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EDITORIALS

Growers of gold
Administration should have been humane
A
FTER allowing the Kashipur demolitions to turn into a live political issue, the Uttaranchal government has finally beaten a hasty retreat in the face of widespread protests, agreeing to liberally compensate the farmers who have been evicted or whose houses have been demolished.

Aborting the future
Protect the unborn female child
S
HAMEFUL are the findings in the latest study of female foeticide, according to which over one crore foetuses have been aborted in India during the last 20 years. Surprising, they are not.


EARLIER STORIES
Speaker is right
January 10, 2006
Indo-US deal on track
January 9, 2006
From the Raj to Inspector Raj
January 8, 2006
No quota for AMU
January 7, 2006
The grounded chopper
January 6, 2006
Second Green Revolution
January 5, 2006
Design for New Year
January 4, 2006
Understanding on nukes
January 3, 2006
Unrest in Baluchistan
January 2, 2006
Need for a policy for the displaced people
January 1, 2006
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Linguistic security
Hindi-American bhai-bhai
A
FEW years on, the global Indian in America may not even be English-speaking. Thanks to President Bush’s National Security Language Initiative, Hindi, too, would be one of the languages taught in the US, from kindergarten to universities.
ARTICLE

Focus on N-energy
India needs long-term strategy
by Shubha Singh
A
FTER years of isolation in the nuclear power generation front, civilian nuclear power cooperation has come up in discussions with about half a dozen countries in the past six months. After the US it was France, Canada, Russia and, more recently, Japan and South Korea, who conveyed their willingness to cooperate in the nuclear power generation sector once the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) relaxes its guidelines.

MIDDLE

Man of Mangalam
by A.J. Philip
A
BUDDING poet Nellickal Muralidharn Nair and I started a little monthly magazine called Naveenam (The New) in 1970. For the inaugural issue, he himself wrote a poem while I translated with his help one by Ralph Waldo Emerson. We also managed a contribution from a leading writer Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri.

OPED

Terrorists target centres of growth
by Jangveer Singh
T
HE terrorist attack on the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore on December 28 has disturbed the peace of the Garden City. The economic importance of Bangalore as also of Chennai and Hyderabad is sure to attract the attention of terrorist outfits.

Dateline Washington
Coke’s water-harvesting claims ‘fraudulent’
by Ashish Kumar Sen
O
VER a dozen universities in the United States have terminated contracts with the Coca-Cola company in part because of concerns that the multinational corporation is polluting the environment in India, drastically lowering the water table and selling products tainted by pesticides.

US using Nepalis as guinea pigs?
A
fresh outcry has risen in the US and Nepal over what could be the American government’s exploitation of Nepali soldiers as human guinea pigs to find a Hepatitis vaccine.

From the pages of


 REFLECTIONS



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Growers of gold
Administration should have been humane 

AFTER allowing the Kashipur demolitions to turn into a live political issue, the Uttaranchal government has finally beaten a hasty retreat in the face of widespread protests, agreeing to liberally compensate the farmers who have been evicted or whose houses have been demolished. All evicted families, irrespective of the size of their land holdings, are to be given compensation. In the process, it has also allowed Bharatiya Kisan Union president M. S. Tikait to emerge as some kind of a hero. It is he who had risen to the defence of the harried farmers. Had the administration been more considerate in the first place itself, things would not have come to such a pass. Indeed, many of the Punjabi farmers settled in the area do not have adequate land-holding titles. But they have been living there for the past many decades and have transformed the jungle land into prosperous and fertile farms after toiling hard. After the Supreme Court order, action was inevitable against some of them, but this could have been carried out in a more humane manner.

The heavy-handed way in which the police went about throwing out settlers caused extreme resentment in the area, as also in Punjab, to which most of the settlers originally belonged. Once CDs showing police “brutalities” while bulldozing dozens of houses belonging to Punjabis started circulating in Punjab, the matter took a political colour and a game of one-upmanship started.

Now that an agreement has been reached, all parties should ensure that there is no bad blood between the locals and the settlers. It should not be forgotten that the Punjabi farmers were invited to the inhospitable land by the then Uttar Pradesh government itself and they should not be treated shabbily, now that they have converted it into a veritable goldmine.

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Aborting the future
Protect the unborn female child

SHAMEFUL are the findings in the latest study of female foeticide, according to which over one crore foetuses have been aborted in India during the last 20 years. Surprising, they are not. The study, which covered 10 lakh homes, attributed this serial killing to the middle-class families’ determination to ensure that they have male heirs. Sex determination in pregnancy and selective abortion account for five lakh less girls each year. If one analyses the census figures, it is clear that the number of girls, in relation to the number of boys, has been falling steadily. For every 1,000 boys up to the age of six, the numbers of girls dropped from 962 in 1981 to 945 in 1991 and 927 in 2001.

There is no doubt that technology has played into the hands of the devil, and the widespread availability of ultrasound tests that let the doctors and, consequently, the parents discover the gender of their child before birth has been one of the primary factors in the increase in female foeticide. Religious leaders of all faiths have condemned the killing of the unborn female child. Yet, the study shows that there has been no difference in the way the female child is treated — the figures are equally horrifying for most denominations. Contrary to what common sense would suggest, it has also been found that the “girl deficit” is more common among educated families, especially in homes where the first-born was a girl.

Thus the blame rests with the societal mindset in which the girl child is seen as a burden, a liability. Every individual must make the right choice. All those who are guilty of this crime should be punished. They include the doctors who perform pre-natal sex determination tests, the parents who ask for these tests, and all those who aid in the killing of the unborn girl child.

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Linguistic security
Hindi-American bhai-bhai

A FEW years on, the global Indian in America may not even be English-speaking. Thanks to President Bush’s National Security Language Initiative, Hindi, too, would be one of the languages taught in the US, from kindergarten to universities. He has proposed a budget of $114 million in 2007 for the language project. Of course, besides Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Persian are among the “critical languages” that Americans would be urged to study. This should open up a whole new vista of opportunities for the Hindi-only people, given the need for Hindi language teachers in the US. In fact, as part of the Bush initiative, resources, including human, for the teaching of Hindi would be encouraged to flow into America. And, before you know, a Hindi University, not to mention Hindi schools and colleges, would have bloomed across the land of liberty.

The learning of Hindi, among other foreign languages, would help Americans relate better to other people and cultures, and send out a message that they care, said Mr Bush while unveiling the Initiative. This is also expected to make the Americans less insular and dilute their image of a bully, especially in places where they are also linguistically alienated.

The outcome of the Initiative may, doubtless, be the most desirable. But the best plans of mice and men are not spurred by noble impulses, and the language learning project is no exception. A key motivation for the project is that foreign language skills are vital to US national security and a part of Washington’s “strategic goal”. Now, Bush in any other language would be Bush, and there might be more surprises in store. With President Bush scheduled to visit India, those at home who are not conversant with Hindi, might have to learn the language. In fact, fluency in Hindi may well be an added criterion for the appointment of the next External Affairs Minister.

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Thought for the day

What is rational is actual and what is actual is rational.

— G.W.F. Hegel

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Focus on N-energy
India needs long-term strategy
by Shubha Singh

AFTER years of isolation in the nuclear power generation front, civilian nuclear power cooperation has come up in discussions with about half a dozen countries in the past six months. After the US it was France, Canada, Russia and, more recently, Japan and South Korea, who conveyed their willingness to cooperate in the nuclear power generation sector once the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) relaxes its guidelines. This is sudden change in the state of affairs for India which has struggled for years to keep its nuclear power generators functioning. India is in the process of identifying its civilian nuclear facilities to place under additional International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards as a part of the July 18 Indo-US agreement on civilian nuclear power cooperation.

In the past couple of years there has been a rethink on nuclear power; it is now being touted internationally as the environmentally clean energy. As global warming has come to be seen as a more immediate threat to the planet, nuclear energy is being seen as an environmentally sound and efficient means of producing electricity. The soaring price of crude oil in the international markets and the fact that crude extraction is higher than new oilfield discoveries has made nuclear power generation more attractive, especially when green house emissions from thermal power generation have become a major environmental concern.

At the same time, the international market for nuclear power generators has become more active with the increasing global demand for energy. China is considering an $8 billion worth order for nuclear reactors in the near future. China, with its huge power needs for the future, regards nuclear power as a key component of its plans to increase electric power production in the next 15 years. About 80 per cent of China’s electricity production is from coal, but acid rain and airborne pollution from coal plants is a matter of rising concern in China. It has plans to spend an estimated $50 billion on nuclear energy production, which has opened a lucrative market for nuclear power projects. According to officials of the China National Nuclear Corporation, China intends to add 30 new nuclear power plants to its existing 11 reactors by 2020.

The United States, which has not built any new nuclear power reactor since the late 1970s, will begin building nuclear power plants by the end of the decade under the Energy Policy Act, 2005. President George W. Bush’s energy plan seeks to encourage development of new advanced nuclear reactors through providing tax credits, loan guarantees and risk insurance. It also envisages promotion of clean coal and nuclear power generation around the world.

With its growing energy needs, India could also become a market for nuclear reactors once international restrictions are lifted. One of the aims of the Indo-US agreement is to provide India the means to increase its nuclear power generation. But is the country ready to go into nuclear power generation in a big way? There has been little debate on the issue and even the anti-nuclear lobby has not commented on the subject. The international anti-nuclear power debate of the 1980s had largely passed India by, partly because the question of nuclear reactors has been too closely allied to nuclear weapons in the Indian mind and also the difficulties of acquiring nuclear fuel for its existing nuclear reactors.

Nuclear power generation in India is barely 3 per cent of its total power generation, but nuclear power provides about 16 per cent of the world’s electricity production. France built 60 nuclear power reactors after the oil shock of the mid-1970s and now about 78 per cent of its electricity production is from nuclear fuel. Japan, another country without substantial oil and coal reserves, obtains almost 30 per cent of its energy from nuclear reactors. America has about 103 nuclear reactors which provide about 20 per cent of its electricity production, the second largest source after coal.

Issues about the safety of nuclear reactors, the costs of disposal of nuclear waste and the relatively high cost of nuclear power plants themselves had been limiting factors during the late 1980s and 90s. Less than a decade ago, the US was planning to scale back its nuclear energy production, and Germany and Sweden had announced the phasing out of their nuclear power plants. The growing concerns over global warming and green-house emissions have, however, led to a re-evaluation of advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy. The cost of nuclear power generation has dropped in the last decade; the new advanced technology nuclear power reactors have shown higher levels of productivity and declining operating and maintenance costs. The new generation nuclear power plants have a shorter gestation period which has also helped reduce project costs. In Japan, new reactors have been built in just over four years’ time. French nuclear reactors reprocess the nuclear fuel, thereby reducing disposal costs.

Energy analysts contend that the relative costs of generating electricity from coal, gas and nuclear fuel can be favourably compared. Coal-based power plants are relatively cheaper when they are located close to the coal mines, but moving coal through long distances to the power plants increases the cost of production. The total price of coal-based energy rises further when the cost of green-house emissions is taken into account. Some environmental groups have begun a reassessment of nuclear power because of the growing environmental concerns regarding the construction of large dams and emissions from thermal power plants.

Asia is the region with the fastest growing demand for energy, with China and India heading the list of energy-deficient economies. The increasing shortfall in power generation against the rising demand will be one of the major impediments in economic growth in the next decades. India has large coal reserves but of poor quality, and the availability of natural gas through pipelines and expanding hydel generation are mired in long drawn out negotiations. India needs a judicious mix of oil, coal, hydel, gas and nuclear energy for its long-term energy security.

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Man of Mangalam
by A.J. Philip

A BUDDING poet Nellickal Muralidharn Nair and I started a little monthly magazine called Naveenam (The New) in 1970. For the inaugural issue, he himself wrote a poem while I translated with his help one by Ralph Waldo Emerson. We also managed a contribution from a leading writer Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri.

We pooled our resources to publish the magazine, priced at Ps 25. We prided in the fact that we carried classy stuff. Only after Naveenam came out did we know that we had to get the title registered. As it was already registered in someone else’s name, we were given another title, Avalokanam (Review), which was not acceptable to us.

Around the same time, another little magazine called Mangalam (Fortune) came out from a little known press located on the Fleet Street of Kottayam in Kerala. It, too, was priced at Ps 25. Unlike us, its editor and publisher M.C. Varghese had no scholarly pretensions.

In fact, the only school Varghese attended was a lower primary school. At 15, he joined Deepika, a publication of the Catholic Church, on a princely salary of Rs 15. However, he had to leave Deepika in unpleasant circumstances a few years later.

But with the help of some munificent friends, he set up a small printing press in a room adjacent to the Deepika office on a rent of Re 1. Initially, he used to print bus tickets for which the raw material came from Deepika in the form of cut newsprint.

A turning point came in his life when he launched Mangalam in 1969. While nobody bought our Naveenam, people lapped up his Mangalam. Circulation began to soar and it reached an all-time high of 16 lakh in 1985, which is still a record in Indian publishing history.

Opinions differ on the secret of his success. But the most plausible, not necessarily charitable, I heard was that Varghese read every short story, article and poem Mangalam received. He published only those that appealed to his sensibilities. And what appealed to him also appealed to a large majority of semi-literates.

While upper-crust magazines like Mathrubhoomi discussed such subjects as the “Influence of Pablo Neruda on Malayalam poetry” and “Existentialism and modern Malayalam novel”, Varghese published heart-rending stories of persons like the woman who lost her legs in an accident or the elderly person who was thrown out of his house by his cruel children.

Varghese was the first publisher who thought of marriages to popularise his publications. In its formative years, Mangalam, which also means marriage, organised a series of dowry-free mass marriages in different towns, where the couples were given expensive gifts by the magazine. He also collected money from his readers to help those whose plights his magazine highlighted.

Soon he was known as the man with the Mida’s touch. He started several publications, including a multi-edition daily newspaper by the same name, catering, as his carping critics say, to the neo-literates.

He recruited one of my colleagues at The Hitavada in Bhopal as his advertisement manager. Varghese had no inkling that his recruit was diagnosed as a heart patient who urgently required a pacemaker. The new job gave him such pep that his heart not only started beating all right, he could even shoulder the huge responsibilities that came with the new job. Verily it is said, M.C. Varghese (1933-2006) had the golden touch.

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Terrorists target centres of growth
by Jangveer Singh

THE terrorist attack on the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore on December 28 has disturbed the peace of the Garden City. The economic importance of Bangalore as also of Chennai and Hyderabad is sure to attract the attention of terrorist outfits.

The only surprise is the delay on the part of the country to understand their nefarious designs and the inability to take counter measures like the formation of effective anti-terrorist cells in southern states.

Karnataka had woefully failed to act even when given a warning that there could be a terrorist strike in Bangalore after an ISI module was discovered in Delhi.

There had been earlier warnings also that the IT and biotech industry as well as defence and scientific institutions were on the hit list of terrorist groups. The state, till recently, did not have a DCP to head its anti-terrorist cell.

In 2004-05 software exports from Karnataka were Rs 26,700 crore. This amounted to 35 per cent of the country’s total software exports and 58 per cent of South India’s software exports.

Despite infrastructure blues, foreign and Indian IT companies continue to invest in Karnataka. As many as 97 companies set up shop in Karnataka from April to September, 2005, up from 92 the previous year in the same period. The companies brought in an investment of Rs 920 crore compared to Rs 750 crore during the same period in the previous year.

The software exports from Andhra Pradesh were worth Rs 8,270 crore in 2004-05, while Tamil Nadu recorded an export figure of Rs 10,703 crore during the same period.

Both states are adopting an extremely proactive policy to attract foreign investment with Andhra Pradesh doling out land on favourable terms in Hyderabad even as Union Communications and IT Minister Dayanidhi Maran continues to persuade IT multinationals to invest in Chennai.

The three states are growing significantly. Karnataka recorded a growth of 52 per cent in software exports from Rs 19,000 crore generated in 2003-04. Tamil Nadu recorded a 40 per cent growth in software exports from Rs 7,621 crore recorded in 2003-04. Andhra Pradesh recorded a growth of 64 per cent during the same period.

The growth trends show no sign of abating with Chennai recording the fastest growth with more than 100 IT companies being approved last year alone.

The cities of Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Coimbatore form an “oasis of plenty” in a quagmire of poverty. This has led Pak outfits to recruit locals and establish a network to strike at will instead of making use of Kashmiri youth as was the practice earlier.

Besides improving intelligence gathering in the South, steps must be taken to cut off the supply of “new jehadis,” who work for money and not ideology. For this all “soft” targets should be made secure, besides persuading the people to learn to live and detect terror in their midst.

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Dateline Washington
Coke’s water-harvesting claims ‘fraudulent’
by Ashish Kumar Sen

OVER a dozen universities in the United States have terminated contracts with the Coca-Cola company in part because of concerns that the multinational corporation is polluting the environment in India, drastically lowering the water table and selling products tainted by pesticides.

The University of Michigan is the latest in a string of schools to refuse to stock Coca-Cola products on its campus.

Sunita Narain, Director of the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi and a Padma Shri awardee, first raised the alarm over the presence of pesticides in Coca-Cola products a couple of years ago. An unrelenting advocate for the rights of farmers in Kerala where Coca-Cola’s plant has been shut since March 2004 due to ongoing litigation, Miss Narain says in an interview that the growing awareness on U.S. campuses about Coca-Cola’s business practices is a positive sign.

Excerpts:

Q: The University of Michigan has announced a boycott of Coca-Cola products. Students and activists here say there have been human rights violations at Coca-Cola plants in India.

There have been two clear issues that have arisen with the soft drink companies in India. One has been a local protest by farmers in Kerala where they say the Coke plant has depleted groundwater levels in their village.

And second, they found toxic levels of cadmium and heavy metals in the waste that the plant was generating. Coke has never been regulated for hazardous waste and was giving away this sludge to farmers to use as fertilizer in their farms.

Q: The Coca-Cola Company has assured the University of Michigan that it has started water harvesting in Kerala to replace the water it is using. Are Coke’s efforts sufficient?

The water harvested at these plants is a pittance. The parliamentary committee dismissed Coke’s claim for rainwater harvesting. We found it was not even beginning to harvest 1/10th of the water it was using. This claim of water harvesting is fraudulent.

Q: Do you believe a boycott of Coca-Cola products by U.S. universities will put more pressure on the firm to improve its practices around the world?

All public protests are very important parts of the way we develop our relationships with modern business. It also has major impacts on our daily lives. We have to have more powerful ways to ensure that business does not adversely affect our lives. Today, MNCs work outside the ambit of regulatory agencies. We have been asking for standards to regulate companies. We have been appalled to find how lax these standards are around the world, even in Europe.

In some sense the consumer movement will have to get more powerful. It will show that consumers won’t take these blatant violations lying down. The message is particularly strong if the boycott comes from America, the land of Coke.

But one must also give credit to the residents of a tiny Kerala village, Plachimada, who stood up to this multinational.

Q: You raised concerns in India a few years ago about the presence of pesticides in soft drinks. Has the situation improved since?

No. This is still a big concern for us. I don’t want to sound despondent. We have not given up, India is a democracy and I believe we still stand a chance. After two years and proof that confirmed our concerns about pesticides in soft drinks were correct, just late last month the government submitted an action taken report to Parliament. The report noted that virtually no action has been taken.

Q: Does India have any laws that mandate the quality of water to be used in the manufacture of soft drinks?

After our study the quality of water to be used has been mandated for Coke. We have been asking for final quality standards that specify how much heavy metal and caffeine and ph are allowed.

When we tested for pesticides we also tested bottles smuggled out from the U.S. Embassy in Delhi. At the embassy they don’t drink Coke made in India. But we also found a fair amount of pesticides in these bottles that came from Hong Kong. We did not, however, find any pesticides in the bottles from the U.S.

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US using Nepalis as guinea pigs? 

A fresh outcry has risen in the US and Nepal over what could be the American government’s exploitation of Nepali soldiers as human guinea pigs to find a Hepatitis vaccine.

Since the 1980s, the US Army had been studying Hepatitis E, said to account for 50 per cent of hepatitis cases in developing countries, in order to come up with a vaccine for the protection of its troops abroad.

In 1995, the US Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS), the Thai-based branch of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, set up a unit in Kathmandu to conduct clinical trials.

Robert McNair-Scott of AFRIMS was the principal US investigator and Mrigendra Shrestha his counterpart in Nepal. Lt Col Robert Kuschner was the trial’s project director from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

The vaccine, patented by Californian company Genelabs and licensed by GlaxoSmithKline, is to hit the market in 2007.

In February 2000, the research unit announced a trial would be held with 8,000 volunteers from Lalitpur district adjoining Kathmandu, with 3,000 of them being administered the vaccine or placebo.

However, the plan was scuttled as the then deputy mayor, Ramesh Chitrakar, and other members of the local government body objected, saying the mayor had not consulted them.

They also expressed misgivings as to whether the volunteers knew what they were walking into. Chitrakar is reported to have alleged that the researchers offered him and other dissenters watches and luxury goods to go along with the plan.

However, the Nepali media and NGOs also took up the issue and the ensuing furore made the researchers abandon the idea of civilian volunteers.

Undeterred, the researchers then struck a deal with the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) that 2,000 soldiers would “volunteer” to be the human guinea pigs.

Author Jason Andrews says in “The American Journal of Bioethics”: “Noting the millions of dollars, military training, and arms that the (US) State Department and Military have been giving to the RNA to help them put down the Maoist rebellion, it seems plausible that the resultant military and economic dependence of the host institution/population (RNA) upon the research sponsor (the U.S. Military) threatened the voluntary nature of the institutional and individual participation in the trial.” Though the trial ended in 2003, it is not known who the “volunteer” soldiers are and what their present medical condition is.

Last week, Glaxo released information at a scientific meeting, saying the vaccine was successful, but kept silent about making it available in Nepal.

Now epidemiologists at Yale’s School of Medicine and other activists have raised the issue afresh, expressing the fear that the trial might have been unethical.

“The poorest of the poor were used as subjects,” a Yale project staff said on condition of anonymity.

“There’s no plan for getting the vaccine to the (Nepali) population, despite clearly pitching the trial as an attempt to address this disease for Nepalis. It appears that the vaccine will be developed as a traveller’s vaccine at best.” The fear seems plausible since in the 1980s, the same Walter Reed Army Institute of Research sponsored the development of a typhoid vaccine in Nepal. However, though typhoid is endemic in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, the vaccine is not widely used.

— Indo-Asian News Service

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From the pages of

August 29, 1922

BlockaDe of AmrItsar

Reports are received from all directions that all sorts of obstacles are being placed in the way of Sikhs reaching Amritsar, especially those wearing black turbans. At most places in the Punjab they are refused railway tickets altogether. At others they are made to detrain in transit and compelled to go back. Arrangements at Lahore junction are especially elaborate. All Sikhs holding tickets for Amritsar are taken out of the trains and forced to buy return tickets. Only such of them are allowed to proceed as declare on oath that they shall have nothing to do with either Kar Seva or the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. It is for the second time in Sikh history that the Sikhs are being prevented from having a dip in the Amrit Sarovar, the Pool of Immortality.

— From S.G.P.C.

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Nor need a man have any fear whatever of the world if he attains sincere devotion by practising spiritual discipline now and then in solitude.

— Ramakrishna

Do your duty as a service to the Lord and see God alone in everything in a spiritual frame of mind.

— Bhagvad Gita

Some amount of hate is inbuilt in any relationship of love and care. Never take this too seriously. Remember, a person will only show some amount of hatred towards you if (s) he is concerned about you. Feel happy about it and don’t brood.

— Sanatana Dharma

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