Every year, in March and April, employees of the private sector gear up for their annual performance appraisals. Performance appraisals are a periodic exercise in private organisations and are used to identify performers and non-performers, wherein the former get rewarded and promoted. However, this process is not followed in government departments. This year, in a break from tradition, the Maharashtra government has decided to rank and grade its 7.5 lakh state employees on the basis of their performance and has formulated a new 100-point performance marking system for the purpose. This marking system will take into account both subjective and objective evaluation of an employee’s performance during the year. While the new reviewing system does not disincentivise average or the poor performers, it has proposed public recognition and rewards for ‘Sukarmis’ or good performers across ranks. On the basis of the marking system, various state departments will be asked to identify 5 percent employees across cadres as the top performers at district, department, and state levels. The state government has also planned to roll out cash rewards and perks for top performing employees besides giving them recognition, and upscaling their involvement in decision-making, the report adds. In September last year, the General Administration Department (GAD) of Madhya Pradesh decided to complete a performance appraisal of all class III and class IV state employees who have completed 20 years of service or attained the age of 50 years. GAD had sent a circular to all district collectors and department heads regarding the implementation of the appraisal exercise. This decision will help government departments to become more efficient and will also incentivise the employees to work harder. Here’s hoping that other states follow suit!
Everyone loves a good vacation. After all, what could be better than an overseas trip where you get to see a whole new world and experience different cultures and cuisines! In a first, Indian Railways is making this wish come true for 100 of its employees through a non-working foreign tour to Singapore and Malaysia! But what makes the initiative worth commendation is the fact that the tourist group does not comprise senior officers or the ones in prominent positions. Instead, it largely features those engaged in thankless positions. Gangmen, trackmen and non-gazetted employees of the Secunderabad-based South Central Railway are part of the first-of-its-kind ‘Employees Overseas Camp’ by Indian Railways, and will be holidaying in Singapore and Malaysia for six days starting January 28! According to M. Umashankar Kumar, SCR chief public relations officer, 75 per cent of the trip expenditure is funded through Staff Benefit Fund (SBF), while the employees are bearing the remaining 25 per cent. “The 100-strong group comprises Group C and D category employees, with preference given to employees from lower cadres and those nearing retirement. Allocation of slots for each Division, Workshop and Headquarters was given on the basis of their sanctioned strength,” he said in a statement. He also mentioned that the regional railway zone is taking the lead in providing its non-gazetted workforce with due consideration that they deserve through optimised welfare activities. It was in December last year when SCR had put across the tour proposal, and within a month, the plan successfully materialised with 100 employees signing up for the trip. Under the trip itinerary, these folks will be visiting prominent tourist sites like Universal Studios, Sentosa Island and Night Safari in Singapore, while in Malaysia, they will be touring around Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves and Genting Highlands. The SBF is a welfare provision by Railway Board that aims to financially aid non-gazetted employees working in the national organisation through scholarships for their children and other socially applicable causes.
Prison inmates across Kerala are abolishing the stereotype of prison food, with a program called Food for Freedom, under which cafeterias and takeaway stands have been set up in districts across Kerala, where inmates cook all sorts of dishes from the prison kitchens and serve it to the public. According to R Sreelekha, the current Director General of Prisons and Correctional Facilities, Food for Freedom was conceptualised in 2012 and consisted of only two dishes: chicken curry and chapati, cooked by an inmate who was an exceptional cook. Since then, it has expanded to a fully fledged operation covering Kannur, Thrissur, and Trivandrum. It was the then-DGP, Loknath Behera, who opened the first cafeteria at the Poojappura Central Prison in Trivandrum, in 2016. Today, the facility is equipped with air conditioning, parking space, wi-fi, and mobile charging points. More importantly, it has affordable, and tasty food cooked by the inmates of the prison. The Kannur prison will soon get a similar cafeteria. According to Ms Sreelekha, the public response to this initiative has been overwhelming. “The food is affordable and is delicious. Since we are exempt from taxes, we can sell the food for cheaper prices and people tell us how good the food is, all the time,” she says. Here, you can get one chapati for Rs 2, and chicken biryani for Rs 60. Curries range from Rs 10 to Rs 30, and items such as ghee rice, gooseberry juice, chilli chicken, and vegetable korma have been added to the impressive repertoire. Bakery units have also been set up in Thrissur and Kannur, where women prisoners make items such as fruit cake, butter cake, chips, and other local snacks! According to Ms Sreelekha, future plans include the expansion of the bakery unit to prisons in Trivandrum and launching their own brand of ice creams. “We even supplied food to rehabilitation centres for three days after Cyclone Ockhi occurred, to feed the displaced people,” she explains. The inmates also cultivate their own organic vegetables, which they use for cooking. When these vegetables are in excess, they are sold in stalls outside the prisons three days a week. Under Ms Sreelekha’s guidance, prisons have also begun aquafarming, and the entire operation is managed by the inmates themselves. Today, there are over 800 inmates who are working in food processing units alone, and the revenue generated in the previous year is around 26 crores! So, what has this done for the inmates? They have been trained by professionals on how to cook all kinds of dishes. This has equipped them with the skills they need to build a future for themselves. It keeps them occupied and motivated to stay on the right track, rather than resorting once again to a life of crime upon release. Success stories have been frequent.
“They have been able to earn a livelihood. Wages depend on the kind of work they do. For example, cooks are given Rs. 140 per day. Once they are released from prison, they can start their own restaurants, because they have the skills and the experience,” Ms Sreelekha concludes.
We're in love with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts' newest hire. Meet Riley, a 12-week-old Weimaraner. Riley's job is to sniff out bugs and other critters that could potentially damage valuable artwork in the museum. The museum's deputy director, Katie Getchell, told The Boston Globe that insects are an ongoing concern for museums. "It's really a trial, pilot project. We don't know if he's going to be good at it," said Getchell. "But it seems like a great idea to try." No technology is as powerful at detecting scents as the nostrils of dogs, which have long been trained to sniff out explosives, missing people, bed bugs, and cancer, among other things. If Riley is successful at his job, museum officials would attempt to share what they learn with other museums and organizations that need to protect textiles, Getchell said.
A cafe in Australia gives diners the chance to play with up to 15 cats while waiting for their desserts and it has helped more than 80 cats find a home. The MeowMe Cat Cafe in West Lakes, Australia, partnered with volunteer group Paws & Claws Adoptions to help find caring homes for displaced cats. "We want to try and help the rescued animals as much as possible," cafe owner Yvonne Wong says. "In the cafe, we have a lot more traffic than a lot of these adoption shelters so it is much easier to get people in to meet the cats." Since opening its doors, more than 80 cats have been adopted. "People are able to really interact and get to know which cat they want to adopt as they have more time with them," Wong said. "We don't want people to commit to adopting a cat just by a picture, actually come in and get to know them."
A 16-year-old explorer from Melbourne, Australia, has become the youngest person to conquer the Polar Hat Trick – having skied to the North Pole, across Greenland's largest ice cap, and down to the South Pole. But after Jade Hameister gave an inspirational TEDx talk encouraging young girls to reach for their dreams, the YouTube comments were flooded with internet trolls and haters telling her to "make me a sandwich." So, when Jade made her way down to the South Pole this month, she served her trolls a sandwich — with a catch. "Tonight (it never gets dark this time of year) I skied back to the Pole again… to take this photo for all those men who commented 'Make me a sandwich' on my TEDx talk," she wrote on Facebook. "I made you a sandwich (ham & cheese). Now ski 37 days and 600km to the South Pole and you can eat it." Hameister was accompanied on the 37-day journey by her father, her guide Eric Philips and a two-person camera team from National Geographic, which will release a documentary about the experience later this year. Pulling her own 220-pound sled for 373 miles, she arrived at her final destination without assistance.
Michael and Linda Joyce of Frankton, New Zealand, have been married for 34 years, but Michael is battling Alzheimer's and he'd forgotten. So, when Michael woke Linda up in the middle of the night and asked her to marry him, she responded, "Of course I will, darling." "You don't say, 'Oh, we're already married,'" Linda, 64, said. The next morning, she was shocked when Michael said, "So, when are we doing this?" Linda decided it would be a good chance to renew their wedding vows. She turned to her community website Neighbourly and asked if anyone would be willing to marry them over the weekend. She was inundated with offers, all free of charge, and local photographer Desmond Downs volunteered to be the wedding photographer. On their wedding morning, Linda said she wasn't sure he would remember, but he woke up and said, "Today's the day!" Michael and Linda said their vows on Saturday afternoon at a lake near their home among a handful of friends. The couple, originally from Scotland, celebrated with hugs, kisses and cake to the background music of Flower of Scotland, played by bagpipes. "There's been a lot of sadness and a lot of frustration," Linda said. "And despite all the fogginess, today has been pure joy."
An Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper has been credited with saving a man's life after he dragged an unresponsive driver out of a car that was hit by a train seconds later. In a press release, the DPS said trooper Henry Roanhorse was driving home when he spotted the car on railroad tracks in McKinley County, New Mexico, which is just across the Arizona state line. Roanhorse approached the vehicle and found the 56-year-old driver, Sampson Whitegoat, unconscious behind the wheel. He crawled into the vehicle to take off Whitegoat's seat belt as a train rounded a nearby curve. Roanhorse pulled Whitegoat out of the vehicle — despite Whitegoat, who had regained consciousness, fighting against him — and dragged his 300-pound body about 25 feet from the tracks. Seconds later, the train collided with the car and threw it 150 feet. Roanhorse said Whitegoat thanked him for saving his life.
A World War II veteran donated $37 million to a local charity prior to his death. Most people didn't know that Raymond Suckling was a wealthy man. The longtime mechanical engineer from Sewickley, PA., loved fast food, drove an inexpensive car and wore Veclro sneakers. But his $37.1 million donation to the Pittsburgh Foundation before he passed away proves he chose to live a modest, simple life instead of one of glitz and glamour. Unbeknownst to even his closest companions, before he died in 2014 at age 93, Suckling had accumulated millions including money he inherited from his parents and from his own investments. Suckling's bequest, which was finalized in December, will benefit the Sewickley Public Library, the Heritage Valley Health System in Sewickley, and nonprofits and programs in the Sewickley region that help low-income youth and families. The gift will be allocated in annual amounts of $1.5 million with yearly grants of $500,000 a piece made to the library, the hospital, and to the Pittsburgh Foundation's 100 Percent Pittsburgh initiative. The initiative will channel it to nonprofits in and around Sewickley that assist people in need. Buddy Hallett, the son of Suckling's longtime companion Betty Hallett (pictured), said the only time anyone may have guessed at Suckling's wealth was when the family went out. "Raymond always wanted to pay for everything," Hallett said in a Pittsburgh Foundation release. "[But] no one knew that he was a man of such means." He mowed his own lawn and liked attending to the trees and bushes at Betty Hallett's home in Florida.
For years, overflowing garbage dumps and landfills have added to the woes of residents across the city of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. But one major responsibility for the growing health risks this waste problem poses is also the lack of responsibility of its own residents, who do not take waste segregation seriously. But, one organisation together with over 40 communities and over 4,000 households, is striving to make Coimbatore a city without dumpsites by reducing the humongous volume of garbage. Just at the cost of Rs 100 per month per household, a 2016 registered trust dedicated to the Swachh Bharat Mission, called ‘No Dumping’ is helping communities and citizens dispose their waste in a responsible way. They are hand-holding the residents end-to-end – waste generation to waste management. Under the community-driven joint initiative run by a team of passionate young green entrepreneurs and volunteers, and supported by the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation (CCMC), every household adopts four core practices. These are imparted to them by No Dumping through its Habit Orientation Workshops (HOW), aimed at bringing about a paradigm shift in their age-old habits of dumping mixed waste.