Category Archives: India

Supreme Court of India refuses to review gay ban

The controversial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that deals with “unnatural offenses” criminalises homosexuality in India.

Section 377

The Indian Penal Code is a 153-year-old act that was introduced during the British rule in India. Section 377 deals with unnatural offenses.

“Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Naz Foundation v. Govt of NCT of Delhi

Naz Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that supports gay rights had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court in 2001 seeking legislation of homosexual intercourse between consenting adults.

In 2006, the National AIDS Control Organisation filed an affidavit stating that Section 377 violated LGBT rights.

The Delhi High Court declared Section 377 as unconstitutional with respect to sex between consenting adults on 2 July, 2009 in Naz Foundation v. Govt of NCT of Delhi. The court claimed that Section 377 violated the fundamental rights to equality before law, freedom from discrimination and life and personal liberty under Articles 14, 15 and 21 respectively of the Constitution of India.

The Supreme Court overturned this ruling and upheld the provisions of the constitution on 11 December, 2013. The Supreme Court ruled homosexuality to be a criminal offense setting aside the 2009 judgment passed by the Delhi High Court. The judgment declared that it was upto the parliament to amend the law and the judiciary did not have the mandate to rule on it.

Future of the LGBT community

Homosexuality is considered a taboo in India. Sex between people of the same gender is punishable by law.

Following the ruling in 2009 by the Delhi High Court, Gay people found hope and several came out of the closet sensing a bright future. However, on 28 January, 2014, the Supreme Court dismissed the review petition filed by the Central Government, Naz Foundation and several others.

The community can now file a curative petition to have the law overturned or can seek the parliamentary route to have the law amended.

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David Cameron promises to back the curry industry

Fewer curry chefs are spoiling the broth. Enam Ali MBE, David Cameron and chefs at British Curry Awards 2013The £3.6bn curry industry in the UK is facing an acute shortage of South Asian chefs due to strict immigration rules for non-EU nationals.

The curry crisis

The Home Office has set a minimum requirement of that all Indian immigrants must be able to speak English, be educated at NVQ level four with five years work experience at a post graduate level and be paid a minimum salary of £28,260 which most curry houses cannot afford to pay.

According to the immigration policy, locals are being trained to work in curry houses but it is not easy for those donning the apron. Most EU workers are reluctant to work in Indian restaurants, as they are unable to understand the basics of Indian cuisine and spices.

The government has been floating the idea of starting curry colleges to train local workers to work in the curry industry in a move to fix the shortage.

According to Spice Business, there are 10,000 curry restaurants in the UK that employ about 80,000 people.

This has led to a large gap in the kitchen where the demand for skilled curry chefs has increased but the supply is dwindling.

Cameron’s promise

British Prime Minister David Cameron promised to back the curry industry at the British Curry Awards ceremony in London.

“Let me promise you this. We will work through this together. We will continue to help you get the skilled Asian chefs that you need. And we will also work with you to train up the next generation of home grown chefs,” said Cameron.

Promoting the curry industry

The British Curry Awards also known as the Curry Oscars was started in 2005 by British entrepreneur and restauranter Eman Ali. He has been promoting the British curry industry globally for the last 30 years.

“The British Curry has established itself as an international cuisine in its own right and a standalone culinary genre which has produced dishes such as the onion bhaji, the dhansak, the chicken tikka masala, the rogan josh, the chicken phall and the balti,” said Ali.

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UK government scraps £3000 visa bond

The UK government’s decision to scrap the £3000 visa bond comes as a sign of relief for India and other countries termed as “high risk”.

The bond

In a bid to tackling illegal immigration, the UK Home Office had announced its intention to pilot a scheme to charge a bond of £3000 to adult nationals of six countries intending to visit the UK. The countries termed as “high risk” were India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria.

This scheme was due to run for 12 months starting from November 2013. The bond payment would be returned if the visitor returned to their home country after the visit visa expires.

Australia and New Zealand have similar schemes where financial bonds are applied to visitors in order to mitigate the risk of them overstaying their visa.

This scheme sparked outrage in India and received criticism from several ministers and agencies.

Scrapping the scheme

On scrapping the scheme, the CII said, “The Confederation of Indian Industry welcomes the move by UK government to withdraw the pilot scheme of £3000 visa bonds for visitors from 6 countries including India.

‘These unfair and discriminatory measures would have alienated settled communities in the UK, making it very difficult for family and friends to visit,” said British MP Virendra Sharma.

MP Keith Vaz said, “The Home Secretary is right to shelve the bond proposals. Unfortunately the damage has already been done to our relationship with India. During this shambolic process the Home Office has managed to upset a number of foreign governments and confuse millions of potential visitors.”

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Jail term for Laloo Prasad Yadav

Indian MP, former Minister of Railway and Chief Minister of Bihar has been awarded a sentence of five year imprisonment and Rs. 25,00,000 (approx. £25,000) fine for his involvement in the Fodder Scam

The Fodder Scam

The Fodder Scam was a corruption scandal that involved the embezzlement of state funds to buy food for cattle. The corruption scheme involved fabrication of a herd of fictitious livestock for which fodder, medicines and animal husbandry medicines were supposedly procured. Rs. 944 crore (approx. £94m) was siphoned off from the animal husbandry department.

The scandal came to light in 1996.

The verdict

Seventeen years after the scandal broke, a special court in Ranchi delivered the verdict on 3rd October. This judgement is a landmark step in tackling rampant corruption among politicians in India. Laloo Prasad Yadav will lose his MP seat due to this conviction.

During the trial, 56 people were accused. Out of them, seven died during the course of the trial.

Former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra and Janata Dal – United (JDU) MP Jagdish Sharma have been sentenced to four years imprisonment.


Yadav’s counsel will appeal against the judgement in the Jharkhand High Court on 17th October. For now, he is prisoner no. 3312 at Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi.

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UK government introduces £3000 immigration bond

The UK government’s has decided to introduce a pilot scheme that would charge visitors of six “high risk” countries £3000 over their visa fees as an immigration bong.

The bond

In a bid to tackle illegal immigration, the UK Home Office has launched a pilot scheme to charge a bond of £3000 to adult nationals of six countries intending to visit the UK. The countries termed as “high risk” were India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria. The scheme was set up to deter visitors from overstaying their visas.

This scheme is due to run for 12 months starting from November 2013. The bond payment would be returned if the visitor returned to their home country after the visit visa expires.

Australia and New Zealand have similar schemes where financial bonds are applied to visitors in order to mitigate the risk of them overstaying their visa.

“This is the next step in making sure our immigration system is more selective, bringing down net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands while still welcoming the brightest and the best to Britain,” said UK Home Secretary Theresa May.


This scheme has received criticism from several ministers and agencies.

“The Home Secretary’s plans for bonds for visitors from certain countries are unfair and discriminatory. The bond level of £3000 is completely unrealistic. If somebody was determined to work here illegally this could be earned back in a matter of months,” said British MP Keith Vaz.

According to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) statement, “such blanket rules for visas will negatively affect not only businesses, especially small businesses, it will also further bring down the number of students going to UK for higher studies and affect the tourism inflow from India to UK. This will also not help the cause of early conclusion of EU-India FTA, for which both the parties are committed.”

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Mystery over death of NRI family in London

She was working as a lab technician at a school in London. For family of 34 year Heena Solanki— Friday, the 12, turned out to be their worst nightmare when they received the heartbreaking news that Heena along with her two daughters was found dead at her home in northwest London.

Click here for my report

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To Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez …

I had intended to write this earlier but did not have the words. Besides, I stayed mum on the issue as I am in London, miles away from the action and am nobody to talk. Almost two weeks after the incident, my blood still boils and I am still very angry at the situation.

Eve teasing and sexual harassment on the streets has become a big evil. As women, we silently digest the humiliation and don’t confront the perverts out of fear. Every woman has experienced perverts walking among us, passing lewd remarks, groping us and pinching us. Where is the freedom and security to walk with dignity and without any fear? Keeping quiet would mean letting freedom being snatched away.

Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez fought. They paid a heavy price … their precious lives.

Is Amboli safe?

To me Amboli is home. I grew up there. I felt safe. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine such a brutal murder. I read about such incidents several times but did not expect it to happen in a place that I call home and to people I have known for many years.

I remember Reuben as a cheerful person whom I used to play with in his building with other friends when I was little. He loved the Guns N’ Roses and named his pet boxer Slash after the lead guitarist of the band. I vaguely remember Keenan from my school days as being a quiet and non-confrontational guy.

I am sad that they are no more but I am grateful to them for risking and sacrificing their lives to stand up against eve teasing – a crime perpetrated against women. They have made a big difference to society.

The main accused identified as Jitendra Rana has two murder cases pending against him. Why is he allowed to freely walk around the streets with weapons so that he can decide his next victim?

Spirit of Mumbai

People talk about the spirit of Mumbai and how Mumbai gets back to its feet the very next day after a tragedy has occurred. Is it really the spirit of Mumbai or is it that we absolutely have no choice but to pick up where we left off?

Has Mumbai become another Delhi? What happened to the city that never sleeps? Were the mute observers busy watching the tamasha while Keenan and Reuben were being attacked? The girl could be your friend or your mother or your wife or your sister or your daughter. Would you protect the woman or chicken out?

Death was untimely for Keenan and Reuben. The police may have arrested people but it would neither wipe the tears of their loved ones nor bring back the innocent lives.

Media circus

All Indian media channels picked up the story. The whole world is talking. Media channels have started campaigns such as “Justice for Keenan and Reuben” and “Justice for the bravehearts”. Being a part of the Indian media industry, I know how it works. Is this campaign just another gimmick for channels to increase their TRPs or will they continue to support the cause. Right now this is a burning issue and everyone wants to strike when the iron is hot. Is the media hype likely to fizzle down the minute some other big news comes out or will they pursue the cause until the guilty are shown their fate?

I wish for speedy justice so that the sacrifices of these martyrs don’t go in vain.

Thank you Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez for being so brave.


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Two Right Feet

Four years ago, Sant Advani had a heart ailment owing to which he couldn’t walk at a stretch for even half an hour — but he could still dance salsa for two hours. “I think the ‘feel good’ endorphins simply took over,” says Advani. His cardiologist Dr. D B Pahlajani told him he could continue dancing as long as there was no discomfort.Sant Advani

The spry silver has already mastered salsa, cha-cha-cha, jive, samba, rumba and the foxtrot. And now, he’s perfecting the Argentinean tango and waltz. “Thanks to my wife who is a good dancer, I learnt to dance to Red red wine on the day of my wedding,” says Advani. It was on a holiday to Goa six years ago that he started pursuing dance seriously. “The resort had a dance class that I joined for a lark, and today I am an honorary dance instructor there,” he says with pride. “It never takes me long to get people on the dance floor,” he adds. Noting his enthusiasm, four years ago the hotel staff asked him to be their dance instructor whenever he vacationed there.

Advani heads a pharmaceutical and hospital contamination control firm. But life clearly isn’t ‘all work and no play’. Every week, he takes time out to groove to his favourite numbers that include Bachata, Oye como vas, Mama kiyelele, Summer of ’69, La bamba, Rock around the clock, Tequila and the pulsating salsa version of Hotel California. “When I dance, I surrender to the moment.”

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The Timekeeper

Bela Shanghvi has been a well-known revivalist of handloom weaving techniques since the last 27 years. She received exposure in this field as her childhood as her father used to manufacture textile machinery. This 46 year-old has not received any formal education in textiles but learnt about textile and design from Charles Russolini under whom she served as a first assistant in USA.

“About 25 years ago, I spotted a collection of textiles dating back to the Moghul era in Washington D.C. When I came back, I realised that these textiles were not there is India,” says Shanghvi. “That is when I decided to revive textiles,” she adds.

Shanghvi has served as the President of the Crafts Council Maharashtra and is the national adviser to the Government of India on policy and design. She is currently working on a book on traditional techniques in textiles. Being familiar with about 300 – 400 different techniques, Shanghvi has helped to revive about 30 – 40 techniques which were dying. Additionally, she is also an honorary member of the World Craft Council

Shanghvi also runs Studio Aavartan – a firm that deals with marketing for handlooms and Purnakala that addresses the issues of craftsmen. “Through Purnakala, I can confidently say that I have touched the lives of more than 2000 craftsmen all over India,” informs Shanghvi.

The Patola and Asshawali are her specialties. Shanghvi has not only been training weavers, but has also been providing them with technical support, design inputs and marketing options in an effort to revive the Patola weaving tradition of Patan, in Gujarat. With improved techniques, she cut production time and labour cost.

The challenges she encounters in her quest to revive weaving techniques lies in the creating awareness among the consumers who are do not know about the different kinds of textiles and the effort that goes into making them. “Craftsmen all over the country face several problems ranging from poverty to unemployment and their welfare is very important,” informs Shanghvi.

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Where there is a will, there is a way

You may have slogged all your life and gathered lots of wealth. But have you ever thought what would happen to your assets after your demise? Advocate Shankar Pai, has a solution to this dilemma.
“It all happened in the year 2001 when the Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil were having a dispute over the legacy left by their father Dhirubhai Ambani,” says Pai. Shankar Pai“The thought struck me – had the senior Ambani made a will, his sons would land up in such a fix over the distribution of their fathers assets,” he adds. This gave birth to the organisation Make A Will Foundation.Pai decided to take up the challenge of spreading awareness about making a will. Through his lectures, he advocates the Three ‘P’ Philosophy – Peace, Prosperity and Progress. “A person lives forever through a will, there is no death. A will is a plan that defeats death. It is a valuable piece of paper that we prepare in our lifetime so that our wishes are fulfilled after we are no more,” says Pai. “A will is something you can reward the person who has taken care of you,” he adds.Pai, now aged 56, was a branch manager at Dena Bank when he opted for voluntary retirement in 2001. Pai, a qualified lawyer also practices at the Debt Recovery Tribunal in addition to making wills.

Pai encounters numerous problems while spreading awareness about making wills. “A will is a sensitive topic to open up to. In India, people are not comfortable discussing a will. There is a misconception that if someone tells you to make a will, the person thinks that indirectly you are telling him that his end is near or that you are eying his property. However, all apprehensions disappear when I tell them the consequences of not making a will,” informs Pai.

Pai tells people that making a will only eases the burden on the heirs to distribute the assets of the owner. The owners responsibility is to make a will devoid of disparities while the law will intervene only to clear the disparities.

At Pai’s lectures, he clarifies that making a will is not a complex process. All it requires is a plain sheet of paper (not a stamp paper), details of the willed property and the signature of the testator (person making the will). In addition, the signatures of two witnesses are required. It is not necessary that a will has to be registered but, one should try and register it in case it is likely to be challenged in court after the demise of the testator. In case the two witnesses are a doctor and lawyer, then the will is likely to face less legal obstacles. Although not necessary, the doctor’s attestation is beneficial to prove that the testator was in good health while making the will. Pai also clarifies the finer aspects of wills. Contrary to popular beliefs, a will is not irrevocable. It can be revised as many times as the testator wishes to. However, each time the will is revised, a new signature and declaration stating that the will is the final one needs to be added along with the date of the revised will. An executior has to be appointed who will administer the will after the death of the testator.

The foundation, when delivering lectures to corporate reiterates the value of a will in extending corporate social responsibilities by citing examples of Alfred Nobel who institutes the Nobel Prize through his will and Sir Ratan Tata who founded institutes such as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research through his will. “Today, we encourage the addition of organ donation as a part of the will or an annexure to the will,” says Pai. “If everyone pledges something to society there can be a revolution,” Pai concludes.

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