British national, 2 others charged for running drug-racket in Goa

first_imgThe Anti-Narcotics Cell of Goa Crime Branch have filed three separate charge sheets against three accused, who were arrested for drug trade in March this year.Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch in-charge, Goa Police, Umesh Gaonkar, confirmed while talking to The Hindu on Tuesday that the Anti-Narcotics Cell, which investigated the case in which all three were arrested for running a drug-racket in North coastal belt of Goa, filed separate charge sheets in the District and Sessions Court in the city on Monday.According to the charge sheets, a British national David Johnson and the two others, Yusuf Mohammad, of Chennai and Ganesh Pondir from Himachal Pradesh, have been charged under various sections of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.The sleuths of Anti-Narcotics Cell had, after raids, arrested Mohammad from Anjuna village in North coastal belt for allegedly peddling drugs, and seized narcotics, including methamphetamine and LSD from his possession, the charge sheet stated.Johnson was picked up the same day from another place in Anjuna and police had seized Methylenedioxymethamphetamine(MDMA) and ecstasy tablets from him.The charge sheet further stated that based on the interrogation of the two, the police arrested the third accused Ganesh from Arambol beach in Pernem taluk of North Goa for allegedly possessing charas.last_img read more

Salahuddin welcomes Aligarh Muslim University scholar into Hizb-ul-Mujahideen

first_imgHizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin on Monday welcomed Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) doctoral scholar Abdul Manan Wani into the militant outfit.“The entry of Abdul Manan Wani of Tekipora Lolab, Kupwara, exposes the Indian propaganda that youth of Kashmir are joining militant ranks due to unemployment and economic distress,” Salahuddin was quoted as saying at a meeting in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.The AMU, meanwhile, expelled Wani, who has been missing for the past four days, after images of him holding an AK-47 surfaced on social media.Senior Superintendent of Police of Aligarh Rajesh Pandey, however, said, “There are reports of Wani joining the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, but I cannot confirm without verification.”The Jammu police also cautioned against concluding that Wani had joined militancy. The image might well have been photo-shopped by miscreants, it said.AMU Proctor M. Mohsin Khan said, “AMU has zero tolerance for such activities and accords top priority to national security and will give full support and cooperation to the police and investigating agencies.”Threat to participants of panchayat pollsAmid this development, Hizb’s operational commander Riyaz Naikoo has threatened to blind those taking part in the panchayat polls scheduled for February.“Whosoever fights elections, he will be dragged out of his home and concentrated acid will be poured into his eyes, so that he loses his eyesight and becomes a burden for his families for life,” Naikoo is heard as saying in an audio clip that had gone viral online.Reacting to the threat, former Chief Minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah said, “If it isn’t pellets, it’s acid. One way or the other people are threatened with being blinded.”last_img read more

Nagaland suspense ends, 22 file papers

first_imgThe suspense surrounding the Nagaland Assembly election ended seven days after its notification, with 22 candidates filing their nomination papers on Tuesday.The remaining aspirants have until 3 pm on Wednesday to submit their papers.A question mark had hung over the polls after a boycott call by the Core committee of the Naga Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations, a conglomeration of tribal and civil groups, seeking final settlement of the peace process with extremist outfits. The committee was dissolved Tuesday afternoon, opening the floodgates for the candidates. 58 in NPF listKuzholuzo Nienu of the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) was the first to submit his papers for the Phek Assembly seat. Nicky Kire of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and N. Jacob Zhimomi of the Bharatiya Janata Party followed for Kohima Town and Ghaspani-I seats.“By the end of the stipulated time 22 nominations were filed. We expect all the other candidates to complete the formality tomorrow,” the State’s Deputy Chief Election Commissioner N. Moa Aier told The Hindu from the State capital Kohima.The NPF has announced the largest number of candidates – 58. The NDPP has named 38, while its ally BJP will be fielding 20.The Congress was the last to come out with its list on Tuesday afternoon. The party has decided to contest 23 seats, most of its candidates being first-timers. The Janata Dal-United (11 candidates) and Nationalist Congress Party (6) had announced their lists late on Monday night. Among those in the fray is former bureaucrat Khekiye K. Sema, whose anti-graft organisation, Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation, had opposed the polls. Mr. Sema will be contesting the Ghaspani-II seat.last_img read more

U.P. bypoll results show people’s promise of better future: Omar Abdullah

first_imgThe National Conference working president Omar Abdullah described the bypoll results as “people’s promise of a better future after 2019.” “Congratulations to Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati for the stupendous performance in Gorakhpur and Phulpur. Thank you for giving people the promise of a better future,” said Mr. Abdullah. In a tweet packed with sarcasm for the BJP, Mr. Abdullah wrote: “Dear friends in the BJP, thank you for your hard work and continuing efforts to prove me wrong. I’m truly grateful. Sincerely, your friendly opposition guy.”last_img read more

PM’s role sought for settling food account

first_imgPunjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the settlement of ₹ 31,000 crore food account for procurement of wheat and paddy, which he said was wrongly taken over by the previous Akali Dal-BJP government instead of being adjusted between the State and the Union governments.₹31,000 crore“The ₹31,000 crore included ₹12,000 crore principal and ₹19,000 crore interest amount,” the Chief Minister said, pointing out that the sum was on account of non-adjustment of accounts for procurement done by the State agencies for the Food Corporation of India from 2003-2004 onwards.At a meeting with the Prime Minister in New Delhi, Capt. Amarinder said that he had been pursuing the matter ever since taking over as the Chief Minister and it was now pending with the Union Finance Ministry.He added that the State was already facing an annual interest payment liability of Rs.324 crore and the total pay-off might touch ₹65,000 crore, which was totally untenable for the State.Special packageThe Chief Minister also raised the demand for a special package for the development of the border areas of Punjab in view of the fact that the State has an active International Border with several thickly populated areas located close to it.Debt waiverRaising the problems being faced by farmers in the State, Capt. Amarinder presented a request for a national debt waiver scheme, besides making the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana 100% centrally funded.last_img read more

Unnao gang rape case: BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar named in CBI charge sheet

first_imgUttar Pradesh BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar was on Wednesday named as an accused in the charge sheet filed by the CBI in the Unnao gang rape case.The legislator from Bangermau in Unnao faces charges under Sections 363 ( kidnapping), 366 (abducting and inducing a girl), 376 (punishment for rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) amd also relevant sections of the stringent Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) pertaining to sexual assault.Three FIRsImmediately after taking over the case, the CBI, in April, lodged three separate FIRs in the matter. The first pertains to the allegations of rape and kidnapping against the MLA, who is currently lodged in the Sitapur jail.The second case is related to the arrest of the minor victim’s father on April 3 by the Unnao police for illegal possession of arms. He died in judicial custody a few days later, allegedly due to injuries he suffered after being assaulted by the MLA’s brother and his aides.The third case deals with the charges of rioting and assault on the minor’s father. On July 7, the CBI named Kuldeep Sengar’s brother Atul Sengar in the charge sheet in connection with the death of the minor’s father.Also Read  The other accused in the case of death of the minor’s father are Vineet Mishra, Birendra Singh alias Bauwa, Ram Sharan Singh alias Sonu and Shashi Pratap Singh, all residents of Sarai Thok Makhi in Unnao district. They face charges of murder and criminal intimidation, among others.The FIR has invoked sections 302, 147, 148, 149, 323, 504 and 506 of the IPC.While the CBI did not name Kuldeep Sengar in the case of death of the minor’s father, it said it was investigating his role in the crime. Unnao rape case: BJP MLA’s brother charged in connection with death of victim’s fatherlast_img read more

Eight-time Mount Everest climber Pemba Sherpa missing in Karakoram

first_imgEight-time Mount Everest climber Pemba Sherpa has gone missing while returning with a team of mountaineers after successfully scaling the 7,672 m-high Saser Kangri peak in the Karakoram range. According to police sources, the mountaineer from Darjeeling fell into a crevasse on Friday. Mr. Pemba’s wife told reporters that the family lost all communications with him since July 13 and she is hoping for a miracle to see her husband again. An ITBP team has started conducting searches at the spot from Sunday morning. The Darjeeling administration is also keeping a close watch on the developments. “We are worried about Pemba. He was a skilled person,” Animesh Basu of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation (NAF) in Siliguri said.The team of mountaineers that Pemba was leading had begun its journey from Kolkata on June 20.last_img read more

Gold worth ₹3 crore seized at Pune Airport

first_imgPUNE In one of the biggest bullion hauls by city authorities, the regional unit of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), along with Pune customs authorities recovered more than 10 kg smuggled gold worth ₹3 crore largely in the form of 86 gold biscuits on Thursday at the Pune International Airport in Lohegaon.“The smuggled gold, weighing 10.175 kilograms was valued at Rs. 3,09,34,675 and was seized by the DRI during a check carried out after the clearance of passengers of a Spice Jet flight, SG52, arriving from Dubai. The bullion mainly comprised of biscuits and gold in other forms. They have been seized under the provisions of the Customs Act, 1962,” said Manish Dudhpuri, Assistant Commissioner of Pune Customs, speaking to The Hindu.Mr. Dudhpuri said that the gold biscuits were concealed in mobile phone covers and pouches in a dustbin in the gents’ lavatory of the airport’s immigration hall.last_img read more

Violence in Surat after Patidar leader’s arrest

first_imgViolence erupted in Gujarat’s Surat after the arrest of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Alpesh Kathiria in a 2016 sedition case. Mr. Kathiria was arrested in connection with a two-year old case on the day when police also arrested the quota agitation leader Hardik Patel in Ahmedabad. Mr. Patel was later released on bail late night. However, as soon as the news of Mr. Kathiria’s arrest became public, hundreds of Patidar youth came out on streets in Surat’s Patidar-dominated Varachha area where mobs torched several buses and also a bus station. Police have been deployed in large numbers in the Patidar-dominated pockets of Surat.Mr. Patel alleged that some “anti-social elements” are resorting to violence to defame the Patidar quota agitation. He appealed for peace and stressed that the Patidar community’s agitation for quota will continue peacefully.last_img read more

Chargesheet against 48 in Assam lynching case

first_imgThe police in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district on Saturday filed a chargesheet against 48 people for lynching two men they thought were “child lifters” on June 8. Karbi Anglong SP V. Siva Prasad Ganjala filed the chargesheet at a court in Diphu. “The 844-page chargesheet is based on the case registered at the Dokmoka police station under 11 Sections of the IPC, including murder, wrongful restraint and obstructing public servants,” DGP Kuladhar Saikia said.A mob in Panjuri Kachari village under the Dokmoka police station had dragged sound engineer Nilotpal Das, 29, and his businessman friend Abhijit Nath, 30, out of their SUV and bludgeoned them to death. The adventure-loving friends were returning from the Kangthilangso waterfall, a picnic spot.Among the 48 arrested was Alphajoz Timung, a history-sheeter who had an argument with the duo at the waterfalls. He confessed to have misled the villagers into lynching the duo with the child kidnapper story.last_img read more

Sangrur ‘attack’: CBI probe sought

first_imgThe Shiromani Akali Dal on Friday demanded a CBI inquiry into the alleged attack on the cavalcade of party president Sukhbir Singh Badal in Sangrur on Thursday.At a joint press conference, senior SAD leaders Maheshinder Singh Grewal, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon and Daljit Singh Cheema alleged that the ruling Congress government was behind the attack.“The police have diluted the charges by refusing to book the assailants under Section 307 (attempt to murder), besides not observing the guidelines of the blue book which is compulsory in all such incidents involving people with Z-plus security,” they alleged.The leaders demanded that the Congress government immediately entrust the case to the CBI for investigation as “the State police could not be expected to give justice in the case”. The CBI alone can unmask the political conspiracy behind the incident and bring the real culprits to book, they said.Meeting with RajnathA party delegation would also meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and apprise him of the incident.The SAD leaders said that the Congress was feeling insecure and rattled ahead of the Akali Dal’s proposed rally on October 7 at Patiala, the home town of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.Mr. Badal’s cavalcade was attacked with sticks on Thursday, allegedly by people associated with radical Sikh outfits.last_img read more

Exclusion from NRC drives Assam lawyer to take extreme step

first_imgExclusion from the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) reportedly drove a 74-year-old lawyer in north-central Assam’s Kharupetia to death on Sunday. This was the third such case since the publication of the complete draft of the NRC on July 30.Family members found Nirod Kumar Das hanging in his room after returning from his routine morning walk. An autopsy confirmed death by hanging, said Chandan Goswami, incharge of the local police station.Raju Saha, the brother-in-law of the deceased, said Mr. Das appeared disturbed since his name was dropped from the NRC. “His name had figured in the first partial list (published on December 31, 2017) but the local NRC processing centre handed him a document two months ago saying his name has been put on hold as he has been declared a foreigner,” he said.Family members in NRCAll other members of his family – wife, three daughters, their husbands and children – and most of his relatives figure in the NRC. A note left behind by Mr. Das said he was ending his life to “escape the humiliation” of being marked a foreigner after the NRC process. “He blamed no one, listed five people he owed up to ₹1,200 and requested us to return the money,” Mr. Saha said. The septuagenarian had studied law after a 34-year teaching stint at the local government school. A decade ago, he began practising at the district court in Mangaldoi town, 16 km west of Kharupetia.“He was one of the most jovial members of our bar association. But he underwent a drastic change in the last two-three months, and would often mumble about his uncertainty as a citizen of Assam,” Mangaldoi-based lawyer Billal Hussain told The Hindu after attending Mr. Das’s cremation on Sunday evening.The Mangaldoi Bar Association has scheduled a condolence meeting on Monday.On September 3, Mr. Das had lamented in local publications about his “statelessness” and how he felt let down by the very system he was trying to uphold.“My legal documents since 1956, my father’s legacy data of 1966 and my own of 1971 (the cut-off year for detecting and deporting illegal migrants), and by government service mean nothing to the authorities. How can a man prove his citizenship if they are determined not to accept my documents provided by the government?” he wrote.The Assam State Committee of CPI(M) on Sunday wrote to the Supreme Court seeking the inclusion of all 15 admissible documents for the claims and objections phase of NRC that started from September 25.IIT-Guwahati helpline for students in collaboration with Saathi: 8486814024. Saathi uses this helpline for non-IIT cases too.last_img read more

TMC projects Mamata as PM candidate

first_imgThe ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal turned 21 on Tuesday and used the occasion to project party chief and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as a possible prime ministerial candidate of any grand Opposition alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The party also vowed to work to ensure a secular and progressive India under the leadership of 63-year-old Ms. Banerjee. Describing 2019 as the “year of change”, senior TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee said the party is “standing at a historic juncture where it wants to play a vital role in New Delhi in favour of the working class”.Good daysMr. Banerjee, the nephew of the TMC chief, said the year will bring good days (achche din) in the country. “The year of 2019 is a year of change and struggle. We should fight hard in order to ensure that we are able to gift the people of this country a secular and progressive India in New Delhi under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee,” he said in a video message on the TMC’s 21st Foundation Day. “Our party has turned 21 today. The number 21 assumes immense significance as it signifies struggle, youthfulness and change,” he added. TMC was founded on January 1, 1998, by Mamata Banerjee, who was herself baptised into politics by the Congress. At present, the TMC has 34 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats from West Bengal.Ms. Banerjee congratulated party workers on the occasion. “The journey which began on January 1, 1998, has been full of struggles, but we have been steadfast in our resolve to fight for the people #Trinamool21 …We are thankful to Maa-Mati-Manush for their constant support. And the workers who work hard 365 days a year for the people. A big salute to you,” she said.Anti-BJP front The TMC, which has been eyeing a wider political space for the last few years, has been at the forefront of forming an anti-BJP Opposition alliance and convened a rally of Opposition parties in Kolkata on January 19.Ms. Banerjee has been touring the country and has met leaders of several parties in a bid to forge opposition unity to take on the BJP. The TMC observed the day in the State in every block and subdivision and also at the panchayat level. The party flag was hoisted at the Trinamool Bhavan by party general secretary Subrata Bakshi. Blood donation camps, blanket distribution and cultural events were also held across the State.last_img read more

Two militants and a soldier killed in two separate incidents in Kashmir

first_imgTwo millitants, soldier killed in KashmirTwo militants and an off-duty soldier were killed in separate incidents in Kashmir on Saturday. The police said the militants were killed after they ambushed an Army patrol at Pinjora in Shopian. Preliminary reports suggest that Rahil Rashid Sheikh from Ganderbal’s Nunner Ganderbal was among the dead. Locals identified the other militant as Bilal Ahmad, a resident of Keegam. Meanwhile, suspected militants shot dead an Army man at his home in Warpora Sopore in Baramulla district. A soldier with the J&K Light Infantry, Muhammad Rafeeq Yatoo was on leave.last_img read more

Protests erupt in Kashmir Valley against alleged rape of 3-year-old

first_imgProtests erupted on Monday in parts of the Kashmir Valley against the rape of a three-year-old, allegedly by a local youth in north Kashmir, forcing the authorities to close all educational institutes. Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan appealed to people to maintain peace, brotherhood and law and order. “Justice will be done and the culprit will be given severe punishment as per law. It will be investigated on a fast track,” he said.On Thursday, the youth allegedly lured the child with a candy and raped her in Sumbal area’s Trehgam locality.A medical report is yet to be produced.The child’s family said she was sexually assaulted by the youth who lives in their neighbourhood. Violent protests broke out for the second consecutive day in parts of Baramulla, Srinagar and Bandipora districts. Protesters closed the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. The authorities decided to close schools and colleges as a precautionary measure. A spontaneous shutdown was observed across the Valley over the incident.Youth arrested: policeA police official said the youth had been arrested, and a special investigation team constituted to investigate the case. The head of a local school who issued a birth certificate to the accused, declaring him a minor, has been arrested. A medical team is likely to determine the accused’s age through scientific measures.All political parties, religious and social groups have condemned the incident.”Mortified to hear about the rape of a three-year-old in Sumbal. What kind of a sick pervert would do this? Society often blames women for inviting unwanted attention but what was this child’s fault? Times like these, Shariah law seems apt so that such paedophiles are stoned to death,” Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir said in a tweet. People’s Conference general secretary Imran Reza Ansari described the incident as a crime against humanity and demanded severe punishment to the accused.”The need of the hour is to set up a fast track court for punishing the accused. Action should be taken against the school for issuing a fake date of birth certificate to show that the accused is a minor,” said Mr. Ansari.Mirwaiz’s pleaHurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq appealed for unity and vigil against some elements who want to divide people on sectarian basis.”A fervent appeal to all the people of Kashmir to maintain unity and vigil, especially in view of mischievous forces waiting to create a sectarian divide out of this most reprehensible crime against a child which is indeed a crime against all humanity. All of Kashmir stands in unison,” said Mr. Farooq.last_img read more

Agricultural Innovation Prize Launched

first_imgAre you a student in the United States with an idea that could improve the global food system? A 2-page business plan, and a presentation with up to 10 slides, could win you the first Agricultural Innovation Prize. The competition was announced in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. “We’re hoping that this will turns the heads of people who wouldn’t normally give ag a second thought,” says Molly Jahn, a plant breeder at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who is directing the prize.The new prize stems from a 2012 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology about the ability of the United States to cope with agricultural challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change. “The top line was we’re not prepared,” says Jahn, an author. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy came up with the idea of using a cash prize for students to encourage early collaborations between disciplines and highlight the potential of businesses to quickly to improve the food system. The prize is modeled on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Clean Energy Prize, founded in 2007, which now awards a total of $310,000 in cash to five winners.Brief proposals must focus on developing a business, which can be a nonprofit, that would have a positive social or environmental impact. The innovations could come from traditional agricultural R&D—better drip irrigation, a new plant variety, or a technique to improve food safety, for example—or they could originate from another discipline, such as computer science or sensor engineering. “My dream with this prize is that we spur crosscutting innovations,” Jahn says. This year, the competition is limited to undergraduate and graduate students at U.S. schools, but the innovations can have global applications.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Proposals are due 28 February. A first round of judging will select 25 teams, which will then be matched to mentors from academia, industry, or government to help them expand the pitch. On 25 April, five teams will be awarded prizes ranging from $15,000 to $100,000. A student team will help recruit judges. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation has provided $215,000 for the awards in 2014. The Foundation is also making 50 $1000 grants available to students to help promote the competition on campuses.last_img read more

Podcast: Snakes on the Brain, the Upside of Allergies, and the Next SARS Pandemic

first_imgDid snakes drive the evolution of the human brain? Do allergies get a bad rap? And are bats carrying the next SARS pandemic? Science’s Online News Editor David Grimm chats about these stories and more with Science’s Sarah Crespi.Listen to the full Science podcast.Read the transcript.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Hear more podcasts.last_img read more

Bachchannama

first_imgAmit. Amit Bachchan. That’s how he was known in the early sixties in a Calcutta that really rocked, socially, culturally, intellectually and commercially. Young, tall, lanky with limbs that seemed to go on forever and a very conspicuous Adam’s apple, which kept bobbing up and down (in distracting fashion), the guy worked as an executive at a multi-national company and lived the charmed life of a carefree bachelor in a city that offered an embarrassment of riches.   Amitabh Bachchan in The Last LearI met him a couple of times through my St. Xaviers college buddy Victor Banerjee, who was starring in a musical (along with him) entitled Desert Song. Shy, well-mannered and soft-spoken, he appeared the retiring kind – one who, despite an active interest in English theatre, didn’t like to scorch public space with his personality. However, I have to confess, that even in those early days, what struck casual Bachchan-watchers was his innate sense of composure, quiet dignity and the way he conducted himself in public. The man epitomized refinement, an endearing sense of reserve and … class. One fine day there was a buzz that the Bachchan guy, the “lamboo” with a great voice, was splitting from the city to try his luck in Bollywood! Had he totally lost it? Was he suffering from delusions of grandeur? This was the late 1960s when the Rajesh Khanna wave was at its demonic height. What on earth could this toothpick offer? The first reports of his signing-on Saat Hindustani and the subsequent news that it hardly got a decent release prompted collective shrugs from our crowd.   The all star familyMy trips to Mumbai confirmed my worst fears. Right from his name (in an environment bursting at the seams with Kumars, Kapoors, Khannas and Khans) to his looks, background, stature, body language and the way he conducted himself, Bachchan was a mega-misfit all the way. Ridiculed, overlooked, neglected and rejected, Bachchan’s first commercial success – after his critically acclaimed performance in the Rajesh Khanna – driven Anand – was perceived as a never-ending corny laugh-fest. Playing lead opposite Aruna Irani, in Mehmood’s Bombay to Goa, he let fly a fine zinger of a performance, but it was the star comedians show all the way, and the lightweight hero was quickly forgotten by most. Luckily script-writers Salim-Javed weren’t among them. I remember Javed Akhtar telling me how Bachchan and Zanjeer happened. “Salim saab and I were at the end of our tether in terms of whom to cast as our edgy, unsmiling, intense cop who believed in violence without apology, spoke with his fists and generally epitomised the impatience and restlessness of that era. Today, we are so thankful that the script was vetoed by several established heroes of that time, because no one could ever dream of embellishing the role with the kind of style, deadly cool and panache, re-enforced with that heart-wrenching touch of soul-searing vulnerability that Amitabh Bachchan did. It took us only a few scenes in that silly Mehmood caper to decide who would be our Vijay. That’s how Zanjeer and the Angry Young Man was born.”   The Bachchan familyInterestingly, I was in Mumbai and at his Vile Parle residence during that auspicious September of 1973, a week before the release of the film that would change his life forever. Bachchan was pleasant and polite (as always) as we recalled the exciting Calcutta of the mid-60s and common friends, but appeared a bit jumpy and restless. He had just completed, he said, a role in a film where he played a cop who repeatedly takes the law in his hands. There were no light moments of the usual, popular escapist, audience-friendly romance and comedy. It was an unrelieved, intense, one-dimensional saga of a loner wanting to take on an unjust corrupt world. The guy was going through a miserable phase – the industry’s undisputed Mr. Unlucky – and he was desperately praying for the film to turn the tide. Would it? He requested me to pray for him. I remember smiling bravely and flashing the V sign before leaving his house. Another bomb, I told myself, beginning to feel real bad for the talented but jinxed actor, specializing in good performances in lousy movies that regularly bit dust at the box-office. Ah well …Amazingly, it was this very same Zanjeer that unchained Amitabh Bachchan from ill fortune and catapulted him into planet Wow. Fusing sexy machismo with Clint Eastwood-style cool, Bachchan introduced a brand of anti-herogiri never seen in mainstream fare which – bingo – worked! Tapping astutely into the temper of the times (an environment ripe with impatience, ferment, frustration and helplessness at a system that failed to deliver) the young actor soon found himself re-shaping his connect with the industry and audience alike. Success brings confidence and very soon, widening his histrionic bandwidth to include his brand of comedy, romance, song-dance, action, drama with a kind of magnetic conviction and credibility, he became the definitive one man industry.  His astonishing highs, his sudden lows with Toofan and Jadugar (a decade and a half later), his unhappy association with politics and the ABCL nose-dive have been chronicled a zillion times to warrant repetition. His amazing phoenix-like resurrection as an anchor in Kaun Banega Ka Crorepati in early 2000, however, demands re-telling. Siddharth Basu, who produced the landmark reality show, lays it on with trademark eloquence. “STAR was looking for a vehicle that would be a flagship for the turnaround relating to the launch of their Hindi channel. Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the hugely popular U.K. originated game-show was one of the concepts under consideration. The format was exceptionally strong and the temptation to use it was great, but the crucial question was: who would be the face for the show. We needed magical and mesmerising charisma and drawing power across the board. Many names were lobbed but when Sameer Nair (Programming Head) threw in AB, my jaws dropped! I tried to visualize the enormity of the project, whether the Big B would agree and did Sameer really hope to pull off mission impossible? The overwhelming success of KBC I & II bears testimony to the mind-boggling teamwork involved, but it was AB who really was the crucial driver for taking KBC to the skies! Blending style and class with mass-appeal, he infused in the show color and drama that was truly awesome! The bi-lingual ease and eloquence fused with a warmth that connected with every single participant across 350 episodes was incredible! Diligent, disciplined and conscientious, he took pains to do his homework after every single episode and at the end of the day ultimately managed to achieve the impossible – bestow on the box the dimension of the big screen! He broke the rules, re-invented himself with cool leather and denim outfit in the sequel and generally blew everyone’s mind. Man, whatta guy!”  Today Bachchan’s audacious willingness to not only push the envelope, but cram it to bursting point, through doing a variety of roles with a range of young, new age directors, seems to reflect his conscious decision of taking that magic leap into the exciting unknown. And with accolade, applause and awards across the globe, films, shows and endorsements raining on his backyard and his popularity once again zooming skywards, the Big B has truly gained iconic status. As a passionate Bachchan-watcher I have tracked his journey from nowhere land to Shahenshah territory. Some actors occupy the stage; few rule it. Some actors hold an audience; few possess it. Some actors light up a scene; few ignite the entire film. These combustible few blaze with the magic and mystique of acting – authority, intelligence, intuition, intensity – that triggers that sublime leap to greatness. There is a charisma apart from the role itself when these blessed creatures grace the screen, transforming co-stars into awed, rapt and overwhelmed onlookers!Keep going Sexy Sam … Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. Yours is the power and glory……RITUPARNO GHOSHON THE BIG B’S NEWEST LANDMARKLovers of quality cinema will be familiar with film-maker Rituparno Ghosh. The youngest (Gautam Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Buddhadev Dasgupta are older) director of this celeb list from Kolkata, he struck with his very first directorial debut project Unishe April (19th April) a decade ago. He has never looked back, garnering name, fame, respect, accolade, adulation and awards at home and abroad. He is also the only director who, sitting in Kolkata, gets the biggest Bollywood stars to come down to the city and work happily in his projects for peanuts! Ash Rai, Ajay Devgun (Raincoat, Chokher Bali) Abhishek Bachchan and Soha Ali Khan (Antar Mahal) and now Preity Zinta and the biggest of the big … The Big B (in the English language film The last Lear, also starring Preity Zinta, Arjun Rampal, Shefali Shah and Divya Dutta).   Rituparno Ghosh with Amitabh BachchanIn this exclusive interview with Little India, the film-maker talks of his unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience collaborating with the towering inferno.  Over to Ritu …“Like everyone else, I was a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan! When I started working in films, got more serious, involved, knowledgeable and experienced and watched his performances more closely, I felt that somewhere, (beyond his stunning ability to make the craziest and most filmy situation look convincing and believable), there was a void in his arsenal; one kind of fire-power was missing. I had absolutely no doubt that – intelligent, sensitive and honest that he was, in his heart of hearts, aware of it, but as a megastar, your roles are largely defined by your history of box office hits and The Angry Young Man image stuck to him like an albatross! With time, he slowly shed it and transitioned magnificently into character roles, but still, I continued to feel that there was an entire universe of untapped energy waiting to be detonated …Once I got to know the family (I am very close to Jaya-di and very friendly with Abhi and Ash) and started interacting with him, I found him cordial, refined, polite, but formal. While I wasn’t really intimidated, there was certainly a distance between us. However, the idea of casting him took seed only when I started seriously thinking of making The Making of the Last Lear. Once the script was ready I really couldn’t think of anybody else who could lend the kind of charisma, chutzpah, magic and gravitas that defined the persona of Harish Mishra, the veteran recluse, eccentric theatre actor who lived in the past and raged against the modern world with all the fire and fury he could muster! When I first approached him with the proposal and concept, he asked me to tell him the gist of the film in 3 lines! I did. Later, I gingerly sent him the script too. He obviously liked the concept and storyline enough to read the script carefully and come to the shooting, meticulously prepared.Working with Amit-da was an enriching experience. He does his homework inside-out even today after being 38 years in the industry. He offers suggestions, but never ever compromising either his dignity as a professional actor or intruding on the allotted space of the director. He works quietly and privately and is forever open to suggestions. He never ever throws his weight around and goes out of his way to make every single member of the cast and crew comfortable. He, for me, redefined the term “professional,” replacing the stereotypical image of a cold and clinical artiste to a person exuding warmth, positivity and sincerity. He is also an amazingly honest actor, always ready to own up any deficiencies or limitations he may encounter while portraying a scene. Clichéd as it may seem, he is a director’s dream, responding to both the big gesture and nuanced unspoken moment with the same unerring sense of total understanding and delivering, in the magical manner that only he can! Since this was a totally different genre of film from the movies he usually engages in, I found him (as I always suspected) hungry to explore, savor and get his teeth into a completely new histrionic experience. When was the last time, if ever, anybody saw him in a shabby, unkempt, raving, ranting, eccentric role coloured with vulnerability and insecurity? Amitabh Bachchan (if the critics at Toronto, London and Goa Film Festivals are to be believed) has delivered a powerhouse performance … majestic, moving, magical and memorable!  Thanks Amit-da. For me, you will always remain The Last (and greatest) Lear.”  – Monojit Lahiri   Related Itemslast_img read more

Capitalism vs. Altruism

first_imgThe marriage of capitalism and altruism is never very comfortable. One is about making money. The other, though often indirectly, is about giving money. Early in October, SKS Microfinance — a company that makes money lending to the poor — sacked its CEO Suresh Gurumani. In a terse note, SKS informed the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) that the company “had withdrawn all powers and authorities granted to [Gurumani] or otherwise enjoyed by him.” Said economic daily Business Standard in its lead-story headline: “SKS Microfin sacks CEO; shares tank.” Reported Moneycontrol.com, a web portal belonging to TV channel CNBC TV18: “Sacked SKS Microfin CEO may sue company.”For SKS, this is a second round of controversy. It is the first Indian company in the microfinance sector to go in for an initial public offer (IPO). It is among the first half-dozen anywhere in the world to list. (Banco Compartamos of Mexico went public in 2007 and drew considerable criticism.) SKS had a very successful IPO in August, being oversubscribed more than 13 times. Ironically around that time, several big issuers — including public sector majors — were waiting for the markets to improve. SKS raised $358 million. It got around $22 per share, the upper end of the price band. It jumped more than 16% on listing and, today, even after plunging when the CEO was fired, is some 30% above the issue price. According to Nobel-prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered the microfinance industry in the 1980s by giving small loans to basket weavers in Bangladesh, “Microfinance is mission-driven banking. When you float an IPO you are telling your investors there is a good opportunity to make money off poor people. The message is wrong, the direction is wrong…. Staunch believers of market forces keep saying competition will bring business to people who are now unreached. Over centuries, this has not happened. Competition never brought credit to the poor; it only took it to richer people. That is the route the IPO will take them.”Taking the For-profit RouteYunus pioneered the “social business” model where there is no profit involved for the investor or promoter. SKS and its ilk are taking a totally different route. Wrote The New York Times at the height of the SKS IPO controversy: “SKS was set up as what philanthropists call a “social enterprise” — a business based on the concept of doing well by doing good… there is no question that the company’s 41-year-old Indian-American founder Vikram Akula and investors who include prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists will do very well indeed from the IPO. Akula has already privately sold shares worth almost $13 million, and he still holds stock options potentially worth $55 million. The question is whether the social good will be as amply rewarded.” Headlined The Wall Street Journal: “SKS Microfinance’s IPO Plans Pit Capitalism vs. Altruism.”There were some disillusioned casualties. A Seattle-based nonprofit, which stood to make a handsome amount by selling its stake in SKS, decided to close shop. “You are encouraging profit maximization while nonprofits are closing down,” Yunus pointed out then. “That shows the real result of this IPO.”In India, there have been departures, too. M.S. Sriram, Lalita D. Gupte Chair Professor in Microfinance at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), writes in a paper titled “Commercialization of Microfinance in India: A Discussion on the Emperor’s Apparel”: “There were three high profile persons — Gurcharan Das, the author of The Difficulty of Being Good, Anu Aga of Thermax and Narayan Ramachandran of Morgan Stanley — on board [the SKS group] till days before the [IPO] prospectus was filed. Their sudden resignation in March in the run up to the filing of the prospectus raises some questions.”SKS founder and chairperson Akula, however, has no doubts that his way is best. “The path of the capital markets is the path that will lead to the greatest social impact,” he says. “Otherwise, you are limiting your reach and, in effect, not providing financial services to all those people that you could.” He admits that it did take some time to make the regulators comfortable with the idea of a microfinance institutions (MFI) going public, but that was only because it was a new concept.The Right Credentials Akula has all the right credentials. He began working in rural India two decades ago as a community organizer of women’s self-help groups for a nonprofit. He set up SKS Microfinance as a nonprofit in 1997, went to McKinsey & Co in Chicago as a consultant in 2004, and came back to SKS in 2005. He returned a convert; in 2005, he made SKS a for-profit. In 2006, Akula was named by Time magazine as one of world’s 100 most influential people. Also in 2006, he was given the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award at the World Economic Forum meet in Delhi. He is currently writing a book appositely titled A Fistful of Rice: My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty through Profitability.At SKS, Akula has delivered on the profitability front. The latest quarter ended June 30, 2010, saw profit after tax increase 265% to $15 million compared to the corresponding period the previous year. Gross income increased by 82% to $70.82 million. As of March 31, 2010 (the company’s year-end), SKS had total disbursements of more than $3 billion and 6.8 million women borrowers. This gives it almost three times the growth rate of Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.Akula estimates that poor households in India need close to $50 billion in credit, only 10% to15% of which has been met by all MFIs combined because of lack of access to capital. “The best way to raise large capital is from commercial capital markets and the best way to tap commercial capital markets is to be structured as a profit-oriented institution and do an IPO,” says Akula. “It is precisely where that $50 billion will come from; it is the only place it can come from. That is why we did this IPO.”Akula is not interacting with the media after the departure of Gurumani. An SKS spokesperson, referring to Gurumani’s comment that he could sue, says that the deposed CEO can go the courts if he likes. “We have done what we have to do, let him do what he has to,” he says. “I cannot comment on his behalf. We have not received any [legal] notice so far.”Battle for Control The battle in SKS seems to be about control and money. The company has clarified that there were no issues of financial irregularity in Gurumani’s departure. But the power struggle, as the media has dubbed it, was evident even earlier.Akula has a very high-profile. Observers speculate that he did not expect the adverse reaction and the global debate over the IPO. The Indian media coverage was actually muted; articles in the Western media raised problems. People within SKS say that Akula allowed Gurumani to take the lead in the IPO as he preferred to stay away from the acrimony. Once the issue was a done deal, however, and the heat was off, he wanted to get back to the helm. The shares were listed on August 16. At a board meeting held in early September, SKS appointed Akula as executive chairman from November 1. (He is currently non-executive.) M.R. Rao, chief operating officer, was elevated to deputy CEO with immediate effect. The writing on the wall for Gurumani was getting clearer by the day.The only issue, say company insiders, was about the terms of disengagement. Gurumani had already cashed out most of his stock options. The board offered him a handsome amount — upwards of $1 million — to resign gracefully. He wanted more. “He was originally given 900,000 shares when he came on,” says a company spokesperson. “He sold 225,000 shares prior to the IPO. Another 675,000 would have vested in him over a period of four years. After the termination, he doesn’t get a single share. He has no right to his stock options right now. He can’t sell anything.”Not a Moral IssueThe issue in this and the larger debate about nonprofits turning for-profit is one of context, experts note. In a purely capitalist society, this would have been the way to go; Akula would have been a folk hero. In India, which still has a socialist ethos, there is distaste for money grubbing — and what some might even perceive as greed.“This is not about morality,” says Ramesh Ramanathan, promoter-director of Janalakshmi, a social enterprise. “It’s not about good and bad. It’s about the nature of markets. Markets are a double-edged sword. The power of the market for innovation, for raising money, for hiring good people, for bringing value to customers… all that positive also comes with baggage. That baggage is greed.”“When an MFI becomes for-profit, the danger does exist that it might lose its moral and ethical compass,” says Sriram of IIMA. “Everybody succumbs to the lure of the market.” Sriram feels that Gurumani’s departure has nothing to do with this dilemma, although the squabble over the golden handshake is another matter.Rajesh Chakrabarti, assistant professor of finance at the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB), agrees. “It seems to be the consequence of an internal disagreement about the management of the organization between the CEO and the board and perhaps between the CEO and the chairman,” he says. “These things are quite common in organizations, only they are handled a bit carefully so that CEO terminations are relatively rarer. Given that Akula, the founder, is in the driver’s seat, the exit should not hurt SKS too much.”SKS has “sought to take a profit-oriented approach to microfinance,” he continues. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. This is an ongoing debate in the microfinance area. Everyone admits that without the profit motive, it is difficult to have organizations that would engage in the activity in a sustained and efficient manner. On the other hand, a total fixation on the bottom line can easily lead to mission drift.”Chakrabarti quotes a recent paper published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives titled “Microfinance Meets the Market”: “Globally, the social development model accounts for about 90% of microfinance organizations but 10% of profit-oriented providers are very large and account for over half of the industry assets. The nonprofits lend more to the bottom of the pyramid while the for-profits tend to focus on a slightly higher tier. Also nonprofits are more likely to go for group-lending while for-profits go largely for individual-lending. So, in conclusion, for-profits and nonprofits have somewhat different profiles in the microfinance industry, but both have important roles to play.”Laws Need ChangeYunus is not so sure. He believes that laws should be changed if they prevent lending to the poor. “If the government is poor-friendly, it should make laws to create banks for the poor and the poorest,” he says. Deval Sanghavi, president and co-founder of Dasra, a venture philanthropy fund, feels that non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) should be allowed to raise external commercial capital. “If the government were truly committed to social change, it should enable 1% loans to come into the country and then lend at 3% to 5%,” Sanghavi says. Rahul Saikia, vice-president, investment banking at Enam Securities, believes the rule that requires banks to have 40% of their portfolio in the “priority sector” should be amended to withdraw priority sector status from MFIs. “That’s what MFIs are surviving on today. If you remove that, only the quality MFIs will survive,” he says.Such changes would enable MFIs to access lower-cost funds. But it wouldn’t be a substitute for the capital markets. Says Sumir Chadha, managing director of Sequoia Capital India, SKS’ largest investor: “The not-for-profit world in India is filled with well-meaning people, but the challenge is that no one is going to give you enough funds to scale up. Grants just don’t scale to that level.” Additionally “from a banking standpoint, there is no way you can get debt since it’s a percentage of how much equity you have,” adds Ash Lilani, president, Asia market, SVB Capital, another SKS investor.But Yunus thinks there is enough money in the villages. “Grameen Bank doesn’t have a problem with money. It takes deposits and lends money. The solution is not in going to IPO; the solution is in treating microfinance as banking. That would be the right direction rather than rushing to the big-money people, offering them an opportunity to make money for themselves out of poor people.”What troubles Sriram of IIMA is the idea that one should not make money while tapping the bottom of the pyramid. “Very much the way we don’t get upset when soaps are sold to the poor, we should not get upset that people are making money from microfinance,” he says. He finds dissonance, however, when this objective is juxtaposed with the lofty mission of eliminating poverty. “There is little evidence to show that microfinance eliminates poverty,” he says, “If that had been the case, Bangladesh should have declared itself poverty-free.”Janalakshmi’s Ramanathan cites the case of SKS itself. “Vikram Akula constantly communicated a message that it’s a social business. But when push came to shove, the actions were all of a commercial enterprise,” he says. Adds Dasra’s Sanghavi: “The IPO is not unethical or illegal, it’s just disappointing.” Yunus, a sterner critic, says that once MFIs are in the business to make money, no amount is ever enough. “Interest continues to go up because the market will force [MFIs] to go in that direction and you end up becoming a bigger and bigger loan shark.” (Today MFIs charge 28%, higher than the banks but lower than the village moneylender’s 50% plus.)The Goats and the SharksEveryone at SKS has made money, though some more than the others. When Anjamma took her first loan from SKS in 1998, it was for $33 to buy a goat, says the company’s 2009-2010 annual report. Today, several other goats and loans later, she owns a buffalo and a plot of land worth $889.“First microfinance IPO makes millionaires out of employees,” reports Business Standard. “K. Nirmala, 31, will prepay her home loan shortly, courtesy the stock she held in SKS Microfinance — her employer for 13 years…. Nirmala is not alone. Five days after the company was listed, many of her colleagues are finding themselves in the league of millionaires.”Gurumani, who had exercised his option to purchase 225,000 shares on March 23, 2010, has made a profit of $1.69 million by selling his shares under a prior agreement, says the paper by IIMA’s Sriram.At SKS Microfinance, money is going places.   Related Itemslast_img read more