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    Dated : Saturday, January 07, 2017

This is some

Dalai Lama’s abode turning into concrete jungle

Old timers in McLeodganj, which remained almost uninhabited until the arrival of the Dalai Lama along with his followers in 1960, remember the town with much affection. "McLeodganj has lost its British colonial charm of Gothic-style of architecture in buildings and letter boxes in cylindrical and pillar shapes," said octogenarian Naresh Chauhan, who has lived here since childhood.


This once-peaceful abode of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, with the Dhauladhar ranges in the backdrop, is rapidly turning into a concrete jungle with massive constructions underway to cash in on the tourism boom.

Experts fear a high-intensity quake can turn this quaint uphill town, known for attracting a steady stream of Tibet enthusiasts, Buddhist scholars, backpackers and even Hollywood stars, into a tomb of rubble as it falls in seismic zone V, suggesting severest seismic sensitivity.

"It was once a small village of shepherds. Now you can see a concrete jungle all over," local resident Joginder Singh told IANS.

He said that much of the commercial activity around McLeodganj is a result of people cashing in on the tourism boom.

Joginder Singh is the caretaker of one of the oldest landmarks, Nowrojee and Sons General Store, that was set up in 1860 to take care of the daily requirements of the British officers and their families. It has maintained its original grand wooden structure.

"Most buildings are clinging to one another. Even a moderate earthquake can be catastrophic for these buildings with no escape routes. They can collapse like a pack of cards," tourist James McClarence from Britain told IANS.

He said colonial British India exists now only in Kipling's novels.

Old timers in McLeodganj, which remained almost uninhabited until the arrival of the Dalai Lama along with his followers in 1960, remember the town with much affection.

"McLeodganj has lost its British colonial charm of Gothic-style of architecture in buildings and letter boxes in cylindrical and pillar shapes," said octogenarian Naresh Chauhan, who has lived here since childhood.

Earlier, he said, most of the constructions were of mud, adobe and random stones.

"Such structures are liable to suffer partial damage in the wake of quakes. Now most of them are concrete and may have ignored the traditional practices of seismic proofing such as 'dhajji' and incorporation of wooden beams," he added.

This town -- the political, cultural and spiritual hub of the Tibetan diaspora -- in Kangra district supports around 16,000 exiled Tibetans and an equal number of Indians.

A devastating earthquake in 1905 severely damaged property in the Kangra region, including St. John's Church here where many British officials were buried, and claimed over 20,000 lives.

Records of the field station of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, an autonomous research institute of the Indian government's Department of Science and Technology, at Naddi near here, show that several earthquakes have struck this region since 1905.

Prominent among these were the one on June 15, 1978, and another on April 26, 1986 -- the first being of magnitude 5 and the other 5.7 on the Richter scale.

"McLeodganj and its nearby villages fall in the highly-sliding zone. The construction of multistoried buildings is not advisable in this area," an official of the Wadia Institute told IANS.

A majority of the new structures infringe bylaws and building norms and haven't even adhered to seismic norms, admitted the official, who didn't wish to be identified.

"When the devastating quake occurred in 1905, there were hardly any multistoreyed structures in this region. If an earthquake with the similar magnitude reoccurs, there would be colossal loss to both life and property," said Umaid Singh, a resident of Naddi who witnessed the 1986 quake. (IANS)


Consuming smokeless tobacco to kill hunger!

Around 7 crore Indian women chew smokeless

tobacco, which is 63 per cent of world's SLT consumption

A whopping 70 million Indian women above age 15 use smokeless tobacco (SLT), which alone constitutes 63 per cent of the world's SLT consumption, according to a Union Health Ministry report on SLT.

The first-ever comprehensive report by the ministry, launched at the ongoing World Health Organization's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) here, also stated that one factor influencing SLT use among disadvantaged women is the desire to suppress hunger while performing difficult and laborious tasks.

"Easy availability and low cost of the SLT were other key factors promoting SLT use by women. The SLT use raises women's risk of adverse reproductive outcomes. The prevalence of SLT use when pregnant or breastfeeding was similar to prevalence of use among all women of reproductive age in India," said the report.

According to the Health Ministry, over 3,500,000 people are dying due to exclusive use of tobacco, of which over 100,000 are dying due to cancer.

According to the report, the consumption of SLT stood at 9.5 per cent for the school-going children, with 10.7 per cent of the boys and 7.5 per cent of the girls being its regular users.

"India is the first country to prohibit the sale, storage and manufacturing of smokeless tobacco product like gutkha across all states. However, stronger measures are required for effective implementation of the law," said Amal Pusp, Director at Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The report outlines all the facets of smokeless tobacco use, including their determinants, economic costs and health consequences, along with advocacy, policy and judicial measures that can be utilised to curb its impact, Pusp added.

The report also says that the prevalence rate of use of dual tobacco use -- both smoking and smokeless tobacco -- was 5.3 per cent of the total population, amounting to 42.3 million adults.

"The Northeast region had the highest prevalence with 9.8 per cent of the population affected by dual tobacco use. The interval between starting the use of the two forms of tobacco was two years or less for over half of all dual users," said the report.

The report, which will act as the source of data for every health department of India, also stated that the incidence of cancer of oral cavity and pharynx are an important public health problem in India, with nearly 85,000 new cases among men and 34,000 among women in India each year.

"At least 90 per cent of these cancer cases were caused by tobacco use in some form, and more than half by SLT use. Using SLT during pregnancy also caused 70 per cent higher risk of anaemia in pregnant women, 2-3 times higher rate of low birth weight and 2-3 times higher rate of still births," said the report.

The report was compiled by the Health Ministry in collaboration with the WHO, Public Health Foundation of India, Healis-Sekhsarisa Institute of Public Health Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and National Cancer Institute, US.

"The author of the report undertook a review of all existing scientific evidence and socio-political developments in India, in order to produce an evidence-based and peer-reviewed compendium of information on smokeless tobacco use in the country. All the chapters were edited by technical editors from partnering institutes in India and the USA," said Prakash C. Gupta, Director, Healis-Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health.  (IANS)


Helping build brands in the digital space, the Google way


As the threat looms of Gen Next terming existing brands as their "parents' brand" and seeking newer alternatives, older brands are increasingly seeking to reinforce and reinvent themselves in the digital space to remain alive, a senior official of Google Inc said.

"With eight Google products having around one billion users per month, we help companies build their brands in the digital space," Gopi Kallayil, Chief Evangelist, Brand Marketing, told IANS here.

Kallayil said his job does not involve building/promoting Google or its other products, but helping other companies build their brands in the digital space using his company's products.

The yoga guru at Google and the author of "The Internet to the Inner-neta", Kallayil would easily pass as a movie industry personality with his jazzy shoes, designer socks, bright red pants, black shirt and black coat, and few would believe he is a corporate executive -- and that too someone originally from Kerala.

"India is a land of colours. So I decided to wear clothes that are bright coloured. Also, working in Google one need not be very formally dressed," said Kallayil, who was here to speak at a seminar on "Reaching Out to the Mobile Indian" organised by the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta Alumni Association, Chennai chapter.

Speaking on the trends in advertising on the internet, Kallayil said there will be more video advertisements in future, but said they would not be intrusive and cited You Tube spots that give the option to skip the ad in four seconds. It should also be noted that most TV commercials are for five seconds.

"The major trend is the increase in mobile phones, online videos and the use of artificial intelligence," he said.

According to Kallayil, by studying what is being searched online and what is trending, one can provide corporates with data that would help them come out with appropriate products and citied how a cosmetics company came out with its product for ombre hair colouring.

Kallayil sees huge potential in India as the country's internet population is soon expected to overtake that of the US.

He said the company is developing a product for the Indian market that is simple but declined to reveal details.

According to him, the digital space or the internet is a great leveller as it offers even a small company in an Indian village an opportunity to market its product globally.

"Small Indian companies can not only market their products to the Indian diaspora overseas but also to an entirely new market segment if targeted properly. That is where we come in," Kallayil said. "The cost could be even be as low as zero," he added.

He said on digital space advertisements can not only be targeted but also appropriately timed whereas this is not the case for television or other media.

On what drives innovation at Google, he said nine core principles are distilled from the experiences gained over the last 18 years.

He said the first principle is that innovation comes from anywhere and Google does not have a Chief Innovation Officer like some companies.

The freedom given to employees does wonders. If an idea is backed up by convincing data then the green signal is given, he said. Focusing on the user is an obsession at Google, he added. The other principles are Think 10X (making a product 10 times better); Radical solution bordering lunacy; Betting on technical insights; Launch and iterate; 20 per cent time (Employees are free to use 20 per cent of their working time to think about innovative ideas); Having a mission that matters; Fail well and Default to open (open to collaborate with others). (IANS)

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Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one?s courage.
— Anais Nin
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