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Sonepur cattle fair fast losing its sheen, reduced to a cultural carnival

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Once famous as Asia’s largest cattle fair, Bihar’s “Sonepur Mela” is losing its sheen with colourful events turning it into a cultural carnival.The fair, which was inaugurated by deputy CM of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi on November 2, is put up at the confluence of River Ganga and River Gandak in Saran district, around 40 kilometres from the state capital.The various folklore associated with the fair claim that animals were traded here from the times of Chandragupt Maurya and through the Mughal era. It is believed that Veer Kunwar Singh also visited the centuries old fair to strengthen his cavalry and infantry to fight against the British.Elephants, horses, cows, buffaloes, goats and birds were once a major attraction at the fair, but the scenes have changed now. The regular visitors to the fair claim the number of cattle traders has reduced considerably, and handloom and handicraft stalls along with government kiosks now dominate the fairground.The reason for almost emply “Gai Bazaar”, many believe, is the increased fear of cow vigilantes across the nation. Similar views were echoed by RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav, who said, “Fewer animals have been brought to the fair as cattle traders are hesitant of attack by Gau Rakshaks en route. Earlier people were afraid of lions, now they are afraid of cows.”The ban on trading of elephants and birds has added to the lacklustre. “Till the turn of the century, elephants from across the country were traded at the fair. However, for the last few years, they were only put on exhibition and now even that is on verge of extinction,” says Harkhu Rai, who visited the fair to buy milch animals.The focus of the fair has now shifted on entertainment events such as theatre and cultural evenings along with spreading awareness and promotion of government’s policies and products. The Government of Bihar too is aware of the changes and a senior official of the state tourism department said, “With so many legislation related to animal trade coming up in the country, it is difficult to preserve its essence of being Asia’s largest cattle fair. Perhaps, renovating it as a cultural centre in the coming years will be more practical.”The fair, which is visited by many foreign tourists, will conclude on December 2.

Delhi High Court orders govt for info after newborn dies

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after the death of a newborn girl child due to unavailability of beds at three major hospitals in the city, the Delhi High Court issued an order to the Health Department and Delhi government to make available the information regarding bed occupancy and other medical facilities online.A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari also took note of a report highlighting difficulties faced by patients on the facilities available in the hospitals.”Perhaps if this information was readily available to the family of the newborn, the life of the child may have been saved.”Given the availability of websites and internet connectivity, it would appear justified if all information in this regard especially the position of bed occupancy at a particular point of time is made available to the public at large especially, patients and their attendants, to obviate distress to them and also to ensure availability of the best medical assistance at the earliest,” the bench said.Activists lauded the bench’s decision stating that the newborn’s born was a violation of basic rights under the Constitution”This is a clear violation of the Article 21 — Right to Life. If this is the case in Delhi, then imagine what people are facing outside. Infant mortality is anyway an issue in India,” said Advocate and social activist Ashok Aggarwal.

Single judge holds fort at top court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Come summer vacation, and there is an air of stillness on the Supreme Court premises. The usual synchronised chaos, the hustle-bustle of lawyers jostling along the corridors, rushing from one courtroom to another, is missing. No urgency of time, and one no longer waits under the display board, waiting for the red digits to announce your upcoming matter.The sweltering heat that gripped the national capital in the past few days brought its lazy wave in the corridors of the top court with Justice Deepak Gupta, the lone judge holding fort in the apex court on Monday. His brother judge Justice M Shantanagouder failed to make an appearance for reasons, as yet, unknown.The benches at the SC are usually chaired by a minimum of two judges. If even one judge is absent, the bench is cancelled and all matters listed before the bench concerned is adjourned. However, a lone wolf during the summer is an occasion that was termed “rarest of the rare” by the court masters present.Many of the court masters, who have ably aided the judges uphold the law, could not remember the last time a single judge chaired the bench. “Perhaps 20 years ago… or is it 25?,” one reminisced.After much thought, consultation and a brief discussion, a few old-timers suggested that Justice Kuldeep Singh was perhaps the last judge who chaired a single bench during the vacations in 1992, or 1993, a court master offered.However, another parallel discussion with those in the listing branch threw up Justice Arun Misra’s name, who had sat alone one day during the summer as recent as last year, or may be the year before.A SC official, however, offered that initially, summer vacation benches were meant for single judges only. Though, when cases started piling up and pendency increased, the system of hearing regular matters during the summer was introduced. With that, a division bench was also constituted.On Monday, Justice Gupta’s docket was not that busy. He had 33 matters in all along with at least 10 mentionings. A matter pertaining to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Ashish Khetan who had approached the top court when he started receiving death threats from right wing extremist organisations, came up. A matter pertaining to Irom Chitra, whose son was killed in a road rage case in 2011 by Ajay Meetai, the son of present Chief Minister N Biren Singh, also came up.However, almost all matters were adjourned for listing on another day.It is significant to note, that the slow pace of the SC this summer is the opposite from what was envisioned by the Chief Justice of India in the months preceding May.Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Khehar had promised a short summer break for the law officers of the country. CJI Khehar had constituted three constitutional benches — five judges each, who would sit along with two regular vacation benches. More than 5,000 regular matters were also listed during the month and a half long summer break. Perhaps, for the first time in judicial history, almost 19 judges were asked to curtail their vacation and alter their plans to decide on matters.The judges’ efforts was lauded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he spoke at an event on May 10 where the CJI inaugurated an integrated software aimed at digitising the judiciary to cut down on time and bring about transparency in the system.Though, like all best laid plans, this too went awry.Triple talaq, one of the most burning issues, was the first to be taken up on May 11, the first day of summer break. On March 30, the top court pushed for an expeditious hearing of the triple talaq case rebuffing attempts by the Union and other senior counsels to defer it.Of the two other matters, the WhatsApp privacy case to be heard by a bench led by Justice Dipak Misra made a brief appearance. The bench, headed by Justice Madan B Lokur, which was supposed to hear the issue of providing citizenship to Bangaldeshi immigrants never saw the light of the day.The resistance offered by lawyers, and a few judges as well was one of the main factors for the no shows during the break.

Naidu lashes out at Cong for incorrectly labelling J-K in map

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Slamming the Congress for incorrectly labelling Jammu and Kashmir as “India occupied Kashmir” in its booklet, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu today said people would never forgive the party for such a mindset. In a major gaffe, the Congress yesterday released a booklet with an incorrect map of the country. Page 12 of the 16-page booklet titled ‘Rashtriya Suraksha par Aanch’, which was distributed by the Congress, showed the entire state labelled as “Indian Occupied Kashmir” in the context of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The incident occurred during a conference of the opposition party in Lucknow to highlight the shortcomings of the Narendra Modi government during its three years of rule. “While the people of the country were celebrating three years of a new India in the making, the Congress party came out with an official publication that described India as having occupied Kashmir and thereby conceding Kashmir to Pakistan,” Naidu told reporters here. He noted that the Congress had recently asked the central government to come out with a final solution over Kashmir. “Perhaps, the final solution they have in mind is that let Kashmir be given to Pakistan so that we all live in peace. This mindset has been reflected in their official booklet released in Lucknow yesterday,” the information and broadcasting minister said. “Is it for this that hundreds of our brave soldiers have given up their lives over the years defending our sovereignty and territorial integrity?” he asked. “People can never forgive the Congress for this mindset which is now a part of their official publication,” the senior BJP leader said.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Women activists condemn denial of treatment to girl child

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Women activists on Wednesday condemned the harrowing incident of a girl begging her father to save her life and expressed their heartfelt condolences over her death. Subhashini Ali, a woman activist, told ANI, ?It is a very tragic incident that a girl whose father could actually afford the treatment was neglected in this way and finally died. It possibly is a case where girl children are not given any importance by their own parents. In our country, very often parents think that they should not spend money on girls as far as their treatment and education is concerned.? ?In any case, this is a very horrible thing and one can imagine the agony of that young girl who banked upon her father for help and what must she have gone through when her father refused to pay for her treatment and now, she is dead and beyond any help. I just hope that the father is given punishment for this kind of neglect of his daughter,? added Ali. Kavita Srivastava told ANI, ?This incident is a pure violation of the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act. Father certainly has been irresponsible, but what about the neighbours and relatives? The government is to be equally held responsible, as they did not fulfill their obligations and denied the very fundamental right to life. Perhaps, had the child been a boy, he could have been saved.? These comments came post a gut-wrenching video of a girl begging her father to save her life by providing for her cancer treatment that went viral. Thirteen year old Sai Sri succumbed to bone marrow cancer. In the video, she was seen begging her father to sell their house for her treatment. Sai Sri sent a heartbreaking Whatsapp message to her father, after the message got viral, Sri’s father threw her and her mother out of the house. Unbelievably, the father allegedly sent goons with the help of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MLA Bonda Umamaheswara Rao to settle the issue. The police even refused to file a complaint against the goons sent by Shiv Kumar, as they were reportedly supported by the MLA. With the video having gone viral across the nation now, a cry of outrage against the father’s shocking insensitivity and apathy towards his own child.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Structured games for millenial kids

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Parents today constantly need to nag and drag their kids away from gadgets. But what options do children have once outside? Perhaps that’s why the cities are seeing an increase in offbeat activities. Dr Allan Pereria, consultant paediatrician at The Children’s Hospital in Mumbai, says, “Though I believe unstructured play allows kids to be more imaginative and creative, structured play is gaining momentum due to lack of spaces in the city for kids.” He adds that such activities are beneficial for fitness, especially to minimise the on-screen time for kids, which shouldn’t exceed two hours a day. Here’s a look at the activities you can enrol your child in and how they help.Hula HoopTwisting and twirling can be fun, but hula-hooping also has scores of health benefits — hand-eye coordination, balancing, improving flexibility, and strengthening the core. It’s a good conditioning workout physically and mentally, says Leona Rodrigues, hula hoop artiste.MallakhambThe ancient traditional Indian sport is all about the performer’s agility, quick reflexes, balance, suppleness, and a sense of timing, exactly what this form of gymnastics hones in kids. Rumana Fatehi, Director of Learning Enhancement, Institute for Exceptional Children, says, “It’s a wonderful, engaging exercise.”KalaripayattuThe mother of all martial art forms, it involves yoga, massage, and Ayurveda. Speed, attention, precision, strength, stamina, and flexibility are some of its benefits. “Kids who practice Kalaripayattu boast of physical fitness, mental strength, concentration, and good posture,” says Lakshmi Subramanian of Studio Mojo. Dr Pereira corroborates that the physical and mental control that martial art requires, benefits young children greatly.SkateboardingSkateboarding offers a full body workout and coordination between feet, legs, and arms. It enhances flexibility, as the ankles and the body need to remain lithe. “It’s also about falling down and getting up,” Fatehi says.Rock climbingIt’s heart-healthy, helps overcome fear, and tests problem-solving skills. From adventure parks to climbing walls, there’s no dearth of places to go to. “You climb with your own weight, so rock climbing builds your strength,” says Swapnil Jadhav, Rock Climbing instructor at Arun Samant Climbing Wall. “It also enhances mental strength, makes you self-aware, and teaches teamwork and responsibility to keep others safe.”Nature walksNature walks cost practically nothing and promote physical, mental, and emotional health, and are a great way to bond. Fatehi says, “Walking on the beach or parks, collecting things, talking, and a hearty brunch after as a reward involve all five senses.”

India bats for best possible training to UN peacekeepers

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India today stressed on the need to ensure “best possible training” to United Nations peacekeepers for them to meet the evolving challenges in missions across the world. Addressing the senior mission leaders course of the the Centre for UN Peacekeeping (CUNPK) here, MEA Secretary (East) Preeti Saran highlighted the political, legal and military questions that the troops, also known as blue berets, have to negotiate. “Perhaps the most practical of practical steps, or the starting point to addressing the challenges inherent in modern day UN peacekeeping is to ensure the best possible training for UN peacekeepers deployed in various missions,” she said. Saran also rued how there is a general lack of acknowledgement when it comes to serious implications for the safety and security of peacekeepers, both military and civilian, when they are asked to ignore certain principles. “…cardinal principles of effective UN peacekeeping consent of all parties, neutrality, and resort to force only in self-defence in pursuit of robust mandates that we set for them,” she said. “While we in the international community continue to raise the bar of performance that we demand from our peacekeepers, we also seem to be flagging in our commitment, and our duty, to provide them with adequate resources to fulfil their ever more ambitious mandates,” she said. India has historically been one of the leading contributors to UN peacekeeping missions. Around 1 lakh peacekeepers, contributed by 126 member states, are presently deployed in 16 missions across the globe.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

From Captain’s roar to AAP’s failure: 5 reasons why Congress won in Punjab

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>And so, it has happened. At long last the Congress has some reason to cheer as it won in a state without sitting on a regional satrap’s lap or playing junior partner in an alliance to win. Facing electoral reverses since 2014, the Grand Old Party managed to stick it to the SAD-BJP, and upstarts AAP who threatened to steal their thunder. As of now, Congress has won 61 seats and are leading in 17. Meanwhile, AAP is predicted to end with a dismal 20 while SAD are also looking to end up with just 14. Here are some reasons why Congress stormed Punjab:Punjab Da CaptainIt’s ironic that the high command was dithering over whether to back the Amarinder faction or the Partap Singh Bajwa faction in the battle for the state Congress. Sanity prevailed and the party decided to back Amarinder Singh who is one of the last great regional leaders left.Before the elections, the Captain had exuded confidence, stating that the Badals had ripped apart the state’s ‘social, religion and economic’ fabric and stated that Kejriwal’s ‘hype had faded’. He had also attacked the AAP as a ‘party of outsiders’, made emotional appeals saying this was his last ride and played every card, and on his 75th birthday, the Captain took Congress home. If the high command tries to paint this as a victory for Rahul Gandhi, they ought to look at UP where Congress dragged down their alliance partners.Massive anti-incumbencyThe SAD-BJP alliance had ruled the state for 10 years and the public across the state seemed to be fed up with the Badals who they saw as the reason behind massive corruption, crony capitalism, poor economy, farmer suicides and a host of other issues. The state government was seen as the main cause for lacunae plaguing the border state and people wanted change. The real question was who they were going to vote for and it seems like Captain Amarinder’s appeal, combined with AAP’s constant dithering helped roll the dice in Congress’ favour.AAP falls flat on its face Twitter is not real life, and if AAP thought that attacking PM Modi 24/7 or constantly cribbing was a substitute for on-ground work, they were in for a shock reality check. AAP had bet big on both Punjab and Goa, with Kejriwal and other leaders giving the impression that ruling Delhi was almost an afterthought compared to campaigning in Punjab.The campaign was also marked by constant infighting, local leaders who disagreed with Kejriwal and left, sex scandals and accusations of cash for votes. AAP also failed to bring former BJP Rajya Sabha MP Navjot Singh Sidhu into the fold, who could’ve bolstered their attack. On the other hand, AAP also ended up giving the impression that they were an immature party and its constant state of agitation hardly suggested that they could a rule an important border state.The BJP didn’t go from two Lok Sabha seats in 1984 to 284 in 2014 overnight and the party put in a lot of work, aided by ground support from the RSS, to get here and AAP would do well to remember that you can’t launch a rocket from a pad that’s designed only for Zeppelins. There are no shortcuts to success and the presence in media channels with spokespersons isn’t a substitute for on-ground work. The Sidhu factorAAP missed a trick by failing to get Sidhu into the fold, and his arrival in Congress bolstered an already impressive campaign. While the former cricketer might be considered a comedian, who laughs at unfunny jokes on TV, in Punjab his influence is no laughing matter. During the campaign, he took great pleasure in using his considerable oratory skills to tickle the funny bone as he made jokes about the Badals and also Kejriwal who he likened to a cry baby with no solutions.Many experts had predicted that Sidhu’s entry would bolster the Congress and they turned out to be right.PM Modi non-factor One important aspect of the Punjab state elections compared to the rest of the states was that BJP didn’t contest separately, choosing to go with their alliance partners SAD despite the fact that they were facing massive incumbency. Perhaps it was an emotional choice, given the Badals have been together with the BJP for a long time, even when they weren’t a national force. They have also been sane alliance partners, unlike Shiv Sena, who constantly keep sniping and bickering. This meant that the Modi effect, which was a massive factor in other states, was missing in Punjab. Even though PM Modi came and made an appeal, citing OROP and other achievements, it was too late. Perhaps the BJP ought to have backed Sidhu and fought the elections on its own, but that’s only easy to say as an afterthought. As things stand now, Captain Amarinder Singh is ensuring that Congress-mukt Bharat is not a reality yet.

‘Trump was right, you’re fake news’: Indians slam CNN for calling Varanasi ‘city of the dead’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On a day that Varanasi was the centre of attention as PM Modi, Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi campaigned there for the Uttar Pradesh state elections, it was also getting attention online. On Saturday, Indians slammed CNN on Twitter for posting a preview of a video for Reza Aslan’s show called Believer in which they termed Varanasi ‘the city of the dead’.Indians slammed CNN On Twitter for their ‘ignorance’ and claimed that US President Trump’s ‘fake news’ jibes weren’t off the mark. Here are some of the tweets: Perhaps CNN called Varanasi the ‘city of the dead’ because a lot of Hindus consider the city holy and many believe that dying in Varanasi or Kashi will help one attain enlightenment or moksha. Some hotels in Varanasi, even have signs saying that if one doesn’t die soon, one ought to check out.In the Matsya Purana, one of the 18 major Puranas, Lord Shiva says that Kashi or Varanasi is ‘the place for liberation. Lord Shiva was quoted saying: “Varanasi is always my most secret place, the cause of liberation for all creatures. All sins which one may have accumulated in thousands of previous lives disappears as soon as one enters Avimukta.”Given that the likes of CNN bend over backwards when commenting or talking about certain religions, it wouldn’t’ be asking for too much to do a little more research before shoving stereotyped and borderline racist post-colonial epithets upon our shelves.

UP Elections 2017: From PM Modi to Akhilesh, all leaders are nervous about a hung Assembly

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Hung mandates are like redoing an exam, you have to go through the entire charade of pretending to care for your text books one more time. While sometimes it can invigorate the zeal to excel, often it leads to sloth and a callous approach which could cause an even more disastrous outcome. Same is the case with our politicians, especially when 400-odd Assembly seats are in contention. Perhaps it is not a surprise then that as we move excruciatingly slowly towards the end of the UP elections, top leaders have started to warn voters about not throwing up a hung mandate.Uttar Pradesh, a state of over 20 crore citizens is truly a mini-India. From urbane Noida to the heavily rural Devipatan zone, it is a sea of humanity of differing ideologies, religions, cultures and aspirations. So in the absence of a discernible Modi wave or pro-incumbency towards Akhilesh- it is a joust for each seat in India’s dusty heartland. While the actual results will only be known on March 11, it’s widely believed that BSP has pulled above its weight thanks to weaning away Muslim votes from the SP-Congress alliance. While it can also mean a potential gain for BJP with no concentrated Muslim block voting against them, the saffron party is bearing the brunt of the Jat-unrest in western Uttar Pradesh. Hence a possibility of a classic hung assembly can’t be ruled out with none of the parties giving an indication of breaking away from the herd.Both Akhilesh and Mayawati have expressed such concerns during the campaign trail. Akhilesh has warned Muslim voters not to trust Mayawati, as the BSP supremo may again join hands with BJP if the numbers don’t add up. Mayawati on her part has completely lampooned the suggestion. But what gave credence to the hung assembly theory is unmistakably PM Modi’s speech at Mau on Monday. PTI quoted Modi as saying, “The SP and the BSP, after the third phase of polling, have realised that they have no chance of winning and so they have launched a new game, a new technique…even if we are defeated or our seats decrease, no one should get majority. I want to tell the leaders of the SP and the BSP to try whatever means they can to defeat the BJP, there is no problem with it…but do not play with the future of UP. It has suffered a lot in the past,” He further said, “You (SP, BSP) might be thinking that in case of a hung House, you will get a chance to bargain, but the people of UP have shown you in the Lok Sabha polls, by ensuring a full majority for BJP, and in these elections, they will ensure that BJP wins with a huge margin”.
ALSO READ Signs of nervousness? PM Modi speaks about fractured mandate in UP If we read between the lines of this grand statement of assertion, PM Modi is urging BJP’s core voter base to go out in droves to seal victory for the party and avoid a precarious hung assembly. For BJP, the concerns would have only intensified after Monday’s polling which marked a tepid 56% voter turnout. The party is gambling big on eastern UP to give it the much needed nitro boost which will propel them towards touching distance of majority. But low polling may scuttle such plans. In India, over the last decade or so, we have seen two distinct trends which are a marked exception from the past. One is, increasingly, governments are re-elected due to a pro-incumbency wave and secondly the electorates are giving clear mandates with often sweeping majority to the victor. UP has definitely conformed to the second trend in the last decade or so. But this time around, there is a possibility of UP slipping to a 90s redux, when hung assemblies, makeshift opportunistic alliances and frequent elections were a norm in India’s most populous state.One reason why politicians don’t like a hung assembly is that often electorates go for the jugular if a fresh election is needed, giving a resounding mandate to one of the parties. Delhi in 2005 recently and Bihar in the last decade are good examples of such a voting pattern. Hence, no political party will look to have a fresh election six months down the line, and if UP goes on to give a fractured mandate, expect parties to come together under a convenient fig-leaf. However, all these are still in the realm of speculation, and as India follows the first past the post system, a party or alliance can get a majority even with a very small difference of vote share with its nearest rival. Normally parties project an unimaginable level of confidence before the elections, with everyone seemingly assured of their victory. But with talks about a fractured mandate 10 days before completion of polls, politicians across the spectrum have betrayed their nervousness. It is up to the voters to free them from their misery.

Connecting with the other side

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>No sooner does she start talking about specifics than Kashmira Elavia strays into a related subject, and before long, the conversation reaches an entirely different place. Perhaps this is fitting considering the journeys the healer, guide, automatic writer, crystal therapy practitioner (and much more) has been on.”People have to understand that we are only passing through (when we die). We get channelled into our next path of life,” she says. “But you don’t have to ‘die’ to know this. I live and know all this. I go to places, I meet people and find out all this.”The ‘places’ and ‘people’ that Elavia refers to don’t manifest in the physiological dimension that you and I perceive. In other words, these places and people don’t exist in our world. But for the 58-year-old, they do.While that might seem incredible, such is the world of psychics that language falls short of being a reliable medium, and experiences, however varied, become inadequate benchmarks of perception. Unlike temperamental psychics one reads about, Elavia is patient and amenable to reveal what she knows of herself: that her father was an evolved soul who taught her palm and face reading, to not be afraid of ghosts and spirits and instead ask if she could help them; that by age 12, she was reading books about the afterlife and the spiritual world; that she has always been ‘karmically conscious’; that she communicates with her father, and has been doing so since his death when she was 17; that she invariably knows more than what someone chooses to share with her; that she possess the “power to shift things without touching them”; that she ‘soul travels’ daily and that she has received (and still receives) guidance from the likes of Shirdi Saibaba, Parmananda Yoganhansa, Shiva as well as from her forefathers and ‘soul connections’.”Everyone has guides, most just don’t know (that they do),” says Elavia. “They are your friends and family and connections from past lives. Think of them as people hiding behind a curtain, waiting to manifest themselves. And they are there to simply guide you.”Among the practices she has learnt from her guides are automatic writing — writing words without consciously doing so — which she learnt nearly 25 years ago.”My hand would get heavy, my leg would turn stiff, I’d be aware and my eyes would be open but I’d know that it’s not me,” she says of her early learning days. “It was not a possession, but there was a connection. I’d know that the brain had become a divine brain and that it was making space for the other. I could sense my hand being taken away by someone else. The handwriting would change — becoming big or crooked or small. And I’ve always known that I’ve had this energy even before (I learnt automatic writing).”Apart from being a popular automatic writer, Elavia also practises crystal therapy, colour therapy and meditative healing. “My spiritual aim is to knock of all abnormalities and make each one’s spiritual self supersede,” says Elavia, who, as a child, wished to grow up to be a doctor to heal people.Ask if she has converted cynics, and pat comes the response: “People ask me for proof very often, but after doing this for more than 26 years, trust me that I know more than proof. But I understand where these questions come from, and I don’t mind it… It’s my duty to open them to something they don’t know about.”And almost as if to qualify her words, she places a palm-sized, heavy crystal on the tabletop, her index finger pressing down on its pointy edge and puts questions to the rock after explaining that a rotation in a certain direction indicates affirmative, and in the opposite direction indicates negative: “Will Marisha see the other side?” The crystal turns and rotates. “Will my book be published this year, before November?” The crystal rotates slightly. “See, it all comes (naturally),” she says. “I just know that they won’t let me go wrong. Even if something has to go wrong, I get guidance beforehand.”

India’s police force, civil defence mechanism ill-equipped to battle terror; in urgent need of overhaul

The Tunisian Islamic activist Anis Amri, responsible for the carnage at a Berlin Christmas market last month that killed dozens of innocent bystanders, was finally shot in Milan after he escaped to Italy.

Luca Scata, the 29-year-old who killed Amri with surgical precision, shooting him dead after unprovoked firing from Amri on Scata’s friend and colleague, Christian Movio. Amri, who was on the run after the Berlin massacre, had earlier served in Sicily between 2011-2015. His desperate bid to find refuge in his old turf proved fatal for him, as he was killed immediately by Scata.

What’s important here is the level of confidence shown by Scata, who was sure of his firing skills and reflexes and his determination to fight terror, leading him to take on the Berlin villain. He is repeatedly lauded and hailed by the Italian prime minister and home minister for his bravado.

The police in India are overworked and deployed primarily on bandhobast duties. ReutersThe police in India are overworked and deployed primarily on bandhobast duties. Reuters

The police in India are overworked and deployed primarily on bandhobast duties. Reuters

Now, had the dreaded and wanted terrorist chosen India instead of Italy, what would have been the outcome? Or the reaction? At best, the Indian immigration authorities would have stopped him at the airport, if they were alerted through a red corner notice issued by the Interpol. But can anybody imagine an Indian policeman showing the kind of reflexes Scata did in neutralising the terrorist? The answer is most likely a no. This is because we do not have sufficient sensitisation of different segments of our society to deal with such contingencies, let alone energetic and driven youth to carry out such an execution.

Given the backdrop of growing Islamic terror in India, with incidents of radicalisation surfacing time and again, it would appear imperative to put a security system in place to deal with a piquant situation like this.

But our police force is severely hard-pressed with routine law and order and crime control commitments and the pressure of work — already visibly monstrous and onerous —  is majorly diverted towards VIP duties.

Moreover, we have a large number of home guards, civil defence, scouts and guides, and allied semi-trained forces which should be activated without delay to address such situations, not only to neutralise terrorists but also to aid the civil police and paramilitary forces in maintaining law and order (like during the recent post demonetisation crises, involving serpentine queues at ATMs and banks).

A bit of intelligence work and specialised arms’ training will enable these inert assets handle situations with proficiency. Such a measure would add muscle to the already overworked and emaciated police force and also take the load off from their shoulders.

In addition, the National Cadet Corps (NCC) also needs to play a more active role in maintaining order and meeting exigencies. It would seem today that not many students are keen to opt for the NCC. Upto a certain level, it should be made compulsory. Its training will instil much needed discipline and a sense of patriotism in the youth, letting them spot suspicious elements and anti-state activities and generate immense confidence to deal with terror-linked incidents, including the confidence to kill a wanted terrorist, as demonstrated by Scata in Milan.

This confidence is what is lacking in India. The complex legal system could also possibly be a serious impediment, inhibiting youth from rising to the occasion. Such inhibitions must be done away with without any delay.

What’s also required is good training in various disciplines, a well thought out command structure, wherein there is a complement of the NCC, civil defence and home guards in each district, specifically under the district magistrate, always ready to meet any eventuality.

Barely a few months ago, there was so much of war mongering on the other side of the border and jingoism was on the anvil because of the terror attacks from hostile quarters. External threats apart, even domestic political compulsions seemed to throw up a kind of civil unrest compounding our security challenges.

Under these circumstances, such a visible arrangement involving NCC and civil defence being on board will boost a sense of security among the society as well, giving them the confidence to feel safe and secure, which was hitherto not too forthcoming. Also, police and paramilitary setups will feel professionally at ease now that they have a reasonably well-trained and specifically task-oriented dispensation to fall back upon to deal with extraordinary situations.

Polity and society will also feel secure. Perhaps a governmental initiative at an appropriate level can start working to achieve this doable objective.

The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst, and senior fellow with the Indian Police Foundation.

First Published On : Jan 3, 2017 20:06 IST

Cursed life of the blessed Nishad fisherfolk

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Settled on the banks of Ganga, a few kilometres upstream of Allahabad, the Nishad fisherfolk find mention in the legends of Ram, having ferried him once across the river. However, today they are fighting a losing battle for survival. With a drop in fish catch, bigger players getting involved in the business, health hazards, and even threats at gunpoint, they are desperate for a means of livelihood.”Sir, aapke udhar kuch kaam milega kya?” (Sir, could we find work from where you come?) is the first thing I am asked. It’s late afternoon, and of the many issues they talk about, another concern is the rising number of gharial (fish-eating crocodile) in the river.It’s close to dusk when we push off from the village ghat, rowing away from the mainland towards a riverbank in the middle of a forest.Three fishermen jump into the water, while others prepare to cast the net for a catch. The men wade through waters and are skilled enough to dive and catch fish that escape the net. After half an hour with the night sky upon us, everyone is back on the boat. The evening catch will suffice for dinner.Fish curry prepared on a cow-dung-fuelled stove and a tomato-onion salad (for a vegetarian me), keeps us going as we await dawn. The fishermen tell me how the evening catch was barely tenth of what it was a decade ago.Trawlers hired by businessmen outside the fishing community have made it difficult for the small-time fishermen to land a good catch. Industrial effluents make sure that whatever little the trawlers leave behind is taken care of too. A chemical leak a couple of months ago killed most of the fish in this stretch of the Ganga, they tell me. Kanpur, a hub of industries, is about a hundred kilometres upstream. Toxic waste also affects the fishermen, who spend hours in the river everyday, even drinking the river water. Some of them have contracted skin diseases that they try to cover with henna.At first light, the fishermen row back into the waters. The next eight hours involve many rounds of jumping into the river, and casting the net that would come back almost empty. It took about six rounds and seven men to collect a catch close to 40 kilograms.’China’ made up for most of the catch, and then came ‘Kabai.’ A few ‘Saul’ and ‘Gosh’ came in, but the ‘Tengra’ seemed to be the most sought after.On their way back, a few kilometres downstream of the village, the group is stopped by a pan-chewing bald man. What initially appeared to me as a usual dealing between a customer and seller soon turned into the man ordering the fishermen to return for another round of fishing and fetch him some Tengra.I later learn that the man owns portions of land on which these fishermen sometimes stop and camp for the night when out fishing. In turn he demands favours, either politely, or at gun point.The sorted catch is later sold at the local market. Exports to Kolkata and other cities stopped since prices dropped and local returns on the catch were now almost equivalent.Considering 16 hours of daily effort — eight in the morning, and eight in the evenings — that bring uncertain diminishing returns and involves huge risks, it’s obvious why the task doesn’t appeal to the community anymore.With their rights under strain from hooliganism, they now hope that educating their next generation will help level the playing field.It is said that Lord Ram had blessed the Nishad community, ridding them of their social stigma of untouchability after they ferried him at the Ram Chaura Ghat across the Ganges. Perhaps it’s time for another intervention.(The author is currently walking along the Ganges, documenting everyday stories of people residing along the bank for Veditum India Foundation’s project ‘Moving Upstream.’ He has already walked 2,000 kms from Ganga Sagar to Garhmukteshwar and will undertake the final leg of his journey towards Tapovan, the origin of Ganges, come spring)

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