Literary meet of Transgenders

Kolkata Set to Host India's 1st Transgender Poetry Meet, Faces Backlash from Critics


Kolkata: India’s first government-sponsored poetry meet for transgenders–‘Transgender Poets’ Meet’– is set to be held in Kolkata on July 17.

Six transgender poets and writers from West Bengal will be participating in the event, organised by Sahitya Akademi, an organization under the Union Culture Ministry.

Among those who are likely to participate in the meet are Rani Majumder, Aruna Nath, Anjali Mandal, Debdutta Biswas and Debojyoti Bhattacharya.

The idea to hold the event was put forward by Manabi Bandopadhyay, who is a college principal and a trans-woman. “We had organised Nari Chetana (Women Empowerment) Diwas on International Women’s Day. Dr Manabi Bandopadhyay suggested that we should consider organizing exclusive events for transgender writers and poets,” said Mihir Sahu, officer-in-charge, Eastern Region, Sahitya Akademi.Speaking to News18 Manabi Bandopadhyay said, “As a member of the advisory board of the eastern regional centre of Sahitya Akademi, I suggested that such events for transgender persons will help them to showcase their creativity. We are doing this on an experimental basis and I am sure we will get a good response.”

However, transgender activist Ranjita Sinha, who is also a member of the Bengal Transgender Development Board opposed the move and claimed that such events with a handful of transgender people would hardly enable the community establish their dignity in society.

“I was shocked when I came to know about this. I am sorry for my trans-brothers and sisters across Bengal. Since the NALSA verdict, we have failed to ensure basic human rights to the members of my community. Be it medical, employment generation or proper census of my community population, we have failed,” she said.

Sinha said that such literary festivals mocked the transgenders when less than one per cent of them are unable to attain basic education.

She also expressed her displeasure over Manabi leading the event. “I am equally shocked to know that our Vice Chairperson, Manabi, is taking the lead in this event. Is such an event is the current need of trans people? Or is it Roti, Kapda, Makan? In the coming days the starving, deprived, discriminated trans citizens are going to ask for an answer to this question,” said Sinha.

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India launches National Digital Library

On 19 June, the Union Human Development Minister, Mr Prakash Javadekar launched the National Digital Library in the country’s capital. The library is a source of millions of academic texts from around the world which will be open to the general public.

According to an official release by the Human Resource Development (HRD), the National Digital Library of India (NDLI) is a project of the Ministry under the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT). The National Digital Library aims to make digital educational resources available to all Indian citizens to empower, inspire and encourage learning.

The work on developing and implementing the National Digital Library began in 2015; it was built by the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur using technology provided the HRD Ministry. The digital library is just one project under the Digital India plan that was initiated by Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi.

Mr Prakash Javadekar said that the National Digital Library will make learning resources available to users, the library has over 17 million source materials from more than 160 sources, in over 200 languages and according to the press release, around 3 million users are registered on the National Digital Library.

Apart from the website, the Ministry has also made the National Digital Library available on phones through its mobile application; the National Digital Library Mobile App will enable people to access a vast reservoir of digital content from not only the country but across the globe as well. Digital information will be able to reach users even the most remote parts of India.

Mr Prakash Javadekar said that the app, which already has 670,000 downloads, is currently available for both iPhone and Android users; learners can look for particular information using parameters like the subject matter, source, and content type etc. As of now, the app is available in three languages – English, Hindi and Bengali.

The National Digital Library uses a single-window system to increase efficiency through time and cost savings. The platform collects and organises metadata from leading learning institutions in India and from across the globe. It is a digital repository containing textbooks, articles, videos, audiobooks, lectures, simulations, fiction and other kinds of learning media.

According to Mr Prakash Javadekar, the National Digital Library is a round-the-clock knowledge centre that is will be made accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Anybody can access the digital library anytime and anywhere and will be contributing to the Government’s Read More India (Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat)plan that aims to improve the language and mathematics skills of the youth of the country, primarily.

The National Digital Library initiative will be able to help thousands of students in the country by providing free source material like textbooks and guides that were previously hard to come by, being both expensive and limited. The Minister of Culture, Dr Mahesh Sharma stated that the collaboration between the National Digital Library by Ministry of Human Resource Development and the National Virtual Library of India platform by Ministry of Culture will reach a large number of leaners in India and attract global attention with its progress.

The National Virtual Library of India, which is a part of the National Mission on Libraries of the Ministry of Culture, is also an online library with resources covering a large number of fields, including arts, music, dance, culture, theatre, science, technology, archaeology, literature, e-papers and manuscripts, among others. All of this information has been gathered, collated and presented on a single online platform- the website.

The National Digital Library will change the way education is accessed and presented in India, and through this initiative, every citizen in India will be given the digital tools and resources to empower themselves.

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Changing Society – Marijuana for Entertainment now!

Canada has legalized recreational marijuana use after the country’s two legislative chambers approved the Cannabis Act Tuesday, the CBC reports.

The bill will allow Canadian provinces to control and regulate how marijuana can be grown, distributed and sold, and it’s likely that sales will begin by the end of the summer. The Cannabis Act makes Canada the first Group of Seven nation, and the second country in the world (after Uruguay) to legalize marijuana for adults nationally.

The Cannabis Act still needs Royal Assent – the final step the Canadian legislative process – to become law, but that is expected to happen later this week. Built into the bill is an eight-to-12 week buffer period that will allow provinces to prepare for the recreational sale of marijuana. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet will set the official date on which the law will actually go into effect.

Trudeau made legalizing cannabis part of his campaign platform in 2015, and in 2017 he introduced legalization legislation. On Twitter, the Prime Minister marked the passage of the Cannabis Act, writing, “It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize and regulate marijuana just passed the Senate.”

The Cannabis Act will make it legal for anyone over 18 to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, while adults will also be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants at home. While the bill establishes a national framework for how the cannabis market will operate, each province will be allowed to set their own system of licensing and regulation.

Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001, though the law required patients to grow their own plants or designate another individual to grow it for them. A 2013 legal challenge broadened the law to create a system of federally licensed producers, but that ruling was itself challenged three years later on the grounds that it unreasonably limited access and increased costs. Though the 2016 ruling didn’t explicitly make dispensaries legal, it encouraged the idea that such a business could operate so long as it was for strictly medical reasons. In the years since, a gray market of sorts sprouted up in various Canadian cities, with many dispensary operators growing increasingly comfortable as legalization approached.



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Handbook on legal process on crimes against children launched

The Union minister of women and child development Maneka Gandhi on Tuesday launched a ‘handbook on legal processes for police in respect of crime against children’ at a function organised by Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D).

Speaking on the occasion, Gandhi urged all stakeholders to unite in preventing and combating crimes against children. She highlighted that the government is committed to creating a nation free of violence against women and children. “The WCD ministry will work closely with identified stakeholders to ensure that this handbook is available in every police station, preferably in local languages,” she added.

She emphasised that the government has decided to take every step in addressing this issue in the best possible manner. One of the important requirements is to empower and skill the police agencies and other responders in addressing the crimes against children professionally and diligently, she added.

Further, she elaborated upon the services offered by child line and railway child line which have been highly successful in reuniting missing children with their families.

She also informed that a short documentary “Komal” has been released to sensitise the children on “good and bad touch”.

“Amendment in the Juvenile Justice Act has been brought about to treat juveniles 16 years of age as an adult for trial in heinous crimes,” she said.

She expressed the need for rape investigation kits in every police station to facilitate the investigation on priority basis. The issue has been taken up with HRD ministry to print POCSO related laws on front and back of all the textbooks to increase awareness among children. The minister also mentioned about the e-box complaint system for the school children to come up against the issues of sexual harassment.

Gandhi said she hoped that the book will prove to be a tool to enhance and fine-tune the skills of the end user in the application of the laws, rules, rulings and related provisions pertaining to crimes against children.

A handbook is a composite tool which will aid police personnel to chart a step-by-step procedure to be adopted in cases of crime against children. Legislations and the latest rulings of courts are also mentioned in the book.

A team led by Dr PM Nair of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has developed this comprehensive, user-friendly, process oriented document published by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) in partnership with TISS.


The publication is part of an initiative taken by BPR&D to partner with reputed academic and research institutions across the country in undertaking research and developing quality tools and knowledge products to enhance the professional competence of the Indian Police.

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Addicted to Social Media? Uganda shows the way – Mr. Modi?

Russia Facebook whatsapp china


In today’s edition of draconian government laws, Uganda’s parliament has passed a new legislation to impose a tax on people who use social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook on their phones. While it remains unclear how it will be implemented, local critics suggest that the law is another way to stifle freedom of expression.

The country will charge users 200 Ugandan shillings (around $0.05) for every single day that they use social media and messaging platforms. These include social media networks like Facebook and messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram. Today’s approval also imposes a 1% tax on all transactions made through mobile. Uganda is one of the leading countries when it comes to mobile payment systems. Critics warn that the latest taxes would hurt low-income earners and residents of the rural regions who use mobile money systems instead of mainstream banks.

Taxes on popular apps like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp – ingenious way to stifle freedom of speech?

Yoweri Museveni, the country’s president since 1986(!), argues that this move is not to hurt freedom of speech but a necessary step to deal with the “consequences of gossiping” on social media, Telegraph reported (paywall).

The law is coming into effect on July 1. However, both the experts and local internet service providers have shared concerns over how this daily tax on social media access will be implemented since out its 23.6 million mobile phone subscribers, only 17 million use the internet. The number of social media users is expected to be even lower than that figure. To identify those mobile internet users who access social media and messaging apps will possibly be a job set for either ISPs or the tech companies themselves.

“We’re looking for money to maintain the security of the country and extend electricity so that you people can enjoy more social media, more often, more frequently,” Museveni had said earlier in the year justifying the move to tax social media access.

Last year it was reported that Uganda was taking help from China for assistance on a cybersecurity strategy. However, the country appears to be the first to have come up with this idea of social media taxes that could potentially be used by others in the region, as well.

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