Newsmakers of the year

Published: 30 December, 2011 08:22 IST | Team MiD DAY |

As another year comes to an end, here is a look at the people, institutions and events that had an impact on society in 2011

As another year comes to an end, here is a look at the people, institutions and events that had an impact on society in 2011

Politics and Social Activism: Fight against graft
Jan Lokpal movement
The much-discussed Jan Lokpal bill (citizen's ombudsman bill) is not altogether a new draft against anti-corruption and has been discussed in Parliament since more than 40 years. But the issue came to the fore after 74-year-old Anna Hazare, a social activist and Gandhian from Ralegansiddhi, which is recognised as a model village in the country and is located just 87 km from the city, started fighting for an effective Jan Lokpal bill. For the whole year a strong agitation for Jan Lokpal not only shook the entire political system but also gripped the imagination of almost every citizen.   

Just four months into 2011 and the country witnessed a mass movement for a strong Lokpal bill, which started in April.  "The movement was mainly supported by bourgeoisie and it was for the first time in India that they have raised their voices which dazed the political system of the country and impelled the government to take cognisance of this movement," said Dr Nitin Birmal, professor of political science from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar College, Yerawada.  

According to Birmal, laws were earlier made as per the priorities of the party in power. The proletariat's demands were also taken into consideration while making the laws. This made the bourgeoisie apathetic towards electoral politics during the period of the 80's, directly affecting the vote bank of the parties in power. The situation made the lawmakers wake up from their slumber, which not only forcing them to take notice of their demands in the present but in future too, the ruling parties have to take cognisance of such mass movements. 

The Jan Lokpal bill was passed in the Lok Sabha a couple of days ago although most of the opposition parties, including the BJP and the Left parties voted against the bill. But it was not a historical moment, as it was earlier passed in the Lok Sabha in 1969 but could not get through the Rajya Sabha.  Now the time has come to see whether Jan Lokpal bill will repeat its history by not getting through Rajya Sabha or will it really make a history by becoming a law.
--Priyankka Deshpande

Environment:  Saving green cover in Pune 

Vaibhav Gandhi, Deepak Vahikar, Vinod Jain 

Tree lovers from the NGO  Pune Tree Watch
It may be shocking to know that over 84,000 trees were cut illegally in the city in the past five years. The axe falling on trees was partially prevented by three tree lovers in the city with the help of environmentalists and social activists. Their names are Vinod Jain, Deepak Vahikar and Vaibhav Gandhi from the Pune Tree Watch, an NGO fighting to save trees.

Jain is a pharmaceutical wholesaler by profession and has studied the issue of tree cutting in the city and gone to the Bombay High Court and explained the whole story to the judges. On May 6, 2009, Justices J N Patel and Mrudula Bhatkar had issued an order to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) that the civic body should seek permission from the HC before granting permission to citizens for cutting trees. The order had put a positive pressure on PMC and the illegal tree cutting business has come down in a big way. 

According to Vahikar, 2,000 trees were illegally cut before 2010, while now this has drastically gone down and about 200 incidents were registered with the PMC. Vahikar, who runs a training institute for plastic industry, said: "PMC had to look into these issues of tree cutting and also registered cases directing to the court."
Gandhi, an engineer-businessman, said the court had also directed the PMC to make the tree census in time and also submit the bio-data of each member from the PMC Tree Authority. 

"We are also demanding for a tree regulatory board to redress complaints of the citizens without going to the court," he said. "As per the court order, the PMC should also complete the tree census and mark number on each tree in the city." Dr Vinaya Ghate, a botanist, said the work done by Jain, Vahikar and Gandhi is remarkable. 
--Vivek Sabnis

Policing: Solving tough crime mysteries
Ashok T
The resourceful police constable
A good network of sources and timely inputs help unravel the toughest crime mysteries in seconds. Constable Ashok Takalkar, attached to the Social Security Cell, is a rich man in terms of sources who give him timely inputs. 

Out of 53 cases registered under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act this year, in a majority of cases it was Takalkar who provided inputs. Dedicated policemen like him helped rescue many girls who were forced into prostitution and paved the way for the arrest of their inhuman traffickers, who either cheated them by promising them a job or marriage.

Ask Takalkar about his proudest moment and he will talk about the rescue of a minor girl hours before she was forced into prostitution.  "The rescue of the 16-year-old Bangladeshi girl who was lured into marriage and brought to Pune was no doubt the proudest moment for all of us. The girl was rescued hours before her trafficker had plans to sell her to brothel manager. More importantly, her so-called husband, a trafficker and one more woman were also arrested at the same time," he says.

Asked how he builds sources, his answer is: "Interrogation. I contact each and every person mentioned by victims during their questioning and have managed to keep my sources well oiled over the years."  Takalkar, who has completed 30 years of service as a policeman, says it is team work when the rescue operation is successful and says encouragement and guidance from his top officers keeps him going. 

Police Inspector Bhanupratap Barge, in-charge of Social Security Cell, said: "Timely rewards and appreciation of subordinate officers provides them with an impetus to work harder, which Takalkar has always followed."

Social Security Cell score board
Prevention of Immroral Trafficing Act cases
2011: 53
2010: 33 
Traffickers and brothel managers arrested
2011: 112
2010: 65 
Number of people rescued by SS cell
2011: Number of minors rescued stands at 18, majors at 35
2010: Minors 28, majors 28

Apart from this, the Social Security Cell also arrested nine suspects in murder cases and three suspects in attempt to murder cases this year
-- Kaumudi Gurjar

Education: 'A student must learn to learn'
U jjwalla Devi Patil, Chairperson, MSBSHSE
FOR Ujjwalla Devi Patil, chairperson of the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE), it is necessary to incorporate pragmatism in the education system to motivate students to learn on their own while reducing the gap between books and work. "Our motto is: A student must learn to learn," she says.

With a number of changes integrated in the systems of the board and streamlining education, the MSBSHSE has received been lauded by experts, educationists, principals and even parents.

Syllabus reforms
To start with, the board initially prepared the skeleton for a new syllabus up to Std XII called the State Curriculum Framework in collaboration with Balbharti, Maharashtra Prathamic Shikshan Parishad (MPSP) and Maharashtra State Council of Educational Research and  Training (MSCERT) since  there was no separate comprehensive framework for the state board.  The board before setting up a new curriculum even considered introducing NSERT, CBSE and ICSE syllabus used in 16 states across the country for Std X and XII. 

"We went ahead and prepared our own detailed syllabus for Std IX to XII," says Patil.  The board, earlier this year, in order to curb instances of cheating and malpractices during board exams set up local vigilance committees that included a committee of citizens, local NGOs, police representatives as well as education board officials, who would keep a watch on exam centres and report suspicious activities. 

While introducing more practicality in education, the board introduced sports as a subject in the curriculum for higher secondary school students who are keen to pursue it and also introduced RTI, RTE and human rights as new subjects, while making information and communication technology (ICT) a compulsory subject in Std IX and X from June 2012.  The subjects will have detailed concepts based on the Indian political scenario and parties, fundamental rights and duties listed in the Constitution and will carry 50 marks.  

Future plans
After the board announced that it had started a new pattern of examination where 20 per cent of papers in mathematics, science and technology will be based on Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) that requires application of scholarly concepts, there was confusion among students and parents who did not approve of it.

"There's some misunderstanding about it. HOTS is not as difficult as projected and the questions won't be that difficult. We have to understand that students are brilliant and they can do things their own way," says Patil.

Next year the board will  prepare books on 14 different subjects, including English, Hindi, maths and Marathi, 
for students from Std IX to 
XII which will be replete with illustrations, abound in colours and patterns and with links 
and resources for students to visit on the web to gain additional information and knowledge.
-- Adnan Attarwala

Entertainment: Festival that lifted spirits
NH7 Weekender 2011
AS the city was being titled the destination where 'Gigs get canned', since international acts by artistes Akon and Jay Sean got cancelled due to mismanagement issues, the NH7 Weekender, known as the Happiest festival, in November lifted spirits of the Punekars. 

The three-day musical festival showcased live performances by over 150 artistes. Various attendees labelled it a success on social networking sites and this event grabbed the top spot this year. One of the curators of the festival, Vijay Nair, CEO, Only Much Louder, said that this festival maintained the chilled out vibe in its second year. Overwhelmed with the response this year, he tagged Pune as the smoothest city when it comes to licencing, support from the cops and infrastructure. 

"In terms of infrastructure, accommodation in the hotels are reasonable and during the festival areas like Koregaon Park were packed. As for the people, Punekars are an open crowd and love different kinds of music. The festival this year saw a lot of student population and people from Mumbai. I don't think people think twice before planning a trip to the city. Everyone who attended the festival in 2010 came back this year. We didn't expect it, but it happened the happy way," he added.
-- Akshata Shetty

Health: Revival of prisoners' ward at Sassoon hosp
Prisoners' ward, Sassoon Hospital
Although the prisoner's ward of Sassoon Hospital will be officially inaugurated in the New Year, the work for separate ward was completed this year in the month of October, taking into consideration the frequent incidents of escapes of convicts and under-trial prisoners brought to hospital for medical check-ups or admitted for treatment. 

Sassoon is the only hospital in the city that has a separate ward for prisoners, including male and female patients. "The prisoner's ward is located in the old building of the hospital which was there since last many years, but it closed down about 15 years ago after a convict escaped by bending window bars. Now, the ward is ready with all renovation and necessary changes in it. We are also thinking of placing CCTV cameras in the cell," said Medical Superintendent of Sassoon, Dr DG Kulkarni. 

There are two separate wards for male and female prisoner with separate room for police on bandobast duty of those prisoners. "The wards are having its separate OPD where arrangements have made for medical examination of inmates which lessen the risk of escaping of the prisoners when they taken to the other wards for medical check-up," said Dr Kulkarni. 

The six-bed ward for men and four-bed ward for women is the closed enclosure with heightened surrounding walls. The ceiling fans and light bulbs are also installed at a higher place which reduced the risk of attempts of suicides. The city prison department have suggested us some more renovation and we are working accordingly on it, added Dr Kulkarni.

Separate ward to deter escape bids
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Headquarters, Shirish Sardeshpande said, "The construction of prisoner's ward in Sassoon will allow us to use our manpower judiciously and run away attempts by inmates can be avoided in the days to come."
--Priyankka Deshpande

Transport: The makeover man
RTO Arun Yeola
Regional Transport Officer (RTO) Arun Yeola is wants the RTO here to be counted amongst the best government offices in the city. Yeola has initiated several plans in the city's fourth most important government office. Earlier known for filthiness and its un-kept premises, the office is undergoing a massive makeover and will soon a get a swanky look in the coming few months. 

Ever since he took over the reins of the department from former RTO Chandrakant Kharatmal this June, Yeola has undertaken several initiatives, including expediting the software update programmes and digitisation of records. 

"We will soon update the Vahan and Saarthi softwares for vehicle registration and licence issuance in coordination with technicians from the Center's National Informatics Center (NIC)", said Yeola. 

The RTO was earlier infamous for sudden system shutdowns, which had left hundreds of visitors stranded during peak hours. Yeola has also expedited plans to for internal renovation work of the building. The Public Works Department (PWD) is preparing the plan. 

"The plan will provide counters and space for moving which is currently very chaotic. Most of the infrastructure is more than a decade old and has been unchanged ever since. We are also focusing at paperless functioning by digitising all the records which also reduce the burden on furniture and maintaining sensitive documents", he added. 
-- Parth Satam

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