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“Seven Decades and Beyond – The UN-India Connect”: A treasured tome that also contains extremely rare Photographs

In his book "Seven Decades and Beyond-The India-UN Connect", Hardeep Puri talks about his belief that the UN embodies in its ideals India's aspirations

Flag of the United Nations, wikimedia

New Delhi, March 23, 2017: This one surely is for posterity, perhaps the first exhaustive and definitive work on the India-UN connect over the past seven decades, presented in 70 theme-based chapters spread over three sections.

“It is my conviction that the UN embodies in its ideals India’s aspirations,” writes Hardeep Puri, a former Indian Permanent Representative to the world body, in one of the eight “Memoirs” in the profusely-illustrated 428-page book, “Seven Decades and Beyond – The UN-India Connect” that also contains some extremely rare photographs.

“India can both gain from and give to the global mission of the UN. We are a large multicultural and multilingual country that celebrates diversity. It stands to reason that the UN should, in terms of our civilisational ethos of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the whole world is one family), resonate well in India,” writes Puri, who twice served as the President of the UN Security Council — in August 2011 and November 2012.

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“Civilisational humanism and traditional empathy apart, the Indian Constitution — anchored in freedom, human dignity, tolerance, basic and fundamental human rights, the rule of law and progressive directive principles of State policy — would appear to make India and the UN a perfect fit,” says Puri, who also served as the Chairman of the UNSC Counter-Terrorism Committee from January 2011 to February 2013,

How did the book, which will be released on Friday, come about?

Noting that three broad aspects are explored — India at the UN, the UN and the People and UN Agency profiles — Derk Segaar, Director of the UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan, says, “Through a historic lens, the book aims to uncover the lesser known between these entities, deepening and layering their narratives.”

Along the way, there have been some memorable ups — on climate change, for instance — and downs, to name just one, disarmament.

In various negotiations, “India and other developing countries, as ‘first movers’, succeeded in embedding the moral imperative of climate change into the text of the UNFCCC (UN Framework Conference on Climate Change)”, says the chapter titled “Concerted Action”.

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“They took the position that excessive emission of carbon dioxide is a root cause of climate change. Therefore, principles of equality and justice suggest that a country’s responsibility to address climate change can be determined by its total emissions over time as well as its current emissions per capita. This presumes that every individual on the planet has an equal right to the common atmospheric space.

“Countries have a common responsibility to address climate change according to factors such as their emissions over time, population and level of wealth. This idea of equity, after much tough negotiation, was embedded into the UNFCCC in 1992, and thereafter into the Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997. All later negotiations and agreements have taken place within these frameworks,” the book says.

Arundhati Ghosh, a former Permanent Representative to the UN office in Geneva, writes in anger of the “sleight of hand” manner in which the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty “was sent to the General Assembly where India not only did not sign it but also voted against it”.

Ghosh died in July 2016 soon after penning her memoir.

Among the others accorded this honour are Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar (retd), a former Force Commander of the UN Protection Force in Bosnia and Herzagovina; Chinmaya Gharekhan, a former Permanent Representative to the UN and UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process; and Shashi Tharoor, a former UN Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information and former Minister of State for External Affairs.

“At the heart of this book are the insightful, eloquent and moving essays contributed by eight men and women who have literally made history at the United Nations over the past seven decades. In sharing highlights of their memories, some of which may never have been published before, they have revealed the compassionate heart of the Organisation while also contributing to the historical record of those who follow,” explains Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman, the Creative Director of the editorial team that put the book together.

In all this effusive praise, what does the book have to say about India’s aspirations for a permanent seat in an expanded Security Council?

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“In its bid for permanent membership of the Security Council, India has sought and received some measure of support from each of the five permanent members, as well as a large number of other nations. However, reform of the main organs of the UN remains famously difficult, since it requires amendments to the Charter, adopted and ratified by a vote of two-thirds of the members of the General Assembly, including all five of the permanent members,” says a box in bold blue on the opening page of the chapter titled “Power for Peace”, sub-titled “India At The Security Council”.

But then, history is a great leveller. One wonders how, if and when a similar volume comes out 30 years down the line to mark the centenary of the India-UN connect, would detail the movement on this front.


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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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