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Lucknow a city of –Chai and chat

 “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy tea

and that’s kind of the same thing”

This line suits best for Lucknowites. Lucknow’s love for tea is one of its kind. Some only prefer a hot cup of tea, while some prefer their cup with samosa and some with bun-makkhan or bread pakoda. You can easily find a variety of things to accompany your cup of tea.

Being an intellectually and politically active city, a steaming glass of thick tea and a warm discussion is the most common view of almost all the tea shops in the city. The city is flooded with tea shops ranging from small roadside chai ka thela to normal chai ki dukan and even tea bars and café.

Shivam Joshi, a tea shop worker of Lucknow University’s LUMBA canteen said “there is no estimate of how many cups of tea we are making. Every morning we bring 60 litres of milk but it lasts for only a few hours than we have to order more milk depending upon the requirement. Students came here, sit and talk for hours drinking multiple cups of tea. A majority of the students prefer samosa with tea. I myself drink 10-15 cups of tea in a day.”

Ajay Singh, a university student said, “We usually have small breaks between classes and for that tea is the best companion. It’s economical as well as engaging.”

Jagjeet Singh Arora is a chai thela owner near Mayo Medical Centre behind Kendriya Vidyalaya in Gomti Nagar. He is there for past 13 years and his major business with tea is bread-pakora. He said, “my business is not only from the hospital but also from school.”

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Jagjeet Singh Arora near Kendriya Vidyalaya Gomti Nagar

 

Puneet Rawat a middle-aged man who came to the tea shop early in the morning after his morning walk with his friend said “it gives a refreshing start to my day. ”

Kripa Shankar Pandey, another chai-thela owner near Seth M.R. Jaipuria School in Gomti Nagar said “I use nearly 50 litres of milk every day to make tea, and my main customers are students. If 20 percent is going for jeera or biscuit than 80 percent will go for samosa or pakodi with tea.”

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Kripa Shankar Pandey near Jaipuria in Gomti Nagar

 

Piyush Tiwari a student said, “After an exhausting day, a cup of tea is what we all need to make us fresh and to give us energy. It’s our daily routine to have tea here. The chai time is the best part of my day; we can enjoy both the tea and the quality talks.

Graduate Chaiwala is another special chai thela owned by three brothers- Govind, Gopal and Madhav- who are jobless graduates, outside Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. They cannot get a decent job to run their house so they came up with a small business idea, as they cannot afford a large-scale one.The Sharma Tea Stall is a world famous tea shop of Lucknow,

The Sharma Tea Stall is the most famous tea shop of Lucknow, started by late Om Prakesh Sharma and now run by his sons- Deepak and Gopal. The shop is also one of Lucknow’s Heritage Arc. The average consumption of milk in the shop per day is around 80 litres. The shop also organises many social events and get-together. Jashn-e-itwar is one such meet where alumni of St. Francis School meet.

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Sharma tea stall in Hazaratganj

 

It’s a favourite destination for celebrities as well. Himanshu Sharma, who has written scripts for Tanu weds Manu, its sequel and Ranjhanaa is a regular customer of the shop and visits the shop every time he visits the city.
Pande ji ki Chai ki dukan is another famous tea point near BBD at Faizabad Road, serving mirch pakoda along with tea. Not only students but for faculty, the tea shop is a great hangout point. It’s an escape from stress and work for both the students as well as the faculty.

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Pande ji from Pandeji ki Chai ki Dukan near BBD in Chinhat

 

The tea lovers of Lucknow are of all age groups. A college going youngster will be as much a fan of the chai as a middle-aged or older person. Gopal Sharma of Sharma Tea Stall said “I have not seen such a craze for tea in any other city like Lucknow, the love for tea for the

Gopal Sharma of Sharma Tea Stall said “I have not seen such a craze for tea in any other city like Lucknow, the love for tea for the lucknowites is a unique thing to see. My customers are of all age group. People belonging to Kalyan Singh’s age group to a very young child in his teen all come here to enjoy tea.”

Gopal Sharma of Sharma Tea Stall said “I have not seen such a craze for tea in any other city like Lucknow, the love for tea for the lucknowites is a unique thing to see. My customers are of all age group. People belonging to Kalyan Singh’s age group to a very young child in his teen all come here to enjoy tea.”sharma tea

Planters tea bar and café, in Aminabad is the first tea bar of Uttar Pradesh. It offers around 50 types of teas, in an affordable price range of Rs 35 to Rs 65. The various types of tea include white tea fruit tea and methi tea. White tea which is liquor priced around Rs12, 000 per kilogramme, is good for heart, knee and cancer along with teeth.

It’s one of the few cities where youngsters even go for a tea-date. Ayush Singh, a city youngster said: “I like going for a tea-date instead of going for a high-profile coffee-date because it suits my budget as well as I feel more connected to tea than coffee.”

So if you are planning to visit the city, don’t miss the tea.

Poor security and sanitary conditions for women in Delhi’s toilets

Women safety is a major concern in the national capital, however even after that more than one in every three public toilets in Delhi do not have separate provision for women, according to a survey of public toilets done by an NGO here, which also found that out of women’s toilets 46 per cent are unguarded – a condition that shows lack of basic security provisions in the women’s public toilets.

The survey not only raises concern for women security, but also for the hygiene and sanitation level in the nation capital. The central government is aiming to make the country Open Defection Free (ODF) by 2019, but the conditions of the toiltets are a major question mark before this ambitious project.

Another sad but major finding of the survey is the prevalence of manual scavenging practice. This could be inferred from the findings that septic tanks of nearly 38 per cent of the toilets are cleaned manually.  Out the total of 23 toilets survey in the central Delhi, 19 are cleaned manually, and out of 24 toilets survey in the south Delhi, 18 are manual.

A 20-years old undergraduate student said, “Whenever I go for shopping, particularly in street markets, I face this problem. Either the toilets are not there or if it’s there it is not in a usable condition.”

The survey carried out by ActionAid India in December last year under the Peoples’ Vision of the City (PVoC) campaign found that nearly 35 percent of surveyed public toilets in the city did not have separate sections for women.

A total of 229 toilets maintained by the three Municipality Corporations of Delhi (MCD) and New Delhi Municipality Corporation (NDMC) and those outsourced to private agencies were covered during the exercise.

When it comes to women’s toilets, 149 toilets out of the 229 toilets surveyed had some provisions for women but functional issues like cleanliness, lack of hygiene and safety measures were found to be the key concerns.

The survey also revealed that more than 71 per cent of the toilets physically audited were not cleaned regularly. Cleanliness was also a major issue for toilet users who were interviewed during the process of the survey.

Over 72 per cent of the toilets lacked visible signboards, while 76 percent had no ramp facility and nearly 76 percent did not have sign boards in Braille language, making it hard for people with disability and elderly to access public toilets.

More than 66 per cent women’s toilets did not have a working flush, while 53 per cent did not have running water facility and over 51 per cent did not have the facility to wash hands. About 61 per cent toilets did not have soap to use, which raises a concern regarding the quality of public sanitation available for women.

It was also found that 28 per cent toilets did not have doors, while 45 per cent toilets did not have a mechanism to lock from inside. Over half of them did not have lights neither inside the toilet nor in outer premises.  46 percent of the toilets are unguarded – a condition that shows the lack of basic security provisions in the women’s public toilets, and adds to the safety concerns.

“This obvious neglect of women’s human rights has gone unnoticed for too long and time has come to make this an important priority for the nation. ThePeoples Vision of the City campaign strives to focus attention and deliver on this issue,” said Sehjo Singh, Director Programme, and Policy of ActionAid India.

 

Miles to go for women Empowerment in India….

From the day she is born, there is always a male in a woman’s life starting with the father, followed by the brother, cousins, uncle to later on to husband and in-laws ending with the son and the son-in-law. They only decide how she will dress, what she will eat, where she will go and with whom and what not. The issue that a man is the owner of a woman’s life is very old. The discrimination generated from this behaviour is also very old. This problem is not only limited to India but is all around the globe. One of the potential solutions for this problem can be women empowerment, as with having life under her own control, she does not have to follow the men’s way of life.

 

Women empowerment actually means the creation of an environment for women where they can make decisions of their own for their personal life as well as for the society in general.  It will be a place where women will have a say in the decision-making and would be an important part of the process. So just educating them and letting them go out of the house to work is not empowerment in real sense until they are allowed to take their life’s decision on their own and live their lives on their own terms.

 

The concept of equality is not that much visible in reality in as it is in writing. Former Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru ones said that “You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women,” which is true to a great extent when we look at our own nation. Despite the fact that women are biologically superior to men, she still needs to fight for the rights because she was always deprived of them.

 

For centuries, women have been dominated and discriminated by the men. Throughout the world, they are the target of numerous violence and discriminatory done by men with no difference in India and its cities.

There are a lot of steps taken by the Indian as well as the state government for the women empowerment but they are of not much use until the society in general and women herself decides to change and bring the change. The sole idea of going out and work is not a complete change in itself if we cannot guarantee them a space which is safe and protected.

 

Giving protection does not mean that there will be police with them or a group will walk with her to ensure protection, but rather a confidence that she will be safe even if she has to return home little late. This cannot be promised by the government and authorities alone until the society brings change in it.

 

The sole idea of education is of no use until that education is able to bring any change in her lifestyle. The country is flooded with ladies who although are highly educated but are forced to perform the gender role, for which they even, have to drop their career.

 

Gender inequality is one of the main reasons why a lady in our country is powerless. It is only because of the deep-rootedness of the gender inequality that people feel it is not important for a lady to have an identity of her own. It is high time that the step taken for the empowerment of the ladies in the country is done at the full speed and with utmost priority. Inequality also increases the irritation at workplace and home and reduces the productivity.

 

The first step towards the empowerment from the equality angle should be the awareness about the rights a woman have. If she is not aware of the rights she has, she cannot take stand for it. They should also have an equal say in the decision-making. The steps taken towards women empowerment can help the country and the world grow more as an equal place for all with equal rights.

 

Whenever given a chance, women have proved their potential be it in education, politics, entertainment or sports. Whatever happened last year in sports and in entertainment section is just an example from the work ladies are doing throughout the country.

 

Priyanka Chopra became the first India actor to have a lead role in an international television show. She also became the first Indian to get an opportunity to present an Oscar at the 88th Academy Awards this year. Not only this, she also became the first woman in India and also the first South Asian actress to received the People’s Choice Award for Favourite Actress In A New TV Series for her role in Quantico.

 

However, in sports, last year was solely dominated by ladies. Shuttler P V Sindhu became the country’s first-ever woman silver medal winner in the Rio Olympic Games in August this year. She also became the fourth Indian to win a silver at the Olympics after shooters Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (2004, Athens) and Vijay Kumar (2012, London) and wrestler Sushil Kumar (2012, London).    She is one of the two Indian badminton players to ever win an Olympic medal – other being Saina Nehwal.

 

Sakshi Malik too became part of the first woman list by becoming the first woman wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal and only fourth female athlete from the country to climb to the podium at the biggest sporting event in the world with a bronze medal finish at the Rio Games.

 

The 23-year-old from Haryana, a silver medallist at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and bronze winner at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, earned a dramatic come-from-behind win over Kyrgysztan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova to script history.

 

Tripura girl, Dipa Karmarkar, also created history by becoming the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for Olympics. She also became first Indian gymnast to enter vault finals in the Olympics.

 

Young Indian golfer Aditi Ashok grabbed a piece of history for herself by becoming the first female Indian golfer to win a Ladies European Tour event.

 

The list does not stop here. Deepa Malik and Sania Mirza also made the world notice their achievements. Deepa became the first Indian woman athlete to win a medal at the Rio Paralympics. She won a silver medal in shot-put event. Sania retained her World number one rank in doubles in the WTA rankings in a gruelling 2016 season in which she won eight titles, including prestigious Australian Open with Swiss partner Martina Hingis. In 2017 she has her eyes set on completing a Career Slam in both mixed doubles and women’s doubles.

 

These are just a few examples from recent past where women have proved their talent and potential. The country is flooded with such talents and potential, all we have to do is little support and a space for them to come up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ima Kethel – the only market in the world run by women

Ima market, also known as the Ladies’ or Mother’s market, in the capital city of Manipur is not just any other market but is unique and different from all the other markets we have ever seen or heard.
All the shops in the market are headed only by ladies, although men can go and buy things, but they are not part of the selling side – which is totally opposite of what happens in other parts of the country and the world.
The market is said to have been established around 1500 AD and is run solely by women of different communities of the state. The market can be seen as a ‘mini Manipur’, which employs over 4,000 women selling all kinds of stuff ranging from fruits and vegetables to flowers and clothes and handicraft products. It is the lifeline of the state and serves as an important trading centre.

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Ima Market
The earthquake that hit Manipur last year damaged the iconic Ima market building however, it failed to damage the spirit of women entrepreneurs in the market who stand tall and did not get discouraged by the damage done by the quake.
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Building under repair
After the earthquake, the shops had to be shifted on the streets as cracks appeared in many pillars of the building and now ladies are sitting on the corner of the roads running the shops as they used to do inside the building.
When asked for the reason one of the shop owners who sell flowers said, “Waiting for the building repair will take longer and we also have a family to feed, we cannot wait for the work to be completed and then run our shops. We don’t have any other option, but to run the shops on the roads.”

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Ladies selling vegetables outside the building
Echoing her, another shopkeeper at the market who sells fish said ,”If we wait for the building to be repaired, before we could set up our shops again, how will we run our households? It will take time to rebuild the market, but that doesn’t mean that our lives will come to a standstill!”

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One of the shopkeeper
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The market was also affected badly by the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes by the Government of India, due to which the sales were dropped as there was lack of proper cash flow in the city.
Left with no option, the sellers are forced to accept old currency, and ask the customer either to purchase goods worth the entire sum of Rs 500/ Rs 1000, or refuse them, due to unavailability of change.
The ladies running the shops are mostly those women who are the sole bread earners of their families, ranging from all age groups – starting from as young as 18 to around 65. They either own a particular section of the area to set up a shop, or they have to rent the place in the complex and the section owned by the ladies are only transferred to other ladies of the family – daughter or daughter-in-law – or can be only brought by other ladies. Men are not part of the transfer of the land.IMG_20161124_081420251.jpg
They either own a particular section of the area to set up a shop, or they have to rent the place in the complex and the section owned by the ladies are only transferred to other ladies of the family – daughter or daughter-in-law – or can be only brought by other ladies. Men are not part of the transfer of the land.
Earning is not only the sole reason they setup a shop in this market, rather it is also about engaging in productive time utilisation or being independent. Many women set up shops to feel independent by using the free time at their disposal.
“My family does not depend on me as my kids are working and they can manage to run the family. Even if I don’t work, I can live a fine life. My reason of coming here is just to utilise my time as I don’t have much to do in home,” said a lady in her sixties who sell fruits.
Echoing her, another lady in her fifties also said, “My husband was in government service and I too came here to use my time. My family is not dependent on me, all my children are doing fine jobs. I am running my shop here from the past seven years as I do not have much to do at home.”IMG_20161124_081503048
58-year-old Bilasini who is married to a retired policeman, started working at the Ima market three decades back, not for the money that the job had to offer, but to develop an identity of her own.
“It is very important for everyone to have an identity of their own. It should not matter whether you are a man or woman. Stepping out of the house and earning makes you independent and changes your vision as well,” she says.
The Manipuri society, which unlike most parts of the country is matriarchal in nature, upholds the rank of a woman in a household, and the Ima Keithel market is just one such example. The market opens as early as 7 in the morning and shuts as the sun sets. Situated near the Kangla Fort, the place is easily accessible by road.
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A village free of open defecation, alcohol and violence

An open defecation-free (ODF) Garo village in Goalpara district of Assam is not only the state’s cleanest village, but also is a place where no one consumes alcohol, drugs or smoke and it has never witnessed any crime in at least past 17 years, which  is not only a model for the state but for the entire country.

Rangsapara,  Assam’s cleanest village, has started its work to be a clean and peaceful place in 1999, said Roberth John Momin, Village Head, who is part of this since the very starting.

The village has also taken a pledge to be plastic- free from this month and is also planning to become the first village in the country with a cashless economy, he said.

“The arrival of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin was a blessing for the place.  The mission came to the block in the year 2014 and with its help and efforts of public health engineering department (PHED) the villagers began to have pucca toilets, which was previously only kutcha,” said  J V N Subramanyam, Deputy Commissioner

Rangchapara was declared the cleanest village in the state for the year 2016-17 by the public health engineering department (PHED) last month and also received a sum of five lakh rupees in form of the award by the CM Sarbananda Sonowal.IMG_20170215_141033483_BURST000_COVER_TOP

The village was selected by  Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development – a third party which examined every village in every district on the basis of criteria including attempts to become ODF, pucca toilets and their condition, attempts to promote awareness on cleanliness amongst others.

“It was in the year 1999 when the village people began talking about cleanliness and in 2000, we formed a 10-member committee, which was headed by me,” said Momin.

“The committee has taken four resolutions – to be a peaceful and united village, to be a clean village, every household should have toilets and availability of clean drinking water for all,” he said.

The village with 88 households – all Christians – since the formation of the committee did not see any case of open defection, violence or anyone consuming drugs, alcohol or smoking.

The village with 88 households – all Christians – since the formation of the committee did not see any case of open defection, violence or anyone consuming drugs, alcohol or smoking.“We have imposed a fine of Rs 5001 if anyone found not following our resolutions, but the best part of our steps is that the fine was never imposed on anyone,” said Momin.

“We have imposed a fine of Rs 5001 if anyone found not following our resolutions, but the best part of our steps is that the fine was never imposed on anyone,” said Momin.img_20170215_113854202_hdr

Villager’s intention was to make the village clean, this intention will also bring fame and award was a surprise to them.

“The villagers had no idea that they can even be cleanest in the district, but they were found to be cleanest in the state,” said Abdul Mozid, Senior Block Development Officer, Balijana Block.

“The village is never affected by the conflicts in the area; they live peacefully and with unity,” said Mozid.

“The village is never affected by the conflicts in the area; they live peacefully and with unity,” said Mozid.

“The villagers also have proper waste management. You can find a dustbin after every few steps and they dispose of biodegradable and non- biodegradable waste accordingly,” he said.

The village has two schools – one primary and another middle. The people are neither very rich nor are highly educated. The muddy road which connects the village to the district is also not in a very good condition and the 108 ambulance refuses to ply in the village.

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Village’s Lower Primary

“We have been demanding for the money since 2014, but no money has been granted. It is a very serious problem,” said Ratna Nath, Panchyat President Balijana Block.

The steps to be the cleanest village has not only helped the villagers to get the award but has also reduced the number of children falling ill in a population of 475.

“People are now connecting health with cleanliness, which has also helped in reducing the number of diarrhoea cases to half. The village is a perfect example of what people and government together can do,” Subramanyam said.

“The village is now a brand and is helping in bringing changes in the nearby villages. People began to follow its path to not only be clean, but healthy as well,” he said.

The main profession in the village is agriculture, and only seven people are in government jobs. Most of the houses are kutcha, but with the help of the Indira Awas Yojana, they began to have a plastered house made of bricks.IMG_20170215_132809375

Women of Substance: Girl power rules in 2016

Awe-inspiring feats by Indian women made their way into history books in the year 2016 as the range of their achievements varied from grit-testing defence to wit-challenging politics to ever-charming sports.

Indian Air Force welcomed to its fold the first ever women fighter pilots when Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh set a new bar for the next generation by being commissioned in the elite defence force. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar termed their commissioning in the month of June as a “milestone” since it is the first time that the women have been given a combat role in Air Force.

Senior IPS officer Archana Ramasundram was not far behind as she became the first female head of a Paramilitary force after being appointed Director General of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in February. The 58-year-old resident of Uttar Pradesh, Ramasundram is the Tamil Nadu cadre IPS officer.

There are five paramilitary forces in our country including SSB – Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) – and none has ever had a woman chief. This is the first time in the history of these forces that a lady is heading paramilitary forces.

The women created landmarks on the sticky wicket of politics as well. Former Cabinet minister Najma Heptullah was appointed as the 18th governor of Manipur and is the first woman governor of the state while PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, after her father’s death, became the first woman Chief Minister of the state in April at the age of 56.

Upma Chowdhary, a 1983-batch IAS officer of Himachal cadre, became the first woman to be appointed Director of Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) at Mussoorie.

In actors list also it was all ladies domination, with  Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone burst onto the international scene this year.  Priyanka Chopra became the first India actor to have a lead role in an international television show.  She also became the first Indian to get an opportunity to present an Oscar at the 88th Academy Awards this year. She also became the first woman in India and also the first South Asian actress to received the People’s Choice Award for Favourite Actress In A New TV Series for her role in Quantico.

In the global edition of Forbes magazine, Deepika Padukone ranked as the 10 highest-paid actresses in the world.

In sports, the year was solely dominated by ladies. Shuttler P V Sindhu became the country’s first-ever woman silver medal winner in the Rio Olympic Games in August this year. She also became the fourth Indian to win a silver at the Olympics after shooters Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (2004, Athens) and Vijay Kumar (2012, London) and wrestler Sushil Kumar (2012, London).  She is one of the two Indian badminton players to ever win an Olympic medal – other being Saina Nehwal.

Sakshi Malik too became part of the first woman list by becoming the first woman wrestler from India to bag an Olympic medal and only fourth female athlete from the country to climb to the podium at the biggest sporting event in the world with a bronze medal finish at the Rio Games.  The 23-year-old from Haryana, a silver medallist at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and bronze winner at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, earned a dramatic come-from-behind win over Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova to script history.

Tripura girl, Dipa Karmarkar, also created history by becoming the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for Olympics. She also became first Indian gymnast to enter vault finals in the Olympics. Young Indian golfer Aditi Ashok grabbed a piece of history for herself by becoming the first female Indian golfer to win a Ladies European Tour event.

The list does not stop here. Deepa Malik and Sania Mirza also made the world notice their achievements. Deepa became the first Indian woman athlete to win a medal at the Rio Paralympics. She won a silver medal in shot-put event.

Sania retained her World number one rank in doubles in the WTA rankings in a grueling 2016 season in which she won eight titles, including prestigious Australian Open with Swiss partner Martina Hingis. In 2017 she has her eyes set on completing a Career Slam in both mixed doubles and women’s doubles.

At the 129th session of International Olympic Committee (IOC) in August, Nita Ambani was elected an individual member of the IOC, first woman from India to get the position.

Apart from all these records breakers, many others were also in light including Irom Chanu Sharmila.

The newly constructed Lucknow Metro selected ladies to be the pilots. Pratibha and Prachi Sharma, two of the Lucknow Metro station controllers-cum-train operators (SCs/TOs), have also been awarded the prestigious Rani Laxmi Bai Bravery Award, 2016 by the Uttar Pradesh Government.

Fighting for sixteen long years after starting her path-setting hunger strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, she decided to end her fast in August and contest Assembly elections as an Independent candidate.

With the Bombay HC allowing women’s entry to Haji Ali Dargah, activist Trupti Desai also gathered the headlines after all her struggle to allow the entry of women in the religious places. With the support of the HC, she won a part of her battle.

In Forbes’s 2016 edition of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list four Indian women make their place with State Bank of India Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya at 25th rank; Chanda Kochhar, ICICI Bank’s MD and CEO at 40th rank.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw Chairman and MD of Biocon and Shobhana Bhartia Chairperson and Editorial Director, HT Media Ltd were respectively on 77, 93 ranks.

Apart from them, Indian-American PepsiCo CEO and Chairperson, Indra Nooyi made it to the second rank.

However, on one hand, where the talents were coming up, the country also saw two major deaths – of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and of noted writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi.

The year was all dedicated to Indian women in terms of display of women power. For most parts, it was overshadowed by women achievers. All these women, with their hard works, have set a high benchmark and inspired thousands to live their dreams.

The Super Cops Of Kerala Who Are Saving Students From Crime And Drugs

The next time you plan to bunk classes, think twice, especially if you live in Kottayam where the police have a unique approach of keeping students where they belong – in school. Known as The Gurukulam Project, this initiative by the Kottayam Police aims to keep students away from the nexus of crime and drugs, which they often innocently fall prey to. Interestingly, over 600 schools and colleges of the district are now part of this project, and many more will join from the new academic year.

So, how did this project come to be? It all started in 2013 when during a homicide investigation it came to light that hundreds of students were involved in substance abuse. The situation was so alarming that even Class 10 students were involved. The students would change out of their uniforms and move around freely in movie theatres, bus stops, railway stations and other isolated spots. Drugs and alcohol were almost always a part of the mix.

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S Sateesh Bino IPS

This state of affairs prompted the then Deputy Superintendent of Police V. Ajith to come up with a master plan to get students back on track. At first, the police conducted routine raids to round up students who were not in class. However, the students were not arrested. Instead, the school authorities and parents were informed and students would be let off with only a warning.

Going forward, to make the intervention more robust, several newer systems have been put into place, such as the online attendance tracking system designed voluntarily by engineering students, which shares information on a daily basis with parents, explains Arun Kumar K.R., Senior Civil Police Officer at the Deputy Superintendent’s office in Kottayam.

“We receive the attendance list from each school and college every day. Based on this list, a policeperson will call up the absentees’ parents and verify the reason of their absence. The parents and school authorities will then be cautioned in case of any unauthorised absence of their wards while a parallel search to chase them down will be launched, simultaneously,” explains Officer Arun. In a span of one year, they recorded 18,000 absentee details! According to the police, most students who have been absent without the knowledge of parents have in some way been involved in drugs and other activities.

“So, we appointed special people at the cinema theatre, alcohol shops, and in certain isolated places to keep a watch over students. We intend to take no legal action against these students. Instead, the focus is on taking steps to prevent them from indulging in criminal activities, providing them counselling and rehabilitation. After all, if the base of a child is disturbed, then how can we expect a strong future for him or her?” observed District Police Chief, S Sateesh Bino.

The project is now functioning well in all the four sub-divisions of Kottayam, and each sub-division has a counselling centre for students. The psychologists who do their jobs voluntarily have saved over 50 students through their efforts.

So, what causes students to go astray? According to the police, parental care, or the lack of it is a common factor when it comes to students who get caught up in crime. Either the parents are too busy in their lives or they are not able to get involved properly with the child. However, around 10% come from good families and just happen to get into bad company.

The biggest challenge has been getting schools to accept that their students can be involved in nefarious activities. However, once on board, the school’s details are kept confidential, so that no school feels any shame. After all the main intention of the police is not to harass the school, child or the family but protect the child. Officer Arun has some sound advice for teachers and school authorities. “They must not discriminate among the students after their actions are highlighted. This can cause even more damage to the child,” he shares.

Inspired by this project, the Kochi police joined hands with around 70 colleges and schools to launch a similar model. And going a step further, the vision and determination of one good policeman to make a change, has now inspired the Kerala government to launch ‘Clean Campus, Safe Campus‘. This state-wide campaign unites parents, teachers, society and the government for one common mission – to keep our school children safe. After all, children are the future of the winds of change.

A Small Town In Kerala Celebrates ‘Mini Diwali’ Every January

St. Mary’s Forane Church, Athirampuzha recently celebrated the annual feast of St. Sebastian with full energy and enthusiasm. The major attractions of the procession that is carried out during the festival are classic Kerala bands, school bands, flags, crosses of different types – golden, wooden, brass and silver – statues of saints, and muthukuda (beaded decorated umbrellas) which travels from the Athirampuzha main market to the church.

The procession is the most important and colorful part of the celebration, which lasts for more than four hours. In this, the statues of St. Sebastian and the Blessed Virgin Mary are taken out of the church at around 4:00 p.m. and after being taken around in the area, it comes back to the church at around 8:00 p.m.

beginning of the procession
The beginning of the procession

It is a parish feast where a group of Catholic families gather every year to celebrate the feast. The mass or Eucharist is held every hour and devotes make different offerings to the saint. The dazzling display of fireworks is a major attraction and adds color to the festival. It is more like the south Indian Diwali, with fireworks and people lighting lights and candles outside their houses.

“This is the biggest religious gathering of this place. People of all religions take part in it,” said Father Jose Parappallil. Explaining the reason for it, he adds, “years ago, the people of Athirampuzha were affected by smallpox. They all prayed to St. Sebastian and they were all cured. From then on, all religions began to take part in the feast believing that the saint saves them from all their troubles and problems.” The devotees offerKazhunnu – miniature arrow of gold and silver – and believe that the arrow stuck in the body of the saint has miraculous healing powers and keeps evil spirits away.

illuminated Back end of the church
Illuminated back end of the Church

The church was established in the 835 AD, and this feast has been celebrated from the year 1647, which lasts for a week beginning on the 19th of January and ends on the 26th of January. The main feast days are 24th and 25th, but the flag hoisting ceremony begins from 19th, marking the beginning of the festival. Thousands and thousands of people from various parts of south India come to attend it. Not only that, people of all religions take part in it be it Christian, Hindu or Muslims.

people and band going back to church
People coming back from the procession

According to locals, three statues of St. Sebastian were brought to Kerala during the time of Portuguese, one is believed to be in the St. Andrew’s Forane Church of Arthunkal and another was taken to St. Mary’s Forane Church of Kanjoor; but because of its small size, no one claimed third one. The traders of the Athirampuzha brought the smallest one to this place. This is known as Adiyelpicha Roopam (the tortured figure). The public is allowed to see the statue only during this festive season. The statue of St. Sebastian installed in the St. Mary’s Forane Church, Athirampuzha is special as it is considered to be one of the oldest statues in India, and also, it is the only statue of a saint without an arrow. The festival comes to an end with St. Sebastian’s statue being ceremonially placed on the altar of the church.

(Athirampuzha is a small town in the Kottayam district of Kerala state. it is one of the oldest trading centers in the Travancore. It is believed that this place has trade relations with the Middle East from centuries ago)people going to church

Jesus Christ Superstar Reloaded

In a time when things are only being banned, the famous Rock Opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ was staged in Pallikoodam School, Kottayam district of Kerala 25 years after it was banned in the same school.

On October 15, 1990, the children of the school (Corpus Christy School at that time) were all ready for the performance when founder Mary Roy received the order from Alphons Kannamthanam, former IAS officer and then Collector of Kottayam for the ban on the play. Although it was a temporary ban, it took 25 years to get it lifted. The case shuttled between the government and the Kerala courts for a decade before it went to the Supreme Court.IMG-20151204-WA0019

The rock opera, written in 1970 by Tim Rice with music from Andrew Lloyd Webber, tells the story of the last seven days of Jesus’ life on earth starting with Him and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with His crucifixion. It highlights the struggle between Judas and Jesus with a psychological point of view that is not in the Bible. The opera depicts the agony of Jesus during his betrayal, trial and condemnation. The play shows that Jesus Christ was not the son of God but was actually nothing more than the right man at the right time. It also shows that Judas was much misunderstood and was depicted as a tragic figure dissatisfied with the direction in which Jesus steers his disciples. The rock opera also suggests that Mary Magdalene may have had a relationship with Jesus.

The ban was put on the drama because it was seen as both sacrilegious and blasphemous, against the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith and could hurt religious feelings. But Father Abraham Vellathadathil, former Principal of Henry Baker College, Idukki who challenged this ban in the Kerala High Court along with Mary Roy said that the rock opera is a literary piece and even the Christians of the Vatican enjoyed it.IMG-20151204-WA0007

On Friday, December 4 2015, the school witnessed the play again as the Supreme Court of India lifted the ban from this dance drama in April, 2015.

The bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that since Jesus Christ Superstar had already been produced all over the world and is available online, a ban based on an order by the district collector serves no purpose. People of Kottayam can easily watch the play on the Internet.

The interesting part of the play was that those who were students of the school during the ban are now parents of the school students; the music band still has members who were part of the 1990 play as student. No Christian was offended with the play or its contents when it was staged now, majority of the students performing the play were also Christian.IMG-20151204-WA0006

A Local Mela In Lucknow Has Been Smashing Communal Differences For Decades

Although there are differences in the beliefs of Hindu and Muslims, even then Awadh is considered as the centre of the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeebBudhakki ka mela, also known as Daliganj mela and Ganga Snan Mela is one of the finest examples of that. One can find the perfect blend of the Hindu-Muslim unity in this fair. Although it is organized after the Kartik purnima snan (a Hindu ritual), most of the shopkeepers are not Hindu. The customers are also of all religions.

It is also special because at a time when people prefer going to malls and shopping complexes, Budhakki ka mela is an amazing thing to see. It is a street fair with shops on the road’s pavement, where one can find almost all sorts of things. It not only deals with various jhoolas (swings and rides) and food stall like any other fair, but also deals with all sorts of household goods, clothing and footwear shops, handicrafts, utensils, glass wares, crockery, magic shows, photo studios and various other unique and fancy shops.

different jhoolas
rides to enjoy in the fair
jewellary sop
an artificial jewelry shop

The mela lasts for around 40 days after the Kartik purnima snan. Every day thousands and thousands of people came to this fair. It offers things on the cheapest possible rates. One can find items ranging from ₹2 to ₹2000. No one knows when this fair first began, but some say that it has been around from the time of Akbar. This fair flourished more during the time of Wajid Ali Shah. Shopkeepers from various parts of Uttar Pradesh came to sell special and low-priced goods.

Sansar Ali from Allahabad, owns a key-ring shop and has been participating in the fair for the past 28 years and does not have any permanent shop anywhere else. He writes names and personalized messages on the key-rings. He earns his living by the temporary shop only.

ladies crowd in a shop offering everything for ₹5
ladies crowd in a shop offering things at Rs 5
overcrowded shops
an overcrowded shop
pay ₹ 10 for three items
three things for Rs 10

Another shopkeeper Abdul Mannan, is from Lucknow and has a permanent crockery shop in Mahanagar but he has been coming to this fair since 1978. He too does not know when the fair started. Shahid, a utensil shop-owner from Kanpur said, “I have been coming here for 15 years and before that my father and elder brother used to come here.”

Recently, there has been a debate over where the fair should be held. The priest of the Mankameshwar Mandir is of the thought that this fair should be shifted to that part of Gomti near the temple, which has received a mixed response from shopkeepers.

Mohammad Nafis, a bangle store owner from Kanpur who has been a part of the fair from past 20 years feels that this is a better place for the fair. He said, “That area is not safe for women and also there are two educational institutes nearby – Lucknow University and Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama College and if the fair is shifted to that side then it will be a disturbance for those institutes as well.”

pick 3 items for ₹ 10
three things for Rs 10
a unique shop
a unique key-ring shop

Some other shopkeepers feel that it is better to shift there because the temple committee will be responsible for the security and safety of shopkeepers which isn’t available now and gunda elements keep threatening them. There will be regular rules for the shops since they are paying very high for it and have to pay at multiple levels. They will also get a proper parent organization for the fair. Some feel that the authority and police and not able to maintain the crowd and the traffic.

The debate was finally settled when it was announced that 2016 onwards, the mela will be organized in the Mankameshwar Mandir lawn. The authority has also promised free place and electricity for which the shopkeepers are paying ₹ 150 and ₹ 80 respectively per day right now.

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