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May 1 is Maharashtra Day: Far from Maharashtra, Marathi Language, Culture and Traditions alive in Australia

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Mumbai, April 30, 2017: A group of migrant Maharashtrians, separated by some 10,000 km of oceans and nations, have joined hands to keep Marathi language, culture and traditions alive in far away Australia.

The brainchild of the Marathi Association of Sydney Incorporated (MASI), the Australian Marathi Vidyalaya (AMV) was founded in 2008 with just a dozen-odd students grappling with the strange-sounding “foreign mother tongue” of their parents.

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After the modest beginnings, the AMV has now grown into four flourishing centres for Marathi learning with around 150 students (40 per cent girls) in different age groups in Sydney and Wollongong, AMV President Arun Ghatge told IANS in a series of social media chats.

“These are essentially weekend schools, recognised and funded through grants from the New South Wales Department of Education and Training – – Community Language Programme (NSW-DET), and governed by their rules and regulations in all aspects,” Ghatge added.

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These have proved to be a boon to the approximately 150,000-strong community of Maharashtrians, mostly first, second or even third generation migrants settled on the East Coast since decades.

Arriving in an alien land and to a different culture, many of the home-sick Maharashtrians took refuge by celebrating and enjoying festivals like Holi, Shiv Jayanti, Gudi Padva, Kojagiri Poornima, Diwali, Ganeshotsav and the like, besides holding small cultural gatherings and functions.

“However, the younger generations and those born in Australia were completely severed from their rich Maharashtrian and Indian cultural traditions… making us think of a formal approach integrated with their regular schooling, to imbibe the best of both worlds,” Ghatge said.

“The problems get compounded when grandparents visit them in Australia but simply can’t communicate with them and vice-versa, when the kids visit their homes in different parts of Maharashtra.

“Both ways, they seemed lost, and were virtually strangers under one roof. Now, we are creating a great link between our doting parents and their beloved grandchildren by breaking the language barrier,” said 45-year old Ghatge, who migrated in 2005.

The AMV launched the weekend schools, which are gaining popularity within the local community, not for “textbookish” knowledge, but using more of “learn thru fun” methodologies, and without disturbing or overburdening the children’s regular schooling in mainstream Australian schools.

“We charge them a nominal fee of 150 Australian dollars per annum, or roughly Rs 7,500, though the major portion of our expenses are covered by NSW-DET,” Ghatge explained.

The AMV team includes Ghatge, Vijaya Dhumal, Mangesh Chorat (all from Mumbai), Neha Takale, Ajay Deshmukh (Pune), Santosh Kashid (Nashik), Neera Godbole, Chitra Parab, Umesh Saraf, Amit Tere, Manoj Mali, Preeti Patki and other teaching, administration and library staff, from other parts of Maharashtra.

AMV is supported by around 25 regular and back-up teachers — trained and government-approved — at its centres in Western Sydney, South West Sydney Region, Wollongong and North Shore, and is a member of the umbrella organisation for community languages in the Association of Illawarra Community Languages Schools Inc.

Currently, the students are taught their mothertongue from Kindergarten to Class VI, with the vision to expand up to Class XII, by when Ghatge hopes Marathi would be accorded the official status of a “foreign language” in mainstream schools, and which would be available to all Australians on the lines of French, German, Spanish and Chinese.

The AMV teaches the essentials of Marathi language — oral, written and communication skills — and provides insights into the relationship between language and culture; it explores Marathi with the correct application of linguistic structures and vocabulary, and develops the students’ knowledge and understanding of their cultural heritage in a foreign land, using selected prescribed Marathi textbooks and literature.

At the end of each year, the students undergo examinations and are awarded certificates based on their performances, an event at which many turn up in traditional Maharashtrian attire.

“The changes among the younger generation are obvious. Compared to many years ago, now when the grandparents and grandchildren meet either in Australia or India, they have an instant emotional connect because of Marathi… Many seniors visiting us from India are moved to tears hearing their Australian-born grandchildren conversing properly, though accented, in their mother tongue,” Ghatge added.

Interestingly, the Australian East Coast supports over 100 different cultural and linguistic groups from all over the world living harmoniously, including Indians. Besides Marathi, there are a handful of similar such schools for Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil and Kannada languages which impart education to children in their mother tongues and have proved equally popular.

“Now, the gen-next is able to better comprehend the rich culture, traditions, language, literature and legacy of their forefathers back in India — adhering to our motto ‘Language keeps you in touch with your culture’ strongly,” said Ghatge. (IANS)

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Maharashtra’s climate action plan yielded disappointments

Broadly speaking, the plan discusses the impact of climate change on six sectors -- agriculture, water resources, health, forests and biodiversity, livelihoods, and energy and infrastructure.

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Climate action plans were not up to the mark. Pixabay
Climate action plans were not up to the mark. Pixabay
  • The Maharashtra climate action plan yields huge disappointments as it failed to recognize crucial issues in its implementation.
  • The issues like air pollution and damage through thunderstorms and lightening were ignored.
  • The plan only focused on six major factors.

Mumbai, Jan 1: Eight years after the Centre’s direction to formulate a state action plan on climate change, and seven years after awarding the contract for a comprehensive vulnerability assessment study, the Maharashtra cabinet has finally adopted a plan on climate change.

Titled ‘Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Strategies for Maharashtra: Maharashtra State Action Plan on Climate Change, and prepared by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the action plan assesses vulnerability of the state to changing climate and outlines broad and ambitious strategies for building a climate-resilient future.

Rice Farm, Farming, Agriculture, Farm
Action plan focuses on 6 major factors, including agriculture. Pixabay

The action plan, built on high resolution modelling for which TERI entered into a partnership with the UK Met Office, projects changes in temperature and rainfall across the state at a resolution of about 25 km by 25 km for time periods 2030s, 2050s and 2070s — with the average climate during 1970-2000 as the model’s baseline.

An important component of the action plan is the Macro Level Vulnerability Index based on 19 indicators, which has identified the most vulnerable districts in Maharashtra: Nandurbar is the most climate change-vulnerable district, followed by Dhule and Buldhana. Satara is regarded as the least vulnerable district. Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg are also considered less vulnerable to changes in the climate. The state government has announced setting up a panel of experts to oversee the implementation of the report.

India, Mumbai, Bombay, Tourism
Issues related to thunderstorm and lightening were not taken into consideration. Pixabay

But, meteorologists and environment experts aren’t satisfied with the action plan. “The state has taken considerable time to come up with its adaptation plan on climate change. But the plan misses out on some crucial weather events, such as thunderstorm and lightning, that are linked to climatic changes. Air pollution, an important environment factor, is also missing from the plan,” said Akshay Deoras, Nagpur-based meteorologist.

Ashok Jaswal, former scientist with the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Pune, stresses that an effective state action plan should include all direct and indirect climatic parameters.

“Air pollutants are aerosols and have their own different properties. Some are salt-based, whereas others are carbon-based, or dust, or smoke. Some reflect solar radiation, whereas others trap heat,” he said. “These aerosols influence cloud formation, rainfall and the overall climate, and must be a part of the state action plan on climate change.”

Broadly speaking, the plan discusses the impact of climate change on six sectors — agriculture, water resources, health, forests and biodiversity, livelihoods, and energy and infrastructure. It also makes projections for rainfall and temperature in the state; and assesses the future sea level rise. A section in the plan is dedicated to extreme rainfall, flooding and adaptation in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

The document shows that temperature and rainfall are projected to increase all over the state with some regional variations. Amravati division (Vidarbha region) and Aurangabad division (Marathwada region) are going to experience greater rise in annual mean temperatures than other parts of the state.

The projected increase in annual mean temperature for Amravati is expected to be 1.44-1.64 degree C, 2.2-2.35 degree C, and 3.06-3.46 degree C in 2030s, 2050s and 2070s, respectively. For the same time periods, the projected annual mean temperature increase for Aurangabad division is 1.44-1.56 degree C, 2.15-2.3 degree C, and 3.14-3.38 degree C, respectively. An increase in temperature is likely to lead to a decrease in yields for some crops, such as rice, sorghum and cotton.

Minimum temperature is also projected to increase, particularly in the divisions of Konkan, Pune and Nashik, which could have an adverse impact on crops sensitive to high night temperatures in the reproductive phase, such as grain growth in rice or tuberisation in potatoes, warns the state action plan.

The government's efforts came up short. Pixabay
The government’s efforts came up short. Pixabay

The action plan notes that an increase in temperature will be conducive to malaria-transmitting mosquitoes in eastern and coastal (Thane and Raigad regions) Maharashtra in 2030s. By the 2050s, a faster rate of parasite development will take place in Aurangabad, Jalna and Nashik districts.

Since a warmer atmosphere has a higher capacity to hold water vapour, it will lead to intense rainfall events with longer dry or low rainfall spells in between. Extreme rainfall is projected to increase in all regions of the state with greater increases in the northern parts of the state.

Meanwhile, parts of south-central Maharashtra are projected to experience more dry days in the 2030s as compared to the baseline. These districts of Marathwada are already prone to recurring droughts and infamous for farmers’ suicides.

“The findings… clearly describe the adverse impacts of climate change on all regions of the state. The report shows the worrying trend of an increase in extreme weather events and heavy precipitation days,” said Parineeta Dandekar, associate co-ordinator of the South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

“Increased rainfall will lead to heavy flooding, which will have a direct bearing on the state’s water infrastructure. But, the action plan fails to elaborate upon ways to manage the water infrastructure in times of climate change.”

Lightning is listed as a state-specific disaster in Maharashtra, but the state action plan makes no mention of lightning, which is linked to climatic changes. “Rising temperature means more evaporation and high moisture content in the atmosphere, which leads to more thunderstorm activity and an increased incidence of lightning,” explained Jaswal.

A recent study, ‘Distribution of Lightning Casualities over Maharashtra’, has examined lightning deaths in the state between 1979 and 2011 and found 2,363 casualties from 455 lighting events. On an average 72 casualties per year have been reported with significant increasing trend.

“It is shocking that in spite of so many lives being lost each year due to lightning, the state action plan does not even mention the terms thunderstorm and lightning. Unless the plan acknowledges these weather events, how will the state government manage such disasters?” questioned Deoras.

The action plan does take note of the adverse impacts of hailstorm on horticulture crops in the state. For instance, it notes that hailstorms destroyed the grape crop in 2008-09. In 2010, almost 15 percent of the orange crop was destroyed due to rising heat and untimely hailstorm. But it fails to provide pointed information on ways to minimise impact on crops.

The action plan also makes no mention of air pollution. “Not including air pollution in the state climate action plan is a major drawback and the same must be rectified at the earliest,” said Jaswal.

Dandekar stresses on the need for translating action points into swift action. “The recommendations should not remain on paper, but must be included in the various state policies for immediate implementation,” she said. Deoras recommends setting up of a committee to reframe the action plan, by including the above-mentioned points, and then working towards the plan’s implementation by providing specific directions. IANS