality hospital has already begun functioning with the out-patient department, day care centre, diagnostics and emergency working in full swing. Operative procedures and in-patient facilities will be opened along with the formal launch next month.

The key focus areas of the hospital would be cardiology, orthopaedics, neurology, oncology, gastroenterology and ENT, Mr Kamath said. The hospital has the provision to add 200 beds, which would be done in the second phase by 2008.

The smaller facilities in the city would concentrate on different specialities. Of the two already acquired, one would be a specialised cardiac centre and the other a nephro and urology centre, Mr Kamath said.

“These are 70-80 bedded hospitals. One of the facilities will be launched in January and the other by April. The third one would be for cosmetology and paediatrics.”

Would you have guessed...

…that missing a free throw or slicing a golf ball might be due to activity happening in your brain before you even move a muscle?

Scientists reported in the journal Neuron this week that the reason we can’t exactly replicate a motion, no matter how hard we try, has more to do with our brain than our muscles.

Krishna Shenoy, a professor of electrical engineering and neurosciences at Stanford University, and co-authors Dr. Mark Churchland and Afsheen Afshar also at Stanford, cite basketball legend Larry Bird, who shot 71 consecutive free throws over two months. Why did he miss the 72nd shot? The scientists think it has something to do with “motor preparation”—the activity in the brain that occurs just as you get ready to muscles.

Motor preparation happens when the brain knows that the body must do something and can plan ahead for it. For example, when a basketball player makes a free throw he or she takes a moment at the foul line preparing. During this time, the brain is making a plan for motion. “Areas of your brain are getting you ready to get that arm to move,” says Shenoy. With motor preparation, Shenoy says, “you will be able to make that movement more accurately, and more quickly.”

Shenoy and co-authors trained two rhesus monkeys to reach for targets on command. They wanted to know if the speed of the monkey’s reach could be predicted by the activity of brain cells in the preparatory phase. The scientists measured the activity of neuron cells in the monkeys’ brains before the command was given.

They found that neuronal activity correlated with the motion that followed: on average, the more electrical signals released per second by a neuron before the command, the faster the monkey’s arm moved; fewer electrical signals, called action potentials, correlated on average with a slower movement.

The finding recasts the common understanding of movement variability, which is that muscles are the culprits of inconsistent motion. “This is the first evidence to show that at least half of your movement variability is due to the fact that your brain simply can’t plan your movement in the same way,” says Shenoy.

So why does practice make us better, if not perfect? The scientists say they’re not quite sure. One possibility is that practice allows you to become better at executing the mental planning process, says Afshar.

Our inability to execute motions perfectly may seem frustrating, but it could be advantageous to humans: flexibility in the brain allows us to respond better to new experiences. Afshar explains, “Only in a highly contrived situation, do you really try to do the same thing each and every time.”

This is what differentiates us from computers. “Computers are designed to do the same computation exactly the same way exactly correctly every single time,” says Shenoy. “While a computer can be programmed to do a variety of things, it’s a piece of junk compared to an ant. An ant can contend with hugely unexpected things in its environment.”

Diversifying, key to success

With an eye on inflation, it would be prudent to start planning one's investment strategy young as it offers the advantage of compounding. The basic principle is to save regularly, says Mr Manoj Shenoy, Regional Director, Anand Rathi Securities Ltd.

In the long term, equity is the best bet against inflation; in the last 25 years, it has given an average return rate of 17 per cent. But the key to success is to diversify, be realistic in expectation of returns and invest for the long term. But here is a warning: "Put a structural framework in place that allows you to remain emotionally detached from your investment — a detachment that is vital if you have to make intelligent decisions based on rational analysis of a business rather than emotional reactions to changes in market prices."

A business is only worth the cash flows that it will generate from today until doomsday, discounted back to the present value at an appropriate rate. "Without the ability to arrive at an independent, reasonable, valuation, you'll be vulnerable to unethical promoters who simply push seemingly attractive (often high-priced) initial public offerings or the like," he says.

Aggressive techniques

Mr Shenoy advises investors to spot the aggressive accounting techniques of the company they invest in. Many new investors do not realise that the reported net income and earnings per share in a company's annual report are, at best, a rough estimate. That is because even the simplest business with the cleanest balance-sheet has numerous estimations and assumptions that the management must make — the percentage of customers who are not likely to pay their bills, the appropriate rate of depreciation on buildings and machinery, the estimated level of product returns, and that is just a few of the most obvious examples, he asserts. So "Unscrupulous managements can game the numbers to appear better than they are by utilising aggressive accounting techniques. Knowing how to spot these is vital to protecting yourself."

Mr Shenoy says it is surprising how few people actually know how their company makes money. Coca-Cola, for example, does not generate most of its profits from selling the drink you pick up at the grocery store. It does so by selling concentrated syrups to bottlers throughout the world who then create the finished beverages for retailers.

A diversified portfolio

Which portfolio, for example, would one would consider more diversified? Portfolio A that has ten stocks, comprising three banks, two insurance companies, and five real-estate companies; or Portfolio B with five asset classes, comprising a real-estate player, an industrial giant, an oil company, a bank, and an international mutual fund?

In this case, the surprising answer is that, one would probably be more diversified owning five non-correlated stocks as in Portfolio B than twice as many equities in similar industries. That is because when troubles come, they often affect entire sectors of the market; witness the banking crisis of the late 1980s or the real-estate collapse around the same time, Mr Shenoy says. Warren Buffett has often mused that stocks are what people want in less number as they get cheaper.

In every other areaof our life, we typically rejoice at a sale, whether it is on hamburgers, silk ties or automobiles. As equities get less expensive, however, people typically flee from them, often saying, "I'll wait till the price stabilises and starts to rise again." This makes no sense, he says.

Finally, a rider from Mr Shenoy: "If you are unable to watch your holdings fall by 50 per cent or more without panicking or liquidating your positions, you should not be managing your own investments."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Stress on hard work

BELGAUM: Col P Y Bogar (5 Girls Battalion) NCC Commanding Officer has called upon the students to decide their goals first before making efforts to achieve them.

Speaking at the prize distribution ceremony organised at the school here recently, he said one would be successful in life by putting sincere efforts along with hard work and definite aim.

He emphasised on the need of extra curricular activities like NCC and said such activities would develop confidence. To encourage the students to take up NCC, Col Bogar announced a cash award of Rs 10,000 for the good NCC cadet of the school.

Sudhakar Shanbag, president, Belgaum Education Society, has announced a cash prize of Rs 3,000 and a memento to every student who will score more than 90% of marks in SSLC examinations every year.

Jayant Bhat (95.84%), Prashant Hiremath (93.92%), Ravi Deshnur (92.64%), Kaushik Chitragar (91.84), Gundu Shetti (90.72%) and Shivanand Kundral (90.56%) were felicitated for excelling in the SSLC examinations held in March 2006.

P V Joshi, headmaster welcomed and K L Majukar introduced the guests. S V Odeyar conducted the programme and P B Deshpande proposed a vote of thanks.

Vishwa Konkani Kendra to be set up in Mangalore

Udupi: President of Konkani Language and Cultural Foundation Basti Vaman Shenoy said on Sunday that the foundation planned to construct Vishwa Konkani Kendra in Mangalore at an estimated cost of Rs. 5 crore.

Giving a presentation at a programme organised by the Udupi unit of Konkani Bhasha Mandal here, Mr. Shenoy said that the project was formally launched in 2005. Corporation Bank and P. Dayananda Pai Trust were supporting the project, he said.

Activities of the kendra would be focussed on preservation of Konkani heritage and uniting Konkani people living around the world through the use of modern technology.

The Internet would be used to unite Konkani people, he said. This task would be taken up by the Konkani Research Centre, which would also facilitate research in Konkani, Mr. Shenoy added.

The kendra would include a library, a Konkani heritage museum, heritage homes, conference facilities and an open-air theatre.

The kendra would promote "kavi kala," the art of mural painting.

The art, which was common at temples, was on the decline now, he said.

The kendra would also start online services.

The foundation intends to set up various bodies to promote Konkani literature, dramas, music and culture.

Why You Can't Shoot the Same Foul Shot Twice

In the late '80s and early '90s, before the Cleveland Cavaliers became Lebron's squad, the team's fortunes rested heavily on the back of the steadfast and reliable point guard Mark Price. One of Price's claims to fame: his run at Calvin Murphy's streak of 78 consecutive free-throws-made.

In April 1993 Price missed what would have been his record-tying shot from the charity stripe; later that month, Michael Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves would end up breaking the record in a game against the Utah Jazz. Most scientists, who over the past decade may have hypothesized why the all-time NBA career free-thrower (he made 90.4 percent of his shots) missed that crucial attempt, would likely have blamed the inconsistency of so-called on-line movements--the neural activity and muscle contractions that occur after Price bent his knees and started his motion. A new study in this week's issue of Neuron, however, reports that another factor came into play: the brain does not plan the execution of a shot in exactly the same fashion each step of the way.

"The punch line with [our] paper," says Stanford University electrical engineer and neuroscientist Krishna Shenoy, "is that this is the first evidence that neural activity--brain activity that happens well before the movement ever begins--has a lot to say about the variability or the exact movement that you're going to get."

Shenoy and his team studied two rhesus monkeys as they made a simple, practiced movement--reaching to touch a target--to determine whether so-called "off-line" activity had any effect on the variability of each movement. First, the monkeys were trained to make a quick reach when they saw a green target and to execute a faster motion when they saw a red target.

As the monkeys performed these tasks, the researchers studied individual neurons in the premotor cortex of their brains (the outer layer of the brain responsible for higher functions, such as movement planning) to see whether each nerve cell increased its activity for slower or faster reaches. Once each neuron had been catalogued, the team monitored them while the monkeys made a series of reaches, varying each motion's speed naturally.

"What we did is record that preparatory activity way before the movement ever begins," Shenoy says, "and show that you can predict whether the upcoming movement will be slightly faster or slightly slower on average." In fact, the team found that the off-line neural activity was highly predictive of the speed of each reach.

Next, the group attempted to estimate what percentage of variability in a motion can be attributed to neural activity at the planning stage. They tested muscle activity during the same reaching exercise using electromyography to determine how well on-line variability correlated with movement variability. To their surprise, the results were similar to those in their study of off-line effects. "The bottom line is the neural recordings can explain upcoming velocity variability as well as muscle recordings can," says Afsheen Afshar, a graduate student who worked on the study. He adds that off-line activity probably accounts for half of movement variability, whereas on-line effects influence the other half.

Not all experts agree, however. Emmanuel Todorov, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, is skeptical that motor preparation is a major source of variability in physical motions. He says that the tasks performed were too simple to reach definitive conclusions and that more difficult activities (like crumpling paper), which require some sensory guidance once the motion has begun, would rely less on planning. "We should be careful not to overgeneralize," he warns. "The relative contributions of different neuronal mechanisms are likely to depend on the nature of the behavior." Paul Cisek, a neurophysiologist at the University of Montreal, says Shenoy's work is important to the study of motion control, as consideration of the influence of off-line activity had all but been forgotten in recent years. "The precise fraction of influence that planning processes have on movement variability is not easy to calculate, but probably not terribly important," he notes. "Knowing that it is there and that it is not negligible is important, whether it is 30 percent, 50 percent or 70 percent. It suggests that computational models of motor control need to take planning variability into account."

Practice doesn't make perfect: new US study

Endless hours spent perfecting your golf swing or basketball shot could be a waste of time, according to a US study which has found that practice doesn't always make perfect.

Researchers at Stanford University looking at the way the brain plans and calculates motion made the discovery after training macaque monkeys to repeat a simple reaching task thousands of times.

"The nervous system was not designed to do the same thing over and over again," said Mark Churchland, postdoctoral researcher in electrical engineering and lead author of the study published Wednesday.

In the study, scientists rewarded the monkeys for reaching out to touch a coloured spot of light at different speeds.

During the exercise, scientists monitored the promoter cortex of the monkeys' brains, responsible for movement planning, and tracked the speed of the resulting motion. Over the course of thousands of reaches, the monkeys rarely moved with the exact same speed.

Small variations in reach speed followed small variations in brain activity during movement planning, before the monkeys started reaching for the spot, according to the study, published in the journal Neuron.

Contrary to conventional wisdom that movement variability is caused by muscle activity, the scientists found that neural activity accounts for about half the variations.

In other words, training muscles to perform a certain way through practice, such as countless hours teeing off or shooting a basketball, won't produce the same shot every time because the brain's behaviour is inconsistent.

After an initial training period, the monkeys' reach accuracy did not improve over time, suggesting that lots of practice can only improve movement control so much, said Krishna Shenoy, assistant professor of electrical engineering and neurosciences at Stanford University.

The researchers speculate that humans and animals evolved with this "improvisational style" in response to the predator-prey dynamic where predators never catch and kill prey in exactly the same conditions.

"Premium athletes' quest for consistency is a stark contrast to the way we evolved through history," Shenoy said.

Understanding the way the brain controls movement can help lead to treatments for neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease, Shenoy said.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Govt to revamp education system

CHIKMAGALUR: Government is planning to revamp the education system, said Higher Education Minister D H Shankaramurthy.

Inaugurating the class rooms at Horenadu in Mudegrere, he said there is no clear picture on what should children can learn and what not. But they are forced to learn topics not at all connected to them.

Government is planning many programmes for betterment of education system in State, he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Zilla Panchayat CEO V Ashok said that this year about 10 new schools were sanctioned to the district. DDPI Basavanyappa, Taluk Panchayat member Manjappaiah and others spoke. Daranedariah welcomed and Veena Shenoy proposed vote of thanks.

communal harmony rally

MANGALORE: Shree Guruji Birth centennial committee will organise a communal harmony rally for students at Nehru Maidan on December 16.

Reception committee secretary and former MLC Balakrishna Bhat said procession will begin from three different centres and will converge at Jyothi circle and later assemble at Nehru Maidan.

Well known columnist Chakravarthi Soolibele will deliver the key note address at the rally. “The rally is being organised to create awareness among students on how issues like illegal infiltrators, Naxalism were posing threat to the internal security of the country,” he said.

Committee president Prof M B Puranik, District ABVP convener Harish Poonja were also present.

Mhadei: MBA knocks UNEP doors

Panjim, GOA:Reiterating that the State Government was not serious over the Mhadei water diversion, Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan on Tuesday said it has now apprised the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) 5th Dams and Development Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, about the issue.
Addressing a press conference, MBA Convenor Nirmala Sawant informed that they’ve made a representation to the DD Forum held on November 23-24 through a nature lover of Goan origin called F R S D’Souza, who is settled in Kenya. D’Souza has made the representation on our behalf and we are waiting for a feedback, she added.
That the State Government is not serious about the issue can be seen in two instances, Nirmala observed, adding, “I am told that on November 27 Goa’s representatives failed to show photographs of the work undertaken by Karnataka or provide any other strong evidence in the Supreme Court to get a stay or a status quo on the construction work at Kankumbi. Even the Advocate General was not present in the court.”
“Secondly”, she preserved, “The all-party delegation that went to Delhi to meet the PM on December 8 came back after submitting a memo to the Prime Minister’s Office. Looking at the seriousness and urgency of the issue, the delegation should have waited a day or two and met the PM.”
Scientist Nandkumar Kamat said it looks like that the IFFI took the wind out of Goa’s seriousness over Mhadei. The State’s leadership is not united as it took two months to take an all-party delegation to Delhi. The time factor will be favourable to Karnataka for making progress on the development works at the project site.”
Kamat said the nodal officer has expressed his helplessness over the issue. There is total lack of coordination between the Water Resources Minister and the Advocate General. The Cabinet needs to regularly meet on the issue, he added.
Noted environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar informed that a cycle yatra has been organised on December 28-30 from Bondir, Sattari to Tambdi Surla to create awareness over the issue.

Konkani film-maker seeks distributors

PANAJI: The producer of Goa's latest Konkani language film "Antarnad" (Inner Voice) is looking for distributors from the neighbouring State of Karnataka to screen the film in Konkani-speaking areas, including Mangalore.
The film, which was premiered at the latest edition of the International Film Festival of India here, will be released at a local multiplex here on Thursday. The State Government has exempted the film from entertainment tax, said Rajendra Talak, producer and director of the film. He said the film was simultaneously made in Marathi under the title "Saawali" and would be released in Pune on Thursday.
"Antarnad" is Mr. Talak's third film and the second to be premiered at IFFI. He is now planning to make a bilingual film in Konkani and Hindi for which he has received a proposal. Mr. Talak told presspersons on Tuesday that his ambition was to take Konkani language films to national and international audiences. Mr. Talak said he would be happy to screen his film for Konkani language audiences in other states.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

South Asian weddings come at a high price: $50,000

Sharda Shenoy, one of the owners of Elegant Affairs in Fairfield, shows off one of the showrooms at her business on Saturday. Her business specializes in upscale weddings and floral arrangements.

Monica Sangani and Rajat Gupta, 26-year-old business school students from New York, are planning a June wedding.

They've booked a hall -- Headquarters Plaza in Morristown -- and are soon traveling to India to buy clothing. They've picked a decorator -- Elegant Affairs in Fairfield -- and eventually will select a caterer.

A few decisions remain. For instance, do they want a horse at the wedding?

The high-end South Asian wedding industry, where the average wedding costs $50,000, is marked by opulence. Grand floral centerpieces on every table, elaborate stage decorations with Roman columns, and shiny drapes, spotlights, and concert-ready audio equipment are the norm.

The vendors of these and other wedding-centric accessories will show off their wares in a bridal showcase next Sunday at the Sheraton in Parsippany.

It's a small, close-knit group of merchants who cater to affluent South Asian families who want their children's weddings lavished with things like green-petal floral arrangements shaped like elephants.

That happens to be one of the decorations that Montville's Sharda Shenoy designed in two decades in the business.

Shenoy, the owner of Elegant Affairs, and other members of the Asian American Association of Wedding Professionals who are sponsoring the bridal showcase have established reputations as upscale wedding planners.

"We know that Elegant Affairs are probably the best wedding planners," Sangani said Thursday in the wedding planner's small showroom on Bloomfield Avenue.

"Don't say probably. They are the best," her father, Krishnakant Sangani of Edison, chimed in. His daughter, who is earning her master's degree at the Stern School of Business in New York, agreed. Her fiancé, Gupta, is earning his master's degree from Columbia University.

AAAWP, a group of about 40 mostly New Jersey-based wedding merchants, met on Wednesday night at the Mirage Hall in Edison to hammer out details of the upcoming exposition, which is free and open to the public.

The group met for the first time last year and soon launched the first bridal exposition, which drew approximately 150 brides-to-be and their families, according to Ammish Thakkar of Edison, a commercial and wedding photographer and president of the organization.

"All the vendors are very well-known in the community for their own superior work," Thakkar said.

Yogesh Dawar of Sparta, who provides musical entertainment for weddings, said at a meeting of the group at the Mirage Hall that the upscale wedding industry was established nearly 30 years ago by the Mehtani family, who own the Moghul restaurant in Morristown.

"They are the pioneers," Dawar said at the Mehtani-operated Mirage Hall. "Based on their direction, I don't think we can go wrong."

Big pricetag

Thakkar estimated that clients of AAAWP vendors spend an average of $50,000 on their weddings.

That's just the average high-end wedding cost. It doesn't include extras such as horses, elephants and even helicopters -- all of which the wedding planners have facilitated.

With 300 to 400 wedding affairs done each year,Shenoy said her clientele keeps growing. It also is diversifying, she said. She's done Hindu weddings, Muslim weddings, Christian weddings, and weddings without any religious themes. She said she is seeing more weddings where cultures and religions blend, and even couples without South Asian backgrounds incorporating traditions from the Indian Subcontinent, which includes India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Thakkar said New Jersey has a concentration of wedding vendors with Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi flair because of the large concentration of people with those backgrounds in certain areas, such as Edison.

The Middlesex County township, whose Oak Tree Road is lined with South Asian restaurants, music, video and grocery stores, still is where many wedding vendors are located.

The Morris County area has its own strengths in the industry.

Along Route 46 in Parsippany and in nearby towns, there are several other wedding decorators besides Elegant Affairs, including AAAWP-member, Lata Patel in Fairfield and Zari Boutique in Parsippany.

Morris wedding halls

Morris County also is home to popular wedding halls for South Asians, including Headquarters Plaza in Morristown and Birchwood Manor in Hanover. There also are frequently used caterers in the area, such as Chand Palace and Moghul.

The county also is home to a trusted and traditional source of travel: horses.

Marc Schumacher, founder of Equishare USA LLC, won the bid to lease the Seaton Hackney Stables from Morris County and has operated the facility since September. He also keeps his horses in Oldwick.

Schumacher, a member of AAAWP, specializes in providing horses and carriages for Indian wedding processions. The bridegroom typically arrives in a horse-drawn carriage during the baraat, and the couple leave together in the carriage during the vidai.

Schumacher said he was preparing for such processions in Queens over the weekend.

On Saturday, he organized a non-wedding related event -- a Christmas party at the Morristown stables.

BoI to acquire 76 pc stake in Indonesia's Bank Swadesi

Public sector banking major, Bank of India (BoI), will acquire a controlling 76 per cent stake in Indonesia's PT Bank Swadesi, for which it has already obtained necessary regulatory approvals from both the countries.

"We have already obtained approvals from both the RBI and the appropriate authorities in Indonesia for taking over the bank," BoI's Executive Director K R Kamath told PTI here today.

BoI has signed a conditional sale purchase agreement with the majority shareholders of the Indonesian bank to buy the 76 per cent stake in a deal estimated at around USD 20 to 25 million (nearly Rs 112 crore).

Pointing out that acquiring a stake in an existing bank made great economic sense than setting up a branch, Kamath said that BoI had been present in Indonesia for the last 33 years through its representative office.

"This acquisition will help us enhance our presence and scale up our operations there," he said.

The 38-year-old Indonesian bank has an asset size of USD 100 million and has been focussing on retail lending to individuals and trade. "Their scale of operations has been low in the last couple of years and we intend scaling it up," Kamath said.

The bank has four branches, five sub-offices and 370 employees and is considered a mid-sized bank as per Indonesian standards, he said.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Farmers advised to grow vegetable crops

Dr L Krishna Nayak, Extension Director, University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, has advised farmers to grow more vegetable crops and horticultural crops by using high yielding seeds and modern agricultural equipment in their fields.

He was addressing the State-level seminar on ‘Vegetable crops’ jointly organised by University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, National Horticultural Research & Development Foundation and Krishi Vignana Kendra, Hanumanamatti.

He said, “Our scientists are making efforts to provide high quality and variety of vegetable seeds to the farmers.”

It was essential for farmers to grow vegetable crop as per the guidelines. Farmers should know about the ‘marketing system’ and ‘marketing condition’ of their products because the rates were always fluctuating.

Farmers should always think to get more price to their produce, he said.

Expressing concern over pesticides, Dr L Krishna Nayak has said that the spoiled vegetables were reaching the market that were harmful. Farmers should not try to market such vegetables.

The decayed vegetables would not only affect the human body but would affect the environment.

“Nowadays agriculture is not a profitable business unless we use good or high quality seeds,” he said.

Dr Nayak has opposed the farmer Subhas Palekar system of agricultural farming.

“UAS is ready to accept his tests and experiments if they are true. Even our university is ready to provide him 25 to 100 acres of land for his experiments. He should show his talent in front of our scientists. We will also follow his methods. But he should not guide farmers on wrong path.”

The National Vegetable Conference will be held on January 27 and 28 in UAS, Dharwad and more scientific research documents would be presented in this seminar, he added.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

'IIT-ians must give something back to India'

Satish Kini, CEO, 21st Century Healthcare Solution

Former IIT-ian Satish Kini is so inspired by President A P J Abdul Kalam's Wings of Fire that he buys hundreds of copies of them and distributes them among the young. Sluggishness of old age has no place in his dictionary -- nothing can be or should be allowed to stay static. He is for constant movement and dynamism. Nothing motivates him more than the fervour of the youth.
Having started his career in the corporate sector, Kini is now into healthcare management sector and promises to make the segment stand on its head in no time. As head of 21st Century Healthcare Solutions, Kini is out to transform healthcare with people, processes and technologies.

What is it about the IITs that sets its graduates apart from others?
I don't want to make it look like that the IIT-ians are a different breed. You can broadly split them into two halves -- how they are when they get into the IITs and how they are when they finish their course.

Before they enter IITs, they are good at academics, toppers in schools and colleges. After they get in, the very environment of IIT inculcates a spirit of achievement in them and they take pride in the fact that they are into one of the premier educational institutes of the county.
The IIT environment gives the IIT-ians a different profile.
IIT education does not necessarily make us technology wizards. But IIT-ians are the people who are willing to take on challenges. They are always are ready to experiment, they don't want to be stuck into a routine.
Which is why in the early 70s, many IIT-ians moved abroad as India could not provide them with enough challenges. Things are different now.

When you made it to the IIT what was that experience like?
In our days, IITs were not as hyped up as they are today. However, getting admission into IITs was considered a hugely prestigious affair and a vey difficult task. We did not need to slog for two years to prepare for the entrance examination. The feeling to get into an IIT used to be great though.
We had an interesting mix of people -- there used to be no discrimination among our classmates in terms of caste, creed, religion, financial status and so on and so forth.
There was an underlying sense of responsibility in each one of us -- no matter whatever stream we choose, we must give something back to our country.

How did IIT education prepare you for your career?
I am into healthcare management now and at present am busy transforming the Goa Medical College. But I started my career in the design section of Godrej. Though I wasn't particularly happy about the job I did in the three years I spent there, I learnt a lot about people.
For instance, I came to know about the corporate culture, white lies. I cannot forget how an old worker once taught me that God has not given us any bone in our tongue so that we can use it to our convenience for or against our colleagues.
After a while, however, I got bored with the inertness of the senior people of the company and was drawn to the information technology sector soon after, the lessons of life that I learnt from Godrej stayed with me throughout. The next company that I joined was IDM.

'Inspire, Involve and Transform India.' Can you dwell upon the significance of the theme for this year's Pan-IIT global conference?
I would add another 'I' to the coined acronym -- innovate. I feel unless you innovate, you cannot inspire, get yourself involved in a project and can actually bring about a transformation. By innovation, I do not mean technical innovation only. By innovation I mean the way you deliver services. Take the case of banking as an example. Who could think of ATMs 10 years back?
The Pan IIT conference will go a long way in bringing out more transformation in the country. I complement Ashank (Desai), the IIT conference chairman, who took a year's sabbatical to organise things.
This conference should decide how we get together in smaller groups later and carry forward the agenda that are decided at the conference. I do hope that's what comes out of the event. I do feel information technology, people and process together can transform the entire world.

How can IIT-ians help address the challenges India faces in the new millennium?
IIT-ians are especially skilled to do two particular things -- seeking problems and digging out their solution.
IIT-ians' task is to use the knowledge they have acquired into seeking the unknown. Theirs is to face the hitherto unforeseen challenges and invent ways to counter them.

Should India have more IITs?
Of course -- it's always a welcome idea. But while building such institutes, the government should not go by quantity but by quality. There is no point in having average IITs, which score only in number.

Academy plans book on Konkani stalwarts

The Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy is planning to publish books on Konkani stalwarts of 20th century and Konkani culture as part of Suvarna Karnataka celebrations.
The first book will contain details about the Konkani speaking persons who have rendered exemplary service in the realm of Kannada and Konkani language, culture, freedom struggle and unification movement, politics, education, industry, banking, business, army and others. The second book will be a documentary of culture and customs of various Konkani sects.
The Academy has invited applications from persons interested in research work and videographers. Applicants should have working knowledge of Konkani language and relevant experience in the field.
Duration of the research work is 6 months and data collected will be examined by the experts and will be brought out in the form of book and VCDs. Research work will be funded by the Academy. Applications should be sent to The Registrar, Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy, City Corporation building, Lalbagh, Mangalore, 575006. For more details interested may contact 0824-2453167, informed a press release.

Regional cinema in the doldrums

Shoestring budgets, falling audience interest plague producers
-They solely rely on calls from film festivals to be screened
-Films on social issues get insufficient media coverage

Panaji: Faced with shoestring promotional budgets, unsympathetic exhibitors and dwindling audiences, regional films, particularly art films, now solely rely on film festivals, both domestic and international, to get screened, filmmakers said.
A revival
The Konkani film industry in Goa is seeing a revival after 20 years.
A Goan film producer, Rajendra Talak, said the revival was possible due to support from the State Government. He had premiered two Konkani films at the IFFI held in Goa last year.
He felt that other State Governments must emulate Goa, which recently unveiled a financial assistance scheme that gives subsidies and bonus points for regional films. The abundance of prints of films from other languages is the biggest challenge for Kannada film producers, T. S. Nagabharna, producer and director of Kannada film "Kallarali Hoovagi," said.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ova bank comes to India

Women struggling with reproductive problems or keen on postponing motherhood can now get their eggs frozen.

MUMBAI: The egg business has landed. Women struggling with reproductive problems or those keen on postponing motherhood for a later date can now get their eggs frozen and utilise it when they wish.

Addressing the growing problems of infertility, a team of specialists - Dr Hrishikesh Pai, Dr Rishma Pai and Dr Nandita Palshetkar - have recently set up the country’s first ova bank at the Bandra-based Lilavati Hospital. In a short span the concept has elicited a strong response from women, admit the team.

The ova bank is expected to out-perform the sperm banks, pointed out infertility experts. Women with premature ovarian failure, ineffective ovaries post ovarian surgery, post chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer, premature menopause, repeated failures with in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and menopausal patients who have lost a child and want another can avail of the bank’s facilities.

Speaking to DNA, Dr Pai indicated that this technology will be a success. “It is a secondary option for women and the recovery rate of eggs is much higher,” he said. Forty-year old Shruti Sood is keen on utilising the bank’s facilities. “My biological clock is ticking away and it is unlikely that I will conceive without assistance. I am willing to pay the price for the egg,” said Sood.

A donor is given hormone injections to produce eggs, which are then retrieved with the help of an ultrasound machine. The procedure takes about 20 minutes and is done under general anaesthesia. The patient is discharged after three hours. The eggs are then dissected by the embryologist and prepared for freezing. These dissected eggs are frozen in a straw after a special procedure. The temperatures are gradually dropped - at the rate of 0.3 degrees centigrade every minute - and kept in liquid nitrogen containers at minus 196 degrees centigrade. Every four days, the nitrogen level is checked and maintained.

“Four months later the donor is tested for HIV. If the tests are negative, then the quarantined eggs are thawed and used. We ensure that the eggs are totally free from the possibility of transmitting HIV,” said Dr Pai. Two types of donors - voluntary and shared - will assist the ova bank in helping infertile couples. The former needs to be in the 21 to 33 years age group, preferably married with children.

Shared donors are those who are trying to get pregnant through IVF and Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), but cannot afford the expenses. These patients produce many eggs while undergoing ovarian stimulation. While half the eggs are kept for the patient herself, the other half is donated to a recipient who pays for it.

Though the first frozen egg baby was born (in Australia) in 1990, the success rate of the ova banks picked up only in the last three years. The Lilavati team has imported the ova bank technology from Denmark and Japan. Interestingly, the DNA Ovum Bank - headquartered in Seoul - claims to be Asia’s first and largest human egg bank in the business.

According to Dr Ashok Anand - associate professor of Gynaecology and Obstetric, Sir JJ Group of Hospitals — the concept will catch on. “The number of infertile patients is very large, so alternatives are welcome. It will be a help to those women who want to conceive at a later date,” said Dr Anand. There are 20 million infertile couples in India, reveals statistics of the World Health Organisation. While the success rate for IVF is 20-25 per cent, it is only 10 to 12 per cent for ICSI.

Monday, December 04, 2006

MCCS plans rehab project for cancer patients

The Malabar Cancer Care Society (MCCS) here has decided to initiate an ‘Integrated comprehensive rehabilitation project’ making use of various systems of medicine for patients cured of cancer.Briefing mediapersons about the new projects initiated by the MCCS, D Krishnanadha Pai, chairman of the society, said that the rehabilitation project will be launched by ISRO chairman Dr G Madhavan Nair at a function here on Monday. A message from President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam will be read out at the function.A WHO-sponsored School of Colposcopy and Training Centre and Friends for Cancer Care (FORCE) are the two other major projects to be launched on Monday. The School of Colposcopy and Training Centre of MCCS will be inaugurated by Health Minister P K Sreemathy.The Friends for Cancer Care is a novel scheme designed to assist those who seek treatment for cancer and those who are cured of the disease. FORCE has a health group, counselling group, finance group and a social activation group, said Krishnanadha Pai.The School of Colposcopy is the second such centre in the state to provide training to doctors and paramedical staff. K Sudhakaran MLA will preside over the function to be held on the premises of the MCCS at South Bazar here at 4.30 p m on Monday.

Goa has film-culture, says Konkani producer

Lashing out at detractors who have been advocating the shifting of the International Film Festival of India from Goa, Konkani film producer Rajendra Talak yesterday said the State has a film culture.
He contended that those criticising the lack of a film culture in Goa were doing so with the sole aim of shifting the festival outside the state.
"Goa has a film culture and it has contributed most to Bollywood right from the 70's. It will figure in the list of five states which have contributed most to the Hindi film industry," Talak told reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing IFFI-2006 here.
He said several cine-artistes and technicians like music composer Anthony Gonsalves, cameraman K Vaikunth and others hailed from the state.
"Even the Mangeshkar family migrated from Goa," he said, referring to the famed family to which film singers Lata, Asha and Usha belong.
IFFI this year has been marred by controversies surrounding organisational glitches and allegations of the domination of the festival by Bollywood made by several regional filmmkers and actors like T V Chandran, Girish Kasaravalli and Nandita Das.
"There is a strong lobby from South and Bengal working to shift the festival from Goa, which is not fair. I don't understand why they are against Goa. West Bengal does not require this festival and neither does Kerala," Talak said.
Commenting on festival's mismanagement, Talak held delegates responsible for the mess.

Home-grown retail cos get into expansion mode

As global retail behemoths make a beeline to the Indian market, domestic retail chain promoters are rushing to raise funds to complete their expansion plans. Domestic players like LifeKen, largest pharmacy retail outlets from Bangalore; MobileNXT, country’s first mobile retail chain from Delhi; 24/7, a pharma retail chain from Delhi; and Digital Shoppy, a consumer durables retail chain from Hyderabad, have all knocked at the doors of private equity investors for funds. Sources said both LifeKen and MobileNXT have begun talks to raise around $15 million each. LifeKen has given mandate to Mumbai-based Avendus Advisors. Digital Shoppy, which operates 22 outlets in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, has just concluded a PE placement of Rs 17.5 crore with Leverage India Fund, managed by IL&FS Investment Managers (IIML). Lifetime Healthcare, which owns ‘LifeKen’ brand, has grown to 25 pharmacy retail outlets in Bangalore and three in Chennai, all owned by the company, ever since its inception in April 2005. Lifetime’s plan is to increase LifeKen outlets to 200 in south India by the end of 2006-07 with an investment of around Rs 40 crore. Its plan is to spread wings for an all-India presence with more than 700 LifeKen outlets within the next three years. “Many PE players are keen to pick up stake in these retail players. They are established brandnames in their home markets. Valuations have shot up manifold over the last one year of their operations,” said an investment banker. For instance, Avendus had invested around $5,00,000 in MobileNXT early this year, when the first store was just being set up. “The retail chain now covers around 15 outlets, and is growing fast. Apart from their expansions, MobileNXT is also doing brisk business online, helping it drive up valuations,” said Ranu Vohra, managing director of Avendus. Most of these retail chains are promoted by first-generation entrepreneurs. Digital Shoppy is promoted by A Mahesh Raju, a technocrat from IIT, under Pratyankara Electronics, while LifeKen is promoted by three individuals — MC Kini, A Suryanarayanan and Pranabh Mody, with an equity base of Rs 10 crore. MobileNXT was founded by Romy Juneja, now chief operating officer of the retail chain.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Language and beyond

By Eduardo Faleiro

India is home to extraordinary diversity- cultural, religious, ethnic and linguistic. All such differences ought to be harmonized in a spirit of mutual accommodation rather than through coercive methods of homogenization which may only lead to agitations and revolt. I make this comment in the context of the present language controversy in Goa regarding Marathi and Konkani languages and their scripts.
At the time of the conquest of Goa by the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century Konkani and Marathi were the languages prevailing in this area. Authors differ on their opinion as to whether both languages were written or Marathi alone was the literary language and Konkani, the spoken language.
Noted Goan historian Panduranga Pisurlenkar observes: "If the language spoken in Goa is Konkani, the literary language of the Goan Hindus is traditionally Marathi. Cunha Rivara and Mons. Sebastiao Rodolfo Dalgado believed that there was literature in Konkani language and that it was destroyed by the Portuguese due to religious intolerance. We may, however, note that the Portuguese territory of Goa before 1763 consisted only of the Old Conquests namely Tiswadi, Salcete and Bardez; the rest of the same territory was not under the Portuguese rule. It is therefore logical that had there been any book or document written in this language it would have been found in the New Conquests. The truth is that there are no vestiges whatsoever of the existence of a Konkani literature before the conquest of Goa by the Portuguese. There was certainly literature in Goa but written in Marathi and Sanskrit."
Fr. Antonio Pereira remarks "Marathi was the hieratic language of Goa though not understood by the masses for whom Konkani was more familiar and homely: ‘lingua da terra vulgar’, the popular language of the place." After the Portuguese conquest, foreign missionaries wrote Konkani in the roman script. "As a rule the majority of the books of the Jesuits and Franciscans, in prose are in Konkani and those in poetry are in Marathi" says Fr. Pereira.
Other writers hold a different view. According to Prof. Lourdino Rodrigues "today we know with incontestable evidence that Goa had a Konkani version of the Ramayana and Mahabharata in the 16th century and Konkani was so highly a developed language that its vocabulary was richer than Portuguese and Marathi."
Konkani in roman script was kept alive by Goan Catholics who migrated to Bombay and other parts of India and who had studied the script in the Portuguese primary schools at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.
The reason, according to Mons. Sebastiao Dalgado was that whilst the Portuguese were intolerant towards the local languages, the British administration would encourage them. "Look at the Goan community in Bombay; it has for the last several years, periodicals in the mother tongue, literary publications, mostly translations or adaptations as it always happens in the initial stages and even dramatic productions which are appreciated by those who do not know or know only superficially European languages."
Konkani literature in Devanagari script was promoted by Vaman Varde Valaulikar (Shenoi Goenbab) in the early Twentieth Century. It gained impetus after Goa’s Independence and more so after the enactment of the Official Language Act.
The Goa Official Language Act was enacted in 1987. It is intended to achieve greater unity and harmony among our people and to strengthen our common cultural heritage. If in the process of implementing the Official Language Act any section of the population feels aggrieved, such complaints should be examined sympathetically.
The language controversy has involved a debate on the medium of education as well. School education is intended mainly to provide a suitable career, economic and social status and better prospects in life. India is today among the fastest growing economies in the world. Economic success of a nation leads to cultural assertion. In emerging India it will be necessary to be fluent in at least two Indian languages including Hindi, for success in the mainstream economy and society. English is at present the main international language. In this globalised world, proficiency in English is also very important.
There is no reason for any language controversy. If differences do arise the protagonists of different languages and scripts should together find a solution. They should approach the Government whenever necessary. Institutions such as the Central Institute of Indian Languages are also available for advice. The present Government in Goa as well as the Union Government is responsive and sympathetic to any proposal that strengthens national unity and enhances our linguistic and cultural solidarity.
Eduardo Faleiro: The writer is a former Union Minister and presently Commissioner for NRI Affairs with a Cabinet Minister rank in the Government of Goa.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Vijaya Bank plans to acquire a bank, to form alliances

State-run Vijaya Bank, which has presence mostly in the southern region, plans to acquire a bank that has branches in west and north India to consolidate its position in the banking sector.
The public sector bank is in talks with other banks for forming a strategic alliance, and also plans to open branches in Dubai and Hong Kong, Chairman and managing director Prakash Mallya said.
‘Some strategic alliance have taken place....IOB, Indian Bank and Oriental Bank of Commerce. Like this, one or two more alliances may take place. About that, we are in talks,’’ he said after inaugurating a new branch at Malleshwaram. He, however, declined to name the banks with which dialogue was on.
Mallaya also said the bank would look out to buy a well established bank next year.
‘‘We are consolidating our position by March 2007. Then we will look into buying a bank well established in the West andNorth,’’ he added.
The bank has sought approval from Reserve Bank of India to open branches in Dubai and Hong Kong and a representative office in China. "RBI is actively considering it," he said.
Consolidation of banks in India would have several benefits, he said, adding there were more than one lakh branches of public sector, regional, rural, private sector and cooperative banks in the country. State Bank of India, the country's largest lender, was "nowhere near" compared to foreign banks. Citibank's loan asset base is 12 times bigger than that of the SBI, he noted.

Honour for Ganapati Bhat

Bangalore: Pandit Ganapati Bhat, a leading vocalist belonging to the Kirana Gharana has been awarded the Vatsalabai Bhimsen Joshi Puraskar for 2006, instituted by the Pune-based Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal.

Govind Bedekar, treasurer of the mandal, has communicated this to Pandit Bhat in a letter. Mr. Bhat runs a music school in the gurukula tradition in his native village Hasanagi in Uttara Kannada district.

A committee headed by vocalists Gangubai Hangal, Bhimsen Joshi and Feroz Dastur, selected Pandit Bhat for the puraskar. Kalpanataayi Zokarkar of Indore got the award in 2005. It carries a memento and a cash prize of Rs. 25,000.

The award will be presented to Pandit Bhat on the occasion of 54th Sawai Gandharva Music Festival to be held in Pune from December 7 to 10.

Mr. Bhat has sent a letter to the mandal expressing his happiness and dedicating the award to the great musicians of Karnataka — the late Sawai Gandharva, the late Rajguru Basavaraj, Dr. Hangal, the late Kumar Gandharva, the late Mallikarjun Mansur, Pandit Joshi and Panchakshari Gawai.

Mr. Bhat, who won the Rajyotsava Award in 1993, has performed four times at the prestigious Sawai Gandharva Sammelan, Pune, and it was here that he got recognition. His free gurukul in Hasanagi is known as "Nadagrama". He conducts the music festival "Smruti Sangeet Sammelan" in the village every year in memory of his guru, Pandit Rajguru.