- Unlicensed dentists bite back after ban
- Online bullies' shameful tactic
- Indian camel breeders count losses at livestock fair
JAKARTA: For more than 30 years, Indonesian dentist Edi Herman has been fixing the teeth of Jakartans in the rusty chair of his tiny shop, advertising his services with a huge poster of sparkling pearly whites on blood-red gums.
He is one of thousands of low-cost, unlicensed dentists, whose small stores with their lurid signs can be found nestling in grimy alleys and wedged between red-tiled houses across the capital.
But after years of horror stories about people suffering terrible damage at the hands of unscrupulous practitioners with neither clean tools nor training, the government moved to ban them from all dental work in 2011.
The unlicensed dentists are fighting back, however. They have managed to get the ban overturned after challenging it in the constitutional court – and are now demanding the right to practice.
"We demand to be granted a licence so we can operate legally. We will never give up our fight," said Dwi Waris Supriyono, chairman of the Informal Dentists' Association.
For Herman, 56, a ban would have destroyed his livelihood and stopped him from practising a trade passed down to him and his brothers by their father.
"The government wants to put us out of business," said Herman, dressed in a faded T-shirt and sarong, as he puffed on a clove cigarette waiting for his next patient at his central Jakarta shop.
Wanting to protect their livelihoods, the informal dentists – who can be found all across Indonesia – argue that they are the only realistic option for many in a country where millions live in abject poverty.
Herman charges only 50,000 rupiah (RM14) for a simple scaling job, and 1,500,000 rupiah (RM446) to fit a brace – four to five times lower than prices at professional, licensed dentists.
It is also much easier to find an informal dentist. The health ministry estimates there are 75,000 of them in Indonesia, compared to 35,000 licensed practitioners.
The government insists that numerous tales of dental disaster at the hands of unlicensed practitioners vindicates its drive to impose a ban.
One such case is that of cleaner Fitri Hayati, whose attempts to get her teeth straightened at two illegal dentists in Jakarta were far from successful.
The 24-year-old was fitted with braces but one tooth has been pushed down so it now looks longer than the others and she said she suffers from "unbearable pain".
"I can't eat or sleep as my whole mouth is in pain since I started wearing these braces," she said.
Senior health ministry official Untung Suseno Sutarjo accused unlicensed dentists of "putting our people at risk for their own gain".
"These practitioners have no qualifications. They use tools which have not been cleaned or sterilised properly."
Informal dentists, known as "Tukang Gigi" in Indonesian – which translates as "Tooth Workers" – have been plying their trade for generations.
In the late 1980s, authorities sought to crack down on them by ordering that they limit their work to making only dentures.
But the new law was largely ignored and they continued to perform many other procedures regardless.
So, in 2011 the government sought to ban them from doing all dental work, a move the informal dentists countered by seeking a judicial review of the new legislation.
Earlier this year the constitutional court sided with them and declared the law against the constitution, which states that every Indonesian has the right to work.
Supriyono, of the Informal Dentists' Association, argues that despite a lack of formal training, unlicensed practitioners often have years of experience and skills passed down from generation to generation.
"Informal dentists have been around a lot longer than the professionals," he said. — AFP
The most common act of Singapore cyber bullies is to alter a person's picture to make it look humiliating or obscene, and then circulate the image online via social media or the WhatsApp messaging platform, according to a local study.
More than one-third of students aged 13 and 14 have been the target of such actions.
Next in line is spreading rumours about a person on social networks, with one-quarter of students having fallen victim to it, said cyberwellness research firm Kingmaker Consultancy.
Other ways these bullies torment include intentionally excluding a person from an online group, like an online gaming group, and trolling by hurling vicious remarks, said the Singapore-based Kingmaker.
It polled about 1,800 students aged 13 and 14 between January and October.
Yesterday, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said the Government planned to put a stop to such behaviour, with new laws to be tabled next year against harassment.
Citing a Microsoft survey from last year, he said Singapore had the second-highest rate of online bullying out of 25 countries among youths aged eight to 17.
China holds the top spot.
In explaining the main bullying tactic, counsellors blame the abundance of free picture-altering apps and the ease of Web access on smartphones. These apps allow users to make a person look ugly, old or bald, or add facial blemishes.
Some also let users superimpose someone's face on a naked body.
One big draw of these apps is that bullies can be cruel while staying anonymous, said Dr Carol Balhetchet, director of youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.
"Humiliating pictures are also potentially more damaging for victims with low self-esteem and who lack emotional support from friends and family," she said. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
PUSHKAR: As dusk falls on the desert town of Pushkar in northern India, turbaned herdsmen huddle around fires and lament the downfall of one of the world's largest livestock fairs.
Like many traders, Jojawa trekked hundreds of kilometres to reach the decades-old cattle and camel fair, a journey that took him seven days from his village in the desert state of Rajasthan.
But the way things are going, he expects to go home with his pockets half-empty and some of the 25 camels that he hoped to sell still in tow.
"This year there are fewer buyers and fewer camels," says Jojawa who has been coming to the annual fair for 35 years.
"If it goes on like this, in another four to five years, I'll be finished," adds Jojawa who uses one name.
Official figures for the five-day fair, which finishes this week and has long been a major tourist attraction, show the number of camels on sale has fallen to 4,739, a sharp drop from the 8,000 recorded in 2011, and a fraction of those from previous decades.
"I see more cameras than camels these days," says Ilse Koehler-Rollefson, a German academic turned activist with the non-profit organisation Lokhit Pashu Palak Sansthan (LPPS), which works to support Rajasthan's traditional Raika pastoralists.
She says the Pushkar fair is the only time of year when camel breeders earn a cash income. Camels are normally sold for around 15,000 rupees (RM733) and used on farms or as transport.
But as sales decline, breeding is becoming a less viable way to earn a living, and as a result she sees the traditional values that underpin the market "rapidly disintegrating".
Among the region's most prominent camel herders, the Raika believe the Hindu god Lord Shiva handed them the responsibility to rear camels.
The semi-nomadic herdsmen consider their relationship with the animals as sacred and they are unique among camel herders worldwide for not slaughtering the camels they rear. But all that is changing.
"In the past 10 to 15 years, this taboo against the slaughter of camels has totally disintegrated and now we're at a stage here where in Pushkar most of the camels are actually sold for meat," Koehler-Rollefson says.
"Traditionally it was also taboo to sell female camels, considered the life-blood of a herd, but these days even they are sold for slaughter.
"It's a sell-out. Once the females are gone that's pretty much the end, you're out of the business, you're not going to be back next year," she adds.
As modernisation has swept across India, thanks to an economic boom, the country's camel population has plummeted by 50% over the last three decades.
In 1982, there were more than one million camels nationwide, but numbers dropped to just over 500,000 by 2007, according to the most recent survey by the ministry of agriculture.
Of these, more than 80% live in Rajasthan, where camels have traditionally been used as work animals on farms or as transport for carrying freight. — AFP
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