Tuesday November 21, 2017
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Modi heads the first NITI Aayog Meet

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NITI Aayog
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by Smita Anand

In the process of delivering a stronger India, Modi took initiative and replaced the Planning Commission with NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) and a whole new governing council. He recently led the first ever meeting of this newly-incorporated body.

NITI Aayog
Meeting in Progress

Role of states in the progress of a nation is too important to be sidelined. The first meeting was held somewhere on this line to bridge any existing gap between the Center and the state governments and to look forward to a better rapport between the NITI Aayog and various institutions to ensure better development and growth for India.

The newly-formed body hosts a panel of experts and advisers from various fields to offer suggestions to the state governments as well as the Center; although the final decisions will duly depend on the governments.

According to reports, PM Narendra Modi offered to transfer some of the 66 center-sponsored schemes, for which a sum of Rs.3,38,562 crore was provided in 2014-15, to states.

Reflecting upon the role of NITI Aayog toward development of India, the body will form three main specialized sections that include Research, Consultancy, and Team India. The three teams will work upon conceptualizing new development programs and streamline bottlenecks to contribute toward making a better India, advising the central and state governments on various issues and provide funding as well. Team India will be a group comprising of representatives from every state and ministerial department meant to work together on one platform and discuss issues related to states, combat it together and contribute toward a more healthier growth.

When the 65-year old Planning Commission was replaced by the NITI Aayog, the reactions did not seem quite favorable. But gradually, with new governing body and a panel of experts, things have started to look promising.

First meeting of NITI Aayog was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and co-ordinated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The meeting was opened by NITI Aayog’s Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya.

Stressing on the Aayog’s objectives, Modi remarked that the development solely depends on the co-operation between the ministers of all the states and they should forget differences for the sake of development, growth and better reforms. He added that the whole idea was to bring up all the states together with an aim of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’.

While the Chief Ministers of all the states made their presence in the meeting, West Bengal was seen giving a miss with Mamata Banerjee not joining.

As this decision of Mamata Banerjee to skip the NITI Aayog’s first meet earned strong remarks, it was later justified by her party spokesperson, Derek O Brien stating, “Has the BJP government really thought this Niti Aayog out? We think not. Dismantling the Planning Commission in a hurry without taking states into confidence is not the way forward. So when the concept itself was hurriedly introduced without consultations, why meetings now?”

The replacement of The Planning Commission without any prior consent and consultation with other ministers did send a wrong wave but Modi’s positive stand in the meet on the accounts of development, reforms and growth hinted that it was a well-thought step rather than a decision made in haste.

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Undaunted Initiative by tribal women for forest preservation in Muturkham, Jharkhand

Muturkhum forest saved from deforestation and exploitation under Timber mafia due to collective efforts of tribal women

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forest under the threat o deforestation in Muthurkam saved by tribal women. pexeby

8th Nov, 2017, Jharkhand:Armed with just water bottles and sticks, a group of poor tribal women in Muturkham village of Purbi Singhbhum district of Jharkhandtrekked miles to the sal forest that surrounded their habitat. Their mission: To save the forest from being plundered and denuded by the “forest mafia”.

Accompanied by just a dog for their safety, these determined women made frequent forays into the deep forest — with which they shared a symbiotic relationship — and have been able, over the years, to successfully conserve 50 hectares of forest land and its flora and fauna deep in the heart of a territory that has also been a battle zone between government forces and left-wing extremists.

This group was brought together by Jamuna Tudu, 37, who has spent the last two decades of her life fighting against deforestation. It was in 1998, after her marriage, that Jamuna took up this challenge of preserving the forest by making villagers develop a stake in it.

 

orest saved from deforestation by tribal women in Muturkham. pexeby

Today, her Van Suraksha Samiti (Forest Protection Group) has about 60 active women members who patrol the jungle in shifts thrice a day: Morning, noon and evening. And sometimes even at night, as the mafia set fire to the forests in random acts of vandalism and vengeance.

Jamuna’s fight has not gone unnoticed. The President of India has honoured her conservation efforts.

“Few days after my marriage, when my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and a few other women from the village took me to the forest to cut wood and get it to cook food, I felt that if we keep cutting the trees this way, all our forests will be wiped out,” Jamuna recalled to IANS in an interview.

In her quest, she had to battle against the mafia that was chopping down trees for their precious sal timber with complete disregard for the law or the tribal tradition that prohibits cutting of the trees.

Realising that she would get little help from authorities, who may well have been hand in glove with the mafia, she took matters in her own hands. She spoke to a few women of the village who were quite aghast at the task she had taken on. We won’t do it; this will require us to fight the men in the village, they told her.

But Jamuna, who has studied up to Class X, foresaw a bleak green-less future for herself and her community with no trees and forests to sustain or protect them.

‘Jungle nahi rahega toh paryavaran kaise bachega (how will we protect the environment if the forest is destroyed)?’ she asked.

Jamuna’s clear understanding of the issue soon trickled down to the other women and even men in her village.

“I was brought up with a love and respect for nature. My father used to plant numerous trees in our farms in Odisha. That’s where I learnt the importance of the environment,” she said.

Pointing out how the mafia was exploiting the wood from Muturkham to fund their alcohol needs, she said she was bewildered by the passive response of the community at their habitat being slowly destroyed.

“I went on to speak to a few women in the village. I held a meeting with them several times to be able to convince them that we needed to protect our beautiful forests,” she said.

Gradually, she mobilised a group of 25 women from the village and armed them with bows and arrows, bamboo sticks and spears, they marched into the forest to take on the forest predators.

With time, many men also became part of the campaign against deforestation, but most of the effort has continued to be from women, said Jamuna.

There are many daunting challenges that came their way, but their single-minded dedication towards their cause kept them going.

“There were too many altercations with the village people initially.. many scuffles with the mafia… and I told those women that in this journey, we would come across both good and bad times, but we have to struggle to keep the forest,” said Jamuna.

The group convinced the railway authorities to bar the plundered wood from being exported.

“Some time in 2008-09, we were brutally attacked by the mafia,” she said.

“They pelted stones at us while we were coming back from the railway station after speaking to the station master. Everybody got injured,” she added.

For obvious reasons, Jamuna, the woman whose initiatives were hampering their business, was their main target. She and her husband suffered most in the assault.

“My husband got hit on his head as he tried to save me. It was dark and we somehow managed to run away. We narrowly escaped death that day.” But she did not give up.

Over 15 years of many fierce encounters with the mafia and relentless sensitisation of the community, Jamuna, and the Van Suraksha Samiti that she formed, have succeeded in protecting and conserving the 50 hectares of forest land not just surrounding her village, but around many others as well.

Tribal communities cannot survive without wood. They need it for various things — mostly to cook food. But they ensure that their requirements remain within sustainable limits.

“We don’t cut trees on purpose any more and use the fallen trees and branches for all our needs,” Jamuna said. “The amount we are able to save up during the rains is sufficient for the whole year.”

The Forest Department has “adopted” her village, which has led to Muturkham getting a water connection and a school.

In 2013, Jamuna was conferred with the Godfrey Phillips Bravery Award in the ‘Acts of Social Courage’ category and this year in August, she was awarded with Women Transforming India Award by the NITI Aayog.

Today, she runs awareness campaigns through various forest committees in Kolhan Division. Around 150 committees formed by Jamuna, comprising more than 6,000 members, have joined her movement to save the forests.

She wants to do a lot more. “I wish to do a lot… to make a lot more difference, but I am bound by limited resources. I can’t in many ways afford to go beyond the villages in my state.”

But if I get more support, many more forests like ours can be saved, she declared.

(This feature is part of a special series that seeks to bring unique and extraordinary stories of ordinary people, groups and communities from across a diverse, plural and inclusive India, and has been made possible by a collaboration between IANS and the Frank Islam Foundation. Mudita Girotra can be contacted at mudita.g@ians.in)

 

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Namaz Offering Mamata Banerjee Remains Silent on Triple Talaq Verdict

This Trinamool poster is not the first time that the Bengal CM has done so to gain minority votes

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Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee offering Namaz. Facebook
  • In a recent tweet photo, Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s photo offering Namaz can be seen on a Trinamool poster
  • This is not the first time Banerjee has stooped to such a level to get minority votes
  • Usually agile to respond on every issue, she has also chosen to remain silent on triple talaq verdict

August 26, 2017: Mamata Banerjee, the CM of West Bengal, was recently seen in a Trinamool Congress poster offering Namaz, an incident which has stirred a lot of heated reactions.

Very clearly the CM can be seen offering Namaz, a move that Babul Supriyo, BJP candidate, believes is “fooling the minority.”

Also Read: Supreme Court’s Decision to Ban “Triple Talaq” is a big Relief for India Muslim Women

Just imagine the level to which politicians are now stooping down to appease the minority for their valuable votes. This is next level of appeasement politics.

But this Trinamool poster is not the first time that the Bengal CM has done so to gain minority votes.

When Mamata Banerjee was the Railway Minister, a railway advertisement was issued in 2010 with a photo of her offering Namaz. This came months before Bengal Polls for the Assembly.

The picture has also come under fire considering the Bangladeshi illegal immigrant problem that the state is bearing.

Furthermore, known for her quick responses to decisions considering nation at large, the Bengal CM has remained silent on the Supreme Court judgment that said Triple Talaq is unconstitutional. This too has not gone down well with her many critiques.

Banerjee, known for her offhand remarks on matters, chose the political strategy of silence. When asked about her view on the Supreme Court’s verdict, she refused to answer the question.

It is quite obvious that the Namaz offering Mamata Banerjee has avoided discussions and controversies on any topic related to minority communities.

One of the five triple talaq petitioners to Supreme Court, Ishrat Jahan, has sought protection for herself and family after intimidation from the neighborhood. She has written to the CM regarding the same. As of yet, there has been no response.

This tight lipped attitude coming from Bengal CM has not gone down well with the public including the Muslim community who stands divided over her stance.

Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394


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World Police Games: West Bengal Police Constable Sushen Ray Wins Gold Medal in Long Jump in Los Angeles

Sushen Roy, a constable in the Bengal Police, has won gold medal in World Police Games held at Los Angeles

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World Police Games
Sushen Roy, gold medalist in Long Jump. Twitter
  • The city of Los Angeles hosted this year’s World Police Games
  • The West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee announced that a police constable from the state had won gold medal in long jump category
  • The constable named Sushen Roy was congratulated by the CM in a Facebook post

Kolkata, August 11, 2017: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday announced that Bengal police constable Sushen Ray has won the gold medal in long jump in the World Police Games in Los Angeles.

ALSO READ: This Dancing Traffic Man from Kolkata Makes People Smile!

“I am very proud to share with all of you that one of the members of Bengal Police, Constable Sushen Ray has got Gold Medal in World Police Games in Los Angeles, the US in the long jump,” she said on Facebook.

This is a great achievement for Bengal and also Indian police. My heartiest congratulations and best wishes to him,” she added. (IANS)