She started with nothing but runs
three orphanages in Maharashtra,
where she has been mother to hundreds
REPORT ON PAGES 6 & 7
(Left) actor Amitabh
Bachchan poses with
Sindhutai Sapkal, who
is known as ‘Mai’, at
a 2013 award
ceremony in Mumbai.
(Far left) Ms Sindhutai
with some of the
children she cares for.
T H E H E A R T B E A T O F T H E I N D I A N C O M M U N I T Y
GOLD RUSH IN
PAGES 8 & 9
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
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Govt forms committee for
regulation of online media
IN AN effort to establish a regulatory
framework for online media and news
portals, India’s Information and
Broadcasting Ministry has set up a
committee that will recommend the
formation of a suitable policy.
It will recommend a policy for
online media, news portals and
content platforms, including digital
broadcasting, that encompasses
entertainment, infotainment and news
and media aggregators.
It will also analyse other countries’
regulatory mechanism with a view to
incorporate the best practices.
The committee was set up a day
after the ministry withdrew its
guidelines on fake news following
directions from Prime Minister
Jharkhand to release 221
prisoners serving life term
THE Jharkhand government has
decided to release 221 prisoners who
have been serving life term and have
spent more than 20 years in jail.
Chief Minister Raghubar Das said
the prisoners should get a chance to
start a new life.
Out of the 221prisoners, 104 were
Dalits and three were women. One
hundred prisoners will be released
from the Birsa Munda Central Jail in
Ranchi, 54 from the Hazaribagh
Central Jail and the rest from other
The prisoners have completed an
average sentence of 23 years.
Colour controversy surrounding
THE Bharatiya Janata Party-led
government in Uttar Pradesh had
installed a statue of the architect of the
Indian constitution, Dr B.R.
Ambedkar, in a Budaun village.
But the statue was painted saffron,
unlike the usual blue.
The old statue, which was
vandalised some time back, was
replaced with this new one.
However, the colour of the statue
caused a controversy three days after
it was up. Saffron is the colour
representing the Bharatiya Janata
According to news reports, a
Bahujan Samaj Party leader repainted
it blue (above).
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi
Adityanath, who himself wears saffron
robes, defends the colour, saying it
Madhubani railway station gets
facelift with Mithila paintings
THE Madhubani railway station in
Bihar has received a makeover. Once
looked upon as one of the dirtiest
railway stations in India, it now sports
a completely different look with
Mithila paintings adorning its walls.
More than 225 artists volunteered
to paint the station free of charge over
Mithila paintings are done with
fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens and
matchsticks. Artists use natural dyes
and pigments to make geometrical
Brand ambassador for Swachh Rail
Mission, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak,
tagged Madhubani as “the cleanest
station of the country”.
New buses for Agartala to
help reduce jam, pollution
THE Tripura government is
introducing 38 new buses in Agartala.
The city currently has 135 city buses.
An official said the new buses will
run on six heavy-traffic routes.
Transport Minister Pranajit Singha
Roy said the introduction of these
buses will increase mobility and
reduce traffic jam and pollution.
Single women above 40 may
get higher priority in adoption
SINGLE women above the age of 40
may get more priority when adopting
“Adoption is a long process because
it requires a lot of legal procedures to
be followed. So, with a view to ensure
that women do not have to wait longer
after 40, we are planning to introduce
more benefits for single mothers,” an
official told IANS.
The Ministry of Women and Child
Development is also considering
quickening the process by shifting the
legal procedures from the family court
to the district administration.
opens for traffic
AFTER remaining closed for four
months, the Srinagar-Leh highway
connecting the Ladakh region with the
rest of the country was reopened for
traffic on April 6.
The highway goes through the
Zojila Pass, which is situated at an
altitude of 3,528m above sea level.
The highway, which is over 422km,
was formally opened by Lieutenant-
General A.K. Bhatt.
Modi launches India’s most
powerful electric locomotive
PRIME Minister Narendra Modi
flagged off Indian Railways’ first
high-speed electric locomotive on
April 10 in Madhepura, Bihar.
It was developed at the Electric
Locomotive Factory, a collaboration
between India and France.
The new locomotive will reduce the
operating costs for the Railways as well
as cut down greenhouse gas emissions.
According to a report by Business
Today, India joins countries such as
Russia, China, Germany and Sweden,
which have electric locomotives with
12,000 horsepower and above.
The most powerful electric engine
in the Indian Railways was of 6,000
NDIAN Police Service (IPS)
officer Roopa D. Moudgil,
who, as Deputy Inspector-
General of Prisons in Karnataka,
exposed the special favours ex-
tended to ousted Tamil Nadu po-
litical leader V.K. Sasikala in a
Bengaluru jail, has opened up
about how sexual discrimination
exists in different forms in the In-
dian bureaucracy, though it is of-
ten kept carefully under wraps.
Ms Roopa, now Inspector-
General of Police (Home Guards
and Civil Defence), Bengaluru,
also dwelt on the importance of
prison reforms and the need to
sensitise officials to the nuances
of the law.
“Yes, sexual discrimination is
present in the Indian bureau-
cracy, though it is subtle. You can
get a feel of it by looking at how
many prestigious posts the men
are occupying compared with
their female counterparts. The
gap is stark, though there is not a
lot of difference in terms of poten-
tial,” Ms Roopa said in Kolkata,
where she was attending a liter-
“When I joined service in
2000, the number of female IPS
officers was much lower. Now
more women are coming into the
police service. I often felt there is
a sense of discrimination, espe-
cially when it comes to where a fe-
male officer is posted. People
seem to doubt whether lady offi-
cers would be good enough to
handle a sensitive or important
“Also the women in police ser-
vice are hardly given prestigious
posts. Maybe because the most
sought-after posts, which involve
a lot of power, also have a lot of
vested interests involved and
those in power think twice before
posting a lady officer as they
doubt if they would be able to get
their work done through her.”
Ms Roopa, who recently de-
clined to accept an award recog-
nising her work from a Kar-
nataka-based private foundation
for the “heavy” cash reward it
came with, said women officers
in high ranks often have to deal
with insubordination by male offi-
cers and blamed this on the com-
mon perception of women in In-
“The immediate line of male
subordinates often oppose or-
ders given by a lady officer. There
is a general feeling in our society
that ladies, no matter how liter-
ate or experienced they are, have
a lesser idea about the outside
world. So there is a tendency to
neglect orders. They disobey
you, argue with you and even lie
to you,” she said.
Ms Roopa, who stirred a hor-
net’s nest last year by going pub-
lic about the VIP treatment re-
ceived by Sasikala in Bengaluru’s
Parappana Agrahara Central
Prison, said the cases of discrimi-
nation inside the jails are a reflec-
tion of the discrimination that ex-
ists in society.
“The people who are consid-
ered VIPs outside are often given
VIP treatment inside the prison as
well. They get special facilities.
For the poor, the jail is like hell. So
the discrimination that exists in so-
ciety, the same is reflected in the
microcosm of prisons.
“Corruption has to be tackled,
the prison officials involved in
such practices have to be dealt
with using a carrot-and-stick pol-
icy. They should be heavily pun-
ished if such behaviour is found
and also the officials need to be
sensitised about the law because it
does not permit any such discrimi-
nation,” she pointed out.
Asked about being transferred
26 times in her 17 years of service,
the officer said that though she
finds it affecting her motivation at
times, it does not stop her from do-
ing good work.
Following the Sashikala ex-
pose, Ms Roopa’s senior officer,
the then Karnataka Director-Gen-
eral of Police (Prisons) H.N.
Sathyanarayana Rao, filed a Rs 50
crore defamation lawsuit against
her for accusing him and other
prison officials of taking bribes
from the jailed All India Anna
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
But Ms Roopa said she is confi-
dent that the charges of defama-
tion won’t stand against her as she
had just been doing her duty like a
loyal public servant.
“I have never criticised the en-
tire state government or defamed
anyone. So I am confident that this
defamation would not stand
against me. I will come out of it
clean. I have done my duty in an
accountable and transparent man-
ner, in a way every government
servant is expected to,” she said.
“I was not nervous because I
did not think about the conse-
quences during the expose. I knew
that I have acted as per law. I have
nothing to hide. I have no vested
interest in this. My courage comes
from my righteousness.”
Indo-Asian News Service
Police officer Roopa
Moudgil says women
rarely get prestigious posts
“There is a
no matter how
they are, have
a lesser idea
So there is a
you, argue with
you and even
lie to you.”
— Police officer Roopa
IS first love was arts and enter-
tainment, but now he is busy
with Chope, an online restau-
rant reservation business that operates
in various Asian cities.
Late last month, Mr Dinesh Bal-
asingam (right) also found himself on a
Forbes list featuring young innovators
He had chosen his own “atypical”
path. His love of theatre and music led
him to New York to audition at the
Tisch School of the Arts in 2010 but he
didn’t follow through with it.
Mr Balasingam was then at a cross-
roads. He was afraid of failure and
faced some pressure from his parents.
“When you’re really passionate and
love something so much, you don’t
want to screw it up,” he said.
“At the same time, my parents
thought that it was not something that
was very achievable in Singapore. We
have a very vibrant arts scene now but
back then opportunities were few and
far between. They wanted me to do
something that would give me a better
chance to succeed.”
Mr Balasingam, now 30, decided to
try his hand at business. He diverted his
attention to the world of accounts when
he interned at the finance department
of St Regis Hotel. He worked there
while waiting to enrol in the New York
University Stern School of Business.
Around the time he applied to uni-
versity, a colleague from St Regis told
him about OpenTable, an online restau-
rant reservation service, in the US.
She was thinking of starting a similar
concept in Singapore and asked him if
he was keen to explore it with her. He
jumped at the opportunity.
For Mr Balasingam, who describes
himself as a very “hands-on and practi-
cal guy”, timing was everything.
“It was timely and there was an ele-
ment of luck there too... Ultimately, I
was going to pursue a business degree
to start a business so I thought this was
an excellent opportunity. Importantly,
it was a great way for me to learn from
people around me,” he said.
Mr Balasingam, whose favourite lo-
cal food is nasi lemak, became part of
the founding team of Chope, which
started operating in 2011.
Chope helps busy diners make in-
stant reservations at Singapore, Hong
Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, Bali
and Jakarta’s restaurants, replacing con-
ventional paper reservation systems.
The service helps subscribing restau-
rants handle reservation management,
guest management, table management
and also provides advanced analytics
that helps sustain and improve restau-
The local word “chope” can be trans-
lated as “hold it” and is usually used as
a verb meaning “reserve”.
Mr Balasingam, who was born in Sin-
gapore, went to Anglo-Chinese School
(Independent) and Anglo-Chinese Ju-
Though he had been accepted to do
a business degree at New York Univer-
sity, Mr Balasingam found himself im-
mersed in Chope’s operations and de-
cided against leaving for the degree.
“In the end, I didn’t do a degree and
I’ve never looked back since,” he said.
When Mr Balasingam started out at
Chope in 2011, his focus was sales —
getting restaurants to join the start-up’s
network. With just five people at the
company, there was a very flat structure
with no real hierarchy.
But the team banded together and
took on whatever responsibilities were
required of them in order to make
things happen, said Mr Balasingam.
He became the chief operating offi-
cer in 2016. His responsibilities now in-
clude managing 150 employees in mul-
tiple cities, sharing best practices in
fields like sales and marketing, increas-
ing efficiency, and working with other
leaders on the ground to determine
strategies to ensure continued success.
Chope chief executive officer Arrif
Ziaudeen said: “This is a guy you would
often come across on best-dressed lists,
but he’s also one who would roll up his
sleeves and get his hands dirty. Back
when Chope just started, Dinesh would
hit the streets and approach people to
share what Chope was.
“Dinesh still picks up the phone
calls of our restaurant partners and pro-
vides them with great service, no mat-
ter how small a task may be. This also
means he gets close to no sleep but hey,
he’s under 30 so I guess that’s alright!”
For his efforts, Mr Balasingam was
listed in this year’s Forbes 30 under 30
Asia list, themed Disruption and Inno-
vation, under the consumer technology
category. It features 300 young people
across 10 categories who are re-invent-
ing their industries and driving change
across this diverse region.
When Mr Balasingam found out he
was on the prestigious list, he was
When asked what he thinks contrib-
uted to him being chosen, he said:
“While there are so many more people
who’ve taken the leap of faith to go on
an atypical path that does not include
the pursuit of higher education, I do
think there’s still a ton of societal pres-
sure, especially in Asia, to conform, as a
degree is often considered as one of the
key indicators of success.
“I think the fact that I veered away
from that and decided to determine
what success was in my own terms,
might have appealed to them.”
His parents had their doubts when
he chose to work at Chope instead of do-
ing a degree. “They were always a little
worried... But no matter what they
were still supportive,” he said.
His father runs his own business sup-
plying aircraft engine parts, and his
mother is a retiree who worked in a
bank for more than 30 years.
Mr Balasingam, who is unmarried,
also has a brother, two years older than
him, working in the events space. When
his father, Mr Kumar Balasingam, 61,
found out that his son earned a spot on
the Forbes list, he was thrilled.
He said: “I was excited and proud to
the point of tears. I still see him as the
baby of the family but he’s out there
achieving so much. I couldn’t be hap-
When Chope was launched, his fa-
ther was using the app to book reserva-
tions at restaurants and he told his
friends about it.
“He would stick decals that were
meant for restaurant doors on his car,”
said Mr Balasingam with a laugh. “He
would also forward messages he re-
ceived from his friends on the news that
I got listed on the Forbes list.”
Mr Balasingam said he may still pur-
sue a degree in business administration
some time in the future.
“Chope takes up a lot of my time so
I’ll dedicate my time to it when I can be
a bit more hands off,” he said.
Chope, degree can wait
chose not to go to a
US university, taking a
leap of faith with a
start-up. He is on this
year’s Forbes 30
Under 30 Asia list
“This is a guy you
come across on
but he’s also one
who would roll up
his sleeves and get
his hands dirty.”
— Chope chief executive officer
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