The Indian Express | 1 week ago | 18-03-2023 | 11:45 am
The call came soon after Karamjeet Kaur arrived in Canada from Punjab as an international student in 2018. Her agent rang her up to say that the seat he had secured for her in a prominent college in Toronto had fallen through. For the newcomer, it was a major setback, but Karamjeet gathered herself. She applied and got admission to a college in Edmonton.She graduated from her college, got a job, and, in 2021, applied for permanent residency – that ultimate dream for which hundreds of thousands of Indian students land in Canada every six months. For most, the transition from student to PR is largely smooth. For Karamjeet, it has been anything but. Not long after she had submitted her application, Karamjeet discovered that the Canadian Border and Services Agency (CBSA) had notified her of entering Canada using a fake admission letter. The Toronto college, it emerged, never issued her any acceptance letter – her agent in Jalandhar had photoshopped it.While Karamjeet, 25, faces expulsion from Canada, having first lost a hearing and then a judicial review, she is not alone. Unconfirmed reports say that up to 700 former international students from India are facing deportation for faking college admission letters.While the CBSA declined to verify — or deny — the reports, citing Canada’s privacy laws, The Indian Express, through international student networks and immigration lawyers across Canada, has confirmed that there are indeed several such cases. Karamjeet and these other students not only share their predicament but also their agent: Brijesh Mishra of Jalandhar.Shameel Jasvir, a broadcaster who hosts a popular Punjabi radio talk show in the Greater Toronto Area, opened his studio phone lines last week to discuss fraudulent admissions and was flooded with calls from former students recounting their experiences with Mishra.“I would say, based on the information we have, that around 100-150 students have been duped by this agent. But it’s incorrect to suggest they are all facing immediate expulsion. Many have only recently been notified by the CBSA, and it’s a long and protracted legal process that takes 2-3 years before a decision is made,” Jasvir told The Indian Express.Immigration lawyer Jaswant Mangat is handling three dozen such cases. “The immigration department looks at these students as if they have committed fraud. But having interviewed them, I can say that these students are, in fact, the victims,” said Mangat, who practices law in Brampton and Mississauga. “They have paid so much money. They were looking for a bright future but now look at them. I think the minister of immigration (Sean Fraser) should show more compassion.”He pointed out that there was a lapse on the Canadian immigration officers’ part as well: in issuing the study permit and the visa to these students without verifying their documents. “When it is so easy to verify by sending an email, why couldn’t these agencies do so,” Mangat asked.However, others argue that Canada’s ever-increasing immigration and international student targets have strained its agencies, even as the recruitment of personnel to vet such a deluge of applications hasn’t kept pace.A spokesperson in Canada’s immigration department (IRCC), while refusing to comment on individual cases citing privacy laws, said, “Individuals involved would be offered an opportunity to explain what transpired, and the officer would take that into account when making their decision.”Last year, of the 550,000 international students who arrived in Canada, half were from India. This year, the number of Indian students is set to cross 300,000.Both Mangat and Jasvir cautioned that the scale of the fraud is likely to be much bigger. Indeed, faking documents to obtain a Canadian study permit isn’t only a Punjab problem. Last year, a Gujarati family froze to death in Canada while trying to cross into the US.It has emerged that seven other persons accompanying them on that perilous journey had forged documents to get Canadian student visas.“You have to remember that we are talking about victims of only one agent. There could be many such agents sending many more students using fraudulent documents. There are probably thousands of cases of people entering Canada on forged papers,” Jasvir said.After the story went viral on social media, Canadian lawmakers have swung into action. Ken Hardie, who is the ruling Liberal Party MP from Surrey, British Columbia, on Wednesday urged students facing expulsion to contact him. He tweeted that the immigration department (IRCC) “is reviewing the matter — not sure what the options are, but we will do our best for a proper and just outcome”.When asked on Thursday if any students had contacted him so far, Hardie told The Indian Express: “Not directly, but people who know that victims have been in touch… We will do our best to make sure these people get the processes explained to them, and they know what their rights are, and then let the process take place. If they have a story that needs to be told, they deserve to have that opportunity.”While acknowledging that the issue has been around for a while, Hardie said the real solution can only come from India.“This is where I really get angry at the situation because we know some of these people are quite innocent of any wrongdoing,” he said. “They are going to suffer because of the fact that they weren’t careful. On the other hand, some people may have known full well what was going on, but thought they’d try it anyway. So what do you do, if we are lenient, does that just simply open the door for more people to do exactly the same thing?“So there are a lot of loose ends here, but the biggest loose end is over in India, where we would like to see far more attention paid by authorities to make sure that anybody who is offering their services as consultants are audited and certified.”Meanwhile, after her appeal was rejected, Karamjeet Kaur has applied to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Her chances aren’t very bright. “There’s not a very high percentage of people who get approved under this category,” her lawyer Manraj Sidhu said. But should the government choose to show compassion towards the victims of Mishra, it might just open a crack in the door that, for her, seems all but closed.
He has been on the death row for about 25 years, after being arrested for murder and sent to Pune’s Yerawada jail. During all those years behind bars, this primary school dropout taught himself Marathi and English, and obtained an MA in Sociology. But for the Supreme Court, what really mattered when setting Niranaram Chaudhary free on Monday was a date from the admissions register of a school in Rajasthan’s Bikaner.The register, from Rajkiya Adarsh Uch Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Jalabsar, showed that Chaudhary had dropped out of Class 3 on May 15, 1989.And so, the apex court ruled that he was a juvenile while being sentenced to death in 1998 with two others for the murder of five members of a family, including a pregnant woman and two children, in a “rarest of the rare” case.On Monday, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice K M Joseph, directed that Chaudhary “be set free forthwith from the correctional home in which he remains imprisoned, as he has suffered imprisonment for more than 28 years” after his arrest in 1994.Chaudhary’s death sentence had earlier been confirmed by the Bombay High Court and twice by the Supreme Court in 2000. However, abandoned by his family at the time of conviction, Chaudhary’s name and age were incorrectly recorded by the Pune court that awarded him the death penalty. In 2018, with the intervention of Project 39A, a criminal reforms advocacy group based in National Law University, Delhi, Chaudhary moved the Supreme Court again.He also argued that his actual name was Niranaram, which was wrongly recorded by the court as “Narayan”.In January 2019, the Supreme Court had referred the case to the Principal District and Sessions Judge in Pune to decide on Chaudhary’s status as a juvenile at the time of conviction. The inquiry led to the school admissions register in Jalabsar.“Apart from the documents of the school, there is a family card, to which we have referred to earlier. The date of issue of Family Card is 1989 and, in this card, issued by the State Government, Nirana’s age is shown to be 12 years,” the Supreme Court said in its final verdict.“Going by that certificate, his age at the time of commission of offence was 12 years and 6 months. Thus, he was a child/ juvenile on the date of commission of offence for which he has been convicted, in terms of the provisions of the 2015 Act. This shall be deemed to be the true age of Niranaram, who was tried and convicted as Narayan,” the Supreme Court said.Anup Surendranath, director of Project 39A, told The Indian Express that Chaudhary is currently in a jail in Nagpur. “Once the Pune Sessions Court orders his release, the Nagpur prison will set him free,” he said.
You may have often been alerted about the stimulant properties of coffee (or equivalent sources of caffeine) in elevating your blood pressure (BP) levels but so far, no clinical study has been able to prove that coffee-drinking is bad for hypertension. Of course, as with all foods and beverages, doctors advise coffee consumption in moderation simply because it does spike blood pressure temporarily before settling down and is, therefore, considered a stressor for those already hypertensive.Explains Dr Balbir Singh, Chairman, Cardiac Sciences, Cardiology, Cardiac, Electrophysiology-Pacemaker, Max Hospitals, “The BP spike is very temporary and then goes down, so one cannot say that coffee-drinking has a significant long-term effect on BP. This is the reason why we advise people to measure their BP for trustworthy readings 30 to 45 minutes after they have had their cup of coffee. It is for the same reason that we advise people not to have coffee before they undertake any intense physical exercise or strenuous activity which can raise your BP. Even then the BP response varies from person to person. Some studies have shown that in habitual coffee drinkers, the spiral effect reduces over time as they develop tolerance to the brew, compared to non-regular drinkers. Why this happens is yet to be pin-pointed. Some researchers believe that caffeine blocks a hormone that widens our arteries. Others attribute the BP spike to coffee spurring the release of extra adrenaline. At the same time, latest research on caffeine, particularly over the last year or so, has focussed on the encouraging effects of antioxidants and flavonoids present in coffee in reducing overall inflammatory markers in the body.”What worries Dr Singh is that all available research on coffee in the West is done with the way the brew is had there, which is black. “So even if research finds no convincing correlation between drinking coffee and hypertension, it would not apply to the coffee-drinking culture in India. We have our coffee with a lot of milk and sugar and that’s harmful for the body at many levels. Latest research says sweeteners too raise the risk of blood clotting, which is worrisome for heart health. But one to two cups of black coffee are not as worrisome. I have black coffee myself,” says he.Given that coffee is a stimulant, a cup increases your BP by five to ten points for a short period of time. Says Dr Udgeath Dhir, Director and Head of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery (CTVS), Fortis Memorial Research Institute, “This is a rise similar to when we exercise. In a two-year study of 45,589 men, between the ages of 40 and 75, which was released last year, researchers of the Harvard Medical School found no link between coffee consumption and the risk of coronary artery disease even in heavy drinkers. While regular coffee was found to be safe, they found a decaf version to be associated with a slightly increased risk of heart disease, though it claimed the link was weak. Studies have found that coffee does not seem to disrupt the heart’s rhythm, even in recent heart attack patients.”The Harvard Medical School last year even published the findings of a study by US and Swiss scientists on 15 volunteers, who didn’t have a high blood pressure and six of whom were just habitual coffee drinkers. According to the study, “The researchers monitored each volunteer’s blood pressure, heart rate and sympathetic nervous system under four conditions: before and after drinking a triple espresso, before and after drinking a decaffeinated triple espresso, before and after receiving 250 mg of caffeine by intravenous injection, and before and after an intravenous placebo (salt solution). A triple espresso caused quite a jolt, and it did jolt blood pressure readings. But although blood caffeine levels rose to a similar degree in all the subjects, not all experienced a rise in blood pressure. In fact, espresso did not boost the pressures of habitual coffee drinkers, though it raised systolic pressure readings on average by 13 mm Hg and diastolic pressures by 7 mm Hg in subjects who were not coffee drinkers. Espresso is strong stuff, but an intravenous slug of caffeine should be even more potent. Indeed, blood caffeine levels rose to the same degree after the caffeine injections and the espresso. But the straight-up caffeine had a much smaller effect on blood pressure than the espresso, boosting systolic blood pressure by an average of just 6 mm Hg. Moreover, the coffee drinkers and the non-drinkers responded similarly to intravenous caffeine.” A review of 34 studies showed that two cups resulted in an average increase of 8 mm Hg and 6 mm Hg in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respectively.Dr Dhir’s advisory is avoiding coffee before sleep as it could interfere with the restorative process of cell repair. “Coffee is a sleep disruptor. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says 400 milligrams a day of caffeine is generally safe for most people. However, if you are already hypertensive and worry about its spiking effects, no matter how temporary, limit yourself to two cups a day,” he says.Far more important is the way we control blood pressure through moderate physical activity for anything between 30 and 45 minutes five times a week. “A cup or two of coffee won’t harm us but ignoring high blood pressure levels or avoiding lifestyle correction means that the resultant condition could impact your vascular system, damage arteries, affect the aorta and end organs,” warns Dr Dhir.
Priyanka Chopra first moved to the US when she was only 12 years old and in a recent chat with Dax Shepherd, the actor said that she felt the need to change her accent “every week” because she was trying to fit in. Priyanka said that she felt that she had to “dramatically” change her accent because when she spoke to her peers in school, they wouldn’t understand what she was saying.“I tried a new accent every week, to try to fit in,” she shared and said that this didn’t work for her because she “left America” even before finishing high school.“I felt the need to dramatically change my accent when I was in school because if I said something, the next sentence would be ‘huh? excuse me?’ ‘sorry, what?’ It gets so annoying after a point. You know, people debate this a lot about immigrants who come in and their accents change, it’s basically making it convenient for another person,” she said.Priyanka, who is married to American musician Nick Jonas, said that when Nick travels to India, his accent changes too as he is trying to make it convenient for those around him. “My husband, for example, he is American. When he comes to India, his accent changes. In English, he has a little bit more of an Indian English accent because he is trying to make it more convenient for everyone who hears it a certain way,” she shared.Priyanka Chopra has previously shared that she first moved to the US for school but faced some racism and bullying and ultimately ended up moving back to India to finish her school. “I was living in Bareilly, from there I went straight to Boston and joined school there. I didn’t know how to fit in. Also, I faced some racial issues. Some girls called me ‘browny’ and I was typecast, pointed a finger at for being Indian,” she shared in 2012 at India Today Mind Rocks Youth Summit.
The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) Tuesday extended the deadline for fresh and re-registration applications for online and online distance learning (ODL) courses. Candidates can visit the official IGNOU website — ignouadmission.samarth.edu.in — to apply for ODL, online programmes.Interested candidates now have time till March 31 to apply for online, ODL courses.Step 1: Visit the official website– ignouadmission.samarth.edu.in or ignouiop.samarth.edu.in.Step 2: Click on new registrationStep 3: Enter your details such as name, phone number, email address and moreStep 4: Once registered, login using your registered username, password and security captchaStep 5: Fill the application formStep 6: Save, submit and pay the feesStep 7: Download the application form for future referenceThe IGNOU registration deadline has been extended several times. Earlier, it was extended till March 10, then till March 14, March 27 and now till March 31However, candidates should note that this extension is not for certificate and semester based programmes, and for other courses (both online and ODL mode)..
Our brave soldiers serve the nation with commitment and conviction, often leaving their families behind. They sacrifice their lives and it is only because of their “shahadat” (martyrdom) that we are safe in our homes today. It is not enough for the government to just give compensation packages and say that it has fulfilled its duty — rules regarding compensation should also be tweaked with time and on a case-to-case basis.As of July 2022, a total of 307 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles (AR) personnel sacrificed their lives in the line of duty in the five preceding years. As many as 156 army men and three IAF personnel were killed in terrorist attacks as well as counter-terror operations in the last five years. In the same period, 819 armed forces personnel committed suicide, with the Army reporting the maximum number of such cases at 642. These figures are an indication of the conditions — including staying away for long from their families — under which our soldiers perform their duties, which often results in mental health issues as well.The recent protests by the widows of Pulwama martyrs in Rajasthan are a grim reminder of the challenges faced by the families of soldiers who have made the supreme sacrifice. It is heart-wrenching to see them struggle to claim the benefits due to them, and running from pillar to post. The government should go out of its way, if needed, and ensure that the rules meant for the welfare of those who survive soldiers should not become a tool for denying them their legitimate demands. The protesting veeranganas (wives of jawans) were detained by the police and treated unjustly. They wanted certain demands to be fulfilled, which would require some amendments in the rules governing the welfare measures meant for families of martyrs.Consider some of the global practices when it comes to the welfare of the families of martyrs: The US provides financial assistance through the police department or local government to help families of fallen officers cover immediate expenses such as funeral costs, housing, and other expenses. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund provides financial assistance, scholarships, and other support to the families of officers who have died in the line of duty. Similarly, the Fraternal Order of Police provides financial assistance and other support to its members and their families. The UK has schemes like the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme to provide compensation to military personnel who have been injured, are ill or have died as a result of service and War Disablement Pension schemes to provide tax-free financial assistance to military personnel who were disabled in the discharge of their duty.As a country which takes pride in its soldiers, we should listen to the legitimate demands of the veeranganas. The issues they have raised relate to the sentiments of the common man and are above any political considerations.Three major concerns must be addressed. The first is the demand for flexibility in the rules for providing jobs on compassionate grounds. This is a major bone of contention between the government and the veeranganas. The latter have demanded that not just the children of martyrs, but other members of the family, including brothers-in-law, should be given government jobs on compassionate grounds. The government’s argument that if the rules are altered for one case, then the future of all the children of the martyrs will be compromised, is technically sound. If the rules are amended to include distant family relations then they can also be used as a tool to blackmail the widows and pressure them for jobs, shunning them in case they fail to do so.It is argued that if the children are not academically brilliant or are unable to complete their education due to health issues, accidents etc., then having a job reserved for the family will secure the future of the child. The government should be liberal and amend the rules to remove any kind of restriction on the number of children of a martyr who are entitled to jobs on compassionate grounds. One child getting the job and his or her sibling being denied the same is unfair because the loss is equal for both.Second, there is a demand for the construction of multiple statues of martyrs. If other public figures have the privilege of having statues erected in different parts of the country, why can’t we have the same provision for martyrs? The government should amend the rules and a provision can be added that in case of more than one statue, it can involve local bodies like panchayat and municipal administration, local MLAs, NGOs and bhamashah (philanthropists) who can make matching contributions to the extent of 50 per cent for the construction of memorials or statues of martyrs. The government can also utilise corporate social responsibility funds for the same. These statues are not just brick-and-mortar structures, they are symbols of the sacrifice of our martyrs which will inspire the generations to come.Third, a department of welfare for the families of the martyrs, both at the central and state level, should be set up in order to facilitate social security benefits for them. The department should be allocated funds to provide housing grants to the families of the martyrs; marriage grants for their children; financial aid in the form of education, medical care and housing; in addition to offering counselling services to assist them in coping with their loss. By making these additional resources available to the families of those who have been martyred, we can demonstrate our support for them.The department should also work on providing benefits/concessions on utilities, free transportation via air, rail and bus, and benefits for the purchase of prescription medication and other healthcare services to the families of the martyrs. The issue of the welfare of the families of the martyrs is one that goes beyond politics and the solution has to be rooted in a rights-based approach.It is important to bear in mind that these families take pride in their sacrifice. Given the current state of affairs and the apathy of the administration, there is an urgent need for the sensitisation of not only the bureaucracy but also political leaders while dealing with these issues.The writer is Congress MLA from Osian (Rajasthan)