UN International Day of Rural Women October 15, 2017

The invaluable contribution of rural women to development

The crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing, has been increasingly recognized. Women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, including informal work, and perform the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work within families and households in rural areas. They make significant contributions to agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and building climate resilience.

Even so, women and girls in rural areas suffer disproportionately from multi-dimensional poverty. While extreme poverty has declined globally, the world’s 1 billion people who continue to live in unacceptable conditions of poverty are heavily concentrated in rural areas. Poverty rates in rural areas across most regions are higher than those in urban areas. Yet smallholder agriculture produces nearly 80 per cent of food in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and supports the livelihoods of some 2.5 billion people. Women farmers may be as productive and enterprising as their male counterparts, but are less able to access land, credit, agricultural inputs, markets and high-value agrifood chains and obtain lower prices for their crops.

Structural barriers and discriminatory social norms continue to constrain women’s decision-making power and political participation in rural households and communities. Women and girls in rural areas lack equal access to productive resources and assets, public services, such as education and health care, and infrastructure, including water and sanitation, while much of their labour remains invisible and unpaid, even as their workloads become increasingly heavy due to the out-migration of men. Globally, with few exceptions, every gender and development indicator for which data are available reveals that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women, and that they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion and the effects of climate change.

The impacts of climate change, including on access to productive and natural resources, amplify existing gender inequalities in rural areas. Climate change affects women’s and men’s assets and well-being differently in terms of agricultural production, food security, health, water and energy resources, climate-induced migration and conflict, and climate-related natural disasters.
2017 Theme: “Challenges and opportunities in climate-resilient agriculture for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”

In agriculture, climate change exacerbates the existing barriers to gender equality faced by women farmers. Globally, women comprise 43 per cent6 of the agricultural workforce and play a critical role in supporting household and community food security. However, due to discriminatory policy frameworks or inequitable social norms, women farmers have less access than men to secure land tenure, agricultural inputs, financing, water and energy, appropriate infrastructure, technologies, and extension services.

According to some estimates, closing the gender gap in access to land and other productive assets could increase agricultural outputs by up to 20 per cent in Africa.7 It would also enable women farmers to adopt climate-resilient agricultural approaches at the same rate as men, as key initiatives that address these gender gaps such as secured land tenure, greater financial inclusion and access to information are also essential to accelerate the adoption of climate-resilient agricultural practices. In essence, providing equal access to women and men farmers to land and other productive resources can provide a “triple dividend” of gender equality, food security and climate management, thereby offering a cost-effective and transformative approach to the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.

A changing climate means that there is a shrinking window of opportunity to close gender gaps in agriculture. Climate change aggravates existing barriers, limiting women farmers’ access to long-term affordable finance and agricultural extension services, and increasing their unpaid care work burden as water and fuel become scarce. Women farmers are at risk of being trapped in a downward spiral in the absence of concerted efforts to close these gender gaps.

Therefore, it is a priority to foster women’s empowerment through climate-resilient agriculture approaches such as:

engendering climate-resilient agricultural policies;
increasing women’s land tenure security;< facilitating women farmers’ access to finance to invest in climate-resilient and time-saving assets; enhancing women farmers’ access to climate-resilient information; and expanding opportunities for women farmers to participate in and move up the climate-resilient agricultural value chain. Women are powerful change agents to address climate change at scale. They are key actors in building community resilience and responding to climate-related disasters. Women tend to make decisions about resource use and investments in the interest and welfare of their children, families, and communities.8 Women as economic and political actors can influence policies and institutions towards greater provision of public goods, such as energy, water and sanitation, and social infrastructure, which tend to matter more to women and support climate resilience and disaster preparedness. Systematically addressing gender gaps in responding to climate change is one of the most effective mechanisms to build the climate resilience of households, communities and nations. The growing recognition of the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and girls has been matched in recent years by the rising awareness of their roles as change agents and the tremendous value of gender equality and women’s empowerment for producing social, economic, and climate resilience benefits.

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Impact of GST on Social Sectors and NGOs

From: www.feelancer.com
The implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will no doubt have a great impact on the Indian economy, as it will effectively result in an increase in taxes across the board.
Nevertheless, while the economic impact has been extensively discussed, few have observed the social consequences of the GST, particularly with regards to its impact on charities and the non-profit organisations.
Charities will be subject to GST
Charities are a social cause that is often undertaken by unselfish volunteers who are doing the work that the government should be doing but is not. Such work and activities should be fully encouraged and supported by the authorities. Rather, the intended implementation of GST will create many obstacles and complexities for charities.
Cash donations
Under the GST system, only cash donations “without any benefits and advantages” to the donor is not considered as a taxable and hence not covered under the GST regime. However, cash donations are liable to GST if there is any advantage or benefits to the donor, with benefits and advantages are defined as:
1. Promoting and Advertising or the donor’s or sponsor’s name or its products;
2. Naming any event after the donor or sponsor;
3. Displaying the sponsor’s or donor’s name on shirts worn by a team.
This raises many issues as such practices are common in India, particularly where corporate sponsors are concerned.
Donations in kind
For the time being, a donation in kind is subject to additional limitations. For sponsorship in kind “without any advantages and benefits” to the donor, only goods that do not exceed a specified limit over a year are considered a “business gift” and consequently exempt from GST. However, if the sponsored goods total exceeds the specified limit in a financial year, it would be liable to GST.
For donation in kind that is reciprocated with “benefits and advantages” to the donor, such as coffee mugs, T-shirts, Bags bearing the donor’s corporate logo, then GST must be accounted based on the fair market value for providing advertising space.
Fundraising events
Charities looking to organise fundraising activities would be exempt from the scope of GST on their supplies. However, the organiser not only to furnish a list of supplies utilised in the fundraising event to the CBDT for prior approval but also maintains full records or accounts of the supplies used. This simply means extra operational costs for organising such events.

Proceeds from other activities
It is often the case that charitable institutions and non-profit organisations are engaged in other activities to supplement their income for operational expenses. However, all such will be subject to GST, even if the proceeds are used for wholly for charitable purposes.

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Impact of GST on NGOs and Charitable Trusts

From: www.cleartax.in
Implementation of GST has seen as a great tax reform that will unify the entire nation, as far as taxation is concerned. This has been beneficial for various sectors, at the same time, implementation of GST will have social consequences on charities and the non-profit organizations. Let us take a look at the impact that GST’s implementation had on NGOs and charitable trusts.
Under GST, charities will come be subject to pay Goods and Services Tax. This means that GST will be applicable on some of the services and goods supplied by a charitable trust or an NGO. Let us explain this in detail.
What are the criteria for a charitable trust to be exempted from GST?
There are certain criteria for a charitable trust or an NGO to be exempted from the Goods and Services Tax. The charitable trust or NGO must be registered under Section 12AA of the Income Tax Act, and the services provided by the charitable trust or the NGO must be for a charitable cause.
What is a charitable activity under GST?
The Goods and Services Act also specifies the criteria to be called a charitable activity. They are:

• Public health services, such as:
1. Counseling of terminally ill persons or counseling for physically disabled
2. Counseling for people affected with HIV or AIDS
3. Counseling for alcohol-dependent persons

• Promoting of religion, spirituality, or yoga
• Spreading public awareness on health, family planning
• Promoting educational programs or skill development relating to:

1. Physically or mentally abused persons
2. Prisoners
3. Orphaned, homeless, or abandoned children
4. Rural area residents over the age of 65
• Charitable services to preserve the environment (watershed areas, forests, and wildlife)
If any charitable trust or an NGO does not meet at least two of the criteria, then GST will be applicable and the entity must register under GST.

What about goods sold by a charitable trust?
Goods that are sold by a charitable trust is taxable. The charitable trust must pay the GST rate applicable while purchasing the supply.
Is GST applicable on training programs, camps, and events conducted by a charitable trust?
If a charitable trust is conducting training programs, yoga camps, or other programs that are not free for participants, it will be considered as a commercial activity and hence will be liable for GST. Even the donation received for such an activity will be liable for taxation under GST.
Services provided by way of training or coaching in recreational activities relating to arts and culture, or sports by a charitable entity will be exempt from GST.
Are the events organized by charitable trusts exempt from GST?
If trusts are running schools, colleges or any other educational institutions specifically for abandoned, orphans, homeless children, physically or mentally abused persons, prisoners or persons over age of 65 years or above residing in a rural area, such activities will be considered as charitable activities and income from such supplies will be wholly exempt from GST.
What happens when a charitable trust rents out a religious place? Is there any GST on that?
GST law has chalked out GST exemptions, when a charitable trust rents out religious meant for general public (owned and managed by a registered charitable trust under 12AA of the Income Tax Act, 1961). GST will be exempted when:
• Rent out rooms are charged lesser than Rs.1,000 a day
• Kalyanamandapam or an open area is charged lesser than Rs.10,000 a day
• Rent out shops and other spaces for business are charged less than Rs.10,000 a month

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The Maneka Gandhi column: To protect your heart, watch out for the dairy danger

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi
There are some words that we have grown up with. We accept them without even asking what they mean. Do you know what “pasteurized” and “homogenized” mean when it comes to milk? You need to know the processes that take place before food reaches your mouth, especially milk of which you will consume thousands of litres during your lifetime.
One of the first things you should do is ask for labeling on milk. That way you can make a choice of what you are drinking. We know the brand names of the milk – Amul, Parag etc. but without understanding what goes into them.
Pasteurization is intended to make milk safer and government agencies claim it doesn’t reduce nutritional value. Homogenization isn’t meant for safety, but for consistency and taste.
Pasteurization is the process of heating milk up and then quickly cooling it down to eliminate certain bacteria. Milk is heated to at least 161.6 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds, which is known as High Temperature Short Time pasteurization or flash pasteurization. This method will keep milk fresh for 2-3 weeks. Then there’s Ultra-Heat Treatment (UHT), whereby milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of two seconds. This processing results in a shelf life that can extend up to nine months. Milk treated with pasteurization or HTST is labelled as “pasteurized,” while milk treated with UHT is labelled as “ultra-pasteurized.”

Representational image. Reuters
Pasteurization does not kill all micro-organisms in milk, but is intended to kill some bacteria and make some enzymes inactive. In the process, the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research has shown that pasteurisation destroys vitamin A, around 38 percent of vitamin B complex, and about 50 percent of vitamin C in milk.
Homogenization is a process that gives milk its rich, white colour and smooth texture. Milk that has not been homogenized contains a layer of cream that rises to the top of a glass. Invented in 1932, homogenization is a mechanical process in which milk is passed through pipes and fine filters at a pressure of 2500 psi and a speed of 600 feet per second. The fat portion of the milk is broken up into very small globules. Like mist in a fog, small fat particles remain suspended evenly throughout the milk and do not rise to the top of the milk. Without homogenization, fat molecules in milk will rise to the top and form a layer of cream.
It’s advantageous for large-scale dairy farms to homogenize milk because the process allows them to mix milk from different herds. By preventing cream from rising to the top, homogenization also leads to a longer shelf life of milk allowing large companies to ship greater distances. The basic aim of homogenization is to make the milk last longer – upto 11 days- on shop shelves. While this benefits companies, does it help the consumer?
Heart disease is the single largest killer in the world, followed by diabetes and cancer. Is homogenized milk a contributor?
Dr Kurt Oster, who died in 1988, was the chairman of the Department of Medicine and Chief, Section of Cardiology at Park City Hospital, Bridgeport, Connecticut for 39 years. He was a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, American College of Physicians, American College of Nutrition, and of the American College of Clinical Pharmacology, among others. The author of more than 40 articles in reputable scientific journals, he is credited for the discovery of the role of the enzyme bovine milk xanthine oxidase in inflammation, and its effect on creating lesions in arteries, nerves and heart muscle. Dr. Oster is also credited for first making the link between cardiovascular disease and other chronic degenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, gout and psoriasis, suggesting that the disease pathway is the same, only in different locations. He demonstrated that folic acid therapy allows the healing of non-healing ulcers.
After suffering a heart attack at the age of 46 Dr Oster researched for over 20 years into clogged arteries.
According to Oster and his associates, Dr Donald Ross of Fairfield University and Dr John Zikakis of the University of Delaware, the principal culprit appears to be the homogenization of milk. Their work suggests that xanthine oxidase, or XO, ingested with homogenized milk and milk products, penetrates and damages arterial walls, triggering the classic symptoms leading to heart disease.
Xanthine oxidase is an enzyme naturally found in our livers where it is involved in the breakdown of compounds into uric acid, a waste product. The fat in milk also contains Xanthine Oxidase. When milk is not homogenised, both the fat and the xanthine oxidase are digested into smaller molecules, which are either used or excreted from the body.
However, when milk is homogenised some of the foreign xanthine oxidase passes intact through the wall of the intestine and into the blood circulation. There it creates havoc by attacking the plasmologen tissue, a vital component of the cells of the heart and artery wall tissue and parts of the heart muscle. This causes lesions in the artery walls. The body, in its efforts to protect and repair them, responds by “patching” the damage with calcified plaque. The result is scar tissue with a build-up of cholesterol and other fatty deposits. Arteries lose their elasticity as additional calcium is deposited. We call these arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis. High blood pressure is one symptom of the loss in arterial elasticity. Angina results from diminished blood flow through branches of the coronary artery, and the combination of adrenalin released during stress, caffeine and nicotine may constrict a diseased coronary artery depriving the heart of oxygen triggering a heart attack.
Some of Dr Oster’s evidence is summarised as follows:
The heart disease death rate skyrocketed after homogenised milk became commonplace in the United States.
Active Xanthine Oxidase has been found in the plaques and lesions lining artery walls.
The presence of human antibodies to cow’s milk xanthine oxidase have been identified in the human circulation.
Female sex hormones inhibit xanthine oxidase. Therefore, atherosclerosis is rare in women prior to menopause.
Male sex hormones chemically enhance xanthine oxidase activity. Atherosclerosis and heart attacks are more common in men.
The heart disease death rates are proportional to the volume of homogenised milk consumed in each country.
Remember it is not just milk, but everything else made from homogenised milk like yogurt, ice cream and cheeses.
To give one statistic : Finns consume about 272 kg of milk per year; 90 percent is homogenised, meaning 245 kg of homogenised milk per Finn per year.
Swedes drink as much milk, but only 2 percent of it is homogenised (only 4.9 kg per year). The death rate from heart attack in Finland is more than three times the Swedish level (about 245/100,000 compared with only 75/100,000).
Homogenisation is only one of many processes food is now subjected to, entirely for commercial purposes. Consumers have to contend with foods being irradiated, genetically engineered, homogenised and processed using any method that will benefit the company producing it. If you still opt to drink packaged milk, find out whether it is homogenized.

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Contract marriage racket busted

In a major crackdown on contract marriages racket involving old Arab sheikhs “marrying” local teenage Muslim girls, Hyderabad Police raided several guesthouses and lodges and arrested five Oman and three Qatar nationals, who were camping in the city to “marry” teenage girls.
Two of them are in their 80s and walk with the help of sticks and walkers. “They were in the process of “interviewing” more than 20 minor girls when the raids were conducted at various guesthouses,” Police Commissioner M Mahender Reddy said. Cops also arrested the chief qazi of Mumbai Farid Ahmed Khan who was issuing marriage certificates for contract marriages performed in Hyderabad for Rs 50,000 each.
Two other local qazis who performed fake marriages recently have also been arrested. Cops sealed several residence-cum-guesthouses in Falaknuma and Chandrayangutta area. In an elaborate operation that was started after the arrest of an Oman national on August 17 for marrying a minor, cops kept a watch at the Hyderabad Airport for sheikhs arriving from the Middle East in recent days. They followed these eight men to the various lodges and guesthouses where they checked in. As cops watched, several brokers including some women visited them and brought the girls for “interviews”. After gathering enough evidence, cops started raids last night.
South Zone Police raided one private guesthouse in Chandrayangutta area just in the nick of time and rescued a 15-year-old girl who was about to be married to a 70-year-old Omani Al Mayahi Ali Issa. The raids, which started last night, were still going on.
Cops arrested Al Mayah Ali Issa, Al Salehi Talib Humeid Ali, Al Ubaidani Juma Shinoon Sulaiman, Al Salehi Nasser Khalif Hamed, Al Qasimi Hassan Mazaaul Mohammed (all from Oman), and Omer Mohammed Seraj Abdal Rahman, Hamad Jabir o Al-Kuwari,and Safeldin Mohammed Salih (all from Qatar).
“They were in the process of selecting young girls to enter into fake marriage agreements. Brokers were bringing the girls to the guesthouses where the eight men were staying and displaying them. They have been arrested along with three brokers and three qazis who were paid to perform the marriages. The brokers have promised the girls’ parents if the sheikhs select their daughter for marriage they would pay Rs 1 lakh. The brokers take Rs 2 to 3 lakhs,” said Assistant Commissioner of Police of Falaknuma Division Mohammed Tajuddin Ahmed.
“The raids are based on our investigations into the August 18 incident when another Oman national was arrested for marrying a 17-year-old,” he said.
Besides the eight men who have been arrested, cops took into custody several sheikhs found living in lodges. At the FK Lodge, cops found Al Sheyadi Sulaiman Khamis Salim who is also from Oman. He told police that he came to Hyderabad to marry a young girl. He came with his son and a friend.
In another lodge, cops found 80-year-old blind sheikh M Abdullah who admitted that he came for a contract marriage; he would have left the bride after three weeks and returned to Muscat.
South Zone Deputy Commissioner of Police V Satyanarayana said they have identified at least 15 Hyderabadi brokers who live in Oman and Qatar and make contact with sheikhs there who are in search of teen brides. “These brokers help the sheikhs get in touch with families of girls here and deals are struck after which the sheikhs come to Hyderabad. There are several women whose main job is to identify poor families who are interested in giving away their daughters in the name of marriage for money without bothering about the age and intention of the groom. In cases where the sheikhs arranged visas and took the newly-married girls with them, the girls end up getting exploited by several others. A few victims we have interviewed have themselves told women police about it,” he said.
Among the 35 Hyderabadi brokers cops have identified so far, 25 are women. Police said brokers not only identify and keep the young girls ready for marriage but also offer various packages. In brokers’ parlance ‘Shaikh’ is a rich Arab who is willing to pay a lot of money for a teenage bride and would like to stay at a decent hotel and hire luxury cars. “Ambassador carwala” is not willing to spend too much, will hire a normal car and stay in a lodge or guesthouse. “Autowalla” is one who prefers to stay in cheap rented rooms and travel in autorickshaws.
The packages — from arranging meetings with girls to accommodation to marriage — range from Rs 3 to 10 lakhs.
Cops arrested five brokers who were bringing the girls to the rooms of the sheikhs. Mohammed Asif Mohammed, who had converted his house at Kalapather into a plush guesthouse and was inviting sheikhs to visit and meet young girls for marriage, was also arrested.
Two Qatari sheikhs were arrested from this guesthouse. Raids were conducted on residential apartments, which have been converted into guesthouses including FK Plaza, Ghalib Residency, MJ Anas Guesthouse, and Wincity Developers in Chandrayangutta.

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UN International Day of Peace 21 September

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
The theme for 2017 is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”

The theme honours the spirit of TOGETHER, a global initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life. TOGETHER unites the organizations of the United Nations System, the 193 Member States of the United Nations, the private sector, civil society, academic institutions and individual citizens in a global partnership in support of diversity, non-discrimination and acceptance of refugees and migrants. It was initiated during the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants on 19 September 2016.

“In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbours as ‘the other’. Discrimination diminishes us all. It prevents people — and societies — from achieving their full potential.” He added, “Together, let us stand up against bigotry and for human rights. Together, let us build bridges. Together, let us transform fear into hope.”

This year, the International Day of Peace will focus on engaging and mobilizing people throughout the world to show support for refugees and migrants. Its messages will be shared with communities hosting refugees and migrants as well as people concerned that refugees and migrants may bring physical and economic insecurity to their lives.

The Day will highlight solidarity with refugees and migrants and showcase the shared benefits of migration to economies and nations, while also acknowledging legitimate concerns of host communities. Ultimately, it will be about bringing people together and reminding them of their common humanity.

Young people will have a vital role to play. For example, they can volunteer to welcome and help refugees and migrants in their communities. They can also extend the hand of friendship to young refugees and migrants who they might meet in their classrooms and neighbourhoods.

On 15 September 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., the Secretary-General will celebrate the Day in the Peace Garden at United Nations Headquarters by ringing the Peace Bell and observing a minute of silence. United Nations Messengers of Peace will participate in the ceremony. The United Nations Education Outreach Section will hold a global student videoconference on the same day, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., also at United Nations Headquarters.

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Is ancient India overrated?

Is ancient India overrated ? A mindblowing analysis by Chinese Ex Professor from University of Toronto
Author: Pak L. Huide
Publication: Postcard.news
Date: July 22, 2017
 
Seriously? If anything, ancient India is sorely UNDERRATED.
 
I mean, I’m an ethnic Chinese living in Canada. But when I was growing up in Canada, I knew jackshit about India. Besides maybe curry.
I mean, people here have a vague understanding of Chinese history but they have NO idea about Indian history. For example, most people know that the Middle Kingdom is how China referred to herself but how many people know about Bharat? How many know about even the Guptas? People know that China was famous for ceramics and tea but how many people know about ancient India’s achievement in metallurgy? People know about the Great Wall, but how many know about the great temples of southern India?
 
This is partly due to the lackluster historical records that ancient Indians kept and also partly because modern Indians have a tendency to look down upon their ancient heritage and view western ideas and ideals as superior. China also has this problem but not nearly to the same extent.
 
The discovery that the earth is spherical is credited to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who was born in 384 BCE. However, very few people know that a man from ancient India established the idea of “spherical earth” during the 8th-9th century BCE. The man was called Yajnavalkya who first discovered that the earth is round. He was the first to propose the heliocentric system of the planets. In his work Shatapatha Brahmana, he proposed that the earth and the other planets move around the sun. He also calculated the period of one year as 365.24675 days. This is only 6 minutes longer than the current established time of 365.24220 days
 
Take the example of Kung Fu. The whole world knows about the martial art called Kung Fu. The person who founded Kung Fu was none other than a prince of the Pallava dynasty from Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu who visited China during the 5th century CE. He became the 28th patriarch of Buddhism and established the Shaolin temple and founded the martial art which became world famous today. That prince was called Bodhidharma.
 
But how many people know about that Kung Fu and Shaolin was founded by an Indian? Precisely, if Indians are unaware of their heritage, why should they expect that someone else will know about their history and achievement?
 
The achievements of ancient Indians are lost in obscurity. India’s ancestors had invented many ways which eased the basic life of a common man. These inventions may seem primitive today, but we can’t ignore the fact that these were revolutionary achievements during their era.
 
The Indus Valley civilization is known for the broad and the sanitized drainage system which was no less than a miracle during those ancient times. But how many people know that the ancient Indians from Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) were the first to invent a flush toilet?
 
The people around the world use rulers to measure everything. How many people know that Indus Valley Civilization was the first to invent the rulers? A ruler has been found at Lothal which is 4400 years old. Not only this, the people of IVC were the first to invent buttons. The world knows that the Chinese discovered the art of weaving silk dresses. How many people know that IVC people were the first to weave dresses made of cottons
 
The ancient Indians were first to invent the weighing scales. Archaeologists have discovered weighs and scales from the excavation sites of Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Lothal etc. These scales were extensively used for trading.
 
Ancient India has given Yoga to the world- which is widely practiced almost all over the world to keep people fit and fine. Models, supermodels, film stars, athletes, etc. regularly attends Yoga session to keep themselves fit.
 
Aryabhatta, Brahmagupta and Bhaskaracharya were the three eminent mathematicians from ancient India who established the concept of zero as a mathematical value in different eras. Brahmagupta was the first to invent a symbol for the value “shunya” (zero). Bhaskaracharya was the first to use it as algebra. The oldest inscription of zero can be found at the Chaturbhuj temple in Gwalior fort
 
Ancient Indians were pioneers in the field of chemistry too. The person who first invented the “atomic theory” was none other than Acharya Kanad from ancient India. He explained the atomic theory using terms like “Anu”(atom) and “Paramanu”(nucleus).
 
Ancient Indians were advanced in medical science too. The great physician of the time, Sage Shusrut was the first to carry out different surgeries which included plastic surgery and cataract surgery. His works are composed in his book called Shusrut Samhita (The works of Shusrut). The world hardly knows about Charak, the great specialist in medicine from ancient India. He was the first physician to establish the problems and medicinal treaties in fields like physiology, embryology, digestion, sexual disease, immunity, etc. His works on Ayurveda is composed as a book called Charak Samhita (The works of Charak).
 
The Chera dynasty of Tamil Nadu invented the idea of producing finest steel by heating black magnetite ore along with carbon. The mixture was kept in a crucible and heated in charcoal furnace. The Wootz Steel originated from India, but today, is popular as Damascus Steel.
 
India’s monuments are grand and are probably, the only way others recognize the importance of ancient Indian civilization. India’s gigantic monuments bear the testimony of the greatness of ancient India.
 
This is the Kailash Temple. It is a megalith which was constructed by cutting out a single rock- a mountain. The whole mountain was cut from the top to carve out the temple campus.
 
This is Dwarka, the grand and mysterious city submerged in the Arabian sea on the extreme west of India. The submerged heritage is no less than a treasure bearing the pride of Indian race!
 
This is Khajuraho, the marvel where the rocks has taken the form. The best of our monuments are not built on soft rocks like marble. Our ancestors carved out even the hardest of the rocks to give it a beauty.
 
The grandest and largest temple in India- Brihadeshwara temple. Breathtaking, isn’t it?
 
India is the land of grandest temples and breathtaking architectures. The heritage of India can’t be encapsulated within a small answer! To end the answer with, I will now share my personal favorite- The Sun Temple of Konark!
 
The main structure of the temple was partially destroyed by invaders like Kalapahad- a military general of the medieval period. Later, the prime structure totally collapsed when British stored gunpowder inside the structure and it caught fire accidentally.
 
Even though the main temple is gone, the amount of what left is still breathtaking by every means. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote about Konark- “here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.”
 
The whole temple was designed like a huge chariot of Sun God having 24 wheels pulled by 7 horses. Each wheel had 8 major spokes denoting 1 prahar (Hindu time period of 3 hours). There was a huge magnet at the top of the temple which used to keep the idol of the Sun deity suspended in the air due to magnetic arrangement.
 
Still think, that ancient India is overrated?
 
Ancient India was a hub of culture and technology and the absolute capital of world spirituality. I could talk about India for hours. India is many things but OVERRATED is definitely not one of them.

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UN’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons 30 July 2017

Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labour and sex. The International Labour Organization estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally. This estimate also includes victims of human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation. While it is not known how many of these victims were trafficked, the estimate implies that currently, there are millions of trafficking in persons victims in the world.

Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims. Children make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. Additionally, women and girls comprise 71 per cent of human trafficking victims, the report states.

In 2010, the General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, urging Governments worldwide to take coordinated and consistent measures to defeat this scourge. The Plan calls for integrating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programmes in order to boost development and strengthen security worldwide. One of the crucial provisions in the Plan is the establishment of a UN Voluntary Trust Fund for victims of trafficking, especially women and children.

The Trust Fund facilitates effective, on-the-ground assistance and protection to victims of trafficking, through grants to specialized NGOs. In the coming years, it aims to prioritize victims coming from a context of armed conflict and those identified among large refugee and migration flows. It will also focus its assistance to victims trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, organ removal, forced begging, forced criminality and emerging exploitative purposes (e.g. skin removal, online pornography).

In 2013, the General Assembly held a high-level meeting to appraise the Global Plan of Action. Member States also adopted resolution A/RES/68/192 and designated July 30 as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. This resolution declared that such a day was necessary to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

In September 2015, the world adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and embraced goals and targets on trafficking in persons. These goals call for an end to trafficking and violence against children; as well as the need for measures against human trafficking, and they strive for the elimination of all forms of violence against and exploitation of women and girls.

Another important development is the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which produced the groundbreaking New York Declaration. Of the nineteen commitments adopted by countries in the Declaration, three are dedicated to concrete action against the crimes of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

‘Act to Protect and Assist Trafficked Persons’

This year the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has chosen ‘act to protect and assist trafficked persons’ as the focus of the World Day. This topic highlights one of the most pressing issues of our time — the large mixed migration movements of refugees and migrants. The theme puts the spotlight on the significant impact of conflict and natural disasters, as well as the resultant, multiple risks of human trafficking that many people face. It addresses the key issue concerning trafficking responses: that most people are never identified as trafficking victims and therefore cannot access most of the assistance or protection provided.

 

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No immediate arrests in dowry harassment cases: SC rules to curb misuse of law

Quoting the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2012 data, the court said that a quarter of all arrests were those of women — mothers and sisters of husbands — and only 14.4% of cases ended in convictions.

 

A Family Welfare Committee (FWC) in every district will scrutinise dowry harassment cases before local police can arrest the accused, the Supreme Court said on Thursday, laying down a set of guidelines to curb misuse of the law.

Indian Penal Code’s Section 498A has been criticised for giving “disgruntled women” a legal option to harass their husbands, and Thursday’s orders take forward measures announced by the top court in 2014 when it prohibited automatic arrests.

A bench of justices AK Goel and UU Lalit barred the police from making direct arrest and said the involvement of civil society was necessary “to achieve the laudable object of punishing cruelty at the hands of husbands or his relatives against the wife”.

Quoting the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2012 data, the bench said that a quarter of all arrests were those of women — mothers and sisters of husbands — and while chargesheets were filed at an “exponentially high 93.6%” of cases, only 14.4% ended in convictions. The report projected that out of the 3,72,706 cases pending trial in 2012, as many as 3,17,000 were projected to lead to acquittals.

The court, however, put a rider to its restrictions, saying that they were not valid in offences involving tangible physical injury or death.

“It is a matter of serious concern that large number of cases continues to be filed under Section 498A alleging harassment of married women. To remedy the situation, we are of the view that involvement of civil society in the aid of administration of justice can be one of the steps, apart from the investigating officers and the concerned trial courts being sensitised,” the bench said.

The top court also ordered that trial courts must decide bail applications in such cases on the same day as far as possible. Recovery of disputed dowry items may not by itself be a ground for denial of bail if maintenance or other rights of wife/minor children can otherwise be protected, SC said.

According to the ruling, the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) will form the committee comprising three members who could be para-legal volunteers, social workers, retired persons, wives of working officers or citizens who may be found suitable and willing.

A dowry harassment complaint to the police or magistrate will be referred to the committee that can interact with the parties personally or through electronic communication. The committee must submit its report to the authority, which refers the complaint to it within a month.

Till the report is received, no arrest should be effected, the court said. After considering the report on its own merit, the police or magistrate will proceed with further action.

SC also directed that only a designated Investigating Officer of the area shall investigate dowry harassment cases. Such designations must be done within a month, the court said. These officers must be trained, which the court held must be completed within four months.

In further directions to lower courts, the SC said that accused should be exempted from appearing in person or be allowed to appear via video conferencing as far as that does not adversely affect the progress of the case.

In cases where accused is residing out of India, impounding of passports or red corner notice should not be a routine, the court said.

In cases where a settlement is reached, it will be open to a district and sessions judge or any other senior judicial officer nominated by him in the district to complete the proceedings including the closing of the criminal case if dispute primarily relates to matrimonial discord. Committee’s functioning may be reviewed once a year, SC added.

In 2014, a separate bench had criticised the law’s misuse and said: “The fact that Section 498-A is a cognisable and non-bailable offence has lent it a dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives”.

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Transgenders should have option to choose their gender: Parliamentary panel

It further observed the definition of transgender was unscientific and primitive and based on biological attributes.

The committee felt that the proposed definition of transgender in the bill is in stark contrast to global developments, where transgenders have been granted the right to self determine and to seek benefits according to such identity. (Photo: Representational | PTI)

 

New Delhi: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice And Empowerment has recommended that a transgender should have the option to choose their gender independent of surgery or hormones.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 defines a transgender as someone who is neither wholly female not wholly male, a combination of female or male or neither female nor male and whose sense of gender does not match with the gender assigned to the person at the time of birth.

The committee felt that the proposed definition of transgender in the bill is in stark contrast to global developments, where transgenders have been granted the right to self determine and to seek benefits according to such identity.

“More so, it not only violates the fundamental rights to equality, dignity, autonomy, but also freedom of transgender persons guaranteed under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the constitution,” the committee said.

It further observed the definition of transgender was unscientific and primitive and based on biological attributes.

It said the definition fails to recognise that many persons are born with ambiguous or typical sexual organs, whether external or internal, and identify themselves as male, female or transgender.

The standing committee also recommended a change in Clause 2(c) in bill which defines “inclusive education” for transgenders.

“Inclusive education means a system of education wherein transgender and gender non-conforming students along with other students learn together without the fear of bullying, singling out and other forms of harassment and the system of teaching and learning is suitably adapted to meet the learning needs of such students,” it said.

The committee also recommended that a definition of ‘discrimination’ be included in chapter I of the Bill which must cover a range of violations that transgenders face.

It also recommended that central and state governments and civil society should adopt measures for generating awareness regarding transgenders.

The committee headed by Ramesh Bais, also stated that it would like to assure and remind all the members of the transgender community that “a historic shift is underway, you are not alone in your struggle for the end of violence and discrimination.

“It is a shared struggle. Transgender is not an anomaly. It is a part of the spectrum of people’s realities. While there is no shame in being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex or even straight – there is a must shame and dishonour in being a homophobe, a transphobe and a bigot.”

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