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By Harshmeet Singh
In 2009, when DK Ravi’s parents heard the news that their son has cracked what many call ‘the toughest exam in the country’ with an all India rank of 34, they could hardly believe their ears. Little over 5 years down the line, another ‘unbelievable’ news regarding their son struck their ears. This time, they were told that their son has committed suicide by hanging himself to the ceiling fan.
The news of young IAS officer DK Ravi’s mysterious death in Bangalore is both, sad and depressing at the same time. As the news spread like wildfire, conspiracy theories of a foul play began surfacing from all quarters. In his tenure as the Deputy Commissioner of Kolar district in Karnataka, Ravi had earned the love of the locals owing to his honesty and integrity. His efforts to expose the sand mafia in the district were well known in the entire district and beyond. His 24×7 accessibility for the common man, random raids on sand mafia and on people with political connections made him a threat for many a people. His untimely transfer to Bangalore as Additional Commissioner of Commercial Taxes is traced to the pressure put by Sand mafia over the state Government. His transfer from Kolar saw unprecedented protests from the locals in the district, who were not willing to see their hero go away. And far away he went.
Ravi’s family has now revealed that he used to get threat calls from Dubai, but he never lost his sleep over them, which makes his alleged suicide all the more doubtful. The family has also refused to believe the theory that ‘extreme work pressure’ led to Ravi taking such a step. With the sand mafia angle looming large and the state’s Siddaramaiah Government already knee deep in corruption allegations, justice in this case seems far and away.
Unfortunately, DK Ravi’s case has a number of precedents in the country.
While working as a Marketing Manager in the Indian Oil Corporation, Manjunath had ordered the sealing of two petrol pumps in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri for selling adulterated fuel. He was on a surprise inspection to one of these petrol pumps when he was shot dead by the owner of the pump, Pawan Kumar Mittal. The accused were convicted and are currently serving a life sentence. Inspired by his courage, students from IIM established ‘The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust’ in his name. The trust currently operates a nationwide Right to Information Act Helpline with an aim of improving governance in the country.
Satyendra Dubey’s case was perhaps the most high profile whistleblower case in the country. An officer in the Indian Engineering Services, Dubey was murdered in Gaya in 2003 while he was exposing a major scandal in the government’s ambitious Golden Quadrilateral project. While working as project director at National Highway Authority of India, he found that Larsen and Toubro, the main contractor of the project, was subletting the work to smaller and cheaper firms who didn’t possess the required high end technology for the project.
After his seniors didn’t respond to his questions, he sent a letter directly to the Prime Minister saying “Though the NHAI is going for international competitive bidding to procure the most competent civil contractors for execution of its projects, when it comes to actual execution, it is found that most of the works, sometimes even up to 100 per cent are subcontracted to petty contractors incapable of executing such big projects. A dream project of unparalleled importance to the Nation but in reality a great loot of public money because of very poor implementation at every state. I have written all these in my individual capacity. However, I will keep on addressing these issues in my official capacity in the limited domain within the powers delegated to me”.
Despite his repeated requests about not disclosing his identity, his name came out in the open and he was cautioned by the NHAI for sending a letter directly to the PM.
His death led to strong protests all over the country and inside the Parliament. In 2010, three people were convicted by the Patna court for Dubey’s murder. Satyendra K Dubey Memorial Award was established after his death. Given to the IIT alumnus with highest professional integrity, this award has been awarded to Arvind Kejriwal as well.
An IPS officer of the 2009 batch, Kumar was killed after he exposed the mining mafia in the state of Madhya Pradesh. He was brutally run over by a tractor in Morena, Madhya Pradesh after he tried to stop the tractor which was carrying illegally mined stones. Anna Hazare, along with his team, staged a protest against the murder of Kumar.
In the same week as Kumar’s murder, another IPS officer in the Chambal region, Jaidevan was assaulted by the local liquor mafia. Though he managed to escape without serious injuries, the deteriorated law and order situation in Madhya Pradesh was for everyone to see.
Lalit Mehta paid the price for exposing multiple irregularities in the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). He was found murdered in Palamau, Jharkhand in 2008. The local police conveniently passed on the matter, saying that his murderers have been killed by the Naxals since they claimed that they will bring his perpetrators to the books. “Now there is nothing to enquire into the Lalit Mehta case,” is what Palamau SP Udayan Singh had to say.
Unfortunately, the list of courageous whistleblowers who lost their lives for doing their job with integrity is a never ending one. V Saseendran was found hanging in his house with his two children after he exposed financial irregularities worth Rs 400 crore in the company where he was working. It was found later that he was the prime witness in a number of cases involving political leaders of the state.
Laws for whistleblowers
It was only in 2011 that the Government felt the need to frame a law for the protection of whistleblowers in the country. Subsequently, the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011 was passed by the Rajya Sabha in February 2014 and got the President’s nod in May 2014.
The Parliament, very conveniently, has excluded the politicians from the purview of this act. When was the last time that a scandal took place without a political hand in it? Unless the political nexus gives way to an honest bureaucracy, no act would be able to change the fortunes of whistleblowers in India.
The Modi Government has recently announced its intentions of bringing certain amendments in the Whistleblower Act to give more teeth to the CVC. Prioritizing this bill and making it more holistic would certainly help make India a safer country for whistleblowers and save the life of the next DK Ravi and Satyendra Dubey.
Indian origin girls -- New Jersey-based Natasha Peri (11) and Dubai-based Priyamvada Deshmukh (12) -- have been named in the worlds "brightest" students list based on results of above-grade-level testing of 19,000 students across 84 countries, according to Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), a part of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
"Peri, a student at Thelma L. Sandmeier Elementary School, was honored for exceptional performance on the SAT, ACT, or similar assessment is taken as part of the CTY Talent Search," said a statement from the CTY.
Deshmukh, a student of GEMS Modern Academy, Dubai, has been honored for her exceptional performance on the SCAT assessment taken as part of the CTY Talent Search, a university statement said.
She was one of nearly 19,000 students from 84 countries who joined CTY in the 2019-21 Talent Search years. CTY uses above-grade-level testing to identify advanced students from around the world and provide a clear picture of their true academic abilities.
Peri took the Johns Hopkins Talent Search test in Spring 2021 when she was in Grade 5. Her results in the verbal and quantitative sections leveled with the 90th percentile of advanced Grade 8 performance.
"This motivates me to do more," she said, adding that doodling and reading J.R.R Tolkien's novels may have worked for her.
Deshmukh took the Johns Hopkins Talent Search test in Spring 2020 when she was still in Grade 6. Her results in the verbal sections leveled with the advanced Grade 10 performance. She made the cut for Johns Hopkins CTY 'High Honors Awards'.
Due to the Covid19, induced delay in Global logistics support, she finally received her much-awaited "High Honors" pin this week, which she lovingly kept in front of her Grandparents photograph as a tribute to her roots.
The delay in officially getting the certificates did not stop her from attending the summer program at John Hopkins University's CTY in English literature where she studied the confluence of Art and Science in literary writing and completed the course scoring 'A' Grade.
She followed up with top-scoring the second level of Asset Talent Examination which also qualified her for the summer program at Northwestern University this year, where she is learning about world-building in fiction writing this year.
Her elder brother was among the first UAE students to have cleared the Duke University TIP (Talent Identification Programme) when he was in Class 8.
Her parents joke that it's nothing but routine sibling rivalry that she wanted to achieve the same, just a year ahead of her brother. Even though she loves Physics and Computer Science as subjects, unlike her elder brother (who is Chancellor's Scholarship holder student of Astro Physics at the University of Massachusetts), Deshmukh wants to pursue humanities and literature when she goes to college five years down the lane.
As part of Johns Hopkins policy, granular information is not broken down by age or race.
Likewise, it is left to the guardian to disclose the prodigy's name. Within the US, awardees come from all 50 US states.
"We are thrilled to celebrate these students," said Virginia Roach, CTY's executive director.
"In a year that was anything but ordinary, their love of learning shined through, and we are excited to help cultivate their growth as scholars and citizens throughout high school, college, and beyond," Roach added.
The quantitative section of the Johns Hopkins CTY test measures the ability to see relationships between quantities expressed in mathematical terms, the verbal section measures understanding of the meaning of words and the relationships between them.
Basil scientifically called Ocimum basilicum, and also known as great basil, is a culinary herb from the Lamiaceae (mints) family. A common aromatic herb, it is usually used to add flavor to a variety of recipes, but what may astonish one is that there are various health benefits of basil that make it well-known for its immunity-enhancing properties.
Basil seeds or basil essential oil are proven to help prevent a wide range of health conditions, which makes it one of the most essential medical herbs known today. Basil has vitamin A, C, E, K, and Omega 3 components including cooling components too. It also contains minerals like Copper, Calcium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Zinc, and Potassium. An ancient Ayurvedic herb, basil has various proven benefits including being anti-inflammatory, ant-oxidant, immune-booster, pain-reducer, and blood vessel-protector.
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This herb also contains cooling components thus making it really helpful for summers. It detoxifies the body and maintains one's body temperature pace. Adding to the benefits Basil contains antioxidant-rich volatile essential oils, which are considered hydrophobic, meaning they don't dissolve in water and are light and small enough to travel through the air and the pores within our skin. Basil's volatile essential oil is something that gives the herb its distinct smell and taste, but basil contains some great healing properties.
In the long history of Ayurveda, basil seeds were also called tukmaria seeds. These seeds may support one's gut health, may complete one's fiber quota, reduce blood sugar, help in weight loss, and also reduce cholesterol.
The herb has rounded leaves.Pixabay
There are more than 60 varieties of basil, with sweet basil being one of the most widely used. The herb has rounded leaves that are often pointed. It is a bright green plant, although some varieties have hints of purple or red in their leaves, basil makes a colorful and flavorful addition to many different dishes.
It has been observed that many of the cooks use basil to thicken their dessert instead of using any artificial/ unhealthy powder to do so. Sometimes people are not able to differentiate between Chia seeds and basil seeds, to make it clear basil seeds are different in nature they are larger and a bit duller in their color. These herbs are used in various recipes as a cooling component in desserts, drinks, and fruit juices for refreshment, also beating the summer heat.
For better digestion, weight loss, and immune system, I suggest this simple recipe which can be easily made at home:
*Take 2 tsp of Basil seeds (sabja) + Add in 1/2 liter of water +10 mint leaves crushed
*1/2 tsp cinnamon powder + A little bit of sendha salt (pink Himalayan salt)
*Or to make a sweeter version one can add organic honey.
*Mix it well and drink it.
This recipe will help to flush out toxins from our body making it feel light and healthy. (IANS/SP)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)