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HDFC Bank to train 15 lakh government school teachers in 12 states across India –

Posted: August 27, 2017 at 9:47 pm

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HDFC Bank Ltd., today launched Zero Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives (ZIIEI) to transform education in government schools across India. As part of this initiative, the bank will train 15 lakh school teachers across 12 states and union territories of India to improve the quality of education in 6.2 lakh government schools, thereby benefitting 8.3 crore students.

In Rajasthan, HDFC Bank will train 2 lakh teachers in over 70,000 government schools that will benefit more than 81 lakh school students.

At a function organized in the city, the initiative was launched by chief guest Shri VasudevDevnani, Minister of State for Education (Primary and Secondary), Govt. of Rajasthan, in the presence of Ms. NusratPathan, Head Corporate Social Responsibility, HDFC Bank; Ms. Smita Bhagat, Branch Banking Head North, HDFC Bank; Mr. Sambhrant, Director Education, Sri Aurobindo Society;Mr. Satyen Modi, Zonal Head Rajasthan, HDFC Bank; Mr. Mayank Agarwal, Head Operations, Sri Aurobindo Society; and other senior officials of the bank and Sri Aurobindo Society.

According to a report, some of the problems facing school education in India are poorly qualified teachers, very high student-teacher ratio, inadequate teaching materials, and out-moded teaching methods, leading to students lacking even rudimentary reading and writing skills.

As a socially responsible corporate citizen, HDFC Bank has started a movement to transform the quality of education in 12 states. We want to make education accessible, effective and bring it in tune with changing times. Who better than the teachers to bring about such a change in the temples of learning? This one-of-its-kind initiative is a part of the Banks sustained endeavour to create a positive impact in the lives of the local populace through its Corporate Social Responsibility programme, said Ms. Nusrat Pathan, Head Corporate Social Responsibility, HDFC Bank.

"If the Indian education system really wants to gear up its students for the global economy in the coming years, the only way forward is to find innovation at the grassroots and scale them up to improve the quality of education. ZIIEI is an answer to this call for action and its heroes are those teachers in every corner of the country who have come up with brilliant ideas solely thorough their individual efforts. This initiative is to recognise them, to bring their best practices alive in thousands of other schools, and create an ecosystem that facilitates sharing of knowledge and skills within the education fraternity," said Mr. Sambhrant Sharma, Director Education, Sri Aurobindo Society.

In the pilot phase of the project last year, HDFC Bank trained 5 lakh teachers in 1.75 lakh government schools in Uttar Pradesh, thereby improving quality of education for over 2 crore school students in the state.

Related: Whiz juniors 2017 discovers India's top 15 tech genius

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HDFC Bank to train 15 lakh government school teachers in 12 states across India -

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August 27th, 2017 at 9:47 pm

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Modi may join Auroville’s golden jubilee fete – The Hindu

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to visit Auroville in February in connection with the golden jubilee celebrations of the universal township, founded five decades ago by Mirra Alfassa, or The Mother, to her legion of followers from across the world.

It is reliably learnt that the Prime Ministers Office has accorded in-principle to an invitation by Karan Singh, chairman of the Auroville Foundation, requesting the Prime Minister to associate with the golden jubilee event.

Auroville Foundation, which is an autonomous unit, has communicated this to its oversight body, the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

We have tentatively proposed February 24 and 25 as the likely dates for the Prime Minister to join us, said an Aurovilian. The weekend was preferred as the dates were likely to coincide with the Budget session of Parliament, he added.

Auroville, which celebrates its 50th anniversary of its founding in February 28, 1968, sees the occasion as presenting an unprecedented opportunity to honour the birth and vision of Auroville, to increase the recognition of its relevance for India and the world, to attract people of all ages from India and abroad to visit Auroville and participate in the events, and to document and share its journey of 50 years.

This four-fold purpose underpins the series of golden jubilee events which include diverse celebrations, conferences and outreach events that seek to engage the community.

According to a programme proposal submitted to the MHRD, the Auroville Foundation expects the line-up of golden jubilee events to reiterate the universal townships core commitment to the spiritual vision of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, and the raison detre of the creation of Auroville, serve an occasion to express gratitude to India, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and UNESCO for constant support and fortify collaboration with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, The Mothers centres in India and the Auroville International Centres around the world.

The proposed programmes feature a symbolic ceremony at the amphitheatre, Matrimandir, on the lines of the one held on inauguration day in 1968, involving the youth representing different states of India and countries abroad as well as pioneers from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry and Auroville.

Celebrations in Paris

Parallel celebrations are also planned at UNESCOs headquarters in Paris, which includes a round table conference, a cultural event and an exhibition.

Also on the anvil are an international conference on the theme, The relevance of Auroville India and the World, cultural events as well as afforestation projects.

The opening of a new building of the Auroville Sustainable Livelihood Institute, an ongoing collaboration between the Government of Tamil Nadu and Auroville, with a foresters seminar, week-long youth event, an Auroville fair and public art installations are also on the agenda.

Stamp, coin release

A postal stamp and commemorative coin is also part of the proposals.

In essence, the golden jubilee programmes seek to strengthen relationship with Aurovilles neighbouring villages and evolve a better understanding for common growth, document the evolutionary journey of 50 years, including challenges and successes, and establish a clearer projection of Aurovilles relevance to India and the world.

The golden jubilee celebration of Auroville is also intended to focus on youth, education, afforestation, waste management, and village empowerment.

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Modi may join Auroville's golden jubilee fete - The Hindu

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August 27th, 2017 at 9:47 pm

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News Capsule – The Shillong Times

Posted: August 19, 2017 at 8:44 am

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WorkshopTheInternal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) ofSt. Edmunds College is organising a 1-day workshop on Higher Education: Reshaping The Learning Space onSaturday at theCollege Auditorium. Prof K.V. Nagaraj, HOD DepartmentMass Communication, Mizoram University will be the chief guest and the resource person on the occasion.IQAC is also preparing for the NAAC re- accreditationfor the third cycle which will take place toward the end of the year.

DemonstrationThe United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), in its meeting held in Mumbai last month has decided to hold a centralised joint demonstration on Friday at 5:30 pm in front of SBI Zonal office Shillong, Bawri Mansions and Dhankheti. All the employees, both supervising and award of different bank branches and offices within greater Shillong are requested to take part in the programme.

Freshers meetThe Kuki Students Organization, Shillong will organize its 56th Freshers social function on Saturday at Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture, Auditorium, Bivar road.

Cleaning drive As part of the observance of Swachhta Pakhwara, the NSS Unit of the College in collaboration with NSS Cell, NEHU organised a special cleaning drive in Police Bazaar and its adjoining areas on Tuesday.

Felicitation Shillong Socio-Cultural Assamese Students Association will felicitate meritorious Assamese students in the SSLC and HSSLC examinations from MBOSE, CBSE, ICSE and other boards, and rank holders in the graduation level on September 9. Eligible students can contact 9615072576 before Sept 4.

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News Capsule - The Shillong Times

Written by simmons

August 19th, 2017 at 8:44 am

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‘Why can’t the government provide a higher income for farmers?’ – The Hindu

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It is 11 years since agronomist M.S. Swaminathan handed over his recommendations for improving the state of agriculture in India to the former United Progressive Alliance government, at the height of the Vidarbha farmer suicides crisis, but they are still to be implemented. To address the agrarian crisis and farmers unrest across the country, he urged the government to take steps to secure farmers income. As India marks 50 years of the Green Revolution this year, the architect of the movement says sustainability is the greatest challenge facing Indian agriculture. Excerpts:

The greatest challenge facing Indian agriculture 50 years back was achieving self-sufficiency in foodgrain production. What is the greatest challenge today?

There are two major challenges before Indian agriculture today: ecological and economical. The conservation of our basic agricultural assets such as land, water, and biodiversity is a major challenge. How to make agriculture sustainable is the challenge. Increasing productivity in perpetuity without ecological harm is the need of the hour. In Punjab, and in other Green Revolution States, the water table has gone down and become saline. Further, during the Green Revolution the population was about 400-500 million; now it is 1,300 million and it is predicted to be 1.5 billion by 2030. The growing population pressure has made it pertinent to increase crop yield.

Also, the economics of farming will have to be made profitable to address the current situation. We have to devise ways to lower the cost of production and reduce the risks involved in agriculture such as pests, pathogens, and weeds. Today, the expected return in agriculture is adverse to farmers. Thats why they are unable to repay loans. Addressing the ecological challenge requires more technology while the economics requires more public policy interventions. In my 2006 report, I had recommended a formula for calculating Minimum Support Price, C2+50% (50% more than the weighted average cost of production, classified as C2 by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices). This would raise the current MSP and has now become the clamour of farmers and the nightmare of policymakers.

The NDA government has said it wants to double farmers incomes by 2022. But they havent implemented the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission Report that you submitted to the UPA government in 2006.

Yes. All kinds of excuses have been given by governments for not implementing this recommendation like food price inflation. But the question is, do the farmers of this country, who constitute nearly half of the working population, also not need to eat? The government is willing to pay Seventh Pay Commission salaries to insulate government servants from inflation, but they cannot provide a higher income for farmers to improve their lot? If you really look at what is happening now, farm loan waivers are posing a bigger burden on the government exchequer compared to what higher pay for farm produce will incur. But the government is not prepared to give the Rs. 20,000 crore or so for farmers by way of higher MSP. In 2009, the UPA government gave Rs. 72,000 crore as farm loan waiver, but no government is prepared to take long-term steps to ensure the economic viability of farming.

There are three ways to improve the incomes of farmers. MSP and procurement is one. We also need to improve productivity. The marketable surplus from agriculture has to be enhanced. We should also look at making a value addition to biomass. For example, paddy straw is a biomass product that could be used to make edible mushrooms.

The incidence of farmers committing suicides has shown no signs of abating. What needs to be done to address the crisis?

We are not really analysing the causes of farmer suicides. Instead, we are simply attributing it to the inability to pay off debts. Some serious thought needs to be given to how we could reduce the cost of farm production, minimise risks and maximise returns. The solution for ending farmer suicides is not only paying compensation. Ive seen in Vidarbha so many men have committed suicide and their families are left in the lurch. One of the first projects we initiated in Vidarbha at that time was to rescue children and give them education. Farming is the most important enterprise in this country and farmers are an integral part of our country. In China, farms are owned by the government, and farmers are mere contractors. In our case, land is owned by the people. How do you treat this largest group of entrepreneurs? Unfortunately, all policies today are related to corporate powers. What about food security and 50 crore farmers? We need to think about them too.

The Green Revolution of 1967-68 may have resolved the food crisis in the short run, but the heavy use of pesticides and high-yielding varieties of paddy have resulted in environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity. How do we cope with these adverse effects?

After the Green Revolution, I came up with the concept of the Evergreen Revolution. In this we will see increase in farm productivity but without ecological harm. This will include integrated pest management, integrated nutrient supply, and scientific water management to avoid the kind of environmental damage witnessed during the Green Revolution. Ive addressed these issues in my 2016 paper on Evergreen Revolution. I recommended mandatory rainwater harvesting and introduction of fodder and grain legumes as rotation crops to be adopted by wheat farmers in States like Punjab to ensure sustainability of farming. We can also declare fertile zones capable of sustaining two to three crops as Special Agricultural Zones, and provide unique facilities to farmers here to ensure food security. Soil health managers should be appointed to monitor and ameliorate the soil conditions in degraded zones and rectify defects like salinity, alkalinity, water logging, etc.

The Prime Minister recently went to Israel. We have several practices to emulate from there. They have a clear sense of where water is needed and where its not. The idea of more crops per drop has been implemented well in Israel. We should adopt those practices here. You should see how a water controller works in an Israeli farm. Everything is remote-controlled. They know exactly which portion of the field requires how much water and release only the exact amount. We cannot sacrifice on productivity now, because land under crop cover is shrinking. Post-harvest technologies like threshing, storage, etc. will have to be given greater attention now.

Opinion is divided on the benefits of genetic modification technology to improve yields of food crops. Can GM technology help address food security challenges?

There are many methods of plant breeding, of which molecular breeding is one. Genetic modification has both advantages and disadvantages. One has to measure the risks and benefits before arriving at a conclusion. First, we need an efficient regulatory mechanism for GM in India. We need an all-India coordinated research project on GMOs with a bio-safety coordinator. We need to devise a way to get the technologys benefit without its associated risks. At MSSRF (M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation), we used GM technology with mangroves to create salt-tolerant varieties of rice. For this we took the genes from the mangroves and inserted them it into rice. To make the most of GM technology we must choose a problem where there is no other way to address the challenge.

Barring the U.S., most countries have reservations about adopting GM technology. Europe has banned it on grounds of health and environmental safety. Id say GM in most cases is not necessary. Normal Mendelian breeding itself is sufficient in most cases 99% of what is being done under GM initiatives is not justifiable. Parliament has already suggested a law based on the Norwegian model where there are considerable restrictions on GMOs.

What is the scope for organic farming when it comes to addressing food security?

Organic farming can have a good scope only under three conditions. One, farmers must possess animals for organic manure. Two, they must have the capacity to control pests and diseases. Three, they should adopt agronomical methods of sowing such as rotation of crops. Even genetic resistance to pests and diseases can help organic farmers.

If you look at the organic farms in Pillaiyarkuppam near Puducherry that were started by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, it is a good model to follow for organic farming. They have adopted the requisite crop-livestock integration.

Climate change has upset rainfall patterns and we have this cycle of droughts and floods, which has rendered farming risky. How do we address these challenges?

Both less rainfall and a higher mean temperature affect farming adversely. Currently we are witnessing drought, excess rainfall, sea-level rise There are both adaptation and mitigation measures to follow in this regard. Ive evolved a drought code and a flood code... some of the recommendations Ive made in recent times include setting up a multi-disciplinary monsoon management centre in each drought-affected district, to provide timely information to rural families on the methods of mitigating the effects of drought, and maximising the benefits of good growing conditions whenever the season is normal. Animal husbandry camps could be set up to make arrangements for saving cattle and other farm animals because usually animals tend to be neglected during such crises. Special provisions could also be made to enable women to manage household food security under conditions of agrarian distress.

In the case of temperature rise, wheat yield could become a gamble. We should start breeding varieties characterised by high per day productivity than just per crop productivity. These will be able to provide higher yields in a shorter duration.

Indias ranking on the Global Hunger Index has become worse over the years and we missed out on the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger. What are the steps we should take to address the matter?

India has done well in production, but not in consumption. What we are witnessing today is grain mountains on the one side and hungry millions on the other. The Food Security Act must be implemented properly to address the situation. We should also enlarge the food basket to include nutri-millets.

The idea of more crops per drop has been implemented well in Israel. We should adopt those practices here.

Farm loan waivers are posing a bigger burden on the government exchequer compared to what higher pay for farm produce will incur. But the government is not prepared to give the Rs. 20,000 crore or so for farmers by way of higher MSP.

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'Why can't the government provide a higher income for farmers?' - The Hindu

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August 19th, 2017 at 8:44 am

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The Birthday Is His, Still: How A Midnight’s Child Celebrates 15 August – Swarajya

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When India celebrates its rebirth, memory becomes tradition, project and canvas. India marked its 70th Independence Day on 15 August 2017 the day Gurdeep Singh Khurana celebrated his 70th birthday. Khurana ji, as he is addressed fondly by neighbours in New Delhis Batukeshwar Dutt Colony, where he has been living since 1947, was born in Mianwali, Pakistan.

For this Midnights child, events that led to his exit from the family home in Pakistan, weigh more than the clock, hour, minute, and moment of his birth. For him, 15 August is a spiritual milestone not merely a date, and 15 August 1947, a beginning. He celebrates it. He celebrates it with prayers at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib and his home, with neighbours and family members at the special gathering. He says, this year, my neighbours are demanding a treat. They tell me that 70th is a milestone. It is a milestone for the country. I am about to go. A young man of immortal India.

A bit about the day before we know the man. What does being born on 15 August mean? Many things. From my experience of the (birth)day, it resembles a collage of headlines displayed at a newspaper office. It becomes your own. Events happening in the countrys seamless calendar, over years, get added to the mad collage of birthday. The collage smells of dust flying and dust settling, a bit of marigold, desi gulab, sometimes. A ball of history rolls towards you. You pause it, with a birthday cake or laddoos. Nothing big. Nothing worth a story.

Singhs tryst with destiny is a ball of history and narrative. It has a huge momentum. You can pause it (only) with tears. It took place after a political jigsaw was set on a storm, it goes back to a bunch of people, their decisions and moves, and their share of shares; millions sharing divided and divided sharing. The day, 15 August 1947, was erected before us Indians like a monument, in the life of a civilisation immortal India.

Read it again. This year, my neighbours are demanding a treat. They tell me that 70th is a milestone. It is a milestone for the country. I am about to go. You can pause it with tears.

August 15 the day Sri Aurobindo was born. The day India was reborn. My own consciousness of 15 August transformed with the birthday ritual of reading bits from the vast heritage of thoughts from Sri Aurobindo. On Indias 60th, the ritual led to a beginning of a churning. It led to an appetite for meeting people who share the birthday, and to know what they think or feel about it and about themselves. I was waiting to meet people like Singh.

Last year, on 15 August, while being wished birthday over phone, I got to know about him. Last week, after a conversation with Kishwar Desai, who will be in Amritsar on 17 August to mark the opening of the Partition Museum, her memory project, I couldnt wait to hear Singhs story. I approached him with a simple qualification of being born on 15 August. It helped break ice, some dhokla and samosas. Hamara din hai (it is our day), he declares.

I approach Singh with a lid on my own perception of the day. A good decision. Singhs perception is much bigger. I get no opportunity to tell him that this day suddenly sits upon my head, like a conical birthday cap made of kite paper. Or that, on some, national sentimentalism sits in the throat, like a boondi laddoo soaked in desi ghee, melting in an instant to emotion from Lata Mangeshkar or Mohammad Rafi or A R Rahman. I neither tell him that for some born on this day, 15 August brings a storm of wrath, circling along, with page loads of views and news; in crazy mutations of amber and brown of dry disagreements, disappointments and wrath, especially, if the government or party in power is not the one the birthday girl or boy have voted in. Or worse, have voted in to disappointment.

Singhs celebration of India, life and faith, continues. He offers his Saturday prayers at Gurudwara Rakab Ganj, where he also offers ghee brought in a steel box from home, to the flame. You must go to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. I used to take my daughters there for Raksha Bandhan. They dont have a brother, he tells me at Gurudwara Rakab Ganj.

What does being born on 15 August mean? How is it different from celebrating birthday on 15 August? The difference is of hours and meanings. Singhs birth and birthday are hours apart, they live in his conscience, through stories and storytelling from his parents and grandparents. He begins with the usual birthday pride alphabet. He says, Mera janmdin poora desh manata hai (the nation celebrates my birthday). Desh India, where his family moved, flowing with the red rupture of twin freedom.

Singh pulls out pages from his memory. He says, my mother shifted to my maternal grannys house in Mianwali, from my fathers house in Sarghoda, for my birth. My siblings and my father were in Sarghoda. His mothers account places the time of his birth moments after the ringing of a bell outside my maternal grandmothers home. Was it a warning bell? Was it a school bell? Perhaps, his mother, engrossed in giving birth, did not register the message in the bell-ringing. Perhaps, pain numbed that memory.

In the following hours their number now fading from his narrative his maternal uncle took charge of protecting the entire family from any attack expected and unexpected. In the following years, my mother told us that our neighbours had politely warned us regarding attacks resulting from the Partition. Now, my daughter tells me that my mother had often recalled, in her accounts of those painful days, how she had turned around to have the last glimpse of her mothers house, as they moved away, only to see the neighbours looting it.

His eyes widen. He adds, my family left the house only with a utensil used for boiling milk. It was their only material possession. Hours preceding the exit from home were emotionally wrenching. He adds, there was no news from my fathers family in Sarghoda. My mother was anxious regarding safety of her older children, especially daughters. Men in my mothers family were well-built. My uncle, Dharam Singh, was a very brave man. His kesh were not very long. He used this to his advantage, I was told. He would wrap a blanket around his body, revealing only a part of his face, his eyes and beard. He would barely look like a Sikh after this makeover. He would hide a kirpan under the blanket, and use it during those challenging hours. He would come back with milk for the family members." Milk.

For Singh, past seems to be a divided country sitting on the surviving cracks and fissures of anger, resentment and retaliation. He feels the fissures and cracks even today. Rebuilding, restarting and recreating have become the inherent tradition of his life its seeds sown by his grandfather and father.

Singh celebrating his birthday on 15 August isnt a matter of chance, but a conscious decision, which gives the day bigger meaning. My mothers family travelled from Mianwali and my fathers from Sarghoda. We found them after a lot of difficulty at a refugee camp in Bhatinda. When they reached Delhi, they were lucky to find some space in basements here.

Years later, when it was time for my admission at Khalsa school, my mother, for some odd reason, shared with the authorities her memory of the bell ringing outside our home in Mianwali; drew a blank, and told people at the admission desk that I was born on 19 August! Four long days! What could be the reason? Memory, or memories. Memory of pain physical and emotional. Perhaps. What did it? The memory of turning around to see her house being looted by their neighbours in Mianwali. Perhaps. I declared that I would celebrate my birthday on 15 August. I have been celebrating it on 15 August. It is mine. It is 19 August on papers. It is 15 August in my head and calculation of events.

Accounts of Singhs memory of the Partition are oral heritage. They were passed on by his mother, grandmother, father, maternal uncle and sisters. His journey from his place of birth, between two countries born a day apart, happened in the arms and embrace of the elders. He was cushioned by his mothers anxious breathing, perhaps, in the therapeutic wrap of his grandmothers smell, perhaps, against the thudding wall of his uncles anger-ridden and alert chest. He wasnt given such details. If given, he doesnt remember them.

He uses the notepad for scribbles that help him in daily life. His Partition memory canvas has been painted by different strokes and lines. There is nothing his own on its coarse surface. Not a line, not a dot. It is a memory canvas that has transformed into a solid and pretty memento decorated with coloured glass pieces. He holds borrowed memories in it, under the layers of more memories. Memories of 1984, when his shop, where he sold shoes, was set on flames by rioters. Neighbours saved us and our business. Shoes stored in the shop got damaged. Neighbours and friends told me that they would still like to buy them. Some friends helped in wiping the soot off those shoes, he adds.

What makes Singhs story and narrative unique? It is pure. As pure as a baby. History didnt register itself in this viewer. Birth brought with it real freedom, freedom from fear, freedom from compulsions of recording, recalling and responding. Unlike his family members accompanying him in this monumental march to uncertainty, he, bundled in cloth, was unaware of the weight of decisions, the swinging pendulum of expected outcomes, various illusions of safety, mirages of home and the grief of leaving behind belongings, that chased his elders. He was between sleep and wakefulness, growing up to a tradition of rebuilding life, again and again. When my family came to Delhi from Pakistan, my father bought a cow to meet his familys need for milk. He bought a couple more, then, he bought some buffaloes. Soon, it was a dairy. My grandfather stitched clothes on his sewing machine, at the Mehr Chand Mahajan market pavement. He was honest to the core. He would return the tiniest strips to the customers. I picked honesty from them.

Singhs family had left their home in Pakistan for the two-way displacement, to become one with the millions crawling and moving in opposite directions, to become dots in a painful magnitude, to part, meet and part and meet, finally. He was unaware of the killing, maiming, crippling, burning of trust, friendships, bonds, and years. In a way, he was fortunate. Birth and its timing helped him escape from the burden of memorising, memory miles, nostalgia rituals that make and bind archives. He is a specimen of hope and freedom, who cannot contribute to an archive; or lend a memento to a museum dedicated to Partition, but, he can lend a story. A story told over and over again about his birth.

Among people who left Mianwali that night or morning, or evening or afternoon, Singh would be the youngest, and the only person meant to see India building, shaping, sculpting, chipping, constructing, deconstructing, remembering, and recalling, on its 70th. He is celebrating. He adds, I cant celebrate without listening to Mera rang de basanti chola and Ae mere watan ke logon... He holds back tears. I wish him a good celebration of life and immortal India. His wish list is short. He concludes, I wish to sign off while visiting gurudwaras. I want to sign off from this Hari ka dwaar.

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The Birthday Is His, Still: How A Midnight's Child Celebrates 15 August - Swarajya

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August 19th, 2017 at 8:44 am

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Sri Aurobindo Society | Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

Posted: August 16, 2017 at 5:50 am

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The year was 1907. The freedom movement in India was gathering momentum. Its leader was detained by the police. The poet Rabindranath Tagore paid him a visit after his acquittal, and wrote the now famous lines: Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee! O friend, my countrys friend, O Voice incarnate, free, Of Indias soul! The fiery messenger that with the lamp of God. Hath come Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee.

In the year 1928, the leader had now left politics and had gone to Pondicherry, where he plunged himself into the practice of Yoga.

The poet Tagore once again paid him a visit and declared: You have the Word and we are waiting to accept it from you. India will speak through your voice to the world, Hearken to me!

Years ago I saw Aurobindo in the atmosphere of his earlier heroic youth and I sang to him: Aurobindo, accept the salutations from Rabindranath. Today I saw him in a deeper atmosphere of a reticent richness of wisdom and again sang to him in silence: Aurobindo, accept the salutations from Rabindranath!

How does one describe or speak about such a personality? Sri Aurobindo has been called a scholar, a literary critic, a philosopher, a revolutionary, a poet, a yogi and a rishi. He was all these and much more. To have even a glimpse of the true Sri Aurobindo, we have to turn to the Mother: What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world's history is not a teaching, not even a revelation; it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.

In fact, Sri Aurobindo declared, in no uncertain terms that nobody could write his biography and added: Neither you nor anyone else knows anything at all of my life; it has not been on the surface for men to see.

But he was not altogether averse to this effort and even made corrections when some biographers made the attempt. In the process the veil that hid the divine mystery was lifted a little.

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Sri Aurobindo Society | Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

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August 16th, 2017 at 5:50 am

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Amidst the Euphoria of Independence, Is the Nation Ready to Converse With Sri Aurobindo? – The Wire

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The spiritual age Sri Aurobindovisualised is strikingly different from what present-day proponents of religious fundamentalism talk about with their politics of culture and religion and the stigmatisation of the other.

Sri Aurobindo. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If a real, a spiritual and psychological unity were effectuated, liberty would have no perils and disadvantages; for free individuals enamored of unity would be compelled by themselves, by their own need, to accommodate perfectly their own growth with the growth of their fellows and would not feel themselves complete except in the free growth of others. Sri Aurobindo,The Ideal of Human Unity

We live in troubled times surrounded byloudness loud religion, loud politics and loud nationalism. Yet, on August 15, as the prime minister delivers his euphoric speech from the historic Red Fort, and aspatriotic songs play on radio channels, I strive for something sublime and deep possibly to free myself from the overplay of loud symbolism of independence. I begin to converse with an extraordinary gifted sage-philosopher Sri Aurobindo who too was born on August 15 in 1872. In the process, I realise that people like us university-educated and trained in radical Western discourses often fail to tap our own cultural/philosophical capital to give a counter-narrative, and fight what is going on in the name of Indian culture and religion.

It is always possible to see the limits to what Sri Aurobindo wrote and thought about the way we say that everyone, be it Marx or Ambedkar, Gandhi or Mao, is incomplete. However, as I wish to indicate in this politico-spiritual article, the insights that we gain from Sri Aurobindo are remarkably illuminating a fresh departure from the ugly politics of culture and religion we see in these fanatic times.

The meaning of a turning point: from the political to the spiritual

Life, we all know, is not unilinear; it has its puzzling curves and path-breaking turning points. Sri Aurobindo too passed through this complex trajectory of life, and it transformed him. In the age of colonialism when the model of a colonial citizen was the educational ideal for the newly emergent English-educated Indians, Sri Aurobindos father sent him to England: the site of knowledge and power. With remarkable brilliance and scholarship, Sri Aurobindo spent 14years in England. But then, he came back. From Baroda to Bengal Indian experiences began to shape his pursuits and practices.

This English-educated gentleman began to edit Karmayogin and Bande Mataram the journals that sought to arouse the revolutionary spirit amongst the political class and eager learners. Historians have written about his involvement with the nationalist politics, and subsequently his arrest in the Alipore Conspiracy case in 1908. It was in the prison that he passed through an intense process of inner churning, and this, I believe, led to a major turning point in his life.

His famous Uttarpara speech, which he delivered after his release from the jail on May 30, 1909, revealed the magical power of this turning point: a movement from the political to the spiritual.

I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high walls that I was imprisoned; no it was Vasudeva who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree, I knew it was Vasudeva, it was Sri Krishna whom I saw standing there and holding over me his shade, said Sri Aurobindo.

With this vision or inner churning, he found his ultimate calling. He began to listen to the voice within: I am guiding, therefore fear not. Turn to your own work for which I have brought to you in jail and when you come out, remember never to fear, never to hesitate. Whatever clouds may come, whatever dangers and sufferings, whatever difficulties, whatever impossibilities, there is nothing impossible, nothing difficult.

He left for Pondicherry, and from 1910 onwards a new quest began immensely meditative and spiritual.

How does one respond to this turning point? Think of yet another turning point when we refer to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. From England to South Africa yes, he did not remain a lawyer. A train journey in South Africa, as his autobiography revealed, taught him the ugliness and brutality of racism. This eventually led to the metamorphosis from the timid Mohandas to the charismatic Gandhi. Gandhis politics was, however, inseparable from his religiosity and spiritual quest.

Mahatma Gandhi with a Congress worker. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

While Gandhi united the political and the spiritual, is it possible to say that Sri Aurobindo separated the two? History poses this question before us, and we need to reflect on it. However, as I wish to argue, even in his spiritual journey never did Sri Aurobindo fail to address to the questions relating to the fate of the nation, its cultural politics, modernity, war, self-determination and human evolution. It was in the Arya a philosophical magazine that he began to write extraordinarily illuminating pieces leading to what I would regard as civilisational gifts The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Foundations of Indian Cultureand many other creations. I believe that we could draw a couple of insights from these works, engage with them and evolve refined politico-ethical practices for creating a better society.

On culture and polity

The cultural politics of colonialism is related to its civilising mission the way the West with its enlightenment rationality and expansionist bourgeois revolution sought to rescue the decadent/barbaric cultures of the colonised from the trap of superstitions and prejudices. James Mills History of British India possibly indicated what Edward Said wrote in his masterpiece Orientalism: the self-perception of the West as a superior civilisation, and its constant gaze and condemnation of the Orient (or fixing it as a locale for Western attention for its redemption) through categories like despotism, other worldly and life negating.

The process of decolonisation required a creative intervention into this politics of culture the way the colonial West hierarchised civilisations. Sri Aurobindos The Foundations of Indian Culture, I believe, was a response to this political and moral need. The way he critiqued William Archers contemptuous reading of Indian culture and civilisation was remarkable. An average and typical occidental mind obsessed with the vitalistic rational idea, as he wrote, could see nothing but despair, passivity and nihilism in Indian culture. However, our culture guided by its religiosity, replied Sri Aurobindo, was neither tiered quietism nor conventional monasticism. Far from denying life, as he elaborated, we accepted the reality of karma and artha, reconciled these human drives with dharma and moksha, and thereby imagined the possibility of a complete/harmonic existence that the Wests vehement secular activism could never comprehend.

Well, this struggle in the realm of culture was part of our struggle for liberation. To refer to Gandhi again, he did it through his critique of the brute force implicit in colonialism, and his creative engagement with the Sermon on the Mount as well as Bhagavadgita . While Gandhi could communicate in folk idioms and come closer to the subaltern, Sri Aurobindos solitude and philosophic reading might appear to be extremely classicist with its Vedantic and metaphysical connotations. Furthermore, it is also possible to argue that in his elaboration, what was missing was the anguish of the marginalised within our hierarchical social system say, the way Jotirao Phule elaborated it in Slavery, or B. R. Ambedkar expressed it in the Philosophy of Hinduism. Yet, what could not be denied was the eternal relevance of his reminder (almost similar to what Ananda Coomaraswamy thought about) that our cultural creations ought to generate a spiritual and psychic beauty, and see beyond the narrow prejudices of the natural realistic man, particularly at a time when the seductive culture industry of global capitalism dissociates the sexualised body from the soul, and sells gross materialism in the name of realism.

From social Darwinism to spiritual comradeship

This quest (which we tend to devalue because of our adherence to social Darwinism) enabled him to evolve a sharp critique of what post enlightenment Western civilisation regarded as the Age of Reason. Yes, in terms of human evolution the power of the intellect or the cultivation of reason has played a significant role. Yet, we are caught into the discontents of modernity. Neither liberal/bourgeois democracy with its competitive individualism nor the state-centric socialist machine with its totalitarianism could help us. Do postmodernists help us? Or do they take us to yet another kind of chaos with nihilistic relativism? Think of Sri Aurobindos point of departure. Reason, he said, neither is the first principle of life, nor can be its last, supreme and sufficient principle.

Only with the awakening of love, he wrote in The Human Cycle, is it possible to realise the spiritual comradeship which is the expression of an inner realisation of oneness. Only then, as he added, is it possible that the true individualism of the unique godhead in each man finds itself on the true communism of the equal godhead in the race. In a way, a sense of meaninglessness has haunted the modern secular age (or to use, Nietzsches words, a world in which God is dead). From the neurosis of Sigmund Freuds conflict-ridden man to the absurdity of Albert Camuss outsider we notice the absence of life-enchanting love. And the postmodern fascination with deconstruction does not seem to have an answer. In Sri Aurobindo, as I feel, we see the rising sun coming out of the darkness of night.

In a way, this quest is a quest for further human evolution, or towards ascent and integration from physical to vital to mental to psychic/spiritual stage of human consciousness. His intense philosophic/spiritual prose in The Life Divine narrates the significance of this evolution towards the spiritual age. And it is at this juncture that I wish to assert once again that the spiritual age the sage-philosopher visualised is strikingly different from what these days the proponents of religious fundamentalism talk about with their ugly politics of militaristic nationalism and the stigmatisation of the other. In a way, a quest of this kind, I believe, has to be compared with John Lenons rhythmic lyrics, Erich Fromms communitarian socialism and even Karl Marxs celebration of a world in which love becomes a living expression of man.

Are we ready for a dialogue with him?

Avijit Pathak is a professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, JNU.

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Amidst the Euphoria of Independence, Is the Nation Ready to Converse With Sri Aurobindo? - The Wire

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PM Narendra Modi pays tribute to Sri Aurobindo on his 145th birth anniversary – Financial Express

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Sri Aurobindo (Photo: IE)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to philosopher and sage Sri Aurobindo on his 145th Birth Anniversary. PM took to Twitter and shared a post saying, I pay my tributes to Sri Aurobindo on his Jayanti. His rich thoughts & grand vision for India continue to be a great source of inspiration. Earlier in the day Prime Minister Modi greeted the nation on the occasion of Indias 71st Independence Day and Krishna Janmashtami. He wrote, Independence Day greetings to my fellow Indians. Jai Hind. Greetings on Janmashtami.

PM Narendra Modi today addressed the nation at the historic Red Fort in New Delhi. This is the 4th time when Narendra Modi unfurled the national flag on August 15 as the Prime Minister. During his speech at the event, PM talked about a variety of issues ranging from triple talaq to terrorism. While talking about triple talaq, he mentioned those women who have to suffer due to Tripe Talaq and said, I admire their courage. We are with them in their struggles. 2017 marks the 71st year of Indias Independence. A movement against Triple Talaq has started in the country. I admire the courage of my sisters who are fighting against it, he said.

PM Narendra Modi Twitter post-

The PM Narendra Modi government today launched an online portal for the gallantry award winners at According to a PIB release, The website gives details of the Chakra Series awardees i.e., Param Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra, Vir Chakra, Ashok Chakra, Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra. The portal contains information such as name, unit, year, citations and photographs of awardees till date. The Ministry of Defence would welcome any feedback or suggestion for further improvement.

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PM Narendra Modi pays tribute to Sri Aurobindo on his 145th birth anniversary - Financial Express

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Vande Mataram: A song in search of a nation – Economic Times

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The song Vande Mataram or Bande Mataram, as the original in Bengali would be pronounced, predates Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyays novel Anandamath, by quite a few years. The verses that contain a mix of Bengali and Sanskrit words were probably written around 1876 and later incorporated in the novel that was serialized in a Kolkata publication in 1881-1882. Its most famous rendition was in 1896 by Rabindranath Tagore at a meeting of the Indian National Congress in Kolkata. During the following decade the two words Bande Mataram or Vande Mataram also caught on as a political slogan for freedom fighters. It has remained widely popular and at the same time generated its own share of controversy. Here is a sample of all that has happened over Indias national song over its 140-years plus history:

Translation by Sri Aurobindo in 1909

I bow to thee, Mother, richly-watered, richly-fruited, cool with the winds of the south, dark with the crops of the harvests, The Mother!

Her nights rejoicing in the glory of the moonlight, her lands clothed beautifully with her trees in flowering bloom, sweet of laughter, sweet of speech, The Mother, giver of boons, giver of bliss!

Vande Mataram Pop: * There have been various versions of Vande Mataram sung in Bollywood songs. The most well known being one sung by Lata Mangeshkar in 1952 movie Anand Math, where the song was set to a new tune by Hemant Kumar.

* Lata Mangeshkar did her own version of Vande Mataram, using the same tune but adding new stanzas in Hindi in 1998.

* A year before AR Rehman did his own version, Maa Tujhe Salaam, in 1997.

* Over the years, there have been many versions, including one by Manna Dey in 1951 and in 2012 Sonu Nigam, Shankar Mahadevan and Sunidhi Chauhan lent their voice to version created by percussionist Bickram Ghosh.

Many versions of Bande Mataram: * Since Bankim himself was no musician, the poem has been scored countless times, using different ragas of Indian classical music by other musicians with one report suggesting the first effort was even before Anandamath was published.

* Tagores rendition in 1896 was a much slower-paced one than what we are used to hear now. This version in Tagores own voice was released on gramophone record in 1904 and is now available on various online platforms.

* A composition of Vande Mataram by Pandit VD Paluskar on raag Kafi was favoured by Gandhiji and was often sung by Paluskar himself at Congress meetings. In 1933, at the Kakinada convention, Maulana Ahmed Ali objected to Paluskar singing the song.

* In 1937, the Congress decided to use only the first two stanzas of the song leaving out the references to Hindu goddesses in the later half of the poem. Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, whose version in raag Kafi was popular, sung it on All India Radio on August 15, 1947.

* At the time of choosing the National Anthem of the country, composer Krishnarao Phulambrikar from Pune worked on the poem, creating variations on raag Jhinjhoti that can be sung easily by large assemblies and one that can be used as a marching song, to overcome various objections that were raised.

* The most heard version that is used by All India Radio at the beginning of its daily programme has been composed in raag Des. While some credit Pandit Ravi Shankar for the tune, there is no definite confirmation about the composer.

A permanent alter ego * Due to the invocation to Hindu goddesses in its later stanzas and its setting within the novel Anandamath, that identified the Muslim ruling class as an enemy, Vande Mataram has faced objections right through Indias history.

* Jana Gana Mana, which was finally chosen as Indias national anthem, was written and composed by Tagore himself and shares the status with Vande Mataram which is accorded the status of national song.

* Jana Gana Mana was also used as the national anthem of the Indian National Army that was led by Subhas Chandra Bose and in Captain Ram Singh Thakuri, the INA had a composer par excellence. The INA also created its own version of Jana Gana Mana in Hindi: Subh Sukh Chain Ki Barkha Barse, to replace Vande Mataram as its anthem for the Provisional Government for Free India in Singapore.

* The INA also had Qadam Qadam Badhaye Ja, the regimental quick march song written by Vanshidhar Shukla and composed by Ram Singh. This song was banned up to 1947. Reports suggest it has been adopted as a regimental march song of the Indian Army.

* In 1933, when first objections to Vande Mataram were aired publicly, poet Allama Iqbals Saare Jahan Se Accha, Hindustan Hamara was sung along with it. Iqbal had originally composed this song called Tarana-e-Hind in 1904.

* Later Iqbal became one of the proponents for the idea of Pakistan. By 1909, he had adapted the song and re-written it as a Tarana-e-Milli that spoke about a Muslim nation spread across central Asia, Arabia and India.

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Vande Mataram: A song in search of a nation - Economic Times

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This I-Day, travel back to days of freedom movement at Gorky Sadan – Millennium Post

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An 11 minute documentary film Jayjatra made on August 15, 1947 in Kolkata will be shown along with other exhibits at a unique exhibition titled Call for Freedom at Gorky Sadan.

The exhibition has been organised by Kinjal and Russian Centre of Science and Culture in association with Forum for Collectors, Sri Aurobindo Bhavan and Arora Films Corporation.

The short film was made by Arora Film Corporation and the script was read by Birendra Krishna Bhandra. A very rare and historic documentary made on August 15, 1947 was shot in Kolkata. It captured the moods of people and their reaction.

An edition of Time Magazine of 1937 whose cover story was Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will be on display at the exhibition. There will be a number of rarely known letters written by Surendranath Banerjee, Hemchandra Kanungo, a disciple of Aurobindo Ghose, Annie Besant, M N Roy and Barin Ghosh. A biography of Pritilata Waddededar by Ganesh Ghosh, one of the fighters of Chittagong Armoury Raid will b displayed. The original photographs of some freedom fighters will be on display too. Some exhibits from the archive of Sri Aurobindo Bhavan will be exhibited.

People began to boycott foreign goods during the proposal to Partition Bengal in 1905 and several entrepreneurs came forward to set up "Swadeshi" industry particularly matchboxes, clothes and medicines. The labels fixed on those products contained slogans on nationalism and some of the labels will be exhibited. There will be an interesting section which will display books that were requisitioned by the freedom fighters while in Hijli and Cellular jails. Posters of films on freedom movement along with the lobby cards will be exhibited too.

There will be enamel boards containing advertisements, coins, records, bags and newspapers clippings and cuttings on freedom movement. Invitation cards of Swadeshi melas which were held to sell Indian goods along with dolls on freedom movement made of porcelain will be exhibited.

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This I-Day, travel back to days of freedom movement at Gorky Sadan - Millennium Post

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