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After Rihanna, Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris came out in support of farmers, Bollywood stars like Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn and Kangana Ranaut jump in to govt’s support; MEA gives a scathing response.



When international pop sensation Rihanna extended her support to the ongoing farmers’ protest in India, it created headlines worldwide. Soon Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and US Vice President Kamala Harris’ niece Meena Harris too joined the list of foreign celebrities who came out in support of farmers against the Centre’s new farm laws. Following this, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) reacted sharply, reminding these celebrities that it was India’s Parliament that had passed the reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector and noted that some of the vested interest groups tried to mobilise international support against India.

Pop star Rihanna tweeted, “Why aren’t we talking about this?!” #FarmersProtest. “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India,” Greta Thunberg tweeted.

Meena Harris said: “It’s no coincidence that the world’s oldest democracy was attacked not even a month ago, and as we speak, the most populous democracy is under assault. This is related. We all should be outraged by India’s internet shutdowns and paramilitary violence against farmer protesters,” she tweeted.

Lebanese-American former pornographic actress Mia Khalifa also joined the bandwagon by posting a picture of Indian women protesters with a comment, “What in the human rights violations is going on?! They cut the internet around New Delhi?! #FarmersProtest”

Reacting strongly to such comments, the MEA said that the reformist legislation relating to the agricultural sector was passed by Parliament. “We would like to emphasise that these protests must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity, and the efforts of the government and the concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse,” the MEA statement said.

Asserting that “before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken”, the MEA said that the “temptation of sensationalist” social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is “neither accurate nor responsible”.

Several Bollywood celebrities too jumped in support of the government. Actress Kangana Ranaut responded to Rihanna’s tweet, “No one is talking about it because they are not farmers; they are terrorists who are trying to divide India, so that China can take over our vulnerable broken nation and make it a Chinese colony much like USA… Sit down you fool, we are not selling our nation like you dummies.”

Actor Akshay Kumar took to Twitter to write, “Farmers constitute an extremely important part of our country. And the efforts being undertaken to resolve their issues are evident. Let’s support an amicable resolution, rather than paying attention to anyone creating differences. #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.”

Actor Suneil Shetty tweeted, “We must always take a comprehensive view of things, as there is nothing more dangerous than half truth. #IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.”

Ajay Devgn too came out in the government’s support, requesting everyone not to “fall for any false propaganda against India or Indian policies”.

There were, however, a few celebrities who welcomed the tweets and reactions of foreign celebrities. Singer and actor Diljit Dosanjh supported Rihanna for her tweet by posting a picture of hers on his Instagram story. Actress Richa Chadha also reacted to Rihanna’s tweet, with a heart emoji on her tweet.

Interestingly, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg shared a toolkit document for the ongoing farmers’ protest against new farm laws. The 6-page document shared by Greta Thunberg seems to have been in circulation since early January as it includes plans to intensify the protests on January 26, on the occasion of Republic Day, when violence broke out on the streets of the national capital. The document seeks ‘on-ground action’ by exhorting people across the globe to protest outside the closest Indian embassy in their region and share pictures of the same. The climate activist later deleted the tweet from her Twitter handle.

With inputs from agencies

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Sunita Shekhawat, Niharika Shekhawat talk about their admiration for Jaipur and their brand ‘Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur’



Sunita Shekhawat, founder of Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur and Niharika Shekhawat, creative director for Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur recently joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as a part of NewsX India A-List. Talking about her brand Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur, Sunita said, “I think first of all lot of credit goes to the city itself, the city, Jaipur has been an inspiration for so many designers and so many best karigars since the Mughal era. Moreover, Jaipur is known as the emerald city of Asia. We have access to all the coloured stones, the best karigars and the city is so colourful. So, colours inspired me to get into designing, and then I got into manufacturing. I honestly owe a lot to Jaipur itself and hence, the name Sunita Shekhawat Jaipur.”

Niharika pitched in, “There are two ways I look into inspiration. Definitely one, is by working at the brand, and second constantly, how I push myself. For the brand definitely, my mom takes over everything and I think the regeneration is by her. Taking the Legacy forward, I have learned a lot from her and it organically became a part of my childhood. I am not a part of the whole designing product process so when something is getting created, I do observe that in stages and finally when the product or that piece is there on the table and we see it. I just really overwhelmed thinking what best I could do to create that experience with that piece and how do I take the brand forward. So, that inspiration is definitely a great piece of art because it has been created by a designer, and my mom heading it.That in itself is a superb inspiration, and definitely when people just come and be like we love what you do.”

When asked about the USP of their brand, Sunita said, “The most important thing is there are very few design houses who focus a lot on the integrity of the design. Everything is under one roof. From design, manufacturing to retail space, we don’t source anything from outside. You can literally call it a design house. So, we design from farm to market. A lot of time, it is architecture, travel gives you lots of creative ideas and as Niharika has put up, it’s art and craft. Whether it is textile, handicraft, or a piece of furniture, as a designer anything creative inspires me. Even a designer carpet inspires me. I was in Azar Baizan two years ago and those patterns are still there at the back of my mind and while I was doing some beautiful combination of Meenakari and suddenly those carpets propped in my mind and changed the pattern.”

Expressing her views on adapting to change, Sunita said, “The new digital age, I think last year we had a lot of bridal appointments on a zoom call since the brand already has a legacy, the trust value is there, people love what we made, so that was already there we gave them the liberty to decide over a zoom call so that was very convenient for all of us for the team also. That was a new way of working. I think today also Niharika had 2-3 bridal appointments & we are very happy and excited to serve them.”

All praises for her mom, Niharika Shekhawat, on a concluding note, said, “For me, my mom is a constant teacher, a mentor, a friend. I definitely learn everything that I do at work, and, personally speaking, it makes sweet mix working with your parents who are apparently your bosses too. I learned how to go gather like whatever things happen with work she is  a hardcore believer in Geeta so, we had learned one thing, i.e work hard.”

When asked from Sunita about her learnings from her daughter Niharika, Sunita responded, “Honestly, a lot of things and I think that new age that Crispness you know whether it’s in terms of communication, creating a piece of jewellery, travel, work, adapting to the new ways of working, lot of things because of Niharika. The new, the little tadka is all because of Niharika.”

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‘ActionAid provides a platform for change to the most vulnerable communities’: Sandeep Chachra



Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid Association recently joined NewsX for a conversation as part of NewsX India’s special A-List series. A social anthropologist by training and a development activist who has lived and worked with Indigenous people and Dalit communities in India all his life, Sandeep Chachra is currently the Executive Director of ActionAid Association. Prior to this, Mr Chachra was the International lead for ActionAid International, just and democratic governance and economic justice theme. He has worked in several capacities in ActionAid International and other development organisations for the last two decades.

Giving us a peak into his journey in the social sector so far, Sandeep said, “I did my research and studies in social anthropology and interned at social work, and perhaps it’s my time I spent in Jharkhand with the tribal communities there as a student in school and later researches living with the Mundari tribes, or perhaps is the fact that my father is a first-generation refugee from Multan. We grew up in an environment where there were difficulties, perhaps those factors which contributed to me to commit myself to social change and justice efforts.”

Talking about his long association with the ActionAid, he highlighted, “ActionAid provides a platform for change for the most vulnerable communities, their movements and their formations. Over decades, some of which I have been part of, it makes several advances. I will take a few examples, back in early 2000 We took up the cause of homeless people. We organised homeless people and we provided support to homeless people in several cities of the country. Homelessness was then not on the national agenda, so i am working there to bring it to the national agenda to an extent. We went to the court and to the-then governments. Now. we have a national policy scheme for shelters for the homeless. So, it keeps you inspired when you see change happen not just on the ground but also in the policy framework.”

“We did our bit, so did other civil society organisations and formations. You’re right in celebrating and acknowledging their contributions over the last one year, we did our bit as well. Actually, more than about eight months in the last year after the lockdown. We did a bit to reach out for support to inform our workers more popularly we call them migrant workers, the kind of situation that all of us are in. So, we need to reach rations to them, food supplies to them, set up a community and mobile kitchens.” 

On a concluding note, Mr Sandeep Chachra spoke about Action Aid’s plan to combat the second wave of Covid-19. He said, “We are in the middle of the second peak, so we will need to go back to some of the lessons in terms of what needs to be done, particularly for workers. We’re preparing ourselves to once again provide full support and action support. This time around, the question of medicines comes, the question of encouraging people to vaccinate where they’re qualified to vaccinate comes. We are part of a national level campaign, the People’s vaccine Alliance, which is campaigning for universal free vaccination for everybody, particularly in countries where vaccines are even down reaching so it’s not as national but globally also I think a lot needs to be done.”

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‘Indian youth are far more progressive than youth in first world countries’: Kunal Rawal, Designer



Kunal Rawal, the youngest designer to exhibit his collection at the Lakme Fashion Week, recently joined NewsX for a candid interview as part of NewsX India A-List. Kunal has worked for several prominent Bollywood personalities like Anil Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, Siddharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan among others, who have come ahead to close the show for him.

Recapping his journey and how Kunal decided to become a designer, he said, “I knew pretty early on as my family works in textiles and my dad has an export firm. He used to go to this factory and used to take me and my sister as well to late night drives at the factory. We both used to climb up and shut eyes and play this game and guess the fabric. Pretty early on, I knew textiles and fashion is what I want to do and what my calling is and where my interest lies.”

Kunal started his label ‘Kunal Rawal Dstress’ in 2006. Having graduated from London School of Fashion, his style of design can be best described as one in which traditional Indian clothing meets contemporary designs with an edgy twist. The designer further continued, “The more I got into it the more I realised that there were so many things going wrong because a lot of men didn’t choose what they wear for the occasion. They didn’t dress according to how they felt and had a severe lack of optionality.”

Talking about the USP of his brand and label, Kunal said, “The idea was to put in elements details to pique men’s interest rather than having them just wear something that’s given to them. And the more you pique interest, the more the conversation starts, and that’s what I’ve been consciously trying to put in elements and a design aesthetic that is slightly more relatable, slightly more catering to the user. Today, I am all for traditional clothing, I love it, but I think it needs to be modernised and contemporise to suit the headspace of us today and the lifestyle that we all live globally.”

When asked what inspired him to create his first designer collection back then to now, Kunal said “Inspiration keeps changing, inspiration, keeps evolving but if I have to pick one or two inspirations. I would say people is what inspires me. I personally believe that the youth in India, the younger generation is far more progressive than the youth of even the strongest first world countries. That is very inspiring.”

Sharing some personal lessons learned and challenges faced during lockdown, Kunal said, “This last year and a half, has been quite a challenge for all of us and especially for as much for our industry compared to any other. Well, I am a creative person first, and then a business owner. So, both these have called on different different emotions through the year. To be honest, I think we’ve all learned as much as we’ve learned our whole life in the last year and a half. We’ve been through a gamut of emotions living life. We felt anger, pain, happiness, helplessness we have gone through, the entire cycle of emotion circumstances, and every month, every day actually has been very, very different.”

“When being a creative person, I have enjoyed bits and pieces of last year as it gave me a good amount of time to go back to how I used to create when I was much younger, finding and chasing a thought and doing R&D and all of that so that was exciting. Creatives have a way of constructively using any emotion. I managed to put out the two big collections last season, you know, we did the India Couture Collection and Lakme Fashion Week so I’m glad I got some creative energy out. But, as a business owner things kept changing and it’s been quite challenging. My biggest learning through last year, is the importance of a plan A, plan B, plan C,” he added.

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‘We only charge students once they get into the industry’: Siddharth Maheshwari, Co-founder, Newton School



Siddharth Maheshwari, Co-founder, Newton School recently joined NewsX for a special conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. Newton School aspires to provide affordable education that is in line with industry standards, so that its students can be quickly absorbed into the system and contribute to an organisation’s success from the start.

Speaking about the inception of Newton School, Siddharth Maheshwari said, “We started Newton school around October 2019. Me and our co-founder Nishan, are friends from our IIT Roorkee days. We have been passionate about education since then. Nishan, in fact, is so passionate about education, that he left his, very lucrative, consulting job after his MBA from IIM Calcutta to join Unacademy as an intern. Just because it was in the education space. We did a startup together before Newton School, where we got a chance to talk to hundreds of students across India. During this time, we realised that while the students are really motivated, they lacked the skills, which are actually required by the industry. On the one side, there are millions of students who want to get into the industry and get into high paying jobs and, on the other side, there are hundreds and thousands of jobs that are like lying vacant in the industry side. There is a very big gap. The industry is not able to hire these students because they do not have the skills. That’s why we decided to fill this gap up.”

When asked about how Newton School is bridging the gap between industry and students, he responded, “We talk to hundreds of people in the industry, from software developers, CTOs to founders. We have designed a curriculum that suits the industry completely and is designed in such a way that a student, who joins an industry, is able to contribute from Day 1. That is how we have able to design a curriculum that is completely geared towards the industry.”

Talking about the competition in the education space, Siddharth said, “I think that education is such a big market in India and it is completely underserved so there is a supply constraint. There are not enough companies in this space. On the other side, we have a very strong USP, in the sense that we basically do not charge our students anything upfront. We are so sure about our curriculum and our education that we only charge students once they get into the industry at a job of at least five lakh per annum and that makes us really stand out in the industry. No one else in the industry is following a model like that. This has allowed us to keep our marketing costs to zero and has also allowed us to get you the best and most motivated students to study and become the best developers.”

He further emphasised that the students of Newton School are working with more than 175 companies, including top MNCs. “Our students are contributing to pretty much every sector. In fact, our students recently also got into the top media organisations in the tech role. Our students, you can say, today are contributing in every sector of the economy.”

Underlining the courses offered at Newton School, Siddharth said, “We have primarily three courses. One is a course, which is designed for those who are in the final years of their undergraduate. It can be any kind of undergraduate, could be a BTech, it could be a bachelors in art. We offer a minimum guarantee of five lakhs per annum, that is, you pick up a course which is completely online. It will range from four months to eight months, so this particular course that I’m talking about is six months long, where we teach students to be full-stack developers.”

Before signing off, Siddharth highlighted the company’s vision and future plans and said, “Most of the top leaders, especially in the tech sector, are from colleges like IITs. Our vision is to make sure that people from tier two, tier three colleges also get into the industry and, in some years, become the industry leaders, become the founders and become the CTOs”

“So, as an entrepreneur, it’s really important to understand your users better and know your users inside out, to be able to think like them, empathise with them a lot. If you understand your users really well then you understand their problems. You understand how to solve it for them and understand every small detail about it. What I say is, for every company, it is very important to be obsessed with your users,” he added.

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Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi



Children, some critics say that the Ramayana and Lord Ram’s example are irrelevant in the modern world. Their view is that in today’s age of science and technology, Ram’s path is too extreme and impractical. There may be some truth to their criticism because ages ago when the story of Ramayana took place, society and family life were firmly rooted in dharma. Back then, moral and spiritual values such as truthfulness, self-sacrifice and humility governed the land. Thus, people genuinely appreciated and followed the guidance and example of a ruler rooted in dharma. They really appreciated Ram’s ways, cherishing him as dharma personified.

As the King of Ayodhya, Ram gave prime importance to doing his dharma towards his country and its citizens. Both as a king and as a human being, he was perfect—loving, compassionate, fearless and considerate. He always had his subjects’ well-being and his country’s prosperity at the forefront of his mind. For him, everything else was secondary. Thus, his abidance in dharma had a huge impact on the citizens of Ayodhya. That is why they all wanted to accompany Ram to the forest when he went into exile.

It’s true we will not be able to duplicate Ram’s ways. Amma doesn’t think anyone can be that perfect. Regardless, no one can deny the fact that, thousands of years later, Ram’s life still remains as an immense source of inspiration to millions of people across the world and that it will forever continue to serve such a purpose.

Not everyone who worships Ram meticulously follows his teachings. But when compared to most people—the majority of which are mired in selfishness—Ram’s devotees must be relatively more dharmic. Actually, that is enough. Indeed such impact is the purpose of avataras like Ram. Because, as Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Even a little practice of this a dharma saves one from great fear.”

Children, the truth is that if we could observe even an infinitesimal part of what Lord Ram showed us, the world would be in a much better place than it is today.

The writer is a spiritual leader, guru and humanitarian who is revered as the hugging saint by her followers.

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Actress Prachi Desai recently joined NewsX for a candid interview as part of NewsX India A-List. Prachi has made a comeback in Bollywood after a long break with the suspense-thriller Silence… Can You Hear It?, which released on Zee5 on 26 March. She is currently basking on its success.

Talking about it, she said, “I think so far the response has been great. Also, I’ve done a film after a while so that excitement is special. The intention was to do something different as it’s been a while and that has paid off. The one thing I’m consistently hearing every day from people is it’s nice to see me back after a gap. That’s good to hear as it gives you a sense of hope. It also reminds me that people do want to watch me and are happy to see me again and there cannot be a better feeling than that.”

When asked about what convinced her to say yes to this film, Prachi expressed, “It just ticked all the boxes, there aren’t any specific requirements for every film that you do but it’s just the basics so whether it was a good and engaging script, the role was different and appealing and it’s made by a debutant female director. I’ve always wanted to work with female directors and feel like we need more of them in this industry and that is the case with this movie. I needed to do a strong role which is why I took a while to say yes to something and it happened when ‘Silence’ came my way and I immediately said yes.”

Sharing more insights from her experience, she said, “I love the film and love espionage thrillers, and murder mysteries in general. I don’t think you’ll believe this but I enjoy watching horror movies a lot and watch them often. With thrillers, it just keeps you at the edge of your seat most of the time if it’s written and directed well. This particular movie was a page-turner. When I was reading the script I just needed to know what’s gonna happen next and that’s a good sign.”

Sharing her experience of working with Manoj Bajpayee and being on sets with him, Prachi mentioned, “Manoj sir is like an institution in acting. I would just keep observing him the whole time on the set, watching him perform, how he prepares for every particular scene and trying not to creep him out while doing that. I feel a lot of things are going on in his head at a time, he is so talented. I think it rubs off very nicely on all of us as you want to also do well in the scene since he’s so good.”

She added, “He’s a very selfless actor. He makes sure that everybody in the scene is equally involved and if he ever feels like you can do something that will make your performance better, he shares that with everyone. The kind of involvement and dedication he has, despite being such a busy actor is commendable. He’s someone who’s done far more work than all of us in the film put together. Even then, he would just be involved with his 100% and probably worked as hard as we did. Considering the number of hours we worked, he doesn’t shy away from the hard work at all and that’s refreshing.”

On taking up a new role, Prachi said, “It was unplanned, an actor’s life is sometimes unpredictable. However, there came a point when I just felt like I needed to maybe detour from the roles that I’m doing and do something slightly different. It may not be earth-shattering but I needed that shift, and I don’t know if the casting directors or the filmmakers are lazy as they feel like this person does something well so keep on giving them the same role that makes their job easier as they don’t have to work hard with you to do something different.”

“That happened and repetitive things came my way. For a while, I enjoyed my space and made the most of it. But after a point, it felt like I can do so much more and needed people to open up to that. When that did not happen, you’re an actor and if you’re not a producer yourself, all you can do is probably wait or try and add something different to your role. But you only have this much only and you can do it within that scope as you can’t make a different film for yourself. The waiting period took a little longer than expected. Certain things in that span were very interesting but did not materialise for some reason, and as an actor, at times you never know how months and years pass by and then there we were struck with the Covid-19 pandemic and an entire year went into trying to deal with the new normal. After all the wait, I feel, it has been worth it.”

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