Friday, May 25, 2007

Himalayan plants have anti-diabtic agents

21 plant species found here can help check diabetes

Merina Sharma
Kathmandu, May 24:

A recent research on Nepali plants and herbs used traditionally revealed that 21 plant species have anti-diabetic properties.
The 21 species including, acacia catechu (Khayar), allium hypsistum (Jimmu), berginia ciliate (Paashanbed), cedrus deodara (Debdar), sapindus mukorossi (Rittha), rubia manjith (Majitho) and woodfordia fruticosa (amar phool) contain anti-diabetic agents. Stems, leaves, roots, barks, fruits and flowers of these plants were extracted as samples for the study.
While examining the active compounds of Paashanbed, two active compounds —
galloylepicatechin and galloylcatechin — were found for the first time in a plant other than green tea. They are considered to be the most potent components with anti-diabetic potential, believed to be in the green tea alone.
The revelation was made after a two-year research conducted by Dr Megh Raj Bhandari, food researcher of Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) in the Hokkaido University, Japan, with the financial support of the government of Japan. Eighty-three plant species used in the Nepali traditional medicinal system were collected from different parts of the country for the study.
Dr Bhandari said the discovery would help develop new and efficient drugs and functional food for diabetes. “Though some of these herbs were used for the treatment of diabetes and traditionally produced some herbal medicines but there was no scientific ground to prove it,” he said.
Dr Bhandari added that the people could consume anti-diabetic components in their daily meal and reduce the risk of the disease. “The anti-diabetic components could be utilised by the local food companies to prepare functional food,” he added.
According to a data of the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 171 million people are suffering from diabetes worldwide and the number is expected to double by 2030. It has also stated that 80 per cent of these people belong to the developing nations. More than four lakh Nepalis are believed to be suffering from the disease and the number is expected to increase by three folds in 2030.
The findings of the research were recently published in a book titled ‘Functional Food for the Prevention of Chronic Diseases,’ published by the Functional Food Centre, USA.

Source: click here

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bhimeshwor kshamapooja at behest of PMO, not palace

Bhimeshwor kshamapooja at behest of PMO, not palace

Himalayan News Service
Charikot, May 22:

The local administration on the instructions of the Prime Minister’s Office offered kshamapooja this morning at the Bhimeshwor temple in Dolakha district where an idol was found sweating last week. The prayers were offered to “ward off disaster in the country.” Chief District Officer Uddhav Bahadur Thapa said instead of sending the cotton used to wipe off the sweat to the royal palace, as had been the tradition, cotton piece was sent to the PMO, he added.
Two goats were sacrificed before the “sweating” idol and the prasad would be sent to the PMO, CDO Thapa added. According to the temple priest, the Bhimeshwor temple idol “sweated” twice on Saturday night. The sweating of the idol is considered a bad omen.
Earlier, the kshamapooja used to be performed at the behest of the royal palace.
It is believed that the person carrying the cotton to the capital achieves his desired goals. The Dolakha locals also joined the prayers.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Alarm over ‘sweating’ Bhimeshwor idol - Divine Prudence?

Alarm over ‘sweating’ Bhimeshwor idol

Himalayan News Service
Charikot, May 20:

The link of the news is here.

People here were alarmed after they saw what they called sweat beads on the idol of the famous Bhimeshwor at Bhimeshwor Temple in Dolakha district last evening.
It is believed that ‘sweating’ of the idol presages ominous occurrences such as natural calamities, political upheavals and even misfortune for the royal family.
‘Sweat beads’ were seen in the right side of the idol from 7 to 7.30 pm and from 9.15 to 10.15 pm, an eyewitness Shivaji Pradhan said. People of Dolakha said several major disasters have occurred whenever ‘sweat’ formed on the idol in the past.
There is a tradition of using cotton wads to wipe the sweat off the idol and sending the used cotton to the royal palace. Thereafter, a kshama puja (forgiveness prayer) is performed after the royal palace sends puja materials to the temple.
According to the tradition, the cotton used for wiping the ‘sweat’ is regarded as mahaprasad.
The Home Ministry will inform the royal palace about the ‘sweat’ on the idol, said CDO Uddhav Bahadur Thapa. It is also believed that those who carry the used cotton wisps while travelling will be successful in their respective enterprises.
When the idol starts ‘sweating’, people of Dolakha assemble in the temple and ring the bells there. Thousands of people reached the temple last night to ring the bells. Devotees are pouring in from all over the district and elsewhere to perform kshama puja today.
According to records provided by the Bhimeshwor Temple Management Committee, ‘sweat beads’ were seen on Bhimeshwor’s idol before the earthquake in 1990 BS, the death sentence to four martyrs in 1997, the democratic movement of 2007 BS, the death of king Tribhuvan in 2011 BS, the death of king Mahendra in 2028 BS, referendum in 2036 BS, the earthquake in 2045 BS, the royal massacre in 2058 and establishment of loktantra in 2063 BS.

Executive Summary of the New ICG Report on Nepal Politics

Nepal’s Maoists: Purists or Pragmatists?
Asia Report N°132
18 May 2007


Nepal’s Maoists have changed their strategy and tactics but not yet their goals. In 1996 they launched a “people’s war” to establish a communist republic but ten years later ended it by accepting multiparty democracy; their armed struggle targeted the parliamentary system but they are now working alongside their former enemies, the mainstream parties, in an interim legislature and coalition government. Their commitment to pluralistic politics and society is far from definitive, and their future course will depend on both internal and external factors. While they have signed up to a peaceful, multiparty transition, they continue to hone alternative plans for more revolutionary change.

Maoist strategy is shaped by a tension between purity and pragmatism. Although they stick to certain established principles, they have long been willing to shift course if they identify strategic weaknesses. Their changed approach was demanded by recognition of three critical flaws in their original plan: (i) they concluded their belief in military victory had been misplaced; (ii) they acknowledged they had misread the likelihood of determined international opposition; and (iii) they woke up to the failures that caused the collapse of twentieth-century communist regimes.

Despite having an authoritarian outlook, the Maoists maintained a culture of debate within their party; key issues have been widely discussed and hotly contested. From the end of the 1990s, they have moved gradually toward a more moderate stance. They changed positions in acknowledging the 1990 democracy movement as a success (they had earlier characterised it as a “betrayal”), in abandoning the immediate goal of a Mao-style “new democracy” and, in November 2005, by aligning themselves with the mainstream parties in favour of multiparty democracy.

The Maoists have cultivated formerly hostile forces, such as the Indian government and the staunchly anti-Maoist Communist Party of India (Marxist), to the extent of alienating their foreign allies. Supporters such as the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and Indian Maoists had backed their insurgency but have been vocally critical of the compromises made in the peace process. They think their Nepali comrades have betrayed fundamental principles and thrown away the practical advantages they had secured through their armed struggle.

For Nepal’s Maoists, however, the balance sheet at the end of ten years of “people’s war” is more complex. They believe they have secured some lasting advantages, from their own dramatic rise to influence (with a support base and military force hardly imaginable in 1996) to their reshaping of the national political agenda (promoting formerly taboo causes such as republicanism and federalism). But the course of the war persuaded most of their leadership that they could not go it alone and would have to be more flexible if they were to build on these gains.

The peace process has forced practical and theoretical rethinking. Leaders have tried to present a more moderate image as they balance complex equations of domestic and international support and opposition. Maoist ministers have to cooperate with colleagues from other parties and work with the bureaucracy even as they plan a possible insurrection and plot to isolate “regressive” opponents. Ideologically, they define the peace process as a transitional phase in which they can destroy the “old regime” and restructure the state. They justify this by saying their acceptance of a bourgeois “democratic republic” is only a stepping stone on the way to a true “people’s republic”. Leaders argue that they can create a new form of “peaceful revolution” that is true to their communist aims but reflects the reality of Nepal’s politics.

It is tempting to brand the Maoists as either rigid radicals or unprincipled opportunists but neither characterisation explains the whole picture. Their threats to revert to mass insurrection satisfy traditionalists in their own movement and cannot be ignored. But leaders who have fought hard to forge a new approach will be loath to turn their backs on the hard-won advantages they have secured through compromise. They know they face internal opposition but believe they can hold the line as long as the peace process maintains momentum and allows them to achieve some of their headline goals.

Their likely behaviour as the process moves forward, therefore, will depend upon the role of other political actors as much as their own decisions. If the mainstream parties keep up a strong commitment to the constituent assembly process, the Maoists will find it hard to back out. If this route is blocked, the Maoists may find their effort at controlled rebellion slipping into renewed conflict beyond their leaders’ control. If this were to happen, the Maoists themselves would be big losers. But so would the democratic parties and, even more so, the people of Nepal.

Kathmandu/Brussels, 18 May 2007

Homepage photo: Female Maoist, Oct. 2005. IRIN.

Here is the link for the original source.

New International Crisis Group Report on Nepal: Nepal’s Maoists: Purists or Pragmatists?

Nepal’s Maoists: Purists or Pragmatists?

(Click here for the original source of article)

Click here to read the executive summary of the report.

Kathmandu/Brussels, 18 May 2007: While Nepal’s Maoists have accepted multiparty democracy and have lost their appetite for all-out war, they could still resort to physical confrontation if the peace process stagnates.

Nepal’s Maoists: Purists or Pragmatists,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses the Maoists’ internal debates and their transition to a more moderate strategy. Their entry into democratic politics – working alongside mainstream parties to force the king to relinquish power in April 2006 and joining a coalition government one year later – has brought them new influence and opportunities. However, some Maoists fear they have traded in their principles and military power for little tangible advantage.

“Making the political process work is up to other actors as much as the Maoists”, says Rhoderick Chalmers, Deputy Director of Crisis Group’s South Asia Project. “If the mainstream parties are committed to the peace agreement and keep their side of the bargain, Maoist leaders will find it much easier to persuade their followers that compromise is the best way forward”.

The Maoists always said their campaign would adapt classical Marxism and Maoism to suit the context of Nepal. They now argue that they can carry out a “peaceful revolution” that is true to their aims but also reflects political realities. In this light, joining the parliamentary parties and pushing for a bourgeois “democratic republic” is just a stepping stone towards a true “people’s republic”. They hope to use the constituent assembly process to restructure the state, secure a dominant position within the multiparty system and move toward their ultimate goal.

The decision to join mainstream politics stemmed from an analysis of the Maoists’ own strategic weaknesses. They concluded that their belief in military victory had been misplaced, acknowledged that they had misread the likelihood of determined international opposition, and drew lessons from the failures that caused the collapse of many twentieth-century communist regimes.

With this shift, the Maoists are slowly becoming a part of the establishment in parliament, where they are learning to play by the rules, even if they are not always ready to follow them; in government, where their ministers are fulfilling day-to-day duties while pushing the movement’s agenda; and in the international community, where they have won a degree of recognition.

Within the Maoist movement, however, critics of the peace deal are becoming more vocal. They accuse the mainstream parties of stalling on critical parts of the peace deal (such as security sector reform) and taking Maoist flexibility for weakness. “Threats of a new mass movement are part bluster but also reflect real pressure on Maoist leaders to deliver”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “They have little to gain by reverting to violence – but the people of Nepal have plenty to lose”.


Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601
To contact Crisis Group media please click here*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website:

Friday, May 18, 2007

Yoga not religion, so easily accepted

Yoga not religion, so easily accepted
31 Dec, 2006 l 1125 hrs ISTlPTI

Source: The Times of India
LONAVALA: The inherent flexibility of the ancient health system of Yoga, combined with the fact that has got nothing "religious" about it makes it readily acceptable across the world, experts contend.

The rapidly spreading popularity of Yoga outside India, particularly in the US and Europe, is a result of the ease with which Yoga as a discipline can be adapted to the needs of various people in various parts of the world, they said.

"It would be unwise to put Yoga in the entrapment of religion. It is simply an ancient system of effective health practises," Sat Bir S Khalsa, a researcher with the Harvard Medical School said.

Speaking on the sidelines of an ongoing four-day conference on Yoga at the Kaivalyadhama Ashrama here, around 120 km east of Mumbai, Khalsa said "there was an inbuilt flexibility in Yoga, making it easy for people to take to it".

Khalsa said Yoga started gaining popularity in the US during the 1960s counterculture movement, which involved rebellion by the youth of the day against the prevailing way of life in the Western world of that era.

"However, Yoga came to be more appreciated among the masses not when people realised its effectiveness, but only when people saw how and why it was effective," Khalsa said.

According to Khalsa, close to 15 million Americans practise Yoga, which itself is a booming industry worth billions of dollars.

A similar scene has unfolded in Europe, where thousands have taken to Yoga in a bid to soothe ruffled minds and normalize bodily functions hitherto sickened by prevailing lifestyles and a certain lack spiritual activity.

"We have been conducting regular teachers' training, diploma and therapeutic classes since the 1980s in the city of Crest in southern France. All our students are French," Kaivalyadhama Trust's French head Lav Kumar Sharma said.

"It began as a result of the typical curiosity that Westerner has towards anything oriental. But now they have understood Yoga very well and it has come to a stage where one doesn't have to convince people about it," Sharma said.

According to him there are research activities going on in the field of several psycho-somatic illnesses like insomnia, hypertension and nervous disorders in France. As a source of income Yoga has been in a boom phase for several years now.

"It is the only field in Europe which does not require national diploma recognition. So it is easily accessible and is growing by leaps and bounds," he said.

"I earn around 2000 Euros per month. In Crest alone there are 1,000 people like me and roughly 60,000 Yoga teachers in France. The figure could be around 8, 00,000 for Europe," Sharma said. However, some traditionalists like former dean of the Bihar School of Yoga, Swami Mangaltirtha, a professor of bio-sciences, rue the fact that Yoga is being overtly commercialised and manipulated in the name of adaptation.

Yet, it seems most exponents have made the best out of the ancient practice and continue to do so to bring peace of mind and relaxation of body to millions across the world

Give yoga patent either to Indian govt or Patanjali Ashram: Ramdev

Give yoga patent either to Indian govt or Patanjali Ashram: Ramdev
15 May, 2007 l 1939 hrs ISTl

Source: Times of India
SHIMLA: Protesting effort by an NRI in the US for securing patent of yoga, Swami Ramdev Tuesday said either government of India should get the patent or it be given to his Patanjali Ashram.

"How can any Tom, Dick and Harry, who has no true knowledge of yoga, can get patent of Yoga, the traditional knowledge of India?" said Ramdev.

An NRI, Vikram Chaudhary, is reported to have applied for the patent of the yoga with the American administration.

"Either the government of India gets the patent of yoga or it be given to our Patanjali Yoga Ashram, a trust which had valuably contributed in popularising the ancient science in the country and abroad," the Yoga guru, who is here to start a week-long camp from May 17, said.

Ramdev lamented efforts of "greedy" Babas and other profit-making organisations to earn money through yoga.

"Fake Babas and others who regularly consume liquor or eat meat have mushroomed in large numbers as experts of Yoga.....Their interest is commercial," he said.

US patent on yoga? Indian gurus fume

US patent on yoga? Indian gurus fume
18 May, 2007 l 0000 hrs IST


Source: Times of India
NEW DELHI: Be ready to pay each time you do your morning yoga! Call it a deliberate attempt to make inroads by the West into the lucrative Indian market, or an enterprising NRI trying to grab an opportunity, Bikram Yoga founder and US-based Bikram Choudhary's move to get copyright for his method of teaching yoga has sent shockwaves among yoga enthusiasts and experts in India.

They say the idea of patenting knowledge like yoga is patently absurd and violates the ancient Indian art. Born in Kolkata in 1946, Bikram began yoga at the age of four with one of the famous gurus at that time, Bishnu Ghosh. Now, Bikram — who teaches in California — has applied for the patent of yoga, which is essentially yoga in a steam room.

Bikram came to the US at the invitation of President Richard Nixon in 1973 and became one of the most sought-after yoga teachers in the West as celebrities, athletes, and others began to flock to him.

Popular yoga guru Swami Ramdev has sought intervention from the government and yoga organisations to prevent Choudhary's move. "Yoga can't be owned and run like a company. Since there are attempts to patent this tradition (of yoga) in America, the Centre and yoga organisations should take measures to prevent it," Ramdev said in Shimla recently.

"How can yoga be taught at a controlled 45 degrees Celsius temperature when it is ideally taught in the cold Himalayas?" wondered Ramdev, adding that "how can any Tom, Dick and Harry, who has no knowledge of century-old Indian tradition, can get patent of yoga?"

Yoga enthusiasts and gurus have said that the move is unjustified as yoga belongs to the entire human race. The US Patent and Trademark office has reportedly issued 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 trademarks on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga trademarks.

The Union government hasn't yet reacted to these patents but recently it set up a task force that is cataloguing traditional knowledge, including ayurvedic remedies and yoga postures to protect them from being pirated and copyrighted by foreigners.

Yoga does not belong to an individual

Yoga does not belong to an individual
17 May, 2007 l 1218 hrs ISTl

Source: Times of India
by Yogi Ashwini

As a Yogi I do not get sad at the misfortunes of the modern day man, nor do I get overjoyed at his fortunes. Everything that happens is for a purpose and part of the divine plan.

I am drawing readers’ attention to the present debate that has started on patenting of yoga. I see it as a redundant exercise from a legal point of view, for my legal expert says that there is a WTO agreement which provides that the cultural heritage and the medicinal plants of a country are out of the purview of patenting. And everyone agrees that yoga originated in India and is considered part of the culture of India.

From the point of view of yoga (which is my subject) let me assure all human kind that yoga is not the domain of a region. Yoga means a union with yourself (divinity unrealised). Yoga does not and cannot belong to an individual. Yoga is for a yogi and a yogi is beyond the scope of a religion or country.

Ashtanga Yog ( yama niyama , asana , pranayama , pratyahara , dharana, dhyan and Samadhi ) is an eight-limbed yoga and not an eight-step yoga, with one limb missing it is incomplete.

In the present debate we are talking about only asana which is just a limb. A person who thinks asana is yoga and who is patenting asanas and is thinking he is patenting yoga needs to go back to the kindergarten of yoga.

This debate would at least tell the whole world what yoga is and would save many from being cheated by these unscrupulous business men in the garb of yogis, whose only purpose is to make money at the cost of the gullible.

(The author heads the Dhyan Foundation in Delhi)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Amla – Lakshmi’s Tree

Amla – Lakshmi’s Tree
Swami Vibhooti Saraswati
Nature is not made by divinity; it is a part of divinity.
–Swami Satyananda Saraswati

The intelligence of the universe expresses itself through sacred and medicinal plants. India has always had the unique advantage of possessing a wide range of climatic, geographical and geological conditions wherein an infinite variety of these rare and precious herbs and trees could flourish. The medicinal, culinary, cosmetic, aromatic and sacred applications of these plants were well known to Ayurvedic practitioners, and they are still of immense benefit to us today.

Swami Sivananda writes, “The greater part of Ayurvedic treatment is by medicinal herbs, which form its mainstay. The study of these herbs and their characteristics by the ancient seers is minute and thoroughly scientific. This is evidenced by their scholarly treatises, which give the results of their research. The fact that these herbal medicines continue to be widely used with remarkable success even up to the present day by quite modern Ayurvedic medical practitioners all over India is a patent proof, beyond any doubt, of the high and enduring merits of this system of therapeutics.” If we can learn more about the mysteries of the plants that are all around us, it will greatly enrich our lives.

Renaissance of Ayurvedic science
The high development and specialization of herbal medicine in India is a direct outcome of her vastness and fertility. Thousands of years ago India’s great sages established Ayurveda with the purpose of alleviating human suffering on all levels of existence. They saw illness and health as part of an interlocking whole – body, mind and spirit – that must be treated as one inseparable unit. For medicines and treatments, they looked to the natural world around them, to the plants used by the earliest forest tribes. Today the Indian government has opened laboratories for the clinical testing of Ayurveda’s medicinal plants. Indian forestry departments are studying and growing these plants in scientific conditions, advised by the forest dwellers, whose ancestors cultivated forest plants. The country’s botanical gardens are creating and preserving Indian herbaria, so that Ayurvedic doctors have a constant source of healing plants.

Modern science still extracts most of its medicines from plants, yet sadly, as we are rapidly losing touch with nature, we know less and less about their medicinal value. However, more and more people, both Eastern and Western, are now visiting Ayurvedic centres. Ayurvedic medicine is rapidly becoming commercialized in India, and certain plant medicines are being produced with modern technology in the form of pills, oils and mixtures, which are finding increasing acceptance all over the world. Finally, the West is looking outside the laboratory to ancient natural methods of healing, and the time is ripe for an Ayurvedic renaissance. It is time we reconnected with this great science by growing our own plants. Growing Ayurvedic plants will bring us closer to nature and increase our consciousness of the daily and seasonal changes that constantly affect us. One plant that is being propagated in the Rikhia ashram and which is widely used in many Ayurvedic preparations is the bountiful Amla.

About the Amla tree
The Amla or Neelikkai (Phyllanthus Embilca) is also called Amalka in Hindi. In Sanskrit its name is Amalaki, which translates as ‘the sustainer’ or ‘the fruit where the goddess of prosperity presides’. Lakshmi (the goddess of prosperity), who is especially associated with this tree, is worshipped with its leaves, especially in the month of Marga Shirsha (November/December). The English term for Amla is Indian gooseberry. It is a small tree with leathery leaves and a fleshy fruit. This fruit is very cheap and common. Growing in all Indian forests it is very much prized by all Indians. Its size is that of a small lemon, and it is round and pale green in colour. It is sour, astringent and also sweet, and is obtainable in unlimited quantities from January to April. The Amla fruit is considered to be so nourishing that the tree has been worshipped in India from ancient times as the ‘Earth Mother’, and is said to be nursing humankind.

Curative properties
Amla is one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C, its fresh juice containing nearly twenty times as much vitamin C as orange juice. A single tiny Amla is equivalent in vitamin C content to two oranges. Clinical tests on patients suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis have shown that this high concentrate is more quickly assimilated then the synthetic vitamin. It is an ingredient of many Ayurvedic medicines and tonics, as it removes excessive salivation, nausea, vomiting, giddiness, spermatorrhoea, internal body heat and menstrual disorders. Because it is also cooling, it increases sattwa, and is an excellent liver tonic.

Ayurveda recommends taking a tonic made from the fruit throughout the winter months. The fresh fruit is a diuretic and a laxative. A cooling and refreshing drink can be made from it. Ayurvedic doctors recommend drinking the juice during the summer months when the body’s functions become sluggish due to the heat. To clear the bowels and correct digestion boil four teaspoons of Amla powder, four teaspoons of Myrobalans Chebulic and four teaspoons of Bahera, in twenty ounces of water. For best results, two ounces should be consumed in the early morning on an empty stomach.

The dried Amla fruit is astringent and useful in cases of diarrhoea and dysentery. It is also a very important ingredient in the famous Chyavanaprash, and a constituent of Triphala (three fruits) powder. Swami Sivananda writes in Home Remedies, “To cure burning eyes and cool the head and brain, make a paste of Amla, apply it to the head and then take a bath. The application of a small quantity of Amla oil to the head before bathing removes diseases of the eyes, night blindness and bilious giddiness. Amla confection is used in syphilis, flatulence, bronchitis, asthma and consumption.” A series of clinical tests on the Amla have found that the fruit contains elements that are anti-viral, raise the total protein level in the body, activate the adrenaline response, and protect against tremors and convulsions. The Amla is also said to bestow beauty.

Delicious chutney is made from the Amla fruit, which should be eaten before the rest of the food with a little rice (preferably on an empty stomach), not with or after the meal. Unlike other preserves Amla does not lose its properties over time but retains its curative power and quality. Dried Amla is an excellent digestive, which can be consumed after food. It is said that the Amla fruit should not be taken on Thursdays. During the month of Kartik (November/December) it is most auspicious, and beneficial for the health to take one’s food under the Amla tree. This is the tradition in many parts of India, especially the south, and people picnic under the Amla for the whole month. If no tree is available, then it is said that, at least, one should keep a branch or twig of Amla near the food.

Amla and Adi Guru Shankaracharya
The great sannyasin Adi Guru Shankaracharya left his home at the tender age of eight and began his parivrajaka (wandering life) throughout India. One day, when he went seeking bhiksha (alms) he came to the house of a very poor woman. She had nothing in the house with which to feed him, but as it is most inauspicious to turn a sannyasin away from the door without offering anything to eat, she searched until she found the only edible thing she had in the house – a single Amla fruit. When she offered it to Shankaracharya, his gentle young heart was so moved by her poverty and her action that he invoked Goddess Lakshmi in the form of the Kanakadhara Stotram, which literally means ‘the flow of gold’. Kanaka means ‘gold’ and dhara means ‘flow’. Verse 16 of this hymn is: “O Mother, who bestows prosperity and provides ananda (joy) to all the senses. O, Lotus-eyed one, who opens the door into every domain, by prostrating to you, all sins are destroyed. Bless me always with everything that is auspicious.” On completion of this stotram, Lakshmi was so pleased that she blessed and enriched the house by sending down a shower of golden Amlas.

Many years later, a boy who had been mute from birth was brought to Shankaracharya by his father. Shankaracharya, who had been able to penetrate and ascertain the depths of the boy, asked him, “Who are you? What is your name, and where do you come from?” Whereupon the boy opened his mouth and out poured the magnificent verses on Adwaita Vedanta which are now known as Hastamalaka Stotram. Shankaracharya then initiated him into sannyasa and gave him the name Hastamalaka. Hasta means ‘hand’ and amalaka refers to the fruit. He was given this name to signify that he could talk about Brahman as clearly and simply as presenting an Amla fruit on the palm of the hand. The fact that this fruit is used as a symbol for spiritual truth shows in what high esteem it has always been held in India. As Naveen Patnaik writes in his book The Garden of Life, “The great Indian philosophers conducted their dialogues in the forest using plants again and again to illustrate concepts of spiritual continuity to their students, because the forest represented the endless self-regeneration of life, or what we would call today an ecosystem, complete in itself.”

Picture Source:
Article Source:

Tree of Life, Miracle Tree: Moringa oleifera:

The Moringa Tree (Moringa oleifera)

While student in South India, the meal consisted of sambhar made of 'drum-stick' like vegetables regularly. It tastes very good. It is a fruit of a tree that grows in dry land. I feel happy that it is from a miracle tree that has innumerable benefits for the human who take it, The name of the tree is "Moringa oleifera". The plant is originally from Kerala, that is why the word Moringa - in Malayalam language spoken in Kerala. Many development mission around the world are including this tree in their programs to reduce malnutrition among children and as natural remedy for many ailments. Here is some explanation about the benefits:

I will add more material later. You can google for 'Moringa Tree' yourself and there is plenty of resource on it.

The Miracle of Moringa Leaves

India's ancient tradition of ayurveda says the leaves of the Moringa tree prevent 300 diseases.

Modern science confirms the basic idea.

Scientific research has proven that these humble leaves are in fact a powerhouse of nutritional value.

Gram for gram, Moringa leaves contain:

Unfortunately, even while science sings the praise of Moringa leaves, this vital information has not reached the people who need it most. A project called Trees for Life is responding to this need. The link is found here with materials that explain how to grow, how to eat for the remedies of different ailments.

How to Grow the Moringa Tree
The common methods are:

From a cutting
From seed: in the ground
From seed: in plastic bags Transplanting

The Moringa tree is native to northern India, but today it is common throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Moringa trees grow easily from seeds or cuttings. They grow quickly even in poor soil, and bloom 8 months after planting.

To grow from a cutting:
After the trees have stopped producing fruits, branches need to be cut off so that fresh growth may take place. These branches are excellent for growing new trees.

Make a cutting at least 1" (2.5cm) in diameter and at least six feet (1.8m) long.
Dig a hole 3 ft. (1m) x 3 ft. (1m) and 3 ft. (1m) deep.
Place cutting in this hole and fill with a mixture of soil, sand and composted manure. Pack firmly around base of the cutting. Form a slight dome or cone shape, sloping down away from the cutting. It is desirable that water not touch the stem of the new tree.
Water generously, but do not drown the cutting in water.
In India, the custom is to put some cow dung on top of the open end of the cutting. This is an excellent way to protect the cutting from pests.

To grow from seed:
Moringa seeds have no dormancy periods and can be planted as soon as they are mature.

In the ground
It is best to plant the seeds directly where the tree is intended to grow, and not transplant the seedling. The young seedlings are fragile and often cannot survive transplanting. To plant seeds directly in the ground:

Choose an area with light and sandy soil, not heavy with clay or water-logged.
Dig holes 1 ft (30 cm) square and 1 ft deep. Back-fill the holes with loose soil. Compost or manure will help the tree grow better, even though Moringa trees can grow in poor soils.
Plant 3 to 5 seeds in each hole, 2 in. (5 cm) apart. Plant the seeds no deeper than three times the width of the seed (approximately ½ in. or 1.5 cm -- the size of one's thumbnail).
Keep the soil moist enough so that the top soil will not dry and choke the emerging saplings, but not too wet or else the seeds can drown and rot.
When the saplings are four to six inches tall, keep the healthiest sapling in the ground and remove the rest. Termites and nematodes can kill a young sapling. Take measures to protect saplings from these two dangers.
Note: If the soil is heavy, dig a larger hole of up to 3 ft (90 cm) in diameter and 3 ft deep, and backfill with 1 part sand and 2 parts original soil. Added compost or manure will help.

In Plastic Bags
When it is not possible to plant directly in the ground, use the following method:

Fill bags with light soil mixture, i.e. 3 parts soil to 1 part sand.
Plant two or three seeds in each bag, ¼ in. (0.5 cm) deep.
Keep moist but not too wet. Germination will occur within two weeks.
Remove extra seedlings, leaving one in each bag.
Seedlings can be transplanted after four to six months, when they are 2-3 ft (60-90 cm) high.
The ground where the trees are to be planted should be light and sandy, not heavy with clay or water-logged.

Dig a hole 1 ft (30 cm) square and 1 ft deep. Backfill with loose soil. Adding compost or manure will help the trees grow better.
Water the planting holes one day before transplanting the seedlings.
Plant seedlings in the late afternoon to avoid the hot sun the first day.
Make a hole in the pit to accept all soil in the bag. Carefully cut open the sack and place the seedling in the planting hole. Be careful to keep the soil around the seedling's roots intact.
Pack soil around the seedling base.
Water only lightly for the first few days.
If the seedlings fall over, tie them to a stick for support. Protect young saplings from termites and nematodes.

source: Trees for Life

More links:

Patenting of Yoga - MPs in India unite to slam patenting of yoga by US

MPs unite to slam patenting of yoga by US

Original article is found here.

New Delhi, May 15: Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday slammed the US patenting authority for granting yoga-related copyrights to American companies, saying yoga is a part of Indian heritage.

Terming the whole exercise as preposterous, the MPs said yoga had originated in India.

Till date, the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 patents on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga trademarks.

In response, the Indian government has set up a task force to create a database of yoga techniques in order to stop others from patenting the centuries-old knowledge.

“Patanjali’s Yog shastra was written more than 5,000 years ago. All the asanas (poses) practised today have been described in that. So that means, Yoga is an Indian product. Therefore the government should take immediate action against the US patenting yoga," said Vijay Kumar Malhotra, spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Old Sanskrit and Tamil texts, including ayurvedic remedies and hundreds of yogic poses, are in the process of being translated and stored digitally. The government is also cataloguing ayurvedic medicines.

This information will be made available in five languages so that patent offices around the world can access it and know that they originated in India.

"Yoga is not related to modern science. It was developed by hermits in our country. So, I think America cannot patent it. They must have got to know a few benefits of yoga, and got them patented," said Swami Adityanath, another BJP MP.

"Yoga is a part of Indian tradition, it took birth in India. Whether we get the patent for yoga or not, the whole world knows that it is associated with India. Even the Americans know it," said Congress MP Rajiv Shukla.

Yoga guru,Swami Ramdev claims that yoga can cure illnesses ranging from cancer to AIDS through breathing exercises and traditional medicines.

Bureau Report

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Posted on Monday, May 14, 2007 (EST)
For centuries, the tiny Buddhist kingdom of Mustang has been all but sealed, its ancient culture protected from outside influence, but now a new highway is threatening a major upheaval in the hidden Himalayan outpost.

Link to original article

Horses carry goods along the road in the kingdom of Mustang
© AFP Prakash Mathema

KATHMANDU (AFP) - King Jigme Palbar Bista of Mustang, who retains his title even though his realm became part of Nepal more than 200 years ago, welcomes the road as a vital link to goods and services such as health care that his 7,000 subjects have never had access to.
"The road would be very helpful to local people because all our supplies come from Tibet," the 75-year-old monarch told AFP in a rare interview during his annual visit to Kathmandu.
But while Nepal's government sees the highway as finally bringing modernity to one of the most remote areas of the world, some activists who say they have Mustang's best interests at heart are strongly opposed to the project.
Plans for the 460-kilometre (285-mile) highway are well advanced. It will traverse some of the most forbidding terrain on the planet, linking China and India, the world's most dynamic economies, through Nepal.
The 20-kilometre section from the Chinese border to Lo Manthang, Mustang's capital, was completed in 2001, opening up a route for Chinese goods, mostly construction materials, trucked in from the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, about 700 kilometres distant, and the monastery town of Shigatse 500 kilometres away.

Horses carry goods along the road in the kingdom of Mustang © AFP/File Prakash Mathema

Each year around 80 trucks make the journey from Tibet to Lo Mantang, and that number is expected to leap once the road opens all the way through to India.
Over the next two years, according to authorities in Nepal, the remaining 100 kilometres of road will be completed to open up a route that currently is only passable on foot or horseback.
Speaking via a translator, the king said the road would bring the benefits of modernity to his people.
"Sometimes people get sick and die because they can't get treatment in time, and the road might change this," he said.
He did, however, express his fear that the road could bring some unwelcome consequences, notably damage to ancient monasteries and the myriad mud-and-straw Buddhist monuments called chortens that dot the former kingdom.
"It has to be very carefully studied," he said.
The time for studying what impact the highway will have on the lifestyle, culture and landscape of Mustang may have already passed, as the government in Kathmandu is determined construction will be completed within two years.
Officials there see the road as part of their country's efforts to stake a claim in the fortunes of its enormous neighbours, with Foreign Minister Sahana Pradhan calling it a "very good step in terms of global connectivity."
Department of roads director Durga Prasad went further, saying that "the operation of the trans-Himalayan highway will give Nepal the opportunity to facilitate trade between two giant neighbours".
Bijaya Shrestha, a professor of economics at Nepal's Tribhuvan University, said the road would bring long-term economic improvement.

Goats walk across a bridge in the kingdom of Mustang
© AFP/File Prakash Mathema

"Mustang is a very backward area and much of the younger generation have migrated to other regions for employment and study," she told AFP.
"So if the region is linked by the road we can bring in more opportunities, both for education and employment.
"The road could also promote tourism in the region as, at the moment, it's too difficult to get there."
For some, however, the highway can bring only bad news by making further inroads into a rare culture that is really only preserved these days in Bhutan, the remaining independent Buddhist kingdom of a chain that once formed a necklace across the Himalayas and included Tibet, Sikkim and Ladakh.
Mustang -- the name is a derivation of Lo Manthang, which means kingdom of Lo and is the name of the capital city -- once controlled the trade route between India and the Himalayas.
At the end of the 18th century, it was annexed by Nepal and renamed Upper Mustang, though it was permitted to retain the monarchy. King Jigme Palbar Bista is believed to be able to trace his lineage back to the warrior Ame Pal, who founded the kingdom in 1450.
These days the monarch has little more than a ceremonial role. According to his son, Jigme S.P. Bista, the king "still addresses small disputes, but if anything major happens we refer it to the chief district officer in the district headquarters".
Mustang is now again at the crossroads of international trade thanks to its proximity to Chinese-controlled Tibet, the original source of its religion and culture.
Erica Stone, president of the American Himalayan Foundation which works to restore many of Mustang's ancient Buddhist treasures, sees the kingdom as one of the few remaining repositories of a culture that until relatively recently dominated the Himalayas.
"Upper Mustang is one of the few places left where Tibetan culture and religion continue to thrive relatively unhindered by outside influences," she said in an e-mail from California.
"It is not clear that the road will have any positive developmental effects on Upper Mustang, apart from perhaps giving the (people) access to cheaper goods coming in from China," she said.
"It is more than likely, however, that the fragile nature of the area's bio-diversity, including its culture, will be put at risk."
She said she feared that if Lo Mantang became a mere truck stop on the long road between India and China, a "trucker culture" would bring brothels, bars and, inevitably, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, as well as facilitating an illegal trade in Mustang's priceless artefacts.
Policies for restricting tourists to Mustang have helped protect it on all these fronts. Since foreigners were permitted to visit in 1992, numbers have been limited by the high cost of travelling to the region, with a 10-day visa costing 700 dollars.
Perhaps most vulnerable to higher visitor numbers could be the stunning 800-year-old cave paintings depicting the life of the Buddha that only came to light last month when a shepherd from a Mustang mountain village recalled he had seen them as a boy.
Broughton Coburn, one of a team of Nepali and foreign experts who explored the previously unknown cave 3,400 metres above sea level, echoed Stone's fears about the potential for cultural vandalism the highway could bring.
"I fear that the (people of Mustang) will turn into gravel crushers at the side of the road, maintaining the road for wealthy Chinese bringing cigarettes from Tibet," he said.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Albert Horowitz sculpture show in Kathmandu

Albert Horowitz, an American, Architect by profession, is not an stranger in Nepal. He is an expert at low-cost water purifying techniques, which benefits schools and communities of rural areas of Nepal. This time he has invited every one to visit his mixed media art exhibit at the Siddharth Gallery, in Kathmandu. Please see the card for the details: it starts on June 1, Friday at 5:30pm and lasts until June 20, 2007. Here is the invite:

I would be honored if you would join me at the Siddhartha Gallery on June 1st 2007 at 5:30 for the opening of my art show.
See attached invitation.


Friday, May 11, 2007

location of 12th Century Buddha retreat center in Mustang caves

Here is the link for the 12th century Buddha Murals in Mustang caves of upper Lo-Manthang area. Click on the link and you will see a google map of the area.

Go Ahead with Upper Seti Project, Experts Tell NEA

Go Ahead with Upper Seti Project, Experts Tell NEA

THT Online
Kathmandu, May 11

A team of experts from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is currently conducting feasibility study of 128 MW Upper Seti Hydroelectricity Project, has recommended the Nepal Electricity Authority to do the needful to develop the project as new source of power.
"We recommend the NEA to proceed to the next stage of study to develop the Upper Seti project as a new power source," said Masayoshi Ishii, while addressing a stakeholders' meeting on Thursday. He is the leader of the Japanese study team.
He said the team examined the feasibility of the project in terms of technology, impact on the environment, economic cost and financial aspect from February 2005 to January 2007 and found it suitable to be developed.
The project has been identified as a possible remedy for the current power shortage. The NEA had undertaken a feasibility study in 2001, an upgrading feasibility in 2004 and the JICA had initiated a preliminary study in 2004.
The findings of the recent Upgrading Feasibility Study by the JICA team showed that the project would make stable power frequency, maintain power voltage in network, reduce or replace operation hours of costly thermal power plants and reinforcement of NEA's network by transmission.
The study has estimated that the project would cost to the tune of $340 million and would take six years, including preparatory works.
Previous stakeholders meeting for the same project had pointed out that various development needs such as electricity facility, drinking water and schools should be considered and duly undertaken.
Meantime, a member of the JICA team, Masami Yasu, said that the project is going to make impact on land use, air quality, noise, water quality and construction spoils.
The report states that habitat of some wild species will be disturbed by the project.
"Since similar habitat conditions are widely seen in the vicinity of the study area, it is considered that possibility of specific species extinction is little in the wilder area including the project site," the report states.
Toshiko Shimada, who had studied on the framework of resettlement plan and social action plan, said that land acquisition and involuntary resettlement should be avoided where feasible and minimise to the extent possible.
"Affected persons shall be compensated at replacement cost for all losses and damaged assets. The absence of legal titles to lands, property and facilities shall not be a bar to compensation," she said. The study has estimated that the resettlement plan alone would cost over Rs 1,000 million to the project.

Local herbs have anti-viral qualities

Local herbs have anti-viral qualities

Merina Sharma
Kirtipur, May 10:

A team of researchers has found out that the locally used herbs such as Ban Kurilo, Paashanbed, Budho Okhati that are being used for medicinal purposes have strong anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
A four-year research conducted by the Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST) came up with the outcome that the extracts of astible rivularis (Budho Okhati), bergenia ciliata (Paash-anbed), cassiope fastiguata (Phallu) and thymus linearis (Ghoda March) showed anti-viral qualities.
The extracts of asparagus filicinus (Ban Kurilo), verbascum thapsus (Bandar Puchhre), Budho Okhati and Paashanbed exhibited anti-influenzal viral activity. Only the extracts of Budho Okhati and Paashanbed demonstrated remarkable activity against both the viruses, the finding stated.
Prof Mohan Bikram Gewali, executive director of RECAST, told this daily that the revelation would lead to the discovery of a new component for the anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal medicines. “Our next step is to find out the particular component that is responsible for the anti-microbe activity of the herbs,” he said, adding that it would help the country make medicines using the local herbs.
During the research, samples of 41 plant species belonging to 27 families used as a traditional medicine in Nepal were collected from Manang and Nawalparasi by the eight-member research team led by Prof Gewali and Dr Mina Rajbhandari.
Initial analysis was conducted at the RECAST lab and for the advanced study the extracts were sent to Germany. The research was conducted with the support of the Fox -Wagen Research Foundation in Germany.
The Tribhuvan University does not have adequate budget and well-equipped labs to carry out further research independently, said Gewali. “To take the research further we have to wait for some foreign donors,” he said, adding the next step would be to find out the particular components from the herbs so that it could help constitute medicines.

Source: The Himalayan Times

Nepal critically vulnerable to natural disasters

Main News

Nepal critically vulnerable to natural disasters [ 2007-5-10 ]
By A Staff Reporter
KATHMANDU, May 9: In five years until 2005, natural disasters destroyed 38,835 houses, killed 1585 people, affected 16,504 families and damaged property worth US$ 36.2 million, said joint secretary for Ministry of Home Affairs Pratap Kumar Pathak.

Pathak said Nepal was a multi-hazard and critically vulnerable country in terms of natural disaster.
"The government has formulated an act to provide effective public awareness, ensure coordination among different stakeholders and form teams to be mobilised during times of need," he added.

He made these remarks while addressing a three-day regional workshop on "Social Inclusion in Disaster Risk Reduction," at International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIOMD).

During the programme, representatives from different countries stressed on the need to examine how gender equality and vulnerability issues can be reflected and incorporated in the work of disaster management.

They also discussed how women, children, the elderly, the disabled and other marginalised groups can be included when planning and preparing to reduce the risk from disasters.

Manjari Mehata of ICIMOD said gender is about women and men in relation to one another, therefore the fact of being male or female plays a critical role in shaping vulnerabilities and the first response, information and sharing capacities, and access to decision making.

She said the ideology that the male is the bread earner of the family makes it hard for female heads of households to get access to relief, jobs and training often when they have primary responsibility for their households.

"The social structure and biases should be eliminated to increase the participation of women in disaster risk reduction," she said.

Professor Ken Hewitt of Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, said progressive recognition of haphazard planning, social insecurity and vulnerable places should be made to bring improvements in risk reduction.

Deputy Director of ICIMOD, Madhav Karki said such a workshop would act as a key to an effective Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and therefore help in sharing knowledge and bridging gaps for more socially inclusive DRR plans and programmes.

He said mountains, hills and flood plains of Himalayan countries are highly vulnerable areas. Inaccessibility, fragility, slopes and political marginality make some places more vulnerable to the potential disasters.

"All disasters can be reduced and mitigated through human action and ingenuity before the hazards strike us," he said.

During the workshop, three books were launched. They are: Gender Matters: Lesson for Disaster Risk Reduction in South Asia, The Snake and River Don't Run Straight and Local Knowledge on Disaster Preparedness in the Eastern Terai.

The first book provides a synthesis of key finding from literature aiming to help practitioners understand how and in what ways natural disasters have different impacts on the sexes. Furthermore, it dwells on what can be done to integrate a gender perspective into disaster preparedness and management works in the South Asian context.

The other books illustrate the concept and extent of local knowledge in two-disaster prone- Chitral in Northern Pakistan and the Terai belt of Nepal and describe a framework for collection and analysis of related knowledge.


China positive towards petroleum supply

China positive towards petroleum supply

Chinese ambassador to Nepal Zhen Xianglin has said that his government is positive towards supplying petroleum products.

In his interaction with a delegation of Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) led by its president Surendra Bir Malakar, the Chinese envoy informed that Nepal government has made a proposal for petroleum supplies to which China was positive.

Recently, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala was reported to have requested Chinese government to supply petroleum products to Nepal as the latter was facing continuous disruption of fuel supplies coming from India due to various strikes. PM Koirala made this proposal during his meeting with the Chinese ambassador indicating that Nepal needed alternative supply route for the essential fuel.

During the interaction with NCC representatives, ambassador Xianglin said that China could provide duty free access to Nepali products. He also informed that the Air China airlines, which launched its operation to Kathmandu from February, will operate daily flights from June/July.

Petro Supply Disruption

Meanwhile, the normal petroleum supplies have once again been disrupted after Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) cut down its supply volume by 40 percent in a bid to pressure the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) to pay outstanding dues.

According to NOC spokesperson Ichha Bikram Thapa, given high volume of losses, the corporation was unable to maintain enough stock. He said that from Friday, the IOC has cut down the volume of supplies from 2000 kilolitres to 1200 kilolitres a day from Raxaul depot. Around 80 percent of fuel is imported from Raxaul point.

Because of this supply cut down, petrol pumps in the capital city have run out of fuel. sd May 10 07

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jack Dangermond, ESRI President, Receives Honor from ASPRS Press Release

Jack Dangermond, ESRI President, Receives Honor from ASPRS

Redlands, California — ESRI president Jack Dangermond will be awarded the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) Outstanding Service Award for 2007. The award will be presented at the ASPRS Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida, May 7–11, 2007.

Dangermond is being recognized for his endowment of the ESRI Best Scientific Paper in GIS Award. Established in 1991, the ESRI award is given each year by the ASPRS Foundation to individuals who publish papers of scientific merit that advance the knowledge of geographic information system (GIS) technology.

"As [the originator of] the first 'corporate-sponsored' award to be fully endowed through the foundation, Jack Dangermond has once again set an outstanding example to his colleagues in the commercial sector," says James Plasker, ASPRS Foundation executive director.

Dangermond will be recognized at the award luncheon and business meeting being held on Wednesday, May 9, noon–1:30 p.m.

Other recipients of the Outstanding Service Award for 2007 include the Future of Land Imaging Interagency Working Group and Dave Maune, editor of the second edition of the DEM Manual.

About ESRI
Since 1969, ESRI has been giving customers around the world the power to think and plan geographically. The market leader in GIS, ESRI software is used in more than 300,000 organizations worldwide including each of the 200 largest cities in the United States, most national governments, more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies, and more than 7,000 colleges and universities. ESRI applications, running on more than one million desktops and thousands of Web and enterprise servers, provide the backbone for the world's mapping and spatial analysis. ESRI is the only vendor that provides complete technical solutions for desktop, mobile, server, and Internet platforms. Visit


High resolution satellites are always watchning you...

High resolution satellite data reveal amaging details of the activities on the surface of the earth. Recently the most popular images are taken by IKONOS and QuicBird. The QuickBird images are the highest resolution ones (0.62 to 0.72cm). A link below shows you the resolving power. One can sneak into the private affairs of people in public places, "it is now more than ever necessary to discuss and formulate a 'privacy policy' for high resolution data." Says Dr. Samanta. A deep web search on 'highest resolution google data' resulted in this Link ... go ahead , try it out.

An interesting editorial appeared on GIS Development Weekly May 07, 2007: Enjoy:


A couple of months ago North Ireland Tax Department declared its intentions of monitoring personal assets of its citizens using high resolution oblique aerial photographs. Last week Indonesia has announced that it will use high resolution imagery from Digital Globe to 'visually identify taxable land'. With an overall boom in world economy, the tax sharks have tasted blood. Satellite Imagery – once an exclusive research tool in the hands of earth scientists is being exhaustively used by the official spooks to nail tax evaders. The data used for such activities is almost totally acquired, processed and sold by private data providers who have their own satellites.

The cutbacks in funds allocated for the US earth observation satellites has been criticised by the US's general science society. Since the early 70's, it has been the US who took the initiative of funding, launching, maintaining earth imaging satellites, and then graciously disseminating global datasets on various themes for the world's researchers. The returns from this gesture have benefited the planet. Till about a decade ago, the global remote sensing data users community would be offered data for monitoring diverse global surface and atmospheric parameters from the state-of the-art (or should I call it 'designer') sensors, mostly from satellites launched by the US. This activity is slowly but surely decreasing. Today, the emphasis is on designing sensors with the highest resolution – and that too in the RGB range. The government controlled remote sensing programmes of almost all developed and unfortunately, also the developing nations, seem to be content with allowing private organisations take over their job and then go a step further by possibly being the largest buyers of the acquired data and use it for monitoring its citizenry.

A deep web search on 'highest resolution google data' resulted in this Link ... go ahead , try it out.

It is now more than ever necessary to discuss and formulate a 'privacy policy' for high resolution data. I look forward to hearing your views on this.

Dr. Hrishikesh Samant

"GIS Development"

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Regional Experts in City for Disaster Reduction Workshop

Regional Experts in City for Disaster Reduction Workshop

THT Online
Kathmandu, May 9

South Asian experts from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan have gathered in Kathmandu for a workshop on inclusion of women, children and other marginalised groups in planning and preparing disaster risk reduction.
The experts representing government, non-government and community-based organisations will be here from May 9-11 and share experiences, exchange information and hold discussions related to ‘social inclusion in disaster risk reduction’.
During the workshop three books will be launched on different aspects of knowledge related to disaster preparedness: one on the role of gender, and two on the importance of local knowledge in disaster preparedness, according to a press release issued by ICIMOD.
The workshop is financed by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (DG ECHO) under the project ‘Living with Risks – Sharing Knowledge on Disaster Preparedness in the Himalayan Region’ being implemented by ICIMOD.

Experts to discuss how vulnerable people be protected from disasters

Experts to discuss how vulnerable people be protected from disasters

A regional workshop is slated to begin from Wednesday in Kathmandu with the aim of finding out ways to protect the vulnerable population from worst consequences of disasters.

Experts from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, representing government, non-government, and community-based organisations, are meeting at a workshop in Kathmandu from 9-11 May, to discuss how women, children, the elderly and disabled and other marginalised groups can be included when planning and preparing to reduce the risk from disasters.

The workshop will provide an important platform for sharing experiences, exchanging information, and holding discussions related to 'social inclusion in disaster risk reduction', building on the knowledge from the four countries.

Worldwide, the South Asian region, which is among the poorest and most populated in the world, is also the hardest hit by natural disasters. Some 80% of all natural disasters are climate related and about 40% are related to floods. Poor communities, especially in the mountain areas of the region, are both the most vulnerable to natural disasters and the least prepared to cope with them.

The vulnerability aspect is important. Vulnerable and marginalised people – women, the elderly, and disabled – are more affected than others. Hence, disaster risk reduction is of great importance from both a development and a poverty alleviation point of view, as highlighted by one Indian civil servant: "Disasters work like the magnifying glass of a society. They magnify what is good and what needs sincere help. Disasters do not affect everyone equally. Who you are and what you do determine your fate. The strong and the weak stand out. This is true for gender issues as much as for other issues."

During the workshop three books will be launched on different aspects of knowledge related to disaster preparedness: one on the role of gender, and two on the importance of local knowledge in disaster preparedness (see attached summaries).

The workshop is financed by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (DG ECHO) under the project 'Living with Risks – Sharing Knowledge on Disaster Preparedness in the Himalayan Region' being implemented by ICIMOD. The project is supporting key practitioners with current knowledge in the field of disaster preparedness, mainly in relation to floods, landslides, and earthquakes; and building capacity in multi hazard risk assessment; as well as providing a platform for interaction and exchange of experiences. sd May 08 07

Nepalese shepherd leads archaeologists to art treasures

Nepalese shepherd leads archaeologists to art treasures
Maseeh Rahman in New Delhi
Saturday May 5, 2007The Guardian

Original source of the article is here.

A shepherd in a remote region of Nepal bordering Tibet has been instrumental in the discovery of an extraordinary art treasure that lay hidden for centuries: a collection of 55 exquisite cave paintings depicting the life of the Buddha.
The 12th-century paintings - a large central mural flanked by smaller panels - were found last month in a partly collapsed cave last month in Mustang, a kingdom long forbidden to foreigners in the high Himalayas, 150 miles north-west of Kathmandu. "Finding the cave was almost like a miracle," said Italian art conservator Luigi Fieni, a member of the team of Italian, American and Nepalese art conservators, conservation architects and archaeologists. They used ice axes to cut their way to the cave, at 3,400 metres.

Foreigners were permitted to enter Mustang only in 1992, and Mr Fieni's team began work there nine years ago, restoring spectacular wall paintings in a crumbling 15th-century Tibetan monastery. It was when they asked about other art treasures in the region that a villager remembered having seen, as a boy, a cave full of colourful paintings.
"Unlike the murals in the monastery, the Mustang cave paintings do not reveal a Tibetan but a strong Indian influence, including the animals they depict - leopard, tiger, monkey and deer," said Mr Fieni. "In fact, the style evokes the fabulous cave paintings of Ajanta, which predate the Mustang caves by several centuries."
The simultaneous discovery of ancient Tibetan manuscripts in nearby caves has also led to speculation that the area might have been a teaching retreat, similar to the Buddhist university in Nalanda.
Mustang is of significance to Buddhist scholars as perhaps the only region where Tibetan culture and religion have survived virtually untouched by time or the depredations of modern Chinese colonisation - although a road was recently opened to the capital, Lo Manthang.
Guru Gyaltsen, a Tibetan Lama, said: "The Mustang people are Tibetans. They speak the Tibetan language; their origin is in the Tibetan culture."
For centuries, the region was part of Tibet, before being taken over by Nepal. The location of the cave has been kept a secret to deter smugglers. The explorers call it the Snow Leopard Cave, as the animal's footprints were found inside.
"The cave paintings have been affected by wind and rain, and really need restoration," said Mr Fieni. "It's a long process, and we're hoping now to raise funds for the project."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Treasures found after 800 years hidden in cave

Photo caption: Ancient ... the discovery of Buddhist paintings and scripts high up in the Himalayas has archaeologists puzzled and excited / Reuters / Reuters

By Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu

May 03, 2007 12:00

Artwork could date back to 13th century
Archaeologists 'excited and puzzled'
Paintings, scripts found in caves at 4300m

EXPLORERS have discovered a series of caves decorated with ancient Buddhist paintings, set in sheer cliffs in Nepal's remote Himalayan north, leaving archaeologists excited and puzzled.

An international team of scholars, archaeologists, climbers and explorers examined at least 12 cave complexes at 4300m near Lo Manthang, a mediaeval walled city in Nepal's Mustang district, about 125km northwest of Kathmandu.

The caves contain paintings that could date back as far as the 13th century, as well as Tibetan scripts executed in ink, silver and gold and pre-Christian era pottery shards.

“Who lived in those caves? When were they there, when were (the caves) first excavated and how did the residents access them, perched as they are on vertical cliffs?” Broughton Coburn, an American member of the survey team, asked.

“It's a compelling, marvelous mystery.”

Explorers from the US, Italy and Nepal used ice axes and ropes to climb to the caves, cutting steps in the cliff face as they went.

“These findings underscore the richness of the Tibetan Buddhist religious tradition of this area - stretching back nearly a millennium - as well as the artistic beauty and wide geographical reach of Newari artists,” Mr Coburn, an expert in Himalayan conservation and development, said.

Newaris are ethnic Nepalis renowned for skills in wall paintings and other forms of mostly Buddhist art.

The cave complexes are several hours walking distance apart.

Some chambers were thought to have been used for burials, and there were also mounds archaeologists hope may hide further treasures.

There are about 20 openings in each complex, and their multiple floors are connected by vertical passages with rudimentary handholds or footholds, requiring some climbing skill to negotiate.

They contained stupas, decorative art and paintings depicting various forms of the Buddha, often with disciples, supplicants and attendants.

The site of recent findings lies north of Mount Annapurna, the world's 10th highest mountain.

Mr Coburn said the artifacts remained unpillaged partly because the area has, until recently, been inaccessible.

One cave's mural paintings were executed in sub-tropical themes - containing palm trees, billowing Indian textiles and birds as well as animals, he said.

“For Nepal, and for the Lobas, the people of northern Mustang, these are national treasures, and they need to be preserved and protected,” Mr Coburn said.

Government officials were upbeat.

“These are very hopeful findings and foreign explorers could be allowed to carry out further exploration in the area,” Prakash Darnal, senior archaeologist at the Government's ministry of culture, said.

Few foreigners are currently allowed to visit the area.

Shepherd leads experts to ancient Buddha cave paintings

The original news article about the findings of Mustang Caves for Learning is given below. The original article link is here.

Maseeh Rahman
Friday May 4, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

One of 55 panels depicting the story of Buddha's life,
discovered in a 12th century cave in the Mustang area of Nepal. Photograph: AP

A shepherd in a remote region of Nepal near the border with Tibet has been instrumental in the discovery of an extraordinary art treasure that lay hidden from the world for centuries - a collection of 55 exquisite cave paintings depicting the life of Buddha.
A partially collapsed cave containing the 12th to 14th century depictions of scenes from Buddha's life was unearthed last month by a team of Italian, US and Nepalese conservators and archaeologists in Mustang, a lost kingdom long forbidden to foreigners in the high Himalayas, 250-km north-west of Kathmandu.

"Finding the cave was almost like a miracle," said Luigi Fieni, a member of the team that used ice axes to cut its way into the inaccessible 3,400m-high cave in a region that for centuries was part of greater Tibet before being taken over by Nepal.
Foreigners were only permitted to enter Mustang in 1992, and Mr Fieni's team began work nine years ago, restoring the spectacular wall paintings in a 15th century Tibetan monastery.

When they inquired about other art treasures in the region, a villager remembered that as a boy he had seen a cave full of colourful paintings.

"Unlike the murals in the monastery, the Mustang cave paintings do not reveal a Tibetan but a strong Indian influence, including the animals they depict - leopard, tiger, monkey and deer," Mr Fieni said. "In fact, the style evokes the fabulous cave paintings of Ajanta, which predate the Mustang caves by several centuries."

The location of the cave has been kept secret to deter art smugglers, but the team call it "the snow leopard cave" as the animal's footprints were found inside.

"The cave paintings have been affected by wind and rain and really need restoration," Mr Fieni said. "It's a long process, and we're hoping now to raise funds for the project."

The simultaneous discovery of ancient Tibetan manuscripts in nearby caves has led to speculation that the caves might have been a teaching retreat on the lines of the Buddhist university in Nalanda.

Mustang is of special significance to Buddhist experts because it is perhaps the only region where Tibetan culture and religion have survived over the centuries virtually untouched by time and modern Chinese colonisation.

"The Mustang people are Tibetans. They speak the Tibetan language; their origin is in the Tibetan culture," said Lama Guru Gyaltsen.

The opening up of the region has brought inevitable challenges to Mustang way of life. Young men are leaving the tiny kingdom in search of work, and a modern road through the capital, Lo Manthang, is certain to affect the tradition of rearing horses for transport and agriculture. Building techniques using mud are likely to be abandoned in favour of modern construction methods.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Mustang caves excite archaeologists

After posting news on discovery of 'learning caves' and the ancient Buddha paintings by a team of researchers from Italy, US and Nepal (see the posts) a number of landscape images captured on Google Earth, a tool to view and browse planet earth, are posted here. There is a high resolution image on the GE for Mustang and Lo-manthang valley, the forbidden land, in the central north Nepal near Tibet border at the GoogleEarth.

The first image shows the desert like lo_manthang landscape. The upper Kali Gandaki river channels on vast sands with few oasis like green human settlements are seen here.

The second image shows the location of Muktinath Temple, and looking on west. On the north (on the right) is the lo-manthang valley.

The caves were used by the Lamas for learning and contemplating Buddha's teachings.

Here is a link of a photograph from Mustang area

The last photo is of the newly found Drakmar caves in Mustang. Photo by AFP.

The Kantipur News article on the caves of Mustang:



KATHMANDU, May 7 - Following the discovery of human-excavated caves in Mustang with spectacular Buddhist murals unseen for centuries, government officials and archaeologists are excited at the prospect of exploration and further study of medieval religion, culture and civilization, as well as their preservation.
Talking to The Kathmandu Post, Kosh Prasad Acharya, Director General at the Department of Archeology (DoA) said, "The newly discovered murals may help in further exploration of Buddhism, art and artifacts, and medieval civilization."

Wall paintings dating back to as early as the 13th century, Tibetan manuscripts executed in ink, silver and gold, and pre-Christian era pottery shards have been discovered in Mustang. These have a great significance from the archaeological point of view, he added.

With the help of a local shepherd, an eight-member team of international researchers -- four Americans, an Italian and three Nepalis -- had explored at least 12 caves located at an altitude of 14,000 feet near Lo Manthang area of Mustang from March 9 to April 4 and discovered the murals never before photographed, nor viewed in modern times. The team was partly funded by The North Face and by Sky Door Productions.

The team believes that one high elevation cave containing footprints only of snow leopards was reserved for Buddhist teachings. This partly-collapsed enclave contains a mural of 55 panels depicting stories of the life of the Buddha, executed in a masterful, Indian-influenced style that is unique in Mustang. This delicate, intact mural is evocative of parts of the 13th Century Luri cave paintings.

"These findings underscore the richness of the Tibetan Buddhist religious tradition of this area stretching back nearly a millennium as well as the artistic beauty and wide geographical reach of Newari artists," Reuters quoted an American explorer Broughton Coburn as saying.

"Who lived in those caves? When were they there, when were the caves first excavated and how did the residents access them, perched as they are on vertical cliffs?" he questioned and further said, "It's a compelling, marvelous mystery."
A Nepali team member Prakash Darnal, who is an archaeologist at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, said, "These distinct and old paintings in difficult landscape reflect the mediaeval art (Neolithic art), culture, religion and civilization influenced by Indian lifestyle."

He added that each and every cave site in Mustang should be explored and the art and archaeological features of these national treasures should be documented by the DoA.

"This is a preliminary survey so we need to look for further details," said Acharya, adding, "But we don't have sufficient resources and specialized soft rock-climbers who can take archaeologists along with them to carry out further study."

Jiban Ghimire of Sherpa-Shangri-La Trekking Agency informed that National Geographic and the Discovery Channels have shown keen interest to further explore Mustang. "But we have been making a plan to start the next-phase of exploration in the upcoming Spring Season, with the inclusion of a high altitude archeologist Dr Johan Reinhard, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence," he said.

Posted on: 2007-05-06 21:42:47 (Server Time)

The WWF Chopper Crash Victims: GoogleEarth Site

The 24 special passengers who perished on the illfated Russian Chopper that carried people noted for their work in environmen were:

1. Gopal Rai, State Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation, Nepal
2. Mrs. Mina Rai, wife of Gopal Rai
3. Dr Damodar Parajuli, Acting Secretary, Ministry of Forests
4. Sharad Rai, Director General Department of Forests
5. Narayan Paudel, DIrector General, Dept of National Parks & Wildlife
6. Dr Harka Gurung, noted Geographer and Planner, Nepal
7. Dr Chandra Prasad Gurung, WWF Country Director of Nepal
8. Dr Tirtha Maske, Noted Conservation Scientist
9. Pauli Mustonen, Charge de Affairs, Embassay of Finland
10. Jill Bowling, WWF/UK Conservation Director
11. Jennifer Haidley, WWF/UK Coordinator
12. Mathew Pryce, WWF/US Program Officer
13. Mingma Norbu Sherpa, WWF/US Program Director
14. Yeshi Lama, WWF/Nepal
15. Margaret Alexander, USAID/Nepal Deputy Director
16. Dr Bijnan Acharya, USAID/Nepal Program Specialist
17. Bijay Shrestha, Nepal Chamber of Commerce
18. Dawa Tsering, Conservationist
19. Hem Bhandari, Nepal TV
20. Sunil Singh, Nepal TV
21. Fuming, Flight Engineer, Crew
22. Captain Kim, Crew
23. Mingma Sherpa, Crew
24. Tendu Shrestha, Flight Attendant, Crew

We found the cave by a miracle

'We found the cave by a miracle'
Sudeshna Sarkar
[3 May, 2007 l 0041 hrs ISTlTIMES NEWS NETWORK]

KATHMANDU: The wall paintings found in the cave in Nepal depict animals like the deer, leopard and tiger which are not found in Mustang, giving rise to the theory that either the painters were Indian or people familiar with Indian techniques and life in sub-tropical regions.

The enclave could have been another Nalanda. American author and climber Broughton Coburn, who was part of the expedition, says that probably one high cave in the enclave was reserved for Buddhist teachings.

The paintings show various figures, both male and female, making offerings to high lamas and teachers. Other nearby caves have mounds of manuscripts in ancient Tibetan script, which when deciphered could yield a wealth of knowledge on Tibetan forms of Buddhism and probably on the history of Tibet, Mustang and even Nepal and India.

‘‘We discovered the cave by a miracle,’’ says Fieni. And it must have been nothing less than a miracle that the expedition happened to catch up with a shepherd who had been inside the cave as a boy of eight.

To mark his discovery, he had scratched his name on the wall and then forgotten all about it. For nearly two decades after that, probably no one else found the cave.

‘‘When we arrived in the area and told the villagers what we were looking for, the boy, now a young man, remembered his cave. It was a miracle that he could still find his way to it,’’ said Coburn.

The royal family of Mustang, descendants of the powerful kings, is still around and the expedition and its findings have been blessed by its former king, Jigme Bista.

‘‘We are glad the caves are in an inaccessible place and unlikely to be discovered (by marauders),’’ says Coburn. The plan now is to conduct further research and documentation and ask authorities in Nepal to protect and preserve them.

That could be a difficult task. Cash-strapped Nepal lacks funds and has not been able to protect the national treasures that have already been unearthed.

There has been a spate of thefts at Nepal’s temples, including the famed Pashupatinath.

Priceless Buddha paintings found in Nepal

NewsTrack - Top News

Published: May 4, 2007 at 12:54 PM E-mail Story Print Preview License

Priceless Buddha paintings found in Nepal
MUSTANG, Nepal, May 4 (UPI) -- A snow leopard's cave chanced upon by a shepherd in the remote Mustang area of Nepal has yielded priceless treasures of centuries-old Buddhist cave paintings.
The treasure trove, unearthed last month in the partially collapsed cave in the former forbidden kingdom near the Tibetan border, includes 55 exquisite paintings depicting the life of Buddha, Britain's Guardian reported Friday. Prince Siddhartha, who became Gautama Buddha after attaining Nirvana, or perfect blessedness, was born in Lumbini in today's Himalayan kingdom of Nepal around the Fifth Century, B.C.

The paintings in the 11,000-foot high Mustang cave, about 180 miles northwest of Nepal's capital Kathmandu, date as far back as the 12th century and were unearthed by a team of Italian, American and Nepalese conservators and archaeologists.

"Finding the cave was almost like a miracle," said Luigi Fieni, whose team had been working in the area for nine years to restore wall paintings in a 15th century Tibetan monastery.

It was while asking around about other art treasures in the area that a villager told the team about seeing the cave as a boy.

The paintings were reported to be somewhat similar to the famous Ajanta paintings, which are in India's western Maharashtra state.

For now, the location of Mustang cave has not been disclosed as a precaution against art smugglers. It is simply called "The Snow Leopard cave," as a leopard's footprints were found inside, the Guardian said.

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Down To Earth Editorial: What China is doing to Goa

Here is an interesting article or analysis by CEO of India's leading environmental development organization called Center for Science and Environment (CSE) located in New Delhi.

Editorial: What China is doing to Goa


By Sunita Narain

I wrote last fortnight about how mining in Goa for iron ore was ripping
its forests and devastating its people. I wrote of the violence and
protests I saw in its villages, where miners were pitted against people
angry at the loss of their cultivable lands and their water bodies. I
had asked then: what are we doing? I ask this again.

The fact is that Chinese demand for iron ore has increased its price
from US $14 per tonne to US $60. This has spurred a black gold
rush-mining companies are bidding for areas that were either closed or
not opened because they were unprofitable or unviable. In many cases,
these mines had not been worked because they were close to villages and
companies knew that people would probably protest. Now none of this
matters. The industry says this is boom time-the Chinese are willing to
buy low-grade ore, which Goa has aplenty. The Chinese want this ore, as
they will blend it with better quality ore. And their appetite is massive.

Goan industrialists are not asking questions. They are desperate for
windfall profits. In January 2007, China imported roughly 36 million
tonnes of iron ore, of which India supplied nearly 7 million tonnes. But
more importantly, India's exports to China were up 18 per cent-with Goa
at the head of the supply line. In the past six years, Goa's mineral
exports have increased 35 per cent to 23 million tonnes last year.

But what is clear is that this Chinese connection is costing Goa big
time. While mining companies are making record profits, as evident from
their stock prices or balance sheets, the villagers in whose backyards
the mines are being dug are devastated. According to official estimates,
roughly 430 leases for mines have been granted in the state. History is
important as most of these were concessions granted by the Portuguese
and were converted into leases by independent India. But importantly, in
1998, only 99 leases were being worked. Now with the black rush, the
leases, which were dormant, furiously opened and worked.

It is important to understand what this means for villages. If all the
leases are worked, then over 8.5 per cent of Goa's land area would be
under mines. Surely, industry argues, that is a small price to pay. But
this is an erroneous calculation. The fact is that mining is
concentrated in some villages-their entire land will be swallowed up by
mines. An application filed under the Right to Information Act reveals
that in these villages large areas have been listed as leases-in Colomba
village, for instance, almost 1,500 ha of land may be mined, out of the
village's 1,900 odd ha. This is the case in village after village,
where, as I wrote last fortnight, I saw land and livelihoods being
destroyed. And I saw angry people and tense miners.

The boom has other costs as well. These minerals are moved across the
state in barges and in trucks, over village roads and rivers. Here also
people lose, and the environment suffers. In Rivona village I visited,
people had blocked miner's trucks. They were furious because the truck
moved through their village road, leading to pollution and congestion.
The children could not cross the local road anymore, villagers said. The
red dust the vehicles threw up covered their fields, they added. Roughly
33 million tonnes of minerals transited through the state last year-as
Karnataka also sends its minerals through this state. That would mean
that 3.3 million trips were made-over 7,000 trucks each day travelled on
the roads meant for people. Just imagine what this will do to people's
daily lives.

But why are we cribbing, you may ask? Surely, the regulatory
processes-environment impact assessments (EIAs) and the mandatory forest
clearances should take care of these concerns. The problem is that while
public hearings-to listen to local people-are mandatory under EIA rules,
actually heeding what people say is not. Therefore, even when people
have rejected mines in public hearings, the Union ministry of
environment and forests in Delhi has cleared them.

Then, in Goa, large areas of forests are not classified in government
records. These are private forests or community lands, so forest
clearance is not necessary to cut them down. So what if local watersheds
disappear, taking with them the sources of water for villagers?

Industry has its own ways of 'persuading' local people. Everywhere I
went, I heard tales of corruption and nepotism. The best tool seemed to
be for local leaders-often panchayat heads-to first take people's
concern to the miners and then use this opposition to get lucrative
contracts. The best going deal is in transportation. In all this, the
local politician has been reduced to nothing more than a middleman-a
pimp for the miners to milk.

It is clear that the stakes are high. Today, even if we assume prices of
iron ore at US $50 per tonne, mining companies in Goa would have made a
neat US $1.15 billion last year-roughly Rs 5,175 crore. All the miners
pay to the state is royalty, calculated on each tonne mined. Even if we
assume the highest rate of royalty, the state government would have
earned US $5 million-Rs 24 crore or just peanuts if we compare to the
loot that private companies are raking in. Clearly, there is no public
benefit in this business. Only costs.

But this cannot go on. This development is piggy-backing the poor and
their environment. People will not take it. I believe Goa will have to
decide. It can sell itself cheap on the Chinese market. Or it can
restrain its mining to certain areas, make profits and share the
benefits with its people. This is a make or break situation. Let us be
clear about it.

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