- Scholarships benefited over 95 Lakhs Muslims last year
- Punjab to censor Vulgar, Obsene Videos and Songs
- Kerala to combine Ayurveda and Tourism
- Indian Shapoorji Pallonji Group to promote Cricket in Ghana
- Deadlock in Kashmir over Infrastructure Construction for Amarnath Pilgrims
- Voice of Bal Gangadhar Tilak to be heard again
- Indian Dance shines at Edinburgh International Festival
- 74 Indian Army Officers in Pakistan Jails since 1971:
- Bollywood to raise funds for Girl Empowerment in Shabana Azmi’s Fashion Show
- Enforcement Directorate to interrogate Abhishek Verma and Wife
Posted: 23 Aug 2012 07:30 PM PDT
More than 95 lakh Muslim children benefitted under the government’s pre-matric scholarship scheme till the end of March this year.
Minister of State for Minority Affairs Vincent H. Pala gave the information in the Lok Sabha in response to a question.
The minister said, “More than 95 lakh Muslim children benefitted under the pre-matric scholarship scheme from inception of the scheme in 2008-09 till the end of the 11th Five Year Plan, i.e 31-03-2012″.
The allocation has been increased by 50 percent during the current year – “from Rs.600 crore in 2011-12 to Rs.900 crore in 2012-13 in order to cover more minority students under the scheme”.
In response to another question, the minister said that there was no proposal to increase the number of scholarship schemes for students of minority communities.
He said the working group on the 12th Five Year Plan constituted by the Planning Commission has recommended to make the scholarship schemes “demand driven in order to cover all eligible minority students”.
Students can apply online through the Online Scholarship Management System for merit-cum means based scholarship scheme.
Posted: 23 Aug 2012 06:30 PM PDT
With vulgar and obscene content growing in some videos and Punjabi songs, the Punjab government wants to set up a censor board to regulate the content,
Tourism and Cultural Affairs Minister Swaran Singh Phillaur regretted the “vulgar words and lyrics used in the latest songs by some particular singers and the obscenity in the video content of Punjabi songs and movies”.
The vulgar content was diverting the mind and actions of youth from the basic ethos and culture of Punjab, he contended.
“The real Punjabi culture lies in the folk songs, folk instruments, drama, literature and the rich heritage of Punjab,” he said, presiding over a meeting of officers of the cultural affairs department and renowned artists and writers here.
Phillaur said that a censor board for screening the content shown in videos and the lyrics would be set up so that the censored content reaches the public.
He said that there was a need of preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of Punjab by taking certain strategic decisions, including setting up of the censor board.
He said that a cultural policy was being drafted to save Punjabi music from piracy.
Posted: 23 Aug 2012 05:30 PM PDT
Kerala has now set its eyes on pushing tourism centred around ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine and well-being, to the next level by promoting its curative and cosmetic properties.
“Beaches, backwaters, hills and ayurveda are the four pillars of tourism in Kerala. We realise there is still a large potential within ayurveda to attract people to our state,” says state Tourism Secretary Suman Billa.
“So far, when it came to ayurveda, we mainly focused on well-being. But there are also the curative and cosmetic sides, and these are what we now also intend to promote,” Billa told IANS in an interview.
“What we will offer is the art and science of living, and living well.”
He said while ayurvedic massages were hugely popular, attracting tourists from India and abroad, the system also offered cures for ailments such as back pain, rheumatism and psoriasis that needed to be advertised better.
“Similarly, we have also promoted the integration of ayurveda with yoga so that when a tourist goes back after undergoing a treatment, he or she also maintains a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis,” Billa said.
“Surva namaskar, for example, is known to exercise as much as 97 percent of the muscles. So when a person undergoes an ayurvedic therapy, it seeks to restore a balance in your system, and yoga can help in maintaining it.”
Billa said a pilot project would also be started on a public-private partnership mode where all forms of medicine and well-being — allopathy, ayurveda, unani and siddha — will come under one roof to offer an integrated system.
Towards this, he said, 25 acres had already been acquired and that the project would be showcased prominently at the upcoming Emerging Kerala conclave in Kochi in September to attract potential partners.
The location, he said, was at Nelliyampathy in Palaghat district, which is also a popular hill station surrounded by tea and coffee plantations with some breathtaking views.
Billa said Ayurveda was endemic to the entire region but there was now some emerging competition from neighbouring Sri Lanka. This was being countered by branding and maintaining the quality of service, he said.
The Kerala government already extends its approval to treatment-centres and resorts, and rates them as green leaf or olive leaf — five-star and three-star and above categories, respectively — based on the service quality and facilities.
Explaining how well the four pillars of tourism were intertwined in Kerala, Billa said visitors to the state generally seek to experience more than just one of these offerings by the state.
“The average period of stay is 16.1 days for an international visitor and 6.8 days for domestic. You can see the average period of stay is high and allows people to experience more than just a beach, backwater, hill or ayurveda.”
Kerala received 10 million tourists last year, of which 9.2 million were from within India and 800,000 were from overseas. Britain, France, Russia were the main overseas markets.
Posted: 23 Aug 2012 04:30 PM PDT
Accra Indian engineering major Shapoorji Pallonji has pledged $2,631 to promote cricket in Ghana and help it prepare for an international tournament in Western Samoa.
“We appreciate the assistance because it will help us promote a game that has not been popular in the country over a long period,” Ghana Cricket Association (GCA) executive member Francis Asare told IANS.
“The assistance would greatly help us in our preparation for the upcoming tournament,” Asare added. The reference was to the International Cricket Council’s A division tournament in Western Samoa later this year.
Shapoorji Pallonji pledged the 5,000 Cedis ($2,631) through Indian High Commissioner in Ghana Rajinder Bhagat, who said this had helped the GCA organise a four-team tournament to prepare for the international assignment. The tournament began in Accra on August 19 and ends on September 9.
Asare said the GCA has been asked to prepare a proposal for further assistance to promote cricket at the grassroots level. “Since 2007, the GCA has been trying to popularise cricket as a game in the country but has not achieved much recognition.”
He admitted that, cricket has not been played as often as possible in the country. Ghana has been a football country and cricket, which was introduced during the colonial regime, had been played only within some of the elite secondary schools like Achimota School in Accra and in St Augustine’s College, Mfatsipim School and Adisadel College, all in Cape Coast in the Central Region. It however did not become a popular sport after independence.
There are no cricket grounds in the country and it would take a lot to promote the sport among the grassroots. Asare remains undaunted, saying: “We are determined to move the sport up and get more people to take part in it.”
Noting that GCA has taken part in several international tournaments Asare hopes that successes at these would encourage more and more people to turn to it as well as receive support from the government as well.
Shapoorji Pallonji entered the Ghana market in April 2006 for constructing the prestigious “Seat of Government & Presidency” in Accra’s cantonment area. The landmark project is well known for its architectural depth spread over 120 acres, with a built-up area of about 30,000 sq m and with a contract value of about $75 million, of which $30 million was provided by the Indian government. The project was completed in a record 27 months.
The company is also engaged in constructing a branch of the Delhi Public School.
Posted: 23 Aug 2012 03:30 PM PDT
The question of improved amenities for pilgrims to the Amarnath cave shrine has again divided the people of Jammu and those of the Kashmir Valley, with the former urging better infrastructure and the latter bitterly opposing this saying road construction will severely disturb local ecology.
The Supreme Court, taking cognisance of the death of over 100 pilgrims this year en route to the Amarnath shrine, situated at a height of 13,500 feet in the Valley, directed the setting up of a special high-powered committee to suggest measures for better arrangements for the pilgrimage.
The committee, headed by Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra, is expected to submit its report by the first week of September.
The court directed building of infrastructure for the smooth conduct of the pilgrimage, which takes place through difficult mountainous terrain and glaciers.
Separatist Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umer Farooq was the first to protest the provision of better infrastructure for pilgrims, claiming it would disturb the region’s ecology.
The Mirwaiz said that construction of roads and setting up of infrastructure for pilgrims would entail the felling of trees, which will immensely affect the sensitive environment of the area and cause pollution, resulting in the melting of glaciers.
“The administration is taking the protection of the judiciary on this issue, which goes against the interests of the public,” he noted.
Many civil society groups in Kashmir have since supported the Mirwaiz. At least 31 groups with interests in social, academic and environmental issues said in a joint statement: “We strongly believe that the principles of conservation of environment and administrative facilitation as applied to the pilgrimage to holy Gangotri and the larger conservation plans for the holy Ganga river be applied to the pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave Shrine, as was the established practice in the past.”
“Application of uniform principles of conservation and protection are not only necessitated by the imperatives of the National Environment Policy and the National Forest Policy but also emphasized by the uniform standards of judicial principles,” the statement added.
The civil society groups supported administrative measures to ensure good health and well-being of pilgrims, but said: “Construction of roads and cable cars will not help in preventing deaths because of the inherent health risks in high altitude travel.”
This prompted Jammu-based Hindu religious groups and political parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Panthers Party and the Jammu State Morcha to come out in favour of construction of infrastructure for pilgrims.
They accused the state government of “adopting a policy of appeasing the separatists and disrupting the smooth conduct of the Amarnath pilgrimage.” They said that the government was deliberately trying to create a 2008-like situation, when groups in Jammu agitated for over two months to get about 40 hectares of land at a base camp allotted to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. This was widely opposed in the Valley.
The government, in its bid to soothe tempers in the Valley, hurriedly called a press conference Sunday which was addressed by National Conference trouble-shooter and Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather who categorically dismissed reports of constructing a macadem road or installing a ropeway to the Amarnath Shrine.
“The media report quoting the Supreme Court order to construct a road to the cave (Amarnath) is wrong,” he said, adding that a special high-powered committee is working on suggesting measures for better conduct and safety of the pilgrimage. “We will come to know the recommendations of the committee on Sep 10,” he said.
The Congress, the junior coalition partner of the National Conference, which has 13 out of 17 MLAs from the Jammu region, is silent on the issue.
Hindu religious groups accused Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of adopting “anti-Jammu and anti-Hindu policies.”
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) president Rama Kant Dubey said: “Omar has the same stand as during the 2008 Amarnath land row agitation.”
In 2008, Abdullah, who was then a member of the Lok Sabha, had said in the house: “We will not give an inch of our land to the (Shri Amarnath) Shrine Board. Kashmiris have never demolished or desecrated temples. Despite all tensions, they did not touch the Amarnath yatris. We are not communal like you (BJP people). Muslims have always supported the yatra and will continue to do so. The issue was that of land wrested from people. We fought for the land and will continue to fight for the land”
VHP president Dubey dug his heels in. “We will not allow anyone to play with our religious sentiments,” he said.
Posted: 23 Aug 2012 02:30 PM PDT
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was one of the stalwarts of the Indian freedom struggle and had given the ringing call: “Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it.” Now, 92 years after his death, the booming voice of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak will be heard for the first time Friday, thanks to the discovery here of a long-forgotten audio-tape.
Tilak had given the call at a public rally in April 1916, four years before his untimely death. It served to inspire his colleagues and the next generation of freedom fighters to finally ensure the end of the British rule over India, but he did not live to see the dawn of history which unfolded 27 years after his demise.
Though Tilak has been widely read through his books and newspaper editorials in the Kesari newspaper – and written about over the past century – he has never been ‘heard’ after his passing away, said his great-grandson Deepak J. Tilak, living in the family’s ancestral property, Kesariwada.
Now, thanks to an accidental discovery of a recorded tape, Tilak will be finally heard by the current and future generations, Deepak J. Tilak said.
“It was way back on Sep. 21, 1915, during the famous Kesari Ganeshotsav celebrations, my great-grandfather has organised a music concert in (the sprawling 50,000 square feet) Kesariwada,” Deepak J. Tilak told IANS.
One of the invitees at the concert was a businessman from Karachi in the then undivided India, Sheth Laxmichand Narang.
The well-to-do Narang had an expensive hobby (by the standards of those days) – of recording all the concerts and music programmes wherever and whenever he could.
The Kesari Ganeshotsav was a much looked-forward-to event in Pune’s annual cultural calendar and Narang promptly attended it, accompanied by his recording machine.
Stalwarts like the late Master Krishnarao, Bal Gandharva and Devgandharva Bhaskar Bakhlebuva were performing before a highly receptive audience, Deepak J. Tilak said, quoting from records and the stories he heard from his parents and grandparents.
Needless to mention, Kesariwada was packed to capacity, with the audience demanding encores by the singers.
After Master Krishnarao and Bal Gandharva completed their recitals, it was Bakhlebuva’s turn, but by then the audience had become restless and boisterous.
“There was a lot of noise and disturbance, apparently preventing the master from singing. It was then that a loud booming voice was heard asking the assembled audience to keep quiet or get out,” 60-year-old Deepak J. Tilak said.
It was the towering personality of Lokmanya Tilak who came on stage and said in Marathi: “I want everybody to listen to the programme silently. If anybody creates any trouble, I shall not tolerate it. Such people can leave the place, but the scheduled programme must continue. That is my wish.”
After this chiding by their revered leader, the audience fell silent and the enthralling programme continued undisturbed – and the matter was forgotten.
“A few days ago, everything suddenly came back in a pleasantly unexpected manner,” said Deepak J. Tilak with a smile.
Pune-based Marathi vocalist Shaila Datar was searching for some very old musical records of her grandfather-in-law, Bakhlebuva.
She was referred to one Mukesh Narang, the grandson of Sheth Laxmichand Narang, who has been living in Pune since the Aug 15, 1947, partition.
Mukesh Narang had inherited a treasure trove of old musical records, pictures and other paraphernalia from his grandfather which he shared with Shaila Datar.
In one of the old recordings, she heard the hitherto unrecognized booming voice at the Kesariwada concert, but Mukesh Narang could not identify him.
She then approached Deepak J. Tilak, who also drew a blank since he had never heard Lokmanya Tilak’s voice.
“However, we decided to check out other historical records. We found the reference to that evening’s concert in the Kesari archives, where it was mentioned how Lokmanya Tilak controlled the restless gathering that evening,” Deepak J. Tilak said.
Another reference was traced in a book, “Devgandharva”, on the life and times of Bakhlebuva, which mentioned the events of that evening and how Lokmanya Tilak managed to control the situation.
“Thereafter, in the past few weeks, Shaila Datar and others got down to the task of reviving and resurrecting that valuable old tape – the only authentic audio recording, though unintentional, of Lokmanya Tilak’s voice,” a proud Deepak J. Tilak said.
The family has decided to share this little bit of history with Punekars at a special programme organised in Kesariwada on Aug 24 evening before a select gathering.
The date coincides with the Hindu calendar equivalent to when Lokmanya Tilak’s voice was recorded 97 years ago – and forgotten.
With the voices of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and others available, all the descendents of Lokmanya Tilak, mostly settled in Kesariwada, are happy at the development and the small addition to India’s well-known history.
Posted: 23 Aug 2012 01:30 PM PDT
Contemporary Indian dance drew much attention at the just-concluded Edinburgh International Festival, among the few international festivals dedicated solely to performing arts.
A troupe led by Kathak exponent Aditi Mangaldas represented Indian dance with two recitals – one traditional and the other contemporary – in the Scottish town last week. The response from the audience was effusive, according to reports received here.
Contemporary dance in India, unlike in the west, has evolved from classical roots. Over the last 60 years, traditional dances have moved beyond the confines of temples to the proscenium. A group of early experimentalists in the 1950s, all accomplished classical dancers, worked around traditional performance styles and introduced chorus-type group dances with free-flowing movements.
Dancer Jayachandran Palazhy in his treatise “Performing Arts in India: Dance and Theatre” observes that “today an artist’s engagements are often outside structured and institutional set-ups”.
“Students of dance are seeking diverse inputs in their education that was virtually impossible a few years ago. Training in established forms of dance as well as other physical traditions such as martial arts, sports and body care systems from qualified teachers and institutions…experimenting with one’s own peers, learning from videos or through the Internet and being influenced by styles that are seemingly at opposing ends of the spectrum, are all part of the dance activity in the country,” Jayachandran says.
Jayachandran, who has spent several years training abroad, links the rise in the popularity of contemporary dance in India to the opening up of the Indian economy, easy access to the Internet, increased mobility and the change in attitude towards the emerging arts as career options.
Experts say while in the west, contemporary dances drew on elements from modern and post-modern dances together with elements from classical ballet and deconstruction by icons like Martha Graham, in India pioneers like Rabindranath Tagore and Uday Shankar broke through conventions to give traditional dance a contemporary colour in the early 20th century.
According to Kathak guru Vikram Iyenger, Tagore brought the grace of Manipuri, the precision of Bharatanatyam and the drama of Kathakali to create the “Rabindra Nritya” stylised fusion at Shantiniketan. “But I think the father of all Indian contemporary dance is Uday Shankar. He was the one who followed his heart to assemble material from different dance forms to create a new idiom. Before Uday Shankar, Tagore’s style was the precursor of contemporary dance in India,” Kathak exponent Shovana Narayan told IANS.
“Most dancers have basic training in a traditional style, which is later amalgamated with a western style. Contemporary dance with classical roots is now finding its own space. Even in the west, it did not evolve overnight; the movement took 150 years to evolve,” Narayan says.
“I am satisfied with the contemporary style in the Kathak idiom,” says the danseuse, who draws from Kathakali, Bharatanatyam, Manipuri and Chhau and also moves from Kalaripayattu to narrate new stories about changing times.
One of the pioneers of the contemporary dance movement was Chandralekha, whose unique style could not be copied after her death, says Bharatanatyam veteran Prathibha Prahlad. The Chennai-based Chandralekha used “dasi attam” – a form of temple dance – with yoga and Kalaripayattu in her contemporary minimalistic productions to talk about social angst and freedom. Chandralekha was often known to describe her productions as “celebrations of the human body”.
“If you look at the growth of contemporary dance in India, most of the practitioners are classical dancers. After rooting itself in classical dance, the dance style took to contemporary forms as a rebel movement,” Prahlad told IANS.
There is a strong sense of style in Indian contemporary dance, Prahlad says. The dancer modernises her content in the framework of Bharatanatyam. Prahlad interprets Krishna in “Call of the Flute” in the backdrop of the rural-urban divide in a new contemporary India. Krishna wants to return to his flute, village and Radha – the symbols of the countryside he left behind.
History and cataclysmic events like the two World Wars, along with literature and folk traditions, find expression in contemporary dance in India, says Odissi exponent Sonal Mansingh. “The technical aspect plays a huge part in the contemporary Indian dance; the music is a mix of tabla and jazz. But the inspirations for the body language are from other Indian dances,” Mansingh told IANS.
“I have been on the stage for 50 years. I am always contemporary, because I live in contemporary times,” Sonal Mansingh signs off.
Posted: 23 Aug 2012 12:30 PM PDT
Ahead of the talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, the government Thursday said 74 Indian defence personnel, including 54 prisoners of war, are believed to be in Pakistani jails since 1971, but Islamabad has not acknowledged it so far.
“As on Aug 16, 2012, as many as 233 Indian civilian prisoners, 81 Indian fishermen and 74 missing defence personnel, including 54 PoWs, are believed to be in Pakistani jails,” Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed told the Rajya Sabha.
The government has repeatedly taken up the matter with Pakistan through diplomatic channels and during high-level contacts for the release of Indian PoWs believed to be in that country, he added.
Ahamed, however, stressed that Pakistan does not acknowledge the presence of any Indian PoWs in its custody.
Five years ago, Pakistan finally agreed to receive a delegation of relatives of missing defence personnel to permit them to visit prisons there where the prisoners are believed to be incarcerated.
The delegation visited 10 jails from June 1-14, 2007, but “could not conclusively confirm the physical presence of the Indian PoWs,” said Ahamed.
The issue of missing defence personnel was discussed again at May 24-25 home secretary-level talks and the July 4-5 talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries.
The issue of prisoners in each other’s country will figure in the talks between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in Islamabad next month.
Posted: 23 Aug 2012 11:20 AM PDT
Bollywood celebrities like Deepika Padukone, Karan Johar and Imran Khan would participate in a Fashion Show in order to promote the clothes made by Girls of Mijwan Welfare Society, an NGO floated by former actress Shabana Azmi.
Mijwan Welfare Society works for the empowerment of the girl child in rural India, and will hold the Mijwan Sonnets In Fabric for the third consecutive year. It will be held at the Grand Hyatt here Sep 3.
“This year is particularly significant because it is the culmination of a process started three years ago when we first started our partnership with Manish Malhotra.
“Like the two previous years, Bollywood stars will walk the ramp for Manish Malhotra. But this year they will showcase the craftsmanship of our girls from Mijwan. It is a huge boost for them to be pulled out of oblivion and have 23 reigning stars of Bollywood wear their creations,” Shabana said in a statement.
“I’m overwhelmed by the support we have received from the film, fashion and sports fraternity, who have come forward once again to walk the ramp at this very special event,” she added.
Among the confirmed names to be present at the event are Amy Jackson, Arjun Kapoor, Chiraag Paswan, Chitrangada Singh, Dia Mirza, Imtiaz Ali, Kalki Koechlin, Kunal Kapoor, Malaika Arora Khan, Neha Dhupia, Parineeti Chopra, Prateik, Rohit Roy, Rohit Shetty, Sameera Reddy, Shahana Goswami,Shahzanne Padamsee and Yuvraj Singh.
“There are a couple of surprises too but let’s hold on to the suspense! Wait and watch,” said Shabana.
The 61-year-old, who associates herself with various social causes, is making more efforts to improve the quality of education for the MWS girls.
She said the girls “are learning English through Skype from US under the auspices of the Ann Foundation. We propose to expand this programe further to start a full-fledged Diploma course.
“Processes are underway to start a technical institute so Mijwan becomes the centre around which a lot of satellite villages and small towns can learn skills that will generate employment.”
Posted: 23 Aug 2012 10:30 AM PDT
Delhi court has sent businessman Abhishek Verma and his wife to four days custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for questioning in a money laundering case.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gautam Manan ruled against Verma and his Romanian wife Anca Maria Neascu. They were arrested in the case Wednesday.
Verma, also an accused in the 2006 naval war room case, had earlier sought permission from the court to surrender in the money laundering case but the ED said they would arrest them.
The businessman and his wife are also facing trial in separate corruption and forgery cases.
The naval war room case is linked to the leak of classified documents from the Directorate of Naval Operations.
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