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Never known to spend an idle moment during his five-decade journey in politics, during which he witnessed first-hand the evolution of a new India, Pranab Mukherjee, the country’s 13th President who died on Monday, had penned four volumes of his autobiography after his term ended in 2017, three of which have been published by Rupa, while the fourth is the process.
This is a rare first-hand account of the events that have shaped India in the past 50 years and will serve as a valuable source material for academics, political scientists and the layman alike through the eyes of a man who never hesitated to call a spade a spade – and suffered the occasional pinpricks but eventually came out smiling.
A powerful orator and scholar, Mukherjee’s intellectual and political prowess as well as remarkable knowledge of international relations, financial affairs and parliamentary process are widely admired. He has been acclaimed for his role as a consensus builder on difficult national issues through his ability to forge unity amongst the diverse political parties that form part of India’s vibrant multi-party democracy.
Here, in descending order, is a brief description of the four volumes and key extracts from the first, second and third volumes:
* ‘The Dramatic Decade’ focuses on one of the most fascinating periods in Independent India’s history – the 1970s. This is when Mukherjee cut his teeth and plunged headlong into national politics. This is also when the Congress suffered significant losses – and control – of seven states after the 1967 General Elections but returned to power at the Centre for a fourth consecutive term.
India displayed her commitment to liberty by extending full support to East Pakistan’s struggle for independence in 1971. Given the heavy toll the war took on the economy, and the subsequent oil crisis of 1973, there was spiralling inflation and an acute shortage of goods and services; India had to act swiftly and decisively.
The Emergency was declared in 1975, to widespread criticism and social unrest. Finally, in 1977, India saw the advent of the politics of coalition, with the Janata Party coming to power. This was a turning point in the history of Independent India.
As one of the keenest observers of and participants in this stormy period, Mukherjee recounts brilliantly, and with a historian’s rigour and insight, the developments surrounding the birth of a new country – Bangladesh – and other landmark events of those years. Often candidly, he reveals his association with the key leaders of the decade, the rapport he shared with Indira Gandhi, and the tough decisions he chose to make in deference to his fierce sense of loyalty to the nation.
Offering a direct window into this tumultuous, yet critical, period in modern Indian history, “The Dramatic Decade” is the most authoritative insider’s account yet of Indian politics of the time, by a great politician and statesman.
“It is believed that Siddhartha Shankar Ray played an important role in the decision to declare the Emergency: it was his suggestion, and Indira Gandhi acted on it. In fact, Indira Gandhi told me subsequently that she was not even aware of the constitutional provisions allowing for the declaration of a state of Emergency on grounds of internal disturbance, particularly since a state of Emergency had already been proclaimed as a consequence of the Indo-Pak conflict in 1971.”
“Janata Party leaders, aided by a section of the media, alleged that our party was spending money like water. One newspaper reported that, as a close confidante of Indira Gandhi, I was especially entrusted with the protection of the party’s cash chest. George Fernandes enacted a drama by going door-to-door to raise small collections. He was snapped by newspapers, bucket in hand, collecting donations from shopkeepers. The picture they tried to portray was that while the Janata Party was strapped for cash, Indira Gandhi’s party was flush with truckloads of it. All major Janata Party leaders, except the Prime Minister, visited the constituency and addressed meetings. But their collective strength was not enough to prevent Indira Gandhi’s re-entry into Parliament. She won the Lok Sabha seat of Chikmagalur by a margin of over 80,000 votes over her nearest rival.”
“I did not know JP. I met him only once in 1974 at the Gandhi Peace Foundation along with C.M. Stephen. Krishna Kant had organized this meeting. We talked about the Naxalite movement, and I was impressed by his personality and his genuine approach to this emotional and sensitive issue. I found him to be far above petty political games; he truly wanted to restore moral values in Indian politics and hence expected everyone, including those in the ruling party, to follow his advice. I have reason to believe that he was more than justified in having such expectations. He was a rare Indian politician who didn’t clamour for office or power in spite of having it within his reach; he was a man who could have succeeded Nehru as the second most popular man on the Indian political stage. How could such a man not see through the opportunism of the opposition parties?”
* ‘The Turbulent Years’ opens in the 1980s. Sanjay Gandhi is dead under unexpected, tragic circumstances; not many years later, Indira Gandhi is assassinated; Rajiv Gandhi, ‘the reluctant politician’, abruptly becomes India’s Prime Minister.
Pranab Mukherjee was witness to (and, sometimes, a participant in) the momentous events of the 1980s and the 1990s, a period that was indisputably the most turbulent in India’s post-Independence history. An insider, he sheds new light on every major political occurrence of the time – from Rajiv Gandhi’s ascendance as India’s Prime Minister to the emergence of P.V. Narasimha Rao as a leader of the nation; from Operation Blue Star to the Babri Masjid’s demolition.
Equally, Pranab Mukherjee is candid about each of the professional crises that marked this period of his career – the rumours that he wanted to elbow aside Rajiv Gandhi for the top post; the possible reasons for his ouster from Rajiv’s Cabinet and, later, the party; and the allegation that he aided and abetted the Left by not imposing President’s rule in West Bengal and Tripura in the late 1980s.
The second volume of Pranab Mukherjee’s autobiography is not only an honest account of his years in power (and in the wilderness), but also a cogent analysis of the political and social turning points of a key period in the evolution of modern India.
“Much later, in a heart-to-heart conversation with me in 1991, P.V. Narasimha Rao expressed the view that if I had not formed another party after my expulsion, perhaps my return to the Congress would have been faster. Rajiv would have brought me back, especially after Arun Nehru, V.P. Singh and others had deserted him.
“Looking back, I feel P.V. was correct. I could have avoided the RSC (Rashtriya Samajwadi Congress) fiasco. I should have had the wisdom to realize that I was (and am) not a mass leader. Those who left the Congress rarely succeeded. I could have been of some help to the Congress party and the government during those crucial years of 1986 and 1987 when everything seemed to go wrong for Rajiv. Alas, I returned to the party only in 1988—too late to make any significant difference to the Congress’ performance in the Lok Sabha elections of 1989.”
* “The Coalition Years” begins its journey in 1996 and explores the highs and lows that characterized sixteen years of one of the most tumultuous periods in the nation’s political history. It is an insightful account of the larger governance phenomenon in India – coalition politics – – as seen through the eyes of one of the chief architects of the post-Congress era of Indian politics.
From the inexplicable defeat of the Congress in the 1996 general elections and the rise of regional parties like the TDP and the TMC, to the compelling factors that forced the Congress to withdraw support to the I.K. Gujral government and the singular ability of Sonia Gandhi to forge an alliance with diverse political parties that enabled the Congress to lead the UPA I and II coalitions, Pranab Mukherjee was a keen observer and an active participant in the contemporary developments that reshaped the course of the country’s political, economic and social destiny.
Beyond the challenges, complications and compulsions of coalition governments, this volume is also a recollection of Mukherjee’s journey heading the key ministries of Defence, External Affairs and Finance, beginning from 2004. He recounts each of these events with candour – the path-breaking meeting with Henry Kissinger in 2004 that altered the course of the India–US strategic partnership, his timely advice to Bangladesh Army Chief, General Moeen Ahmed, in 2008 that led to the release of political prisoners there and the differing views with RBI Governor D. Subbarao on the structure of the FSDC (Financial Stability and Development Council).
The third volume of Pranab Mukherjee’s autobiography is a sharp and candid account of his years at the helm. It offers the most authoritative account of contemporary Indian politics by one of the tallest leaders and statesmen of our generation.
“In my opinion, Sharad Pawar, as the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, expected the party to request him, instead of Sonia Gandhi, to stake claim to form the government. After Sonia’s elevation as the Congress president, she consulted P. Shiv Shankar on all important issues rather than Sharad Pawar. This sense of alienation and disenchantment may have been responsible for his statements on Sonia’s foreign origin, and his subsequent exit from the party in 1999.”
“Following my active participation in the conclave, Sonia Gandhi started consulting me more frequently. A certain detachment which had earlier existed in our relationship gradually transformed into warmth and mutual respect. I believe that this detachment and her decision of not being aligned with anybody in particular is her greatest strength. It reflects another important dimension in India’s political history. Like other illustrious members of her family, Sonia has adopted a truly pan-India approach. Her ability to reach out to the masses and their acceptance of her as their leader was the single most important qualifying factor for her to become India’s prime minister. She could have acquired other essential qualities for this office after assuming power.
“Looking back, I can say that as the longest serving Congress President, Pranab Mukherjee, Sonia’s positive contribution to strengthen the Congress party has not received due attention in the analysis of contemporary political observers.”
“Matters took a dramatic turn after the fall of the Babri Masjid. Sitaram Kesri created a scene, collapsing into tears and disrupting a Cabinet meeting at which I was present. I had to tell him, ‘There is no reason to be melodramatic. All of you were members of the Cabinet and some of you were members of the CCPA. All decisions were taken in the meetings of the Cabinet and CCPA. Responsibility is collective; the onus cannot only be on the Prime Minister or Home Minister.”
“Later, in a private meeting with P.V., I did not mince words. I burst out, ‘Was there no one who advised you of the dangers? Did you not understand the global repercussions of any damage to the Babri Masjid? At least now take concrete steps to quell communal tensions and assuage the feelings of Muslims through affirmative action’.”
* ‘The Presidential Years’ which is under process, will chronicle the journey of India’s head of state in exhaustive detail. This unique autobiographical account promises to give readers a bird’s eye view of the functioning of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the inside story of the issues that made headlines – from the imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh to demonetisation and the surgical strikes, his relationship with Prime Minister Modi and the NDA government and the functioning of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. (IANS)
A 35-year-old woman in Uttar Pradesh was given triple talaq by her husband after she refused to dance in orchestra shows. The woman has now lodged an FIR against her husband with Lanka police.
ACP Bhelupur, Pravin Kumar Singh said: "After initial investigation in the complaint of the woman, an FIR against her husband Naseem Ahmed of Mungra Badshahpur area of Jaunpur district, his mother and two sisters has been lodged by Lanka police under sections of Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act and Dowry Prohibition Act. "The police have started further investigation in this case."
The woman has now lodged an FIR against her husband with Lanka police. | VOA
According to the police, the woman in her complaint mentioned that she was married to Naseem in 2007 and they have two sons and a daughter. In 2015, Naseem and his family forced the woman's father, who is a retired government employee, to give Rs 2 lakhs to get his job of driver in municipal body confirmed.
After this, Naseem started forcing her to dance in orchestra shows and indulge in flesh trade. The woman said that her mother started paying Rs 5,000 to Naseem's family per month to ensure that she was not forced to indulge in immoral activities. She further alleged that in August 2021 she was ousted from home with her children by Naseem, his mother and sisters as she refused to indulge in flesh trade and dance in orchestra to earn money for him.
She said that she kept requesting her husband and in-laws over the phone to take her back. She alleged that when she was talking to Naseem on phone, he gave her 'triple talaq'. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: triple talaq, uttar pradesh, woman, police, husband, orchestra, money, investigation)
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Actor and dancer Susovan Sonu Roy began his career as a western dancer. Bengali Actor Susovan Sonu Roy was a part of the Star Jalsha channel's serial named "Kora Pakhi". He played a negative role in the serial for several months, along with lead actress Parno Mitra. He acted in the Star Jalsha channel's serial "Mohor", and through Mohor, he got "Kora Pakhi", which is the same production house project.
Susovan Sonu Roy debuted with the serial "Anandamoyee Maa", on the Aakash Aath channel. He has also acted in Zee Bangla channel's serial "Jamuna Dhaki," in which he played the role of a neighbour. After that, Susovan Sonu Roy acted in the Star Jalsha channel's serial named "Titli" in which he played a vital role. He has also starred in a serial called "Khelaghor.". People recognised him as an actor after being cast in so many serials.
The Kolkata Actor Susovan Sonu Roy dared to leave his job to follow his dreams in the field of acting. After graduation, he auditioned for many Mumbai based projects, and later on, he auditioned for his hometown, i.e., Kolkata based projects and did workshops under the production house of renowned Directors and Producers for two years (2016 -2018).
A two-member team of Mugdha Dubey and Mahyah Binti Idris from NewsGram interviewed Bengali actor Susovan Sonu Roy, a budding actor and western dancer, about his career, struggle and various issues in the entertainment industry on Saturday.
The Kolkata Actor Susovan Sonu Roy dared to leave his job to follow his dreams in the field of acting. | NewsGram
Readout excerpts from the interview with Susovan Sonu Roy.
Mahyah Binti Idris: Before we begin with this interview, would you like to tell us something about yourself?
SS Roy: So, basically, I am an actor from Kolkata, and I have worked in Bengali TV Serials, and I started my career in the entertainment industry as a western dancer. When I was just five years old, I lost my father in a car accident. Despite my difficult upbringing, my mother never wavered in her commitment of achieving the goals I set for myself.
Mahyah Binti Idris: Despite your mother's wishes, what was the inspiration that made you decide to pursue a career in acting/dancing instead of singing?
SS Roy: I am a firm believer of the fact that inspiration comes from within, and positivity is essential. Things go your way when you're upbeat and optimistic. I enjoy the work I do, and once I started my career in the entertainment industry, there was no turning back, I kept acquiring one project after another. I have always wanted to be an actor, and I am happy that I found my inspiration from within.
Mahyah Binti Idris: You played a negative character in 'Kora Pakhi' for several months. What kind of impact did it have on your professional life after opting for such a role?
SS Roy: I am pretty comfortable in opting for any kind of role I am offered because I believe acting is acting, whether it is a big role, a minor role, a negative or a positive role. I take inspiration from the likes of Shahrukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty and John Abraham.
Mahyah Binti Idris: Nowadays, cyberbullying and trolling are getting more frequent. How do you handle trolls or deal with criticism?
SS Roy: Trolls exist just to cause others distress. I ignore all the negativity and don't let it affect me in any way. If anyone lets the negative comments get into their head, they will find it difficult to do anything, as negativity hinders pursuing dreams.
Mahyah Binti Idris: What, in your opinion, is more crucial to long-term success in the field of acting, additional projects or formal training?
SS Roy: Indeed, training about the various techniques used in acting is essential, and once you get into the role, everything comes out naturally but that doesn’t mean one should stop training to become better day by day, training and trying to improve your skills is very important.
Mahyah Binti Idris: Where do you see yourself in a few years, and what projects do you have on your bucket list?
SS Roy: I auditioned for a movie that will feature Kajal Aggarwal in the lead. My ultimate goal is to crack a role in Bollywood. I want to gain as much experience as possible in serials and movies.
Mugdha Dubey: What is the difference in the challenges one faces while struggling to gain a role in regional cinema and Bollywood?
SS Roy: The difference in struggle is huge; it is pretty challenging to get a role in Bollywood. But I believe that experience matters and gives you an edge over others because you are already aware of some techniques used in acting and won't commit the mistakes a fresher does. I got the chance to audition for a movie with the lead as Kajal Agarwal because of my experience.
Mugdha Dubey: Have you ever witnessed nepotism firsthand, or did you ever feel that nepotism is prevalent in the Kolkata film industry?
SS Roy: Nothing can stop you if you put in the effort and stay true to your ambitions. But, one cannot ignore the fact that nepotism is everywhere, be it Bollywood or Tollywood. The acquaintances of artists get easily recognized but that shouldn’t demotivate aspiring actors because your hard work matters and if you keep working hard in the right direction, you will surely get recognized.
Mugdha Dubey: What message or tips would you like to convey to today's youngsters and those who aspire to become actors?
SS Roy: I would encourage the young generation to stand up for what they believe in and make the world a better place for future generations by following your passions and utilizing your inborn talents and abilities. If they aspire to become actors, I would like to tell them that mere luck will not be sufficient to become an actor; the struggle is real. You need to work very hard and train yourself to become an actor. Your success and failure depend on what you do, and the type of content you can produce, and one should always try to improve themselves.
(Keywords: Susovan Sonu Roy, Tollywood, bollywood news, actor, dancer, nepotism, struggle, kolkata, bengali)
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NASA will pay up to $1 million to people who can come up with innovative and sustainable food production ideas to feed astronauts in space, as the US space agency prepares to send astronauts further into the cosmos than ever before. Giving future explorers the technology to produce nutritious, tasty, and satisfying meals on long-duration space missions will give them the energy required to uncover the great unknown. In coordination with the Canadian Space Agency, NASA has launched the 'Deep Space Food Challenge' that calls on teams to design, build, and demonstrate prototypes of food production technologies that provide tangible nutritional products -- or food.
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"Feeding astronauts over long periods within the constraints of space travel will require innovative solutions," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. "Pushing the boundaries of food technology will keep future explorers healthy and could even help feed people here at home," he said in a statement. Over time, food loses its nutritional value. That means for a multi-year mission to Mars, bringing along pre-packaged food will not meet all the needs for maintaining astronaut health.
Innovative food production technology that produces safe, acceptable, palatable, nutritious food products. |UnsplashUnsplash
In October 2021, Phase 1 of the challenge culminated as NASA awarded 18 teams a total of $450,000 for their concepts for innovative food production technology that produces safe, acceptable, palatable, nutritious food products. NASA now invites both new and existing teams to enter Phase 2 for a prize purse up to $1 million. "Everything needed to store, prepare and deliver food to the crew, including production, processing, transport, consumption, and disposal of waste should be considered," said NASA. Proposed technologies such as plant growth systems, manufactured food products, and ready-to-eat solutions combined could provide the future crews with a variety of options that would provide the needed daily nutrition, it added. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : NASA, innovative, food, healthy, idea, astronaut, USA, tasty, technology, space, travel, explorer, health, nutrition, prize, solution, variety.)
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