Archive | May, 2012

Capturing the struggles of the marginal on celluloid

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

One of the characteristic features of society in South Asia is the institution of caste. Though it gets sanction from some of the ancient Hindu scriptures, the caste system exists across religions. This includes a religion like Sikhism that is often seen as egalitarian and is relatively modern. Unlike most other Indian states, the Sikh majority state of Punjab does not show any major impact of caste groupings during elections, at least at the surface level.

This apparent calm has often been ruptured—a case in point is the recent incident where a low-caste religious leader was fatally attacked in Vienna, Austria. Riots followed in Punjab. Sociologists have pointed out the resurgence of separate gurudwaras for Dalits, as the former “untouchable” castes are now called. It is also pointed out that despite the population of Dalits in the state being one of the highest in any state in the country- around 30%- they hold less than 3% of the landholdings.               

Their political assertion is, unlike in a state like Uttar pradesh, very limited. In the recent state elections, the Jatt-dominated ShiromaniAkali Dal (SAD) party swept the reserved constituencies. The BahujanSamaj Party, whose founder Kanshi Ram, incidentally was a Dalit Sikh, has made little headway in the state. One tactical mistake that the BSP made was to ally with SAD, the party of their immediate oppressors, during the late 1990s. Its electoral debacle and the subsequent disillusionment among its cadres have ensured that it remains a marginal political force in the state.     

Despite the continuing presence of caste antagonism, it is indeed quite startling that caste remains not only relatively subdued during election time, but is also not very powerfully expressed in other areas such as culture and literature.            For example, though there was a strong literary movement in Punjabi between the 1950s-70s, there has been an absence of an identifiable Dalit literary stream in Punjabi.  

In this context, a recent film that has won many accolades internationally as well as in India, AnheyGhorey Da Daanthat was screened earlier this week as part of the PIFF event, brought out this lesser known aspect of Punjab. In this issue, Generation Next features an interview with the film’s director.

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Minister Kenney commends CBSA for immigration fraud investigation

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney recently offered his appreciation to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for their ongoing efforts to investigate fraud in Canada’s immigration system.

The CBSA has issued two warrants for the arrest of a Halifax, Nova Scotia, immigration consultant and two of his employees for allegedly counselling people to commit residency fraud.

“I commend the CBSA for its great work in this major investigation,” said Minister Kenney. “Canadian citizenship is not for sale. I encourage anyone who has information regarding citizenship fraud to report it.”

The three individuals are being charged under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with counselling and assisting foreign nationals, through fraudulent means, in maintaining their Canadian permanent resident status or applying for Canadian citizenship. Warrants have been issued and although these individuals are currently outside of the country, they will be arrested upon their return.

“Unscrupulous consultants bring misery to their victims, so all levels of government and law enforcement must continue to work diligently to ensure that those who commit fraud are caught and punished,” added Minister Kenney. “Our Government introduced and passed Bill C-35, which cracks down on crooked consultants and increases the penalties and fines.”

Bill C-35, which came into force last June, makes it an offence for anyone other than an accredited immigration representative to conduct business, for a fee or other consideration, at any stage of an immigration application or proceeding. It also increases penalties and fines for unauthorized representation and allows for more government oversight in order to improve the way in which immigration consultants are regulated.

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Canadian government increases support for part-time students

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

The Government of Canada has announced a new measure to help students and their families access and afford post-secondary education and training. The income eligibility thresholds for part-time student loans and grants have been increased so more Canadians can pursue post-secondary education while working. Dr. Kellie Leitch, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, made the announcement last week at the University of Western Ontario.

“Our Government is delivering on our commitment to support part-time students by enabling more low- and middle-income Canadians to attend school while working,” said Minister Finley.

The Government of Canada will invest approximately $22.5 million over the next 10 years to increase accessibility for student financial assistance. It is projected that over 2,500 additional part-time students will be eligible for a Canada Student Loan in year one, rising to just under 8,000 in year five and ongoing. Nearly 500 additional part-time students will receive a Canada Student Grant in year one, rising to about 1,500 in year five and ongoing.

At the beginning of this year, Canada ’s Economic Action Plan eliminated in-study interest on part-time student loans so more Canadians can afford to balance work and school.

“Our Government’s top priorities are job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians,” said Dr. Leitch. “We recognize the important role post-secondary education and training plays in ensuring a strong, competitive and flexible workforce in the future.”

For more information on how to save, plan and pay for post-secondary education, visit .

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Look what’s hiding in the Trojan Horse budget

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

 By Rupinder Kaur


Never before have we seen such a reckless backdoor attempt to change fundamental Canadian laws and close the curtains on transparency. That’s the Budget Implementation Act for you – a massive Trojan Horse of a bill that the Conservatives are trying to ram through Parliament.

New Democrat MPs were trying to split this 425-page bill into smaller segments to study in-depth. The Conservatives rejected the NDP’s constructive proposal. In response, your Official Opposition has launched a cross-country budget hearing to hold this government accountable to you.

This bill will make Canadians work two years longer in order to retire with Old Age Security. If you’re laid off, you’ll have to take any job the Minister chooses, otherwise you’ll lose your EI benefits. This bill dismantles vital safeguards that previous generations worked hard to build. It reduces the scope of employment equity legislation. And if you lose your job, the Conservatives will cut you off Employment Insurance—unless you accept any job the Minister deems “suitable.”

The Conservatives say their budget bill is a job creator, but it cuts nine times more jobs than it creates. It squanders billions more on their failed strategy of blind corporate cuts, with no assurance that any jobs will be created as a result.

Trying to push extensive changes through Parliament without proper debate is profoundly undemocratic. And the bill itself contains measures that will make this Conservative government even less transparent and accountable to you.

This bill shrinks the power of the Auditor General, whose job is to help hold the government accountable. It ends independent oversight for 12 key federal agencies, including the Canada Revenue Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It de-funds organizations that produce research that may not always support government spin, like the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute. This bill even dissolves the Public Appointments Commission, created to ensure that key federal positions are assigned based on merit instead of insider connections.

The Conservatives were elected on a promise of more accountability, but they run one of the most secretive governments in memory. What we need now is more transparency, not less – but less is what they’re delivering.

This bill’s effects on our health are particularly troubling. For too long, Canadians in every province and territory have endured the consequences of cuts to our public health care system. We’ve faced longer wait times, overcrowded emergency rooms, doctor and nurse shortages and countless service cuts.

The Conservatives are doing nothing to improve our frontline health care services. They’re doing nothing to help provinces modernize services for our aging population. Instead, this budget short-changes provinces of the health care transfers they were expecting, by a whopping $31-billion.

At the same time, this “budget” bill puts our food safety regime at risk. It weakens food and drug regulations at the discretion of the Minister. It paves the way for private contractors to perform food safety inspections. And if this results in another listeriosis crisis like we saw in 2008, it’ll be even harder to get answers because this bill ends the Auditor General’s oversight of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

This bill is a massive omnibus with hundreds of pages of previously unannounced measures. Many of these measures have little to do with this spring’s Conservative budget announcement. And together, they will affect almost every aspect of our lives.

This “budget” bill is a clear and present danger to Canadians. Its measures need to be debated and studied – not snuck through by the Conservative budget. That’s why your NDP Official Opposition is conducting budget hearings throughout May.

Contact your local MP and tell them how this Trojan Horse budget bill will impact you. Tell the Conservatives how their budget is bad for you and bad for Canada.


Rupinder Kaur is the press secretary to New Democratic Party of Canada.

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South Asian Heritage Month

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

Samuel Getachew

The month of May has been declared as South Asian Heritage Month as well as Asian Heritage Month in the City of Toronto by Mayor Rob Ford. The proclamation of the South Asian proclamation reads – “WHEREAS on December 14, 2001, with the enactment of Bill 98, the Government of Ontario proclaimed the month of May as South Asian Heritage Month and declared May 5 to be South Asian Arrival Day, with the earliest recorded arrival occurring on May 5, 1838”.

It continues – “South Asian Heritage Month is a time to honour the rich cultural heritage and accomplishments of people of South Asian heritage and pay tribute to them and the organizations that contribute to the social, cultural, economic and political life of our city. Immigrants from Asia constitute the largest source of immigration to Toronto. South Asian Heritage Month provides us with an opportunity to learn about the experiences of people of South Asian heritage and the vital role they have played throughout our shared history.”

In celebration of this historic moment, the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians teamed up with South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), and the Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention (ASAAP) in hosting an information display in the rotunda inside city hall as well as a well-attended event on Monday, May 14th. The information display runs until May 21st. According to the coalition group, the hope is to “to showcase how agencies contribute to bring about positive changes in lives of South Asian communities in Ontario through display of material pertaining to projects involving South Asian communities”.

The Monday information evening event had a slew of impressive speakers. Former Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean, DrAlok Mukherjee, chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, activists ZiadhRabbani and Dr. RobinderKaurSehdev attended. Dr. Mukherjee, who was a onetime advisor to former Mayor David Miller, gave the audience a glimpse of policing and civic involvement.

Fiona Crean, who was also a one-time Assistant Deputy Minister at the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, addressed the issues of systemic racism and sexism and how best to address them.  There were about 100 attendees including former TTC Chair Adam Giambrone.

The well attended event concluded with a closing statement of Neethan Shan, who reminded the audience the importance of civic engagement and grassroots work. He proceeded and presented certificates to about a half dozen volunteers. The Executive Director of CASSA, Shan, who was recently elected as President of the Ontario NDP had been a trailblazer to the South Asian community as the community is becoming more engaged in electoral politics in Canada more than ever.

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The youth factor

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

Huma Yusuf


AS the next general elections draw near, I hear increasingly about Pakistan’s growing appetite for democracy. In spite of this government’s performance, there are many, including myself, who will be happy to see a popularly elected civilian government complete its term.

The upcoming transfer of power through elections (assuming all goes well) bodes well for a future in which a more regular electoral cycle is in place. But one election does not mean that a democratic culture is here to stay. Only several general elections at regular intervals over the coming decades will indicate whether Pakistan has a strong stomach for democracy (or an incurable eating disorder). There is, however, one short-term indicator as to Pakistan’s democratic prospects: the youth vote.

According to Nadra, 47 per cent of all registered voters are between the ages of 18 and 35 (that’s 39 million people out of an 83-million-strong electoral list). Significantly, all these voters — most of them first-timers — were born during or after the Zia years and have spent roughly two-thirds of their lives under some form of military rule. Their only exposure to democracy before 2008 was the turbulent 1990s.

Whether these young voters line up at polls on election day to cast their ballot is of extreme significance. High youth voter turnout would suggest that a generation with little experience of democracy has internalised the value of the system and understood the symbolic power of their vote. After all, if those who have been raised on a staple diet of dictatorship are able to switch to democratic fare, there is hope for a democratic future for Pakistan.

Despite young voter enthusiasm for Imran Khan, we cannot take it for granted that 39 million youth have come to value the democratic system in and of itself. As recently as 2009, three national youth surveys conducted by the British Council, Centre for Civic Education and the Herald magazine found that nearly half the youth do not vote and about 40 per cent have no confidence in the utility of their vote. It is precisely these statistics that one hopes are revised during the next general elections.

A growing appetite for democracy could also be suppressed by the continuing appeal of the Pakistan Army as the country’s most functional institution. According to the three 2009 surveys, 60 per cent of the youth surveyed expressed confidence in the military while less than 10 per cent supported government institutions. More recently, in a June 2011 Pew poll of the overall Pakistani population, 79 per cent of respondents identified the military as the most respected and influential institution, while only 20 per cent polled in favour of the national government (even the police had a better showing with 26 per cent).

On election day, young voters may also demonstrate an ambivalence about democracy owing to this government’s poor showing while in power. Since 2008, the public’s disgust with the political class has soared. In 2011, YouGov-Cambridge conducted three separate studies of public opinion in urban Pakistan. Respondents ranked ‘corruption within Pakistan’ in clear first place as the greatest threat to Pakistan as a nation — no less than 94 per cent of respondents believed that corruption is widespread among government leaders. Similarly, in the June 2011 Pew poll, 79 per cent of all respondents identified ‘corrupt political leaders’ as a ‘very big problem’ for the country (bigger problems included inflation, joblessness, crime and terrorism).

Those who are optimistic about Pakistan’s democratic prospects do not dwell on these statistics and instead point to Imran Khan’s popularity as proof of the nation’s democratic appetite: a poll conducted by the International Republican Institute earlier this month showed that the PTI is currently the most popular political party in Pakistan with 31 per cent of respondent votes while the PML-N and PPP trail behind with 27 and 16 per cent of the votes, respectively.

Khan’s popularity has been widely interpreted as a firm rejection of the corruption and venality of the mainstream political parties. This interpretation fits well with a democratic culture whereby a polity is empowered with anti-incumbency and punishes those who have not governed well by voting them out of power. In the run up to the election, as the PTI absorbs more old-guard politicians with well-established reputations for corruption and venality, it will be interesting to see whether young voters become disillusioned and stay away on election day or still turn out to cast their ballot.

If, despite the many shortcomings of all our political leaders (including the Great Khan), Pakistan’s youth vote in significant numbers, we can assume that an important democratic corner has been turned. After all the political shenanigans of the past few years, Pakistani voters will not be voting for politicians, but in spite of them. And those votes will be the surest sign that the new, younger electorate is not instilling faith in lone individuals or supposed saviours, but in the democratic system itself — and nothing can make for a better democratic culture than the decoupling of dirty politics and political participation.

The young voters that this column focuses on are often described as ‘Zia’s children’ and their heightened religiosity, nationalism (bordering on jingoism) and intolerance are seen as the dictator’s most brutal legacy. Despite their ideological shift to the right, these young voters may yet embrace the idea of democracy. If they do, it bodes brilliantly for the future of Pakistan. It is only once the democratic system is resilient that its principles — such as plurality, freedom and equality — will be able to trickle down into everyday practice and policymaking.

Courtesy: Dawn

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The Indian Parody League and politics of denial

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

Shankkar Aiyar


Politics, said Groucho Marx, is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies. The political class, in turns, proved the power of the truism with spectacular success this week.

On Monday, spurred by the power of high-decibel drivel, the UPA government banned cartoons in textbooks. On Tuesday, MPs found time to object to the fact that RajyaSabha TV focused on Jaya Bachchan while film star Rekha took oath as a nominated MP. They even complained to the Vice-President. On Wednesday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, responding to the state of the economy, chose to blame Greece and Europe for the rapid fall in the value of the rupee. On Thursday, as Air India bled and even as the government murmured about austerity, the civil aviation ministry was planning a jumbo junket to the US where Ajit Singh would receive the first Boeing Dreamliner aircraft. On Friday in Parliament, Lalu Prasad led the storm-troopers demanding a ban on the Indian Premier League. Outside the House, the government announced that inflation was back in double-digit territory and had touched 10.23 per cent fuelled by primary/food articles.

The political class may well celebrate the success in banning the cartoon but they must recognise that they are also painting themselves into a larger-than-life caricature. Even as they demand a ban on the IPL, they are promoting their own projection as the Indian Parody League. In fact, you could argue that the political landscape is littered with its own little IPLs. The Indian Patronage League would symbolise the deals for the boys culture; those obstructing the conduct of reasoned debate on issues could be labelled as the Indian Pandemonium League; a large section of the youth feels the Indian Political League is the Indian Paleolithic League, somewhere near the Stone Age, given their views on Internet censorship. The UPA, given its thick-skinned inaction, could be called the United Pachydermatous Alliance or the United Pantomime Alliance.

The argument is not about which issues MPs should raise in Parliament, rather it is about those issues which elected representatives are unable to flag and corner the government on. Is it that the issues that impact the people are so intractable that politicians would rather not flag them? AslamSher Khan, former Indian captain and MP, alluded to this on a news channel when he simply said “it is not that the issues of the economy are not understood, it is just that it is easier to ban cartoons”!

The spectre of denial is appalling to say the least. Over Rs 5 lakh crore of investments in infrastructure are stalled because projects are struggling to acquire land to house them. This means employment generation has pretty much stalled. The crux of the problem is located in the absence of a reasonable policy on land acquisition. On Friday, the government put off, for the umpteenth time in seven years, the new Land Acquisition Bill. But there has hardly been any protest. Lanterns and torches are a top-selling item, thanks to the inability of the government to formulate a path for fuel linkage and a cogent policy for environment clearances. The go, no-go policy has paralysed investment. Why isn’t it an issue?

Indian ranks in the bottom decile of “Ease to do Business” ratings. One big stumbling block is the plethora of permissions that persists but there is no move to rid the system of case-by-suitcase clearance raj. The new Companies’ Bill is yet again pushed off to the Monsoon Session and nobody seems to mind. Corruption hogs headlines in every session but there is no sign of the Lokpal Bill. The direct tax code was cleared by the Standing Committee in February, but it is not on the government’s to-do list. And the list goes on… there are over 50 Bills pending since 2005. Yet these issues don’t get the attention that IPL does. Vocal power, it would seem, is reserved for a 1949 cartoon in a textbook published in 2006. It is reserved for a film star’s midnight skirmish at a stadium, match-fixing and charges of molestation against an Australian player.

The economy is confronted by crises on multiple fronts. Every signal on the e-way is blinking amber and red. Perhaps they are sanguine that these issues affect only a fraction of the population. Perhaps they believe that issues like the slide of the rupee, disastrous level of deficit, the magnitude of current account deficit and the fall in domestic savings rate are urban concerns and are Greek to the average rural voter.

It is true that India is a democracy of the poor. It is also true that a large chunk of the voting classes reside in rural economy; nearly four of ten urban voters don’t vote. The UPA is living in la-la land if it thinks that will be unaffected. Lower growth will dismantle the Robin Hood model of economics that it has practiced. It would be a huge mistake to confuse the sequence of cause and consequences, believe what transpires in the economy is only an urban concern. The consequences of the mismanagement of the current account deficit will visit the rural economy first as prices of fertilisers and diesel shoot up. Higher prices will jack up subsidies to unsustainable levels. Already rising debt and interest costs are crowding out investment in rural infrastructure. Post the 1991 crisis, the first victim of spending cuts was agriculture. The combination of a weak rupee, high inflation and low growth is a cocktail for disaster.

It is time the political parties came out of their little vote-bank ghettos and looked at the big picture. Lower growth impacts Bharat much more than India.


Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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Beware of Bundle Packages

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

By Rubina Haq Ahmed


Bring up the topic of cable, internet or phone companies and you’ll inevitably have hours of conversations that range from, how someone got the best deal to how a customer feels totally ripped off by the high fees.

In my case I went from feeling totally valued by my communication provider, to completely duped in a matter of four months.

Here is My Story

On several occasions in December 2011 my Internet connection failed. Once, I was told, because of an area outage, another because of construction near by that knocked down a pole and a few more incidents that my Internet provider could not explain. After one lengthy outage, that lasted more than 24-hours, I was getting particularly frustrated because I work from home and having an Internet connection is key to my business.

I don’t believe in calling your Internet and cable provider to ask for a discount just because you want it, but I did want to be compensated for my inconvenience. I deserve to have the internet connection I’ve paid for, with no interruptions.

The Discount I Couldn’t Turn Down

At the time Customer Service at Rogers was great. As a way to say sorry, Rogers offered me a deep 70 per cent discount on my internet service with a guarantee that I would keep my internet service with them for two years. The kind representative went a step further to credit me back the days that I had no service. Really how could I say no. I was told how much my total bill would cost, including cable for the next 24 months.

I was over the moon at the rate I was getting. I tweeted about it, sent kudos to Rogers Help desk and made it known I was a happy customer.

When the Honeymoon Ended

Then in March 2012 I noticed my bill had gone up by $5. How could this be?! I had struck a 24 month deal with my provider in December. When I called to ask them why, they told me my cable package would now cost $5 dollar more every month and there was nothing I could do to change that. I then learned the deep discount I had on my internet service came with a stipulation, that I had to pay the cable TV service at the regular rate even if it went up. They added they could theoretically raise my cable TV rates and I could not negotiate or complain. I can’t leave and go to another cable provider either, if I did I would have to “pay back” the internet discount I was getting and pay an early cancellation fee. Even though I have been a Rogers’ customer for more than 10 years.

My Negotiating Skills are now Zero

I investigated what Bell was offering and found they had the same package for $35 dollars less, but Rogers told me they would not match it and I could do nothing about it. I’m still trying to leave the cable portion of my Rogers package, because it was never explained to me that the deal was so restrictive.

How can they Break a Promise with no Repercussion?!

This is the problem I have with Rogers, they made me a deal in December that I would get a certain rate on my internet for 24 months but never explained that it included me paying the full rate for cable and that they could raise that rate when they needed too. They also never explained that the two services were tied at the hip and I could not leave or negotiate the cable without affecting my internet deal.

I’ve never asked to break my internet deal, the one they were saying sorry for, I only want a fair price on my cable that other competitors are advertising or at the very least don’t raise the price if I don’t have the power to leave.

Lessons Learned

What I learned from this experience is keep your cell phone at one carrier, cable at another, Internet at a third and landline at a forth. There are enough service providers out there to make this happen.

The only service I have ever been able to negotiate effectively is my cell phone, which I have through Telus. It’s because it’s the only business I give them.

My main message is NEVER EVER bundle your Internet, cable, wireless and phone into one bill, keep the power of negotiation in your hands


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Afridi makes list of 100 top professionals

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

Former captain of national cricket team and one of the top all rounders of the world, Shahid Afridi’s name has been included in British International Biographical Centre’s list of 100 Top Professionals of 2012. Cambridge’s trusted-worthy Biographical Centre announces 100 top professionals in various fields every year. It also awards medals to these 100 top professionals. Expressing jubilation at receiving this prestigious award Afridi said that the prayers of his elders and the nation helped him win this award. I would keep on playing my part to help the national team savor many more victories, he added. Previously, Imran Khan has won this prestigious award.

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40% below-age-one children from visible minorities by 2031

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

According to Statistics Canada, by 2031, nearly 40 per cent of children under the age of one in Canada will belong to a visible minority group. Only six years ago, this figure was 22 per cent. This trend reflects the one in the United States. Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed a landmark demographic shift, reporting that for the first time more than half of children being born in the United States belonged to ethnic or racial minorities. Assessing similar trends in Canada, StatsCan projects that the visible minority population in this country will continue to increase by sustained immigration and slightly higher fertility rates in the next 15 years or so. The South Asian population would still be the largest visible minority group in 2031, and might more than double from roughly 1.3 million in 2006 to 4.1 million by then. The Chinese population is projected to grow from 1.3 million to 3 million, according to StatsCan estimations. For this study, the agency used the census metropolitan area of Toronto, which reaches from Oshawa in the east to Burlington in the west and Barrie in the north.

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