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Lord Ram is the symbol of unity, not division

Lord Ram is a part of the heritage of every citizen of India, and it is only right that on 5 August 2020 citizens from across the spectrum of language and faith congregate or watch on their screens the celebration of a glorious chapter in the history of the subcontinent.

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The entire recorded history of India is the patrimony of each citizen, no matter the faith or region she or he belongs to. This is the central message in the just revealed fact that the first official invite for the 5 August ceremony concerning the Ram Mandir has gone to Iqbal Ansari, the litigant in the case involving the birthplace of Lord Ram, who is a proud citizen of the Republic of India. Despite the multiple tragedies caused by the devastation of the 1947 Partition of India (an outcome that ought to have been resisted more effectively than seems the case), there are fringe elements within each religious denomination in India who seek to compartmentalise the people of India into silos separated by faith. Oddly, many who swear by secularism — equal treatment to all faiths in the matter of state policy — look the other way at divisive practices and rhetoric in some groups, while complaining about others. What is applicable to one group has to be made applicable to all, if the true intent of secularism is to be protected, and there can be zero exceptions to this rule. Any abuse of the beliefs and practices of a faith are symptoms of a lack of moderation and tolerance that are antithetical to the ancient traditions of India, where caste was determined not by birth but by duty. Caste by birth is a contradiction in scientific terms, akin to belief in some families such as that the sons and daughters of politicians are better fitted than others to take up a political career. Another country where the same belief is strong is China, where several of the sons and daughters of prominent political figures of the past hold leading positions in the Chinese Communist Party and the government.

After 15 August 1947, the government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru and successors from his family (Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, as the de facto Head of Government during 2004-14) made several gestures towards the Muslim community that may have been in place had Partition been avoided, and it was thought necessary to have an affirmative action programme designed to ensure that the community did not fall prey to those who spoke of “Islam in danger” in Hindu-majority India. Had Partition been avoided, there would have been 500 million Muslims in India, and they would have been a global force ensuring the rollback of Wahabbism and anchoring within the principles of mercy, compassion and beneficence that is the direction given by the Holy Quran. After Partition and the trauma that was caused by vivisectionists mainly located in what remained part of India, what was needed was to ensure that the Hindu majority regained the rights enjoyed by it until the time of Emperor Aurangzeb, who by his intolerance hollowed out the Mughal empire. The return of just three sites to what they were in the pre-Aurangzeb period (Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya) would have ensured that the lava of perceived victimhood that had been created by the movement for Partition and its consummation be dispelled. Instead, Nehru continued to maintain the British-era policy of government control over temples (but not the structures of any other faith), and Rajiv Gandhi ignored the counsel of representatives of the overwhelming majority of Muslims represented by Arif Mohammad Khan to welcome the Supreme Court’s Shah Bano judgment. Instead, he got passed a law negating the judgement, and from that point onwards, public support began to diminish. During the period when Sonia Gandhi was in effect running the government, the Right to Education Bill was passed, in which only institutions run by Hindus were affected in terms of its provisions. This drawback has yet to be rectified.

Curricula in schools and colleges remained broadly what they were before 1947, except that an overlay of Soviet and Fabian concepts was added. The need for the youth to be taught to value the entirety of civilisation in the Indian subcontinent was ignored, and much of the past continued the British-era practice of being classified as myth. Even during the Vajpayee period, the Ram Setu was sought to be demolished, on the grounds that it was a natural structure rather than a bridge created in the past. Only recently has scientific conformation come of that, which is why the expectation is high that the Ram Setu will be declared a national monument and Lord Ram›s path to Lanka be recreated in the way the Great Wall has been in China, or Roman and Greek ruins preserved in Italy and Greece, or Stonehenge in the UK. Whatever the faith a boy or girl may have been born into, the entire history of India from ancient times to the present is a priceless heritage that needs to be celebrated rather than ignored. The western period has created synergies that would be of great value in India joining the Five Eyes, not by slogans such as “Angrezi Hatao” but by using the international link language and its dissemination to emerge as a Knowledge Superpower. Indeed, the states where there is the greatest hunger to learn English are the Hindi-speaking states, where the youth are eager for modern education and have shown across India and the world their aptitude for it. The Mughal heritage of India is an essential link in the partnership between India and the Middle East, as well as with the country with the largest number of Muslim citizens in the world, Indonesia, an essential partner in the drive to keep the Indo-Pacific open for all, as called for by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Singapore. The Vedic heritage needs to be removed from the closet into which the British pushed it, and where it was allowed to remain even after 1947, for this gives India the right to claim the distinction of being the oldest living civilisation in the planet, together with the Jewish civilisation that has endured not just centuries but millennia of persecution. Even Communist China under Xi Jinping is reviving the past of that country, and Confucius has once more emerged from the dungeon where his thought was consigned by Chairman Mao, who was on a mission to destroy the “Four Olds” through the Cultural Revolution. Several of the priceless artifacts and structures of ancient China that had survived the Japanese occupation were destroyed during this period, and are now being recreated.

The manner in which the Muslim community in India has ignored a fringe seeking to oppose the Ram Mandir shows the innate tolerance and inclusivity of the Indian people. Grievous political errors including by those eager to keep the country united ensured the success of the Churchill-Jinnah conspiracy to divide brother from brother by forcing the creation of a separate state. Although records have long been available of these machinations, the events connected to them find no mention in curricula, although they should as a warning to those listening to continuing calls for division. Ayodhya symbolises the unity of India. The nation has cause to be proud of the achievements of the Vedic, Mughal and Western periods in Indian history, even while needing to be made aware of the errors that caused so much turmoil and hardship. Lord Ram is a part of the heritage of every citizen of India, and it is only right that on 5 August 2020 citizens from across the spectrum of language and faith congregate or watch on their screens the celebration of a glorious chapter in the history of the subcontinent.

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“Don’t compete but change the rules”: Maneck Malhotra, Director, Choco Swiss

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Maneck Malhotra

Recently, Maneck Malhotra, the director of Choco Swiss, a designer chocolate giant in India, sat with NewsX for an exclusive interview. He shares with us his mantra of “Don’t compete but change the rules” as he talks about how he beats the competition in the Chocolate sector in India.

Maneck spoke with us about the journey he’s been on to get to this point, and the role his father, who founded the company had played. “I think my father was very ahead of his time. He was a Chartered Accountant in the UK, but then we came back to India so that the kids could have an Indian upbringing. We were the first ones to import equipment to design soft-centred chocolate. In India, most people just relate chocolate to bars, but we went beyond that.”

He also feels like the market has grown and matured a lot since his father founded the company, and that those changes will aid Choco Swiss’ success. “You know, in my father’s day, you didn’t have all these different airlines to transport chocolate in, there was just one, you didn’t have refrigerated truck either. There have been a lot of changes since my father’s day, and you know I think we’ve waited 30 years to be in a place where the market is well-placed for us, and I think we’re there now.”

We asked Maneck about the challenges he faced upon taking over the company from his father, and what competition is like, in India’s chocolate market. “Look I think, for the longest time, India was completely dominated by Cadbury, Nestle, Amul, etc. People just associated chocolate with those brands, and with those types of chocolates, so one of the major challenged for us was to get people to accept that chocolate with a gifting sentiment, could also be chocolate with a daily consumption use. For the longest time, my father based his sales strategy on gift packs, which created a mindset that we tried to change in our customers.”

Talking about the pandemic, and the challenges it created for Choco Swiss and the industry, Maneck was brutally honest. “I’ll be honest, it was quite difficult for us. We’re a good that is not a daily consumable good we’re based on lifestyle aspects, which the pandemic shut down. We’ve been increasing our digital presence because obviously customers can’t go to physical stores to buy our products anymore. We really had to take a step back, introspect and think about our digital strategy, and I think now that we’ve done that, we’ve come out stronger on the other end of it.”

He spoke about some of the new initiatives that Choco Swiss has been taking, with regards to their product line, but simultaneously, emphasized that value that they place on sticking to their roots. “Over 70% of our sales come from our basic classics, those have not changed in 30 years. We believe in sticking to our roots, but obviously, we do understand, that we need to keep innovating and keep offering the customer something new. With that in mind, we’re trying to enter into energy bars, we’re also going to be releasing some very quirky and unique and progressive blends soon in the future.”

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‘AI and blockchain data will revolutionize the world’, says Mayur Ramgir, an international award-winning innovator, founder of Zonopact, an incubator for young talent

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Mayur Ramgir

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list, an author, serial entrepreneur, film director and philanthropist, Mayur Rangir takes us through embracing technology for the better and how students and working professionals can have a better future in the tech world.

Mayur is the fellow of ‘The World Technology Network” and winner of the ” Pride of the Nation” award 2018. The JAVA expert shared his perspective on how technology is helping us survive this unprecedented time where businesses are suffering and people are losing jobs.

He said that this surely is a difficult time, not only for individuals but also businesses are struggling with it. They have the fear of uncertainty.’Even India’s GDP is hampered and GST collections are not enough’, he added. He mentioned that things are moving towards a new era, businesses are learning new ways of dealing with the situation.’6 months back companies were not ok with employees working from home, but now they have adapted with the change and have realised that the productivity of employees can go up with a little freedom’, the techie continued.

He feels that technology is going to go to the next level when hospitals will be automated and even workplaces will be completely touchless.

According to Mayur, technology is much more than just a cell phone and smart TVs. He says that with researches going on for implementing AI into our daily lives, AI and blockchain big data will revolutionise the world. They will mostly rule the next decade. Hence, changing tech in India in the coming years. He also asks students to look into courses where they can build their skill sets in this emerging world of technology.

He speaks about some new forward-thinking institutions like the London School of Emerging Technology and WilyNXT. The whole curriculum of these institutions is based on taking up real problems from industries and upcoming startups and make their students work on it. Working professionals can opt for professional certification in which they don’t have to quit their jobs and can go to London for a few weeks to do the course.

Lastly, the tech expert has a few suggestions for the students in this arena. He finds technology to be a funny area because one has to prepare themselves all the time with new technologies coming into the market every now and then. He urges the students to keep training themselves accordingly.’Early-career employees should think about upscaling their skills by joining professional courses offered by various institutions ’, he added. By following this, these employees will be ready for the jobs coming in the next generation.

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Hiren Gada, CEO of Shemaroo Entertainment discusses the changing nature of streaming services, digital content due to pandemic

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Hiren Gada

Mr Hiren Gada, CEO of Shemaroo Entertainment in a recent interview with NewsX discussed the changing nature of streaming services and digital content due to the pandemic.

Due to the closure of the movie theatres during the lockdown, it’s been an almost impossible feat to try and release new movies. Luckily for us, Shemaroo has come up with a solution. They have started a kind of pay-per-view model ShermarooMe to “open the window of monetisation and release of the film”.

ShemarooMe is a one-stop destination for authentic Indian content, starting from regional movied to Bollywood movies. The platform grew out of a necessity to “unlock the film’s journey and give the audience an opportunity to see fresh content”, Mr Gada said. “It’s a transaction product where you can buy a ticket and redeem it on a movie. You can then watch the movie for a period of three days as many times as you’d like”, he added. “It gives the audience the closest possible experience of a movie theatre as you buy a ticket from BookMyShow and then watch it.”

The place where it differs is that there is no limit on the number of people who can watch the movie and it’s wildly more economic. “We saw a huge surge in home entertainment consumption and so we launched a Hindi general entertainment channel in May which was put together during the lockdown.”, he stated. He went on to commend the team’s effort and grit, even during the trying times of the pandemic. Moreover, this channel was made free-to-air so that people wouldn’t have to pay for it.

Shemaroo Entertainment also worked with more than 30 temples to stream their artis live on their channels. They made this service completely free for their audience as well. “The idea here was to incentivise the people to ‘Stay at Home and Pray at Home’ and this really resonated with our audience”

Touching upon the future of regional digital content Mr Gada said, “ The audience prefer local and regional content and there has been a surge of original regional content. It’s an indication of a change in mass consumption. However, I am positive there is no replacement of the experience that a theatre provides”, said Hiren Gada, CEO, Shemaroo Entertainment.

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YSRCP demands restoration of MPLADS, favours salary cut

Lokeswara Rao

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The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) is the fourth largest political party in India in terms of its strength in Parliament. On Friday, Parliament passed a Bill to reduce one year’s salaries of MPs by 30 percent to meet the exigencies arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha with voice vote. The YSRCP fully supported the Bill but demanded the restoration of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) fund since it was used for the development and for the betterment of the people.

The YSRCP MPs said charity must begin at home and they wanted to set an example by sacrificing their salaries. They also said if the MPLADS fund is restored, it can be used for fighting Covid-19 in the constituencies.

Leading the party in Delhi, party’s general secretary and MP Vijay Sai Reddy said, “I support this Bill of cutting salaries but I request to restore the MPLADS fund. That is very important for the development of the constituency. Cutting across the parties, all MPs want the MPLADS to be restored. For the members who disrupt the house proceedings, their salaries should be cut in proportion, irrespective of their party. There should not be any distinction between treasury benches or opposition. Even the imposition of penalty can be considered on such members. The MPs are also with the people of India in the fight against the pandemic.”

Asking the public representatives to set an example during a pandemic, Reddy further said, “The political leaders also send a message to people with their salary cut. There is a salary cut of 20 percent. The public representatives in Singapore sacrifice one-month salary and I appreciate the private companies for higher-level salary cuts so that the junior employees get their salaries without any cut. The public representatives lead the example by their own salary cut.”

However, this didn’t stop the political turmoil as for the second consecutive day, YSRCP MPs staged protests at Gandhi statue and Vijay Chowk and demanded a CBI probe into the Amaravati land scam and the AP FibreNet scam. They raised slogans to highlight the issues.

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BJP takes on Jagan govt over ‘temple attacks’ in Andhra

Lokeswara Rao

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Politics has further heated up over a spike in attacks on places of Hindu religion in Andhra Pradesh. Slamming Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy over growing incidents of such attacks, the BJP on Friday, under the call of “Chalo Amalapuram” to save Hindu temples, staged a march which was foiled by the Andhra Police by imposing Section 144.

As a result, several BJP leaders including state unit chief Somu Veerraju were placed under house detention. Amalapuram is a big town in East Godavari where the incident of burning of the iconic chariot took place a few days ago. Several BJP workers were supposed to participate in “Chalo Amalapuram” to protest against the “torching” of the celestial chariot.

The saffron party has, however, alleged that incidents of attack on temples belonging to Hindu religion have gone up ever since the Jagan government took over the charge in Andhra Pradesh. The BJP also alleged that such happenings cannot take place without the support of the ruling party.

Senior leaders including Purandeswari and BJP vice President Vishnu Vardhan Reddy were arrested before they marched towards Amalapuram. This resulted in a political storm followed by tension in the state with BJP launching massive verbal attacks on the AP government and the ruling party YSRCP.

Earlier, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Eluru Range), K.V. Mohan Rao said, “Section 144 has been imposed across the Amalapuram Revenue Division in view of COVID19.” He said no permission has been granted to “Chalo Amalapuram” march in view of the pandemic.

Police took Vishnuvardhan Reddy into custody and put him in the police car roaming all day. Somu Veerraju lashed out at the AP government for what he called illegally filing cases against BJP leaders.

Veerraju said, “The state government has not taken the attacks on temples seriously. It files cases against devotees who go to temples. It should change its stand or we will intensify our protests. The government is provoking and threatening us.”

Amalapuram Chamber of Commerce also called for a shutdown and supported the ongoing protests against the Antarvedi incident. Most of the business establishments were shut in Amalapuram. Large number of policemen were deployed in Amalapuram and parts of East Godavari districts to prevent any untoward incidents.

BJP national spokesman and MP G.V.L. Narasimha Rao and another MP C.M. Ramesh urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah for the Centre’s intervention to improve law and order situation in Andhra.

Deploring the attacks on the temple, Rao said that the AP government did not act properly in these cases. Rao said, “Andhra Pradesh government is acting against Hindu activists in a revengeful manner.”

He mentioned in the letter to the Centre that 18 attacks have taken place on Hindu temples in a year.

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103-year-old Hyderabad man beats Covid-19 successfully

Lokeswara Rao

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A 103-year-old Hyderabad resident, Paruchuri Ramaswamy, has entered the ranks of the oldest survivors of Covid-19 in the country. Ramaswamy had been admitted to the Telangana institute of Medical Sciences (TIMS) after contracting the infection on 27 August.

The centenarian, who has a history of anaemia, was admitted to TiMS in Gachibowli, after which he was transferred to gandhi hospital when his condition deteriorated. However, following treatment, he recovered fully and has now returned in a healthy state. Doctors at the government hospital say that they are extremely pleased with the development.

Ramaswamy was one among the 27 people at C R Foundation’s home for the aged who tested positive for the virus. 17 residents, six staff members and four helpers from the institution had been infected with Covid-19. Ramaswamy’s daughter, Jamuna, who had been staying with her father, had also tested positive for the virus. all the infected individuals showed successful recoveries except for two residents who succumbed to the disease.

Ramaswamy had not been sure if he would recover and had reportedly told his daughter, “I might not come back. Take care of yourself.” Given the high risks associated with Covid-19 for the elderly, Ramaswamy’s recovery is being compared to a miracle and has put him in the category of old people in india who have beaten the infection. With this, he has also overtaken the 94-year-old who had been the oldest Covid survivor in Telangana so far after being treated successfully at Gandhi hospital in July.

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