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Ukrainians say the biggest problem facing their country ahead of a crucial presidential election in March is the same one that ushered in the current head of state in the first place: war.
It’s been almost four years since officials from Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany agreed on a way to end a hot phase of the conflict between Ukraine’s central government and Russia-backed separatists in the east.
Fast forward to today, and that deal, known as the Minsk accords, has largely failed, much to the dismay of most of Ukraine’s 44 million citizens.
Sporadic fighting has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced 2 million more from an area sliced through by a 500-kilometer “line of contact” teeming with land mines. As the war grinds toward a sixth year, there is no end in sight.
But a growing field of challengers hopes that fellow Ukrainians are ready to turn the page on their wartime president, Petro Poroshenko.
Just don’t insist on seeing the fine print.
“Everyone is saying they will finish the war…and they may talk about general ideas, like international peacekeepers, as a way of moving forward,” says Oleksiy Haran, a professor of political science at Kyiv’s Mohyla Academy and head of research at the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, a think tank. “But I think no politician is able to talk about specific details.”
Moreover, he adds, any candidate who is brave enough to offer specifics “would immediately be accused of making concessions to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”
In fact, that’s already happened.
Talking To The Separatists
Candidates Yuriy Boiko and Oleksandr Vilkul, whose opposition parties are regarded by some as Russia-friendly or pro-Russian, have suggested any peace deal should include compromises and dialogue with the separatists — a nonstarter for many Ukrainians who equate such a move with capitulation.
One candidate who has laid out a “new strategy for peace and security” is Yulia Tymoshenko, a former gas executive and prime minister who lost a presidential runoff to Viktor Yanukovych in 2010 and looks like a front-runner in the looming race.
She proposed a “Budapest+” negotiating format involving the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The name is a reference to widely lauded quadrilateral talks in 1994 at which a newly independent Kyiv agreed to give up the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal in exchange for security assurances from Washington, London, and Moscow. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine marked a clear abrogation of that commitment, in most Ukrainians’ eyes.
Speaking to a packed house of supporters in the capital on January 22, Tymoshenko even offered up a hopeful vision to millions of eastern Ukrainians displaced by the war: “Gather up your fridge magnets, you’ll soon have someplace to hang them.”
But throughout, Tymoshenko was short on her plan’s specifics.
“It does not reject the Minsk agreements and does not say what may be compromised regarding Donbas,” Fesenko says in a reference to the eastern regions where separatists control large sections of territory.
Another candidate, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who plays a fictional president in a TV comedy series, recently offered voters something along the lines of “we’ll meet in the middle” when asked how he might resolve the conflict.
“‘Putin has his position; I have my position. We’ll decide something and then have a referendum,'” is how Haran characterizes Zelenskyy, who is running third behind Tymoshenko and Poroshenko in early polling. “Zelenskyy demonstrated that he’s totally unprepared for such questions.”
Growing Desire For Peace
Many of the two dozen people who have declared their intention to run — 17 of them already registered ahead of the February 8 deadline — have talked about ending the war, albeit in extremely vague terms.
“Absolutely it is the most important issue,” says Oleksandr Zenov, an eastern Ukrainian who has done humanitarian work during the conflict. “My [vote] will be based not only on the plans of action but also on the activities that have already been done.”
After all, he says, “most of the candidates have been in Ukrainian [politics] for more than 20 years.”
Polls have shown Ukrainians’ desire for peace growing as the election approaches.
A poll published in November suggested 57 percent of people saw the Donbas conflict as the country’s most pressing issue, ahead of corruption. That was up from 53 percent in June. Later the same month, another survey put that number at 66 percent of Ukrainians. By December, more polling said 72 percent of Ukrainians regarded the war as the country’s biggest problem.
Volodymyr Fesenko, director of the Kyiv-based Penta Center for Political Studies, says there are three main reasons why candidates avoid details when it comes to ending the war.
First, there’s no “meaningful alternative” to the Minsk agreements at hand, and the Ukrainian and Russian positions are “fundamentally different.” Second, Ukrainians themselves are not unified behind any single solution to the conflict. And third, he insists, Ukrainian voters and politicians are convinced that peace is most contingent on “Putin’s position, [and] his readiness for a real compromise.”
A peace breakthrough that could dramatically sway the race in Poroshenko’s favor is unlikely before the election, given Putin’s public disdain for the former businessman.
But both Fesenko and Haran suggest the war’s hold on many voters, at least those farther from the war zones, might recede as election day nears. They point to the same polls indicating that the war falls to third or fourth place — after economic issues, such as utility prices, salaries, and pensions — when Ukrainians are asked what the most important issues are for their families.
“The Minsk plan can be compared to a seriously ill patient who is in the intensive-care unit,” Fesenko says. “He can be saved from death, but he will no longer be completely healthy.”
Ukraine’s roughly 36 million voters must be wondering if the same is true of their country.(REFRL)
Atop the Vindhyagiri hills in Karnataka, a 57-foot-tall statue stands. This is the statue of Lord Gomateshwara, or Bahubali, as he is known to the local patrons. The surrounding area is filled with temples where each of the many Jain Tirthankaras sits.
Sharavanabelagola is named after a pond that is located at the foothills. 'Bel' in Kannada means white, and 'kola' means pond. This is a sacred water body to the activities of the temples. It is a tourist attraction and a pilgrim destination located 85 kilometres from Mysore, and 145 kilometres from the capital, Bangalore.
The pond that Sharavanabelagola is named after Image source: wikimedia commons
Since the statue is placed at such a great height, pilgrims are made to make a journey to the top of the hill by foot. They are required to climb the stone steps barefoot as an act of piety and devotion. Palanquins are offered only to senior citizens who wish to worship at the temple.
In 3 B.C, when India was ruled by the Mauryan Dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya became a Jain monk and took up residence in the Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri hills. He is supposedly responsible for the establishment of the temple complex at Shravanabelagola, where he lived till he died. Later on, his grandson, Ashoka made some additional changes to the place.
A shop in the tourist section that sells handmade items Image source: wikimedia commons
Every twelve years, a Mahamastabhisheka is conducted, and Jains from every part congregate to witness it. The statue is washed with water, rice flour, sugarcane juice, saffrom, sandalwood paste, gold, and silver flowers, curd, ghee, milk, and turmeric, and all the monks offer special prayers. The surrounding temples and rocks are preserved as archaeological wonders owing to the 800 edicts and inscriptions found here which span 600 to 1830.
Keywords: Shravanabelagola, Jainism, Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Karnataka
By Siddhi Jain
The author who named the book after her twin sons -- Puhor and Niyor -- is a parent who has seen and heard the tales of ridicule and discrimination suffered by many in India and beyond. She says the book is an artistic illustration for kids that details how different families can live and coexist. Whether it's children with two dads or two moms, children with a single dad or single mom, and even multiracial family units, Borthakur's book teaches love, understanding, and compassion towards unconventional families.
Beyond race, gender, color, and ethnicity which have formed the bases for discrimination since the beginning of time, this book aims to bring to light a largely ignored issue. For so long, single parents have been treated like a taboo without any attempt to understand their situations; no one really cares how or why one's marriage ended but just wants to treat single parents as villains simply for choosing happiness and loving their children.
Homosexual parents, a relatively new family system, is another form that has suffered hate and discrimination for many years. Pritisha emphasizes the need to understand that diversity in people and family is what makes the world beautiful and colourful. 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories' is a firm but compassionate statement against all forms of discrimination on the bases of sexual identity, gender, race, and even differences in background
'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories' is a firm but compassionate statement against all forms of discrimination on the bases of sexual identity, gender, race and even differences in background. | Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash
Written for a global audience, the book is targeted at kids between the ages of five and 10, the reason it is embellished with colourful images of families of different types is to appeal to children's sense of sight and drive home the message at the same time. Borthakur believes children are the best place to start because the ages between five and 10 are the most formative, where little ones pick up habits, beliefs and perceptions.
The Guwahati-born author says, "With this book, I'm not trying to take away the job of parents in forming habits, I simply want to do my part as a parent. It is important that we impart the right values in our kids in a bid to build a better, more inclusive and tolerant global society that is fair to everyone." The author's first attempt at a book was an Assamese poetry 'Anubhav', published in 2010.
Set to be published under the label of Author's Channel, the book is like an adventure; a journey into uncharted territories, untouched subjects and matters long ignored. In her words. "The book takes a critical stand in defense of people in society who have had to undergo severe emotional torture for no cause of theirs. It is a terrible conception to think such people any less of a human just for being different," says publisher Aruna Naidu. By September 30, this title, priced at Rs 299, will be available online and in offline bookstores. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Book, children, Guwahati, Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories, moral, story, kids, discrimination, equality
If you feel that clean and well-groomed hands are just an essential prerequisite for women, you might like to think twice. Men should equally pay attention to their hands because our hand houses 1,500 bacteria living on each square centimeter of its skin. You can easily assume what havoc it can create in our body because in India we have the culture of eating with our hands and spaces beneath nails can become breeding heaven for germs. Moreover, clean and maintained hands boost confidence in their daily life activities. Therefore, it's important to keep your hands clean irrespective of your gender by washing or sanitizing at regular intervals. And, to keep them groomed, you don't have to visit a salon.
Rajesh U Pandya, Managing Director, KAI India, gives easy and completely doable tips to follow at home:
* Refrain from harsh soaps: You should be mindful of the soap you are using to wash your hands. Your soap can have a moisturizing element in it like aloe vera or shea butter. Ensure that you're washing your hands with normal water as hot water can make your hand's skin dry and scaly.
You should be mindful of the soap you are using to wash your hands. | Photo by Aurélia Dubois on Unsplash
* Clip your nails regularly: Make use of your personal nail clipper to cut your nails. After cutting your nails at a comfortable length also file them using a nail filer. Never share your nail care clipper as the germs can get transferred to your loved ones. Also, don't forget to use grime remover to remove hidden germs in corners and beneath nails. Also, you may like to file your nails to have a smooth finish.
* Good quality Nail Clipper: Do not use a rusted or chromium coated nail clipper as it might be harmful to skin and might cause dangerous bacterial infections.
* Stop the habit of nail chewing: Sometimes anxiety or extreme boredom can lead to chewing of nails. This habit only makes your nails uneven and ugly. Sometimes, our unclean nail folds give rise to viral, bacterial or fungal infections, which in turn can make us sick if we chew our nails.
Make use of your personal nail clipper to cut your nails. | Pixabay
* Exfoliate your hands: Similar to the way you exfoliate your face; your hands also need it. It helps to keep the dry skin at bay and keep your hands soft. You can buy a scrub or make one at home using brown sugar and olive oil. After scrubbing, you need to massage your hands with moisturizer.
Similar to the way you exfoliate your face; your hands also need it. It helps to keep the dry skin at bay and keep your hands soft. | Wikipedia
* Don't use your nails as tools: Always keep in mind that your nails are like jewels. Never use them to pry things open such as pop cans, removing keys from the ring, opening letters, or scraping off labels. This results in unnecessary breakage of nails, making your hands look dirty.
Never use your nails to pry things open such as pop cans, removing keys from the ring, opening letters or scraping off labels. | Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash
* Be aware of nail or cuticle inflammation or redness: If there are any signs of infection, disinfect the skin as soon as possible with an anti-bacterial or anti-fungal ointment.
(Article originally written by N.Lothungbeni Humtsoe) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Nails, groom, hand, exfoliate, chew, nail clipper, bite, cuticle