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Even a decade ago, the villagers of Phular in Damoh district of Madhya Pradesh had no claim on the lands that they had lived in for generations. They lived under the constant fear of government officials destroying their crops or asking them to vacate these lands. The aridity and limited prospects of agriculture further compounded their poverty.
Chandravati Ground, who lives in Phular said, “We had to borrow atta (wheat flour) from the neighbors to feed guests who would come by rarely.” Else, the nondescript village with 92 houses and 975 people — home to the Gond tribe — survived on Kodo-kutki (a raw variety of rice) and barley.
Things changed drastically after 2006 when the people’s movement, Ekta Parishad, made inroads into the hamlet. They helped the residents understand their claim to the land. Parishad’s founding member and a proponent of Gandhian ideals, PV Rajagopal, started the stir to pressure the Union government to implement the Forest Rights Act (FRA). It was passed in 2006 to “recognize the forest rights and occupation in the forest land of the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers…”
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A march to remember
A year after FRA’s birth, Rajagopal helmed the Janadesh Yatra to better inform the people about the rights granted by the FRA. About 25,000 people participated in the Yatra, marching from Gwalior to Delhi to make a statement. This included 325 people from Phular and its neighboring village, Jabera, whose residents had also long-lived in fear.
“Government officials asked us to vacate the lands on many occasions. We were helpless until members of the Ekta Parishad intervened. They told us that this land was ours,” said Ghanshyam Prasad, convener of Manav Jeevan Vikas Samiti and a resident of Jabera.
Prasad, along with Ekta Parishad, passed on this information to other villagers. The awareness sessions boosted their confidence, which was further bolstered by the Union government’s promise to implement the FRA with immediate effect.
The process of reclaiming land under FRA started in 2009 with 90 families submitting the required forms. Of these, 45 claims were rejected. The beginning of the reclamation process was marred with such incidents of rejection and general confusion over the paperwork. Most villagers did not know where to get the forms, which ones to fill and where to submit them, besides the other formalities they needed to go through to claim their land.
Prasad and his team stepped in to assist the people. They relentlessly trudged through the bureaucratic quagmire till 2017 and helped 128 families (out of the 162) claim their rights. As a result, 221.118 hectares of land have been claimed. And, the contrast to the situation from a decade ago is stark. “Before 2007, only 30-40 families owned agricultural fields,” said Gopal Kurmi, Panchayat Sachiv, a ground-level state employee responsible for implementing all the government schemes under the Panchayat and Rural Development Department.
Turning barren land fertile
The successful fight to reclaim their land raised the morale of villagers. There was an urge to do more with this land, utilize it more efficiently. The native landowners were only too aware of how Damoh’s acute water shortage was limiting their traditional means of agriculture. Thus, it was imperative to find solutions to improve these circumstances.
The residents of Phular had networked with water experts during the Janadesh Yatra of 2009 who had recounted the many benefits of creating small water structures and practicing rainwater harvesting. Upon returning to their hamlet, the villagers leveled the fields, created small ponds, and constructed boundaries to catch rainwater.
Vimla Bahin, who has been the unsung guardian of Phular — for she had constantly resisted the government efforts to usurp their lands before FRA came into force — took the lead among the women in charting and creating these water bodies.
“A member from each family would donate labor to develop small ponds in the low-lying places,” said Amar Singh Gound who played a crucial role in identifying sites for making ponds and gathering the village folk for shramdaan. This slowly changed the face of Popular. By 2011, there were dozens of such structures, and farmers realized that their agricultural produce had increased, along with their groundwater table.
Amar Singh Gound added that earlier, one farmer had an average production of 30-40 quintals of grains. It is now at least 70 quintals per farmer.
“At present, every farmer has a reserve of 8-10 quintal of grains at his home,” said Sone Singh Ground, a farmer. He has seen veritable growth on his land. His crop inventory now includes onion, brinjal (eggplant), and tomatoes. The Kharif crops include wheat, channa (chickpeas), and masoor (lentils) and rabi crops include rice, Makka (corn), jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millets), moong (pulses), arhar (yellow split pigeon peas) or urad (black gram).
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The water catchment has created the scope for farming all year round. It has helped many of the villagers stay home, rather than go to places like Delhi, Punjab, Guna, and Ashoknagar in search of labor opportunities.
“This is a dry area. Agriculture was completely dependent on natural rains,” said Kurmi, the Panchayat Sachiv. The villagers, he added, used to migrate to bigger cities in September-October and return in June when the skies promised rains. But now, they stay and plant crops throughout the year.
Apart from the bustling agriculture at Phular, many people continue their traditional activities of collecting forest produce and maintaining livestock. (IANS/KB)
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)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)