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Women's Day: How gender barriers collapsed in the man's world of hotel kitchens

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Women's Day: How gender barriers collapsed in the man's world of hotel kitchens

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) There was a time when a woman in a five-star hotel’s kitchen was such an oddity, as a senior chef remembered some years ago, that she and a couple of new female inductees decided to do exactly what the men did: use foul language and light up a cigarette during breaks.

Seeing women just like them, that too women who used English profanities, the male chefs grudgingly accepted them, but also gave them some friendly advice: If they wanted to get married and have children, like all good women should do, they should quickly seek a transfer to the patisserie, which was air-conditioned and the duty hours were regular.

You could imagine their utter shock when these ‘achche ghar ki ladkiyan’ told them bluntly that they had come to become chefs and the hot kitchen was their way forward.

Unlike the case in people’s homes, kitchens in five-star hotels and restaurants were a man’s world where generous dollops of suspicion and contempt used to be heaped upon women who ‘trespassed’ into them.

That was the world that Veena Arora walked into in 1994, after having grown up in Bangkok and trained in London, when she joined the Thai restaurant named Silk Orchid at the then Holiday Inn (now known as The Lalit in New Delhi). Arora left The Imperial, where she presided over the iconic Spice Route restaurant, last year to turn a chef-entrepreneur, satisfied that pioneers like her have made a difference to their industry’s old mindset.

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Less than two decade after Arora’s entry into Silk Orchid, author and Parsi cuisine exponent Anahita Dhondy can happily remembers how as an industrial trainee from IHM Aurangabad, she was pushed into the banquet kitchen of New Delhi’s Taj Mahal Hotel by the executive sous chef, who wanted them rise and shine by burning their hands and scalding their skin.

The gender barrier was finally coming down, but old attitudes continued to persist, as chef and restaurateur Chiquita Gulati, discovered much after she was running her own show.

A relative of hers (she grew up in a well-to-do Gujarati family in Mumbai and studied at the prestigious hospitality school at Les Roches, Switzerland) met her in a chef’s uniform and (obviously, she had been conditioned by cookery shows!) exclaimed: “Kya baat hai, aaj toh tum chef bane hue ho! (My, my, you are dressed up like a chef today!)” To quote Gulati: “It was a subtle reminder of the gender stereotypes that continue to linger even in my own circles.”

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Of course, the transition has been physically demanding. As Dhondy says, remembering her days at the Taj banquet kitchen, “Honestly I hated it at first. It is loud and hot, it is noisy and hectic, quite the opposite of the air-conditioned pastry room where ambient music is played just to keep you in the right frame of mind.”

Talking about her decision to stay put in the hot kitchen (she earned her spurs with the Irani-Parsi restaurant chain, Soda Bottle Opener Wala), she mentions her Le Cordon Bleu batch. “Most of the Indians in my batch in London became pastry chefs, except three: Vanshika Bhatia, Urvika Kanoi and I. And I am so glad we did that because we are all successfully running our own businesses.”

Fortunately for women chefs, as Arora points out, families too have changed the way they view the profession.

“Over time, as women proved their strength and dedication, perceptions shifted,” Arora said. “Educated women emerged stronger, more independent and confident, breaking free from traditional constraints. Families now recognise the positive impact of women working in the industry, supporting their roles as providers and caretakers.”

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Life, indeed, has changed for women in the profession. “From being the underdogs who had to work extra hard to getting noticed, getting the big-ticket opportunities, to the present, it’s been a journey full of ups and downs,” Gulati said.

Despite being married into the family that owns the established and popular Gulati restaurant at Pandara Road in New Delhi, Gulati launched the Spice Route, a pan-Indian eatery in Saket, and then, during the Covid lockdown, the Call Chotu food delivery service.

With 30 years to look back upon — 30 years that have seen trail-blazing chefs such as Nita Nagaraj, Madhu Krishnan, Manisha Bhasin and Ritu Dalmia — Arora sees the change in the right perspective.

She said: “The evolution is evident in today’s kitchens, where women are not only accepted but celebrated. Specialised kitchens with an all-female staff highlight the capability of women to successfully run restaurants and manage kitchens independently. It reflects the resilience, strength and competence of women in large-scale industrial kitchens, and their success in challenging and redefining traditional gender roles.”

Women no longer have to swear to earn their respect in the hot kitchen.

–IANS

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Six Russians, three others detained by TN Police near Kudankulam nuclear power plant

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Six Russians, three others detained by TN Police near Kudankulam nuclear power plant

Six Russians, three others detained by TN Police near Kudankulam nuclear power plant

Chennai, July 23 (IANS) Tamil Nadu Police have taken into custody six Russian citizens and three Indians from near the nuclear reactor plant at Kudankulam.

A senior police officer told IANS that they were taken into custody on Monday evening after local people tipped off on the presence of foreigners around the premises of the nuclear reactor.

Besides six Russians including a woman, two Tamil Nadu natives and a Keralite from Thiruvananthapuram were also taken into custody by the police.

Sources in Tamil Nadu Police told IANS that the Central agencies have commenced quizzing those in custody. The Thiruvananthapuram native, according to police, is the driver of the cab in which the Russians came.

It may be recalled that the Kudankulam nuclear power project at Tirunelveli in Southern Tamil Nadu was commissioned with the support of the Russians. There had been stiff public opposition to the plant when the construction was commissioned in March 2022.

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Kudankulam has two 1000 Mwe nuclear reactors at present and four more are expected to come up in the same region.

–IANS

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SC delivers split verdict on release of GM mustard

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SC delivers split verdict on release of GM mustard

SC delivers split verdict on release of GM mustard

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered a split verdict on a batch of pleas opposing the release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into the environment, unless a robust regulatory system is put in place by the government.

The split judgment was given by a Division Bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Sanjay Karol on the legality of the clearance given by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for release of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard.

Quashing the approval of the GEAC, Justice Nagarathna, in her opinion, held that the decision was taken in gross violation of public trust, without conducting any indigenous studies specific to the country’s unique biodiversity.

On the other hand, Justice Karol upheld the approval for release of GM mustard, rejecting the contention to quash the clearance given by GEAC on account of manifest arbitrariness.

Resultantly, the matter has been referred to the Chief Justice of India for appropriate orders for the constitution of a larger Bench to deliver an authoritative pronouncement on the subject.

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In January this year, the two-judge SC Bench had reserved its verdict after hearing the oral arguments advanced by Attorney General (AG) R Venkataramani and Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, the senior law officers representing the Centre and advocate Prashant Bhushan and senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the petitioner NGOs and environmentalists.

During the hearing, SG Mehta said that by employing GM mustard hybrids, the domestic production of edible oils will increase while reducing the dependency on other exporting countries.

“The only question is if we should be growing it here or importing from other countries…we need more food security by growing indigenous varieties and less foreign dependency,” he had said.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the PIL litigants, had contended that the case relates to biosafety of GM crops and consuming them could result in toxicity, allergies and other “unintended consequences.”

Referring to various scientific reports, he had said that GM crops have revealed adverse impacts on agriculture and the environment and it may pose a threat of contaminating other flora and fauna of the country.

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“Therefore, the issue of regulation and biosafety of these Genetically Modified Organisms has become a major issue across the world,” Bhushan had said.

Earlier in August 2023, the top court had refused to pass any urgent directions on the Centre’s application which had sought release of GM mustard for seed production and testing.

“The environment and ecology has to be maintained. One year, here or there, does not matter. The environmental harm cannot be reversed,” it had told the Centre.

–IANS

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High command will address ED’s targeting of K’taka govt: Siddaramaiah

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High command will address ED’s targeting of K’taka govt: Siddaramaiah

High command will address ED’s targeting of K’taka govt: Siddaramaiah

Bengaluru, July 23 (IANS) Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Tuesday said that he has discussed the issue of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) targeting the Congress government with the party’s high command and they will address the issue.

“I have discussed the matter with the high command. They will also take up this issue. We are ready to fight a legal battle. I don’t know what the ED and CBI are going to do. About 90 per cent of the investigation has been completed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT),” the Chief Minister said while staging a protest condemning the ED’s move to force an officer to implicate the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister in an alleged Tribal Welfare Board case.

He said that SIT is carrying out the investigation and will initiate stern action against the accused.

“We will not show mercy to anyone and won’t protect anyone involved in the scam. We will punish the guilty. The investigation into Tribal Welfare case is progressing well,” the Chief Minister said.

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He said that the future action will be taken in consultation with the high command.

“The ED never bothered to look into the scams which occurred during the BJP’s rule. They never investigated the Bhovi Development Board scam, Devraj Urs Development Board scam, APMC scam, or the misappropriations that took place during the Corona pandemic under the BJP,” the Chief Minister said.

He said that the BJP leaders who are repeatedly demanding a CBI probe never agreed to a CBI probe when they were in power.

“The BJP referred to the CBI as the ‘Chor Bachao Institute’ when they were in opposition. Now, since the BJP is ruling at the Centre, they want a CBI probe for everything. The Congress government had handed over many cases to the CBI,” the Chief Minister said.

He said that the government will take a discretionary call on handing over cases for a CBI probe.

“As per the guidelines of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the CBI can probe a scam if it involves more than Rs 25 crore,” the Chief Minister said.

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He said that the ED is trying to destabilise an elected government in Karnataka.

“We are staging a symbolic protest to condemn this. We will also raise our concerns in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council,” he said.

The Karnataka Police on Monday registered an FIR against the two Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers who are investigating the State Tribal Welfare Board case.

–IANS

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Union Budget 2024: Govt to exempt three more cancer drugs from customs duty

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Union Budget 2024: Govt to exempt three more cancer drugs from
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Union Budget 2024: Govt to exempt three more cancer drugs from
 customs duty

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) In a big relief to cancer patients, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Union Budget 2024, exempted customs duty on three cancer drugs.

The three drugs are Trastuzumab deruxtecan, Osimertinib and Durvalumab. The reduction in customs duty may help reduce the financial burden on those battling the deadly disease.

In her seventh budget speech, the Union Minister also called for exemptions in custom duties on X-ray tubes and flat panel detectors.

“I also propose changes in the BCD (Basic Customs Duty), X-ray tubes, and flat panel detectors for use in medical X-ray machines under the phased manufacturing programme to synchronise them with domestic capacity addition,” said FM Sitharaman.

According to the recent 4th edition of Apollo Hospitals’ Health of Nation Report, cancer cases are skyrocketing across the country.

The report dubbed India the “cancer capital of the world”.

In 2019, India registered about 12 lakh new cancer cases and 9.3 lakh deaths in 2019, becoming the second highest contributor to the disease burden in Asia, as per a Lancet study.

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The number increased to 13.9 lakh in 2020, which then rose to 14.2 lakh and 14.6 lakh in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

–IANS

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Union Budget gives major push to job creation with focus on youth, women & farmers

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Union Budget gives major push to job creation with focus on youth, women & farmers

Union Budget gives major push to job creation with focus on youth, women & farmers

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday presented the Union Budget 2024 in Parliament on Saturday aimed at giving a major push to job creation with a focus on the country’s youth, empowering women and improving the incomes of farmers.

The Finance Minister announced a Prime Minister’s package of five schemes aimed at facilitating employment and skilling, with an allocation of Rs 2 lakh crore.

The budget has allocated as much as Rs 3 lakh crore in programmes that will enable more women to enter the workforce and contribute to the country’s inclusive development aligned with the Viksit Bharat goal, the Finance Minister said.

Similarly, a robust allocation of Rs 5.2 lakh crore has been made for the agriculture and allied sectors to enhance the earnings of farmers. The Finance Minister said that the government will undertake a comprehensive review of the agricultural research setup to increase productivity and develop climate-resilient varieties. Domain experts will oversee the conduct of this research to ensure its effectiveness and relevance.

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“We need to focus on the garib, mahilaye, yuva, and annadata. For annadata, we announced higher MSP a month ago for all major crops, delivering on our promise. The PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana was extended for five years, benefiting more than 80 crore people. Administrative actions for the approval and implementation of various schemes announced in the interim budget are well underway,” FM Sitharaman observed.

She said that job creation in the manufacturing sector will be incentivised through a scheme linked to the employment of first-time employees. The government will reimburse employers up to Rs 3,000 per month for two years towards EPFO contributions for each additional employee. This initiative aims to incentivise the additional employment of 50 lakh people.

The Finance Minister announced employment-linked skilling through schemes as part of the PM’s package.

“First-timers will receive one month’s wage upon entering the workforce in all formal sectors. A direct benefit transfer (DBT) of one month’s salary, up to Rs 15,000, will be provided in three instalments. The eligibility limit for this benefit will be a salary of Rs 1 lakh per month, and it is expected to benefit 2.1 lakh youths.”

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The budget has also accorded high priority to micro small and medium enterprises as they have the capacity to create a large number of jobs.

“To facilitate term loans for MSMEs for the purchase of machinery and equipment without collateral and guarantee, a new scheme will be introduced. This guarantee fund will provide guarantees of up to Rs 100 crore,” the Finance Minister said.

She also said that the government will endeavour to maintain strong fiscal support for infrastructure as the sector has a multiplier effect on job creation and pushes up the growth rate. This year, Rs 11.11 lakh crore has been allocated for capital expenditure, which amounts to 3.4 per cent of India’s GDP.

The Finance Minister further stated that under PM Awas Yojana, Urban 2.0, the housing needs of the urban poor and middle class will be addressed with an investment of Rs 10 lakh crore.

She also announced the setting up of new power projects including setting up of a new 2400 MW power plant at Pirpainti in Bihar will be taken up at the cost of Rs 21,400 crores. New airports, medical colleges and sports infrastructure in Bihar will be constructed. The requests of the Bihar government for external assistance from multilateral development banks will be expedited.

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The Finance Minister also said that the govt has made efforts to fulfil the commitments in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.

“Recognising the state’s need for capital, we will facilitate special financial support through multilateral agencies. In the current FY, Rs 15,000 crore will be arranged with additional amounts in future years. Our govt is fully committed to the early completion and financing of the Polavaram irrigation project which is the lifeline for Andhra Pradesh and its farmers,” she added.

–IANS

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