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Gandhiji Kin and Former NASA Scientist Kanu Ramdas Gandhi Battles Death in extreme Poverty in Surat

On October 22, Kanu Gandhi suffered a cardiac arrest and a severe stroke which has left half his body paralysed

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Dandi March. Flickr

Surat, November 4, 2016: Remember that energetic little boy who led his grandfather, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi — revered as Mahatma Gandhi worldwide — holding his stick on the beaches of Gujarat’s Dandi village during the historic Salt Satyagraha of March-April 1930?

That picture has been etched in public memory for over eight decades and even immortalised in memorials on the Salt Satyagraha at Mumbai’s Juhu Beach and several other parts of the country.

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Today, that small boy — Kanu Ramdas Gandhi — is a ripe old 87, an ex-NASA scientist, and lies critical in a charitable hospital here, with little monetary resources and virtually nobody to care for him.

Ahmedabad-based Dhimant Badhia, an old friend and grandson of a close associate of Gandhi, is arranging for small monetary help for the ailing Kanu, and recently donated Rs 21,000 ($315) from his personal resources.

Kanu Ramdas Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. YouTube
Kanu Ramdas Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. YouTube

“The Radhakrishna Temple is rendering great service. They got him admitted to the Shiv Jyoti Hospital nearby and are taking care of his 90-year old wife, Shivalaxmi Kanu Gandhi, who is practically deaf and suffers from other old age-related problems,” Badhia told IANS.

The going has not been good for the elderly childless Gandhi couple since their return after a four-decade-long stay in the US in 2014, including Kanu’s career of over 25 years with NASA.

Handpicked by the then US Ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith, for studies at the Massachusets Institute of Technology (in MIT), Kanu later worked with NASA and the US Defence Department on wing structures fighter aircraft, while Shivalaxmi was a professor and researcher at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute.

“After returning to India, they kept moving from one place to another as they have no place of their own here. They lived for short spells in ashrams or inns, and at one point they were compelled to spend six months in New Delhi’s Guru Vishram Vruddha Ashram,” Badhia said.

That experience was harrowing as the ashram, meant for mentally ill senior citizens, was located in an unsafe locality, and the Gandhis had to hire private armed security guards against internal and external threats.

At that time, a Union minister got in touch with Kanu and made him speak with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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“The PM was most sympathetic and even assured help. But till date, we have not heard from either his office or the Gujarat government,” rued Badhia, adding that no Gujarat leader or ministers have visited or enquired about Kanu.

The turning point came on his arrival at this famed diamond city of Surat in south Gujarat on October 22 when he suffered a cardiac arrest and a severe stroke which has left half his body paralysed.

Since that attack, he remains in coma and on life-support systems, with Shivalaxmi and an aide Rakesh, deployed by the temple authorities, beside him.

“I cannot frequently travel from Ahmedabad to Surat due to old age. An ashram sevak, Rakesh, is deployed for round-the-clock services to look after Kanu, while the temple authorities care for Shivalaxmi,” Badhia said.

Fortunately, Kanu’s very aged sister — Usha Gokani from Mumbai — regularly enquires after his health and another Bangalore-based sister, Sumitra Kulkarni, a former Rajya Sabha member, visited him recently.

“They even offered to bear Kanu’s medical expenses but the temple authorities politely declined, saying they were repaying the debts of Mahatma Gandhi’s services to the nation,” Badhia said.

Momentarily, he feels irked that the world-famous Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, “which is splurging crores of rupees to prepare for its upcoming centenary next year; or scores of institutions set up by Mahatma Gandhi or named after him with huge funding from the government — simply don’t care for Gandhiji’s ideals or his descendents”.

Badhia pointed out how the relief funds of the Prime Minister or Chief Minister are available for various purposes, but not for taking care of the descendents of the Father of Nation, especially those who are not affluent.

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Incidentally, Badhia recalled how Kanu and Shivalaxmi always proudly referred to their marriage many decades ago which was arranged and solemnised in the US in the presence of the late Morarji Desai, later the Prime Minister of India.

On the immediate needs of the senior couple, Badhia said at this advanced age they need nothing but love, medical help and round-the-clock caring without having to bother about arranging finances.

“Kanubhai is among the last few surviving links with Gandhiji’s famous stick and the epoch-making Salt Satyagraha. This is the least the nation and its leaders can do for him” Badhia sighed. (IANS)

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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Number of Women in Workforce Falls Significantly in India! Why is it so?

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Swati Sharma quit her job soon after her older daughter was born six years ago because of long working hours and lack of suitable childcare facilities. Women in workforce in India are facing challenges. VOA
  • India needs to reverse the declining rates of women in the labor market to push growth
  • An estimated 20 million Indian women have dropped out of the workforce over the last decade
  • Three of every five prime working age Indian women (26-45 years old) are not economically active

New Delhi, June 06, 2017: Using a work-from-home facility, Swati Sharma worked for a few months after her baby was born six years ago but quit when her company withdrew the option.

“They wanted people to come to work every day, it became very difficult,” she said, pointing out that child care facilities near her home in New Delhi did not have high standards.

Stories of women leaving jobs are common: An estimated 20 million Indian women have dropped out of the workforce over the last decade, both in sprawling cities and the vast countryside where fewer women now work on farms.

It’s a staggering number that researchers are trying to decode.

Indian economy is robust

Despite India’s buoyant economy, female employment has fallen dramatically over the last decade. Only 27 percent of women are in the workforce compared to about 40 percent in the mid-1990s. That is less than many lower-income countries like neighboring Bangladesh or other emerging economies like Brazil.

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A World Bank study released recently says India needs to reverse the declining rates of women in the labor market to push growth.

The study said three of every five prime working age Indian women (26-45 years old) are not economically active.

Higher incomes play role

But not all the reasons are negative. An era of high growth has increased household incomes and propelled millions of families into the middle and upper-middle class. The relative household affluence has given many women the option to drop out of the workforce.

In the lower-income strata, better incomes for farm and construction labor also resulted in many poor families in rural areas educating girls. As a result, the number of those between 15 and 25 years in school and college has doubled to 30 percent.

“Many of these young women who were working before perhaps out of necessity are now in school and building up their human capital,” said Frederico Gil Sander, senior economist at the World Bank in New Delhi.

More jobs needed for the well-educated

However not all women stay at home because there is a dearth of suitable opportunities.

“If you survey women, many of the women they want to work, but the fact is that not enough jobs are being created that women can take up,” Sander said.

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Garima Verma, who relocated from New Delhi to Jaipur, says there are fewer job opportunities for women in smaller towns compared with the large cities. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

In an urbanizing country, while large cities offer regular jobs in services and manufacturing, similar avenues are not available in smaller towns.

Garima Verma, 32, for example, quit her job a year ago because she wanted a break. But some months later she moved from New Delhi to Jaipur and says finding a suitable job in a smaller city has not been easy.

“Lesser (opportunities) I would say as compared to metros definitely,” she said.

Indian workplaces can be unfriendly to women

But even in booming urban centers, women often find it hard to stay the course, partly because most Indian companies have rigid work structures and reliable child care facilities are few and far between.

Sairee Chahal, founder of SHEROES, a portal for women job seekers, said in an era of global competition, extended work hours have become the norm at most workplaces. And patriarchal attitudes in a conservative society do not help.

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“Firms are very unwelcoming around the need for flexibility, maternity is still considered a challenge. And while women have made it to the workplace, men have not picked up stuff at home and that continues to burden women at home,” Chahal said.

A need for more high tech jobs

The low participation of women in the workforce is especially surprising in a country where a large number of college graduates are women – women like Garima Verma and Swati Sharma, who both have college degrees.

“Even highly educated women are not working and this is in a way a form of a brain drain,” Sander said. “Only 34 percent of women with either a diploma or college degree are working.”

Pointing out that this includes a large number of women graduates in science and technology, the World Bank said India needs to create opportunities to tap this human capital.

Swati Sharma, for example, would like to return to work once her 6-month-old baby is a little older, but with working conditions in companies too challenging, she is taking a course so that she can teach “the only option left for me,” she said.

The World Bank said the key to closing the gender gap is to create more jobs, especially regular salaried jobs that are flexible and can be safely accessed by women.

But that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, warns human resources professional Chahal, and reversing the declining trend poses many challenges.

“We do have women who are educated – basically all set and nowhere to go, all set and no doors opening for you,” she said. (Benar News)

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.