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Non-performance of last rites by a female: Ancient tradition or yet another patriarchal norm?

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In our society, people pray, organize ‘pooja’ and ‘hawan’ so that a son is born to them.

For many of them, the “logic” behind this is the age-old belief that only sons can light the pyres of their parents. Daughters, however, are not “allowed” to perform or for that matter, participate in the last rites of their parents, as per Hindu tradition.

It is believed that if a female lights the funeral pyre, the deceased won’t attain ‘moksha’ and would be stuck in a cycle of rebirths. For this very reason, daughters are often not even allowed entry in their own parents’ funeral.

This custom, denying daughters to witness the last rites of parents, surely gives rise to a number of arguments which need to be looked at in order to comprehend whether this custom has any logical standing or is just another example of patriarchal injustice against females.

The internet is no short of bizarre theories that support this custom or consider it “logical”. It is vital to look at some of these theories to see if there’s actually a rationale behind this age-old, gender biased practice.

The very prominent and foremost theory that comes into picture is that women are faint-hearted. The burning pyre being a difficult sight to witness, with the body burning and often curling up in flames, might be beyond the bearing capacity of women.

Weakness and strength are subjective concepts. Putting women in the category of

‘feeble’ and ‘faint-hearted’, while their male counterparts are considered ‘bold’ enough to carry out the funeral rites, is nothing but just another societal stereotype. In cases where such circumstances arise and the female feels comfortable enough to perform the last rites, the choice should be left to her instead of the society deciding that for her.

Second, the traditions and gender roles play a crucial role in deciding what a woman can and can not do. Women, being the “care-takers”, are expected to stay back and take care of the family and household while the males return after performing the last rites.

This is nothing but a classic example of how women are always caged in these gender roles and the society’s acceptance of these as “normal” just because they’ve been in practice for a long time, makes it all the more difficult for them to escape from it.

These gender roles do no good and have been rendering the women devoid of their rights for centuries.

Third, the negative energy in the crematorium premises is also considered a major deterrent in allowing women to participate in or perform the last rites of their family members. Since a daughter can’t shave off her head like her male counterpart on the death of her father, she is not allowed to perform the last rites because apparently, dark, long hair would “attract” ghosts and similar negative energy. It is widely believed that a crematorium is surrounded by evil and females are more susceptible to bringing back spirits and evil energy from the incineration process.

Fourth, the right to light the funeral pyre is hugely influenced by the inheritance rights. In the ancient era, a male was seen as the successor of his father’s throne and estate. Though this custom has undergone changes in the last few decades, the rights of inheritance are still associated with the right to perform the last rites. It was believed that the one who inherits the property of the deceased is supposed to lead the funeral procession as the ‘Karta’. In the set beliefs of the past, it is seldom questioned when a male relative of the “superior” gender is given rights to light the pyre instead of the deceased’s own daughter or wife.

Finally, another concept of attainment of nirvana comes into picture. It was a popular belief in the old times that a son is the bridge between birth and death. Hindu tradition reckons that once mortal life comes to an end, liberation from the cycle of birth and death is vital to attain eternal bliss. People stood by the fact that if a girl performed the last rites, it won’t be possible for the deceased to break free from this vicious cycle.

These age-old, baseless traditions have been passed on to us through generations and it’s stupefying how people still believe in these ostensible facts when they clearly lack any credibility or logic.

In contradiction to these theories, Hindu priests and religious scholars have stated that there was no “ban” in the scriptures, preventing women from visiting a crematorium or performing the last rites of their relatives.

Bhagwan Dutt Pathak, a retired professor of Sanskrit, says the reasons were perhaps more mundane, that women mostly stayed at home and did the chores while men worked outdoors and took on anything that involved heavy-lifting.

Prof. Kaushalendra Pandey, who teaches Sanskrit literature at the Banaras Hindu University, says that there exist references in ancient texts of wives performing the last rites if a man died without leaving behind a son, daughter or male relative such as a brother. Even daughters, he says, had the right to perform the last rites. He also said that “the ancient Hindu society was very liberal and women enjoyed tremendous freedoms. Conservatism came as a reaction to other religions, first to Buddhism, and then to Christianity and Islam”.

Manoj Kumar Pandey, a priest specializing in funeral rites, says the current belief that the funeral pyre should only be lit by the eldest son is rooted in the Garuda Purana, a Hindu religious text, believed to be at least a thousand years old, dealing with funeral rites. The book, though silent on the role of females, neither forbids nor vocally supports their participation in funeral rituals.

Even though there is no fixed stand on this till date, the recent times have seen numerous women defy this patriarchal norm and perform the last rites of their loved ones.

Indian actress and TV presenter Mandira Bedi recently hit the headlines for performing her husband’s last rites. Though it caused great unease among the conservative Indians, she won praise for standing up to patriarchy even while grieving.

Popular author and columnist, Shobhaa De, wrote that this act challenged the archaic norms governing our society for centuries and sent out a charged and powerful message of anti-patriarchy. The shackles caging women broke as the flames from the pyre touched the sky.

During the pandemic too, there were many instances where wives or daughters were seen performing the last rites- sometimes because male family members had perished or were themselves infected with the virus or were unable to travel due to the lockdown and travel restrictions.

Women are questioning every orthodox belief that stands in the way of their rights and are constantly paving the path for greater equality. In many families, except the typically conservative ones, only the son performing the last rites has become a thing of the past. In many instances, both the son and daughter or at times, only the daughter can be seen carrying out the cremation. Some stellar examples follow, proving that women no longer conform to the patriarchal norms imposed upon them. Rather, they question and challenge them at each stage, ensuring an equal right for themselves as their male counterparts.

In 2019, Smriti Irani was lauded when she turned pallbearer for her aide in Amethi and this act was labelled as an act of women empowerment.

Namita Kaul, foster daughter of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, performed his last rites in August 2018. Her act not only sent across a strong message to the gender biased society but also hit the headlines for it was “against” the Hindu rituals.

Mallika Sarabhai paid tribute to her mother, Padma Shree awardee, Mrinalini Sarabhai, as she danced in front of her body at Darpan Academy and lit the funeral pyre of her mother along with her brother Kartikeya.

A member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, Pankaja Munde, cremated her father Gopinath Munde in June 2014. Through this act, she sparked a debate on the

reconsideration of gender inequality prevalent in our society. Even though she was not the first woman to perform the last rites of her kin, her act sent a stronger message because of her political background.

Apart from these, there have been countless instances where ordinary women have performed the last rites of their family members and have taken up roles same as their male counterparts. There have been reports from cities including Indore, Bhopal and

Ahmedabad, wherein, despite the relatives’ resentment, the daughters were adamant in their decision and performed the last rites of their father.

In the case of Goolrokh M. Gupta v. Burjor Pardiwala (Dead) and Others, the petitioner, Goolrokh M. Gupta was a Parsi-Zoroastrian who married a Hindu. Goolrokh contended that even after her marriage, she continued to follow

Zoroastrianism, and therefore, had the right to enjoy all privileges under the religion, including the right to offer prayers at Agiari and a tower of silence for funeral. The Supreme Court initially gave time to the trustees of Parsi Anjuman, Valsad in Gujarat, to reconsider its earlier decision of denying permission to Parsi women who married outside their religion, to perform the last rites of their parents.

The Bench reasoned that for a daughter, it is an emotional occasion to perform the last rites of her parents, and therefore, one can not possibly deny her the right and freedom to perform the last rites. The then CJI suggested that the respondents be less set in their ways and be sensitive towards the situation.

Goolrokh further contended that if a male Parsi-Zoroastrian marries a non-Parsi or a non-Zoroastrian female, he continues to enjoy all the rights, whereas if a female

Parsi Zoroastrian marries a non-Parsi or a non-Zoroastrian male, such rights are not recognised or permitted by the respondents. She alleged the trust practised discrimination, violating Articles 14 and 25 of the Constitution.

The petitioner also emphasised that there is nothing in the Zoroastrian religion or scriptures which denies any Parsi-Zoroastrian woman, married to non-Parsi or nonZoroastrian, her rights.

The petitioner, apprehending that in the event of demise of any of her parents, she would be denied her rights, first approached the Gujarat high court which held that a woman’s decision as to which religion she follows is dependent upon the religion of her father, and after her marriage, on that of her husband.

Goolrokh submitted before the Supreme Court that the High Court’s rationale is based on the ancient feudal notion of women being regarded as chattels. Despite the clear legal position favouring her, the High Court committed a grave error by forbidding her from freely practicing her religion, which is deeply misogynist and hampers women’s empowerment.

In 2017, the Supreme Court overruled the Gujarat High Court verdict found in favour of a customary law which prevented the plaintiff, Goolrokh, from visiting the tower of

silence to perform her father’s last rites, as she had married a non-Zoroastrian. The Supreme Court directed the fire temple in Valsad, Gujarat, to allow her entry and stated, “DNA does not evaporate” after marrying outside a religion.

As mentioned earlier, the significance of a male relative performing the last rites in Hinduism comes from the ancient text of Garuda Purana. The purana insists on the importance of performance of last rites by the eldest son but nowhere mentions the role of daughters. Although some scholars have noted that there is no express prohibition regarding the performance of these rites by the daughter.

In everyday life, the prohibition on daughters is framed in terms of kinship. Once a daughter is “given away” in marriage, she is no longer seen as part of the family. But, even when she is unmarried or without a brother, tradition has favoured other male relatives, however distant, on the grounds that key religious duties must remain exclusively, a masculine domain.

Such notions, however, are slowly eroding in the face of the realities of modern life.

Daughters have taken on many of the same roles as sons, with the average middleclass family strewn with numerous examples of daughters who become the bulwark for the parents, especially in old age and sickness, a role that again was once reserved for the son.

Looking at the changing and more gender-neutral roles in today’s times, it is necessary to recognise that females possess an equal right to perform and participate in the last rites of their parents and whether or not they want to be a part of the funeral procession, is a matter of choice and the power to make that choice should only vest in the women. It is high time and there is an indispensable need to let go off stereotypical and patriarchal norms that bind and cage women, depriving them of their rights. The recent incident of Coonoor Chopper Crash, the last rites of the CDS Rawath and his wife Madhulika was performed by their two surviving daughters; also of Brig. Lidder was performed by his only daughter. This is covered and highlighted by the media. Performance of last rites by women is at the verge of acceptance by the society as a whole.

In a society that went from letting women enjoy certain rights to rendering them devoid of any rights, walking on the path of transformation, the debate for the equal rights of males and females is ceaseless. Each day brings about a new struggle for obtaining and securing these rights. Even though the change has been gradual, it would be unfair to say that the situation has not changed for the better in contemporary times and it is the relentless efforts of those who refuse to sit back and accept patriarchy that continue to pave the road further.

Indian actress and TV presenter Mandira Bedi recently hit the headlines for performing her husband’s last rites. Though it caused great unease among the conservative Indians, she won praise for standing up to patriarchy even while grieving.

Popular author and columnist, Shobhaa De, wrote that this act challenged the archaic norms governing our society for centuries and sent out a charged and powerful message of anti-patriarchy. The shackles caging women broke as the flames from the pyre touched the sky.

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Policy & Politics

eGrocers seize the day as orders rise 40% amid third wave

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In the ongoing third wave of Covid-19 one industry tops it all with high revenue generation based on more than enough orders to double their size of operation. eGrocers are riding the Corona wave high with record number of orders rising in the third wave and inevitably increasing the rate of their operations. Since December the online grocer Blinkit has added 200 “dark stores” that are designed only for deliveries in ten minutes.The company now plans to take the number to 1000 by March. Reliance owned MilkBasket is more than doubling its warehousing capacity to almost 350,000 sq ft in NCR to cater to 1,50,000 orders a day, double the current order size. In the midst of the growing Covid-19 cases while the brick and mortar retailers and dine-in restaurants are holding out on their expansion plans, online grocers like Blinkit and MilkBasket are going all out on aggressively pushing to take advantage of the growing demand for quick online deliveries. Even at the time of the first and second wave the online grocers had been in the works to expand their operations as millions of Indians gravitated to digital commerce. However the ongoing third wave has made the push on market capitalisation more aggressive and ambitious. “One thing has changed in this wave that our pace of expansion has doubled,” said Rohit Sharma head of supply chain at Blinkit.

The main rival of Blinkit, Tata owned BigBasket is planning to launch BB Now, its express delivery service of delivering products in 10-20 minutes, joining the growing space of quick commerce. Currently Blinkit, Swiggy’s Instamart, Dunzo and Zepto are active in that space. T K Balakumar, chief operating officer at Big Basket said his company is planning to increase its existing warehousing capacity by 40%. They are also planning to open more than 300 dark stores in the coming financial year starting April.

During the ongoing Covid wave the orders in various cities have gone up by 30-40%, said the online grocers. Milkbasket is currently catering to about 70,000 orders per day in the NCR. Its new 150,000 sq ft warehouse in the region will be ready by next month. “There is excess demand. They are already running 110% of capacity,” said a person familiar with MilkBaskets’ plans. MilkBasket operates in Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai and is set to enter Jaipur later this month.

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India-assisted projects launched for Mauritius by PMs Modi and Jugnauth

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During a virtual event on January 20, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Mauritius counterpart Pravind Kumar Jugnauth jointly opened an India-assisted social housing project in Mauritius. The two leaders also opened a civil service college and an 8-MW solar power project in Mauritius, both of which are being funded by India, as per the external affairs ministry. According to the ministry, a bilateral agreement for the implementation of modest development projects was exchanged, as well as an agreement to grant a $190 million line of credit from India to Mauritius for the Metro Express Project and other infrastructure projects. The news follows Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s tour to Indian Ocean countries like Sri Lanka, Comoros, and the Maldives, during which the Chinese side disclosed a number of business initiatives. Mauritius is an important aspect of India’s “Neighbourhood First” strategy, with New Delhi supporting a variety of projects in the African island nation. India supplied immunizations and medical supplies to Mauritius during the initial stages of the Covid-19 outbreak.. Last February, India, and Mauritius signed a free trade agreement aimed at making the island nation a regional center for Indian investments, and New Delhi offered a $100 million line of credit to cover defense gear purchases. Both governments decided to lease a Dornier plane and a Dhruv advanced light chopper to monitor Mauritius’ exclusive economic zone at the time.The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Pact (CECPA) between India and Mauritius was the country’s first free trade agreement with an African nation.

METRO EXPRESS PROJECT

PM Modi and his Mauritian counterpart Jugnauth jointly launched phase-I of the rail transportation line between India and Mauritius in 2019. The Light Rail Transit System Project represents a watershed moment in Indo-Mauritian ties, delivering significant economic benefits to both countries. In addition, the project provided engineering and technical skill development possibilities for the island nation. According to Rajeev Jyoti, Chief Executive of L&T, the construction company that won the contract from the Government of Mauritius, the large-scale investment also established India’s credibility in the international railway market. The first phase comprised the construction of a 26-kilometer railway with 19 stations connecting Curepipe and Immigration Square in Port Louis. Two of the stations were described as cutting-edge. Three major bus interchanges are included in the alignment, making it a multi-modal urban transit system. The bilateral flagship program was expanded in June 2021 with the start of phase-II, which runs from Rose Hill to the Quatre Bornes sector. PM Modi and PM Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the Metro Express corridor, “providing a safe, secure, dependable, and efficient method of transit in Mauritius,” according to the Indian embassy in Mauritius. Three major bus interchanges are included in the alignment, making it a multi-modal urban transit system. The bilateral flagship program was expanded in June 2021 with the start of phase-II, which runs from Rose Hill to the Quatre Bornes sector. PM Modi and PM Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the Metro Express corridor, “providing a safe, secure, dependable, and efficient method of transit in Mauritius,” according to the Indian embassy in Mauritius.

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Policy & Politics

5G dispute: Major airlines cancel, change flights to US

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Major international airlines, Wednesday rushed to cancel, change and reshuffle their flights heading into the US due to an ongoing dispute over the rollout of 5G mobile phone technology near most of the American airports. This issue has impacted airlines like the Dubai-based Emirates, Japan’s All Nippon Airways and India’s Air India to name a few.

The 5G issue seems to have impacted Boeing 777 – the long-range, wide-body aircraft used by carriers globally. It has been found that two Japanese airlines have said that Boeing is being affected by the 5G signals and have announced cancellations and changes in their flight schedules.

Emirates, which has key operations globally, announced that it will be halting flights to cities like Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Florida, Houston, Miami, Newark, New Jersey, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle over the 5G issue beginning Wednesday. However, flight operations to metropolises: New York, Washington and Los Angeles will continue to operate normally.

During the announcement, the Dubai-based airlines cited the cancellation as essential owing to “operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the US at several airports.”

“We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and hope to resume our US services at the earliest,” the state-owned airline said.

Contrary to the US, the United Arab Emirates has successfully rolled out 5G coverage around all its major airport cities without any such incident.

Meanwhile, in the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is bothered about the C-Band strand of 5G that could interfere with aviation equipment. However, as of now, Boeing 777, which is the major workhorse for Emirates, appears to be of particular concern in the 5G rollout plans.

According to All Nippon Airways (ANA), the FAA has indicated that radio waves from the 5G wireless service may interfere with aircraft altimeters. An altimeter is a key piece of equipment that is used to measure the height at which a plane is flying.

“Boeing has announced flight restrictions on all airlines operating the Boeing 777 aircraft, and we have cancelled or changed the aircraft for some flights to and from the US, based on the announcement by Boeing,” ANA said.

Similarly, another airline from Japan, the Japan Airlines Co. Ltd has said that they were informed regarding the 5G signals installed near the airports that may interfere with the radio altimeter installed on the Boeing 777. Amidst all these issues, the Chicago-based Boeing Co. refused to comment or give a statement on it.

Meanwhile, Air India also took to Twitter, to announce that they are cancelling flights to Chicago, Newark, New York and San Francisco as the 5G communications equipment have been deployed in these cities. The Indian air carrier said that they will try to use a different aircraft on these US routes.

The cancellations by the aforementioned airlines come at a time when mobile phone carriers like Verizon and AT&T have postponed new wireless services near some of the proposed airports in the US. Their installations were planned for this week.

Meanwhile, the FAA has decided to allow planes with precise, reliable altimeters to fly around high-power 5G installations. It also said that planes with older altimeters will not be allowed to make landings under low-visibility conditions.

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LONG INTERVAL NEEDED FOR SMALL BUSINESSES TO BOUNCE BACK

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The effects of COVID-19 were on all the sectors but it dreadfully impacted the small business and entrepreneurs. The widespread closing of stores and businesses in India and around the world due to the coronavirus is unprecedented. Stores, factories, and many other businesses have closed by policy mandate, downward demand shifts, health concerns, or other factors. Many of these closures may be permanent because of the inability of owners to pay ongoing expenses and survive the shutdown. The impact on small businesses around the world is severe.

The survey, conducted by data firm Dun & Bradstreet has shown 82 per cent of businesses have experienced a negative impact during pandemic year. The survey was conducted among over 250 companies, evenly split between the manufacturing and services industries, having a turnover of Rs 100-250 crore yearly.

Over two-thirds, or 70 per cent, said it will take them nearly a year to recover demand levels prior to Covid-19. Over the past year, India has emerged to be one of the worst-affected nations globally by the Covid-19 pandemic. The resultant lockdowns, which are springing up again across the country with rise in cases, have an impact on the economic front as demand disappears along with a dip in income generation.

Post-Covid, the majority of small businesses have been looking to sell themselves due to issues such as health issues, lockdown-related challenges, working capital issues, etc. Even as small businesses were hit hardest due to Covid, which reportedly led to the closure or temporary shutdown of some of these units, there is no official data on the number of such shutdowns.

Micro and small enterprises are looking to sell themselves, the scenario at the ecosystem level seems to be moving towards recovery. However, beauty & wellness, which included salons, apparel, footwear and jewellery were yet to catch up to the pre-pandemic levels of sale.

The Government realizes the difficulties faced by the business owners and start-ups to establish and run them. To ease the burden and encourage new business setup and startups, the Government has launched various schemes for business. The Union Government of India has launched schemes specifically for helping the business in India.

While it was difficult for smalll business to survive, as the consumers remained home to stop spread of virus, many had to go creative to run their business. Although many failed, others survived using their innovative operation plans .

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Policy & Politics

REVERSE THE 32-YEAR EXILE OF KASHMIRI PANDITS

Kashmiri Pandits are longing to return to the Valley

ASHOK BHAN

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If there is a consensus across all the national and regional political Parties in the Country that is for safe & secured return of seven hundred thousand exiled Kashmiri Pandit Community back in the Valley-Their Homeland.Why the current union and LG government does not act to facilitate the return,rehabilitation and empowerment of these aborigines natives back to their roots in Kashmir Valley is a big question.?This is the right time to Reverse their exile and restore their rights of life,liberty and spiritual heritage in their homeland.They urge the PM Act with large hearted ness and with pride to respect the national consensus.Modi Government needs to plan a time bound return action plan and demonstrate statesmanship as the late Prime Minister -Inder K. Gujral who said: “If the nation’s coffers have to be emptied for dignified return and rehabilitation of this illustrious community back in the Valley, still it would be a lesser price for their contribution towards modern Indian State.

It reflects badly on the current regime that Kashmir today is without Kashmir Pandits. Realities are, at times harsh and strange. Kashmiri Pandits, the aborigine of Kashmir, are out in exile, in this modern age of reason and enlightenment. The forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, designed to effect the motivated ethnic cleansing, will go down in the history of these aborigines of Kashmir as a continuation of the persecution and genocide facing for hundreds of years and the atrocities were peaked during despotic rule of Muslim tyrant kings.

Acute fear and scare had been created which gripped the Kashmiri Pandits from September 1989 onwards after killings of prominent members of the community.

The local government abdicated its constitutional duties and left the citizenry at the mercy of the terrorists who killed scores of Muslims and Pandits.Gun wielding terrorists had a free play.Killing one and scaring a thousand was the strategy of terrorists for selective Pandits. in 1989-90 an orchestrated campaign was unleashed on the loudspeakers of mosques around -“O Kafiro Kashmir Chod Do. Pandits started feeling what they had felt when hounded by Afgans in the second half of the 18th century —-The killers roamed around unchallenged that created fear and dread in the city. The aborigines native exodus was engineered under a concerted plan scripted and executed by the local terrorists that created death,destruction and disorder dominant around.

The terrorists maimed, killed, lynched and looted a large number of Kashmiri Pandits. The terror-stricken Pandits ran for life, leaving their homes and hearths behind them.

They sought refuge in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere in the country. The cleansing process was completed and now the Kashmir Valley has a very small number of Kashmiri Pandits

How will the present as well as future generations realise that Kashmir is the keystone of our heritage through millennia, finding mention even in our oldest scriptures?

Kashmiri Pandits have rich heritage and their roots are engraved in the soil of the Valley for more than five thousand years which can neither be destroyed nor obliterated by any power,more so by unleashing terror and vicious campaign. But the ground reality in today’s free India and new age of enlightenment is —Aborigines Kashmiri Pandit Community is in exile for last thirty two years(32yrs)

Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India, and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that students on graduating from Kashi would take four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning. Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.

Rajatarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhana in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east. How many Indians have even heard his name? How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashoka the Great?

Mahayana Buddhism was spread across mid Asia, China and Japan by Kashmiri monks. Patanjali gifted his yog sutra to humanity his. Sarangadeva is considered the father of both Hindustani and Carnatic music. Acharya Abhinav Gupta, one of the greatest scholars of all times, wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned Abhinav Bharti. His principles of ras are being taught in 80 universities around the world. But the irony is that they did not get any respite even in the bright days of the enlightened times, especially in the post-independent days of India.

Whatever be the vicissitudes of their history all pale into insignificance when we look at their present plight. The colossal crisis through which the exiled community or for that matter the entire Kashmiri society is passing through is in reality the crisis in the country’s great values — the perversion in practise of its constitutional jurisprudence, the socio-political and moral norms.

The native Kashmiris have entered in the 32nd year of exile. Pandits are longing for return to their roots. They say bidding farewell to the soil they have sprung from is too traumatic as experience to be conveyed in words. They always say — “we love our homeland and every inch of its bounteous soil has nourished us all”.The everyday resolve of these hapless Kashmiris is — strive, struggle and stop not till the exile is reversed and they return back to their homeland on their own terms.

The successive Central as well as state governments have done precious little for the return and rehabilitation of this community, which has contributed in a big way to the freedom struggle of India against the British imperialism, and also to the national reconstruction in the post-Independent era. It is a community whose history generates envy at their achievements as well as sorrow at their plight today. The long history of these exiled Kashmiris has been of triumphs and tragedies. The antiquity of the Kashmiri natives and its Aryan origin are well established. Human memory is short and so is, unfortunately, the memory of our leaders, especially of the current dispensation. It was I.K. Gujral as Prime Minister who said: “If the nation’s coffers have to be emptied for dignified return and rehabilitation of this illustrious community back in the Valley, still it would be a lesser price for their contribution towards modern Indian State.

From 1989-90 till date the exiled Kashmiri Pandit groups across the globe are relentlessly striving as a mission for reversal of exile and restoration of their roots There is no one at the political level, not even the PM and the home minister or at bureaucratic level, prepared to stick their neck out and assure and commit any actionable time bound plan to restore the homeland ,dignity and honour to Kashmiri Pandits.

After the inoperability of Article 370 and bifurcation of JK State into two Union Territories,hopes and expectations that the Current government would pay serious attention to the plight and future of Pandits were sadly belied. The government has not ever consulted the representatives of the exiled natives nor there is any governmental return module/plan in public domain.

The exiled Pandits have been waiting for 32years, hoping that the day of their return with honour, dignity and security to their homeland will come. It has not so far, despite claims of the considerable improvement in the ground situation.

In the meanwhile, the plight of Pandits has been slowly forgotten. Everybody sheds crocodile tears over their suffering, but there is nothing by way of action.

Rootlessness syndrome and despondency is fast gripping.The future of Pandits, as an important stakeholder and component of the Kashmir is less and less talked about.However the hope is never lost.History is replete Pandit’s have always returned back to homeland after every hounding out exodus by tyrant rulers.

There are attempts by various social groups and civil society activists to ensure that the promises made by the nation, to restore the honour and dignity of Pandits, are not forgotten. These groupings are interacting vigorously with leaders of the government,theOpposition political parties and the international public opinion leaders to ensure that this dimension of the Kashmir scenario is not forgotten. The socio-religious leadership of majority community and the groupings those who have for some reason have chosen not to be part of the mainstream are helpful factors towards the return of natives back home.

The return of Pandits to their homeland is achievable ,there is a national consensus and the people of Kashmir are in unison craving /asking for return of natives. The Government of India and the LG administration have to plan out a common and comprehensive return module and enforce the same in time-bound framework. New Delhi has a constitutional and political responsibility to and demonstrate a strong political will. It has to create infrastructures, housing colonies, etc, provide adequate jobs to the educated youth and secure all the religious places, cultural centres and endowments. The greater obligation on the Central and LG governments is to create a conducive economic and socio-political environment for reversing their exile and facilitate their safe and dignified return to their homeland. — their roots and homeland.

If not now then when is what KPs are asking on their exile entering today the 32nd.year.

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Policy & Politics

SPICES BOARD OF CENTRE CONDUCTS MEETING WITH SCIENTIST COMMUNITY AND CHILLI CROP EXPERTS

Meeting done to chalk out strategies to tackle Thrips outbreak in chilli crop in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Chairman, Chilli Task Force Committee, G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, directs agricultural scientists to chalk out strategies to tackle the pest outbreak in chilli crops.

Tarun Nangia

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Severe Thrips attack in Chilli crops in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has seriously affected the crop yield and the chilli farmers are highly distressed and worried about the crop loss, which will add on to their financial burden.

In order to chalk out ways to address the issue caused by the invasive Thrips species the Chairman, Chilli Task Force Committee, G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, MP, conducted a meeting with Scientist community and Chilli crop experts today. Organised by the Central Government’s Spices Board, the meeting was attended by eminent scientists from the ICAR- Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), Dr YSR Agriculture University, ICAR- National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources (NBAIR), Indian Cardamom Research Institute (ICRI), Spices Board; officials from the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage (DPPQS), New Delhi, Horticulture Department from States of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and representatives from Chilli Seed Suppliers.

This video conference, chaired by GVL Narasimha Rao, was a follow up action to last month’s field visit to the pest-infested chilli farms led by him along with teams of scientists from institution and horticulture department to analyse the ground reality. Dr. A.B. Rema Shree, Director, Spices Board welcomed Shri Rao and experts and explained the gravity of the situation during the field visit conducted by a team of experts from IIHR, NBAIR, Spices Board, State agri / horti dept and other stakeholders in Chilli area. The field visits led by Shri Rao enabled the scientist communities to develop strategies / action plan to equip the farmers to prevent the further spread of pest attack and take precautionary measures to protect their crop.

During today’s meeting the detailed deliberation were made by the Crop experts and Scientists. Shri Rao requested the need for coherent and confluent approach to the deal the with attack from invasive pest Thrips parvispinus, in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karanataka other states, wherever this risk is prevailing. He emphasized to focus on developing advisories for farmers on Good Agriculture Practices, and recommend low-cost / affordable materials like blue sticky trap, cultivation of short duration chilli varieties, so that farmers can manage and survive the pest attack till a firm strategy against the pest is jointly prepared by the line departments and institutions. In meantime, Shri GVL Narasimha Rao, requested ICAR-IIHR to take the lead and analyse and screen for chilli varieties that are resistant to thrips attack from the affected plots in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; he directed the IIHR entomologists to screen existing molecules which can be used against thrips and identify natural enemies of thrips with help of other institutes like ICAR-NBAIR.

The major reasons cited for serious infestation by invasive thrips were identified as the indiscriminate usage of pesticides, excessive application of Nitrogenous fertilizers, October-November rains, followed by hot and humid conditions which mediated triggering of thrips, replacement of common chilli thrips Scirtothrips dorsalis by invasive species – Thrips parvispinus, etc.

During the deliberations, the representative of State Agricultural Dept, Andhra Pradesh mentioned that the presence of thrips are now found in mango plantation also, which might affect the yield. It was also pointed out that the fields where the infested chilli crops were removed and Bengal Gram was grown, the latter crop also got infested with the thrips. The Deputy Director, State Horticultural Department, Karnataka mentioned that in major chilli growing belt in the state – Bellary and Raichur, the fruit rot is main issue and farmers have not been much affected by thrips attack, though it is equally damaging the chilli crop. The Director, Spices Board mentioned that due to fruit rot, the Board has received grievances from the Chilli manufactures that during value addition process, the final chilli product is losing its colour, which might affect the export of chilli from the country.

Citing all the observations made during the meeting, Rao asked IIHR and Spices Board to conduct joint training programmes to impart knowledge on Good Agricultural Practices by emphasizing on judicious usage of pesticides, use of Integrated Pest Management techniques, adoption of good hygienic practices in field to prevent as well as withstand the pest as well as disease attack. He also asked the two institutes to draw chilli samples from the market yards and test its quality to analyse and record how the pest and disease attack is affecting the quality of chilli as well as for recording the seriousness of pesticide residue in the final produce due to indiscriminate usage of pesticides from farmers to thrive the thrips attack. He asked the Joint Director (PP), DPPQS, to present the consolidated report by adding points suggested by the scientist community during the meeting, to the Secretary, Agriculture Ministry along with the report prepared by the DPPQS.

The meeting ended with request by GVL Narasimha Rao force to the scientists community to jointly work and share the details such as the publication of thrips attack worldwide in the various crops, the extent to which it caused damage, how the invasive thrip -’Thrips parvispinus’ was introduced in India, consultations with international pest management institutes to identify how various countries are tackling the issue, etc and prepare a consolidated report so that he can discuss it with Ministry of Agricultural and Farmers Welfare before the parliament session begins.

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