Wednesday December 13, 2017
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Swachh Bharat: With a month to go, nation awaits feedback on August 15

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N R S Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata Photo Courtesy: Madanmohan Samanta

By Neeraj Bajpai (IANS)

Barely 30 days ahead of his second address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort, from where he had implored people for ‘Swachh Bharat’ with clean toilets in every school in a year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said toilets in all schools would be provided in a few months. PM Modi, in a recent interview to United News of India (UNI) , said the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission has been started to see that health and hygiene issues of the poor do not affect their working capacity and output. “We took up the task of providing toilets in all schools. It is going to be completed in next few months.Don’t children of the poor study in these public schools?,” averred Modi.  He was replying to a specific question that his detractors allege that the Modi is pro-corporate, anti-farmer and anti-poor government.

Besides ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission, he enlisted many other programmes launched for the common man.
The Prime Minister retorted, “these are just a few examples. What prevented these things from being done effectively during the last 60 years?” In every household, kids are taking lead reminding their elders that cleanliness should begin from the home, ”Your question also points at the same thing , I do strongly believe that if every citizen decides to to be partner of the Swachh Bharat mission that  leanliness would automatically be there in the entire society. He said that if every citizen be concerned of it, then cleanliness would prevail everywhere.”

The ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign ever since it was launched by the Prime Minister on Rajpath on October 2,2014 has engineered public response and even at places ,where social groups who had nothing to do with city’s hygiene got involved and many groups are now frequently seen in public parks clearing the debris. The Mission was launched with the objective of ensuring cleanliness and open defecation free urban areas in all 4,041 statutory cities by 2019. Estimated cost is Rs. 66,009 crore out of which the Centre’s share is Rs.14,643 crores.

Official sources said physical targets include 1.04 crore household toilets ,2.52 lakh community toilets seats and 2.54 lakh public toilet seats and assisting 30 crore urban population with solid waste management practices. During 2014-15, about Rs 800 crore has been released to 28 states/ UTs.Over two lakh household toilets have been built besides 12,000 community toilets during the year.

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Government sources said 390 cities have reported 100 per cent collection and transportation of municipal solid waste. Standard operating procedures (SPO) were also issued by the government to ensure cleanliness during and after public gatherings and meetings. When UNI correspondents interacted with people across the country, most of them quipped ,” Bhai sahib, Modi ji ne Lal Quila par bola tha swachhta ke bare mein,hum to ab unke feed back ka intarzar karte hein on the Independence day “ (Modi had spoken about the cleanliness now, we await his feedback on August 15). Tone and tenor of people across the country was same, but they all admitted the buzz on the cleanliness front.
Now less than 30 days are left for Modi to address the nation from Red Fort from where he had appealed to finish task of providing toilets in all schools within a year. He had said that he wanted that all schools in the country should have toilets with separate ones for girls.“This target should be finished within one year with the help of state governments and on the next August 15,we should be in firm position to announce that there is not a school in India without separate toilets for boys and girls”.

Narendra-Modi
The SBM, in tandem with large number of government agencies, is bracing to ensure toilets in every school in next few months besides gearing up for to ensure cleanliness during the coming world famous Kumbh Mela in Nashik on banks of river Goadavari from July 14 to September 25.  Modi, in his latest meeting to review the programme,has directed authorities that spiritual leaders should be associated with cleanliness efforts during major congregational events like Kumbh Mela and Jagannath Yatra. Next year, the Kumbh will be held on banks river Shipra in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh.  Ever since  Modi’s directives, authorities are working towards ensuring maximum “swachhata”,cleanliness in Nashik during the Mela where a vast multitude of humanity is expected to turn up for auspicious bathing. Many say that it will be real acid test of the mission and  Modi has already advised to ensure maximum cleanliness by involving spiritual gurus to transform change people’s attitude towards hygiene .

The Kumbh Mela will not be an isolated case, but similar initiatives were on the cards during the major religious event of Jagananth yatra in Puri Dham in Odisha.

Kumbh Mela is being celebrated at Trimbakeshwar in Nashik in Maharashtra. Trimbakeshwar is a holy town of Nasik as one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, Triyambakeshwar Jyotirlinga temple is situated there. Kumbh Mela in Nasik is celebrated once in every twelve years. The ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission has created a buzz , which may pave the way for its entry in English dictionaries which have over years co-opted words like bungalow, loot, bandh and toofan. The word Swachh is now frequently used as such and it has caught international attention and at times, its translation is not required.

Surprisingly, Swachh means hygienic in general perception , but in some camps, the word is “unhygienic” due to its political connotations. They aver it is only public stunt and nothing is happening on the ground,and going a step further these critics lace their perception by pointing towards urine-soaked walls even in the Lutyens zone in the national capital, “ what to speak of the country’s mofussil interiors?”.  Billboards, posters, stickers sprung up across the country and institutions both private and public got involved in the drive, but only personal involvement of masses can ensure cleanliness , feel bureaucrats in power corridors, adding the government can only be a facilitator for such movements.

According to Modi, various channels took up a campaign to tell the nation that the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign is an opportunity to realise the dream of Mahatma Gandhi and a true tribute to pay the father of the nation on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019.

Even as special drives are underway to carry forward the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission, Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently said that the mission was not only for cleanliness but basically about eradicating social evils like untouchability. The campaign will be self -defeating unless the government bodies provide adequate number of toilets at public places, a senior journalist ,working with a language wire agency, Jai Parkash Awasthi said. He sarcastically commented that even in the country’s most posh Lutyen’s zone ,drivers and people coming to the INS ( Indian Newspaper Society) complex and wait for hours there, grope for bushes to pee. “ Go and visit public toilets at bus stands, you will instantly contract urinary tract infection and unless the situation is not addressed, such mission fail to cut ice.”
Many others hold authorities responsible for the half-hearted approach. They say even in New Delhi station,platform one is kept spic and span but “what about other platforms?”.

Come what may, the word “Swachh” is making ripples , people say at public places, pointing towards lime streaks and stickers on walls and dustbins and but the same people also raise fingers at people still defecating in open and urine soaked walls at market places. Jingles on airwaves drum up support for the campaign and celebrities are flagging the cleanliness issue at public platforms.

Ever since ,the mission gained momentum, a number of incidents took place and the Priyanka Bharti case of Maharajganj hit headlines, triggering debates. The 19-year-old bride had reportedly walked out of her husband’s house in protest against lack of toilet facilities. She was quoted as saying that “I would not eat or drink water through the day only so that I could avoid having to go out into the fields to relive myself. At night ,the fields can be dangerous. It began to affect my health which is when I protested.”

Society exerted pressure on Priyanka to return to the martial house, but she did not give in. Then a social institution involved in the public toilet work chipped in and facilitated to build a toilet in her house.Now, she is travelling extensively to campaign for toilets in houses and increasing sanitation.

Priyanka is not alone in the crusade. A 32-year-old man got printed his wedding card last month with a message for the ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission in Ballari taluk of Karnataka . The card spread a message for encouraging people to construct a toilet compulsorily in their house to lead a healthy life. In a rare initiative, the UP government has approved a proposal of incinerators for disposal of sanitary napkins in 300 government inter college for girls. Sources said it will form part of the ambitious toilet block project coming up at cost of multi million rupees in the colleges in 73 districts. Modi reviewed the progress of the mission recently with officers of the ministries of the Urban development, drinking water supply and sanitation, NITI Aaayog and PMO. The PM sought latest feedback on toilets construction in all states. After comprehensively reviewing the situation, he directed concerned officers to specially coordinate with States which are lagging in toilet construction.  He asked the ‘Namami Gange’ programme authorities that construction of toilets in habitations on the banks of the River Ganga should receive the highest priority.  Modi said motivational incentives such as awards should also be instituted through official channels. In rural areas, the Prime Minister suggested quiz competitions among students to promote awareness. The Prime Minister also called for leveraging the huge interest that ‘Swachh Bharat’ has generated among the Indian diasporas.

 

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Beatles, Apple, Facebook knew India more than Indians

Famous non-Indian celebrities know more about India and its past

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The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture.
The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture. Wikipedia

-By Salil Gewali

Facebook’s Chairman Mark Zuckerberg had dropped a bombshell on the “secularists” in India during PM Modi’s visit to his campus in California. It’s all about the Facebook connection with India. Initially, it was never a bed of roses for what is now a household name “FACEBOOK” across the world. This world-famous ‘social networking service company’ had its own share of bad times. Revealing for the first time in the meeting at the Facebook office upbeat Zuckerberg told PM Narendra Modi that Steve Jobs, the founder Chairman of Apple, had advised him to visit a certain temple in India for blessings. The revelation may have caused heartburn to many. More so in India where so-called secular and snooty folks have long acquired a proclivity to look down upon their own culture, religion, and values while being appreciative of any bizarre customs and styles of the West. Yes, heeding the advice of his mentor Steve Jobs the depressed Mark had visited the temple and toured around India for nearly a month.

Facebook's CEO tells about India.
Facebook’s CEO tells about India. wikipedia

Well, the American techno-wizard Steve Jobs had himself spent over six months in India in 1974. He was here in quest of the higher meaning of life and spiritual solace. As understood, from early age Steve was quite haunted by a good deal of unanswered questions. Of course, his encounter with a book “Be Here Now” by Richard Alpert, a Harvard Professor, had opened up a gateway to the spiritualism of the East. This book had also introduced him to a mystic Yogi ‘Neem Karoli Baba’. That later inspired Steve to set out the journey for the East. As soon as Steve and his friend Daniel Kottke arrived India they directly went to meet the Guru in Kainchi Dham Ashram in Nainital. But to their disappointment, they found the Baba had already passed away some months earlier. Nevertheless, the urge to dive deeper into the spiritualism did not die away. They shaved their heads and put on Indian clothes and undertook an extensive meditation and yogic practices.

The most significant impact that had made upon Steve’s life was a book “Autobiography of a Yogi”by Paramhansa Yogananda. It is on record that he would read this book too frequently, at least once every year until his death, 2011. This book had given him the practical insight into what exactly this world is about and how a layman can prepare himself to realize the Supreme knowledge. The first-hand account of a Yogi with empirical approaches to know oneself this book by Yogananda is a smash hit manual now among the seekers of the Eastern spiritualism.

Yes, by dint of hard work, intuition and innovation Steve stood out as one of the most successful techno-tycoons of the modern times. As much known, Jobs was hardly possessed by the luxury of riches and materialistic vanity. He just regarded his entrepreneurship as a tool to awaken his dormant potentialities. The chairman of Salesforce.com and famous philanthropist Marc Benioff says with conviction — “If you want to understand Steve, it’s a good idea to dig into ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.” It is this book which Steve’s family had given to all the guests as a last gift at his memorial service.

Here we can’t afford to ignore the Beatle’s fascination for INDIA as well. The band members that were basking in the opulence of materialistic riches and glory visited India (Rishikesh) in search of inner peace. They met with Sri Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and learnt from him Transcendental meditation (TM) who laid bare methods to feel true bliss within. Sri Maharshi is a big name in the West having a huge following that includes celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Russell Brand, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Aniston, Modern physicist Dr. John Hagelin, to name a few. The Beatle’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr often assist a Hollywood Director/actor David Lynch to organize the Transcendental meditation under ‘David Lynch Foundation’ across USA and the European countries. George Harrison later took refuge in Bhakti Yoga. The founder of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada showed him the pathway to the Supreme Consciousness.

What basically pulls the rational westerners to India is less known to Indians themselves. It’s shamefully paradoxical. From early 19th Century, the philosophical literary treasure troves and Yoga of India found more admirers in the foreign lands than at home. Indeed, the philosophy of the “laws of karma” and the presence of all-power-divinity within every being and everywhere — which any human being can realize irrespective of one’s caste, creed, nationality, and color, has intensely stirred the greatest of the great minds of the West. The ancient texts hold out a whole bunch of keys to unlock oneself and know his/her relationship with the Supreme Being which in fact seems very reasonable to the West. Further, the complex studies of world-view by Modern scientists are gradually arriving at the same conclusion what the ancient sages of India expounded over five thousands year back that ‘creation and creator are ONE’. Interconnection, inter-relation and interdependence among every individual particle/object, living or non-living, in the infinite universe — which is the fundamental tenets of the Eastern philosophy, provided a new light of wisdom to the the modern physicists like Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Julius Oppenheimer, Brain David Josephson, David Bohm, John Stewart Bell et al.

Well, Indian’s contribution to the western academia is immeasurable — though deliberately undermined or less discussed in India itself. It’s very worthwhile to recall a famous proclamation by our western master whom we hold in the highest esteem. TS Eliot, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, asserts: “Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys”.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.

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Narendra Modi App : Amazing Platform where Prime Minister connects with the citizens

Wanna give ideas to or interact with Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Go and download Narendra Modi app on android and iOs

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Narendra Modi App
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an amazing sense of connecting with masses. Prime Minister knows the nerve of Indian public and at various instances proves himself as a pan Indian leader. Prime Minster Modi is undoubtedly one of the most tech-savvy global leader and a big promoter of e-governance and m-governance since a long time. Within two months of assuming Prime Minister-ship, he had launched the ambitious myGov project. In continuing the tradition of citizen connect, Prime Minister Modi took another step towards connecting with the people at their convenience by launching Narendra Modi app couple of years back.

Narendra Modi app
Prime Minister launching Narendra Modi App

The Narendra Modi app provides updates on the day-to-day activities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It presents an opportunity to receive messages and emails directly from Shri Narendra Modi. There is also an option to contribute and earn ‘badges’ through to-do tasks in various social initiatives. Through Narendra Modi app, one can tune-in and listen to the various episodes of ‘Mann ki Baat’, read Prime Minister Modi’s blogs, and get to know more about him from his Biography section. Narendra Modi app also provides comprehensive information on initiatives and achievements of the Union Government, which has an ‘infographics’ section for insights.

Such type of initiative by a global leader gives a strong message how technology can be used by governments to bridge gap between leaders and citizens. apart from this app Prime Minister Modi is also very much active on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Prime Minister Modi is the one of the most followed global leader on Twitter.

So what are you waiting for. Go and share some ideas of innovation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and contribute in his vision of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas”.

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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Cleaning of Ganga is not impossible, but it is very difficult.

The holy river is also one of the most polluted river

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Ganga in Haridwar
A pile of garbage lies on the riverbank along the Ganges riverfront known as "Har ki Pauri," the most sacred spot in the Hindu holy town of Haridwar where devotees throng. VOA

– Saket Suman

About five years ago, when Financial Times journalist and author Victor Mallet began living in Delhi, he was shocked to discover that the Yamuna — “this beautiful river of Indian legend and art” — was chocked with untreated sewage and industrial waste after it had passed through the city on its way to Mathura, Agra and on to join the Ganga at Allahabad He wondered “how a river so sacred to so many Indians could also be so polluted and neglected” and then set out to record the plight of the Ganga.

His exhaustive journey led him to various key locations on the river, including its source at Gaumukh and Sagar Island and the Sunderbans at its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. This culminated in the publication of “River of Life, River of Death” (Oxford University Press/Rs 550/316 pages).

“My conclusion is that it is not impossible (to clean the Ganga) — but it is very difficult. Narendra Modi is the latest of several Indian prime ministers to announce plans to rescue the Ganga — in fact, I would say he has been the most fervent — but like his predecessors, he has struggled to implement these plans despite the availability of funds from India itself and from international donors such as the World Bank and Japan.

“Clearly, the Ganga has enormous problems of physical pollution from sewage, industrial toxins and pesticide run-off. Too much of the water is diverted for irrigation in the dry season, which can leave parts of the river without water before the monsoon. But with political will and public support — I don’t think anyone in India objects to saving the river — it can be done,” Mallet told IANS in an email interview from Hong Kong.

The important thing, he maintained, is to change mindsets and he noted in this context that it is quite common among devout Hindus to say: “Ma Ganga is so spiritually pure that nothing we throw in the river will sully her or make a difference.”

The author said that sensible holy men and environmentalists who care for the Ganga term this as nonsense — and the reason it’s not true is that the Ganga’s very spiritual power arises from its physical properties as a life-giver, as a provider of water and fertility.

“That’s why rivers have always been worshipped in ancient times, including in England. So if you destroy the river’s life-giving qualities through pollution, you destroy the source of her spiritual importance,” he added.

In the book, he also states that it is not impossible to clean the Ganges, “as river clean-ups in Europe and America have shown”.

Elaborating on this, he said: “When I was a child living in London, my mother always told me not to fall in the Thames because the river was so filthy that if I fell in I would have to go to hospital and have my stomach pumped! Yet today the Thames is clean — muddy, but virtually free of industrial pollution and untreated sewage — because successive governments and water and sanitation companies have stopped the pollution.

“The same is true of the Rhine in continental Europe and the Chicago river in the United States. The great thing about rivers is that you don’t have to scrub them clean — you just have to stop polluting them and the natural flow of the river does the rest.”

Mallet maintained that the record on the Ganga has so far been disappointing in terms of implementation, but hoped that there will be a change now that there is a new minister in charge.

“If you clean the Ganga by improving sanitation, you not only save the goddess, you also create thousands of jobs in infrastructure development, and save the lives of thousands of children who die each year because of bad water, poor hygiene and stomach bugs. Likewise, if India curbs its greenhouse gases — and this seems to be happening anyway because alternative energy such as solar power is now very competitive on price — then that will also help it to reduce the kind of air pollution that has recently been afflicting Delhi and the whole of North India,” he maintained.

Mallet went on to add that he learnt a lot about the mythology and the history of the river — and the history of India — in the course of his research for the book.

“In a way, India is so rich in civilisations and stories that you can never say you have completed your work as a researcher and writer. You can at least make a start, and also explain the contemporary political, social, religious and environmental issues that affect the river and the country as a whole,” Mallet said. (IANS)