LONDON: A 28 year old woman was found to be kept as a slave in a domestic environment by an Indian origin couple in the East Midlands region of the UK. The couple was accused of slavery offenses.
They are blamed of keeping a person in domination and knowingly possessing a person in slavery between 1 January 2011 and 31 July 2015.
Minu Chopra, 47 and Sanjay Chopra, also 47, were arrested by Greater Manchester police on February 11 charged under the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 on suspicion of slavery and forced labor offences.
The apparent victim is supposed to be of Indian origin too.
“Minu Chopra has been charged with holding a person in slavery or servitude between 31/07/2015 and 11/02/2016, intentionally arranging/facilitating entry into the UK of a person with a view to their exploitation and knowingly holding another person in slavery/servitude between 01/01/2011 and 30/07/2015,” a GMP statement said.
“Sanjeev Chopra has been charged with holding a person in slavery or servitude between 31/07/2015 and 11/02/2016, intentionally arranging/facilitating entry into the UK of a person with a view to their exploitation and knowingly holding another person in slavery/servitude between 01/01/2011 and 30/07/2015, following his arrest on Saturday 13 February 2016,” the statement added. (pic courtesy: independent.co.uk)
New Delhi, October 25, 2017 : A 30-year-old woman was shot dead in the early hours of Wednesday in front of her husband and two-year-old son, police said.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Milind Mahadeo Dumbere told IANS the woman, Priya Mehra, was travelling in a car along with her husband and son when she was shot at around 4.30 a.m. in Shalimar Bagh in north-west Delhi.
Her husband told police he had borrowed money from someone and alleged the lender was behind the killing as he was unable to pay the amount back.
He had borrowed Rs 5 lakh in a high interest rate and as the debt grew into Rs 40 lakh, he was finding it difficult to pay back.
“There were four assailants in a car, according to the deceased’s husband, and she was shot at twice,” the police officer said.
Dumbere said no one has been arrested yet and the body has been sent to Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial Hospital (BJRM) Hospital for autopsy.
The family was on the way to their house in Rohini from Kashmere Gate, when the woman was murdered. (IANS)
March 24, 2017: If you are a woman with a good sense of smell, you may have a thriving social life, as well as have improved overall mental and physical health, a study has showed.
The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that the decline in this olfactory function — sense of smell — in elderly women may affect their social life and lead to fewer social connections.
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“Our findings confirm that the sense of smell is a key aspect of overall health in the ageing population,” said Johan Lundstrom, neuroscientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center — a US based non-profit scientific institute.
“We know that social interactions are closely linked to health status, so older women who have a poor sense of smell may want to focus on maintaining a vital social life to help improve their overall mental and physical health,” added Sanne Boesveldt, Assistant Professor at Wageningen University & Research in Netherlands.
Interestingly, the same association between olfactory function and social life was not found in older men.
“This intriguing sex difference could suggest that smell training, which has been shown to improve a reduced sense of smell in both men and women, may have an additional beneficial function in older women by helping to restore both the sense of smell and, by extension, social well-being,” Lundstrom said.
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For the study, the team analysed 3,005 adults in US between the ages of 57 and 85, and included odour identification test scores as well as information about participants’ social lives.
However, its not yet clear exactly how the link between the sense of smell and social life is connected or if the same relationship also exists in younger women, the researchers said.
Another study, appearing in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society study, showed that poor smell was linked with an increased risk of dying. (IANS)
Tamil Nadu, March 11, 2017: Mazharkodi Dhanasekar has a radiant smile and is keen to talk about her achievements, which, as it emerges, are considerable: Building 650 toilets and making her panchayat free of open defecation in southern Tamil Nadu.
Dhanasekar’s fame has spread across the district as the woman who transformed and gained attention for a remote, lost panchayat–village council–largely ignored by officials until she was elected president in 2011.
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Dhanasekar, 49, is one of 40 past and current women panchayat leaders we surveyed across six Tamil Nadu districts to analyze the impact of a quarter century of reservations for women in local bodies. We found a majority of women now work independently of the men in their lives and, despite a series of hurdles that denies them access to finances, such as male-dominated political networks and limited powers, they have carved out distinct identities for themselves and overtaken men in building roads, providing drinking water and toilets, as the first part of this series explained.
Overall, Tamil Nadu now has India’s lowest fertility rate–lower than Australia, Finland and Belgium–second best infant mortality and maternal mortality rate, and records among the lowest crime rates against women and children, as IndiaSpend reported in December 2016, but places like Melamarungoor are outliers.
Drinking water once in four days, crumbling roads
“Block or district officials hardly ever came to visit our panchayat,” said Dhanasekar. “They don’t care about far-flung panchayats like ours. This meant they would not allocate extra funds for development. We just did not exist for them. Funds went to the panchayat closer to town (the block headquarters of Kalaiyarkovil).”
As you travel away from Kalaiyarkovil towards the neighbouring district of Ramanathapuram–close to which Melamarungoor is situated–the roads are pocked with potholes. On some stretches, only blobs of tar remain, the rest is mud. This is an arid part of Tamil Nadu, and villages struggle to find drinking water. Women and schoolgirls in uniform line up plastic pots near common drinking-water taps once in four days, which is when the water comes.
“I wanted to change that,” said Dhanasekar. “The only way, I realised, the district administration took notice of panchayats like ours was to completely transform it, show them what can be done. I managed to do that.”
When Dhanasekar assumed office six years ago, the balance sheet of her panchayat was a cause for concern. In 2005, eight villages from Ramanathapuram district were added to the 17 governed by the Melamarungoor panchayat.
However, State Finance Commission (SFC) grants meant for the eight Ramanathapuram villages were not reallocated to Melamarungoor. SFC grants, funds devolved by the state government, are the single biggest source of income for panchayats.
Dhanasekar’s first crusade was to get those SFC grants reallocated to Melamarungoor, which took a stream of petitions, weekly attendance at the district collectorate and more than six months of correspondence between the state department of rural development and the district administration.
She turned her attention next to the scarcity of drinking water.
Five years to bring drinking water to seven villages
Drinking water is a major problem across Sivagangai district. Villages in the district receive water mostly under the Combined Drinking Water Supply Scheme, popularly called ”Cauvery water”, from the contested river that flows south from Karnataka.
In rural areas, every habitation has one or more common drinking-water taps, which get water at fixed times. Of 3,352 rural habitations in Sivagangai, 397 habitations get some drinking water–10-39 lt per capita per day, against the 40 lt set by the National Rural Drinking Water Programme–and 2,955 get 40 lt, according to 2016 Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board data.
In recent times, due to failing monsoons and mining in the Cauvery basin, villages now receive water once in four days, sometimes.
For villages bordering Ramanathapuram district, salinity is an additional problem because the Indian ocean is nearby. As this 2014 report shows, desalination plants either do not work or operate below capacity. The eight Ramanathapuram villages added to Melamarungoor were acutely short of potable drinking water. It took Dhanasekar five years to have pipes laid and drinking water brought to seven of those villages. One village, Sattanur, still does not have a water source.
“I had to petition the Kalaiyarkovil panchayat union president (the panchayat union is the second tier of local government, a group of all gram panchayats in the Block) to get Rs 300,000 sanctioned for a reverse osmosis (RO) plant in one of those eight villages, so that villages around can get better drinking water,” said Dhanasekar.
Before the RO plant started in 2015, people bought water at Rs 30 per pot. Now they pay Rs 5 per pot, so waste is discouraged. “Water in these parts in a valuable commodity and people should know its value,” said Dhanasekar.
The shortage and value of money
Panchayats in Tamil Nadu are short of funds, as earlier parts of this series have pointed out. To get funds from other elected representatives, access to political networks is key–particularly difficult for women, most of whom are first-time politicians. Although panchayat leaders are not supposed to be affiliated to political parties, such affiliations are now common and, often, determine funding.
The Panchayat Union in Kalaiyarkovil Block is led by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Since Dhanasekar’s family was allied with the AIADMK, it was not as difficult as it could have been.
“I could get some funds for another RO plant in my panchayat from the Panchayat Union,” Dhanasekar. “But if you have links to a rival party, say the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), getting funds is next to impossible.”
Dhanasekar’s biggest achievement, however, is not only that she built 650 toilets in her panchayat, but she did it cheaper than others, spending Rs 13,500 per toilet–of which Rs 12,000 is subsidised by the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission), or SBM–by buying raw material in bulk and engaging labour from the adjacent Virudhunagar district for an entire year, not just to build these toilets, but other village construction activities such as the new Village Poverty Reduction Committee office.
A household toilet costs between Rs 20,000 and Rs 40,000, according to this 2016 field survey of SBM by Accountability Initiative, a Delhi-based think tank.
Still, Dhanasekar had to spend more than Rs 100,000 of her own money to manage the shortfall, which some villagers could not pay. The money will not be reimbursed.
Dhanasekar is a Maravar, a subcaste of the dominant Thevar community, and her family owns 15 acres of land in Melamarungoor, so she can absorb the loss. Although agriculture over the last five years has failed because of scanty rain, her family’s finance and money-lending business sustains them well.
Dhanasekar is willing to spend her own money because of her determination to put Melamarungoor on the district map of Sivagangai as a model panchayat. But many panchayat presidents, especially those women of limited means, cannot do the same.
Dhanasekar is aware of her unique position.
“Being in public office, I realised the amount of good I can do with power in my hands, even though it is limited power,” she said. “Now that I have achieved my aim of making Melamarungoor well-known, my next step is to organise women (panchayat) presidents into a federation and encourage more of them to contest elections. We need more women, fearless women.” (IANS)