SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Reddy in trouble over Mudigonda incident
Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia, job, house for victims’ families
Hyderabad, July 29
The police firing during the Left-sponsored bandh in Andhra Pradesh has cast a dark shadow on Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy’s political career.
TDP President N. Chandrababu Naidu consoles the relatives of victims, who died in police firing at Mudigonda village of Khammam district, in Hyderabad on Sunday.
TDP President N. Chandrababu Naidu consoles the relatives of victims, who died in police firing at Mudigonda village of Khammam district, in Hyderabad on Sunday. — PTI

Becomes liability for Congress
New Delhi, July 29
Three years ago, when Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy led the Congress to a thumping victory in the state, he was immediately put on a pedestal and hailed as the party’s latest hero.

Bengal entrance exam scandal causes stir
Kolkata, July 29
The state CID enquiring into the Bengal Joint entrance examination test scandal, detected the involvement of a doctor at New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Science(AIIMS) and a racket, which spread its activities in several parts of the country, particularly, in the UP, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana.






EARLIER STORIES




Can jail inmates fight poll? SC hearing today
New Delhi, July 29
The Supreme Court will tomorrow consider a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to debar all jail inmates from the election arena in terms of Section 62(V) of the Representation of the People Act.

Flood situation grim in Assam
Over 11 lakh people affected
Guwahati, July 29
The flood situation remains grim in Assam even as the Army has moved into the worst-affected areas to take part in rescue operations in the state.
Over 11 lakh people in 13 districts have been rendered homeless by the current wave of floods in the state since last week. The flood waters have affected the arterial National Highway 31 near Rangiya in Kamrup district, slowing down the movement of traffic along the road. The road connects the north-east to the rest of the country.



A mahout takes a ride on his elephant amidst heavy showers on NH-52 near Rowta in Darrang on Sunday. — PTI

A mahout takes a ride on his elephant amidst heavy showers on NH-52 near Rowta in Darrang on Sunday.

Pilgrims stranded due to landslides
Dehra Dun, July 29
Thousands of pilgrims, on their way to Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath, are stranded due to landslides caused by incessant rains in Garhwal over the past several days.

Devotees travel on top of a train to attend Guru Purnima fair at Govardhan town near Mathura
Devotees travel on top of a train to attend Guru Purnima fair at Govardhan town near Mathura. — Reuters In Video (56k)

Environmentalists gear up to save Yamuna
New Delhi, July 29
Yamuna’s friends and well-wishers have come up with some clinching evidence to prove how “creators of laws and rules are now flouting them to suit their needs”.

World Peace Day
5 Indians to attend Hiroshima function
Mumbai, July 29
Three youth from Mumbai will join hands with students from Pakistan and Japan in urging the international community to make the world ‘nuclear weapons free’ during the International Peace Day in Hiroshima on August 6.

Sanjay Dutt turns 48
Mumbai, July 29
Actor Sanjay Dutt, expected to be sentenced on Tuesday for his conviction in the 1993 blasts case, celebrated, perhaps, his most anxiety-filled birthday today.
In Video (56k)

Osian Film Festival
Film based on Gudiya’s life screened
New Delhi, July 29
A Mumbai based ad film-maker has reopened the done-to-death media debate on Gudiya, a voiceless woman of the minority community who died here last year of a multiple organ failure due to mental trauma.

Ex-IAS officer starts anti-liquor drive
Hyderabad, July 29
A recently floated political party by a former IAS officer has launched anti-liquor agitation in Andhra Pradesh.

Elephants back on job at Kerala temple
Guruvayur (Kerala), July 29
After a month-long rejuvenation treatment during the monsoon, 64 elephants of the Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayoor, are all set to take up their various tasks at the shrine.

A magazine editor at 13
New Delhi, July 29
“The most invincible weapon is your cute smile. Smile and conquer the world with love” are the keywords of the children’s magazine “Invincible” edited by Shambhavi, a 13-year-old school-going girl.

Spirituality, charity bring women to Vrindavan: Study
New Delhi, July 29
Vrindavan, the most preferred destination for a large number of widows, is now attracting young widows as the city provides greater opportunities for survival and livelihood.


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Reddy in trouble over Mudigonda incident
Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia, job, house for victims’ families
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 29
The police firing during the Left-sponsored bandh in Andhra Pradesh has cast a dark shadow on Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy’s political career.

Reddy finds himself in the midst of a severe crisis following police firing at Mudigonda village in Khammam district yesterday leading to the death of six persons and triggering shock waves across the state.

The left parties, whose support is key to the survival of the UPA government at the centre, have demanded his resignation owning moral responsibility for the incident.

A day after the incident, there were indications of mounting pressure on the Congress high command to take action against Reddy for his inept handling of the three month-old land struggle by the Left parties.

A delegation of senior Left leaders, led by the CPI (M) general Secretary Prakash Karat, is expected to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi to voice their demand.

“We endorse our state unit’s demand for Chief Minister’s resignation. He is trying to suppress a peaceful movement,” CPI (M) politburo member Seetaram Yechuri told reporters here before leaving for Mudigonda.

The TDP president and former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said Reddy has lost the right to continue in office after six innocent persons have lost their lives in the brutal firing.

The TDP and Left activists held a massive protest rally in the city and burnt the Chief Minister’s effigy.

A section of Congress leaders, who are unhappy with his style of functioning, may also use the occasion to demand a change of guard in the state. Reddy’s detractors point out that he had failed to read the ground signals, though the left parties’ “land for the poor” agitation has been going on for the last three months and had occasionally created law and order problems.

The agitation took a violent turn during the state-wide bandh leading to the Mudigonda tragedy, which is being compared to the Nandigram incident. The central Congress leadership has sought a report from the Chief Minister on the matter.

Meanwhile, Reddy today announced Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia each to the family of the victims, a government job to one member in the family and a house. He also announced Rs 50,000 for seriously injured and Rs 20,000 for those who received simple injuries.

The government has already ordered judicial probe, transferred the district superintendent of police R K Meena, suspended additional SP Ramesh Babu and the local CI and SI.

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Becomes liability for Congress
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 29
Three years ago, when Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy led the Congress to a thumping victory in the state, he was immediately put on a pedestal and hailed as the party’s latest hero.

Today, the chief minister has squandered away all the goodwill he had earned after the last poll. His “rash and arrogant” style of functioning has alienated his allies while his own partymen are getting increasingly disillusioned with him. The hero of the 2004 elections is now being viewed as a liability with the “remove YSR” campaign gradually picking up momentum.

In addition, he is also loosing public support as a series of incidents, including the use of abusive language against his predecessor and TDP leader K. Chandrababu Naidu in the assembly recently, have tarnished YSR’s image.

Reddy first fell out with the Telengana Rashtriya Samiti, which walked out of the state government and the UPA in a huff. Today, he has incurred the wrath of the Left parties after the police opened fire on protesting CPM workers in Khammam on Saturday and killed eight persons.

In a clear signal that relations between the Marxists and the Congress in the state have reached breaking point, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury has publicly demanded the chief minister’s removal, saying his “continuation in office has become untenable”.The incident is unlikely to push the Left from withdrawing support to the UPA government at the Centre but it will definitely add to the bitterness and lead to greater proximity between the Marxists and the TDP.

While the allies have come out openly against Reddy, their views are being silently endorsed by a growing section of AP Congress legislators and MPs, who feel that if Reddy is not removed, the party would fare disastrously in the next elections.“ We are heading for an unmitigated electoral disaster,” remarked a senior AP Congress leader.

Andhra Pradesh Congressmen have reasons to worry. Since the next assembly elections and the 2009 Lok Sabha elections are to be held simultaneously, the chief minister’s unpopularity is expected to cost the party dearly both in the state and the Centre. Last time, for instance, the party had benefitted from the strong anti-incumbency against the ruling TDP regime, contributing many as 29 MPs to the Lok Sabha kitty and winning and 185 assembly seats.

Stating that the tables are set to turn against them, disillusioned state Congressmen maintain the party leadership appears totally oblivious to the impending disaster in Andhra Pradesh. They charge Digivijay Singh, AICC general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh, for taking a pro-CM stand and not conveying the correct picture to party president Sonia Gandhi. In any case, it is stated, Sonia Gandhi is not known to take radical measures and has proved incapable of dealing with strong-willed chief ministers.” Look how many complaints she received against Amarinder Singh ..but did she remove him,” asked a despairing AP Congress leader.

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Bengal entrance exam scandal causes stir
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News service

Kolkata, July 29
The state CID enquiring into the Bengal Joint entrance examination test scandal, detected the involvement of a doctor at New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Science(AIIMS) and a racket, which spread its activities in several parts of the country, particularly, in the UP, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana.

So far 12 people, including a mother and a daughter at Benaras and an engineer of Bangalore were arrested in connection with the Bengal JEE test scandal, which already caused a stir in the state, worrying the educationists, the academicians and the guardians.

The state Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was also visibly disturbed at the disclosure of the "Munna Bhai type of medical admission racket" in Bengal and he wanted a CBI probe into the scandal for bringing the culprits to book.

In the preliminary report already submitted to the government, the DIG (CID), Ajoy Kumar alleged that a senior doctor in the AIIMS' radiology department was actively involved in the racket of admission into different medical colleges by the students who might not need to personally appear in the test examinations and qualify themselves.

But some one else, preferably, a junior doctor or the senior medical student was to sit for the JEE tests on his or her behalf and facilitate their admission. And in each admission case, the candidate had to pay a hefty amount of several lakhs of money to the tune of Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh to the people arranging the admission, the report said.

Like medical admission, in the admission into engineering colleges also, the same gang was reportedly involved.

It was suspected in the report that already several students might have got themselves qualified as doctors after entering to the medical colleges through these "illegal channel", while some others were still studying there and the CID officials were making further inquiry accordingly.

Yesterday, one Rupa Majumdar and her mother were arrested from their house at Benaras who had been brought to the city today for further interrogation by the CID.

Oddly enough Rupa was preparing for her admission into Midnapore Medical College though she did not sit for the Bengal JEE test for medical admission. But her name was shown as successful candidate and placed at 707 rank in the results declared by the JEE examination board.

On inquiry it was detected that one Smita Chatterjee of Durgapur had arranged Rupa's admission, who was to pay Rs 7 lakh to her for the admission into medical course. Smita was also arrested yesterday and brought to Kolkata. It had been alleged that Smita was acting as a middleman for the connecting the gang, which included Mihir Jha, Ranabijoy Pathak, both the residents of Patna, with the AIIMS' doctor. Both Jha and Pathak were already arrested and put under the police custody.

Another candidate, Saurav Das of Baranagar in North 24-parganas, who did not appear in the JEE test but still he was ranked at 134 position in the Bengal JEE in engineering. After inquiry, it was detected that one Syed Arban of Bangalore sat in the test for Saurav and got qualified for engineering admission into Bengal engineering colleges. Arban was arrested last week from Bangalore.

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Can jail inmates fight poll? SC hearing today

New Delhi, July 29
The Supreme Court will tomorrow consider a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to debar all jail inmates from the election arena in terms of Section 62(V) of the Representation of the People Act.

The petition, filed by advocate Z K Faizan, will be heard by a Bench headed by Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan.

Faizan, in his petition, contended that when a person in jail or police custody was disqualified from voting in any election, then how could such a person be allowed to contest an election?

According to the petitioner, in order to prevent the entry of criminals in the election arena, the court must decide whether a person, who lost his voting right, should be allowed to contest an election from jail or not. — UNI

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Flood situation grim in Assam
Over 11 lakh people affected
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, July 29
The flood situation remains grim in Assam even as the Army has moved into the worst-affected areas to take part in rescue operations in the state.

Over 11 lakh people in 13 districts have been rendered homeless by the current wave of floods in the state since last week.

The flood waters have affected the arterial National Highway 31 near Rangiya in Kamrup district, slowing down the movement of traffic along the road. The road connects the north-east to the rest of the country.

Indian Army spokesman Col Narendra Singh informed that Army rescue teams equipped with boats and rafts were helping the civil administration in evacuating marooned people in the worst-affected areas of the state.

Over 2 lakh people have been displaced by the devastating floods in the worst-hit Dhemaji district on the north bank of the mighty Brahmaputra. These people are being sheltered in about 1,350 makeshift relief camps set up by the district administration on embankments, government schools and offices.

According to official figures, the floodwaters submerged crop area of an estimated 26,000 hectares all over the state. The Central Water Commission (CWC) office here informed that almost all rivers, including the main channel of Brahmaputra, were flowing above the danger level. The general trend of rivers was stated to be steady throughout the day. However, the Regional Meteorological Centre here raised alarm, forecasting more rainfall in the next 24 hours that would worsen the flood scene.

A source in the state revenue department claimed that there was no dearth of relief materials in the state although some of the affected districts have faced temporary cash crunch due to the non-release of funds from the calamity relief fund (CRF). The CRF for Assam for the current year was fixed at Rs 204.08 crore by the central government. The state government is required to pay 25 per cent of the total CRF.

Incessant monsoon showers in catchment areas in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Bhutan have led to the swelling of rivers in Assam.

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Pilgrims stranded due to landslides
Raju Williams
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, July 29
Thousands of pilgrims, on their way to Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath, are stranded due to landslides caused by incessant rains in Garhwal over the past several days.

Officials estimate the number to be more than five thousand as landslides blocked the national highway at Marwari, about 10 kilometres from Joshimath, on Rishikesh-Badrinath route. Hundreds of vehicles were stranded at Govindghat and Badrinath as massive landslides from Hathiparbat blocked the highway on Saturday, SDM, Joshimath Nidhi Yadav informed.

The administration is trying to remove boulders blocking the highway with the help of bulldozers and compressor machines. Some progress was made today to make way for the pilgrims to cross over on foot. But the pilgrims travelling in vehicles are bearing the brunt of the situation. “We have advised them not to move till the reopening of the highway in a day,” added Yadav.

Meanwhile, a traffic diversion plan has been announced on Delhi-Hardwar highway to facilitate smooth flow of traffic in view of the rush of Kanwarias from all parts of the country to Hardwar from August 3.

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Environmentalists gear up to save Yamuna
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 29
Yamuna’s friends and well-wishers have come up with some clinching evidence to prove how “creators of laws and rules are now flouting them to suit their needs”.

During the past few weeks, environmentalists have been gathering evidence in their continued protest against Delhi Metro’s infrastructure and the proposed games village for the 2010 Commonwealth Games on the Yamuna riverbed.

‘Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan’ Manoj Misra now says he has in his possession documents to prove that five organisations -the Yamuna Standing Committee (CWC), the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), the Usha Mehra Committee of Delhi High Court, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) and the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC)- gave “no permission” for games village infrastructure on riverbed.

“Moreover, when MPD 2021 was notified, it was stipulated that each zone would have a zonal plan that would set norms for activities in the zone concerned. The Zone O, spread over 9,700 hectares, is Yamuna between its embankments and to the best of our knowledge there is no approved plan for it. Yet relentless planning and conversion of land is going on. First the Delhi Metro infrastructure, then the proposed games village and the latest in the line is the F1 track in riverbed. All this without waiting for the Zonal Plan or even the facade of going through the process of conversion of existing land use of the riverbed,” he says.

There is official documentary evidence to prove there are no permissions available or even sought by these agencies, Misra says, adding that “NEERI, in its 2005 report, had specifically prohibited construction of permanent structures of residential or industrial nature in the Yamuna riverbed”.

Environmentalists allege that those in power are using preparations for Commonwealth Games as “a convenient facade to violate and ride roughshod over laws, rules, regulations of the land to convert the riverbed into real estate. They add that any further construction on the riverbed would cause irreversible harm to the river, its fragile eco-system, the watertable in the region and the people living in the area.

Meanwhile, battle-lines against the proposed village have been drawn and environmentalists and water conservationists are meeting in the Capital tomorrow to design their protest strategy to save country’s rivers, including the Yamuna, from any further devastation.

“We are making it clear that no structure, whether religious, residential or commercial should be allowed to exist on the riverbed and for this will launch an agitation on August 8,” Misra says, adding that the government should immediately notify rivers regulation zone, pending with the MoEF since 2002 and implement the 1994 agreement between six riparian states of Yamuna for minimum flow of 10 cusecs.

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World Peace Day
5 Indians to attend Hiroshima function

Mumbai, July 29
Three youth from Mumbai will join hands with students from Pakistan and Japan in urging the international community to make the world ‘nuclear weapons free’ during the International Peace Day in Hiroshima on August 6.

Alpana Gandhi, Swati Bhat and Ashish R Singh will be flying to Japan on August 2 as part of the Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal (BSM)’s 20-year-old initiative on total disarmament, BSM programme officer T. R. K. Somaiya said.

Alpana has completed her masters in microbiology from Wilson College, while Ashish is a journalism student from Mumbai University. Swati is a final year student of bachelor of mass media from FISE College.

The mandal, since 1987, has been organising peace march in the city to observe the International Peace Day, appeal to the world to fight against nuclear armament and establish peace the world over.

The programme in Hiroshima is being organised by the ‘Association of Peace Exchange with the Youth of India and Pakistan’. From India, five youth are flying to Japan under the initiative and include the three from Mumbai and one each from Hyderabad and Ranchi.

The main purpose of this exchange is growing concern over the nuclear issues, facing the world at large, and India and Pakistan - the two nuclear powers in South Asia - in particular.

The initiative also aims at creating awareness about the holocaust of nuclear bomb. — UNI

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Sanjay Dutt turns 48

Mumbai, July 29
Actor Sanjay Dutt, expected to be sentenced on Tuesday for his conviction in the 1993 blasts case, celebrated, perhaps, his most anxiety-filled birthday today.

One of Bollywood’s most bankable stars, Dutt turned 48. Nothing has been the same for the actor since he was convicted under the Arms Act for the illegal possession of an AK-56 rifle and a 9 mm pistol on November 28 last year.

A special court, conducting trial of the serial blasts case, however, absolved him of more serious charges under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). “This accused is not a terrorist,” the court had said.

On July 31, Judge Promod Kode is expected to decide whether to sentence Dutt or to grant him liberty under the Probation of Offenders Act.

In case the judge does not grant him liberty, Sanjay faces a prison term of five to 10 years. — PTI

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Osian Film Festival
Film based on Gudiya’s life screened
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 29
A Mumbai based ad film-maker has reopened the done-to-death media debate on Gudiya, a voiceless woman of the minority community who died here last year of a multiple organ failure due to mental trauma.

In making his first feature film, Prabhakar Shukla of Lemon Yellow Productions has chosen a simple narrative style to tell the story of Gudiya through a two-hour long film ‘Kahaani Gudiya Ki’.

The film was premiered at Osian Film Festival at Siri Fort here yesterday under the section ‘Silhouettes dedicated to films on women’.

The story is based on the real-life story of Gudiya, a 23-year old Meerut based woman of the minority community who was married to an Army soldier. Soon after her marriage, her husband Mohammad Arif had to go to Kargil to the war front. After waiting for his return for four years, Gudiya married her cousin Taufiq. When her first husband, who had been taken as a prisoner of war, returned unexpectedly from Pakistan after nearly six years, Gudiya was pregnant. Her first husband wanted her back but without the child.

Addressing media persons at the Indian Women’s Press Corps here today, the film director said he wanted to convey a social message through the film by highlighting Gudiya’s dilemma.

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Ex-IAS officer starts anti-liquor drive
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 29
A recently floated political party by a former IAS officer has launched anti-liquor agitation in Andhra Pradesh.

To begin with, the Lok Satta, an NGO-turned-political-party, founded by Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, will target illegal bars, which are estimated to number around 1.50 lakh in the state.

“The liquor evil is ruining nearly 50 lakh families in the state. Poor people spend nearly Rs 15,000 crore on liquor per year which is much more than what the government spends on their welfare,” says Dr Narayan, a 1980 batch IAS officer who had quit the job nine years ago to take a plunge into social service.

Dr Narayan has asked his cadre, particularly women, to collect village-wise information on illegal liquor shops and also promote awareness about ill-effects of liquor consumption.

“If government does not shut down ‘belt shops’ (unauthorised bars) by October 2, the party will mobilise people for direct action,” he said.

In a letter to Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy, he sought immediate closure of the liquor shops on national highways and a ban on consumption of liquor openly at the licensed shops.

Dr Narayan, who had served as secretary to a former Chief Minister, late N. T. Rama Rao, when prohibition was in force in mid-1990s, said his party would launch a month-long extensive public awareness programme from August 15 to curb liquor consumption.

The state had witnessed a massive anti-liquor movement by women in early 1990s, forcing political parties to include the issue on their agenda and ultimately leading to imposition of total prohibition. However, the dry law was subsequently withdrawn by the Chandrababu Naidu government.

“Nothing could be more atrocious than viewing liquor as a chief source of revenue for the government. The liquor addiction is playing havoc with millions of families. There is a strong case for restricting its consumption,” Dr Narayan said.

With the liquor sales showing a consistent surge in the past few years, the excise revenue has touched Rs 6,761 crore in 2006-07, registering a 34 per cent growth over the past year.

The state has been ranked first in the country in the sale of beer, which netted Rs 700-crore revenue in 2006-07.

Ironically, the ruling Congress had promised in the run-up to the 2004 elections that it would re-introduce prohibition in a phased manner.

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Elephants back on job at Kerala temple

Guruvayur (Kerala), July 29
After a month-long rejuvenation treatment during the monsoon, 64 elephants of the Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayoor, are all set to take up their various tasks at the shrine.

The elephants have to perform various rituals in the temple every day including 'seeveli' (the temple idol placed atop the elephant and taken round the shrine). At least five elephants are deputed for the temple tasks everyday.

They are used only for temple rituals or for festivities in other temples. They are not sent out for hard work like that in timber mills. — PTI

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A magazine editor at 13

New Delhi, July 29
“The most invincible weapon is your cute smile. Smile and conquer the world with love” are the keywords of the children’s magazine “Invincible” edited by Shambhavi, a 13-year-old school-going girl.

A student of VIII standard in Air Force Bal Bharati Public School here, Shambhavi is one of the youngest editors around, who does not employ her skills for commercial viability of the magazine, but certainly gives reasons to smile and cheer for many starry-eyed children.

Priced at just Rs 2 per copy, “the magazine is a children’s magazine, a guide for the students. It includes write-ups that are motivational and informational primarily for children, but equally enthrals the kids there in the hearts of the adults too”, the young editor says.

Expressing elation at the overwhelming response to her magazine, she chuckled “Invincible” had received great response from its readers. I am getting letters for subscription and comments from all around; it feels really great.”

Shambhavi had been contributing articles and poems to her school magazine “Damini” since she was in IV standard. To launch her own magazine, she teamed up with seven of her friends, all from different schools.

For Shambhavi, it was her father, a journalist, who inspired her at all her moves to start the magnificent work and to keep it going.

Little Sambhavi has won the hearts of many, not only her parents or teachers, as she has been winning the awards for the best student and the best all-rounder in her school, for the past seven years. But, now the list of her admirers include no one but former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

She recently visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan on a special media invite.

The little champ is busy with her upcoming issue of the magazine that would be Independence Day special. She also looks forward to upload her magazine online.

Shambhavi likes swimming, reading and writing articles. Nancy Drew and R. Dahl are her favourite authors. She loves “Captain Jack” from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean series.

The young editor questioned editors, ”Why are all bad stories placed on the front page of the newspapers while we want to wake up with a smile?” — UNI

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Spirituality, charity bring women to Vrindavan: Study
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 29
Vrindavan, the most preferred destination for a large number of widows, is now attracting young widows as the city provides greater opportunities for survival and livelihood.

Spirituality is a great attraction to Vrindavan. A UNIFEM supported study by senior journalist Usha Rai has tried to find answers as to why Bengali widows, mostly from Nawadweep, Nadia and Burdwan districts, come to the holy city.

The study has inferred that 56 per cent of the widows spend their life in Vrindavan hoping for eternal life. “The dominant culture of the city seeps into their souls. Somewhere deep in their hearts is the hope that they will attain moksha (escape the cycle of life and death)”.

The study titled ‘Spirituality, Poverty, Charity brings Widows to Vrindavan’ has resulted from the initiative by the Guild of Service, a non-government organisation that has been working in Vrindavan for a decade for the rehabilitation of widows.

The study has looked at the continued influx of widows to Vrindavan and the reasons for dependence on charity. The interviewers spoke to 250 Bengali widows living in Vrindavan, Goverdhan, Radha Kund and Barsana to understand their compulsions for leaving West Bengal, a state where the widows monthly pension has been increased to Rs 750.

The study shows that women who have come to Vrindavan were not getting any pension in West Bengal. “Only three of the 225 Bengali widows interviewed said that they were getting pension that was not from the Uttar Pradesh government.”

The author has reported that ‘bhajan ashrams’ seem to have become an intrinsic part of the widows' life in Vrindavan. “70 per cent of the widows favoured the ‘bhajan ashrams’. It was their route to piety and spirituality. 58 per cent of the widows favoured them for sustenance and facilities that they provided.”

Another new trend is the presence of married women in these ashrams. According to the study, these married women, called ‘sudwas’, chant bhajans and collect money, rice and pulses as compensation for their chanting.

The study has reported that Vrindavan and the smaller holy cities of Radha Kund, Barsana and Goverdhan totally lacked medical services for the widows and the poor.

Rai has reported that one of the most heartening features of Vrindavan is the total absence of the caste-system.

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