made it her business to aim high
give me some back-up
To integrate Ladakhis into the national mainstream and to provide them wholesome education, the Army has opened more than a dozen schools in Ladakh, reports Vijay Mohan
IN the remote, mountainous Ladakh, the Army has opened a window to the rest of the world for the local populace, which has by and large been living in a world of deprivation and destitution.
Under Operation Sadbhavana, Leh-based 14 Corps has set up a number of Army Goodwill Schools (AGSs) to provide education to students from remote villages. These schools aim for the all-round development of students and strive to groom them as enterprising and contributing members of society.
"The idea behind setting up these schools is to nurture and guide the young generation of locals and pull them out of the morass of illiteracy," a spokesperson for 14 Corps Headquarters said. "Army Goodwill Schools aim at awakening the young Ladakhi mind to a new consciousness by providing them with quality education. Unless they are mentally well equipped and responsive, developmental schemes introduced in the region would be wasted on them," he added.
Operation Sadbhavana was launched in what is perhaps the most difficult and inhospitable terrain in the world. It aims to integrate the local populace of Ladakh into the national mainstream. Going by the principle that the core element of national security is human security, which can only be attained through development and progress, the operation will focus on primary education, women empowerment, human resource development and information technology coupled with health care and rural development.
At present, 14 such schools are being run by 14 Corps. These are located in Partapur, Tyakshi, Bugdang, Karu, Dras, Badgam, Channigund, Kaksar, Darchik, Budhkharbu, Lalung, Harkabahadur, Tambis and Batalik. Similar schools are also being run by other Army formations in Jammu and Kashmir.
All these schools are recognised by the Jammu and Kashmir Government’s Department of Education and the teaching pattern is based upon the curriculum prescribed by the Central Board of Secondary Education. All schools provide education up to Class-VIII except AGS at Harkabahadur, which is up to Class-X.
In all 1,514 students are currently enrolled in these schools. This translates to an average of about 100 students in each school, which, Army officers say, is a fairly good number considering the remoteness of the region and the ruggedness of the inhospitable terrain.
From these schools, four students each have been sent to Army Public School in Beas and Sainik School in Nagrota, seven to Vidya Devi Jindal School in Hisar and 17 students to Sarhad in Pune, thus giving them an opportunity for higher studies and further expanding their horizons.
Army Goodwill Schools employ qualified staff to fulfil their endeavour to impart quality education. A total of 101 teachers and 24 administrative staff members are serving in these schools. To upgrade the technical experience and hone the skills of the faculty, regular workshops and training capsules are organised. Recently, a workshop for local teachers was organised at Vasant Valley School in New Delhi.
Though a nominal fee is charged from students, free education is imparted to orphans or those from economically weaker families. Morning tea and mid-day meals as well as transportation is provided free of cost to all students. Hostel facility also exists in some of the schools.
The Internet and computer training aids have been installed in all schools. This encourages students to try out the self-help methods of learning. The schools also have extensive games and recreational facilities, including libraries. Music and dance classes, sports and physical activities, painting and quiz competitions, debates, excursions, various cultural activities and inter-school competitions are regular features in all AGSs. Meets between different schools are also organised from time to time to promote interaction among students.
Extra classes are held to help weak students and coaching is provided to take entrance examinations for Sainik Schools and Rashtriya Indian Military College. Another noticeable feature of AGSs is the periodic medical and dental examination of students.
Students are also sent on annual excursions to cities of historical and cultural importance like Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Chandigarh. These trips give them an exposure to the rich heritage of the country and an opportunity to interact with people from different regions. Trips to metropolitan cities like Mumbai give them a glimpse of a lifestyle vastly different from their own.
Recently, students from the Nubra valley, adjacent to Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield, had the opportunity to interact with the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Poonam Batth meets Chandigarh-based entrepreneur Ved Nanda, who’s battling cancer but continues to meet her targets with verve
NEVER give up. Follow your self-set goals passionately and do not get deterred by difficulties at any step. This is what Ved Nanda, a successful woman entrepreneur, staunchly believes in.
This 62-year-old spirited lady has marched ahead boldly despite hurdles on the way. Nanda has been suffering from breast cancer for the past one year but that hasn’t stopped her from giving her best shot to her work. A relentless worker all her life, she has just come out with the 12th edition of her dream project — Chandigarh Yellow Pages — which provides you with the latest city data in the form of a directory. It’s a rich source of information for residents of the city as well as entrepreneurs and multinational companies setting up base in Chandigarh.
"The task of collecting the latest data was not easy with my sickness this time as I had to often go for chemotherapy. But my husband and the staff went out of their way to make hundreds of tele-calls and meet people and consult directories to update the data," she said, maintaining that her wide contact base stood her in good stead. Nanda is now giving the finishing touches to a children’s manual — Chandigarh Child — which will be released on November 14 this year. Its contents include articles of academicians like the role of school, teachers, grandparents and parents in a child’s life and issues pertaining to child psychology and health. The highlight of the manual would be the helpline which, like the Yellow Pages, would provide contact numbers and addresses of anything concerning children like cr`E8ches, paediatricians, chemists, fast-food joints, ice cream parlours, gift centres, etc. In short, it will have all that parents look for while raising kids, says Nanda.
"My daughter Manu motivated us to start printing Yellow Pages for Chandigarh after she saw such a guide in the US. Though it was my son Naresh who first took up the project in 1994, I have been handling it since 1998. I now intend bringing out something regularly for Punjab too.
Strange are the ways of destiny, says Nanda. "My eight-year-old granddaughter Janvi is also fighting leukaemia in the US ever since she was two years old but my husband and I have taken her illness too as a source of inspiration. Many of our projects, including the manual on children, have been dedicated to her. We do believe that you should ‘never let yesterday’s disappointments overshadow tomorrow’s dreams’."
Nanda is also managing Cal-C, a computer centre in Chandigarh which is supported by the Punjab Government, for imparting training to government employees.
This full-of-life woman has travelled a long distance: from being a high school teacher to making a name for herself in business circles. In 1978, she quit teaching to start her business, a desire she had nurtured for long. She initially worked as distributor of Bombay Dyeing products from her garage with an initial investment of Rs 5,000. Things began to look up in 1978 when she started supplying uniforms in bulk for nurses in the PGI. She notched up record sales for Bombay Dyeing and soon opened a showroom in Sector 22. Subsequently, she took the dealership of Melmoware, Borosil and Milton. Taken in by her hard work and success, her husband J.L Nanda quit his job as Regional Manager of a nationalised bank and helped her in business.
But that’s not all. Nanda is also a perfect homemaker and makes it a point to cook all her meals and maintain a neat place, relying little on domestic help. She spends her leisure time writing poetry and loves to dabble in palmistry. "If I can make a difference to someone’s life then why not," she says while advocating that elders should continue to do something productive till health permits and not sit idle and be dependent on others for their needs.
A social worker too, Nanda has formed an institute called Sankalp to impart training to needy and deserving women in art and craft. She is the chairperson of the Indian Council for Women Entrepreneurs (ICWE). The idea of assisting other women entrepreneurs came to her after she attended the SAARC seminar on women in industry at Jaipur in 1988. Nanda was instrumental in forming the Punjab chapter of the ICWE. She has also started Nari Pehchaan, a publication dealing with issues pertaining to women, a cause that is dear to her.
Nanda has many awards to her credit: she has been honoured by FICCI, the Patiala Chambers of Commerce and the Indian Solidarity Council in recognition of her work in social and economic sphere. Nanda, however, doesn’t like to rest on her laurels. She enjoys setting new targets for herself everyday.
Working hard and remaining focused is Nanda’s mantra for success. She says that success is not about working long hours but about being self-motivated and putting in your best to see your ideas come through. Sincerity and patience pay in life, is the belief of this feisty woman.
Just give me
THIS may qualify as oversharing, but I just got my period. Presumably, then, a new over-the-counter test soon available through bioFusion would be able to tell me for how much longer I will be fertile.
But then, like most halfway-educated Western women, I am not an idiot. Childless at 48, I know I am closing on menopause, whose average onset is 51. I know that my chances of conceiving have been in nosedive since 35.
Fertility is fiddly, and the introduction of a glorified egg-timer runs the risk of giving women a sense of false certainty. A partner’s low potency, miscarriage (more common as we age), other reproductive health problems such as endometriosis, and plain bad luck can also imperil a pregnancy. True, for some women being able to look over at the bed stand and see the wand of their biological clock set clearly at, say, 44 may impel them to move on the baby business sooner. I know that when my alarm is set especially early, I can’t sleep.
Yet the many women who put off pregnancy these days are not necessarily deluded about how much time they have left to procreate. Nor are young so-called career women (isn’t it interesting, that there’s no such thing as a "career man"?) necessarily determined to be egotistically "fulfilled," family be damned. Indeed, one of the ugly surprises for the post-liberation females of my own generation was that work is, well, work. Most jobs entail tiring, boring drudgery, and are anything but fun. So why do it? Why not stay home and make little Britneys and Jamies? Get real! Have you looked at your mortgage payment lately? They need the money! Few young men these days assume that they’ll carry the full weight of breadwinning, nor should they; that arrangement was never fair to men, either. And unless one partner has a heavy-hitting job, it’s extremely difficult for a couple to survive financially without both of you in work.
This notion that women can quit the workforce for years to raise children and then pop back into the same employment once the kids are in school is the stuff of fantasy. Do men with gaping holes in their CVs make as attractive job applicants as go-getters with a seamless track record? If a woman does have a career that’s starting to take off, the most disastrous thing she can do is get pregnant. (When my editor for a soon-to-be-published novel announced to me that she was pregnant, I nearly cried. She was on maternity leave during the vital lead-up to publication, and on release the book did nothing. A year later, she was sacked.) Women still do more than their share of housework and childcare. Mums are still under far greater pressure than dads to put other ambitions nobly aside and dote on the kids, and for those like me that kind of self-effacement doesn’t come easily. We pay sentimental lip service to the glories of motherhood, but in truth accord the calling a lower status than rubbish collection. I can’t count the women I’ve met at parties who, asked what they do, have looked at the carpet and apologised that they’re "only" mothers.
We do not need an egg-timer. We need better childcare, more help with the laundry. We need a little respect. Then maybe we won’t put off what comes more naturally in our twenties and early thirties, because you put off what you dread. — The Independent
YOGI Ram Dev, whose breathing exercises and yogic postures shown on faith-based channel Aastha have made him a household name in India, now boasts of a large fan following in Nepal as well.
Nepalese of all age groups and occupations switch on the idiot box early in the morning to exercise with Ram Dev. Among his staunchest followers are some leading politicians, especially communist leaders.
In February, when King Gyanendra seized power and had the country’s top politicians arrested, many of those imprisoned turned to yoga.
"Several of us were imprisoned in army barracks with nothing to do," recalls Amik Sherchan, president of the leftist People’s Front that is part of a seven-party alliance fighting the royal takeover.
"We weren’t given any papers or books to read; nor were we allowed to leave our cells." Besides gastritis, Sherchan suffered from cervical spondylosis, the result of a neck fracture due to a police baton charge.
One of the inmates, Lilamani Pokhrel, vice-chairman of the same party, was a Ram Dev follower, having watched the exercises on television. So Pokhrel taught the basics to Sherchan and their other companions.
"My gastric pangs went away, so did the neck pain," says Sherchan, 63.
"After being released, I watched Ram Dev on TV to see if I was following the instructions correctly. Now I exercise half an hour every morning." "I follow Ram Dev not because of blind faith but because the exercises helped me," says Sherchan. "The bottom line is physical fitness." Madhav Kumar Nepal, former deputy prime minister and leader of the biggest communist party in the kingdom, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, also became a yoga convert during a prison stint in the 1970s.
"Then I saw Ram Dev on Aastha and added some of his exercises," the 53-year-old says.
"Earlier, I used to take morning walks. But these days, there is a lack of security. So I exercise at home." What makes communist leaders watch a faith-based channel? "I prefer nature cure," says Nepal. "Give me ayurveda and naturopathy any day." — IANS
WHILE Himachal Pradesh remains a favourite tourist draw, a rise in the number of sex workers at its resorts and the consequent threat of HIV/AIDS are worrying officials.
Health department officials estimate that there are around 6,000 prostitutes in the hill state, which has a population of six million. Of this, some 1,500 are estimated to be in Shimla alone.
"We have arrived at the latest figure of 6,000 from the study of ORG CSR, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation, and recent findings of other agencies," said C.D. Sharma, the in charge the state AIDS control society.
"Of the 1,335 HIV positive cases in the state, nearly all (94 percent) were infected by indulging in unsafe sex," said Sharma. "Obviously, we need to further raise AIDS awareness campaigns." Last year, another NGO, the Himachal Pradesh Voluntary Health Association, had put the number of prostitutes at over 1,200 in Shimla.
"Most sex workers are from the poorest sections of society," said its chief Ranjan Mahajan. — IANS