Saturday, January 31, 2009

Google Search through Phone

Google Search through Phone

Dr P Vyasamoorthy


Google is now experimenting with an Innovative search facility using just the phone.  This service still is in beta state.  For searching, one has to call up the number:  1-800-41-999-999. The number is toll free and may be reached by any land line or mobile phone. There are no charges for sending the results either as a text message on your mobile or for the system to read it out. Local business information, movie times and real time flight status are offered at present. The service is available in Telugu, Hindi and English. Hyderabad and Delhi are covered for the time being.


The technology adopted is a combination of Computer recognition of voice based inputs and human assisted answering service. Initially you are connected to IVR that accepts your query. For business related info name of the business house, or product or service name and location need to be told orally over phone. If the system does not understand your speech, then you are transferred to a human being who interprets what you want and keys in your query on his terminal. The results are sent to your mobile phone instantly.


I wanted to test this service and so I asked for a known address, providing the name of the organization. The query was transferred to a real person and even before I could complete my conversation with the Call center staff member, the answer (correctly!) came on my mobile. Though Askme, Justdial and similar phone based Yellow page info providers are available, Google search is better as it includes Real time Flight Status and movies info. If Google adds Train info (more complicated?!) every commoner can benefit. I have seen a number of private websites giving Indian Train services info – Trains, time tables, route map, fares, seat availability, Railway Rules, dynamic status (real time info) of a train on the move,  etc.  In such sites (ex:  or ) only thing you can not do is to book tickets.  To book tickets you still need to visit IRCTC website.


Google Phone Search is very useful for persons on the move when there is no access to a Web browser or Internet PC / Laptop. Any business house however small it may be can register with Google free of charge. Try and suggest how this service may be improved.






Dr P Vyasamoorthy, 30, Gruhalakshmi Colony,
Secunderabad 500015. Ph: LL: 040-27846631 Cell: 9490804278 I blog at:

"35 is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who h...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Book Review: Probus Way to Healthy Ageing

Book Review: Probus Way to Healthy Ageing.

Reviewed by Dr P Vyasamoorthy


"Probus Way to Healthy Ageing" Published by Probus Club of Chennai. October 2008. Pages 300 Price Rs 100.00. (For copies contact: Editor ER S Ranganatha Rao  (044)24995290 or Sri K Venkatachary  (044) 24981099).

Probus Club of Chennai has once again (17th year in succession) come up with an annual publication of Almanac Category released on the last Elders Day in October 2008. The book may be discussed in three parts, though no such partitioning is shown as such. The First part gives details of the club, its constituents, activities, brief history, list of publications, Probus Song, Probus Prayer, contributors etc.  There are forty contributors from various walks of life. Chidambaram is mentioned as a contributor but there is no paper by him. Subsequently I discovered that he contributed substantially in updating the OAH data.  The book does not contain any single contact address of its office!

One will be pleasantly surprised to learn of wide variety of activities of the Club: Library, Home Medical Assistance, Adoption of a school, Annual publications, Medical & health camps, Medicines bank, Home visits by Doctors, Rating of Old Age Homes etc. Regular monthly meetings of course go without saying.

The second part gives a series of articles, stories and papers on healthy ageing in particular and some other topics of interest to Senior Citizens.  A few contributions are in Tamil. Very useful articles on health, diet, nutrition, exercises, cardiac problems, medical emergencies, dementia, sleep disorders, obesity, longevity, cancer are all there. Senior Law, music, elder abuse, travelogue also find a place. I was specially tickled by subtle humor in Gomathy Narayan's story:  "No, I don't Carry a gun".

Third part is a highly useful compendium of information such as: List of Old Age Homes in Chennai, representative listings from districts other than Chennai in Tamilnadu, Bangalore, Ahmadabad, Kerala, Delhi , Hyderabad and other cities. Retirement Homes, Homes for Disabled Adults, Important phone numbers in Chennai viz: Ambulances, Hospitals, blood banks, eye banks, police stations, Death related service providers, help lines.  It is worthwhile noting that the data is verified and updated to render it useful – it is not just a mindless carry over from earlier publications. I found the list of doctors ready to do house calls very useful – among 50 or so doctors listed, ten are geriatricians. Though the header says Old Age Homes and Day Care Centers, I could not find a single DCC.  

Noting that 40 advertisements have been procured speaks volumes of the ability of the club members in raising funds and their popularity. This is further strengthened when you see that the club has accumulated over Rs six lakhs in Corpus fund for school children.

I would strongly recommend this book for anyone who likes to learn how a successful SCA should be run.


Dr P Vyasamoorthy, 30, Gruhalakshmi Colony,
Secunderabad 500015. Ph: LL: 040-27846631 Cell: 9490804278 I blog at:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pet peeves: Deccan Chronicle

Pet peeves: Deccan Chronicle

One of my chronic pet peeves is that Deccan Chronicle has two
categories for Classified advertisement for Old Age Home. See any
issue of Sunday. Among the Classifieds pages you are sure to find
"Home for Old Age" and "Home for the Aged" coming next to each other.
What is the difference, even the Editor or the guy heading
Advertisements does not know. I know this for certain, for I have made
at least two attempts earlier to find out the mystery behind such
foolishness. Why can not they simply put both under plain "Old Age
Homes"? They are mulish in their attitude and approach and never wish
to learn or revise their opinions or mistakes, even if pointed out.

Why I am whining and wailing about this simple matter, you might
wonder. Well I religiously look for new old age homes (Wav! What an
accidental oxymoron!) every week. I make it a point to contact all the
new entrants and get all info I can over the phone and disseminate
this information to a group of about 500 senior citizens over a Yahoo
Discussion group called sss-global. Every week I am reminded that DC
is not responding to my query. I get bugged. I get even more perturbed
when I realize that the advertisers, who actually pay for the services
are also ignoring the ambiguity in the categorization used by DC. Why
and how to they tolerate this stupidity? How about those guys
inserting multiple advertisements again and again? Are they equally
insensitive and don't bother about the outcome? On what basis they
choose one or the other category, I always wonder.

YOU be the judge and decide what I should do to bring common sense in DC staff?

Dr P Vyasamoorthy, 30, Gruhalakshmi Colony,
Secunderabad 500015. Ph: LL: 040-27846631 Cell: 9490804278 I blog at:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Inefficient Postal Services

Inefficient postal services

Dr P Vyasamoorthy

Strangely, Postal services in India have taken a laid back attitude after the courier competition stepped in. Go to any post office – the service is abysmally bad. Should citizens tolerate it? Aren't we entitled to a better fare?

I went to the Head Post Office in Secunderabad. I wanted to find out where I could buy E-Post pre-paid coupons. I checked persons after persons – (eight of them to be precise) - no one had any clue as to what it could be.  E-post , for those readers  who may not know, is an Internet based message sending facility. Using this you can send a letter to your friend's regular postal address to anyone who does not have email. You type in the message in E-post website using your prepaid account. Address it to the concerned recipient's post master's Email. That post master will take a paper print and have it delivered to the addressee as a local post through post man. Delivery is fast – same day. It is cheaper than courier for routine letters. Extremely ideal for reaching almost anyone with ease of sending letters right from your desktop. Somehow this facility has not been sufficiently publicized. To avail this facility you need to buy pre-paid coupon at Rs 250 or so. This coupon is said to be available in major post offices. (For details see: 

My attempts to buy these coupons simply frustrated me, to say the least and finally someone told they have stopped the service. The postmaster was not available to verify whether this is true. If this is true why not delete info on e-post from their websites?

In the same post office, I wanted to get a cheque book issued for my SB account. The concerned staff asked me to come the next day! I insisted on waiting and collecting as I am residing far away from HPO. After 45 minutes when I check up he wakes up and says "Sorry Sir, Many are on leave today".  I managed to get it after another 20 minutes waiting. Even in public sector banks you may get a cheque book in about 10 minutes.  To customers who had to withdraw heavy amounts (above Rs 20000), cash is not given but only cheque is issued. But this cheque will be ready in 90 minutes as declared in a notice!!  Although many postal services have been computerized you still have to wait in different queues: one for NSC / SCSC, another for pass book updating and another for SB accounts.  Can they not offer all services in the same counter?

In Picket (Secunderabad) post office I gave my SB account and SCSC passbooks for updating. I was asked to come the next day. He showed me a bundle of some 50 passbooks he had collected!! They never attend to simple things the same day. Talking of delivery of letters, it is better to say nothing. Nowadays they combine all letters and deliver them in bunches twice or so per week. Years ago there were three deliveries daily. With automation setting in and the users dwindling down I do not understand why they can not improve their efficiency rather than allow it go down so low?

I find the main reason for low usage for postal services to be lack of awareness. They do not realize that aggressive marketing is needed. Staff has to be motivated and re-trained.  But one thing I can say without grudging: Most of the staff members are polite, despite work pressure and do try to help. The system as a whole has to be overhauled to deliver better and faster services.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Problems of Old Age Pensioners: No one is listening

Problems of Old Age Pensioners: No one is listening

Andhra Pradesh Government plays deaf with the old by being indifferent to pensioners' problems.  Mere announcements are no good. Nobody gets fooled. Government MUST Act fast, elections or no elections.


On 12th October 2008 there was a news item mentioning that the Old Age pension has been increased from Rs 200 to Rs 500 per month to all senior citizens below poverty line.  It has turned out to just an Election stunt and a mere announcement. There is no budget provision nor has any GO been issued. Even up to 5th January 2009, the topic has not been taken up for any discussion / decision in the concerned department(s). Not a single person has received any increased pension though three months have passed.

Moreover, according to statistics available with the Self Help Groups department (Rural Development) the overall number of beneficiaries of all types of pension is around 47 lakhs only whereas the news item says that the increase will benefit a target group of 70 Lakhs. Who or where these persons are is a big question. According to Central Government calculations there are about 9.2 lakhs whereas AP Government claims to be distributing Old Age pension to some 28 Lakh persons.  Unbelievably, AP has nearly 80% of its population in BPL category!

Andhra Pradesh Senior Citizens Confederation (APSCCON) has been actively pursuing this subject with State Government for almost one year now. There are many lapses in the implementation of Indhira Gandhi National Old Age Pensions Scheme (IGNOAPS). Several thousands of eligible persons are ignored. Only persons with recommendation of Political representatives get it. Most of times getting registered for the pension involves bribes. Even while disbursal of the meager amount of Rs 200 per month, there are cuts going into official's pockets. While the scheme clearly states that all senior citizens above 65 and coming under BPL category are eligible, in a family even where both husband and wife are above 65, only one of the couple is sanctioned pension. The scheme also stipulates that the State Government should add an equivalent Rs 200 per month from its own funds. This is just not happening.  To avoid misuse the scheme provides for payment through bank or post office. But it is given by MRO through SHGs. The press announcement of raising the pension amount to Rs 500 as stated above remains just a story to be read in the newspapers.

 The government must stop fooling the public by such false propaganda especially before elections -- this will certainly boomerang upon them selves with negative effect. They must look into senior citizens' problems with real earnestness. Rectification of lapses in the implementation and enhancing the pension amount are long overdue. Poorest of the poor can stand it no longer. Their voices must be heard. Else the government may not remain in power and politicians can not do any good – even to themselves!