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NASA denies of awarding any internship to Indian teen

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Kolkata: US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) denied the claim of an Indian girl named Sataparna Mukherjee. She had claimed that she is selected for the prestigious Goddard Internship Program (GIP) under the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The girl is still sticking to her stand.

Eighteen-year-old suburban West Bengal resident Sataparna Mukherjee has attested to being the “youngest Indian to have been chosen for a NASA research project”.

The resident of Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas district claimed in an interview to the agency that the space agency had offered her a full scholarship to pursue graduation, post-graduation, and PhD (as NASA faculty) in aerospace engineering at its “London Astrobiology Centre in Oxford University.”

In an e-mail to the agency, a NASA official clarified: “We have no record of anyone by that name receiving an internship, scholarship or any form of academic or financial assistance from any NASA institute, center or program.”

Further the official highlighted: “The program noted by multiple Indian media outlets does not exist.”

The agency said its NASA GISS education program is the New York City Research Initiative (NYCRI), “where teams of high school and undergraduate students and faculty work alongside graduate students and the lead scientists of NASA-funded research projects at universities within a 50-mile radius of New York City…, or at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) under the mentorship of a GISS scientist.”

NASA said the NYCRI application deadline has just passed and applications for its summer program were currently under review. “Selections have not been made.”

However, an unfazed Mukherjee, who claims she is scheduled to leave for Britain in August, maintains she has the necessary documents to prove her assertions.

Mukherjee had earlier sent a screenshot to the agency of a purported correspondence from the space agency stating “Goddard Internship program as an employee and researcher. Technical writing for NASA’s Applied Earth Science and Technology Development Program.”

Quizzed on NASA’s reaction, Mukherjee said that the agency was issuing denials to maintain confidentiality.

“I have the necessary documents and I can’t send them via mail as I was asked by NASA to maintain confidentiality. I also have my visa. You can come and see them.”

On the widespread media coverage and the interviews she willingly appeared for, the student said she was “forced by media channels” to tell her story.

“Since I am the only Indian selected, I was asked to maintain confidentiality. They (NASA) are denying it now because it’s in the news now.”

Mukherjee has maintained she had posted a paper on NASA’s website on black hole theory which landed her the scholarship. She had also talked about getting through an exam (as one of top three scorers) for doing major in English at the Oxford University. However, even after repeated requests, she failed to provide documentary evidence.

Media reports have quoted Sataparna as saying she verified the authenticity of the NASA website at the Chennai office of the British Council.

However, the British Council termed the claims as “false”.

“British Council would like to refute and condemn false claims as they are baseless and without any premise. As per our records, nobody with this stated identity visited or contacted our office in Chennai,” a British Council official said over e-mail.(IANS)

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Women In India Turn To Technology To Stay Safe From Harassment

Police in many Indian cities are also encouraging women to use apps to register complaints

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Women, Harassment
Women stand at a crowded place in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, Oct. 9, 2006. Safety is the biggest concern for women using public and private transport, according to a survey Thursday. VOA

New web and phone apps in India are helping women stay safe in public spaces by making it easier for them to report harassment and get help, developers say.

Women are increasingly turning to technology to stay safe in public spaces, which in turn helps the police to map “harassment prone” spots — from dimly lit roads to bus routes and street corners.

Safety is the biggest concern for women using public and private transport, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey released Thursday, as improving city access for women becomes a major focus globally.

“Women always strategize on how to access public spaces, from how to dress to what mode of transport to take, timings and whether they should travel alone or in a group,” said Sameera Khan, columnist and co-author of “Why Loiter? Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets.”

#MeToo, Victim, Harassment
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician M.J. Akbar takes the oath during the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers, July 5, 2017, at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. The Indian minister and veteran newspaper editor announced his resignation, Oct. 17, 2018, while still insisting that the accusations of sexual harassment are false. VOA

Reported crimes up 80 percent

Indian government data shows reported cases of crime against women rose by more than 80 percent between 2007 and 2016.

The fatal gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi in 2012 put the spotlight on the dangers women face in India’s public spaces.

The incident spurred Supreet Singh of charity Red Dot Foundation to create the SafeCity app that encourages women across 11 Indian cities to report harassment and flag hotspots.

“We want to bridge the gap between the ground reality of harassment in public spaces and what is actually being reported,” said Singh, a speaker at the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual Trust Conference on Thursday.

India, Harassment
Students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University participate in a protest demanding suspension of a professor accused of sexual harassment, in New Delhi. VOA

The aim is to take the spotlight off the victim and focus on the areas where crimes are committed so action can be taken.

Dimly lit lanes, crowded public transport, paths leading to community toilets, basements, parking lots and parks are places where Indian women feel most vulnerable, campaigners say.

Stigma attached to sexual harassment and an insensitive police reporting mechanism result in many cases going unreported, rights campaigners say.

Apps are promising

But apps like SafeCity, My Safetipin and Himmat (courage) promise anonymity to women reporting crimes and share data collected through the app with government agencies such as the police, municipal corporations and the transport department.

Students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University participate in a protest demanding suspension of a professor accused of sexual harassment, in New Delhi
People hold placards at a rally condemning the rapes of two girls, aged 8 and 11, in Ahmedabad, India. VOA

“The data has helped in many small ways,” said Singh of the Red Dot Foundation. “From getting the police to increase patrolling in an area prone to ‘eve-teasing’ to getting authorities to increase street lighting in dark alleys, the app is bringing change.”

Also Read: Women And Girls In Poor Countries Are Using Contraceptives More: Report

Police in many Indian cities, including New Delhi, Gurgaon and Chandigarh, are also encouraging women to use apps to register complaints, promising prompt action.

“Safety apps are another such strategy that could be applied by women but I worry that by giving these apps, everyone else, most importantly the state, should not abdicate its responsibility towards public safety,” Khan said. (VOA)