Birth tribute to Sri Aurobindo: 15 August 2022

India is celebrating 75 years of independence under the banner of Azadi ki Mohotsav.  We are enjoying ourselves, we are celebrating in a joyous mood but we did not get this Azadi / Independence easily. Many people sacrificed their lives, many were physically tortured and crippled, and also many women were assaulted. There are numerous cases of heinous crimes inflicted upon to Indians by the British Raj.  Indians salute all of them and will continue generations after generations. It is also sad that in the school textbooks a few names and their family members’ names are highlighted as if for their sacrifice we have got independence. Here, I am presenting a case of a great freedom fighter who later on became a spiritual leader but was not widely known to many Indians (my observations). He is Sri Aurobindo earlier known as Aurobindo Ghosh.

Sri Aurobindo, the original name was Aurobindo Ghose, (Aurobindo also spelled Aravinda) was born on 15 August 1872, in Calcutta /Kolkata. “ Although his family was Bengali, his father believed British culture to be superior. He and his two elder siblings were sent to the English-speaking Loreto House boarding school in Darjeeling, in part to improve their language skills. Darjeeling was a center of Anglo-Indians in India and the school was run by Irish nuns” (wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Aurobindo). Later on, “he was sent to England for further schooling. He entered the University of Cambridge, where he became proficient in two classical and several modern European languages. After returning to India in 1892, he held various administrative and professorial posts in Baroda (Vadodara) and Calcutta (Kolkata).  Turning to his native culture, he began the serious study of Yoga and Indian languages, including classical Sanskrit” (britannica.com/biography/Sri-Aurobindo). After that slowly he became a revolutionary. The Partition of Bengal in 1905 led to a general outburst which helped the rise of the extremist party and the great nationalist movement. The British Government dealt with severe repressive measures against the ‘Swadeshi Agitation’. “In 1908, Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki attempted to kill Magistrate Kingsford, a judge known for handing down severe sentences against nationalists. However, the bomb thrown at his horse carriage missed its target and instead landed in another carriage and killed two British women, the wife, and daughter of barrister Pringle Kennedy. Aurobindo was also arrested for planning and overseeing the attack and imprisoned in solitary confinement in Alipore Jail. The trial of the Alipore Bomb Case lasted for a year, but eventually, he was acquitted on 6 May 1909. His defense counsel was Chittaranjan Das” (wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Aurobindo). Anyway, the British administration was after him for silly issues they were after him. In view of this, he finally decided to go to Pondicherry, now Puducherry, a French colony (until 1954). In Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo dedicated himself to his spiritual and philosophical activities. During this period, one French lady  Mirra Alfassa popularly known as The Mother greatly supported him.  “When the Sri Aurobindo Ashram was formed in November 1926, Sri Aurobindo entrusted its full material and spiritual charge to the Mother. Under her guidance, which continued for nearly fifty years, the Ashram grew into a large, many-faceted spiritual community” (sriaurobindoashram.org/mother). Before conclusion, a few paragraphs written by Sri Aurobindo himself, in 1934 are presented here.

“All beings are united in that One Self and Spirit but divided by a certain separability of consciousness, an ignorance of their true Self and Reality in the mind, life, and body. It is possible by a certain psychological discipline to remove this veil of separative consciousness and become aware of the true Self, the Divinity within us and all. Evolution is the method by which it liberates itself; consciousness appears in what seems to be inconscient, and once having appeared is self-impelled to grow higher and higher and at the same time to enlarge and develop towards greater and greater perfection. Life is the first step of this release of consciousness; the mind is the second; but the evolution does not finish with the mind, it awaits a release into something greater, a consciousness that is spiritual and supramental. The next step of the evolution must be towards the development of the Supermind and Spirit as the dominant power in the conscious being. Only then will the involved Divinity in things release itself entirely and it become possible for life to manifest perfection” (auroville.org/page/sri-aurobindos-teaching-and-spiritual-method).

On his (Sri Aurobindo) birthday on 15 August 2022, Pronam to yogi, seer, philosopher, poet, and Indian nationalist who propounded a philosophy of divine life on earth through spiritual evolution.

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Assassination of Shinzo Abe: My request to the Union Government to place a Statue of Abe in New Delhi  

Shinzo Abe was Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, held office in 2006 for one year and again from 2012 to 2020 when he was forced to step down due to the debilitating bowel condition ulcerative colitis. And unfortunately, on 8 July 2022, he was killed by one person from Japan Tetsuya Yamagami who was previously in the Japanese navy, known as the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF). As a senior citizen, I am surprised about the security system of Japan and its intelligent department. I personally feel both failed because a former Prime Minister was not protected and publicly he was killed. (wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinzo_Abe).

Shinzo Abe was born on 21 September 1954 in Tokyo to a renowned political family with good economic influence throughout pre-war, wartime, and post-war Japan. His family was originally from Yamaguchi Prefecture.

His paternal grandfather Kan Abe was a Yamaguchi landowner who served in the House of Representatives during World War II, while his father Shintaro Abe served in the House of Representatives from 1958 to 1991, with stints as Chief Cabinet Secretary, Minister for International Trade, and Industry, and Minister for Foreign Affairs During World War II.

Abe completed his  public administration and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Seikei University in 1977, Japan. He, later on, moved to the United States and studied public policy at the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development (presently  the USC Price School of Public Policy) for three semesters.  In April 1979, Abe started working for Kobe Steel.  He left the company in 1982 and pursued a number of government positions including executive assistant to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, private secretary to the chairperson of the LDP General Council, and private secretary to the LDP secretary-general (wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinzo_Abe). Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest at this year’s Republic Day in 2014. At an Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) lecture in September 2011, Abe said: “a strong India is in the best interest of Japan, and a strong Japan is in the best interest of India.” 

India’s expression of friendship was its gratitude for the Japanese help to the Indian National Army (INA). Japan had released Indian prisoners of war at the request of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to help build the INA which fought alongside the Japanese in Singapore, Burma, and northeast India. The war cemetery in Imphal where Indian and Japanese soldiers were buried together is a testimony to that (mea.gov.in/in-focus-article.htm?22762). 

 India declares a day of state mourning for Shinzo Abe’s death. Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated, “As a mark of our deepest respect for former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, a one-day national mourning shall be observed on 9 July 2022”. The national flag will be at half-mast on all buildings across India for the day of mourning across India, and there will be no official entertainment.

Vice president M Venkaiah Naidu and Union Minister Hardeep Puri have also expressed anguish at the death of Abe and recalled his role to develop a good relationship with India. Our former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too expressed deep shock and sorrow at the death of Shinzo Abe. Thus, it is evident that political leaders of India irrespective of political parties have liked Abe. 

Although Shinzo Abe was assassinated, Indians will remember him generation after generation. 

I request our Union Government to place a statue of Shinzo Abe in an important place in New Delhi. 

Monkeypox: Gained knowledge by completing the WHO course

As a senior citizen in recent years, I am coming across new diseases and one such disease recently I have come to know is monkeypox. Taking an interest to know about the disease I have completed recently a certificate course on monkeypox titled,    “Monkeypox: Introductory course for African outbreak contexts” under World Health Organisation (WHO). Based on my learning and information collected from the website (www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/monkeypox) I am presenting a few facts about monkeypox so that readers can get an idea in this regard. That is the article is based on secondary sources.

  Monkeypox virus (MPXV) is an orthopoxvirus that causes human monkeypox (MPX), a viral disease with symptoms in humans similar to smallpox, including fever and rash. Although in the world smallpox was eradicated in 1980, monkeypox emerged as the most significant orthodox virus disease in humans. It has been observed that cases that occur sporadically are from rural areas of Central and West African countries, close to tropical rainforests, and has been increasingly appearing in urban areas. In regions, there is frequent human contact with infected animals. Humans can also acquire the disease through direct contact with cases of monkeypox but there is no evidence to date that person-to-person transmission alone can sustain a monkeypox outbreak in the human population. It is reported that monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks. Severe cases can occur. In recent times, the case fatality ratio is between 3 and 6 percent.   Monkeypox typically presents clinically with fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications. Various animal species have been identified as susceptible to the monkeypox virus. This includes rope squirrels, tree squirrels, Gambian pouched rats, dormice, non-human primates, and other species. Uncertainty remains on the natural history of the monkeypox virus and further studies are needed to identify the exact reservoir(s) and how virus circulation is maintained in nature. It is pertinent to mention that human monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a 9-month-old boy in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968. Since then, most cases have been reported from rural, rainforest regions of the Congo Basin, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and human cases have increasingly been reported from across central and West Africa. Since 1970, human cases of monkeypox have been reported in 11 African countries: Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan. In 2003, the first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa was in the United States of America and was linked to contact with infected pet prairie dogs. These pets had been housed with Gambian pouched rats and dormice that had been imported into the country from Ghana. This outbreak led to over 70 cases of monkeypox in the U.S. Monkeypox has also been reported in travelers from Nigeria to Israel in September 2018, to the United Kingdom in September 2018, December 2019, May 2021, and May 2022, to Singapore in May 2019, and to the United States of America in July and November 2021. In May 2022, multiple cases of monkeypox were identified in several non-endemic countries. Studies are currently underway to further understand the epidemiology, sources of infection, and transmission patterns. 
It is heartening to mention that vaccines used during the smallpox eradication programme also provided protection against monkeypox.  It may be mentioned here that vaccination against smallpox was demonstrated through several observational studies to be about 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox. 

World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April:  A Great Day for Book Lovers 

During school days, we read books are our best friends who will never walk away from us. Undoubtedly books are our friends. It provides knowledge in different fields and enhances our wisdom and intelligence. From class one onwards we all read books and many of us continuously read books until our death.  To popularize reading habits this year 23 April 2022 is observed as World Book Day. This is also known as World Book and Copyright Day or International Day of the Book, which is an annual event organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote reading, publishing, and copyright

 Each year, on 23 April, celebrations take place all over the world to recognize the scope of books – a link between the past and the future, a bridge between generations and across cultures. On this occasion, UNESCO and the international organizations representing the three major sectors of the book industry – publishers, booksellers, and libraries, select the World Book Capital for a year to maintain, through its own initiatives, the impetus of the Day’s celebrations.  23 April is a symbolic date in world literature as on this date several prominent authors, William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all passed away. So this,  the date was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a worldwide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone to access books (unesco.org/commemorations/worldbookday).

According to World Reading Habits in 2020, (geediting.com/world-reading-habits-2020), by conducting research studies across the world they have found that coronavirus has changed our reading habits. Some of the highlights of World Reading Habits in 2020 research inter alia are:

         India reads more than any other country, followed by Thailand and China

         Printed books continue to drive more revenue than eBooks or audiobooks. However, physical books sales did dip because of coronavirus (not surprisingly).

         35% of the world read more due to coronavirus.

Also, World Reading Habits in 2020 have given ranks which may be seen as below:

1)        India (10.42   hours spent in reading per person per week)

2)       Thailand (9.24 hours spent in reading per person per week)

3)        China  (8.00 hours spent in reading per person per week)

4)       Philippines (7.36 hours spent in reading per person per week)

5)       Egypt (7.30 hours spent in reading per person per week)

19)   Spain (5.48 hours spent in reading per person per week)

20)   Canada (5.48 hours spent in reading per person per week)

21)  Germany (5.42 hours spent in reading per person per week)

22)  USA (5.42 hours spent in reading per person per week)

It is pertinent to mention that ranks have been given by World Reading Habits in 2020. But interesting points are India, Thailand, China, Philippines, and Egypt are in the first five but so-called developed countries such as Spain, Canada, Germany, and the USA are placed at a comparatively low level. 

On this Day of 23 April, as a senior citizen, I suggest that parents should encourage their children to read more and more books including newspapers. Reading habit is the sine qua non for leading a balanced lifestyle.

A Wonderful Place for Religious tourism in Telangana, Yadagirigutta: Few Suggestions to improve

India is a place where one can visit any area for many purposes such as general tourism, medical tourism, religious tourism, games and sports tourism, educational tourism etc. On 11 January 2022, I had the opportunity to visit a wonderful place located about 80 kilometres away from Hyderabad (from my residence of Suncity, Hyderabad) known as Yadagirigutta in Telangana. I am presenting a few lines about the place based on secondary sources and also later on my observations.
Yadagirigutta is a temple town as the famous Lakshmi Narasimha Temple is situated here. It is situated around 16 kilometres away from the district headquarters Bhuvanagiri and 55 kilometres away from Uppal, a major suburb of Hyderabad and already mentioned around 80 kilometres away from Suncity of Hyderabad. It is pertinent to mention that Hyderabad Regional Ring Road passes through Yadagirigutta (wikipedia.org/wiki/Yadagirigutta). Thousands of people visit the place every day. According to the website, yadadri.telangana.gov.in/tourist-place/yadagirigutta, five thousand to eight thousand people everyday visit for pujas, weddings, other family rituals etc. The number of visitors increases significantly on weekends, holidays and festivals. Further, in the context of its name few points are highlighted from the website, (yadadri.telangana.gov.in), “according to the myths of the Third Age, there was a sage named Yadarshi, who was the son of the great sage Sri Rishyasringa Maharshi and Santa Devi. He meditated inside the cave with the gaze of Sri Anjaneya Swami. Sri Narasimha Swami appeared before him, pleased with his devotion. The Swami himself manifested himself in five different forms as Sri Jwala Narasimha, Sri Gandabherunda, Sri Yogananda, Sri Ugra and Sri Lakshminarasimha after Swami and is therefore worshipped as the Pancharama Narasimha Kshetra. The Sudarshan Chakra is a guide for the devotees towards the temple. In the 15th century, the great king of Vijayanagara, Sri Krishnadevaraya, mentioned in his autobiography about the temple that before going to war he would always visit the temple and pray to the Lord for victory. The town is well connected to the capital and the nearest major towns by the Ghat Road. This temple is very popular in the Telangana region”.

I was highly fascinated to see the beauty of the place as from the top place the view was scenic. I observed with my heart and mind, the beauty of nature as well as its pristine beauty. The Temple Committee meticulously arranged the visit of the people without any chaos, etc. As revealed, every day thousands of people visit the place to have a glimpse of Bhagawan Narshimha.
Here, I wish to suggest a few things to the Government of Telangana. While taking the Prasadam by paying a little amount, many people have to stand under the scorching heat. So, I suggest a spacious area should be selected with fully covered. Also, I observed only one counter was in operation where tokens were issued (payment counter) and another counter where Prasadam was distributed. Here, my suggestion is that there should be two more counters if not more. One (payment counter and Prasadam counter) should be for the senior citizens and another (payment counter and Prasadam counter) should be for ladies. Because when I visited on 11 March 2022 there was no separate counter either for senior citizens or for ladies. Only one as mentioned already was functioning for all.
Anyway, I congratulate the Government of Telangana for developing the area as a sequel many have got the job, both self-employment and wage- employment. Even eight years ago the place was not at all developed from a tourism point of view.
(I, Shankar Chatterjee, offer my gratitude to T. Sanjeeva Reddy, Legal Adviser by profession, Libdom Villa, Bandlaguda Jagir, Hyderabad for inspiring me in carrying out my academic activities)

Pronam to Great Sant Ravidas Ji: Birthday Tribute

From time to time, many great saints were born in India. One of them is Sant/Saint Ravidas, also called Raidas, (flourished 15th or 16th Century), a spiritual poet and a great saint and popularly known as Sant Ravidas. Sant Ravidas ji was one of the most renowned saints of the Indian Bhakti movement.
It is believed that Guru Ravidas Ji was born on the Magh Purnima day on Sunday in the year 1433 in Kashi present Varanasi in a so-called ‘untouchable leather-working caste’, but his knowledge, wisdom, spiritual development, and humanitarian activities were at the zenith which cannot be compared with many other-caste persons. Undoubtedly, Sant was endowed with the pure and holy soul as he had proved by caste one cannot be great.
Many researchers believe that Sant met Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, and altogether 41 of Guru Ravidas Ji’s poems were included in the Adi Granth.
Sant Ravidas ji was a prominent figure in the bhakti movement and a renowned poet of the Nirgun Bhakti tradition that valued the worship of a formless God. In this context, two foreign researchers who have carried out an extensive study on Sant Ravidas Ji’s activities may be mentioned. One is Dr. Winand Callewaert and another one is Dr. Peter Friedlander as both have published many books and articles on Sant. They have translated his songs also. One is presenting here. It may be mentioned that Prof Dr. Winand Callewaert was a scholar in Sanskrit (studied in India) and taught this subject in foreign countries. He has published many books and articles in English, Dutch and Hindi. Another scholar Dr. Peter Friedlander lived in India from 1977-1982 and learned Hindi in Varanasi. He then studied at SOAS London University and completed his Ph.D. on the life and works of Saint Ravidas in 1991. The following is a popular verse from Saint Ravidas, translated by Dr. Winand Callewaert and Dr. Peter Friedlander,
“Raidas says, what shall I sing?
Singing, singing I am defeated.
How long shall I consider and proclaim:
absorb the self into the Self?
This experience is such,
that it defies all description.
I have met the Lord,
Who can cause me harm?
Hari in everything, everything in Hari –
For him who knows Hari and the sense of self,
no other testimony is needed:
the knower is absorbed”.
(Hari here refers to God who takes away all the sorrows of his devotees).
Sant Ravidas Ji was against the caste system and in his poetry, questioned caste hegemony, valued labour of all sorts, as well as a life of simplicity and morality. He initiated dialogues with then upper-caste Hindus about caste, social justice, love, and forms of worship. He spread the message that “God created man and not man created God”, which means everyone is created by God and has equal rights on this earth. This theory in the present days no one can deny as all human beings have equal rights. It is believed that because of his wisdom, in-depth spiritual knowledge, and discourse many persons of all castes including the King and Queen of Chittoor presently in Rajasthan were his followers.
In Sant Ravidas Ji’s name, a temple has been constructed in his hometown, where Sant is worshipped every day. His songs are recited every morning and evening in the temple. His birthday is celebrated every year on Magh Purnima day. This year it has fallen on 16 February 2022.
Although Guru Ravidas Ji has passed away long ago he will be in the hearts of millions for his spiritual, devotional, and humanitarian activities generations after generations. I offer my respectful Pronam to the Great Soul, Saint, and Guru on his birth anniversary.

RSETI: Self–employment Programme for Rural Youths

Unemployment in India is always a serious issue particularly in rural India as the scope is limited in rural areas. So launching of Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs) by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) of the Government of India is a praiseworthy step. MoRD was impressed by the Rural Development and Self Employment Training Institute (RUDSETI) model which was established in the year 1982 at Dharmasthala, Karnataka by Dr D Veerendra Heggade jointly with Syndicate Bank and Canara Bank. MoRD in 2009 advised all the banks to establish one RUDSETI type institute in all their Lead Districts under the banner of Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs) (www.nacer.in/index_more.html).
It is pertinent to mention that RSETIs identify, orient, train and assist rural youth to take up self-employment as a source of livelihood. The youths in the age group of 18-45 years, irrespective of caste, creed or religion are eligible to undergo training at RSETI, which is free of cost. RSETI has been doing a commendable job in training and settlement of rural youths. The total number of training programmes organised from inception to 31 March 2020 was 1,26,556 where the number of youth trained was 35,00,770 during the same period and 24,41,083 (69.73%) youths were settled. Further, the number of functional RSETIs was 585 where altogether 29 banks weresponsored (www.nacer.in/performance_glance.html).
Each RSETI offers skill development programmes in a financial year in various avenues and in each batch 25-30 youths are selected for training. The programmes are of short duration ranging from 1 to 6 weeks. And to get a general idea few trades are mentioned below:
• Agricultural Programmes – agriculture and allied activities like dairy, poultry, apiculture, horticulture, sericulture, mushroom cultivation, floriculture, fisheries, etc
• Product Programme – dress designing for men and women, rexine articles, incense sticks manufacturing, football making, bag, bakery products, leaf cup making, recycled paper manufacturing, etc.
• Process Programmes – two wheeler repairs, radio/TV repairs, motor rewinding, electrical transformer repairs, irrigation pump-set repairs, tractor and power tiller repairs, cell phone repairs, beautician course, photography and videography, screen printing, domestic electrical appliances repair, computer hardware and DTP.
• General Programmes – skill development for women
• Other Programmes – related to other sectors like leather, construction, hospitality and any other sector depending on local requirements.
The author time to time studied many youths who were undergoing training and also collected data after training that were settled and found earning was substantial. Few names as evidence can be mentioned here: a) Adapa Kalpana (female) , Dharanikota village of Amaravathi Mandal, Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh ( year of study in 2016), b) Ashok Kumar ( Male/year of study July 2018), Hajpurwa village of Warisnagar block, Samastipur district of Bihar, c) Arati Mishra (female/ year of study July 2018) Nirpur village, Samastipur block, Samastipur district d) In 2017, the author studied some youths of Amritsar district, Punjab. The youths were Jasbir Kaur (female), Harjit Kaur (female), Mandip Kaur (female), Navneet Kaur e) In 2019 the author studied by visiting RSETI at Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. Names of some of the youths are Chhaya Bhalerao (female), Kalpana Jagannath Surase (female), Umesh Bhanudas Dhepe (male), f) In Darrang district of Assam names of some of the youths who were contacted in 2018 are Mousami Saikia Gogoi (female), Poly Seal (female), Mira Medhi, (female), Sabita Koch (female) and many others.
In addition, the author visited many RSETIs and cases collected about the youths trained and post-training settlement and earning of income. and found training and post-training settlement was praiseworthy.
It is suggested that wherever feasible RSETI may be started at the sub-division level.