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By Harshmeet Singh
Meet 37 year old Naina Devi, a resident of Rajasthan’s small dusty village Tilonia, she has trained over 50 women solar engineers from 11 LDCs (Least Developed Countries) till now. She doesn’t speak the same language as her students and most of them are much elder to her. With no formal education to boast of, Naina Devi handles integrated circuits, capacitors and soldering machine with as much ease as she handles chapattis at home!
And Naina Devi is not alone. Situated at a distance of about 50 km from Ajmer railway station, Tilonia is home to trained women dentists, women artisans, women electricians, night schools, children parliament, a water harvesting system, a community FM station and much more. Tilonia is unique is more ways than one, and yet, it remains far away from the public eye and publicity that it so dearly deserves. Tilonia represents the true spirit of India; the spirit that says that the solutions to our rural problems lie within us. This unprecedented change in Tilonia has been made possible by Barefoot College.
Established in 1972 by Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, Barefoot College is a non-governmental organization that has been working for the women of Least Developed Countries by training them in the fields of solar electrification, education, livelihood development, water conservation and many more. The college, established in Tilonia, Rajasthan, runs on the principles and ethics of Mahatma Gandhi.
Covering over 8 acres of land in Tilonia, the Barefoot college identifies women from the most neglected sections of the society and trains them in dentistry, solar engineering, crafts, mechanics and even RJing! The pupils, most of them mothers and grandmothers, come from some of the most under developed and far flung nations in the world. Many of them, in their 50s and 60s, had never seen electricity in their life before coming to Tilonia.
This unique college doesn’t offer any degree to its students. The reason, according to them, is that the students leave their villages after getting a degree and start looking for lavish jobs. The entire objective of the project is for the students to stay in their village and pass on the benefits to the fellow villagers. The ‘learning by doing’ process followed by the college ensures that the students get a hang on things and are prepared to face all the possible issues within their craft.
The entire program is free for the students, thanks for the funding raised from a number of donors such as the Indian Government and some international agencies. All the local women working in different departments such as solar engineering, mechanical workshops, crafts and dentistry are paid the same wages which is equal to the minimum wage amount set by the law in India. Believe it or not, the entire college runs on solar power! Additionally, close to 100 million litres of fresh water has been harvested in the college since 1991!
Further support after training
Once the participants complete their training and move back to their home towns, the Barefoot College invests $50,000 in their villages for the installation of solar equipment. Each household in the village is expected to contribute towards the maintenance of solar installations with an equal amount as their earlier expenditure on kerosene and wax candles. The solar engineer is responsible for all the repairing and fixing of the solar installations and is paid a monthly salary from the amount contributed by the households in the village. The solar electrification program of Barefoot College has brought lights to more than 45,000 households from some of the some neglected places in the world.
Life at Tilonia
Tilonia is currently home to a number of night schools where working children can attend classes after their day’s work. The teachers, again, are the local villagers.
Strengthening the democratic values in the society has always been one of the major objectives of Barefoot College. This has led to the establishment of a Student Parliament inside Tilonia. The Parliament elects its own council of ministers, which is headed by the Prime Minister. The council undertakes surprise inspections at all the schools in the village and brings to the notice of College authorities, any anomalies that they find. Such instances of inculcating accountability in the kids are seldom seen in the country.
The college also has a fully operational Radio Station which is operated by one of the trained women. Used to propagate important messages and news, this Radio Station is one of the most significant landmarks in the village. But entertainment in Tilonia doesn’t end here! The College also houses a dedicated Puppet room which is armed by professional puppeteers who organize frequent shows in the village to keep the villagers updated about the current social issues.
There is so much more to Tilonia than what meets the eye. A model village, an inspiration, a true realization of Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams, women empowerment, and welfare of the world are just some of the many descriptions that fit aptly on Barefoot College.
NEW DELHI - India Navy sending four ships for exercises and port visits with the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, its navy said Wednesday, as China's maritime power grows in the area.
The Indian ships will spend more than two months in the region, the navy said in a statement.
Commander Vivek Madhwal, the Indian navy spokesman, said four ships will take part.
The ships will also participate in a multilateral exercise, MALABAR-21, along with the Japanese, Australian and U.S. navies, the statement said.
It said the exercises will enhance coordination with friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and a commitment to freedom of navigation.
"Besides regular port calls, the task group will operate in conjunction with friendly navies to build military relations and develop interoperability in the conduct of maritime operations," the statement said.
The U.S., India, Japan and Australia are part of the Quad regional alliance created in response to China's growing economic and military strength. Washington has long viewed New Delhi as a key partner in efforts to blunt increasing Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
India is also in a continuing standoff with China over their disputed border in the eastern Ladakh region. The countries have stationed tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along their de facto border, called the Line of Actual Control.
Last year, 20 Indian troops died in a clash with Chinese soldiers involving clubs, stones and fists in a portion of the disputed border. China said it lost four soldiers.(VOA/HP)
The UK government on Thursday announced that it will move India from the red to the amber list on Sunday, in the country's latest update to the 'Red-Amber-Green' traffic light ratings for arrivals into England amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means the visit visas for the UK from India are open, in addition to other long-term visas that have remained open. But travellers from India arriving in England can complete a 10-day quarantine at home or in the place they are staying (not mandatorily quarantine in a managed hotel).
The UK government also announced that arrivals from France to England will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. The step aligns France with the rest of the amber list now that the proportion of beta variant cases has fallen, where those who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorised and administered in the UK, the US or Europe do not need to quarantine when arriving in England.
This move also simplifies the system to three categories, as well as the green watch list to give travellers notice where green status is at risk.
To continue cautiously reopening international travel, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the government's green list, having demonstrated they posed a low risk to UK public health.
Besides India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will also be moved from the red to the amber list, as the situation in these countries has improved.
The data for all countries will be kept under review and the government will not hesitate to take action where a country's epidemiological picture changes, a statement by the UK government said.
Following an assessment of the latest data, Georgia, La Reunion, Mayotte and Mexico will be added to the red list as they present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of Covid-19.
Arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible, as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we've made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.
"While we must continue to be cautious, today's changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public."
Since February, anyone who arrives in the UK from a red list country has been required by law to book a stay in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days.
In order to ensure taxpayers are not subsidising the costs of staying in these facilities, which have gone up, the cost will increase from August 12. Alternative payment arrangements remain available to those who genuinely cannot afford to pay and rates remain the same for children up to 12.(IANS/HP)
A Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly vandalized by hundreds of people after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated at a local seminary, received bail, a media report said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn news report, the incident took place on Wednesday in Bhong town, about 60 km from Rahim Yar Khan city.
Besides the vandalization, the mob also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5), the report added.
Citing sources, Dawn news said that a case was registered against the minor on July 24 based on a complaint filed by a cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, of the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran.
The sources said that "some Hindu elders did tender an apology to the seminary administration saying the accused was a minor and mentally challenged".
But, when a lower court granted him bail a few days ago, some people incited the public in the town on Wednesday and got all shops there closed in protest, the report quoted the sources as further saying.
A video clip showing people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights, and damaging the ceiling fans went viral on social media.
In response, one Twitter user said: "Ganesh Temple, village Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab has been ravaged. Another day, another attack on Hindus in Pakistan."
Another said: "Yesterday, the mob ran amok at Temple over minor boy issue who allegedly urinated, the boy said to be mentally handicapped. Hindu community made an apology for the boy — a case registered against the nine-year-old boy. Those vandalized temples, no FIR registered against them."
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said Rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh), according to the Dawn news report.
A ruling PTI member representing the minority said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.