Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Author: Jyotsna Singh
Publication: BBC News
Date: September 25, 2009
URL: http://news. bbc.co.uk/ 2/hi/south_ asia/8259789. stm
A small village in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya has
become the envy of its neighbours.
Large crowds of visitors have been thronging to the village curious to
find out why Mawlynnong has earned the reputation for being arguably the
cleanest and best educated in India - all its residents can read and
write and each house has a toilet.
That is no mean achievement in a country that is still struggling to
educate its population and address basic water and sanitation issues.
About 90km (55 miles) from the state capital Shillong and barely 4km
(2.4 miles) from the Bangladeshi border, Mawlynnong is much loved by its
inhabitants who work hard to keep it clean.
It is five in the morning and pouring with rain. But that does not deter
a group of volunteers in the village from rising early to sweep the
roads. It is a process that is repeated several times a day.
"Some cleaners have been hired by the village council to sweep the
roads - but many villagers take turns to make sure they are swept
several times a day because it is not possible to pay so many people,"
says young volunteer Henry Khyrrum.
The streets are all dotted with dustbins made of bamboo. Every piece of
litter and almost every leaf that has fallen from a tree is immediately
Plastic is completely banned and all waste disposal is environmentally
friendly. Rubbish is thrown into a pit dug in a forest near the village
where it is left to turn into compost.
The villagers here say that lessons in hygiene start in school so that
children can be taught from an early age how to keep their surroundings
clean and green.
Mawlynnong is one of the wettest parts of the country - and while many
parts of India are suffering under drought-like conditions this year,
the south-western monsoon has not disappointed the north-east.
While the supply of clean water and sanitation is a huge problem in
India's teeming cities, it is an even bigger challenge for the
authorities in the country's villages where these facilities are almost
Keeping it clean now comes naturally to most people here. The village
headman says the village council - or Darbar - maintains very strict
"There is a fine imposed by the village council for anybody found to be
throwing litter around or cutting trees. You see, the fine is just one
dollar for each such offence committed. But due to the humiliation and
embarrassment that our self-respecting people feel at being fined, they
make sure to follow the rules," says village headman Thomlin
"Besides, the council carries out strict inspections of the sanitation
facilities in each house.
"Workshops are also being organised to make people aware of the dangers
from global warming."
Experts say Mawlynnong, like the rest of the state, has a very effective
local governance system. The society is matrilineal - meaning that land
is passed down through the female side of families - making women
economically more powerful.
Mawlynnong's reputation for being clean and green has been well
documented, and its Khasi tribal inhabitants are known to be worshippers
Their reverence for nature is seen by some as an effective way of
preserving the forest cover.
Thambor Lyngdoh, in charge of a sacred community forest in a
neighbouring village, says the while it is true that many Khasi people
are "nature worshippers" the drive for cleanliness and education is not
about faith only.
"Even today we are very strict about how the forest can be used," he
"People are allowed to take whatever they need from the forest for their
own use. But they cannot take anything more than that for any kind of
commercial use. They are punished for any violation."
Mawlynnong's reputation for cleanliness has even earned it a place on
the state's tourism map.
Hundreds of visitors from all over India now visit the village
throughout the year. Most of those visitors are impressed with what they
"This is the first time I have come to this place. I really want to
congratulate the villagers who have made the place so beautiful and the
cleanest in the continent. There is something special about the place.
We just came to see why it has become so famous. It really is clean and
you have to give them 10 out of 10 for that," says Sanjay Saraogi, a
tourist from Shillong.
Another tourist, Euginea, says the rest of country should learn from
"I have come to this village to see its cleanliness and I think
everybody should follow the example of the villagers," she says
Mawlynnong's success is entirely driven by local initiative. It has been
so successful that the state government has been prompted to promote
eco-tourism in the area but the locals are resisting this.
"There is a fierce sense of self-determination among these people. There
are certain rules they have followed traditionally. They do not want
government to borrow ideas from outside and impose it on them," says
Deepak Laloo, a member of the Meghalaya Tourism Development forum."
The villagers are treading a path that the rest of India should be keen
Saturday, October 3, 2009
At least 130 people have been killed in Andhra Pradesh and neighboring Karnataka due to floods resulting from heavy rains since Wednesday (1st Oct). Andhra Pradesh is facing the worst ever floods in its 60 years, as 60 per cent of Kurnool district was submerged on Friday leaving thousands homeless and stranded without food and water. Nearly two lakh people have been evacuated to relief camps in the worst-affected districts of Kurnool, Mahabubnagar and Krishna district.
The gates of several projects on the Krishna river — including Jurala, Srisailam, Nagarjuna Sagar and Prakasham — have been opened to release the flood water. While the inflow into Srisailam reservoir has touched an all-time high of 21 lakh cusecs, 10 lakh cusecs of water has been discharged from Srisailam and Nagarjuna Sagar reservoirs.
“This is a never-before-seen situation. Never in the past has the Krishna basin witnessed such floods and inflow of water into the dams. I am urging the people in the low-lying areas not to take the threat lightly. Move out to the safer places and cooperate with the officials,” said the State Revenue Minister Dharmana Prasad Rao in Hyderabad.
Army boats and Air Force helicopters Friday began to rescue hundreds of people marooned at several places. Thousands have been rendered homeless. Over 40,000 houses have been damaged. Chief Minister K. Rosaiah said the flood situation was grim and army personnel have been deployed for rescue operations. Six helicopters have been pressed into service to rescue people. While four helicopters are being used to airlift the flood-hit in Kurnool district, two choppers were deployed in Mahabubnagar district.
Preliminary first hand report from Seva Bharati Team
Seva Bharati volunteers have already started launching relief camps in affected towns of AP & Karnataka and now food is being provided to the people. As per the preliminary report received from volunteers for below 2 districts the situation is as below:
- Total 8 Revenue Mandals- About 6 lakh people- About 1,00,00 acre crop- Kurnool town 50% affected (2.5lakh people)- Mantralaya – famous temple of Raghavendra Swamy completely immersed in water. ( now cleared).
Relief Centre in Kurnool town being organised at G.Pulla Reddy Engineering College.
About 60,000 Food packets are being carried from Nandyala and neighbouring mandals to the relief centre.
Palamoor District (Mahabubnagar District):Affected Data
-Total 2 Revenue Mandals- About 2 lakh people- About 5,000 acre crop- 130 small lakes got cut due to floods causing at least 130-150 villages completely sub-merging in water.
15 relief centres.
How to contribute
A time for action is here again. Let us donate generously for the relief and rehabilitation of the affected people many of whom have lost everything overnight.
Online transfer of funds can be done to Seva Bharathi A/c No: 630501065297, ICICI Bank, Himayat Nagar Branch, Hyderabad. You can also draw a cheque/draft in the name of Seva Bharathi and post/courier it to below address
H No:3-4-228,Opp Jain Mandir
Lingampally, Kachiguda, Hyderabad 50007
Mob: + 91 9701226830, +91 9849262868
[Please note that all contributions to Seva Bharathi are tax-exempt under 80G.]
If you are interested in joining the Seva Bharathi team at ground zero, please send email to http://firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Him I call a Mahatma whose heart bleeds for the poor – Swami Vivekananda
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Extraordinary Indians: Doc who charges only Rs 2
Author: A Ganesh NadarPublication:
Date: December 17, 1999URL:
'If you want to serve mankind, go and work among the poorest and most neglected,' Dr Ravindra Koelhe, who has been serving the tribals of Melghat, Maharashtra, for 24 years, tells A Ganesh Nadar.Continuing our series on Extraordinary Indians.Dr Ravindra Koelhe, MD, lives and runs a clinic in Melghat, Maharashtra. His fee is Rs 2 for the first consultation and Rs 1 for the second.Not only is he a doctor and social worker, Dr Koelhe has also taken the government to court for having failed in its duty to protect the Korku tribals of the region.After completing his MBBS, he worked in Melghat for a year-and-a-half only to realise that he needed more expertise to handle the problems of the tribals. So he went back to medical college for an MD in preventive and social medicine."I have now been here for 24 years. In those days there were two public health centres and no roads. Once a week, I used to walk 40 kms from Dharni to Bairagarh to reach my clinic. I used to see at least one tiger every month. Since the last three years I haven't seen a single one," he says remembering his early days as a young doctor.After completing his MBBS from Nagpur University, he decided to work in rural India. An ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave, he was also influenced by Ruskin Bond who wrote, 'If you want to serve mankind, go and work among the poorest and most neglected.'He toured the rural areas of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and decided that Gadricholi in Maharashtra was the most backward amongst his travels and decided to work there. His mother discouraged him since it was a Naxalite affected area. She told him that Melghat was equally backward and that he should work here instead.Dr Koelhe has been in Melghat since then. It has been 24 years now.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Youth for Seva ( YFS) is an organisation which works towards networking of Youth, esp professionals towards service activities. Last month,a few software professionals from YFS joined hands together and embarked on a program to collect funds to distribute school kits to children of government schools. After finishing the collection drive, they went to Ramayanpet, which is about 100 kms from Hyderabad and distributed the school kits in the schools and finally spent some time in the Seva Bharati hostel for destitute children. They played with the children as well. Pl find below links to the photographs. I thought this would interest you.
Sewa Bharathi Hostel:
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The experiment of Self-Help Group (SHG) by Sewa Bharati proved a major success in the remote areas of Jharkhand. Presently, there are over 1400 SHGs in the state run by Sewa Bharati activists. Every group normally has 15-20 women. This number goes over 25,000. Today, these women are writing a new chapter of change after achieving self-respect and self-dependence with the help of SHGs.SHGs have brought about a sea-change and awareness among the women who are mostly illiterate. They not only developed the feeling of taking group decisions but also to get rid themselves of the clutches and atrocities of private moneylenders. They not only changed their own life but also extended a helping hand to the needy persons of the society. Women of a similar group in Ranchi helped in eye operation of a minor child at Shankar Eye Hospital in Chennai. The women in the group of Meera, Rani and Neetu make bari, papar, pickle, spices, jute bags, etc. Arati, Anuradha and Sanyukta impart training of making candles, growing mushroom, making jam and jailly and also sell the goods made by them. Malati and Keshwanti of Tupudana received the training of making bangles by lakh and goods of jute from Jaipur. Now they not only make all these things themselves but also impart training to other women. They organise stalls of the goods made by them under the banner of Sewa Bharati in various fairs and exhibitions. Some sell the products in local markets while some move up to Delhi to participate in the trade fair organised at Pragati Maidan every year.The group of women, led by Malati of Tupudana purchased a tractor with the help of a bank and earned money by running it on hire. When the Block Development Officer (BDO) of Khunti misguided Mateshwari Devi regarding the time of foundation stone laying ceremony of a road at 6.00 am in the morning, she, along with other women, went to the spot at 4.00 am and blocked the road to protest against the mischief of the BDO. Finally, Malati got the contract of making that road and she did the work with dedication and received appreciation from all. The SHG of women led by Arati of Namkom purchased an auto-rickshaw and got contracts of building roads, ponds and government buildings.The women take part in social activities too with full activism. Sarika of Khunti district foiled the game plan of a married person who was going to marry another woman despite having one wife. She earned praise from the people through this conduct. Similarly, Arati, Sanyukta and Anuradha of Namkom jointly got a wedding ceremony stopped, as the groom was addict. They also forced the groom's parents to pay the expenditure of the bride's family on the marriage. They later married that girl with a suitable boy after some time. The women of Bokaro who mostly work as midwives helped their husbands who are mostly rickshaw-pullers and work as collie, to learn at least doing signature. Now they proudly say that nobody in their group is illiterate. They are also very punctual in their activities, which is praised by all.Sumitra Devi and Manodevi of Dhanbad admit that their life has changed considerably after joining the SHGs and Samskar Kendras run by Sewa Bharati. They not only felt the change in their individual life but also got more respect by their husbands and the society. The women of Gumla purchased foodgrains in bulk and sold it after some time, which helped them in earning good profit.A woman of Gumla was not going to her in-laws' house. She had the bad habit of fighting with everybody. She levelled various allegations against her husband and every time she refused to go with him. The women of SHG persuaded her husband and sent her with him. The women of Pakud district organised a mass marriage ceremony and got married 125 pairs.Such change comes silently and leaves lasting impact. All this has been possible only due to the involvement of the Sewa Bharati workers with the projects from hearts.
Research team turns to the “world’s first computational grammarian!”.
http://www.thehindu businessline. com/ew/2009/ 05/18/images/ 2009051850090301 .jpg
Panini, the legendary Sanskrit grammarian of 5th century BC, is the world’s first computational grammarian! Panini’s work, Ashtadhyayi (the Eight-Chaptered book), is considered to be the most comprehensive scientific grammar ever written for any language.
According to Prof Rajeev Sangal, Director of IIIT (Hyderabad) and an expert on language computation, Panini’s epic treatise on grammar came to the rescue of language experts in making English unambiguous. English is more difficult (as far as machine translations are concerned) with a high degree of ambiguity.
Some words have different meanings, making the analysis (to facilitate translations) a difficult process. Making it disambiguous is quite a task, where Panini’s principles might be of use.
Ashtadhyayi, the earlier work on descriptive linguistics, consists of 3,959 sutras (or principles). These highly systemised and technical principles, some say, marked the rise of classical Sanskrit.
Sampark, the multi-institute effort launched to produce a translation engine, enabling users to translate tests from English to various languages, will use some of the technical aspects enunciated by Panini. “We looked at alternatives before choosing Panini,” Prof Sangal says.
Incidentally, Prof Sangal co-authored a book, Natural Language Processing – A Panini Perspective, a few years ago.
Besides the technical side, Panini would be of great help to researchers on the translation engine on the language side too.
A good number of words in almost all the Indian languages originate from Sanskrit. “That is great because Indian languages are related to each other,” Prof Sangal points out.
http://www.thehindu businessline. com/ew/2009/ 05/18/stories/ 2009051850090300 .htm
Break the language barrier
Word for word: More on the Sampark initiative to enrich translation. .
Look at the sentence — The Chair chairs the meeting. How will a machine understand this?
http://www.thehindu businessline. com/bline/ ew/2009/05/ 18/images/ 2009051850070301 .jpg
Telugus, Kannadigas and Malayalis can read Subrahmanya Bharati, the legendary Tamil poet, and relish the sweetness in his poetry. Similarly, Premchand, Tagore, M T Vasudeva Nair, and U R Ananthamurthy too could be read and understood by readers in other languages.
All this will soon be a reality, thanks to a project initiated by IIIT (Hyderabad) and eight other universities and institutes. To be precise, the beta translation solutions of a few languages will go live next month (June 2009).
The project, whose public Internet interface will be known as Sampark, will let users translate texts among various Indian languages. All one needs to do is copy-paste the text in an appointed box and press ‘enter’, and get the translated version in another box beside it. Not just text, you can translate the whole of a Web page. Copy the URL (a site’s Web address) and paste it in the relevant box in Sampark’s Web site. “You will get the translated page, with photos and other images intact,” says Prof Rajeev Sangal, Director of IIIT (Hyderabad), who is leading the team.
The nine institutions have roped in over 120 experts in computer engineering, language, and translators to take up the ‘machine translation’ programme, which is aimed at breaking the language barrier.
The project is broadly divided into two areas. Translation of the four Southern languages into Hindi (vice versa too) and translation of Bangla, Punjabi, Marathi and Urdu into Hindi (and back). Simultanesouly, the consortium is working on direct translations among Telugu-Tamil, Malayalam-Tamil. To begin with, the consortium has put two ‘systems’ Punjabi-Hindi and Urdu-Hindi beta versions live. “By June 2009 end, we will be adding Tamil-Hindi, Marathi-Hindi and Telugu-Hindi to the project,” Prof Sangal says.
How it works
Broadly, the machine translation happens in three phases — the source side, transfer aspects and the target side action. The two important factors in translation are grammar and dictionary. “Languages have many exceptions and idiosynchrosies. These will be addressed effectively,” Prof Sangal says.
On the source side (the text you want to translate), the machine analyses the text sentence by sentence and keeps a representation of the text. The analysis will include morphological analysis, how words are formed. It will check whether the text carries any local phrases. It will search for nouns and parts of speech before going for sentence analysis.
In the second phase (transfer phase), the machine does lexical and grammar transfer. “The grammars of source and target languages may not be similar. This phase would see change of grammatical structure. The later phase would involve target language generation.”
The step-by-step process is done on a common architecture. This allows for addition of a new language to the project quite easily. “If you want to add Kashmiri, you need to develop an analyser, generator and add a Kashmiri-Hindi dictionary. These, in fact, are parallel dictionaries,” Prof Sangal says.
“The project, unlike earlier projects, hinges on dictionaries that give meanings based on concepts rather than just meanings,” Prof Uma Maheshwar Rao, who is working on the Telugu-Hindi aspect of the project, says.
Formed by the Union Ministry of Information Technology in 2006, the consortium comprises IITs (Kharagpur and Bombay), Anna University, C-DAC, University of Hyderabad, Tamil University Jadhavpur University, IISC (Bangalore) and IIIT (Allahabad).
Prof Rao, who works at the Centre of Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies at University of Hyderabad, says the Sampark project is more advanced than earlier attempts that sought to offer translation solutions.
The earlier efforts failed to take the meanings of the words contextually. Citing the example of the word ‘bank’, he points out that the earlier efforts would not make out whether it was a bank used in the expression river bank, or a bank that deals with money.
“In the present project, we cross-link words with all the synonyms in the other language. This will help resolve the ambiguity problem, the knottiest one in the translation process,” he explains.
The immediate task of the consortium is to add more servers and more engineering to make the machine faster.
“We are going to add three languages to the system every two months till November,” Prof Sangal says.
He, however, admits that it is not a complete translator. But the beta versions will definitely give a flavour of the meaning in the source language. You can see improvements constantly, he adds.
Prof Sangal says the machine can learn based on the data you give it. Look at the sentence — The Chair chairs the meeting. How will a machine understand this sentence? The one developed by the consortium, thanks to the conceptual dictionary, would look at the context and tell apart the meaning of the two chairs in the sentence. “Earlier, we used to give rules to the machine to follow. Now, we have algorithms to let the machines learn from this. We have combined artificial intelligence approach with the linguistic process,” he explains.
More to come
Busy finalising modules, the team members continue to set their eyes on long-term goals. “We will continue the long-term research independently and collaboratively. The next stage is to build more robust sentence analysers. They will be able to do translations more correctly. The quality of the output will go up,” he says. Prof Sangal, who has been working on machine translation for the last 25 years, says it is team work that helped the group to give a shape to the machine. “We discussed several issues physically and through mailing groups. We have set up sub groups to address specific issues.”
English to Indian languages
Simultaneously, a different consortium, in which IIIT-H is also a member, is working on translations from English to several Indian languages and back. C-DAC (Pune) is leading the consortium. The researchers take a different approach.
Unlike popular belief, English is a difficult language for the machine to understand. “Unlike Indian languages, there is a high degree of ambiguity. When a machine analyses, it has to do disambiguation, which is a difficult process,” Prof Sangal says. The research team is almost ready with the English-Hindi version, which is in test mode. At a later stage, these two different projects could technically work in tandem and offer users a better translation experience.
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