Demonstration at Chief Minister house against the order of Delhi Government to close 3000 private schools

RNI, Delhi:

A demonstration was held today at the residence of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and a memorandum was given to him against a recent Delhi Government order to close more than 3000 unrecognized private schools in Delhi where more than 10 lakh children are studying. Teachers and guardians of children studying in several non-recognized schools in Delhi participated in the demonstration. The demonstration was organized by Delhi State Public School Management Association.

Talking to RNI on this occasion, Ramesh Chandra Jain, President of Delhi State Public School Management Association said that under Article 6A of the Right to Education Act, as per which children were given the right to education, it is stated that within three years, the Delhi Government will construct enough schools in the State so that every child will start studying in the neighbourhood school. Eight years have passed since Right to Education Act, but no schools have been constructed in Delhi. Section 18 of this law states that within the course of 3 years, the unrecognized schools should get recognition or stop functioning or else they will have to pay a fine of Rs. 1 lakh and Rs. 10000 per day. Elaborating further, Jain said: “Our point is that the Government should have first remembered Section 6 before it decided to implement Section 18.” Jain further said that “while the Government remained altogether unconcerned about building new schools, it has issued orders to close the unrecognized schools in Delhi.”

Jain further said that the schools of Delhi Government are already overcrowded and hence Government is unable to provide them with the basic necessary facilities. If the Delhi Government thinks that by making some new rooms it has created the necessary facility for all children studying in unrecognized schools, then it is on the wrong. The Delhi government should first try to give quality in its own schools instead of trying to close those unrecognized schools that are doing commendable service by providing better education than government schools. If these unrecognized private schools are not providing better education, why is it that the parents are sending their children to these schools, bypassing the Government schools where education is free, Jain asks.

Ramesh Chandra Jain said that if the Delhi Government does not take back this order immediately and does not give assurance to all the schools running till March 31, 2018, Delhi State Public School Management Association will not only escalate this stir further and gherao the AAP MLAs but will also work to get many recognized schools closed.

It is to be noted that in recent past, the Delhi Government has issued a decree as per which all the non-recognized schools in Delhi will have to close after completion of this session. This sudden decree will not only lead to closure to more than 3000 schools in Delhi but also affect more than 10 lakh children who are studying in these schools only because they provide better education than the Government run schools.

Unrecognized schools challenge Delhi Government to find whose students are performing better

At a time when unrecognized private schools in Delhi have once again come under threat of closure since the Delhi government has ordered cessation of “all educational activities” in these institutions before the next academic session begins, some unrecognized schools in Delhi are challenging Delhi Government to conduct a study to know whose students are performing better.

Citing anonymity, the manager of one such unrecognized private school says it is because of students who study in unrecognized schools till a certain level and then move to Government schools that the pass percentage of Government schools becomes respectable. He challenges the Delhi Government to conduct a study in schools run by the Government itself to find whether students who have come to Government schools in Classes VI or above are performing better or those who have studied in the Government run schools since Nursery or Class I.

The manager also cites an example of certain girl students from his school who took admission in Class VI in a neighbouring Government school. He claims that during the half yearly examinations, all the first three positions in their section were bagged by girls who had moved to Government school after completing Class Vth from his school. But since the Government does not recognize any category as unrecognized schools, all such students are clubbed together as those who have studied privately at home till taking admission in Government schools. “This will make it difficult to conduct a study,” says he but adds “even if such students include few who have not studied anywhere and took late admission under RTE, the performance of students who entered the Government school set-up in Class VI or later will stand out far better than those who have studied there since the beginning.” This is mostly due to the unrecognized effort of the unrecognized schools that the Delhi Government is now considering closing.

Principal of another private school who is now scurrying to a recognized private school to allow her students to appear from the recognized schools says the writing was already on the wall since the Delhi Government has started claiming to have added more than 5000 rooms last year. It is clear now that the purpose of adding these rooms was not to provide better education to the already high enrolment since RTE came into effect but to stifle the unrecognized schools which, despite their meagre resources, are providing good basic education to students from low income households in Delhi.

It is to be recalled that the Delhi government has recently issued show-cause notices to several teachers for ‘abysmal’ results in pre-boards. Mathematics pass percentage in some sections of Government schools stood at abysmally low of 10% or even lower with some sections recording 0% and 3% pass percentage as well.

Government has issued show-cause notices to teachers in whose sections such low pass percent was achieved without realizing that teachers at senior levels don’t carry a magic wand to make those students brilliant within a year who have moved up to higher classes from the equally abysmal teaching standards in lower classes.

RNI News

Ayodhya Dispute: Need for Upholding Law


The dispute around Babri Mosque seems to be unending. Just weeks ago we saw Sri Sri Ravishankar, the well known founder of ‘Art of Living’ stepping in to settle it ‘out of Court’. Now RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat (24th November 2017) has made a statement that only Temple will come up in Ayodhya. His assertion is just the repeat of RSS stand on the topic, which is despite the Allahabad Court judgment. As far as Sri Sri Ravishanker is concerned he is regarded as a spiritual person but at times he jumps into political issues. Earlier one heard of his intervention; was at the time of Anna Hazares anti corruption upsurge.

This time around Sri Sri is back on the political chessboard. He has already met the UP Chief Minister and plans to meet many local religious leaders from Hindu side. As such the Ayodhya matter is pending in the Supreme Court following the appeal by disputants. The Allahabad Judgment had divided the land, where Babri mosque was standing into three parts. One part to Sunni Waqf Board, one to Ram lalla Nyas and one to Nirmohi Akhada. The judgment primarily resorted to the fact that it is the ‘faith of Hindus’ that Lord Ram was born at the spot, so those two thirds were given to those representing the Hindu side, while Sunni Waqf Board has been given one third of the land. Now both Hindus and Muslims are claiming that whole land belongs to them alone.

As country got Independence, the land was under the possession of Sunni Waqf Board. On the night of 22 December 1949, some miscreants, belonging to pro Hindu groups, entered the mosque illegally and installed the Ram Lalla Idols in the mosque. Pundit Nehru, the then Prime Minister of the country wrote to the Chief of UP Government, Govind Vallabh Pant to get the idols removed immediately. The local Magistrate K.K.Nayyar, who later contested elections for MP on BJP predecessor Bharatiya Janasangh ticket, did not get the idols removed. The gates of mosque were locked. Under the pressure of rising Ram Temple movement the locks were removed and Shilanyas was performed when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. This was in the aftermath of Shah Bano Judgment reversal by the act of Parliament. In the aftermath of this; RSS Combine intensified its campaign of ‘appeasement of Muslims’ and got support from the sections of Society.

It is around this time that BJP’s Lal Krishna Advani, made Ram Temple as the central part of his political campaign. In the aftermath of implementation of Mandal Commission report by VP Singh, BJP intensified its campaign for Ram Temple and Advani’s Rath yatra left a trail of communal violence and led to deeper polarization of society. This polarization and later attempts by RSS combine led to demolition of Babri mosque on December 6, 1992. The installation of the Ram Lalla idols was a crime and the guilty went unpunished. The demolition of the mosque was a crime and its culprits went on to become politically more powerful, Advani as Deputy Prime Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati occupying high political offices. Liberhan Commission report highlighted some of the factors leading to demolition. Advani and Company is facing the charges of criminal conspiracy in the Courts.

In the past the criminal acts related to Babri Mosque have paid rich political dividends to those who were part of illegal acts. The basic dictum is that reconciliation is always good; it is welcome all the time. Despite the nature of the past; out of court settlement is the best option to be sure. But who can do that sort of reconciliation? Can one begin the process of reconciliation without respecting the legal verdict? While many Hindu leaders are welcoming Sri Sri, the Sunni Waqf Board has asked for the solution he has in mind before they can meet him. Also they want to wait for the meeting of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, before they venture to meet Sri Sri. As such while the Hindu side has been harping that Muslims should give up their claim on this land and they will be given land at another place to build a mosque. This becomes clear with the statement of RSS Chief.

Shia Waqf Board, though it is not a party to the legal dispute, has shown willingness to yield to the demands of Hindu side. Can a large section of Muslims go along with the present efforts of the like of Ravishanker and the statement of Bhagwat? The answer to this question is difficult as Sri Sri does not seem to be a neutral person. He comes from the category of Modern Hindu Gurus. On most of the matters of social reform he is closer to conservative values. He has never condemned the crime of demolition of Babri mosque; neither did he grieve the massive violence unleashed in the aftermath of Babri demolition. He seems to be partisan to the ideology of Hindu nationalism, while posing to be neutral about it. RSS is adamant on Hindu temple alone at the site as it is the part of their political agenda.

In these circumstances what should the Muslims do? The wedge between Shias and Sunnis is being promoted deliberately. While it was a Shia mosque, the Sunni Board has been the litigant. During last three decades, the Muslim community is being relegated on the margins of society due to communalization. In these circumstances, sticking to Legal recourse seems to be the best option for most of them. The likes of Sri Sri in the name of reconciliation will try to promote the solution amicable to those who have been at the forefront of installing Ram Lalla and demolition of the Mosque,both big crimes in a democratic society! Irrespective of the awaited Supreme Court judgment RSS is already asserting for Ram Mandir alone. Hope the highest Court gives a verdict which respects minority rights also.

Ram Puniyani


Tipu Sultan: Diverse Narratives

From couple of years around 10th November, BJP has been undertaking the smearing campaign against Tipu Sultan. Incidentally from last 3 years Government of Karnataka has been celebrating the anniversary of Tipu. As such he is the only King, who laid down his life while fighting against the British. This year around as November 10 approached, Mr. Anantkumar, the Union Minister and a major BJP leader from Karnataka, turned down the invitation of Karnataka Government to be part of the Tipu anniversary celebration. His argument was that Tipu was a mass murderer, wretched fanatic and rapist. At places there were protests organized by BJP.

Certain sections of the society also consider him a tyrant who engaged in forced conversions. He is also accused of promoting Persian at the cost of Kannada. It is also alleged that his letters to his Generals, claimed to be in British possession now, show that he believed that kafirs should be decimated. There is no dearth of such periodic controversies being raked up around his name. What is being propagated on the basis of some flimsy sources is that he destroyed hundreds of temples and killed thousands of Brahmins!

Incidentally just a month ago, Ramnath Kovind, the President of India, who has a RSS background, was on a different trip. He praised Tipu by saying that “Tipu Sultan died a heroic death fighting the British. He was also a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore rockets in warfare.”Many BJP spokespersons, uncomfortable with this statement, undermined the President by saying that false inputs were provided to Rashtrapati Bhavan by Karnataka Government.

As such there are diverse attitude towards Tipu from within RSS-BJP stable itself. In 2010, B.S. Yeddyurappa, the BJP leader adorned Tipu’s headgear and held a mock sword, on the eve of elections. In 1970 RSS had published a book praising Tipu, calling him patriotic, this book was part of “Bharat Bharati” series.

On the other side noted Kannada playwright Girish Karnad is all praise for Tipu to the extent that he supported the demand to name Bangaluru airport in his name. Karnad has also been stating that had Tipu been Hindu, he would have been accorded the same status in Karnataka, which Shivaji has in Maharashtra.

One recalls that Tipu has been made popular through the 60 episode serial based on Bhagwan Gidwani’s script, the ‘Sword of Tipu Sultan’, which also focuses on the fight of Tipu against East India Company. Tipu had corresponded with the Marathas and Nizam of Hyderabad to dissociate themselves from the British forces, the intrusion of which he saw particularly harmful for this region. This policy of his led to various battles against British. It was in the fourth Anglo Mysore war of 1799 battle that he lost his life. He has been immortalized in the popular memory of Karnataka people through folk songs. This is very much akin to iconization of Shivaji in popular memory in Maharashtra.

Why did Tipu use Persian as the Court language? It is important to recognize that Persian was the court language in the sub-continent at that time. Even Shivaji of Maharashtra was using Persian in his correspondence and had had Maulana Hyder Ali as his Chief Secretary, for doing this. Tipu was not a religious fanatic as he is being projected by them today. Tipu’s policies were not driven by religion. In fact, in his letter to Shankaracharya of Kamkoti Peetham, he refers to the Acharya as Jagatguru (World Teacher). He also donated rich offerings to his shrine.

When the Maratha army of Patwardhan plundered the Sringeri monastery, Tipu Sultan respectfully restored the monastery to its glory. During his reign, ten-day Dushehara celebrations were an integral part of the social life of Mysore. Sarfaraz Shaikh in his book ‘Sultan-E-Khudad’ has reproduced the ‘Manifesto of Tipu Sultan’. In it, he declares that he would not discriminate on religious grounds and would protect his empire until his last breath.

There is a charge that he persecuted certain communities. It is true. The reason for this persecution was purely political not religious. About these persecutions historian Kate Brittlebank comments, “This was not a religious policy but one of chastisement”. The communities targeted by him were seen as disloyal to the state. The communities he targeted did not just belong to Hindu stream he also acted against some Muslim communities like the Mahdavis. The reason was that these communities were in support of British and were employed as horsemen in the East India Company’s armies. Another historian Susan Bayly says that his attacking Hindus and Christians outside his state is to be seen on political grounds as he at the same time had developed close relations with these communities within Mysore.

As such the alleged letters in possession of British, where he is supposed to have talked of killing Kafirs and converting them, needs to be seen rationally, their genuineness apart. We have to see the person in his totality. When he has Purnaiyya, a Hindu Brahmin, as his Chief Advisor, when he is all respectful to Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamkotipeetham, it is unlikely that he could have been on a murderous spree of Hindus. British have been harsh against Tipu on purpose as he was the one to oppose the advance of British in India and wrote to Marathas and Nizam that we should settle things among ourselves and keep British out. Due to this he was singled out by British; who vehemently demonized their opponents. There is a need to have a balanced picture of this warrior king, who took on the might of British and could foresee that British are a different power, different cup of tea so to say, to be shunned at all the cost. In that sense, he is the pioneer in Anti-British resistance on this soil

The vacillations of communalists, from praising him to presenting him as an evil character are motivated attempts to uphold their communal ideology, nothing else!

Ram Puniyani

Celebrity Chef Izzat Husain’s ingenuity set to leave your senses spellbound with the launch of Spellbound Restaurant at Gardens Galleria – Noida

Not just Noida but whole of NCR has never tasted anything like this! Food connoisseurs and eating buffs take note to make the first possible visit to Gardens Galleria Mall in Sector 38A Noida. Such occasions come seldom in life when the lords of senses come to tickle and ignite each of your sensory bud so as to leave you spellbound by the entire gamut of enticing charm that you are set to encounter at Spellbound – the new eatery joint that has taken the entire NCR by storm in a short while since its launch.

Spellbound at Gardens Galleria is undoubtedly the new address for food connoisseurs in the Capital. With the celebrity chef Izzat Husain there to delight your taste buds, together with the soothing yet happening ambience that reflects the rich taste of promoters Sagar Sharma and former model and Miss Delhi Ramnik Pantal, rest assured that all your senses will feel the excitement of being to Spellbound. Ramnik had since long been a model, TV anchor and host and has been a familiar entity in Delhi’s Page-3 circles for the last two decades.

Celebrity chef Izzat Husain getting ready to entice customers with his food delights

Truly a sensual delight but neither at too much cost to pocket nor a great burden on your bowel system that many a well-known chefs in Delhi make you undergo because of their reckless use of spices and oil, which resultingly give the same taste to whatever different dishes they cook. But Izzat Husain’s food is different… delightfully different.  So much so that you can distinguish the various ingredients that he puts into his food merely by putting the food on your tongue. Each herb and spice that he puts appear to whisper gently in unequivocal tone that it too is there. If Shahi Zafrani Sheermal is served, rest assured that taste of zafran (saffron) will linger on in your mouth distinctly for a while. Even when you are trying his paratha with unique blend of herbs, garlic, olive and ginger or are savouring his trademark ‘Izzat ki Roti’ that Mirza – the F&B manager – wants you to break with your own fingers because only then will you realize how soft the roti is despite the fact that it is not easy to keep the roti soft if multi-grains are used. Izzat Husain has designed variety of breads at Spellbound because he knows the food buffs in the Capital prefer to have bread over rice. This however does not mean the biryani is not far better than all that you get to eat in Delhi restaurants in the name of biryani.

Breathtaking charm of interiors at Spellbound

Mirza, the F&B Manager who has the distinction of being part of the exquisite kitchen of the Palace of His Excellency King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and who boasts of serving distinguished guests ranging from Barack Obama, Narendra Modi and Tayyip Erdogan, gets spellbound by the exquisite taste that Izzat Husain’s ingenuity develops, day after day. It is due to this that he calls the food at Spellbound as royal… in fact everything in Spellbound reminds him of the royalty he was associated with while in the royal kitchen of the King of Saudi Arabia.

Yogesh Meena – the young chef who supports Izzat Husain – has the distinction of working in the Hilton at Istanbul and at the Taj at Udaipur. Here at Spellbound, he is shocked to see how Izzat Husain can make cooking look so simple and easy and yet comes out with spell-binding tastes… that too without use of water or curd. Says Meena: “I have never seen Mr. Husain taste any food. He knows if the salt is less or more merely by looking at the food.” He further says that Izzat Husain’s “process of cooking is quite different…earlier we used to toll hard but couldn’t bring the taste, Mr Husain appears to do simple things but come out with finger-licking dishes.”

(From left to right): Celebrity chef Izzat Husain, Mirza and writer

But why did this trainer of trainers – the celebrity chef who till now had restricted himself to training the chefs of 5-star hotels and big food chains – got associated with a restaurant in Noida. Says Izzat Husain: “Till now my services were restricted to five-star hotels. First time, I have come out of 5-star hotels so that my food reaches out of 5-star environment. We are going to give an altogether new variety and taste to Delhi NCR – a food that is mouth-watering delicious but also digestive…. Food that is not just appealing for the senses but for appetite as well.”

Adds Sagar Sharma: “People who are coming here are loving the food as well as the ambience in which they sit to eat. They are showing it by not just respecting the chef, but even respecting the food. Entire National Capital Region was till now lacking in an ambience where the whole family could go and sit in a relaxing environment, listen to the soothing music playing in the background, in an equally soothing ambience, and eat food that they had perhaps never tasted before.”

Murg Kalapari, Murg Neza and Malai Tikka entice one and all

Sharma further says he wanted to build a place where all five senses get spellbound. He has taken extra care on each and everything within the premises so as to give such a spell-binding ambience. He has ensured that good music plays in the background. And with Izzat Husain as the master chef, he has ensured that all five senses are taken care of.

To begin with, focus is on developing corporate clients and reaching out to those families who already possess refined taste-buds and who wish to feel pampered by the special service that is the hallmark of Spellbound, while savouring Izzat Husain’s delicacies. Sharma informs there are special packages for the corporates, which not only give value-for-money but an experience of a lifetime.

(From left to right): Sagar Sharma, Yogesh Meena and Izzat Husain

Murg Kalapari is so soft that it appears to melt in the mouth. Made without use of curd and with Izzat Husain’s secret marination techniques, it is worth a try. By the name Malai Tikka, it would appear you have eaten it so many times in life before. But if you believe in us you can bet with anyone even without trying it that Izzat Husain’s Malai Tikka would be different, something that you would not get to eat in the whole of NCR. Murg Neza boti kabab too has an unbeatable taste. And if you are fed up of eating almost the same tasting dal makhani in restaurant after restaurant, Dal Shahzadi is Izzat Husain’s new creation; one that appears as royal in taste as it could be.

Another exquisite Izzat Husain creation is Chuqandar Paneer, which is truly out of the world in taste. Ponder for a while: how many restaurants in Delhi would risk offering you something which is a mix of chuqander and paneer. Salute to Izzat Husain’s ingenuity that even a dish made of chuqander comes out so tasty that you would love to add it in your main menu. Likewise, how many chefs would offer Qabuli Gosht – an amalgamation of goat meat with qabuli chana! Truly splendid in taste is Badami Qorma as well.

Biryani too is exquisite creation by Izzat Husain

Not just starters and the main course, a visit for dining purposes at Spellbound should also include savouring the tasteful and healthy variety of mocktails and also the desserts – all with the signature blend and taste provided by the chef of chefs, Izzat Husain. Just as Malai Tikka is far different from the dish by the same name that you get all over North India, the Badam ka Halwa too is different… and innovative… where each spoonful will make you realize the taste and feel of Badams (Almonds) till it goes down your neck and to your stomach.

Captivating taste, aroma and colour of mocktail entice one and all

As the photo-journalist Zaki accompanying this writer perfectly summed it up: “Each dish has a perfect, distinct taste… taste which lingers for a long while even when the food has gone down your throat. Taste of one dish does not mix with the taste of other… all appear distinct, unique … and all delicacies together create the perfect blend, that words would fail to describe but will give the feel that would remain for a long-time after you have had to your heart-full (rather stomach full) and yet with another unique quality of Izzat Husain – that his foods are a complete medicine and are never harsh on your stomach even if you eat to your full.

By Aziz Haider; Photos by Md. Zaki Haider




Child artiste Shabih of Ahlcon International rocked the stage amidst professional performance by theatre groups in Komal & VK Pahuja Theatre Festival

Shabih of Ahlcon International School on stage in a memorable performance

It was splendid mono-acting performance by a 9-year old student from Ahlcon International School on the theme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-publicized ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ Abhiyan that received standing ovation from the audience at 4th Komal & V. K. Pahuja Theatre Performance held at Delhi’s hub of activity India International Centre yesterday. Shabih performed as a guest artiste in the day-long theatre festival attended by various prominent theatre groups including Anvaratt Theatre Group of Indore, UPTA Group of Meerut, Rahul Thapliyal’s group, Theatron Theatre Group, Soch Theatre Group, Shanjha Sapna Group and Nepathya – the theatre society of PGDAV College, University of Delhi.

Child artist Shabih (in centre) along with (from left) Sangeeta Sahni of Ahlcon International School, Supriya Pahuja of Komal & VK Pahuja Foundation, Monika Sawhney of Ahlcon International School and mother Tanveer Fatima

The event now an annual fixture of the city was organised by Dr. Supriya Pahuja and Meenakshi Pahuja in loving memory of their parents Komal & VK Pahuja. Inaugurated by Dinesh Ahlawat, the Festival saw presence of prominent personalities including Sheila Dikshit (former Chief Minister of Delhi), Prof. Kiran Walia (former Minister in Delhi Govt), Prof. Dinesh Singh (former Vice Chancellor – Delhi University), among others. Rajesh Dua and Sanjay Dhoundiyal were given Life Time Achievement Award. Komal & VK Pahuja Foundation is known for promoting cultural, sports and theatre activities. The event was anchored by Sandeep Mishra in his inimitable style, who introduces himself as the spokesperson of Dera Sacha Sauda in Delhi. He was ably supported by Ms. Lata.

The day-long Komal & VK Pahuja Theatre was judged by an eminent panel of jury which included renowned actor and director Dr Bikram Kesharee Mohanty, Manuv Mehra and Rakhi Chauhan Mehta. On stake were three awards for Best Production and an award each for Best Director and Best Actor. In the end, the Best Director Award was won by Nitesh Upadhyay for play Yeh Ishq Ishq (Anvaratt Theater Group).

Anvaratt Theater Group of Indore performed a play Ye Ishq Ishq, directed by Nitesh Upadhyay. This was followed by Kali Raat Ka Humsafer by UPTA Meerut, directed by Bharat Bhushan. Also a heart-rending performance was Panchlight by Theatron Theater Group. Rahul Thapliyal directed Mera Wajood (A Compulsion) enthralled the audience next.  Directed by Parminder Singh, it showed the plight of sex workers and how the society puts the blame on the female while the males who patronizes the profession and frequent red light areas escape the blame. Parichaya, directed by Rajiv Kohli and assisted by Pranav Shekhar of Soch Theater Group was a beautiful display of acting talent by artists who mesmerized the audience through depicting the pathos of parents who educate their children only to lose them later in their old age, owing to the charm of a better life abroad or developing personal careers in distant lands. Ashish Modi and Rani Sonkar through their  wonderful display of acting talent kept tickling the emotions of the audience amidst good acting display by Manoj Aryan and Arsh Khan. And none could escape from laughing whenever Sahil Arora entered the stage in his splendid comic act as a house servant.

A very excellent display of acting talent was also visible in the enactment of Othello by Nepathya – theatre society of PGDAV College (University of Delhi), which was followed by Chitthee by Shanjha Sapna, directed by Ishwar Shunya.

A scene from Panchlight by Thetron Theater Group

Amidst all this excellent rendering of theatre skills by trained professionals, child artiste Shabih showed that despite being of tender age and an amateur, she has got the talent to perform and win accolades while performing in the company of such talented professionals from various theatre groups. She showed the plight of a young girl, whose wish to go to school remain unfulfilled as circumstances forced her to work as a housemaid. For nearly seven minutes of her on-stage mono-acting performance Shabih managed to stir the emotions of many in the audience through projecting the emotions of the girl child and her resolve to study amidst circumstances that do not allow her to do so. This performance could serve as a great promotion for the already-publicized Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan, which is one of the flagship social welfare campaigns by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Shabih Fatima, trained by her teacher Monika Sawhney and promoted for this stage by Sangeeta Sahni, is under the tutelage of Ashok K. Pandey – Principal of Ahlcon International School. Ahlcon International School is one of the foremost schools in East Delhi, which is known for promoting art, culture and sporting talent among the kids beside their overall educational development and grooming the students for their future lives.

Empowering and employing rural Jharkhand

Junaid Kamal Ahmad, the Director of the World Bank in India, might not have even thought that his visit to tribal-dominated Jharkhand could present before his eyes live examples of rural women empowerment and self-employment, courtesy the innovative planning and executional approach of the State government. That he visited various tribal districts in the State and was all praise for the efforts is now an oft-quoted news.

Jharkhand might arguably be the most backward region of the entire Indian sub-continent but the way Raghubar Das’s government, through its various programs, including the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society, has embarked on a mission to empower rural women and enhance the prospects of their livelihood while still staying in the villages, is not only praiseworthy but could also serve as an example to be followed.

Describing the efforts, Bishnu Parida – the CEO of Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Council (JSLPS) – says: “Under rural department, through JSLPS, we are implementing various schemes which are aimed at reducing or eliminating rural poverty and at the same time empowering rural women to take up gainful livelihood activities. The main program we are implementing is the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and through this we are promoting community institutions of poor, for the poor. And through these community livelihood missions, we are targeting rural households all across Jharkhand.”

Elaborating further, Parida says: “We are building their capacities, we are training them to take up gainful livelihood activities and also linking them to financial institutions, mostly banks, to avail credit, which is prerequisite for any economic activity. “

The programs are actually people led programs and the Government has gone a step ahead by even eliminating the NGOs and middle-men from the execution process. The community members are being directly trained with an aim to create a cadre of trained community professionals, who will eventually handhold their neighbours and household members.

Tells Parida: “In the initial phase we have our own professional team who are placed at cluster level, block level and district level, but subsequently we are also grooming and nurturing these community institutions through trained community professionals, and be it social mobilization, financial inclusion or even livelihood promotion, all these activities are being taken care of by the cadres only.” These community professionals have been provided quality technical inputs and then they are disseminating and sharing the knowledge with community members.

Giving further details, Program Manager with the Society Kumar Vikash says that the women self-help groups so created have been given the name Sakhi Mandal. A group of ten to fifteen women from the same socio-economic background, and from the same village, are grouped to form a Sakhi Mandal. While some funding is done by the society, and their micro credit plan analysed, they are passed on to banks so as to meet their credit needs.

Various cadres are being promoted, all of whom have their own success stories. One such cadre is PashuSakhi which seeks to promote livestock (goat/sheep/pig/poultry) rearing as a source of livelihood for rural poor especially women. PashuSakhi is a practicing goat farmer from the community (mostly an SHG member) who is promoted as para veterinary worker in the villages to give services to the goat rearing farmers from within their villagesfor better upkeep of their livestock. This has helped in reducing the goat mortality rate in villages where PashuSakhis are in operation. Till now access to on time, low cost, door-step livestock health care, first aid and knowledge has been a key constraint in livestock production, which has adversely affected poor people’s livelihoods.

Another innovative enterprise by Sakhi Mandals is the Ajeevika Didi’s Café. Through Ajeevika Didi’s café, JSLPS aims at creating a brand for restaurants, dhabas and catering in the form of an enterprise run by women entrepreneurs of Sakhi Mandals, thereby not only creating a chain of quality eateries all across Jharkhand, but at the same time also involving a team of women entrepreneurs from each village, cluster, block or district, to create high income business models.

Four to five Ajeevika Didi Cafes have already started operations while more are coming up. The Chief Secretary has recently issued instructions to all districts to push this innovative strategy on priority.

Ajeevika Didi’s café would be a community owned and managed brand aimed at providing livelihood to women entrepreneurs in Jharkhand. It will be a for-profit venture. Through these cafes, the people can also avail traditional, home-made, and healthy food away from their homes.

TabletDidi is another innovative program based on Narendra Modi’s Digital India program. Consequently, the women of rural India who did not even know how to use mobile phones are working on Tablets today to seek information, are also keeping accounts of others and even playing games and seeking knowledge through the Internet. Interestingly, there are more than 700 women in Jharkhand today who are working as TabletDidi, many of whom didn’t know till sometime back the difference between this electronic Tablet and the medicinal tablet that we consume upon falling ill.

Ajivika Krishak Mitra too are out there telling the poor villagers the latest techniques related to farming and training them in their use. Consequent to these efforts, several rural women have become self-employed and taken themselves out of poverty. Whereas they were unable to make the ends meet despite farming and working as petty labours, many of them are now sending their children to private schools.

Empowerment is the key to poverty alleviation and Jharkhand has realised it far earlier than most Indian states. This empowerment is happening through community institutions in the form of Self Help Groups (SHGs). Through nurturing and strengthening these community institutions and providing them with relevant training through professionals, it is possible to make a significant impact on the rural community.

Seeds of the good work have already been sown and the buds in the shape of results have already started showing!

Aziz Haider

(Article exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)

Getting intimate with life-giving oceans

It was in 1998 when the Centre for Marine Living Resources & Ecology (CMLRE) was established directly under Ministry of Earth Sciences (MOES) by upgrading the erstwhile Sagar Sampada Cell with exclusive facilities for implementing Marine Living Resources (MLR) Programme. Since then, CMLRE has been organizing, co-ordinating and promoting ocean development activities in the country which inter-alia include mapping of the living resources, preparing inventory of commercially exploitable living marine resources, their optimum utilization through ecosystem management and R&D in basic sciences on Marine Living Resources and Ecology.

Coming forward from that modest beginning about 20 years back, it became apparent that CMLRE has scaled a long journey towards progress and development when Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Union Minister, in the presence of Dr. M. Sudhakar (Director CMLRE) and senior scientist N. Saravanane, stressed the need to develop CMLRE as a national centre to coordinate all spheres relating to the sector and to develop further the country’s ecosystem-based management strategies relating to the seas,during his visit to the CMLRE institute at Kakanad, Kochi.

Dr.M. Sudhakarwho has years of experience with the CMLRE says it is the only institute in India that is dealing with marine living resources in the deep waters. Elaborating on the major role played by CMLRE, he says: “CMLRE being the national centre established exclusively to address the marine living resources of our country has already made several focussed studies to assess the ecosystem processes, preserve and harness living resources. Our understanding has improved on these aspects to a large extent though still there are many unresolved issues, the prominent being (i) Is coastal pollution really significant and affecting marine living resources; (ii) what factors influence the marine fish distribution and their stocks; (iii) their breeding and recruitment grounds; (iv) effect of adverse environmental conditions like during El-Nino years of sea warming and ocean acidification; (v) wealth and records of bio-diversity in our Indian seas; (vi) unconventional fishery resources of deep-sea and its connection to coastal ecosystem, etc. Several concerted efforts have been planned based on our understanding of the seas, mainly by switching to the Ecosystem approach based studies. Towards this, in the first instance, CMLRE has taken-up two intensive projects during 2017-20: (a) Marine Ecosystem Dynamics of Eastern Arabian Sea (MEDAS), a mega multi-disciplinary ecosystem approach based time-series study involving multi-institutional expertise; and (b) Resource Exploration and Inventorization Scheme (REIS), both aimed to address major issues outlined above.”

CMLRE’s active engagements in deep seas can be understood by its various collaborations with several international activities viz. (i) Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS); (ii) Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); (iii) Belmont Forum – Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; (iv) Convention on Biological Diversity and (v) Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) – a new legal instrument proposed under United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). Through these collaborations and negotiations combined with in-house focused research, India stands to showcase its strengths in assessing and sustainably harvesting our marine biological resources for future needs.

“As part of its marine biodiversity program, we try to identify the various species that are available in the Indian waters and we are now working on deep sea fisheries and distant water fisheries,” tells Dr.Sudhakar adding that CMLRE has also identified 5 species of ornamental fishes, which are in great demand abroad, and has developed the technology to breed them and multiply them.

Exploration and exploitation of Antarctic marine resources too is of paramount importance, particularly when 26 countries including India, that too from far off countries like Norway, have taken quota allocation in the Antarctic region for research and exploration. While countries like Norway are looking at Antarctic for its food alternative requirements, Dr. Sudhakar says “we will have to see how viable it is for our country and its requirements.” However, it is clear that CMLRE will require a lot of support from Govt of India if it is to carry forth its deep sea mission and work on distant water fishing and deep water fishing. The CMLRE director agrees that he is getting the desired support from the Government.

Somasunder, working as Adviser with Ministry informs that the Government of India is now planning for sustainable development which mainly covers life below the water. The UN has lately come up with a charter specifying special goals for oceans and India is a signatory to it. In a conference held recently to address the sustainable development goals mainly conservation, preservation and sustainability of ocean resources particularly in terms of pollution and its impact, the UN put forth national as well as global indicators. These are as follows: (i) Prevent, reduce, minimize pollution; (ii) Preserve, conserve and sustainable use of marine resources; (iii) enhance the scientific capability; and, (iv) Implement the UN framed laws to harness resources in sustainable manner.

Entire activities that are conductedpresently can be divided into four broad segments: living resources, non-living resources, ocean observation and infrastructure expertise, says Dr.Sudhakar. As part of its work on non-living resources, water currents are being used to meet energy and fresh water requirements. There are three plants working which produce 1 lakh liters of fresh water every day. Work is going on to commence 4 more plants in 4 different islands of Lakshadweep. Besides, a plant is going to come up soon which will generate energy from water and the same energy will be used to operate a desalination plant.

Elaborating further on this, Dr. Purnima Jalihal, the Project Coordinator with National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) says: “We work with ocean energy forms which are waves, tidal (marine) current and thermal radiant. We have developed the first wave-powered navigational BUOY which will be useful for ports in our country. Also for the first time, we have developed a hydro-kinetic turbine which runs using the water velocity (marine current). Additionally, we have developed an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) which uses the difference in surface temperature of water and the temperature at depth to generate power. Power is used to generate steam which is again condensed using colder water from the deep sea and thus absolutely fresh drinking water is obtained. This technology has gone a long way in solving the fresh water requirements in three islands in the Lakshadweep.”

Dr.Jalihal further informs that NIOT is working to scale up the technology for use on islands with larger population. “NIOT has already been able to successfully show offshore one million litre per day desalination plant. This plant, to be powered by OTEC will be put up at Kaviratti. A two million litre per day plant design is now ready at Tuticorn Thermal Power Plant station which we have scaled up for use by the industry on commercial basis.”

Oceans possess a lot of non-living resources as well, and technological advances have made it possible to harness these resources. Wakdiker, the Program Head with the Ministry informs that a great deal of activity is concentrated on deep sea resources in saline, international waters. India was the first country which has been awarded an area of one lakh sixty thousand square km in the international waters of Central Indian Ocean for exploration of polymetallic nodules. The nodules are potato-like structures which are found at the sea-bed, about 4 to 6 km below the water surface. Tells Wakdiker, “We had the contract with International Sea Bed Authority, which is a UN body, and which looks at the governance of such areas in the deep seas.” Incidentally, Dr.Sudhakar is an elected member of the Legal & Technical Commission for Internal Sea Bed Authority.

The polymetallic nodules, available on the sea-bed in the form of potato-like structures, contain copper, nickel and cobalt, apart from manganese. However, it has still not been possible to develop the technology to extract the minerals from these nodules. China and Korea, besides India, are the three countries in the process of developing the technology for extraction of metals. It is envisaged that India will be able to develop first pilot demonstration mining by 2021. In this regards, lot of efforts have been made by scientists from NIOT.

NIOT is also working on another program for exploration of polymetallic sulphides. Consequent to India’s explorations in the Indian Ocean, a contract has been awarded last year to National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR) to carry out further research in this field.

Informing further about NCAOR’s areas of work, Ravichandran says his organization is responsible for carrying forth scientific research in the Southern and Northern Poles besides the Central Pole, consisting of the Himalayan belt. Additionally, NCAOR is trying to study monsoon and also trying to map the entire Exclusive Economic Zone around India, a mammoth task considering the size of our country.

“In the polar areas, we are monitoring various parameters, looking at both and non-living,” says Ravichandran. NCAOR is running a station continuously, and analyses data collected from the stations in various poles in its labs on continuous basis. Elaborates Ravichandran, “We are the only organization working from North to South Poles. Scientists from all streams are working with us.” NCAOR also conducts various missions to the Antarctic on regular basis, in which scientists with expertise in various streams take part.

NIOT along with INCOIS is also doing its bit by providing advisory to the fishermen. Informing further on how it locates the potential fishing ground using the satellite data and tell the fishermen where to go for fishing, Shenoi, Director with INCOIS and NIOT says the data related to surface temperature and chlorophyll content in the ocean, till about 50 km from the shore are provided to the farmers which help them locate when and where to go in their search for more fishes. Today more than 4 lakh active fishermen out of the total estimated figure of about 10 lakh traditional fishermen in India use these services.

Elaborates Shenoi: “Fishermen wish to know how safe it is for them to go out fishing. We started providing them information called Ocean Page Forecast, where we provide forecast on wave, ocean current, ocean temperature and other related indices. Update is provided daily for the next 5 days. Normally small fishermen go out fishing for 2-3 days. These forecasts help them decide whether it is safe for them to go out.”

Third activity that is carried out is the Tsunami early warning system. Tells Shenoi: “We have the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System and UNESCO has designated us as regional Tsunami Service Provider. This means we have to provide Tsunami services for all the countries in the Indian Ocean whenever earthquake of magnitude more than 6.5 occurs. This information is provided to 22 other countries, besides India.”

In addition, now climate change issues are assuming greater importance. “This year we have started new activity for modelling from the point of view of climate change in relation to the Indian Ocean, which is warming up faster than all other oceans. We have constructed a global model and downsized it for the Indian Ocean region. Another new activity being taken up is to study Indian Ocean from the point of view of increased pollution levels as well as study the bio-geochemistry of water around India.”

All this would not have been possible without the high-tech Fishery Oceanography Research Vessel (FORV) SagarSampada with CMLRE besides two other smaller vessels. SagarSampada, now 33 years old, has served tirelessly to the needs of our country and continues to do the same even today, albeit with lesser efficiency. Dr.Sudhakar tells that “the process for the replacement of FORV has already been initiated and after lots of discussion and consultations, its technical specifications have been finalized. The new FORV with ultra-modern infrastructure will be the only deep-sea fishery vessel of the country after FORV SagarSampada and will hopefully serve as the backbone for further marine biological studies, very much on the lines of the services provided in the past by the now ageing SagarSampada.” Therefore, it is a matter of time when a state-of-the-art vessel will carry the Indian flag and torn past the waters of the Ocean in its attempt to get intimate with life-giving oceans.

Aziz Haider

Karnataka: Fulfilling promise of a transparent, responsible and people-friendly government

Siddaramaiah got elected as Chief Minister of the State of Karnataka on 13th May 2013. People of the State had shown great confidence in Siddaramaiah’s promise of a transparent, responsible and people-friendly government by giving the Indian National Congress a thumping absolute majority in the Legislative Assembly election. There was no doubt whatsoever that it was Siddaramaiah who had led the party in the State to victory, and electing him as the Chief Minister was a natural corollary to it.

More than four years have elapsed during which the Chief Minister has carried out several measures to stand up to the people’s choice. The recent launch of Pratibimba – a comprehensive web-based platform – was meant to showcase the government’s performance and achievements to the citizens and show to them to what extent the Chief Minister has stood up on path to fulling the promises of a transparent, responsible and people-friendly government.

Elaborating on the idea behind Pratimba, the Chief Minister himself had said at the time of its launch: “Pratibimba will help people across the state and the country to get a detailed information regarding the steps taken by us in fulfilling our promise of transparent, responsible and people friendly government.”

As LK Atheeq, the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister describes it, “Pratibimba, which means reflection, has been developed as the Chief Minister’s dash board, and will serve as a tool to improve efficiency in governance and allow citizens to track government’s progress.”

Further, Atheeq said: “’Pratibimba’ is a reflection of the growth story and development of the State, and the dash board will reflect the works of all the departments across flagship schemes, key programmes and projects undertaken in the State.”

Summing up, the Chief Minister had said: “This (Pratibimba) will be reflection of how much we have walked the talk by showcasing the efforts made by us in meeting people’s aspiration with our achievements.”

Walked the talk, he surely has! And with such deftness that there seems to be no incumbency factor working; his core supporters even hint that his vote base might have only increased during the last four years. Undoubtedly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah today is the biggest sore throat for the chief opposition party eyeing an easy cakewalk when the State goes to polls sometime in mid-2018. It speaks of his work and how he has gone ahead on path to fulfil his vision of a progressive and developing Karnataka, and his efforts aimed at creating a system of reporting, tracking and measuring various departmental performance on programmes, projects and promises made, so as to enable departments to become more transparent, accountable and efficient.

A vocal champion of Kannada and its heritage, Siddaramaiah seems to know what clicks and what doesn’t, when it comes to politics. The dynamic CM is not the one who minces his words, when it comes to issues of national importance. He came down heavily on the demonetization drive, stating that black money constituted hardly 0.002% of the country’s economy.  Only recently, CM Siddaramaiah has put the ball back in the court of PM Narendra Modi by demanding loan waiver for farmers. Earlier, the State government had issued an order to waive loans worth Rs. 8,163 crore taken by over 22 lakh farmers from cooperative banks in the State. Likewise, the Karnataka government has constituted a nine-member committee to submit a report on the possibility of designing a separate flag for the state.

The Chief Minister is also known for his socialist, secular and people-friendly outlook. This was reflected in his staunch stand in support of holding ‘Kambala’ – a traditional annual buffalo race – holding of which was stayed by the Karnataka High Court’s division bench, on a petition challenging it in view of orders passed by the Supreme Court on jallikattu. Siddaramaiah had given his full support to people’s stir in support of Kambala. On an occasion, he had said: “We are in favour of Kambala, we are for Kambala. We pressurize the Union government to take a stand in favour of this (Kambala), similar to the way it favoured jallikattu in Tamil Nadu.”

Siddaramaiah also tried to take maximum benefit of both by-election wins in Mysuru-Chamarajangar districts of Karnataka earlier this year, which were portrayed as wins because of personal charisma of the Chief Minister. Needless to say, it was a big respite for the Congress which bucked the nation-wide trend seemed going in the other direction.

In another reflection (pratibimba) of his people-friendly policy, Siddaramaiah government recently regularized housing by STs and backward castes on private land. In an unprecedented move, the scheduled tribes and micro backward castes, who have been deprived of housing rights so far, a law was passed unopposed in the State Assembly granting ownership of houses to agriculture labourers living in over 300 unrecorded habitations on private land.

With this, an estimated two lakh people living in Lambanithandas, Gollarahattis, Vaddarahattis, Kurubarahattis, Nayakarahattis, Majaregramas, Haadis, Doddis, Palyas, Camp and Colony, all belonging to the poorest segment of society will come under the revenue department’s purview. It also fulfils in part the Congress’ 2013 manifesto promise of converting unrecorded hamlets into revenue villages, underlining the party’s image as the flagbearer of the poor, ahead of the state assembly polls in April-May 2018.

Talking about it, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said: “This is a major revolutionary decision taken after the famous ‘land to the tiller’ legislation was passed four decades ago. Whoever is residing in hamlets will henceforth become the owners of the houses in which they are staying. These are people who have been oppressed for years. Today they are liberated.”

The State’s budget for this year had been nothing short of remarkable. Another unprecedented move in the State was the announcement for ‘Namma Canteen’ (our canteen) where breakfast will be given for Rs. 5, lunch and dinner for Rs. 10 each. Such canteens will initially be started at one centre each in each of the 192 wards in Bengaluru.

The Chief Minister also announced setting up of Saviruchi mobile canteens in all 30 districts through the Stree Shakti self-help groups, a mid-day meal scheme for 12 lakh pregnant women, milk supply to over a crore school and anganwadi children five days a week and eggs to the malnutrition-hit anganwadi children twice a week.

The school children, who were earlier getting milk three days a week under Ksheera Bhagya scheme, will now be getting milk five days a week. The caring Chief Minister wants that milk is given seven days a week in future.

The CM claims that the midday meal scheme and Ksheera Bhgya have helped contain malnutrition among children and improved attendance in schools. Similarly, the Anna Bhagya scheme has helped prevent migration of people in search of jobs, he says.

Karnataka is the second largest milk producing state in India and the State government is committed to encourage dairying as an allied activity of agriculture. Currently, the State produces around 72 lakh liters of milk per day and the target is to increase it to 100 lakh liters in two years. In a bid to encourage farmers to take up dairy farming, the Government has enhanced the incentive on one litre of milk from Rs. 2 to Rs. 5 and it is spending Rs. 3.5 crore everyday on this count. The Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) which is now procuring 2.20 lakh liters of milk per day plans to increase the procurement to 5 lakh liters per day, in the light of CM’s special focus on the area and his promise of providing necessary financial assistance.

In a statement that will be quoted again and again in the times to come, particularly because of the great vision that it envisages, the Chief Minister said: “Darkness will not cast on the future of the land where women and children are the focus of development.”

It was amidst much thumping among the treasury benches that the Chief Minister announced laptops for 1.5 lakh students entering government and aided medical, engineering and degree colleges, and even louder cheers greeted his announcement of 49 new taluk, and also increased free rice under the flagship Anna Bhagya scheme from 5 to 7 kgs.

The most telling part in his budget was the scheme under which he announced to give LPG connections to two lakh families belonging to SC/ST and below poverty line in collaboration with the food and civil supplies department, mirroring the Ujjwala scheme and applying it more specifically to the Dalits and the poor.

The Chief Minister also announced special privileges for various tribal communities. “Assistance will be provided for the development of Jenukuruba, Koraga, Soliga, Kadukuruba, Erava, Gowdalu, Hasaluru, Iruliga, Siddi, Malekudiya, HakkiPikki, Thoda, Meda and other tribal communities and for taking up self-employment. For this, a grant of Rs 200 crore will be provided,” he said.

He also allocated Rs 100 crore for the development of tribes such as Budbudke, Gondhali, Helava, Pichakuntla, Jogi, Golla, Shikkalgar, Haavugara, and other nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes.

The CM also said: “A proposal will be sent to the Government of India under the provisions of Schedule V in the Constitution, seeking approval for constitution of Karnataka Tribal Advisory Council to give guidance and advice to the state government in formulating and implementing development plans for Scheduled Tribes.”

Other than allocations for Muslims and Christians, he has also earmarked Rs 10 lakh for Gurdwaras and Rs 5 crore for a cultural centre “to protect the culture and tradition of Sikh community” at Bidar on the occasion of 350th birth anniversary Guru Gobind Singh.

In an attempt to keep pace with fast moving states in the field of industrialization and technological growth, the Chief Minister is of opinion that Karnataka has an investor-friendly policy. “We continue to remain the No. 1 in the IT sector and Bengaluru remains the Silicon Valley and knowledge capital of the country because of that. Following our Global Investors Meet in 2016, investment inflow is much higher. In the last three months, we have surpassed even Gujarat in investments inflow. You will be surprised that we have a special impetus for industrialists from the scheduled castes and also women entrepreneurs. They are very happy with our initiatives.”

The State claims that during the last 4 years when Siddarmaiah has been the Chief Minister, 6,000 MW has been added in power generation. Special emphasis has been laid on the skilling of youth. Two lakh youth underwent skill development in 2016-17 while the targets for this year are to train 5 lakh youths. A separate department for skill development has been formed and the State’s efforts have resulted in the creation of about 2 lakh jobs (new jobs plus the filling of existing vacancies) in the government sector in the last 4 years.

The various steps of the Chief Minister suggest that he is aiming at the holistic development of the State.  As the CM said on an occasion: “Our goal remains the same – the last man/woman in society, the vulnerable sections and the farmers should benefit the most. We are accountable to the people of Karnataka as it is they who have voted us to form the government, and this is one of the ways of showing our accountability.”

Aziz Haider

(Article Exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)

Jharkhand: Bringing smile to farmers’ face

The efforts of the Jharkhand government to take development and benefits directly to the farmers have not missed anyone’s eyes. Not even the eyes of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi!

The initiative of Jharkhand Government, under the leadership of Chief Minister Raghubar Das, to usher in a single window facility for farmers, has drawn the praise of Shri Narendra Modi, who saw it as an attempt by the Jharkhand government to bring smiles on the face of the State farmers. Speaking at a function in Jamshedpur, the Prime Minister said: “Everyone has talked and heard about the single window (facility) for industries, but your CM has come up with the novel concept of (creating a) single window for solving all the woes of farmers. You people are lucky to have government ready to fight and die for farmers.”

Needless to say, taking cue from Jharkhand’s initiative, several other states in the country have tried to follow this unique concept.

There remains no doubt whatsoever that the efforts of Chief Minister Raghubar Das for Jharkhand farmers are unprecedented. Referring to these efforts, Puja Singhal, Secretary in the Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Cooperative Department of the State says that in the last two and a half years, under the guidance and leadership of Chief Minister Raghubar Das, her department has taken several initiatives. She further says that in the next two years, her Department is preparing several new interventions for the benefit of State’s farmers. Speaking on the single window scheme of Chief Minister, she says: “The scheme launched by our Hon’ble Chief Minister about one and a half years back was a unique initiative in the country and I think we are the only state in the country having such a scheme.”

Chief Minister RaghubarDas’ efforts, aimed at providing farmers with crucial information on government schemes, weather, pricing of agricultural products, soil health cards, seeds, fertilisers, crop insurance and loans, complements the Prime Minister’s push for the KisanSuvidha App, a farmer-specific mobile application and eNAM, a national electronic marketing platform for agriculture products. The KisanSuvidha App is a mobile application that provides weather forecasts for the next five days, besides information on process of agricultural products at 50 nearby mandis (agri-markets); diseases likely to affect crops; advice from agricultural experts; technologies; and dealers in agricultural equipment. Any farmer can download it for free.

Under the Single Window scheme, the agriculture department has started providing all kinds of information related to agriculture under one roof. The executional and financial targets of implementation of this scheme have been given to the districts. In many districts, grand information buildings have been constructed where officers and experts of agriculture, cattle, animal husbandry, fishery, land conversion, agriculture science centre, etc. sit twice a week and solve all the problems of the farmers.

Apart from this, all information related to agriculture is being given to the farmers by SMS. If the crops gets infected with worm, what will be the favourable time for cultivation of crops, fish farming, animal husbandry, information related to livestock breeding including cows, poultry, goat, piggery, duck, etc., their vaccination and treatment, various schemes of Government from which farmers can  benefit, how to make them self-dependent through adopting to agricultural work, income growth solutions, what to do if the animal becomes ill, every such information is now available on phone.

Puja Singhal points out that about 28 lakh farmers are dependent on farms in Jharkhand. There is total of 79 lakh hectares of land, out of which 38 lakh hectares is arable land. Out of this arable land, only 25 lakh hectares of land is being cultivated. Nearly 13 lakh hectares of land lies fallow. Under another very beneficial scheme, the Government has set a target to convert the fallow land into fertile arable farms; the work has already begun to meet these targets.

And to create greater awareness among the farmers, the Government has started the Agri Festival RathYatra, so that farmers are provided with up-to-date information about agriculture. The Government has also started supporting the farmers in areas such as crop and seed production, procurement and sale of crops, etc. Kisan Mitra have been appointed who are ceaselessly working to solve the various problems being faced by the farmers and help them increase the production of crops.

The use of solar energy in water harvesting operations, seed production, pulse production, soil health card, agricultural equipment bank and operation of agricultural machinery and irrigation pumps are other schemes being carried forward. Beej grams have been set up for farmers in the State so that farmers do not have to wait for paddy seeds. At the same time, special focus is being levied on pulses and oilseeds as rabi crops.

Elaborating on the other major interventions by the Jharkhand Government, Puja Singhal says “another major intervention has been that we have a separate agricultural budget for the last two years in running and the agriculture budget focusses not just on agriculture but also components from water resources department, component from energy department, components from rural development department and various other departments from which everything has been converged into a separate agriculture budget, to show the kind of focus which has to be given to agriculture.”

She further states: “The Government and the Agriculture department are committed to the development of farmers and for this all these schemes have been worked upon. Attempts are being made to implement many novel schemes for the benefit of the farmers.”

There remains no doubt that these programs which the Government has launched are reaping greater benefits for the farmers and due to these freshly launched policies, unprecedented development is already visible in the agriculture sector.

As Chief Minister Raghubar Das had said on an occasion that the water of the village will remain in the village and the water of the farm will remain in the farm. The depth of this sentence was not realized until the Chief Minister started implementing the various unique schemes for the betterment of farmers and took to developing agriculture in the State in a mission mode, so that the faces of the farmers of the State always remain smiling.

Aziz Haider

(Article exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)