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June 2016

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Heritage Status? Not Required

END OF AN ERA? Proposal moved by Intach to declare over-100-yr-old public buildings as 'protected' has been turned down by the govt

In August 2014, the town planning directorate had proposed guidelines for conservation and protection of heritage buildings in the city, to be included as regulations in the BDA's Masterplan. Unable to arrive at a consensus on dealing with private heritage buildings, the urban development department has been sitting pretty on the proposal. While this issue remains on the back burner, mainly due to the lacklustre attitude of the government, another proposal moved by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) to declare the more than 100-year-old public buildings as 'protected', has been turned down outright by the government.

Last year, Intach revisited the inventory of heritage buildings prepared in 1985 and came up with startling findings - that only 43 per cent of such buildings had survived over the last three decades. What was 823 heritage structures in 1985 is just 354 today and 57 per cent of landmark structures including a host of residential bungalows had been razed. But one piece of good news was that by and large, government buildings stood strong.

In this background and also with government buildings being eyed by politicians, Intach proposed to the government that its own buildings that have all characteristics of 'protected' structures be tagged as one and sent out the list of 47 such qualifying buildings under the Karnataka Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1961. As per this Act, monuments can be "any structure, tumulus or place on interment, any cave, rock, inscription or monolith, which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than one hundred years.''

Citing this Act, Intach wrote to urban development department, BBMP, BDA, town planning department and Kannada and Culture department. But only one department responded, albeit, rather negative - that "it is not required". ``Bengaluru has several buildings that are more than 100 years old. Given the importance of heritage structures and the interest of public in heritage, we request the government to notify and declare all government properties that are older than 100 years as protected monuments under the Act,'' Intach convenor Sathya Prakash Varanashi had explained.

Since the heritage building regulation doesn't look promising with private properties, and compensation being the vexed issue, Intach was hoping that since government buildings are non-controversial, there would be no issue on that front. "As a nationally-recognised centre of excellence in conservation and heritage, we would be happy to advise the government on maintenance and conservation of these heritage buildings as well as suggest guidelines for regulation,'' Varanashi had said.

However, the three-line response received from Kannada and Culture department after a month on Intach's proposal, is quite disappointing, which shows the callous attitude. The department's undersecretary wrote to Intach: "We have taken note of your letter. Government has reviewed it. I have been directed to inform you that it is not required to declare the buildings as heritage structures."

When checked by Bangalore Mirror, many of the agencies to whom the proposal was sent, did not have a clue. A senior official in the Kannada and Culture department said its state archaeology wing had tagged some buildings in the city as protected and that "there was no need for others to get that status." A disappointed Varanashi told Bangalore Mirror, "The government is not at all interested. Ideally, heritage buildings should be identified and gazetted, which is not so in the city. There are no adequate rules and regulations. Even the draft guidelines under the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act is gathering dust. In this background, we moved this proposal to at least declare public buildings that are 100 plus years as protected structures under the ambit of law. The response we got was appalling."

Why tag them as protected

Lead to greater tourism revenue - retaining city's monumental old buildings will give a boost to cultural tourism. Circuits can be developed showcasing some of these old buildings. One such suggestion that has already been approved is the stretch along Palace Road.

Protection of heritage buildings would help the city take its place among world-class cities. Cities like Singapore, New York, London or Europe have retained their heritage while also being modern. This is the real hallmark of a world-class city. Other Indian cities including Hyderabad, Nasik and Mumbai have already put in place laws that protect heritage structures.

Mysuru too passed a legislation to protect its government-owned heritage buildings with special regulations. There is a committee set up, which will approve any intervention on these buildings. Measures for protection is crucial particularly in the light of findings on the loss of heritage buildings in Bengaluru.

100-plus year-old structures

Intach has attached a list of public buildings that are more than 100 years old - apart from the well-known Attara Kacheri, Central Library, Raj Bhavan, Carlton House et al, there are some unknown gems like Revenue Survey offices on Nrupathunga Road, St Martha's Hospital, old Central Jail, Crescent House, India Meteorological Department, BRV theatre, IISc, Chamarajendra Sanskrit College, Lalbagh Glass House, Oriental buildings, All India Radio, Home Science College, Police commissioner's office and SBI staff quarters. The 'protected' buildings in Bengaluru as declared by the state archaeology department: Bowring Institute, four towers of Kempegowda, Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple, Bull temple and Mallikarjuna temple and its inscriptions.

- http://www.bangaloremirror.com/, June 1, 2016

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Theater for the New City Debuts Play Inspired by MACBETH, Set in India, Today

Theater for the New City Executive DirectorCrystal Field is presenting THE QUEEN, a new play by Aditya Rawal inspired by Macbeth set in 16th-century India, during the peak of the Mughal era. The play begins previews today, June 1, and runs through June 19 at Theater for the New City's Cabaret Theater, 155 First Ave. in Manhattan. The production already has attracted attention in major newspapers in India, as the work of a member of a well-known theater, TV and film family in that country.

Rawal is the son of Paresh Rawal, a Bollywood actor who has appeared in numerous movies, and Swaroop Sampat, who is also known for her work in TV, theater and film in India. His grandfather, Bachu Sampat, was the founding producer of the Indian National Theatre.

This production of a new play by Aditya Rawal, also known for his work in theater and Bollywood, brings together performers from Bollywood to Broadway in a more intimate setting. "It explores themes of power and the position of women in society, an issue that in four centuries has not lost its importance," said Rawal, a playwright/screenwriter, actor and director from Mumbai, India.

As crowds head in to see Hamilton, based on American history, they can also see a powerful story blended with the history of India in this world premiere of a play that is already scheduled for a production by the Dramellentia Theatre Co. in India. THE QUEEN tells the story of Durga, a woman consigned to the west wing of the palace after her husband, the Rajput king, marries a younger woman. As she battles against the loss of her beauty and relevance, she rebels and resolves to burn the palace down to take revenge for her husband King Amar's betrayal.

Rawal said the characters and plot draw inspiration from Macbeth, Medea and the works of Indian author Rabindranath Tagore, telling the story of a strong woman who grapples with her ambitions and the limitations of social structures. "I wouldn't say that it is Macbeth set in India," said Rawal, who has appeared in theater in India as well as in Bollywood productions. "The similarity between the two plays is that an ostensibly powerful man is pushed to act by his wife who is, in many ways, much stronger than he is."

A playwright and performer, Rawal's training includes studies in India, the M.F.A. program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Dramatic Writing Program in New York City and theater studies at London International School of Performing Arts. The all-star cast includes Niljanjana Bose (who appeared in Tamburlaine TFANA), Sharvari Deshpande (Monsoon Wedding, Broadway 2017), Aman Soni (Invasion) and Alok Tewari(Awake and Sing! Public/NAATCO, Monsoon Wedding).

Soni and Rawal were the original driving force behind the play, set in the region of India where they both grew up and partially inspired by Rani Padmini, a 12th century Rajput queen who led women into a fire to prevent violation at the hands of Muslim invaders. "We were daunted by the prospect of telling the story of a once powerful queen," Soni said. "But both of us tend to take up challenges that scare us the most, so there was really no contest there."

They tapped Gwynn MacDonald, a director who presented numerous plays based on strong female characters, to bring their vision to the stage at Theater for the New City. "I approached Gwynn," Rawal said, "because of our rapport and our work in the past, but also because we wanted to work with a strong woman who could take charge of this challenging play."

MacDonald said she believes there are far too few opportunities to play strong female characters, whether in stories set in the United States or abroad. "I have a history of working with classical plays written by women, and got into that line because for the most part classical plays by men have not offered as many tour de force roles for actresses," she said. "Nor have these plays given audiences an abundance of opportunities to see a period story set solely from the women's point of view." MacDonald said all the characters in THE QUEEN are well developed, but added, "It's the woman's story and her choices and responses that drive the play."

While Bollywood is well known in the United States, Rawal said there is a fairly substantial Indian theater scene in the United States, including New York and New Jersey in this region. "Places with large Indian populations have a lot of touring groups from India that perform throughout the year," he said. "My father has been touring here for more than 20 years." In addition to writing for theater, Rawal appeared in Kishan Kanhaiya, a play later adapted into the blockbuster Bollywood film OMG (Oh My God), for which he served as the assistant director.

He also appeared in the film Ferrari ki Sawaari, produced by Vinod Chopra Films, producers of iconic Bollywood films 3 Idiots and PK. MacDonald is artistic director of the Juilliard alumni-founded Juggernaut Theatre Co., focusing on new work and classical plays by women. She was also assistant director for the Broadway debut ofTwelve Angry Men as well as associate director for the national tours.

Rhythm Tolee, an award-winning New York City-based Punjabi band with musicians from Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Jersey City, will play an original score and traditional songs. The band mixes Punjabi Folk and Sufi music with more contemporary tunes. "Tolee" means "a free-spirited group of people" in Punjabi.

THE QUEEN, June 1-19, Cabaret Theater, Theater for the New City, 155 1st Ave. Thurs. - Sat. @ 8 p.m. and Sunday @ 3 p.m. Talkbacks after Thurs. shows.$15. Call (212) 254-1109 or go towww.theaterforthenewcity.net.

- http://www.broadwayworld.com/, June 1, 2016

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‘Harappa: older than we thought’

Climate change probably not responsible for the collapse of the Harappan civilisation Harappa Site at Dholavira (Gujarat) and (below) potteryPHOTOS: THE HINDU/ REPRESENTATIONAL Climate change was probably not the sole cause for the collapse of the Harappan civilisation in the Indus-Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys, say Indian scientists in a breakthrough study, highlighting that the the Harappans “did not give up” despite the decline in the monsoon.

The recent research by a team of researchers from IIT Kharagpur, Institute of Archaeology, Deccan College Pune, Physical Research Laboratory and Archaeological survey of India (ASI) also shows that the civilisation itself was much older than thought — it is at least 8,000 years old. “Our study suggests that the climate was probably not the sole cause of Harappan decline. Despite the monsoon decline, the civilisation did not disappear. The people changed their farming practices.

“They switched from water-intensive crops when monsoon was stronger to drought-resistant crops when it was weaker. Our work shows they did not give up despite the change in climate conditions,” said Anindya Sarkar of the Department of Geology and Geophysics, IIT Kharagpur and the lead investigator. “Our study suggests that other causes, like change in subsistence strategy, by shifting crop patterns rather than climate change was responsible for the Harappan collapse,” Sarkar said.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Scientific Report on May 25. On the Indian subcontinent, the major centres of this civilisation include Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan and Lothal, Dholavira and Kalibangan in India. “These people shifted their crop patterns from the large-grained cereals like wheat and barley during the early part of intensified monsoon to drought-resistant species of small millets and rice in the later part of declining monsoon, and thereby changed their subsistence strategy,” explained Sarkar.

The findings come from a major excavated site of Bhirrana in Haryana that shows preservation of all cultural levels of this ancient civilisation from the pre-Harappan Hakra phase through the Early Mature Harappan to the Mature Harappan time.

Bhirrana was part of a high concentration of settlements along the now dried up mythical Vedic river ‘Saraswati’, an extension of Ghaggar river in the Thar desert. To find out how old the civilisation is, the researchers dated pottery of the Early Mature Harappan time — by a technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) — and found it to be nearly 6,000 years old, the oldest known pottery so far. The levels of pre-Harappan Hakra phase have been dated as old as 8,000 years.

“It is very interesting to investigate how these ancient people coped with the then climate change and can be a lesson for today’s impending disaster of climate change,” said Navin Juyal of Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, who dated the potteries and is a co-author of the paper.IANS

To find out how old the civilisation is, the researchers dated pottery of the Early Mature Harappan time — by a technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) — and found it to be nearly 6,000 years old

- http://www.thehindu.com/, June 1, 2016

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Most city lakes a picture of neglect

Delhi's water woes could be minimised if the city's 460 wetlands are rejuvenated and the groundwater recharged, activists say. With dumping of waste and algae deteriorating the water quality, most of these sites are a picture of neglect.

TOI visited two such spots-Bhalswa Lake and Sanjay Lake-to gauge the gravity of the situation. While the condition of Sanjay Lake has slightly improved, Bhalswa Lake has been turned into a dumping ground. "I have been coming here for the past two decades and even though I have seen improvement, there is a long way to go. Littering remains a problem at Sanjay Lake and strict action should be taken against the offenders," said Dilip Sharma, a resident of Mayur Vihar.

There are others who want activities such as bathing and washing clothes to stop at these sites. According to 55-year-old Gyanchand, a resident of Patparganj, the number of migratory birds has also gone down over the years because of the garbage problem at the lake.

Water activist Manoj Misra, concretisation of catchment areas was causing problems. "Catchments have been concretised in order to beautify the lakes, but this has prevented the natural flow of rainwater into them. These lakes were once a part of the Yamuna , but now they are cut off from it because of the concrete structures," he said. Even Bhalswa Lake has faced similar problems. Locals claim the stench is unbearable because of garbage being dumped on one side of the lake.

Manu Bhatnagar, principal director (natural heritage) of Intach, said that work to rejuvenate both these lakes had already started. "We have submitted our plans to DDA . Efforts will be taken to treat the lake water. There are also plans to introduce fish species to attract birds," said Bhatnagar. He also stressed the importance of recharging groundwater levels, which are in decline.

- The Times of India, June 1, 2016

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Civic bodies not taking rainwater harvesting seriously: Centre

Alarmed over the depletion of groundwater in cities, the union ministry of urban development (MoUD) has asked urban local bodies to take rain water harvesting seriously. The ministry has dashed off a letter to all chief secretaries to review this issue. The letter says that although many states have made provisions for mandating rain water harvesting in their building by-laws, the implementation at municipal level was very lax.

MoUD has asked all chief secretaries to make all civic bodies to take up special drives for creating rain water harvesting systems not only in new buildings and public spaces but also in existing buildings of the city. Nagpur Municipal Corporation's (NMC's) town planning department too does not take rain water harvesting seriously. This was admitted by standing committee chairman Sudhir Raut, who has launched an awareness drive in this regard in central Nagpur. He has also asked the town planning department to ensure that no new building is given the green signal if it does not go in for rain water harvesting.

The centre's letter states that many cities, even those receiving sufficient rainfall, were facing drinking water shortage in summer. The rapid pace of urbanization had resulted in over exploitation of groundwater aquifers, which usually serve as a backup for a city's water supply. In many cities sufficient groundwater was no longer available.

The Centre has suggested that a mechanism for effective implementation of harvesting provisions needs to be created. This includes creation of a monitoring cell at local body tevel, empanelment of various agencies for facilitating residents interested in having harvesting systems installed, etc The local bodies should create and maintain rain water harvesting systems for all public spaces and public buildings.

This will encourage common citizens to go for harvesting. MoUD has also suggested rebate in property tax for existing buildings to install harvesting systems. A common recharge system for draining and recharging into a nearby public space, for a cluster of buildings where there is no space for making a harvesting structure needs to be created. The ministry has also asked state governments to review the enforcement of ban on digging new wells and borewells. Other than this leakage in water distribution network should be immediately plugged under central programmes like Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).

MoUD has asked state governments to give urban local body (ULB) status to more small towns so that they can grow into planned urban areas. It has pointed out that there are over 2,500 such towns in the country that have urban characteristics but have not been declared as ULBs. The 14th finance commission gives more funds to states having higher proportion of urban areas. The states will also get more AMRUT funds if they have a greater proportion of urban areas.

- The Times of India, June 1, 2016

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Cherish Every Drop of Rainfall

Efforts should be made to revive water conservation structures and build new ones. Overground and underground water banks must be created. India's rich water conservation heritage needs a revival

When you see clouds gathering, prepare to catch the rain”, is an Golan proverb from Liberia. This is what India needs to do desperately. This year, the India Meteorological Department has projected an above normal monsoon. Nothing can bring more cheer to the people who have been grappling with a water crisis that has even affected cricket matches. Predictions of an above normal monsoon has been received as a sigh of relief by economists. Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao once stated that even the RBI chases the monsoon, and the reasons are not hard to find.

Drought has affected several States this year: Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are all reeling under drought. The story is the same everywhere. At village Sarkhedi in Talbehat block of Lalitpur district in Uttar Pradesh, the elderly make for a large percentage of the residents. The able-bodied men have migrated in search of labour work to nearby cities. Crops have wilted, and wells and other water sources are dry. There is no money and no work.

Stories of struggle abound. In villages in Madhya Pradesh for instance, children are precariously lowered into wells to capture the last drop of water. Even pregnant women in Telangana walk miles to get a pot of water, which they carry on their head, putting their unborn child at risk.

When there is scant water, there are few jobs. And when there is no water, there is mayhem. Already, alarm bells are ringing. At Tikamgarh district in Madhya Pradesh, the president of the municipality to employs armed guards against water theft. The purpose is to deter farmers from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh from ‘stealing’ water from the municipality’s only source of drinking water. Four local guards are armed with licensed full-length and sawed-off 0.315 bore rifles.

In Latur, Maharashtra, as a preventive measure against riots, people’s gathering near water sources in the Marathwada region has been banned. No more than five people are allowed at wells and public storage tanks. After all, thirst can lead to frayed tempers and short fuses. In Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala, when the model code of conduct kicked in soon after the announcement of the State election, tanker water distribution services to rural areas were affected. The tri-weekly appearance of the tanker was reduced to a sight once in 12 days.

Water is a perfect blackmail weapon. In February this year, security forces had to take over the Munak canal as Jat agitators damaged the canal, tightening virtually strangling water supply to the national capital. Estimates indicate that around 60 per cent of the taps in Delhi ran dry. The capital city was yet again vividly shown how its water dependency makes it vulnerable to blackmail. Clearly, settlements need to be water-independent.

This monsoon forecast brings cheer, and offers a chance to re-write destiny. Rains should not go waste: Every raindrop needs to be captured. After all, there is no place in India which does not receive some rain. It’s time we did ourselves a favour by respecting the monsoon. Efforts should be made to revive water conservation structures or build new ones, however small. Whatever rain falls must be conserved. India’s rich water conservation heritage needs a revival. Overground and underground water banks must be created.

Funds available through Government programmes can help. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has assumed great relevance in Bundelkhand and is providing much-needed employment and, therefore, has not only generated money, but has also revived Bundela and Chandela tanks and created med bandhis. Small amounts of money from the general population can also help. Says 2015 Stockholm Water Award winner Rajendra Singh: “The people are in severe distress. Confidence levels have reached rock bottom. People have given up hope. We must stand with them and help them.”

Red flags waving from different parts of the country tell a story of great thirst with more to follow. It is time to galvanise action. Or else, as a Turkish proverb warns, “When one man drinks while another can only watch, doomsday follows.” Meanwhile hectic efforts are on to revive the Chandrawal river in Mahoba district of Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh. Will cultivation of the famed mahoba paan, noted for its taste and medicinal value and affected by lack of water, be revived? Only time will tell.

(The writer is Policy Lead: Food Security, Resource Scarcity and Climate Change with IPE Global)

- http://www.dailypioneer.com/, June 1, 2016

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HP to get second world heritage site

Situated in the Himalayas between Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir and Spiti and upper Kinnaur regions of Himachal Pradesh, the Cold Desert Cultural Landscape of India has been included in the tentative list of Unesco world heritage list under the mixed property category. Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is already a UNESCO World Heritage site in Kullu.

The desert region, spread across parts of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, has been documented to have a unique cold desert ecosystem with rare and endangered varieties of flora and fauna, so much so that many national parks and wildlife reserves have been declared here for their protection. The human settlements are small, isolated and sparsely populated.

The proposal was submitted by the permanent delegation of India to Unesco on April 15 last year. It said that the proposed property is a trans-Himalayan marginal plateau land and edge region between the Greater Himalayas of India and the main Tibetan Plateau, which is an unparalleled location both physically and culturally. Rooted in Buddhism, the culture of the region is strongly affiliated with Tibet, but traces of Indian influences make it unique and one of its kind, which is also manifest in its architecture and intangible traditions that are already world renowned.

It was also submitted that factors such as high altitude, remoteness, harsh climate, low density of population and strong faith in religious traditions have helped in maintaining authenticity of the area. Cold desert of Ladakh, SPiti and upper Kinnaur is known for its tough geographic and harsh climatic conditions. Survival becomes challenge during winters when minimum temperature dips several degree... Read More

While justifying the property of being outstanding universal value, the proposal said that owing to space constraints in hilly terrains, even the locations and layouts of the surrounding agricultural fields and natural environments which sustained populations in the region have not changed much and remain nearly the same. It said that rigid continuity of old traditions has thus ensured strict inheritance and resultantly preservation of authenticity of entire landscape throughout historical and modern periods.

- The Times of India, June 1, 2016

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ASI, local officials inspect Fort Aguada

A joint inspection of the precincts of Fort Aguada at Sinquerim was carried out by officials of the Archaeological survey of India (ASI), Calangute MLA Michael Lobo, Candolim panchayat members, zilla parishad (ZP) member Shawn Martins and locals on Tuesday morning to resolve some of the contentious issues faced by them. The ASI had recently initiated repair and restoration work on the wall of the moat that surrounds the fort and is adjacent to a starred resort.

Following discussions, ASI deputy superintendent Uday Shashtri, asked Lobo and Candolim sarpanch Sandra Fialho to put their suggestions in writing. The Calangute MLA had suggested that the moat be turned into a parking lot, with an approach road near the Sinquerim junction, and that the road from the junction to the beach be only used for two-wheelers. Local fishermen also suggested that the ASI build steps or erect an iron ladder to allow access to the small beach that is blocked by the fort's ramparts in front of the starred resort.

ASI officials said as Fort Aguada is a national monument, there are restrictions on any development. They suggested that the MLA approach the National Monuments Authority in Delhi directly to obtain its consent for implementation of the suggestions.

- The Times of India, June 1, 2016

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The mansion that breathes history

Ananda Ranga Pillai’s home still stands as a symbol Puducherry’s cultural heritage : Perhaps no other mansion in the city resonates with the history and heritage of the place as the ancestral home of the legendary chronicler Ananda Ranga Pillai. Both, the man and his contributions, defy a simple summation. Was he only a historian and an aristocrat at that? How did his diaries become the most referenced resource material for scholars and students studying the history of French rule in this coastal outpost? And, why would his mansion still stand as a symbol of cultural heritage? Irresistible attraction

Virtue and simplicity marked the personal life of Ranga Pillai, who was born on 30 March, 1709 in Madras. Among the entire oldest edifice in Puducherry, owned by Tamil noble men and traders, the house of Ananda Ranga Pillai, built in 1733, is one of the best specimens of Indo-French architecture. This building preserves the ambience of cultural heritage showing the historic view of irresistible attraction for the visitors. Located opposite the Grand Bazaar on Ranga Pillai Street, this mansion is doubtlessly a must-visit attraction for the tourists. Spared by a British invasion of the port-city in 1761, the mansion is one of the most beautiful emblems of a traditional Tamil house with European influence .

Blending of style The manor stands majestically even today with a flawless blend of both Asian and European style. The spacious courtyard of this manor stands erect in an Indian fashion on the basis of exquisitely carved wooden pillars resembling a typical Tamil house. Further, the terrace on the first floor and the elegant masonry columns which support it reflects European Gothic design.

An Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Hertiage (INTACH) staff said: “This French-Tamil style house symbolises the marriage of two unique cultures where there was a lot of give and take in the construction of the house during the French time.” The INTACH staff added that the mansion located in the Tamil quarters was a treasure house of French life and style as documented by Ranga Pillai in his diaries. The house has a wide collection of diaries that was maintained by Ranga Pillai related to the cultural and historical aspects of the 18th century of Pondicherry.

When he was 7 years old his family migrated to erstwhile Pondicherry. Being a merchant, his father, Thiruvengadam Pillai, stepped into the town with an intention to assist his brother-in law, Nainiya Pillai, the courtier or the chief Dubash to earn the goodwill of the people. Soon he was honoured with the post of an assistant native agent and later became the Dewan to the French East India Company, formed by the French merchants.

Grasp of politics The young boy, Ranga Pillai who always accompanied his father in his work, learnt the nuances of the trade and excelled in having a grasp of the politics of the day. But, after the sudden death of his father, in June 1726, Ranga Pillai had to open an arecanut shop to survive. The visit by M. Lenoir from France on hearing the passing away of Pillai’s father, for whom he had a great regard, would change the youngster’s life for ever. Lenoir appointed Ranga Pillai as the native head of French factory at Porto Novo where a large quantity of blue cloth was manufactured. Ranga rose in status in the service for French.

Joseph Francois Dupleix, Knight of the order of St. Michael, arrived as Governor in 1742, and he elevated Ranga Pillai as courtier in 1746. Dupleix always consulted him and acted upon his advice for many difficult decisions. Both the public and the officials had a high regard and respect for Pillai’s integrity and astuteness. Along with the rare privilege of minting French coins in India, Pillai was soon trading in cloth, yarn, indigo and areca nut with Manila, Mocha and Mascareigne. He had his own ship ‘Anandappuravi’ which sailed on long trading voyages on high seas which increased the accretions of the city.

He was a connoisseur of the arts and literature of his day, and helped many poets who in turn praised their patron in the form of songs, poems and verses. Quite a number of such works exist even today, including Kasthuri Rangaiyar’s Ananda Rangurat Sandamu and poet Sreenivasa’s Ananda Ranga Sambu. Pillai was well-versed in French, Dutch, Portuguese, English and Persian, but preferred to write his diary in Tamil, his mother tongue. The great diarist jotted down the impressions of his life events in bound volumes on September 1736 which went on till September 1760. The diary gives a record of 25 years of his life services to the French bringing the chronological and enriching aspects of the 17th century.

French influence In 1748 the hostilities of the British broke out to check the rise of French influence over Deccan. He was officially appointed as the chief Dubash of French India. A proxy war was waged by the French in which the French gained the upper hand and by May 1751, their power in India was at its zenith. However, the arrival of Robert Clive thwarted the French attempts to win the battle for Chanda Sahib and the French eventually lost. During the later stages of the war, Pillai notes, Dupleix’s temperament grew highly irritable and officers, including him, feared to approach him.

The lavishly constructed palace at Pondicherry, the Gouvernement - now Raj Nivas - was completed during this period. Following the unsuccessful bid at territorial expansion, Dupleix’s fortunes declined rapidly. He fell out of favour and was replaced in 1754. With Dupleix’s departure to France, Pillai’s influence in the colony began to decline. To make matters worse, poor health frequently troubled him. By 1756, his health had deteriorated to such an extent that the Governor-General Georges Duval de Leyrit was obliged to remove him from service. He died at the age of 51.

Ranga Pillai accumulated a great deal of posthumous fame and recognition for his depiction of 18th century South India, his description of the French conquest of Madras and the Carnatic Wars, since the discovery and translation of his diaries were done only during the 19th and early 20th centuries. He war referred by V. V. S. Aiyar in his journal Balabharati and had attracted the curiosity of Subrahmanya Bharati, Aurobindo Ghosh and Mandyam Srinivasa Iyengar. C. S. Srinivasachari, a prominent Indian historian, described Ananda Ranga Pillai as “the Samuel Pepys of French India”. A diary maintained by Muthu Vijaya Tiruvengadam Pillai, grandson of Ananda Ranga Pillai, related the period from 1794 to 1796 was translated and published in 2000.

- The Hindu, June 2, 2016

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Surtis learning traditional arts and crafts

As many as 32 artists from the Diamond City have learned the traditional arts and crafts from renowned artists and national award winners from across the country. Thanks to Kala Vaarso, an initiative by city-based NGO Hiranyam Vikas Sansthan for organsing arts and crafts workshops in the city with the aim and objective to preserve the traditional arts and crafts on the verge of extinction.

"Kala Vaarso is an initiative to provide a platform for growth to our artisans, craftsmen and crafts. Our main purpose is to introduce our rich and varied heritage to our citizens - especially to our younger generation," says centre head, Ritu Shah, a fashion designer herself. Shah added, "Diamond City has a unique blend of arts and crafts since centuries and we want the people to preserve it for our future generation. All the products and its by-products are based on nature and are bio-degradable. The colours are natural and derived from natural sources." In the last two months, Kala Vaarso has organised around four workshops on miniature painting by national award winner Sneh Gangal, block printing by national award winner Chandrakant Chippa, Warli painting by Swapn Pramanik and Pichwai painting by national award winner Lokesh Joshi.

Lokesh Joshi said, "Pichwai painting is our heritage art and I started learning since my childhood days. The paintings depict the Krishna leela and it is very unique. I am really surprised that Surat has got a unique talent to adapt this art." In the coming days, Kala Vaarso will be organsing workshops for 10 to 15 days for various crafts, including zardosi, kutch mud work, mollela terracotta, Madhubani painting, aari bharat and phad painting by the national and state award winners from across the country.

- The Times of India, June 2, 2016

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Painting on Stone in ancient timess

Artist Sreeja Pillai was doing some research for a book on the history of art when she realised that, in ancient times, before the advent of canvas, people did paintings on stone. “They would capture their day-to-day life on rocks, and on the walls of caves,” she says. “Sometimes, they would use the blood of animals or use different types of mud. The origin of painting is stone. So I decided I would go back to the beginning.”

So Sreeja began collecting stones from the bottom of lakes, ponds and rivers near her home in Thrissur. “It was not easy,” she says. “I also arranged for stones to be sent to me from Kozhikode, as well as Andhra Pradesh and Pondicherry." The stones varied in size, from 3 1/2 inches to 9” long. They were in different shapes: round, oblong, egg-shaped, and square. But when Sreeja started work, she realised that it would take a long time. “That's because I was doing miniature paintings,” she says.

In her daily life, Sreeja is a drawing teacher at the Harisree Vidyanidhi school. So, she usually started work, on her paintings, only at 9 p.m., after her eleven-year-old son had gone to sleep. And she worked late into the night.

But Sreeja has been following a specific plan. She would take one style each from the twenty-plus states in India. “In Kerala, the most traditional art form has been the mural painting,” she says. “So I have done works in that style.” She has also done Santhal, Assamese, Bhil, Deccani, Kalamkari, Worli Rajasthani, and Gond styles. “The Gond paintings of Madhya Pradesh usually have animals as their subjects,” says Sreeja.

After she completed 130 paintings, she held an exhibition recently at the Kerala Lalitkala Akademi in Thrissur called 'Luminous-4'. “The presentation is very important,” says Sreeja. So, the stones have been placed against blue, green, red, saffron and pink cloth on a specially-designed wooden stand. Before each stone is the name of the painting and the state from which it has originated. One section was focused on the faces of members belonging to various tribes. “It was only after doing the paintings that I realised the immensely rich heritage of India,” she says.

Meanwhile, those who saw the exhibition liked it. Says Kochi-based artist PR Unnikrishnan: “Sreeja's work is different, as compared to other artists. She is carrying on a 6000-year-old tradition of stone art. Sreeja has done a lot of research and that is reflected in her works. It is a commendable effort.”

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/, June 2, 2016

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City opens a pop garden to history

If a 20-feet tall sculpture of a child, close to South End Circle, astonishes you, thank the artists Devaraj, a former student of Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, and Shivakumar, a sculptor. Under the guidance of former corporator N R Ramesh, they have been able to make beautiful sculptures throughout the Sri Ranadheera Kanteerava park. The park underwent a great deal of change and now is sure to attract more people than before. The park benches are creatively made in shapes of watermelon, hibiscus and other such uncommon objects.

“Like in historical monuments, I wanted to create the element of awe. The project took me over an year to complete. The reviews I have received so far are positive”, says Devaraj. The preparation has been quite exquisite and evidently a lot of work has gone into it. Devaraj says, “All the concrete sculptures are made by me in Vajragiri Art Studio, which I own, after which the sculptures were carried to the park to be mounted and painted.”

Chief Engineer Mahantesh and the garden designer Chaitra Priya have also pitched in to spruce up the park. “The sculptures showcase the rich heritage that Karnataka. The famous kings, emblems, and architecture of Karnataka have been sculpted in concrete and presented in the park. I was in charge of creating the bronze statue of Cauvery and the Kanteerava Narasaraja Wadiyar I, after whom the park has been named. He was fondly called ‘Ranadheera Kanteerava”, says Shivakumar.

“The statue of the king has been designed after the picture that the Kannada Sahitya Parishad provided us. The park seeks to educate the people on the transition of Karnataka from 300BC to 19 century AD,” said N R Ramesh. He also adds, “The child’s statue depicts the times when children used to play in the sand long before technology took over. The park also has a separate space for senior citizens and women, along with an open gym. The equipment for the gym has been imported from Turkey.

“There is a pond which has been designed after a pond in France, which has a fountain in the middle. To make the park look more vibrant, we have planted saplings of all the 19 colours of roses available in India”. “The park is most likely to open in mid June and MP Ananth Kumar, Law Minister Sadananda Gowda, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and others will be part of the inauguration,” said Ramesh.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/, June 2, 2016

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Photo fest to focus on water-related disasters

PondyPHOTO 2016 seeks to share the sub-continent’s water stories : PondyPHOTO 2016, a public art initiative to be held in Puducherry’s Old Port, is set to go for crowd-funding this year. A unique crowd-funding campaign ongenerosity.comwas launched on June 1 where individuals can sign up to partner with this landmark event. The biennial festival which aims to build awareness on social and environmental issues through photography in public spaces, is back with its second edition in August-September 2016.

With climate change, economic development and increasing human demands visibly altering water bodies, the PondyPHOTO 2016 will focus on the theme of ‘Water’. “This year’s initiative titled ‘Water’, is foregrounded in the various water-related disasters witnessed in the past year. While individuals, organizations and government are making efforts to educate the public about the issues that surround water and its consumption, much more needs to be done,” says Kasha Vande, director of the festival.

The festival will kick off on August 27. The organisers will update on a daily basis in all social media channels about the event and on the websitepondyphoto.com.It will showcase photographs by over 30 award-winning international photographers, documentary and feature film screenings, performances, forums and short workshops. Local landmark The government has permitted the organisers to utilise the generally off-limits Old Port recognising its spatial and emotional appeal to the people of Puducherry. By visually transforming a centrally located space with limited accessibility, PondyPHOTO 2016 once again makes it possible for the public to experience and explore a once-frequented local landmark.

Kasha Vande added that PondyPHOTO 2016 seeks to bring photographers and artists together to share the Indian sub-continent’s water stories, both of the past and of the present, and asking change makers to share methods of conserving this extraordinarily important resource. The festival aims to initiate community involvement through an extensive youth outreach programme. Civic forums will also work on building awareness and initiating positive behaviour change at the grass-root level. Photojournalist Pablo Bartholomew, environmentalist-artist Ravi Agarwal, former photo director, Telegraph magazine, Cheryl Newman, Japan-based photographer and communicator James Whitlow Delano will participate.

An exhibition, ‘the kitchen sink’ curated by Cheryl Newman will be a highlight of the festival. Organisations including renowned environmental agency, Toxics Link, French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art and Alliance Francaise, Sri Aurobindo Ashram are working with the advisory committee to make PondyPHOTO an international standard event with its own unique identity on scale with the Delhi Photo Festival and other international photography platforms. The advisory board constitutes Kasha Vande, and photographers Ravi Agarwal, Pablo Bartholomew, Nicolas Chorier, Yannick Cormier, and Waswo X. Waswo.

Crowd-funding campaign launched; renowned photographers to take part

- The Hindu, June 2, 2016

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When Lord Shiva and Goddess Kali adorned matchboxes!

Ever seen Hindu Gods Shiva, Vishnu and Hanuman as well as Goddesses Kali and Saraswati on the labels of matchboxes? And that too matchboxes made in Austria, Sweden and Japan? When matchboxes made their first appearance in India just before the start of the last century, they had labels in vibrant colours, with pictures to appeal to the average Indian. Thousands of attractive labels of virtually all the matchboxes imported to or manufactured in India since then are on display at the India International Centre here, revealing a rich history for over a century.

"Sweden was the largest producer of matchboxes when they began to be made", explained Gautam Hemmady, 59, an architect by profession who began collecting matchbox labels in January 2012 and now sits on a mammoth pile. According to him, Sweden had mastered the technology of making matchboxes along with Austria and Japan. And India was an attractive market as demand was huge but production was zero. One of the first importers of matchboxes from Austria was an Indian company, AM Essbhoy of Calcutta, now Kolkata.

The earliest matchboxes, Hemmady told IANS, cost about a paisa. Many had non-religious labels such as clock, three tigers, elephant, two deer, axe, scissors, lamp, horse, plane, tea cup and key. But at some point the companies in Sweden, Austria and Japan decided that the better way to woo the Indian buyers would be through religious motifs. Thus, matchboxes from Sweden had labels of - the spellings then were often different - Hindu Gods Vishnu, Thirumurthi, Laxmi, Gayatri, Durga, Ganesha, Lav-Kush as well as Krishna on a tree possessing the clothes of bathing gopis.

Adorning the labels of Japanese matchboxes were Brahma, Vishnu again, Shiva (with Japanese features!) and Kali. Not to be left behind, Austrian matchboxes came up with labels o" "Hunoom"n" (Hanuman) and Gaja Lakshmi. When the matchboxes began to be manufactured in India, the religious labels simply multiplied. Now there was Krishna and Radha, a Hindu holy man, Nataraja, Shiv Ling, Nandi, more of Durga, Shiva and Ganesha Ramavanv's, Baby Krishna and more. As the independence movement gathered pace, manufactures in India came up with nationalist labels: Ashoka Pillar, Chakra, a map of undivided India and with slogans such a Dawn of Independence Free India and Jai Hind.

There were also labels of Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Shivaji, Bhagat Singh, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Nehrujii. Incidentally, some of these were made in Japan. Matchbox labels also came with hand drawn pictures of the then Maharajas of Mysore, Baroda, Travancore, Gwalior, Kashmir and Jammu, Alwar, Bikaner, Dhar Dhurbuna, Indore, Jaipur and Patiala. Then there was "Glimpses of India" series (from Austria) - picturing leading monuments -- and sacred places of across the country. Red Fort and Agra Fort were prominent labels too. Post independence, the Indian government began using matchboxes to spread the message of family planning and the importance of savings. Private companies too found the matchboxes a cheap way to advertise their products.

Hemmady had wanted to collect matchbox labels from the age of eight. But the process began only in 2012 when he decided to buy some existing collections - and then build on them. Today, he has some 25,000 labels, wrappers and cardboards from the matchbox industry. And this is his first exhibition. It ends on Friday. So why are today's matchboxes in India so drab? Hemmady feels that Indian manufacturers - the industry is now almost wholly based in Tamil Nadu - ddinn't particularly care since colourful designs cost money while most matchboxes sell for just one rupee.

"But the matchboxes exported (from India) are different and very appealing," he says.

- http://zeenews.india.com/, June 2, 2016

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MTDC sets up tourism pavilion on Infy campus

In a first-of-its-kind initiative to tap into large private sector companies, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has opened a tourism pavilion on the sprawling Infosys campus at Hinjewadi in Pune to draw young IT professionals to tourism destinations in the state. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis inaugurated the pavilion, set up on a 1,250-sq ft space in the Phase II Food Court. Over 40,000 employees work on the Hinjewadi campus, and the pavilion will offer various tourism-related services to IT professionals on a concessional basis.

“We plan to provide one- and two-day weekend tours, special heritage tours, souvenir shop, air tickets, train tickets, passport and visa facilities, adventure tours, all kinds of travel kits, a travel lounge area, unique selfie point and the chance to wear Maharashtrian traditional costumes,” tourism secretary Valsa Nair Singh said. Ms Singh said the pavilion will also provide services like bookings for amusement parks, hot air balloon rides, a scuba diving institute run by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), jungle safaris, helicopter rides in Mumbai and rides on the luxury heritage train, Decan Odyssey.

MTDC managing director Paraag Jain Nainuttia said 60 per cent of employees on the Hinjewadi campus were from outside Maharashtra, and the pavilion will provide a good opportunity for them to experience state tourism. “The average age of Infosys employees is around 25, and they have good spending capacity,” he said, adding MTDC has invested Rs 25 lakh to set up the pavilion. The tourism corporation has inked partnerships with brands like Adlabs Entertainment which manages the Imagica amusement park, Oyo Rooms, Lavasa Corporation, the State Bank of India, Xlimitz Ltd and Supreme Holidays to provide services at the pavilion. Mr. Fadnavis, who also holds the tourism portfolio, has been aggressively pursuing policy changes in tourism and was one of the driving forces behind a new tourism policy. The state will be celebrating 2017 as ‘Visit Maharashtra’ year to showcase the state as an attractive tourist destination.

The pavilion will provide services
like bookings for amusement parks, hot air balloon rides


- The Hindu, June 2, 2016

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Kacheguda station scripts 100 years of history

The magnificent edifice in Gothic architecture is sure a ‘cool’ place for travelling youngsters of Hyderabad as Kachiguda Railway Station boasts of Wi-Fi facility, a round-the-clock Café Coffee Day and many other posh amenities. But the fact is, the A1 category station (stations that earn above Rs 60 crore per annum) is the pride of the South Central Railway (SCR) that turns 100 years this year.

It is a railway station that could well be mistaken for a palace with its unique structural design. Any new visitor coming to the city for the first time is sure to be enchanted by the grandeur of the structure. Constructed in 1916 by the Nizam, it was then part of the Nizam State Guaranteed Railway.

Today, Kacheguda station is bustling with activity but there was a time when wooden carriages as big as a living room with an open space for ice to be kept in the centre to make the carriage cool. Reminiscing about the past, P Anuradha Reddy, Intach co-convenor says, “Kacheguda Railway Station is important in more than one ways.

It not only took people to Aurangabad but also played an important part in giving a fillip to the economy.” Cotton was the staple crop in Nanded and the adjoining districts of Aurangabad. Visualising the importance of rail transport, the erstwhile Hyderabad State undertook the laying of Hyderabad-Manmad railway line, which later came to be called the Godavari Valley Railway, which again was renamed Kacheguda-Manmad railway.

Kacheguda Railway Station is one of the most aesthetically built stations not only under SCR but in the whole of India. In 1840s, there was a lot of support in Great Britain for setting up railways in India as banks lobbied hard and as a result, the British Parliament approved the setting up of Guarantee System, whereby any company that constructed railways in India was guaranteed a certain rate of interest on its capital investment.

The guarantee was for a return of 5 per cent annually. Kacheguda Railway Station, in its 100 years of history, did see several highs and lows and has withstood the passage of time. It not only played a vital part in giving boost to the economy of the region but has also been an example for its organic structure.

Raman, a conservation architect says, “The central tower has a capacity to hold large amounts of water and the minarets are designed in such a way that they draw in cool air. You no longer get such railway stations anywhere in India.” The SCR has now added a museum at the station that takes one back in time. Photographs, information and flow charts explaining the intricacies of maintaining the trains, signaling equipment and prototypes of locomotives are showcased in the museum.

- http://www.thehansindia.com/, June 3, 2016

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Wi-Fi to cover LU in 4 months

Lucknow University (LU) old and second campuses along with the hostels and residences as well the college fine arts and crafts will have Wi-Fi facility in the next four months. A meeting for Wi-Fi-enabling on campus will be held on Friday. It will take up the survey and an assessment conducted by the National Informatics Center (nic) required for implementing the project. The agency for putting up the network on the two campuses will also be finalized by the university.

"We are aiming to finish the Wi-Fi work within four months so that the facility can be made available to the students in the coming academic session," said LU vice-chancellor SB Nimse. The university has received a grant of Rs 1 crore from Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) for the purpose, he added. "A lot of time would go in laying of single mode cables on the old campus.

The second campus already has such cables," said an LU official. The university has been divided into 11 modules. To start with, the computer centre would be equipped with Wi-Fi routers followed by the science block, arts quadrangle, commerce block, administrative block, Arts College, old campus hostels, second campus hostels, the administrative block and the residential area.

- The Times of India, June 3, 2016

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Jehangir art gallery set to gift more room to artists

When the beloved Cafe Samovar shut shop in the March of 2015, the city's cognoscenti mourned. The Jehangir Art Gallery's (JAG) chairperson Adi Jehangir, however, was determined to make something better out of "a cafe that bloomed beyond everyone's imagination". In fact, in an interview with the Mumbai Mirror last year, Jehangir pointed out, "Wouldn't it be financially feasible to give all of the six licensee's spaces out to a posh restaurant or private gallery, and charge them South Mumbai rentals, while keeping only three auditoriums for India's young artists? But that's not the objective with which my grandfather established the gallery."

Jehangir was referring to Sir Cowasji Jehangir, who funded the public art institution for emerging artists that opened in 1952. JAG receives 2,500 applications annually, of which only 450 can be accommodated at a nominal rent of Rs 3,500 per day (exhibition hall). An artist has to wait for a minimum of five years before he/she can exhibit his work here.

On Thursday, Jehangir confirmed to the paper that plans to make an art gallery at the place of Cafe Samovar was unanimously passed by Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) in meetings during March and April. "The Heritage Committee has informed us that the proposal has been passed. But due to some red tape, the heritage committee has not provided a written letter yet. So without that important document, we cannot go to the BMC to get further approvals," he said.

According to Jehangir, "Although we had originally planned it as a sculpture gallery, we may change it to a gallery for paintings. The gallery will be standing in front of the current Jehangir Art Gallery, so we are planning to build see-through glass walls. We are not sure how much time we need to get all the permissions. But once the permissions are obtained, the new gallery can start operating within a couple of months. Apart from the glass, small changes will be made to the roof, and the flooring will also be altered with lighting arrangements."

JAG is also set to have one more gallery of around 1,200 sq feet area that will be built underground. "At present, we have openings only in 2021at JAG. This is not fair for the artists. But we are helpless as bookings are full. So there is a waiting list of five years. If we start the underground art gallery and a new gallery where Samovar was located, it will reduce 30 per cent pressure of the current bookings. For this gallery, we will just wait till the monsoons get over. We have finished water-proofing and will do renovation in July.

Civil work will be done after we get confirmation that there is no leakage." Members of the art fraternity have welcomed the plan. Abhinit Khanna, a creative arts manager based in the city, said, "I feel any additional cultural space adds value to our city. We have plenty of cafes that open in Bombay every day but we don't have enough cultural spaces that exhibit provocative work. With this move, not only emerging artists will get space to exhibit their work, but we can also see various emerging mediums of art such as sound, performance, folk and craft. I see it turning into a hybrid space. Nonetheless, Samovar will still be remembered as a place where one could bump into their favourite artists and thinkers."

- http://www.mumbaimirror.com/, June 3, 2016

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Antique idol racket: Sculptures are of Chola period

Several stone and bronze sculptures and idols seized by police in a raid busting an idol smuggling racket belonged to the Chola period, an acclaimed archeologist said here today. Idol Wing CID police had on May 31 busted an idol smuggling gang, arrested three persons, seized antique sculptures said to be worth about Rs 50 crore from a house in upscale Alwarpet here.

Police, on the lookout for the kingpin Deenadayalan, today raided some more rooms in the same house, which was used as a hideout by the gang, by breaking open the locks. On today's raid, Inspector General of Police, Idol Wing, A G Pon Manickavel told reporters: "There are 34 metal (bronze) idols, 42 (antique) paintings, we will continue the search and end it tomorrow."

Former Director of Tamil Nadu Archeaology Department, R Nagaswamy after inspecting the sculptures and idols at the house on the request of police said, "On the whole, all stone and bronze sculptures belong to the Chola period." "Among them are statues of Shiva in the form of Tripurantaka Murthy, and Nardhana Ganapathi and Devi. All of them are priceless," Nagasamy, a noted authority on archeology, told reporters here.

Asked if he inspected the idols seized on May 31 as well, he replied in the affirmative. "Idols are now being catalogued at the spot (house) and the artifacts taken into custody by police," he said. Police had earlier arrested Maan Singh, Kumar and Rajamani and they were remanded to judicial custody on May 31. They are on the lookout for Deenadayalan and investigating if the gang had any links with other idol smugglers including Subash Kapoor. VGN RC GVS

- The Times of India, June 3, 2016

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Modern world must accept diversity

I n current discussions in many places, the terms “Arab” and “Islam” are used together or interchangeably. But are the two synonymous? Is Arab thought synonymous with Islamic thought? Is all Arab thought Islamic or visa versa? Above all, can all Islamic thinking be attributed to Arabs? I raise these questions because for a variety of reasons and motivations the contemporary world, particularly the West, tends to create this impression of “a powerful, irrational force that, from Morocco to Indonesia, moves whole societies into cultural assertiveness, political intransigence and economic influence.” The underlying basis for this, as Aziz Al-Azmeh put it, are “presumptions of Muslim cultural homogeneity and continuity that do not correspond to social reality.”

Allow me to amplify. Islam is a global faith, and its adherents are in all parts of the world. The history of Islam as a faith, and of Muslims as its adherents, is rich and diversified. In different ages and in different regions the Muslim contribution to civilisation has been note worthy. In cultural terms, the history of Islam “is the history of a dialogue between the realm of religious symbols and the world of everyday reality, a history of the interaction between Islamic values and the historical experiences of Muslim people that has shaped the formation of a number of different but interrelated Muslim societies.”

An overwhelming number of Muslims of the world are non-Arabs and live in societies that are not Arab. Equally relevant is the historical fact they contributed to and benefited from the civilisation of Islam in full measure. This trend continues to this day. The one conclusion I draw is that in ascertaining Islamic and Muslim perceptions on contemporary happenings, the experiences and trends of thinking of the non-Arab segments of large Muslim populations in the world assume an importance that cannot be ignored. These segments include countries with Muslim majorities (principally Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey) as also those where followers of the Islamic faith do not constitute a majority of the population (India, China, and Philippines). Amongst both categories, India is sui generis.

India counts amongst its citizens the second largest Muslim population in the world. It numbers 180 million and accounts for 14.2 per cent of the country's total population of 1.3 billion. Furthermore, religious minorities as a whole (Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis or Zoroastrians) constitute 19.4 per cent of the population of India. India's interaction with Islam and Muslims began early and bears the imprint of history. Indian Muslims have lived in India's religiously plural society for over a thousand years, at times as rulers, at others as subjects and now as citizens. They are not homogenous in racial or linguistic terms and bear the impact of local cultural surroundings, in manners and customs, in varying degrees.

Through extensive trading ties before the advent of Islam, India was a known land to the people of the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, and western Asia and was sought after for its prosperity and trading skills and respected for its attainments in different branches of knowledge. Thus Baghdad became the seeker, and dispenser, of Indian numerals and sciences. The Panchatantra was translated and became Kalila wa Dimna.

Long before the advent of Muslim conquerors, the works of Al-Jahiz, Ibn Khurdadbeh, Al-Kindi, Yaqubi and Al-Masudi testify to it in ample measure. Alberuni, who studied India and Indians more thoroughly than most, produced a virtual encyclopedia on religion, rituals, manners and customs, philosophy, mathematics and astronomy. He commenced his great work by highlighting differences, but was careful enough “to relate, not criticise”.

Over centuries of intermingling and interaction, an Indo-Islamic culture developed in India. Many years back, an eminent Indian historian, Prof Tara Chand, summed it up in a classic passage: “It is hardly possible to exaggerate the extent of Muslim influence over Indian life in all departments. But nowhere else is it shown so vividly and so picturesquely, as in customs, in intimate details of domestic life, in music, in the fashion of dress, in the ways of cooking, in the ceremonial of marriage, in the celebration of festivals and fairs, and in the courtly institutions and etiquette”.

Belief, consciousness and practice became a particularly rich area of interaction. Within the Muslim segment of the populace, there was a running tussle between advocates of orthodoxy and those who felt that living in a non-homogenous social milieu, the pious could communicate values through personal practice.

In this manner the values of faith, though not its theological content, reached a wider circle of the public. This accounted for the reach and popularity of different Sufi personalities in different periods of history and justifies an eminent scholar's observation that “Sufism took Islam to the masses and in doing so it took over the enormous and delicate responsibility of dealing at a personal level with a baffling variety of problems.”

It also produced a convergence or parallelism; the Sufi trends sought commonalities in spiritual thinking and some Islamic precepts and many Muslim practices seeped into the interstices of the Indian society and gave expression to a broader and deeper unity of minds expressive of the Indian spiritual tradition.

The cultural interaction was mutually beneficial and an Islamic scholar of our times has acknowledged “an incontrovertible fact that Muslims have benefited immensely from the ancient cultural heritage of India.”

The framers of our Constitution had the objective of securing civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights as essential ingredients of citizenship. Particular emphasis was placed on rights of religious minorities. Thus in the section on Fundamental Rights “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.” In addition, every religious denomination shall have the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, to manage its own affairs in matters of religion, and to acquire and administer movable and immovable property.

Furthermore, all religious or linguistic minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. Given the segmented nature of society and unequal economy, the quest for substantive equality, and justice, remains work in progress and concerns have been expressed from time to time about its shortfalls and pace of implementation. The corrective lies in our functioning democracy, its accountability mechanisms including regularity of elections at all levels from village and district councils to regional and national levels, the Rule of Law, and heightened levels of public awareness of public issues.

The one incontrovertible fact about the Muslim experience in modern India is that its citizens professing Islamic faith are citizens, consider themselves as such, are beneficiaries of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution, participate fully in the civic processes of the polity and seek correctives for their grievances within the system. There is no inclination in their ranks to resort to ideologies and practices of violence

. I come back to the principal theme of this talk. Why is the Indian model of relevance to our globalising world? Globalisation has many facets economic, political and cultural. All necessitate the emergence of a set of norms, values and practices that are universally accepted. A sociologist has defined it as “the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole.” An obvious implication of this would be assimilation and homogenisation.

In a world of intrinsically diverse societies at different levels of development, this could only result in denial of their diversity and imposition of uniformity. Such an approach can only result in conflict. The challenge for the modern world is to accept diversity as an existential reality and to configure attitudes and methodologies for dealing with it. In developing such an approach, the traditional virtue of tolerance is desirable but insufficient; our effort, thinking and practices have to look beyond it and seek acceptance of diversity and adopt it as a civic virtue. We in India are attempting it, cannot yet say that we have succeeded, but are committed to continue the effort. We invite all right-minded people to join us in this endeavour.

Thank you.
Excerpted from Vice President Hamid Ansari's speech at the Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco.

- http://www.tribuneindia.com/, June 3, 2016

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Massive challenges ahead

The World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 each year with programmes where some announcements are made about the government programmes on environment or by planting a few trees. The event Environment Day should be a day of serious discussion, debates, introspection and assessment of the state of the environment, challenges faced, efficacy of existing policies and programmes and finally, the need for serious action to save the environment.

According to The Environmental Protection Index (2016), India currently ranks 141 out of 178 countries, which indicates the poor state of environment. Environmental challenges are so innumerable, they can fill a whole newspaper, and only a few of them are briefly considered here. Rapid expansion of population, industrial and energy infrastructure and automobiles have significantly increased the air pollution in towns and cities. Nearly 125MT of crop residue is burned annually leading to air pollution.

Besides, fuel wood and crop residues are burnt as fuel for cooking in rural areas causing indoor air pollution, leading to respiratory problems and even death. According to global assessments, four of the 10 cities in the world with the worst air pollution are in India. Almost 90% of the cities monitored had air quality below the WHO standards for Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5). As air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases drastically. Inadequate or lack of access to clean water is one of the biggest challenges facing India.

The average annual rainfall is abundant, yet much of this rain falls with relatively high intensity during the monsoons and with large regional disparity. Most towns, villages and even cities face severe water shortages, more recently due to declining groundwater levels. There is salinity intrusion in the coastal tracts and high incidence of fluoride, arsenic, iron, other heavy metals and nitrates in many different regions.

Rivers and lakes bear the brunt of pollution from industries, untreated domestic sewage and agricultural runoff. The Unicef has assessed that 67% of Indian households do no treat their drinking water. Only 31% of the population have access to improved sanitation. With over 594 million people defecating in the open, there is a very high risk of faecal contamination, adversely affecting the health of the communities.

Uncontrolled dumping, open air combustion and unscientific operation of landfills plague India’s waste handling capability. A Pollution Control Board survey revealed that 39% of treatment plants do not function according to the standards laid down. India produces more than 1,30,000 tonnes of waste per day including domestic, bio-medical, industrial, e-waste and toxic waste.

The wastes are largely handled by the unorganised/informal sectors increasing the risk of exposure of employees to harmful chemical substances besides polluting soil and water. About 32% of India’s land area is undergoing various forms of degradation and 25% is undergoing desertification. The major causes of land degradation include soil erosion which is estimated to be occurring on 147 Mha of land, acidification, water logging/flooding, salinity, indiscriminate use of fertilisers and excessive irrigation. Soil fertility decline could threaten India’s ability to feed the growing population.

Threatened species India is one of the biodiversity hotspots. However, at least 10% of our recorded wild flora and possibly more of its wild fauna are on the IUCN (International Union for Conversation of Nature) list of Threatened Species. The World Bank has assessed that 95 mammals, 80 birds, 213 fishes and 326 higher plant species are threatened in India. Biodiversity is declining due to fragmentation and loss of habitats, degradation of forests and wetlands, and pollution of water bodies.

India is home to some of the best mangroves in the world which cover about 4,682 sq km. These biological hotspots and carbon rich habitats are under threat. Most of the marine fish stocks are declining due to overfishing and pollution, and will possibly collapse if current trends continue. Although forest area is reported to be increasing, studies have shown that India could be under-reporting deforestation and over-reporting area under forest cover by including commercial plantations such as coffee, rubber, coconut, areca nut, cashewnut, mango and apple as forest area.

Water bodies like lakes and wetlands are fast disappearing. Sand mining, open cast mining, hydel projects, expanding railway tracks and highways, and construction of SEZs all impact natural ecosystems and resource base, with unknown long-term consequences. A World Bank assessment estimated that the annual cost of environmental degradation in India amounts to about Rs 3,75,000 crore per year equivalent to 5.7% of GDP, a very high cost for a developing country.

Climate change, due to increased concentration of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion, land and livestock management, is one of the biggest global environmental challenges facing humanity. Climate change is already shown to be adversely impacting monsoon pattern, crop production, land degradation, water stress, vector-borne diseases (Malaria, dengue etc), biodiversity, wetlands and fish availability. Climate change in the coming decades will only aggravate the environmental crises, threatening food production, water availability, all natural ecosystems, health, etc. The Paris Agreement offers little hope of addressing climate change.

India represents a paradox of epic proportions as it races towards economic development while simultaneously trying to deal with environmental problems. Land degradation, ground water decline, indoor air pollution, pollution of rivers, lakes and groundwater, loss of biodiversity, fragmentation and degradation of natural habitats, etc, rarely hit the headlines and we never hear of Parliament or a State Legislature debating these issues. It is possible to prove scientifically that every aspect of the environment is getting degraded, threatening the survival of over a billion people. There are solutions to address at least some of the challenges, but there is a lack of will among policy makers, but more importantly, among the citizens of India.

(The writers are with the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru)

- http://www.deccanherald.com/, June 3, 2016

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Ram footprint: Sarbhanga ashram sites to be protected

Madhya Pradesh government has decided to notify five sites around Sarbhanga ashram in Satna as a protected site. Invoking powers under Section 3 of Madhya Pradesh Ancient Monuments, Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1963, the state's culture department said the area would be declared 'state protected monument' after two months from date of issue of this notice (May 26).

Any objections or claims has to be made within a month of publication of this notification. TOI had highlighted how miners plundered rare artefacts dating back to 10th and 11th century BC buried near Sarbhanga ashram at Chitrakoot, which bear Lord Ram's footprints during his 14-year exile. A study by Madhya Pradesh state's archaeology department had pressed panic buttons on the loot of relics in Satna district of the state. The area is rich in bauxite, laterite and ochre.

Sources said many antiques on Sanwar Hill, where Sarbhanga ashram is located, have been stolen and smuggled out during mining operations in last five years. Several idols were damaged due to use of heavy mining machinery and damaged ones were found abandoned. The epic legacy around another hillock near Sarbhanga ashram known as 'Siddha Pahar', where Lord Ram vowed to eliminate demons and spent nearly 12 years of exile, has almost vanished following illegal mining. The area is spread across 100 acres of land. Sanwar and Siddha Pahar are located within 2km radius.

On August 17, 2015, Madhya Pradesh high court ordered state's archaeology department to study in detail 'Ram Van Gaman Path' (route used by Lord Rama as per Ramayana during his exile) in the three months and conserve sites of archaeological importance. Though the study has been completed and investigators concluded the site was of historical importance, the archaeology department failed to notify it as an archaeological site or ancient monument under Madhya Pradesh Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Site and Remains Act, 1964.

Their report, a copy in possession with TOI, also says some ancient idols were damaged during mining. This study was ordered by a division bench of high court while hearing a petition alleging that no inquiry or study has been conducted and these sites are not declared as protected.

- The Times of India, June 3, 2016

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‘Illegal wildlife trade pushing many species towards extinction’

Nagaland Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, M. Lokeswara Rao on Saturday said the illegal trade in wildlife (ITW) is pushing many species of animals and plants toward local or global extinction and robbing us of our natural heritage. “The loss of any species, even at a local level, is an erosion of the biodiversity that underpins the natural systems upon which we all depend for our food security, medicines, fresh air, water, shelter and a clean and healthy environment,” Rao, said on the occasion of the World Environment Day, 2016 in a press statement. This year slogan for WED is “Go Wild for Life.”

“Slaughtered elephants lying in the African savannah with their tusks hacked off by poaching gangs; tiger skins with embalmed heads roaring silently from market stalls in Asia; the shells of giant sea turtles impounded by customs agents before they reach their Western buyers. These highlight how the booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and pushing whole species toward extinction,” the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests stated.

The killing and smuggling of wildlife is also undermining economies, fuelling organized crime, and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe. The trade endangers iconic elephants, rhinos, tigers, gorillas and sea turtles. Lesser-known species include helmeted hornbills, pangolins and wild orchids. Efforts to protect them have scored some successes.

However, these and many other species remain at risk despite international campaigns to influence policy and considerable investments in conservation and law enforcement, Rao noted. He pointed out that illegal wildlife trade has evolved into a complex activity and India being one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots has emerged as a potential source country.

The porous borders of India along with various gaps in wildlife law enforcement allow various protected species of wildlife and their parts to be trafficked. On the scenario of illegal wildlife trade in the North East Region, Rao said it is a thriving business in the Northeast with the Dimapur – Imphal corridor an important route for smuggling wildlife to Myanmar and ultimately to South East Asia and China.

Citing instances of wildlife trafficking in recent days, Rao highlighted how pangolin scales, Star tortoises, 62 in number and consignment of elephant tusks were seized by authorities from Kohima and Dimapur from wildlife smugglers. In order to turn this tide, Rao expressed that more people need to understand the damage this illicit business is doing to the environment, economies, communities and security adding, “We must also change our habits and behaviour so that demand for wildlife products falls.” He said more awareness means increased pressure on governments and international bodies to introduce and enforce tougher laws and combat those still willing to break them.

In an appeal to the people of Nagaland on WED, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests said it is everyone’s duty to protect the wildlife so people should refrain from purchasing wild meat and inform the Forest Department officials and Police when they get information about wildlife trafficking. “Make Nagaland abuzz with sound of birds and allow wild animals, which are born free to roam free and live free,” Rao urged.

Governor urges for participation in cleanliness drive on WED, 2016 Nagaland Governor PB Acharya has urged all concerned to give time to participate in the cleanliness drive organized by the Nagaland Pollution Control Board (NPCB) in the State to mark the World Environment Day, which is on Sunday. A press note from the office of the Governor said WED is observed every year to know the vital importance about environmental issues and make sure that people around the world enjoy healthy environment and protect the earth natural resources from further deterioration.

On the occasion, the Governor said the cleanliness drive organized by NPCB could be carried out around the vicinity of homes, offices, surroundings, schools, colleges so as to make Nagaland a cleaner state and thereby facilitate the National mission of Swacch Bharat.

Illegal poaching, logging and mining worth up to $258 billion Illegal logging, mining, poaching and other environmentally destructive trade earned criminal gangs up to $258 billion last year, the United Nations said in a report published on Saturday. The scale of crimes ranging from illegal gold mining by drug cartels in Columbia to pillaging forests by rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo is expanding two to three times faster than the global economy, the study by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol found. “Environmental crime is growing at an alarming pace,” Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock said in a statement.

The amount spent by international agencies on combating environmentally damaging crime – $20-30 million – is just a fraction of its estimated value of $91-258 billion, it said. Trafficking products from endangered wildlife, including tusks harvested by the decimation of one quarter of the world’s elephant population over the last decade, is worth between $7 to $23 billion a year, the report said. Pointing to the mismatch between poachers’ profits and government measures to fight them, ivory traffickers in Tanzania reap five times the size of the country’s wildlife budget, or an estimated $10.5 million per year, it said.

An average 3,000 elephants were killed per year there over the last decade, the data showed. “The vast sums of money generated from these crimes keep sophisticated international criminal gangs in business, and fuel insecurity around the world,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner sai

- http://morungexpress.com/, June 4, 2016

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Secy Art & Culture to inaugurate Workshop on heritage Tourism

In order to create awareness towards rich cultural heritage of the islands, the Department of Art & Culture is going to conduct a day long workshop on Heritage Tourism on 6th June 2016 at the National Memorial Cellular Jail. Smt. Ankita Mishra Bundela, Secretary (Art & Culture & Tourism), A&N Administration will inaugurate the workshop at 9.30 a.m.

The workshop is being organized with the aim to instill a sense of pride and belongingness among the people towards their heritage and sensitizing the future generation towards preserving their rich legacy. The workshop will also seek community involvement and stakeholder's support and ownership of 'Aberdeen Heritage Walk'. The participants will be taken for a heritage walk at Aberdeen after the workshop. Willing and eligible participants will be shortlisted for a one week Heritage Guide Course through Indian Institute of Travel Management, Gwalior to be able to take up guided tours for school students, tourists alike.

- http://echoofindia.com/, June 4, 2016

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Celebrating world environment day

World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Since it began in 1974, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries. World Environment Day serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something to take care of the Earth or become an agent of change. That ‘something’ can be focused locally, nationally or globally; it can be a solo action or involve a crowd – everyone is free to choose. In 2015 more than 1.25 million people participated in the campaign, “ Seven million Dreams and One Planet”.

To raise the consciousness of the civil society for taking some positive steps United Nations in 1972 at the time of United Conference on Human Environment at Stockholm, Sweden decided to observe environment day globally. Every year WED is celebrated on different themes to focus global environmental issues. From the year 1974 till 2015 United Nation selected themes like One Earth, Green Earth, Water, Global warming, Our habitat, Green economy, Forests, seven billion dreams, etc. This year the theme is, “Zero tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade”. Angola, a country in African sub-continent is hosting this year’s World Environment Day celebrations seeking to conserve Africa’s biodiversity-rich wildlife, and protect its iconic species Giant Sable antelope.

Angola’s Environment Minister Maria Fatima said, “Angola is delighted to host WED, which will focus on an issue close to our hearts, “The illegal wildlife trade, particularly the trade in ivory and rhino horn, is a major problem across our continent. By hosting this day of celebration and awareness-raising, we aim to send a clear message that such practices will soon be eradicated.” We expect that our nation and state also dedicate itself to protect its rare and threatened wild species.

India is one of the mega biodiversity country with rich natural heritage of flora and fauna. To save this biodiversity India has taken several steps by enacting Forest Act, Wildlife protection Act. Biodiversity Act, Environment protection Act, Water and Air Act. Jammu and Kashmir state also has rich heritage of wild plant and animal species. We have more than ten species of ungulates like Markhor, Himalayan Tahr, Ibex, Tibetan Antelope , Tibetan Gazelle, Blue Sheep and rare and threatened species of Snow Leopard, Leopard, Black Bear and Brown Bear, etc.

From Jammu and Kashmir many wild animals and their products are smuggled. Some of the smuggled items are animal skins of Leopard, Snow Leopard, Otters, Jackal, Fox, Civet cats. Musk pods and Bear bile (Liver) are in great demand. Hunters kill Musk dear to extract musk pod. In many parts of the state Musk Deer has become extinct. These days musk pods are smuggled in great number from Gurez, Michail, Wadwan. In the past there has been cases when snow Leopard skins were caught at Thathri in Kishtwar. Leh is one of the major corridors for international wildlife smuggling to China and other SE Asian countries. In the past seizures have been made in Leh by police and wildlife department of Rosewood, Caterpillar mushroom, Tiger and Leopard skins. Leopard skins and Python skins are also smuggled out of state by interstate smugglers.

In and around Jammu and other Railway stations in the state organized interstate smugglers are working for smuggling of wildlife and its products. Few years back wildlife department raided Jammu railway station and apprehended smugglers with two Leopard cubs being smuggled out of state. Because of huge demand of Otter skin for caps this species has almost become extinct from the rivers and wetlands of Kashmir valley and rivers of Poonch, Rajouri, Udhampur and Chenab valley in the state.

Illegal poaching has exterminated the rare Sarus Crane from the wetlands of Kathua and Samba districts. Although killing of wild animals is banned in the state but its enforcement is poor. Wildlife crime intelligence network is also poor. Government need to strengthen the wildlife crime wing of state to stop illegal poaching of animals and birds. During winter illegal shooting of migratory birds takes place in good number in Hokersar, Haigam, Wullar, Shalbug wetlands in Kashmir valley and Gharana, Abdulliana, Kukriana, Makwal and Pargwal wetlands in Jammu.

To give protection to its wildlife J&K Government has created several protected areas under the Wildlife Protection Act like Hemis National Park in Ladakh, Kishtwar National Park. Dachigam National Park, Nadni wildlife Sanctuary, Jassrota wildlife sanctuary, Hirpur wildlife sanctuary and Limber Lachipora sanctuary. Unfortunately, all these protected areas are open to grazing and several Deras of Bakarwal graziers every season set up their camps during summer, disturb the wildlife and destroy its habitat. Government needs to provide full protection to these protected areas as per the provisions of the Act.

There is a need to create Himalayan Tahr locally called Karth wildlife sanctuary in Padder and Sarthal Bani. There are no species recovery and rehabilitation programme of rare and threatened species in the state. Sarus Crane which was once abundant in the state has become rare. There is a need to create one or two Sarus Crane recovery centres in the districts of Samba and Kathua. Wetlands of Jammu are totally in a neglected mode these needs to be properly managed and protected. Biodiversity Act of the state ensures protection to the biodiversity of the state by documenting its biodiversity through Biodiversity registers and establishing Biosphere reserves but till today not a single Biosphere reserve has been notified to protect the unique biodiversity of some of the sites.

In past three years several hundred quintals of rare herb Nagchatri has been smuggled out of state. Gurez, Tulail, Padder and Zanskar could be an idle habitats and ecosystems to be notified as Biosphere reserves. State has also enacted Cultural and Natural Heritage protection Act but so far no proposal has been sent by the state to notify any of the area as Natural Heritage sites to UNSECO. Some of the areas which could be considered for natural heritage sites are PirPanchal lakes, Tsomiri and Tsokar lakes in Ladakh, Kishan Sar and Vishan Sar, Amarnath Cave with its surrounding mountains, Brahma Peak and Brahm Kund, Trisandhya waterfall, etc. There are several acts to protect the environment and biodiversity of the state but more political will is needed to preserve the natural heritage of the state.

Capacity of the concerned departments has to be increased both financially and technically with sufficient financial and budgetary support. If the civil society, environmental NGOs, and the Government come together to save their environment only then we deserve to celebrate the environment day otherwise these acts are of no use to stop the degradation of environment, stop poaching and illegal wildlife trade and smuggling of medicinal plants.

In the past few years there appears to be certain commitment on the part of Government to protect its environment but more is required to be done. PILs have provided new tools to the society and NGOs for ensuring environment protection. Judiciary too is helping in protecting environment. Already famous Dal Lake case is monitored by the Honble High Court. Forest Land encroachment case is also monitored by the Honble Court. There are several directions by the court for conservation of water bodies and Ponds. National Green Tribunal is also a very strong institution to monitor and preserve the environment.

Already directions for new IIT and CU campus has been issued by the NGT. Several NGOs in all regions of the state are raising their voice through several campaigns like Save Tawi, Tawi Bachao Andolan, Green Kashmir, etc.

In the last forty years since first environment conference at Stockholm (1972) world community has moved a long way in achieving the goals of environment protection by signing many international conventions for reduction of carbon emissions, reduction of temperature to reduce global warming and check climate Change. In these years civil society has become more aware, media and judiciary has become proactive and youth is more educated and enlightened to protect their environment.

At the international level many initiatives has been taken but at local level these are not being translated into actions. At local level all stakeholders are required to take steps and activities which can protect and improve their environment. Climate Change Authority of the state has to take up several projects for CC mitigation and Adaptation. Wildlife crime and intelligence network of Wildlife Department has to strengthened. All routes of wildlife and wild plants smuggling need to be plugged.

To educate and generate awareness among the younger generation Education department should set up Nature Clubs in schools and colleges and organize Nature Camps in the wilderness areas. After 2009, National Green Corps Eco-Club scheme has been stopped by the Nodal agency of the state. This needs to be reviewed and revived by the Government by taking up the issue with the Ministry of Environment and Forests GOI and brought the scheme under state’s Education Department instead of Forest Department (PCB).

J&K Government is still in the process of framing its Eco-Tourism Policy but to promote tourism it has opened up all eco fragile Margs (meadows) for tourism like Gulmarg, Pahalagm, Sonmarg, Yusmarg, Bani Sarthal, etc. In all these places all meadows have been spoiled and huge quantity of solid waste is dumped. New sites are being included in these development authorities. To protect these verdant grassy Margs, government first should have passed Eco-Tourism Policy and then notified Area Development Authorities for promoting Eco-Tourism in these areas to preserve the ecology of the area.

We will be able to celebrate the environment day if our government and civil society is able to achieve the United Nation’s seventeen Goals of Sustainable Development as adopted by all the countries including India. Government of India’s Solar Alliance, two lakh ponds, Swach Bharat Abhiyan, River Ganga Mission are some of the projects aiming towards achieving these goals.

Hopefully it is expected that in coming years our national and state governments will make environment conservation as part of their political statements and translate same in their policies and projects.

(The author is former Chief Wildlife Warden and an environmentalist) feedbackexcelsior@gmail.com

- http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/, June 5, 2016

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Artist, curator, connoisseur

The flamboyant Ebrahim Alkazi has loomed larger than life across India’s cultural landscape since the 1950s Ebrahim Alkazi was a man in love with his public. In the five decades of a practice that spread from Bombay to Delhi, theatre to art, criticism to connoisseurship, Alkazi educated, cajoled, persuaded and enlightened his public, with a fundamental driving belief, in the value of modernity. At the height of his powers, he has been compared to India’s greatest cultural figures of the 20th century, a Satyajit Ray or a Shombhu Mitra.

One may argue that Alkazi went a step further than his peers in the domains of cinema and traditional theatre, in that he created the protocols of viewership in areas where none had existed. When I came to Delhi at the end of the 1970s, the Alkazi era in theatre had already waned. The Emergency and its aftermath of invidious politics, now full blown in cultural institutions, had taken its toll. Alkazi had resigned from the National School of Drama (NSD) in 1977, even as his legacy continued to flourish through his students.

Sitting in the shade of the Meghdoot theatre, a space he had built for the NSD Repertory, watching the deliciously played-out narrative of Meera and Peera in Begum ka Takia or Amal Allana’s beautifully-crafted Mahabhoj, Alkazi’s imprint appeared intact. As the decades have unwound, however, institutional crises have cut at the roots of creativity, and the grandeur of the Alkazi era, resonating from the ramparts of Purana Qila, has long been silenced.

On the occasion of Alkazi’s 90th birthday, his family commissioned a lavishly illustrated and researched volume, released earlier this year, called Ebrahim Alkazi Directing Art: The Making of a Modern Indian Art World. What the two-volume, somewhat more modest publication Enact, edited by Reeta Sondhi and Sunita Paul, did for Alkazi as a man of theatre at the end of the 1970s is now attempted on a much grander scale for Alkazi as artist, curator and connoisseur.

Certainly, if one is to consider art and theatre as a binary with shared but diverging traditions, a case for interesting comparisons arises. In hindsight, would it be accurate to say that Alkazi’s forays into art, an area which grew without much government patronage, more successfully fulfilled his quest for a modernist spirit and aesthetic? Although cinema was a cosmopolitan medium in its aspirations from the 1930s, and theatre an instrument of nationalism, both of which he was abundantly familiar with in Bombay, Alkazi chose a somewhat different, more challenging route. Already in Bombay as an artist and promoter of Theatre Unit, which he ran from the terrace of his building, Alkazi had developed a parallel interest in art.

Perhaps Alkazi’s interest in art was even above theatre and cinema, because he realised its potential as an attempt at a modern language. In this, his efforts have an inspired, even zealous aspect. In the late 1940s, accompanied by his wife Roshen, Alkazi went to study art in England, aware of the potential of the Progressive artists, among who F.N. Souza was a roommate and close companion.

In an interview with Yashodhara Dalmia, Alkazi speaks of carrying “a handcart full of Souza’s paintings and going up and down Oxford Street and Bond Street, trying to sell them”. In a series of eight exhibitions titled ‘This is Modern Art’, held at Bombay’s Jehangir Art Gallery in the 1950s, he used prints and excavated nearly 30 Picasso original works in the city, to display and build his case, engaging his viewers, compelling a broadening of the horizons.

Considering that the Indian triennale was to be launched only in 1968, and that Marg, under Mulk Raj Anand, was not to commit to reviews of contemporary art exhibitions till 1974, Alkazi’s approach to art, both as educator and promoter, seemed far ahead of his peers. Roshen had run Black Partridge Gallery in Delhi establishing enduring personal links with artists in the process. When Alkazi set up Art Heritage in 1977, in the Triveni complex basement, he could hardly have anticipated the market’s rise and collapse, and glittering sales-fuelled openings that would follow just two decades later. During this period, the Alkazis nurtured Indian art; their conviction in artists like K.G.

Subramanyan, Souza and Arpita Singh helped establish a gallery run with a deep seriousness of purpose. Each show the Alkazis promoted was backed by a catalogue and documentation protocols that have been abandoned by several gallerists, particularly in the aftermath of the economic downturn. Even as younger galleries and museums opted for chrome and glass frontages, and socially-networked openings, the Alkazis’ exceptionalism showed through. Certainly, the sustained practice of a well-calibrated framing and hanging, engaging a critic and publishing an essay (which was then carried in an annual Art Heritage collection of essays) put in place the protocols of gallery display.

Alkazi predicted his modernity — and his aesthetic — on an elegant, sweeping mix of the West and the Indian-Asian traditions. In the gathering together of talents as diverse as A. Ramachandran (and the ambitious Yayati project he commissioned), Sudhir Patwardhan and Benode Behari Mukherjee, Tyeb Mehta and Arpita Singh, Alkazi appears particularly committed to the singular ‘truth’ of each artistic practice. In the eclectic mix of artists, he does not demonstrate any of the angst around issues of indigenism that propelled the arguments of Group 1890, or indeed determined the distance from internationalism among thinkers like J. Swaminathan and Geeta Kapur in the early 1970s.

Alkazi curated the Festival of India exhibition, ‘India: Myth and Reality’, along with Geeta Kapur and Richard Bartholomew, even as he seems to have stood outside some of the searing debates that had preoccupied artists and writers through the 1960s to the 80s. Perhaps the ease with which he embraced the vernacular, its varied sensibilities and aesthetic intents in theatre made for an easy transition to art. What comes across, in his active engagement with artists from Bombay, Baroda, Shantiniketan and Delhi, in his easy accommodations of the modern-international and the vernacular-contemporary, is that the indexicality of an art work was predicated on its staging.

Visuality for Alkazi — with all its potential for high drama — was critical to the reading of an exhibition. His restaging of Yayati in 2002, at Shridharani gallery, and the magnificent opus of Souza’s works in 1996, which rendered the exhibition church-like and therefore allowed for the unfolding of both the sacred and its profanation, are two instances. And in his relative distance from the raging arguments around the modern, we have already an alternative understanding of an Indian modernity, amongst which his place is clear: Alkazi’s position, in his own mind, as world citizen and world artist was never in question, and he moved with ease between art forms, picking choosing and refining at will.

Alkazi continued to be associated with Art Heritage till 2012. However his most influential period would have been from the mid-70s to the 90s, a period that marked the coming of newer global shifts, with their preference for new media. At a time when Nalini Malani had branched into video and painted mylar, or Vivan Sundaram was in the vanguard of installation art, Alkazi maintained art and media as discrete categories. Thus while he made two films on Somnath Hore, led a fine programme on Doordarshan on art criticism, and co-curated the exhibitions at Festivals of India, Alkazi tended to view painting and sculpture as distinct disciplines. Even though he participated as actor, painter, auteur, director, speaker, writer, he played these out as separate roles. In that, he has been a modernist to the last.

Parul Dave-Mukherji, the editor, brings to this rich volume different aspects of Alkazi’s long and dynamic career. While the book is interspersed with stills from his directorial ventures, the essays foreground Alkazi as artist, occasional critic and passionate promoter/gallerist. The seven essays trace his trajectory, from his daughter and eminent theatre director Amal Allana’s personal reminiscences of growing up in Bombay during Alkazi’s extraordinary efflorescence as a director, to extended interviews between Alkazi and Yashodhara Dalmia on aspects of his practice, and between Dave-Mukherji and K.G. Subramanyan on Alkazi as friend, gallerist and peer in the expanding world of Indian art.

In addition, Shukla Sawant’s prescient, well-researched analysis of the Bombay art scene of the 1950s, and Alkazi’s position therein, Devika Singh on exhibition-making as post-Independence, post-colonial project in Alkazi’s practice, and Akansha Rastogi on the nascent conflicts around curatorial intervention and control in the 1950s, make this volume a valuable document in an area of scant research. Gayatri Sinha is an art critic and curator based in New Delhi.

- http://www.thehindu.com/, June 4, 2016

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Artist, curator, connoisseur

World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Since it began in 1974, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries. World Environment Day serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something to take care of the Earth or become an agent of change. That ‘something’ can be focused locally, nationally or globally; it can be a solo action or involve a crowd – everyone is free to choose. In 2015 more than 1.25 million people participated in the campaign, “ Seven million Dreams and One Planet”.

To raise the consciousness of the civil society for taking some positive steps United Nations in 1972 at the time of United Conference on Human Environment at Stockholm, Sweden decided to observe environment day globally. Every year WED is celebrated on different themes to focus global environmental issues. From the year 1974 till 2015 United Nation selected themes like One Earth, Green Earth, Water, Global warming, Our habitat, Green economy, Forests, seven billion dreams, etc. This year the theme is, “Zero tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade”.

Angola, a country in African sub-continent is hosting this year’s World Environment Day celebrations seeking to conserve Africa’s biodiversity-rich wildlife, and protect its iconic species Giant Sable antelope. Angola’s Environment Minister Maria Fatima said, “Angola is delighted to host WED, which will focus on an issue close to our hearts, “The illegal wildlife trade, particularly the trade in ivory and rhino horn, is a major problem across our continent. By hosting this day of celebration and awareness-raising, we aim to send a clear message that such practices will soon be eradicated.” We expect that our nation and state also dedicate itself to protect its rare and threatened wild species.

India is one of the mega biodiversity country with rich natural heritage of flora and fauna. To save this biodiversity India has taken several steps by enacting Forest Act, Wildlife protection Act. Biodiversity Act, Environment protection Act, Water and Air Act. Jammu and Kashmir state also has rich heritage of wild plant and animal species. We have more than ten species of ungulates like Markhor, Himalayan Tahr, Ibex, Tibetan Antelope , Tibetan Gazelle, Blue Sheep and rare and threatened species of Snow Leopard, Leopard, Black Bear and Brown Bear, etc.

From Jammu and Kashmir many wild animals and their products are smuggled. Some of the smuggled items are animal skins of Leopard, Snow Leopard, Otters, Jackal, Fox, Civet cats. Musk pods and Bear bile (Liver) are in great demand. Hunters kill Musk dear to extract musk pod. In many parts of the state Musk Deer has become extinct. These days musk pods are smuggled in great number from Gurez, Michail, Wadwan. In the past there has been cases when snow Leopard skins were caught at Thathri in Kishtwar.

Leh is one of the major corridors for international wildlife smuggling to China and other SE Asian countries. In the past seizures have been made in Leh by police and wildlife department of Rosewood, Caterpillar mushroom, Tiger and Leopard skins. Leopard skins and Python skins are also smuggled out of state by interstate smugglers. In and around Jammu and other Railway stations in the state organized interstate smugglers are working for smuggling of wildlife and its products. Few years back wildlife department raided Jammu railway station and apprehended smugglers with two Leopard cubs being smuggled out of state.

Because of huge demand of Otter skin for caps this species has almost become extinct from the rivers and wetlands of Kashmir valley and rivers of Poonch, Rajouri, Udhampur and Chenab valley in the state. Illegal poaching has exterminated the rare Sarus Crane from the wetlands of Kathua and Samba districts. Although killing of wild animals is banned in the state but its enforcement is poor. Wildlife crime intelligence network is also poor.

Government need to strengthen the wildlife crime wing of state to stop illegal poaching of animals and birds. During winter illegal shooting of migratory birds takes place in good number in Hokersar, Haigam, Wullar, Shalbug wetlands in Kashmir valley and Gharana, Abdulliana, Kukriana, Makwal and Pargwal wetlands in Jammu. To give protection to its wildlife J&K Government has created several protected areas under the Wildlife Protection Act like Hemis National Park in Ladakh, Kishtwar National Park. Dachigam National Park, Nadni wildlife Sanctuary, Jassrota wildlife sanctuary, Hirpur wildlife sanctuary and Limber Lachipora sanctuary. Unfortunately, all these protected areas are open to grazing and several Deras of Bakarwal graziers every season set up their camps during summer, disturb the wildlife and destroy its habitat.

Government needs to provide full protection to these protected areas as per the provisions of the Act. There is a need to create Himalayan Tahr locally called Karth wildlife sanctuary in Padder and Sarthal Bani. There are no species recovery and rehabilitation programme of rare and threatened species in the state. Sarus Crane which was once abundant in the state has become rare. There is a need to create one or two Sarus Crane recovery centres in the districts of Samba and Kathua. Wetlands of Jammu are totally in a neglected mode these needs to be properly managed and protected. Biodiversity Act of the state ensures protection to the biodiversity of the state by documenting its biodiversity through Biodiversity registers and establishing Biosphere reserves but till today not a single Biosphere reserve has been notified to protect the unique biodiversity of some of the sites. In past three years several hundred quintals of rare herb Nagchatri has been smuggled out of state.

Gurez, Tulail, Padder and Zanskar could be an idle habitats and ecosystems to be notified as Biosphere reserves. State has also enacted Cultural and Natural Heritage protection Act but so far no proposal has been sent by the state to notify any of the area as Natural Heritage sites to UNSECO. Some of the areas which could be considered for natural heritage sites are PirPanchal lakes, Tsomiri and Tsokar lakes in Ladakh, Kishan Sar and Vishan Sar, Amarnath Cave with its surrounding mountains, Brahma Peak and Brahm Kund, Trisandhya waterfall, etc. There are several acts to protect the environment and biodiversity of the state but more political will is needed to preserve the natural heritage of the state. Capacity of the concerned departments has to be increased both financially and technically with sufficient financial and budgetary support.

If the civil society, environmental NGOs, and the Government come together to save their environment only then we deserve to celebrate the environment day otherwise these acts are of no use to stop the degradation of environment, stop poaching and illegal wildlife trade and smuggling of medicinal plants.

In the past few years there appears to be certain commitment on the part of Government to protect its environment but more is required to be done. PILs have provided new tools to the society and NGOs for ensuring environment protection. Judiciary too is helping in protecting environment. Already famous Dal Lake case is monitored by the Honble High Court. Forest Land encroachment case is also monitored by the Honble Court. There are several directions by the court for conservation of water bodies and Ponds.

National Green Tribunal is also a very strong institution to monitor and preserve the environment. Already directions for new IIT and CU campus has been issued by the NGT. Several NGOs in all regions of the state are raising their voice through several campaigns like Save Tawi, Tawi Bachao Andolan, Green Kashmir, etc. In the last forty years since first environment conference at Stockholm (1972) world community has moved a long way in achieving the goals of environment protection by signing many international conventions for reduction of carbon emissions, reduction of temperature to reduce global warming and check climate Change.

In these years civil society has become more aware, media and judiciary has become proactive and youth is more educated and enlightened to protect their environment. At the international level many initiatives has been taken but at local level these are not being translated into actions. At local level all stakeholders are required to take steps and activities which can protect and improve their environment.

Climate Change Authority of the state has to take up several projects for CC mitigation and Adaptation. Wildlife crime and intelligence network of Wildlife Department has to strengthened. All routes of wildlife and wild plants smuggling need to be plugged. To educate and generate awareness among the younger generation Education department should set up Nature Clubs in schools and colleges and organize Nature Camps in the wilderness areas. After 2009, National Green Corps Eco-Club scheme has been stopped by the Nodal agency of the state. This needs to be reviewed and revived by the Government by taking up the issue with the Ministry of Environment and Forests GOI and brought the scheme under state’s Education Department instead of Forest Department (PCB).

J&K Government is still in the process of framing its Eco-Tourism Policy but to promote tourism it has opened up all eco fragile Margs (meadows) for tourism like Gulmarg, Pahalagm, Sonmarg, Yusmarg, Bani Sarthal, etc. In all these places all meadows have been spoiled and huge quantity of solid waste is dumped. New sites are being included in these development authorities. To protect these verdant grassy Margs, government first should have passed Eco-Tourism Policy and then notified Area Development Authorities for promoting Eco-Tourism in these areas to preserve the ecology of the area.

We will be able to celebrate the environment day if our government and civil society is able to achieve the United Nation’s seventeen Goals of Sustainable Development as adopted by all the countries including India. Government of India’s Solar Alliance, two lakh ponds, Swach Bharat Abhiyan, River Ganga Mission are some of the projects aiming towards achieving these goals. Hopefully it is expected that in coming years our national and state governments will make environment conservation as part of their political statements and translate same in their policies and projects. (The author is former Chief Wildlife Warden and an environmentalist)
feedbackexcelsior@gmail.com

- http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/, June 5, 2016

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World Environment Day: Fashion is the dirtiest polluter

Today is World Environment Day - a day United Nations wants us all to reflect on ours and others' evil doings towards the environment. Putting the message across from Un , Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, "I urge people and governments everywhere to overcome indifference, combat greed and act to preserve our natural heritage for the benefit of this and future generations."

This year, like every gone-by years, has a theme: Zero tolerance for the illegal trade in wildlife. Wildlife here is not restricted to animals only, it includes everything grown in the wild including plants, fungi, deserts etc. While we're all aware how illegal activities "erode the precious biodiversity and threatens the survival of elephants, rhinos and tigers, as well as many other species," it is to be noted that such activities also "undermines our economies, communities and security."

It isn't about protecting the animals and the biodiversity alone, but "preventing and inspiring people to prevent the growing strain on planet Earth's natural systems from reaching the breaking point". Which in the long run will benefit generations after generation. The 2016 theme highlights the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife. Its slogan "Go Wild for Life" is aimed at encouraging you to spread the word about wildlife crime and the damage it does, and to challenge all those around you to do what they can to prevent it.

So, what exactly can the fashion community do for the environment. While the first thing that comes to mind, when talking about this year's theme is fur and the fabrics made from animal skin, but we'd rather concentrate more on the eco-friendly clothing materials. We relate more to cottons and textiles than fur in our everyday life, hence we decided to start the conversation and ask the fashion community questions that need answers to make World Environment Day worthwhile.

"The true cost of a garment lies not in the price tag, but in the impact the production has had on the environment," says Shani Himanshu and Mia Morikawa of 11.11/eleven eleven. In this age of consumerism, seldom you find someone who inspires you to challenge your take on luxury and lifestyle by bringing in responsibiliy to the forefront. "Fashion has the ability to transform people's attitudes and consumer patterns. The concrete linear quality of how pieces are made, the supply chain and energy involved can open up conversations about how to live in harmony with our planet."

According to non-profit organisation, Earth Pledge , an average American throws away nearly 70 pounds of clothing every year. And at least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles and 25% of the world's pesticides are used to grow non-organic cotton." These may just be numbers and facts to you, but the "irreversible damage to people and the environment" is what needs your attention.

For years, environment conscious brands and designers have pleaded for sustainable fashion. But if numbers are to be believed the message hasn't reached the ears of fashion lovers and consumers. No one sees the ugly truth behind all the glamour of fast fashion and designer clothes: fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. We don't even know it, but we wear it everyday!

"Fashion is critical to involve the young in environmental activities. Ecology is not just for the serious professor types but it affects all of us --and what is the best way to take the message forward than fashion: cool, aspirational and what makes us all look the way we want," writes Dilip Kapur, President and founder of Hidesign .

How Can The Fashion Industry Save The Environment Sustainable fashion is the buzzword to combat the bad reputation earned by the industry. "Use of environmentally friendly materials and socially responsible methods of production" is what defines sustainable fashion. So, what does the industry think about the practice and feel about the environment.

"I believe sustainability is prerequisite for any brand that wants to be relevant in the future. There are already high fashion brands like Stella McCartney that are front runners when it comes sustainability and I hope that more will join for a more sustainable fashion future," remarks Dhatri Bhatt on behalf of Swedish retail giant H&M. "Respect for the environment is an integral part of H&M's business and we work actively to limit the impact that our business, stores, logistic centres and suppliers have on the environment," she adds. "Fashion should be sustainable and sustainability fashionable!"

"Use of natural materials , natural dyeing methods , recycled materials , zero water usage dyeing methods, consider the use of electricity and think about where electricity comes from..... Our electricity in Delhi comes from a coal source so every time we turn on a light or power a sewing machine or switch on the A.C, we contribute to further degrading the air quality. This is something to keep in mind," notes Shani Himanshu, CoFounder and Creative Director and Mia Morikawa, Creative Director of 11.11/eleven eleven.

"Fashion loves jumping on the band wagon to sell more and I see many so-called ecological collections spending huge budgets on PR stating they are environment friendly - very rare are designers like Stella McCartney who live up to their ideal.

Attitudes however are truly changing worldwide and I hope they will change in India also," hopes designer Lecoanet Hemant "Each day millions of packages are delivered across India with the explosion of e-commerce, and millions of tons of plastic is used and wasted. We can also help promote sustainable fashion through products of fair wages, farmer friendly fabrics and brands with ethics." - reflects the quirky fashion & lifestyle Indian label Quirbox. They further add, "Designers could pay attention to the small things, that are in fact the important factors, right from the materials of fabrics, chemical free, environment friendly dyes, inks, packaging etc and perhaps focus on environmental sustainability."

"Fashion can play a very significant role in minimizing the carbon footprint, by means of eco-friendly clothes made using organic raw materials, organic dyes, high quality clothes made from recycled and reused articles, use of solar power plant as an alternate power source to minimise the power crisis," tells Sonal Abrol, COO of online fashion retailer Saiesta.

"Stop being a major pollutant and be aware of the consequences of what we do. In our field 90 per cent of leather is chrome tanned, which is heavily polluting. Fittings are made of alloys electroplated, again a heavy pollutant, advices Dilip Kapur, President and founder of Hidesign. Further adding, "Send out a message of ecology. With extensive use of social media, by presence in heavily visited malls, and financial support to environmental issues"

How Can We Best Practice Sustainable Fashion "Today a lot of garments unfortunately are thrown away although about 95% could be recycled. To continue to expand in a sustainable way we need to address this and focus on - reduce, reuse and recycle. Reduce waste of materials which ends up in landfills. Reuse clothing that can be worn over and over, else turn old clothes and textiles into other products, such as cleaning cloths. Recycle your unwanted garments, to get more sustainable raw materials so that new fabrics can be made without impacting the natural resources."

- H&M "Buy local products with less carbon footprint." - 11.11/eleven eleven "Don't buy too much. If all of us had to contribute. I just think we should stop buying too much. just wearing it once and throwing it buying something else. It's not sustainable." - Payal Khandwala "The best way to practice sustainable fashion is to a void synthetics to the extent possible, and buy local as far as possible. Fast fashion has been a disaster ecologically, and the change there is very slow" - Dilip Kapur, Hidesign "I believe the best ways to practice sustainable fashion is to incorporate organic fabrics for their creation. Like we recently introduced 'Ayurganic' a handcrafted wellness collection based on ayurvedic principles." - designer Lecoanet Hemant

What Can The Buyers and Wearers Do To Contribute To The Environment It's not that hard if you take a little time out to empathize with the environment you are going to live in. Here are some suggestions to get you started "As a consumer, we should focus on buying fabrics/clothes made up of organic fabrics and natural dyes . We should not discard the clothes we aren't using, but should donate them to the charities/orphanages and organizations who recycle clothes. We should shop more responsibly and should prefer clothes fashioned from "green" fibres like salmon leather or rice husks." - Sonal Abrol"

"Reuse clothing that can be worn over and over, else turn old clothes and textiles into other products, such as cleaning cloths. Recycle your unwanted garments" - H&M "Exercise your consumer POWER to buy consciously made products ." - 11.11/eleven eleven "Be aware of what's in what you consume to ensure you don't harm yourself. In our case, we would advise the consumer to avoid chrome tanned leathers as chrome is a known carcinogenic. Hold industries responsive for the damage they do to the environment.

We can reduce consumption and try to consume fashion which has more longevity, i.e. quality product which we can carry comfortably for a longer period of time. Also recreate alternative uses of your old fashion buys." - Dilip Kapur, President and founder of Hidesign

"Trade in your dryer for a good old fashioned clothesline - air drying leaves your clothes smelling fresh and is environmentally friendly" would be a general advice that we can unfortunately not follow in Delhi, the most polluted city in the world. I personally follow the very inspiring TED talk by Kamal Meattle that teaches you how to at least clean your own direct environment." - designer Lecoanet Hemant Where Do We Stand? "Fashion like all art empowers, and communicates," says Jayesh Sachdev of Quirkbox. So why not start the conversation from fashion, with the fashion-obsessed world.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 5, 2016

Top
Artist, curator, connoisseur

Today is World Environment Day - a day United Nations wants us all to reflect on ours and others' evil doings towards the environment. Putting the message across from Un , Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, "I urge people and governments everywhere to overcome indifference, combat greed and act to preserve our natural heritage for the benefit of this and future generations."

This year, like every gone-by years, has a theme: Zero tolerance for the illegal trade in wildlife. Wildlife here is not restricted to animals only, it includes everything grown in the wild including plants, fungi, deserts etc. While we're all aware how illegal activities "erode the precious biodiversity and threatens the survival of elephants, rhinos and tigers, as well as many other species," it is to be noted that such activities also "undermines our economies, communities and security."

It isn't about protecting the animals and the biodiversity alone, but "preventing and inspiring people to prevent the growing strain on planet Earth's natural systems from reaching the breaking point". Which in the long run will benefit generations after generation. The 2016 theme highlights the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife. Its slogan "Go Wild for Life" is aimed at encouraging you to spread the word about wildlife crime and the damage it does, and to challenge all those around you to do what they can to prevent it.

So, what exactly can the fashion community do for the environment. While the first thing that comes to mind, when talking about this year's theme is fur and the fabrics made from animal skin, but we'd rather concentrate more on the eco-friendly clothing materials. We relate more to cottons and textiles than fur in our everyday life, hence we decided to start the conversation and ask the fashion community questions that need answers to make World Environment Day worthwhile.

"The true cost of a garment lies not in the price tag, but in the impact the production has had on the environment," says Shani Himanshu and Mia Morikawa of 11.11/eleven eleven. In this age of consumerism, seldom you find someone who inspires you to challenge your take on luxury and lifestyle by bringing in responsibiliy to the forefront. "Fashion has the ability to transform people's attitudes and consumer patterns. The concrete linear quality of how pieces are made, the supply chain and energy involved can open up conversations about how to live in harmony with our planet."

According to non-profit organisation, Earth Pledge , an average American throws away nearly 70 pounds of clothing every year. And at least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles and 25% of the world's pesticides are used to grow non-organic cotton." These may just be numbers and facts to you, but the "irreversible damage to people and the environment" is what needs your attention.

For years, environment conscious brands and designers have pleaded for sustainable fashion. But if numbers are to be believed the message hasn't reached the ears of fashion lovers and consumers. No one sees the ugly truth behind all the glamour of fast fashion and designer clothes: fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. We don't even know it, but we wear it everyday! "Fashion is critical to involve the young in environmental activities. Ecology is not just for the serious professor types but it affects all of us --and what is the best way to take the message forward than fashion: cool, aspirational and what makes us all look the way we want," writes Dilip Kapur, President and founder of Hidesign .

How Can The Fashion Industry Save The Environment Sustainable fashion is the buzzword to combat the bad reputation earned by the industry. "Use of environmentally friendly materials and socially responsible methods of production" is what defines sustainable fashion. So, what does the industry think about the practice and feel about the environment. "I believe sustainability is prerequisite for any brand that wants to be relevant in the future. There are already high fashion brands like Stella McCartney that are front runners when it comes sustainability and I hope that more will join for a more sustainable fashion future," remarks Dhatri Bhatt on behalf of Swedish retail giant H&M. "Respect for the environment is an integral part of H&M's business and we work actively to limit the impact that our business, stores, logistic centres and suppliers have on the environment," she adds. "Fashion should be sustainable and sustainability fashionable!"

"Use of natural materials , natural dyeing methods , recycled materials , zero water usage dyeing methods, consider the use of electricity and think about where electricity comes from..... Our electricity in Delhi comes from a coal source so every time we turn on a light or power a sewing machine or switch on the A.C, we contribute to further degrading the air quality. This is something to keep in mind," notes Shani Himanshu, CoFounder and Creative Director and Mia Morikawa, Creative Director of 11.11/eleven eleven.

"Fashion loves jumping on the band wagon to sell more and I see many so-called ecological collections spending huge budgets on PR stating they are environment friendly - very rare are designers like Stella McCartney who live up to their ideal. Attitudes however are truly changing worldwide and I hope they will change in India also," hopes designer Lecoanet Hemant "Each day millions of packages are delivered across India with the explosion of e-commerce, and millions of tons of plastic is used and wasted. We can also help promote sustainable fashion through products of fair wages, farmer friendly fabrics and brands with ethics." - reflects the quirky fashion & lifestyle Indian label Quirbox. They further add, "Designers could pay attention to the small things, that are in fact the important factors, right from the materials of fabrics, chemical free, environment friendly dyes, inks, packaging etc and perhaps focus on environmental sustainability."

"Fashion can play a very significant role in minimizing the carbon footprint, by means of eco-friendly clothes made using organic raw materials, organic dyes, high quality clothes made from recycled and reused articles, use of solar power plant as an alternate power source to minimise the power crisis," tells Sonal Abrol, COO of online fashion retailer Saiesta.

"Stop being a major pollutant and be aware of the consequences of what we do. In our field 90 per cent of leather is chrome tanned, which is heavily polluting. Fittings are made of alloys electroplated, again a heavy pollutant, advices Dilip Kapur, President and founder of Hidesign. Further adding, "Send out a message of ecology. With extensive use of social media, by presence in heavily visited malls, and financial support to environmental issues"

How Can We Best Practice Sustainable Fashion "Today a lot of garments unfortunately are thrown away although about 95% could be recycled. To continue to expand in a sustainable way we need to address this and focus on - reduce, reuse and recycle. Reduce waste of materials which ends up in landfills. Reuse clothing that can be worn over and over, else turn old clothes and textiles into other products, such as cleaning cloths. Recycle your unwanted garments, to get more sustainable raw materials so that new fabrics can be made without impacting the natural resources."

- H&M "Buy local products with less carbon footprint." - 11.11/eleven eleven "Don't buy too much. If all of us had to contribute. I just think we should stop buying too much. just wearing it once and throwing it buying something else. It's not sustainable." - Payal Khandwala

"The best way to practice sustainable fashion is to a void synthetics to the extent possible, and buy local as far as possible. Fast fashion has been a disaster ecologically, and the change there is very slow" - Dilip Kapur, Hidesign "I believe the best ways to practice sustainable fashion is to incorporate organic fabrics for their creation. Like we recently introduced 'Ayurganic' a handcrafted wellness collection based on ayurvedic principles." - designer Lecoanet Hemant

What Can The Buyers and Wearers Do To Contribute To The Environment It's not that hard if you take a little time out to empathize with the environment you are going to live in. Here are some suggestions to get you started "As a consumer, we should focus on buying fabrics/clothes made up of organic fabrics and natural dyes . We should not discard the clothes we aren't using, but should donate them to the charities/orphanages and organizations who recycle clothes. We should shop more responsibly and should prefer clothes fashioned from "green" fibres like salmon leather or rice husks." - Sonal Abrol"

"Reuse clothing that can be worn over and over, else turn old clothes and textiles into other products, such as cleaning cloths. Recycle your unwanted garments" - H&M "Exercise your consumer POWER to buy consciously made products ." - 11.11/eleven eleven "Be aware of what's in what you consume to ensure you don't harm yourself. In our case, we would advise the consumer to avoid chrome tanned leathers as chrome is a known carcinogenic. Hold industries responsive for the damage they do to the environment. We can reduce consumption and try to consume fashion which has more longevity, i.e. quality product which we can carry comfortably for a longer period of time.

Also recreate alternative uses of your old fashion buys." - Dilip Kapur, President and founder of Hidesign "Trade in your dryer for a good old fashioned clothesline - air drying leaves your clothes smelling fresh and is environmentally friendly" would be a general advice that we can unfortunately not follow in Delhi, the most polluted city in the world. I personally follow the very inspiring TED talk by Kamal Meattle that teaches you how to at least clean your own direct environment." - designer Lecoanet Hemant Where Do We Stand? "Fashion like all art empowers, and communicates," says Jayesh Sachdev of Quirkbox. So why not start the conversation from fashion, with the fashion-obsessed world.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 5, 2016

Top
‘Water bodies under threat’

Observed annually to raise global awareness of the need to take positive environmental action, World Environment Day (WED) looks at ways for making our world cleaner, greener, and brighter. Ahead of WED on June 5, STOI brings to the forefront key environmental issues in the state that require attention.

There will be tremendous pressure on water bodies, forests, wildlife , etc. which will lead to irreversible pressure on Goa's coastal belt, believes environmental activist, Ramesh Gauns . "Goa is going to face a catastrophe when the impact of climate change begins to show its effects. Being a coastal state, Goa will be severely damaged." he said.

He elaborated that mining has destroyed the pristine regions of the state so much that in future, Goa will lose its tourism. "With mining causing degradation of the environment, Goa will lose its tourism, thus putting a dent to the second biggest source of state revenue.

This is a very terrifying picture," he said. While growing number of concrete jungles in the state are providing housing options for citizens, in the flurry of rampant constructions, builders are overlooking CRZ violations and converting agricultural land into development zones.

"Agricultural land maintains the micro-climatic conditions of the state. The habitat of flora and fauna gets affected when that land is converted to development zone. Due to such activities, biological diversity of our state has slowly vanished," said Nitin Sawant , former member secretary, Goa state biodiversity board. He also said that due to encroachment of cashew plantations in forest lands, a number of species are getting affected, like the artocarpus lacucha , the flacourtia indica, etc. "There are many medicinal plants, and butterfly species that are also lost ," he said.

Global warming and rising water levels in the ocean are both a matter of serious concern, chief scientist, Council of scientific & industrial research-national institute of oceanography(CSIR-NIO), Dr Prasanna Kumar told TOI. "The marine ecosystem along the Malabar and Konkan coasts will be impacted largely by global warming," he said.

The executive secretary of mangrove society of India, A G Untawale said that the state's marine ecology also has to be considered. For instance, dredging in the rivers due to siltation, instances of soil erosion and its run off into water bodies, overfishing in the seas, etc. are disrupting the balance of the ecosystem. "Also, there are places where there is seepage of sewage water in the natural waters. Experts should survey that area and study the pollution level of the water in those areas," he said.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 5, 2016

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World Environment Day: Made in India Water Management Methods

Traditional water management methods have a very old history in India with many examples even dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Water management has been critical for empires to flourish in the subcontinent – for example, the Chola kings were famous for their organised water system. As we approach a predicted healthy monsoon after two years of drought and water trains, it’s time to check out some traditional water harvesting methods that the people of the Indian subcontinent have long been familiar.

In fact, each part of the country has different methods that are suitable for the topography and climate of the place and it’s time for us to seriously consider implementing more effective water management and rainwater harvesting methods. Tamil Nadu has a long history of rainwater harvesting systems and many of the same methods are of immense practical value to us even today.

Ooranis refer to man-made ponds where the mud is dugout and often deposited around the border to act as a barrier. These small ponds hold rainwater, recharge ground water and even act as a deposit source for sub-surface water with many also connected to larger tanks. This creates a unique set of interconnected water channels and ooranis can be a valuable source of drinking water in an area where the groundwater is quite saline. Sadly, many ooranis are in a state of disrepair today.

Kunds in North India Common in the more arid parts of India, kunds refers to underground tanks used to collect and store fresh rainwater which can then be used in drier parts of the year. The kunds are built at the centre of a gently sloped catchment area (the slope can be natural or artificial) which helps the water collect in the tank. The first rains are often used to clean the tanks and the later showers are used to fill up these tanks which can be owned by individual families or even by the community at large. Kunds are made of cement or stone and water is drawn up from openings at the top.

Bamboo Pipes in Meghalaya For over 200 years, tribals in the Garo, Khasi and Jaintia Hills have used a brilliant methods of drip irrigation that uses local materials and the hilly topography to water their farms.

Bamboo channels of different diameters divert water from perennial hill streams and deliver them near the roots of the plants – thereby slowing down the speed of water and allowing a more efficient use. These channels are largely used in winter and are closed during the monsoon seasons ensuring that the practice is sustainable and effective.

These are just some of the many methods of water harvesting that exist in our country but it is worrying that our water governance often ignores indigenous knowledge. As India faces the possibility of becoming a water scarce country in the near future, all hands need to be on deck to improve the way we manage, collect and conserve our water resources. (Shalini Iyengar is a lawyer and Research Associate at the International University College of Turin)

- http://www.thequint.com/, June 5, 2016

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Margao’s camara building cries for help

Setembrache ekvissaveru
Camrachem foddlem daru
Deddxem soldad addle
Morgouchean Ponje corun taru
Mis zanvchea vellaru
Rogtacheo zaleo zori
Pad'Lucas alment mari
Otmem salvar cori
(On September 21, The municipality doors were broken open 150 soldiers were summoned... While the Mass was in progress There emerged springs of blood Padre Lucas sprinkled holy water And saved souls)

September 21, 1890, the day of municipal elections - a straight fight between Partido Indiano, a popular local political party, and Partido Ultramarino, the party backed by the Portuguese government. A polling booth was located in the municipal building (now lying neglected and broken down) near the Holy Spirit church. Amidst allegations of rigging the polls, thousands of supporters of Partido Indiano throng the municipal building to vote for their candidates. The Portuguese administrator, anticipating a landslide victory for Partido Indiano, orders his troops to fire at the crowd. twenty-three people are dead and around 500 injured.
The mando, Setembrache ekvissaveru, is a poignant reminder of the incident that came to be known as the 1890 massacre. The historic 'Camara Muncipal de Salsette' building, lies in a dilapidated condition, and one can see glimpses of its old grandeur. It was built in 1770, and stood majestically along the old market road near the city's entrance. The building is slowly disintegrating due to neglect and exposure to the elements after it was abandoned a century ago. The timber roof of the ground-plus-one masonry building has completely collapsed, and parts of the walls on the first floor have also given way.

Writer and local historian Valmiki Faleiro captures the state of affairs, "Stately, by the standards when it was built in 1770, and elegant even until the mid-20th century, the old municipal building was constructed by the state with funds squeezed out of overtaxed Salcete gaunkaris (the municipal senate covered the entire taluka). The senado (senate) was formed in the year 1775. Margao was elevated to the status of a vila (town) on April 3, 1778. The civic body was raised to the status of a municipality in 1822-24."

Faleiro, also the former chairperson of the Margao municipal council (MMC), says that while the taluka's municipal offices were housed in the rear part and the upper floor of the building, the front portion of the ground floor had six shops which were leased to businesses. Sources in the know reveal that the old camara building was substantially renovated in 1873, but it later collapsed sometime in the years 1897 and 1898. In April 1898, the offices of the camara were shifted to a premises at a location which is now the new municipal market.

The foundation stone for the new municipal building was laid on September 27, 1902 and it was inaugurated on April 30, 1905. The historic building is now owned by Alina Araujo Vaz. Heritage lovers are upset about the imminent loss of the city's historic landmark, and have approached the MMC to conserve the building and to get it off the "unsafe" buildings list. "This old building , which served as a municipal building for about 120 years since 1778, needs to be conserved and protected for posterity," Prajal Sakhardande of the Goa Heritage Action Group said.

The MMC made attempts seven years ago to acquire nearly 780 sqm land to restore the edifice but the attempts were abruptly shelved with a change in guard in the civic body. Records accessed by STOI reveal that the MMC, in its council meeting held on November 5, 2009, had passed a resolution to acquire land acquisition proceedings to acquire for the building that once housed Camara Muncipal de Salsette.

Until April 2010, a series of correspondence followed between the MMC and the directorate of settlement and land records in order to obtain the ownership details and documents. However, as the tenure of the then council led by chairperson Savio Coutinho neared its end, the conservation trail got grounded. Coutinho rued the failure of the succeeding councils to take up the issue but stressed that all was not lost. "Is the municipality so poor that it cannot afford to conserve and restore its own building that is steeped in history and heritage?" he questions.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 5, 2016

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Meet greenhorn green warriors

As the people across the globe mark World Environment Day on Sunday, city-based organizations have planned a slew of activities to engage citizens and create awareness about the day and its importance.

At Centre for Environment Education (CEE), the celebrations will be on this year's theme 'Fight against Illegal Trade in Wildlife'. Children and youth will participate in activities such as Snakes and Ladders, Treasure Hunt, Nature Trail, Quizzola, origami, puppet shows, pottery, art and crafts, face painting and tattooing, clay modelling and movie screenings.

Gujarat Science City has planned its celebrations around the theme 'Climate Change for Sustainable Development' where some 1,200 teachers and students will participate in activities such as hands-on science projects, seminars, film screenings and expert lectures.

More than 2,000 citizens are expected to participate in an 8.5 km 'Go Green Marathon' to be flagged off by city mayor Gautam Shah from GMDC Ground on 132 Feet Ring Road at 6.30 am. Likewise, Drum Circle, a city-based group, will organize a special performance at Parimal Garden at 6 pm to explain the connection between nature and music.

A number of individuals have also decided to reach out to the community to spread green messages. Prakash Patel, a Khokhra resident, has decided to spruce up a public garden with help of the community on Sunday. A number of organizations have organized tree plantation drive on public places and take a pledge to save the tree till it gets stabilized.

"Environment is not just about trees or animals. While the entire world is concerned about rising temperatures year after year - something we have experienced firsthand this year - the movement to save Earth starts from us by not polluting the environment, taking care of the scarce trees in residential areas and saving electricity," said a city-based environmentalist.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 5, 2016

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Step up from Chandigarh to New York

This is a story of a boy whose love for dance started with the song "Choli Kay Peechay Kya Hai" in 1993. Cut to 2016, that boy - now a 29-year-old man - is taking the stage at New York's Broadway, the proverbial Mecca of performing arts.

Meet Abhishek Singhania. This Chandigarh boy's prowess in dance took him to performing at the world-famous Lincoln Centre in 2015 and also helped him bag a number of other dancing projects at the Big Apple, a nickname for the American city, in the last two years.

However, what started as a hobby as a child and turned into a passion by the time Abhishek set foot at DAV College in Sector 10 as an 18-year-old, turned into a profession only after he decided to "break free" from the prejudices of society. "I don't even remember when I started dancing. I remember my first love was Madhuri Dixit; I would stand in front of the television and dance, being awed by her," says Abhishek, talking about what pulled him to the performing art. "Dance was the only constant in my life, be it in school, college or work."

Like most of his peers, Abhishek went through the grind of studies right up to his post-graduation and had never given a serious thought to taking up dance professionally. After college, he completed an MBA course and was placed as a business HR with Infosys in 2010. Though Abhishek admits he "loved" the cushy, well-paying job, it was not his true calling. "I would dance even when I was working. It was during this time that I came to know of a one-year professional dance-training course by Shiamak Dawar. That gave me hope. In a second, as if on impulse, I quit my job and enrolled for the course," he says.

Abhishek describes it as a "life-changing moment". "I had quit my job and stepped into a dream which was now a reality. The struggle started after the training. It was tough to lead an unpredictable, unstable life as an artist. I was doing what I loved. But, then, there was less money," he says. During this time, Abhishek thought of going back to the corporate life. "I never wanted that to happen," he says.

His fortunes soon changed. After a lot of searching and auditioning, Abhishek got through the Bengaluru-based Nritarutya: Indian Contemporary Dance Company. "This," he says, "was a phase of his horizons, as a dancer and as a person, broadening. I was awed and inspired by the artistes working there. I danced, trained, performed, taught, did class promotion, and handled props. That year-and-a-half was amazing. I started to understand myself, accept myself and be myself. In this process, I had a realization. The Madhuri inside was dying to come out again." Having explored his true potential in dance, Abhishek soon applied to the Broadway Dance Centre, New York.

He got through, and the rest is history. "My life flipped when I landed there. That city just shook me, awed me, inspired me, and I was reborn," he says. There was no looking back from there. What followed was a string of performances in New York, including two performances at Bagatelle, Midsummer Night Swing at Licoln Center, and even a performance on "Choli Kay Peechay Kya Hai" at the New York Holi Hai Festival. For now, Abhishek is back in India and is organizing dance workshops in Bengaluru. "I always wanted to come back and teach. At present, I want to keep travelling so that I could keep training and teaching. This is not a high-paying occupation and is unstable. Things can we worked out and it's not just about the money only! The satisfaction and peace I get is immense," he says.

Abhishek has a piece of advice for people who want to follow their dreams: "Listen to your heart, your true calling. There will be consequences, but they will all be worth it! Get over those 'Log kya kahenge' and 'kya hoga' excuses. It's not easy, but then nothing is."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 5, 2016

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Cannot tolerate illegal wildlife trade: Virbhadra

Observing World Environment Day at Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC) in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Sunday said that in order to preserve biodiversity for future generations, there was a need to have zero tolerance towards the illegal wildlife trade.

The CM was speaking at a function organized by the Himachal Pradesh State Council for Science, Technology and Environment on Sunday. He said that there was a need to understand the damage the illicit business was having on environment, economies and communities. "We must also change our habits and preferences. Only then will the demand for wildlife products fall," he added.

"Booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Earth's precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and pushing many species towards extinction. Although efforts to protect them had been successful to an extent, many species remain at risk despite international campaigns to influence policy and considerable investments in conservation and law enforcement," he said.

He added that the state government had established two national parks, 30 wildlife sanctuaries and 3 conservation reserves in the state. A rally of around 700 students from about 40 schools was organized by the council in the town to spread awareness about environment protection for future generations. State forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmauri and Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan also attended the function.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 6, 2016

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Encroachment of water bodies threatens city's water supply

With more than 4,000 water bodies providing water to Chennai and its adjoining districts, it might seem like an embarrassment of riches, but rapid urbanization has led to their degradation and in some cases, death, warn water experts.

There are more than 4,000 irrigation tanks that provide water to Chennai, Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram districts besides Arakkonam taluk of Vellore district S Janakirajan, president of South Asia Consortium of Inter-Disciplinary Water Resources, says these water bodies were important sources of irrigation and continue to be a source of recharge of groundwater which in turn is the principal source of drinking water for millions of people in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts besides Arakkonam taluk of Vellore district. He studied these water bodies during the period 2010-2013 and during the post post-flood period and prepared a strategic document for the city and its suburbs to meet the water needs on a sustained basis.

Actually Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram and Arakkonam taluk of Vellore district should be declared as one mega watershed. This combined region have a very rich source of water given the fact that the average rainfall in this region is one of the highest in the State with 1,350 mm annually. Indeed, over 4000 water bodies located in this region act as a buffer to store freshwater as well as help to contain the fury of the flood situation which otherwise flows downstream and devastates the Chennai city.

Chennai is a high rainfall region, with an annual average rainfall of 1,250 mm, and Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur get even more, but Janakirajan questioned whether any attempt has been made to harness this water. Instead, these water bodies, their catchment areas, inlet and surplus channels have all been significantly encroached by real estate development and the mushrooming of educational institutions, which is one of the main reasons why Chennai and its suburbs get flooded during heavy rainfall. Most of these water drains have been encroached and silted up to a great extent.

Chennai city has an excellent natural drainage system. On the north of Chennai Kosasthalayar; Cooum in the central and Adyar in the south. In addition Chennai has 16 macro drains such as Otteri Nullah, Mambalam canal,Velacheri canal, Virugambakkam canal,Kodungayur canal,Vysarpadi canal to name a few. The rain fall happens during the months of November and December and it is contributed by the Northeast monsoon.

It isa rough monsoon, which brings rain through cyclones, low pressures and storms, he said. The key question he asked was whether we have made any attempt to harness water from this heavy rainfall conditions? The expansion of Chennai city has been rapid and Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts have been almost 90% urbanized. With the remaining area also set to become part of the expanded city in the next few years, thousands of water bodies will be the first casualty, he added.

Is it possible to retrieve the dead water bodies? Research and Education It is not all doom and gloom, though. Principal chief conservator of forests S Balaji says it is possible to recover the dead water bodies and cites the example of neighbouring Karnataka where four lakes have been successfully brought back to their original form.

The lakes were located in Bengaluru and pollution sources to these water bodies were identified. A portion of the lake was earmarked as 'Waste Stabilisation Pond', where a treatment plant was established. Such an approached helped the lake to get back its original form and perform its ecological duty of recharging ground water table and increasing fish population. Increased oxygen levels in the lake automatically brought down the biological oxygen demand and chemical oxygen demand in the lake, Dr Balaji said. This was achieved with the participation of local community, he added.

However, involving the local community and getting volunteers to clean up water bodies is a difficult task, notes Environmental Foundation of India founder Arun Krishnamurthy. His organization has deepened and desilted seven ponds - three each in Mudichur and Perungalathur and one in Sholinganallur His team - and was also involved in the partial restoration of Arasankazhani and Perumbakkam lakes. Every weekend, his team take up the work of cleaning ponds and lakes. Krishnamurthy laments that only a minuscule percentage of Chennai's population is interested in participating in such a task,In his estimate not more than 1,000 volunteers come to participate in such works in health, education and environment sectors. but adds that this does not deter him from continuing with the work of rejuvenating the city's water bodies.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 6, 2016

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India can avoid water wars in the future by mixing old and new solutions

Drinking water shortages are known to spark scuffles , but last week, it led to Sunil Giri, 23, losing his life. Giri was beaten to death in the Ramgarh district of Jharkhand for objecting to his neighbour Anwar Hussain taking more than his share from a drinking-water tanker that had reached the drought-affected village after several days. Similar violence over water sharing has also been reported from water-scarce districts in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana since April.

Scarcity kills in other wars too. In April, 12-year-old Yogita Ashok Desai died of heatstroke after her fifth trip to fetch water from a handpump in drought-hit Beed district of Maharashtra, when temperatures had crossed 47 degree Celsius. In the first week of May, a 15-year-old girl died and 23 others were injured when the roof of an underground water tank collapsed while they were waiting to collect water from the almost dry tank.

Lost sources The World Resources Institute’s March 2016 report said 54% of India was water stressed, with scarcity affecting every part of the country except Himalayan region and the Ghats. “Almost 600 million people are at higher risk of surface water supply disruptions,” the report said, attributing water stress to climate change and poor water management. The map below illustrates competition between companies, farms and people for surface water in rivers, lakes, streams, and shallow groundwater. Red and dark-red areas are highly or extremely highly stressed, meaning that more than 40 percent of the annually available surface water is used every year. Find out more at the World Resources Institute’s website.

With the surface water sources dwindling, people have shifted to unregulated tapping of ground water --- for agriculture and drinking --- leading to levels dipping by three times over the last 60 years, making groundwater the main drinking water source for 80% of the population.

Rising temperature also mean higher human loss. Of the 4,204 lives lost to annual heat waves over the past four years, half were in the drought year of 2015. “The deaths were a result of flawed government emphasis on building high-cost dams and canals that have wiped traditional ways of water harvesting,” said Himanshu Thakkar of South Asian Network of Dams, Rivers and People.

Another concern is that 50% of ground water sources in the country are not “completely safe”. Of the 660 districts, ground water in 276 districts has high levels of fluoride, 387 districts have nitrate above safe levels and 86 districts arsenic, shows data from Central Ground Water Board’s latest report. Close to 650 major towns and cities in India are on the banks of rivers contaminated with pesticides from farms and effluents from industry, said the latest report of the Central Pollution Control Board, which sickens 100 million people each year because of contaminated drinking ground water.

If that’s not enough, more and more states -- Haryana and Punjab in north to Tamil Nadu and Kerala in south to Arunachal and Assam in north-east -- are entangled in disputes over sharing water from major rivers.

The way ahead If ground water exploitation continues, the World Bank estimates that the per capita water availability in India ---- where 46 farmers committed suicide every day in 2014 --- by 2030 may shrink to half from the 2010 level of 1,588 cubic metres per year, which will push India into the ‘water scarce’ category (1,700 cubic metres per year), from its existing ‘water stress’ classification (1,000 cubic meter per year).

Scarcity scare: Unregulated overuse has led to groundwater levels plummetting three times faster over the last 60 years, which has made water scarcity one of the biggest threats to India rising “The water situation is scary,” said Arvind Panagariiya, vice-chairman of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, which is holding consultation with states on water stress management. “We have to adopt a bottom up approach with a mix of modern and traditional solutions that are acceptable and inclusive”.

To start with, the water resources ministry has drafted two model bills --- first for overall water management and second for ground water --- aimed at improving water management and groundwater levels. Shashi Shekhar, secretary for water resources, said the water problem was escalating and the proposed laws could ensure better and efficient water management.

But, a lot depends on states as water is a state subject. Some, such as, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have started community based Jal Swabhilambhan schemes that give ownership of government-aided watershed management to the communities. “We just aid and assist the villagers in creating durable water assets. The villages decide what they want,” said Sriram Vedire of Rajasthan Water Authority, who initiated the programme in half of the state’s districts in early 2016.

It is too early to state whether the Rajasthan model works but independent studies have shown that similar community-based watershed management programmes has improved ground water levels in Jhabua districts of Madhya Pradesh. Panagariya hoped that it can work elsewhere too, provided “right” government intervention happens.

Mukul Sanwal, retired civil servant and former director of UN?Climate Change Secretariat, said restoring traditional water harvesting and management systems like ‘Bundis (household ponds)’ to store rainfall water has worked and will work as it is a time-tested model, which was abandoned during the British era. “Even Mughals gave tax rebate if farmers invested in water harvesting,” he said.

- http://www.hindustantimes.com/, June 6, 2016

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The shock of India’s ugly racism

Visiting the land of Gandhi was a childhood dream that deepened with my growing understanding of the shared history of Africa and India, from the seldom acknowledged African demographic that has imbibed an Indian identity, to Gandhi’s role in the anti-apartheid movement.

This aspiration became a reality in July 2014, when I set foot in India to volunteer with underprivileged women. It didn’t take me too long to discover that beneath the magnificent Taj Mahal and the enthralling landscapes lay a much uglier India, a society riven with racism and intolerance.

From restaurants to shopping malls, slums to upscale neighborhoods, no matter where I went, I was constantly started at and often photographed without my consent. At national monuments, people were quick to sideline the exhibits and gawk at me, making me wonder if I was an exotic creature from Africa.

While being stared at may merely imply innocuous curiosity and not racism, the teasing and taunts in hushed voices that followed me around left little doubt. Although I had been warned about racism, I was taken aback by the severity and prevalence of intolerance. Of course, I wasn’t the only victim of racism. Early this year a mob attacked a Tanzanian girl as retaliation for a car accident involving a Sudanese man. In the eyes of the mob, the Tanzanian’s skin color and ethnicity made her culpable for the accident.

In May this year , a 29 year old Congolese was killed in New Delhi, and several other African students were assaulted in the following weeks. A consensus against racism, if any, is reserved for incidents outside India. The arrest of Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, in the U.S. sparked a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. When Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan was detained at a U.S. airport, angry fans burned American flags and chanted slogans against racism, oblivious to the racism faced by millions of Indians in their own country, by their own countrymen and women.

Racism in India is systemic and independent of the presence of foreigners. Indians with darker complexions are rendered subordinate, forced to the periphery of society. Matrimonial ads unabashedly boast of light skin, an asset no less valuable than an Ivy League degree. Landlords refuse to rent apartments to tenants who speak the “wrong” language or belong to the “wrong” part of the country.

Just days after the country boasted of “unity in diversity” during the 2014 Republic Day celebrations, Nido Tania, a 20-year-old student from northeast India was mocked for his “Chinese like” looks and brutally killed.

It is ironic that Indians continue to perpetuate the very racism that was inflicted on the natives during colonial times, the very discrimination that countless Indians have lost their lives fighting against. A 2013 study by Swedish economists found India to be one of the most racist countries in the world.

Wiping out racism is not just a moral imperative for India. She cannot realize her dream of becoming an economic superpower unless she creates a more safe, inclusive and tolerant society for all peoples of India, and all peoples of the world. Despite all the teases and taunts, some of the most loving people I’ve ever met are from India, some of the most respectable people I’ve met come from India.

I look forward to visiting India again, but hopefully I will be visiting a country that will judge me by my character and not by my colour. The writer is a student in International Development at the University of Portsmouth and received inputs from Ash Murthy, a Silicon Valley-based software engineer.

- www.thestatesman.com, June 6, 2016

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Plug water leakages: Expert

“If 55 percent of water wastage through leakage is prevented, Hyderabad can manage its resources better than any global city,” said Professor V Srinivasa Chary, Director of Centre for Energy, Environment, Urban Governance and Infrastructure Development, Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI). Says lack of proper planning and a scientific approach lead to sewage problems in Hyderabad

Speaking at the conclave of ‘Forum for a Better Hyderabad’(FBH) whose 16th anniversary coincided with the World Environment Day held in ASCI, he felt that the biggest problem the city was facing was of drinking water, which could be easily resolved, if the leakages which account for nearly 55 % of the total available water, is prevented.

While stressing on the need for water harvesting, he felt that most of the denizens were still unaware of water harvesting pits and failed to construct one in their residential premises. Srinivasa Chary stressed on the need for generating awareness amongst the newer generations, who are the future custodians of Hyderabad. He found Hyderabad was facing the problem of sewage like most of the cities in the country, owing to lack of proper planning and a scientific approach. He lamented that the city which is home to the country’s premier institutions, failed to resolve various issues, including cleaning of the Musi River.

He opined that rather than contacting institutions from Norway, the city could have taken the help of some of the top research institutions which were located in Hyderabad itself. Eminent artiste, Padmashri K Laxma Goud was the Chief Guest whereas Dr Rakesh K Mishra, Director of CCMB (Hyderabad) was the Guest of Honour.

The function was presided over by M Vedakumar, President of FBH and Governing Council Member of INTACH. Laxma Goud expressed nostalgia for the Hyderabad which existed a few decades earlier and lamented the loss of its ambience. He felt that consecutive governments had neglected the aesthetic and emotional values of the city and its people, which had existed for hundreds of years, in the name of development.

He spoke out against the demolition of heritage structures for the construction of skyscrapers. Rakesh Mishra provided examples of countries like Switzerland, where citizens were important stakeholders and participated in the entire development process of their cities. He described the social media as an important tool of campaign.

Vedakumar gave an account of how Hyderabad, known for its greenery and lakes, slowly turned into a concrete jungle in the last couple of decades. He said that no city had a forest cover like Hyderabad, with the Qutubshahi and Asafjahi dynasties following a policy of controlled development in and around the city. He pointed out that HUDA and later HMDA had come up with master plans without a regional plan or any proper consultation. OM Debara, General Secretary of FBH read out the annual report of the Forum, while Joint Secretary Sangamitra Malik convened the programme.

- http://www.thehansindia.com/, June 6, 2016

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Embassy in Yangon on heritage list

Yangon’s Heritage Trust recently recognised the Indian embassy on Yangon’s Merchant Road as the latest historic building to receive a Blue Plaque. YHT awards Blue Plaques to distinguish Yangon’s top architectural landmarks. Blue Plaques are permanent signs installed on a public place to commemorate a link between the location and a famous person, event, or landmark. They serve as a kind of historical marker.

Myanmar Times reported the plaque was installed, last week, on the tallest embassy structure in the city to recognise its historical and architectural features.

inside no 5 with caption The 12th commemorative Blue Plaque of Yangon was unveiled at the Indian Embassy in Yangon, as a mark of historic heritage trust (30 May 2016). Built in 1914 to house the offices of a Calcutta-based insurance firm, Oriental Life Assurance, the building has been occupied by the Indian embassy since 1957. A 1999 to 2000 renovation left many of the original building’s signature features in place, the report said.

YHT founder and chairman, U Thant Myint-U, was quoted saying this century-old building was important, not so much for being the home of the Oriental Life Assurance Company, but more due to its status as the Embassy of India since the 1950s.

“There are so many places in downtown Yangon that can be regarded as a shared heritage between India and Myanmar, for example places linked to the many visits of Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru in the early 20th century,” he said.

Sites that have received Blue Plaques include City Hall, AYA Bank headquarters, the Armenian Church, the Central Fire Station, the General Post Office, Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank, the Central Press Buidlind, Sofaer Building, GTI Insein, and Maha Bandoola Park in Kyauktada township. The commemorative Blue Plaque is part of YHT’s efforts to protect Yangon’s architectural and cultural heritage.

- http://www.ttrweekly.com/, June 6, 2016

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Speculations over Hampi photoshoot

Was that just a photoshoot of a couple or a film shooting? Speculations are doing the rounds in Hampi over an alleged photoshoot of a man and a woman by three photographers in restricted areas allegedly without permission on Wednesday. Till Saturday, it was believed to be a photoshoot of a couple from Kerala. But now, it is said that a film was shot there.

Some vendors at Kamal Mahal said that three photographers were filming a couple on Wednesday. Though it looked like a cinema shooting, they (photographers) claimed that it was just a photo shoot for a wedding, they added.

Nagaraj M, member of Sri Hampi Virupaksheshwar Guides' Union, said that a Malayalam movie was shot 15 days ago. 'They had taken permission from the archaeology department," he said. Claiming anonymity, another guide said that some low-budget filmmakers might have shot without permission.

"The department has hiked the fee for commercial shootings from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh from April. Since then, some directors have shot films in restricted areas in the guise of tourists," he added.

Sources in Archaeological Sub-Circle Hampi claimed that no director or producer had obtained permission to shoot any film at Hampi in this week. N C Prakash Nayakand, deputy superintendent of Archaeological Sub-Circle Hampi, was not available for comments.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 6, 2016

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Guwahati becomes first city in India to have City Animal, declares River Dolphin as mascot

River Dolphin locally known as 'Sihu', would be the 'City Animal' of Guwahati. The Assam state capital on Monday become the first city in the country to have its own City Animal with the Kamrup Metropolitan district administration declaring the Gangetic River Dolphin as the mascot. In a press conference, Kamrup Metropolitan Deputy Commissioner M Angamuthu said that the animal, locally known as 'Sihu', would be the 'City Animal' of Guwahati.

The district administration had organised online and off-line voting among three protected creatures, which are on the verge of extinction, to decide the mascot. Along with Gangetic River Dolphin, the other two animals were Black Softshell Turtle (Bor Kaso) and Greater Adjutant Stork (Hargila).

While less than 2,000 Gangetic River Dolphins remain in the Brahmaputra along Guwahati, a recent survey said only a small population of Black Softshell Turtle were found in the river and its tributaries. The number of Greater Adjutant Stork is less than 1,200 in and around the state capital.

The three-month long voting process attracted 60,003 participants to decide the City Animal and Gangetic River Dolphin received 24,247 votes. While Greater Adjutant Stork got 18,454 votes, Black Softshell Turtle was the choice of 17,302 people.

In the off-line voting, 76 schools and colleges across Guwahati participated. Along with the Kamrup Metropolitan district administration, other organisations such as Assam Forest Department, Assam State Biodiversity Board and an NGO Help Earth worked closely to decide the City Animal, he said.

- http://www.dnaindia.com/, June 6, 2016

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State to provide Rs500 crore for Raigad fort development

Announcing that the state government would provide Rs500 crore for overall development of the historic Raigad fort and its adjoining areas, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said that his government was committed to the conservation of all the forts in the state and getting them a place in Unesco's World Heritage list.

Fadnavis was speaking at a programme organised to mark the 343rd year of the coronation of Shivaji Maharaj, who became Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj after the coronation in 1674. Minister for culture Vinod Tawde, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, MLC Sunil Tatkare, MLA Jayant Patil, Konkan divisional commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh and Raigad district collector Sheetal Teli-Ugale were also present at the event. A coffee table book titled 'Rajdhaani Raigad', which has a photograph taken by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, was released by the chief ministe during the programme.

Pointing out that the archaeology department has placed the forts in Maharashtra under category B, Fadnavis said that because of this, the forts cannot receive funding from various agencies, including international funding. He said that the state government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the archaeological department for the conservation of all the historic forts and his government would ensure adequate funding for the same from the government treasury.

Fadnavis said that there are many places in Unesco's heritage list, but the historic forts in Maharashtra do not figure in the list. He added that he recently discussed this issue with Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje and, under his guidance, the state government would ensure that the forts are included in the list.

Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje said that he appreciated the fact that despite bad weather, Fadnavis made it a point to attend this programme. When he said that Fadnavis was the first chief minister to attend this programme, there was a huge round of applause from the audience. Tawde said that his department has included Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's management skills, along with his war strategies, in the fourth-standard text book so that students can inculcate these values.

- http://www.dnaindia.com, June 7, 2016

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Delhi residents lose 6.3 life years from exposure to PM 2.5: Study

The figures in Delhi — the highest among all states — are also double the national average of reduction in life expectancy which is 3.3 years. Air pollution in India can cause about half a million premature mortalities every year, and exposure to fine particulate matter in India reduces life expectancy by about 3.4 years. Delhi, meanwhile, tops the list in the number of life years lost — as many as 6.3 years — due to exposure to particulate matter 2.5.

The figures in Delhi — the highest among all states — are also double the national average of reduction in life expectancy which is 3.3 years. Dr Sachin Ghude, IITM scientist and co-author of the study, Premature Mortality in India due to PM 2.5 and Ozone Exposure, said such deaths were double that of 300,000 deaths globally caused by human impact of global warming and climate change.

The study — published in Geophysical Research Letters — was done by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA and Atmospheric Chemistry Observations and Modeling Laboratory.

Findings of IIT-led study on Delhi: Commuters exposed to high pollution levels, cyclists are worst hitThose travelling by public transport most at risk of air pollution: CSEChoking on airEvery breath we takeHeart failure linked to air pollution: studyAircraft fuel emissions causing deaths in India: StudyFindings of IIT-led study on Delhi: Commuters exposed to high pollution levels, cyclists are worst hitThose travelling by public transport most at risk of air pollution: CSEChoking on airEvery breath we takeHeart failure linked to air pollution: studyAircraft fuel emissions causing deaths in India: StudyFindings of IIT-led study on Delhi: Commuters exposed to high pollution levels, cyclists are worst hitThose travelling by public transport most at risk of air pollution: CSEChoking on airEvery breath we takeHeart failure linked to air pollution: studyAircraft fuel emissions causing deaths in India: Study

“Exposure to fine particulate matter in India reduces life expectancy by about 3.4 years, with Delhiites losing 6.3 years. Air pollution is cutting the lives of those living in polluted states of West Bengal and Bihar by 6.1 years and 5.7 years,” said the scientist.

Although, these results are in line with other global estimates (e.g. Global Burden Of Disease GBD, WHO,) there is no way to tell how many deaths can be attributed to air pollution, said Ghude.

“The methods used in this study rely on statistical algorithms to construct estimates about a population’s response to pollution exposure using previous concrete observations on pollution and public health. The problem is that most of these observational studies have taken place in regions with comparatively low pollution levels, such as Europe or the U.S. We don’t have any epidemiological studies in India that look at the long-term effects of air pollution on mortality. In this work, we have extrapolated human responses to high pollution levels using results from less polluted places. However, it is the only available option for this type of research until the studies are conducted in India,” he added.

The study uses ‘value of a statistical life’ approach, which is the monetary value of a change in a person’s likelihood of dying or amount of money a society would be willing to spend to save an individual citizen’s life.

“We found the cost of the estimated premature moralities came to about $640 billion in 2011 — about 10 times the country’s total expenditure on health in 2011,” said Ghude.

- http://indianexpress.com, June 7, 2016

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Art & crafts festival at Urban Haat

An art and crafts festival is on till June 12 at Cidco's Urban Haat at CBD Belapur. The fest that began on Monday will showcase wall hangings, wooden crafts, Madhubani, miniature, landscape and Rajasthani paintings.

Saree and dress lovers can shop for designer dress suits and Banarasi sarees, Chanderi and Maheshwari sarees of MP, Patola and Bandhani sarees of Gujarat, Kota sarees of Rajasthan and Gujarat, Kanchipuram and silk sarees of Tamil Nadu. Food lovers can relish Rajasthani and Delhi chaats, Kolhapuri, Malvani and Konkan delicacies. Cultural programmes, dramas and a film festival will be held in the weekends from 7pm.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 8, 2016

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Kotli Fort needs restoration

This has a reference to news item “Priya reviews Samba Fort Restoration Plan”. DE May 30. In this connection I would like to request the Minister to engage “Intach” for protection and restoration of Kotli Fort in village Ladden (Udhampur) on the pattern of restoration of Samba Fort.

It is pertinent to mention here that due to constant neglect on the part of concerned authorities all the forts and palaces of Udhampur district have been turned inton “Ruins” except Fort and Palaces of Ramnagar. It is painful to mention that Forts/Palaces of Udhampur were dismantled to run Boys Higher Secondary School, the Jaganoo Fort is also being used for Higher Secondary School.

The famous Chandervanshi Palace where shooting of “Jaani Dushman” film took place, was dismantled to construct Tehsil building. The Guest House (only remains of Buildings of Raja Chenani) is being used as Police Station without any repair and renovation. Other Forts of Udhampur have lost their existence. The “Inns” and “Hawelies” at Holy Devika have collapsed.

This “Kotli Fort” which is also called as Ladden Fort is very near to Chenani Power House clearly visible on the opposite of National Highway at a distance of four kilometers from city Headquarters. Near the Fort, there is an old temple of Mata Jalandhra Ji the Kul Devi of Chandervanshi kings of Chenani. It is believed that Raja Dayal Chand of Chenani built this strong Fort for protection of State from advancing Sikh Forces/Jammu Darbar expansion. Everybody going to Srinagar from Udhampur or back was eager to know the History of this Fort as it was in excellant condition, but due to utter neglect both the sacred temple and the Fort are in a miserable condition to the extent that only some walls and pillars are available on the ground. J&K State Govt and the Minister Priya Sethi are requested to order restoration of ‘Kotli’ Fort like Samba Fort, so that remains of famous Chenani State are saved from further destruction of research and tourism.

- http://www.dailyexcelsior.com, June 9, 2016

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Mehbooba takes up brother’s idea of revitalizing Kashmiri art and craft

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday asserted that heritage arts like shawls , papier mache and Basholi paintings will be incentivized so that people do not leave these sectors.

Speaking at the legislative council today on the new industrial policy, Mehbooba said her government may have to invest in order to ensure marketing facilities for all these heritage arts which are facing severe pressure.

Interestingly, Mehbooba's brother, Mufti Tassaduq Hussian has proposed an art festival called "Reyshum-e-Kashmir-community Arts festival" at the silk factory tentatively in September.

Tassaduq said he dreams of revitalizing old Srinagar city. "It is ironical that what should have been the most thriving part of the Srinagar called down town, a showcase for its arts, craft and culture, is sadly the most impoverished," Tassaduq said.

He said, "It is these lives that must be improved before we begin to talk about a grander vision. It is impossible to scale mountains with an ailing heart and to talk about prosperity with a suffering core," Mufti Tassaduq added.

According to Tassaduq, the local artists will create art in the form of installations, paintings and videos inspired by revival and the history of the silk factory.

Mufti Tassaduq would take the help of Gurmeet S Rai, director and principal conservation architect and vice president, ICOMOS India, to help preserve the historic and architectural significance of Srinagar.

Asserting that there was no effort that the new industrial policy will impact or confront the provisions of Article 370, Mehbooba Mufti detailed new measures that are in the pipeline for the revival of art besides training the youth.

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said that the private sector is being involved to improve skills. While NHPC has already set up a training institution to help aspirants pick up the trades required by the energy market, Ms Mufti said that cellphone operators should chip in and adopt some ITIs and train boys and girls in assembling and repairing cellphones. Mufti Tassaduq says conservation of urban areas requires a multi-pronged approach where the needs of the community are addressed in an integrated manner thereby ensuring conservation of both, tangible and intangible heritage to achieve a paradigm for sustainable development of both nature and culture.

The younger Mufti is more worried about the dying art of silk manufacturing in Kashmir. "Hidden behind the Solina locality that runs along the under construction Ram Bagh flyover is the old silk factory. The factory stands as a memory of a bygone era when Kashmir had a thriving sericulture industry and we produced some of the best silk in the world," Mufti Tassaduq said.

Mufti Tassaduq, the lone son of former Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was seen in the news following the death ohis father at AIIMS on January 7, 2016. Tassaduq's joining politics in future has not been ruled out. He may fight by-elections for the south Kashmir parliamentary seat as soon as his sister Mehbooba Mufti vacates it, after she gets Anantnag MLA's seat for continuing as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

According to Tassaduq, he will certainly take a call in case the PDP wants him to contest the elections at any point in time. However, Tassaduq wants to revitalize Kashmiri art and craft that has gone into oblivion using modern gadgets.

Tassaduq Mufti disagrees with the idea that tourism is the main economic stake of Jammu and Kashmir. "The revival of forgotten art and craft besides the right marketing of the products manufactured would certainly help Kashmiris come out of the morass and would help generate resources for economic growth," Tassaduq said.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 9, 2016

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Mondavi Center announces 2016-17 season

The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, University of California, Davis announces its 15th season of performing arts, filled with the leading artists in music, dance, theater and speakers. The season, sponsored by Western Health Advantage, begins on Sept. 24 with a live taping of NPR’s “Science Friday” presented in collaboration with Capital Public Radio and concludes May 21, 2017 with a recital by the Alexander String Quartet.

“At the Mondavi Center, we aim to build seasons that present both established and emerging artists,” said Don Roth, executive director of the Mondavi Center. “In our 15th season, we take a global journey, welcoming artists from six of the seven continents to one of the finest performance venues in the United States.”

A global focus While each Mondavi Center season features artists from around the world, 2016–17 has a distinctly international profile stretching across multiple genres. Black Arm Band is a multimedia theater and music group from Australia performing dirtsong, a piece that delves into the country’s Aboriginal heartland. Joey Alexander is a 12 year-old jazz piano prodigy from Bali, Indonesia. China features prominently this season with traditional Chinese opera from the Sichuan Opera Theater and orchestral music from the China Philharmonic Orchestra. Bassem Youssef, often called the “Jon Stewart of Egypt,” brings a spoken word performance titled “The Joke is Mightier than the Sword.” India in the Artist’s Eye is a season-long festival presenting a variety of Indian artists. Working in partnership with UC Davis professor Archana Venkatesan, the festival features concerts from Bickram Ghosh’s Drums of India and Sikkil Gurucharan and Shujaat Khan, Swang-Nautanki Musical Theatre performing “Sultana Daku” and a documentary film festival curated by filmmaker Gargi Sen.

There is also a particularly strong focus on Latin America in this season’s offerings. Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Mahler’s “Ninth Symphony.” Harpist Edmar Casteneda merges the musical traditions of his native Colombia with jazz. Brazilian mandolinist Danilo Brito explores the melodic and rhythmic nuances of choro music with a virtuosic touch. The Havana Cuba All-Stars take a big band approach to classic Cuban song, in the spirit of Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club. Finally, from north of the border, Mondavi features spoken word artist and YouTube sensation Shane Koyczan; and the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia presenting the black light theatrical productions of Margaret Wise Brown’s “The Runaway Bunny” and “Goodnight Moon.”

Jazz and dance The Mondavi Center has a commitment to presenting the best in jazz, modern dance and roots music. This season the two jazz series, sponsored by Capital Public Radio, are filled with some of the finest artists working today. In Jackson Hall is the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, the SFJAZZ Collective performing the music of Miles Davis alongside its original compositions, Jelly and George, a tribute to Jelly Roll Morton and George Gershwin with Cécile McLorin Salvant and Aaron Diehl, and Aziza, a super group featuring Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke and Eric Harland. In the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre is piano prodigy Joey Alexander, Colombian harpist Edmar Casteneda and Etienne Charles delving into his Creole roots.

Modern dance is a keystone of any Mondavi Center season. The 2016–17 season features Ronald K. Brown/Evidence with a program inspired by his visits to Cuba; San Francisco’s ODC/Dance presenting a masterwork inspired by Andy Goldsworthy’s sculpture; and a return from the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Orchestra, chamber and recital Classical programming is one of the hallmarks of the Mondavi Center and this season boasts many highlights. In addition to the debut of the Los Angeles Philharmonic on the Orchestra Series, there are two concerts with the Bruckner Orchester Linz, one featuring the west coast premiere of Philip Glass’ “Symphony No. 11? alongside Duke Ellington’s rarely performed “Black, Brown and Beige Suite.” Audience favorites Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell return in individual recitals on the Concert Series. And musical completists should note two special programs: The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center performing the complete “Brandenburg Concertos” of J.S. Bach and the students of the Curtis Chamber Orchestra tackling the complete Mozart “Violin Concertos” across two performances in one day.

Speakers The Speakers Series, sponsored by Downey Brand, features an updated format, with lectures followed by Question and Answer sessions moderated by KVIE’s Studio Sacramento host Scott Syphax. Appearing this year are actor, activist and social media star George Takei, Ira Flatow and a live taping of “Science Friday,” Bassem Youssef (mentioned above), Campus Community Book Project author Dr. Raj Patel speaking on his book “Stuffed and Starved” and National Geographic Live presenting photographer Jodi Cobb. For families and children Each Mondavi Center season features a number of performances geared towards young audiences. In addition to the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia (listed above), the Children’s Stage series, sponsored by the Hallmark Inn, Davis, includes Joseph Cashore and his Cashore Marionettes performing a signature work, “Simple Gifts,” and the interactive exhibit of oversized instruments, “Sound Maze” by Paul Dresher. The Marvels series, sponsored by the UC Davis Health System, is a gateway to movement based art, which this year features juggling wizards The Passing Zone, glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs from Lightwire and the architecturally inspired Diavolo, performing a brand new work titled “L.O.S.T.: Passengers” in honor of its 25th anniversary.

Complete information about the Mondavi Center’s 2016-17 season of performances, including dates, times, subscription prices and venues will be available at mondaviarts.org.

- http://www.villagelife.com, June 9, 2016

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Rights groups say culling won't help lessen human-animal conflict

With Union Ministers Maneka Gandhi and Prakash Javadekar locking horns over the culling of animals, including nilgai, animal rights bodies on Thursday expressed "shock" over the environment ministry's stand saying such killings will not help mitigate human-animal conflict.

Noting that more than 500 people lost their lives in human-wildlife conflicts last year, the environment ministry, however, said there are standard operating processes laid down in Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and permission for "scientific management" of human-animal conflict has been given to Uttarakhand, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh. "We are shocked. Prakash Javadekar is unfit to be the environment minister. Since the time he has come, he has only done bad things for environment. Nilgai (blue bull) is a very serious issue. Nilgai is not the problem but the loss of its habitat is. We are challenging the constitutional validity of Section 62 (of Wildlife Act), which is a very arbitrary section.

"It gives power to the central government to declare what it wants to. We have gone to the Environment Ministry and suggested that we should do mitigation and adaptation work. As the Environment Minister, he (Javadekar) needs to understand that he is a trustee of environment and he has to ensure that it is protected for coming generations," NG Jayasimha, member of Animal Welfare Board of India (ABWI), told PTI.

Representational image. Reuters Representational image. Reuters Noting it is an issue of management of human-animal conflict, Greenpeace India said killing of animals is not the answer, especially when "you start declaring it as a vermin as it will only change the mindset."

"India is celebrated and recognised worldwide for the tolerance and its ability to live along with nature. Something of this sort will have a huge impact on how the general population would view. It can have all kinds of knock down effect.

"You cannot say that elephant is a national heritage animal and at another level, you say it's vermin. (Labelling them as) vermin will deeply affect ethos of Indian population towards biodiversity and nature," Ravi Chellam, Executive Director of Greenpeace India said.

Inspector General of Wildlife, Environment Ministry, SK Khanduri said that last year, more than 500 people lost their lives in human-wildlife conflicts and there are standard operating processes laid down in Wildlife (Protection) Act.

"Therefore, the Ministry has not given any permission to kill either deer, peacock or elephant," he said in a statement.

However, there are other organisations which said that culling or declaring vermin is an ecological management tool and maintained that it was a fact that blue bulls and monkeys are creating problems for farmers.

"Blue bulls and monkeys are creating problems in a lot of states including Bihar and HP. Declaration of vermin is like a population management tool. Vermin is a general practice in African countries as well where they even kill elephants.

"If you look at it as a animal welfare perspective, it will be wrong but if you look at it from ecological management perspective, it's a right move. There is nothing wrong in it,"said Ajay Saxena, programme manager (forestry) at Centre for Science and Environment.

- http://www.firstpost.com, June 9, 2016

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India rejects study claiming killer pollution levels

The union government on Wednesday rejected a study on pollution published in the Geophysical Research Letters Journal of the American Geophysical Union.

"We reject the claims made in the so-called research article that each Indian loses six years of his / her life because of pollution. The ministry of earth sciences does not agree with the study and completely rejects it," minister of state of environment, forests and climate change Prakash Javadekar said in a statement in Delhi.

According to the study, air pollution has reduced the life expectancy of Indians by an average of 3.4 years with Delhi topping the list at 6.3 years.

Delhi is followed by West Bengal and Bihar at the reduced life expectancy at 6.1 years and 5.7 years, respectively, stated the study conducted by the city-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in collaboration with the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Colorado

The study report, titled Premature mortality in India due to PM2.5 (fine particulate material) and O3 (Ozone) exposure reveals that PM2.5 has claimed 570,000 lives in 2011, while Ozone 3 has claimed 12,000 lives in the same year.

Along with Delhi and Bihar, other states where life expectancy is found reduced due to air pollution are: Jharkhand (5.2 years), Uttar Pradesh and Odisha (4.8 years), Haryana and Punjab (4.7 years), Chattisgarh (4.1years), Assam (4 years), Tripura (3.9 years), Meghalaya (3.8 years) and Maharashtra (3.3 years).

The minister said the study is based on regional atmospheric chemistry model and statistical algorithm to construct estimates. "This (study) is based on studies in Europe and America, which have been extrapolated on India. It has not been done on sampling and not based on long-term observations."

Javadekar said the government is however serious about tackling pollution.

"India recognises pollution as a major problem and we are tackling it very seriously. But there are other pollutants also that are harmful to health. Ozone is a pollutant that has an adverse impact on life and which is predominantly present in California. NOx is another pollutant present much more in Mexico, UAE and China, than in India.

"SOx is another pollutant that is serious. Every pollutant adversely affects health. So, on different pollutants, countries have different experiences and different status. But we recognise that in India, because of the neglect over the last 10 years, the pollution problem has become serious, particularly in cities," the minister said.

- http://www.domain-b.com, June 9, 2016

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Delhi Tourism partners with India City Walks to offer night walk experience during Ramadan

Night Walks to be introduced to more places: Delhi Tourism Minister

Delhi Tourism in association with Delhi City Walks, a flagship initiative of India City Walks, has started a culture and heritage trail of Shahjahanabad area (old Delhi) during nights to introduce the festive and cultural life of the city during the ongoing month of Ramadan. The trail was inaugurated by Kapil Misra, Tourism Minister of Delhi, from the historical Jama Masjid by participating in the iftaar.

The discerning visitors will be taken around the alleys of Old Delhi like Matia Mahal in a cycle rickshaw and introduced to the life and culture, the cuisines during the festive month.

Speaking on the occasion, the Tourism Minister said that 'night life' is often construed wrongly by the people to refer to discotheques and pubs. The night trails will be extended to areas like Mehrauli soon, he added. He said that objective is to offer night life experiences in an organised, safe and secure way with the support of professional guides.

Talking about the initiative, Sachin Bansal, Founder, India City Walks, said that they have been doing heritage walks for the last five years and this is the first time they are organising night walks during iftaar around the Old City. "We have a well curated trail around festivity associated with Ramadan, rituals, food trail of old city, heritage, etc. to make the experience wholesome" he added.

- http://www.travelbizmonitor.com, June 9, 2016

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Delhi's oldest church gears up for facelift

Rumblings of trains at the busy Kashmere Gate metro station and opening of the underground Metro 'Heritage Line,' have damaged St James' Church's foundation, officials claim.

The oldest church of Delhi, St James' at Kashmere Gate, is up for a facelift. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), an NGO dedicated to historical restoration, has prepared a detailed project report (DPR) for conservation of the early 19th century building.

REASONS BEHIND THE DAMAGE Rumblings of trains at the busy Kashmere Gate metro station in the vicinity of the church for years, has damaged its foundation, officials claim. Further, opening of the underground Metro 'Heritage Line,' barely five minutes from the St James' church complex, may lead to more damage. The much-anticipated 9.3 km line, mapping several old Delhi monuments, is slated for an August 15 inauguration.

Built next to Yamuna river centuries back, the groundwater table here is still high - 3 metres - leading to seepage and drainage issues. Many beautiful architectural features - such as plinths, cornices and mouldings - have faded as a result. Black fungus spotting has occurred on walls, plaster is exposed and the yellow paint is peeling off at several places.

SIMILAR TO ITALY'S FLORENCE CATHEDRAL

Built in 1836 AD, it is a 'Grade-I' notified heritage building under the jurisdiction of North Municipal Corporation of Delhi (Zone C).

Sunil Joseph, a representative at St James Church, confirmed, "Yes, we have assigned the restoration work to INTACH. It has begun."

Ajay Kumar, Project Director at INTACH said, "It's a prominent landmark of Kashmere Gate and old Delhi. It was built by an East India Company army officer, Colonel James Skinner, in 1836 AD."

He added, "It reflects the basic design of a 'Renaissance Revival' style church on a cruciform plan (Greek Cross) with three porticoed porches and an octagonal dome." "It is similar to Italy's Florence Cathedral. Also, it used Mughal brick masonry in lime mortar, prevalent in that era," he said.

"St James' Church beautifully married the two cultures it was born in," he added.

MONUMENT OF COLONIAL ERA

INTACH has also prepared a list of valuable possessions belonging to the St James' Church, which need scientific restoration. This includes the graves of Col Skinner and his family of 14 wives and children; British Commissioner of Delhi, William Frazer, and Thomas Metcalfe. The original European 'stainedglass windows' depicting the Crucifixion, Ascension of Christ and his Resurrection, are some of the very rare pieces in the church's possession. Among its other great items, is a painting called 'The Prodigal Son.' It is believed to be an original work of Italian painter Pompeo Batani and hangs on the south-western wall of the church. A processional cross gifted by Lord Irwin, a rare musical instrument, Pipe Organ, gifted in 1899 by T Ralph. Douse, and its Church bell are also listed by INTACH. The NGO has also recommended promoting St James' Church within the Delhi tourist circle. At present, it is visited by 14-150 people for service. However, there was a time when its guests included Queen Elizabeth (1961) and the Archbishop of Canterbury (1995).

- http://indiatoday.intoday.in, June 10, 2016

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Rajkhowa bats for preservation of archaeological sites in State

FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
Itanagar, June 9: Governor Jyoti Prashad Rajkhowa has stressed on the need for preservation and proper maintenance of all the archaeological sites in the state to boost tourism.

Interacting with a delegation from the New Delhi-based Indian Archaeological Society (IAS) led by its Chairman Dr K N Dixit at Raj Bhawan here on Wednesday, the governor referred to the large number of significant, fascinating and exclusive archaeological sites in the state which, have rich history and also referred in Indian epics and mythologies.

"These sites are located in different parts of the state from east to west including Parasuram Kund near Tezu, Vasudev Mandir near Nari, Malinithan near Likabali, Itafort in Itanagar, Shivling at Ziro and Dirang Dzong in Dirang," he said to the delegation, an official release informed here today.

"With more research, discoveries and archaeological activities in the state, these sites can throw lights on the rich history of these places, its people and their cultural heritages. Such activities will add to the cultural richness of the state and also attract lots of people interested in the archaeology," he pointed out.

The governor added that, "it will bring in tourists, through cultural and heritage tourism, which in turn will enhance the economy of the state."

Rajkhowa emphasized that the indigenous people of the state have to shoulder the responsibility in order to preserve the culture, history and folklores as these sites are connected and correlated in many aspects.

The delegation informed that the IAS, Indian History and Culture Society New Delhi and Indian Society for Prehistoric and Quaternary Studies Pune, in collaboration with Rajiv Gandhi University are going to conduct the annual conference of Indian Archaeological Society from February 9 to 11 next year in the state. The three-day conference would be attended by large number of experts and researchers from all over India.

The governor, who has been stressing on conducting important national level seminar or conference of IAS in Arunachal Pradesh so that archaeological and exotic cultural richness of the state could be highlighted, appreciated the Society for its proposal, the release added

-http://www.sentinelassam.com, June 10, 2016

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Jacqueline Fernandez Joins UN Campaign to Halt Illegal Animal Trade

our nature’s wonders and can turn us into conservationists, scientists and people who care about the natural world around us.” She added, “Kids’ rooms all across the globe are filled with stuffed likenesses of these iconic species. Wouldn’t it be tragic to know they disappeared in our lifetime? The illegal trade in wildlife is threatening these majestic beasts, and we have to join forces to stop it. Today, I am giving my name to change the game for tigers. Join me and do something amazing.”

Fernandez is also being joined by major celebrities from China, Indonesia, Lebanon and Vietnam, all battling to conserve species such as orangutans, tigers, rhinos and helmeted hornbills, and calling for citizen support to end the demand that is driving the illegal trade.

Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in Africa. Three rhinos are killed every day, and the Western Black Rhino has already gone extinct. Pangolins — scaly anteaters — are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. Great apes are already locally extinct in several African nations.

The campaign asks participants to find their kindred species and use their own spheres of influence to end this.

Profits from the illegal wildlife trade sometimes go into the pockets of international criminal networks, threatening peace and security, and damaging the livelihoods of local communities who depend on tourism.

Stopping this trade is also crucial to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as it threatens countries’ biodiversity and people’s livelihoods, and disturbs the peace. SDG 15 in particular calls for the protection of wild fauna and flora as well as the ecosystems that they depend on, including targets on combating and addressing the supply and demand of illegal wildlife products.

Politicians, celebrities, and business leaders made pledges during UNEA-2. World Environment Day, which took place June 5, was themed “Go Wild For Life” to tie in with the campaign. Angola, the global host of World Environment Day, made significant pledges to tackle the illegal ivory trade at the event.

Steppenwolf’s lead singer, John Kay, donated the use of Born to Be Wild — one of the top three international music licenses of all time for Universal Music — to the campaign. Readers can join the campaign by visiting www.wildfor.life and using the #Wildforlife hashtag on Twitter to share your kindred animal and pledge.

This story was originally published on India West.

- http://www.india.com, June 10, 2016

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Prepared to fight the endemic

The district health officials are pepped up to tackle the contagious diseases which is expected to rear its ugly head this monsoon season. Arrangements have been made and medical officials in the district have been asked to be on alert against outbreak of the communicable diseases. Pointing out that several programmes have been envisaged as part of its drive to prevent any outbreak of fever and contagious disease, DMO Dr K Venugopal said that cleanliness drive and mosquito eradication programmes have already been done across the district.

Precautions
In case of fever, the doctors have advised against self-treatment. Proper clinical diagnosis is important before taking medicines. In case of fever, the people have been asked not to go out as it could spread the disease. Personal hygiene is most important in keeping away water-borne diseases. The people should ensure that fresh water bodies are not polluted. The DMO office has asked people to keep their surroundings free of sources where mosquitoes can breed. Empty coconut shells, broken bags, mugs, buckets and latex-collecting shells in rubber plantations are some of the major breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The doctors have also asked to use boiled water for drinking purposes.

Vacancies being filled
Venugopal said that the department has started filling up the vacancies which had affected the workings of the department. The medical officers in the district have been asked to make sure that medicines are available for the next three months. They have also been given permission to make local purchases in case of any shortage of drugs, he added. Venugopal said that fever clinics will begin functioning at places where there are more than two doctors. Apart from this, fever wards will also be started, he added. The district programme officers have also been given charge of each block and have been asked to immediately report in case of any epidemic outbreak. Meanwhile, an epidemic cell has also started functioning at the DMO office. The epidemic cell is also connected with the Control cell at the District Collectorate, he said. The Rapid Response Team which has been constituted to efficiently tackle emergency situations have also become active in the state.

Warning Bells Ring in Coastal Areas
He said that the district was more prone to Leptospirosis, Dengue and Malaria. The coastal area, corporation limits and its adjacent regions are more prone to epidemics, he said and added that preparations had begun from February for tackling the monsoon season. The primary focus was on mosquito eradication and cleanliness drive, Venugopal said. "In February itself, we convened ward level sanitation committees and the main focus was on mosquito eradication," he said and added that that the density of mosquitoes had been brought down following the drive.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com, June 10, 2016

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Round 2 of startup series held at CII

Ahmedabad chapter of CII's Young Indians (YI) on Thursday organized 2nd session of 'Super Startups-Inspiring' event. Two social startups - G-Auto and Ability on Wheels -showcased their presentations at CII House.

Drive against malnourishment: Samvedana, an NGO, introduced a 100-day drive 'Sattva' - An initiative towards eradicating malnourishment. In all, 805 malnourished children will benefit.

Cept prof appointed coordinator: Jigna Desai, assistant professor and area chair for conservation at faculty of architecture, Cept University is appointed coordinator for the National Scientific Committee (NSC) for historic towns and villages at International Council for Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), India.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 10, 2016

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Triad of cultures enriches photographer’s work

The pillars of Parvathi Kumar’s life and art form a triangle spanning three nations and two continents. The avid photographer makes her home in Bridgewater, grew up in Canada, and cherishes her Indian cultural heritage.

The Bernardsville Public Library presents “Photographic Art by Parvathi Kumar“ during the month of June. The exhibit features 35 images Kumar culled during travels to the three key regions of her life’s journey, plus places beyond.

Kumar captured the majority of the exhibited images with a DSLR camera, but never scruples to use her Smartphone when warranted.

“Regardless of the physical tool and the technical and compositional rules or conventions,” said Kumar, “I’m primarily guided by my inner voice and intuition for the final release of the shutter, and while editing images in post-processing.”

Kumar’s mother initiated her into the charms of photography at age 14, imparting a passion for the art that has never abated. Although travel photography represents her foremost interest, Kumar’s images do not fit the documentary model.

“Unusual perspectives that bend toward beauty and simplicity are what my eye aims to capture,” she explained. “I also delight in everyday objects, both as they are in themselves and in their potential for digital manipulation.”

Kumar exercises a sensibility sharply attuned to elements of pattern and design--particularly toward formal modulations and rhythmic repetitions. The kaleidoscopic exuberance of “Sandals & Slippers” impresses simultaneously as a vibrant abstract expression, and as an atmospheric evocation of India’s urban street dynamics.

“It’s simply a snapshot of a vendor’s footwear in Bengaluru, India,” said Kumar. “But the colors and patterns are striking--drawing in the eye and leading the imagination to wonder.”

Kumar ventures into the surreal realm of Hypnos with compositions like her contemplative reverie on the clock tower of the Ferry Building at San Francisco’s Embarcadero. She isolates, distills, and recombines the essence of the elements of the scene, transforming a familiar monument into a signpost of the mysterious and paradoxical.

“‘Reflections of San Francisco’ reflects my love for using reflections in photos, and finding unusual perspectives on well-known landmarks,” said Kumar. “There’s some illusory play--some ‘magic’--in the setting of the image.”

Kumar revels in saturated hues, sometimes packing an image with a lyrical medley of colors, at other times condensing a few potent primaries to spotlight their resonant complementarity. On occasion she may abandon color altogether.

“I value and explore the qualities of grayscale, which brings out the elegance of a subject’s shape and form,” Kumar explained. “I took ‘Canoes Docked for the Day’ at dusk on Jenny Lake in Grand Teton; we see the simple lines of the tranquil canoe shapes, and imagine the lake water lapping at the shore.”

Between her career and her avocations, Kumar balances the twin motives of technical science and artistic expression. She earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Concordia University in Montreal and a master’s in computer science from NJIT, and has worked in telecom software development for a decade. Besides photography, she is expert in classical guitar and the Bharata Natyam dance tradition of India, and actively teaches yoga.

Kumar has absorbed vast, deep resources of culture, and acquired an impressive diversity of knowledge and skills, all of which feed into her photographic practice.

“Through my work,” said Kumar, “I hope to transport viewers to another time and place, find emotion or solace from an isolated moment, or interpret a timeless story of their own.”

PHOTOGRAPHIC ART BY PARVATHI KUMAR

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays, through June 29

WHERE: The Bernardsville Public Library, 1 Anderson Hill Road, Bernardsville

ADMISSION: Free

INFO: 908-766-0118 or www.bernardsvillelibrary.org

- http://www.mycentraljersey.com, June 10, 2016

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Nashik kids selected for Hong Kong cult fest

Nine students from Nashik's Atharva Music Academy have been selected for the International Cultural Olympiad of Performing Arts 2016 which is scheduled to be held at Hong Kong by Akhil Bharatiya Sanskrutik Sangh (ABSS)' Global Council of Art and Culture.

"Pranali Shankpal, Dhanashree Simant, Samruddhi Gangurde, Damini Maneshikar, Nandini Yedekar, Sagar Kulkarni, Sarthak Khairnar, Sanket Bhonsale, and Mayur Ahirrao participated in the qualifying round of the competition that was held at Pune as part of the 12th Global Harmony All India Multilingual Drama, Dance, Music Festival between May 31 and June 1.

They secured first position in the group song category and qualified for the Hong Kong cultura festival," said Sarita Vairagkar, Director of Atharva Sangeet Vidyalaya. These students will now participate in the cultural Olympiad to be held between December 28 and 31 at Hong Kong.

"Apart from these students, Atharva Vairagkar won first prize in solo harmonium playing contest while Sanket Bhonsale also qualified in synthesizer category for the global art festival. This is a matter of pride for Nashik that nine of its young musicians and singers would represent India on a global platform," Vairagkar added.

This Global Olympiad will be held in different age categories and different styles -- repertory, ethnic and freestyle in vocal, instrumental and dance category. Also, there is multilingual mono-act, solo and group song and short play category. Top three artists from each styles will be awarded with Gold, Silver, Bronze medals and merit certificates. Akhil Bharatiya Sanskrutik Sangh (ABSS) is a renowned organisation in Pune engaged in a variety of Global integrity development programs covering various cultural and social events, culture, sports, uplifting the children and youths. For the past more than 12 years, the ABSS is closely working amongst the children from grass root levels.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 11, 2016

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Call to youth to make yoga mass movement

All people, especially the youth, must participate in the International Day of Yoga celebrations in Chandigarh on June 21 in large numbers and make yoga a mass movement, AYUSH Minister Shripad Yesso Naik has said.

Making an appeal to people from all walks of life to come forward “to promote the rich cultural heritage of India, especially Yoga, as a unifying movement throughout the world”, Naik on Friday said a two-day International Conference on Yoga for Body and Beyond will be held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, on June 22-23.

He also said that the International Day of Yoga will be celebrated all across the nation. All state and UT governments have been asked to celebrate the event at the state headquarter, district, block and village level.

Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher also urged the people to rise above politics to promote yoga, especially among girls.

Ajit M Sharan, secretary, AYUSH, stated that an amount of Rs.15 crore is being spent throughout the country for the promotion of yoga by the AYUSH Ministry. The participating institutions, states and corporate bodies are also funding the Yoga Promotion Programmes under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.

- www.thestatesman.com, June 11, 2016

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'15 ornamental fish species pose threat to native species'

As many as 27 ornamental fish species have been reported in the inland wetlands of India and 15 of these have emerged as a threat to the native fish species, according to an invasive alien species expert.

"These species lead to the extinction of several native fish. So far, 27 ornamental species have been reported in the inland wetlands of India. Among them, 15 have already established a good breeding population and have emerged as a threat to the native species," S. Sandilyan, Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law, National Biodiversity Authority, told IANS on Saturday.

"For example, the suckermouth catfish emerged as a big threat to our native diversity," he said.

Traders and hobbyists frequently breach the rules in India and introduce several ornamental fish species, including the notorious carnivorous piranha, he said.

The data provided by Sandilyan is published in a review article "Occurrence of ornamental fishes: a looming danger for Inland fish diversity of India" in Current Science journal on June 10.

"In the recent past, the global ornamental fish trade has emerged as a multi-billion dollar business. Exports have increased at an average rate of approximately 14 per cent per year."

India has enacted only a "limited number" of overt legislations on fisheries, in particular, ornamental fish trade and release of fishes in the wild, Sandilyan said in the review expressing his own views on the issue.

"Due to this lacuna, for the past two decades many alien fish species have been clandestinely brought into India by private aqua-culturists, entrepreneurs, hobbyists and aqua-industrialists for instant economic benefits. It is mostly by the traders through ports bypassing the quarantine, and recently online trade has paved the way for the entry of exotic ornamental fishes," he said.

"They outcompete the native species in several ways. For instance, they compete for food and shelter, consume the eggs, and the young ones of native species," he said.

To deal with the threat, Sandilyan suggests creating awareness among the public about the impacts of ornamental fishes when they released into wild.

"Stringent measures should be taken to monitor the aquarium fish trade and accidental release of exotic species into inland waters," he added.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 11, 2016

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Engagements

Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama: Swami Yatatmananda speaks on ‘Mundaka Upanishad’, Ashram premises, 5.30 p.m.

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)-Salem chapter, Salem 150 Committee and Periyar University: 150 years of formation of Salem city, ‘Salem short film festival 2016’, Urvasi, actor, inaugurates, Sona College of Technology, 8.30 a.m.; screening of the selected best short films, till 3 p.m.; distribution of prizes to the best short films, S. P. Muthuram, cinema director, chief guest, 4.30 p.m.

Paalam the Book Meet book stall: Readers Circle meeting, N. Balamurugan reviews the book Uruvagaum Ullam’ authored by V. S. Ramachandran, Sahasranamam presides, Advaitha Ashrama road, 11 a.m.

Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited: Fashion jewellery exhibition, Poompuhar showroom, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Ramzan Fast Timings: Ifthar 6.44 p.m.; Sahar ends 4.20 a.m.

NAMAKKAL

Southern India Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Agri Summit, exhibition, PGP Agricultural College premises, 10 a.m.

15 Tamil Nadu Battalion NCC: Combined annual training camp and Thal Sainik selection camp, Kandar’s College, Velur, 6 a.m.

- http://www.thehindu.com, June 12, 2016

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Classical architecture of Kashmir

Almost all the ancient and architectural sites and markets of sharikhas are in neglect and has been losing their historical grace, besides the monuments , the ancient royal graveyards , wonderful architectural buildings and historic lanes and bylines which once had been the zenith and splendor of old city had been decaying and losing their monumental grace. It is not only in srinager city, the classical architectural wonders of other historic cities and towns e.g.BaramullahSopor ,PompurBijbehera . Anantnag ,Kulgam and Shopian speaks of the similar public neglect. No doubt few years back, the state department of archaeology and JK chapter of INTACH has undertaken an initiate to document the most prestigious heritage buildings of Kashmir and hundreds of the buildings and heritage sites stands already documented, but so far as the preservation and conservation of this built heritage is concerned no such progress has been made so far with the result these heritage buildings are deteriorating and sometimes dismantled to gave away to new constructions.

Urban architecture

The historic cities had got a glorious classical architectural tradition which was not seen on other places . MirzaHaiderDaughlat while describing the oldurban architecture buildings of Kashmir writes , “in the town there are many lofty buildings constructed of fresh cut pine. Most of these are, at least, five storey’s high; each storey contains apartments, halls, galleries and towers. The beauty of their exterior defies description, and all who behold them for the first time, bite the figure of astonishment with the teeth of admiration.”

Usually the olden urban houses faced the same plan that of village houses. They have their faces towards the south and rare towards the other side’s but never towards the west. The houses were rectangular in plan and rarely square in plan. The plinths were formed of chiseled stones, other features were the same. These houses were built of baked bricks that too of smaller bricks called Bad shah bricks. These houses were better decorated than village houses and exhibited wooden lattice work designed windows and roshandans. These houses were covered over by brick bark roofs and rarely were thatched. These houses were of multi-story and never a single storey. Some of the houses were five stories.

P .N .K .Bamzai writes about the olden houses of srinagar, “the houses are mostly of two to four storey’s high and sometimes even more. The roofs which are slopping to throw off snow constructed of planks lay over with sheets of birch-bark to make them water light. A layer of loose earth is spread over the birch-bark to keep it in place white and violet lilies and red tulips grew on these roofs, presenting a lovely sight in spring “most of the brilliant houses are seen on the river sides of the city. Bernier, the European traveler has also seen such houses he writes “in the city of better class houses are situated on the river banks with beautiful gardens attached to them.”

Lawrence while referring to old-Srinagar writes, “in the city nearly all the houses of well to do people are roofed with birch barks and earth, so that looking down on Srinagar from the Hariparbat hill sees miles of verdant roofing.’

Apart from these wonderful monumental houses Srinagar city houses few such structures which can purely be said as copy of European residential houses.

During late 20th Century new architectural trends got introduced in the valley. These can be said as foreign architectural styles which hardly carried any local influences. These are concrete structures with metallic roofs. These super-structures are square in plan and formed of bricks of 4”X9” size.

These houses have been laid in cement plasters and depict somehow the European styles. The innovations in the structures still continues and much more advanced and air conditioned styles are fast progressing in this glorious valley.

The olden and classical architectural trends have been neglected even by villagers and they have also imitated the citizen’s architectural styles. This have given rise to new marvelous edifies in distant villages.

Village architecture

Even though life and atmosphere in villages have a lot to share in common, but compared to the pastoral ambiance, architecture and construction style of Indian villages, villages in Kashmir stand apart for their unique features and traits. Pertinently, what strikes a wonder with the life in villages of Kashmir is the outstanding and distinctive traditional art and architecture of the houses.

Kashmiri villages have got their own style, structure and architecture, when we match the construction plan outset of our villageswith the rest of India.Let’s take village houses as an example, these are the most glorious aspect of a pastoral life as from times immemorial, they have been providing shelter to their inmates. But, with the passage of time as the construction boom assumed a gigantic proportion, the antiquity, signified by the muddy and thatched houses in villages was hampered. From concrete buildings to sky piecing skyscrapers, construction witnessed a boom and a huge chunk of population, after migrating from villages to cities began to live in lofty mansions as is the norm of living in an advanced city.

As a result of the so-called modernism, it is difficult to explore such a classical village these days. But the contributor has identified a few houses which still exhibit the glorious past.

The traditional plans and designs have been discontinued. The few thatched houses still seen in distant villages have been consigned to oblivion. Their survival is at stake as nobody would like to live in them. People who still live in such mud houses would also soon dismantle them soon. Sir Walter Lawrence has given an interesting picture of village houses.

He writes, “The houses are made of un-burnt bricks set in wooden frames, and timber of cedar, pine and fir. The roofs are pointed to throw off snow. The thatch is usually of straw. Rice straw is considered to be the best material but in the vicinity of the lakes, reeds are used. Near the forests the roofs are made of wooden shingles, and the houses are real log huts, the walls being formed of whole logs laid one upon another, like the cottage of the Russian peasantry.” Plan and Construction Almost all the village houses were rectangular in plan facing commonly to south and rarely to east, but never to north or west. The site plan of the houses used to be measured in Asta’s (a local measuring unit equivalent to 2 ft).

The plinth was formed of local stones called Kashir Ken (a bolder stone) usually extracted from Nallah beds. Over the plinth was placed a row of wooden logs, called locally as Das. It served as a D.P.C which locked the plinth. The Das was followed by brick pillars. The plinth was kept wide so that brick pillars stand on that; the minimum width of the walls measured one gaz (about one meter).

The gaps in between the brick pillars were covered by Inderdus (earthen wall).The linters were pieces of wooden logs or axe cut planks placed on row of wooden logs called Ked. It served as the lock of entire structure. Like towns and cities the villagers also preferred to have their houses double and triple storied. The ground was usually occupied by cattle while other two successive floors by the inmates.

The upper floor called Kani was used in summer while the first storey was useful for winters. There were various rooms of the house like: Tanab (Common room), Dankuth (Kitchen), Bankuth (Store room), Gaan (Cattle room), Mandow (A big room), PaechhKuth (Guest room) and Moar (Pen).

Unfortunately this classical heritage has almost extinguished and nowadays hardy any rare evidences of this built heritage is seen anywhere. Steps are required to be taken to identify such classical wonders and preserve those for the posterity so that the coming generations can also have glimpses of this heritage.

Iqbalahmad, is a learned archaeologist and writer and can be mailed at iqbal61@yahoo.co.in

- http://dailykashmirimages.com, June 12, 2016

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Indian Crafts’ second showroom ‘The Cottage Crafts’ inaugurated at City Center

The second exclusive showroom of Indian Crafts’ ‘The Cottage Crafts’ was inaugurated at the second floor of the City Center mall next to life style showroom, KS Rao road on Sunday June 12.

Mohammed Aiman, the son of proprietor Parvez Ahmed Mir inaugurated the showroom.

It is the second exclusive showroom of Indian Crafts having the limited edition and master pieces handicrafts from all over India made of wood, brass and crystals.

Special attraction of the showroom is the handloom 100 percent pure cotton and silk sarees from Mathura, Vrindavan, UP and Kashmir hand loom Pashmeena shawls, scarf and stoles.

The zari bed spreads, cushion covers, dining tables, matt set, silk bags, wall clocks, home decor, dry flowers carpets and many decorative and gift items are other attractive products.

Speaking on the occasion, the proprietor Parvez Ahmed Mir thanked the managing director Mohtisham complexes Ltd, SM Arshad for his constant support in setting up the new showroom. The showroom will be open from 10 am to 9 pm.

For further details, one can visit the showroom or contact- 9740322879.

- http://www.daijiworld.com, June 12, 2016

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Syncretism and a paintbrush

T he image of the pale-skinned Madonna, clad in a simple blue and white robe, with a halo around her head, is a familiar sight in every Goan Catholic household. But, how many members of the Catholic community are acquainted with the picture of the Virgin Mary wearing a red and white saree, with traditional Indian jewellery, standing in what appears to be the interior of a Hindu temple, flanked by two indigenized angels holding clubs, and the Infant Jesus in her hand reminiscent of little Lord Krishna adorned with ornaments?

This is a painting from the oeuvre of the great Christian Indian artist, Angelo da Fonseca.

Born in 1902, in St Estevam, to a family of Catholic landowners, Fonseca was the last of 17 children. During his childhood he displayed artistic talent, but decided to study medicine. Two years on, he got so sick that he couldn't continue and shifted focus to agriculture. Lost in prayer one day, he realized that his love for art surpassed everything else, and immediately decided to pursue it at the JJ School of Art, Mumbai. But Fonseca despised the purely western academic training imparted there, and moved to Shantiniketan in Kolkata, under the tutorage of Abanindranath Tagore, nephew of the poet Rabindranath Tagore. Here, Fonseca learned more about his Indian heritage. He left the ashram with a mission to create Indian Christian art.

As a Christian artist painting during a period of hyper-nationalism in a predominantly Hindu country, he drew immense criticism from the Indian and the Western factions. According to Fonseca, the former saw his work as an attempt to reduce Indian art to just represent the modification of western art, while the latter misinterpreted it as lowering Christian values to the supposed exaggerated human suggestiveness considered to be characteristic of Hindu art. "The Roman Catholic church took umbrage against his renderings of a brown-skinned Madonna and various saints. Also, neither the colonial government nor common people were in any mood to re-clothe the Virgin Mother and the pantheon of saints in Indian garb," writes Goa-based art historian, novelist and painter Savia Viegas.

In many ways, Fonseca's art could be seen as an attempt to de-romanticize the divine. "For Angelo Fonseca the important aspect was not only to imagine gods as Asian and Indian, but also to remind of the humanness of Gods...In some way, Angelo da Fonseca's paintings seemed to be saying 'Gods are us'," explains Viegas, who has curated a series of exhibitions of Fonseca's paintings.

Fonseca introduced a bold 'Indianness' to traditional Christian images. The carefully-crafted Christian figures adorned in sarees and cholis with halos over their heads may seem unusual or strange, but even the most conservative critic cannot deny how this artist brought together the two cultures. "Much before Vatican II, which brought in new and fresh thinking and a more flexible approach to the issue of culture and religion, Fonseca through his bold and path-breaking paintings brought to the limelight the relevance of 'inculturation' and in the process revolutionized Indian Christian art," says director, Xavier Centre of Historical Research (XCHR), Fr Savio Abreu.

His work reflects the complexity of the modern Indian identity and the post colonial psyche, which is far from homogeneous. Through his work, Fonseca strived hard to build a space for Christianity in India, which had been present for ages in the country, but which he thought was still considered very foreign to the nation, primarily because of inadequate artistic adaption.

Fonseca's perseverance did pay off through the encouragement of Fr Henry Heras, the founder of the Indian Historical Research Institute in Mumbai. Fonseca's work began to be exhibited at various places. He began painting murals for churches and dabbled in grille work. His art was not only exhibited in India, but travelled to Glasgow, Dublin, Cork, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, and Zurich, making him world famous. Fonseca also received recognition from the Vatican, with Pope Pius XII acknowledging him for pioneering Christian Art in India.

Painting for him was purely a spiritual act of devotion. "Fonseca rejected the salon in favour of smaller exhibitions in church halls and municipal buildings. He wanted God to be drawn from within the church precincts and to live in the community," says Viegas. He saw his art as a medium through which he could reach out to his Indian Christian countrymen as well his non-Christian brothers.

"Strength of line and the power of simple composition are the most striking features of Angelo's paintings," writes Fr M R Lederle. Fonseca's paintings also showcase many female characters and numerous paintings are an expression of the female form.

Fonseca died unexpectedly on December 28, 1967 of pneumococcal meningitis. Most of his paintings had been in the possession of his widow, Ivy Fonseca, until she gave them for an exhibition to the Pilar Fathers, in 2002. Recently, the XCHR in Goa, run by the Jesuits, acquired around 80 paintings on mixed subjects, some of which were gifted to them by Ivy. Angelo Fonseca had also previously given some of his paintings to the Jesuits.

Three exhibitions of Fonseca's paintings have been held at XCHR in recent years. Plans to put the works on display in the XCHR museum are under way. One hopes that many such attempts are made in the near future to showcase the work of this forgotten yet extraordinary artist, whose deep faith in Christianity and the equality of men, succeeded in bringing to life on canvas, characters that would otherwise seem a distant fantasy in the chaotic reality of the modern world.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 12, 2016

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Antique TN idol racket: 159 stone sculptures seized

As many as 159 more stone sculptures of various deities have been seized from godowns of kingpin of an idol smuggling racket in continuing raids after the illegal antique trade was busted recently, police said today. "We have seized 159 stone sculptures, five paintings, 28 round shaped stone artifacts and two lamps," Idol Wing DSP P A Sundaram told reporters here. The raids were conducted today and yesterday in two godowns run by Deenadayalan, the alleged kingpin of the racket who surrendered to police on June 3, at upscale Alwarpet locality here after getting court orders. The searches were carried out by three teams, each headed by a Deputy Superintendent of Police.

"In aggregate, we have seized 230 stone sculptures including the 159 seized now. Total number of paintings seized are 156 and metal idols 50," Sundaram said. He said police personnel had been deployed at the godowns where raids were held. The Idol wing police had on May 31 busted the idol smuggling gang, arrested three persons and seized antique sculptures said to be worth over Rs 50 crore from Deenadayalan's house here. Sundaram said Deenadayalan was being questioned. "He may be arrested. All processes as stipulated by the law are being carried out," he said. A team of archaeologists also inspected the seized idols, artifacts and sculptures recently. Renowned archaeologist and former Director of Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department R Nagaswamy after inspecting the sculptures and idols on the request of police had said, "On the whole, all stone and bronze sculptures belong to the Chola period."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 12, 2016

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Shot in arm for this 17th century shrine

With cracks in the stones of the Sundarnarayan temple posing a major risk, the heritage monument will soon undergo structural conservation.

The state archaeology department here had written to its head office in September 2015 seeking structural conservation of the Sundarnarayan temple with a rough estimate of the work to be done. Work could begin next month, according to an official from the state archaeological department.

"We have submitted the proposal for structural conservation to the director and will soon be undertaking the work. Tenders will be floated," said Shrikant Gharpure, assistant director, state department of archaeology. The quality of stones to be used, from where they can be bought, water percolation in the structure, and other aspects of conservation are being studied.

The shrine was to undergo chemical conservation, but the chemology department of the Archaelogoical Survey India, Aurangabad circle, noticed some cracks in the temple's stones following which the work was halted.

An official from the Aurangabad circle said that the then chief of the chemology department had visited the Sundarnarayan shrine while working on temples in Nashik before the Kumbh Mela and noticed shoots growing in the stone structure. "The stones have cracks in them. There were shoots and vegetation growing between the stones which we removed. However, the cracks in the stones may cause them to loosen or give away in couple of years. Hence, we had written to the district collector and the Nashik branch of the state archaeological department about the need for structural conservation," said the official.

Built in 1756 by Chandrachur, a sardar of the Peshwas, the Sundarnarayan temple is among the most popular shrines frequented by locals and tourists, and it is also a heritage monument. Recently, municipal commissioner Praveen Gedam and Gharpure visited the temple as the latter wanted the double electricity poles to be removed. "The commissioner assured that the needful would be done. This will also help us in the conservation work," said an official from the state archaeological department.

Sundarnarayan Temple

Built in the last half of the 17th century by Gangadhar Yashwant Chandrachur, a sardar of the Peshwas

Located near Ahilyabai Holkar Bridge on the west bank of River Godavari

The main deity is Lord Vishnu (also known as Sundarnarayan) flanked by Lakshmi and Saraswati

There are small carvings of Hanuman, Narayan and Indira on the walls of this East-facing temple

It has three porches with seating in balcony, lobed arches and globular domes

An important feature of this temple is that on March 21, rays of the rising Sun first fall upon the idols

Quotes: The angle of the lamps in Sundarnarayan temple and Kapaleshwar temple is such that during Diwali they face each other. Lord Narayan is offered tulsi and Lord Shiva is offered bel leaves. During Diwali the reverse is followed. During the three days of Diwali if it does not rain, then sunrays directly touch the feet of Lord Narayan during sunrise and sunset. Such is the beauty of ancient architecture. The conservation work should have been done earlier. It should be conserved in a manner that sun, rain and wind do not affect it. Trees and shrubs should not be allowed to grow between the stones, particularly peepal tree. Let this pilgrim place become a tourist place. - Rajendra Odhekar, jeweller This is a very ancient temple which has been affected due to time and climatic changes. Japan is conserving Ajanta caves with latest technology which will not at all affect the original structure. In Cambodia, Archaeological Survey of India is restoring Ta Prohm temple since 8-10 years. If they can do it there they can definitely do it here. Manpower and fund may be less here but archaeological department definitely has skill. If the conservation is done properly the future generation will also remember. - Avinash Shirode, structural engineer

It is difficult for the archaeological department to conserve the structure and maintain the skyline but it is not impossible. Care should also be taken that the bridge extended by the NMC should not be further extended. They should conserve it like Kalaram temple. During the restoration of Kalaram Mandir, my father had helped a lot like suggesting from which place the stones and other material should be brought. I can help now as well if they need. - Shreyas Garge, sculptor

The electricity poles should be removed first. It is in the most inappropriate place and is also very dangerous. It is visually bad and whoever permitted it and whoever installed it did not think about its placement in front of the ancient temple. It spoils the aesthetic value. It is good that the archaeological department is conserving it and they will do it well. They did all the temples and Ramkund quite well during kumbh. People should also maintain it. Locals should keep the area neat. - CL Kulkarni, memento designer

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 12, 2016

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Ahmedabad museums to team up, form association

As many as 31 museums have been contacted officials and have shown willingness to be part of an association.

In the backdrop of Ahmedabad being nominated by the Centre as India’s contender for the World Heritage City title, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corpor-ation’s Sanskar Kendra Museum and Heritage Cell will be initiating deliberations to form a museum association in the city. “Museum Management: A special reference to Museums in Ahmedabad” - a networking event will be held as a part of Cultural Heritage & Management Venture Lab (CHMVL), an EU funded project, on June 17 at the Sanskar Kendra museum building. The event is expected to see as many as 31 museum representatives, many of whom had flagged off the idea of starting a museum committee and an association at an earlier event held at Gujarat Vidyapith on May 18 — World Museum Day.

The event will see the presence of officials and heritage experts like Dilip Gor Deputy Commissioner (Museum & Heritage), Debashish Nayak, director of CHM at Ahmedabad University, Haresh Patel, director of Sanskar Kendra, Poonam Trambadia, project manager of CHMV Lab, Gilbert Nazareth, Project Coordinator of CHM at AU, among others.

Visitors few, museum for last Sikh ruler struggles to pay billsLiving in a cube: Corbusier designed some of Ahmedabad’s most iconic buildingsAfter protest, AMC halts construction of flood control room near Sanskar KendraSustainable SanskritiSustainable SanskritiASI children?s museum helping hand for heritageVisitors few, museum for last Sikh ruler struggles to pay billsLiving in a cube: Corbusier designed some of Ahmedabad’s most iconic buildingsAfter protest, AMC halts construction of flood control room near Sanskar KendraSustainable SanskritiSustainable SanskritiASI children?s museum helping hand for heritageVisitors few, museum for last Sikh ruler struggles to pay billsLiving in a cube: Corbusier designed some of Ahmedabad’s most iconic buildingsAfter protest, AMC halts construction of flood control room near Sanskar KendraSustainable SanskritiSustainable SanskritiASI children?s museum helping hand for heritage “While there is a Gujarat Museum Society, there is need for all city museums to come on board and elect a committee of experts who can then steer and conceive of a Museum Association and its guiding principles. The networking event has been envisioned as a part of the EU funded partnership project of “Cultural heritage & Management Venture Lab” that links Ahmedabad and the Spanish city of Valladolid.

Sponsored: Avail attractive trading plans online at Sharekhan “The focal points in the event would be administration, curation and execution expertise for museums in the city, which can also aid tourism in the city. EU which has funded the project also stresses on renewal and upgradation of museums as part of preserving a city’s cultural heritage. The event will see presentation by experts by way of which museums can manage themselves better and can use their resources efficiently. It is for the first time that such an event on museum management has been done in the city,” said Geetanjali Barua, Research Officer, Sanskar Kendra & Heritage, AMC. The Sanskar Kendra museum is built by renowned French architect Le Corbusier in 1954 “as a museum of man, popular tradition and scientific research”.

As many as 31 museums have been contacted by Sanskar Kendra and AMC officials and have shown willingness to be part of an association in the city.

- http://indianexpress.com, June 12, 2016

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In concrete jungle, nature scripts a survival story

For 18 months, a team of researchers led by wildlife experts Sunjoy Monga and Sunetro Ghosal spanned out across the Mumbai region surveying and sampling hundreds of sites for creatures great and small. The result of that study, commissioned by the MMRDA's Environment Improvement Society, is one of the most comprehensive inventories of the region's natural riches. The study is now available to the public.

Mumbai is naturally blessed: For an urban agglomeration of over 18 million, the region retains high biodiversity — likely more than any other Indian metro. The region is "gifted", says Monga, in being located at the crossroads of two major biogeographical zones — the Western ghats and the Malabar coastal zone — and fertilized by the monsoon. Yet three of the largest freshwater bodies in the region are man-made: Tulsi, Vihar and Powai lakes were formed by municipal water schemes after the mid-1800s. The regional habitat ranges from forests and coast to freshwater wetlands and urban parks.

Even in cities, nature finds a way: Urban growth can provide ecological niches. While larger mammals like the Indian fox and nilgai seem to have vanished in the region, a couple of smaller ones have adjusted. Some examples of adaptation are appallingly obvious: The leopard hunts for dogs near garbage dumps; rodents are flourishing and so are crows and pigeons. But cattle egrets are also on the rise, the Indian jackal and jungle cat now frequent the mangrove patches of Uran and Vasai-Virar and some bat species have benefited from fruit trees introduced by humans. Fifteen species of snakes have been observed in and around human settlements. Some waders and storks have taken to polluted wetlands.

Protected pockets matter: The island city and suburbs are most built-up yet seem to record high biodiversity, largely because of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and, to a lesser extent, Aarey Colony, both of which still have abundant diversity including mammals. Coastal regulations have also helped preserve some of the region's mangroves, another rich habitat.

Much is under threat: Abundance and adaptation can't take away from the fact that many habitats, including the most bio-diverse forests, are shrinking or degraded. The worst hit are open landscapes with grass and scrub which, together with cultivated land, was once perhaps the most widespread habitat. Some 80% of grass and scrub is thought to have disappeared, especially in Thane and Raigad, where development has intensified in past decades. With the grasslands have gone the larks. Raigad district, including the area around Navi Mumbai up to Alibaug, has some of the healthiest habitats but is under greatest threat from urban projects.

Alien invasion is a worry: Foreign flora is common across the region. While thousands of old-growth native trees have been lost to development, they tend to be replaced, if ever, with ornamental exotics or fast-growing species that don't attract birds or butterflies as well. At least 25 species of freshwater fish have been introduced purposely or accidentally for ornamental fishery, aquaculture or game-fishing, some as far back as the 1930s.

Powai lake has become a dumping ground for fish, including alien invasives like carp, tilapia and the red piranha, the report says. Exotic species can be strong colonizers and negatively affect native fauna. "Nature's opportunistic," says Monga, "but it comes with a cost."

A guide for planning? Ecological wealth often mirrors economic. Prosperous neighbourhoods are often more leafy and biodiverse than areas that are home to slums, with an average 47 bird species in the former compared to 12 in shanty towns.

Biodiversity reflects what is right and wrong in the city, says Monga.

It is unclear how much this study will influence future development, but the findings make a compelling case for retaining ecological wealth in planning floral diversity for the city, keeping protected areas, and integrating nature in recreation.

"We need to inculcate and integrate an ecological sensibility in planning and development," says Monga.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 12, 2016

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The Draft Wetlands Rules aim to protect India's wetlands. But is this the best way?

The “fishing cat” is a lesser-known, small wild cat. As its name suggests, it feeds on fish — primarily found in water bodies like wetlands, swamps, rivers etc. Already classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the fishing cat — and several other species - could be severely imperiled if the proposed Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, replacing the previous Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, is implemented by the Ministry of Environment , Forests and Climate Change.

“The way we treat our wetlands shows how civilised a society we are; and the way we treat our planet, especially water, says a lot about the way we are as humans,” says Shomita Mukherjee, a scientist with the Salim Ali Center for Ornithology (SACON), who has worked on fishing cats.

The ministry’s deadline for comments on the Draft Wetlands Rules, 2016, closed on 6 June. However, the changes proposed in this draft have ecologists, wildlife scientists, environmental activists and legal experts very concerned. Further, these experts believe that the DWR needs to be looked at in the larger context of what the current government has been doing in terms of environmental legislation.

Chilika Lake. Image from FacebookChilika Lake. Image from Facebook Parineeta Dandekar, ?the associate coordinator for South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People says, “There is complete reluctance to protect wetlands, and some of the gaps in the proposed rules are absolutely shocking. For instance, how are Ramsar wetlands (wetlands notified as per the Ramsar Convention, 1971) going to be managed, how are transboundary wetlands going to be managed, who exactly is going to manage them? The forest department? It raises too many questions. The Draft is a half-hearted attempt to replace the previous one from 2010, it needs to be redone completely.”

Environmentalists claim there are multiple issues with the DWR. The main bone of contention is the doing away of the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority, which notifies and regulates wetlands. Although the CWRA’s term ended on 31 March 2015, it wasn’t reconstituted. Instead a new National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA) was formed, integrating two previous programmes to avoid duplication of responsibilities.

On the occasion of the World Wetland Day on 2 February, Prakash Javdekar, the central environment minister said the NPCA would provide the policy framework and support to the States. However, the NPCA guidelines are yet to be formulated.

The new proposed rules mean wetlands can now come under the purview of state governments. Ironically, only a handful of states even have a functioning State Level Wetland Authority and no new wetlands have been notified since the previous rules came into inception. Activists believe this doesn’t augur well for the wetlands as giving the state governments the authority to regulate wetlands will make them only more susceptible to developmental pressures.

The concerns seem justified when you note that according to studies by SACON, India has lost 38 percent of its wetlands from 1991 to 2001 alone. The main threats to their survival are hydro power projects, reclamation and encroachment by the construction lobby, habitat loss and pollution, mainly in urban areas.

The other main issue the DWR has left out, is the participation of local people, living around the water bodies. Good examples of wetland preservation — like the Chilika lake in Orissa and Vembanad Kol lake in Kerala — have been successful due to the empowerment of people dependent on the lakes. The Draft Regulatory Framework, 2008 was considered a very nuanced document at it classified wetlands in different categories and it included people right down to the zilla parishad level. The DWR, however, has the chief minister(s) of the states heading the State Level Wetland Authority, which will includes 12 other bureaucratic civil servants — leaving out experts from various fields like hydrology, ecology, etc. It is an unnecessary additional responsibility on an already overburdened state machinery which will surely be found wanting in executing guidelines for protection of wetlands.

The present proposed rules have also poorly defined what constitutes a wetland. Agricultural fields, river catchments, and even man-made structures are left out from the definition of wetlands. This can have severe repercussions for animals, birds and the communities directly dependent on such resources.

“The role of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been removed, this gives the Draft a very weak legal standing,” says Sampurna Behura of Reach Law. According to R Shreedhar, Environics Trust, such a move is a disguise to push the ease-of-doing-business agenda of the current government. This can have not only serious implications on conservation of a resource as common as wetlands but also take the bite out of deterrents aimed at vested interests that might abuse these water bodies. Blatant construction on wetlands across cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata has adversely impacted their hydrology, causing grave man-made floods and water crisis for their populations. Behura cautions that with no appellate body and right to grievance, the penalty for abuse of wetlands will be akin to meagre pollution penalties.

“Wetlands are like sponges, they give life to everybody. Life evolved out of water, if we neglect water, what will be left of us?” says Goldin Quadros, a wetland scientist with SACON.

Representational image. Naresh Sharma/FirstpostRepresentational image. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

In an urbanised world, wetlands are the most productive ecological system. About 6 lakh people depend on Bhopal lakes for water supply. Laktak in Manipur provides livelihoods to more than one lakh fisherfolk while Chilika does to two lakh. The same amount depend on the Vembanad Kol for irrigation. Wetlands’ soils may contain as much as 200 times more carbon than the vegetation it supports, thus sequestering large amounts of carbon and regulating microclimate of their areas.

Wetlands such as the mangroves and floodplains also form an important physical barrier against natural disasters like cyclones. Many villages around the Bhitarkanika in Orissa that had intact mangrove forests are considerably less impacted by the effects of periodic cyclones. Many such highly useful benefits of wetlands render them an indispensible part of any ecosystem.

Sangai, an endangered endemic deer species found only in Manipur live in the marshy wetlands of the southern part of the Loktak lake. It is almost entirely dependent on the lake for its survival, just like the fishing cat. Sarus cranes, black necked cranes, Gangetic river dolphins, the Indian mud turtle and numerous threatened species of birds and fauna, feed (off) and live in and around wetlands. It is the only resource apart from rivers that is found across India — from the high altitudes of trans-Himalayas, to the forests of the North-East, the deserts of Kutch and the coasts of peninsular India.

Though the opening lines of the DWR 2016 begins promisingly for the wetlands: “Central Government considers it necessary to supersede the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 for effective conservation and management of the wetlands in the country” — it might perhaps be best to do away with it completely in its present form, and develop instead, a progressive set of rules involving various stakeholders and experts. This of course, is if it wants to practice what it preaches — not only for the benefit of the communities but also animals dependent on these natural kidneys of our planet.

- http://www.firstpost.com, June 12, 2016

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India finds place in the sun after energy ties with US

One of the key takeaways of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent US visit was a strong message about India’s commitment to play a positive catalyst in the global initiative to address the menace of climate change.

In his address to the US Congress, Modi made it clear that last year’s Paris climate deal that India helped broker with the Barack Obama administration was one of the cornerstones of India-US relationship.

The address came a day after Modi’s seventh meeting with Obama. The two have forged a friendship that has translated into collaborations on climate change, including an amendment to the Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the Ozone layer and phase out super-pollutants used in colling and refrigeration.

Linking Hindu theology to climate change, Modi underlined that India’s concern for environment “is part of ancient belief”. This was not accidental. His first gesture after coming to power was to thank ‘Mother Ganga’ for choosing him to clean her.

When Modi presented India nationally determined contribution—featuring a promise to use 100 GW of solar power by 2022—at Paris, it began with a hymn from the Vedas: ‘Unto Heaven be Peace, Unto the Sky and Earth be Peace, Peace be unto the Water, Unto Herbs and Trees be Peace.’ India has pledged to draw 40 per cent of its power requirement from non-fossil fuels by 2030.

By launching the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to develop solar technologies, India has led from the front. Obama and Modi launched a new off-grid solar plan last week under the auspices of the ISA. Under the 20-nation Mission Innovation pact launched at Modi’s initiative, India has promised to double its clean energy R&D funding from $72 million to $145 million by 2019.

The US-India agreement struck last week suggested that India would ratify the Paris deal by next year. The agreement, on parameters for an amendment under the Montreal Protocol to curb hydrofluorocarbons, is a significant shift from India’s historic opposition to phasing out the greenhouse gas.

A ground-breaking development during Modi’s latest visit was the joining together of India, the US and a group of US foundations to create two innovative financing mechanisms for rooftop and distributed solar power in India—a new stage of the global energy transformation.

It is heartening that energy access for the poor now tops the India-US diplomatic agenda. It has taken a year of intensive lobbying of the White House to get Obama concede that clean energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels.

At the recent global Clean Energy Ministerial in San Francisco, ministers from countries making up the bulk of global clean energy investment and greenhouse gas emissions signed a series of commitments aimed at scaling up the deployment of cleaner energy sources.

Unfortunately, while fossil fuels are now seen as a fading, they still remain dangerous incumbents. At the Climate Action Summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said progress has not yet reached the critical speed needed to meet global climate goals.

The creation of new credit facilities to serve companies developing distributed solar projects is a step in the right direction. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank have agreed to advance $1.5 billion to India. If the $60 million pledged during Modi’s US visit leverages additional private investment of $300-600 million, it could kick-start India’s rooftop solar revolution.

Such initiatives are still a small component of the financial architecture needed for credit arrangements to unlock the $3 trillion that developing nations need to meet their pledges by 2030.

This is ironical. The total need for urban infrastructure by 2030 will be $90 trillion. Investors, companies and banks are awash in funds seeking long-term investments. Global urbanisation, climate crisis and energy transformation make this the perfect moment for massive investment. But the coal and oil industries want to cripple the growth in clean energy. Wealthy nations should recognise that this is a time to invest in, and not strangle, the future.

By launching the International Solar Alliance, India has led from the front. Under the 20-nation Mission Innovation pact launched at Modi’s initiative, India has promised to double its clean energy R&D funding

yogesh vajpeyi Freelance journalist and media consultant

yogesh.vajpeyi@gmail.com

- http://indianexpress.com, June 12, 2016

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Hyderabad delivers its verdict: Save KBR Park at any cost

Once again, Hyderabad came together on Saturday evening to save its most treasured 'green' possession - the Kasu Brahmananda Reddy National Park. In an overwhel ming response to The Times of India's 'Janata Darbar' - organized to give citizens of mana sheher an opportunity to speak about the need to protect the city's fast diminishing green spaces - scores of Hyderabadis including environmentalists, academics, urban planners, fitness experts, artistes, walkers runners and students gathered outside the park to express their solidarity with the raging 'Save KBR' movement.

Expressing extreme distress over the Telangana government's decision to axe over 3,000 trees lining the park's periphery to make way for the multi-crore Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP), the crowds, in unison, demanded that the authorities pay more attention to conserving what is left of Hyderabad's `heritage' - inclu ding the expansive 390-acre park - and not destroy its character, in the name of development.

"First the government wanted to destroy the Osmania General Hospital and now it's targeted the KBR Park. What right does the government have to pull down heritage structures and destroy our natural heritage" questioned Sarah Mathews, a social activist rejecting outright the proposed road project.

Ditto, urban geographer Anant Maringanti who appealed to government to not try and solve problems by creating new ones. " Also, how will Hyderabad be called a world class city if it is going to be washed out because of unsustainable city planning," he asked the `designers' of the SRDP . If the speakers minced no words to demand from the government what's truly theirs (read: the KBR Park), the artistes participating in the event made sure their voices too were heard, albeit through their works of art.

'Save Trees, Save the Earth' - was the message sent out loud and clear by theatre group Nishumbita through its gripping street play titled 'Humein Jeene Do'. The moral of its story was simple - protect the environment or be ready to die! Stand-up comedian Avinash Agarwal's short act - predictably loaded with dollops of wit and sarcasm - too made the same point."Show me one person who can live without oxygen and I will personally chop these trees," the young Hyderabadi said, driving home a simple yet significant thought. The aam janata, with out a doubt, couldn't agree more.

"If they (government officials) are tough, we are tougher," said an emotionally charged Vijay Jargal, a runner at KBR Park, promising to fight till the end to protect the last piece of open space remaining in the city.

Taking a similar vow, another regular to the park, Ammulu Katragadda said: "This is my second home. Apart from the fresh air that this park provides me and many others like me, it also, almost instantaneously, takes away all traces of depression, stress and anxiety. I can't imagine a life in this city without this piece of greenery." Standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest, Harsha Maheshwari and Bobby Veera's teams too pledged to stand like a wall before the KBR Park - the lush green garden that on Saturday acted as the backdrop of their high-energy flash mob performances.Why they were there and not at a happening social do, wasn't tough to guess!

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 12, 2016

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Plan to de-weed water bodies

TWO private organisations, working towards rejuvenating lakes and other water bodies across the country, have recently come up with a biological control plan for keeping water bodies in Sambalpur hyacinth-free.

While the de-weeding project for all water bodies in the city was initiated by Housing and Urban Development department last year following the 2014 artificial flooding, it has been moving at a slow pace.

Every time the water bodies are cleaned, they are invaded by water hyacinths. In fact, water hyacinth chokes almost all the water bodies and leads to artificial water-logging in the city every year. Moreover, hyacinths provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes while its large leaves cause water stagnation. Many feel that if the hyacinths are removed from the water bodies, half of waterlogging woes of the city would be solved.

Last year, Housing and Urban Development department Secretary G Mathi Vathanan had asked former Collector Balwant Singh to visit Rajasthan to meet members of Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti (JSS), which has successfully rejuvenated lakes and water bodies in Udaipur.

Subsequently, Singh got in touch with JSS and members of Pune-based Shristi, who are working in combating the menace using low-cost technology.

Recently, a four-member team (two each from JSS and Shristi) visited Sambalpur and went round the water bodies to assess the situation. They have submitted an action plan and made a presentation on biological ways to tackle water hyacinth. The action plan includes releasing micro-organism herbicides into the water bodies to control growth of water hyacinths.

- http://indianexpress.com, June 12, 2016

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550 building owners rapped for absent rainwater harvesting facility

The Agra Development Authority (ADA) has issued notices to nearly 550 households and commercial establishments for not installing rainwater harvesting system in their premises. The move comes after groundwater level in several city areas has dipped an alarming rate, and the city has witnessed severe water crisis. Every year, ADA issue notices before the monsoon season, but in the absence of proper follow-up the entire exercise remains a formality. Though the number of notices issued is much higher this year compared to previous years, the entire exercise has started late as monsoon is about to arrive. Sources said the ADA still in the process of sending some 150 more notices.

According to the state government directive, every building in an area of 300 sq m or more must be equipped with rainwater harvesting system. Though the state government order has been in force since 2008, it has not been implemented in letter and spirit. After the orders came, the ADA has so far approved around 700 house maps where the each building covers an area of 300 sq m or more. ADA has plans to issue notices to all these.

In house map approval cases up to 2014, ADA took an affidavit from land owners regarding installation of rainwater harvesting system in residential or commercial buildings. According to officials concerned, a majority of these did not make any arrangements for conserving rain water even after construction work ended.

In 2014, the then ADA vice-chairman Ajay Chauhan presented a new proposal in ADA board meeting. Under this proposal, the affidavit was replaced with security money which is to be deposited before approval of house plan. The amount of security money is Rs 50,000 for a 300 to 500 sq m building, Rs 1 lakh for buildings of more than 500 sq m area. Beyond this, additional Rs 1 lakh per 1,000 sq m is to be deposited. The maximum limit of security money as guarantee for installation of rain water harvesting is Rs 10 lakh.

According to the rules, the security money is refundable after installation of rainwater harvesting system.

According to officials at ADA, as the cost of installing rainwater harvesting system is more than the security money, people find it easier to forgo the security money rather than invest more in conserving water. Sources say around 95% builders have not claimed the security money.

Town planner A K Singh said, "Notices are being issued to builders and those constructing houses asking them to install rainwater harvesting system in seven days. Notices are being sent to owners of 700 buildings. Suitable action will be initiated against violators of the rule."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 12, 2016

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Soil dumped near Asurgarh moat, historians resent damage to fort

ARCHAEOLOGISTS and historians have resented the damage caused to historical Asurgarh fort near Narla block in Kalahandi district due to deposit of earth in the moat surrounding the fort on three sides. As a part of a water body renovation project, earth was removed from Radhasagar tank and dumped close to the moat. While Narla block officials claimed that the moat is located outside the protected fort area, archaeologists said the moat is an integral part of the protected site and cannot be destroyed.

Asurgarh fort dates back to 4th century BC. An ancient metropolis, it is considered contemporaneous to Sisupalagarh, Ujjain, Ahichatra, Kosambi and other ancient Indian cities.

Different antiquities, structures, coins and beads were excavated from the site. Though in 1973 the site wasdeclared protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Monuments Act, 1958, proper excavation and preservation of monuments are not being done. In fact, the site was considered an emporium of bead-making and trading and its hydraulic system was considered unique. The fort was planned in a rectangular pattern as per Kautalyan principles of ‘Durgabidhana’ and ancient Indian geometrical formula.

The main fortification spreads over 12 hectares and there was also an external fortification, which is now in ruins. At present, the height and width of the fortified wall measure 11 m x 7.5 m and the encircled moat measures 36 m in width. A stone barrage constructed over the Sandol river in the north-west side of the fort to provide controlled water to the fortified area and the moat still exist. Sources said in the wake of water scarcity in Punjipadar village under Mandel gram panchayat adjacent to Asurgarh fort, renovation work of the dried up Radhasagar tank was being carried out using JCB machines.

The excavated earth was dumped in the southern part of Asurgarh moat. This led to filling up of the moat by nearly 40 per cent on the southern side. Contacted, BDO of Narla block, Kailash Chandra Siala said funds of `six lakh was sanctioned under the fourth State Finance Commission to Mandel gram panchayat to renovate the water body. “The tank is located on the south-west side of Asurgarh moat. Renovation work of the water tank is not being done anywhere inside the protected area of the fort hence, permission from the Archeological Survey of India for dumping earth near the moat was not required,” he said. Archaeologist Dr Baba Mishra, who is also a faculty member with the Government Autonomous College, however, said moat is an integral part of the fort. “Asurgarh is famous for its excellent hydraulic technique and water management. Filling up the moat will affect the beauty of the fort and further excavation of the hydraulic system will be affected,” he added.

- http://indianexpress.com, June 12, 2016

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Short film festival evokes good response in Salem

The day-long ‘Short Film Festival 2016’organised in connection with the 150 years of formation of Salem City held here on Sunday evoked overwhelming response.

The festival organised jointly by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Salem 150 Committee, and Periyar University, attracted more than 300 entries from all over India and foreign countries.

Salem, then a village of a few hundred people in 1866, has grown into what is now known as Salem city with a population of 8.26 lakh. In1857, the British rulers renamed it as Sanitary Association of Salem and declared it the capital city of the district in 1860. During 1866, the Salem Municipal Council was formed.

The INTACH and other organisations decided to celebrate the 150 years of formation of the city in a fitting manner by organising various events. The celebrations kick-started with a short film festival. Documentary films on the development and achievements of Salem were received from three categories of participants – general category (open to all), special category (open to residents of Salem district alone) and students category (for school students).

While about 200 entries were received in general category, the residents of Salem submitted 60 short films and the rest were from student teams of different schools.

Of the 300 documentary films received for the competition, 38 were short-listed by a team of judges comprising Film director K. S. Ravikumar, actor Prabhu, director Balaji Mohan, actor Santhanam, and visual effects expert Prasanna Sidharthan, Of them, a total of 22 short films were screened throughout the day at the auditorium of Sona College of Technology.

Rekha, actor, and C. Swaminathan, Vice Chancellor, Periyar University, inaugurated the festival. Ms. Rekha also declared open an exhibition of photos on the progress achieved by Salem particularly in the field of cinema, the achievements of Modern Theatres, which produced 136 films in different languages, including 102 Tamil films alone for 45 years (from 1937 – 82), stills from yesteryear films, photos of great personalities including four former Chief Ministers M. Karunanidhi, MGR, Janaki Ramachandran and N. T. Ramarao, who had close contacts with the Modern Theatres. S. P. Muthuraman, noted film director, was the chief guest at the valediction and he gave away prizes to the best short films. Kalaivani, daughter in-law of the legendary film producer and founder of The Modern Theatres T. R. Sundaram; Jayakumar, a member of the Rathna Studio family; Karuppiah, film financier; Venkatasamy, script writer, and Vaithilingam, producer-cum-director, were felicitated at the valediction.

Maninathan, film historian from Salem, presented PowerPoint presentation on the films produced by The Modern Theatres and other Salem-based film production companies such as Salem Shankar Films, Sri Sowdeswari Films, Salem Sri Krishna Films, Salem Surya Films, Asoka Pictures, MAV Pictures, PVT Productions etc.

Lakshmi Sidharthan, Convener, INTACH; S. Sharavanan, co-convener, INTACH; Kumaresan of Salem 150 Coordination Committee; Prasanna Sidharthan, Coordinator, Salem Short Film Society, and others were present. The Periyar University has proposed to organise an international conference on ‘Heritage of Salem’ as part of the celebrations.

- http://www.thehindu.com, June 13, 2016

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At 100, lifeline for city's oldest library

The capital's oldest public library will celebrate a hundred years at its present address this year. The Hardayal Municipal Library had shifted to its present location at Chandni Chowk in 1916 with all its furniture. Now, its centenary bash would see a major conservation exercise to preserve the thousands of old and rare books. Intach is spearheading this exercise. "The library houses one of the country's finest collections of antiquarian books, including gold illuminated translations of Hindu and Muslim religious works as well as a 1677 edition of Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World. In all, there are over 8,000 rare books—potentially worth millions—from a stock of 170,000. The oldest book in the Library is A Relation of Some Years Travaile Beginning in 1626 by Thomas Hardy Esquire, published by Willaim Stansby and Jacob Bloome in 1634," said an official.

The conservation of books would be handled by Intach's material heritage division. The collection is at present stored in iron racks and almirahs, and preliminary visual examinations showed that the books were in a very deteriorated state and in urgent need of conservation. "There is no proper ventilation; humidity levels are very high; the place is musty and covered with dust and mildew. Micro-biological growth and termite and other insect infestation has damaged the collection," said an official.

Experts said that an understanding of why and how printed books and archival materials deteriorate would help understand the need for conservation. "The enemies of books and paper records, in addition to fire and water damage usually associated with disasters, are heat and humidity, light and ultra-violet energy, insects, rodents, fungi, oxygen, and acid," said an official.

Conservation would be preceded by a comprehensive survey and identification of items needing treatment, which would then be graded on the level of treatment required. Methods would be proposed later. The expert team would also give suggestions on storage and display. "The plan is to go for digitisation for as many books as possible, but there are some rare books which we might not be able to digitise if they are in a very fragile condition. The condition of each book would depend on whether it would be just preserved or digitised as well. This would be an extensive exercise," said a source.

The library would float a digitisation tender later this year.

LG Najeeb Jung has already approved a Rs 3 crore grant to restore the library, which will be executed under DDA's Delhi Urban Heritage Foundation. "The Hardayal library is in urgent need of some intervention, and we have been asking the municipal bodies to do something for a long time. Finally, an MoU is going to be signed between Intach and DDA to preserve it. Intach would do the conservation work on the books and the building while DDA would fund it. The library belongs to everyone and needs to be protected for future generations. We have grand plans for celebrating hundred years in December this year and are planning an event involving heritage libraries all over the world," said library secretary Shobha Vijender.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 13, 2016

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Eighth century Jain artefacts at Rockfort lie neglected, damaged

Stone inscriptions and sculptures dating to the eighth century, shedding light on the origins of Jainism in Trichy and the state, on Rockfort hillock lie in a sorry state owing to poor maintenance.

"These sculptures were hidden till recently," says A Sridharan, pointing towards a damaged stone inscription. Sridharan, coordinator of Ahimsai Nadai (Ahimsai walk), is now a familiar face for residents around Mettu Street on the foothills of Rockfort.

Trichy is among the many destinations for Sridharan in his search for the origins of Jainism in the state.

As the locals have no clue what the blurred scribbling on the rock mean, Sridharan laments over the sorry state of the treasure trove of archaeological remains in their backyard. Stone inscriptions dating to the eighth century give evidence of the presence of Jain monks and make Trichy one of the places with traces of Jainism.

The sculptures, under the Thaiyumaanavar Sannidhi of the Rockfort, are in an isolated location filled with thorny bushes that have virtually kept the place hidden.

There were evidence of more scripts close to the sculpture but were got erased due to lack of maintenance.

"The inscription narrates the existence of a Jain monk who attained Jeeva Samadhi at this place. However, further details is unclear as the writings are have been severely damaged," said C Veeraragahavan, a Vellore-based epigraphist who accompanied Sridharan to the hill top.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 13, 2016

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Experts see global plot to sabotage India’s history

There is an international conspiracy to destroy the documentary proof of India’s rich culture, traditions and history, according to leading historians, archaeologists and Indologists. The seizure of hundreds of ancient idols, paintings, sculptures and stone inscriptions by the Idol Wing Branch of the Tamil Nadu Police is a proof of this conspiracy, Nanditha Krishna and Prof C I Issac, members, Indian Council of Historical Research told The Pioneer.

The high-power Idol Wing-CID attached to the Economic Offences Wing of Tamil Nadu Police had busted an idol smuggling racket and taken into custody hundreds of idols and artefacts from the house and art galleries owned by an octogenarian art smuggler Deenadayalan in Chennai.

What surprised the investigators and the archaeologists is the modus operand employed by Deenadayalan to smuggle out the antique items from India. The idols were packed and exported as newly carved out sculptures and idols sourced from the artisans of Mahabalipuram and Thanjavur, places known for their sculptors and master craftsmen.

While the ancient idols command big premium in global market, what has baffled the police, archaeologists and indologists is the number of ancient paintings and stone inscriptions which has been “purchased” and mobilised from hundreds of temples in Tamil Nadu. “The idols are sold in the international market and each of them commands millions of dollars. But the smuggling of stone inscriptions is being done to destroy the rich cultural and social heritage of Tamil Nadu,” Nanditha Krishna, member, Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) told The Pioneer.

Krishna said hundreds of such stone-inscriptions bearing important messages and information has already been destroyed under the pretext of maintenance and repair of temples. S Kalyanaraman, banker-turned-indologist pointed out that it was from stone inscriptions in temples in Tamil Nadu the world came to know that a healthy election and parliamentary system was in vogue even in the 12th century. He recalled the speech delivered by T Prakasam in the Constituent Assembly on November 9, 1948 in which he spoke about the inscriptions in Uthiramerur Temple made during the 12th century.

“The ballot box and the ballet papers were described in an inscription on the walls of a temple in the villages of Uthiramerur, 20 miles from Conjeevaram. Every detail is given there. The ballot box was a pot with the mouth tied and placed on the ground with a hole made at the bottom and the ballot paper was the kadjan leaf and adult franchise was exercised. The election took place not only for that village but for the whole of India. This was just a thousand years ago,” Prakasam said while addressing the Constituent Assembly.

Kalyanaraman said such inscriptions are our only sources that link us with our past. “India has seen many such inscriptions getting destroyed by foreign invaders with ulterior motives. The Temple Inscriptions all over the country are our official history and the destruction of such stone carvings is an attempt to sabotage the country’s ancient history so that vested interests would be able to rewrite the Indian history,” he said.

Prof CI Issac, another member of the ICHR said the smuggling of temple idols and artefacts have been going on for decades. “These idols fetch millions of dollars in international market. But the smuggling of artefacts and stone inscriptions have to be somehow stopped immediately. Otherwise foreigners would sabotage our history as per their whims and fancies,” warned Prof Issac.

R Nagaswamy, archaeologist and former director, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department had been cautioning the Tamil Nadu Government about the safety measures to be followed while restoring temples across the State. “While repairing and restoring the temples, care has to be taken to ensure that the inscriptions and carvings on temple walls and floors are not destroyed. But many times we have come across instances of wanton destruction of such inscriptions,” said Nagaswamy.

- http://www.dailypioneer.com, June 13, 2016

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Zilla panchayat to make rain water harvesting mandatory

Taking cue from the directive given by the DC A B Ibrahim to make rain water harvesting mandatory for all commercial/residential buildings above 2,000 sq ft area, Dakshina Kannada zilla panchayat too, has decided to make the same mandatory for buildings coming under the jurisdiction of gram panchayats in the district.

The zilla panchayat is also keeping in mind the union government's Swachh Bharat Mission drive to make Indian an open defecation free country has also mandated that constructing a toilet in such buildings is a must for any gram panchayat to issue a building license.

And since gram panchayats have the responsibility to supply potable water to their stakeholders for use in various places including toilets, it laid greater emphasis on making rain water harvesting a must.

Incidentally, when this issue was raised in the maiden meeting of the zilla panchayat, while there was unanimity of views among the members on the need to compulsorily promote rain water harvesting, they had reservations about making toilets a must. Not that they did not support the need for cleanliness, but their reservation was based on how to maintain the toilets built without water. "This is a Catch 22 situation for all concerned," noted Mamatha Gatty, member.

P I Sreevidya, chief executive officer, Dakshina Kannada zilla panchayat said water conservation efforts will pave the way to address the availability or lack of water for toilet maintenance. Gram panchayats often do not have their own dedicated source of water to supply to residents and commercial units in their area, she said, adding if rain water harvesting picks up, it will recharge the underground water table and also ensure that there is adequate water in bore wells.

Borewell recharge structures are now available, which private and public entities can implement with ease. The ZP will arrange for training for officials - department wise, and members - about how one can go about recharging borewells in a scientific manner, she said. "This work can be done using the MGNREGA scheme," she said. Lack of drinking water problem is getting serious even in rural areas and only concerted efforts will help push these twin objectives, she said.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 13, 2016

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Aranmula likely to get heritage village status

Experts from ASI, Union Tourism Ministry to visit village

The Union Ministry for Culture and Tourism will be sending two expert teams to Aranmula soon as part of its proposal to declare Aranmula a ‘heritage village,’ according to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State president Kummanam Rajasekharan.

Talking to The Hindu , Mr. Rajasekharan said Union Minister for Culture and Tourism Mahesh Sharma had assured him that the Centre was speeding up the procedures for declaring Aranmula a ‘heritage village.’

Mr. Rajasekharan said the Union Minister, during a recent one-to-one meeting in New Delhi, had informed him that a team of experts from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) would be visiting Aranmula soon.

Another high-level team from the Union Ministry of Tourism would also visit Aranmula, exploring the possibility of including Aranmula in the Pilgrim Tourism Circuit, Mr. Rajasekharan said. Mr. Rajasekharan said the Union Minister, while inaugurating the previous Uthrittathi snakeboat regatta, had promised ‘heritage village’ status for Aranmula, besides its inclusion in the Pilgrim Tourism Circuit of the Union Ministry of Tourism.

State’s proposal

The State government too had send a proposal to the Union government for declaring Aranmula a heritage village way back in 2008.

Rustic traditions

The State’s proposal was aimed at showcasing the rustic traditions, arts and crafts that very much reflect the rich heritage of Aranmula.

The proposed heritage village also included an exclusive workshop-cum-exhibition stall for Aranmula Kannadi where the world famous metal mirror-making process will be demonstrated, besides a Vanchippattu kalari and a country craft building unit.

Snakeboat regatta

The annual snakeboat regatta at Aranmula marking the anniversary of the idol installation (Uthrittathi day in the Malayalam month of Chingom) at the Sree Parthasarathy Temple is the oldest in the State.

Aranmula, famous for its metal mirrors (Aranmula Kannadi), the centuries’ old Sree Krishna temple, the unique ritualistic feast of `Vallasadya,’ and the snakeboat regatta (Vallamkali), has already found a special niche for itself in the world tourism map.

Elephants walking with bunches of coconut leaves tightly-clipped between their mouth and the tusk, mahouts giving the pachyderms a bath in the river, country boats ferrying commuters across the river and countryside toddy shops are all typical rustic charms in Aranmula.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 13, 2016

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Games and sports of the Zeliangrongs of North East

The history of sport can be traced back to the existence of human civilization itself. It is a key part of cultural identity, and a mechanism for the protection and promotion cultural diversity. Thus, retaining knowledge of our traditional sporting practices is vital in term of sport as an expression of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Worldwide, there is a staggering cultural richness of indigenous, traditional, historical, and regional folk games and sports from different nations and ethnic minorities, many of which are fascinating not only for their differences, but also for the similarities of shared common features.

The Encyclopedia of World Sport includes over three thousand traditional sports from all around the world. The importance of traditional games and sports to our cultural heritage and the need for preservation has been officially recognized by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In spite of this, this important cultural heritage domain has yet to receive significant attention from the research community. Today, the native peoples of North East India have eager interest in their traditional games and sports as it ensures not only good health, fitness and generally freedom from ailments of various types, but also promotes in preservation of cultural heritage of the ethnic communities. It is, therefore, urgently needed to study the traditional games and sports of the Zeliangrong of North East.

Methods and Materials:

The data of the study is based on primary and secondary materials. Primary source mainly depends on field work; about 20 persons are selected as samples for the study. The key informants include village elders and educated persons who have well knowledge about the activities of the Zeliangrong are interviewed through structured and unstructured techniques to get first hand information as primary source. Secondary sources cover the available books, articles related to the traditional games and sports of the native peoples of North East and the Zeliangrong in particular.

A profile of the Zeliangrong:

The Zeliangrong, one of the natives of North East India belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family of Mongoloid racial stock. According to legend, the Zeliangrong originated from a cave known as Mahou Taobei; they moved to Makhel and to Ramting Kabin, and then to Makuilongdi, Senapati District of Manipur.

From Makuilongdi, they migrated to different directions. Most of the Naga traditions point to Makhel as their original home. Another theory suggests that the Zeliangrong along with other groups of Tibeto-Burman family came from two regions: south-East Asia and South-West China. As the Zeliangrong are “Tibeto-Burman, they must have lived with other groups of the same family in south West China before 1000 B.C and migrated to eastern Tibet, Upper Burma, then moved into Irrawaddy valley, Malaysia and Indonesia, and they returned southward and entered north East India through Manipur river, and some tracts of Indo-Burma border to their present habitat. Now, the population of this ethnic group is found inhabiting in three states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.

In a year, the Zeliangrong people celebrate nine festivals at different stages of agricultural operations according to lunar calendar with festive spirit and prayer. Cultural festivals are times of “worship and prayer to Almighty God for plenty and welfare and celebration for them.”The social and cultural values, the aesthetic and creativity are expressed through dances, games, songs and music. “The Zeliangrong religion is sustained by their colorful festivals accompanied by religious rites and prayers, dance and music and feasting during different months of a year.”

Traditional Games and sports:

The Zeliangrong are lovers of games and sports. Various games and sports are played by both young and old during their recreation. Games and sports are usually played during festivals and sometimes on ordinary occasion. Some of the important games and sports are Gaah Tarimei, Loi Jaimei, Tao Phaimei Khatni Daan Chammei, Nao Khemmei, Laorong Pakmei, Mishum Phenmei, Goi khatni Guak Nimmei etc.

Gaah Tarimei:

Gaah Tarimei is a traditional game played by the boys and girls divided into two groups. It is played with the round seed of creeper (Costus Specosus) that grows in forest. It is nearly circular in shape, one and half inches in diameter and three fourth of an inch in thickness. The colour of the big seed is deep dark red.

The seed whose skin is very smooth when thrown on the well paved floor or the surface in the play moves smoothly without much friction. Each player has its own Gaah. One party puts these up on the ground and other party flicks to the opponents’ pieces by putting the middle finger of the right with the same of the left. “The most popular game of the Zeliangrong boys and girls is the gaaring play in which the seed of the gaa creeper is used for several items of gaaring game.

These children play the spinning top spun with a string and exactly those in use by the English boys.” Among the Meteis, this game is known as Kang; they play it in a little different style. In the play, Kang is thrown in many ways: (1) throwing of the Kang with one hand or both the hands, (2) throwing of the Kang simple to roll, (3) holding of Kang in between the toes and then hopping one step to begin the play, (4) throwing of Kang with the head, (5) throwing of Kang from near the eyes, ears and lips, (6) throwing of the Kang holding it with the flexion of the knee, (7) releasing Kang making it down roll from the arm, (8) to push and (9) to throw etc.

Among the tribes of Manipur, Kaang is variously recognized as Southela by Tangkhuls, Thilli by Maos, Aga Ngahoktoo by Maram and so on. Gaah is usually played in the festival (after the performance of main functions of the festival) as recreation activity.

Loi Jaimei:

Loi Jaimei, tug of war is closely associated with the Gudui festival, which falls in the lunar month of Guduibuh, May every year. In the festival, they worship Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God by performing paddy calling ritual in every house of the village.

The main objective of this festival is for timely rainfall of the season, to grow the paddy plants well and nourish and to root to the soil, expand its stems quickly not causing any disturbances by insects or pesticides or warding off disease etc.

- http://www.thesangaiexpress.com, June 13, 2016

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WHAT YOU SEE WHEN YOU SEE: BANGALORE HUNT: UNMASKING COLONIAL INDULGENCES

The Bangalore Hunt (1930 to 1940) was a colonial pastime with trained hounds chasing hares. Srishti Institute of Art, design and Technology, had a show in the city on the Bangalore Hunt. The multimedia work was based on a small private archive of photographs, newspaper cuttings, annotations, letters and postcards that belonged to Stephen Simon Simmons, who was posted in Bangalore in the 1930s. Mostly a document of the Bangalore Hunt, this collection reflects a leisure time activity for the British, who were once stationed in Bangalore's Cantonment. These historical documents are an extraordinary record of colonial indulgence in native territory and it speaks volumes about class, landscape as territory and human behaviour towards animals and others.

The show also included new creative work by artists in the city.

Ayisha Abraham and the team at Srishti put up an impressive show with this archival content.

The artists responded with their own images, performance and video, to bring alive a collection that can be described historically as a strange moment in time. The new works address themes found in the images, such as the shift from hunting on the pastoral rural landscape toward land-as-real estate in today's time, among others.

Among the many retakes of artists who have subverted these images were the comic artist Amitabh Kumar's intriguing prophecy, Smriti Mehra's touching contemporary account of lab-tested and tortured Beagles being adopted, Aditi Banerjee's mismatched Indian matrimonial ads that reek of racism, and Rakhi Peswani's textile piece that ironically evokes the violence behind the scene of hunting with a gaping wound.

Hunting and poaching have been colonial pastimes and have been banned, thankfully. The show that captured a nostalgic and romantically recreated landscape is a retake evoking colonial names, places and social customs that still are part of the elitist lifestyle that is perpetuated by certain decadent clubs. So a subversive stance by these artists is always welcome. A quotation from the personal archive and the family album opens up multiple possibilities for the artist to work with the local context as a post-colonial critique.

"Yet Bangalore was after all not England. As the Bangalore hunt recast the countryside in strictly hunting terms, it actually and metaphorically effaced the productive countryside," says historian Janaki Nair.

But there have been other heroic references to Bangalore's genesis through the folklore of Kempegowda spotting a hare chasing a hound.

The colonial eye, keen to overtake Tipu Sultan, perceived the vernacular landscape as "naked country", a description that refers to the openness, atop the flat Deccan plateau. The phrase also has other colonial undertones, with obvious references to the human body. Early visual references from the turn of the 18th century show the Mysore region as a skyline dotted with few trees and architecture. The journey from naked country to Garden City was a long and enterprising one. The Europeans looked at this landscape from the perspective of conquerors and the viewpoint is hierarchical: it is the eye of a surveyor with the specific intention of looking to conquer the other.

Tank bed cultivation was predominant in these areas and many settlements were seen around them. The rural beginnings that thrived as living traditions and connected to local tanks are unmistakably the first folk festivals of native farmers, the Thigalas, who venerated the local deities and the waters that sustained them. Another local folk festival was the kadalekai parshey of the Bull Temple of Basavangudi, celebrating the groundnut harvest. These agriculturally connected native festivals still continue as rural traditions of the city.

The history of town planning and landscape design in the Indian colonial period was a signifier of modernity. Mapping the territory was the design of the British and their colonial enterprise. By creating a public facade and constructing public spaces, the state was asserting its power over land and regulating it in the princely states in India. They were colonial interventions on the native landscape.

The map of Bangalore has been drawn and redrawn to envision an identity for an evolving city. Each of these political moves has had a social and cultural impact that unfolded diverse visions that located the city in the trajectory of local, national and global agendas. The city planners and technocrats were etching a social and cultural context to a changing city.

With the coming of public sector and institutions in the Nehruvian era, the face of the city would change yet again. The vision of Bangalore as a garden city began to be sacrificed for the development of industry.

This city, once envisioned to balance nature and urban development, was soon wrought with basic planning problems. The influx of a work force from around the country and newfound wealth generated a need for housing and other basics of infrastructure. Most long-term plans for the city were compromised, leaving a chequered development, with illegal occupation of reserved land, and filling up of lakes for civic infrastructure. Lack of respect for heritage, nature and culture was rampant, and left the city scarred. The Urban Arts Commission, designed to monitor the aesthetics of the growing city, had little authority. The institution was seen as redundant and was axed to open up the urban landscape to unscrupulous elements who fashioned the city according to the greedy needs of the new elite.

Landscape was marketed and new promises were made by builders, about the sustenance of nature with gated communities and villas that aped the Bangalore of the past. More corporate gardens created lawns, and golf courses replaced farmland. The corporate horticulturist invested in farmland, and grew hybrid roses and ornamental plants for the world market. Lawns could be ordered by the square feet, and instant gardens transplanted by landscapists overnight. The well-to-do preserved private gardens and the last of the colonial bungalow gardens were retained by nostalgic owners. Nature and culture walks became popular, and serious attempts began to be made to dialogue and debate about urban environment.

The opening up of cyberspace has created new vistas of another technological landscape. This is the new reality for the citizen, looking back in nostalgia for the erstwhile Garden City, and looking ahead with uncertainty and hope, and the pressure and price of living in a changing metropolis. In the midst of urban chaos, the dream has gone sour.

(Suresh Jayaram is a visual artist,curator and art historian; his column features perspectives on the Arts)

- http://www.bangaloremirror.com, June 13, 2016

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Preserve paintings of Gon Nila Phuk caves, Saspol: Amita Baig

With the successful inclusion of Gon Nila Phuk Cave, Temple and Fort at Saspol in the World Monument Watch List 2016. INTACH Ladakh chapter along with the Liker Monastery and the villagers of Saspol organised a daylong cultural and awareness program on June 4 at Saspol village. World Monument Watch List 2016 includes 50 sites from 36 countries and Gon Nila Phuk cave and temples are the only listed sites from India.

The day started with the heritage walk to the site of Gon Nila phuk cave and fort which was one of the most endangered caves of the ancient times. Amita Baig, representative of World Monument Fund, Chief Guest said that the cave is so special and endangered that there is a proper need to protect it. It is the responsibility of everyone to conserve such heritage which is in danger to lose. The reason of its inclusion in the watch list is that because its paintings are so special and pure. It is the responsibility of us to hand over this painting as it is to next generation.

About the cave, it is said that the scholar and translator Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo (958–1055) travelled to Kashmir, and upon his return, he founded large numbers of temples all over western Tibet and Ladakh. And one among them was Ghon Nila Phuk meditation caves and temples at Saspol. The caves are adorned with Buddhist wall paintings which are said to be 1000 years old. On top of the hill, the ruins of a ninth-century fort also survive. Presently they are in a bad condition due to the neglect of regular maintenance and harsh weather conditions.

The interiors of the Gon-Nila-Phuk caves are covered with wall paintings that depict different manifestations of Buddhahood, likely executed as early as the eleventh century. The paintings carry an esoteric symbolism and are an invaluable resource for understanding the history of Buddhism and Buddhist thought as it was practised in Ladakh. But as the caves were carved into a hill of conglomerate rock and the weathering of the soft conglomerate puts the survival of this sacred art at great risk. Erosion damages the painted surface and threatens the structural stability of the caves. INTACH Ladakh chapter skillfully restored the broken walls and way to access there.

Tsering Angchuk, Convenor, INTACH Ladakh Chapter, said that after the establishment of their office in Ladakh they visited the cave site and showed to Prince Claus Fund of Netherland, who successfully carried out the emergency stabilisation work and documentation of the sites and submitted the report in time. And in 2015 they have been able to enlist Gon Nila Phuk cave temple and fort in 2016 world Monument watch list as one of the world’s most endangered cultural Heritage sites.

The day was to bring awareness and motivation about the heritage and culture of the people. It was a total heritage day which showcased traditional dance, songs, and cuisine. INTACH chapter organises an essay writing competition between students of Middle school and high school on the topic of ‘My village and my heritage’ two days before this day. Later, momentos were distributed among the position holder in the competition. Tsering Angdus, EC agriculture, Ven. Thupstan Paldan, scholar, Tsewang Paljor special officer, Cultural Academy, monks of Liker monastery and many dignitaries were also present.

- http://www.reachladakh.com/, June 14, 2016

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UNESCO declares Al ‘Ula as Saudi’s First World Heritage Site: The 2,000-year-old town is made of mud and stone

The Incense Route which helped in transportation of spices from India, ‘lapis lazuli’ from Afghanistan, gold from Nubia, myrrh and resins from Saba, now suffers erosion and decay bout 2,000 years ago, Al ‘Ula was once a flourishing city, bustling with life and activity Al Ula or the ancient site of Al Hijr was the capital of the kingdom of Dedan, said an Saudi archaeologist Dedanites were the lords of the land during the 6th and 7th century BC Saudi Arabia might boast of a potpourri of architectural marvels and grand mosques, men and women dressed in modestly long gowns in the scorching heat of the desert, but going deeper inside the land of ‘Sheikhs’ might amaze one beyond measure.

Known for its stringent laws and moderated lifestyle, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is rich in historical magnificence. Located 110 km southwest of the town of Tayma, surrounded by thick walls and narrow corridors is the ancient capital of Dedanites – Al ‘Ula. The old city, representing a maze-like construction has attracted archaeologists and historians for a long time. Al ‘Ula, surrounded by Maid –ain Saleh, crowns the desert as the first Saudi World Heritage Site declared by the UNESCO, said a Altasobscura report. Charles Doughty in 1876, discovered the city while he was travelling with a caravan of travellers on their way to Mecca and Medina. He studied the inscriptions found at the site and came across “Al ‘Ula, the chief town of the area.”

Further research revealed that the Dedanites were the lords of the land during the 6th and 7th century BC. Nabonidus, the king of Babylonia had once raised a military campaign to the north of Arabia around 552 BC to conquer Tayma, Dedan and Yathrib (the present-day Medina). The Nabateans in 106 AD had lost the region to the Romans who gained the entire kingdom along with Petra.

According to a well known Saudi archaeologist, Abdel Rahman al Ansary, “Al Ula or the ancient site of Al Hijr was the capital of the kingdom of Dedan, one of the principal settlements of Arabia established around the 6th century BCE, and mentioned in the Old Testament and Assyrian inscriptions as DDN.” The complete geography of the region comprised of ‘Al Khurayba’, ‘Al Hijr’ and ‘Mada-in Saleh’, which are ruins of Dedans, and those of the Qurh. While many Europeans surveyed the site, it was only properly brought into light after an expedition by the Institute of Archaeology of the University of London, in 1968.

Al ‘Ula was once a flourishing city, bustling with life and activity, some 2000 years ago. Concretely built mud-houses and sand structures dotted the beautiful landscape of the oasis in the Arabian desert. Trading of silk, spices, luxury items thrived through this route between the Arabian nation and those in the Gulf, as far as India. Once the hub of commerce and industry, Al ‘Ula also found mention in Islamic history as a city that the Last Prophet, Muhammad (S.A.W) had crossed in 630 AD en route to the Battle of Tabuk, fought between the Arabs and the Byzantines.

According to atlasobscura, most Arab writers have written accounts on how “in the 13th century with the fall of the Abbasid dynasty, and the spread of unrest throughout the peninsula, Qurh declined and eventually its name was forgotten.” In ‘Al-‘Ula (Saudi Arabia): A report on a Historical and Archaeological Survey’, Abdallah al-Nasif writes how “trade routes changed as dynasties grew and declined over the years.” The town, although it remained inhabited till the 1980s, is now decaying despite measures of reconstruction under the Royalty. The last family to live here was in 1983 with the last mosque service in 1985.

The Incense Route which helped in transportation of spices from India, ‘lapis lazuli’ from Afghanistan, gold from Nubia, myrrh and resins from Saba, now suffers erosion and decay. In spite of the huge popularity among tourists as a uniquely built Arab town, Al ‘Ula today lies in ruins under the brutally hot desert sun. Its’ structures that were once a major tourist attraction and its’ people who welcomed guests are now disappearing like the town itself.

- http://www.newsgram.com/, June 14, 2016

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I’m Never Coming Back, So…

I’m always annoyed when the typical newspaper travel article takes up space describing three meals a day eating cuisine that can be found in any major U.S. city. In between, the writer shops for something that almost sounds worth the customs hassle, lies on a beach with the same sand that can be found at home, and reviews bars that have drinks that be concocted anywhere.

If I’m going to travel halfway around the planet, I probably am never coming back, so I want to experience what is unique about the place: a world-class art museum, a religious festival, a stunning vista, the site of a major historic event. It’s important for our trade, politics, and cultural enrichment to get outside Fortress America once in a while, yet most Americans seem to think that if they can get to London, Paris, or Rome, they’re done. Here are a few unusual memories of the 34 countries I’ve visited (many with my wife, Sandra).

Northern Ireland Mythology. In 1991, I toured Navan Centre in Armagh, from which Ulster’s ancient rulers generated history and legends as exciting as those of King Arthur. They were brought alive by immersive audiovisual presentations and the Centre continues to use the latest technology to illuminate everything from Celtic spirituality to ancient warfare. The beautiful north of Ireland remains one of the great undiscovered destinations, now that political violence is very rare.

Renaissance Italy. In 1996, I was stunned to discover that Italy has 40% of the world’s art, but I wasn’t prepared to fully understand it, being rusty on the Greek mythology on which so much is based. And it was only when I listened to a record of the relevant volume of Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization that I came to fully appreciate that the Renaissance was a cultural supernova. Some memories need to be enhanced afterwards.

Cuba’s Tropical Communism. In 1998, I had State Department permission to go to Cuba to interview Fidel Castro. However, by the time I was ready to go in July, my PR contact was on a long vacation and everyone else on the staff was terrified to make a decision without his approval. I went without a press pass to write a travel article, risking arrest, which put us in the same paranoid mindset as the Cuban public. We did get to listen to Castro speak for several hours on Revolution Day, participated in Mardi Gras, and our fortunes were read by a Santeria priest.

The Glory of Greece. In 2001, we wrote a background piece for those who were preparing to go to the Olympics in Athens three years later. On the flight there, we read Edith Hamilton’s The Greek Way, which explained how the Golden Age of Greece became the fountainhead of western civilization. Modern Greece may be dysfunctional, but the people are fiercely and justly proud of their heritage and we came back with a new perspective on history.

Eternal Egypt. We thought we were going to see the pyramids, which turned out to be rather boring and very difficult to get into. But we left the tour group that was going snorkeling to visit the legendary temple at Abydos, whose walls are covered with paintings that are still vivid, and it is the only place where the symbols of all the pharaohs are inscribed. On our last night, we were put into a trance by Cairo’s uniquely colorful version of the Sufi whirling dervishes.

Sacred and Secular India. In 2004, we toured Northern India with some trepidation, after decades of stories about health hazards. What we found were not beggars, but street entrepreneurs. The ambition and educational values of Indians have resulted in some of the world’s best medical schools and the ability to occupy of a quarter of the CEO seats at Silicon Valley tech companies. At the same time, religion remains intertwined with daily life, whether on the sidewalk or in the boardroom.

Turkey, Crossroads of History. In 2005, we spent three weeks in Turkey, which has 40,000 historical sites (most excitingly me Troy, since I aspired to be an archaeologist as a boy). It also has a modern Muslim culture, the perfect introduction to a modern Islamic society for Americans. Istanbul is an extraordinarily dynamic (and clean) city (despite the news, you’re less likely to be killed there than if you stay home).

Glorious Samarkand. In 2008, we finally made it to Uzbekistan (my original visa application was denied because my name is the same as a reporter who been critical of the government). Samarkand, the legendary ancient capital, is full of stunning Islamic tile art and metalwork, alone worth the price of a trip.

Mighty Malta. We visited this tiny Mediterranean island in 2009, which has been the site of battles that changed the course of history. The Knights of Malta inflicted the first defeat on the Ottoman Empire in 1565 and in 1943 was bombed for 100 days by the Nazis, as the Allies used it as the staging ground for the invasion of Sicily. It has a fascinating history, starting with the world’s oldest freestanding buildings, temples that were constructed around 3600 B.C., a millennium before the Great Pyramid.

Underrated Toronto. As we prepared to go to Toronto in 2011, we kept hearing that it was like New York City run by the Swiss: the good news was that it was clean; the bad that it was boring. It turned out to be the first, but not the second. It is an economic powerhouse that provides a high quality of life and lots of cultural options, while doing an excellent job of preserving its history. Two museums sounded worth skipping, but we’re glad we didn’t: the Bata Shoe Museum (the history of footwear is quite fascinating) and the Gallery of Intuit Art (powerful sculptures of shamans in the act of turning into animals).

South African Safari. In 2013, we flew to South Africa, but had only two days for a safari at the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve, which was nevertheless supposed to be the centerpiece of the story. We’d heard stories of tourists who saw little except gazelles in a week. We needn’t have worried: we literally came face-to-face with a leopard, were nearly charged by a mother rhino protecting her baby, and got trapped in the middle of a ferocious cave buffalo herd. The animals reminded us that all living things flourish when they adapt to their environment, something humans seem determined not to do as we refuse to change our ways in the face of climate change.

The Maya of Guatemala. I was a guest lecturer at UCLA on the Maya of Central America for years. The one press trip I had signed up to see their cities was cancelled. I finally had a chance to go to Guatemala in 2015 to visit Tikal, but equally fascinating was that Mayan shamanism is continues to be practiced by Catholics. For many reasons, I see Guatemala as the next hot Latin destination. By focusing on what’s unique about each destination, we extract its essence and never have to come back until we run out of countries.

- http://www.chattanoogan.com/, June 14, 2016

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24 award-winning movies to feature in EU film festival in Mumbai

The 21st edition of the European Union Film Festival (EUFF), to be held here from June 17-26, will feature 24 award-winning movies from as many countries. The festival, organised by the Delegation of the European Union and embassies of EU member-states, will open with the screening of the German film "Jack" at the Little Theatre, National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA).

Apart from the Little Theatre, the screenings will take place at two other venues, Alliance Française de Bombay and British Council. This year's edition of the festival will feature films from Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, CzechRepublic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

This yearthe festival will screen movies from varied genres ranging from thecomedy of the absurd to gripping drama,unexpected romance and heart-stopping action. “Films have a universal appeal. The European Union Film Festival has won a special place in the Indian film calendar and in the hearts of viewers by showcasing the wry, the unexpected, the beautiful and even the tragic events of ordinary lives in unfamiliar settings," Mr. Tomasz Kozlowski, Ambassador of the European Union, said.

Dr. Martin Wälde, Director - Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai said, “The European Union Film Festival is an exciting initiative that provides an annual platform for film enthusiasts in India to watch some of the best contemporary cinema coming out of Europe. At the Goethe-Institut, we look forward to co-hosting the festival in Mumbai, and furthering cultural exchange between India and Europe.

We firmly believe in the power of the arts in bringing people and cultures together in a mutually enlightening and respectful manner. This forms the basis of our projects, and our continued association with the European Union Film Festival. Once again this year, we look forward to some wonderful stories told through the power of cinema." Mr. Alain Zayan, Director, Alliance Française de Bombay, said, “European Union Film Festival is a great occasion, every year, for us to showcase European diversity and creativity to the Indian audience eager to discover the numerous films proposed during the festival.

It's also a unique opportunity for Alliance Française de Bombay to reinforce its role as one of the principal actors of Indo-European cultural exchange and as a gateway to Europe and its cultures. In a few words, we are glad to be part of this festival in India and glad to help build bridges between our countries." Highlights from the festival this year include the stories of a ten year old abandoned boy ‘Jack’ who picks up his six-year-old brother and finds his way to life on his own; a great soldier of Rome who is despised by his own people and forced to turn to his enemy to find acceptance and an out-of-work illusionist who has a life-changing experience when he meets a young woman in Scotland.

Jack, the inaugural movie, is a film about the development of a boy who learns to take responsibility from a young age. At the end of the film, he surprises the audience with the decision he makes and holds up a mirror to them with the courage he shows. This film is produced by Jan Krüger, René Römert (2014) and has won international awards, including Silver Award for Best film in Lola 2015 (Deutscher Filmpreis 2015)

Entry at all venues will be on a first come, first served basis.However, for British movie 'Coriolanus' to be screened at the British Council, registration will be through their website, a press release from the organisers said. The festival, currently running in Delhi, Chennai and Chandigarh, will traverse further through Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, Pune, and Jodhpur till August 14.

The films to be screened at the EUFF are: Austria–Jack; Belgium - Les Rayures du Zèbre |(Scouting for Zebras); Cyprus - Block 12; Czech Republic-Three Brothers; Denmark -StilleHjerte |Silent Heart;Finland - Ollaanvapaita|Urban Family; France-L'illusionniste, |(The Illusionist); Germany – Jack; Greece - Wild Duck; Hungary - Utóélet |(Afterlife); Ireland - The Irish Rebellion; Italy - Michiamo Maya (My Name Is Maya); Latvia - Mother, I love you; Lithuania -Edeno Sodas (The Garden of Eden); Luxembourg - Dead Man Talking; Malta-Simshar; Netherlands-Michiel De Ruyter|Admiral; Poland-Bogowie(Gods); Portugal - Cats Don't Have Vertigo; Slovakia-Rytmus – A Dream from the Block; Slovenia - Sailing to Paradise; Spain - Flamenco From The Roots; Sweden– Atertraffen (The Reunion); United Kingdom – Coriolanus.

- http://netindian.in/, June 14, 2016

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'Hundreds of Bihar antiquities are still in foreign museums'

US has recently returned 200 artefacts that were stolen from different places in India. This is an encouraging sign for Bihar. Bihar is one of the worst hit places of illegal trade of artefacts. Bihar is a repository of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain images from Gupta period (4th to-6th AD) and medieval period (8th - 12th AD). Villages of Bihar, specially the area of ancient Magadha kingdom presently comprising of Nalanda, Patna, Gaya, Jehanabad, Seikhapura, Jamui and Aurangabad has many villages that have sculptures lying unprotected and they are susceptible to theft.

Communities are still using centuries-old traditional ways of worshiping sculptures in the open. This has led to the disappearance of sculptures over the years. Villagers narrate how they once had collectives of hundreds of sculptures, but only few have remained in the past fifty years.

"Almost all the museums in US and Europe have sculptures of Bihar. In a study done by a young archaeologist of Nalanda Deepak Anand it was found that more than 45 museums of Europe and US have more than 500 sculptures from Bihar.

Talking to TOI Anand said: "Bihar government should seek provenance of all the antiquities of Bihar in the possession of museums in abroad. The state has no documentary proof of its artefacts in villages and also the government has no provision such as 'stolen artefact register,' which would keep track of stolen artefacts". Archaeologists of Bihar admitted that stolen artefacts from Bihar do not get featured even in web-based artefacts tracking databases because of lack of documentation. "If the stolen artefacts are not reported on web-based databases, there is no way museums, collectors, and auction houses in market countries interested in buying 'ethical', 'legal' artefacts can verify if the artefact has been stolen from Bihar", said a senior IAS officer.

Theft of sculptures from the villages of Bihar is now a very common occurrence. Many such cases are reported each year but no success in nailing the culprits has led to an increase in such untoward incidents. "Government agencies treat such cases as any other minor, petty crime", said a professor of Ancient Indian history and Archaeology TM Bhagalpur university Rajiva Kumar Sinha.

In recent years, bracing to the situation, the communities in villages of Bihar have taken many protective measures for safeguarding the ancient antiquities. But this has to be complemented by government agencies by bringing culprits responsible for such wanton act to books. Few years ago a beautiful sculpture was theft from famous Bargaon Sun temple near Nalanda. A similar case was reported from Village Dharawat in Jehanabad. Need not mention, miscreants responsible for these thefts are still at large. Many times such cases go unreported. Criminal responsible for such acts are never brought to book, no example being set, people feel reporting such matters a waste of time.

It is better that they stay in foreign museums. The Biharis cannot be taught to do anything other than stealing and criminal activities. "Heritage volunteers in villages who have been working on heritage related issues are demoralized.

An ambience of trust needs to be established by taking some concrete steps, beginning with bringing people responsible for this damage to books. Communities are still using the centuries-old traditional way of worshiping sculptures in the open. To complement the efforts of the villagers, there is a need for communicating the importance of the live-museum of Magadha to the rest of the world so that they are also motivated to partake in restoring the rich heritage of Magadha, Sinha of Bhagalpur university told TOI .

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 14, 2016

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Did the ancient Irish trade instruments with musicians in ancient India?

A new study comparing modern horns played in India to ancient Irish instruments dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages suggests a sustained cultural exchange between the two regions. The study, which was published in the Journal of Indian Ocean Archaeology in April, may help foster a greater understanding of the origins of some Indian instruments and provide clues to the sound of ancient Irish music.

"Some horns are frankly shockingly similar, to the point where it is like witnessing time travel," study author Billy Ó Foghlú told Live Science. "If I were to find one of these modern Indian instruments in an Irish archaeological excavation and I didn't know what I was looking at, I would likely assume it was a Late Bronze Age Irish artifact." Ó Foghlú, an archaeologist and Ph.D. student at the Australian National University in Canberra, compared the kompu, a large, C-shaped horn cast in bronze with a high tin count, from Kerala, India, to the Late Bronze Age horns from Ireland and Scandinavia.

The instruments are similar in materials, form and most likely production process as well. "Archaeology is usually silent. I was astonished to find what I thought to be dead soundscapes alive and living in Kerala today," Ó Foghlú said. "The musical traditions of south India, with horns such as the kompu, are a great insight into musical cultures in Europe's prehistory. "And, because Indian instruments are usually recycled and not laid down as offerings, the artifacts in Europe are also an important insight into the soundscapes of India's past."

Ó Foghlú said he decided to investigate the connection after seeing a carving of two musicians playing a carnyx — a bronze Irish horn in the form of an animal head —on the exterior of the Great Stupa, a 2,000 year old Buddhist monument at Sanchi in central India. He said the similarities between the instruments are not just physical. Modern Keralan kompu horns are part of an ensemble and played percussively and rhythmically, more like a drum. He said that the tuning of these instruments may indicate how ancient European horns were played.

"It is the musicological similarities of these instruments that are really wonderful," Ó Foghlú said. "Some almost identical instruments have been unearthed together, but they are slightly out of tune with each other to western ears," Mr Ó Foghlú told the Australian National University. "This was previously assumed to be evidence of shoddy workmanship. But in Indian music this kind of dissonance is deliberate and beautiful. "Horns are used more as a rhythm instrument, not for melody or harmony in a western sense."

- http://www.irishcentral.com/, June 14, 2016

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Acute manpower shortage bugs AP forest department

Andhra Pradesh has a forest area of about 36.7 lakh hectres which accounts for 22.62 per cent of the state's land mass. But when it comes to manpower to guard the forests, it's wildlife and flora, the ratio is pathetic. It's just one guard per 10,000 acres. The state forest department is severely short-staffed especially at the bottom level like forestguards and frontline staff. According to officials, more than 2,000 vacancies exist in the state forest department.

The forests of AP has rich biodiversity and home to thousands of varieties of flora and fauna including several endemic ones found only in the Eastern Ghats or in the AP region. For instance, red sanders grows only in the Seshachalam forests in Rayalaseema region. Reptiles like the Golden Gekko and avi-fauna like the Great Indian Bustard are endemic to AP forests. Certain plants such as the Cycus Beddomei and Cycus Erica are also endemic.

Though there are no specific studies, biologists put the numbers to over 2,500 species of flora and over 300 species of avi-fauna besides 1,000 species of mammals, more than 100 species of reptiles and 10 species of amphibians in the Eastern Ghats region alone. However, several of the flora and fauna are getting extinct or killed not just due to natural calamities but man-made ones like attack of smugglers, poachers and hunters and human interference with vested interest.

In the absence of adequate guards and forest staff, such incidences are becoming common such as the smuggling of the rare red sanders in the Rayalaseema region. In fact, forest guards even get killed by criminals in the region. Encroachment is also taking place. At times, activities and illegal constructions are taking place in forests and sanctuaries by the local administration overruling the forest department, pointed out AP Forest Officers Association general secretary B Vijaya Kumar.

"For a forest area of 36,77, 136 hectares, we just have around 9,000 staff and approximately 2,300 vacancies exist in the state department, chiefly in the lower levels. Due to this shortage, around 10,000 acres need to be manned by one guard. Moreover, weapons like rifles also need to be procured and given to the staff, especially in sensitive areas such as those abound in red sanders," added Kumar.

Divisional forest officer (DFO) of Vizag division B Dhanajaya Rao attributed the vacancy to the bifurcation. "There are many posts of section officers, assistant beat officers and forest guards lying vacant in the state. A couple of years ago, some examination was also held to fill up the vacancies but then the bifurcation happened and we don't know what the government would do now to fill up the posts. A policy level decision has to be taken in this regard," he said.

Wildlife conservationist and president of Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS) Kantimahanti Murthy, averred, "Not only is there an acute shortage of human resource, there is also lack of proper training on wildlife management issues to frontline forest staff in AP as well. There's a lack of wildlife monitoring techniques, knowledge about wildlife laws and acute lack of general awareness on local wildlife.

Many ground staff of the forest department don't even know which animals and plants are found in their forests and their conservation status. As human-wildlife conflict is on the rise, there's an urgent need to empower forest staff with skills necessary for effectively managing the wild animal population."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 14, 2016

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Yamuna's pathetic condition angers devotees on Ganga Dussehra

When lakhs of the devout took a dip in the Yamuna at ghats in Vrindavan, Mathura and Agra on Ganga Dussehra on Tuesday, they had a "face to face interaction" (sakshaat darshan) of the Kali Nag (evil serpent) in the form of pollution that has reduced the river to a sewage canal.

Ganga Dussehra, symbolising the peaking of summer "and the birth of the holy Ganges as it descended from heavens this day" was celebrated in the Braj Mandal with gusto. The devout distributed lassi, sharbat, shikanji and milk rose at scores of places. The ghats had groups of people performing puja of the Yamuna, applying chandan and showering rose petals. Mathura's Vishram Ghat saw an unending queue of early morning bathers. But people in Agra were sorely disappointed as there are no traces of the ghats.

"It took a lot of courage on the part of the faithful to wade through dirt and squalor to reach a trickle midstream from Hathi Ghat. At the Balkeshwar Ghat, the crowd was bigger," said Nandan Shrotriya, a priest of the Shri Mathuradheesh temple. On Ganga Dussehra, it is customary for people to take a holy dip in the rivers and eat water melons, mangoes or litchis after Shiva's puja. "Ganga Dussehra is also an indicator of the change of weather. Bhagirath is believed to have brought Ganga to earth on this day," said Pandit Jugal Kishor.

As the day advanced, hundreds of kites were seen in the sky. "Kite-flying is a major event on Ganga Dussehra. Since it is considered an auspicious day, a lot of new shops and houses are opened on this day," said Bankey Lal Maheshwari, a shopkeeper of Johri Bazar. However because of the high pollution level people have not been able to enjoy taking a bath in the river. "A dip is out of question. It's an invitation to infections," said River Connect Campaign activist Ranjan Sharma, adding that the district authorities should have ensured additional release of water from barrages upstream of Agra.

"For pilgrims and the devout, the Yamuna's water is such a put-off, what with its stink and foul smell filling the nostrils that those who do dare to take a dip return with a fear and guilt," said Jagan Nath Poddar of Vrindavan. Normally the government agencies release 1,000 cusecs of extra water for the Dussehra but this year this has not been done and the saints of the Braj area resent this, he added. A fortnight ago activists of the River Connect Campaign had protested through a "sand bath" in Agra to demand the release of additional water in Yamuna for the festival but the authorities failed to respond.

"Without a minimum flow, particularly during the lean months, it is not possible to revive the river or to restore its past glory. Encroachments in the form of concrete structures on both sides are another major problem," said river activist Jagan Nath Poddar. "With better road connectivity, the number of pilgrim-tourists has increased many folds. On weekends lakhs turn up for a darshan of Bankey Bihari in Vrindavan and a parikrama of the holy Goverdhan hill. When these people go to the Yamuna, the reaction is sharp and negative. One hears only curses and abuses," he added.

In Mathura, the polluted effluents from hundreds of sari-dyeing units into the river, has only compounded the problem, caused largely by the discharge of sewage and other pollutants as the river flows through the national capital. Reduced to a pale, sickly nullah drain, the glory and grandeur of Yamuna that attracted the Mughals to build some of the finest monuments like the Taj and Etmauddaula along its banks will never return, lament the residents of Agra's Yamuna Kinara road. Those who take the road are often seen covering their noses to keep away the foul odour of the stinking mess. But with Narendra Modi becoming the prime minister and Uma Bharti leading the Ganga cleaning campaign, hopes have once again been revived of some action at the government level to restore the Yamuna's glory in the Braj area.

- http://www.newsx.com/, June 14, 2016

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The past before us

If you love the smell of clay, Gohar Mahal is the place to be these days. Ongoing week-long exhibition-cum-sale 'Mitti Ki Mehak' has a lot to offer, ranging from clay pots to clay decors and from clay cookware to clay cutlery.

Retailers from various parts of the country have gathered to offer the best quality goods made up of clay. Items of daily household needs apart from home decor, cutlery and cookware are on display. A new range of cookware and cutlery is attracting attention of many. Potters claim the natural products will not only add to the beauty of the house, but will also ensure better health for family members.

Not only potters, but youngsters from city are also exhibiting their creative side at the occasion. Sumit Pandey has designed a pressure cooker made up of clay and is planning to expand his skill for other kitchen appliances too. "We come here every year to share our ancestral heritage of kitchen pottery. Bhopalis always overwhelm us with their love towards safe and designer clay products," said Ramchandra, a retailer from Meghnagar, Jhabua.

Another retailer Mahesh Chandra from Jhabua, however, did not find many takers for his products. "This is my first time. I will bring new set of clay appliances the next year," he added. "I love to visit such events and own all kinds of unique stuff. I am in love with designer clay products," said a visitor Mamta.

Another visitor Priyanka said, "I never expected such range of clay products. From now on, I will visit all these kinds of exhibition." Products on offer at the exhibition include huge variety of vases, wind chimes and show pieces, non-stick tawas, cookers, cooking pots, water bottles, glasses, bowls, plates and dinner sets. Clay-made watches are also on display.

"Clay pots have become obsolete with the emergence of modern aluminium utensils as they are cheap and durable. But aluminium damages brain and kidney and hence storing food in aluminium utensils can be very detrimental to health. Clay pots neutralise the pH balance of the food and add to the natural taste. Its porous nature also allows heat and moisture to circulate easily through the food," said one of the stall owners.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 15, 2016

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Clay splendour on display at Gohar Mahal

If you love the smell of clay, Gohar Mahal is the place to be these days. Ongoing week-long exhibition-cum-sale 'Mitti Ki Mehak' has a lot to offer, ranging from clay pots to clay decors and from clay cookware to clay cutlery.

Retailers from various parts of the country have gathered to offer the best quality goods made up of clay. Items of daily household needs apart from home decor, cutlery and cookware are on display. A new range of cookware and cutlery is attracting attention of many. Potters claim the natural products will not only add to the beauty of the house, but will also ensure better health for family members.

Not only potters, but youngsters from city are also exhibiting their creative side at the occasion. Sumit Pandey has designed a pressure cooker made up of clay and is planning to expand his skill for other kitchen appliances too. "We come here every year to share our ancestral heritage of kitchen pottery. Bhopalis always overwhelm us with their love towards safe and designer clay products," said Ramchandra, a retailer from Meghnagar, Jhabua.

Another retailer Mahesh Chandra from Jhabua, however, did not find many takers for his products. "This is my first time. I will bring new set of clay appliances the next year," he added. "I love to visit such events and own all kinds of unique stuff. I am in love with designer clay products," said a visitor Mamta.

Another visitor Priyanka said, "I never expected such range of clay products. From now on, I will visit all these kinds of exhibition." Products on offer at the exhibition include huge variety of vases, wind chimes and show pieces, non-stick tawas, cookers, cooking pots, water bottles, glasses, bowls, plates and dinner sets. Clay-made watches are also on display.

"Clay pots have become obsolete with the emergence of modern aluminium utensils as they are cheap and durable. But aluminium damages brain and kidney and hence storing food in aluminium utensils can be very detrimental to health. Clay pots neutralise the pH balance of the food and add to the natural taste. Its porous nature also allows heat and moisture to circulate easily through the food," said one of the stall owners.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 15, 2016

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‘Carrying capacity of water bodies to improve this year’

District collector Mahendra Kalyankar, on Tuesday, suggested formation of a special committee to keep an eye on public property as well as initiation of measure to clean up illegal encroachments on government lands across the district.

About rampant structures over government land at Bhiwandi, Kalyankar said, "We are surveying all commercial units in Bhiwandi to ascertain if they are infringing on government land. If found guilty, they will not be spared." The collector, during the press conference, said that sand worth Rs 26 lakh had been sized by the revenue department along the coastline in the past one month with a penalty of over Rs 1 crore.

Kalyankar assured of improving the carrying capacity of water bodies, including canals and lakes in Thane district. He added that district schools will be adopted by government officers who will devote a day every month to understand the problems faced by these units and work towards addressing them. Also, the district body is working towards digitizing functioning of all departments in Thane which could be achieved in the next few years. --

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 15, 2016

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State banks on heritage tourism to attract world attention

It looks like the division of combined Andhra Pradesh has given a fresh lease of life to otherwise long-neglected heritage sites of immense cultural value in the 13 districts of the State. It not only spurred the Government into action to protect them but promote tourism.

Post-bifurcation, the Chandrababu Naidu Government in Andhra Pradesh is promoting cultural heritage tourism big time with a twin purpose—to create an identity for the newly-carved State by showcasing the rich cultural treasure it is endowed with, and to attract international tourists. The current mantra of heritage tourism encompasses elements of living culture, history and natural history of places that the community values and stewards for the future. They also contribute to pride, stability, growth, and economic development.

The ancient town of Amaravati is currently witnessing development of the organic and historic linkages between the ancient town and the surrounding villages under the expertise of Amareswara Galla, Curator and International Heritage Advisor, Amaravati Ancient Town. Born in Amaravati and having worked in Hoi An Ancient Town in Vietnam, Prof. Galla has been roped in by the Government of Andhra Pradesh to implement a sustainable developmental action plan.

His efforts are aimed at protecting the nearly 200-year- old ginning mill, historic houses in the Pujari Street, Zamindar’s house and other buildings. New attractions are being developed in the hinterland and environmental impacts are also being monitored. The ancient Dhanyakataka, once the flourishing capital centre in the formation of Andhradesa, is all set to become the heartthrob of the lower River Krishna Valley, thanks to the much-needed flow of funds under HRIDAY and PRASAD schemes, the former focussing on heritage cities and the latter on enhancing pilgrimage destinations. Several Buddhist sites and stupas neglected for years have also seen the light of the day in the recent times.

Identifying tourism sector as a growth engine that in turn generates jobs, the Government has devised new mechanisms to showcase its cultural wealth and entice travellers from across the world. The Lepakshi festival celebrated on a grand scale in the last week of this February, the famous Narasimha Swamy temple in Kadiri and the Buggaramalingeswara Swamy temple in Tadipatri of Anantapur district, all three under the Archaeological Survey of India, gained prominence post-division.

In Tirupati, a tourist circuit is proposed connecting temples at Kanipakam, Tirupati, Kalahasti, Gudimallam and a few other small temples. A similar scheme is in the offing for Kurnool district envisaging linking of the temples at Mantralayam, Srisailam, Mahanandi, Yaganti and Ahobilam.

The Ontimitta temple in Kadapa gained prominence after Bhadrachalam was lost to Telangana State. For the first time, the Government of AP performed the celestial Rama-Sita wedding in this temple which is now under the TTD jurisdiction. The ancient Gandikota fort in Jammalamadugu, which is part of a tourism circuit and the Siddhavatam temple, 30 km from Kadapa are also all set for a facelift.

- http://www.thehindu.com/, June 16, 2016

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Advent of the Mughals

A long time ago in a land not so far away began the story of the Mughals — a dynasty of kings who had tremendous influence on the history and progress of India. The story of their rise and continued dominance plays out like a movie with the elements of a blockbuster — There’s action, comedy and a great deal of drama. Kavya Ram Mohan takes you back to the era Cast of characters (in order of appearance)

Babur — The one who started it all The mighty Mughal emperor was born in the province of Fergana that is today part of Uzbekistan. The local chief Babur, a descendent of Timur and Genghis Khan spent his early years trying to gain control over the coveted region of Samarkand. After failing, he retrained his sights on the Sindh province in India.

Following multiple attempts, he finally achieved his goal in the year 1525 and triumphed in a battle against Ibrahim Lodi, who belonged to the Delhi sultanate. He thus became the first of the Mughals in India. One of his first acts as Emperor was constructing the Ram Bagh garden in Agra. It is designed in the Persian style and after his death the Emperor was buried there temporarily before being moved to his final resting place in Kabul in Afghanistan. Babur spent most of his short-lived rule defending his new territory against attacks from enemies such as Rajput ruler Rana Sangha of Mewar, and Mahmud Lodi, Ibrahim’s brother. When the Mughal Emperor died in 1530, his son Humayun became heir to the precariously situated empire.

A life for a life (Box item) Legend has it that when Humayun fell dangerously ill in 1530, Babur prayed hard to save his son’s life and offered his own in exchange, if his son was spared. The young prince survived the illness and the king passed away later that year.

Humayun — The comeback king Humayun, who succeeded his father to become the second Mughal Emperor, was born in 1508 and survived a nearly fatal illness in 1530. But his life only got more complicated after this close call as he had to constantly wage war in regions such as Rajasthan and Gujarat to maintain control over his Empire. The years 1539 and 1540 proved disastrous for him as he was crushed by the forces of Sher Shah, an Afghan warrior who had been building a formidable presence in Bihar and Bengal. The second defeat at Kannauj expelled Humayun from the country and he spent the next few years in exile and sought refuge in Persia i.e. today’s Iran. His son Akbar was born in Sindh when the family was passing through during their exile.

Humayun spent the years away from India trying to slowly win his Empire back and in 1555, he got his chance. The descendants of Sher Shah were engaged in internal squabbles and Humayun took advantage of this and regained Lahore, and later Delhi and Agra. His Persian spell influenced his later rule and the art and architecture created during this time. His death in 1556 came about in a tragic manner — he was carrying a pile of books down the stairs in his library when he heard the call for prayer. In his hurry to join, he tripped on his robe and fell down the stairs, and died of injuries two days later. At the time of his death, his heir Akbar was only fourteen but was crowned king nevertheless.

Akbar — The greatest He was born when his father was an exiled ruler who had lost his throne but Akbar went on to become one of the dynasty’s most powerful monarchs. Ascending the throne at a very young age, he was assisted by Bairam Khan, a loyal regent. Under Khan, a stable government was established and regional adversaries like the Afghans were quashed. But when Akbar came of age in 1560, he took complete control of his empire and dismissed Bairam Khan.

He proved to be an able administrator and fearless conqueror. He shaped the Mughal Empire and by the time of his death, it spanned from Bengal in the east to Sindh in the west and all the way to the Godavari basin in the southern part of the country. What set him apart was not only his ability to triumph in battle but also win the loyalty of his subjects.

He was known for his religious tolerance and fair treatment of all his people. Forced conversion to Islam was done away with and the emperor himself took part in the festivals of other religions. Another well-known aspect of his rule was the number of thinkers and artists that his court attracted. The navaratna or nine gems of his court were supposed to be brightest in the land and included Akbar’s biographer Abul Fazl, his poet brother Abul Faizi, the legendary musician Tansen and of course the witty jester Birbal.

After Akbar’s death in 1605, his grandson Khusrau was seen as a strong contender to ascend the throne. He competed with his father Salim and the court was split into two rival factions. Days after Akbar’s passing, Salim forcibly crowned himself king.

A new religion is born (Box item) In his quest to build a multi-religious society, Emperor Akbar even created a new religion called Din-i ilahi meaning divine faith. It drew ideas from different religions and had rules of its own. For instance, it discouraged the slaughter of animals, a tenet of Jainism. But the faith never had more than 19 followers, who were all personally handpicked by the Emperor. This new religion had many critics. The major complaint was that it sought to elevate Akbar to the status of a prophet. It was also frowned upon by the orthodox Muslims.

Jahangir — He who wanted to seize the world Akbar’s eldest son Salim was his father’s favourite during his early years but towards the end of the Emperor’s life he fell from grace because of his increasing addiction to opium and a series of revolts he launched against his father. After his ascension, he took on the title of Jahangir or ‘seizer of the world’. He largely continued with the methods of governance developed by his father and also added to the expanse of the Mughal realm. One of his most important victories was in the regions of Mewar and Kanga in 1629. Another important advance was in the Deccan against the invincible sultanate of Ahmednagar. It was led by prince Khurram, Jahangir’s oldest son. Khurram was not wholly successful in the Deccan but even his partial success proved important for the Empire. His posting to the region was part of a larger plan by Jahangir’s favourite wife Nur Jahan.

In the second half of his reign, Jahangir’s control over the government and his Empire diminished and Nur Jahan emerged as an influential member of the court. Jahangir died in 1627, en route to Lahore. A royal love story Did you know that the legendary love story of Salim and Anarkali is actually a story of Prince Salim’s life? There are many versions of this tale and it is not quite clear which is the real story. But in the most popular version, the young prince fell in love with Anarkali, a beautiful courtesan and dancer at the royal court. His father Akbar was displeased by this and sentenced her to death by barricading her in a stone wall. However she escaped through a secret tunnel but lived her life away from the court and prince Salim. Despite many logical fallacies and contradictory pieces of evidence, the legend lives on as a classic Indian love story, akin to Romeo and Juliet.

Shah Jahan — The man who built the Taj Mahal Emperor Shah Jahan began his life as Prince Khurram, the third son of Jahangir. Groomed for greatness from a young age, his amicable relationship with Empress Nur Jahan seemed to confirm that his prospects were bright. But this friendship soured when Khurram became impatient and rebelled against his father. The duo later reconciled and he regained the favour of Nur Jahan’s inner circle and crowned himself king after his father’s death.

Building on his victories as prince, he consolidated power in the Deccan area. Ahmednagar was finally conquered by 1636 and Golconda and Vijayapura also became part of the Empire.

He also moved his capital from Agra to a newly built city called Shahjahanabad in 1648. The Emperor was passionate about architecture and it was during his reign that many Mughal monuments we see today were constructed. These include the Jama Masjid and the Red Fort. The best known is the mausoleum he built for his beloved wife Arjumand Banu Begum or Mumtaz Mahal — the majestic Taj Mahal.

The later years of Shah Jahan’s life were shadowed by a battle between his sons over who his successor would be. Aurangazeb who eventually won, imprisoned his father in the Agra Fort and it was here that the ailing king passed away.

Aurangzeb — The orthodox one Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan’s third son was very different from his predecessors in temperament.

He was strict and orthodox. In the inevitable succession battle that took place towards the end of his father’s life, Aurangzeb proved too strong for his older brother Dara Shikoh to defeat. Dara was more inclined towards poetry and the arts. Aurangzeb’s skills as a warrior and conqueror were immense and he added to the kingdom he inherited. He was the last of the great Mughals and after his 49 year rule, the kingdom was weakened and on the brink of decline.

THE WOMEN Several women had a key role to play in the fortunes of the Mughal Dynasty and often the politics of the harem of queens influenced the work of the court. As per Muslim law, the kings were allowed to marry more than once and many of them also entered into alliances for strategic reasons.

Nur Jahan Mehrunnisa, daughter of an aristocratic Persian family, at first seemed set to live a routine life. Married at a young age to a highly-placed soldier, she was also widowed early when he was executed for being a traitor. She became a lady-in-waiting to one of Emperor Jahangir’s wives and it was then that the Emperor saw her. They were married two months later and from then on she became his most favoured wife.

Towards the later part of his reign, Nur Jahan became the power behind the throne and made all major decisions. She controlled promotions and demotions of officers, trade and business policy and much more. This pinnacle of power was unique for a woman and it slowly came crashing down after Jahangir’s death and Shah Jahan’s ascension of the throne. Prince Khurram had once been her favourite but the dynamics became strained later. In fact, after Jahangir’s death, Shah Jahan had Nur Jahan confined and she spent her last years in exile at Lahore.

Maham Anga During the early years of the teenage Emperor Akbar’s rule, his foster mother and former nurse Maham Anga was a major influence. Through her machinations, she convinced the young king that he didn’t need the help of Bairam Khan. She also convinced him to give her son Adham Khan charge of a major campaign in Malwa. Her son’s misbehaviour after his success angered the Emperor and Khan was eventually punished. Maham Anga’s power began to dip and Akbar started to rule as an independent king with a new set of ministers and advisers.

Mumtaz Mahal Mumtaz Mahal’s name is known all over the world as the person to whom the Taj Mahal is dedicated. Born Arjumand Banu, she married prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) when she was nineteen and they were inseparable for the next nineteen years. She was his favourite wife and even accompanied him on his military expeditions. They had fourteen children together, including Aurangzeb and Jahanara.

In 1631 Mumtaz Mahal passed away after some complications due to childbirth when she was delivering her fourteenth child. The Emperor was desolate with grief and went into a year of secluded mourning. His oldest daughter Jahanara helped her father cope with their loss and resume a normal life. 11. Jahanara The oldest surviving daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, Jahanara took on the role of mother to her younger siblings after her mother’s death. Her father valued her opinion and took her advice on administrative matters as well as matters relating to their family.

She became the first lady of the Empire and was granted the title of Padshah Begum. When she was severely injured in a fire accident, Shah Jahan nursed her back to health himself. In the succession drama that played out towards the end of her father’s reign, Jahanara was in the Dara Shikoh camp, and wanted to see her favourite brother as king. But Aurangzeb emerged victorious and Jahanara who had a tumultuous relationship with the young prince reconciled with him and retained her lofty position and status. Opponents (I’m not sure what else to call this section, feel free to change it!)

During the centuries of their rule, the Mughal emperors sought to retain and expand the expanses of their kingdom and in the process came up against regional rulers in different parts of the country. The might of the Mughal army helped them overcome most smaller forces and bring more and more territories under their control. But some kings were more difficult to defeat.

OTHER KEY PLAYERS
Sher Shah Suri Born Farid Khan, he joined the Mughal army as a soldier and rose up the ranks. After he consolidated power in the Bihar and Bengal region in 1539, he faced Emperor Humayun in the Battle of Chausa and won. Maharana Pratap The valiant Rajput king of Mewar spent most his life defending his kingdom against the advances of the Mughals under Akbar. A key battle was fought at Haldighati in 1576 where he was surrounded by Mughal forces but managed to escape on his famous horse Chetak.

Shivaji : Another worthy foe of the Mughals, Shivaji was a Maratha warrior whose strength was on the rise in the Deccan region during the reign of Aurangzeb. There were several clashes between the two forces and though Shivaji was captured for a brief spell in between, he escaped and declared himself an independent sovereign in 1674. BOX ITEM

The locations Much of the narrative of the Mughal story was set in Delhi and its surrounding areas. The Mughal emperors were also keen on architecture, some more than others, and left their mark on the landscape of the region. Some of the monuments they built have survived the passage of time and are tourist attractions today.

Delhi Red Fort - It was built as a palace fort in the city of Shahjahabad and housed several audience halls, beautifully laid out gardens and private living spaces. Humayun’s tomb - It was the first garden-tomb built in the subcontinent and was the inspiration for several grand tombs that came later, including the Taj Mahal.

Agra Agra Fort - Located close to the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort spans 2.5 km and contains palaces such as Jahangir Mahal and Khas Mahal, audience halls and two mosques. Taj Mahal - Shah Jahan’s white marble masterpiece built to house the tomb of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal is one of the world’s most well-known monuments. Fatehpur Sikri This ‘City of Victory’ was constructed by Akbar between 1571 and 1573 and is located in present day Uttar Pradesh. It served briefly as the kingdom’s capital and some of its most spectacular buildings include the Buland Darwaza, Panch Mahal and the palace of queen Jodha Bai.

Lahore This city which is in Pakistan today was also a key city for the Mughals and was their capital at different points in time. The Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens are some of the major Mughal monuments located there.


- http://www.thehindu.com/, June 16, 2016

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Landmark clock is stuck in time

The clock on the secretariat tower could go digital. The Churchill-pattern clock on top of Patna's old secretariat tower, one of the city's best architectural landmarks, has developed snags. Gillett and Johnston, clockmakers from Croydon, England, made the Churcill-pattern clock - such clocks have a patterned round face and larger digits than usual. One of the finest pieces of Churchill-pattern clock towers in India, the clock was fitted in the tower at the old secretariat in 1924. But now, it has been stuck at 10:53 for over a week and nobody quite knows if the clock stopped in the morning or at night.

Officials in the building construction department,which looks after the clock, claimed that engineers have been called from Calcutta to repair it. But there's a strong possibility that it might have to be replaced with a digital clock like the one in Patna Junction as old parts could be hard to come by. "All possible efforts will be taken to repair the existing clock but we have been told that it might have to be replaced with a digital clock," said an official in the building construction department at the old secretariat.

"The engineers have told us that digital clocks have been installed at a few old clock towers elsewhere in the country as well. A final decision will be taken by the senior officials upon recommendation from the Calcutta engineers." The engineers are expected to arrive in Patna on Friday and the repair work will take at least a week after they start.

"This is a heritage structure of Patna situated in the state secretariat so the government should have ensured its proper upkeep," said physiotherapist Ratnesh Choudhary. "Employees of the secretariat and residents have grown used to matching their watches to the clock tower. I hope it can be set right again." The clock tower is the most prominent feature of the old or main secretariat building, which was designed by Christchurch, New Zealand-born architect Joseph Fearis Munnings, who worked in Sydney, Australia, between 1913 and 1918. Munnings reportedly borrowed the design of the secretariat from the Union Buildings of Pretoria (South Africa).

The Pretoria building as built by Herbert Baker, an architect of secretariats, Council House, and the New Delhi capital area. Munnings was the consulting architect of the then newly formed state of Bihar and Orissa during 1913-1918. His principal works included the secretariat, government house and council chamber in Patna.

The secretariat building and the splendid tower was built by the British during World War I. The architecture is a blend of the neo-Gothic and pseudo-Renaissance styles. Originally, the clock tower was 198ft high but a part of it collapsed in the 1934 earthquake, reducing it to its present height of 184ft from the ground up to the lightning conductor. The clock's pendulum weighs over two quintals and its minute and hour needles have a combined weight of over 50kg. Its hour-needle is 4.5ft long and the minute-needle 5.5ft. While the winding of the watch takes about 15 minutes, another 15 minutes are required to wind the bell.

Officials in the building construction department said the lever of the clock has worn out because of which the needles are not moving. "Our first preference is putting a new layer over the worn out portion of the needle, so that the same clock can function. The new layer on the worn-out portion of the lever would be put on the lathe machine," said the building construction department official.

Officials added that the parts of the clock are quite old and a complete repair may not be possible. "The Calcutta firm has told us that it has a few old parts. In case they don't fit, we would need to install a digital clock in its place," said the official.

Sources said around Rs 50,000 is sanctioned annually for the clock's maintenance. Employees looking after the clock have to climb 276 steps to wind it and maintain it. - www.telegraphindia.com, June 16, 2016 Bengaluru girl wins int'l award Mallika Gupta, a student from Bengaluru, has won the ‘Wallpaper Design Industry Brief based on Indian Cultural Heritage,’ contest.

This was an initiative by High House, a wallpaper design enterprise of UK-based Staffordshire University. The award will be shared between Gupta, a student of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and Joanna Mathias, a Staffordshire graduate, who is now working as a designer-maker in Stoke-on-Trent city. Another NIFT student, Roshni Vyam, was the first runner-up. Mallika’s design, which was inspired by India’s rich colour palette of the cities of Rajasthan, was a blend of traditional and modern elements.

“My fashion and design sense has always persuaded me to take inspiration from traditional heritage, art and crafts, not only from the ones originated in India, but also from different parts of the world. It was my inclination towards conventional methods that made me participate in the India Collection Brief. I have never aspired for fame, but was always dedicated to make a mark and impact through my work, and winning the High House India Collection gave me that platform,” said the 22-year-old.

The two successful wallpaper designs of the High House India Collection will be put up for commercial production through crowd funding. The winners will not only get an opportunity to showcase their work and themselves as designers, but will also be collaborating with a Masters student at Staffordshire University during the commercialisation of the design. Moreover, should the designs become a commercial success there is potential for students to gain financial benefit.

- http://www.deccanherald.com/, June 16, 2016

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Chennai offices had no role in probe of stolen idols: ASI

More than a fortnight after over 200 stone and panchaloha idols and exquisite paintings were recovered from the house of an 84-year-old ‘art dealer’ in Alwarpet, officials at the Chennai Circle of Archaeological Survey of India on Wednesday said they issued certificates only to non-antique artefacts.

Certification The certification to the non-antique artefacts that made it legal for idols to be transported and stored elsewhere, was made by a ‘lower committee’ comprising their staff and also those from the Department of Archaeology of the State government and experts, including former government officials. In the latest episode, the Chennai Circle did not have any role to play and that even the inspection was made by officials and experts form the Bengaluru office, K. Lourdusamy, Superintending Archaeologist, Chennai Circle, ASI. Staff at the Department of Archaeology too said they were not part of the investigation.

- http://www.thehindu.com/, June 16, 2016

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Five years after act,heritage conservation panel stays on paper

It has been nearly five years since the TN Heritage Commission Act came into being, but the delay in implementing it has cast a shadow on preserving the rich heritage of the State. Under the Act, a statutory authority will be set up to advise the government on heritage issues.But the failure to set up the body has put to test the legitimacy of the list of buildings submitted by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority.

A list of 168 heritage buildings was prepared by the conservation committee, which was set up before the act came into being. Sources say that the list has been forwarded to the government for its notification after consultation with public and owners. Once the new act is in place, the government has to dissolve the old committee and constitute a fresh 17-member heritage conservation commission, says historian and heritage activist S Muthiah.

The delay to set up the committee has irked those who have been taking pride in the rich cultural heritage of the State. The irony is that there are more than 600 heritage buildings and the committee in the last five years has managed to come up with a list of just 168 heritage buildings in Chennai. CMDA monitoring committee member M G Devasahayam said that without the act in place, the conservation of heritage buildings will not be possible. He says the act could not be implemented as the rules are yet to be framed. “The whole process is whimsical...

They have prepared the list but they are not serious about conservation of heritage buildings,” he alleged, and added that the heritage buildings are valuable real estate and if left unprotected, there is a risk of it being demolished in a city which lacks land for development. The act was passed as most of the heritage buildings or premises are not covered under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and the Tamil Nadu Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1966.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/, June 16, 2016

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The great seed piracy

India needs to strengthen international and national laws to protect biodiversity and farmers rights. A great seed and biodiversity piracy is underway and it must be stopped. The privateers of today include not just the corporations — which are becoming fewer and larger through mergers — but also individuals like Bill Gates, the “richest man in the world”.

When the Green Revolution was pushed in India and Mexico, farmers’ seeds were “rounded-up” and locked in international institutions, which used these seeds to breed green revolution varieties which responded to chemical inputs. The first two institutions were the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico. These institutes took diversity from farmers’ fields and replaced the diversity with chemical monocultures of rice, wheat and corn.

Dr. R.H. Richharia, India’s pre-eminent rice research scientist, headed the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) at Cuttack, Orissa. The Indian institute existed before IRRI, had the largest collection of rice diversity the biggest rice “bank” in the world. Dr Richharia refused to allow IRRI in the Philippines to pirate the collection. The World Bank removed Dr Richharia, the guardian of Indian rice knowledge, from CRRI so that it could transfer Indian peasant intellectual property to the international institute (which later became part of the Consultative Group of International Agriculture Research). Farmers’ seed heritage is held in the seed banks of CGIAR, a consortium of 15 international agricultural research centers, which is the single biggest recipient of grants from Mr Gates.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the new World Bank when it comes to using finances to influence policies in agriculture. The Gates Foundation is a major funder of the CGIAR system — and through its funding, it is accelerating the transfer of research and seeds to corporations, facilitating intellectual property piracy and seed monopolies created through intellectual property laws and seed regulations. Control over the seeds of the world for “one agriculture” is Mr Gates’ target! Since 2003, CGIAR centres have received more than $720 million from Mr Gates. Besides taking control of the seeds of farmers in CGIAR seed banks, Mr Gates (along with the Rockefeller Foundation) is investing heavily in collecting seeds from across the world and storing them in a facility in Svalbard in the Arctic — the “doomsday vault”.

Mr Gates is also funding Diversity Seek (DivSeek), a global initiative to take patents on the seed collections through genomic mapping. Seven million crop accessions are in public seed banks. DivSeek could allow five corporations to own this diversity. Today, biopiracy is carried out through the convergence of information technology and biotechnology. It is done by taking patents by “mapping” genomes and genome sequences. While living seed needs to evolve “in situ”, patents on genomes can be taken through access to seed “ex situ”. DivSeek is a global project launched in 2015 to map the genetic data of the peasant diversity of seeds held in gene banks.

It robs the peasants of their seeds and knowledge, it robs the seed of its integrity and diversity, its evolutionary history, its link to the soil and reduces it to “code”. It is an extractive project to “mine” the data in the seed to “censor” out the commons. The peasants (or farmers as they’re referred to now) who evolved the diversity have no place in DivSeek. their contributions, their knowledge is being “mined” — not recognised, honoured or conserved. This “genetic colonialism” is an enclosure of the genetic commons. The participating institutions are the CGIAR nodes and “public universities” like Cornell and Iowa State, which are being increasingly privatised by the bio-technology industry and Mr Gates. Cornell is where Mr Gates funds the pseudo-science propaganda machine misnamed the Cornell Alliance for Science. Iowa State is where Mr Gates is funding the Unethical Human Feeding Trials of GMO bananas. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the partners of DivSeek, especially the African Agricul-tural Technology Founda-tion and an Africa-Brazil partnership in DivSeek.

Mr Gates is also investing in a one-year-old experimental genetic engineering tool for gene editing, CRISPR-Cas9, through a new front corporation Editas- Medicine. While the technology itself is immature and inaccurate, it is a gold rush for new patents. The language of “gene editing” and “educated guesses” is creeping into scientific discourse. Piracy of common genomic data of millions of plants bred by peasants is termed “big data”. But big data is data privateered. Seeds are not just germ plasm. They are living. They are intelligent. They are beings and subjects of evolution, history, culture and relationships.

In the 1980s, Monsanto led the push for GMOs and patents on life. Today it is Bill Gates. One rich individual is able to use his wealth to bypass all international treaties and all multilateral governance structures to help global corporations grab the biodiversity and wealth of peasants by financing unscientific and undemocratic processes like DivSeek, and trying to unleash untested technologies like CRISPR.

Over the last two decades, humanity has taken actions and written laws to protect the biodiversity of the planet and the rights of farmers to seed, the rights of consumers to safety. These laws include: The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol to the CBD; the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources Treaty for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). India needs to strengthen international and national laws to protect biodiversity and farmers rights. Instead, the government is taking steps to facilitate BigMac™ seed biopiracy. The New IPR policy has clauses which state: 2.20. Public research institutions should be allowed access to TKDL for further R&D, while the possibility of using traditional knowledge digital library for further R&D by private sector may also be explored, provided necessary safeguards are in place to prevent misappropriation.

4.20. National Biodiversity Authority. 4.20.1. The government will formalise a consultation and coordination mechanism between the national biodiversity authority, intellectual property office and other concerned ministries/departments like Ayush, with a view to harmonious implementation of guidelines for grant of IP rights and access to biological resources and associated traditional knowledge and benefit sharing; 4.20.2. The NBA will streamline approvals for expeditious grant of IP rights, monetary and non-monetary benefit-sharing and introduce efficient and user friendly mechanisms for a meaningful interface between the NBA and applicants. In effect, the government is stating that our traditional knowledge and biodiversity heritage is available with ease of biopiracy through IPRs. The government has also made changes in the Biodiversity Act, which was written with India’s decentralised democracy. The Biodiversity Act mandates that foreign entities seeking patents and IPRs on India’s biodiversity seek permission from the Chennai-based NBA.

Section 6(1) of the law requires a mandatory consultation with the local biodiversity management committees (BMC) since local communities are the custodians of biodiversity and traditional knowledge. Un-der global pressure from biopirates, there is an attempt to dispense with the BMC consultation. Which implies destroying people’s rights to their knowledge and heritage and the foundation of our living econo-mies and democracies.

- http://www.deccanchronicle.com/, June 16, 2016

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Railway stations in India are turning heads

Tribal art forms come alive in Rajasthan, with murals focusing on styles, themes and social issues relevant to the respective regions Not too long ago, public walls in India wouldn’t warrant a second glance — they were drab, dirty, in disrepair and ubiquitously stained with betel juice people spat on them. That was until street art came to the rescue, at least in metropolitan cities.

And now, the western state of Rajasthan, renowned for its bright hues that stand out against its desert sands and the intricate, frescoed havelis of the Shekhawati region, is taking an artistic leap ahead. It is promoting the state’s dying folk arts by depicting them on the walls of its railway stations. It all started one fine day last October, when the state’s capital Jaipur woke up to vibrant hoardings displaying Jogi paintings at 40 places around the city. The tribal art form, composed of complex images made up of dots and lines, is practised in Magriwada village of Sirohi district, 487 kilometres from Jaipur.

The Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) had invited five Jogi artists to create independent colour as well as black-and-white Jogi art pieces. These were displayed at bus shelters, on bus panels and hop-on-hop-off buses. Each hoarding carried the name and photograph of the artist who created it. The following month, hand-painted auto-rickshaws, showcasing Rajasthan’s culture and heritage, began plying the city streets as the investors’ summit Resurgent Rajasthan started in Jaipur. Fine arts students from various universities had worked on 100 auto-rickshaws for this project to promote folk art. This colourful surprise not just amused the guests and participants, but also raised awareness among local residents about preserving their heritage.

The initiative to have murals at the railway stations is the latest in the line. The 5,000 feet of walls of tiny railway station of Sawai Madhopur, the gateway to the famous Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in eastern Rajasthan, have been lavishly painted with the flora and fauna that the reserve hosts — darters, tree-pies, hyenas, bears, leopards, and of course tigers. The railway station is now a grand reflection of Ranthambore’s diverse wildlife and has become a “heritage railway station”. On February 25, Indian Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, while presenting the railway budget for 2016-17, lauded this “unique attempt to combine cleanliness with creativity”.

“I had appealed to numerous social organisations to come forward to beautify our stations. I am happy to inform the House that walls of many stations have been converted to murals, which have not only improved the aesthetics but also spread awareness on socially relevant themes. One such theme that deserves special mention is wildlife conservation illustrated through the paintings at the Sawai Madhopur Station. Hazaribagh, Borivali, Khar, Udaipur, Bikaner are some of the other stations which showcase local art and talent. I thank them all and request similar support next year for aesthetic upgrade of our stations. We will make special efforts to showcase tribal art,” he said.

The mural at Sawai Madhopur station is the work of a team of artists from Ranthambore School of Art, led by two master painters, Gajanand Singh and Narayan Singh. The Ranthambore School of Art, founded in 1988 by India’s “tigerman” Valmik Thapar through the NGO Ranthambore Foundation, has trained more than 250 local people as wildlife artists.

Thapar presented the concept for the mural to Prabhu, who served as the environment and forest minister in the earlier NDA government. Prabhu, it is learnt, immediately took to the idea. The exercise called for a small sponsorship and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India, stepped in to provide the requisite funding. “It is not just tourists and foreigners who are excited to see the paintings, but also the locals. They say they’ve never seen anything like this. They click pictures with the paintings,” Gajanand Singh told www.thenewsminute.com, a digital news platform reporting and writing on issues in India. “Some say they don’t even need to go to the national park now that they have seen the art at the station,” he added.

“The station has become a living art museum of wildlife. The junglescape has created a buzz. People are curious, excited, and are asking questions, taking photographs. It is generating awareness and will have other ripple effects,” the website DailyO.in quoted Thapar as saying. Thapar hopes that this unique effort will be replicated at other stations and public, with murals that reflect the natural and culture heritage of the region.

Taking a cue from the Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (the Clean India campaign), Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje wrote to the union railway minister on April 16 last year, requesting that the railway stations in the state be given a thematic facelift. Sawai Madhopur, the first station to get painted, was ready in December. The Jaipur railway station was next, and was done up in Jogi art. The two smaller stations in the capital — Gandhi Nagar and Durgapura — are in the process of having murals depicting traditional Rajasthani puppets and the Jaipur skyline. One of Jaipur’s new Metro stations, Mansarovar, got a 200-foot graffiti wall, replete with the city’s landmarks and cultural icons, such as puppets and elephants, and festivals such as Navratra and Gangaur.

The Jodhpur railway station is being beautified with Phad paintings. These huge paintings are done on cloth and depict stories of local deities. The scale of the figures in the paintings depicts their social status in the story. What is also interesting is that the figures face each other, not the audience. As per traditions, a 30x5foot work is painted with natural vegetable colours. Material such as squirrel hair is also used.

In Bikaner, floral motifs from Badal Mahal are being used to decorate the station while Udaipur is using representations from the Mewar School of Art. Mewar painting is one of the most important schools of miniatures of the 17th and 18th centuries developed in the principality of Mewar. These works are characterised by simple bright colours and direct emotional appeal. Most of the paintings were concerned with portraiture and the life of the ruler, though religious themes continued to be popular.

Next in line is the Ajmer station, which will see secular calligraphy, typical of the city of Dargah Sharif. Bharatpur, a haven for birds, is to be done up around the theme of birds. Kota station will be with stylised vegetation typical of the Bundi School of Art.

Bundi painting, another significant form of miniatures, lasted from the 17th to the end of the 19th century in the princely state of Bundi and its neighbouring principality of Kota. The earliest examples show Rajasthani features, particularly in the depiction of men and women, but the Mogul influence is exceptionally strong. The Bundi school is characterised by a fondness for lush vegetation, dramatic night skies, a distinctive way of depicting water by light swirls against a dark background and vivid movement. A release from the Chief Minister’s office said such art in public places, especially railway stations, not only makes the surroundings pleasant but also helps to provide a platform for local artists to showcase their talent and earn a living. Rakesh Kumar is a writer based in Jaipur, India.

- http://gulfnews.com/, June 16, 2016

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CUK, Sydney Univ to set up heritage mgmt centre

Central University of Kashmir (CUK) Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mehraj ud Din Mir has said the varsity in collaboration with the University of Sydney will soon establish a Centre for Research in Heritage Management. “In this Centre, we will be able to address and attend to the issues related to the heritage and history of the State,” Prof Mehraj ud Din said while addressing the Kehwa Talk on “Rediscovering Kashmir’s Past” organized by Centre for Research and Development Policy (CRDP) in collaboration with CUK at its Nowgam-I academic block.

Professor of Silk Route Studies at Sydney University, Prof Allison Betts; INTACH Head J&K Chapter, Saleem Beigh; former Professor Central Asian Studies KU, Prof Gulshan Majeed; researcher with CRDP, Dr Mushtaq Yatoo; CRDP director, Dr Suhail; Deans of various Schools; Heads and Coordinators of different departments; Registrar CUK, Prof Muhammad Afzal Zargar; former PSC chairman, Muhammad Shafi Pandit; Editor Rising Kashmir, Dr Shuja’at Bukhari; faculty members and students were also present on the occasion. Prof Mehraj ud Din said CUK would soon explore the possibilities of starting the departments of geology, archaeology, geography and disaster management. Prof Allison Betts, and Dr Mushtaq Yatoo made detailed presentations which were followed by question-answer session.

- http://www.greaterkashmir.com/, June 17, 2016

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Kerala State Government is likely to declare Aranmula as a Heritage Village

The unique metal mirrors, Aranmula Kannadi, the centuries’ old Lord Krishna temple and the snake-boat regatta (Vallamkali) reflects the rich heritage of the place The Union Ministry for Culture and Tourism will be sending two expert teams to Aranmula as part of its proposal to declare Aranmula a ‘heritage village’ The State government had given the proposal of declaring the unique place, Aranmula in 2008 The unique metal mirrors, Aranmula Kannadi, the centuries’ old Lord Krishna temple and the snake-boat regatta (Vallamkali) reflects the rich heritage of the place The 2008 proposal by the State government of declaring the unique place, Aranmula, as a heritage village is likely to be taken into account.

According to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State president Kummanam Rajasekharan, ‘the Union Ministry for Culture and Tourism will be sending two expert teams to Aranmula soon as part of its proposal to declare Aranmula a ‘heritage village.’ ‘Aranmula’ got its name from the centuries-old Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple located on the banks of the holy River Pamba.

The Parthasarathy Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and attracts huge number of devotees. Also, a team of experts from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) would also be visiting Aranmula soon. Mr. Rajasekharan also informed that another high-level team from the Union Ministry of Tourism would also visit Aranmula, exploring the possibility of including Aranmula in the Pilgrim Tourism Circuit, said the Hindu report.

The rich heritage of Aranmula includes the rustic traditions, arts and crafts and showcasing these reflections of the heritage of this unique place is the aim of the State’s proposal. An exclusive workshop-cum-exhibition is also a part of the proposed heritage village which stall for Aranmula Kannadi besides a Vanchippattu kalari and a country craft building unit which makes Aranmula unique as it is not found anywhere else in the world. Aranmula Kannadi also makes the village unique as this unique craft is not found anywhere else in the world.

The anniversary of the idol installation (Uthrittathi day in the Malayalam month of Chingom) is marked by annual snake-boat regatta at Aranmula, at the Sree Parthasarathy Temple which is believed to be the oldest in the State.

According to the Hindu report, the toddy shops in countryside, the elephant with bunches of coconut leaves tightly-clipped between their mouth and the tusk, and their mahouts taking them for a bath in the river and country boats carrying travellers across the river are all typical countryside charms in Aranmula.

Foreign tourists stay here for long periods with a desire to get knowledge of the culture of Kerala. The last day of the week-long Onam festival is marked with the popular Aranmula boat race. The unique metal mirrors, Aranmula Kannadi, the centuries’ old Lord Krishna temple and the snake-boat regatta (Vallamkali), already has a special position for itself in the world tourism map.

- http://www.newsgram.com/, June 17, 2016

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Cracking down on idol-looters

The thriving trade in illicitly procured temple idols was exposed yet again after officers of the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu Police raided the premises of the Chennai-based businessman Deenadayalan on May 31. The sheer scale of the seizure — 71 stone idols, 41 metal idols, 90 paintings and an ivory item — signals how big and brazen the idol-looting business is in India. The value of the loss from this activity cannot be computed in merely commercial terms; every item illegally exported robs the country of a bit of its heritage. The Deenadayalan raids, for example, yielded idols of Ganapathy, Dakshinamoorthy, Garudalwar, Boodevi and Sridevi, and numerous pillars and vessels too, mostly dating back to the unparalleled refinement of Dravidian sculpture and architecture during the Chola age.

The octogenarian ran four art galleries in Tamil Nadu and one in Karnataka, each possibly a hub for storage and smuggling. The meticulously organised nature of this shadowy business hints at the deep and vast network of idol thieves who have plied their trade across not only Tamil Nadu but numerous other Indian States and even broader territories of South and South East Asia.

The most notable among these is the smuggling ring of Subhash Kapoor, the alleged kingpin who is now in a Tamil Nadu prison after being arrested in the U.S. in 2011 for illegally shipping artefacts to his “Art of the Past” gallery in New York and to other museums. The loot of Indian antiquities by Kapoor and Co. stretches as far back as the early years of Indian Independence, when Subhash’s father Parshotam Ram Kapoor began plundering cultural institutions in the subcontinent and selling objects for profit.

The law of the land has changed since then. In the 1970s India became a signatory to the UNESCO convention on preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property. Under this rubric, no such culturally significant objects could be removed from India under any circumstances. Although more evidence connecting Deenadayalan to Kapoor is yet to emerge, it is clear that a loot of heritage on a breathtaking scale has continued despite the evolving legal framework to protect it. Although enforcement action and public awareness of idol-smuggling have expanded, it has only been in the last few years that idols recovered on foreign soil have trickled back.

Notably, 200 artefacts estimated at $100 million were returned to India in Washington this month during the U.S. visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There is an urgent need to halt the outflow of idols. That requires building up the manpower and surveillance capabilities of the police to disrupt the gangs, and facilitating inter-agency and international cooperation.

- http://www.thehindu.com/, June 17, 2016

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Phasi forest to meet timber requirement

LAW Minister Arun Sahoo on Thursday said that 40,000 Phasi trees are being grown in Khandapada forest to meet the timber requirement for construction of chariots for the Holy Trinity during Rath Yatra. Similarly, forest divisions of Kandhamal and Boudh will be asked to provide Asan and Dhaura varieties of timber for construction of the three chariots in future. The Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) faces shortage of Phasi, Asan and Dhaura varieties of timber for construction of chariots.

For the last 10 years, the required logs are being provided by devotees and the Nayagarh forest division. Usually, Phasi logs are required for construction of the chariot wheels. At the third Rath Yatra coordination committee meeting here, Sahoo said a Phasi forest is being grown on the banks of river Kusumi in Khandapada. This year, the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra will be held on July 6 and prior to that, Deba Snana Purnima of the three deities would take place on June 20. At the meeting, the committee members directed officials of PWD, PHED, National Highways Authority of India, Drainage and Sewerage wings of the local civic body to complete the ongoing infrastructure works in Puri before June 30.

The railway officials said that 148 trains would ply to Puri from Rath Yatra day to Suna Besha day while, 36 ticket booking counters would be opened at the Puri railway station during this period. Similarly, Chief District Medical Officer Jagat Krushna Samantray said all the vacant positions of doctors and other medical staff will be filled up soon. As many as 223 doctors would be deployed for the fete in the District Headquarters Hospital and other health centres in the district while 167 special beds would be made available to meet the healthcare needs of the pilgrims. Hundreds of life guards would be deployed at all the holy water bodies in the area and the sea beach during the fete.

The CESU officials said that the entire city will be provided continuous power supply and the Grand Road - the venue of the Rath Yatra - and sea beach would be illuminated. SP Sarthak Sarangi said that as Samjajpur railway overbridge has been closed, one-way traffic will be enforced during the Rath Yatra and another road is being laid near the railway overbridge to regulate vehicular traffic. Among others, ministers Sanjay Dasburma, Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Ramesh Chandra Majhi, Puspendra Singhdeo and chairman of Nabakalebara Infrastructure Development Monitoring Committee Maheswar Mohanty, RDC AB Ota, ADG Satyajit Mohanty, IGP RK Koche and Daitapatis were present in the meeting.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/, June 17, 2016

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New airport to harvest rain water

Nisha Agnihotri, resident architect for New Delhi-based architect firm Creative Group, said, "Right from the stage when the site was being prepared for construction to the completion stage, all GRIHA norms like cutting trees, planting new trees, recycling debris, using green rated materials, building design orientation according to climate have been followed."

Besides a rain water harvesting system, the parking area will be made from grass-based paver blocks that are used in the green buildings. "We have simultaneously started the process of getting approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)," said Shukla.

The terminal building's foundation was laid by former civil aviation minister Praful Patel in 2009. The aerodynamic shape building of the new terminal spread across 17,500 sq m with a capacity to handle 16,800 passengers in a day. The current airport at Harni is spread across 4,500 sq m but has less passenger area However, Barodians may have to depend on Ahmedabad airport to board long-distance direct flights for the US or the UK as the existing 8,100 feet runway is not enough to handle big aircraft.

"There can be direct international flights to neighbouring countries if airlines evince interest," said an official. "Vadodara airport saw a growth of 30.6 % in passenger traffic last financial year. Re-carpeting of runway at Ahmedabad is one of the main reason for this rise," said Sonu Marande, Vadodara airport director. Presently, 10 scheduled flights to Delhi and Mumbai operate from the Vadodara airport while there are two additional flights that arrive because of re-carpeting of runway at Ahmedabad airport.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 17, 2016

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Nalanda University might not be awarded as World Heritage Site. Here's why

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has pointed out several "weaknesses" in the submitted dossier, on the arguments put forward for its identification as an outstanding "university." In a potential embarrassment for India, an agency of the UNESCO that evaluates nominated 'World Heritage Sites' globally, has recommended the "deferring" of awarding the coveted title to Nalanda University.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has pointed out several "weaknesses" in the submitted dossier, on the arguments put forward for its identification as an outstanding "university." It, in fact, says that the 'state party' "needs to deepen its study of the (ancient site in Bihar)…in order to explicitly establish its importance…and authenticity." ICOMOS also seems to be uncomfortable with the project label, recommending it to be changed from the 'Excavated Remains of Nalanda Mahavihara' to 'The Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara.'

The Ministry of Culture has not given up hope yet. Spokesperson of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Dr RS Fonia, told Mail Today, "We will convince the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO during its final decision-making session at Istanbul (Turkey) around July 15. The 'Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO,' who is based in Paris, will travel to the venue and present our case."

"We are supplying suitable literature and films on the merits of Nalanda Mahavihara to the Permanent Representative, so that he/she can suitably advocate for its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site," Dr Fonia added. The 'Hill Forts of Rajasthan' also got through in this manner, he said. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and that of Culture are closely coordinating on this issue.

NALANDA ENTERS THE LIST OF WORLD HERITAGE SITES Nalanda became India's official entry on the list of 'World Heritage List Nominations' in 2015. This was under the category of 'Cultural Properties.' A 200-page dossier was handed over to UNESCO on January 28, 2015. An ICOMOS team led by Japanese expert Masaya Masui visited the ruins in Bargaon district of Bihar from August 25-30. It submitted its 'evaluation report' earlier this year.

DOSSIER PROVIDES WEAK ARGUMENTS The report has expressed its 'dissatisfaction' on several counts. It says the dossier provides a 'weak' argument on Nalanda's superiority as a 'university' in its comparative analysis with old varsities in Paris and Bologna, Italy. It considers that "the condition of integrity of the nominated property has not been met."

Boundaries should be drawn to include all areas and attributes which are direct tangible expressions of its 'Outstanding Universal Value.' Covering an area of 23 hectares, it includes the remains of the principle stupa, four chaityas, 11 viharas and a large number of shrines. The report also highlights that "development pressure is leading to densification of Nalanda's immediate surroundings." A 'buffer' strip, 30-400 meters wide, surrounds ancient Nalanda University, mostly consisting of agricultural fields and water bodies.

- http://indiatoday.intoday.in/, June 17, 2016

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Heritage walker through Ahmedabad's walled clouds

The fortified city of Ahmedabad, founded in 1411 AD by Sultan Ahmed Shah, was one of India’s largest walled cities. Though major portions of the ramparts were demolished during the 18th and 19th centuries, heritage activist and guide Girish Gupta believes that its remains are still fascinating. He is designing a guided walk tour called ‘Walk The Wall’, which will take visitors along the remaining fragments of the medieval wall.

“The walk will take tourists along the banks of the Sabarmati river and through the remains of the walls, that were once the part of the city. Each door, window and gate in the facade is associated with fascinating anecdotes, historical facts and architectural features that speak the history of Ahmedabad. The walk will be my 12th project as a guide or designer in the city,” he says.

Gupta decided to become a heritage guide in mid-90s. “I felt it was my social responsibility to give back to the city where I grew up. The opportunity came when the Heritage Cell of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation published an advertisement inviting volunteers to help in the project. Debashish Nayak, an architect and heritage activist, developed the heritage activities of the municipal corporation, including the Ahmedabad Heritage Walk.

Thus, I volunteered to guide tourists on the walking tour, which is the first in India,” Gupta says. On Nayak’s recommendation, Gupta went to Kolkata to gain experience in guiding heritage walks. “In Ahmedabad, residents get together outside their homes for discussions and conversations. I involved tourists in such interactions,” Gupta says, adding that the owners of havelis and old houses began to feel proud of the attention their neighbourhoods and traditional homes were receiving.

This led to a sense of prestige in conservation and upkeep of their surroundings. Gupta began to specialise in guiding students. “It is important to inculcate a feeling for heritage among students who are at the right age to understand the importance of conservation of historical buildings, cultures and environments.

A large percentage of participants of my guided walking tours are college students, mostly from architecture, design, urban planning, management and culture studies colleges,” he says. The 11 walking tours take different routes. Even where they intersect or have a common stretch, Gupta has scripted narration according to their themes.

“For example, the Jain Heritage Walk passes by the facades of 35 Jain temples. Here, the narration is focused on Jain architecture, philosophy and rituals,” he says. Others like Ahmedabad Kranti Yatra runs through the area along sites associated with the freedom struggle. A walk through Manek Burj to Manek Chowk covers some of the city’s oldest buildings, a walk in Gandhi Ashram and Sardar Patel Memorial offers a look at the areas that predate the 1411 building of the Walled City.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/, June 18, 2016

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Education Department Directs Tree Plantation in Schools

With ground water level decreasing day by day and global warming increasing, the state school education and literacy department has come up with 'Vriksha Lagao Abhiyan' (tree plantation programme) 2016. Under this project chief minister Raghubar Das has directed all the schools, both government and private, to organise oath taking ceremony for tree plantation in the morning assembly from June 20 to 30.

The month long programme will officially start from July 1 and under this programme the schools having boundary wall have to plant fruit and flower yielding trees inside the premises and creepers near the boundary wall which will make the schools look attractive. Those schools which do not have boundary wall can construct bio fencing using shrubs and hedges.

The department suggested planting mango, guava, jackfruit, banana, papaya, litchi and other fruit yielding trees and plants like jasmine, marigold and other flowering plants. Department secretary Aradhana Patnaik said, "The schools can contact the nearest nurseries for getting plants. As the monsoon has already started, there would be no problem in plantation. The schools have also been directed to install water harvesting system in their premises."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 18, 2016

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Ghosts of Chandigarh past

The eccentric offering of Shanay Jhaveri’s book is its greatest asset — a book on art that is a work of art If you stand on the upper parapets of any tall building in Delhi, Lucknow, Patna or most North Indian cities, the view is essentially the same: close up, the buildings resemble architect-designed structures with some semblance of self-created order — a partial cityscape that has emerged from a drawing board. But as the eye moves away, architecture dissipates into half-baked urbanity. In the middle distance is a composition of people and buildings, of movement and unhindered human action; and farther afield, the scene appears as a soft focus dust haze — a pantomime of half-finished walls set in city squalor — barely decipherable as a place with precise intentions.

Chandigarh was the only modern city in North India conceived in geometry and with a European sense of urban control. Its perception and visible structure still retains to a great extent the vision of its master architect, Le Corbusier. Of the numerous texts published on it, almost all address two specific issues: one, the architectural conception of the city; and two, the urbanity of its division into sectors, along with its garden-planning ideas.

Shanay Jhaveri adds a third type to the list. Chandigarh is in India — despite the strained reference in its title — is unusual, in that it casts a welcoming glance on the many forms of art that emerged full-blown at the time — painting, textile, collage, screen art, landscape, photography, film, interiors, etc. That the specific and personal nature of many of these artistic efforts finds its way into the book is the strength of Jhaveri’s inclusive vision, even though many owe their allegiance only to modernism, and not specifically to the only real modern city of India, the Chandigarh that is in India.

The book works on many levels. At first glance, it appears — like many of modernism’s inspirations — as a work of art itself. An unlikely catalogue of information laid out in a unique sequence supporting a discontinuous narrative. Every page dominates the underlying storyline of modernism and becomes a conception to look at, to admire and appreciate in compositional terms (I was tempted to tear off pages and frame them for the wall). The book’s prime concern seems not much to tell a coherent story but to bewitch the reader with page after page of evidence on the grand recent period of design history.

The author makes the same claim of greatness in the text. The subject matter, he says “tries to dislodge the dominant image of Chandigarh so far circulated of only Corbusier’s weathered buildings, isolated and fetishized as the camera-ready ruins of a failed Utopian vision”. He could hardly be more spot-on in his analysis of the city. However, it is hard to see how the book can become a relevant tribute to Indian modernism, when so little of it survives in its original form, indeed when the primary structures of Indian urbanity are little more than an indecipherable pastiche of the personal and the vernacular.

It is often rare that a city’s design can be discussed in a conversation on art. “Where,” writes Jhaveri in his introduction, “is the work that infiltrated the city’s planned quarters, its avenues and gardens, to express the great confidence and desire that willed it into being? Where are all the images, the words, and the songs that tell of Chandigarh’s enduring tale?” A loaded question, it assumes that the city’s modernism could be felt, grasped and expressed in other works of art that emerged out of the modernist vision.

The book is a testament — albeit a bit exaggerated — to that claim. The artists, whose works appear in the later section, were largely independent creators who either left a peripheral stamp on the city with their own diligent work or those who used modernism as an inspiration in their private expression. How Chandigarh becomes a master mentor is hard to see. If anything, the city is today but a ghostly presence, a background, to an overpopulated Indian reality. And in effect, its success as an altogether different city is less inspiration, more bureaucratic delusion.

What remains of Chandigarh’s modernistic model is only a tribute to Indian bureaucracy. Like all formal structures in India, the city survives only because of strict zoning and paralysing building regulations. Rules as old as the city itself. Had the real India been unleashed on the place over the period, had waves of rural migrants been allowed to make space within the plan of a continually changing Chandigarh, the city would have been a true experiment in Indian urbanism. In its sealed state, and half a century of bureaucratic control later, its false sense of liveability is fostered by a draconian conservation, similar to providing fences around monuments.

The care lavished on its parkland, leisure valleys and sculpture gardens, the wide avenues and bureaucratic bungalows makes it an altogether artificial construction surviving in a vacuum. A brilliant monumental lie. Sixty years earlier, when Jawaharlal Nehru said that Chandigarh “hits you on the head”, the reference was to a pleasant shock compared to the cataclysmic experience of the real Indian city. Sixty years later, when you travel along the wide boulevards, Chandigarh still hits you on the head. But you may well ask whether hits on the head are still valid in urban India, or should a more studied approach to city life be put into practice. Perhaps even Nehru may think differently today.

Still, the book’s eccentric offering is its greatest asset. By choosing to represent such myriad forms of art and in ways that captivate the reader with graphic idiosyncrasies — cropping photographs, juxtaposing text and drawings, oversizing lettering, framing the banal, and tilting and overturning images, the book makes constant unsettling demands on the reader; thus becoming a work of the very art described in its pages — a book on art that is a work of art. It is a compliment to an age that is overrun by the messy tumult of Indian city life, and a formal tribute to a style that history refuses to acknowledge. Gautam Bhatia is a Delhi-based architect and sculptor.

- http://www.thehindu.com/, June 18, 2016

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INTACH moves HC to protect Delhi's contemporary built heritage

Alleging "complete abdication" of responsibility by Heritage Conservation Committee and Delhi Urban Art Commission to protect the city's "contemporary architectural heritage", an NGO has made a plea to Delhi High Court seeking protection of these modern built legacy. The court has directed HCC and the DUAC to place before it the decisions taken by the two bodies in this regard.

Justice Manmohan asked HCC and DUAC to produce before the court the "original files" which contain the decisions of the two bodies on the issue which has been raised in the plea filed by the Delhi chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and listed the matter for further hearing on July 12. INTACH in its plea filed recently has sought protection of around 62 buildings, including the Hall of Nations in Pragati Maidan in the national capital which it has identified as modern heritage.

The matter assumes significance as the Hall of Nations and Nehru Pavillion are earmarked for demolition by the government to pave the way for a new world-class facility. In its plea, INTACH has submitted that the post-1947 period was one of architectural importance since at that time the country was forging a "modern identity".

It has alleged "complete abdication of responsibility by HCC, DUAC and other agencies in not taking steps to protect contemporary architectural heritage of Delhi." INTACH has contended that the list of 62 such structures was submitted to HCC and DUAC in 2013 but till date they have not notified the list resulting in a "legal vacuum". The NGO has also sought directions from the court to the civic bodies to not damage or demolish any of these buildings.

As per INTACH, besides the Hall of Nations, other modern structures that need to be protected include India International Centre, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Lotus Temple (Baha'i House of Worship), Sri Ram Centre for Performing Arts and Crafts Museum which currently are not protected under any law. -http://www.business-standard.com/, June 19, 2016

Intach wants heritage tag for 62 modern buildings, moves HC A well-known organisation engaged in architectural conservation has approached the high court, seeking protection of 62 modern buildings identified by it as heritage sites. Intach Delhi Chapter has urged the court to direct specialised agencies, such as Delhi Urban Art Commission, to timely notify these buildings of modern architectural heritage. It also wants the court to order civic agencies to desist from damaging or demolishing any of these buildings.

Justice Manmohan earlier this month directed DUAC and Heritage Conservation Committee to place the original file before him, so that the court can verify what decisions have been taken by the authorities in this regard. In its petition filed through advocate Anish Dayal, Intach has alleged "complete abdication of responsibility by HCC, DUAC and other agencies in not taking steps to protect contemporary architectural heritage of Delhi, despite having cogent reasons to do so."

The organisation says post-1947 period was one of architectural importance since at that time the country was forging a 'modern' identity. The organisation informed the court that DUAC and HCC had roped in the petitioner organisation to prepare a list of buildings which need protection, and it compiled a list of 62 sites in the first phase. These structures include India International Centre, JNU, Hall of Nations, Lotus Temple and many other iconic buildings that are currently not protected under any law.

In 2013 the list was submitted to HCC and DUAC but till date they have not notified the list resulting in a legal vacuum, Intach argues in its plea. The absence of a legal tag is being exploited by the government since some of these buildings face demolition to pave the way for new 'world-class' facilities, the NGO points out, citing the example of Hall of Nations in Pragati Maidan which is earmarked for demolition. "It is their duty to make sure that such a grave loss to the nation doesn't take place," the organisation says.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 19, 2016

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Retelling India's textile stories

Two women from Bengaluru are travelling across the country to bring back tales of unsung artisans. With their documentaries, Nidhi Kamath and Keya Vaswani hope to put Indian art and craft on the global map. The 26-year-olds have been at it for three years, and have already won a national award for ‘Weaves of Maheshwar’, a film on the weaving tradition indigenous to Madhya Pradesh.

They say their initiative, Storyloom Films, is all about telling beautiful stories and crafting films with love. Nidhi puts it this way: “Our objective is to weave poignant and heartwarming stories on the warp of time.” Their efforts to preserve Indian crafts and handlooms come from a strong belief that losing craft amounts to losing culture.

With a background in design from the Indian Institute of Crafts and Design, Jaipur, it was by accident that the two took to film making. “We are graduates of craft and design. We did not initially have any plans of film making. One day I was watching a BBC documentary titled ‘A Story of India’. That particular episode was on Benares. I was fascinated by the stories around this city. I decided to travel to Benares,” says Nidhi.

While these thoughts were taking shape, Keya entered the room. Nidhi asked her if she wanted to join her on the trip. Keya agreed. In Benares, they met a text researcher who gave them a peek into contemporary textile design. They started exploring the possibility of making films on Indian handlooms. Nidhi is inspired by her grandmother, who used to tell her stories. Keya on the other hand grew up in a family where everyone shared an interest in arts and crafts. Her brother is a filmmaker and her father is a hobbyist photographer. Her mother has a flair for interior decor.

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/, June 19, 2016

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India's stolen antiquities: An industrial-scale loot

The antiquities PM Modi brought back from the US are a drop in the ocean of the thousands India loses to art thieves each year. With no dedicated enforcement agency, recovering appropriated cultural property is a big hurdle, says Gargi Gupta It got overshadowed by the euphoria over Westinghouse's nuclear reactor deal, but one substantive takeaway of Narendra Modi's recent US visit was Washington's decision to return 200 stolen antiquities to India. Of the 200, the Prime Minister brought 11 back with him. The rest are to follow, although the exact schedule of the returns remains unclear, say officials in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

But clearly, several artefacts are on the way. DN Dimri, director of antiquities at ASI, who was in the US recently, says he examined 26 antiquities and 65 paper objects. Eleven does not compare to 200, and yet it is not a number to scoff at. Consider that in the near four decades between 1976 (when the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972 came into force) and 2015, India has recovered only 18 stolen artefacts from abroad.

However, 11 or even 200 doesn't make much of a difference when you set it against the scale of loot. According to the ministry of culture records, 101 antiquities were stolen between 2000 and 2016 from 3,650 protected historical monuments around the country. But what about the pilferage from around five lakh unprotected monuments? National Crime Records data, compiled from FIRs registered in police stations across the country, reveals a more realistic figure – 4,115 cases of 'cultural property' stolen in 2010-2014. Of these, 1,130 cases were resolved, leading to recoveries, but there are still 3,000 unsolved cases in just these four years.

Add to these statistics the thefts in obscure temples in remote corners of India for which even police cases aren't filed. In sum, the figure that experts give, of more than 10,000 objects stolen in the last ten years, seems a more likely estimate of the heritage going out of our country. It's "targeted loot on an industrial scale," says Vijay Kumar Sundaresan, a Singapore-based blogger and co-founder of India Pride Project, an organisation instrumental in helping bring back stolen antiquities from abroad.

No cops, many robbers Heritage plunder is rife in India and loot estimated to be worth millions is conveniently labelled garden furniture and handicraft items and shipped out of the country. Once outside, these artefacts thrive on global networks between middlemen and art dealers across continents, finding place at reputed art auctions, in museums and in private collections. It doesn't help that ASI, the agency responsible for preventing thefts and retrieving artefacts, doesn't seem to have even basic checks in place.

"We love to talk about the greatness of our culture, but when it comes to preserving our heritage, we are very lax," says Mumbai-based Kirit Mankodi, an independent heritage activist. Mankodi runs a website called Plunderepast.in, in which he posts information about stolen artefacts and their whereabouts in museums and auction catalogues around the world. For instance, India does not yet have a dedicated law enforcement agency for heritage crimes such as Italy's Carabinieri or Cambodia's APSARA Authority.

Tamil Nadu is the only Indian state with an active and dedicated police force, the Idol Wing, to deal with heritage crimes. At the central level, the Economic Offences Unit-VI of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) deals with offences related to antiquity; it registered all but one case in connection with Indian antiquities stolen and sold abroad in the 16 years between 2000 and 2016.

"Very few people have gone to jail for heritage theft in India," says Sundaresan, pointing to the infamous Waman Ghiya case. Ghiya was arrested in Jaipur in 2003 and 900 antiques seized from his godown in that city; investigations revealed many of these were stolen from temples. He'd colluded with employees of Sotheby's to smuggle them out of India and auction them there, claimed Peter Watson in his 1997 book Sotheby's: The Inside Story.

In 2008, Ghiya was sentenced to life in prison and fined a paltry Rs70,000, but six years later, in 2014, he walked free after the Rajasthan high court quashed the term, blaming the police for "tardy investigation" and the prosecution for "failing to produce material evidence".

Staring at cold trails Lack of photographic documentation is a crippling impediment in recovering stolen antiquities. But even with reported cases of theft where there are photographs of the stolen objects, the ASI does not put up the information on the Art Loss Register, an international body that monitors stolen and seized antiquities. Perhaps this is to avoid paying hefty membership for the Register. Even so, it doesn't explain the agency's laxity in not collecting information on Indian antiques put on sale at international auction houses – information that's public and easily available.

In contrast, proactive American investigators raided a Christie's godown in New York this March and seized eight looted Indian antiques. Among these were a 10th century stone panel of Rishabhanata, valued in the auction catalogue at $100,000-$150,000 and another 8th century panel of Revanta and his entourage, carrying an estimate of $200,000-$300,000. The Americans had tallied the images of these in the Christie's sale catalogue with those found in the files of antiques kingpin Subhash Kapoor, arrested from Frankfurt in 2011.

In fact, the present event – the ongoing process of the US returning 200 stolen antiquities – is the fruit of just one raid on the properties of 67-year-old Kapoor, an American citizen. A search of his now defunct Art of the Past gallery and Manhattan godowns threw up 3,000 artefacts, valued at over $150 million.

Kapoor has been in a Tamil Nadu jail for the past four years and even now, police forces in different states have not been able to unravel the extent of his India network. Just late last month, Tamil Nadu's Idol Wing arrested an 85-year-old art dealer named Deenadayalan, from whom it recovered 38 panchloha idols, 50 stone idols and 50 Tanjore paintings and wooden artefacts worth around Rs50 crore. Deenadayalan, say Idol Wing officials, had links with Kapoor and was probably behind the smuggling of an Ardhanarishwara idol from Virudhagereeswarar temple in Tiruchengode in 2002. Kapoor sold the idol for $3million to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Australia in 2004; the idol was brought back by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2014. The government of Australia, informs Sundaresan, has ordered a review of the 1,500 pieces of Indian art in various museum collections to check for skullduggery.

Tainted objects, sullied reputation Ironically, it is the Americans who have been more proactive. Led by the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) department, 'Operation Hidden Idol' is probing every lead in the Kapoor case. But much work remains. For instance, most of the 11 returned antiques come from two museums in the US – Toledo and Honolulu – which have cooperated with the HSI in checking the provenances of artefacts bought from, or donated by, Kapoor, and have consigned those with dodgy histories. Several others, such as the museums in Hawaii and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, are also in the process of or already have returned artefacts proven to be illegally-obtained. One artefact, the statue of saint Mannickavachakar, was given up by a private collector who was unaware that it had been stolen.

Museums being public bodies don't want to be associated with tainted artefacts and may feel a moral pressure to give them back. But what of the others that still lie hidden in private homes? The only way to get these back and prove that the artefacts were looted are with the help of photographs and other evidence of their in situ presence in temples or museums and elsewhere. Unfortunately, India has a tardy record in this regard as well. In 2007, the government launched the National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities to enumerate, with photographs, all the monuments and antiques across the country.

Officials estimated the figure to run into 70 lakh antiquities. The Mission was to have a tenure of five years, but seven years down the line, just over 15 lakh antiquities have been documented. That leaves more than three-fourths of our heritage wealth open to plunder. But does anyone care?

Number crunching 101: Antiquities stolen between 2000 to 2016, as per the Ministry of Culture
4,115: Recorded cases of 'cultural property' stolen in 2010-2014 alone
3,650: Protected historical monuments in India
5,00,000: Unprotected historical monuments
On the Yogini's trail The 10th century statue of Vrishanana Yogini came back to India in August 2013 from France as a 'donation' from the widow of the man who'd bought it. It was taken from a temple near the remote Lokhari village in UP, which once had 20 similar deities with different animal heads. British journalist Peter Watson, author of Sotheby's: The Inside Story, visited the site in the early 1990s to find that 11 had been hacked away and the remaining, smashed. Watson had been tracking a goat-faced Yogini put up for sale at Sotheby's in November 1988. Sotheby's had acquired it from 'Fahrou Sham', a regular consigner of old Indian artefacts and clearly a dodgy character. Investigating the Yogini's trail, Watson discovered that Shams shipped out antiques with diplomats. "The Shams took their time amassing a great many objects — a whole container load — and then sent them out, perhaps when a diplomat was moving house," writes Watson.

- http://www.dnaindia.com/, June 19, 2016

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50 shades of Chennai

Filmmaker BR Ram Kumar captures religious, secular practices of Chennai When asked why he decided to change his path from ad filmmaking to documentaries, BR Ram Kumar says Google is the answer. "I know Google is the go-to for everything, but you could say I wanted to take things a click further," says Kumar. That's why, after 35 years in the commercial world, Kumar decided to take a different path, creating shots on the religious and secular traditions, lifestyles and monuments of Chennai, the city of his birth and residence. "I wanted to film and document practices that make Chennai what it is, so people can see it for themselves," says Kumar, who started Madras Documentary Company a couple of years ago. "I also wanted to look at lesser-known communities and traditions," adds the 62-year-old filmmaker, who has opened his site to contributions from other Indian filmmakers who want to showcase their films on unique aspects of the country . Kumar has made documentaries on subjects that 'fascinate' him, like the stuccos of temples -"The figures that you see on the temple gopurams are painstaking to create but never given a second thought" -yoga asanas, Thanjavur paintings and the most recent one on 'Kovil Kodai' or the Umbrella of the Gods and their makers, which he presented at Apparao Galleries on Saturday . "These umbrellas are made by about 12 Saurashtrian families who live in Chintadripet," says Kumar, who uses his own funds to make the films that range from a few minutes to half an hour. "The name of the area is derived from "Chinatari pettai", when the British East India Company decided to create a facility to supply England with woven cloth at a controlled price. The weavers were settled in the area," he says. "Even though the families own different companies, they work as a team on contracts, sub-contracting work to each other," says Kumar, adding that they make more than 3,000 umbrellas every year for deities at the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams and also send them abroad. "The size of the umbrellas varies from 4.5 ft to 18 ft and costs range from Rs 3,000 to more than Rs 60,000," says CN Magesh Sha. The 33-year old, a fourth generation umbrella-maker, was also present at the talk. "The umbrellas are entirely handmade," says Magesh, who studied civil engineering but chose to continue the family trade. "The ritual umbrella has always captivated me. No God is ever taken out of the temple without it. It's part of the daily devotion," says Magesh. Every God has an umbrella 'type' too. For instance, the umbrellas for Vishnu are only in white and brown, while those for Siva are multi-coloured. "The Parthasarathy temple holds an umbrella festival every year. Last year, despite the incessant rains, the festival went on. We stood in the rain as the umbrellas unfurled," says Kumar, who wants to record intangible heritage like people's memories of traditions

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 19, 2016

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Half-baked truths make Kumari Kandam a subject of puzzle

Long, long ago, there was a huge continent south of Kanniyakumari. So big was it that it spread up to Madagascar, an island near Africa, in the west and upto Australia in the east. So ideal was the land that it made possible for humans to evolve from lemurs (forget the monkeys, please!). The first language the evolved humans spoke was Tamil. This may sound like a fairy tale. But if we go by the textbooks of the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) taught in all State board schools, this is what the students would believe to be the truth.

Despite the theory about ‘Kumari Kandam’ (referred to as Lemuria by English geologists) being more of a legend and not authenticated by historians, the State Education Department’s textbooks categorically inform the students that there existed such a continent, where Tamil is believed to have taken birth. “The conditions were favourable for growth of living organism

s only at Cape Comorin, which was submerged after the tsunami,” reads a line under the heading ‘The Continent Lemuria’ in the Social Sciences chapter of Class VI textbook. If you are still baffled about how a tsunami can swallow a continent of its size, look at the Class IX Tamil book of the SCERT. It even has a map of this continent, depicting a ‘Meru malai’ and four rivers that were believed to have originated from this hill!

Historians say the State’s textbooks are teaching a theory on the origin of Tamil language with little evidence to substantiate it. “Kumari Kandam is a legend. Now, a legend may be partially rooted in history. In this case, its origin is unsurprising, considering the evidence of partially submerged structures off Mahabalipuram and Poompuhar, among other ancient port towns. However, there is no evidence of a submerged continent or land corresponding to the legendary Kumari Kandam,” says Michel Danino, member of the Indian Council of Historical Research.

According to him, Lemuria and Atlantis belonged to the same category of myth. The theory of existence of such a vast submerged continent was first put forth in 1864 by English geologist Philip Sclater in an article titled The Mammals of Madagascar. His theory was to explain the common features, like the presence of lemur fossils in Madagascar and India. But later, the continental drift theory, which is now universally accepted and explains the occurrences of earthquakes, detailed the common features between the African, Indian and Australian landmasses. According to it, the land mass of India was attached to that of Madagascar and Africa before it got drifted by the plate tectonics. Hence it shares certain common geological features.

But the Tamil revivalists in the early 20th century adopted the theory about the existence of Lemuria and termed it as Kumari Kandam and Kumari Nadu. The first two of the Tamil Sangams, they declared, were conducted in this submerged land mass. A few literary references about the land swallowed by sea were cited to substantiate the theory. “There are references to a land called Kumari in Purananuru... This could have contributed to the legend of Kumari Kandam,” says Danino. Rather than by archaeological research and evidence, the Tamil revivalists seem to have been driven more by the passion to glorify the Tamil civilisation and to show how it was much ancient and superior to other civilisations.

With little evidence, the theory is now passed on as a fact to the next generation, much to the chagrin of Indian historians and archaeologists. “Lemuria is not authenticated by Science and students should learn it as what it is – just a claim. Even without these claims, there is no doubt that Tamil is an ancient language. So such efforts to glorify the language are unnecessary. There is only a fine line between mistake and mischief. Whether this uncritical information is peddled into textbooks because of ignorance or for other purposes, is left for the people to decide,” says T K V Subramanian, retired history professor, Delhi University.

“It is not uncommon for certain structures to be mistaken for something else. But deliberation is required before such statements are included in textbooks,” says T Sathyamurthy, former superintending archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India. According to Prof P D Balaji, head of the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Madras, archaeologists are the experts as far as ancient history is concerned. “Problems like these arise when the task of writing textbooks is handed over to history teachers,” he said.

But there are a few academics who are not very critical of the Lemuria theory. “Theories like Lemuria might have been based on a particular research. I would say Lemuria is a conjecture or perhaps, an educated guess. There are many such theories. I do not wish to contest them,” says N Rajendran, general secretary of Tamil Nadu History Congress, who is also the professor and head of the Department of History at Bharathidasan University.

“Even in the case of Indus Valley civilisation, a lot of research needs to be done to establish that Tamil-speaking people have lived there. More so, in the case of Lemuria,” says V Jayadevan, retired professor of Tamil, University of Madras. When contacted, State Council of Educational Research and Training director Rameswara Murugan said he has to discuss with the textbook committee before he can comment on the issue. But here is a tricky objective question in the Social Science chapter of the Class VI textbook you might like to answer: The place where the evolution of man began: (a) Mediterranean countries (b) Asyria (c) Lemuria. Africa is not even an option!

- http://www.newindianexpress.com/, June 19, 2016

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Workshop on cultural tradition of Tiwa community held

A seminar-cum-workshop was organised recently by the Institute of Research and Documentation of Indigenous Studies (IRDIS), Assam, under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, on ‘The culture and the threatened cultural traditions of the Tiwa community’ on the premises of the Jagiroad Higher Secondary School, Morigaon district. Dr Deepa Dutt, Executive Director, IRDIS, in her introductory remarks, said that this seminar-cum-workshop was the first of a series to be organised by IRDIS with the involvement of various ethnic communities in the different districts of the State and cultural experts at the grassroots level to deliberate on their ancient cultures and to bring awareness of the threat perception to their rich cultural heritage.

Dr Dutt elaborated on the various aspects of the Tiwa culture and applauded the various initiatives taken up by the Tiwa community for the revival and resurgence of their traditional culture and practices. The two sessions of the seminar-cum-workshop were chaired by Lalsing Madar, president, Tiwa Sahitya Sabha and Bidyut Senapati, general secretary, Tiwa Sahitya Sabha respectively, stated a press release.

The resource persons Moheswar Pator, ex-president, Tiwa Sahitya Sabha, Jursing Bordoloi, researcher and cultural expert and Ramuthi Amsi, educationist, dwelt on the various cultural traditions practiced by the Tiwa people in the past and expressed their apprehensions at the changes that have crept in with time and which may lead to the extinction of their true cultural practices, traditions and beliefs. They further expressed the need for such deliberations with a view to unearth the manifold threats to their culture and traditions and to strive unitedly for the revival, restoration and the depiction of Tiwa cultural practices in their right perspective.

The interaction session which followed laid particular stress on these distortions and the wrong depiction of their cultural practices and beliefs and resolved to spread awareness of this problem through such discussions so that remedial measures could be taken to reverse the process. The seminar was widely attended with participants from the districts of Morigaon, Nagaon, Karbi Anglong and Kamrup.

Special guests at the seminar Subhen Bordoloi, president, Tiwa Cultural Society and Apurba Jibon Baruah IPS (retd), advisor to IRDIS, stressed the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of the Tiwa community in its pristine form and lauded the initiative of IRDIS in its unique endeavour to deliberate at the grassroots level, the various aspects of Tiwa culture in order to bring about awareness and document for posterity their rich heritage. The vote of thanks was offered by Sanchita Bora Rongpipi, secretary IRDIS.

- http://www.assamtribune.com/, June 19, 2016

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Villagers unite to get rid of water woes

When the sarpanch of Majalechincholi, a remote village in Ahmednagar, explained the concept of Jal Jagruti Abhiyan to the residents of the arid village, the latter were more than willing to come forward and contribute in every way possible for getting water back into the village.

United in their endeavour to make Majalechincholi green again, the villagers revived a check dam, dug channels, deepened and widened ponds and the river and extracted silt from the water bodies through the Jal Jagruti Abhiyan. the project was jointly conducted by the first woman sarpanch of the village Geetanjali Avhad, the Art of Living and Ashoka Buildcon, with the help of the state government. The village today can see some ray of hope through this initiative.

"This is the first gram panchayat in the state to have its own logo. We conducted meetings with the villagers, who were introduced to the work related in this project through elaborate presentation by Avinash Avhad, Vijayji Hakey ( Art Of Living), Chinmay Udgirkar (Marathi actor) and I. We appealed for full cooperation," said Geetanjali.

Geetanjali, who is D Pharmcy, MA in Politics, and Jyotish Shastra decided to undertake the project this year so that the water problem is resolved in the near future. With 293 families, Majalechincholi has population of around 1,600 people.

The village consists of an area of around 1,300 hectares, which includes huge agricultural land. Being in the rain shadow region, Majalechincholi perennially faces drought. The main source of income is agriculture. This village has two brand ambassadors: Marathi actor Chinmay Udgirkar and sculptor Pramod Kamble.

Virbhadra Mandir Trust donated Rs5,26,000 for this project from its donation box; Dhangar Samaj that collected Rs 2,00,000 for the construction of the temple within the region also donated the whole amount. the village youth created social media links for awareness and to appeal for donations from others.

"Reports of the project have been sent to all concerned government authorities in government-prescribed formats. This project was possible only due to the unity and contribution shown by all villagers with positive thought for development," said Geetanjali.

"Total Rs 4.5 lakh was contributed by people that had been saved for renovation works of religious structures. The village has water for six months and for the remaining year, tankers have to be pressed into service. For th past three years, the village has been receiving scantly rainfall. So we decided to take up this project this year," said the sarpanch. A people's committee has also been formed that monitors the work. Some water got accumulated in the channels, weirs, nullahs and ponds built by the villagers due to little rain ten days back, which has raised people's hopes. "Once the monsoon arrives, we will have sufficient water for all our needs," said a senior villager of Majalechincholi.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 19, 2016

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Kaziranga loses second rhino in a week

Amid intensifying crackdown against poachers, Kaziranga National Park lost second rhino within a week on Sunday. The poachers killed a female rhino and took away the horn in the Bagori forest range of Kaziranga. The first incident had happened while forest minister Promila Rani Brahma was on a visit to Kaziraga, a World Heritage Site about 250 km from here, to take stock of anti-poaching measures on Tuesady this week. The police have arrested one poacher in this case and the search is on for others.

Since January, four poachers have been killed in encounter by forest officials while over 17 have been arrested. In the latest incident of poaching, park authorities said that the gang of poachers sneaked into the park from the northern banks of Brahmaputra. Kaziranga divisional forest officer Suvasish Das said bullets of .303 and Insas rifles were recovered from the spot where the rhino was poached.

While the gunshots were heard on Saturday evening, park officials could trace the rhino carcass on Sunday because of the remoteness of the location. Park officials said that the northern banks especially the Biswanath Chariali area has become one of the poachers' hub, as many of the rhinos killed by poachers in recent time belonged to that area.

The 430 sq km park located on the southern banks of Brahmaputra has 2000-odd rhinos — world's highest concentration of the one-horned pachyderms. The spurt in poaching has led the newly elected state government to act tough on curbing the menace. With the latest poaching, Kaziranga has lost nine rhinos to poachers this year. Recently, the government suspended Kaziranga director Mufakkar Ali on charge of "negligent in his duties pertaining to protection of rhinos."

Brahma has already made it clear that the government would act tough on any violation of and negligence of duties related to wildlife and forest conservation in the state. Wildlife crime experts said that soaring demand of rhino horns especially in China and Vietnam, where the body part is used in traditional medicines, prompted the spurt in poaching. The horns are often smuggled through porous international border Northeast states share with Myanmar for markets in China and Vietnam where the body part is used in traditional medicines.

Last year the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)'s rhino task force pointed out that poaching network spans over inter-state and international boundaries and involving a multiple layers of operators in the crime.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 19, 2016

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Chipping off to create awareness on nature

School children, college students and even locals tried their hand at stone sculpting during an event organised by RVS KVK School of Architecture on the Cauvery river bed as part of world environment day celebrations.

The largest among the sand sculptures was that of a toe, reflecting human dominance over other livings beings while posing a threat to their very existence. Meanwhile, over 10 sculptures were part of the event carved by school children, college students and the general public. Shanthi, 42, who came along with her son Prashnath to try her hand at sand sculpting, said that such initiatives helped attract the attention of people and eventually create an awareness on nature and environment conservation. While Prashanth is planning to join architecture, he wanted to give sand sculpting a try by carving out a sunflower out of sand while stressing the need to improve the green cover on earth.

"Sculpting with river sand is a tough task unlike with beach sand where the salt content makes it sticky," said A Sivagnanaraja, art professor at RVS KVK School of Architecture. "We need to constantly sprinkle water to ensure that the sand remains wet and in shape," he said. N Madan Rajan, convener of the event, said the event was an initiative developed from the United Nations Environment Program initiative to create awareness on havoc man is playing with nature.

Hundreds of commuters, many of them from the Cauvery bridge, appreciated the stone and sand sculptures.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 20, 2016

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Butterfly Garden, Rock Sculptures To Be Highlights

The biodiversity park coming up on a 5.26 hectare plot of dumping ground between Thane jail and Saket complex, running along the Kalwa creek, is nearly complete. Almost 80% of plantation activities have been finished.

Earlier this year, the social forestry department, in collaboration with the then collector, Ashwini Joshi, inaugurated the project in order to beautify dumping spots and provide citizens with an avenue for recreation and environmental education. The aim is also to influence Thaneites to conserve the Thane creek. The project has seen a few glitches, including delayed rains and widening of drainage mouths near the creek, but officials from the social forestry department have assured Thaneites that the park will be functional in two months.

"A major part of the project is the plantation drive which includes the butterfly garden, mangrove walkway, cactus garden, medicinal garden and plant nursery. We are planting around 35 species of plants and have already kept around 1,000 saplings in the green house set up in the first phase. We have also dug pits to plant these saplings. This turned out to be a challenge as we had to dig out the waste plastic embedded in the ground and fill it with fresh soil. We have been waiting for the rains so that these saplings have a healthy growth. A plantation drive will be held on July 1,"said S Phale, deputy director at the social forestry department.

"The PWD department has got the required permissions and will be starting the construction soon," he added. The Phytorid technology set up by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to utilise sewage water for watering plants in the park will be functional in a months' time. " "We will be adding some bio-culture to fasten the process," said Pranay Pawar, manager at Aleknanda Technology Pvt Ltd, a licensing agency of NEERI. The project, which costs around Rs.2.5 crore is funded by the SFD department and the collector, and should be completed by September-end.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 20, 2016

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Rare lion-tailed macaque sighted in Kaiga forest

Bringing cheer to wildlife enthusiasts, a lion-tailed macaque has been sighted for the first time in Karwar. The lion-tailed macaque is a primate that Kannadigas refer to as Singalika. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed it under the 'most endangered' species category. K Puttaraju, scientific officer at the Kaiga nuclear plant, said it was spotted in Kaiga Harur forest in the Western Ghats.

Readily identified by their silver-white mane that runs across the outline of their face, macaques are known to avoid human beings. They are seen either at Aghanashini Valley in Siddapur taluk, Uttara Kannada, or Silent Valley in Kerala. Puttaraju said he had seen as many as four of them in the Kaiga forest area. "Its rich biodiversity with wetlands, woodlands and waterbodies, makes Kaiga an ideal habitat for threatened birds and animals," he said.

He said though there were rumours of villagers having spotted them a month ago, there is no evidence. "Now we have photographic documentation. Macaques reproduce at the rate of once in three years and only the dominant female reproduces. The combination of low birth rate and advanced age at the time of birth makes it hard for their population to grow. They do not live in plantations and the destruction of their natural habitat has resulted in a drastic decrease in their numbers in the Western Ghats," he added. Gajanan Hegde, wildlife enthusiast from Siddapur, said: "At last, rare animals are being spotted in the Kali forest area."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 20, 2016

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Restoration work on clock tower behind time

Restoration of the 78- year-old iconic art deco-style clock tower situated in the heart of the port town began sometime in August last year as part of a project initiated by the Goa heritage action group. It was supposed to touch the finishing line by December 2015. But, several factors have delayed the work making its completion a far-off reality.

Asked about the status of the project and when the work is likely to be completed, conservation architect Ketak Nachinolkar said, "The work is in progress and completion of the project is unpredictable as there are many issues, as no one has touched the tower for several years".

Located above Mormugao's municipal market building, the tower's facade envisages a domed roof (inspired by the Gujarati-Islamic architectural style of the 14th and 15th centuries) which has four clocks on four sides. The smaller octagonal towers are reminiscent of the design of Mumbai's gateway of India.

As of now, the superstructure seems to be complete, while the painting job on the tower looks incomplete. There also appears to be no sign of the clocks ticking. Sources said no workers have been turning up at the work site since a month.

Shoemakers sitting at the municipal building said that the work has been stretched unnecessarily and construction material dumped in front of the main entrance of the tower has been causing obstruction to people passing by and entering and exiting the building.

Talking about a few concerns due to the incomplete work, shoemaker, Damodar Kashinath Mane said, "The water tank dumped in front of the entrance contains stagnant water from the rains and this can attract mosquitoes causing an increase in the probability of dengue and malaria. The authorities should have at least removed the unwanted material from the way. The tiles used for the flooring are slippery, so during the rains when water sweeps over the corridor it can be risky as thousands of people visit the market everyday," he added.

"Not many people are aware that the building has four entrances, so as the restoration work was going on, people would think the shops, hidden by the covers put up by the contractor, are closed," said a shop attendant requesting anonymity.

The project is worth an estimated cost of 25 lakh and is supported by the managing trustee of the Rajaram and Tarabai charitable trust, Suvarna Bandekar and a few Mormugao municipal councillors. Now, the encroachment has been cleared and handed over to the NRB group, since they are funding and maintaining it, said chief officer, MMC, Deepali Naik.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 20, 2016

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Exhibition to showcase varied facets of Yoga

An exhibition here will present the rich and ancient cultural treasure of Yoga in the form of sculptures, paintings, scrolls, illustrated manuscripts and books which explain the key aspects of it.

The exhibition titled "Yoga in Indian Visual Arts", will get underway at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) from June 21 to June 30.

IGNCA, through this exhibition, is documenting Indian art collections lying in museums abroad.

"We are displaying collections that have been taken from the foreign museums to present the heritage which has gone outside the country," the curator of the exhibition Virender Bangroo told IANS.

"The visual imagery depicted in the artworks transverse the limitations of space and time," he said.

"Yoga is a medium to rise above the visual world and to dive deep into the spiritual experience, the latter being a source of ultimate and eternal pleasure," said Bangroo. "It reflects the rich philosophical and cultural currents that traversed the Indian subcontinent over thousands of years," he added.

"It has embraced a variety of practices and orientations, borrowing from and influencing a vast array of Indic religious traditions down through the centuries," he explained.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/, June 21, 2016

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CELEBRATING YOGA DAY

Bringing together the body, mind and soul

Today being the second anniversary of the International Yoga Day (IYD), the international community is making an ardent attempt to come closer by leaving behind their differences in both material and non-material life. An initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the initial days in his office in 2014 received world-wide recognition, particularly by the United Nations General Assembly. With this Modi has undoubtedly made yoga officially going abroad and helped to spread the core virtues of the age-old discipline beyond the boundary of religion. Once again, the IYD will enable the people across the world to access a new dimension of the self while providing a holistic approach to preventive healthcare.

On this occasion, our countrymen must realise and practice yoga as an art of living and carry further as a new way of life. Also, yoga should not be considered as a form of religious teaching or exercise rather it should be adopted as a form of pure scientific exercise for all barring caste, religion, race, gender etc. In an age of post-globalisation, which is marked by restlessness, utter confusion, violence and material enhancement of life, yoga can well be a guiding force to millions of people around the globe if pursued with intent of a core principle of life. Increasingly moral, cultural and national boundaries and even the natural human family structure are becoming prey to internationalist agencies behind the titanic waves of globalisation, it can be argued that yoga can truly make a commitment to nurture and promote the inner virtues of life and living for a balanced life.

It was in September 27, 2014, Modi had made the proposal in the UNGA for the IYD wherein he stated that: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition. This tradition is 5,000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being”. Later by December 11, 2014, unbelievably and almost unanimously, the IYD was declared by the UNGA. With this India can extend her partnership with the global community to a new height and take our socio-cultural ethos much closer to them. India's rich cultural heritage and values inbuilt in it can once again inspire the world to redefine our engagement as an equal partner in infusing a new meaning to humanity.

Arguably an international celebration of yoga can spread the message that it is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. As Modi has embarked on new route to put diplomacy for bringing business, deepen ever greater ties with the Indian diaspora and even moving a step further with Pakistan under dargah diplomacy, so he can set forth a brand new yoga diplomacy for revitalising the country's ties with the rest of the world. It can be an innovation and can well be a new vocabulary for refashioning India's relations with other nations. At a time when he is fast making attempts to end Delhi's defensiveness by injecting flexibility and determination to prioritise national interests, yoga can play a decisive role in reconstructing a framework of pragmatic internationalism as it is all about making relationship work both at bilateral and multilateral levels, than just having it for centuries.

- http://www.dailypioneer.com, June 21, 2016

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Rainwater harvesting remains a mirage

The ministry of urban development and poverty alleviation maderainwater harvesting mandatory in 2001 for all new buildings with a plot size of over100sq m by modifying the building bylaws of 1983. Going by the rules, corporations weren't supposed to issue completion certificates to any building of 100 sq m or above without any rainwater harvesting provision. But implementation has been poor "We try to verify if the provision has been there, but after issuing certificates, we don't verify. There are lots of issues with the rule. On one hand, 100% of ground coverage is allowed for 100 sq m homes; on the other, they are expected to make provisions for rainwater harvesting. Residents usually make a small 2m x 2m pit at the back," said a South Corporation official.

He also pointed out that the 2001 rule didn't specify the areas for water harvesting.

Last year, there was flooding in many parts of southeast Delhi as the water table rose during monsoon. "We have suggested to DJB that only areas where water table is lower than five metres below ground level should be harvesting rainwater," said a Central Groundwater Board official.

There is no clarity on whether DJB's rainwater harvesting policy that makes it mandatory for houses of 500 sq m or more to harvest rainwater would override the building bylaws. But residents, too, expect proper guidelines on harvesting.

The high court had ordered that all water bodies be revived for rainwater harvesting while hearing a petition by Society for Protection of Culture Heritage, Environment, Traditions and Promotions of National Awareness (Chetna). Delhi government recently constituted a high-level committee headed by PWD minister Satyendar Jain to look into the state of water bodies. But Anil Sood of Chetna said, "The government hasn't come back with a time-bound action plan. They are only busy forming committees," he said.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 21, 2016

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Madras Week returns on Aug 21, celebrate your city

Whether it's a heritage walk at the Madras High Court, a food trail with delicious chutneys and dosas or an exhibition with serene pictures of the sunrise at Marina - every year Chennaiites have come together to celebrate the city. With Madras Week commencing from August 21 to 28, it's time for residents to put on their thinking caps once again and come up with creative ideas to honour the city.

"Over the years, the Madras Week has been instrumental in shedding light on the significant aspects of the city," said historian S Muthiah at a press meet on Monday with the small group of volunteers who catalyzed this celebration.

What started 13 years ago as a day-long event has now grown to span a month, owing to the overwhelming response . "We hope that this edition will also see active participation from the public," added Muthiah. A key aspect of the celebrations this year is the inclusion of Tamil programmes to engage a larger audience.

Chennai Heritage, the publishers of Madras Musings - a fortnightly newsmagazine - will be organizing eight talks about the city. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Chennai, also has an array of events planned. "There will be a quiz competition for school children and a discussion forum for college students on strategies to promote heritage-based urban development," said its convenor, Sujatha Shankar.

Those interested in conducting or hosting events for Madras Week can send an e-mail with details about their programme to themadrasday@gmail.com. The list of events or activities will be updated on the website www.themadrasday.in and on the Madras Week mobile application.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 21, 2016

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Madras Week to focus on participation

With a fresh mix of events, the Madras Week celebrations will be held from 21-28 August.

Sujatha Shankar of INTACH Chennai Chapter, which will also conduct some programmes for this year’s celebrations, said a host of events have been planned, from quiz and essay competitions to photo contests.

“We are involving both school and college students for many of the events. The idea is to bring in heritage awareness. We want people to volunteer and participate as much as possible and so, all the events held by INTACH and most other programmes too will be open to all. We welcome local communities to hold events to generate awareness of their locality. We are planning way ahead this time since we would like to see more participation.”

A discussion on the city’s heritage will be conducted where college students will discuss the importance of heritage in today’s context and strategies to promote heritage-based urban development, she added.

Historian S. Muthiah said everyone from the city should be part of celebrating Madras Week. “The focus of the celebration is to involve everyone and discuss why the city is important. Virtually, everything in modern India began here. Also, this is purely a voluntary function,” he added. Historian V. Sriram said there will be more heritage walks this year.

For details, write tointachhennai@gmail.comorthemadrasday@gmail.com

- http://www.thehindu.com, June 21, 2016

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Zero Bridge adds to Srinagar’s charm

One can come to Kashmir to spend time, enjoy the cool breeze, beautiful scenery of Jhelum and, of course, relish wazwan and other exquisite specialties of Kashmir.

Away from its war sounds, the opening to new lifestyle wouldn’t have come at a better time. Kashmir was ranked as the world’s second most romantic destination, next to Switzerland by leading travel magazine Lonely Planet a couple of weeks ago.

And its summer capital Srinagar, a city of great antiquity, often referred to as son et lumiere that tells the story of the love of the Mughal emperors for the paradise vale, has this time round witnessed the opening of a chain of fairly good places to just hang out with friends, chat and get Kashmir’s traditional food and beverages and other choice delicacies at reasonable prices.

Be it a bookshop of over 8,000 covers with a reading room and a café on an island in the idyllic Dal Lake or an exquisite tea room, Chai Jai on the Bund, the fabled beauty of river Jhelum, which offers various varieties of tea from traditional Noon Chai (pink salt tea), dam tout, (brewed tea) Khewa besides Iranian and English teas. Also, about a couple of dozen new pizza huts, recreation centres and parks and exquisite restaurants and other eateries which offer casual dining options too have come up in the city with its almost medieval charms in the recent past.

The latest to add to Srinagar’s charm is an old wooden bridge spanning Jhelum which has been turned into an architectural marvel with its decks serving as resting place for locals and backpackers alike. It is now a heritage site which has kiosks and food court with spacious area to house families. Hundreds of people throng the place, mainly in the evenings to relish Kashmir’s choice delicacies and enjoy the scenery and cool breeze of Jhelum which flows underneath it. “Zero Bridge” as the crossing is known, is idyllically located next to what is also acknowledged as “East of Suez”, among the very few addresses that have enjoyed the same romance and mystique as Srinagar’s Bund has. The Bund’s dazzle came from all across Europe with the British and stayed as long as the fag end of the last millennium. It is the mooring site of first house boats in the Valley when Kashmir emerged as an oriental challenge to Venice. Many tourists are attracted to Srinagar by the charms of staying on a houseboat, the uniquely elegant experience of living on the waters (on Jhelum and Dal or Nagin lakes) in a cedar-panelled bedroom with all the conveniences of a luxury hotel. Until a couple of decades ago, “Zero Bridge” was in use, but when its wooden planks and piers could no longer support vehicles it was closed for vehicular traffic. Only pedestrian movement was allowed on this historic bridge after its closure in 1980.

Reconstructed at the cost of `11 crore by Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation Limited (JKPCC), the 154-metre long bridge now has wooden decks on both sides and, with a heritage touch, a food court which has a dining hall, a kitchen, two restrooms and a lounge. The refurbished “Zero Bridge” which was thrown open to the public by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti recently has much more to offer for those who want to spend — and enjoy — their leisure time. It will be a complete walkthrough site connecting the city’s western and eastern areas.

The original wooden bridge built during the times of Prime Minister Bakshi Bhulam Muhammad in the 1950s was dismantled in 2012. For the past four years, it was revamped with deodar and other wooden decks on both sides. Though the people living in Srinagar’s Rajbagh and adjoining localities wanted it to be thrown open again for vehicular traffic, the then chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was so impressed with the facets of the refurbished bridge during a visit to the site in 2015 that he announced that it should come up as a heritage tourism spot in the city.

Following his directions, a houseboat design food court was built near the bridge which is a blend of traditional and modern outlook. “The bridge would be used for only pedestrian movement. It is a sort of picnic spot laced with traditional design,” JKPCC officials said. They added that having a seating capacity of 2,700 sq. ft., the centrally heated food court has four sightseeing decks. The roof of the court has thermo-treated flooring keeping in view the cold climate in Kashmir.

Notwithstanding Kashmir’s long history of political turmoil and the miseries it brought for its people, one can come here to spend time, enjoy the cool breeze, the beautiful scenery of Jhelum and, of course, relish wazwan and other exquisite specialties of Kashmir.

- http://www.asianage.com, June 22, 2016

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200-capacity anti-insurgency institution at Surabardi

A 200-capacity counter insurgency and anti-terrorist (CIAT) school is set to come up at Surabardi on the outskirts of the city. The decision was ratified at a cabinet meeting on Monday. The institution, which was set to come up at Pune, would be now a part of the city-based Unconventional operation training centre (UOTC) which functions under the supervision of state Anti-naxal operation cell (ANO). UOTC, spread over 44 hectares, now trains the personnel in anti-guerrilla and jungle warfare for anti-Naxal operations.

As the per the guidelines of Bureau of police research and development (BPRD), each state has to set up its own CIAT in the backdrop of the heightened threat perception. Central government already learnt to have sanctioned a budget of Rs1.5 crore for setting up the infrastructure. The state government, also responsible for spending on training and other aspects, learnt to have already received the government of India sanction. The state government is now set to pass a budget of around Rs97 lakh in the coming assembly session.

Inspector general of police, Anti-naxal operation cell (ANO), Shivaji Bodkhe said that facilities for around 200 personnel from different units across the state shall be created. "UOTC already has commando training facilities and other drill exercises. Additional infrastructure shall come up for better training in field crafts, commando tactics and anti-insurgency techniques," he said.

Bodkhe also said that retired army or paramilitary personnel can be roped in for training on contract basis too for sharing their experience with the trainees. "State government shall conduct the recruitments and deployments to these crucial postings of principal of the proposed school, trainers and other support staffers," he said.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 22, 2016

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Asanas and pranayamas performed across city

While the Mysuru palace was the focal point of the International Day of Yoga celebrations in the city, various organisations and educational institutions conducted their own yoga events to mark the occasion on Tuesday.

Police personnel took the lead with scores of policemen performing various asanas. H.T. Shekar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), and Suresh, Assistant Director of the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports, conducted the proceedings at Chamundi Vihar Stadium from 6.30 a.m. to 7.30 a.m. About 800 people took part, including youth empowerment and sports staff.

At Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering, nearly 600 students and staff members, members of Pathanjali Yoga Samiti, Bharath Swabhiman Trust, and others took part in the celebrations. Similarly, at the National Institute of Engineering (NIE), 150 to 200 yoga practitioners took part in an event conducted by Meera Rama Rao, chief yoga therapy consultant of S-VYASA. She guided the participants through shanthi mantra, warming up exercises, simple asanas, pranayama, and savasana.

Even the scientists at the Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) took a break from their academic activities and settled down to perform a few asanas. Rakesh Kumar Sharma, director, DFRL, along with around 120 staff members of DFRL and nearly 100 Union government staff in and around Siddarthanagar, took part in the event.

At the Avadhoota Datta Peetha, special children from the All-India Institute of Speech and Hearing gave a yoga performance.

The University of Mysore, Gangubai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University, Suttur Mutt, and various other educational institutions too celebrated the day in their own way.

- http://www.thehindu.com, June 22, 2016

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Cities at crossroads: There’s no such thing as free water

To deliver potable water for all, urban local bodies must modernise processes, harness technology. They must also recover costs through user charges. Water is in the news for how tankers were procured in Delhi. Even more importantly, we need to reflect on why we need tankers in the first place. Our urban local bodies (ULBs) cannot possibly ensure sustainable delivery of water in our cities/towns unless financing mechanisms are put in place. Water has long been considered a gift of nature, with a subconscious expectation that it should be available free of charge.

Water delivery requires heavy investment in collecting it from a natural source, treating it to make it potable, and investing in a distribution network of pipes for delivery to the users. It also requires investments in sewerage infrastructure and sewage treatment plants so that the sewers can carry the wastewater (estimated to be 80 per cent of the water that is consumed) to these plants to ensure that no untreated sewage is discharged back into natural water bodies. They are not, and therefore they have to charge. Unfortunately, politicians are reluctant to charge even when consumers may be willing to pay, more especially if it leads to better delivery of good quality water.

ULBs in India do not have the autonomy to set prices to cover costs. This power remains with state governments, and they must price water to recover costs. An element of subsidy can be built in for the poor by having volumetric pricing with a low price for the first slab which covers what is regarded as a minimum need. Those consuming more should pay a progressively higher price per litre for the water they consume.

The 2012 Water Policy recommends that user charges be based on volumetric pricing. As early as 1992, the Vaidyanathan Committee had recommended the same, and also that water rates should cover O&M costs in the first instance, with capital charges (interest and depreciation) to be covered over a period of five years. More than 20 years later, state governments have still not taken the first step to recover O&M costs through user charges!

One solution is to take water pricing away from politics and assign to a statutory regulatory authority the task of determining water tariff for cost recovery allowing for reasonable costs. The authority should be charged with hearing all stakeholders, and explaining how the tariff is arrived at. The government should have no right to alter the statutorily determined tariff, but it can and should introduce a subsidy which can be paid directly to the targeted consumers after making necessary provision in the budget. This would make the pricing of water transparent, and help begin the transition to a system of public debate on the importance of cost recovery and scrutiny of cost elements. It is worth noting that even in many of the OECD countries, full O&M cost recovery was achieved only as late as 2008. On the other hand, Singapore started pricing water to cover O&M costs in the second half of the 1960s. Singapore has made the maximum progress in addressing their enormous water challenge through full cost recovery (including capital cost) and subsequently marginal cost pricing, and investing in innovations to reclaim water for reuse (NEWater) and in desalination. They also introduced a progressive water conservation tax in 1991.

In India, the situation varies across and within states. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana) and Gujarat come across much better than other states in O&M cost recovery, based on what was reported to the ministry of urban development (MoUD) and is reflected in its status report for 1,405 ULBs from 13 states in 2010-11. Even so, their cost recovery is only of the order of 64 per cent, 52 per cent, and 49 per cent, respectively. One hundred per cent cost recovery was reported by the municipal corporations of Mumbai, Kolhapur, Amravathi, and 20 municipalities in Maharashtra, the municipal corporations of Kakinada, Karimnagar and four municipalities in Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana), and the municipal corporation of Jamnagar and three municipalities in Gujarat.

Mumbai is the only big city reporting 100 per cent cost recovery even though its tariffs are amongst the lowest because its water cost and energy cost is relatively low. Bengaluru is next with cost recovery of 92 per cent. By contrast, Delhi, Indore and Bhopal show the worst cost recovery. A comparison of water tariffs for Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Nagpur, Hyderabad and Bengaluru is of interest. In Delhi, the first 20 kl of monthly consumption is free, while Mumbaikars pay Rs 4.66 for the first 22.5 kl of water consumed. Chennai at the lower end of consumption is between Delhi and Mumbai. Hyderabad tariff is the highest at the lower end of consumption, while Bengaluru is the highest at the highest slab of consumption. Nagpur has been revising its water tariff upward by 5 per cent annually for the past five years, plus any increases due to surcharge on electricity and raw water charge. This is a relatively less painful way of adjusting the tariff to cover costs. Nagpur’s cost recovery is currently a little over 70 per cent, although before launching on the 24 x7 expansion, they reported 93 per cent cost recovery in 2010-11. The financial viability of the water delivery system depends not only on tariffs but also on the extent of non revenue water (NRW), that is, water which is produced but lost and not paid for. The loss may be because of leakages in pipes or theft, or incomplete billing and/or metering inaccuracies. The working group on urban and industrial water supply and sanitation for the 12th Plan estimated NRW in India at 40-50 per cent. The status report puts NRW at 33-34 per cent for 2010-11, but the methodology for NRW calculation needs to be streamlined before using these numbers for reliable comparison.

Nagpur is the only city which provides a water balance sheet. Its 50 per cent NRW is the result of billing for only 43 per cent of the water supplied. The funding interruptions caused by the transition from JNNURM to AMRUT have affected the installation of consumer meters in the midst of the 24×7 water supply project (30 per cent of the city is currently covered by 24×7). The moral of this story is clear. To deliver potable water for all, the ULBs will have to work hard to reduce costs through modernisation and technology. They must also recover costs through user charges, while financing whatever subsidies are intended for the poor through cross-subsidisation. They must, of course, collect bills for all this to work. Private financing to supplement public funds to lay out the infrastructure is only possible if there is a revenue model. It does not call for rocket science but simply better governance.

- http://indianexpress.com, June 22, 2016

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Malkajgiri residents do their bit to conserve rainwater

The State government seems to be leaving no stone unturned to bail out its citizens from water crisis in the city as it has taken up construction of rainwater harvesting pits.

Besides constructing rainwater harvesting pits, the government has initiated programmes for educating people about the importance of rainwater harvesting pits to increase groundwater levels. Accordingly, the government has constructed nearly 200 water harvesting pits in places which come under Malkajgiri constituency.

To collect more water during rains, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) had dug up pits at selected places where there are slopes so that rainwater flows and enter into the harvesting pit.

Officials said pits were dug to a depth of 12 feet and filled with gravels and sand so that more quantity of water could be absorbed. They further said each pit cost about Rs 20,000 to set up. Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board Malkajgiri constituency Deputy General Manager Rajini said they started working on rainwater harvesting pit from February and had constructed around 200 pits in the Malkajgiri constituency alone.

“We have taken up the rainwater harvesting pit works in the month of February and will be completing the work by the end of this month,” Rajini said.

Taking a cue from the government, the residents in the area have also started setting up the pits in their houses to charge their bore-wells.

A resident of Alwal, Saraswathi, said they had faced severe water problem as their bore-well dried up. She was hopeful that water harvesting pits could come handy during water crisis. She lauded the civic body for taking up the initiative to save water.

For providing water to the park in the colony, a Defence employee, DN Rao, set up three harvesting pits with his own interest using gravels, sand and charcoal.

“There are two harvesting pits outside the house and one inside. Once the water level reaches its capacity, it overflows into the big pit set up by the GHMC. From there water flows into the garden,” he said.

A resident of Trimulgherry, Uma Kumari, said each pit required three days to construct, as there was a systemic procedure to be followed. She further said the government conducted programmes to educate people about the importance of having rainwater harvesting pits at homes.

- http://www.thehansindia.com, June 22, 2016

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Uttarakhand to observe Water Day

With 10 hill districts in the state reeling under water shortage, the state government on Thursday stressed upon the need to sensitize people on drinking water conservation.

In a meeting with officials from the drinking water department on Thursday chief minister Harish Rawat announced that a 'Water Day' would be observed in the state in order to sensitize people on the need to conserve water.

Rawat said that the date on which the day will be observed is yet to be finalized. It was also decided in the meeting that a state-sponsored water bonus scheme will be launched soon. Under the scheme, prizes and monthly bonus will be given to those contributing to conservation of drinking water. The scheme aims at recharging as many as 10,000 natural drinking water resources like ponds, lakes, waterfalls, and springs in all 10 hill districts and three plain ones.

Rain water harvesting is also part of the plan to conserve drinking water to meet the challenge posed by water scarcity in the districts.

Arvind Hayanki, secretary, drinking water department, who attended the meeting told TOI that a water conservation scheme known as Chal Khal Yojna recently launched by the state government to recharge around 5,000 natural water bodies that have dried up has generated much excitement among people.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 23, 2016

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What the kings read

The walls of this centuries-old library resonate with stories. As you walk through it, every corner seems to come alive with the hues and aesthetics of the past. Built during the reign of the Nayaks of Thanjavur (1535-1675), an intriguing quietude and the scent of sepia-tinted publications envelopes its many rooms. Patronised by the Marathas who ruled Thanjavur (1676-1832), Saraswati Mahal is one of Asia’s oldest libraries that stands amidst the campus of Thanjavur Palace.

Among the Maratha Kings, Raja Serfoji II (1798- 1832) was an eminent scholar and after Serfoji’s death, his son Shivaji II and his daughters-in-law maintained the library. In 1918, the library was opened to the public and in 1979 various departments such as conservation, microfilm, publication, printing, book section and museum were set up. A major part of the collection comprise Sanskrit texts. The library houses approximately 39,000 Sanskrit manuscripts and about 3,500 Tamil manuscripts with 7,000 titles. The scripts used in palm leaves are Grantha, Devanagari, Nandinagari, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Oriya . There are manuscripts and books on literature, grammar, music, dance, rare works of the Sangam age, unpublished portions of classics, astronomy, trade, medicine and more. It also houses rare maps and paintings.

Interestingly most of the medicinal works are based on medical records practised in Dhanvantri Mahal, a hospital run by Raja Serfoji and written by famous scholars like Kottaiyur, Sivakkolundu and Desikar.

The library houses 1,342 bundles of old records of the Maratha kings written in Modi Script.

Modi is the shorthand version of Marathi and was a court language then. These records are as diverse as trade negotiations to vegetable receipts.

The collection includes fiction and non-fiction. There are also books on subjects such as clothing styles in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, methods of Chinese torture, costumes and occupations in Turkey and China.

Serfoji’s collection includes 4,500 books in English, Italian, French and Danish. There are books on musical notation. In almost all his books, he has left his signature in bold along with the year of acquisition.

In the preservation section, you will find a few dedicated people at desk busy with manuscripts and a pot of oil. Citronella oil is smeared on the manuscripts to give flexibility to the leaves. To keep away the insects, an indigenous preservative consisting of a powdered mixture of sweet flag, black cumin, cloves, pepper, bark of cinnamon with camphor is used.

As you walk across to the museum, you will find one of the oldest manuscript Phalavati, a glossary of purva mimamsa sutras of Jaimini, Thiruvaimozhi Vyakyanam written in Manipravala, based on Nammalvar’s Thiruvoimozhi with the commentary by Koneri Dasyai.

A bundle of palm leaf in grantha kept in the showcase contains 24,000 slokas from Valmiki Ramayana. Both sides of the leaves bear 30 lines in miniature grantha and is impossible to read with the naked eye. One of the biggest palm leaf manuscripts is written by Vasudeva Pillai (AD 1719) and contain seven kandas in 537 leaves and the smallest is a pocket-size edition ‘Panchapakshi Sastram’, a work on astrology. The most impressive one however, is the Shabdarth Chintamani by Chidambara Kavi, a collection of verses. If you read the verse from left to right, you read the Ramayana. If you read the same verse in reverse, you would read the Mahabharata.

Serfoji made a pilgrimage to Benaras in 1820. He commissioned his artist to draw the 64 bathing ghats from East to West on eight plates, which are also available in the library. Though a lot of texts and manuscripts have been lost due to lack of documentation, a visit to the Saraswati Mahal reminds us of India’s knowledge resource. Serfoji arouses in the visitors a sense of pride and the need to protect and preserve our rich heritage.

-http://www.thehindu.com/, June 23, 2016 British Council launches £50,000 seed fund to promote cultural innovation in India Five projects will be selected for seed funding of £10,000 each by the end of July 2016 Emphasising on deepening and strengthening cultural ties between India and UK, British Council India is launching a £50,000 (Rs 50 lakh approximately) cultural innovation fund to promote cultural exchange between the two countries. Under this, five projects will be selected for seed funding of £10,000 each by the end of July 2016. This is a first of its kind fund being introduced only for India by the British Council.

“We want to have ideas from India and Britain and bring those ideas together to make brilliant new things. In return for this seed funding, we would like to see a prototype or proof of concept of your project that we can test with potential audiences in September and October 2016. Following user testing in autumn, we will make a number of commissions based on potential audiences and costs of projects. Full commissions must launch during 2017,” said British Council India director Alan Gemmell.

In order to be eligible to apply, participants must be based in the UK or India and have a track record of developing new digital projects or experiences that have successfully reached new audiences (though not necessarily at this scale before).

British Council is also launching a £30-million Cultural Protection Fund to help and to create opportunities for economic and social development through building capacity to foster, safeguard and promote cultural heritage in conflict-affected regions like the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, specifically Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.

Gemmell added: “With the British Council, we believe that culture has a powerful role to play in helping people understand one another. India's cultural relationship with Britain is incredibly important. We want to develop stronger cultural relations between Britain and India. We want to celebrate, reconnect, revive and inspire the next generation of people culturally. We want to develop stronger cultural relations between Britain and India. We want to celebrate, reconnect, revive and inspire the next generation of people culturally.”

The 'UK-India Year of Culture' was announced during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to London in November 2015. The campaign aims to highlight the cultural history of the two countries and celebrate the best 'cultural exports' together.

The year 2017 marks the culmination of four years of Re-Imagine — a programme designed to build new creative connections in new ways between the people and institutions of Britain and India.

Globally, British Council is also partnering on a digital co-commission for 2017 with Manchester International Festival, and projects submitted to this open call may be selected for this co-commission. If selected, their projects would be launched during the festival.

The Council has also launched 'Mix the Play' — a special edition of the popular 'Mix the City' platform that promotes Shakespeare. The digital platform will offer audiences the chance to direct one of Shakespeare's most loved play — A Midsummer Night's Dream. The objective of Mix the Play is to engage audiences with Shakespeare and educate them about theatre direction in a fun way.

- http://www.business-standard.com, June 23, 2016

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International Day of Yoga on the river Seine in Paris

Embassy of India, Paris is organizing a series of events on Yoga on the occasion of the Second International Day of Yoga. As a part of these celebrations, a Yoga event was organized on 21 June on the river Seine onboard the famous Bateaux Mouches boat sailing from the Eiffel Tower to the Notre Dame Cathedral. While the boat sailed past the prestigious monuments of Paris along the Seine river, the participants performed Yoga asanas in a rhythmic fashion. Yoga on the boat also drew the attention of thousands of tourists thronging the banks of the Seine.

Immersion into Yoga began with a session of meditation by the Yoga gurus of Art of Living. Ambassador of India, Dr. Mohan Kumar appreciated the enthusiasm of all participants and emphasized that for beginners, the International Day of Yoga is an introduction to the universe of Yoga and for the regular practitioners, it is another step in their journey of self-discovery.

Earlier on 18 and 19 June, Yoga events were organized by the Embassy at La Villette park and at the iconic Eiffel Tower respectively in Paris. Yoga demonstrations at famous touristic sites in Paris generated much enthusiasm in Yoga among the thousands of tourists and EURO-2016 cup fans visiting Paris. In addition to mainland France, Yoga events at overseas territories like Guadeloupe, Martinique, and the Reunion islands provided a chance to the Indian diaspora to reminisce their cultural heritage from India. Various cities like Strasbourg, Gretz-Armainvilliers, Nantes, Morlaix across France also joined in the celebrations of the Second International Day of Yoga.

- http://www.thehansindia.com, June 23, 2016

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Alligator-like predator fish in Kolkata waters threatens ecosystem

Indian experts are concerned about the discovery of an alligator-like predatory fish in Kolkata that can destroy local ecosystem and biodiversity.

Alligator Gar, which resembles an alligator with long sharp teeth and equally predatory instincts, can grow up to eight feet and has been known to sometimes attack humans.

Shibu Mondol, a local angler, caught a 3.5-feet long gar from Subhas Sarovar in Kolkata’s eastern fringe of Beliaghata two months ago.

Biodiversity experts, ecologists and anglers say the fish could kill almost every other fish in the lake.

Surfer loses most of thigh in Australian shark attack The prehistoric relatives of this mega fish inhabited many parts of the world, but today gars live only in North and Central America. Of the seven known species, the Alligator Gar is the largest.

“It is a highly carnivorous fish. It not only kills other fishes but there are reports of it attacking humans too. The fish’s egg is also poisonous. It has no natural enemies and hence can become invasive in no time destroying the local ecosystem and biodiversity,” Mathe Rajeev Mathew, expert member of the India’s National Biodiversity Authority and the Telangana State Biodiversity Board, said.

Alligator Gar has already become a nuisance in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and reports of the fish spreading fast and becoming invasive in water bodies of Tamil Nadu are also pouring in.

In 2015, an Alligator Gar was caught from a well in Dadar in Mumbai. A group of experts has been called in to tackle the menace.

“This is the first time that this species has been caught in the city. We would like to send a team and collect the specimen. We would also try to explore the lake to check if their population has proliferated and how big is the threat,” KC Gopi, a fish expert of the Zoological Survey of India, said.

Female shark eats male shark in Seoul aquarium

Mondol – the person who caught the fish – gave a scary account of how he caught the fish as it tried to attack him and snap his finger. Mondol is a member of the West Bengal Angler’s Association and fishes regularly in Subhas Sarovar.

“Unlike a Rohu or Katla fish, which usually tries to drag the rope deep into the pond after it is hooked, this fish was lying idle in the water like a tortoise. When I started pulling it out of the water, I was shocked to see the alligator-like snout. I screamed and residents rushed to the spot. The fish after being pulled out not only made a dart to bite me but also killed a Katla fish which I caught earlier,” Mondol said.

The Alligator Gar that Mondol caught weighed more than five kilos.

One of Mondol’s friends killed the fish and ate its meat that tasted sour. Mondol, however, managed to retain the skin and head and is drying to preserve it.

“We couldn’t cut the fish with a knife. It was so hard that it had to be hacked with an axe,” Mondol said.

This article originally appeared on the Hindustan Times.

- http://tribune.com.pk, June 23, 2016

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Danish Fort getting renovated

The work will be completed in a month; it is being executed at an estimate of Rs.4.83 crore

Renovation and beautification work taken up by the State Archaeological Department at the Fort Dansborg at Tharangambadi (Tranquebar) in the coastal area of Nagapattinam district are expected to be completed soon.

The work includes re-construction of a portion of wall on the western side of the fort, creating pathway, landscaping, and setting up of galleries with lighting.

This is considered the second largest Danish Fort in the world and the first one on the Indian soil when the Danes landed here in the 17th century. According to a note displayed at the fort, Sri Ragunatha Nayak, the ruler of Tanjore (1600 – 1634), granted permission to the Danish East India Company to settle in Tranquebar.

Spread over a sprawling area close to the shores of Tranquebar, the fort has a row of rooms on the ground floor and on the first floor. It includes soldiers’ quarters, warehouse, poultry room, gunpowder room and a kitchen.

The State Archaeological Department, which has been conserving the monument, has been executing the renovation work in eight packages for providing adequate amenities to visitors and tourists at the site. It included landscaping the entire area in the ground, setting up of pathways and beautification by planting saplings of horticultural plants with tender roots. Setting up of galleries is one of the important package for which special arrangements including provision of electrical lights has been taken up. “The renovation is being executed at an estimate of Rs.4.83 crore funded by the Asian Development Bank. The work, which began in September 2014 will be completed within a month,” said D. Veeramani, Curator of the Museum.

“A part of the wall on the western side of the fort collapsed during the last monsoon. The length of the wall which collapsed was 55 metres long and four metres broad. Immediate arrangements were taken for the re-construction of the wall,” N. Praba, Junior Engineer, Archaeology Department, told The Hindu at the fort. She said materials such jaggery, gall nut and lime were used for re-constructing the wall, restoring its original grandeur.

She said the museum accounted for a large number of articles used by the Danish during their stay here. A large number of articles, including a few idols and other ancient porcelain dolls, were being preserved at the museum. “We have made special galleries so that the articles in the museum could be well preserved,” said Ms. Praba. The list of ancient articles include the Nayak period lock, porcelain dolls, old and new Danish glass cups, Chinese jar and idol of Sun God.

As the fort is very close to the shores, water logging at the base of the fort poses a problem, particularly during high tides. To tide over the problem, the Archaeological Department has laid additional foundation below the pillars of the fort and built a retaining wall around it. “The wall built to a height of about five metres has prevented water logging,” Mr. Veeramani said.

- http://www.thehindu.com, June 24, 2016

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AIR to launch 'Maitree' with focus on Bangladesh

In a unique initiative, public broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) will launch a first-of-its-kind service called Akashvani Maitree, which can be heard both in India and Bangladesh. Mainly in Bengali, the service will provide a platform for content creation and sharing of cultural heritage between the two countries.

The service will be inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee on June 28 with renowned Indian and Bangladeshi artistes as part of the inaugural programme. Singer Usha Uthup is expected to sing the opening song while Soumitra Chatterjee will recite and Bangladeshi artistes Rezwana Chaudhary Bannya and Shama Rahman are likely to participate in the event. While earlier programmes of this service were produced solely by AIR, the new 'Maitree Service' will invite Bangladeshi artistes and personalities for participation. "There would also be Bangladesh-oriented programmes so that there is greater awareness about our neighbour and India's views and concerns about it,'' Jawhar Sircar, Prasar Bharati CEO said. The channel comes following PM Narendra Modi's initiative to strengthen ties with Dhaka. The Special Bangla Service, was the precursor to Akashvani Maitree, and was launched in the wake of the Bangladesh Liberation Movement in 1971 and played a historic role during the movement. It continued to be very popular till April 2010, when it was discontinued due to decommissioning of the super power transmitter at Chinsurah in West Bengal.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 24, 2016

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606 fish species of Gujarat to be mapped

Marine biotechnology scientists in Gujarat have discovered 10 new species of fishes including one that has been recorded for the first time in the world. The new species were discovered in the first-ever discovered in the first-ever major exercise to map and DNA barcode all the fish species that are found along the state's 1,600 km coastline. Scientists say the mapping will help create a massive data base of all the fish species along with their DNA barcode, which will ultimately come handy in conserving the marine biodiversity of Gujarat.

The exercise is being conducted by the Junagadh Agriculture University (JAU)'s department of biotechnology in collaboration with the department of aquaculture of the College of Fisheries Science in Veraval. According to the data of Gujarat Bio-diversity Board, there are estimated 606 species of fish found in the state of which 487 are marine and 119 are freshwater fishes.

"The Spiny Loach fish found in Veraval has been reported for the first time in the world. We have successfully barcoded the DNA of Loach as well as nine other species that were seen for the first time in India. In all, we have barcoded 84 species of marine fishes along the Veraval coastline," said S I Yusufzai, head, department of aquaculture, who is leading the research team.

"The biggest success is that Spiny Loach is now placed in the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) database a global reference library of DNA barcodes that can be used to assign identities to unknown species," he said.

Dr Yusufzai said that each and every specie of marine fish will get a DNA barcode.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 25, 2016

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'Madurai post office fit to be heritage building'

Any idea why the Madurai General Post Office building looks like an aircraft from above? The British rulers designed it thus since it was set up to handle mail from across the world.

The building, situated on North Veli Street in the heart of the city, was constructed in 1931. It flaunts a mix of British and Indian architecture. It has balconies and arches that represent foreign architecture and stone pillars, which represent the Indian aesthetics.

It was through an RTI query that retired postal employee and first recipient of the postal department's Meghdoot Award N Hariharan found out that the building was constructed in 1931, though the post office was established way back in 1833. "During the British rule, postal documents and parcels that were sealed with the sign 'Madurai-F' specified that they were items that had come from abroad and had undergone customs scrutiny. Many of the letters and parcels were brought by boat mail from the Colombo Port to Thalaimannar in Rameswaram and then to the Madurai GPO for clearance," he told TOI.

Madurai GPO was the only one of its kind next to that in Chennai, to be opened to link all the southern districts. It was the centre of activity during the British rule as trade depended on postal communication, which were brought to the office and then sent to the respective places in the southern districts.

The Archaeological Survey of India, which has declared 34 post offices in India, including three in Tamil Nadu as heritage buildings, had also inspected the Madurai GPO. But it was not followed up, says Hariharan.

Meanwhile, co-convenor of the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Madurai chapter P Rajesh Khanna offered to help in documenting the building, as they were in the process of documenting all herit

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 26, 2016

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Artisans reorient their craft to suit current market trends

Ten-day crafts exhibition getsunder way

The array of items on display at the ongoing handicrafts exhibition -cum -sale at Urban Haat – Shilparamam has shown that the artisans can adapt to the current market trends and varying requirements of the consumers. The first kiosk at the entrance, which features typical terracotta figurines and other artifacts, is dominated by terracotta cookware. “There is a lot of demand for terracotta-based cookware such as coffee/tea cups, water bottles, storage and cooking vessels etc., Preparing food in earthenware retains the flavours and is good for health. Hence, we have focused on displaying cookware along with the regular items,” said D. Chandrasekhar, a terracotta artisan hailing from Sadum area of Chittoor district.

This similar trend was evident at several other stalls (at the expo), where artisans have chosen to highlight their creativity, infusing them with the tastes of the customers. Right from jewellery to the artistic textiles, the craftsmen have certainly made their mark. One can find various crafts such as blue pottery, cane and bamboo products, traditional paintings, carpets, lace items, metal, palm leaf engravings, wood carvings, dokra castings, leather and much more. Artisans from seven states will be showcasing their products till July 3, in 50 different stalls at the venue.

More artisan expos

in the offing The ten-day exhibition sponsored by Office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) – Ministry of Textiles, Government of India and hosted by Shilparamam Arts Crafts and Cultural Society - Government of Andhra Pradesh, is first of the five expos sanctioned to the region. “The main focus of the event is to provide the artisans with a platform for selling their products, without any monetary requirements. The selected artisans need not pay for setting up the stalls at the venue and expenditure for accommodation and travelling is borne by the government,” said Shilparamam administrative officer K. Khadervalli, told The Hindu.

Besides this, the officials are also focusing on developing their organisational and managerial skills, ahead of the ‘Gandhi Shilp Bazaar’, a prestigious national-level expo slated to be held in January 2017.

Meanwhile, the organisers are also conducting special cultural programmes with selected artistes, under the aegis of South Zone Cultural Centre – Thanjavur and by the Department of Language and Culture (GoAP). This step, they opined, would help in roping in the visitors along with the multitude of pilgrims visiting the temple city, contributing to the increasing in sales. The cultural programmes will be held in the evening. The exhibition will be open from 10.30 am to 09.00 pm.

- http://www.thehindu.com, June 26, 2016

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A PASSAGE TO INDIA

The US has promised to return 200 artefacts valued at $100 million. But an archaeologist cautions us against premature euphoria.

Early in the morning of June 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "A focus on heritage & culture... I thank the US government for the return of precious cultural artefacts to India." The US officials made an announcement that the country will be returning more than 200 pieces estimated at $100 million to India. The items to be returned included religious statues, bronzes and terra cotta pieces, some dating back 2,000 years, looted from some of India's most treasured religious sites. News channels ran images of a 1,000-year-old bronze sculpture of Ganesh, a Jain figure of Bahubali, a statue of Saint Manikkavachakar, a Hindu mystic and poet from the Chola period (circa 850 AD to 1250 AD), stolen from the Sivan Temple in Chennai, and valued at $1.5 million. Reports suggested that the majority of the pieces repatriated in the ceremony were seized during Operation Hidden Idol, an investigation that began in 2007 after Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) special agents received a tip-off about a shipment of seven crates destined for the US and marked as 'marble garden table sets'.

"The gesture of the US government", according to archaeologist Arvind Jamkhedkar, "is part of such an effort to prevent illegal trafficking of antiquities, in this particular instance. Both our countries are signatories to conventions. It is agreed upon that if unlawfully brought objects are detected, the individuals or organisations that acquired those objects have to return them to the country they came from."

While the news brought a deep sense of pride and ownership to some quarters of the Indian population, another veteran professor of archaeology, Kirit Mankodi, argues that there is ambiguity about the process and warns that it is premature to get euphoric just yet. "Having dealt with some of the ancient sculptures, I know how difficult the challenge is," shares the 75-year-old at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Fort, ahead of the release of the museum's research journal in which he has contributed an article.

Mankodi maintains a website on ancient sculptures — an individual effort in providing its origin and its history of theft, which include dates of FIR. He draws our attention to his recently published paper, The Case of the Contraband Cargo, or, Atru's Amorous Couples. The academic article speaks about one of Mankodi's pressing concern.

He writes: "On 14 January 2014, the US Homeland Security Investigations returned to the Consul General of India in New York two sculptures from Atru, a little-known site in Rajasthan, bringing closure to two cases of illegal exports of antiquities. The sculptures represent two amorous couples, or mithunas, a popular motif in Indian art. Their repatriation was the culmination of efforts set in motion in India in early April 2010, and it was brought to conclusion in the US, where the sculptures had landed after violating the laws of both countries. The sculptures were over 1000 years old, in perfect condition, and very few persons had ever seen them."

There's no timeframe
But until date, the two sculptures are sitting at the Consul General of India's office in New York. In fact, in the September of 2014, ahead of Modi's visit to the US, Mankodi wrote a letter to the Prime Minister's Office requesting them to take measures to bring back the two prized possessions. "The PMO acted on my request. The Consul General's office got in touch with me and we worked out steps. But nothing went ahead," he says. Then, on March 22, 2016, Mankodi penned a second letter to the PMO, which was forwarded to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). It was only last week that the ASI replied to the mail stating that a team of experts have been sent to New York to bring home the sculptures. "Just to bring back two artefacts, which are in our possession, and whose ownership has been proved beyond doubt (they were stolen from an important national monument protected by the ASI), has taken them so many years," he rues.

Proof of theft
His colleague Jamkhedkar drives home a similar point. "For a normal process of claiming back stolen antiquities, experts from the concerned department examine the objects, verify its authenticity and convince the concerned country that the origins of the objects is a given monument, site or a temple in worship or a museum," he explains. Following the time-consuming effort, the official process of bringing back the objects remains only a formality, which includes a safe passage and insurance.

But the process is rather complex. The Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972 states: 'Any object that's more than 100 years old cannot simply be taken out of the country'. "Things that went out of the country when India was still not a sovereign independent state is a political debate," Mankodi says. "If something was taken out of the country, while India was a colony, then theoretically that is not a theft. Then, how does one give proof of a theft?" Only if the sculpture was taken out of the country after 1947 that we can call the act a theft. "If it's a registered piece that has been stolen, then you have to produce a certificate of registration, which came into effect in 1977," he adds. "But smugglers are known to have roundabout ways. When they take an artefact out of the country, they produce a provenance certificate stating that it was taken out before 1930, or that the said item is not from India."

In fact, often enough when Mankodi sees an old sculpture in the catalogue of an auction house, "I write to them immediately — especially if it's a work that has been published here — in order to find out their source, but they never reply." As stated in his website, a single sculpture of Brahma from Devangan in Rajasthan, which was published in India as being in a shrine, "was smuggled out and changed hands between two big auction houses, Sotheby's and Christie's. I wrote to them, but needless to say, they never responded," he shares.

Our own laxity
His research in the subject suggests that the rate of thefts of sculptures is frequent and particularly high in the states of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh. Yet, as Mankodi points out, except for Tamil Nadu, there is no dedicated wing in the police department dedicated to antiquities. "And we have 3500 monuments of national importance protected," he says. "The laws are there against theft, but what is lacking is implementation."

He squarely blames our collective prejudices as well. "The attitude of some Western experts that they can care for and display better than India is patronising; but unfortunately, it is true. Their museums are well-maintained with excellent display and documentation," he says, before raising a rather critical point.

India's art is the world's collective heritage and this country should not be "retentionist". "But if they are so concerned, let them offer to care for this world's heritage here, keep the monuments intact and enjoy heritage that is surely the world's. Why mutilate art first, then display in an excellent ambience where the violence committed on the monument itself is forgotten?" he asks.

- http://www.mumbaimirror.com, June 26, 2016

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Engravings dating back to 15th century found

Epigraphists and archaeologists have recently found interesting engravings on stones in Tellapur in Medak district, Phanigiri in Nalgonda, Taakkellapadu in Guntur district and Venkatagiri in Nellore district.

A Telugu inscription in Tellapur of Medak district dating back to Saka 1340 (1418 AD), engraved on a stone slab kept in between two big pillars outside the village refers to Phirojashah Sultan.

It records the construction of a step-well (nadabavi) with a provision for a water-drawing device (etamu) in the Telumganapura by Nagoju and Layyaloju, descendants of Visvakarmarishi and Vallabhoju, gift of a mango garden situated on the north of a tank by Nagoju and the presentation of a golden chain and a medal to Phirojashah Sultan (Suratrana) by Layyaloju.

The Archaeological Survey of India has compiled the epigraphical discoveries of the respective states archaeology museums and departments in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. “Those days many events were engraved on stone, copper plates and other metals for permanent record. Telangana state archaeology and museums department has a rich collection of over 3,000 e-stampages (photo copies) of inscriptions,” said Mr P. Nagaraju, assistant director of the department, in charge of Nalgonda and Mahbubnagar.

Brahmi inscriptions were found in Phanigiri in Nalgonda district, on a pillar, in Prakrit language and featuring Brahmi characters of the 2nd-3rd century AD. It has inscriptions of the installation of a chakra (Dharmachakra) at a monastery called Sadhivihara, gifts in the form of land, cows, etc by Buddhist monks and gift of four kahapana (gold coins) probably for a perpetual lamp by monks (bhikhusamgha).

They also refer to a Mahanavakammika (chief superintendent of works), a Mahadandanayaka and acharya (sculptor).

Similar an Ikshvaku inscription was found in Phanigiri on a pillar in Sanskrit and Prakrit languages and Brahmi characters of the 4th century AD. It belongs to Ikshvaku king Rudrapurushadatta and was issued in his 18th regnal year. The inscription contains four verses in adoration of Lord Buddha.

“The discovery of this inscription is important for the history of Ikshvaku dynasty, as the regnal year mentioned in this inscription extends the reigning period of the king by seven years, from 11 to 18. This inscription records the erection of a pillar containing the Dharmachakra by the chief physician (aggrabhishaja) of the king,’’ another official said.

Another fragmentary inscription in Brahmi characters of about the 4th century AD, at Phanigiri records the gift of the pair of foot-prints by Bodhaka, grandson of a venerable person (Bhayanta) whose name is not clear.

In another discovery in Brahmi inscription in Takkellapadu in Guntur mandal engraved on a stone slab in Prakrit language and Brahmi characters of 2nd century AD refers to a vihara (name not clear) and records gift of lands measured in terms of nivartanas and 500 cows, by a ruler.

- http://www.asianage.com, June 26, 2016

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Rajasthan attempts to resolve water scarcity through campaigns

The desert state of Rajasthan, which has being struggling with water scarcity for long, now looks forward to address water crisis with campaigns focusing on rainwater conservation and promoting groundwater recharge by reviving old water structures.

The Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan launched in January this year emphasises on solutions for rising water scarcity by reviving old water structures with public participation and providing water management techniques in the rural regions of the driest state of the country.

A total of 21,000 villages of the state are targeted to be benefited in a period of three years and over 3,000 villages have been identified on the basis of priority in the first year.

Spread over 342 lakh hectares of land, out of which 60 per cent constitutes of the Thar desert, Rajasthan faces acute water shortage as it suffers from the lowest amount of precipitation in the country throughout the year.

"The Abhiyan ensures effective implementation of water harvesting and conservation related activities in the rural regions of the state," Sriram Vedire, Chairman of the Rajasthan River Basin and Water Resources Planning Authority told .

He said the first phase of the campaign is completing on June 30 and its result will be noticeable after monsoon.

Satellite images and maps are prepared for a scientific approach and mobile application is used to monitor the progress of the campaign. Five departments of the state government are working in synergy for the campaign, Vedire said.

He said maps are drafted in Hindi to enable people to understand the planning.

Vedire said the campaign is to make the state free from drought and its impact will be visible in next three years.

Under the campaign, villages are being made self reliant in water supply. The campaign is run by public participation and 3499 people have so far provided Rs 33,75,87,950 for it. Some of the efforts include harvesting available run off in rural area by treatment of catchment, utilization of available water and irrigation of lands through harvested water. Water harvesting and conservation works will be implemented from the funds available under State departments, Non Government Organizations, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Non Residents Villagers Club (NRV Club) and other such organizations. SDA SUK RT SUK

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 26, 2016

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Udaipur's revamp plan gets underway

The first phase of Udaipur's 'smart city' project, including heritage conservation tasks worth Rs 5.99 crore at the Heritage House, was launched here on Saturday. Home minister Gulab Chand Kataria inaugurated the initial phase of the smart city project after laying the foundation stone for the construction of an open air gymnasium at Gulab Bagh and an urban primary medical health centre at Jagdish Chowk.

Mayor Chandra Singh Kothari, MLA Phool Singh Meena, zila pramukh Shantilal Meghwal, Udaipur municipal corporation commissioner Siddharth Sihag and many others were present on the occasion.

Kataria also inaugurated a smart classroom at government Kanwarpada Senior Secondary School at Jagdish Chowk. At Fateh Memorial, he inaugurated facilities for the tourists including press screen system to give them an insight into the major tourist attractions in and around Udaipur.eom

The first phase of Udaipur's Smart City project, including heritage conservation tasks worth 5.99 crore rupees at the Heritage House was launched here on Saturday. Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria inaugurated the initial phase of the Smart city project after laying the foundation stones for the construction of an open air gymnasium at Gulab bag and an urban primary medical health center at Jagdish Chowk. Mayor ChandraSingh Kothari, MLA Phool Singh Meena, Jila Pramukh Shantilal Meghwal, UMC commissioner Siddharth Sihag and many others were present at the occasion which was marked with much enthusiasm. Kataria also inaugurated a smart class room at the government Kanwarpada senior secondary school at Jagdish chowk. A solar power plant at the Meera Bai community building at Shivaji nagar too was inaugurated by the minister. After signaling off the trial services of low floor air conditioned buses in the city, Kataria also visited the tourist reception center at Fateh memorial here. He inaugurated facilities for the tourists including press screen system to give them an insight of the major tourist attractions in and around Udaipur.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 26, 2016

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Gharats A Vanishing Heritage

There was a time when a Water Mill locally called as Gharat was an essential feature of the village landscape of Jammu region barring the Kandi belt. In those days of backbreaking manual labour, a Gharat harnessing the power of flowing water of river, stream or a irrigation channel was a living example of mankind’s feeble attempt at technological solutions and use of mental ingenuity at solving the perennial problem of grinding and de-husking enough grains to satiate its hunger.

Many a member of the older generation would vouch for the fact that a Gharat owner called Gharati had a better social status in the village hierarchy for he could afford both food grains and money as a service charge on grinding called ‘Pisai’. Their sons and daughters had a better chance of finding a suitable match in those times when famines were a constant recurrence. Gharats had such a great contribution to the village economy that even the Dogra Rulers promulgated, The Water Mills (Jandar And Gharat)Act, BIKRAMI SAMVAT.1989 (1932A.D.) to regulate the functioning of Gharats. In the land settlement a separate Khasra No. (Estate No.) was allotted to the Jandar Gharat.

George Forster an employee of East India Company who visited Jammu in 1783 had this to say in his travelogue “Jumbo is situated on the side of a hill. The bottom of the hill is washed by the river. Many water- mills stand on its banks for grinding corn, which are constructed in a neater manner than any I have seen in India.”

For thousands of years the Gharats have been a part and parcel of agrarian economy and a source of livelihood. While going through the Misal Haqiyat i.e. the original Record of rights it was found that Hamirpur Sidhar, the village of Mallika Pukhraj in Tehsil Akhnoor had twenty two functional Gharats on a distributary of river Chenab . Similarly Gharats were found installed in Ganni, Rah, Saliote, Kathar and Manoha villages in Akhnoor, in Chenani and Udhampur on Tawi river, on Anji stream in Reasi and in Ramban and Doda districts also. The existence of a Gharat called as Pucca Gharat on a Channel of Ranbir canal is well known to the people of Jammu city. In fact the whole of Sub- Himalayas and upper Shivaliks are dotted with watermills.

Gharats also find a space in our art and literature. Readers may fondly recall the story Mangte Da Gharat written by Sh.Bhagwat Prasad Sathe which was a part of Dogri story book in the school. The importance of Gharats can be gauged from the fact that the Narsingh Dev temple at village Kaghote of tehsil Ramnagar contains a stone idol of the local deity called as Gharati Devta. Gharatis pay their obeisance to the deity by offering grains on a monthly basis and on auspicious occasions. In Poonch-Rajouri region the idiom Ghrate di raat (one night at gharat) means a disturbed and uncomfortable night as a stay in Gharat is marked by constant din of grinding stones accompanied by rats jumping all around. Gharats constitute an essential part of our rich culture and can be safely assumed as a part of our tangible heritage.

The Gharats have always remained a fine example of use of local technology. The Gharatis on their own create feeding channels diverting water of the rivers, rivulets ,brooks and streams which are found in abundance in the hills. The Gharats are also built of locally available material like mud, stones and timber. Surprisingly even mill stones are chiseled out of the locally available boulders found on river beds by the Gharatis themselves. They are also skilled in chiseling grooves on mill stone which gets worn out due to continuous use and affects grinding efficiency of the Gharat. Even the equipment is made out of locally available wood which requires constant repair.

In order to save Gharats from extinction it is essential that a census be organized so as to gauge the importance and significance of the Gharats. As per the traditional wisdom, the flour obtained from Gharats is of better quality and nutrition. Housewives in the rural areas prefer flour obtained from Gharats as having better texture and better Rotis especially of maize can be made out of it. This is largely due to sustained rate of milling and cold grinding of the grains. As a result of less heat, the nutrients are preserved and better quality of product is obtained. Just as mustard oil is marketed citing health benefits of cold pressing (Kachi Ghani), similarly flour obtained from Gharats can be marketed as having better health benefits. Surely the discerning consumer of the urban areas will be ready to pay an extra rupee for the better quality products. Water mills harness renewable resources i.e. running water which otherwise would be of no use. It would be interesting to find out the savings in fossil fuels which are substituted by the Gharats. If scientifically calculated the same can be helpful in earning carbon credits as is provided in the environmental protocols.

However with the passage of time and onslaught of industrialization, the Gharats are fast losing the ground to Atta Chakkis powered by electricity. Each Atta Chakki license issued by District authorities sounds the death knell of Gharats. So much so that Gharatis have been pushed out of business and the gharats have come to a grinding halt as a majority of them have been abandoned for the want of customers. A visit to many a streams and rivulets of Jammu region tell a tale of abandoned watermills, untended irrigation Khuls , Grinding stones scattered here and there. The large-scale deforestation and lifting of water for drinking purpose has robbed the streams across shivaliks of the assured water flow for running of these Gharats.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has focused its attention on renewable sources and has recognized the contribution of watermills in providing a sustainable source of energy in hilly regions. Jammu and Kashmir Energy Development Agency JAKEDA is the nodal agency for providing subsidy and financial incentives for upgradation of existing water mills to the tune of two and a half lakh rupees. The Irrigation and Flood Control Department can be tasked with the establishment of model watermills in twin capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar for demonstration and educational purposes. The existing talent pool of the Engineering department and research institutions can chip in by upgrading the existing watermills and introducing low cost designs having ease of operations. Flourishing watermills are integral part of our agrarian economy and cultural heritage.

- http://www.dailyexcelsior.com, June 26, 2016

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India Couture Week 2016 to begin in the Capital on July 20

The India Couture Week will showcase dazzling intricate craftsmanship, interesting trends, and the best of Indian crafts.

he India Couture Week 2016 (ICW), hosted by Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) — India’s apex fashion body — is set to begin on July 20.

The four-day fashion gala vouches to showcase dazzling intricate craftsmanship, interesting trends, and the best of Indian crafts by leading couturiers from across India. India Couture Week 2016 to begin in Delhi on July 20Couture week 2014 to celebrate Indian elements Sabyasachi Mukherjee to open India Couture Week 2014India Couture Week to begin on July 15High fashion set to scorch DelhiFine PrintsIndia Couture Week 2016 to begin in Delhi on July 20Couture week 2014 to celebrate Indian elements Sabyasachi Mukherjee to open India Couture Week 2014India Couture Week to begin on July 15High fashion set to scorch DelhiFine PrintsIndia Couture Week 2016 to begin in Delhi on July 20Couture week 2014 to celebrate Indian elements Sabyasachi Mukherjee to open India Couture Week 2014India Couture Week to begin on July 15High fashion set to scorch DelhiFine Prints FDCI president Sunil Sethi hopes it’s a success.

“We have always offered the best of India through our eponymous events and the ICW is the most coveted extravaganza in the stable as it showcases couture ensembles, which are emblematic of our rich tradition and historical past,” Sethi said in a statement.

“As we get set to indulge in this unadulterated visual treat, we hope to recreate splendour through the art of luxury,” he added.

- http://indianexpress.com, June 27, 2016

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A gateway to the world of mysticism

The myriad hues of our daily life is weaved into our heritage through our rich architecture, music, folklore and cinema. Artist Rajesh K. Baderia, draws inspiration from his surroundings and has come up with his latest collection “Alchemy of Colours” that is a gateway into the world of mysticism.

At the show which is on at the Visual Arts Gallery at the India Habitat Centre, the artist through his paintings has captured a riot of colours on a black canvas to highlight the element of hope. Rajesh says, “My paintings are like light in a dark tunnel.” Bold colours like orange, red and blue are used in vivid abstractions of symbols drawn from mythology. His work has often been termed as an extension of the “neo-tantric” genre but to him his work is above labels and is about engaging with energy.

“It’s very difficult to find contemporary artists who don’t shy away from associations with spirituality. Rajesh’s ability to draw from his own spiritual inclinations set him apart. It is striking to discover a form in the formless,” says Pratibha Prahlad, founder and director of the Delhi International Arts Festival who was among the visitors at the inaugural that was held over the weekend.

Inspiration

The artist affirms that his childhood has left deep impressions on his psyche. His rustic upbringing, instruction in mythology, and academic background as an engineer find expression in his paintings.

He uses geometric shapes to allude to the cosmos and the concept of creation at large. Intersecting triangles with subjective connotations also dot his work. The artist explains that these triangles could represent David’s star, Yantras or even Shiva Shakti (the mingling of the male and female essence).

Commenting on the show, Bipasha Sen Gupta, a fellow artist, noticed echoes of Jackson Pollock in the textured paintings of this collection. Others believe that his use of religious motifs like the “morpankh” differentiate his art from the rest.

Mike Pandey noted wildlife photographer and film-maker who was also among those present said, “Rajesh evokes the super consciousness of the viewer. I see a troubled planet in some, and in some the hope of regeneration, he depicts the cycle of life.”

The show is on till July 1 between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the Visual Art Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Lodi Road. (The writer is an intern with The Hindu)

- http://www.thehindu.com, June 27, 2016

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Heritage graduates get offers from office of President

For the first batch of students graduating from the country's first heritage management institute in Ahmedabad, a letter from the office of President of India's office seeking qualified candidates for managing the archival wealth at Rashtrapati Bhavan ushered in a new era in management careers. The offer comes along other prestigious placements for the 12 students who form the first batch of the Centre for Heritage Management under Ahmedabad University. Besides the US's National Parks Society (NPS), some of the CHM students are placed with prestigious Bangalanatak, Sabarmati Ashram, Mehrangarh in Jodhpur, Khamir, Savani conservation and construction works, Gujarat Ecology Commission for managing natural heritage, and at SETU Abhiyan organisations.

Former executive director of Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Design and ex-president of the Crafts Council of India, Ashok Chatterjee said, "The President's letter is a shot in the arm for a sector looking for serious recognition, and CHM meets the 'requirements'."

"There is a national need for heritage managers and it is being understood now. In Europe or US , cultural and creative industry is the biggest money spinner and being managed by qualified heritage managers. CHM is developing its own curriculum to suit the present day requirements and in this light such offers are a silver lining," said Chatterjee.

CHM director, Debashish Nayak, said, "Most of these institutions require managing collection, documentation, research and dissemination of information. Besides these, awareness and educational programs are also part of a heritage manager's job."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 27, 2016

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Neglected water bodies affecting agriculture in Salcete

Water bodies or ponds are known to be the lifeline of agriculture, but when the owners, local self-governing bodies and the government itself neglects maintenance of these ponds, agricultural activity is bound to get affected.

Along the Salcete coastal belt, many such ponds situated amidst huge tracts of fields are a sight of apathy and indifference. These Water bodies have become convenient sites to dump garbage and waste, some have dried up due to siltation. In some cases, due to loss of interest in cultivating fields, algae and water hyacinth have covered the entire surface of the ponds.

If the pond is situated in fallow fields, then it becomes an ideal spot for dumping livestock waste, dead domesticated animals along with other items like plastic bottles, say locals. If some eateries and restaurants are allowed in the vicinity of ponds, it becomes a convenient place to release sewage. The latest is the food carts being set up in nooks and corners of the villages. They get rid of their waste like egg shells, burnt oil and other remains into the water bodies, a resident told TOI . These ponds are owned by the government, village comunidade and also private owners, hence there is no clear-cut official policy as such about the preservation of these water bodies.

Chief engineer, irrigation department, Sandeep Nadkarni says ponds owned by the government are being maintained by them and that they desilt them and build retaining walls as they recharge the soil. When it comes to community ponds, they require a resolution or a proposal to carry out any work. He further added that upon receiving a proposal, a feasibility report is prepared and only if it fits within the budget, they agree to take up the work.

Another engineer from the department confirmed that there is no specific scheme or budget for the maintenance of ponds or lakes, but depending upon the need, the department carries out some cleaning, maintenance etc.

If farmers or individuals want to clean these ponds, panchayat members claim that they need a proposal from a sizeable group of farmers to put up for discussion during the panchayat meeting and later, discuss at the gram sabha for approval. If a complaint is made with the local body, an inspection is carried out, directions issued to maintain these water bodies, a truce is brought about, but a few days later, it's back to square one.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 27, 2016

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Water Board involves NGOs to promote rainwater harvesting

To improve groundwater table, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWS&SB) has decided to rope in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to promote rain water harvesting (RWH) pits in non-residential areas, including industrial units and central government institutions.

According to the water board records, there were nearly 25,000 water connections (non-domestic category) and getting assured quantity of water since inspection. Industrial units are located in operation and maintenance (O&M) divisions VII (Tarnaka, Sanatnagar,), VIII (Patancheru), IX (Balanagar), XI (Sahebnagar IDA, Balanagar IDH, Nacharam Industrial Area), XII (Jeedimetla, Chintal) and XV (Ramchandrapuram).

"The reason for concentrating on non-residential areas and central government institutions is they have large open spaces on their premises. Though we will not bear the expenditure for putting in place RWHs pits, we will provide technical assistance. The number of RWH pits will be identified based on the space available at industrial units and central government institutions," assistant director, ground water department working with HMWS&SB, J Satyanarayana told TOI.

"We have many central government research institutions and defence units in the city. The water board will educate managements of these institutions to assess their impact on the environment and social wellbeing. We will take the help of city-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to promote RWH concept during the 60-day action plan," he said. However, the managements have to take responsibility of maintaining the RWH pits.

Regarding residential colonies, the official said, "So far, we have put in place 2,000 RWH pits, geo-tagged them and took images for the record. These RWH pits were constructed at water board's own expenditure, but the responsibility of maintaining them was given to the residential welfare associations concerned," the official said.

"A three-year plan to implement the RWH concept to improve groundwater table in Greater Hyderabad is under process. The water board is working out the modalities," he added.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 27, 2016

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‘State too focused on beach tourism’

An overdependence on beach tourism and casinos to drive the state's economy has made its economic model unsustainable, professor Renji George Amballoor said while speaking at the International Centre here, on occassion of the Think Goa seminar recently.

In a paper titled 'Economic Development of Goa: Need for alternatives', Amballoor, an associate professor of economics at Government College, Quepem, stressed the state's need to adopt the path of balanced development in order to have 'vikas' for all. "Goan economy is overly dependent on tourism, beach tourism in particular, that is why the infrastructural facilities of coastal Goa witnessed a quantum expansion," he said. In his paper, the educator is critical of the tourism model, mining patterns and real estate activities all of which were indiscriminate and a matter of concern.

The member of the Goa Economic Association and Indian Economic Association also said that the cost of sustaining other sectors through luxury casino tourism is very high and will have a negative multiplier impact on the economy and its people in the long run.

Calling attention to a World Tourism Organisation and Institute of Social Sciences study that states the Goa lacks responsible tourism, Amballoor said that Goa's beaches were overcrowded with concrete jungles and the solid waste management system was in shambles. "Stakeholders have to immediately address issues which blemish the image of Goa. Due care should be taken to protect the socio-cultural and environmental heritage of local communities."

Referring to the real estate sector, the former principal of Government College, Borda said, "The influence of rental and speculative income in Goa is a matter of concern. Parts of ancestral inherited property are sold to raise rental income. This property bubble is unsustainable and is causing glitches in the land use pattern."

As a solution, Amballoor suggests sustainability issues could be resolved only if grassroot entities were empowered in the decision making process. "The local self-governing units under the 73rd and 74th amendments should be rejuvenated by devolving more powers and by providing required financial inputs."

As an example, the researcher suggests that the government could include the public as stakeholders in projects approved by the Investment Promotion Board, especially where local resources are being tapped.

He further stated that horticulture, floriculture, small scale manufacturing units and hinterland tourism were viable sectors that the government could explore to diversify the state's economy.

"Employment generation is low due to dependence on service sector which does not create too many jobs and that is why we have jobless growth," Amballoor said while responding to a question raised by a member of the audience.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 27, 2016

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Ancient stone sculptures abandoned in Palamur

Building temples is considered to be a great divine service which has been followed since time unknown and still continues. But here is an example of how historic stone sculptures of archaeological importance have been thrown out of the temple, just to replace them with new idols of gods and goddesses.

Ajjakollu, a remote and most backward village in Kothakota mandal of Mahbubnagar district, is one of the most primitive settlements lying on the banks of Pebberu vagu, a local stream which empties itself into the Krishna River.

It is believed that people migrated to this village from Cuddapah Samsthanam during the Vijayanagara Empire, ruled by Sri Krishna Devaraya of Tuluva dynasty, who reigned from 1509 AD to 1530 AD.

There is a Hanuman temple in the village which is believed to have been constructed hundreds of years ago. Stone sculptures of Lord Hanuman, Lord Vishnu, a huge Nandi and a possible carving of the then King were originally installed in the temple.

The temple underwent several constructional changes new idols were installed in place of the old ones. A couple of years ago, the villagers expanded the temple by building some additional temples close to the main Hanuman temple.

In the process, the old sculptures were disposed-off by leaving them in an open area, in a neglected state.There is a small canal which lies right beside the temple where the drains of the entire village are connected to.

This canal joins the local stream. These invaluable stone sculptures risk falling into the canal due to soil erosion due to rains. The mouth of Hanuman sculpture is already broken.

Other carvings are also slightly damaged, but still preserve the artistic excellence of olden times. They have been lying neglected for decades now.

As per the Hindu tradition, damaged idols are not worshipped,” replied Raja Vardhan Reddy, a landlord in the village, when The Hans India asked him why the sculptures were thrown out of the temple.

The villagers have never even tried to inform the officials of the District Archaeological Museum, Pillalamarri, where similar sculptures have been preserved.

-http://www.thehansindia.com/, June 29,2016

Frequent mud therapy harming the Taj Mahal?

Experts have raised concerns over the frequent use of mud pack therapy on the Taj Mahal to fight perils posed by pollution and insects. The therapy is currently being applied for the third time in the last 14 months on the monument's north wall. It is worried that frequent therapy may rob the Taj of its original colour and texture.

Officials of the Archaeological survey of India (ASI), which maintains the Taj, said frequent therapy mars the monument's aesthetic value. "At the rate it is being conducted, scaffolding will cover the monument most of the time," a senior ASI official said.

Mud pack therapy was done for the first time in April last year when the parliamentary standing committee on environment inspected the Taj following an Indo-US study which claimed that black and brown carbons along with dust were yellowing the monument. It was carried out again in September 2015 after hordes of insects left green patches on the walls. Why worry. Nothing in this world is forever. Every thing will decay, rod and die. Taj Mahal is no exception. It will be better without interference. Occasional cleansing with clean water is enough.

Zokhuma Lushai
"It is the state's responsibility to take measures to curb pollution" a senior official said. The therapy, however, is "the safest and most-used method to clean monuments across the world," said an official from ASI's science branch.

SN Tripathi, professor at the Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering at IIT-Kanpur, who was part of the Indo-US study, had earlier told TOI, "With regular cleaning, the original colour, texture and shine from the marble surfaces will be gone forever."

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 29, 2016

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Smart Cities Mission: Flaws in a flagship programme

The Smart Cities Mission not only prioritises parts of a city over the whole but also truncates the role of local city governments.

The Narendra Modi government would be celebrating a year of the launch of its flagship urban programme, the Smart Cities Mission, this month. In January, 20 from a pool of 100 cities were selected by the Central government under the Smart Cities Mission. Aimed at allocating Rs.10 billion to each selected city over a span of five years (Central government funding of Rs.5 billion, matched with equal funding from States/local bodies), the mission has been claimed by Venkaiah Naidu, the Minister for Urban Development, as a “first in the country and even in the world [where] investments in urban sector are being made based on competition-based selection of cities”.

According to Census 2011, 31 per cent of India’s total population lives in urban areas — a marginal increase of a little over three percentage points from the previous Census of 2001. In absolute numbers, however, India added about nine million people to the urban areas, bringing the number of urban residents in India to a total of 377 million. Additionally, for the first time since Independence, the growth in total urban population is higher than the absolute rural population growth. It is in this context that a close scrutiny of the Smart Cities Mission, as this government’s articulation of what it thinks of India’s urbanisation, is warranted. With the final list of smart cities being announced, the process route taken and the proposals selected provide profound insight into what the mission would do for our cities.

The 20 cities were selected on the basis of a “Smart City Proposal” which was submitted by the city. The proposal was to contain two ideas — one, for the development of an area, and two, for the entire city. Proposals from a majority of cities have financially prioritised developing a small area rather than the entire city. According to the proposals analysed by the writer, 71 per cent of the funding from the mission will be spent on area-based development, the beneficiaries of which are about 4 per cent of the city’s population on average.

Under area-based development, cities have proposed redevelopment of old and creation of new central business districts, retrofitting infrastructure such as water supply, sewerage, and creation of public spaces apart from reinventing landscape. The proposal for the entire city, however, has been limited to IT-based services like CCTV-monitored central command system, “smart” education portals and “intelligent” water and traffic management systems. This prioritisation of area might enhance the lived experience of residents of the area, but poses two larger questions on the substance of this mission.

No framework for development

First, the Central government incentivising development of a small area and not the entire city doesn’t augur well. Explicitly, the Smart Cities Mission is aimed at land monetisation. Indeed, one of the big issues of our cities is that land, as a resource, hasn’t been fully exploited. The mission is arguably trying to articulate this particular aspect of our cities — that is, to suggest that land monetisation has not been addressed and there needs to be some thinking on this. One of the ways of doing this is to begin a project-based development, something that the mission proposes. But to present a land monetisation plan in the garb of national urban policy and encourage it as a model for the entire city is inappropriate and deeply worrying.

Second, the mission also fails to articulate an institutional framework for urban development — a sustainable blueprint for governance for our cities — on two counts.

The first is convergence. There are multiple policies for urban India: the Swachh Bharat Mission which is gearing up to make urban areas clean; Housing for All which promises universal housing by 2022; the National Urban Livelihoods Mission; the National Urban Information System; and the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY). Additionally, there are multiple infrastructure projects like expansion of city roads and highways, water reservoir and storage-related development which are mostly undertaken by development authorities or the State governments. The Smart Cities Mission’s convergence with all these schemes is not known.

The second is governance. During the launch of the mission last year, Mr. Modi said, “The decision to make the city smart should be taken by the city, its citizens and its municipalities.” Ironically though, in the guidelines for the mission, the role of the local governments was significantly cut short — delegating the decision-making powers to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a body to be set up and which would implement the mission. The purported lack of capacities in our city government is arguably the rationale for the creation of an SPV. But is an SPV the right institutional architecture for our urbanisation and city development?

In 1992, the 74th constitutional amendment had envisioned an elected local government with neighbourhood committees and mohalla sabhas as an institutional architecture vis-à-vis the functional, financial and legislative domain of city governments. The mission buries this arrangement and at the same time fails to provide an alternative.

Bypassing political chaos and employing participation shortcuts to produce aggrandising structures of glass and steel, thinking that our cities would become inclusive and sustainable, is clearly not a very smart idea.

Bhanu Joshi is a public policy researcher at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi.

- http://www.thehindu.com, June 29, 2016

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Kishanganj's claim to fame in history

Kishanganj in Old Delhi lays claim to fame because of the historic D'Eremao cemetery, which is now planned to be renovated and at least partly restored by the Archeological Survey of India. The cemetery actually came under the charge of ASI in 1919, according to Beverly Hallam, a descendent of the medieval Captain Manuel D'Eremao, who lives in England. Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, editor of "Chowkidar" Journal of BACSA (British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia), quotes Ms Hallam as saying: The cemetery can be accurately dated back to at least the late 18th century, to 1781 to be precise, when the Carmelite Padre Gregorio Della Presentatione came from Bombay to Delhi to take charge of the Delhi Mission, previously run by the Jesuits. There had been an earlier Christian burial ground in Delhi, to accommodate the numerous Armenians and Christians working for the Mughals.

A Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Tieffenthaler had remarked on the cemetery in the 1760s, which was said, perhaps with some exaggeration, to have been destroyed by the Persian invader Nadir Shah in 1739. It does seem likely, however, that the D'Eremao cemetery forms part of that first European cemetery and is contemporary with the earliest European burials at Agra in the 1600s. "Manuel D'Eremao, after whom the cemetery was named, was born in Delhi about AD 1744 and was probably brought up by his maternal grandfather, Manuel Gascoine, though most of the wealth he inherited came from his paternal grandmother, Donna Juliana Diaz da Costa. The Captain served as an officer in Scindia's army and was in charge of the Fort at Hansi until he surrendered it to Lord Lake in 1803, in return for a large pension and confirmation of his ancestral holdings in Delhi," as lately narrated in the Neogi publication, Lingering Charm of Delhi.

The Persian inscription on his tomb reads, Captain Manuel D'Eremao Bahadur, having passed 86 years of his borrowed life with a good report and a happy conclusion in munificence and charitableness, left this perishable inn four hours after sunset on Friday, the fifth of June 1892 AD, corresponding to 2nd of Zilhijj, 1244 Hijri, and took his abode forever in Paradise after having acted up to the tenets of the Christian faith. His relatives were left helpless and this sorrowful event caused them profound grief and sorrow. Sad is it that the Captain, who was a good-natured kind-hearted and generous man, went the way of the world all on a sudden. When I pondered over the year of his death I heard from the unknown "Wai Daregh" (it is sorrowful indeed). Domingo D'Eremao, son of the Captain, erected this stone in memory of his father. The inscription has now disappeared.

The Eremao Cemetery had been squatted upon since the 1950s, mainly by Indian Christians. "Despite a modern stone that labels the site 'Armenian Cemetery', recent research has found it is probably the first European cemetery of Old Delhi, and thus not exclusively Armenian. Captain Manuel D'Eremao's grandmother Donna Juliana Diaz da Costa was of Portugese descent and born in Bengal in 1658, attached to the Mughal court. On her death in 1732, she left four villages and their income, which had been gifted to her by the Emperor Shah Alam-I (or Bahadur Shah-I, eldest son of Aurangzeb). The cemetery was certainly in use for long, as in it lie the remains of Judith Gascoin (died 1808), the wife of Captain Von Der Osten, chief of the Danish Factory at Patna. The earliest Armenian inscription in it dates back to 1787. There were six more Armenian tombstones, according to the historian Meshrob Seth."

However, to come back to the cemetery, when Brigadier Bullock visited it in 1936, it was in excellent condition. But on return visit in December 1947, when the Brigadier was conducting an audit of all European cemeteries in newly-independent India, he found a terrible sight. "During the disturbances in August and September 1947 it had suffered much deliberate damage. All marble tablets were stolen and wanton damage (though perhaps random) done to many graves and to the large D'Eremao mausoleum, which forms the principal feature of the cemetery. Beverly Hallam has found numerous letters from Brigadier Bullock to administrative bodies in Delhi, trying to submit a claim for compensation, then to have the cemetery cleared of squatters, and chowkidars installed. Very little help was offered." The British High Commission, with responsibility for maintenance, was happy to hand it over to the Delhi authorities in 1952, says Dr Rosie Jones. Now that its history is better known, Captain D'Eremao's great-great-grandaughter has written to the ASI and INTACH ( Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage), asking that the cemetery should be properly recognised and given the respect it is due, as a unique piece of Indo-European history. Hope the ASI makes this hope come true.

Father D'Silver, who was in-charge of the Christian cemeteries in Delhi, died a few years ago but before that he was able to see the restoration of the Nicholson cemetery that came up some 100 years after the one at Kishanganj. The priest was the one much sought after at a function held near the grave of Brig-Gen Nicholson, which was presided over by the then British High Commissioner, Sir Michael Arthur. It happened to be Id day and some of those who had visited the cemetery headed for Bara Hindu Rao on their way back home to buy biryani and kabas, both of which were the favourites of Nicholson and his Multani Horse (regiment).

Going back to Brig Bullock, it's worth noting that while he was still a Major in the 1930s, he wrote a series of articles in The Statesman (and corresponded with this scribe's father on the family's antecedants) concerning military adventurers from Europe under the pseudonym "Hyderbad", the place where he was posted. Bullock's work was an extension of the early 20th century one by E A S Blunt on the Christain cemeteries. But Blunt had written only on the ones in UP (United Provinces then) but he did make mention of Bibi Juliana and her earlier namesake, Bibi Juliana of Akbar's court, who lies buried in Agra.

The second Bibi Juliana is still remembered for Juliana Sarai, named after her in Okhla, which is now DDA colony of that name (but there is no trace of the sarai now). Still the Kishanganj influence extends right up to there, though most people tend to remember it only as railway colony and not for its cemetery, which was recently visited by Dr William Crawly of London, who was supposed to report on its present state of preservation to the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia.

- http://www.thestatesman.com, June 30, 2016

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250 years ago once again

Giving a fillip to tourism opportunity in the city, Sir Gangadharrao ChitnavisTrust has now decided to open up its heritage property at Chitnavis Wada in Mahalto the public for traditional celebrations and special family occasions. Spread over a sprawling 2 acres, the 250-year-old wada with a 60,000 sq ft built up area held the offices and residential quarters of the Chitnavis family in the bygone era.

Built in the traditional architectural style, the wada, which is a Grade I heritage structure, has a big veranda at its entrance and open spaces with walls covered with art work, fountains in the centre, wooden pillars and a tiled roof. There are innumerable rooms all along on the first floor which served as living quarters. "In olden times, there were some 7 chowks or central places in the structure as people would visit the place eat meals and even stay at night," says Vilas Kale, a trustee.

The Trust has now decided to open inner sections of the property for celebrations like birthdays, thread ceremony, shashti or amrut mahotsav. "We are also looking at various socio-religious events like manglagaur, engagement ceremonies, dohal jevan, mehendi and sangeet ceremony," says Kale and adds that the presence ofMurlidhar temple on the premises makes it an auspicious venue. "We are hoping that even non-Maharashtrians would also go for it to savour the experience. Being the only one of its kind in this region we, also hope to attract people from close by cities," Kale says.

The Trust is offering a royal Maharashtrian setting and meals served by men and women in traditional attire. "We have made arrangements for a 'pangat' style seating and an option of table chairs for limited persons. The tableware too will be provided by us and there is provision for silver plates if client's budget permits," Kale adds.

The Trust will provide a highly specialized caterer who will offer a range of exotic and regular dishes to select from. "This being a heritage structure, the kitchens are such that not everybody can operate from there," says Kale, justifying the condition of not allowing outside caterers. On offer are dishes like puranpoli, wada bhat, gola bhat, shrikhand and the regulars like amti, patal bhaji along with a variety of rotis. "Non-vegetarian food will not be allowed as the ancient devghar, which is the family's place of worship, is located in the front section of the wada," says Kale.

The Trust is also offering facilities like flower and rangoli decorations and pangat sajavat. "The structure has high ventilators and there is sufficient natural light. Being an old style construction, it remains cool and fans are enough," says Kale. "We have to understand that this is an experience and not a product."

Parking arrangements have been made at the Sonaji Wadi which too belongs to the Trust. "Since only 100 to 150 persons can be accommodated for now, there is sufficient parking for 30 to 40 cars. The host will have to arrange for a valet," he adds.

Renting the place for four hours would cost Rs10,000 which the Trust will accept as donation for the temple. "An all-inclusive event for 100 persons would cost anywhere between Rs70,000 to Rs1 lakh," says Kale. Bookings for the venue can be made atChitnavis Centre and at the Chitnavis Wada in Mahal.

- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com, June 30, 2016

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City to have Sikh Heritage Museum

More than 500 Sikhs are in the Punjab capital city to attend their annual religious rituals on the 177th death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. These pilgrims will carry a very good news for the Sikh community – establishment of a Sikh Heritage Museum – on their way back to India and other countries across the globe.

The Evacuee Trust Property Board has announced a Sikh Heritage Museum in the city.

The setting up of museum is part of efforts to promote religious tourism in the country particularly in Punjab, which has huge potential to attract Sikh yatrees and contribute millions of rupees in the national exchequer.

The museum will be built in collaboration with Fakir Khana Museum (private museum run by Fakir Syed Saifuddin).

The Museum would be the first of its kind to be set up in Lahore that would house rare and antique collection of relics and artifacts of Sikh era of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and afterwards.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the founder of Sikh empire in Punjab who ruled from 1799 to 1849.

The Evacuee Trust Property Board chairman announced setting up of the museum during his address to Sikh Yatrees visiting Pakistan these days.

Fakir Khana Museum’s Director Saiffudin said that Sikh legacy would be preserved for the coming generations with the setting up of museum.

“Guru Nanak, founder of Sikh religion preached the message of humanity.

The legacy was followed later by Gurus of the Sikh religion and then in Sikh rule under Ranjit Singh.

Collecting antique items related to the Sikh era under one roof would be a good effort to preserve the heritage,” Saiffudin said.

“We are hopeful that through these kinds of initiatives religious tourism in our country would definitely get good boost,” Saiffudin stressed.

A book on the history of the Sikhs rule in Punjab will be written in collaboration with Faqir Khana Museum.

The museum will showcase the rare miniature paintings of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, clothing and dresses, antique utensils, some of the important treaties signed between Sikh and British governments, letters, manuscripts, jewellry, weaponry and other related artifacts.

Answering a query Saifuddin said that Lahore Fort which also has a Sikh Museum had number of rare antiques related to Princess Bamba Sutherland, who was the last member of the family that ruled the Sikh Empire in Punjab.

MPA Ramesh Singh Arora said that a street or a building would be named after the Maharaj Ranjit Singh on which Punjab Assembly has passed the resolution.

- http://nation.com.pk, June 30, 2016

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All that Lahori jazz

An intimate, affectionate documentary on Pakistan’s Sachal Jazz Ensemble

The year 1959 was a signal one in the history of jazz. In a heady period of five months, one artiste after another emerged with the record they would be remembered by: Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue, Charles Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um, Ornette Coleman’s The Shape Of Jazz To Come. John Coltrane recorded his Giant Steps in the same year.

The best-selling jazz album that year, though, was the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out, which reached No.2 on the billboard pop charts and sold a million units. The third track, Take Five, is the one that everyone recognizes, beginning as it does with that irresistible piano vamp in 5/4 time.

In 1956, the US government had begun sending “jazz ambassadors” to various countries. One such envoy was Brubeck, who visited Poland, India, Pakistan and West Asia in 1958. When he played at a concert in Lahore, a young boy named Izzat Majeed was in the audience. Years later, Majeed, a businessman and philanthropist, established the Sachal Studio (named after the late Sufi poet Sachal Sarmast) to promote the talented but underemployed session musicians of Lahore.

“We were just losing our instruments, we were losing our musicians, we were losing our culture,” he says in Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken’s documentary, Song Of Lahore. “Something had to be done about it.”

The Sachal Ensemble’s first few folk and classical releases weren’t successful, but things took a turn when Majeed hit upon the idea of doing variations on jazz standards. “Jazz and our classical music—they have the same structure,” he tells the musicians. “This is something you can pick up.” The ensemble broke through in April 2011 with their recording of Take Five, the 5/4 rhythm settling very naturally on to the tabla and the sitar filling in for the saxophone. Suddenly, they were being featured on BBC and earning praise from Brubeck himself.

Through a series of deft individual portraits, Obaid-Chinoy and Schocken indicate how difficult life must have been for these musicians before Sachal happened. After General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq imposed sharia law in Pakistan in the late 1970s, the local film industry—a source of steady employment for classical musicians—began to disintegrate. When it re-emerged in the 1990s, the demand for traditional session musicians had dried up. The first 30 minutes ofSong Of Lahore are borderline melancholic, with musician after musician recalling a time when their talents were more widely appreciated. “Kitni raunakein hoti thi (it used to be so lively),” remarks guitarist Asad Ali. “Jitna accha kaam tha, utna mar gaya yeh kaam (this profession used to be great, but it’s dead now),” says tabla player Rafiq Ahmed.

The film follows the ensemble to New York City, where they were invited in 2013 to play at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts with trumpet legend Wynton Marsalis and a jazz orchestra. Majeed’s assertion of common musical roots is put to the test by the directors, who show the Sachal players overawed and struggling to keep in time with their seasoned collaborators.

The rehearsal scenes are some of the most fascinating in the film, with Marsalis’ instructions in English going from Majeed to arranger Nijat Ali and, translated, to the rest of the band. Though the possibility of collapse is very much in the air when Sachal’s sitar player is replaced on the eve of the concert, there’s a sense that these people have come too far for things not to work out. “Back home the clerics don’t let us breathe in peace,” Asad Ali says. “Here, we’re enjoying ourselves” (this statement becomes all the more poignant in the aftermath of the recent killing of Sufi qawwal Amjad Sabri by extremists).

Obaid-Chinoy is one of Pakistan’s best-known film-makers, having won Oscars for two of her short documentaries,Saving Face (2012) and A Girl In The River: The Price Of Forgiveness (2015). Song Of Lahore might be less obviously political than some of her other work, but it doesn’t lack for intimacy. When Saleem Khan breaks down in the middle of teaching his son the violin, or when Nijat visits his father’s grave, we’re reminded that the film is as much about family as it is about music.

Nearly everyone speaks of carrying on the work of their fathers or passing on the knowledge to their sons. And this idea is brought full circle when Marsalis meets the ensemble after the concert and simply says, “Brothers, great”.

There’s another reason to seek out Song Of Lahore: It feels like home. Change a few details, and this story could be unfolding in Delhi or Lucknow or Amritsar. The characters speak about having to choose between riyaz and cricket. They play songs by Shankar-Jaikishan and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. They pronounce “Wyn-tun” the same way a Punjabi here would. Over email, Obaid-Chinoy says the film hasn’t been screened in Pakistan yet, but they are looking for ways to make that happen. Hopefully, someone here is trying to do the same.

Song Of Lahore is available to stream on Amazon.com for $5.99 (around Rs.410).

- http://www.livemint.com, June 30, 2016

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A gem of a story?

Jewellery and art are closely inter-linked, says Meena Das Narayan who brings together art jewellery and fine art in India Art and Gems Fair

The second edition of India Arts and Gems Fair is underway in Bengaluru where paintings, photographs, sculptures, video installation will share space with art jewellery. The combination may not go down well with many of you but Meena Das Narayan, curator and organiser of the fair, thinks art and jewellery are not far from each other. Creativity and aesthetics are integral to both of them.

Modelled after The Biennale Des Antiquaires Fair in Paris held at Grand Palais in September, the organiser feels her fair would stand out among others in the country. Out of the few art fairs we have, none offer this mix of jewellery and art. At The Biennale Des Antiquaires, renowned jewellery houses like Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels and well-known artists from all over the world, come under the same roof.

The five jewellers chosen from the State will offer art jewellery. This section has been curated by Mani Singh Deo, a gemologist from New York. “In India, we primarily look at jewellery as investment but we are not presenting run- of- the- mill pieces. Each piece has a story behind it and what the jewellers will show is that story. If you believe in that story, if you like it then buy it,” says Meena who is an artist herself.

Coming to the art part, the fair will showcase a range of artists — from masters like Yusuf Arakkal, Suhas Roy to fresh talents like photographers Khushi Yadav or Goban Gopalakrishnan. Live painting demonstrations and participation of school children are other highlights of the fair.

But Meena is particularly excited about Khushi and Goban's participation. “Khushi captures much more than mere scenes - the very spirit of the moment and the sensitiveness of the subject like an accomplished professional. Goban is a cinematographer who is interested in portraits, landscape and wildlife.”

Other interesting artists are Delhi-based Rajiv Semwal, Sandhya K. Sirsi, West Bengal born Amit Bhar and Nagpur-based Bijay Biswaal. Several in the art fraternity have taken note of sublime realistic portrayals by self-taught artist Bijay, who is a ticket examiner. He mostly paints scenes from railway stations. On the other hand, Amit Bhar is showcasing his latest work in which he blends the traditions of Ajanta Paintings and Gandhara sculptures.

Meena says that the fair has expanded. While the first fair was a two-day affair at The Leela this time it will go on for five days at the same venue. “Last time we only had 45 artists and this time the numbers have gone up to 100. I was concerned if I will get more artists but then I got so many calls from them expressing interest to be included. You don't have that many art fairs in this part of the country and the idea is to give them a space.”

As of now the fair is artist-driven and not gallery-driven except in a few cases where Meena could get access to particular artist only through the representing gallery. She says the artists are not charged to participate in the fair but jewellers are. It generates a small amount of funds in addition to what is given by its sponsors. (The fair will be held at The Collonnade - The Leela Palace, Old Airport Road, Bengaluru, from June 30 to July 4)

- http://www.thehindu.com, June 30, 2016

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