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Snowfall in Uttarakhand, a spotless village

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Uttarakhand

Chopta (Uttarakhand): The clouds kissed the mountain peaks; the sun played hide and seek, peeking out at times from behind those clouds, its rays cutting across the edges of spruce tree that stood tall on the valley, making their way to reach up to me. It kept raining while I was travelling to the hills – and then it snowed.

Taking a break from my routine, I was heading for Chopta, a small town in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. Located 8,790 feet above sea-level on NH 58, the picturesque town is surrounded by mountains that offer glimpses of the mighty Himalayan range.

The road would bend and curve at every possible angle it could; the Ganga river was in its majestic colours – sometimes seablue, sometimes robin and at times skyblue; sometimes calm and then ferocious as it wound its way down, my constant companion as I approached my destination from Rishikesh.

On my way came three main confluences – Devprayag where the Alaknanda meets the Bhagirathi and takes the name of Ganga; ahead was Rudraprayag, the confluence of the Alaknanda and the Mandakini; and Karnaprayag, where the Alaknanda amalgamates with the Pindar.

The weather became cold as it was raining, making for a damp and dull environment. It gradually turned cold, with the wind chilling me to the bone benumbing my body – but my travelling spirit was indomitable.

Travelling in local bus gave me a chance to assimilate the local culture of the Garhwal region in which Chopta falls. The ‘pahari’ song being played in the bus and some small talk with the locals provided some relief during the hectic journey.

Though I thought I was successful in defeating the freezing climate, the demotivating rain and the sharp turns in the road were bearable but something heart-breaking was awaiting me.

As I was approaching Chopta after a tiresome bus journey of almost seven hours, soft white flakes began falling. The road and the valley got a white make-over and the hills were enveloped in a white sheet. Within moments, the road and the adjacent area had turned into a white ornament and the hill range looked no less than a necklace.

By the time snowfall stopped, the day had ended and the road to Chopta was blocked. Far in the distance, the sun bid adieu to the day, smashing the dull sky with a splash of red.

Mother Nature mesmerised me with her art of creating an enchanting scenic view. It looked no less than a painting, where every stroke of brush defined how she played with colours, with the sky serving as a canvas.

With a heavy heart, I settled for the night in a small village called Mandal, below Chopta, whose scenic charm hypnotised me the next morning.

The mountain range was standing tall just across the window of my room, glittering as the first rays of the sun touched the snow-clad peaks. The pine, spruce and maple leaves blinked at the sun’s rays and danced to the tune of the cold breeze blowing across the village.

Along with the whispering of the wind, the tinkling sound that a nearby tranquil stream made as it rushed over the stones on its bed, mingled into the atmosphere, accompanied by the chirping of birds to create a rapturous mood.

The dead maple leaves lying on the wet road welcomed me as I crunched them below my feet while I was engulfed by the wondrous beauty of the village. I recollected a few lines from Robert Frost’s poem The Mountain: “When I walked forth at dawn to see new things/Were fields, a river, and beyond, more fields,” while I strolled across the tiny village early in the morning.

Mandal village exudes a pristine charm. Away from the cacophony of city life, the village turned out to be the perfect gateway to sooth my soul.

While I was returning from the village I remembered another Frost poem, The Road Not Taken: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I/I took the one less travelled by”. I could not take the road that leads to Chopta, but the picture perfect Mandal village was no less a surprise to me with its beauty. (Somrita Ghosh, IANS) (pic courtesy: teambhp.com)

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The major Challenge is to make the Youth of the Country Entrepreneurial and not Job Seekers : Venkaiah Naidu

"The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers," Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government's various initiatives.

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Venkaiah Naidu
Venkaiah Naidu. Wikimedia Commons
  • At a time of tepid job growth and continuing income disparities, the major challenge is to make the youth of the country entrepreneurial and not job seekers, Vice President  Venkaiah Naidu said on Thursday.

“Disparities continue to remain in India and so there is a need for inclusive growth… there is the need to take care of the suppressed, oppressed and depressed,” Venkaiah Naidu said at the Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust’s (BYST) silver jubilee celebrations here with Britain’s Prince Charles as the chief guest.

“The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers,” Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government’s various initiatives to encourage youth enterprises like Startup India, Standup India and the Mudra financing scheme for underprivileged sections.

Modelled on Prince Charles’ Trust for business startups, BYST, founded by Lakshmi Venkatesan, daughter of former President R. Venkatraman, is engaged in building rural entrepreneurship — “grampreneurs” — as also enterprise among under-privileged sections, which includes business mentoring. The current BYST chairman is Bajaj Group chief, Rahul Bajaj.

“Without mentoring, it would be very difficult to set up startups, with all the business, marketing and other vital issues involved in the first two-three years,” Prince Charles said in his address at the International Mentoring Summit organized by BYST to mark its 25 years.

“What amazes me are the sheer number of jobs these young entrepreneurs had created. The aim of such a project should be to create a virtual cycle of creating entrepreneurs who can then invest in the future of business,” Charles said referring to his trust.

BYST was officially launched in 1992 by Prince Charles and expanded its operations to six major regions of India.

Out of these six regions, four — Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad — run the urban programme while two regions — Haryana and Maharashtra — run the rural programme.(IANS)

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India sends Emergency Fuel Supplies to Sri Lanka

According to Indian public broadcaster Doordarshan, Modi assured all assistance from India to Sri Lanka following Siriena's request for emergency fuel supplies and petrol shipments.

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emergency fuel supplies
India is sending additional fuel to Sri Lanka, confirmed PMO onTwitter (representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 9, 2017 : Following reports of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) rejecting a shipment of petrol from Lanka IOC (LIOC), the Sri Lankan subsidiary of Indian Oil, India on Wednesday made emergency fuel supplies to Sri Lanka following a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

“In the telephone conversation with Sri Lankan President @MaithripalaS, PM @narendramodi conveyed that India is sending additional fuel to Sri Lanka and assured India’s continued support for development cooperation,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) tweeted.

According to Indian public broadcaster Doordarshan, Modi assured all assistance from India to Sri Lanka following Siriena’s request for emergency fuel supplies and petrol shipments.

LIOC has made available 3,500 kilo litres of its own stock to CPC, Doordarshan said in a shared tweet.

A ship with an additional 21,000 kilo litres of petrol also left for Sri Lanka and additional petrol is being made available from Kochi refinery in Kerala.

Citing CPC sources, the Sunday Times said an emergency fuel supplies’ shipment that arrived at the Colombo harbour on October 17 had been tested for a second time and rejected on a quality test.

However, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he did not agree that LIOC was responsible for the current fuel shortage in the country and said two oil shipments would be arriving in the country within two day, acording to a report in the Colombo Page.

“Apart from petrol shipment arriving on November 8, another shipment is due from India on November 9, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe informed the parliament on Tuesday responding to a question raised in the parliament regarding the fuel crisis,” the statement said.

It said that Wikremesinghe said a discussion was held with the Indian High Commissioner in this regard and the Indian ship would arrive either November 9 or 10. (IANS)

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Rape Survivors in India Still Face Humiliation with Two-Finger tests and Barriers to Justice says Human Rights Watch

Indian Rape survivors still face barriers in justice and humiliation with two-finger tests, reported the Human Rights Watch

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Rape Survivors
Rape survivors face humiliation during investigation. Pixabay.

New Delhi, Nov 9: Five years after the Nirbhaya gang rape case in Delhi, rape survivors are still facing barriers to getting justice in India, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

Rape survivors in India face significant barriers to obtaining justice and critical support services despite legal and other reforms adopted since the December 16, 2012 gang rape-murder of a 19-year-old physiotherapy intern in the national capital, who came to be known as ‘Nirbhaya’, said the international human rights NGO in an 82-page report “Everyone Blames Me: Barriers to Justice and Support Services for Sexual Assault Survivors in India” released on Wednesday.

The report said women and girls who survived rape and other sexual violence often suffered humiliation at police stations and hospitals.

“Police are frequently unwilling to register complaints, victims and witnesses receive little protection, and medical professionals still compel degrading two finger tests. These obstacles to justice and dignity are compounded by inadequate healthcare, counselling, and legal support for victims during criminal trials of the accused,” an HRW statement said.

“Five years ago, Indians shocked by the brutality of the gang rape in Delhi, called for an end to the silence around sexual violence and demanded criminal justice reforms,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of HRW.

“Today, there are stronger laws and policies, but much remains to be done to ensure that police, doctors, and courts treat survivors with dignity,” she said.

The HRW said it conducted field research and interviews in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan — selected because of their large number of reported rape cases — as well as Delhi and Mumbai.

The report details 21 cases — 10 cases involving girls under the age of 18.

Rape survivors
Rape survivors feel harassed at police stations and hospitals. Pixabay.

The findings are drawn from more than 65 interviews with victims, their family members, lawyers, human rights activists, doctors, forensic experts, and government and police officials, as well as research by Indian organisations.

“Under the Indian law, police officers who fail to register a complaint of sexual assault face up to two years in prison. However, Human Rights Watch found that police did not always file a First Information Report (FIR), the first step to initiating a police investigation, especially if the victim was from an economically or socially marginalised community.

“In several cases, the police resisted filing the FIR or pressured the victim’s family to ‘settle’ or ‘compromise’, particularly if the accused was from a powerful family or community,” the statement said.

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It said that lack of witness protection law in India makes rape survivors and witnesses vulnerable to pressure that undermines prosecutions.

The human rights body said that some defence lawyers and judges still use language in courtrooms that is “biased and derogatory” toward sexual assault survivors.

“The attempt at shaming the victim is still very much prevalent in the courts,” Rebecca Mammen John, a senior criminal lawyer in Delhi, was quoted in the statement. (IANS)