Canada’s Accessible Arctic exhibition in Delhi: August 14-21

Source: Connect – Canada in India

Check out Canada’s amazing natural history and snapshots from the Canadian Arctic at a photo exhibition, in collaboration with Canadian Geographic and the Canadian Museum of Nature, at India International Centre, Delhi. Also, catch two amazing films on the Canadian Arctic – Lords of the Arctic and People of the Ice on August 16 at 6:30pm, as part of the exhibition.

Photo Credit: Kenan Ward.

India’s newest state has more people than Canada and more Microsoft IT employees than anywhere but Redmond

Source: Quartz

The creation of India’s newest state, Telangana, marks the end of a decades-long quest for self-governance in the country’s south, and was greeted with celebration on the streets of Hyderabad, the state’s new capital city.

But the ruling Congress party’s vote to approve the state’s creation Tuesday night may also usher in an era of uncertainty for dozens of multinational companies with major operations in Hyderabad.

If it was a stand-alone country, Telangana, with a population estimated at 36 million people, would be more populous than Canada, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan or Australia. At 44,300 square miles, Telangana will be about the same size as the US state of Kentucky.

Most importantly for global business, Telangana will share Hyderabad, the south Indian information technology metropolis, with Andhra Pradesh, the state is it separating from, for the next ten years. After that, the city will go to Telangana, whose leaders may have scant business experience, particularly with global corporations.

The city houses the information technology operations of some of the world’s biggest companies, including the largest Microsoft IT center outside of its Redmond, Wash. headquarters. Microsoft’s website calls the Hyderabad center the “backbone” of the company’s IT operations and says it handles IT for more than 1.3 million devices and 194,000 end-users in over 108 countries as well as managing Microsoft’s global data centers and corporate network.

Thousands of employees from other multinational companies including Accenture, Bank of America, Dell, Novartis, JP Morgan, Google, and Facebook also work in Hyderabad’s sprawling business parks.

The Times of India reported that Wednesday “Brand Hyderabad is set to shine once more and brighter at that,” with the Telangana decision made. But Telangana’s independence movement has been tainted by violence, and Tuesday night’s announcement does not seem to have put an end to that. Businesses, schools, and public transportation were shut Wednesday as rock-throwing protestors vented their anger over the decision to give Hyderabad to the new state.

BJP launches Canada unit to connect with Indian diaspora

BJP launches Canada unit to connect with Indian diaspora

Source: One India News

TORONTO: Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party (OFBJP) has launched a Canada unit with chapters in four major cities – Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa – to connect with the Indian diaspora.

The Canada chapter of India’s main opposition party was formally launched Monday by OFBJP global convener Vijay Jolly at a one day forum organized in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada under its “global community overreach programme”.

OFBJP Canada shall focus on improving cultural and heritage links between the people of Canada and India, Jolly said.

OFBJP delegates from Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto attended the day long meeting at Hilton Garden Inn at Mississauga, according to a media release.

Jolly nominated the following as conveners of the four chapters: Azad K. Kaushik (Toronto), Shivendra Dwivedi (Montreal), Aditya Tawatia (Vancouver) and Shiv Bhaskar (Ottawa.)

Addressing the gathering, Jolly noted that people of Indian origin have played a significant role in development of Canada and for close Indo-Canadian friendship and understanding.

With a population of around 1.2 million in a total Canadian population of 33 million, people of Indian origin have made immense contributions in medicine, IT, commerce, sports, politics, media, social and cultural spheres.

A book titled “Social Harmony” by Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister and convenor of BJP’s central election campaign committee was presented to the newly appointed OF BJP Canada convenors.

Overseas students rarely challenge landlords

Source: The Age

Many other students ‘pushed around in tenancies’.

When Yu Mao moved out of a rental property in Oakleigh she thought recouping her bond would be simple enough. But she was shocked to discover her signature on a claim form relinquishing most of the bond.

Ms Mao, who was an international student when she moved in, insisted she never signed the form. So she took it to police for analysis.

‘‘I had been trying so hard to prove I didn’t sign it,’’ she said.

The police analysis found her signature had been forged but was unable to determine who had written it.

Ms Mao has since become a permanent resident but said international students rarely spoke out about unfair treatment in their housing arrangements. ‘‘I don’t think they know there is a way to complain.’’

And the Council of International Students Australia says exploitation of foreign students in the rental market is rife.

The council’s public relations officer, Mohamed Ehsan Ebrahim, urged universities to ‘‘reach out’’ to students and help protect them from unfair situations. ‘‘A significant number of students have been exploited in the private rental market,’’ he said.

Withholding bonds was among the main problems.

Ms Mao said international students often left their tenancies without demanding their bond because they wanted to get home for their holidays. ‘‘Everyone is trying to leave the country as quickly as possible,’’ she said.

Ms Mao said the real estate agency she had dealt with agreed to return her bond after the police investigated.

Tenants Union of Victoria policy worker Mike Williams said international students rarely challenged their landlords.
‘‘Many international students are just pushed around in their tenancies,’’ he said. ‘‘Often they just don’t stand up for their rights.’’

He urged students to seek advice on their tenancies if they felt they had been mistreated. But few international students sought help from the union.

Hadi, who left Germany to do a PhD in Melbourne, never imagined he’d end up on the street when he moved into a house in Frankston.

But hoped speaking out about his sudden eviction would highlight the exploitation of international students in the rental market.

Hadi said in September he signed a contract that said he would mow the lawn and clean and maintain the house instead of paying rent.

Hadi, who did not want his surname published, said the landlord later demanded $150 a week. He said he agreed to pay $60 a week, but negotiations broke down.

Early this year, Hadi was walking outside his Dandenong workplace and found all his possessions dumped there.

He said a colleague handed him an eviction notice that had also been dropped off.

‘‘I went down to the garage and saw the other colleagues were laughing at me,’’ he said.

Hadi spent the night on a Swanston Street bench before crashing at a backpackers’ hostel in St Kilda for three weeks.

He recently challenged his eviction in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and won $1408 in compensation when the rooming house owner failed to appear.

The owner declined to comment.

Indian Summer in Vancouver: July 4-13

Indian Summer in Vancouver: July 4-13

Source: Connect – Canada in India

The Indian Summer Festival in Vancouver kicks off with a culinary tour of India with local chef, Vikram Vij, on July 4. Other highlights of the ten-day festival include: conversations with Indian cinema icon and humanitarian Shabana Azmi and Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, a health and well-being weekend focussing on yoga, meditation and talks on nutrition, and Indian music ranging from Bhangra to Sufi.

Celebrating World Environment Day with special workshop for children in Delhi

Source: Connect – Canada in India

Over a 100 children between the ages of eight and 12 years participated in a special workshop on June 4 at the High Commission of Canada in Delhi, to mark World Environment Day. The workshop, held in collaboration with the ECO Roots non-governmental organisation (NGO), encouraged children to preserve and care for the environment with a focus on protecting Delhi’s state bird – the house sparrow, which is slowly diminishing in numbers. The young participants were excited with many fun activities including building nests using waste material and mud houses for birds, making clay pots, watching a film on the conservation of the Arctic and an interactive session with Jim Nickel, Acting High Commissioner for Canada to India. The winners of the “Save the Sparrow” slogan contest on the Canada in India Facebook page were also felicitated at the workshop. See pictures from the workshop.

Pakistani TV smashes taboos with its answer to ‘Glee’

Source: NDTV

Lahore: Gay romance, Islamic extremism and a soundtrack of classic love songs make for Pakistan’s taboo-breaking answer to the hugely successful US television series ‘Glee’.

Like its smash hit forerunner, ‘Taan’ follows the lives and loves of a group of young people who regularly burst into song. But this time they attend a music academy in Lahore, instead of an American high school.

Taan — which is a musical note in Urdu — tackles subjects considered off limits in Pakistan’s deeply conservative Muslim society, with plotlines including love affairs between two men and between a Taliban extremist and a beautiful Christian girl.

The plan is for the 26-episode series to air in September or October, and while producer Nabeel Sarwar insisted the programme was not a “political pulpit”, he is determined to take on the tough issues.

“Nobody wants to have controversy for the sake of controversy, nobody wants to have an assignment to violence, nobody wants to push a button that would result in a disaster for anyone,” he told AFP.

“But the truth has to come out somewhere. Where are we going to put a line in the sand and say, ‘Look, this is what we are’?”

Taking a public stand to defend liberal values like this is rare in Pakistan, where forces of religious conservatism have risen steadily in recent years.

Risque scenes in foreign films are routinely cut by the authorities and the team behind Taan are acutely aware that they must tread carefully with their challenging material.

In one scene the two gay lovers dance and sing in a small room but never embrace — their relationship is suggested rather than overtly shown. The moment is interrupted when a radical Islamist character bursts in.

Director Samar Raza said representing the lives of gay characters was difficult in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.

“Let’s say in a certain scene, there are two boys talking to each other, they are not allowed to show their physical attachment to each other,” he said.

“So I bring a third character who says: ‘God designed Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’.”

It is not only the sensibilities of the censors the producers must navigate.

While 70 percent of Pakistan’s population is under 35, a huge and potentially lucrative audience for advertisers, it is the head of the household who decides what families watch on TV, explains Sarwar.

“The head of the household during the day is the matriarch and the head of the household at night is the patriarch — they control access to TV,” he told AFP.

“You have to find programming that allows the matriarch and the patriarch to join in and participate, but there has to be room for the younger audience.”

In a bid to appeal to older viewers the makers of Taan have licensed around 100 classic Pakistani songs, some by legendary artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and have reworked them to suit modern tastes, as Glee does.

“We try to find music that resonates with the older generation which control the access to the TV but we contemporise that music so that the younger audience does not feel left out,” Sarwar said.

The show hopes that by taking on difficult issues in a light-hearted way it will both reflect the changing nature of Pakistani society and attract a young audience currently hooked on imported Turkish soap operas.

Local dramas struggle to compete with the likes of “Manahil and Khalil” and “Ishq-e-Mamnu” (Forbidden Love) — Turkish serials starring Westernised characters with fair skin and dubbed into Urdu.

Turkish soaps are widely watched across the Muslim world, but the popularity of “Ishq-e-Mamnu” has prompted a lively debate about the “Turkish invasion” of the small screen in Pakistan, with local production companies complaining that they do not have the resources to rival them.

Yasmin Huq, one of the stars of Taan, told AFP a homegrown show could speak more clearly to Pakistanis than foreign imports.

“Today’s generation is watching Turkish and Indian dramas,” she said. “But no one can make a musical story like Pakistanis. Even if you watch the Turkish and Indian dramas, you will see that nobody can talk about Pakistan like Pakistanis.”

Contraceptive use rises in rural areas of Gujarat

Source: Times of India

AHMEDABAD: Premila Bhabor of Panchmuva village in Panchamahal is a mother of five. After giving birth to a daughter and a son, she wanted another son. “What if the first one does not survive,” was her concern. But that did not happen and she conceived three girls after that. The family lives in extreme poverty. Premila and her husband did not use contraceptives though a health worker had explained how they worked.

This is one story among the hundreds in rural Gujarat where the knowledge of contraception has reached but the message hasn’t yet been conveyed.

May 28 is observed as the International Day for Action on Women’s Health and the theme set by Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) for this year is ‘Access to Contraceptives is a HumanRight’. In rural Gujarat, while the infant mortality rate and the maternal mortality rate have improved over the years, the use of contraception – both temporary and permanent – is still limited.

However, the awareness of contraceptives is on the rise with an increase in its users, from 65% to 67%. “Non-reversible methods of contraception are preferred to reversible methods with female sterilization being the most prevalent form at 41.5%,” says Smita Bajpai, project coordinator, Chetna.

As for the vast number of those who reject contraceptives, Bajpai says: “The primary reason for refusing is the desire for having a male child and the nagging fear that one child might not survive.” To tackle this, a project was launched in 2006 which saw several state NGOs and the department of health and family welfare collaborate to bring about a change in the health statusof women in these areas. This project mobilized couples by counseling them on permanent and temporary methods of contraception provided by the public health system. Individual as well as joint counseling was done to provide complete information about various methods and the couples then chose the method of their choice.

Reports from 17 districts of Gujarat indicated that a total of 1,833 women accepted the temporary method of spacing children – intra uterine contraceptive device or IUCD. A total of 2,955 women accepted permanent sterilization. Interestingly, the state policy provides more compensation to men, but the report indicates only 129 men accepted this method during 2008-13. Men still find it difficult to accept this method as they confuse it with the concept of masculinity, the findings say.

“Women are overburdened with work. There is no one to look after the children at home and health facilities are far off, making it difficult to seek help,” Bajpai says. “Most families in these areas migrate for livelihoods. To track them and to ensure that they receive services at the places they migrate to is a major challenge in these areas.”

After lingerie mannequin ban, Mumbai politicians want ban on lingerie ads too

Source: NDTV

Mumbai: Are mannequins, which display lingerie, as harmless as they look? Or are they silently promoting the surge of sex crimes?

If politicians in Mumbai are to be believed, it is the latter. And such is the potential “danger” posed by lingerie mannequins, the general body of 227 corporators of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) unanimously decided it was best to ban the ladies in plastic.

“Lingerie mannequins promote rapes. Skimpily clad mannequins can pollute young minds. After the Delhi rape case, I felt something had to be done,” explained Ritu Tawade, the BJP corporator who mooted the proposal.

Though the municipal commissioner is still to approve the proposal which was passed on May 16, when asked if lingerie advertisements on TV, in newspapers and on billboards should also be banned, Tawade agreed.

Dumbfounded Mumbaikars however, thought the initiative was ridiculous.

“Sex crimes are committed by people who have a twisted mentality and basically if they want to be, if you like, sexually aroused, all they have to do is switch on the net. It’s all over the net. What are they talking about? It is really absurd. That is why I think ‘Big Moron Corporation’ is a good title for BMC,” Ad Guru Alyque Padamsee said.

Block blasphemous material on social media: Pak court

Source: Times of India

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court on Tuesday directed authorities to take immediate steps to block “blasphemous material” on social media websites and sought a detailed response within 20 days.

A division bench of the Peshawar high court headed by Chief Justice Dost Muhammad issued the order in response to a petition filed by a lawyer named Arif Khan.

The judges said authorities should takeimmediate measures to block blasphemous and disputed material on social media websites.

The Chief Justice observed that anti-Islam material on social media websites incite religious sentiments and “cause chaos in society”.

They also issued notices to officials of the interior ministry, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and other departments, seeking detailed replies on the issue within 20 days.

It could not immediately be ascertained which websites the judgeswanted the authorities to act against.

YouTube, the popular video sharing website, has been banned in Pakistan since last year over the hosting of clips of an anti-Islam movie.

Mr. Sudhir Vyas, Secretary (West) visited Toronto

Source: Indian Economic Business News

Secretary (West) Shri Sudhir Vyas accompanied by Ms. K. Nadini, Dir(AMS) and Dr. Piyush Singh, Under Secretary (AMS), visited Canada during 29-30 April, 2013 for Foreign Office Consultations. The delegation visited Toronto on April 30. A luncheon roundtable was organised by C D Howe Institute and a dinner reception by Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC) and IIT Alumni Association of Canada (IITAC). Secretary addressed the participants at the Institute, comprising mainly of academics, think tanks and universities, on the topic ‘Canada-India Relations: The Untapped Potential’. The reception audience consisted of business representatives and professionals active in India-Canada economic corridor. Speaking at these two events Secretary pinpointed three pillars for Canada and India to build on viz Energy, Food Security and Trade & Economic Co-operation. Secretary had separate meetings with University of Toronto and NASSCOM Canada chapter members.

Asian Television Network to launch Hindi and Bengali Channels

Source: Canada Stockwatch via Indian Economic Business News

Toronto-based Asian Television Network International Ltd. has signed licensing agreements under which it has been granted exclusive rights to the Star Utsav and Star Jalsha channels, both of which are from Star Network-India, a part of Fox International Channels. Star Utsav is a 24-hour Hindi general entertainment channel while Star Jalsha is an Indian Bengali general entertainment channel.

India one of the top tourism destinations in Asia

Source: Times of India via Indian Economic Business News

India is one of the top tourism destinations in Asia, according to findings from a CNN global travel survey released recently. The results also position the country as the region’s fourth fastest growing tourism destination and the third most attractive business for investment opportunities, right after China and Hong Kong. One-fifth of CNN’s audience of global travelers considering a visit to Asia Pacific, would consider visiting India in the 12 months and experts say its celebrated culture could be a prime reason. The destination fended off competition from Japan and Thailand to rank as the no. 1 destination in the region with the second richest culture and heritage, with only China scoring more in this category. The study, entitled ‘CNN Consumer Connect – Travel and Tourism 2013’, looks at consumer travel trends, perceptions and behavior, and was hosted on all CNN websites worldwide. It polled more than 3,000 readers based in over 70 countries around the world and included 25 Asia Pacific destinations. Duncan Morris, vice-president of Research at Turner International Asia Pacific, said, “These results are great news for India and the Asia Pacific region as a whole. CNN consumers are discerning, affluent global travelers and they clearly indicate a desire to visit this part of the world to enjoy a particular brand of hospitality, food, culture – everything that makes a travel experience distinctive. At a time where money in the household is perceived to be tighter, spending on travel is still obviously a priority for many.”

India’s gemstones market to double to $3.6 billion in 5 years: Gemfields

Source: Indo Asian News Service via Indian Economic Business News

The coloured gemstones market in India is expected to double to $3.6 billion in the next five years, Gemfields Plc, the world’s leading precious stones miner, said. “$1.8 billion is the total size of the coloured gemstone market in India. We are expecting a growth of 20 percent every year for the next 10 years,” Rupak Sen, Gemfields India regional marketing director- Asia, said. According to Sen, India’s gem and jeweler market was estimated at $30 billion and out of which the market share for all categories of coloured gemstone was almost 6 percent. London-based Gemfields mines mainly emeralds in Zambia, but recently ventured into rubies, processed in Mozambique. The company auctions rough stones in Singapore.

 

India, long the home of outsourcing, now wants to make its own Chips

Source: New York Times via Indian Economic Business News

The Government of India, home to many of the world’s leading software outsourcing companies, wants to replicate that success by creating a home grown industry for computer hardware. But unlike software, which requires little infrastructure, building electronics is a far more demanding business. Chip makers need vast quantities of clean water and reliable electricity. Computer and tablet assemblers depend on economies of scale and easy access to cheap parts, which China has spent many years building up. So the Indian government is trying a new approach. In October, it quietly began mandating that at least half of all laptops, computers, tablets and dot-matrix printers procured by government agencies come from domestic sources, according to Dr. Ajay Kumar, Joint Secretary of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, which devised the policy. At the same time, it is potentially providing as much as $2.75 billion in incentives in front of chip makers to entice them to build India’s first semiconductor manufacturing plant, an important step in building a domestic hardware industry. According to Indian media reports, two consortiums have been in talks with the government to build microprocessor foundries. The first is led by the Jaypee Group, one of India’s largest construction companies, which built the country’s Formula One track in Uttar Pradesh. It has partnered with I.B.M., which will provide the technology. The second bid is from the Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation, an American company that, despite its name, does not manufacture any chips. It has partnered with the Geneva-based chip maker STMicroelectronics. Source: New York Times

India says it plans to double renewable energy sources by 2017

Source: Thomson Reuters via Indian Economic Business News

The Indian government recently said it planned to double its renewable energy capacity by 2017. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India would ramp up its use of wind, solar and biomass energies in the coming years. “It is proposed to double the renewable energy capacity in our country from 25,000 MW in 2012 to 55,000 megawatts by the year 2017,” he said at the Fourth Clean Energy Ministerial conference in New Delhi.”We have set ourselves a national target of increasing the efficiency of energy use to bring about a 20 to 25 per cent reduction in the energy intensity of our GDP by 2020.” Mr. Singh said that a low carbon strategy was necessary for sustainable growth. Mr. Singh, however, said these non- conventional sources of energy had reduced in price but were still higher than dirtier, more conventional sources of power, like coal. It will soon be the second-largest contributor to increasing global energy demands, accounting for 18 percent of the growth. Despite intense sunshine throughout the year, India has little solar capacity and much of its solar hardware is manufactured abroad. Mr. Singh said that that needs to change. “India is potentially a large market for production of such (solar) equipment and it is also a potentially competitive, attractive production base for supplying other countries,” he said at the conference.

Economy to grow at 6.4 percent in 2013-14: PM panel

Source: Indo-Asian News Service via Indian Economic Business News

The Indian economy is expected to grow at 6.4 percent in the current fiscal against the estimated 5 percent expansion registered in the previous year, the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Panel said. “The economy has bottomed out and we will achieve higher growth of 6.4 percent in the current financial year,” Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council chairman C. Rangarajan said recently. He said agriculture sector growth is likely to increase to 3.5 percent 2013-14 as compared to the estimated 1.8 percent growth in the fiscal ended March 31, 2013. The growth of manufacturing sector is likely to increase to 4 percent in the current financial year as compared to 3.1 percent in the previous year. The services sector is estimated to expand by 7.7 percent in 2013-14 as compared to 6.6 percent growth projected for the previous fiscal. Mr. Rangarajan said growth would accelerate further if the government expedites clearance for major projects. “If we take action for speedy implementation of projects we can achieve the higher rate of growth quickly even in the short-term,” he said. According to the panel’s estimate, the country’s main inflation is expected to be at around 6 percent in the current financial year as compared to the estimated 5.96 percent at the end of the financial year 2012-13. Mr. Rangarajan said moderation in inflation would give scope for monetary policy easing by the central bank. The central bank has been maintaining tight monetary policy for the last three years to contain inflation.

Meghalaya government seeks report on Garo Hills rape

Source: Times of India

SHILLONG: The state government has sought a detailed report from the West Garo Hills district administration on an incident of rape of a girl by miscreants from neighbouring Assam in Boldamgre village of the Garo Hills.

Social welfare minister Deborah C Marak convened a meeting with principal secretary (social welfare) PW Ingty and other officials in which they discussed the incident. “We have asked the concerned district administration to submit a report on the unfortunate incident,” Marak told reporters.

The state police have also asked their counterparts in Assam to arrest the absconding accused involved in the case.

“On Sunday morning, over a dozen armed miscreants from the Hat-Singimari region of Assam numbering entered the village and raped an 18-year-old girl in the village, about 12 km from Garobadha town. They also went from house to house attacking people and looting them,” a police spokesperson said.

Reportedly, the girl was attacked by the criminals and she was raped by an unidentified person. The dacoits also took away Rs 7,000 from the house of one Gajang Sangma after assaulting his family members.

Meanwhile, several NGOs, including the North East Network, have condemned the rape.

“It’s shocking that despite evidence of increasing sexual violence against women, the state government has not been able to enforce the anti-rape law strictly. The law puts special onus on the police department to act in cases of atrocities on women,” NEN said.

On the other hand, concern over sexual assaults on minors in Meghalaya is on the rise, with even the state home minister, Roshan Warjri, recently voicing her anguish in the state assembly over atrocities on women perpetuated in random in the state, which, ironically follows a matrilineal system.

Investigation is already underway in the incident of gang rape of a school girl in the Garo Hills a few months ago.

Dhoni’s ‘Vishnu avatar’ lands him in legal tangle

Source: Hindustan Times

An advertisement that depicts MS Dhoni as Lord Vishnu has landed the Indian skipper in legal trouble. An activist has filed a case against him in a Bengaluru court, alleging Dhoni had ‘denigrated’ the Hindu god in the advertisement in a business magazine. The case was registered under section 295 of the IPC — injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion — on a complaint that said that by posing as Lord Vishnu, holding several things including a shoe in his hands, Dhoni had hurt “religious sentiments.”

The court will take up the case on May 12, when the complainant’s statement will be recorded.

US, UK, and Canada woo leisure travelers from India

Source: The Economic Times

Many Indian families will be visiting their kin in the US this summer; or parents will be visiting campuses where their children are studying. But the US commerce department, along with big tour operators in India, has been working towards making US an independent leisure destination for Indian tourists, rather than just visits to friends and relatives or VFR, as that segment is called.

“Following President Barack Obama’s tourism plan launched last year, we have initiated many business-to-business and people -to-people initiatives to make the US a friendlier destination for tourists from India. This includes simplification and fast-tracking of the visitor visa process and granting of multiple entry 10-year visas,” a senior official at the US embassy told ET Magazine.

Uncle Sam woos visitors

An interesting trend is that different states of the US are making efforts to woo Indian tourists independently. An example is Visit Florida, an organisation that opened an office in India recently and estimates that around 58,000 Indians travelled to Florida during 2012, which was a 16% increase over the previous year.

“India is one of the top source markets for us. We intend to showcase popular cities like Miami, Orlando, and Kennedy Space Center. We also plan to launch a Florida specialist programme for the travel trade,” says Tracy Vaughan, director, international sales and marketing of Visit Florida. Theme parks, beautiful beaches, endless entertainment, and culinary and shopping options are some of the reasons that make Florida an attractive travel proposition for Indian families.

Brand USA, the initiative to encourage international visits to the US and to grow its share of the global travel market, is set to launch a big campaign in India in to showcase, among other things, specific destinations such as Niagara Falls, Disneyland and California and Las Vegas.

Through its Visit USA Committee (Vusacom), the US government has been reaching out to tour operators, hoteliers, airlines and destination management companies in India. “The US has always been a big destination for business, education and visiting friends and relatives. But with the new initiatives, which were unveiled about 18 months ago, we have been seeing a growth in the segment of free and independent travellers too,” says Ashwini Kakkar, executive vice-chairman of Mercury Travels and chairman of Vusacom in India. These are people who are in the mid- to high-end range and can be differentiated from the kind of travellers who would go only to Bangkok or Dubai for shopping holidays. They are much bigger spenders, he adds .

According to Kakkar, the steps taken by the US government to simplify B1 and B2 visas — for tourist and business visitors — have given a boost to US-bound travel. Some 660,000 B1 and B2 visas were issued in India in fiscal year 2012. In 2013 there has been a 20% upswing over the previous year so far.

Being a sport

Like the US the UK, too, has been running campaigns in India to change the perception of the country to that of a leisure destination from one just for family visits.

“Last year, in the run up to the Olympic Games we had unveiled a huge promotional campaign. From India we are looking at sports tourism centred around football, cricket and other niche segments such as film tourism or visits to Bollywood-related locations,” says Keith Beecham, overseas network director, VisitBritain.

Specific regions of the UK, too, are working with Indian tour operators to attract bigger numbers of tourists from India. Wales, for instance, is hoping to see a large number of Indian visitors for the ICC Champions Trophy in June. “The tournament builds on Cardiff’s strong track record as a city that can host truly global sporting events and will guarantee fantastic entertainment for cricket fans,” first minister of Wales Carwyn Jones said.

“With global travel becoming an integral part of the Indian lifestyle, countries such as Canada, the US and the UK enjoy strong appeal. Theme parks are of great interest and have led to increased number of visitors to Disneyland. In the UK, major sights such as the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace are on most visitors’ itineraries,” says Vishal Suri, deputy COO tour operating, Kuoni India.

Another conventional destination, Canada, too, is seeing a shift from Indian travellers visiting friends and relatives to leisure travellers. Visitors in the VFR category are adding on vacations such as an Alaska cruise or an adventure trip to Canadian Rockies.

The state of British Columbia, which has a large population of people of Indian origin, is likely to see a growth of about 10% in the number of visitors from India in 2013. “The trend we are seeing is an increase in independent travellers. We are receiving requests for self-drive itineraries, which is great as BC is a very easy destination to enjoy by driving oneself,” says Clare Mason, manager, Destination British Columbia.

Bangladesh toll reaches 377, building owner arrested

Source: Reuters India

The owner of a factory building that collapsed in Bangladesh killing hundreds of garment workers was arrested on Sunday trying to flee to India, as hopes of finding more survivors from the country’s worst industrial accident began to fade.

Mohammed Sohel Rana was arrested by the elite Rapid Action Battalion in the border town of Benapole, Dhaka District Police Chief Habibur Rahman told Reuters, ending a four-day manhunt that began after Rana Plaza, which housed factories making low-cost garments for Western retailers, caved in on Wednesday.

Bangladesh television showed Rana, a local leader of the ruling Awami League’s youth front, being flown by helicopter to the capital Dhaka, where he will face charges of faulty construction and causing unlawful death.

Authorities put the latest death toll at 377 and expect it to climb higher with hundreds more still unaccounted for.

Four people were pulled out alive on Sunday after almost 100 hours beneath the mound of broken concrete and metal, and rescuers were working frantically to try to save several others still trapped, fire services deputy director Mizanur Rahman said.

“The chances of finding people alive are dimming, so we have to step up our rescue operation to save any valuable life we can,” said Major General Chowdhury Hassan Sohrawardi, coordinator of the operation at the site.

About 2,500 people have been rescued from the wrecked building in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30 km (20 miles) from the capital, Dhaka.

Officials said the eight-storey complex had been built on spongy ground without the correct permits, and more than 3,000 workers – mainly young women – entered the building on Wednesday morning despite warnings that it was structurally unsafe.

A bank and shops in the same building closed after a jolt was felt and cracks were noticed on some pillars on Tuesday.

Police said one factory owner gave himself up on Sunday following the detention of two plant bosses and two engineers the day before.

Anger over the disaster has sparked days of protests and clashes, with police using tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to quell demonstrators who set cars ablaze.

Garment workers blockaded a highway in a nearby industrial zone of Gazipur on Sunday demanding capital punishment for the owners.

The main opposition, joining forces with an alliance of leftist parties which is part of the ruling coalition, called for a national strike on May 2 in protest over the incident.

Built on a filled-in pond

Wednesday’s collapse was the third major industrial incident in five months in Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter of garments in the world behind China. In November, a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in a suburb of Dhaka killed 112 people.

Such incidents have raised serious questions about worker safety and low wages, and could taint the reputation of the poor South Asian country, which relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports. The industry employs about 3.6 million people, most of them women, some of whom earn as little as $38 a month.

Emdadul Islam, chief engineer of the state-run Capital Development Authority (CDA), said on Friday that the owner of the building had not received the proper construction consent, obtaining a permit for a five-storey building from the local municipality, which did not have the authority to grant it.

Furthermore, another three storeys had been added illegally, he said. “Savar is not an industrial zone, and for that reason no factory can be housed in Rana Plaza,” Islam told Reuters.

Islam said the building had been erected on the site of a pond filled in with sand and earth, weakening the foundations.

North American and European chains, including British retailer Primark and Canada’s Loblaw, a unit of George Weston Ltd (WN.TO), said they were supplied by factories in the Rana Plaza building.

Since the disaster, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has asked factory owners to produce building designs by July in a bid to improve safety.

Commonwealth meet in Sri Lanka ‘accommodates evil’, Canada says

Source: Times of India

LONDON: Canadian foreign minister John Baird has condemned the decision to allow Sri Lanka to host the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in November as “accommodating evil”.

Baird spoke out after his Commonwealth counterparts in London on Friday agreed to press ahead with the meeting despite strong criticism over Colombo’s human rights record.

“We’re appalled that Sri Lanka seems poised to host CHOGM and to be chair-in-residence of the Commonwealth for two years,” the Canadian minister told Guardian newspaper late Friday.

“Canada didn’t get involved in the Commonwealth to accommodate evil; we came to combat it. We are deeply disappointed that Sri Lanka appears poised to take on this leadership role.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada will boycott the November 15-17 meeting unless Sri Lanka investigates suspected war crimes including the alleged indiscriminate killing of civilians by government troops in the climax of the civil war in 2009.

Commonwealth secretary-general Kamalesh Sharma said Sri Lanka had not been on the formal agenda at Friday’s talks but said it had been discussed, and there was no opposition to November’s meeting being held in that country.

It was a “collective decision”, he told a press conference afterwards, adding: “No member of government has indicated remotely that it wishes to change the venue.”

Sharma said the Commonwealth was working with President Mahinda Rajapakse’s regime to address international concerns.

And he said he believed Colombo subscribed to the principles of human rights, democracy and rule of law laid out in the Commonwealth charter signed by Queen Elizabeth II last month.

“All member states subscribe to the same principles and values equally,” he said.

“Interacting with them on many fronts — as I have been doing at all levels — I am fully persuaded that they are sincere in subscribing and following those values.”

Ladakh incursion: China expresses readiness to work with India deal with differences

Source: Times of India

BEIJING: China on Sunday took note of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks over PLA’s incursion into the Depsang Valley and said that it is willing to work with New Delhi to deal with differences while maintaining peace at borders and forging strategic cooperative partnership.

“We have noted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement,” a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry said.

“The two sides have been in communication through the working mechanism for consultation and coordination on boundary affairs, border meetings and diplomatic channels for a solution to the incident in part of the western section of the China-India border,” the statement said.

According to the statement, the reaction was in response to a question over Singh’s remarks that Chinese troops incursion into the Depsang Valley in Ladakh can be settled through talks.

Singh told media in New Delhi on Saturday that India does not want to “accentuate” the situation in the wake of the recent Chinese incursion in Ladakh and is working on a plan to resolve it.

“We do have a plan. We do not want to accentuate the situation. We do believe that it is possible to resolve this problem. It is a localized problem. I think the talks are going on,” Singh said.

China had denied that its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers had pitched tents in Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector in Ladakh amounted to trespass and violation of the line of actual control (LAC).

The Chinese statement said “we stand ready to work together with India to properly deal with differences and maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas in a bid to boost the healthy and stable development of China-India strategic and cooperative partnership.”

It said “while actively developing friendly cooperation in recent years, China and India have committed themselves to settling disputes including the boundary question through peaceful negotiation and preventing the disputes from affecting the development of bilateral relations”.

The two sides are currently trying to resolve the issue through border consultation mechanism inked last year even as external affairs minister Salman Khurshid is due visit Beijing on May 9, which officials said would be followed by new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visit to New Delhi.

Kerala, Tamil Nadu agree to share water

Source: Times of India

THIRUVANATHAPURAM: Ministerial-level talks between Kerala and Tamil Nadu on sharing water under the Parambikulam-Aliyar river pact ended here on Sunday on a positive note with TN agreeing to release 100 cusecs per day to Kerala.

In response to Tamil Nadu’s gesture, Kerala agreed to release 40 cusecs per day to Tamil Nadu from Shiruvani river to Coimbatore.

Briefing reporters after the meeting which was attended by Tamil Nadu PWD minister T Ramalingam, Kerala water resources minister PJ Joseph said the joint water regulatory board, consisting of officials from both states, would meet soon to discuss water sharing from Sholayar river.

The meeting was held against the background of Kerala government’s decision to move Supreme Court to get due share of water from the neighbouring state under the Parambikulam-Aliyar river agreement.

Kerala had accused Tamil Nadu of not honouring the pact by not releasing the due share to Chittor river in Palakkad which was facing acute drought situaion.

Kerala had also brought to Tamil Nadu’s notice the drought situation prevailing in Palakkad and non-availability of water under PAP had adversely affected agriculture sector.

As per the Parambikulam-Aliyar project (PAP), Kerala is entitled to get 7,250 million unit cubic feet in a water year (between July 1 to June 30).

A joint water regulatory board of officials from Tamil Nadu and Kerala release the water under a “fortnightly pattern”.

Dikshit accepts protest letters over inflated bills

Source: Hindustan Times

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Sunday accepted the 10,50,000 letters written to her by the Delhi residents over inflated water and power bills following the protest of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at Jantar Mantar  in the national Capital.

AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said Dikshit’s agreeing to accept the letters is “people’s victory.”

Kejriwal vowed that the movement against the inflated bills would continue until the tariffs are brought down, and alleged that both the Congress and the BJP have together cartelised the water and electricity sector in the state.

“At 9 am one of my associates, Dilip Pandey, got a call from the chief minister’s Office saying Sheila Dikshit wanted to talk. Dikshit said she will receive the protest letters. She was compelled to do so because of the people’s pressure. She had to bow down to the people,” said Kejriwal, while addressing a gathering.

Since the chief minister agreed to accept 10,50,000 letters of protest to her written by the people of Delhi highlighting the inflated bills, the AAP activists called off their scheduled march to her residence, AAP spokesperson Aswathi Muralidharan said.

In the afternoon, AAP activists Manish Sisodia and Kumar Vishwas along with 10 other party members boarded a bus, carrying the  protest letters from Jantar Mantar and handed these over to Dikshit’s staff around 3 pm at her residence at Motilal Nehru Marg in New Delhi’s VIP area.

Kejriwal said the movement against inflated water and power bills would continue till the bills are either waived off or the charges are reduced.

“Our aim is not just to submit these (over) 10 lakh letters, but we are seeking action on them. Our protest is unlike that of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Vijay Goel who simply protests for limelight. We have said we won’t pay our bills and this movement will continue till these bills are reduced,” he asserted.

Kejriwal said the Congress governments both at the Centre and in the state had failed to address the issue of water crisis in the national Capital.

“Every year, the Prime Minister says that we will provide water to every household in this country. They have not been able to provide water to Delhi in the past 65 years. How will they provide water to the entire country,” he asked.

“Sheila Dikshit has been in power for the past 15 years. Why has not the issue been addressed,” he asked. Most of the water tanker companies are owned by leaders of these two parties, and the government was hand in glove with the power discoms, he alleged.

Earlier, Delhi Traffic Police eased the traffic restrictions they had imposed in Janpath-Sansad Marg area due to protests and demonstrations.

Kejriwal fasted for 15 days earlier this month to press his demand for reduction in water and electricity tariffs in the capital.

Samsung to start manufacturing Galaxy S4 in India soon

Source: The Hindu Business Line

New Delhi, April 28: Samsung India today said it will soon start manufacturing its flagship high-end smartphone Galaxy S4 in India.

“We are planning to start manufacturing of S4 soon at our Noida facility,” Samsung Mobile and Digital Imaging Country Head Vineet Taneja told PTI.

He, however, refused to share any timeframe by when the production will start. The Noida facility is manufacturing about 35-40 million phones annually, including 12 smartphones such as Galaxy S3.

The company currently imports the recently launched Galaxy S4 from South Korea.

Sensing huge demand for Galaxy S4, the company is also looking to double the high-end smartphone (above Rs 20,000) market size in India, which is currently contributing around 10-12 per cent of the overall smartphone market.

The Galaxy S4, which is packed with newer imaging features as well as ‘gesture-control’ technology, has a five-inch full HD super AMOLED touchscreen, 13 mega pixel rear and 2 mega pixel front camera and supports 3G networks.

Although Samsung is the market leader in smartphone market in India, competition from Apple, BlackBerry and Nokia has put pressure on it to add new software features to maintain its lead.

According to research firm IDC, the overall mobile phone market in India reached about 218 million units in 2012, growing 16 per cent year-on-year.

Of this, 16.3 million units were smartphones, but the category saw a growth of about 48 per cent. Samsung was the leader in the quadcore and 5-inch plus screen size models, IDC added.

The demand for smartphones is expected to be around 34-36 million units this year.

Globally, Samsung had 30.3 per cent share of the smartphone market (with sales of 215.8 million units) in 2012, while Apple had a 19.1 per cent share with sales of 135.9 million units, according to IDC.

India’s super-rich club shrinking

Source: Times of India

LONDON: The good news is India is home to 109 billionaires with an average net worth of $1.7 billion each. The bad news, however, is that compared to last year, India has seen the largest fall in super-rich population in the world.

Compared to last year, India has 485 fewer super-wealthy individuals, followed by China which lost 265 and Japan which lost 210.

The country’s super-rich club — those worth at least $30 million — has 7,730 members with a combined worth of $925 billion. Among them, the largest chunk is of the ultra high-net worth individuals (UHNWIs) who are worth $30 million to $49 million.

They make up 45.7% of the total UHNW population in India with a combined fortune of $125 billion or 13.5% of the total wealth of the India’s ultra affluent.

This is significantly higher than most of its immediate neighbours — Pakistan (310 super-rich), Bangladesh (85) and Sri Lanka (60), or most other Asian countries like Singapore (1,305), Indonesia (785), Thailand (625) and Malaysia (780). Only Japan (12,830) and China (11,245) have more super-rich people than India.

Wealth-X’s “World Ultra Wealth Report” shows the world’s UHNW population grew by 0.6%. The growth rate of the global billionaire population, however, outstripped that growth rate by expanding at 9.4%.

There are 2,160 billionaires globally with a total wealth of $6,190 billion. This group of billionaires, representing the top 1.2% of the world’s UHNW population, controls 24% of the total fortune attributable to the ultra- wealthy. On average, these billionaires are worth $2.9 billion each.

Bollywood celebrates 100th birthday

Source: Times of India

One hundred years after the screening of a black-and-white silent film, India’s brash, song-and-dance-laden Bollywood film industry celebrates its centenary later this week.

The milestone will be marked with the release of Bombay Talkies, made up of short commemorative films by four leading directors, while India will be honoured as “guest country” at next month’s Cannes festival.

Exhibitions in the capital New Delhi are showcasing a century of cinema, including onscreen kissing scenes that originally fell foul of the censors.

It is also a time for reflection on how the industry has evolved, from its early screen adaptations of Hindu mythology to the garish romantic escapism of modern blockbusters.

Commercially, cinema is thriving: India produced almost 1,500 movies last year and the industry is expected to grow from $2 billion to $3.6 billion in the next five years, according to consultancy KPMG.

Leading the way is Hindi-language Bollywood, which took the “B” from its home in Bombay and won the hearts of movie-mad Indians.

But old-timers complain that it has become superficial, neglecting to deal with pressing social concerns of the age.

“There’s a dumbing down that has taken place in the content. I think we are suffering from what is called the narrative crisis,” said veteran director and producer Mahesh Bhatt.

He contrasts modern filmmakers with Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, known as the “father of Indian cinema”, who brought the first all-Indian feature film to the silver screen in Bombay (now Mumbai) on May 3, 1913.

A tale from the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Raja Harishchandra, quickly became a hit despite its female characters being played by men — women acting was still widely frowned upon.

Phalke made more than 100 films until his silent style fell victim to “talkies” in the 1930s, but the advent of sound technology allowed India cinema to flourish.

Bollywood plot-lines today can involve stars breaking into song, often in picturesque far-flung locations, apropos of nothing — a style that may bemuse a Western audience, but one that helps to set Indian cinema apart.

“If it was exactly the same thing as Hollywood, Hollywood would have run us over. We don’t have that money,” said film critic Anupama Chopra.

For her and many others the “golden age” of cinema was the 1950s, when movie greats emerged such as Satyajit Ray, India’s most renowned filmmaker, who hailed from the alternative film hub of West Bengal.

It was the era of newly independent India, searching for an identity and producing films such as Mehboob Khan’s 1957 hit Mother India, which combined social concerns with popular appeal.

The 1970s and 80s saw a growing commercialism with the rise of the “masala” movie — a family entertainer that typically mixed up romance and action, songs and melodrama, a comedy touch and a happy ending.

Parallel Cinema continued to focus on realism, with films such as Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth (Meaning) in 1982, a gritty tale of an extramarital affair that presented strong female characters.

It was a path-breaker in a decade described as the “dark ages” of Hindi cinema, which struggled with the advent of colour television, rampant piracy and dependence on the Mumbai underworld for funding.

Things improved after India’s economy opened up in the early 1990s, and again a decade later when filmmaking won formal “industry” status. Both steps encouraged foreign firms, such as Fox and Disney, to invest in Bollywood.

But subsequent leaps in technology have not been matched by advances in storytelling, say critics, who lament the formulaic plots, passive roles for women and the copying of Hollywood.

Bollywood’s escapist fantasies have long held mass appeal because “there’s enough realism in the common man’s life”, said Bhatt.

But with ever more TV shows, the Internet and easily available global films, such movies may no longer meet the demands of the educated middle-class.

This expanding group “wants to see something better than trash which caters to the common man who drives auto-rickshaws. They want to see a different kind of cinema,” said veteran actor Rishi Kapoor.

A new crop of experimental filmmakers has started to appear, such as “Hindi indie” darling Anurag Kashyap who is a fixture on the global film festival circuit.

Trade analysts say the growth in multiplex cinemas has also encouraged mainstream films to diversify: a surprise hit last year was Vicky Donor, a romcom about sperm donation.

Raj Nidimoru is co-director of upcoming Go Goa Gone, one of India’s first zombie films, and he believes the move away from staple Bollywood is only just beginning.

“This is just a ripple right now, it’s going to become a wave.”

Canadian Food Festival at Taj Mahal Palace

By Sparsh Sharma for the Government of Canada

A “Sugar Shack” Experience

The Consulate General of Canada in Mumbai, in partnership with the Taj Mahal Palace, presents the Canadian Food Festival from March 22nd to March 30th, 2013.

Mumbaikars will have the chance to feast on Canadian delicacies with a sweet twist at the Shamiana restaurant.  The menu is inspired by the Canadian sugar shacks where maple sap is collected in March and boiled into syrup, toffee and more.

Overseeing the creation of these delights is Chef Louis Charest, Executive Chef to the Governor General of Canada, who has come directly from Canada to prepare sumptuous meals using authentic Canadian ingredients.

On arriving in Mumbai, Chef Charest said “I am excited to share the Canadian sugar shack experience with Mumbaikars. These flavours will serve as an inspiration to display great Canadian cuisine and amazing Canadian products with a fun mix of Indian spices.”

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Chef Charest brings the Canadian Sugar Shack dining experience to life through old-time specialties like maple taffy on snow, split pea soup, poutine, maple baked ham, tourtière, and mouth-watering maple desserts.

Following on the success of last year’s Atlantic Canadian Seafood Festival, there will also be a delicious spread of the freshest Canadian seafood, including lobster, scallops, crab, halibut and more. By pairing these delicacies with organic Canadian wines from British Columbia, including dessert wine, and modern Canadian cocktails, the festival is a food lover’s dream come true!

To further capture the true feeling of a Canadian sugar shack, Shamiana is hosting a traditional musical performance at the Sunday Sugar Shack Brunch on March 24th. Mario LeBreton and Philippe LeBlanc will entertain with toe-tapping classics and original music that will transport listeners to a traditional Eastern Canadian party.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency have worked with Canadian suppliers to ensure that only the finest Canadian products are being delivered straight from Canada to your plate during the entire festival.  The Canadian Food Festival will be the opportunity to see new Canadian products not yet available in the Indian market.

Canada’s Consul General in Mumbai, Mr. Richard Bale said “Canada has high-quality agricultural products to share with India and this event will give a unique opportunity for Mumbai to taste Canada’s diverse and top-quality products.  Canada is already providing pulses, canola oil, fish and seafood, specialty and fine foods, sauces and seasonings, wines, spirits, ice wine, bakery, confectionery, and snacks to the Indian market, and we look forward to new products being available in the marketplace in the near future.”

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Background

In his role as Executive Chef to Canada’s head of state, Chef Charest has catered for high-ranking officials, prime ministers, dignitaries, royalty and world leaders including their Royal Highnesses, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip the Duke of Edinburg, and now Chef Charest is cooking for Mumbai!

Chef Charest’s pride in showcasing his talent has been rewarded with 14 gold medals, 3 trophies, 4 grand gold medals, 1 World Cup, 4 silver medals and 3 bronze medals. This has included winning gold at the famed New York Culinary Salon, representing Canada in the World Banqueting Competition at the World Championships, winning an individual silver medal at the World Culinary Olympics in Berlin, Germany, in 1996, and earning five gold medals at the Culinary Grand Prix in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2001.

ATN Signs Animated Epic Series The Legend of Ponnivala for Canadian Broadcast: In Tete-a-Tete with Dr. Brenda Beck,  Producer of the Series

ATN Signs Animated Epic Series The Legend of Ponnivala for Canadian Broadcast: In Tete-a-Tete with Dr. Brenda Beck, Producer of the Series

Source: The Sophia Hilton Foundation of Canada

The Sophia Hilton Foundation of Canada and Soft Science Associates, Ltd., creators of the animated Legend of Ponnivala series, have signed on with the Asian Television Network for Canadian broadcast of the 26-episode series. The series is slated to launch in English on ATN in late April, with a Tamil-language broadcast planned for the summer.

The Legend of Ponnivala tells the story of the epic South Indian heroes Ponnar and Shankar. It also relates the origins of their family, back to the founding of the region two generations earlier. It is a surprisingly expansive tale for a local legend, and includes a wealth of historical and social insights into medieval Indian culture. It draws inspiration and characters from the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata, while keeping its focus on farming, the lifestyle central to its place of origin.

Speaking exclusively to AnimationXpress.com’s Zeenia Boatwala about this broadcasting deal, Dr. Brenda Beck, Creator and Producer of The Legend of Ponnivala shares, “I am very happy about this contract. When I met with ATN’s CEO, Dr. Shan Chandresekar, we realized we were on the same page with this series. He had seen the Legend of Ponnivala trailers and was enthusiastic about the prospect of adding it to the network’s family lineup. I felt that the broadcast potential and strength that ATN was offering would be a great vehicle to get the series out to the widest possible audience, Asian and non-Asian alike. The plan to broadcast in both English and Tamil reflects a fitting balance between the story’s Kongu roots and its modern re-telling in English”

The Legend of Ponnivala has previously been seen only as a feature film in select international settings. One extended excerpt received a nomination for Best Animated Film (Home Video) at the 2012 FICCI BAF Awards in India. Another extract was a featured presentation at the MOSAIC International South Asian Film Festival in Mississauga, Ontario.

Dr. Brenda Beck, Adjunct Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, adds more, “ Now that its premiere Canadian broadcast has opened the door, we’re looking to build on that momentum and get in touch with additional networks in order to really move the story forward onto an international stage.”

The Legend of Ponnivala is derived from a vast, ancient Hindu folktale tradition from South India’s Kongu region. The story has traditionally been told through song and passed down through generations of singing bards. One such performance was captured on over forty hours of audio tape in 1965 by Dr. Brenda Beck, who directed the series. Art and animation on the project began in 2008. Animator Ravichandran Arumugam, whose grandfather was a traditional singer of the epic, was brought on board to lead the art and animation team.

Informing more on the story line of this series, Dr. Brenda, highlights, “In retelling The Legend of Ponnivala, I have tried to stay as faithful as possible to the story’s original style and content as I recorded it in 1965. At that time, the only place it existed was in the tales of the singing bards of the Kongu region, and it was only by chance that I was able to capture and preserve it on audio tape. This very colourful tale depicts the life of farmers in medieval South India through the adventures of three generations of local kings. Due to a curse, the royal family is forced to confront jealous outsiders who threaten their sovereignty over the land of Ponnivala.

Shares further, “The story has very close ties to other Indian epics, and has even been called a ‘local Mahabharata.’ Because this epic is only really known in selected parts of Tamilnadu, it is fresh and unique, but its size and scope certainly make it powerful enough to stand alongside other great world epics like the Odyssey or Beowulf.”

Also involved in the project is award-winning Celtic musician and world music expert Steafan Hannigan, along with the voice talents of Sivakumar, Sumit Bhatia, Lata Pada, Afroz Khan, Ishwar, and Sanjay Talreja.

“The Legend of Ponnivala” is an epic adventure story for all ages. Part mythology, part fairytale, part historical drama and part action series, Ponnivala promises to delight and entertain viewers of all ages and across all cultures.

On the closing note, Dr. Brenda, expresses, “The Legend of Ponnivala is more than just a TV series. We’ve already released a comic book set in both print and digital formats on our website. It is being taught in elementary schools in Canada, using our lesson plans plus creative added exercises thought up by teachers.  The story provides a unique window on ancient Indian culture, and is even being used as an exhibit at Canada’s Royal Ontario Museum this spring. The whole scope of the project is so much more than just a television series, but with this broadcast the breadth of its cultural, educational, and entertainment value will now be revealed to a much wider audience than we could possibly reach on our own.

If you would like to learn more about the Canada-India Legend of Ponnivala project, please contact Dr Brenda Beck at [email protected]