Archive for April, 2008

Children: Treat them with Kindness

Treating Children With Kindness
Adil Salahi, Arab News

Children were always certain of kind treatment by the Prophet (peace be upon him). Whenever he saw a child, he received him/her with a smile and said some pleasant words, even when the Prophet was preoccupied with something very serious. Anas ibn Malik, who served the Prophet throughout his 10-year stay in Madinah, said: “I never saw anyone who was more kind to children than God’s Messenger.” (Related by Muslim.)

He did not differentiate between boys and girls; he was very kind to all, teaching his companions that kindness to children must be an essential characteristic of every Muslim. We should put this in its proper perspective; his was a society characterized by its rough attitude in all situations, and particularly harsh in its treatment of girls and women.

Some Bedouins visiting Madinah saw him kissing one of his grandchildren. One of them asked: “Do you kiss your young ones; by God we never do that.”

The Prophet said: “What can I do for you if God has removed compassion from your heart?” This was a pointed answer, telling those rough people that their attitude was wrong and it should better be changed.

Compassion is a virtue that we should nurture, and its primary aspect is to be kind to young children.

Whenever the Prophet returned to Madinah after being away on an expedition or travel, he was met by children who went out to give him a welcome. Abdullah ibn Jaafar, whose father was a cousin of the Prophet, said that on one such occasion, he was the first taken to the Prophet: “He took me up and placed me in front of him as he was on his mount. Then one of Fatimah’s two sons was brought to him and he placed him behind him. Thus all three of us entered Madinah on one mount.” (Related by Muslim.)

The Prophet was leading the Muslim army on its way to Khaybar when he passed by the living quarters of the Ghifar tribe. He noticed a girl who was walking fast alongside the army. Realizing that she wanted to give any help to the soldiers, the Prophet took her behind him on his mount. When they stopped for rest and he dismounted, he noticed that she looked very shy. He realized that she has just had her period. It was her first time, so he taught her how to clean herself and her clothes. She stayed with the army until after the battle. The Prophet gave her a necklace from the booty. She wore that necklace without ever taking it off. She grew up to achieve fame and was to be known as Layla Al-Ghifariyyah.

Whenever a child was with the Prophet, he would teach that child something simple, short and very effective. Abdullah ibn Abbas was a young boy when he once rode behind the Prophet on his mount. The Prophet said that he wanted to teach him some very useful words. These were: “Be careful with what God has given you, and He will take care of you. Remain within the limits God has set and you will always find Him before you.

Get to know God in times of ease, and He will know you in times of hardship. Learn that what you have missed would have never been yours, and what you have got you would have never missed. Learn also that victory is assured with perseverance, a way out is certain to come after a time of stress, and that hardship is followed by ease.” (Related by Al-Bukahri.)

When we consider these words we realize that they were simple enough to be understood by a 10-year old, yet they can be fundamental in shaping a young man’s attitude to life in general. A young child can easily learn the Prophet’s words by heart, yet they will be of benefit to him throughout his life. Not only so, but the child in this case reported these words so that we can all learn them and bring our attitude to life events in line with them. Yet the Prophet’s teaching of children could be much simpler. Abdullah ibn Busr Al-Mazini reported that when he was a young child, his mother sent him with a bunch of grapes to give to the Prophet. On the way, he ate some grapes. “When I gave it to the Prophet, he held my ear and said: ‘You little cheat!’” Thus the lesson of delivering something intact was given to the young child in a very gentle way.

His companions realized that whatever prayer the Prophet said, God would answer in the broadest and fullest way. Therefore, when children were born, they were often brought to the Prophet to bless them. He would welcome them and do more than their parents hoped for. The whole Muslim community were delighted when Asma’ bint Abu Bakr gave birth to her son, Abdullah, the first child to be born to the Muslim community in Madinah after the Prophet and the Makkan Muslims migrated there.

“She took her newborn to the Prophet. He took the child, put him on his lap, took a date and rubbed the child’s jaws with it before praying for him and blessing him.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

In some societies, particularly the Arabian society at the time, when adults met, children were told to keep away. The Prophet’s attitude was different; he welcomed children and attended to them.

His companions in Madinah were farmers. They often brought him the early ripe fruit, hoping for a prayer of blessing. “Whenever he was brought such fruit, he would pray: ‘Our Lord, bless our city, our fruit and measures, and make each blessing goes with another.’ He would then give the fruit to the youngest child present.” (Related by Muslim and Al-Tirmidhi). On one occasion he was talking to a group of adults and dates were served to them, when some children came in. He took a bunch of dates and gave it to the children.

This was in total contrast to what any Arab host would have done. Had his children come in when he was entertaining guests, an Arab would have told them off and ordered them out.

In all this the Prophet set an example, not only for people in his generation, but for all future generations. Hence, you find that Muslim parents are always likely to take good care of their children, and to be compassionate to all young people. This ensures that family relations remain strong and families remain closely knit.

This is a great blessing that has yielded great benefits to Muslim families in all societies, across countless generations.

 

Between a rock and a hard place

An enlightening (and frustrating) article by P. Sainath. He is an authority on state of Indian agriculture, and has travelled extensively throughout the country, documenting the disgraceful mess created by this entity called “the Indian government”. One of the most popular books he has written, which will send shivers up your spine is, “Everyone loves a good drought“.

http://www.indiatogether.org/2008/apr/psa-foodprice.htm

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19 April 2008 – The bailout of Bear Stearns by the U S Federal Reserve was worth $30 billion. That is roughly twice the ‘loan waiver’ given to millions of Indian farmers. The latter move has been scorched by the ideologues of the free market and neo-liberalism as ‘fiscal insanity’ or ‘irreversible damage.’ The media – even those mildly critical – have been far more muted in their criticism of the ‘rescue’ of Bear Stearns. That is, one of the biggest global investment banks and securities trading and brokerage firms anywhere on the planet.

Think of it: a tiny Wall Street cabal which gave itself bonuses worth billions of dollars just weeks before the crash gets a bailout of Rs.1,19,520 crores. That’s almost double the Rs.60,000 crores given to tens of millions of farmers in dire straits in this country. A country where one farmer kills himself every 30 minutes in despair. The problems of farmers do not even begin to end with that waiver.

On the other hand, a bunch of thugs in tuxedos who did pretty much whatever they wanted, laying a minefield across the world, have got the waiver of a lifetime (or many lifetimes). The lifejacket for the bank does not require the return of their bonuses. So much so that Jim Rogers, CEO of Rogers Holdings and a staunch free marketer, calls it “Socialism for the rich.” In his words “the Federal Reserve is using taxpayer money to buy a bunch of Bear Stearns traders’ Maseratis.” He points out that hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to bail out Wall Street as a whole. The theologians of the global market are between a rock and a hard place. Hypocrisy has rammed into reality.

Three of the basic principles the believers of corporate-led globalisation swear by have been so eloquently summed by Professor James Galbraith Jr. of the University of Texas at Austin. One: all successes are global. Two: all failures are national. Three: the market is beyond reproach.

This is election year. So we see Minister after Minister, the latest being Kapil Sibal, tell us that the price rise and food shortages in India are the result of global factors.
What a lovely waiver!
Protect at home, preach abroad

For over a decade, we were assured that everything good that ever happened was because we had embraced corporate-led globalisation. All the negative effects visible were the result of our own national inertia and corruption. And of course, the market would heal all wounds. The notion of state meddling in economic matters was blasphemy. Now the nations feeding us this rot – which we recite by rote – are nationalising banks, bailing out brigands and pouring in funds to stop factories from closing down.

Now having to blame ‘global factors’ for the price rise at home must seem a bit galling. Failures at home? Er, well, you see, let’s not go there now. This is election year. So we see Minister after Minister, the latest being Kapil Sibal, tell us that the price rise and food shortages in India are the “result of global factors.” Nothing to do with us. No less amusing to see the World Bank and the IMF warn of starvation and riots. It’s hard to think of anyone who has contributed more to those phenomena than they have. And now Finance Minister P. Chidambaram calls for an urgent “global consensus on the price spiral.” Without this, social unrest would conflagrate into a “global contagion.”

To be fair to the Union Agriculture Minister, he alone has not laid the blame at the door of faceless global forces. Sharad Pawar locates the problem closer home. In his view, south Indians are eating too many chapathis, leading to shortages of wheat. (DNA page 1, April 2, 2008). An entertaining view but there’s a problem with it. Even while dietary changes do affect consumption patterns, these occur over decades. There is little evidence of an outburst of wheat-centric gluttony in the southern states these past six months. (Unless, of course, with great cunning, the southies are hoarding it up for future chapathi orgies.)

Someone is hoarding it up, though, and it is not the general public, south or north. The presence of very large traders including MNCs buying directly from farmers has been on awhile. A process aided by our strangling of the old Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees’ Act. We’ve set the soil for contract farming and corporate agriculture. Meanwhile, the lip service paid to higher Minimum Support Prices (MSP) has proved worse than a sham. In practice, producers are being pushed towards private trade. Fewer procurement centres, delays in purchasing and, still worse, delays in payments are the norm. Then, when procurement is poor, we announce that the farmers are doing so well in the market, they don’t want to sell to the state.

The present mess was arrived at with much celebration of the farmer’s right to sell as and when he liked, to whom he wished. In effect, millions of farmers, deep in trouble, have been selling their produce at distress rates for several seasons now. The bargaining power of individual farmers on their own is zilch.

Total procurement has been down. When market prices for the farmers’ produce have been higher than the MSP, this might be expected. But it has happened even when the MSP has been raised. There have also been cases of traders picking up produce from indebted farmers and then claiming the higher MSP on it themselves. On the whole, though, smaller traders are in trouble. The big boys are here. And so even with enough grain within the country just now, the less well-off cannot access it at affordable rates.

The Centre’s pressing the States to act against hoarding is itself an admission of the problem. But there is yet to be a single instance of action against really big hoarders and speculators. These include giant companies operating through a variety of pointmen. The raids now focussed on small traders will yield little.

Meanwhile, the entry and growing entrenchment of giants in retail ensures things will get worse. (Remember this was supposed to provide us with cheap prices? Then look at the gap between wholesale and retail prices.) We have also nurtured the commodities futures market despite its clear links to speculation and price rise. It’s odd how every other small trader will brief you at length on this – but you won’t see much of that story in the media. In fact, with markets tanking around the world, more speculators have seized on foodgrain as a good bet. Which it is.

Through the reforms period, we have pushed millions of small farmers to shift from foodcrop to cash crops. The acreage under foodcrop has reduced across these years. And we also exported millions of tonnes of grain – as in 2002 and 2003. What’s more, we exported at prices cheaper than those we charged poor people in this country for the same grain. The idea was that we had a “huge surplus” of grain and could well afford to export. The truth was that the massive pileup of unsold stock arose from a surplus of hunger rather than of grain. The purchasing power of the poor had collapsed. But the fake “surplus” story came in handy. It allowed the export of grain – heavily subsidised by us – to be consumed by European cattle.

The present mess is no surprise. For years, economists such as Utsa Patnaik have warned strongly that we would arrive at where we are now. As she repeatedly pointed out, the effects of all our actions could be seen in the plummeting net per capita availability of foodgrain. From 510 grams per Indian in 1991 to 422 grams by 2005. With the top fifth of Indians doing better than ever before, this meant that those below were eating far less than they did just a few years ago.

The plunging food intake of the poorer sections has come along with the steady scrapping of the public distribution system. On the one hand, the PDS has been sharply whittled down. On the other, millions who need BPL cards are denied them. In Mumbai, just 0.28 per cent of ration cardholders have BPL cards. Now, even those who do have cards find no supplies to buy. And of course, we’ve spared no efforts to link our agriculture to the volatility of global prices in a world where a handful of corporations control those prices. Their clout within India has grown rapidly. Their control extends further each day from the field and farm gate to the price and sale of the final product.

Meanwhile, each budget takes further the process of “growth” driven by the consumption of the rich. Tax breaks at the top, cuts in state spending, all these too have a major role in making life unbearable below. Yet, even as the edifice crumbles, a few true believers hold out for the Second Coming. “Price rise reflects scarcity,” says one editorial, “and at no time is free trade more effective as a welfare enhancer than when it combats scarcity by quickly getting supplies where the demand is.” But governments are “denying free trade this role.” Well, get set for the global contagion.

P Sainath
19 Apr 2008

P. Sainath is the 2007 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. He is one of the two recipients of the A.H. Boerma Award, 2001, granted for his contributions in changing the nature of the development debate on food, hunger and rural development in the Indian media.

 

Yoga to replace judo in Kremlin gym

This is an exciting and quite a significant news story, on the President of Russia practicing Yoga. If the story is to be believed, Russians emulate their Presidents, and thus Yoga is likely to find a large number of followers in the former communist country. This will certainly be an important step towards creating a better world, with deeper personal and world-level harmony.

China is the last bastion to be (re)won!

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/World/Europe/Yoga_to_replace_judo_in_Kremlin_gym/articleshow/2966555.cms

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MOSCOW: The ancient Indian yoga once banished from the country by a Communist leader is all set to make a home in the Kremlin next month when the new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who practises the art, takes over.

Prodded by his wife Svetlana, president-elect Medvedev had joined the thousands of Russians eager to learn the Indian art of yoga. He now takes pride in his ability to perform ‘shirshasana’, a headstand pose.

Former President Boris Yeltsin’s tennis revolution had resulted in the birth of a whole constellation of Russian superstars like Kurnikova and Sharapova.

His successor, a Judo black belt holder and mountain skier Vladimir Putin gave boost to oriental martial arts and mountain skiing in the country and if the trend continues, Russia will soon be standing on its head, Centre TV (CTV) said in its weekend analytical programme ‘Post Scriptum’. “And if this trend is to continue under Medvedev, Russia will soon have more yoga schools than India,” CTV observed. Last year in an interview to Itogi magazine Medvedev, the then first deputy PM looking after major social and health reforms had said: “Little by little, I’m mastering yoga.”

Yoga, he explained, helped him relax from the stress of work. “I can even stand on my head,” Medvedev told magazine Tainy Zvyozd (Secrets of the Stars) last month.

 

A faraway place called home

Another article which establishes our stand on Tibet and our outright rejection of the convoluted Tibet-policy of this current Indian government.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/297727.html

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Can exile ever be an apolitical condition, asks Tridip Suhrud

Edward Said begins his reflections on exile by stating, “Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.” Being in exile is not a romantic notion, its purpose is not to humanise the world, despite the most evocative literature that exiles from the times of Ovid have created.

Exile is not a condition of one’s choosing. Either one is forced into exile or one is born in exile. Exile in its classical sense of banishment has come to be replaced by modern political categories — the refugee, the displaced, the immigrant. The sheer scale of anonymous refugees and displaced persons that the 20th century created through its wars, its totalitarian states and developmental projects somehow does not allow us to reflect on the irreparable and interminable loss of exile.

It is a condition that is marked by deep longing, and a sense of estrangement. Longing for the home that is no longer available and being estranged from the place that gives one refuge. Without this longing, without the need to return, without the promise that one would eventually return, the exiled would become an émigré, not that the immigrant does not long for home or does not feel strange in the adopted land. As Dante said, only the one in exile knows “how salty another’s bread tastes and how hard it is to ascend and descend another’s stairs.”

The Dalai Lama speaks of himself and his people as a people in exile. He also says that Tibet today is a community built on suffering and exile. As the Dalai Lama, he has twin responsibilities. He is to his people a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. So long as the people of Tibet have faith in the institution of the Dalai Lama, he is duty bound to lead them spiritually and as a spokesperson of their struggle for justice. His being in exile places on him the second responsibility. He must keep the possibility of eventual return alive. Not as longing but as promise.

When Pranab Mukherjee, as external affairs minister, characterises the Dalai Lama as a ‘respected guest’ and then advises him to refrain from political involvement, he displays astonishing ignorance about both the institution of the Dalai Lama and responsibilities of one who is in exile. A person in exile cannot but be political. It is politics itself that has created the condition of exile.

The people of Tibet have a right to their politics, however uncomfortable that might be to the Indian state. And as India finally affirmed, political protest is a way of life in a democratic society, and this right is available in equal measure even to those in exile. It is available to the people of Tibetan origin against the apathy of the Indian state as much as against Chinese repression.

Let us remind ourselves of another of our famous émigrés who more than a hundred years ago, in distant Johannesburg, took a pledge in the name of god to fight injustice unto death. That act, which we celebrate officially, was also an affirmation of the right of the émigré and of the exiled to assert political and cultural rights. It is natural that such great acts make, to borrow from Salman Rushdie, ‘a great noise in the mind, the heart.’

A people in exile will try and recreate home in a new land as a people in search of their roots, past, land and heritage often do. A certain kind of inwardness is written in this process. This inwardness is the only source, however feeble, to contain estrangement. Simon Weil spoke of the need for rootedness as one of the least recognised of human needs. The little Tibet of Dharamshala is one such attempt, without which the promised return would become even fainter.

That the Dalai Lama sought refuge in India, and continues to remain in exile in India and that India promised him refuge is not only an accident of geography. Spiritually, the Dalai Lama cannot be in exile anyplace else but India. For him, India is the land of two masters, one Gautam and the other Gandhi. He has often spoken evocatively of his debts to the two. He is in this sense exiled at a place that could have been his only home outside of Tibet. He is exiled at home.

The writer is a social scientist based in Ahmedabad

 

Why Tibet Matters

This is a wonderful eye opening article, very well reasoned out for creating a much more radical Tibet policy by the Indian government – for reasons much beyond politics alone – and covering matters of India’s integrity and Spirituality.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/296828.html : by Sonia Jabbar for the Indian Express.

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To sacrifice Tibet’s interests would be to sacrifice our own.

Sonia Jabbar

Is Tibet a nuisance for India, and when it negotiates with China on the border issue, should India unhesitatingly sacrifice Tibetan interests to secure our own? While there has been much talk about the burden of hosting the Dalai Lama and 1,85,000 Tibetan refugees for 50 years, few have acknowledged India’s debt to them and why repaying that debt is not only a moral imperative but a strategically self-interested one.

The first is a civilisational debt. When the Dalai Lama teaches from the works of the Vikramshila or Nalanda masters, he always prefaces his teachings with, “these are Indian treasures. We have only been its guardians in Tibet for a thousand years, and now that the teachings have faded in India we have brought them back intact. This is the gift we return to India.” It is no small gift.

Few will recall the sacking of Nalanda, the destruction of thousands of birch-bark books or the fact that Buddhism itself disappeared from Indian soil after the 13th century. Ask an educated Indian whether Shantideva, Atisha, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, or Vasubandhu mean anything to them and chances are you’ll draw a blank. Ask a Tibetan teenager and you’re likely to hear the history of the Indian Buddhist masters and the journey of their teachings to Tibet from 7th-11th century AD.

Nalanda, once the greatest centre of Buddhist learning from the 5th to 12th centuries, today lives in spirit not amongst its archaeological remains in Bihar, but in the vibrant Tibetan colleges of Sera, Drepung and Ganden, relocated in Karnataka after the Tibetan exodus of 1959. These are modeled on the Nalanda tradition, transmitting India’s ancient treasures to meritorious students, many of whom are poor Indian Buddhists from the Himalayan belt.

The second debt is strategic and vital to India’s future. The Government of India has been at pains to ‘reiterate’ that they have ‘always’ considered Tibet an integral part of China; our Communists have insisted that the ‘disturbances’ are China’s ‘internal matter.’ The fact is that the ‘always’ is only five years old, and the ‘internal matter’ a crumbling fantasy.

In November 1950, Nehru informed the chief ministers, ‘When news came to us that the Chinese Government had formally announced military operations against Tibet, we were surprised and distressed. Immediately we sent a note of protest [to Chou En Lai on 26/10/50] and requested the Chinese Government not to proceed… To use coercion and armed force, when a way to peaceful settlement is open, is always wrong. To do so against a country like Tibet, which is obviously not in a position to offer much resistance and which could not injure China, seemed to us to add to the wrongness of this behaviour.’

India unilaterally ‘recognised’ the ‘Tibet Autonomous Region,’ as ‘a territory of China,’ for the first time during Vajpayee’s China visit in 2003. Before this, India’s terminology in official documents was deliberately left ambiguous. In 1954 India described Tibet as a geographic location: ‘the Tibet region of China.’ In 1988, the Rajiv Gandhi government brought it closer to China’s position, but still kept it vague enough with, ‘Tibet is an autonomous region of China.’ The 2003 declaration toes the Chinese line word-for-word.

What are the implications of accepting Tibet as an ‘integral part of China’? First, leaving aside the distortion of Tibet’s long history of independence, the declaration contravenes the treaty obligations between British India and Tibet, which we have inherited under the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Two treaties directly affect our territorial integrity: the 1904 Convention Between Great Britain and Tibet, which recognises the boundary between Tibet and Sikkim, and the Anglo-Tibet Treaty of 1914, in which India recognised Tibet as an independent nation under the suzerainty (as opposed to sovereignty) of China. In return, Tibet was to respect the Mc Mahon Line, the eastern boundary between Tibet and Arunachal. Until the Chinese invasion of Tibet, both agreements held and the border was peaceful.

China has never accepted Sikkim and Arunachal as parts of India, even today claiming the latter as its own. But when two countries have concluded an agreement between them, China has no locus standi as a third country. A sovereign state is one that negotiates and sign treaties with other states. Once a state exists it cannot simply be wished away simply because another nation has invaded it.

That the world does not wish to challenge China’s illegal occupation of Tibet thus rendering it a de facto (not de jure) part of China is another matter. However, it is pertinent to ask why the Government of India is so solicitous of China’s national interests at the expense of our own. If China refuses to recognise the treaties signed by India and Tibet, there is no reason for India to recognise the 17-point 1951 agreement, thrust upon Tibet under Chinese gunpoint. China possesses no other legal documents to prove its claims over Tibet.

We have learned few lessons in foreign policy. India unilaterally surrendered its influence in Tibet in the 1954 trade agreement with China by removing its military personnel from the Tibetan trading towns of Yatung and Gyantse, giving up Indian rest houses, land, and Tibet’s communications including the postal, telegraph and public telephone services operated by the Government of India. The agreement had a validity of eight years, and it is no coincidence that its expiry coincided with the 1962 war. If those who parrot the ‘Tibet is an integral part of China’ line paused to think, they would realise that they are unwittingly conceding China’s claim over 83,743 sq km of Arunachal territory.

The Dalai Lama’s ‘middle way’ position has been clear since the mid-’80s: autonomy and not independence. It begs the question why, if China is willing to pursue a ‘one country, two systems’ policy in the Han-majority areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, is it so hysterically opposed to the Tibetan proposals. In 1999 Wang Lixion, a prominent Chinese intellectual, pointed out that an independent or autonomous Tibet under the influence of the Dalai Lama, ‘would naturally orient it towards India,’ taking 2.5 million sq km or 26 per cent of China’s land mass away from China’s sphere of influence into India’s. To lose this vast swathe of land would be to ‘expose [China’s] fatal underbelly.’ It should be understood that it is not on its demerits that the Dalai Lama’s proposals are being rejected, but because of India’s potential influence.

While one is not advocating India’s lebensraum or hostilities with China, one should be aware that China controls the headwaters of many Indian rivers that originate in the Tibetan plateau. India is already facing acute water shortages. China has already anticipated its future water problems by damming the headwaters of the Sutlej and Brahmaputra. While the ‘thirsty’ provinces of Xingjian and Gansu will undoubtedly benefit by China’s plans to divert the waters of the Brahmaputra, India needs to wake up well before our rivers begin drying up.

It is time we recognised that Tibet and India’s destinies are entwined. To sacrifice Tibet’s interests would mean to sacrifice our own. There is no need to go down that road again.

The writer is a journalist who has studied Buddhism for the last 20 years

 

The truth of Tibet

Tibet and His Holiness Dalai Lama, has been maligned by the Chinese authorities. Here’s our attempt to collect some of good articles and stories revealing the truth behind Chinese occupation and cultural destruction of Tibet.

 

UP:Education:3.5 lakh students bunk Hindi test in ‘ anti- English’ UP

3.5 lakh students bunk Hindi test in ‘ anti- English’ UP

Absenteeism rises in Class X & XII board exams

Strict Vigil against copying keeps students away

 

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow

      IN AN irony of sorts, over 3.5 lakh students in the country’s Hindi heartland failed to appear for the Hindi paper in the state’s board examination. Uttar Pradesh has been protesting against English education since a quarter of a century.

         The impact of the ‘ Hindi lao angreji hatao’ movement launched by socialist leaders in the 1970s was so strong, lakhs of students stopped learning the English alphabet. Former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav went to the extent of calling English the “ language of corrupt people”.

        Hindi has traditionally held sway in UP, even though it’s English that has helped India shine globally. But this year’s state board examinations have revealed a disturbing trend. The Uttar Pradesh school education department wants to set up a committee to probe why over 3.5 lakh examinees bunked the Hindi test on Thursday. Officials admitted that never before had such a large number of students evaded Hindi papers.

         “ So far this year, the drop- out rate was the highest for the Hindi test,” said Prabha Tripathi, secretary of the Board of High School and Intermediate Education. “ We will form a committee to find out why so many students stayed away from the test.” But, the board estimates the drop- out rate could rise in the coming days.

         “ If this trend continues, we estimate that over five lakh students will not take the mathematics test on March 10 and 12. For the English papers, the drop- out figure could be as high as seven lakh. These two are the most commonly dreaded subjects,” Tripathi said.

 

        K. M. Tripathi, director, secondary education, said the entire examination system has been revamped this year to check cheating. “ We have tightened the screws on not only unscrupulous students but also teachers. Absenteeism among teachers and their active encouragement to use unfair means is equally deplorable.

       

       Absenteeism has a direct bearing on students’ inclination to cheat. So this session, we had provided teachers with a schedule- book and a calendar to keep track of what they taught on a day- today basis,” he said. He added that strict measures were taken to pre- empt cheating. “ There was a trend to write out the answers on the blackboards. So we instructed every school to either remove the boards from the classrooms or apply a mud coat on it during the duration of the examinations.

 

       The strictness may also be a reason why the drop- out rate has been so high this year,” he said. Education minister Rangnath Mishra said: “ Till date, the government was taken for granted. When Kalyan Singh was the chief minister he had tried to control cheating but failed because the teachers and students resisted his efforts. But this government is made of sterner stuff.”

 

        Expressing the government’s determination to clean up the education system, Mishra said, “ In the last three days, over three dozen school managers have been booked and half a dozen teachers or school employees have been arrested for helping students cheat. Some have been suspended.”

 

       Mishra said while around 46.5 lakh students appeared on the first day of Class X and XII examinations on March 4, the number dipped to 45 lakh the next day. On March 6, the day the Hindi test was held, only 43 lakh wrote their papers. On March 25, when English- I test will be held, as few as 39 lakh students may turn up, he said. “ Given that we have cracked down on cheating very harshly this time, it’s expected that students who are not prepared will develop a phobia and stay away from the examination hall,” he added.

 

      But even he could not explain why Hindi should be on the dreaded list with English and maths in the Hindi belt. piyush. srivastava@ mailtoday. in

 

       A committee will probe the trend to skip exams By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow 3.5 lakh students bunk Hindi test in ‘ anti- English’ UP Absenteeism rises in Class X & XII board exams NOT HONEST ENOUGH? Strict measures taken by UP to pre- empt cheating may have scared many students away.

 

Girls a calming effect on boys in co-ed schools

Girls a calming effect on boys in co-ed schools

 

      CO-EDUCATIONAL institutions are better as the presence of girls in the classroom not only exerts a calming effect on boys but also makes them more mindful of their behaviour, says a new study. What’s more, it also acts as incentive for them to perform better in exams.

     

The new study, by Tel Aviv University researchers, has suggested that while boys and girls may learn differently, it is better not to send them to gender segregated schools. Researcher Analia Schlosser, who led the study, attributed the effect to the positive influence girls exercise on classroom environments. Schlosser investigated girls and boys in mixed classrooms in all segments of the Israeli school system.

 

        She concluded that classes with more than 55 percent of girls had better examinations results and less violent outbursts overall.

 

        The study found boys with more female peers in their classes showed higher enrolment rates in both advanced math and science classes, but overall benefits were found in all grades for both sexes. Schlosser found that primary school classrooms with a female majority showed increased academic success for both boys and girls, along with a notable improvement in subjects like science and mathematics.

        In middle schools, girls were found to have better academic achievement in English, languages and math. And in high school, the classrooms which had the best academic achievements overall were consistently those that had a higher proportion of girls enrolled.

 

      A higher percentage of girls lowers the amount of classroom disruption and fosters a better relationship between pupils and their teacher, a study of the data suggests.

 

         Teachers are less tired in classrooms with more girls, and pupils overall seem to be more satisfied when a high female- to- male ratio persists.

 

Delhi Jal Board water wastage

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqyaYoEsML0&hl=en]

An overflowing Vasant Kunj, Delhi Jal Board storage and distribution water tank. This is a regular feature, specifically post 11pm at night, when a particular batch among the night-shift staff probably get drunk and go off to sleep (the probability in their getting drunk is very high, having been reported by the chowkidars several times, who have to beat the gate with their laathis to wake them up).

Thousands of litres of water, from the Tehri Dam, overflows and goes to waste by this sheer negligence and lack of concern for water conservation by these government staff.

 

Brave Parents bring up a ‘Special Child’

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      Can’t converse but 14-year-old Benzi expresses herself through music

        A heart warming story brought to public knowledge by Medha Chaturvedi  TNN         

       

 New Delhi: She’s only 14. But Benzy — named after a rare flower in Brazil which blooms once in 20 years — has already won two national awards for her music skills and even made it to the Limca Book of World Records. This ‘‘special’’ girl cannot carry out a conversation with you due to a brain condition, but when it comes to music, she can promptly pick up words and tunes and play them on her synthesiser — with only one hand though, as her left side does not work in coordination with the right.
        According to Benzi’s mother, Kavita Kumar, ‘‘As a child, Benzy could not even move in her crib like other kids, let alone sit or stand. Doctors said that the right side of her brain was damaged, affecting fine motor movement on the left side of her body. We were told she can never be normal.’’
   Kavita, however, did not give up. ‘‘We noticed that Benzy did not react to anything that we brought for her, except musical toys. That’s when we realised that this part of of her brain was still functional. She loved watching music channels and could even memorise the songs.’’
       Her family tool Benzy to Spastic Society of Mumbai for a probable cure. ‘‘They could only give us a set of stimulation excercises for the nerves, which did nothing for her brain, but helped her tremendously in physical movement like turning on the bed,’’ said Kavita, a resident of East of Kailash.
       It was at the age of four that Kavita decided to get a music teacher, Muhammed Rafi, for Benzy. ‘‘He was an 80-year-old man, and after two-years, got very frustrated as she refused to listen to him. But after we explained how important the lessons were for her, he coached her for another four years. After that she sang Raag Yaman at a competition organised by Triveni Kala Mandir and won the first prize,’’ said Kavita.
       That was just the beginning. When Benzy turned nine, her parents got a cassette recorded by her, called Basic Raaga, which was on the nuances of classical music. ‘‘Benzy didn’t know what retakes were all about and sang all nine raagas for the cassette at one go,’’ said the proud mother.
       Kavita sent this cassette to several musicians across country, but only Shubha Mudgal responded, saying that the child had immense potential. ‘‘It was due to her encouragement and kind words that we decided to train Benzy for music. We owe her a lot and consider her a mentor of sorts to Benzy,’’ said Kavita. Her second album, Koshish, was released by her favourite hero Hrithik Roshan in 2004. ‘‘Benzy never allowed me and my husband to watch a single movie in peace, but she was all attention while watching ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’. She even memorised all the songs. She now prefers to be called Amisha at home,’’ said Kavita.
       Benzy won a national award for ‘Koshish’ and another for her next album, Shakti, which was an instrumental, in 2006. Her other awards included a president’s commendation card and Karamveer award by a social organisation. She made it to the Limca Book of World Records the same year as the first special child to have cut an album.
   But all this has not been easy. ‘‘My husband had to take a transfer to Delhi as it opened up more avenues for Benzy. All that seems worthwhile now since our child is happy,’’ said Kavita.
       The girl now studies in Lakshman Public School in standard 5 (special), which is equivalent to class II for other children, and is just a step away from being an MA in music.
   medha.chaturvedi@timesgroup.com