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The ‘Swachh Bharat Mission of the Modi government is an “example-setting programme for the world” and a “game-changer” as it altered the way Indian society behaved towards cleanliness, a top official of the UNICEF said.
In an interview to IANS, UNICEF India’s Sanitation (WASH) chief Nicolas Osbert showered praise on the programme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his maiden Independence Day address in 2014 from the ramparts of Red Fort.
The Swacch Bharat (Clean India) campaign was launched by the Modi government on Gandhi’s birth anniversary on October 2, 2014. The components of the government’s flagship scheme include the construction of household toilets, community and public toilets and solid waste management.
“It caught us all by surprise, us, the international crowd, the development crowd. Look at India, a very powerful country, going for space conquest, having such powerful industries, such strong research on the robotics and on IT and as much as India was dreaming of all of these, I think, in August 2014, saying that we are going to clean this mess, so we have a strong base for our development, was a good move,” Osbter said.
“Five years ago, I was told that talking about open defection was a taboo here, even with the administration and the people but after Swachh bharat, even the Chief Ministers, District Magistrates propagate open defecation free India,” he added.
He highlighted the positive global impact that success of Swachh Bharat Mission brought with itself.
“A lot of countries from the world now come to India to learn about Swachh Bharat Mission. Just a year ago, 55 ministers from across the globe visited India to measure impact of Swachh Bharat and they went back to their countries very much inspired,” Osbert said.
According to Osbert, the primary goal behind the Swachh Bharat Mission has been met but the project needs to continue and with bigger goals this time so that the aim to get a clean India is achieved.
“The positive impact of the movement is clear on the field and is certainly measurable,” he said.
“Five years of time, considering the size and diversity of the nation, the success of Swachh Bharat Mission is a world record. This is certainly a world record,” Osbert emphasised.
“But I must say the battle is won, as we complete five years of Swachh Bharat Mission. With that being said, I would add that India needs to continue the mission ahead and also work on other important aspects, like hand washing with soap, maintaining the toilets,” Osbert said.
Highlighting the prime reason for mission’s success, Osbert compared Swachh Bharat Mission with various sanitation-promoting initiatives that were run previously in India.
“Swachh Bharat is not the first initiative that India has taken to improve sanitation in India, but the biggest reason makes it stand apart from others was the focus on society’s behaviour,” he said.
“Other initiatives had to offer from techniques to infrastructure but the Swachh Bharat stood apart from them as it included element of behaviour change. The government made sure that techniques and infrastructure were used by every man, which was possible by involving everyone in the process,” Osbter said. (IANS)
At least 10 regional powers have joined the new Taliban rulers in Afghanistan in their call to the United Nations to help the country bail itself from the feared economic collapse and a humanitarian catastrophe.
At a regional-level meeting in Moscow, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan sided with the Taliban delegation and called on the UN to convene a United Nations donor conference at the earliest to help rebuild the ear-torn Afghanistan.
"It should take place with the understanding that the main burden should be borne by the forces whose military contingents have been present in Afghanistan over the past 20 years," said a joint statement of the Moscow conference.
Voices of concern and criticism were also raised against the United States, which opted not to attend the talks citing 'technical reasons'. The US was criticised for invading Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 and after 20 years, opted to an chaotic withdrawal, which created easy inroads for the Taliban to take control of the country.
It was also highlighted that international aid is the need of the hour for Afghanistan as any instability in the country would have a spillover effect on the regional countries and could threaten regional stability.
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has brought with it looming fears and memories of the '90s, when practices like public stoning, hardline setup and marginalisation of women were normal.
However, the Taliban, under the new government setup, have assured that rights of women will be guaranteed.
"Afghanistan will never allow its soil to be used as a base for anyone to threaten the security of another country," said Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
"Isolating Afghanistan is in no one's interest. The meeting is very important for the stability of the entire region," said Deputy Prime Minister in the Taliban setup, Abdul Salam Hanafi.
The regional powers, including Russia, have maintained that the Taliban are a new reality, calling on them to work towards the formation of an inclusive government with representation from all ethnic groups and political figures.
While the regional powers recognised the need for immediate aid and help for Afghanistan, they have declined to give official recognition to the Taliban government.
"Kremlin recognises Taliban's efforts to try and stabilise the situation in Afghanistan. A new administration is in power now. We note their efforts to stabilise the military and political situation and set up work of the state apparatus," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The Moscow conference holds great importance, as it is the most significant international meeting since the Taliban takeover.
However, the Taliban have been given a clear direction to first meet and fulfil the promises they made when they assumed power, which includes rights to women and an ethnically inclusive government. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Afghanistan, Support, Taliban Government, United Nation
Karwa Chauth is a Hindu festival that is primarily celebrated by married Hindu women. On this day, married Hindu women keep Nirjala fast, which means fasting even without consumption of water, from sunrise to sunset. The reason behind this fast is to pray for their husband's life, health, and safety.
According to the Hindu calendar, Karwa Chauth is celebrated on the fourth day after Purnima in the month of Kartik.
On this day, married Hindu women dress in new clothes (preferably red because signifies a happy married life) and apply henna to their hands. At the same time, women observing this fast get together to celebrate it by narrating the Karwa Chauth Vrat Katha and singing folk songs, which make this a lot more lively. Some women also worship Goddess Parvati in the Karwa Chauth puja followed by Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesh, and Lord Kartikeya. And, the fast is later broken after having a glimpse of the moon.
Married Hindu women have gathered to perform the Karwa Chauth puja.Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Interestingly, there are many stories related to Karwa Chauth. Some of them are:
Story of Queen Veervati
This is the most interesting story. There was a queen named Veervati, who was the only sister amongst seven brothers. She spent her first Karva Chauth as a married woman at her parents' house. She began to fast after sunrise but by evening, she was desperately waiting for the moon to rise because she couldn't control her thirst and hunger any longer. Seeing this, her brothers became worried because their beloved sister was suffering from thirst and hunger. So, they begged her to break the fast but she refused. Seeing her in distress, the brothers tricked her by placing a round mirror in a Pipal tree, which made it look like the moon had risen. So, Veervati fell for her brothers' tricks and broke her fast, and the moment she sat down to eat, news came that her husband is dead. This is the reason why married Hindu women observe such a tough fast for their husband's life.
Story of Karwa Chauth in Mahabharata
Interestingly, it is believed that Draupadi also observed the fast of Karwa Chauth for the safety and long life of her five husbands. Once, when Arjun had gone for penance in the Nilgris, the rest of the Pandavas faced many issues in his absence. That was when Draupadi remembered Lord Krishna for his help, and he reminded her that in a similar situation, Goddess Parvati had kept the fast for Lord Shiva. Inspired by this, Draupadi too kept the fast of Karva Chauth for her five husbands. Since then it was believed that the Pandavas were able to face every problem.
Therefore, Karwa Chauth is celebrated by married Hindu women all across the world with full enthusiasm. Though, there is a sect now that has started calling this age-old ritual “patriarchal".
Keywords: Hinduism, Women, Karwa Chauth, Festivals, Patriarchy.
Karnataka is famous for Sandalwood, and this is best projected in the state's own Mysore Sandal Soap. This golden, fragrant soap that is rich with the goodness of Sandalwood, has a rather fascinating history behind it, and it is not for cosmetic benefit at all.
Mysore Sandal Soap, surprisingly, was not created by anyone interested in the beauty benefits of soap or its cosmetic value. Instead, it was created by Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV and Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, the Diwan of Mysore.
Post-World War I, there was too much sandalwood lying around and the state did not know what to do with it. This excess stock was a result of the halted export to the other princely states. In 1916, the birth of the Sandalwood soap beloved to Karnataka came from an idea that the Maharaja received because of this wood.
He was gifted a set of soaps made from sandalwood oils, and he was extremely impressed with this. He decided to make soaps that represented the essence of the state. He discussed this idea with his Diwan, Visvesvaraya, who immediately backed him up. They began to experiment the making of soaps in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science.
Msore Sandal Soap is the only one with an oval shape that has not changed since 1916 Photo credit: Wikimedia commons
One of the students who worked on this process, Sosale Garalapuri Shastry showed great talent and was sent to England, to learn how to make soaps. He later came to be known as Soap Shastry. His work helped to standardise procedures, and the government factory that makes Mysore Sandal Soap was set up.
Shastry also designed the packaging box and gave the soap a unique shape. Soaps at that time were only rectangular bars. Mysore Sandal is the only oval soap that is embellished both inside and outside. Shastry intended for it to look like a jewellery box.
Every box of Mysore Sandal Soap has the inscription, 'Srigandadha Tavarinida' which means, "from the maternal home of the sandalwood". It is the only soap made from pure sandalwood oil, and bears the emblem of the sharaba, a creature with the body of a lion and head of an elephant.
The Maharaja's initial intent behind the soap was to reach the goodness of sandalwood to as many people as possible, and through men like Visvesvaraya and Shastry, it was made possible. The Mysore Sandal Soap is still one of the most organic soap and perhaps the only one that represents the culture of an entire state.
Keywords: Mysore Sandal Soap, Sandalwood, History, Shastry, Visvesvaraya