Indian Places where Sonia Gandhi Cannot Enter

There are numerous places in India where specific people are not allowed to enter. Strange, isn’t it? But as a matter of fact there are actually some holy places in India like temples where foreigners and non-Hindus are banned from visiting. It has not been long when Indian Congress leader Sonia Gandhi was not allowed to enter Guruvayoor Temple in Kerala just because she is a white skin and does not look Indian!
Here are few other places where the entrance remains closed to Sonia Gandhi (foreigners in General) and non-hindus.

Guruvayoor Temple


Controversies are not new to Guruvayoor temple in Kerala and it became big news when prominent political leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Giani Zail Singh could not enter the temple because of its strict rules. Non-Hindu’s and foreigners are banned from entering this temple in spite of the wide protests from every sector of the society. Some years before, the priests of the temple conducted a purification ceremony after the visit of Union Cabinet Minister, Vayalar Ravi and his family, as they were not sure about the religion of Ravi’s son as his mother was a Christian! But, later on the temple board was forced to apologize for this injustice. The list of people who longs to get a glimpse of the deity Krishna at Guruvayoor goes on and famous playback singer Yesudas is one among them.

Jagannatha Temple


Jagannath temple of Puri has the maximum number of controversies in its name which begins with the banning of Indira Gandhi‘s entry to the temple in the year 1984.Her marriage with Feroz Gandhi, a Parsi closed the temple gates before her and she had to see the temple from the nearby Raghunandan Library building. Sirindhorn, the Crown Princess of Thailand had to be the victim of a similar kind of injustice as she happened to be a foreigner and moreover a Buddhist. The most pathetic incident occurred in the year 2008 when food worth Rs.1 million was destroyed following a foreigner’s visit; in a country where millions find it hard to get a single day’s meal! The famous poet and saint Kabir, Lord Curzon and Guru Nanak are the other eminent people who were banned from entering the temple.

Lingaraj Temple


Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar, described as ‘The truest fusion of dream & realty’ had to stop all the rituals for four hours recently as a 35-year-old Russian tourist entered the temple premises, which is off limits to non-Hindus. The priests even destroyed the ‘prasad’ worth more than Rs. 50,000 after performing ‘purification ceremony’, following the foreigner’s visit. ”We cleansed the temple as per tradition and dumped the prasad in a well as it was defiled following the unprecedented incident,” said Abanikant Pattnaik, the executive officer of the temple. Moreover, they also collected money from the tourist as compounding fee for breaking the rules and regulations of the shrine. Similar situations happened in the years 2008 and 2009 as well resulting in chaos and purification rituals.

Padmanabha Swamy Temple


Padmanabhaswamy Temple (Thiruvananthapuram) credited with the title ‘The richest Temple in India’ and in the world has become hotspot for pilgrimage tourists, with the unearthing of the treasure trove. The number of foreigners visiting the temple has increased considerably, but unfortunately as non-Hindus are not allowed they have to peep from outside to get few glimpses and be satisfied by clicking some photographs. ”After the news spread about the temple wealth, we are witnessing a huge flow of both foreign and domestic tourists coming to visit the temple. Many foreign tourists have come to us asking for permission to enter the temple. But we cannot grant them the permission as per the tradition, only Hindus are allowed to offer ‘darshan’ inside the temple,” said V K Harikumar executive officer of the temple.

Goan Temples


Some of the famous temples in Goa which permitted foreigners to enter the shrines had to restrict them from entering due to incidents of ‘scantily dressed’ tourists visiting the temple. Mahalasa temple at Panaji put up the board ”Entry Restricted for Foreign Tourists” and temples such as Ramnathi and Mangueshi imposed dress codes for both domestic as well as foreign visitors. Moreover, some of the foreigners out of ignorance wore garlands which were supposed to be offered to the deity, which made the local people angry and annoyed.

“Conservation without fences: can India coexist with wildlife?”

Our attitude to wildlife conservation is flawed. We endorse a “not-in-my-backyard” conservation perspective, while simultaneously pushing for humans and wildlife to be neighbours without fences, writes Divya Vasudev

Somewhere in the rice fields of the Assamese plains, a scream pierces the night. The scream merges into an inharmonious chorus and flames light up brighter than the moon. Tempers flare, releasing pent-up frustrations and fears. As the dawn breaks, the shouting dies down, the crowd disperses back to their homes. Left behind is a once-tall pachyderm, a father of many calves trotting beside their mothers, guardian of the multiple elephant herds that range the area. Now reduced to his knees, his blood has run dry, and what catch the eye are the words etched onto his side. They shout out the feelings of the villagers towards this once symbol of holiness, our recently declared National Heritage Animal. Burnt on the flanks of the elephant are the words ‘bin Laden’.

Weeks later, I’m sitting in front of my computer, browsing the latest blog related to wildlife when I come across an article in Tehelka (A Time to Cull by Jay Mazoomdaar, 18 February) suggesting the culling of problem animals. With the image of ‘bin Laden’ in my mind, it was hard not to appreciate the merits of the author’s arguments. He bemoaned the loss of goodwill towards raiding wild pigs and deer in many parts of our country, caused by the loss of forests and the lack of success with government compensation programmes recommending preserving the erstwhile benevolent perspective towards wildlife conservation by getting rid of conflict animals. Mazoomdaar discouraged the over-sentimentality displayed by animal rights activists in posing as an obstacle to culling programmes previously initiated by the government. The author is not alone in his opinion. The newspapers, of late, have been strewn with reports, often less balanced in view than Mazoomdaar’s, of “marauding wildlife” and animals “on the rampage”. And while we do not allow the killing of endangered animals except in extreme cases, culling has been used in other countries, including the US and southern Africa, as a strategy to control wildlife population.

In effect, culling is a strategy to consider if our intention is to ‘control’ wildlife population. So is this our intention? To preserve wildlife, but in small enough numbers to be a negligible factor in our lives? Visible on safaris, while unseen otherwise? Why preserve them at all? Do we want to ‘control’ the number of these species to effectively silence the nagging voices of conservationists and animal rights activists? Or perhaps we are trying to ‘manage’ population of species in the forest that may be of use to us Medicinal herbs, trees that we use for timber, firewood and fruits? Or, are we trying to save wildlife so we do not have the blood of a species on our hands; because we believe in our heart of hearts that these species have a right to share these lands with humans? Potentially we could believe, to some extent, what Doomsday environmentalists claim. That saving the tiger and the elephant is going to ensure a healthy earth; one that can sustain us for much longer than a weakened de-greened planet can.

It has often seemed that it is the ethical reason that has spurred conservation interests among many Indians. In all sincerity, we do not want to be the ones who push species off the cliff. Our culture has ingrained in us tolerance rather than territorialisation of our lands. People in villages adjacent to forests, albeit not in that small paddy field in Assam, still speak of elephants with great respect, and when crops are raided, sadly speak of the shrinking homes of these animals rather than take to their spears. Indian wildlife biologists hold these values in esteem and do not hesitate to tout them in the eyes of the world. We talk about the fact that the only large mammal we have lost for many years now is the cheetah, a distinction not shared by many countries. The fact that animals enter our fields, eat our produce, and yet often get away unscathed is truly commendable and we do not lose a chance to point this out to our more trigger-happy cousins in Europe and America. When conservationists around the world state that economics alone will save tigers for the morrow, it is the Indian hand that is raised in dissent.

However, for a few years now, there has been an increasing trend of poisoning elephants and bludgeoning leopards. And I begin to wonder. I proudly claim to be from a culture of tolerance. But the world has become small and our culture has encountered many global forces of change. We wear jeans while visiting temples and listen to Carnatic music accompanied by guitars. Where do our perspectives pertaining to other animals stand in this milieu?

It is in the face of this quandary that I question culling as a strategy. The same holds with translocation, labelling animals as ‘problem’ or naming elephants after terrorists. We could cull a wild pig and assuage the bitterness of one raided farmer, but what we are losing is another length of the fibre that runs through us; the fibre that allowed us to accept wildlife as part of our daily life.

If newspapers are to be believed, the question of Indian perspectives surviving the tide of global forces is answered. I have already spoken of elephants on the rampage, wild pigs pillaging villages and leopards prowling our streets. We feed monkeys in our cities and towns and indirectly provide for their supper through our open garbage cans, while simultaneously cursing the growing ‘menace’ of these animals. Snakes are killed on sight, no questions asked. No matter that only a small proportion of Indian snakes are venomous enough to cause humans serious harm.

On the ground, however, I would have some hope. People are at crossroads. The pull of cultural strings that allows them to accept as part of life the occasional visit from animals is still non-negligible. But the strings are fraying, and we aren’t saving our forests from getting thinner. We suspect wildlife comes out into our fields due to the lack of food in the forests, while at the same time wielding the axe that lops their trees. We have in place a government compensation scheme to offset financial difficulties of living adjacent to wildlife. As it stands, few people receive compensation they are entitled to. However, given that we are amongst the few countries that have initiated such compensatory schemes, it is surprising that most conservationists are more inclined to dismiss it as a strategy rather than ensure a greater degree of competence in its implementation.

There is no doubt that there is competition for space and resources between humans and wildlife, especially certain species such as snakes, leopards, monkeys and elephants. And there is little doubt that this conflict needs to be addressed. We could find solutions like culling and translocation that only serve to further weaken the cultural bond with wildlife that we are trying so hard to preserve. But if this is the perspective we want to foster, let us do it in all honesty. Let us not label the elephant our symbol of heritage and of global terrorism in the same breath. Let us forget about declaring community and conservation reserves, do away with eco-development programmes and put aside our whimsical notions of harmonious co-existence. Let us relocate all humans from regions where they may be in danger of encountering wild animals and house wildlife in inviolate areas large enough to hold their populations. As of now, our attitude to wildlife conservation is fundamentally flawed, where we endorse a “not-in-my-backyard” conservation perspective while simultaneously pushing for humans and wildlife to be neighbours without fences.

The road ahead looks dismally unpromising, the only hope being either to promote inviolate areas or a more inclusive perspective to conservation. And by inclusive, I don’t mean more humans in wildlife programmes. I’m advocating that we humans should once again allow our lifestyles to become more inclusive of wildlife. They are not marauders of our lands; they are not problem animals to do away with whenever they happen to enter our vicinity; they do not prowl our streets with the intention of decimating any human that catches their eye. They are, as we are, caught in a whirlpool of human development, looking for food to fill their stomachs and a place to sleep in a world they rightfully share with us, the world we humans claim to be our own.

Divya Vasudev is a wildlife biologist

The 14 Ministers You Need To Know Should Be Jailed

Hardening its stand again after the Assembly elections, Team Anna moved from setting deadlines for the Lokpal Bill to naming Union ministers with a tainted reputation. They warned of a nationwide ‘jail bharo’ agitation in August if criminal cases were not filed against 14 Union Ministers on charges of corruption and criminal intimidation. The team said that the dates would be announced later.

Team Anna addressed crowds at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, the venue of a fast to demand protection for whistleblowers campaigning against corruption. Team Anna also demanded investigation of allegations against 1,300 elected representatives (MPs as well as MLAs) across the country against whom criminal charges have been leveled.

Arvind Kejriwal, the core member of Team Anna, named the 14 Union Ministers who, he alleged, were “corrupt.” He himself had no direct evidence of wrongdoing on their party, but there have been allegations in newspapers and on television, and they needed to be investigated.

Indian Express listed out the 14 Union Ministers whom Kejriwal named corrupt and the specific charges against them. (SiliconIndia takes no stand on these allegations, but just lists out the names as given by Kejriwal. As it is in the public domain, it can evoke a public discourse and/or litigation.

1. P Chidambaram:

Chidambaram was one of the 14 ministers on the list, for his alleged controversial role in the 2G scam, and the charge that his wife (a lawyer) defended a Kolkata businessman named Kashinath Tapuria in an income tax claim of 580 crore.

Last year in September, referring to Chidambaram’s involvement in the scam, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare said “Had there been a Jan Lokpal now, Chidambaram would have been in jail.” Referring to the same, Kejriwal named him on the list.

2. Kapil Sibal:

Kapil was on the list of the corrupt ministers for allegedly lowering Rs 650 crore fine on Reliance Communication to Rs 5 crore. He was accused of favoring Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Infocomm.

Anna Hazare had then appealed to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take action against Union Telecom minister Kapil Sibal, and expressed grief that frivolous litigations were being filed to settle personal scores. He also said that he himself would enquire into the matter and bring out details about the HRD Minister.

3. Praful Patel:

Praful Patel was also on the list for his alleged role in running Air India to the ground when he was civil aviation minister.

4. Sharad Pawar:

Sharad Pawar was named as well for his alleged “links” with Abdul Karim Telgi in the Maharashtra stamp duty scam.

He was named by Abdul Karim Telgi, during a narcoanalysis test, stating that it was Pawar’s idea to print fake stamp papers across the country and mint money. Pawar was also accused in a multi-crore scam concerning wheat imports and institutions headed by him and his close associates were served notices by the Bombay High Court for showing favoritism to his family.

5. SM Krishna:

SM Krishna made it on the list of 14 ministers too for his alleged involvement in the Karnataka mining scam. An FIR was filed against him by Karnataka Lokayukta for allegedly de-reserving large forest areas for mining in Bellary as the Chief Minister of Karnataka in 1999-2004.

6. Kamal Nath:

Kamal Nath, the Union Cabinet Minister of Urban Development, made it on the hit list too over allegations relating to the rice export. The alleged 2, 500-crore rice export scam of 2008-09 took place in his watch.

7. Farooq Abdullah:

Farooq Abdullah is on the list for alleged financial irregularities in the J&K Cricket Association.

The JKCA headed by union minister of new and renewable energy Dr Farooq Abdullah, is facing charges of grave financial irregularities and mismanagement. 50 crore is said to have been diverted to different accounts opened in the name of the JKCA by its officials to mint money, which comes as subsidies to promote sports and particularly cricket.

8. Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh :

Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh, both are on the Kejriwal list of corrupt ministers for their role in the Adarsh housing scam and a land allotment allegation against Deshmukh.

Adarsh Housing Society, a cooperative society in the city of Mumbai, was supposed to be reserved for the war widows and veterans of the Kargil War. However, it came to light that houses in the society were not given to the presumed beneficiaries, but taken over by politicians, bureaucrats and top ranking military personnel. There are allegations that former chief ministers of Maharashtra, Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh were also involved in the scam.

10. Ajit Singh:

Ajit Singh makes it on the hit list too for charges that in 2008, when UPA 1 government was tottering after Left parties withdrew support over the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal; he supported the government for a monetary consideration.

The Wikileaks claim that during the nuclear deal trust vote, he had charged Rs 10 crore per MP to vote for the UPA government.

11. GK Vasan:

GK Vasan is a prominent Congress leader from Tamil Nadu and is on the corrupt minister list for allegedly giving away 16,000 acres near Kandla Port of Gujarat at a loss of Rs 2 lakh crore to the exchequer.

Vasan instead called these allegations “baseless” and pointed out that he was not in charge of the ministry when the alleged irregularities surfaced in 2008. He was quoted saying to the Hindustan Times “Allegation regarding irregularities in Kandla Port Trust Lease of Land case are totally baseless and there is no truth in it. When the report by CVO of the Port Trust was originally given in 2008, I was not the Minister of Shipping.”

12. Sriprakash Jaiswal:

Sriprakash makes it on the list for alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks. This allotment of coal blocks gave ‘undue benefits’ to scores of companies causing an enormous loss of Rs 10.67 lakh crore to the nation’s exchequer.

The Coal Minister in his defence said “We gave advertisements for allocation of coal blocks and invited applications…after the applications were received by us (Coal Ministry), the state governments were consulted and thereafter the coal blocks were allocated,” as reported Business Today.

13. MK Azhagiri:

MK Azhagiri makes it on the hit list for alleged attacks on political rivals.  He was also accused of conspiring in the murder of the former DMK Minister, T. Kiruttinan.

14. Virbhadra Singh:

Virbhadra Singh is the Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. He is one among the fourteen ministers named by Kejriwal, for assorted allegations of bribery.

What Your Old Watches May Be Used For

Finally, those living in the USA can buy Ukrainian-made motorcycles! Production of Ukrainian Harleys was launched by Ukrainian immigrant Dmitry Khristenko who now lives in the States. Dmitry makes his motorcycles using old watches. Check them out!


Rahul Dravid receives a memento from BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale at his felicitation in Mumbai on Tuesday

How to make your computer faster

This tutorial will teach you how to increase your operating system
speed 3 times faster.

this steps should be applied by either slow and fast computers. it
will speed up your operating system surfing.

there are 28 easy steps. it might take a bit long to apply them all
especially if you’re not familiar with windows registry, but trust me
it worth it.

Ok now here it goes…read carefully… coz i wont accept any
questions about it…

1.. Visual effects should be set to a minimum.
Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance
Settings > Visual Effects Tab > Adjust for best performance

2. Switch Off Desktop Background Image
Right Click Desktop > Properties > Desktop Tab > Background None

3. Disable Screen Saver
Right Click Desktop > Properties > Screen Saver > None

5. Disable Fast User Switching
Start > Settings > Control Panel > User Accounts > Change the way
users log on or off > Untick Use Fast User Switching

6. Switch Off Power Schemes
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Power Options > Always On > Turn
off monitor and turn off hard discs to Never

7. Switch Off Hibernation
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Power Options > Hibernate > Untick

8. Activate DMA on Hard Discs/CD ROMS
Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager
> IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers > Right Click Primary IDE channel and
Secondary IDE channel > Properties > Advanced Settings Tab > Tra

9. Disable System Sounds
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices > Sounds
Tab > Sound Scheme to None.

10. Do Not Map Through Soundcard
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Sounds and Audio Devices > Hardware
Tab > (highlight your soundcard from the list) > Properties > Audio
Devices > (highlight your soundcard from the list) > Properti

11. Disable System Restore
Start > Settings > Control Panel> System > System Restore Tab. Tick
the “Turn off System Restore on all Drives”

12. Disable Automatic Updates
Start > Settings > Control Panel> System > Automatic Updates > Turn
off automatic updating. I want to update my computer manually

13. Startup and Recovery Options
Start > Settings > Control Panel> System > Advanced > Startup and
Recovery Settings > Untick Automatically Restart

14. Disable Error Reporting
Start > Settings > Control Panel> System > Advanced > Error Reporting
> Disable Error Reporting

15. Disable Remote Assistance
Start > Settings > Control Panel> System > Remote > Untick Allow
remote assistance invitations to be sent from this computer

16. Fix Swap File (Virtual Memory)
Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance
Settings > Advanced > Virtual Memory Change > Custom Size. Set initial
and maximum size to the same value

17. Speed Up Menus
Start > Run > Regedit > HKEY_CURRENT_ USER > Control Panel > Desktop
Folder. Set MenuShowDelay to 1

18. Disable Offline Files
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Folder Options > Offline Files
Untick “Enable Offline Files”

19. Disable Remote Desktop
Start > Settings > Control Panel > System > Remote > Untick “Allow
users to connect remotely to this computer”

20. Disable Internet Synchronise Time
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Date and Time > Internet Time >
Untick “Automatically synchronize with internet time server”

21. Disable Hide Inactive Icons
Start > Settings > Taskbar and Start Menu > Taskbar TAB > Uncheck
“Hide Inactive Icons”

22. Disable Automatic Desktop Cleanup Wizard
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Display > Desktop > Customise
Desktop > Untick “Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days”

23. Disable NTFS Last Access Time Logging (NTFS File Systems Only)
Start > Run > regedit > HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > System >
CurrentControlSet > Control > Filesystem. Add a new DWORD value -
“NtfsDisableLastAcc essUpdate” and set value to 1.

24. Disable Notification Area Balloon Tips
Start > Run > regedit > HKEY_CURRENT_ USER > Software > Microsoft >
Windows > CurrentVersion > Explorer > Advanced. Create a new DWORD
value called EnableBalloonTips and set to 0.

25. Disable CDROM Autoplay
Start > Run > regedit > HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > System >
CurrentControlSet > Services > Cdrom. Set autorun to 0.

26. Disable Disc Indexing Service
Right Click Start > Explorer > Right Click Each Disc > Properties >
Untick “Allow Indexing Service to index this disc for fast file

27.Restart ur pc…enjoy!! !

Stolen Splendors of Indian Maharajas

India before the British rule was a rich country which fascinated both travelers and invaders around the world. The recent excavation at the Padmanabha temple which belonged to the royal family of the Travancore state (Kerala) came up with one of the largest treasures found in India with gold and other ornaments valuing around 1 lakh crore. If such small princely state had so much wealth, think about how much foreign invades and rule might have looted when India had more than 500 princely states and major kingdoms like Mysore and Jaipur. In the name of civilizing British rule also plundered a lot of our fabulous wealth and resources and took away some of the priceless treasures which used to tell the glory and galore of our country’s past.

Koh-i-Noor Diamond

Koh-i-Noor meaning “Mountain of Light” took birth in the state of Andra Pradesh along with its sibling Darya-ye Noor meaning “Sea of Light”. This precious stone is the world’s largest diamond and has travelled a lot and seen the raise, war and fall of many great dynasties and emperors ranging from Persia, Mughal, Turkic, Afghan, Sikh and finally now sits in Britain as a part of British Crown Jewel. This diamond was once a part of the famous ‘Peacock throne’ of Shah Jahan. It is said that Koh-i-Noor was presented to Queen Victoria in 1849 during the East Indian Company rule by the son of the Maharaja of Lahore. But according to the critics the stone was not willingly surrendered, it was robbed by British governor general, Lord Dalhousie. In 2010 Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has joined the campaign with Egypt and Greece with the support of UNESCO in hopes of getting looted antiquities returned to the rightful country which includes this precious diamond. Till now no favorable results, but the efforts continues.

  Peacock Throne

This famous Mughal throne was build during the rule of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the throne was one the post priceless possession which got lost in between the war of power between dynasties. The throne was inlaid with precious stones like sapphires, rubies, emeralds, pearls, including the Kohinoor diamond. The throne used to reside in the public audience hall- Diwan-i-Am-in Delhi.  The throne was stolen by the Nader Shah and taken to Persia in 1739. After the death of Nader Shah in 1747 the original Peacock Throne disappeared from the records, nobody knows whether it was stolen or dismantled, it is said to be demolished by the tribesmen and the jewels were taken away. Two replicas of the Peacock throne were later made in 1812 and 1836.

Sword of Tipu Sultan

Tipu Sultan lost his sword during a war with Nairs of Travancore, from there the sword travelled to the Nawab of Arcot and then to London. After about two centuries the sword was kept for auction in 2004 in London when the Indian industrialist-politician Vijay Mallya bought it along with some other historical artifacts and this symbol of power came back to India.

  Dagger of Shah Jahan

This royal Khanjar (dagger) dates back to 1629-1630 and resembles the art and supremacy of Mughal Empire. The 16-inch long gold encrusted curved dagger has inscriptions on it stating the name of Shah Jahan, his honorific titles and the place and date of the dagger’s manufacture. This dagger which symbolizes exalted status of Indian history was auctioned for 13.4 crore in 2008 and was bought a buyer who remains anonymous.

  Darya-ye Noor Diamond

Darya-ye Noor was found along with the famous Koh-i-Noor from the state of Andra Pradesh. This 182 carats pale pink color rare diamond was once the part of Shah Jahan’s Mughal treasury which was robbed by Nader Shah of Iran. The diamond passed on the ruling dynasties of Iran and now finally resides as a part of the Iranian Crown Jewels and is on display at the Central Bank of Iran in Tehran

  Sultanganj Buddha

The Buddha Sakyamuni also known as the Birmingham Buddha is a 2.3m tall bronze statue which was founded by a British railway engineer E B Harris in north-east India in 1861. He saved it from smelting and sold it to Midlands’s industrialist, from there the statue reached Birmingham’s city museum. The effort of ASI to bring looted antiquities back to the rightful country covers this also.

Amravati Railings

This beautiful railing which was excavated in the early 19th century by two British military explorers was sold to British Museum. This limestone tablet was once the frontage of “stupa”- temple built to house Buddhist relics in south-eastern India. This 2000 year old railing depicts scenes from the life of Buddha and tells the spiritual journey of Buddhism in India.  ASI is also trying to bring this plaque back to Indian from Britain.

Saraswati statue of Bhojsala Temple

This marble statue which depicts the Hindu and Jain goddess of knowledge, music and learning used to be one of the precious possessions of Bhojsala Temple in central India. The temple was established by one of the “philosopher king” of central Indian who devoted his reign for the development of art. This statue was donated to the temple by a local family; the statue got lost long back and now sits in British Museum from 1886.

Extinct Indian Musical Instruments

Hardcore music devotees will tell you that even in this electronic age, there is not even a single instrument to match the versatility of human body. We can produce aerophonic sound by using our lips, our vocal cord is a perfect chordophone and we can create idiophonic sounds by clapping hands, no wonder why the ancient people used human bones and skin to make music instruments.

India has a rich culture in music and it’s a birth place to many famous instruments. But with the influence of modern instruments, wide varieties of old instruments have gone silent and ended up in museums. Here we list some famous instruments which have disappeared or on the verge of extinction.


Rudra veena is considered as the mother of all stringed instruments. It reigned supreme two centuries ago but today there are hardly any Rudra veena players left in India. The instrument has a hollow tubular body made of wood or bamboo and strings which is meant to produce a music that is perhaps too subtle and refined for the modern age although it is famous for its meditative qualities.

Nagfani (serpentine horn)

Nagfani is made of brass tube with a serpent stylized head. It is commonly associated with the Sadhus or holy men because of the power harnessed by invoking the serpent which coil around the neck of Siva, Hindu god. Its name literally means “snake hood.” The beautiful instrument which was found around Gujrat and Rajasthan is now in the verge of extinction.


This peacock shaped stringed instrument was very popular in nineteenth century. The instrument is made of wood and metal which is attached with actual peacock bill and feathers. Peacock is said to be the vehicle of Saraswathi, godess of music. The instrument when played with a bow produces a resonant and mellow music. This instrument was nearly extinct, but it seems to have made recovery in the last few years.


Morchang is a nice and tiny rhythmic musical instrument made of wrought iron. The instrument consists of a metal ring and metal tongue on the middle. It has a special capacity to make many patterns of rhythm and sounds when played using the mouth and left hand. The instrument which was very popular among the Rajasthani folk singers is now very difficult to find.


The ancient popular instrument Yazh disappeared from India long ago. This stringed instrument which resembles a bow was considered to be the sweetest of instruments. It is described in some of the ancient literature works. The instrument is played with both the hands by tuning the strings to a particular scale. It was also called as “Vil Yazh.”


Pena is an ancient musical instrument of Manipur. It’s made of a slender Bamboo rod attached to a dry coconut shell which is made in the shape of a drum. A string made of horse tail is fastened from end of bamboo road over drum and is played with a rod. It is believed that Pena is the source and origin of all the tunes of various folk songs prevalent in Manipur.



Losing Steam

For long considered a microcosm of India, the Indian Railways is now on a rusty track to ruin. Ashok Malik on what ails the country’s biggest employer and how to fix it

Photo: AP

EVERY SATURDAY evening, with 15 minutes to go for midnight and amid the arresting landscape of upper Assam and under the clear skies of Dibrugarh, the Vivek Express begins its journey. For four nights and three days, for 82 hours and 40 minutes, it trundles along. Its wheels cover state after state — West Bengal and Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Finally, after 53 halts at various stations down the eastern coast of the country, India’s longest train journey ends — and the Vivek Express finishes a 4,243 km marathon. It chugs in, tired but proud, and arrives at Kanyakumari station on Wednesday morning at 10.25 am.

In many ways the story of Vivek Express epitomises the romance and romanticism of Indian Railways, and encapsulates all that Indians want to believe of their iron horses — the grand locomotives that unite this country. There is an elevating idea to the Railways. This is an institution (and more its predecessors in the 19th and early 20th centuries) that brought Indians closer to Indians like never before and was, in a sense, the building block of Indian nationhood. The Second-Class train journey, the one that united the Brahmin and the Untouchable, the Mahatma and the merchant, was the sort of legend around which the national movement grew.

Those ideas and that idealism are long past. Yet, to this day, generations of Indians recall that nostalgic train journey of some childhood idyll — the family holiday, the Toy Train in Darjeeling, dinner after the stop at Mughalsarai, sipping tea at stations through the night as the great passenger trains of India boomed along the countryside, linking east to west and north to south, Kamrup to Kutch and Kashmir (or at least Jammu) to Kanyakumari.

The idea of a train journey is enough to make us smile, bring back thoughts from the crevices of amnesia, some happy memories. Yet, and here lies the grim paradox, we would avoid that train journey today if we could. Buses, cars, flights — if we can afford them — almost every mode of transport seems to take precedence to the train. It’s only when all other modes absent themselves — if the journey is too long and the alternatives are too expensive — that the 21st century Indian will board the train.

To be sure, a number of Indians use trains — 23 million passengers every day, close to 7.2 billion (six times the population of the country) every year. Even so, Indian Railways’ market share is falling even if absolute numbers are rising. Beyond the figures, there is a story of India’s gradual estrangement from its trains. It is also the story of the slow decline of Indian Railways, a wondrous legacy that India has allowed itself to slowly poison.

Despite the huge number of passengers it transports, Indian Railways moves only 10 percent of India’s passenger traffic

Despite the huge numbers of passengers it transports, it is worth noting that Indian Railways moves only 10 percent of India’s long-distance or suburban passenger traffic. When it comes to moving freight, the 2.65 million tonnes it transports every day seems dramatic — but is only 30 percent of the freight traffic in India.

It wasn’t always like this. In 1980, the first National Transport Policy Committee was set up under the late BD Pande, former cabinet secretary and later governor of West Bengal. It recorded that 74 percent of passenger traffic and 89 percent of freight was dependent on Indian Railways. What happened in 30 years?

It is tempting to look upon the early 1980s as the starting point of Indian Railways’ decline. ABA Ghani Khan Chowdhury, the Congress strongman from north Bengal, became railway minister then and was quickly given the sobriquet “Minister of Malda”, a reference to his parliamentary constituency. Khan Chowdhury used the Railways to nurse Malda and attempt to win back Congress influence in West Bengal.

The first attempt worked and Malda still worships its “Barkat da” years after his death, remembering the jobs and infrastructure that Indian Railways created. The second mission — reclaiming West Bengal from the Left Front — failed but nevertheless Khan Chowdhury had designed a template that was to be used by later ministers.

In the 1990s, as the Indian economy began to open up and internal and external trade grew, it should have been Indian Railways’ moment in the sun. Instead, borrowing from the Malda model, a succession of coalition-era railway ministers — Ram Vilas Paswan, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav — began to see Indian Railways as nothing more than a patronage machine. The decline reached its logical conclusion — or logical absurdity, depending on how you see it — under another Rail Bhawan dispensation from West Bengal, under Mamata Banerjee and her handpicked railway ministers.

Which route should the Railways take? The dilemma was obvious in the political flashpoint this past week. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh praised Dinesh Trivedi’s budget and acknowledged his bid to raise fares. This didn’t help the former railway minister save his job, however, as Banerjee, Trinamool Congress chief and Trivedi’s party leader, felt passenger fares could not be raised without a crippling impact on ordinary people. Her supporters suggested rather than burden passengers, Indian Railways had to look at different and more sustainable sources of revenue.

Lalu Yadav’s term brought a short-lived era of profit-making
Brief romance? Lalu Yadav’s term brought a short-lived era of profit-making

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

WHAT AILS Indian Railways? The diagnosis can be made by looking at four broad-sweep parameters:
• It is overstaffed and has a far greater employee and wages burden than is warranted. What’s more — no railway minister wants to rectify this.

• It is not focussing on its core area — transporting goods and people across long distances — and is side-tracked by short-distance, uneconomical and unnecessary routes as well as a suburban rail network that should be run by city and state authorities rather than the national railway. Even outsourcing of catering operations is deemed politically incorrect and creates a behemoth that ends up going nowhere.

• Since it lives such a hand-to-mouth existence, existing from railway budget to railway budget and from railway minister’s whimsy to railway minister’s fancy, Indian Railways has little time and money for strategic thinking, visionary planning and spending on technological upgrade. The best illustration of this is that the Vivek Express, the train that links India’s Northeast to the southern ocean, travels at an average of 51 kmph. At a time when China is building an inter-city high-speed railway network with speeds of 350 kmph, this doesn’t seem ordinary, it seems obsolete.

• As a result of all this, the Railways finds itself out of tune with the needs of Indian business travellers and stakeholders — increasingly irrelevant to a growing industrial economy precisely at a time when the opportunities before it are bigger than ever before.

Each of those four factors requires examination. Take the employee burden for a start. Indian Railways employs 1.36 million people. This makes it the world’s eighth largest employer as well as India’s largest — just ahead of the armed forces taken together. The Railways wage bill accounts for 50 percent of its annual expenses. It is not helped by the burden of 1.2 million pensioners, retired Railways officials and workers whose pensions keep growing with successive Union government pay commissions.

At one stage, the serving employee base had crossed 1.5 million and attempts were made to curb new recruitment, to outsource non-essential functions (catering, aspects of train maintenance), hive off some departments as separate entities (Container Corporation of India). Department after department of Indian Railways resolved to cut its numbers. “There was a thumb rule,” says a Railways official, “that for every 100 people who retired, we would take in only 75.”

The biggest curse afflicting the Indian Railways is the existence of a railway budget, separate from the general budget

By the time Mamata Banerjee became railway minister in 2009, Indian Railways had actually managed to cut 2,00,000 jobs. These were officially listed as “vacancies” but the network was managing just fine without them. Unfortunately, it proved too tempting. Using the excuse that some of the vacancies were in safety-related departments — and ignoring that safety necessitated technology and upgrade rather than just more human eyes and hands — in the past two years, the Ministry of Railways has gone on a recruitment binge.

As Dinesh Trivedi announced in his supposedly “reformist” budget earlier this month, Indian Railways had recruited 80,000 people in 2011-12 and would take in another 1,00,000 people in 2012-13. In two short years, the Trinamool Congress management has wiped out years and years of staff rationalisation.

Can Indian Railways manage by reducing the number of people working for it? Does this endanger safety of passengers or secure passage of freight? The answer is a function of which generation you engage, of people who have worked for the Railways as well of machines that are in use in an organisation that spans several technology eras.

Former Rail Minister Dinesh Trivedi Mamata Banerjee
Collision course Former Rail Minister Dinesh Trivedi; TMC’s Mamata Banerjee

Photos: Shailendra Pandey

In the time of steam engines, it required 17 people on an average to maintain and run a locomotive. Today, a high-speed diesel or electric engine requires two or three people and much of the work is mechanised. That apart, the steam engine pulled 1,800 tonnes of freight. The diesel and electric locomotives now deployed pull 4,000-6,000 tonnes. Still newer engines, used in China and the United States for example, can pull 10,000 tonnes of freight. As is clear, the locomotive-to-employee ratio for Indian Railways’ 9,000 locomotives is just not realistic.

WHAT SHOULD be the core area of focus for Indian Railways? It has an expansive network of 7,083 railway stations and 131,205 railway bridges — a quarter of these bridges are over a century old, but that’s another matter — and 19,000 km of track. Is all of this equally important? According to the Expert Group for Modernisation of Indian Railways headed by Sam Pitroda — it submitted its report to Trivedi on 25 February, in his final weeks as minister — “40 percent of the total network… [is] carrying about 80 percent of the traffic”.

This super-busy part of the network includes what Railways officials call the “arterial routes” — the “golden quadrilateral” linking Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, and the “two diagonals” that run from Delhi to Chennai and Kolkata to Mumbai and criss-cross the quadrilateral. The four mega-cities and the connections between them actually make up no more than 16 percent of the Railways’ infrastructure network — but contribute to 60 percent of the traffic.

Logically, if Indian Railways were run like a business corporation, it would channel its energies in this area. It would invest in, for instance, signalling technology that would allow it to run trains more frequently, and closer to each other in terms of time and distance, than is possible today. The Pitroda Committee even discussed the idea of investing in signalling and tracks and allowing private companies to run their own trains, to complement Indian Railways trains while paying user charges.

It sounds easy in theory. In practice, the 12,000 passenger trains the Indian Railways runs offer a strange mix. Some 5,200 of these trains are intra-city or suburban trains in primarily the Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata metropolitan areas. Trinamool Congress ministers have inaugurated more trains and projects for Kolkata, of course. In countries such as China, such localised transport is the job of the provincial authorities, not the national railways.

That’s not all. Another 4,200 passenger trains are slow-moving passenger carriers — the proverbial “chuk chuk gaadi”, as an Indian Railways veteran smirks — that travel at barely 30 kmph an hour, stop every 10 minutes or whenever a passenger feels like pulling the chain and jumping off. These trains are often introduced in far-off areas without an adequate customer base, stopping at stations that have no business existing and where there are not even roads to get long-distance passengers to trains. The local populations would be much better served by a network of state highways and village roads, and buses.

Safety has often been side-tracked in the railway budgets
Off the rails Safety has often been side-tracked in the railway budgets

Photo: AP

That leaves only 2,600 mail and express trains to fulfil Indian Railways’ core mandate — transporting Indians long distances across the country and between big cities, at fairly rapid speeds.

FRANKLY, THE biggest curse afflicting the Indian Railways is the anachronistic existence of a railway budget, which has been separate from the general budget since 1924. It serves no purpose as outlays for it come out of the Consolidated Fund of India and can be incorporated in the general budget speech. Fare hikes or freight charge revisions in the Railways do not need Parliamentary approval. Indeed even a divisional officer — let alone a member of the Railway Board — has the authority to quote and negotiate freight rates.

So what does the railway budget do? Willy-nilly it becomes a platform for distributing political favours. New trains and out-of-the-blue stations may not be economically viable or even socially necessary — but who will dare deny a powerful MP or an allied party the right to boast to voters and make a symbolic statement? In the run-up to the railway budget of 2012, Trivedi is believed to have received 5,000 suggestions from “brother MPs”.

Such are the pressures of populism that, as was discovered recently, raising ticket prices even slightly can be a nightmare. Could Second-Class rail passengers afford to pay Rs 150-Rs 200 more for long-distance journeys? The issue is not easy to address, especially in an economic system where even airlines — and their economically privileged fliers — get subsidies, hidden or otherwise. Given this, how off-track are fares in Indian Railways?

Raghu Dayal, who served as founder managing-director of the Container Corporation and is the doyen of Indian Railway research in New Delhi, conducted a survey in the financial year 2009-10. Looking at the performance of the 37 state road transport corporations that run bus services in India, he found they charged 52 paise per passenger km. In contrast, the suburban train services provided by Indian Railways in Mumbai, Chennai and other cities brought in revenue of only 13 to 17 paise per passenger km.

It is clear that passengers can pay more — and would be happy to do so if assured better services.

“In the 1990s, India’s rail network was 15 years ahead of China’s,” says Dayal. “Today the Chinese are 50 years ahead of us. They have focussed on long-distance, inter-city services, leaving short-distances and freight movement where possible to roads.” India has lost its way.

The Pitroda report will require Rs 8.4 lakh crore over five years. The Anil Kakodkar committee another Rs 1 lakh crore on safety

Interestingly, the fare increases Trivedi had proposed would have got Indian Railways an incremental Rs 5,000 crore. While this grabbed headlines, what failed to get attention was an apparent discrepancy in his budget projections for 2012-13: freight in tonnage would go up 5.5 percent, but freight revenue would go up 30 percent. How was this possible? Simply, the Railway Ministry had hiked freight rates in the days before the budget, without even waiting for Parliament. This emphasised the disproportionate burden on freight earnings but also made apparent the cosmetic value of the controversial railway budget.

THE UPSHOT of this is that Indian Railways satisfies neither business customers nor passengers. Freight trains are made to wait and give right of way to even local passenger trains, making more and more companies — especially those in the fast-moving consumer goods sectors — shift to trucks and roads. Forty-five percent of Indian Railways freight traffic comprises just coal. However, instead of treating coal as a key commodity and coal companies and power plants as valued customers, Indian Railways is forced to see them as lower priority than day-trippers jumping on and off trains in a politically-influential state or district.

Pitroda has recommended “commodity-wise key account directors”. He points out Indian Railways can save itself and the country money if it begins to manage coal logistics better. For example, if it is moving coal from location A to B for one client and from C to D for another client, it may ask whether it can offer the clients the option of delivering a given quantity of coal from A to D and C to B instead — if the routes make more sense.

Pitroda has also sought commercial exploitation of Indian Railways’ property and stations using public-private partnerships, as well as modern signalling and introduction of high-speed locomotives on key routes. This will cost money. The proposed 350 kmph, high-speed train link between Mumbai and Ahmedabad will be built over 10 years and cost Rs 60,000 crore. The Pitroda Committee wants the model to be replicated on six other routes, including Delhi-Patna (991 km) and Chennai-Bengaluru-Coimbatore-Ernakulam (850 km). The abolition of all level crossings, another proposal, will cost Rs 50,000 crore.

Implementing the Pitroda report will require Rs 8.4 lakh crore over five years. It is only possible with large-scale private partnerships and even outright privatisation that the Railway Modernisation Group suggests but which the UPA government — whether the allies or even the Congress party itself — would be hostile to. Indeed, it is difficult to see any Indian political party completely buying into the Pitroda blueprint. In addition, there is the Anil Kakodkar Committee on safety that wants Rs 1 lakh crore spent on safety mechanisms over five years (though some of its proposals overlap with Pitroda’s).

That is the dream, where is reality? Frankly, are those gargantuan numbers, running into hundreds of thousands of crores, even conceivable? If Indian Railways finds its pension bill pressing, can it afford such massive infrastructural investments? After all, Rs 60,000 crore is the annual plan outlay for Indian Railways in 2012-13, and it is the highest ever!

There are other factors. The political class would be loath to reduce the employment potential of Indian Railways without the guarantee that those who don’t get these jobs will be absorbed elsewhere. On the other hand, there is the fear that if nothing is done, Indian Railways will go the Air-India way. Conservative voices argue that if too much is done, it could go the Kingfisher Airlines way.

The debate is endless. Nevertheless, without a radical transformation in the manner in which Indian Railways is managed — and without bringing in a rational measure of private players as partners — India’s rail story will keep going downhill. The point is: can the new railway minister, Mukul Roy, see the lantern waving furiously in the distance?

Ashok Malik is Contributing editor, Tehelka.

Best Portable Chargers for your Smartphones

It is frustrating to run out of battery when you are on a business trip or on a trek camp. Now-a-days smartphone are comes with high-end hardware and highly developed operating system which needs extra power for longer run, but the problem lies due to the fact that battery technology never evolved with the phase of gadgets technology and therefore these high-end devices always runs out of juice often.

Portable charger is a must have accessory if you are a heavy gadget users. These chargers provides a convenient way to power up your portable devices like smartphones, tablet, Bluetooth headset, MP3 Player and lots more. Have a look at these five best power chargers which are worth a buy.

1. Sony CP-A2L

The Sony CP-A2L charger comes with a smooth edges design and can charge many gadgets let it be smartphone, iPad, iPod, walkman or Sony’s portable gaming console. The charger comes with a larger 4000mAh capacity Lithium-ion battery, which is capable of charging a smartphone twice a day. The charger is equipped with USB ports for charging two different devices simultaneously. This portable charger is available for 1990.

2. Nokia DC-11

The Nokia DC-11 portable charger is especially made for Nokia handsets which have Nokia’s standard 2 mm charging port. The charger has two charging ports, micro USB port along with 2 mm charging port.

The charger comes with Lithium-Ion 1500 mAh battery and can charge two devices at a time. It also has LED indicator for charging status and using micro USB charging port you can even charge other micro USB compatible gadgets. The charger is just 11 mm thick allowing you to carry in your pocket anytime. It has a price tag of 2400.

3. iBall Portable Power Charger

The iBall Portable Power Charger is a multi-purpose charger which comes with 8 different charging ports like micro USB, mini USB, Nokia 2 mm, MP3 Player, iPhone, iPod, Ericsson port and Samsung charging ports.

The device features huge 5000 mAh battery capacity, built in Auto power saving, retractable USB cable and has an easy to carry portable design. This multi-purpose charger is affordable too costing only 2499.

4. Cooler Master Choiix

The Cooler Master (CM) Choiix has a stylish and portable design. It is compatible with wide range of smartphones and tablets. The charger has a bigger 5600 mAh Lithium-Ion battery which helps you to charge your gadget two or three times a day.

The charger has four LED indicators which show the remaining battery life and has some cool features like charge protection, over discharge, protection and over current protection. This fully loaded portable charger costs 3680.

5. Genius Universal Power Pack ECO-U600

The Genius Universal Power Pack ECO-U600 offers two USB ports for charging two different devices simultaneously. The charger is compatible with a wide range of smartphone and tablets. The charger comes with a heavy 6800 mAh Lithium-ion battery and is compatible with Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, BlackBerry, Apple and HTC smartphones and tablets as well. It is a bit pricy

costing 4750.

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