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India-US step up cooperation to combat terrorism


On his maiden visit to India in his current capacity, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two discussed stepping up effective cooperation to combat terrorism in all its forms and promoting regional stability and security.

The India Prime Minister noted the firm upward trajectory in the bilateral strategic partnership following the positive and far-reaching talks with President Trump in June this year.

Modi shared the resolve expressed by Secretary Tillerson on taking further steps in the direction of accelerating and strengthening the content, pace and scope of the bilateral engagement. They affirmed that a strengthened India-US partnership is not just of mutual benefit to both countries, but has significant positive impact on the prospects for regional and global stability and prosperity.

In the context of President Trump’s new South Asia Policy, Prime Minister noted the commonality in the objectives of eradicating terrorism, terrorist infrastructure, safe havens, and support, while bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Earlier in the day, Secretary Tillerson also had detailed discussions with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

Immigration News Politics

MP Rajen Prasad retires

Indian MP New Zealand

New Zealand Labour Party’s Immigration spokesperson Rajen Prasad has declared his retirement from active politics as he says he is not seeking re-nomination for another term in Parliament at the next election scheduled for later this year.

“I have approached my professional and public life over the last 20 years, in the spirit of moving on to new challenges once I had made my parliamentary contribution.” says Dr Prasad – a former Associate Professor in Social Policy and Social Work from Massey University.

“My sixth year as a parliamentarian has also been a time to reflect on this role and consider other challenges I might accept.

“I have made this decision not to remain in Parliament, together with my family and friends and have informed the Party leader.

“I have been enormously privileged to have been given an opportunity to represent ethnic communities in general and the Indian community in particular in Parliament and in the Labour caucus. This has happened at a time of  enormous ethnic diversification in New Zealand.

Dr Prasad had earlier served as the Race Relations Conciliator, Human Rights Commissioner and a Member of the Residence Review Board.

“My experience from my life and my background in social policy and the front line social services has been  critical in framing our Immigration and Ethnic Affairs policies for the next election.

He has not revealed his future plans but has provided some clues. “I look forward to new challenges in the international environment as well as in business in the next stage of my life.”

New Zealand Parliament will miss him as a man of “integrity, intelligence and insight”, says fellow Labour list candidate Sunny Kaushal. “He is a man who just naturally radiated charm, warmth and honour.

It reminds of the words of the great poet Bertolt Brecht :
When the battle of the mountains is over
Then you will see
That the real battle of the plains will begin.

Of Fijian-Indian descent, Dr Prasad is 11th in a family of 14 children. He has two married children and lives with his wife in Auckland. He has lived and worked in West Auckland, Porirua and South Auckland.

News Politics

India records higher voter turnout than 2009


It is believed that nearly 65% of the eligible electors cast their ballot across the 12 states of India after Phase 5 of voting.

India’s election commission hasn’t released official figures of voter turnout yet.

The highest turnout of 81.57% was recorded in four constituencies in West Bengal, which has a total of 39 seats, while the lowest was recorded in Madhya Pradesh at 54%.

While 80.6% had voted in the four seats in West Bengal in the 2009 general elections, the Madhya Pradesh figure stood at 46%.

In the key battleground state of Karnataka, where polling was held in the all the 28 seats, the voting percentage was 66% and in the 11 seats of Uttar Pradesh, electorally the most important state with 80 seats in the Lower House, the turnout was 62.52%, up from 2009’s 54.2%.





Lifestyle News Politics

Kejriwal vs Modi: AAP opens war room in Varanasi



The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Wednesday opened its war room in Varanasi’s Mahmoorganj area, opening up a new front in the high-profile battle between party supremo Arvind Kejriwal and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

As part of its first activity, the AAP cited its own survey covering 80,000 households out of the total 3.14 lakh in Varanasi and said Kejriwal was trailing behind Modi by 50,000 votes.

Of the 16,00,000 voters, 300,000 are Muslims.

With Mukhtar Ansari deciding against contesting from Varanasi, trying to avoid a major split in the Muslim vote bank,  AAP is hopeful of an inroad. But the party keeps distancing itself from Ansari for obvious reasons. Another beneficiary may be Congress nominee Ajay Rai.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, as BSP nominee Ansari got 1.85 lakh votes, losing to BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi only by about 17,000 votes.



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Rahul Gandhi’s interview draws funny reaction

Rahul Gandhi, vice-president of India’s Congress Party, has caused a lot of reaction following his interview to a leading television channel.

According to reports, the Congress had arranged the interview of the possible prime ministerial candidate with NDTV. However, the plans were later changed in favour of another television channel, Times Now, presumably for its higher viewership.

On hindsight, the reaction may have been less satirical if the Congress had stuck with the original plan.

Global Indians News Politics

Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda found dead in Delhi

Indian Union Minister Shashi Tharoor’s wife, Sunanda Pushkar, was found dead in a room at The Leela hotel in New Delhi.

The cause of her death is unclear at this stage, but the police are not ruling out suicide.

The Delhi Police investigations team have taken the body for post mortem. As Sunanda Pushkar was married to the minister for less than seven years (they were married in 2010), a special magistrate probe will be carried out as per Indian laws.

Just two hours before the news of Sunanda’s death broke out, Shashi Tharoor tweeted that he was skipping Jaipur Literature Festival this year due to his wife’s ill-health.


The couple were at the centre of a controversy when Shashi Tharoor had an exchange of tweets with Pakistan-based journalist Mehr Tarar.

Sunanda had reportedly threatened to divorce Shashi Tharoor after posting messages about his “rip-roaring affair” on Twitter. According to the messages, Shashi Tharoor had been having an affair with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar.

Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor, posted a series of private messages between Shashi Tharoor and Mehr Tarar on his timeline. One such message which may have been a direct message to Shashi Tharoor by Mehr read: “I love you, Shashi Tharoor. And I go while in love with you, irrevocably, irreversibly, hamesha [always]. Bleeding, but always your Mehr.”

Just 20 hours before the news of her death became public, Sunanda Pushkar had replied to Indian journalist, Rahul Kanwal, that she has Mehr Tarar’s messages to Shashi.

In the meantime, Mehr Tarar, the Pakistani journalist at the centre of the controversy, has expressed her shock at the news on Twitter.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) has asked for a detailed enquiry in the case.  Conspiracy theories have started doing rounds, and some people are sensing a foul play by Congress.




Editorial News Politics

Is Pranab Mukherjee the right man?

Who will be the next president of India? Pranab Mukherjee is leading the race with the UPA nominating the current Indian finance minister as its candidate to take over presidency from the outgoing president, Pratibha Patil, whose term comes to an end next month.

In the meantime, A P J Abdul Kalam, a former president, has expressed his desire to be left out of the ugly race which has seen political gimmicking at its worst in independent India’s 60-odd years’ history.

Even the current prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who is serving his second term as  the leader of the world’s largest democratic country, did not remain immune to the political chaos that ensued and saw Dr Singh’s involuntary inclusion in the race to India’s highest office.

Finally, political sense prevailed as Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) took account of the upcoming general elections in 2014, and nominated Pranab for the job.

In country where the presidents lead a public life, yet receive apathetic attention from its citizens, the president of India is reduced to a ceremonial head of the state.

However, Congress is keen to have a loyal Congressman in the president’s office in 2014 when it will be looking for president’s support in the selection of the next prime minister. This seems to be a clever move by Sonia Gandhi who may have the intentions of putting her son, Rahul Gandhi, in the driver’s seat to run India’s political engine.

At no time since India’s independence in 1947 has the race of the presidential position been so highly debated. The debate is driven by the possible political uncertainty after the 2014 elections.

If Pranab Mukherjee takes over as the president, his departure will vacate the hot seat of India’s finance minister at a time when leading rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s and Goldman Sachs have expressed concerns about India’s weak economic outlook. Pranab has led important portfolios for India including that of finance and commerce, and while the economic performance of the country has been less than satisfactory, the country will struggle to find an equally capable replacement for Pranab.

It is difficult to say what Pranab feels about his nomination but it will not be surprising if he feels betrayed; he has seen Congress through major crisis and had his eyes well-set on the prime ministerial role, if the Wikileaks reports are to be believed. It must have been a tough decision for congress too to let go of its main troubleshooter.

While Pranab has strong credentials to be in the position of the president, the head of the state position carries very little power to introduce change. Pranab has been at the centre of action since he became the finance minister for the first time back in the 1980s; he is used to solving problems; he wakes up at 6am every day and goes to bed well after midnight.

He likes to be the problem-solver. As a president, he will be merely a dignitary invited for special events, attend state functions, and be the face of the nation where stately presence is a required as a matter of decorum.

It is gross injustice to reduce an illuminated career to a decorative position, with the intention of managing the competition for the prime ministerial position, while still retaining an influential Congress figure in a position that can influence the leadership structure after the next elections.

In the meantime, Pranab supporters are celebrating in the streets of Kolkata.

Business News Politics

Auckland leaders oppose outsourcing at port

As many as 28 Auckland local board members from 10 boards have joined hands to call for Ports of Auckland to return to good faith bargaining and drop plans to outsource jobs at the port.

Ports of Auckland Ltd is a council-owned company. We support its operational independence, but the current dispute has escalated to a strategic level, says a statement issued by the group of community leaders.

“We are particularly concerned that actions being taken by the Port management, including what appears to be a pre-determined strategy to contract out port jobs, are inflaming matters,” say the board members.

Internal POAL strategy documents released last week show that the Ports management was considering a contracting out strategy well in advance of negotiations.

“Along with everyone else involved, we recognise the need for competitive levels of operational efficiency at the port. But Port management’s proposal to fire a skilled workforce and contract out their jobs to an external provider, with few work-life balance protections for employees and their families, is not the best way to achieve this.”

“We believe that Ports of Auckland has a responsibility to be a good employer, and to live up to the principles that its 100% owner (the Auckland Council) promotes in the draft Auckland Plan and in numerous Local Board Plans. Driving Aucklanders’ employment conditions and job security down in a race to the bottom is no way to build the world’s most liveable city.”

“We’re also concerned that the dispute is being used as a wedge by some councillors and interest groups to promote port privatisation. We support Mayor Len Brown’s unequivocal pro-public ownership platform, and believe the Port CEO would be well advised to publicly support it too.”

“The details of any settlement are for the parties to negotiate, but it is quite clear to us that a way forward should be possible that improves productivity without privatisation and contracting out being threatened, neither of which are proven cures.

“We hope that Port management and the Maritime Union will take a constructive approach and negotiate a settlement in good faith on this basis”, conclude the Board members.’

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Some criticism of Hazare acceptable – Hong Kong NGO

Many of the criticisms of the Anna Hazare movement are acceptable, says the Asian Human Rights Commission. “There is indeed good rationale in the allegation that the Jan Lokpal Bill is not the product of a wider consultation,” says the Hong Kong-based non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia.

“When important decisions are made, it is wise to hold as many discussions as possible, involving as many number of persons as possible, a thumb rule of modern democracy, practiced in Asia a millennium before the term was coined in modern vocabulary. Such consultations are still possible. ”

Here’s the full text of the statement issued by the Commission from Hong Kong:

The popular movement against corruption in India, led by Mr. Anna Hazare and others, shares broadly, opinions of the average citizen concerning corruption. That, the reign of corruption in the country must be brought under control, if it cannot be immediately eliminated and that there are no adequate domestic legal and executing frameworks at the moment that could counter corruption — sensibly and effectively. The movement also shares another common concern with the Aam Aadmi (common man) that an alarmingly high number of the politicians in the country, elected, nominated or leading parties as its office bearers and/or as think-tanks are not interested in ending corruption.

Many of them and the political parties they lead, have benefited from corruption, at least to the extent of seeking, attaining, and if possible, maintaining political power. Where the politicians failed, some leaders of the country’s civil society with the support of the media and the people succeeded — to bring the unpleasant reality of corruption to a point of discussion and hopefully push the discussion into sensible actions.

Yet, the movement and the people behind it, including Hazare, are facing criticism on several grounds, many that are acceptable, and a few unfair. There is indeed good rationale in the allegation that the Jan Lokpal Bill is not the product of a wider consultation. In that, Jan in the name of the proposed law is a misnomer. A law against corruption is an important legislation. When important decisions are made, it is wise to hold as many discussions as possible, involving as many number of persons as possible, a thumb rule of modern democracy, practiced in Asia a millennium before the term was coined in modern vocabulary. Such consultations are still possible.

There is no logic in the assumption that the Aam Aadmi does not know much. Such a perception can be interpreted as offensive against the collective wisdom of the people. The civil society in India must know by now that one of the serious issues that plague the legislative processes in the country is the absence of adequate consultations with persons having the liberty to make informed decisions.

Criticism has also been made against the media coverage the movement received, right from the second day of Hazare’s fast in New Delhi and the print and electronic media space the movement continues to receive today. An examination of the Indian media and the trends they follow since the past decade show that a large section of the country’s journalists are today interested only in event reporting, that would sell a few extra copies or attract some companies to sponsor the airtime.

Professionalism, including analysing an incident, maintaining impartiality and continuity in reportage are scarce to find in India. A large section of the so-called ‘mainstream media’ have reduced themselves to become a mere mouthpiece for political parties. In that the Indian media largely have become an event reporting enterprise.

Though Hazare’s fast was reported widely, it was however hard to find any analysis about the issue that Hazare is leading a fight against in the reportage. It took time for the media to provide to the common person detailed view about what this is all about. Even in that there are not more than three newspapers that did their job reasonably well.

This not only showcases the apathy to serious issues of many scribes in the country, but also reiterates that a large number of them are professionally incapable in providing an appropriate and thorough analysis on an issue as serious as corruption. Discussing about what must be done to prevent a crime is much more intellectually challenging than mere reporting about it.

Yet another allegation, which has now started taking the usual rounds through emails, is to portray the entire movement as a road show for the government. Some even went to the extent of commending that corruption must not be the priority of the government at the moment and the anti-corruption movement is an attempt to sabotage other movements, for instance, the one against caste-based discrimination.

Unfortunately, while the development in communication technologies help information assimilation, it could also be used to tell the world about one’s lack of understanding about issues, in this case, about both corruption and caste-based discrimination While it is true that caste-based discrimination is a serious concern, without having a functioning justice apparatus deep-rooted issues like caste cannot be dealt with.

A justice framework that is intended to facilitate social change and thus play a role in social engineering must have the minimum guarantee that it could function normally. A fundamental understanding of crime, punishment and social change is that it is not the prescribed intensity of a punishment that prevents crime, but the certainty of punishment, however small it may be. If caste-based discrimination is a crime, then corruption is one of the impediments that prevent this crime from being punished and thus reasonably prevented. A law against corruption could act as a catalyst in the process of bringing positive changes in the unacceptable state of affairs in India’s policing institution. In that the anti-corruption movement must attract Dalit rights activists. Unfortunately the experience so far has been disheartening.

Another accusation against the movement is that it will not deliver results since the movement cannot deal with the neo-liberal capitalist environment that the governments holding fort in New Delhi have followed. It is true that development in India has been conceived as form of licence to undertake ‘a breakneck speed plunder’ of natural resources and the intentional promotion of an exploiting regime favoured by private capital. To plot India, with any sense about its destiny in the future without depending on private capital, is engineering predestined disaster. The time where a single state can change the economic roadmap of the world is over, some 30 years ago.

What is required however is to bring transparency, accountability and public audit into the development schemes that the private and public sector are competing in implementing in the country. Even before conceiving a project, it must be mandatory to conduct a public audit of the project proposal. It is built into a reasonable extent in the local self-governance framework in India. However, corruption has so far prevented this proviso from being properly implemented.

Widespread corruption predates economic liberalisation in India. Those political parties that have externally opposed liberalisation of all governments, themselves are corrupt, proven from their own governments’ records in at least two states, Kerala and West Bengal. Not many are immune to corruption in India, material and intellectual.

There are many more reactions for and against the movement that took their turns to surface, stay or disappear in the past three weeks in India. The true test to the movement and that of the maturity of the government has to be read in how both these entities have dealt with each other until now and in the future. It is also equally important to see how both these entities will deal with the demands to make the consultation process as much inclusive as possible.

In that, at the moment while the government has shown the maturity expected in a democratic framework by willing to hold joint consultations with the movement, the movement and those who led it have shown their resilience and resolve by marching ahead in the direction they originally started their journey.

It is true that the Jan Lokpal Bill has its defects. It is neither an all-inclusive nor an exclusive movement so far. It is an important movement nonetheless, which has the potential to positively change the destiny of India.

What is important at the moment for the country, for all those who are interested in brining an end to the reign of corruption, is not to smother it with disconnected criticism, but to breathe life into the process by joining the debate.

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Sonia’s letter to Anna Hazare

In reply to Anna Hazare’s letter to Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Party leader said she does not “support or encourage politics of smear campaign”. Sonia also reiterated that she believes “there is an urgent necessity to combat graft and corruption.”

Reassuring Hazare, Sonia wrote: “You should have no doubt of my commitment in the fight for probity in public life.”

The Global Indian magazine obtained a copy of Gandhi’s response to Hazare.

Full text of Sonia Gandhi’s letter to Anna Hazare

Dear Anna Hazare ji,

Thank you for your letter of April 18, 2011.

Let me reiterate what I wrote to you earlier, that I believe there is an urgent necessity to combat graft and corruption. You should have no doubt of my commitment in the fight for probity in public life. I strongly support the institution of a Lokpal that is consistent with the practices and conventions of our parliamentary democracy.

The Lokpal Bill was very much a part of the agenda of NAC. As you know the NAC working group on transparency, accountability and governance under the convenership of Ms Aruna Roy held consultations on this subject on April 4 with several representatives of civil society including Shri Shanti Bhushan, Shri Santosh Hegde and Shri Prashant Bhushan who are now on the joint committee, as well as Swami Agnivesh and Shri Arvind Kejriwal, who have been closely associated with you. The working group had decided to hold further consultations and evolve broad principles for discussion and approval in the next meeting of the NAC scheduled for April 28.

In fact in your letter of April 8, which my office received at around noon on that date, you yourself said:

“I wish to bring to your notice that the sub-committee of your NAC has agreed with the broad content of Jan Lokpal bill, barring two issues, after extensive discussions on April 4 with various knowledgeable sections of society.

“May I request you to kindly get the draft discussed at full meeting of NAC at the earliest and recommend the outcome to the government”

As I have just mentioned, this is the very course that the NAC was following until the process was, as you know, overtaken by subsequent events.

As for statements appearing in the media, let me assure you that I do not support nor encourage the politics of smear campaigns.

With good wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Sonia Gandhi

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NRIs vow to fight corruption – the Gandhi way

Mahatma Gandhi is probably the most famous NRI (non-resident Indian) that India has ever seen. It is no surprise then that a group of NRIs in the US have decided to take a leaf out of Gandhi’s book and wage a war on an unfair system in a similar fashion.

While M K Gandhi, popularly known as the Mahatma (the great soul) in India, began Dandi march in 1930 to protest against the unjust salt tax imposed by the British government on Indian citizens, the NRI group based in the US has decided to use the Gandhi weapon of non-violence to fight the rising corruption in India.

While Gandhi walked a whopping 200 miles from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat, the NRI group will walk from San Diego to San Francisco, a distance of

240 miles covering 30 cities.

This march is a part of simultaneous marches planned not just in the US but throughout the world, including in India.

The idea behind the non-violent method of protest was to fight the perception that overseas Indians don’t care about problems faced by citizens of India.

“There is a illusion that NRIs are not really bothered about India. We wanted to break that myth,” Sasidhar Kalagar, a 30-year-old software engineer who is part of the organising group, told a newspaper.

The group is keen to change the ritual of discussing the issues with no action.

While Kalaghar’s team completes their march in the US on 26 March, simultaneous supporting marches are being held in London, Sydney, Banglaore, Hyderbad and Mumbai.


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Investing in women is the highest-return venture – Sonia Gandhi

Speaking at the Commonwealth Lecture in London, Sonia Gandhi called for women’s voices and concerns to be heard in the global climate change debate, to “help the world find a more sustainable and less consumerist path to development”.

“Among all the challenges facing humankind in the twenty-first century, few are more pressing than climate change and global warming.

“Unfortunately… most of the climate debate so far has been gender-blind. Yet women have played a special role in raising environmental consciousness… Indira Gandhi herself… in 1972, powerfully expressed the link between poverty and environmental degradation, an issue which continues to shape the current debate.”

Gandhi also reminded the Commonwealth that “investing in women is the highest-return venture”, and said that “if urbanisation is the world’s future, we must design urban environments and services in ways that will give women greater security”.

Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress Party and Chair of the United Progressive Alliance, was discussing the 2011 Commonwealth theme, ‘Women as Agents of Change’.

She set out in her lecture five areas in which women have emerged as ‘agents of change’ in India.

These included self-help groups pooling savings and securing loans for local projects; new, elected roles for women in rural self-government; social activism through the establishment of the language of human rights for women; the establishment of local enterprise collectives, some of which have been replicated elsewhere in Asia; and the setting up of village information centres and IT kiosks.

Gandhi, who is of Italian descent and was married to India’s late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, added that women’s enterprise also played a role in regions ravaged by violence and conflict, and within India, these groups had taken the lead in mediating, peace-building and reconciliation in areas of strife. Her husband Rajiv Gandhi as well as her mother-in-law India Gandhi, were while serving the politically volatile country as prime ministers.

“Today, women in India are becoming agents of change through their own initiative, their energy and enterprise.

“Through individual and collective action, they are transforming their own situations and indeed transforming the broader social context itself… India is at the cusp of a ‘demographic dividend’, due to its young and increasingly educated and skilled population.

“Imagine what might happen when this demographic dividend is multiplied by a ‘gender dividend’. It will, I believe, yield enormous economic gain and lead to profound social transformation.”

Probably referring to India’s IT skill-strength, Gandhi highlighted the “powerful” role of technology in reducing gender inequalities through the creation of IT sector jobs allowing women to live independently, and the proliferation of knowledge-based enterprises run by women in rural areas, allowing them to access government services.

Gandhi concluded that she hoped the twenty-first century would be when women achieved equality: “May this be, not the century of any particular country, but the century when women finally come into their own, the century when representative democracy is re-imagined to give women their due share, the century when the vocabulary of politics and culture is re-engineered fully to include that other half of mankind.” In the coming years, we could see more women in the IT sector, obtaining aacsb online mba degrees, and becoming activists.

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Sam Arora to support same-sex marriage

Sam Arora has now changed his mind. The Maryland Delegate who was a strong suppoert of marriage equality is expressing his concern for the same-sex marriage bill.

“I have heard from constituents, friends, and advocates from across the spectrum of views and have thought about the issue of same-sex marriage extensively,” he said in a statement.

“I understand their concern—this is a very serious issue, and one that many people feel passionately about. As the vote drew nearer, I wrestled with this issue in a way I never had before, which led me to realize that I had some concerns about the bill.

“While I personally believe that Maryland should extend civil rights to same-sex couples through civil unions, I have come to the conclusion that this issue has such impact on the people of Maryland that they should have a direct say.

Sam Arora

“I will vote to send the bill to the floor because it deserves an up-or-down vote. On the floor, I will vote to send the bill to the governor so that Marylanders can ultimately decide this issue at the polls. I think that is appropriate.”

If the bills go through, both sides in the debate will expect opponents to take advantage of a provision in Maryland law. The law allows citizens to petition the new law onto the ballot.

Arora’s experience in government includes positions in the U.S. Senate and clerkships with the criminal appellate division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

Under Gansler, Arora published resources for Maryland non-profit organizations to navigate the State’s legal requirements and helped prepare legislation to ban the sale of the hallucinogenic drug Salivia divinorum in Maryland.