Recent Reports

Below is the most recent report of our activities in India. Previous reports are available here.




Developing Indigenous Resources - India

Summary of Activites

September 2009


THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH – The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life – the children, how it treats those in the twilight of life – the elderly, and those who are in the shadows of life – the sick, the needy and the handicapped.  (Hubert Humphrey) 



(From Frederick Shaw)


The “Thought for this Month” (immediately above) is from a professional US politician, whom I would expect most Americans would describe as having an “allright” reputation.  He was neither a Jack Kennedy nor a Richard Nixon.  He was “allright” but his quote here is a powerful one.  How much further ahead we would all be if the “moral test” he suggests was universally applied to governments.  I cannot help but wonder did most of us sell Hubert Humphrey (or his speech writers) short?


This month we welcomed, and immediately pressed into service, four new Interns.  Debbie, from Michigan joined us for a nine-month stay, Andrew from Ottawa will be with DIR until 18 December,  Balreet from British Columbia will leave about the same time as Andrew, and Eirik, from Norway joined us for an nine-month internship.  We are delighted to have them and look forward to their contributing to DIR’s effectiveness while DIR contributes to their personal and professional growth.


Each Intern takes on responsibility for the implementation of a project, and for the execution of a set of “Minor Tasks” The latter are a series of tasks which give the intern a sample of most of DIR’s major functions.  Debbie arrived first and had the choice of available projects.  She elected to co-ordinate our Water Purification Project, with which readers will be made familiar in the coming months.  Balreet, who attends Frazer Valley University, is on a special mission.  She will co-ordinate Fund-raising activities for DIR in India.  Andrew has elected to take on the finalization of our ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2008.  We have done a lot of work on this, but shortage of staff has prevented its completion until Andrew has come to save the day.  Eirik is taking on responsibility for creating a Property Book and Property Control System.  As a growing organization, we have reached the stage when we need a system to keep our possessions safe and secure.  This calls for a dedicated, methodical mind, and that is what Eirik has brought to DIR.


On 24th September, I had a new experience.  At 4.45pm, I was attempting to start my car in a commercial parking lot to return to the office, and it was resisting the idea, when suddenly there was minor explosion under the bonnet (hood) and tall flames began to leap from around the radiator.  Dr. Gurpreet, my sole passenger, and I (not having life insurance policies of any significance) courageously and hastily abandoned ship, and watched with awe as billowing dense black smoke added to Chandigarh’s pollution. 


After a crowd of about 200 had assembled to observe our burning Accent, and people from a nearby hotel tried in vain to get buckets full of water to the epicentre, the fire brigade found us.  They could not open the hood after one of them pushed on the catch with an axe and probably broke it. Thus, they took turns using a pick-axe to make a hole in the hood to get fire-retardant into the then burned-out engine compartment.  In any case, photos of the car were taken by three reporters and one photo made the front page of the next day’s daily.  Indian car insurance, I am informed, will probably pay for 45% of the damage, but I am afraid it is a lost cause.   The rickshaw wallas are going to be getting increased business in the days to come!


On a different subject, I am appending, at the end of this report, a newspaper article that some readers may have already seen since it was re-printed by LA Times.  It concerns unhappy customs practised in Haryana.  That state is next to Punjab, and Chandigarh, which lies between them, serves as the capital for both. 



(CEO Frederick Shaw)

As September ends, DIR-India  salutes some very special people who are volunteering their valuable time and talents for the benefit of our programs.    Jaspreet has very kindly talked her friends into donating funds to print pamphlets which hopefully will make DIR better-known and better supported in India.  She has introduced so many significant people to DIR recently, and helped them understand the value of our work.  Poppy, who taught English to our Health Promoters, but who is now back in the US, is helping us set-up a professional webpage in India.  Working along with Poppy is Nidhi and Priyanka (in Chandigarh) and between the three of them we should soon have a DIR-India website we shall be proud of.   Priyanka and Nidhi have also been instrumental in getting pamphlets published which should help us get local people to  pay for the transportation expenses of getting children to school.

Staff members of Infosys (the IT giant) Mr. Abhishek and Mr. Vineet have very kindly approached DIR with offers of assistance where we need it but cannot afford it.  The first occasion when Infosys volunteers are planning to help is in our Child-to-Child celebration scheduled for 10th of next month. 

All this volunteerism is welcome and needed, and at the same time perhaps bespeaks a new trend in a nation in which volunteerism is not that common.  Dare we posit that this might herald a new era in which Indians do not universally sit back and wait “for the government to do it” but instead are realizing that “we the people” can significantly contribute to the nation’s progress, while those charged with progress are otherwise occupied?



(Dr. Gurpreet Singh - DIR-I )


After what we can call the first phase of our Child to Child Program, (in which we taught children about various prevalent communicable diseases in the region and the ways these can be prevented), we entered into the second phase of the program. In this, we will deal with the issues related to proper care and nourishment of children. This will include nutritional needs, immunization, major deficiency diseases in children, etc.


Our first meeting in this new series was on care of neonates.  Children were told the needs of the neonates, the extra care they require and the immunizations due in this period of life. The second meeting concentrated on the needs of children aged 1 to 6 months and third meeting was devoted to the care of children aged between 7 to 12 months. In the last and fourth meeting of this month, children were told about dentition and problems related to dentition in children.


An average 76 children attended all the meetings which had typically 56 boys and 20 girls. Low attendance (We normally have 150 learners.) in the program this month is attributed to children devoting all their time to study for their mid-term school examinations.



(Ms. Debbie Taylor - Dronsejko - DIR-I Intern)


The aim of our pilot project is to determine which method of water purification is accepted best by the people living in the bustee. There is considerable need for the residents to purify drinking water, and we plan to launch a major campaign to have this done.  However before starting, we decided to have a sample of households try out three different methods to discover which one is best accepted by the people, and then have our campaign concentrate on promoting the preferred method.

The first method is Solar, the second Chemical and the third Filtration.  With the first, water will be stored in glass bottles exposed to bright sunlight for six hours.  In the second, sodium hypochlorite will be added, and in the third, water will pass through a candle-shaped filter containing activated charcoal and silver.  Ninety household will employ each method for a period of three months, during which time we will be closely monitoring progress.

 Diagram showing the working of Candle Filter and Debbie demonstrating the candle filter in DIR Office



We will be surveying 270 households, taking water samples for testing of microbes and other contaminants, and providing an intervention method to participating households. Those who participate will be expected to invest some rupees in the materials which they receive but the amount is still to be determined.  We are expecting to find a sponsor to donate our project costs.  At this stage, we are creating the survey, in researching funding, and locating low-cost materials (i.e. buckets, glass bottles, etc.). Dr. Balakrishan, a MPH student at Panjab University, is working with us in implementing the pilot project and will use the findings for his Master’s thesis.




(Dr. Gurpreet Singh – DIR-I Physician)



On the First of September, there were 107 pregnant women in Janta colony and Adarsh Nagar. 26 women delivered their babies during the month of September. Six others shifted their residence permanently from the colony. Thirty-three new pregnancies were reported this month. This makes a total of 108 pregnant women in the area by the end of this month. Out of 26 women who delivered this month, 24 had had three or more Antenatal check examinations.



Out of 26 women who delivered this month, 17 delivered in the Government Hospital, Sector-16, five delivered in Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), one delivered in a Private Hospital in Chandigarh and three delivered at their homes. All deliveries this month were assisted by well qualified professionals. Of the newborns, 17 are baby boys and 9 baby girls.  All the 26 women who delivered had their postnatal examinations within 2 days of their delivery.




(Ms. Balreet Mandair - DIR-I Intern)


In recent months, because fund-raising in the US has dropped-off (presumably because of the depression) we have been putting more and more emphasis on seeking donations in India.  This has not been easy, but we have succeeded in making excellent contacts in Chandigarh and around India. Polly Singh, the owner of a pharmaceutical company in Chandigarh has again offered to donate certain vitamins and medicines to DIR for the Health Promotion programs. DIR was also offered services by the Technical Education Training School in Chandigarh in starting and up keeping a website. In a recent trip to Delhi we were able to acquaint ourselves with Charities Aid Foundation, which links donors with NGO’s in India.

The four new interns are continuing the year-old programme of writing appeals letters to corporations and big business concerns in India. Hopefully, in the coming months we will establish relationships with some of these businesses and benefit from their generosity.

On October 7, 2009, DIR shipped to Canada the first batch of thirty-five wine bags ($100 worth) made by women in the bustee.  These are ornamented cloth bags to serve as re-usable gift-wrapping when one takes a gift bottle of wine.  We hope this is the first of many orders, as they generate income for the women, as well as DIR programs. These beautiful bags are made out of the discontinued fabric samples which are donated from a local draper. In the coming weeks we hope to establish a local group, made up of individuals residing in Chandigarh, who have ties in the community to act as a support committee. This would help in creating a strong network to spread awareness about DIR and its activities.




(Ms. Natasha Bhardawaj – DIR-I Nutritionist)


This month the Health Promoters learned about Vitamin E, and about the recommended diet during fever, infection, old age, celiac disease, and various physiological conditions.  Emphasis here has been placed upon the importance of diet-planners knowing the exact nature of the people for whom they cook.  In our regular Nutrition examination this month, our Health Promoters scored exceptionally high.  Rani, Banita and Meena  scored 100%  marks and most of the others scored over 90%.


Recipes on two nutritious preparations,. besan poora (bread made of gram flour)  and vegetable noodles were demonstrated to health promoters.  Most of the bustee children are fond of eating noodles.  Keeping this in mind we demonstrated how noodles can be made more nutritious by adding seasonal vegetables in them.   Besan poora, with its gram flour, seasonal vegetables and oil is a good  sources of proteins , calories, iron and vitamins.  These are easy to cook but healthy recipes.


Health Promoters giving demonstration of the recipe of Besan Poora.




(Ms. Veena Rani – Senior Health Promoter)


In the month of September, DIR-I participated twice in the government-run immunization programme, on 16th and 23rd.  A total of 196 shots were given to the children. Details of the immunization are as follows:

a) Measles    - 23                 b) BCG    - 2                         c) DT       - 16                d) DPT Booster   - 16



1st Dose

2nd Dose

3rd Dose

Hepatitis B













Besides these, a total of 39 children were given a supplemental dose of Vitamin A.


A child being immunized at the immunization camp in Janta Colony


I.     D.O.T.S.

(Mr. Sunny Bighania - Senior Health Promoter)

On the 1st of September 14 Tuberculosis patients were being served medicines at our bustee office through the government DOTS program run by DIR.  Our bustee office is an authorised DOTS centre, and patients from the vicinity get their supply of medicine from our office on a regular basis. Four patients successfully completed their course of medication during the last month, but another bustee resident got diagnosed as having Tuberculosis and started reatment. This brings the total number of patients served to 11.


Following is the distribution of these patients in different categories with a brief description of what each means:


Category I – All those new patients whose pulmonary smear is positive for Tuberculosis Bacilli or those whose pulmonary smear is negative but are seriously ill or those who have extra pulmonary Tuberculosis but are seriously ill are included in Category I. This month, we have 7 patients in this category.

Category II – Those old Tuberculosis patients who had either defaulted from the treatment at an earlier stage and have re-started the treatment or those who have again contracted the disease after being cured once or those who had not been cured even after completing a full prescribed course are included in Category II. This month we have only 4 patients in this category.  



a.     Paper Bags

(Mr. I.B.S.Pannu - Administrator)

In September, DIR-I sold paper bags in the Cantonment area in Chandimandir, near Chandigarh, worth Rs. 2,278.   Rs 2,085 of the money received was passed to the women who made those bags and DIR-I earned Rs. 193 ($4 US) to help pay for some of the expenses of. distributing the paper bags to shopkeepers.  Details are as follows:


S. No.

Paper Bag Size

(bundles of 60 bags)


Cost Rate

(in Rupees)

Cost Price

(in Rupees)

Sale Rate

(in Rupees)

Sale Price

(in Rupees)


No. 2  Small            size




83 @ Rs. 6

42 @ Rs. 5




No. 3 Medium     size




110 @ Rs. 11

36 @ Rs. 10










b. Micro-Finance

 (Dr. Gurpreet Singh – DIR-I Physician)

With our aim of helping people from the bustee to become entrepreneurs, we interviewed 8 bustee residents as the preliminary phase of our process to give interest free micro loans. Some of these people already own a business and want to upgrade it, and others want to start new business of their own. Another phase of interviews will be conducted in October to shortlist the beneficiaries and loans will be provided to the most promising applicants by the Rotary Club.


C.     Skills Training

(Dr. Gurpreet Singh - DIR-I Physician)

We have made progress in training stitching skills to women in our bustee. We have nine women who are attending the stitching classes given by our instructor Ms. Gayatri Devi. The school uniforms are ready to be dispatched off to the children in our ‘School With A Difference’. 



(Dr. Gurpreet Singh – DIR-I physician)


This has been a very good month for DIR-I as far as its Education project is concerned. DIR-I’s aim is to provide quality education to children in the bustee so as to enable them to leave bustee when they grow up and have good jobs and  earn a good living.   In our effort to send bustee children to some good schools in Chandigarh, we got a boost when State Bank of India agreed to donate us a van to use as a school bus.. Mr. Ajay Swaroop, Chief General Manager of the Local Head Office of State Bank of India presented a Cheque of Rs. Two Lakh, Twenty Seven Thousand and Four Hundred Twenty Nine (Rs.2,27,429) to Dr. Frederick Shaw to buy a Maruti “Omni”. Another nice surprise came when we went to buy the van from a local Maruti Dealer, who is also a friend to DIR-I.  We saw a slightly bigger van than “Omni” in the dealership, called “Versa” and this vehicle has much better features, but also cost more. The actual cost of the vehicle is Rs. 4,15,341, but Mr. Mandeep the owner of the dealership very generously agreed to buy our old Maruti Car worth Rs. 55,000 and sell us the Maruti Versa for Rs. 2,87,429.

That was not the end to our good luck, just as we were in process to buy the Maruti “Versa”, we got another letter from Indian Oil who agreed to donate us a Tata Sumo Grande to transport bustee children to schools in Chandigarh.

Curiously, donors are responding better for appeals to improve education than for appeals to keep people alive.




This season, we have got 49 children enrolled in the school. Six sponsored children, about whom I wrote in the last month’s report, are progressing except one, who stopped coming to school. We are in a process of enrolling another needy child in place of him. The school is closed at present for autumn break since 26th September and will reopen on 5th October.                                                          



(I.S.B.Pannu - Administrator)

1.      Changes:

DIR is attracting more foreign interns now. During September 2009, the following joined DIR. Ms. Debbie Taylor from USA joined on 7th September for nine months.

Mr. Andrew Mutter from Canada joined on 14th of the month for three months.

Ms. Balreet Mandair joined DIR on 15th September from Canada for three months. r. Erik from Norway joined DIR for 9 months on 24th September.


2.      Visitors

Ms. Monika and her younger daughter visited bustee on 22nd September and showed keen interest in DIR’s ‘School With A Difference’. They distributed biscuits to all children in the school and Anganwadi in DIR premises. She also promised to donate one computer to be used for teaching purposes in school.


3. Absences


Paid Leave

Sick Leave

Unpaid Leave

# Days


# Days


# Days


Dr. Gurpreet

(Health Officer)


Half day on 9th





Mr. Pannu



29th and 30th





Mr. Sunny (SHP)


7th  and  two half days on 16th and 24th.





Ms. Banita (HP)







Ms. Seema (HP)


Half day on 18th





Ms. Sangeeta (HP)




2nd, 3rd and 4th.



Ms. Maya (HP)


7th, 23rd and 24th.





Ms. Meena


1st and 10th.





Ms. Meenakshi


Two half days on 16th and 23rd and a full day on 29th.





Ms. Pooja


1st, 2nd, 29th and 30th.





Ms. Rani


11th, 17th and half day on 15th.





Ms. Shanti


A half day on 2nd.





Mrs. Manjeet (Teacher)










In northern India, village elders order 'honor killings' September 26, 2009

The issue is especially of concern in Haryana, where members of the Jat ethnic community bar youth living within small clusters of villages from intermarrying. Defiance is met with death.

Singhwal village in Haryana, northern India, is home to an ethnic Jat community governed by a small group of male elders known as a khap panchayat. The group is in effect a law unto itself. (Adrian Fisk / For The Times)

By Mark Magnier

Reporting from Matour, India - Ved Pal Maun, 27, was something of a catch in this small farm community northwest of New Delhi. But his family members rejected several marriage offers; they said he just wasn't ready.  Truth was he was holding out for a particular woman, 18-year-old Sonia Banwal of the neighboring village of Singhwal.

Falling in love with the girl next door would be cause for joy and celebration in many countries. But in parts of rural
India, ancient traditions are rooted more deeply than the tall corn and lush green rice plants. It's a land where marital engagements are arranged by families and follow complex rules of caste, clan and community, and where the cost of "dishonoring" one's community can be your life.

In late July, three months after Maun married Banwal, he was lynched by residents of her village. They hacked at his body with scythes and farm tools until he moved no more.

Nobody has been charged in the killing and the police, who accompanied him to the village that day, haven't even questioned the family, his parents said.

Such so-called honor killings occur periodically in several states across
India, but Haryana, in the north, is particularly notorious, especially among the ethnic Jat community of Maun and Banwal. To the Jat, marrying someone from an adjacent village ruled by the same small group of male elders known as a khap panchayat is an egregious offense punishable by fines, banishment or worse.

Though there are parallel civil and legal structures, in practice, many police and administrators defer to thekhap panchayat, making the aging patriarchy, in effect, a law unto itself.  The restrictive system has forced families to look further afield for marriage partners, in a culture that relies heavily on word of mouth.

Aware of what they were up against -- people answering to the same khap panchayat are considered siblings -- the couple eloped, married April 22 in a civil ceremony and moved to the town of
Dirba, about two hours away.  For a few months the couple escaped their destiny amid the big town's bright lights and busy shops.

But while towns offer anonymity, villages take hostages. If they didn't return home, the couple was warned, the khap panchayat would banish their families.

"They returned with a sense of dread that she was going to be killed," said Mesar Maun, Ved Pal's mother, who lives in a concrete house with no chairs.  "He had no idea his time was up, not hers," she said, her long face framed by graying hair tied back tightly.

Khap panchayats -- a medieval institution designed to resist invaders, keep landownership in the community and prevent incest -- generally don't order killings outright, said K.S. Sangwan, sociology professor at Haryana's Maharishi Dayanand University, nor do they record their decisions.

"But there's an implicit understanding that there should be a murder or else it will bring a bad view of the village," Sangwan said. "If you kill your son or daughter, you've done your job and can stay." The killing of Maun, who was a traditional medicine practitioner, is hardly an isolated case, though more often both parties are killed. A young couple was found beaten to death under similar circumstances on Aug. 6 in Haryana's Bahalba village.  Three days later, newlyweds under the same khap panchayat in nearby Siwana were found hanged.

And Sunday, a young couple was arrested, accused of killing seven of the woman's relatives by poisoning their dinners, then strangling them, after their khap panchayat refused to let them marry. What's unusual in this latest case is that the lovers, fearful of being killed, are the alleged aggressors, not the victims.

"The vilest crimes are committed in the name of defending the honor of the family or women," Home Minister P. Chidambaram told Parliament shortly after Maun's death, even as he resisted calls for specific laws against such killings. "We should hang our heads in shame when such incidents take place in the 21st century."

Feudal throwbacks such as the khap panchayat exist in an era of slick shopping centers, fast cars and streaming video, experts said, because Indian politicians -- keen to solicit rural votes -- dare not challenge their authority and because villagers appreciate the rapid, rough justice meted out in a country with a creaky, often corrupt, judiciary.

"Who rules Haryana, the law or the khaps?" the local Tribune newspaper asked in
a recent editorial. The couple had stayed a night with Maun's parents -- the first and only time his parents met her -- before learning that the khap panchayat had ordered her to return to her family.

Maun, eager to protect his wife and wary of the elders' motives, agreed on the condition that they free her within 20 days, his parents said.  As the deadline approached, however, he got word that her parents wouldn't release her, didn't recognize their civil marriage and were trying to marry her to someone else.

On July 23, armed with a civil court order for her release and accompanied by a court warrant officer and 14 police officers, he set off for her village three miles away to bring her back. When he arrived, a mob attacked him, authorities said.  Maun's parents suspect that the police were paid off to lure their son into a trap, scheduled the trip after dark to obscure their actions and ran away during the attack.

B. Sateesh Balan, the local police chief, said that his 14 officers were in a separate car behind Maun, didn't know that Maun was ahead of them, didn't see the attack and didn't warn the mob that they were coming.  In a deposition shortly after Maun's death, Banwal said she had been tricked into eloping with him.  Maun's parents, who said they had seen a happy couple, question the veracity of that statement. They believe her family and neighbors forced her to make the statement.

Few residents of her village seemed surprised or sorry about Maun's slaying. "If I fell in love and married someone like that, I would be killed too," said Kuldeep, 19, a college student. "It's right. It's our culture." Suresh Kumar, a teacher, said the police are powerful, but khap panchayats are more so. "Nobody in the village thinks we did anything wrong," he said. "Even his village is happy at what happened."

Reached a few days later by telephone, khap panchayat khap panchayat memberAjit Singh said that 100 to 200 Singhwal residents participated or watched it happen. Order has been restored, he said, now that Maun has been killed and Banwal married to someone who doesn't contravene their rules."The panchayat decided that whoever is responsible shall not be spared," he said.

A local police chief has been suspended pending the results of an investigation, and 11 Singhwal residents have been detained by police, including Banwal's father and several khap panchayat members. Meanwhile, Maun's parents said they've seen little evidence of a homicide investigation.

"The poor never get justice," his mother said, as a cow entered the courtyard, licking saucepans cooling beside a dung fire.
Anshul Rana of The Times' New Delhi Bureau contributed to this report.   Copyright © 2009,
The Los Angeles Times



[ Read previous updates: April 09, November 08, October 07, September 07June 07, April 2007, January 2007, October 2006, June 2006 ]

[projects home]