Month: May 2003

Date with the Prez

Date with the Prez

It’s not everyday that you get to meet the President of the country in person. So when five students from Thane became the privileged few to be chosen as participants of the "Students Meet" with Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, their joy knew no bounds.

The lucky five were among the 400 odd students from all over Maharashtra who had gathered at the Chandrasekhar Sabhagraha in Pune for a "Special Students Meet" organised by Sakal group on Wednesday May 28, 2003. Among the other VIPs present at the event were Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and President of Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar.

Thane’s Jidnyasa Trust was invited by the organisers to nominate five students from the city. And they chose the following city students: Ajinkya Kale (Class XII) and Rahul Shah (Class X) from SES, Swamini Deshpande (Class IX) from A K Joshi, Aditi Patil (Class VIII) from Sri Ma Bal Niketan and Deepika Karnik (Class X) from Sulochana Singhania School.

It goes without saying that these five felt rather fortunate. For, the President has a gift of enchanting young minds. In his address, which seemed more like a teacher taking a class, the President underlined the critical role that students had to play in transforming our country from a developing to a developed nation. He pushed them to achieve greater heights of success and make India proud.

Later, in his characteristic style, the President put the students to ease, asking a few of them to announce what they’d like to be when they grew up. Standard responses echoed in the auditorium: teacher, engineer, doctor and so on. Reacting to this he urged the students to do something different. To stress this point, he related an interesting anecdote about his visit to Orissa, where he met a young girl. He asked her the what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up question and was pleasantly surprised and impressed when she replied, "Politician".

The scientist in Dr. Kalam also took over for a while when he discussed the a few scientific concepts. For instance, he explained the meaning of "Black Hole" and its described relevance. For amateurs, a black hole is simply a collection of matter or energy whose gravitational field is strong enough that light cannot escape from it.

The President was on the podium for about 40 minutes after which he ventured into the audience. Despite being shielded by bodyguards, he ambled along the hallway and interacted with students personally. Needless to say, the children were overwhelmed. The look on their faces said it all. They were excited, euphoric and totally moved.

Deepika Karnik, one of the fortunate five from Thane, exclaims, "The experience was inspiring and fascinating." Another happy participant was Rahul Shah who celebrated his birthday on the same day and couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present. He was jubilant.

This is not the first time that Bharat Ratna Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has mesmerized children. Earlier this year, the President was addressing a similar gathering of students in Hubli when a sixth standard student asked him how she could become the President. Replying to her Dr. Kalam said that learning formed the basis for everything. "Learning leads to thinking, and thinking to knowledge. Knowledge becomes a powerful tool to realise your target." Now, how many of you are raring to go?

Migrant Problem

Migrant Problem

Ranked only after Tokyo and Mexico City, Mumbai is the world’s third most populated city with an estimated population of 18,042,000. The city has a population density of more than 17,000 people per square kilometre. The figure for London is around 1,200.

Overcrowding of our cities can be primarily attributed to the inflow of migration. Together with its twin city Thane, Mumbai is facing an acute problem of population influx. There is an increasing flow of people who are moving in from villages and small towns into the metropolitan.

On Tuesday, Rajya Sabha MP from Thane, Satish Pradhan was invited by the Rotary Club of Thane to speak about this growing problem of population influx to Mumbai and Thane. In his address, Pradhan made it clear in the beginning that he is completely against politicising this issue. He stressed on the severity of the matter, highlighting the various causes that are leading to this invasion of the city and the consequences.

Most migrants first arrive in the city in search of a livelihood. They find odd jobs in the informal sectors – as construction workers, hawkers, domestic helpers and so on. The constant inflow encourages unauthorised encroachments. Slum colonies increase and slums become bigger. Though it’s not easy for the migrants to survive in a city like Mumbai, it is not as hard as it was back in the villages. So they stay on. Soon a few unscrupulous elements of the society help these migrants get official status.

Pradhan expressed concern over Bangladeshi refugees and immigrants who are potential threats – not only from the economic point of view but also from the sovereignty standpoint. Since democracy allows everyone to vote and stand for elections, and since many migrants are "regularised" as citizens (thanks to rampant corruption), a day might come when we’ll have a Chief Minister or Prime Minister of Bangladeshi origin who once arrived here as a migrant.

Pradhan said that we’re investing thousands of crores in building infrastructure for the city. But by the time it is built, it is already rendered inadequate by the simultaneous growth in the population. Public transport is already under increasing pressure and on the verge of collapsing. Similarly, lack of water supply, theft of electricity and increasing corruption are making life more difficult than ever for the average citizen.

True, the load on infrastructure and other resources is constantly on the rise and if something is not done soon about this constant invasion of refugees and migrants into the city, we will suffocate from over-population. The society and business community must do all it can to discourage this influx. As citizens we can do a lot and must exercise our powers judiciously – for instance we must not hire domestic workers without verifying their credentials; we must not buy stuff from street side hawkers; we must oppose corruption wherever and whenever we encounter it; and most important, we must vote out of power those parties who misuse their powers for election gains.

Noble Efforts Rewarded
Johnson & Johnson’s efforts to ensure environmental health for the future have been recognised throughout the world by governments and environmental organisations. The parent company in USA gives away World Wide Environmental awards to honour those facilities, teams and individuals that have demonstrated significant progress towards achieving the company’s Environmental Strategic Vision. The awards are based on Sustainability in Environmental Performance, Environmental Innovation and Environmental Leadership (Social Responsibilities). This year the Mulund Consumer Plant of J&J has won the Environmental Excellence Award in Leadership for its energy sharing programme, which has been appreciated worldwide.

On Wednesday, May 21, 2003, the Mulund plant of J&J announced that it has nominated two Thane-based NGOs, namely Jignyasa Trust and Hariyali, to receive the share of prize money that they have received as part of the award. Both these NGO’s were chosen on the basis of their contribution in the area of environmental protection and creating social awareness for a healthier environment.

Both Jignyasa and Hariyali comprise of dedicated and enthusiastic team members who constantly organise various socially relevant projects like cleaning of lakes, awareness drives, tree plantations etc. Most Thane residents would agree that these NGOs have contributed significantly to Thane’s social fabric.

By sharing the prize money, J&J has acted like a good corporate citizen. But more importantly, these little rewards go a long way in boosting the enthusiasm of selfless individuals working behind the scenes in order that we all have a better quality of life. On behalf of the residents of Thane, we congratulate Jignyasa, Hariyali and all other NGOs who relentlessly strive to improve our city through their noble efforts.

Ethics of Medicine

Ethics of Medicine

The recently held Annual Conference of the Indian Medical Association’s Thane chapter was the largest conference of its kind ever to be held in the city. The conference which started at 9:30 in the morning ended at 7:30 in the evening at the Gadkari Rangayatan, had a number of high spots for which it will be remembered.

The highlight of the day was the felicitation of the 72-year old Dr. O P Kapoor, a Senior Physician who has decades of rich experience as a medical practitioner as well as a professor. Crowned with multiple degrees like MD (Med), FRCP (Hon), FCCP among others, Dr. Kapoor was awarded the Life Achievement Award for his rather valuable contribution to the Indian Medical fraternity.

Dr. Kapoor has served at top Hospitals in Mumbai like Jaslok and Bombay Hospital and taught medicine at Grant Medical College. Although he has now retired from active practice, he imparts his knowledge by other means. Like, he is currently the editor of the Bombay Hospital Journal. Dr. Kapoor has the distinction of having taught more than 55,000 medical students and general practitioners in his lifetime, which is a record by itself. Dr. Kapoor has also been a family physician for the famous Kapoor family of Bollywood.

In his packed-with-wisdom address to an audience of more than 400 doctors, Dr. Kapoor offered some extremely thoughtful insights pertaining to the medical profession. Concerned about the increasing trend of relying on advanced gadgets, which is especially observed among the younger doctors, he urged practitioners to take the clinical approach. "Before sending the patient hurriedly for a CT scan or an MRI, the doctor should be absolutely certain that such an investigation is required", he said, adding "Like the tradition GPs, doctors must learn to apply their own minds before sending them to a specialist consultant." He asserted that it is the duty of the every doctor to keep his/her knowledge as current as possible by reading, participating in relevant seminars and keeping track of new discoveries and inventions in the field of medicine and health.

Another highlight of the conference was a panel debate on the extremely sensitive issue of ethics in the medical profession. The topic of the debate was, "Ethics should be made part of the syllabus in the medical degree course." The medical profession, once acknowledged as a noble profession, has become highly commercialised and topic of ethics is an extremely relevant matter, a subject of great concern indeed.

A panel of four prominent specialists (two for and two against) debated for over an hour. While Dr. R D Lele (nuclear medicine consultant with Leelavati Hospital and former dean of JJ Hospital, as well as ex-Director of Jaslok Hospital) and Dr. Amdekar (Honorary Professor of Paediatrics at JJ Hospital argued against including ethics in the course, Dr. Ravi Bapat (Ex Professor and HOD of surgery Seth GS Medical College) and Dr. Supe (Professor and HOD of surgery, Grant Medical College) insisted that teaching ethics is important. The debate was moderated by Dr. S R Munje (Ex. Superintendent of St. George Hospital). The general consensus among the audience seemed to be in favour of including the subject of ethics as they felt that it might help in developing a sense of conscience among the students.

Dr. Ram Murthy, a senior physician at Bombay hospital, discussed the effects of the current mania: SARS. He assured the doctors that as Indians, we need not panic as our immunity levels are really high. The quality of water we drink and the air we breathe has helped all of us build great resistance to such diseases. To us common people, Dr. Murthy’s words are such a relief.

The entire day was chock-a-block with information for practitioners. Various surgeons/specialists spoke about the latest advances in the field of medical science: technology, tools, discoveries and inventions. Among the various branches covered were pathology, ophthalmology, neurology, neurosurgery and cardiology.

The driving force behind the conference was Dr. Anil Tambe, organising Chairman and President of IMA Thane. A former HOD of Medicine at Rajiv Gandhi Medical College, he is currently Professor of Medicine at Terna Medical College and also a practicing Cardiologist in Thane. Others involved in the organising committee were Dr. Shekhar Suradkar, Dr. P A Kale and Dr. Mahavarkar.

Bulletin Business

Bulletin Business

A couple of weeks ago, the president of The Rotary Club of Thane, Dilip Soman invited me to judge a Rotary event – a district level inter-club bulletin competition instituted in the memory of Late Narendra Ballal, founder of Thane Vaibhav, the first Marathi Daily newspaper of Thane District way back in 1975.

The standard of bulletins was exceptionally high with a large number of bulletins from all over Mumbai, which made judging the competition and extremely arduous task. But it was also quite a rewarding experience. I asked a former colleague, Santosh Sharma, who is a senior design consultant, to help me with the design aspects of the evaluation while I assessed the editorial and content part. Together, we judged the entries on the basis of a number of parameters like originality and topicality of content, layout and design, variety of articles and topics, extent of reader interaction, reader friendliness and quality of editing.

From what we observed, it was easy to conclude that the bulletins were a result of enthusiasm, passion and motivation of individual clubs. When we do something without being told to do, then that, we believe, is the highest form of motivation. From this point of view, all participant clubs were winners. Each bulletin reflected a serious attempt to create something valuable and helpful. Yet, the editorial and design quality of a few bulletins echoed a lot more gravity and appeal than others. In the end, the sheer depth and scope of content helped "Mukti", the bulletin of Rotary Club of Thane North End win the Narendra Ballal Best Bulletin Trophy. "Tide Watch" from Rotary Club of Bombay Sea Coast and "Udaan" from Rotary Club of Bombay Airport, stood second and third respectively.

This was the seventh consecutive year of the competition. The prize distribution ceremony was held at Sahyog Mandir last week and the chief guest of the occasion was Sanjeev Latkar, editor of Marathi daily Mumbai Sakal. Latkar spoke highly about the competition and said that such bulletins can play a much larger role in the context of the society. Citing the example of his own paper, Latkar suggested that mainline dailies cannot cover local issues beyond a certain limit. That’s where community bulletins can come to rescue. He said, "The Rotary club bulletins are a great platform for voicing local community opinions and bringing regional issues to the fore. Although limited in reach, they can be very effective." Judging by the index of entries received at the competition, we can say that Latkar’s words carry a lot of weight.

It is true that the local communities have immense power to effect small but very meaningful changes in the society. Fortunately, Thane city can pride itself on comprising quite a vibrant and eager public who frequently participate in socially relevant local community events. Many city-based, not-for-profit establishments work closely with residents of our beloved city to organise community events from time to time. And the direct beneficiary of such events is local citizen. And the foundation of such a community spirit lies in cooperation. Like well known writer Ralph Charell once said, "It is through cooperation, rather than conflict, that your greatest successes will be derived."