Yuva Sai Sagar

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Tag: life

Over the course of this century, here are 10 things that haven’t changed… at all

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Maneka Gandhi is kind but 26-week maternity leave is not for the Chanda Kochhars

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Despite budget cuts, science in India is surging ahead: Lesson is clear, govt should invest more in R&D

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VIDEO: Life in the women-only train carriage

A photographer has been chronicling the surprising details of life inside Mumbai’s women-only train carriages.

Dementia is set to rapidly escalate in India but awareness remains low

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IT workers are having mental breakdowns, but nobody is doing anything about it

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Despite a heart-breaking year, here’s a different take on Christmas carols to put it all into perspective

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No time of idle chitchat: Calcutta still talks, but the ‘adda’ is dead

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For author KR Meera, winning Sahitya Akademi award both an honour and cause for pain

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In a new record for Indian artwork, Gaitonde painting sells for Rs 29 cr at Christie’s auction

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In a novel move, Bihar provides free sanitary napkins to girls in government schools

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Farmer suicides resurface; 5 end lives in 5 days in Malegaon

Five farmers have committed suicide in five days since December 1, 2015, in Nashik district, out of which four were in Malegaon tehsil and one in Igatpuri.Sunil Desale (35), a resident of Sherul village, ended his life by hanging himself from a tree. An ST driver, who was passing by, saw the body at 6:45 am on Friday in a farm in the Hiswal area of the village and alerted the villagers. The villagers identified Desale.Desale’s wife had committed suicide only two months earlier. They leave behind two sons – aged 6 and 4 years. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Desales own 5 acres of land and had taken a loan of Rs 6 lakh for a poultry farm. But the poultry shed was destroyed in a storm two years ago. They still have to repay the co-operative bank loan. Unable to bear the loss, Desale must have ended his life, villagers said.Another farmer, Krushna Shinde (40), ended his life on December 3. Shinde had retired from the Indian Army after 13 years. He had also taken a loan to start a dairy business in his native village at Waghere in Igatpuri tehsil. Two months ago, he took another loan from a private bank. Unable to bear with the agricultural losses and take care of the rising expenses of his children, ailing parents and the marriage of his brother and sister Krushna consumed pesticide in his farm on Thursday afternoon. Though family members rushed him to a hospital, he didn’t survive.The other three to end their lives were Ganesh Bachchav (33), Pravin Magar (48) and Mahesh Sonawane (36) – all from Malegaon. They committed suicide on December 1. Bachchav, who had little more than one acre of dry land and had a loan of Rs 1 lakh, hanged himself from a tree. Crop losses, an ailing father and daughter and brother are believed to be the reasons behind his suicide. Magar, who owned 2 acres of land and had a loan of Rs 3 lakh, ended his life by consuming pesticide.Sonawane, a resident of Padalde village, also consumed pesticide of December 1. He was farming onions and cotton on his 5-acre land, but ended up with a debt of Rs 75,000 after the drought situation.Malegaon has faced drought for three consecutive years. Unseasonal rains and hailstorm only added to farmers’s woes and 19 of them have ended their lives since the last 11 months.“This is a very sad situation. We have been counseling farmers and trying to create awareness that ending life is no solution… We have even requested banks to be considerate and give farmers extended time to repay loans. The situation is tough and we have to see that farmers do not take the extreme step”, said district collector Ramdas Khedkar.

5 farmers committed suicide in Nashik in past 5 days

“This is a very sad situation. We have been counseling farmers and trying to create awareness that ending life is no solution,” said resident district collector Ramdas Khedkar.

dna Research & Archives
Five farmers have committed suicides in last five days since December 1, 2015 in Nashik district out of which four have been in Malegaon tehsil and one in Igatpuri.Sunil Desale, 35, a resident of Sherul village in Malegaon, hanged himself from a tree to end his life. A bus driver who was taking his bus from Chinchagavhan to Dhule was passing through Sherul on Friday when he saw a body hanging from a tree in a farm in Hiswal area of the village. He reported to the villagers who rushed to the farm and identified him as Sunil Desale.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sunil’s wife had committed suicide two months earlier. Two persons ending their life in a span of two months has sent the family into shock. The couple leaves behind two sons, aged 6 and 4. The Desale family owns five acres of farm land and had taken a loan of Rs six lakh. They had also started a poultry business, but the poultry shed was blown away by a storm two years ago. They still have to repay the co-operative bank loan for the poultry. Unable to bear the personal and financial loss, Sunil must have pushed himself to end his life, villagers said.Another farmer Krushna Shinde, 40 years, ended his life on December 3, 2015. Krushna, an ex-serviceman had retired from the Indian army after a service of 13 years. He has since taken to farming at his native village at Waghere in Igatpuri tehsil. He had taken a loan for digging a well and to start a dairy business. Two months ago he had taken a loan from a private bank also. Burdened by the losses in agriculture and the rising expenses of his children, ailing parents and the marriages of his brother and sister, Krushna consumed pesticide in his farm on Thursday afternoon and ended his life. When family members realised this, they rushed him to the civil hospital in Nashik. However, Krushna breathed his last on Friday morning.On December 1, three farmers from different villages in Malegaon tehsil ended their lives in separate incidents.Ganesh Bachchav, 33, a resident of Sonaj village, ended his life by hanging himself from a tree in front of his house in the farm. Ganesh had little more than one acre of dry land and he had taken a loan of Rs one lakh on it. He was dealing with the failure of his crop and taking care of his ailing father and daughter. His brother is also said to be under medical treatment. Unable to make ends meet, he ended his life.Pravin Magar, 48, consumed pesticide on the morning of December 1 and ended his life. The Magar family owns collective land. Pravin had 2 acres as his share however his land was dry. He had a loan of Rs 3 lakh which he had to repay.Mahesh Sonawane, 36, resident of Padalde village also consumed pesticide in the afternoon of December 1. Mahesh had taken onion, cotton crops on his five-acre land. But the drought situation with no water led to losses. He had a debt of Rs 75,000.Malegaon has faced drought for three consecutive years leading to huge losses to crops in the region. The farmers have been in distress as their worries were added by unseasonal rains and hailstorm. For the last 11 months till December 5, 19 farmers in Malegaon tehsil alone have ended their lives.“This is a very sad situation. We have been counselling farmers and trying to create awareness that ending life is no solution. Efforts are being made to help. Even the officials are counselled and briefed to have a dialogue with the farmers at the local level to discourage any such tendencies. We have even requested the banks to be considerate and not pressurise for loan repayment immediately but give the farmers extended time to do so. The situation is tough and we have to see that the farmers do not take the extreme step”, stated resident district collector Ramdas Khedkar.

Kerala journalist faces threats for Facebook post on sexual abuse in madrassa

A senior journalist for a prominent Malayalam newspaper, faced flak on Facebook, after she wrote an account on her wall about the sexual abuse her classmates had to face in a madrassa years ago. The journalist’s account has been blocked and she has been consistently receiving threats, reported The News Minute. VP Rajeena, in her Facebook post, claims to have seen inappropriate conduct at her Madrassa.

VP Rajeena's Facebook profile.VP Rajeena's Facebook profile.

VP Rajeena’s Facebook profile.

Rajeena works as a sub-editor with Madhyamam, a Malayalam news daily. On 24 November, Rajeena gave a graphic account of what transpires in a madrassa, where young children are repeatedly exploited by the teachers.

According to The Indian Express, the write-up was triggered by a controversy surrounding gender segregation in a college in Kozhikode run by Muslim management. The Hindu reported that she was forced to use social networks because she felt that Muslim women were facing a denial of justice on many levels. The paper quoted her saying, “The suppressed anger of so many years might have also come out through the post.”

According to The Indian Express, Rajeena wrote on her Facebook about how ‘a bulky middle-aged man’ made boys stand in a line, calling them to his seat one after the other, unzipping their trousers and touching them inappropriately. She also recounted how an ustad (teacher) used to abuse the girls during the night classes. Facebook exploded with nasty comments and threats against Rajeena.

The News Minute quotes Rajeena saying, “I am woman, a Muslim woman that too, and a journalist, so such a revelation from me was unacceptable for many. What should have lead to a healthy debate on child sexual abuse has been denigrated in to a fight against me. I have been called an anarchist and someone with an agenda to defame a particular religion.”

Rajeena’s posts on Facebook:

കൊലവിളികൾ…ആക്രോശങ്ങൾ …. വിഷം തുപ്പൽ… വിസർജ്ജ്യങ്ങൾ… ശാപ പ്രാർത്ഥനകൾ…എല്ലാം എല്ലാം നടക്കട്ടെ …തരിമ്പും പേടി …

Posted by VP Rajeena on Monday, November 23, 2015

(“Curses… Abuses… Venom spewing… Let everything befall on me. But I am least afraid because Allah is with me. And so, even if the whole world turns against me, I will not fear. It is becoming clearer that whatever I did was the correct thing. Even my life is at stake. History is replete with such stories of annihilation of voices that dissent. I am ready to face that.”)

Stirred, not shaken: Get ready for a supercharged evening with Tarek Fatah

It is not often that individuals opt for the rough terrain of what they see as the truth and how it must be told. Tarek Fatah has trekked rugged territory in the pursuit of beliefs and generated controversy along with admiration.

His books, Chasing a mirage; The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism, are a reflection of a strong personal conviction that the unsaid turns sour if kept that way and has to articulated and discussed and even if it ruffles feathers so be it..

Not many people are endowed with that kind of courage and Tarek, it has to be said, does not provoke for the sake of provocation. His path is one of more prudent debate and logic, ready to take on board every point of view, so far as his is also given an airing.

Tarek Fatah. Image courtesy: IBNLiveTarek Fatah. Image courtesy: IBNLive

Tarek Fatah. Image courtesy: IBNLive

As with any questioning of the status quo, especially when it comes to the sensitive reams of religion and faith and custom, Tarek makes one uncomfortable and you wonder what it is that motivates someone to put his hand in the fire when most of us are happy enough to sit around it and keep a distance.

The first disarming factor is that there is no imposition or arrogance of opinion that offends you. Ergo, even when it goes against your ‘natural’ instincts (as in what has been taught) you tend to read on and listen on and find yourself at least taking on board some of the nuances.

Much as John Lennon once wrote the lyrics of Imagine and melted boundaries made by Man in his ignorance, Tarek, though by no means lyrical, also tries to seek a future predicated to having no frontiers that divide.

The second door that opens is his ability not to attack or destroy any pillar of faith but to discuss objectively and use the thrust and riposte of debate to make a point. If anything his ability to underscore human failings and weaknesses are signposts to the incorrect interpretations of all religions.

He encourages rather than incites and his favourite subjects deal with Kashmir, Islam, India and Pakistan equations and the terrorist groups which have proliferated.

You may not agree with everything he says neither does he want you to agree. That would be pointless.

What he does is leave you with a few thoughts and a little introspection to be done.

An evening  in his company is a mentally stimulating exercise and the accent on being interactive makes it worth being there.

So be there.

VHP leader Ashok Singhal, man behind Babri razing, dies aged 89

Gurgaon: VHP leader Ashok Singhal, who was one of the key architects of the mass campaign that led to the razing of the Babri mosque in 1992, died in Gurgoan on Tuesday. He was 89.

In an acknowledgement of his stature in the Hindutva movement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Singhal’s death at a hospital here “a deep personal loss” and described him as “an institution in himself”.

Singhal, whose aggressive championing of a Ram temple at the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya helped the BJP to scale new heights, breathed his last at Medanta-The Medicity, doctor Yatin Mehta told IANS.

“He passed away at 2.20 despite our best efforts,” the doctor said.

Ashok Singhal. AFP

Ashok Singhal. AFP

Singhal was admitted to the hospital on 13 November with heart and kidney problems. He was also suffering from breathlessness. He will be cremated in Gurgaon on Wednesday afternoon.

The VHP leader was earlier admitted to the hospital for a fortnight from 20 October.

A passionate votary of Hindutva, the Agra-born Singhal, son of a government official, joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1942.

He worked mainly in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana before the RSS deputed him to one of its then lesser known affiliates, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), in 1980.

Singhal became its working president in 1984, the year the VHP organised a “Dharam Sansad” (Religious Parliament) which sowed the seeds for the emotive campaign to destroy the 16th century Babri mosque – that Hindutva votaries said was built at the site where Lord Rama was born.

1984 was also the year when the Bharatiya Janata Party bagged just two seats in the Lok Sabha after prime minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

Singhal’s aggressive promotion of the anti-Babri movement made him one of the best known faces nationally, and gave oxygen to the BJP to raise its Lok Sabha tally to 89 in 1989.

Even as the BJP, under LK Advani’s leadership, came out openly in support of the Ram Mandir movement, Singhal led a massive crowd during the first assault on the Babri Masjid on 30 October, 1990.

That bid was beaten back by security forces. But the unrelenting VHP eventually brought down the Babri Masjid in just six hours on 6 December, 1992, triggering one of the worst outbreaks of Hindu-Muslim violence.

Unlike most BJP leaders who distanced themselves from the Babri razing, Singhal remained proud of the destruction – and vowed to end, one day, the secular character of the country that he said must be a “Hindu Rashtra”.

Critics dubbed him a Hindu fundamentalist and India’s Ayatollah Khomeini. But Singhal – who held a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering from the Banaras Hindu University Institute of Technology – made it clear that issues related to Hindu faith cannot be decided by the judiciary.

At home both in English and Hindi, Singhal was widely respected for his mastery over ancient Hindu scriptures. He was at ease in the company of Hindu ascetics and was a strong votary of the movement to build a grand Rama temple on the ruins of the Babri mosque.

He was deeply unhappy over BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s refusal to embrace Hindutva ideology after becoming the prime minister. The VHP leader beamed when Narendra Modi became the prime minister in 2014.

On Tuesday, after Singhal’s death, Modi said he was “an inspiration for generations”.

“I was always fortunate to receive Ashokji’s blessings and guidance. My condolences to his family and countless supporters,” Modi tweeted.

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said Singhal brought about “Hindu unity” and “a great change in Hindu mentality”. The MP added: “It will be a true tribute to Singhal if (Rama) mandir is built (in Ayodhya).”

VHP spokesman Surendra Jain told IANS: “Singhalji was a great visionary. We will take forward his vision for fulfil his dreams.”

IANS

Sponsored: Safe Diwali is not just about avoiding crackers or sweets. Here’s why!

India is immersed in festivities and like every year, people are experimenting with safer ways to celebrate. While most of us try alternate sweeteners for mithais, to stay low on the carbs, some families avoid buying crackers and instead, have a good time indoors with family.

While these are great options to begin with, they are not enough. So, what are we missing? We’ve been ignoring one crucial activity we do in our house- paint it with bright and beautiful colours! And this could be a cause of your festivities not being completely safe.

shutterstock_330711524shutterstock_330711524

Image Courtesy: Nerolac Paints

We might be familiar with common hazards like candle pollution, eye injury due to cracker particles, asthma due to excessive smoke, and noise pollution causing high blood pressure and mental irritation. And here’s the one we’ve been missing- health problems aggravated by house paints.

While renovating and decorating our homes, we are generally elated by all things new. Most of us eagerly wait for the festive season just to watch our homes get a complete makeover. And paint is a very important component of a house makeover. It’s not enough to simply choose the perfect shade, making sure it’s absolutely safe for you and your family it very important too! With a little more knowledge about these hazards, you’ll find it very easy to choose the right option for your home.

shutterstock_174021608shutterstock_174021608

Image Courtesy: Nerolac Paints

Have you ever wondered why some people find it hard to breathe during a paint job? They immediately walk out of the room gasping for fresh air. And some people with fragile immunity, start sneezing and next you know you’re in bed for a week! In some drastic cases, a normal sniff can turn into a sneeze that can lead to wheezing, pulmonary infections, obstructive bronchitis, asthma and more. The regular paints emit a smell that is actually greenhouse emissions from unhealthy carbon-based chemicals that vaporize at room temperature called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). It is like it sounds- dangerous!

Image Courtesy: Nerolac PaintsImage Courtesy: Nerolac Paints

Image Courtesy: Nerolac Paints

Fret not, there are solutions! Today, you can get a variety of eco-friendly and natural paints with low VOC. Nerolac was the first company in India that made revolutionary products that are all low on VOC. So if you want to have an absolutely safe Diwali, go for Nerolac. It is your best bet as you’ll get premium and beautiful colours that are totally safe for everybody’s health.

Kickstart your Diwali with paints that are safe, odourless and low on VOC; like the Nerolac Impressions Eco Clean paints. Let this Diwali be brighter and safer.

Delhi HC junks PIL on Aurangzeb Road, Tarek Fatah says why he lobbied for its renaming

By Tarek Fatah

Editor’s note: The Delhi Hight Court on Wednesday refused to entertain a PIL filed by petitioner Shahid Ali seeking to stop the New Delhi Municipal Council from renaming Aurangzeb Road as APJ Abdul Kalam Road. The Bench said that the renaming is not a matter of public interest as the public is not aggrieved by it. In the light of the decision, we are republishing this story written by Fatah on the day the decision was taken for Aurangzeb Road to be renamed.

In March, at a lecture in Delhi, I challenged India’s Muslims to stand up and reject the Islamic State and instead start living in a state of Islam; the pursuit of truth above everything else.

And to start that journey I suggested they should demand that the Indian and Delhi governments change the name of the city’s Aurangzeb Road, named after the murderous Mughal Emperor to the pious and poet prince Dara Shikoh who was beheaded by Aurangzeb.

As an Indian Muslim born in Pakistan, I first visited India in 2013 and was shocked to see the name Aurangzeb adorn one of the most majestic streets of India’s capital.

Here was a man who had killed his elder brother to stage a palace coup, who had his own father imprisoned for life and had several Islamic leaders of India hanged to death, among them the spiritual head of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims of Gujarat. As emperor, Aurangzeb banned music, dance and the consumption of alcohol in the Mughal Empire. In Sindh and Punjab where many Muslims attended discourses by Hindu Brahmins, he ordered the demolition of all schools and the temples where such interaction took place, making it punishable for Muslims who dressed like non-Muslims.

Mayank Austen/ FlickrMayank Austen/ Flickr

Representational image. Mayank Austen/ Flickr

But nothing is more of a testimony to the cruelty and bigotry of Aurangzeb than the executions of the Muslim Sufi mystic Sarmad Kashani and the ninth Sikh Guru, Tegh Bahadur. He considered the majority Hindus of his realm as ‘Kufaar’ and placed them as second class to Muslims, waged jihad against Shia Muslim rulers and wiped out all traces of the liberal, pluralistic and tolerant Islam introduced by his great-grandfather Emperor Akbar.

Aurangzeb today would be the equivalent of Caliph El-Baghdadi of the Islamic State (ISIS), if not Osama Bin Laden or Mullah Omar of the Taliban.

Yet, most Indian Muslims are either not aware of Aurangzeb’s crimes or choose to relish the thought that he was the one true king who ruled India in the name of Islam with an iron fist and put Hindus and Sikhs in their rightful place—at the bottom of the heap.

So I told the Muslims in my audience that if they truly wanted to fight ISIS, they should take the lead in demanding the erasing of a murderer’s name and replace it with his brother who is loved by all as the epitome of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood.

Then came news of the death of India’s most loved president, the Muslim from the country’s deep south who lived in a state of Islam, not the Islamic State, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

On 29 June, I took to Twitter and urged Indians to ask their governments to change the name from Aurangzeb to APJ Abdul Kalam Road.

The idea caught on like wildfire on social media and soon Lok Sabha member from Delhi, Maheish Girri, wrote to Prime Minister Modi to help change the name.

Yesterday, I was woken by phone calls from friends in India with the news that the Delhi government had decided to change the name of Aurangzeb Road to APJ Abdul Kalam Road. It was 3 am in Toronto and I for a moment thought I must be dreaming, but I was awake so I woke up my wife to share the news.

She shrugged me off, “Buddah pagal ho gaya hai kyaa?’’

But as best as I could do, I did a mix of the lungi dance and bhangra. I couldn’t believe we had pulled it off. (I am now hoping unashamedly that someone in his kindness will invite me to be in Delhi when the formal change in name takes place.)

The change of name, be it a human being or a place carries huge significance. At times such a change is a sign of subservience and servitude to a new master, while at other times it is one of overthrowing the bondage of a former dictator.

Thus Malcolm X dropped his last name and took on X to reject the family name given to him by some past White slave-owner. In the same vein, Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd as a rebuke to the horrors inflicted on the Russian people by Stalin.

In the country of my birth, Pakistan, many names that reminded us of the British Raj were changed. Thus ‘Victoria Road’ and ‘Elphinstone Street’ in Karachi took on names to reflect the new reality of a supposedly independent country. But not all name changes are an act of correcting wrong.

I was born on a quiet street in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1949 on what was once known as ‘Lala Lajpat Rai Road’, named after the Punjabi author, politician and one of the leaders of the Indian Independence movement.

Lalaji, who died in 1928 after suffering blows to his head in a clash with the police in Lahore, needs no introduction in India. But in the land where he gave his life, hardly anyone knows him, let alone honours him for his service and sacrifice. His crime? He was Hindu. Therefore, his name needed to be erased from the newly created Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the so-called ‘Land of the Pure.’

Even as a child I could not understand why ‘Guru Mandir’ the neighbourhood where I was born had to undergo a name change and become ‘Sabeel Wali Masjid’.

Already some Islamists inside India are condemning the change in name. They will argue that if changing the name of Lala Lajpat Rai Road in Pakistan is wrong then the same principle should be applied to Aurangzeb Road. Wrong.

Lala Lajpat Rai was a symbol of India’s fight for freedom while Aurangzeb is a symbol of India’s subjugation and the imposition of an Arabized culture of radical Islam on a land that savours pluralism and secularism. Jai Hind!

If we care about them so much, why do we treat them so badly?

By MA Deviah

If talk of castration, homosexuality, slaughter and animal sex disturb you, don’t read any further.

During my entrance interview to agriculture college, a question that was asked of all aspirants was, “What is the difference between a bull and a bullock?” What surprised me was that so many candidates did not know the answer. Since I had just spent six months on an uncle’s coffee and rice estate, I knew that a bullock is a castrated bull!

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

We humans have found various ways in which to be cruel to animals. You just need to look around in the cities to see overloaded bullock carts, abandoned cattle roaming the streets, and eating gummed paper to stay alive. But, in terms of cruelty, nothing surpasses the practice of castration, which deprives the animal of its very right to breed and procreate.

You may ask why you would want to castrate any animal. On Indian farms, male calves (yes, it’s done very early in the animal’s life) are castrated to make them docile when they grow up. Bulls are full of testosterone and are unfit for work, besides they can be very aggressive. No farmer wants to handle an unruly animal that doesn’t listen to commands. On dairy farms, you don’t need bulls, as is explained below.

Castration is a nasty business. In the old days, when no vets were available, all a farmer needed was a razor blade, needle, and thread. By the time the operation was over, there would be blood everywhere. This, thankfully, gave way to the Burdizzo bloodless castrator, probably named after the gentleman who invented it. Around two-and-half feet long, the Burdizzo is a blunt plier that is pressed from both sides into the top of the scrotum. This irreparably damages the vessels that supply blood to the testicles.

While it is bloodless, it is not painless. About four people have to hold down the calf while the fifth wields the vile instrument.

The cries of the calf are something that you can never unhear. After the procedure, which lasts a few minutes, the calf continues to be in great pain for days. The testicles swell up with liquid and become the size of coconuts. After a few days, the swollen testicles start to shrivel and disappear. The calf begins to walk normally and grows up into a sensible bullock that takes orders easily.

Keeping bullocks for farming or draught is cruel, nothing romantic about it.

The sad thing is that only a few dozen calves among thousands remain uncastrated. If it was carried out on all, the species would die out. When these uncastrated calves grow up, their lives are no better. They remain confined away from the cows they are supposed to service. In fact, some bulls may never get to see the cows at all. This is so that breeding can be controlled.

Semen collection is interesting. It requires two or three stockmen working together. I won’t go into the sordid details, but it involves a teaser animal (usually another male!) to arouse the bull and an artificial vagina to collect the precious liquid. The semen is diluted and frozen and stored till it is needed. A single semen collection can be used on multiple cows. A single bull can, in its breeding life, father around 10,000 calves!

The time when a cow is ready to receive semen is called oestrus. You know this is happening when the cow gets frisky and starts exhibiting lesbian behavior by mounting other cows (yes folks, homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon). The semen is inserted into the cow with an instrument known as a gun. The procedure necessitates the stockman inserting his hand deep into the cow’s uterus, while his other hand is deep inside the rectum directing the gun. If the cow abandons its friskiness and lesbian behavior, you know you have been successful. Otherwise, you try again. The process is called artificial insemination. I doubt there is any enjoyment in the process for both bull and cow.

A bull is considered useful for about five years, after which it is usually led off to the slaughterhouse. Bullocks on dairy farms are not so lucky; these are slaughtered early to be sold as veal. Work bullocks live to the end of their productive lives, after which a similar fate awaits them.

MA Deviah is a senior journalist and communications expert. He is based in Bengaluru.

The neglect of women: Why the Muslim community needs to introspect

At the peak of World War II, the British and the Germans faced a severe shortage of men to work in the factories because many of them were recruited for fighting.

The British found a simple solution to the problem: they recruited more women to run their factories and take care of non-combat jobs. But the Nazis kept their women at home, believing that their only job was procreation and only responsibilities were motherhood and housekeeping.

Representational image. Getty ImagesRepresentational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

The Nazis paid a huge price for their patriarchal and conservative approach towards women. The British soon caught up with them and started producing more material for their troops in spite of the Nazis having an early start.

Numerous other instances from history reveal how countries, civilisations and cultures suffered by treating half of their population as second-rate citizens. But, the lessons from history have not been learnt, especially by the Islamic world.

So, when the vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Lt Gen (retd) Zameer Uddin Shah, says Muslims lagged behind in the development race because they kept their women enslaved, it is yet another call for introspection for the community.

“You have not utilised half of your population. Women remained enslaved. They remained inside home. Muslims have no one else to blame. You enslaved women and the result is you are enslaved,” Shah said during a felicitation function of AMU Old Boys at Lucknow on Sunday.

“I stayed in Saudi Arabia, the situation remains the same. Women are confined. Except Turkey and Iran, women remained enslaved in all Muslim world. That is the reason they are backward,” he added.

Shah is a liberal, well-travelled and an educated Muslim. But, it doesn’t require his calibre of erudition to state the obvious: Muslim women remain uneducated, illiterate and under-utilised in many countries.

They labour at home from behind the veil of poverty, ignorance and inequality and contribute very little outside their home.

Education and Muslims have historically shared an uneasy relation. Under the Ottoman Turks, even at the beginning of the 18th Century the literacy levels among Muslims were just around a percent. Historian Donald Quataeart noted a literacy rate of 2-3 percent at the start of the 19th century and perhaps just 15 per cent at its end.

Even today, out of the 1.4 billion Muslims, 800 million are illiterate. While the global literacy rate has risen to almost 84 percent, six out of every ten Muslims, who are around 22 percent of world population, can’t even read.

What chance then do Muslim women have in this bleak scenario? Even in India, where the number of schools, colleges and universities is much higher than anywhere in the Arab world, only 41 percent of Muslim women were literate, according to the 2001 Census. Compared to non-Muslim women, the figure was 15 percent less.

To blame local factors — lack of resources, access to education, poverty etc — would be misleading, simply because it is a world-wide trend, manifest even in developed counties. Obviously, culture and religion have something to do with it.

This is ironic because the Quran encourages learning. “Read in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clinging form. Read! Your Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by means of the pen; taught man what he did not know. (96:1-5)”

And Prophet Mohammed’s own house had independent, enterprising and scholarly women. By many account’s his first wife Khadija bint Khuwaylid was the richest woman in Mecca, who employed several men in her business. His youngest wife Aisha Binte Abu Bakr was also a scholar. She is believed to have such a great memory that she narrated several thousand Hadith.

Obviously, the Quran emphasised on education and equality of women. It is for the intellectuals and reformists to find out what went wrong over the ages and lead to the current plight of Muslim women as illiterate, oppressed, second-rate citizens. Such is the complex web of problems that many Muslims do not want to get their girls educated simply because they are afraid of not finding equally educated grooms for them.

Cultural and religious barriers have been raised against women in various countries and civilisations. In India, they were not allowed to read Vedic literature, compared with drums, animals, Dalits and illiterates worthy of beating in religious texts, forced to die on the funeral pyres of their husbands and stopped from remarrying on becoming widows. But reforms from within gradually led to improvement.
Shah is not the first person to advocate self-analysis, introspection and reforms among Muslims. Many Muslim intellectuals have been brutal in their assessment of their community and its failures. Mohammed Iqbal had famously written, albeit in a different context:

Mohabbat ka junoon baqi nahin hai,
Musalmanon mein khun baqi nahin hai;
Ragon mein lahu baqi nahin hai
Wo dil, wo awaz baqi nahin hai;

Namaz-o-roza-o-qurbani-o-Haj,
Ye sab baqi hai, tu (God) baqi nahin hai.

Unless the Muslims listen to progressive voices and people like Shah and respond to calls for changes, much of what Iqbal lamented will continue to remain true even after centuries.

When it comes to Vedic texts, separate learnings for humanity from illogical, unscientific practices

It is an irony of our times that we want modern medicines to pass several stages of tests and layers of trials before accepting them, but have unwavering faith in many ancient rituals and remedies just because they have been mentioned in our sacred texts.

Consider our belief in a variety of yajnas mentioned in the Vedic literature. Our texts are full of claims that several powerful kings were blessed with more power, territory and wealth, and their queens with children after performing a horse sacrifice (Ashwamedha Yajna) — an elaborate ritual that also involved the chief wife’s cohabitation with a slain stallion.

The horse sacrifice is now rarely performed, but many other Vedic rituals are still popular. Several people perform Mahamrityunjaya Yajna to beat illness and seek long lives for themselves and family members, believing that fumes from herbs used in the ritual have healing powers. During times of drought, yajnas propitiating the rain god Indra are common sight in many north Indian states.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

And then there are prayers and rituals that are supposed to silence enemies and sort out problems. Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, for example, regularly visits a shrine in Datia, where she locks herself up for several days to pursue prayer and sacred rituals.

But, do these rituals actually work? Did the Ashwamedha Yajna actually make queens more fertile? Can yajnas cure illness, slay enemies or generate dark clouds and force them to pour down on parched land?

If the recommendations of a panel formed by the Central government are implemented, we may soon find out. The Second Sanskrit Commission, a 13-member panel set up by the UPA-II for suggesting measures for promoting our ancient culture and reviving Sanskrit, has recommended that scientific labs be set up to test the efficacy and power of Vedic rituals.

According to The Indian Express, the panel has made several other recommendations, including a four-language formula for school education, making Sanskrit compulsory for students from classes VI to X.

It is a misconception that making Sanskrit mandatory can make it popular. Until a few years ago, it was part of every school curriculum, including convent schools in north India. But, it disappeared from classrooms because students didn’t find it of any practical use: It was neither spoken in public, nor was it part of popular culture. Cramming it like parrots did not guarantee future employment either, unless a student’s ambition was limited to teaching Sanskrit or becoming a priest in temples, or at weddings and funerals.

While the efficacy of the new set of ideas for reviving Sanskrit without finding too many practical uses for it can be put up for academic scrutiny, it is the proposal for subjecting our ancient wisdom to scientific tests that should be welcome. It is an excellent suggestion for separating myths from facts, superstition from scientific logic and blind faith from verifiable formulas.

The biggest problem with much of our ancient wisdom and rituals is that it has never been subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny. Much of what passes off as Vedic knowledge is either mythology — we had Pushpak Vimans, our ancestors were capable of plastic surgery, queens could summon gods with mantras for conceiving — or is too  fantastic to believe — just reciting mantras can prolong life or gaumutra has rare healing qualities.

The incredulity inspired by such untested (even laughable) claims gets magnified because of our blind faith in hokum like astrology, palmistry and vaastu shastra that is often presented to the world as wisdom bequeathed by our ancestors.

But, there may indeed be a lot in our texts that can be of great benefit to humanity. The real challenge is to separate it from the unscientific, illogical and far-fetched ideas that masquerade as Vedic practices and knowledge.

The Narendra Modi government will do a huge favour to our ancient texts by accepting the suggestion for testing the power of our rituals in labs. Like a proverbial yajna, it will purify them by cleansing them of superstition, irrationality and blind bhakti.

Waive off air ambulance service tax: Doctors to Centre

THOUGHT OF LIFE: Suggestion of treating service as corporate social responsibility has also been made

In order to reduce the cost of a heart transplant procedure, doctors of a Chennai-based hospital have approached the Union health ministry urging it to waive off taxes on air ambulance so that the emergency medical service becomes affordable. Also, they suggested that if private companies bear the expenses of transporting organs from one state to another as corporate social responsibility (CSR), that too would help patients to a great extent.It’s a common knowledge that doctors need to get the organ to a hospital using an air ambulance for a heart transplant procedure. This is primarily because after retrieving the heart from a donor, doctors have to perform the surgery within four hours. A lot of time is saved with the use of air ambulance.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Recently, Maharashtra saw three heart transplant procedures conducted in Mumbai’s Fortis Hospital. In one of these cases, the hospital administration used the air ambulance.According to an expert, because heart transplant procedures are seeing the path of success more and more patients are opting for this surgical method across the country. Experts also feel that five years down the line around 1,000 patients will have gone through this procedure.Talking to dna, Dr KR Balakrishnan, director of Cardiac Sciences at Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai, who has done 54 heart transplants, said: “We are working on several options to bring donor hearts from one place to another. Currently, air ambulance is one of the options which is feasible. Because many a time we got the call for a donor heart at odd hours like late in the night when commercial flights are not readily available. To get a donor heart we have to book the air ambulance which is a costly affair. Now, to reduce such costs, we personally met Union health ministry officials and placed our demand of waiving off the taxes on air ambulance.”He added: “We also demanded that the government should treat the service under corporate social responsibility if some corporate companies offer to bear the air ambulance expenses. Currently, there is no clear-cut guidelines. Now, we are hoping that the government comes up with a solution which will eventually help the patients.”Dr Anvay Muly, who conducted three heart transplant surgery in Mumbai, says, “It’s a welcome move. Government should seriously give a thought to this demand which could benefit the patients.” Cost of the procedureCurrently, the cost of a heart transplant procedure is between Rs20 and Rs22 lakh. If the air ambulance is used to bring the donor heart from one state to another, then a patient has to shell out Rs5-7 lakh extra. This amount directly goes to the provider of air ambulance service. Recently, Maharashtra saw three heart transplant procedures conducted in Mumbai’s Fortis Hospital. In one of these cases, the hospital administration used the air ambulance.

How come there are no girls? Pregnant women in India want to know

By Rhitu Chatterjee / PRI

The issue of sex-selective abortion is a huge and complex problem in parts of India. It’s led to gender imbalances in some Indian states that have reached “emergency proportions,” according to the United Nations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to use both public relations and law enforcement to combat the practice, which seems only to be growing, especially in the country’s deeply patriarchal northwestern regions.

Under Indian law, it’s strictly illegal for a doctor to reveal the sex of a fetus “by any words, by any sign, by any way, by any means — by emailing or anything,” says Varsha Deshpande, a lawyer and activist who’s spent more than 20 years fighting against sex selection in her home state, Maharashtra.

“We see it as genocide.” What angers her most is lax enforcement of the country’s so-called Prohibition of Sex Selection Act, which is aimed at doctors but routinely ignored.

Not if Deshpande can do anything about it. I meet her in her home in the city of Satara, a few hours south of Mumbai. It’s a Sunday afternoon, but she’s working in her living room with some colleagues. The shelves and walls are filled with awards recognizing her work.

Deshpande and her colleagues are organizing a workshop in another city, where they’ll teach public health workers and officials about female feticide and the law. But education is just one way Deshpande does her work. She also targets doctors who do illegal sex determination, and her most powerful tool in this fight has been pregnant women themselves.

Representative image. AFPRepresentative image. AFP

Representative image. AFP

Since 2004, Deshpande has conducted sting operations to catch doctors with the help of pregnant women, called “pregnancy decoys” in the Indian media. One of her first recruits was her acquaintance Prerna Bhilare. Ever since she got married, Bhilare says, Deshpande would jokingly say, “All right, now you’re married — when you’re pregnant you must do sting operations for me.”

And Bhilare says she was happy to oblige. When she got pregnant in 2010, she went to a clinic in another part of the state with three of Deshpande’s colleagues, who pretended to be her relatives. They told the clinic staff that Bhilhare’s in-laws were pressuring her to have only one child, a boy.

Could the doctor please find out the gender of her baby, they asked.

Bhilare says the doctor did an ultrasound, handed her a report and told her in person she needn’t worry — her fetus was male, and everything looked good.

Bhilare left the clinic and reported the doctor to the local authorities. In the following weeks, she took part in three more sting operations.

Her testimony led to three convictions, including of a physician couple, Dr. Sudam Munde and his wife Dr. Saraswati Munde, who were sentenced to three years in prison in 2015.

But getting the convictions wasn’t easy, says Deshpande. It took nearly three years, during which she says she received threats to her safety. “For six months, I was given protection by the police,” she says.

The Mundes had money and powerful political connections — something true for many doctors, who pay off officials and politicians. “There is huge corruption and political interference,” Deshpande says.

The threats (or offers of bribes) also extend to the women who work as decoys. Over the time it takes for the judicial process to happen, “It becomes very difficult to protect the witnesses, take them to court, ask them to talk what is truth, see that they don’t go hostile,” Deshpande says.

Still it’s worth it, Deshpande says, because these convictions get noticed. Putting people with the status of doctors behind behind bars “gives a very strong message to the rest of the state,” she says.

Deshpande knows she can only go after so many doctors on her own. Ultimately, she says, the government has to get serious about cracking down on the practice, and that means going far beyond the Modi government’s recent #SelfieWithDaughter campaign to change cultural ideas about the value of girls and women, she says.

“For girls who’ve gone eliminated, how you’re going to take selfie with them? I have to ask this of our prime minister,” Deshpande says.

But she’s hopeful that with more political will, things could turn around quickly. “If they implement the law in the next five years, by 2021, India’s face will be different. India will be safe for the women,” she says.

US school’s Islamophobia to Mahesh Sharma’s Kalam remark: When the clock struck prejudice

Mahesh Sharma, India’s Culture minister, and a high school in Irving, Texas have more in common than they realise. On the face of it, the two incidents appear poles apart.

Ahmed Mohamed, a fourteen-year-old freshman in a high school in Texas, was handcuffed and detained by police after he took a homemade alarm clock to school to show his engineering teacher. But another teacher thought it looked like a bomb and called the police. The boy in his NASA T-shirt was interrogated and taken to a juvenile detention centre, triggering off a huge row about Islamophobia and stereotyping.

BJP leader Mahesh Sharma's communal remark on APJ Abdul Kalam has a lot in common with the Texas school treatment given to Ahmed. IBNLive

BJP leader Mahesh Sharma’s communal remark on APJ Abdul Kalam has a lot in common with the Texas school treatment given to Ahmed. IBNLive

Meanwhile over in India, Mahesh Sharma, the culture minister who has recently found his tongue with a vengeance, tells India Today TV that it makes sense to rename Aurangzeb Road after APJ Abdul Kalam because Kalam “despite being a Muslim” was a great nationalist and humanist. Sharma was actually trying to deliver a compliment. The Texas police were reacting to young Mohamed as a threat but both responses draw from the same wellspring of prejudice.

Both see being Muslims ultimately from a base level of suspicion. The Texas authorities might insist anyone carrying a contraption with wires to school would be subject to the same treatment but they will never be able to demonstrate that Ahmed’s name and religion were not factors as well. “I like science, but I look like a threat because of my brown skin,” said Ahmed. He is not just a teenager building a clock, he is a Muslim teenager building a bomb-like device. As has been pointed out, if it was indeed a bona fide bomb scare, why was the school not evacuated? why was a bomb squad not called? And if it was a bomb hoax, why would the perpetrator call it a clock and defeat the point of a hoax?

Sharma might insist he was trying to prove that he, in fact, had no prejudice towards Muslims by making Kalam the “good” Muslim to Aurangzeb’s “bad” Muslim. That was belittling enough to Kalam’s memory but Sharma took it a step further because as Siddharth Vardarajan writes in The Wire, “In the Culture Minister’s perverted worldview, being Muslim is a handicap that the former President had to overcome in order to serve the country.” That’s a fine message to send out to the country’s Muslims.

The point of the story is the stereotypes we harbour. And that includes Taslima Nasreen who tweeted out, “If I could see Ahmed Mohamad’s home made clock, I would hv mistaken his thing for a bomb. Why ppl think Muslims can bring bombs? Cause they do.” But Muslims don’t bring bombs. Bad people, who come in all shapes, sizes and denominations, do. Just because there are terrorists who find their inspiration in their religion does not mean Ahmed Mohamed deserves to be interrogated for building a clock. America’s greatest school tragedies have not been caused by Muslims bringing bombs. Columbine. Sandy Hook. Springfield. Blacksburg. Those shooters had names like Eric Harris, Dylan Kiebold, Adam Lanza and Seung-Hui Cho.

Ahmed, however has been flooded with support from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to President Obama. “Cool clock, Ahmed,” tweeted President Obama. “Want to bring it to the White House?” It’s unlikely the Indian Prime Minister will say anything to Sharma. PM Narendra Modi, after all, is the face that launched a thousand #DespiteBeingAWoman hashtags after telling Sheikh Hasina, “I am happy that Bangladesh Prime Minister, despite being a woman, has declared zero tolerance for terrorism.”

Of course, it’s also highly unlikely that Ahmed would have gotten anywhere near the White House with his contraption without triggering a security alert. But the point is the context. An unknown person with a jerry-rigged device with wires sticking out near the White House is clearly not the same as your fellow student bringing a clock to school and showing it to the engineering teacher.

Let’s be clear. No Qurans were desecrated here. No mosques vandalised. No one was beaten up for wearing a headscarf or a “beard like Osama”. But these forms of covert prejudice are more insidious and all the harder to root out because someone like Mahesh Sharma probably genuinely believes he was paying an ex-President a well-deserved compliment. Just as Ahmed’s high school, in a display of obdurate tone-deafness, has issued a statement without even a hint of apology, patting themselves on the back instead for “always” taking “the necessary steps to keep our school as safe as possible.”

Ahmed says he can “never look at the world in the same way”. But he is fourteen and hopefully the scars will fade and the support he has received is also unprecedented. As for Kalam, he is beyond caring about what anyone thinks of him. But what do we do about a Culture Minister who, despite being a Culture Minister, seems to show little appreciation for the breadth and diversity of India’s culture? Ahmed’s clock was just a clock, but given his slew of explosive statements, Mahesh Sharma seems to be a ticking time bomb.

PGIMER convocation: PM Modi stresses on holistic, preventive healthcare

The Prime Minister said that there was consciousness among the people about holistic and preventive healthcare.

File picture

Emphasising the need for holistic and preventive healthcare, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that time has come to think about wellness rather than illness.”The time has passed for (only) addressing (the issue of) illness, (rather) time has come to address wellness…. We will have to move ahead with a comprehensive thought, in which we should address wellness and well-being and not only illness,” he said. Modi was addressing students at the 34th convocation of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh. The Prime Minister said that there was consciousness among the people about holistic and preventive healthcare. The world is asking for something more from medical science, he said, noting, “It has begun to think about good health than depending on (the use of) medicines.” “There is a big change coming in the society as it wants freedom from medicines. A person does not want side effects (of medicines), he wants to prevent himself from illness,” he said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Modi said that practicising yoga was a step towards the preventive and holistic healthcare and wellness. The policies and strategies of the health sector are being made keeping in mind such issues, he said. The Prime Minister also asked doctors to accept their responsibility towards the society which has a role in helping them to become specialists.”I want to tell you that today you are accepting a big responsibility of your life. You are associated with such a field where you not only decide about your life but also take a decision of accepting the responsibility of the society,” Modi said at the convocation. “Whenever you face any problem in taking any decision in your life then you think for a while about the poor who have played a role in your life that whether you are doing right or wrong….Then decision will follow automatically and if such kind of decision-making process remains, the country will never face problems,” he said.Modi told the students that the poor and downtrodden sections of the society have played role in achieving their aim to become doctors. “Today, there will be many people among you who will be having their visas ready or some may have filed visa applications. But this is our country. Today, whatever we are today is because something must have been come from the poor and then given to us and then we have reached this stage.”Whatever decision you take in your life, you must think about whether that decision was in the interest of poor. In making you a doctor, the ward boy also had a role, the tea seller, who served you tea late at night, also had a role….,” he said. Modi, who is visiting Chandigarh city for the first time after becoming the Prime Minister, gave away gold medals to doctors who completed their post-graduate degrees at PGIMER.

Not faking news: High-level committee formed to probe how Amit Shah got stuck in a lift

Patna: Bihar government on Tuesday set up a high-level committee to probe how BJP national president Amit Shah got trapped inside a lift of the state guest house in Patna four days ago.

BJP national president Amit Shah. PTI

BJP national president Amit Shah. PTI

A notification issued by the state Home Department (Special) said a high-level committee has been set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, to find out reasons behind Shah, a VIP guest, and others getting trapped inside the lift on the day and suggest measures for prevention of such incidents in future.

The committee, headed by Principal Secretary (Cabinet Secretariat) Shishir Sinha and Principal Secretary (Building) Deepak Prasad, Secretary (Energy) Pratyaya Amrit and ADG (Headquarters) Sunil Kumar as members, has been directed to submit its report to the state government within a month, the notification said.

Shah and some other BJP leaders got trapped inside the lift of the state guest house for about 40 minutes at around 11.15 pm on 21 August.

They were rescued by CRPF personnel accompanying the BJP national president as part of ‘Z plus’ security cover given to him by the Centre.

The incident had created furore in political circles with opposition BJP blaming the state government for laxity even as it claimed that the lift had developed snag due to overloading.

Principal Secretary (Cabinet Secretariat) Shishir Sinha, who had visited the state guest house with the Secretary (I&PRD) Pratyaya Amrit to inquire into the incident, had said the lift got stuck due to overloading beyond its permissible capacity of 340 kg.

PTI

Meet Sagar: An engineer by qualification, security guard by profession, working towards his goals

Too many people give up too easily. They are not ready to work for their dreams to come true. But Sagar Ashokrao Bhagat isn’t one of them.

Sagar Ashokrao Bhagat. Image Courtesy: Facebook/ Sreejesh Krishnan

Sagar Ashokrao Bhagat. Image Courtesy: Facebook/ Sreejesh Krishnan

Sagar, an engineer by qualification and a security guard by profession, tells on one hand an inspiring story of an individual ready to do anything to achieve his goals and on the other hand a sad tale of shortage of jobs for graduates in India.

Sreejesh Krishnan tells Sagar’s inspiring story on Facebook. Krishnan, while leaving for office noticed Sagar manning the society gates and reading a book nestled inside the society vehicle entry register.

On Krishnan’s query, Sagar replied that he was reading a book on Java programming and that he held Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering. Sagar has been looking for a job that matches his qualifications and has been donning the security guard uniform to keep things going in the meantime.

Krishnan has put out Sagar’s qualification details on his Facebook page and shared his story to help him find a job.

Indeed, Sagar’s story is inspiring and it provide insights into the state of employment in India.

Facebook Screenshot

Facebook Screenshot

Watch: Rahul Ram’s song about the similarities between India and Pakistan hits home

India and Pakistan share more than just a border and a contentious history. At the heart of it, the people on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) and the problems they face are similar.

This the premise of the new video by Aisi Taisi Democracy, an Indian political satire YouTube show which dedicated the video highlighting the similarities between the neighbouring countries to Pakistan. Uploaded by a page called Being Indian, the video is a unique take on India-Pakistan relations.

A screengrab from the videoA screengrab from the video

A screengrab from the video

Called ‘Meri saamne wali sarhad pe‘, the song is a rendition of the popular Hindi song ‘Mere saamne wali khidki pe‘ from the film Padosan. It starts with ‘Meri Saamne wali sarhad pe kehte dushman rehta, par gaur se dekha jab usko woh mere jaise dikhta hain,‘ (They say an enemy lives across the border but when I looked carefully, he looked just like me) which is an accurate indication of the tone of the song.

The lyrics of the rest of the song are just as snappy and hard-hitting. Sample this – ‘Wahan Muleh YouTube ban kare, yahaan pandit kissing se ghabraye’ (Mullahs ban YouTube there, pandits are afraid of kissing here) and ‘Bas do family ko chaandi hain, wahaan Bhutti hain, yahaan Gandhi hain’ (Only two families rule, Bhutto there, Gandhi here.)

Overall the song touches upon talks about issues such as censorship, moral policing, corruption, religious restriction and the first family in politics, all of which is common in both countries.

The song is performed by Indian Ocean bass-player and singer Rahul Ram in his trademark style, along with stand-up artist, lyricist Varun Grover of Masaan fame and satirist Sanjay Rajoura. Aisi Taisi Democracy is the brainchild of this trio.

The video was also uploaded on Being Indian’s Facebook page, since YouTube is banned in Pakistan, with the comment, ‘Don’t forget to share it on your timeline, Pakistan can’t access YouTube, so share this awesome message across the border as much as you can!’

This video has a MESSAGE FOR PAKISTAN, our sarhad paar neighbours.. Aisi Taisi Democracy sings to show the differences…

Posted by Being Indian on Saturday, August 15, 2015

Watch the full video here

Life is a difficult game: Read Abdul Kalam’s inspirational message in a web comic

Late former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s inspiring and motivational message and minimalistic lifestyle is the basis for a new art based web comic.

A quote by the “Missile Man of India” from his 1999 autobiography “Wings of Fire” has been animated by Zen Pencils, online comic portal by Australia-based freelance artist Gavin Aung Than.

Screenshot of the web comic. zenpencils.comScreenshot of the web comic. zenpencils.com

Screenshot of the web comic. zenpencils.com

The comic begins with a depiction of a young girl whose passion for swimming is frowned at by persons of authority, presumably her parents.

Than introduces Kalam’s words intended to equip at least a few young people to stand up to the authoritarianism in society.

“A characteristic feature of the authoritarianism in our society is its insidious ability to addict people to the endless pursuit of external rewards, wealth, prestige, position, promotion, approval of one’s lifestyle by others, ceremonial honours and status symbols of all kinds,” Kalam wrote.

“To successfully pursue these goals they have to learn elaborate rules of etiquette and familiarize themselves with customs, traditions protocols and so on.

“The youth of today must unlearn this self-defeating way of life,” said the country’s 11th President.

In his autobiography Kalam recounts how he, a poor country boy from the small town of Rameswaram went on to study physics, work his way through the ranks of the Defence Research and Development Organisation and then the Indian Space Research Organisation. He visited NASA and the Goddard Space Flight Centre in the United States during the height of the space race.

The scientist, aeronautical engineer and writer had during his 40 year scientific career pioneered India’s space missile and nuclear programmes.

Kalam was keen to pass on his learnings in living and achieving and growing particularly to the youth.

Than writes that the late president was a deeply spiritual man and practiced what he preached, shunning material possessions and rewards.

The comic juxtaposes Kalam’s words with a depiction of various pressures faced by today’s young people.

“The culture of working only for material possessions and rewards must be discarded,” Kalam wrote.

“Are you aware of your inner signals? Do you trust them? Have you taken control over your life into your own hands? Take this from me, the more decisions you can make avoiding external pressures, which will constantly try to manipulate you, the better your life will be, the better your society will become,” the former President said.

In a note accompanying the comic Than writes about how Kalam dreamt of becoming a pilot and studied aeronautical engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology. While Kalam was devastated at not fulfilling his pilot dream he picked himself up and accepted a new path of life and went to work for the Ministry of Defence.

“Life is a difficult game. You can win only by retaining your birthright to be a person,” Kalam wrote.

The final message of the comic reads, “…and to retain this right, you will have to be willing to take the social or external risks involved in ignoring pressures to do things the way others say they should be done.”

Than ends the comic with a depiction of the girl apparently taking control of her life and gleefully diving into a water body.

Launched in the year 2012, the website Zen Pencils has featured artwork based on famous speeches, inspirational quotes and inspiring personalities. Besides Kalam other Indian personalities featured on the site previously include Rabindranath Tagore, Jiddu Krishnamurti and Mahatma Gandhi.

Read the full comic here.

With inputs from PTI.

Taj Mahal becomes first historical monument to have its very own Twitter account

Agra: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav marked Independence Day on Saturday by launching the official Twitter account of the 17th century Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal has its own Twitter account now.

Taj Mahal has its own Twitter account now.

The Uttar Pradesh Tourism said the Taj had become the first historical monument in the world to have its own Twitter account.

Tourism industry sources in Agra said the Twitter handle will help have a better interaction with tourists and the feedback would help address grievances.

Introducing the page, the tourism department said: “The official Twitter handle of the world’s most loved monument, located in Agra. One of the wonders of the world.”

The page claimed there were two types of people: “Those who have visited me and follow me here and those who haven’t seen me and yet follow me here.”

Within an hour, it had more than 2,000 followers.

IANS

‘Trying to kiss a girl forcibly isn’t molestation’: Delhi Police allegedly refused to book culprit

It is a widely acknowledged fact that women’s safety in India, be it in the villages or metros, is not adequate. It’s even more unfortunate that the country’s capital is deemed extremely unsafe for women. Reinforcing our belief that women’s security in Delhi in flimsy, was this recent Facebook post.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Radhika P Singh from Delhi, recounted the horror her friend faced when she was molested by an man in broad daylight and how the police harassed her instead of the accused.

She posted a photograph of the offender, identified as Nikhil, narrating how he forcibly tried kissing Singh’s friend in Delhi’s popular Connaught Place area. The victim caught hold of him with the help of passersby and called the cops, which Singh says, ‘was the worst mistake’.

The cops arrived 40 minutes later and instead of detaining him, took him aside and spoke to him after which they asked the victim to submit a written complaint.

However, her application was rejected not once but twice by the the Sub Inspector, identified as Sanjiv Kumar, for being ‘unclear’. The third time, Singh wrote the application for her, saying, “this guy Mr. Nikhil tried to molest me by attempting to kiss me” which was rejected for being inaccurate as the she quotes the inspector saying ‘according to him just trying to kiss a girl is NOT molestation’.

And if the offender going away scot-free and the victims being threatened with court and police station appearances wasn’t enough, the police have allegedly forwarded the victim’s number to the offender’s parents.

Read the full post here

His name is Nikhil and he tried to molest my friend – She was walking down M block (near barakhamba red light)…

Posted by Radhika P Singh on Sunday, August 9, 2015

We have written to Singh, her reply is awaited.

Rethink on porn ban: Govt to issue new notification after high-level meet

After the uproar over the government ordering the blocking of 857 porn websites, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology on Tuesday announced that the ban would only be limited to those websites that host child porn.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

According to TV reports, the IT ministry will issue a new notification on the porn ban. It also announced that the websites that do not host child porn will not be banned, which is a U-turn from the government’s decision to place a blanket ban on 857 websites.

“A new notification will be issued shortly. The ban will be partially withdrawn. Sites that do not promote child porn will be unbanned,” Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told India Today TV.

According to CNN-IBN, the government will still ban those websites that host hardcore porn.

However, according to PTI, the ban still covers those websites which host porn. Because some websites were later found to be hosting jokes, memes and other humorous content without any pornography, Prasad called for a high-level review meeting today, which was attended by IT Secretary RS Sharma and Additional Solicitor-General Pinky Anand, among others.

It was decided in the meeting that the ISPs would be immediately asked not to block those sites that do not contain pornographic material (that includes child pornography), Prasad reportedly told PTI.

Explaining the rationale behind the original directive, Prasad said, “The instant action is basically in obedience to the observation of the Supreme Court where the court asked the department to take action on the list of alleged porn sites provided by the petitioner.”

The minister said that the government is committed to freedom of communication on the Internet.

“The government compliments the dissemination of ideas on social media. We have launched the mygov platform seeking views of people of India on developmental agenda and lakhs of people are participating on this platform,” he said.

Earlier, the government had ordered the blocking of 857 porn websites and had planned to put in place an ombudsman to look into cyber content-related issues, even as a debate began on social media over internet censorship.

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology had asked Internet service providers to take down 857 porn websites, an official had said.

The official, however, had also said it was a temporary measure till the final orders are pronounced by the top court.

Explaining rationale for the decision, a top government official had said the government has merely complied with the Supreme Court directive asking for measures to block porn sites, particularly those dealing with child pornography.

Until the details of the notification are available in public space, speculation regarding the exact nature of the scaling-back of the ban will remain.

With inputs from PTI

‘Idiots lined up every step’: IAS officer whose sexual harassment complaint was disregarded

“I can only pray that no woman is born in this country,” IAS officer Riju Bafna said on Facebook, on a post shared on 1 August. What may have driven her to make such a statement? The disturbing misogyny of various people in power and positions of responsibility.

Riju Bafna. Image courtesy: Facebook.Riju Bafna. Image courtesy: Facebook.

Riju Bafna. Image courtesy: Facebook.

Bafna says in the post that she had lodged an FIR against Santosh Chaubey, the Ayogmitra of Human Rights Commission. Chaubey had been sending her ‘indecent’ messages for a while.

With the help of the district collector Bharat Yadav, prompt action was taken against Chaubey, who was removed from his post immediately.

However, when she turned up to record her statement before the judicial magistrate in the state, a group of advocates decided to crowd around her as she gave her statement. When she asked them to leave, one of them started shouting at her, and allegedly told her, she may be a government “officer” in her office, she is nothing in the court. When she told the judge taking her statement that the court should make sure such incidents are not repeated, the judge brushed it off saying, “you are young and that’s why demanding such things”.

Read Bafna’s entire post here:

Hi everyone. I am posting this message to share my experience with judiciary on a sexual harassment case filed by…

Posted by Riju Bafna on Saturday, 1 August 2015

‘Idiots lined up at every step’: IAS officer who filed sexual harassment case slams lawyers, judge

“I can only pray that no woman is born in this country,” IAS officer Riju Bafna said on Facebook, on a post shared on 1 August. What may have driven her to make such a statement? The disturbing misogyny of various people in power and positions of responsibility.

Riju Bafna. Image courtesy: Facebook.Riju Bafna. Image courtesy: Facebook.

Riju Bafna. Image courtesy: Facebook.

Bafna says in the post that she had lodged an FIR against Santosh Chaubey, the Ayogmitra of Human Rights Commission. Chaubey had been sending her ‘indecent’ messages for a while.

With the help of the district collector Bharat Yadav, prompt action was taken against Chaubey, who was removed from his post immediately.

However, when she turned up to record her statement before the judicial magistrate in the state, a group of advocates decided to crowd around her as she gave her statement. When she asked them to leave, one of them started shouting at her, and allegedly told her, she may be a government “officer” in her office, she is nothing in the court. When she told the judge taking her statement that the court should make sure such incidents are not repeated, the judge brushed it off saying, “you are young and that’s why demanding such things”.

The comments on Bafna’s post expressed shock at the lawyer and the judge’s insensitivity and audacity.

One woman commented, “And imagine, you are an IAS officer… already a woman with some power. Most women are not.”

A man wrote, “You should lodge a formal complaint with the State Chief Justice and the Bar Council of MP. Cc both these letters to the Hon’ble CM’s Secretariat and the office of the State Chief Secretary. The fact of the matter is that people like these are galore primarily because no one takes such people to task. Prima facie what you requested the Court was absolutely essential, specially given the nature of the proceedings. Good that you are bringing such incidents to the fore here. More power to you!!”

An IPS officer Tejaswini Gautam posted, “As a woman whatever you said i agree. But i also say that since you have this opportunity to be an example for many who cant even think of doing what u already did…is proof of your power and the ability you hold. Being a woman should make you strong. And yes…like i always say…such incidents should only reinstore self confidence in you. Fantastic show of courage. And good u put this up on fb. Such people need to be shown their real worth.”

Read Bafna’s entire post here:

Hi everyone. I am posting this message to share my experience with judiciary on a sexual harassment case filed by…

Posted by Riju Bafna on Saturday, 1 August 2015

Rajinikanth remembers Abdul Kalam, calls him ‘Mahatma’

Paying tribute to Kalam, Rajinikanth today said the scientist inspired millions of people with his life and achievements.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
Superstar Rajinikanth feels “blessed enough” to have lived during a time that had a “mahatma” like former president A P J Abdul Kalam.Paying tribute to Kalam, Rajinikanth today said the scientist inspired millions of people with his life and achievements.The southern superstar took to Twitter to express his tributes.Kalam, 83, died after suffering a massive cardiac arrest during a lecture at the IIM Shillong on Monday. His funeral will take place at his hometown Rameswaram tomorrow.

Timeline: From Rameshwaram to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the life and times of APJ Abdul Kalam

See original article here –  Timeline: From Rameshwaram to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the life and times of APJ Abdul Kalam

Infographic: 60 lakh Indian children are out of school with 77% in rural areas

It has been six years since the Right to Education Act has been enacted and yet recent data shows that more than 60 lakh children in India are out of school.

Data from the ‘National Sample Survey of Estimation of Out-of-School Children in the Age 6-13 in India’ by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan for 2014 shows that around 3 percent of the 20.4 crore school-going children in India are deprived of the access to schools.

The survey took into account 99,929 households in 640 districts from across India, and focussed on the gender and community of unschooled children. While  77% of the children out of school are from rural areas, about 49% belong to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Interestingly, the survey shows that more boys weren’t in school as compared to girls.

For the complete highlights of the survey, take a look at our infographic:

School1School1

Govt websites to be made differently-abled friendly

New Delhi: In a major initiative, people with disabilities will be able to easily access government websites across the country as steps are being taken to enhance their features.

As many as 6,000 websites of the Centre and state governments would be covered out of which 50 per cent would be made fully accessible for differently-abled people by July next year, according to Social Justice Department sources.

The Centre is planning to engage web auditors to enhance the features of these websites to make them user-friendly for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs).

The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DoPwD), functioning under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, has written to the ERNET India, an autonomous scientific society under the administrative control of Department of Information Technology, for the purpose.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“There are approximately 6,000 government web portals, which are frequented by PwDs. With people suffering from different kinds of disabilities browsing these websites, it must be accessible to each one of them. We have approached the ERNET India, which would suggest ways and means to increase its features,” an official said.

For instance, if a website is noticed with barriers for the visually impaired browsers, it would be upgraded with necessary tools to make it fully accessible to them.

The initiative, which is being carried out as part of the Accessibility India Campaign, is aimed at enhancing the proportion of accessible and usable public documents and websites that meet internationally recognised standards.

This target will ensure conversion of public documents published as of a specified year and all current websites meeting the relevant International Organization for Standardization (ISO) criteria that are found in ISO/IEC 40500: 2012, Information Technology – W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

The web auditors would analyse whether the web portals are adhering to the disability standards of W3C.

“We have asked ERNET India to engage as many number of web auditors for the purpose,” the DoPwD official added.

ERNET India has one of the largest nationwide terrestrial and satellite networks with 15 points of presence located at the premier academic and research institutions in major cities of the country.

Focus of ERNET India is not limited to just providing connectivity, but to meet the entire needs of the academic and research institutions by providing consultancy, project management, training and other value added services such as web hosting, e-mail services, video conferencing, domain registration, CUG services.

Meanwhile, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities is launching its own web portal shortly, official sources said.

The website would have features such as circulars, notifications, skill development for PwDs, employment generation, disability encyclopedia and discussion form.

A separate department for disability affairs was created in 2012 under the ministry of social justice and empowerment.

The department was renamed as Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in 2014.

PTI

Fresh ceasefire violation by Pakistan in Poonch

Our troops retaliated, resulting in exchange of fire that continued till 2330 hours. There was no report of loss of life or injury from the Indian side, he said.

File picture

In fresh ceasefire violation, Pakistani troops on Monday targeted several Indian posts along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district.”Pakistani troops resorted to small arms firing on several posts along the Line of Control in Poonch district at 2245 hours last night,” an Army spokesman said.Our troops retaliated, resulting in exchange of fire that continued till 2330 hours. There was no report of loss of life or injury from the Indian side, he said. This is the seventh incident of ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops since July 15. One person has been killed and 16 have been injured so far in the firing from across the border.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In July, there have been 11 ceasefire violations by the Pakistan army. On Saturday last, five civilians were injured when Pakistani troops targeted several Indian positions in Naushera sector of Rajouri district and the two villages in Poonch sector.

Flavours, colours, designs: Condom manufacturers experiment with it all as good old Nirodh loses out

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Flavours, colours, design: Condom manufacturers experiment with it all as good old Nirodh loses out

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Boosting religious tourism: Why it’s most important agreement from the Modi-Sharif meet

<![CDATA[#bottom_popup{width:344px;background:url(http://s3.firstpost.in/wp-content/themes/firstpost2.0/images/promo/bottom_popup.gif) repeat-x;border:3px solid #6b6565;position:fixed;z-index:99;bottom:-130px;right:-350px}#bottom_popup .contbox{padding:5px 6px 25px 6px;position:relative;background:#F1F1F1}#bottom_popup .bptitle{border-bottom:1px solid #d3d3d3;font:19px/30px ‘FPfont’;color:#000;text-transform:uppercase;padding-bottom:5px}#bottom_popup .bptitle span{color:#F00}#bottom_popup .bptitle span.dot{color:#F00;font-size:30px}.f_flash_icon{background:url(http://s1.firstpost.in/wp-content/themes/firstpost2.0/images/promo/f_flash_icon.png) no-repeat 0 0;width:29px;height:29px;display:inline-block;vertical-align:bottom;margin-right:3px}.close_bottom_popup{background:url(http://s3.firstpost.in/wp-content/themes/firstpost2.0/images/promo/clost_bottom_popup.png) no-repeat 0 0;width:13px;height:13px;position:absolute;right:5px;top:5px}.bottom_infobox{font:14px Georgia, “Times New Roman”, Times, serif;color:#333;border-top:1px solid #FFF;padding-top:10px}.bottom_infobox a{color:#333}]]> <!– FP CRONTAB –>

Good, bad or ugly? How media turned Hema Malini’s Dausa accident into raging TRPs

Last week, a road accident hit the headlines and then dug its heels into the breaking news cycle over the following days. A Mercedes Benz had crashed into an Alto, leaving one person dead. It’s not the kind of news that has the potential to shock the daylights out of India.

In the last recorded data the government has, 1,37, 572 people had died in various road accidents in 2013, 1,38,258 had died in 2012. By the simple rule of average, that’s more than 375 people dying in the country ever day in road accidents. However, this incident dominated the news for several days because it involved a celebrity – actor and BJP MP Hema Malini.

Obviously, it was ‘big news’ for most media outlets, which turned it into a debate with little interest in basic facts pertaining to the case.

As soon as the news wore out, questions surfaced over the actor-turned-politician’s sense of responsibility. While some news channels ran tickers accusing Hema Malini of failing to help the other party involved in the accident, others had panels discussing whether or not she should have helped the family immediately. Some pointed at her responsibility as an MP, others said it would have been impossible for her to help the family out immediately. Soon, like most debates being played out to a Twitter-happy audience, this debate too was reduced to the black and white argument, probing whether Hema was an evil MP or just a hapless bleeding victim.

Hema Malini after the accident. PTIHema Malini after the accident. PTI

Hema Malini after the accident. (The picture has been blurred) PTI

The internet was flooded with high resolution pictures of Hema Malini from after the accident. Streams of blood crawling down her face, her saree wet with blood, the actor is seen being escorted out of a car in Jaipur. Jaipur is approximately 62 kilometres away from Dausa, the site of the accident. It clearly made little difference to either the mini mob outside the hospital or the shutterbugs who were happy clicking pictures of the injured actor, the flash blazing right at her bloodied face.

The voyeuristic interest in clicking even an injured celebrity embodies all that is wrong with the country’s sense of responsibility. It was never about the accident really, it was about Hema Malini being in an accident. So, the natural next step for TV channels was to turn it into a raging debate-with-hashtag about what Hema Malini should have done.

But in this mad rush, most TV channels and commentators on social media ignored the need for facts to bolster their argument. If they were in Hema Malini’s shoes, bleeding and shell-shocked, what would they have done? No one questioned who the ‘doctor’ was who drove the actor to the Jaipur hospital. Did Malini’s team get in touch with the doctor who then drove her to the hospital? Or was he a passerby, who stopped at the site and then gave the actor a lift? In either case could he have also driven the grievously injured child to the Dausa hospital first?

“Hema Malini was taken to a hospital in Dausa by a doctor immediately after the incident. He then took her to Fortis hospital while Sonam was lying at the spot for 15-20 minutes. Nobody asked about her,” the victim’s uncle told the media.

However, arguing over this would need some knowledge about the preliminary autopsy report which must have been prepared following the child’s death. That would be a crucial document for analysing the events that followed the accident. But everyone was happy to judge and pronounce sentences without bothering to refer to the autopsy or wait for it.

In some instances, the kin of the victim seemed like they were being led on for the sole purpose of fuelling this eyeball-grabbing debate. For example, one widely cited clip has the victim’s father lament that maybe his daughter could have been saved if she was taken to the doctor by Hema Malini. We should remember here that the man had just lost his daughter and his statements are coloured with grief. Moreover, the clip begins with him saying these things and also admitting that he had lost consciousness. One can only guess what question may have prompted this response from him.

On the face of it, the child was so grievously injured that she may have died on the way to the hospital. Her father, according to various reports, has said that the girl died in her mother’s lap. Which means, it was perhaps the practical thing to do to take her to the nearest hospital instead of Jaipur. In this video, where the victim’s father is seen speaking from his hospital bed, you can hear the reporter  exhorting a relative to say that Hema Malini was guilty of ignoring the family. “Do you think that Hema Malini and her entourage is guilty. They took her to Fortis, but left the child there,” the reporter says. To which the grieving relative says, ‘Yes’.

The nature of Indian reportage can be extremely manipulative and exploitative at times. The Hema Malini incident just showed its disregard for facts, when TRPs can be generated through turning the accident into fodder for moral outrage. From hashtags to vox pop on television channels to online votes, every bit of potential in the incident was milked.

In the rush to make a raging debate out of the issue, most media houses forgot to report the facts that would have clearly established if Hema Malini was responsible in any way for the child’s death. And on social media, led on my TV channel hashtags, the cacophony was held up by a lot of conclusions which were not drawn on the back of facts. In fact, no one even asked the crucial questions that would have very clearly enumerated whether or not the celebrity acted irresponsibly, or whether she was being unfairly targeted for being a celebrity.

Meet 2014 UPSC topper Ira Singhal, who was denied a posting due to her disability

The 2014 UPSC results have been just declared and women candidates have bagged all the three top slots in the prestigious examination to select IAS and IPS officers among others.

What comes as a even bigger surprise is that the examination was topped by Delhi’s Ira Singhal, the first differently abled to achieve that feat in the general category.

Delhi's Ira Singhal is the first differently-abled to top the UPSC examination

Delhi’s Ira Singhal is the first differently-abled to top the UPSC examination. Courtesy: Facebook

“I want to be an IAS officer. I want to do something for the benefit of physically-handicapped people,” said an elated Singhal.

Suffering from a spine-related disorder, Scoliosis, which disrupts her arm movement, Singhal refuses to let her disability bog her down.

While, the whole world is taking about this young woman’s courage and perseverance, here’s an all you need to know about Singhal-

1)This is 31-year old Ira Singhal’s fourth attempt at the examination. She is currently posted as an Assistant Commissioner in the Customs & Excise department of the Indian Revenue Services.

2) In 2010 too, she had cleared the examination but was refused a posting because of her disability, with authorities citing her ” inability to push, pull and lift’ as a reason. Not one to let things take their own course, she not only moved the the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) with her case but also won it and was inducted in 2014.

“It was a big disappointment, a major setback then. But I decided to fight back. It was tough initially as I had to undergo tests, submit medical certificates and prove that I am capable of doing jobs entrusted to me in the IRS. For two years, it was tough but then everyone realised that I am capable of working in spite of the disabilities. They realised I am no pushover,” Ira told Indian Express recalling the 2010 episode.

3) Explaining her condition, her father Rajendra Singhal told HuffPost India that as she cannot fully twist her arms due to some trouble with her spinal cord and because of her short height (she is just four feet five inches), the authorities refused to give her a posting. Meanwhile, she also gave the examination twice after that to ‘improve her rank’. Her proud father, however is not confident that things will be any different. “I hope she is given a proper posting, this time” he said.

4)Ira Singhal has also taught Spanish for a year, has been a manager in Cadbury India and holds an MBA from Delhi University’s Faculty of Management Studies (FMS) and a B.E. in computer engineering from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT), reports The Hindu. An avid football aficionado, Singhal is an FC Barcelona fan.

5) The biggest irony is that on physical and medical grounds, Ira is ineligible to be an Indian Revenue Services Officer, a clerk or a sweeper.

But, she didn’t give up. she battled discrimination, was wronged and conquered disability to eventually top the country’s most prestigious examination.

And, while the phone started ringing continuously after the news of her result broke, the most special call was undoubtedly from that of a top official of the Department of Personnel and Training, who in 2010 had denied her posting, reported Hindustan Times.

Literacy rate higher in urban areas, more boys educated than girls, finds NSSO survey

New Delhi: Literacy rate in rural areas was pegged at 71 percent last year, compared to 86 percent in urban areas, while among the age group of seven years and above, male literacy rate was found higher than the female literacy rate, according to NSSO survey released on Tuesday.

Among the age group of seven year and above, the male literacy rate was registered at 83 percent vis-a-vis the female literacy rate of 67 percent, an official statement said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“Similarly, it was found in the rural areas, nearly 4.5 percent of males and 2.2 percent of females completed education level of graduation and above, while in urban areas 17 percent of males and 13 percent of females completed this level of education,” it added.

The details are part of a survey on ‘Social Consumption: Education’ during the National Sample Survey (NSS) 71st Round, January to June 2014, conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

The survey covered entire country with samples taken from 36,479 households in rural areas and 29,447 in urban areas from 4,577 villages and 3,720 urban blocks, it said.

According to its findings, literacy rate among age group of seven years and above in the country was 75 percent. In rural areas, it was 71 percent compared to 86 per cent in urban areas.

Adult literacy (age 15 years and above) rate in India was around 71 per cent. For adults also, literacy rate in rural areas was lower than that in urban areas. In rural areas, adult literacy rate was 64 per cent compared to 84 per cent in urban areas.

“No significant difference between rural and urban India existed in terms of distance for physical access to primary schooling. In both rural and urban areas, nearly 99 per cent households reported availability of primary school within 2 kms from the house,” the survey said.

For accessing educational institutions providing higher level of learning, say upper primary or secondary, a lower proportion of households in rural areas compared to that in urban areas reported existence of such facilities within 2 kms, it added.

Nearly 86 per cent of rural households and 96 per cent of urban households reported upper primary schools within a distance of 2 kms from the house while nearly 60 per cent of rural households and 91 per cent of urban households reported secondary schools at such a distance, it revealed.

The proportion of persons having completed higher level of education, say, graduation and above, was more in the urban areas than in the rural areas.

In the rural areas, nearly 4.5 per cent of males and 2.2 per cent of females completed education level of graduation and above, while in the urban areas 17 per cent of males and 13 per cent of females completed this level of education. In rural areas, majority of the students were attending government institutions predominantly up to higher secondary levels, whereas a completely different picture was observed in urban areas.

In rural areas, 72 per cent of the students at primary level, 76 per cent at upper primary level and 64 per cent at secondary and higher secondary level attended government institutions, the survey said.

While in urban areas, 31 per cent at primary level, 38 per cent at upper primary level as well as secondary and higher secondary level, attended government institutions, it added.

Average expenditure per student incurred and/or to be incurred during the current academic session was nearly Rs 6,788 for general education, Rs 62,841 for technical/professional (except vocational) and Rs 27,676 for vocational course.

At primary level, expenditure per student in urban areas was Rs 10,083, more than four times than that in rural areas, pegged at Rs 2,811.

Average expenditure on technical education in private aided and unaided institutions varied between nearly 1.5-2.5 times of that in government institutions.

Nearly 46 per cent of expenditure for general education and 73 per cent of the expenditure for technical education was on course fee.

For students pursuing general courses, 15 per cent was spent on private coaching as against 3 per cent for students pursuing technical/professional education (including vocational).

Nearly 6 per cent of rural households and 29 per cent of urban household possessed computer. Among households in the country, with at least one member aged above 14 years and above, nearly 27 per cent had internet access in the survey year, 2014.

The proportions were 16 per cent among rural households and 49 per cent of urban households, the survey said.

Among persons of age 14-29 years, nearly 18 per cent in rural areas and 49 per cent in urban areas were able to operate a computer, it added.

PTI

St Stephen’s shame: Victim’s FIR reveals true horror of sexual harassment

How has India taught you to respond to sexual violence? With outrage? Not really. With fear? Somewhat, yes. With shame? Most definitely. No one should know that your breasts have been groped by random strangers in public spaces or by men you know in professional spaces. No one should know if your butt has been pinched, your body rubbed against or touched in ways that made you want to puke. In popular understanding of sexual violence, it is your body’s shame first. So the first response to it should be denial and silence. Till the trauma just spills over. The Delhi University PhD student, who has accused a St Stephen’s College assistant professor of sexual harassment, followed this widely endorsed though unwritten rulebook of responding to sexual violence in India.

So it took her over three years to to take resolute steps in acting against the supervisor, who she alleges began harassing her in 2012.  Firstpost now has a copy of her FIR, where she details how Satish Kumar, the chemistry professor she was working under, had taken complete advantage of his position of superiority and subjected her to sexually coloured remarks relentlessly and then taken to touching her inappropriately. She writes in her FIR that on October 15, 2013, Satish Kumar had ‘sexually assaulted her’. “On that day, he pulled me toward himself, he puts his hands on my breasts and he completely grabbed me and he put his hands on my private parts,” the complainant writes in the FIR.

And that was the culmination – for want of a better word – of a year-long, systematic process of verbal and physical sexual harassment.

St Stephen's College.St Stephen's College.

St Stephen’s College.

The complainant recounts in her FIR how Kumar had tried to hug her (apparently, a creating a new compound in the lab would make him want to hug her), touch her breasts several times and even touch her thighs. On one occasion her had asked her if she had a ‘thigh gap’. “It’s good to have gap in women’s thighs and you have gap in your thighs…” the FIR quotes him as saying.

He showed her pictures of naked women on the pretext of showing her software he had downloaded for work, he talked about videos women shoot with their boyfriends and most of his conversations were sexually coloured. On the other hand, he also made sure that his sexual overtures would go unreported thanks to the victim’s fear of endangering her thesis.

So he covertly kept recounting anecdotes about the importance of a supervisor in a PhD student’s life. From suggesting that students who speak up against their guides never get other professors to guide them to saying that it is necessary to get a supervisor’s recommendation while applying for jobs, Kumar intimidated and blackmailed the student into silence by suggesting that everything she cared fiercely about – higher education, a job, the magic letters of a Ph.D – depended on his whims.

These are all allegations in the FIR. And Kumar will get to tell his side of the story. But the question is what could allowed and empower someone to harass his student with such brazen impunity?

Firstly, it’s the absence of a culture of reporting sexual harassment. As we mentioned above, abusers are sharply aware of of the burden of shame that that a victim of harassment carries. And from past instances, the likes of Kumar, know that most victims prefer to lug the shame around instead of dealing with the additional discomfort of moral scrutiny and character assassination.

Then again, forget a culture of reporting, we are not even sure about the right way to hold a conversation around sexual violence especially in professional and private spaces. For example, imagine walking up  to the principal of your college and saying that a professor asked you if you have a gap between your thighs. Chances are victims feel embarrassed to go into the grimy details of such incidents, wondering how it would reflect upon themselves.

That apart, the St Stephen’s incident is complicated by class. The victim mentions in the FIR that she hails from a ‘humble’ family from Teekhi village in Gurgaon, Haryana. She definitely doesn’t fit the profile of the upper middle class and affluent students who study in the college. In fact, the college’s principal, seemed to emphasize the fact that the victim was a registered research student of Delhi University and not really a student of St. Stephen’s college in his NDTV oped too. It makes you wonder what would have happened if her father had come from an economic class which gave him the confidence to demand justice instead of pleading with “folded hands” to save his daughter’s future?

The op-ed which says “facts do not lie” leave other questions unanswered. Thampu writes he had no authority over the student since she was not a student of his college. But of course Kumar was a professor in his college. Did Thampu take up the complaint with Kumar separately? Did he, even for the purpose of verification, ask Kumar what made a woman student level such allegations against him? Did he warn Kumar against doing anything that would make the student uncomfortable? By his own admission, he didn’t. He says he asked her to file a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee and called a meeting with both the complainant and her advisor and in that meeting she does not “utter a word about sexual harassment”. In fact, his NDTV oped is entirely devoted to countering the victim’s FIR, though he doesn’t deny that she may have been sexually harassed. Dr. Thampu lashes out instead at wolves in sheep’s clothing and those who seek “sadistic media limelight” at the expense of the college.

The St Stephen’s case reiterates the idea that in spaces with a hallowed reputation, victims of sexual violence are further burdened with the responsibility of not tarnishing the reputation of the institution. That, in turn, allows sexual predators to behave with the kind of impunity that Kumar allegedly did.

The pattern is the same – from the Tehelka sexual violence case to the Greenpeace sexual harassment case. The accused in all these cases are alleged to have invoked their positions and their organisation’s larger-than-life reputation – directly or as insinuation – to send the victims scrambling for support elsewhere.

Thampu did what Tehelka and then Greenpeace did. He hoped that this too shall pass, that this too could be managed without raising a stink because the victim, humbled by the mighty reputation of the institution she was up against would eventually give up. She had already shown enough signs of being anxious about the repercussions on her career and the institution looks like it took full advantage of it to hush up the case.

Dr. Thampu – the head of one of the country’s most coveted educational institute – did nothing to allay her or her family’s fears that filing a case of sexual harassment would tarnish the victim’s reputation first. Thampu recalls meeting her father, “With folded hands, the father pleads with the Principal not to turn this into a complaint of sexual harassment as it could result in a scandal and also affect his daughter’s chance of getting a Ph.D.” 

Instead of assuaging the man’s desperation, Thampu now stands accused of having used it to protect the reputation of his institution. Whether he followed the rulebook to the barest minimum or not, Thampu would have done a favour to the idea of a truly liberal educational institute had he backed the victim in her fight against harassment. Instead now he looks like a principal for whom the institution’s reputation came first, way ahead of the victim’s plight.

PM Modi, Ramdev oppose eating of meat, homosexuality: Promoting Yoga Day won’t make them true yogis

Correct branding is essential to project oneself in public life. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a master when it comes to marketing himself. Along with his friend Ramdev, the PM has managed to position himself as the champion for the cause of Yoga, India’s oldest cultural heritage and largest export.

PM Narendra Modi needs to get rid of biases to know the true meaning of yoga. AP

PM Narendra Modi needs to get rid of biases to know the true meaning of yoga. AP

One of my most favourite books is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. What makes Patanjali unique is that he is absolutely scientific. He never assumes and he never denies. Patanjali says God is one of the many ways to reach the ultimate. But it is not necessary to believe in God to reach your destination. God is a path. Some may choose that path, others may choose another. The path is not important, the goal is. God is just one of the paths.

Yoga is a science. It is neither theistic nor atheistic. And Patanjali did not create a religious ritual. In fact, far from it. Patanjali, like I said, earlier was absolutely scientific. In fact, he says one can be Godless.

The Yoga Sutra never insisted on a concept. Patanjali describes Yoga as ‘Chitta Viriddhi Nirodha’ or the opening up of the closed mind. The aim of Yoga is to reach one’s true self and to reach the goal, one has to let go of biases and prejudices.

India’s other oldest legacy, the Ayurveda, pescribes meat and fish prepared in certain ways. It understands that nature is diverse and in snow covered lands or in deserts, there may not be enough vegetation. Therefore Shiva, who we consider the greatest Yogi, and who lives on the snowy peaks of Mount Kailash at the Himalyas, is a non-vegetarian. In fact, even alcohol, is offered to him in many of his temples.

Both the Prime Minister and his friend Ramdev have often spoken out against non-vegetarian food. The Prime Minister has been very comfortable with certain meats being banned. But does this have anything to do with purity or reaching your goal? Yoga certainly doesn’t say so. All that the Yoga Sutra teaches, is that one has to drop all the biases to reach the ultimate truth. Like those against non-vegetarian food or even the ones against homosexuals.

Again, the PM and his friend Ramdev, have not been pro-homosexuals. To the extent of using the Patanjali name, Ramdev sells medicines to ‘cure’ people of the ‘ disease’ of homosexuality. With the platform he has, there will be many who will be influenced to think, that being a homosexual is impure, it is a disease. Strangely the concept of disease does not exist in Yoga. In Yoga Sutra, Patanjali writes, Yoga is about creating harmony to reach the ultimate destination.

So ancient Indian scriptures accepted and understood that homosexuality is natural. Today science concurs, that homosexuality is documented in several animal species. In ancient India, we not only accepted it but even celebrated it. So Krishna, another great Yogi, turns into Mohini and spends a night with Arjuna’s son, who had to be sacrificed, so the war could be won, but he did not want to die a bachelor and in the morning, Mohini wails and mourns for her ‘husband’ like a widow would. Or Shiva who transforms into a gopi to dance the Leela. ‎

Indian mythology has several examples of different sexual choices and to date in many cultures in India this choice is celebrated.

So when the Prime Minister ensures India votes with Russia, Pakistan and Iran, or Ramdev calls the homosexuals diseased or between them, they encourage the ban on certain foods, because to be pure and reach your destination one needs to not eat meats, one suspects that they may have perfected the asanas and branded themselves superbly with their show of the pranayamas, but if they still have prejudices, they have not yet mastered the art of Yoga.

(Tehseen Poonawalla is an entrepreneur, life coach and a student of Indian mythology.)

New NASA study reveals world’s running out of groundwater, and India’s particularly at risk

A study based on data collected from a NASA satellite has revealed that the underground aquifers of the world, a very important source of fresh water for people, are being depleted at an alarming rate.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

According to data gathered from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite, twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers have gone beyond their sustainability tipping point, which means that the amount of water removed from these aquifers over the decade-long study, reported The Washington Post.

One of the most alarming findings of this study was that the aquifer in the Indus basin region in India and Pakistan was the world’s second-most stressed aquifer.

A stressed aquifer is one suffering from rapid depletion with almost no signs of recovery.

To get some perspective on how serious the problem is: the only aquifer that was more stressed than the Indus basin was the Arabian aquifer, a water sourced used by over 60 million people.

The report also said that underground aquifers account for 35 percent of the water used by the world. The consequences of aquifers drying up slowly could severely affect India in the future, where alternatives for water sources are limited and shortages might lead to instability in the region.

Another result of unrestricted usage of water from aquifers is that since water from aquifers is moved to the surface, it would account for a 25 percent rise in sea levels before 2050, according to a 2012 study, reported The Atlantic. This would make relocated groundwater the third-most significant cause for rise in sea level this century.

The data on the basis of which these conclusions were drawn was collected from the GRACE satellite, which was launched in 2002. It measures water the under the ground by analysing the variation in gravitational tug across the planet.

The study based on the data collected was published in the Water Resources Research journal. You can read the entire study here.

He leaves behind an unparalleled legacy: A fan of Charles Correa on why the architect mattered

By Navaneeth Aithal

After Independence, India faced several challenges like providing shelter to millions of refugees, a shortage of resources, supply and skilled labour. The government public work departments were responsible for building projects but they lacked the experience to develop an architectural vocabulary representative of the nation.

A large number of architects from the country migrated to Europe and the US for advanced studies and one of them – Charles Correa – returned and evolved a style of architecture which was a blend of western rationalism and vernacular tradition, and had that bit of originality which would later go on to set new benchmarks.

Correa defined a style of architecture in the country. Image courtesy: FacebookCorrea defined a style of architecture in the country. Image courtesy: Facebook

Correa defined a style of architecture in the country. Image courtesy: Facebook

Correa belongs to a unique and rare breed of architects who have made great contributions to the architectural vocabulary in India. In a career spanning over six decades, Correa not only evolved a distinctive style of his own, but has also played a major role in shaping the country’s infrastructure by participating in influential government projects.

In a field where an individual career might take off after one was 45 or 50 years of age, a prodigious 28-year-old Correa made his mark with the creation of Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya in Ahmedabad. His notable works since then include the iconic Kanchanjunga apartment tower in Mumbai, Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences centre, Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown and most recently Ismaili centre in Toronto.

Correa’s architectural vocabulary was derived from local traditions, values, culture and importantly the climate. A smart response to climate often lies at the root of all his projects. The response often demonstrates a subtle and sophisticated understanding of the climate, mainly derived from observation.

“I had never learnt architecture as a style, but as principles, as attitudes,” Correa once said in an interview to fellow architect S Gopakumar.

His unique interpretations of tradition and culture were expressed in his design through certain typical spaces. For example: the Surya Kund courtyard at the centre of the built form, being the source of energy. All his works have laid special emphasis on prevailing resources and materials. He called for local craftsmen who have been using indigenous materials for centuries while at the same time taking cues from western technology in his designs.

An example of the courtyard at the Kala Kendra in Jaipur. Image courtesy: Addison GodelAn example of the courtyard at the Kala Kendra in Jaipur. Image courtesy: Addison Godel

An example of the Suraj Kund courtyard at the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur. Image courtesy: Addison Godel

Correa as an urban planner was particularly fascinated by issues relating population and rate occupancy of spaces in India and other third world countries. His projects, like the planning of Navi Mumbai and others, are reflective of a sensitivity towards such issues. His philosophies mainly adopt a human approach towards cities by respecting and maintaining a human scale in all its built forms.

For the present generation, Charles Correa is not just an inspiration, he was a man who could envision built forms driven by a sense of creativity and unwavering principles. He has left behind an unparalleled legacy.

Navaneeth Aithal is an graduate in architecture

Dear Janhavi Gadkar: How difficult was it for you to call a goddamn cab?

On 9 June, 35-year old corporate lawyer Janhavi Gadkar decided to celebrate a corporate deal by having a few (the number is still under dispute) drinks at a hotel with her colleagues on Marine Drive.

At the other end of town in Bhiwandi, the Saboowala family was celebrating their son’s exam results at Karishma Dhaba. Their paths would soon cross, and with unfortunate consequences.

Janhavi got into her Audi at 12:55 pm and drove 11 kms on the wrong side of the road at over 120 km/hr and rammed her car full pelt into an incoming taxi. That taxi – which was being driven on the right side of the road -– was carrying home the Saboowala family. Janhavi killed the taxi driver and the father of the family and grievously injured four others. The Saboowala boy spent the day after his exam result celebration burying his father and tending to the rest of his family in hospital. Janhavi escaped because her expensive car’s airbags inflated and saved her.

Image courtesy: IBNLiveImage courtesy: IBNLive

Image courtesy: IBNLive

Few incidents reduce me to such shock and outrage as this. And here’s why: This “accident,” or as I see it, homicide, could have been easily avoided. All it would have required was a modicum of good sense and responsibility

It’s not about the alcohol. I have no moral issues with people drinking and even drinking themselves into a stupor. But why is it that someone who can afford a Rs 40 lakh car (that’s the on-road price for a low-end Audi 3), and spent a couple of thousand rupees on drinks, refuse to hire a driver or call a taxi to cart herself home?

This inexcusable lack of basic common sense is not unique to Janhavi Gadkar. I’ve met many people – men and women alike – who can easily afford a driver (which would cost Rs 20,000 a month, tops) or an Uber or a hotel cab. Yet these people prefer to drink themselves silly and then get behind the wheel of their fancy cars, with scant regard for what may ensue.

Many have told me it’s because they feel they can’t be drunk in front of their drivers, because after all, what will the driver think of them? Saving your image in front of your help should be secondary to the possibility that you may kill someone – a logical position that somehow eludes them. Another reason is that they don’t trust their uber-expensive cars with drivers – sober drivers, mind you.

Ok, how about getting a cab? If you don’t like the yellow-black variety, every hotel has hotel cabs which they can arrange for you. Gadkar, moreover, was drunk in Mumbai, the city with the safest public transport in the country. Surely, she would be far safer, however drunk, in a taxi than the Saboowalas were with her driving her Audi.

And it’s obviously not the cost of taxi fare, because hey, if the Saboowalas could spring for a cab, I’m sure Janhavi Gadkar could. It’s just that she didn’t feel the need to. According to Mumbai Mirror, when asked if she was okay to drive by her friend, she said, “I’ve done this before.”

Actually, Jahnavi was being entirely truthful – but not in the sense she intended.

This was not Gadkar’s first accident. A couple of days before the Saboowala tragedy, she supposedly banged her car into two BARC security guards who were riding a motorbike in Govandi. She and the guards were treated at Shatabdi Hospital. Ironically, this detail came to light when the Mumbai police took her to the same hospital following the June 9 incident and she was recognised by the hospital staff.

Guess that wasn’t enough of a wake up call for Ms Gadkar.

In her police statement, she says she had whiskey “for fun”.

“I had two pegs of Ballantine’s Whisky and had dinner after that. Our total bill was around Rs 2,000. I paid the bill. Around 10 pm, we left the hotel. Then, I was in my car, alone, at Marine Drive for two hours. At midnight, I left my friends and drove away in my car. I took a U-turn from Marine Drive towards Churchgate station and then went to P D’Mello Road to take the Eastern Freeway.”

The hotel bill indicates that Gadkar had 6 pegs of whisky. And there is enough indication that she didn’t stop there. Her own statement – “left my friends” – indicates that she wasn’t alone in her car between 10:00 pm and 12:30 pm, trying to “sober up,” as she claims.

The police now claims that Gadkar went to The Irish House Pub in the Fort area. We don’t know whether she drank more at the pub, but after two celebrations, she got behind the wheel of her car and decided to drive back more than 19 kms to Chembur. As for her friends who allowed her to drive in this inebriated condition, less said the better.

Drunk driving in India is perhaps the easiest way to get away with murder, or get off lightly for it. The maximum sentence is10 years. If you have the right amount of money and know the right people, you may not even go to jail. Or if you do, and behave yourself, you’ll be let off early. Small price to pay for killing someone because you couldn’t care less to call a cab or get your driver.

In 2010, 27-year-old Nooriya Yusuf Haweliwala a beautician who lived in Colaba rammed her car into a motorbike driver and a policeman at a checkpoint, killing both. She was driving under the influence. Booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and rash and negligent driving, she finally got a sentence of five years simple imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5 lakh in 2012. Of the five year jail term, she spent four months in jail after which she was released on bail. Kill two people, spend two years free, and then four months in jail and dish out a few lakhs. Is it really that bad?

This love for getting behind the wheel cuts across drunk drivers – from Sanjeev Nanda to Salman Khan to Alistair Perreira. None of them have emerged the worse for wear afterwards. Nanda can be seen on Page 3, Salman is making horrible films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan which are a travesty in themselves and Perreira got 3 years in jail for killing seven and injuring 8. He’ll be out this year, so yaay to that.

All this makes life for the rest of us way more deadly. After all, what is the point of me staying sober or hiring a cab or going home in a car driven by someone sober, if some irresponsible drunken rich lout may bang into my car with his or her super-fast fancy car and kill me or cripple me for life?

The only silver lining in this case is that Salman Khan may have finally found his perfect match. After all, Mumbai Mirror, not wanting to discriminate between celebs and non-celebs, has described what a “good and hard-working kid” Janhavi is. I’d suggest that the good and hard-working drunk and homicidal drivers find solace in each other’s arms and stay off the roads.

No, Vishakha Singh did not punish her Facebook abuser, and for good reason

One comment on actress Vishakha Singh’s official Facebook page reads, “Generally I don’t like any personality pages but I liked this one just because of your words.”

The reason for such glowing praise? Singh is in news for facing a kind of sexual harassment that almost all women with social media accounts encounter. However, unlike most of us, she decided to hit back at the abuser. How? By chastising him on Facebook.

On 6 June, Singh received a comment on a picture she uploaded on her Facebook page. One MD Mustakim Saifi wrote, “Nice looking & nice boobs’. Instead of immediately deleting the comment and blocking the offender on Facebook like some of us do, she wrote back. “Mr MD Mustakim Saifi, 1) remove that innocent child’s picture as your dp. 2) have the guts to put your own profile picture . And then comment.”

She continued, “I know i am a woman.. And for your general knowledge, Yes, All women have breasts. Your mother, sister, wife, grandmother, aunts, daughter, friends. All of them included. Do you walk up to them and say ‘nice b***s’? Feel sorry for you. Have the guts to say it on my face?? Else, get off my page.”

A number of commenters were more supportive. “He wasn’t entitled to get a response but the way you responded to that particular comment, I truly appreciate that. I wish majority of Indian females were like this,” applauded Ritesh Kathrecha.

Image courtesy: Facebook.Image courtesy: Facebook.

Vishakha Singh. Image courtesy: Facebook.

But let’s be clear: Her response aside, Singh did exactly what a majority of women in India do when faced with such a situation. She deleted the post  and took down the picture later, saying, “Deleted the post that went viral. Not afraid of anyone but simply tired of unwanted negativity. A big thanks to all those who supported.”

In any case, Singh’s “hitting back” was limited to a Facebook response. She didn’t go to the police, or try to bring her harasser to justice.

Could Singh, a budding actress in Bollywood, have lodged a formal complaint against the offender? Legally, yes.

But it would have been far from an easy ride to actually bring the offender to book. Sayantani Adhikary, a Kolkata-based PhD student, learnt this truth the hard way. Adhikary, who like us, is a part of several Facebook groups based on shared cultural and political interests, took on a person who was posting unflattering comments about the third sex. Infuriated, the man started sharing the link to Adhikary’s profile, claiming that she was harassing him as he had refused to have sex with her.

“He shared my profile link with the message that I have been insisting on a sex chat with him, and since he refused, I am blackmailing him. Two or three other men, who had problems with my political beliefs took up the issue and started maligning me in a different forum. So I decided to complaint against all of them,” Adhikary told Firstpost from Kolkata.

She lodged this complaint at her local police station in Kolkata.  The local police, evidently confused, suggested such complaints should be filed with the cyber crime cell.

Later, a man called Sanjay Shende, who Adhikary didn’t know and had not interacted with a lot, started sending lewd messages to her on an online forum called Calcomm. Yet again, Adhikary decided to file an official complaint, this time at the cyber crime cell at the Kolkata Police’s Lalbazar headquarters. However, nothing has come out of  either complaint yet.

This confusion over where to file a complaint against sexual harassment is one of the greatest hindrances in taking legal action against online harassers. Having adequate resolve to slap down a harasser is rarely enough.

Last year, when a man threatened to rape columnist and life coach Aparna Jain on Twitter, she reported the user and blocked the account. However, the person returned with another handle and mocked Jain’s efforts to shut him down. He didn’t stop at that, and even graphically described the way he intends to sexually violate her. (Here’s a link to Jain’s Scribd account of what transpired. )

So, armed with a print-out of all the tweets, Jain went to lodge a complaint at the local police station in Delhi. The officers in the police station didn’t even know what Twitter was, leave alone understanding the concept of online sexual harassment. “They kept asking me, how I know the man. When I said I don’t know him, they asked me how then, did he get my Twitter profile. It was obvious that he had no clue what he was dealing with,” she told Firstpost.

She then went to lodge a complaint at the cyber crime department at Mandir Marg. An impatient junior police officer at the Mandir Marg cyber crime department in Delhi became irate when he discovered that Jain had already lodged a complaint in the local police station. Jain, however, stood her ground and asked for a senior officer, who she says, “was politely unhelpful’. After a lot of mind-numbing questions and information about the legalities involved, nothing came out of it as Twitter had by then taken down the first few accounts the man had been abusing her from.

Debarati Halder, a Tamil Nadu-based counseller for cyber abuse victims say that not only are police across the country ignorant about the laws under which online sexual harassers can be booked, it is difficult to convince them that the issue is serious and requires action.

“You are most likely to be mocked at and dismissed at police stations if you go to them with a case of online sexual harassment. From what my clients have said, most of them are first chided for being on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Then they are asked several questions where the needle of suspicion is always directed at the victim, even if you have comprehensive proof against the abuser,” says Halder.

She narrated the case of a client whose picture was taken from her Facebook profile, morphed onto a stock picture of a nude torso and then turned into a separate profile soliciting sex. “At first, she was deeply embarrassed to even approach the police. However, horrified at what was happening, she decided to complain to the police. However, it was impossible to convince the police that the fake profile was not hers and she was consequently shooed away,” says Halder.

Facebook is a breeding ground for sexual harassers. AFPFacebook is a breeding ground for sexual harassers. AFP

Facebook is a breeding ground for sexual harassers. AFP

The victim later got in touch with Halder, who wrote to Facebook on her behalf, upon which the profile was taken down. Armed with Facebook’s response, the victim went back to the police. The police grudgingly accepted that maybe it was a faked profile but said that they couldn’t do anything about it anymore as it was already blocked. The offender, therefore, was never brought to the book.

Jain and Adhikary shuttled between the local police and the cyber crime cells of their respective cities, with no outcome in their favour. Like Adhikary, Jain too wasn’t told under what sections of the IPC she could lodge a complaint.

“I lodged the last complaint in the last week of May, after the Sec 66A of the IT Act had been scrapped. So the cyber cell police officer told me that maybe this case falls under the IPC (Indian Penal Code),” says Adhikary.

“None of the policemen and policewomen are sure what law to invoke when it comes to these cases. If they are at all convinced that a offence has been committed, they are torn between Sec 67 of the IT Act, which calls for ‘punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form’,” says Halder.

However, if you study the definition of sexual harassment under the Indian Penal Code, you’d think it wouldn’t be quite as confusing. Section 509 of the IPC lists the following as offences:

“1. Accused uttered any word, made any sound or made a gesture or exhibits any object or intrude the privacy.
2. Accused intended that words uttered, sound made or gesture shown or object exhibited seen or heard by the woman.
3. It has to be directed towards a woman or group of women.”

Most cases of online sexual harassment involves uttering lewd comments and are directed at women.

Bangalore based Gopika Bashi, a researcher and campaigner for Amnesty International India, writing about the tedious process of lodging an online sexual harassment complaint for Scroll, recounts that the constable who first talked to her seemed slightly confused too . “The constable seems confused and a little annoyed. He consults a few others, and they narrow down to two sections,” she writes. In her case, however, the abuser was eventually traced and hauled up by the police.

Interestingly, Bashi mentions in her account that some of the police officers were slightly familiar with her due to a women’s safety campaign she was doing for Amnesty. It’s difficult to tell if the police officers would have acted with that much enthusiasm for any other woman, but as Bashi’s case shows that a little sensitivity and interest goes a long way in booking such offenders.

The police, like I have noted in a previous article, mirror our society’s patriarchal bias. This is true whether the harassment occurs online or off. But their ignorance in the case of cyber-harassment makes the usual hurdles that prevent reporting all the more daunting. Surely, the very definition of a law enforcement authority ought to require knowledge of the law. So who can blame Vishakha Singh for buckling down like the rest of us? The knowledge of what awaits us at the thana makes it all the easier to just hit ‘delete’.

Nope, Vishakha Singh didn’t punish her Facebook abuser, and for good reason

One comment on actress Vishakha Singh’s official Facebook page reads, “Generally I don’t like any personality pages but I liked this one just because of your words.”

The reason for such glowing praise? Singh is in news for facing a kind of sexual harassment that almost all women with social media accounts encounter. However, unlike most of us, she decided to hit back at the abuser. How? By chastising him on Facebook.

On 6 June, Singh received a comment on a picture she uploaded on her Facebook page. One MD Mustakim Saifi wrote, “Nice looking & nice boobs’. Instead of immediately deleting the comment and blocking the offender on Facebook like some of us do, she wrote back. “Mr MD Mustakim Saifi, 1) remove that innocent child’s picture as your dp. 2) have the guts to put your own profile picture . And then comment.”

She continued, “I know i am a woman.. And for your general knowledge, Yes, All women have breasts. Your mother, sister, wife, grandmother, aunts, daughter, friends. All of them included. Do you walk up to them and say ‘nice b***s’? Feel sorry for you. Have the guts to say it on my face?? Else, get off my page.”

A number of commenters were more supportive. “He wasn’t entitled to get a response but the way you responded to that particular comment, I truly appreciate that. I wish majority of Indian females were like this,” applauded Ritesh Kathrecha.

Image courtesy: Facebook.Image courtesy: Facebook.

Vishakha Singh. Image courtesy: Facebook.

But let’s be clear: Her response aside, Singh did exactly what a majority of women in India do when faced with such a situation. She deleted the post  and took down the picture later, saying, “Deleted the post that went viral. Not afraid of anyone but simply tired of unwanted negativity. A big thanks to all those who supported.”

In any case, Singh’s “hitting back” was limited to a Facebook response. She didn’t go to the police, or try to bring her harasser to justice.

Could Singh, a budding actress in Bollywood, have lodged a formal complaint against the offender? Legally, yes.

But it would have been far from an easy ride to actually bring the offender to book. Sayantani Adhikary, a Kolkata-based PhD student, learnt this truth the hard way. Adhikary, who like us, is a part of several Facebook groups based on shared cultural and political interests, took on a person who was posting unflattering comments about the third sex. Infuriated, the man started sharing the link to Adhikary’s profile, claiming that she was harassing him as he had refused to have sex with her.

“He shared my profile link with the message that I have been insisting on a sex chat with him, and since he refused, I am blackmailing him. Two or three other men, who had problems with my political beliefs took up the issue and started maligning me in a different forum. So I decided to complaint against all of them,” Adhikary told Firstpost from Kolkata.

She lodged this complaint at her local police station in Kolkata.  The local police, evidently confused, suggested such complaints should be filed with the cyber crime cell.

Later, a man called Sanjay Shende, who Adhikary didn’t know and had not interacted with a lot, started sending lewd messages to her on an online forum called Calcomm. Yet again, Adhikary decided to file an official complaint, this time at the cyber crime cell at the Kolkata Police’s Lalbazar headquarters. However, nothing has come out of  either complaint yet.

This confusion over where to file a complaint against sexual harassment is one of the greatest hindrances in taking legal action against online harassers. Having adequate resolve to slap down a harasser is rarely enough.

Last year, when a man threatened to rape columnist and life coach Aparna Jain on Twitter, she reported the user and blocked the account. However, the person returned with another handle and mocked Jain’s efforts to shut him down. He didn’t stop at that, and even graphically described the way he intends to sexually violate her. (Here’s a link to Jain’s Scribd account of what transpired. )

So, armed with a print-out of all the tweets, Jain went to lodge a complaint at the local police station in Delhi. The officers in the police station didn’t even know what Twitter was, leave alone understanding the concept of online sexual harassment. “They kept asking me, how I know the man. When I said I don’t know him, they asked me how then, did he get my Twitter profile. It was obvious that he had no clue what he was dealing with,” she told Firstpost.

She then went to lodge a complaint at the cyber crime department at Mandir Marg. An impatient junior police officer at the Mandir Marg cyber crime department in Delhi became irate when he discovered that Jain had already lodged a complaint in the local police station. Jain, however, stood her ground and asked for a senior officer, who she says, “was politely unhelpful’. After a lot of mind-numbing questions and information about the legalities involved, nothing came out of it as Twitter had by then taken down the first few accounts the man had been abusing her from.

Debarati Halder, a Tamil Nadu-based counseller for cyber abuse victims say that not only are police across the country ignorant about the laws under which online sexual harassers can be booked, it is difficult to convince them that the issue is serious and requires action.

“You are most likely to be mocked at and dismissed at police stations if you go to them with a case of online sexual harassment. From what my clients have said, most of them are first chided for being on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Then they are asked several questions where the needle of suspicion is always directed at the victim, even if you have comprehensive proof against the abuser,” says Halder.

She narrated the case of a client whose picture was taken from her Facebook profile, morphed onto a stock picture of a nude torso and then turned into a separate profile soliciting sex. “At first, she was deeply embarrassed to even approach the police. However, horrified at what was happening, she decided to complain to the police. However, it was impossible to convince the police that the fake profile was not hers and she was consequently shooed away,” says Halder.

Facebook is a breeding ground for sexual harassers. AFPFacebook is a breeding ground for sexual harassers. AFP

Facebook is a breeding ground for sexual harassers. AFP

The victim later got in touch with Halder, who wrote to Facebook on her behalf, upon which the profile was taken down. Armed with Facebook’s response, the victim went back to the police. The police grudgingly accepted that maybe it was a faked profile but said that they couldn’t do anything about it anymore as it was already blocked. The offender, therefore, was never brought to the book.

Jain and Adhikary shuttled between the local police and the cyber crime cells of their respective cities, with no outcome in their favour. Like Adhikary, Jain too wasn’t told under what sections of the IPC she could lodge a complaint.

“I lodged the last complaint in the last week of May, after the Sec 66A of the IT Act had been scrapped. So the cyber cell police officer told me that maybe this case falls under the IPC (Indian Penal Code),” says Adhikary.

“None of the policemen and policewomen are sure what law to invoke when it comes to these cases. If they are at all convinced that a offence has been committed, they are torn between Sec 67 of the IT Act, which calls for ‘punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form’,” says Halder.

However, if you study the definition of sexual harassment under the Indian Penal Code, you’d think it wouldn’t be quite as confusing. Section 509 of the IPC lists the following as offences:

“1. Accused uttered any word, made any sound or made a gesture or exhibits any object or intrude the privacy.
2. Accused intended that words uttered, sound made or gesture shown or object exhibited seen or heard by the woman.
3. It has to be directed towards a woman or group of women.”

Most cases of online sexual harassment involves uttering lewd comments and are directed at women.

Bangalore based Gopika Bashi, a researcher and campaigner for Amnesty International India, writing about the tedious process of lodging an online sexual harassment complaint for Scroll, recounts that the constable who first talked to her seemed slightly confused too . “The constable seems confused and a little annoyed. He consults a few others, and they narrow down to two sections,” she writes. In her case, however, the abuser was eventually traced and hauled up by the police.

Interestingly, Bashi mentions in her account that some of the police officers were slightly familiar with her due to a women’s safety campaign she was doing for Amnesty. It’s difficult to tell if the police officers would have acted with that much enthusiasm for any other woman, but as Bashi’s case shows that a little sensitivity and interest goes a long way in booking such offenders.

The police, like I have noted in a previous article, mirror our society’s patriarchal bias. This is true whether the harassment occurs online or off. But their ignorance in the case of cyber-harassment makes the usual hurdles that prevent reporting all the more daunting. Surely, the very definition of a law enforcement authority ought to require knowledge of the law. So who can blame Vishakha Singh for buckling down like the rest of us? The knowledge of what awaits us at the thana makes it all the easier to just hit ‘delete’.

It’s Hindu, but not exactly: Modi govt assumes a Catch-22 asana on Yoga Day

The government has gotten itself into a curious yoga posture. It’s an asana known as the Catch-22 asana where they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Making sure the world understands that Yoga is #MadeInIndia has been unquestionably one of Narendra Modi’s soft power PR success stories. It’s just been a little too successful and now yoga is paying the price.

Basically right-wingers on the saffron end have wanted it both ways. They have feared that yoga’s Hindu roots have been excised, erased and elided even as yoga has become phenomenally successful in the West. It’s not an unjustified fear. In fact the more successful it has become, the more many of yoga’s western gurus shy away from its roots. Somewhat like Bobby Jindal.

On the other hand now that Narendra Modi has tried to successfully “reclaim” yoga, and its Hindu roots are showing, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has found a golden opportunity to have its moment in the sun and claim that the government is trying to foist Hinduism on everyone. The padmasana is being equated to the BJP lotus.

Reuters image.Reuters image.

Reuters image.

That has led the government to twist itself into knots to appease all sides. The PM, it’s now been announced will not personally do yoga. There will be no surya namaskar though that’s being couched as accommodating people with “backaches and spondylitis”. Sushma Swaraj has been reassuring everyone that no one will be forced to do yoga. And by the way, 47-member states of the Organization of Islamic Countries supported the International Yoga Day resolution, so there! Yoga, she insists, is not linked with any particular religion. Wonder what her colleague Yogi Adityanath thinks about that backflip.

Honestly, while some might wonder whether a Guinness Book world record should even be the aim of yoga, no Indian really has problems with yoga getting its own moment in the sun. The AIMPLB is hardly the voice of Indians Muslims either. The fact is as Hasan Suroor writes on Firstpost the, “grandees (of AIMPLB) who took the decision represent nobody but themselves.” And only the usual suspects like All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s Asaduddin Owaisi have come out in vociferous protest. Many Muslims in India have happily been doing yoga for their health, suryanamashkar included. My Jesuit missionary school included yoga on the curriculum without any problem. And it was not optional either.

Shahani Fatima writes for Newslaundry and says that she finds many similarities between yoga and the basic Muslim prayer of salah which also activates the chakras. And she reasons just as blindly following the postures do not constitute salah, doing yoga asanas for better health do not make it an underground passage to Hinduism. In fact, she quips, “In the case of yoga, it is better to do some asanas and sweat it out rather than starting the day with Nihari and ending it with Paya.”

Yoga in India had always felt unquestionably Indian. It never had the identity crisis it had in the West where some Western practitioners had just made it their own the same way the British made the Kohinoor their own property. That was the genesis of the Take Back Yoga campaign spearheaded by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). They were justifiably upset that even the Yoga Journal refused to led a mention of Hinduism cloud the eternal sunshine of their yoga mind. A Take Back Yoga campaign in India however would inevitably become a sort of gharwapasi. And the current hullabaloo has inadvertently made something that was generally accepted as Indian into something that now has to defend itself against being overtly Hindu.

All of that puts the government in this tricky position where they first seized on yoga as a prime example of the soft power of the golden days of a Hindu civilization but now have to downplay the Hindu roots in order to make it a state-approved mega spectacle on Rajpath on June 21st.

Suddenly they realize that they have to choose a side – is yoga part of Hinduism or can yoga be secular? The government would like to have it both ways but is increasingly finding it harder to do so. Not just because of the Owaisis of the world but also because of the Yogi Adityanaths.

HAF has had to think long and hard about this. They understand that if they just Hindu-stamp yoga, it will lead to lawsuits like the one in Encinitas, California where some parents objected to yoga being taught in schools on the grounds that it was religious. HAF issued very nuanced guidelines about how to not let yoga’s roots get in the way of yoga’s growth.

“Under the First Amendment, public schools may offer yoga-based programs, such as asana-only programs, as part of their curriculum because asana alone is not yoga. Public schools should not offer programs that go beyond the instruction of asana and other physical components of yoga. As such, community groups are free to offer more comprehensive yoga programs during non-school hours using school facilities on the same basis as other community groups sponsoring religious and secular programs for youth.”

As a result the lotus position can become the more American-sounding criss-cross apple sauce but yoga stays in schools.

In a way, the Modi government by eliminating the surya namaskar is going down that same road. But it could actually be more explicit about spelling out the difference between the asana and more holistic idea of yoga. The way out of this quandary could lie in the Upanishad. As HAF states, according to the Dhyanbindu Upanishad, yoga has six limbs of which only one is the asana. Instead Swaraj is putting out rather disingenuous face-saving excuses about backaches and spondylitis. The government, especially its Hindutva proponents, should understand that sometimes it can get tricky when you want to have your yoga and propagate it too. Then you end up being hoisted on your own leotard.

It’s Hindu, but not exactly: Modi sarkar assumes Catch-22 asana on International Yoga Day

The government has gotten itself into a curious yoga posture. It’s an asana known as the Catch-22 asana where they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Making sure the world understands that Yoga is #MadeInIndia has been unquestionably one of Narendra Modi’s soft power PR success stories. It’s just been a little too successful and now yoga is paying the price.

Basically right-wingers on the saffron end have wanted it both ways. They have feared that yoga’s Hindu roots have been excised, erased and elided even as yoga has become phenomenally successful in the West. It’s not an unjustified fear. In fact the more successful it has become, the more many of yoga’s western gurus shy away from its roots. Somewhat like Bobby Jindal.

On the other hand now that Narendra Modi has tried to successfully “reclaim” yoga, and its Hindu roots are showing, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has found a golden opportunity to have its moment in the sun and claim that the government is trying to foist Hinduism on everyone. The padmasana is being equated to the BJP lotus.

Reuters image.Reuters image.

Reuters image.

That has led the government to twist itself into knots to appease all sides. The PM, it’s now been announced will not personally do yoga. There will be no surya namaskar though that’s being couched as accommodating people with “backaches and spondylitis”. Sushma Swaraj has been reassuring everyone that no one will be forced to do yoga. And by the way, 47-member states of the Organization of Islamic Countries supported the International Yoga Day resolution, so there! Yoga, she insists, is not linked with any particular religion. Wonder what her colleague Yogi Adityanath thinks about that backflip.

Honestly, while some might wonder whether a Guinness Book world record should even be the aim of yoga, no Indian really has problems with yoga getting its own moment in the sun. The AIMPLB is hardly the voice of Indians Muslims either. The fact is as Hasan Suroor writes on Firstpost the, “grandees (of AIMPLB) who took the decision represent nobody but themselves.” And only the usual suspects like All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s Asaduddin Owaisi have come out in vociferous protest. Many Muslims in India have happily been doing yoga for their health, suryanamashkar included. My Jesuit missionary school included yoga on the curriculum without any problem. And it was not optional either.

Shahani Fatima writes for Newslaundry and says that she finds many similarities between yoga and the basic Muslim prayer of salah which also activates the chakras. And she reasons just as blindly following the postures do not constitute salah, doing yoga asanas for better health do not make it an underground passage to Hinduism. In fact, she quips, “In the case of yoga, it is better to do some asanas and sweat it out rather than starting the day with Nihari and ending it with Paya.”

Yoga in India had always felt unquestionably Indian. It never had the identity crisis it had in the West where some Western practitioners had just made it their own the same way the British made the Kohinoor their own property. That was the genesis of the Take Back Yoga campaign spearheaded by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). They were justifiably upset that even the Yoga Journal refused to led a mention of Hinduism cloud the eternal sunshine of their yoga mind. A Take Back Yoga campaign in India however would inevitably become a sort of gharwapasi. And the current hullabaloo has inadvertently made something that was generally accepted as Indian into something that now has to defend itself against being overtly Hindu.

All of that puts the government in this tricky position where they first seized on yoga as a prime example of the soft power of the golden days of a Hindu civilization but now have to downplay the Hindu roots in order to make it a state-approved mega spectacle on Rajpath on June 21st.

Suddenly they realize that they have to choose a side – is yoga part of Hinduism or can yoga be secular? The government would like to have it both ways but is increasingly finding it harder to do so. Not just because of the Owaisis of the world but also because of the Yogi Adityanaths.

HAF has had to think long and hard about this. They understand that if they just Hindu-stamp yoga, it will lead to lawsuits like the one in Encinitas, California where some parents objected to yoga being taught in schools on the grounds that it was religious. HAF issued very nuanced guidelines about how to not let yoga’s roots get in the way of yoga’s growth.

“Under the First Amendment, public schools may offer yoga-based programs, such as asana-only programs, as part of their curriculum because asana alone is not yoga. Public schools should not offer programs that go beyond the instruction of asana and other physical components of yoga. As such, community groups are free to offer more comprehensive yoga programs during non-school hours using school facilities on the same basis as other community groups sponsoring religious and secular programs for youth.”

As a result the lotus position can become the more American-sounding criss-cross apple sauce but yoga stays in schools.

In a way, the Modi government by eliminating the surya namaskar is going down that same road. But it could actually be more explicit about spelling out the difference between the asana and more holistic idea of yoga. The way out of this quandary could lie in the Upanishad. As HAF states, according to the Dhyanbindu Upanishad, yoga has six limbs of which only one is the asana. Instead Swaraj is putting out rather disingenuous face-saving excuses about backaches and spondylitis. The government, especially its Hindutva proponents, should understand that sometimes it can get tricky when you want to have your yoga and propagate it too. Then you end up being hoisted on your own leotard.

#DespiteBeingAWoman: Why invoke Indira Gandhi to counter PM Modi’s ‘praise’ for PM Hasina?

The truth is, far away from the comfortable fighting pit of Twitter, women are systematically made to suffer the consequences of being born with a uterus. And mostly we don’t fret over it. In fact, many of us go and dutifully ‘like’ pictures taken by friends on vacations – of Rajasthani women balancing multiple matkas on their heads as they trundle across the desert, or of women blowing into a chulha to stoke the fire or tea garden workers carrying babies in sacks tied to their backs as they pluck tea leaves. Before we quickly type in our ‘wows’ in the comments section, we mostly don’t think about what the picture really implies behind its National Geographic aesthetic. Women who have to travel miles to get drinking water, women who have to jeopardize their lungs to put a basic meal together, women who have no maternity leave or childcare in their lives. The world in which these women live, and everything they do, is indeed achieved ‘despite being a woman’. No hashtags are necessary.

When Narendra Modi, with his usual theatrical flourish, announced how amazing it was that Sheikh Hasina, ‘despite being a woman’ was resolved about fighting terrorism, he epitomized why being a woman continues to be such a challenge. It is because neither education, nor success, nor exposure to modern professional spaces can bust the many stereotypes that we nurse about women. And the lower we go down on the economy ladder, the gender roles become more defined and more unquestioned.

Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina. AFP.Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina. AFP.

Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina. AFP.

Modi was not being deliberately sexist. He was actually manifesting a more dangerous form of it – the kind when you think you’re actually praising a woman by saying, ‘OMG, a woman did this?’ Here the awe actually stems from the belief that women can’t do several things associated with men.

It is the same kind of subconscious sexism that spurred the editor of Aaj Tak to question how Smriti Irani could have been made the HRD minister. Curiously enough, on stage, the man was accompanied by a woman anchor who was asking as many questions as Ashok Singhal himself. For someone who presumably is used to seeing women working in similar professional spaces as men, Singhal showed that the country still nurses rampant stereotypes about gender.

A case in point is the hashtag that was started to chide Modi for the comment. Called #DespiteBeingAWoman, it was perhaps started to underline the misogyny underlining Modi’s comments. While some tweeters were able to see the irony of Modi’s comment about a woman who like him runs a country and has done so for longer and put out sarcastic tweets about daily chores with the hashtag, others took to expounding about many ‘successful’ women to make their point.

So there were tweets about Marie Curie, Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Smriti Irani, pictures of women holding guns, quotes of African-American civil rights activist Rosa Parks, references to mathematician Shakuntala Devi.The underlying message seemed to be, look, a woman can be as good as a man. Ironically, at least in the clique of people who use Twitter, that should be a fact, not an argument. Saying, “Look, so and so won a Nobel Prize for Physics. And she is a woman.” is only a mild variation of, “OMG, she won a Nobel Prize for Physics? A woman?”

As we point at exceptionally successful women almost in defence of our worth, we actually suggest that being an ordinary Indian woman is of no consequence at all. It’s equivalent to saying that you have to be exceptionally good to match a man.

The question is, in this day and age, should we even point at exceptionally successful women to bolster the argument that men and women, most rationally, are intellectual equals? In fact, should we even grace ‘despite being a woman’ with a argument? Denounce it, yes. But explaining why, trying to arise to the defence of women by tabulating lists of women achievers credits those arguments and stereotypes with more intelligence than they deserve.

The fact that sexism thrives among the most educated and the so-called ‘elite’ too isn’t quite a secret. If you are a woman and a sports geek, you’re sure to have run into men, and women, who stare at you with wide admiration if you have an opinion on a football match. If you’re out smoking on the street, you have caught the disapproving uncle and the scandalised aunty staring at you for doing what men do. That uncle might be scandalised that a woman smokes on the street and Narendra Modi might be impressed that a woman fights terrorism but they both stem from the same stereotypes about what women can do in a men’s world. These reactions are not driven by logic, they come from the lack of it. Women do all kinds of things that men think is their province and some men need to just get used to it #DespiteBeingAMan.

A growing epidemic of male boobs in India: Is Bollywood to blame or diet?

In disturbing news that sends warning signals about the lifestyle of people in India, cosmetic surgeons in Delhi have said that there has been a sudden rise in the demand for breast reduction by men.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

In fact, doctors said that every month, eight to ten men sought breast reduction while the number of women seeking the same thing was not more than three, according to The Times of India.

The problem of breast enlargement in men is called gynaecomastia. Gynaecomastia is a medical term which is derived from the Greek work for ‘lady-like breasts’ and is an endocrine disorder which leads to enhancement of the breast tissue in males.

India is not the only nation with the growing problem of gynaecomastia and the demand for male breast reduction. The number of male teenagers in the US who sought breast reduction in 2014 rose to 6,694, which was 14 percent higher than the number in 2013, according to Euronews.

This sudden rise in the male breast reduction surgeries in India and the world can be attributed to the growing obsession about the ‘ideal’ body which one should have.

Surgeons have said that the demand for the surgery was perhaps a result of more men becoming conscious about how they look.

“I think it is also part of the gym culture we have now. If they feel their chest is too big and feminine, then they don’t like taking their top off at the gym or on the beach… “Breast growth can mean they are being teased by their friends or they don’t feel comfortable undertaking exercise. The most common reason is they say they can’t take their children swimming or they can’t go to the beach with their family,” plastic surgeon Dr Rizwan Alvi was quoted as saying in this report.

So what causes gynaecomastia?

An obsession to look fit ironically enough is also one of the cause of this condition. The consumption of steroids during fitness programmes is one of the reasons for gynaecomastia.

“Those aspiring to be super-fit or trying to ape superstar six packs take the short cut by using nutritional supplements laced with steroids. These inhibit production of androgens. Under influence of increased relative activity of oestrogens, male breast enlargement occurs,” the TOI quoted Dr Sunil Choudhary, director of aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery at Max Healthcare, as saying.

The use of steroids, however, is not the only cause for male breasts. Obesity or the kind of diet and lifestyle adopted by a person can also lead to male breasts.

A recent study mapping global malnutrition trends had revealed that India has the third-highest number of obese and overweight people (11 percent of adolescents, and 20 percent of all adults) after US and China. Another study has said that obesity can also significantly increase the risk for breast cancer in men, according to Breakthrough, a breast cancer research charity in the UK.

(With inputs from agencies)

Emotional atyachar of private schools: Bala Vidya Mandir is just playing on parents’ insecurities

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Emotional atyachar of private schools: Chennai’s Bala Vidya Mandir is just playing on parents’ insecurities

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Enough of Uber bashing: The company tried to get it right in the Gurgaon incident

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Leave the kids alone! Maha govt’s compulsory Yoga Day diktat is short-sighted

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