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Story of Philani is synonymous to story of UP; 15 years and no change in promises

UP has the highest number of colleges in any Indian state (6,026), according to AISHE 2014-15, but it has been unable to produce the qualified workforce to drive development

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UP
Representational Image, Pixabay

Pihani, (UP), Feb 20, 2017: For 16 years, KailashRai (not his real name), 49, has been commuting six hours every working day between his home in the state capital Lucknowand the government degree college where he teaches in Pihani, 135 km to the northwest.

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A political-science lecturer, Rai cannot move with his family to Pihani, a cluster of over 100 villages (called a kasba) in Hardoi district, with less than 40,000 families as per Census 2011. When he started working there in 2000, it lacked the basic public facilities-regular power supply, good roads, public transport and good medical services.

Pihani remains an economic backwater. In the ongoing assembly elections, UP’s incumbent and contesting politicians are still promising the basic facilities they did 16 years ago: Electricity, buses and jobs, along with laptops and free data for poor youth.

UP’s story parallels that of Pihani. The kasba’s population of 206,743 is serviced by four colleges-a government degree college, a state-run industrial training institute (ITI) and two private degree colleges more than the Indian average of 27 colleges per 100,000 youth in the 18-23 age group, according to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2014-15. But it has been unable to produce talent to run local educational institutions, banks, and medical centres.

UP has the highest number of colleges in any Indian state (6,026), according to AISHE 2014-15, but it has been unable to produce the qualified workforce to drive development, as IndiaSpend reported on February 11, 2017.

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UP is India’s most populous and youngest state. Its median age is 23 and the flaws in its development model typified by Pihani explain why its towns and village clusters (blocks with a population of less than 250,000 in 2011) cannot cope with the aspirations of its people, especially with regard to education and employment.

Pihani’s dropout rate of 36 per cent at elementary school level exceeds UP’s overall rate of 21 percent. Like other village clusters in the state, connections to bigger cities are limited because there are few railway links, hardly any feeder roads to highways or efficient public transport services. Less than half the houses in the villages have electricity.

UP has made higher education available everywhere, so why hasn’t the state become a hub for learning? Why doesn’t the state with the highest college enrollment in India –25 per cent of men and women in the 18-23 age group — manage to create a pool of employable youth?

Some answers can be found in Pihani. The primary factor is the state’s disinterest in developing the basic infrastructure in its towns and villages that are now flush with schools and colleges.

Institutes have spread, so why hasn’t education?

Despite a large number of colleges in the district, Hardoi’s school education system is a mess. Only 64 percent of children in the district progress from primary to upper levels in school, according to data from the District Information for School Education surveys 2014-15. The all-India rate of transition from primary to upper primary level was 90 percent.

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In a drive to push higher education in its backward pockets, many of UP’s colleges were set up in villages and kasbas. This growth was fuelled by both the government and private entrepreneurs. Hardoi district itself has 132 colleges, eight of them are governmentinstitutions — Pihani’s governmentdegree college is one such — and 124 are private.

Over the years, the governmentdegree college has acquired projectors, computers, and generators but Pihani remains a backwater. This, according to Rai, is why the teachers at his college — and most employees in local banks, schools, and hospitals — opt for long commutes from larger cities. They are what Rai describes as “reverse migrants”, working in villages and living in cities.

Pihani’s residents, it would appear, are not educated or skilled enough to fill in these jobs. The reason could lie in the quality of education.

“Governmentcolleges are understaffed; usually, they work with one-third the required strength. This means that teachers are overworked,” said PC Joshi, a retired principal from a governmentdegree college in UP.

However, he pointed out, private colleges have an even bigger problem. “Government colleges appoint qualified staff and the recruitment processes is fair and transparent. But privately-owned or funded colleges are often under-resourced in terms of physical infrastructure. And their recruitments are mostly on paper; in practice, there is hardly any teaching. There isn’t enough assessment of whether students are being taught regularly and adequately,” he told IndiaSpend.

Also, 17 less-populous states and union territories have better enrollment rates in higher education than UP: The union territory of Chandigarh reports India’s highest enrollment at 56 per cent, followed by Puducherry at 46 per cent. Manipur, among the northeastern states has a 36 per cent enrolment ratio in colleges. Among larger states, Tamil Nadu has India’s highest student enrollment in higher education at 45 percent.

There are other problems. The quality of education offered in colleges across UP varies widely because of lack of infrastructure. It is not rare in UP to see a college with two rooms, a clerk, an odd-jobs man and two teachers.

Second, colleges do not offer functional education geared to employment. The Pihani government college offers 10 subjects and degrees in undergraduate courses that include humanities and commerce.

“Most students come from poor families and also work in farms so they are not able to fulfil college attendance requirements,” said Rai. “Life is hard for these youngsters and the curriculum does not provide much functional education.”

Other than the proliferation of colleges, little has improved in Pihani, keeping its cluster of villages poor, badly connected and with scanty power supply.

However, he pointed out, private colleges have an even bigger problem. “Government colleges appoint qualified staff and the recruitment processes is fair and transparent. But privately-owned or funded colleges are often under-resourced in terms of physical infrastructure. And their recruitments are mostly on paper; in practice, there is hardly any teaching. There isn’t enough assessment of whether students are being taught regularly and adequately,” Rai told IndiaSpend.

The education-job gap: why Pihani needs more employment-oriented courses

Seema Gupta (not her real name), 19, is a student at the Pihani government degree college. It helps her that the college is easily accessible from her village, but her bachelor in arts degree is unlikely to get her a job. She would like to work to work in a cyber cafe-these are still popular in mofussil areas. But she needs additional computer training for this that is not available in Pihani.

Gupta would have preferred the college in Hardoi which offers technical courses but her parents did not want her to travel that far. “Safety is a big concern for women in Pihani,” said Gupta. “Parents allow boys to study in better colleges outside the village, but girls can’t travel that far.”

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Despite these factors, girls form 60-65 percent of the students enrolled in the Pihani governmentdegree college, according to Rai.

The governmentoffers scholarships to students from economically weaker sections and backward castes, and for Gupta and many others like her, the Rs 6,000 per annum is a big help.

“But I hope my students can be offered better technical courses so that they have greater employability,” said Rai. (IANS/Indiaspend)

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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

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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”.

Mahalaya
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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Mahalaya
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.

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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

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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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