Monthly Archives: June 2015

Mamata star of Bangla show, extends trip on Hasina request

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee hug each other at the flag-off ceremony of bus services between Bangladesh and India, in Dhaka on Saturday. (PTI Photo)
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee hug each other at the flag-off ceremony of bus services between Bangladesh and India, in Dhaka on Saturday. (PTI Photo)

Dhaka :

The most talked about star of the show in Dhaka on Saturday was undoubtedly West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Not only did she preside over the historic exchange of instruments of ratification of the land boundary agreement (LBA), but also joined the two prime ministers to flag off buses from Dhaka to Agartala and another to Shillong.

Mamata’s flight to Dhaka from Kolkata Friday night was declared a “VIP” flight — and Dhaka airspace cleared for her.

When she landed, the first call was from Sheikh Hasina who requested her to stay behind for the state banquet for Modi on Saturday night. Mamata was returning to Kolkata after the official appointments. Mamata now will be part of the Indian delegation.

While Manmohan Singh brought with him a number of chief ministers from northeastern states, Mamata’s absence was striking. This time, Modi has given Mamata star billing by not including any other chief minister in his delegation, a piece of impressive political timing.

Mamata is not staying in the same hotel as Modi, but at a Radisson hotel 10 km from Sonargaon, the PM’s hotel.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during delegation level talks in Dhaka on Saturday. (PTI Photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during delegation level talks in Dhaka on Saturday. (PTI Photo)

Mamata is crucial for both the LBA and Teesta pacts to see the light of day. Modi has taken a leaf out of former PM I K Gujral’s book because the Ganga waters treaty, signed between India and a previous Hasina government was done with West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu at the helm. Modi is putting his cooperative federalism concept to work here.

Mamata cannot back the Teesta agreement until she shows a plan for north Bengal in place. She also cannot do it until the state elections in 2016. Until then, though, she and Modi are playing a very complex political tango where both have high stakes — Modi needs support in Rajya Sabha for his legislations and Mamata needs financial assistance and a leg up as she tries to regain the “bhadralok” vote in Bengal by delivering on investment, industry and infrastructure before the elections.

Mamata had been a guest of Hasina’s at the Februray 21 Language Day celebrations here where she had publicly stated that she would push both pacts. Hasina who has had an on-again-off-again relationship with Mamata, has decided to take her at her word, because the ultimate guarantor is Modi.

source: / The Times of India / Home> India /by Indrani Bagchi, TNN / June 07th, 2015

Goswami powers Indian eves to victory

Jhulan Goswami in the nets. — Photo: K. Murali Kumar / The Hindu
Jhulan Goswami in the nets. — Photo: K. Murali Kumar / The Hindu

The lanky all-rounder lifted India to 142 from a dismal 87/8, while the White Ferns’ chase gave out at 125.

Indian eves recovered brilliantly to snatch a well-deserved 17-run win over visiting New Zealand in the first of their five-match One-Day International (ODI) series here on Sunday and picked up two crucial points in their bid to qualify for the 2017 Women’s World Cup.

The Indians found their heroine in the six-footer Jhulan Goswami whose 67-ball 57 (6×4, 1×6) lifted the hosts to 142 all-out after being 87 for eight at one stage. In reply, the White Ferns faltered under pressure and were dismissed for 125.

Opting to bat first after winning the toss, the Indians had struggled against some accurate bowling and lost wickets at regular intervals before former captain Goswami blasted a timely half-century that virtually took the game away from the White Ferns, for whom pacer Lea Tahuhu, off-spinner Leigh Kasperek and left-arm spinner Morna Nielsen took three wickets apiece.

The White Fern innings never really took off and the early wickets took the momentum off their chase. Despite some resolute batting by opener and skipper Suzie Bates (28), Sophie Devine (24) and Kasperek (21), the visitors could not stop the marauding Indian bowlers who were well supported through smart catching and agile fielding.

For the hosts, off-spinner Sneh Rana came away with three wickets, while left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht, who opened the bowling, and seamer Harmanpreet Kaur took two apiece to complete a fine win.

The teams meet again at the same venue on Wednesday. The first three matches of the series count towards qualification to the 2017 World Cup.

Brief scores:

India 142 all out in 44.3 overs (Jhulan Goswami 57, Lea Thuhu 3 for 25; Morna Nielsen 3 for 24) beat New Zealand 125 all out in 45.3 overs (Suzie Bates 28, Sophie Devine 24; Sneh Rana 3 for 26, Ekta Bisht 2 for 18, Harmanpreet Kaur 2 for 16) by 17 runs.

Points: India 2, New Zealand 0.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Sport> Cricket / IANS / Bengaluru – June 28th, 2015

The old Calcutta chromosomes

Thousands of Kolkata houses with red-oxide floors and sleepy green-shuttered windows, the spacious porches on the ground floor, with their intricate cornices, elaborate wrought-iron grills, and open terraces are being destroyed at an incredible pace. Photo: Akash Mondal
Thousands of Kolkata houses with red-oxide floors and sleepy green-shuttered windows, the spacious porches on the ground floor, with their intricate cornices, elaborate wrought-iron grills, and open terraces are being destroyed at an incredible pace. Photo: Akash Mondal

Kolkata’s heritage buildings are part of the city’s unique DNA, as distinct to its landscape as a fingerprint. The writers talk to novelist Amit Chaudhuri, who is spearheading the city’s brave fight to save its heritage.

In one of Kolkata’s most prosperous neighbourhoods stands a two-storey house. It has shuttered windows and large pillars, in the style typical of colonial Calcutta. The house belongs to Tapati Mukherjee, and was built by her grandfather in the 1930s, in an area called Hindustan Park. The house next to hers, built around the same time and in the same architectural style, is owned by a former chief of the Indian Football Association. It is being torn down. It will soon be replaced by an anonymous high-rise.

Mukherjee, however, is adamant that she will not let her house suffer a similar fate. The Director of Culture and Cultural Relations and the President of Rabindra Bhavan at Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan, she said, “I don’t want to live anywhere else. The house has a cultural ambience and feeling of old-world grandeur (that) I do not find elsewhere. I vow to protect this house till my death.”

Unfortunately, not everyone thinks like Mukherjee. Thousands of Kolkata houses with red-oxide floors and sleepy green-shuttered windows, the spacious porches on the ground floor, with their intricate cornices, elaborate wrought-iron grills, and open terraces are being destroyed at an incredible pace. These houses give Kolkata its unique old-world charm and reflect the amazing architectural ethos of the city, but they are being lost in the mad rush for multi-storey buildings and concrete chaos.

Thousands of heritage buildings in with red-oxide floors and green-shuttered windows, spacious porches with intricate cornices, elaborate wrought-iron grills, and open terraces are being destroyed at an incredible pace in Kolkata. / Photo: Sanjoy Ghosh / The Hindu
Thousands of heritage buildings in with red-oxide floors and green-shuttered windows, spacious porches with intricate cornices, elaborate wrought-iron grills, and open terraces are being destroyed at an incredible pace in Kolkata. / Photo: Sanjoy Ghosh / The Hindu

This loss of heritage is not unique to Kolkata. Several Indian cities today are battling this dilemma. In Jaipur, for instance, many of the privately-owned historical havelis, with their jaali windows, false fronts and pink facades — which gave the city its moniker of Pink City — are in danger of being lost forever. They have become dilapidated over time and are slowly beginning to be pulled down to make way for modern buildings. Some of these havelis date back over 100 years.

Mumbai has a splendid architectural history, with a mix of Art Deco, Indo-Saracenic and Victorian, all contributing to a rich variety of features that contribute to the city’s signature ‘look’. But many of these buildings are crumbling today and, in the absence of government incentives, owners prefer to let the heritage homes decay rather than spend their own money on upkeep, which is understandably an expensive task. Once the buildings reach a certain stage of disrepair, the owners are allowed to demolish them and sell the rights to redevelopers for a lucrative sum. This makes it much more difficult to persuade owners to look after them. Bangalore and Chennai, too, are fighting the same battle, as is the state of Goa, with its stunning built legacy in the Portuguese-Baroque style.

The only weak but bravely flickering touch of silver in this bleak skyline is the fact that informed citizens across India are taking up cudgels to try and save the country’s heritage structures. The newest episode to this saga of protest is being staged in Kolkata, where several people — both ordinary and prominent citizens — have written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, pointing to the urgent need to stop the destruction of these historic buildings. Most of these houses were begun in the 19th century and continued to flourish over the next hundred years. In fact, even during the recession of the 1930s, the cement industry was flourishing as the middle-class was constructing these huge houses.

Author Amit Chaudhuri who is spearheading the protests to save the heritage buildings. / Photo: Sanjoy Ghosh / The Hindu
Author Amit Chaudhuri who is spearheading the protests to save the heritage buildings. / Photo: Sanjoy Ghosh / The Hindu

Eminent writer Amit Chaudhuri, who is leading the campaign, said, “Destroying these buildings is to destroy one of the chief characteristics of this city’s history of modernity. Kolkata is a modern city and these houses are emblems of the city’s modernity… they are as important as the painting, literature and music of Bengal.” For Chaudhuri, this is an old battle. He has been speaking and writing on the issue for many years now. He talks of how the architecture of many neighbourhoods in Kolkata is quite distinct from the Indo-Saracenic or neo-Gothic style of architecture that can be seen in other Indian cities. They represent a Bengali-European style that is not seen elsewhere.

The Kolkata heritage protest team includes architects, artists, film directors and academicians. And one common factor that everybody agrees upon is the fact that these old buildings are not important only because of the nostalgia that surrounds them but because they represent a certain time in history. If preserved well, these buildings can actually lead to very practical and modern benefits, such as increased tourism revenue and, in turn, a renewal of the city.

Take, for instance, the boutique hotel that opened in Kolkata a couple of years ago. Called Hotel 233 Park Street (based on the door number), it occupies the ground floor of an imposing Zamindari mansion located at the much less stylish but no less historical Park Circus end of the city’s famous restaurant street. Rather than tear the mansion down, with its classical pillars and high ceilings and wooden-slatted windows, the owner has recreated a piece of the city’s cultural history here. The rooms have antique mahogany or Burma teak furniture, and a potpourri of Zamindari and Colonial tapestries, lithographs, curios and floor lamps. The hotel’s revenues could be used to revamp the rest of the mansion over a period of time. It is testimony to how sensible restoration can go a long way.

As Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has said, the rich history of early habitation in the Calcutta region has suffered not only from intellectual neglect but also from the destructive tendencies of the past. “We owe to future generations a preserved and unmutilated heritage of Calcutta’s eccentric but exciting old buildings,” Sen had said in response to the city’s petitioners.

Even as Kolkata’s mayor Sovon Chatterjee has claimed that it is “next to impossible” to preserve the old neighbourhoods and houses, the supporters of the campaign have agreed that a legislative intervention is required to preserve the buildings. Architect Partha Ranjan Das has also come up with another idea. He suggests that buyers must be incentivised by the introduction of a transfer of development rights. In other words, he says, “While the buyers (of heritage properties) will not be able to make changes to these old houses, they can transfer the floor area ratio to other projects that they are developing in other localities.” This is a unique solution that must be looked at seriously, not just in Kolkata but across cities.

Meanwhile, Sugata Bose, historian and MP from Trinamool Congress, has assured the petitioners that he will take up the matter with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “During the Chief Minister’s upcoming visit to London, I will try to show her what the authorities have done there to preserve the neighbourhoods,” he said.

However, well-known artist Shuvaprasanna, who heads the West Bengal Heritage Commission, is very clear that the best of intentions cannot achieve anything unless there is a change in existing laws to prohibit the demolition of these houses. “The German author, Günter Grass, was awestruck by the city and had raised the issue of renovation with former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee during the 1990s. However, the discussion was not taken forward and nothing much could be done.”

As he points out, most of the houses are owned by several members of a family and, in many of them, litigation is involved, so that most owners find it the easiest option to sell the houses to private builders. In fact, most owners don’t see any value in the structure itself, and sell it for the value of the land alone. Bose speaks of the need to change mindsets so that people can better understand the innate heritage value of the buildings.

But others say that none of this might work because rampant unemployment has resulted in real estate becoming one of the few growing sectors. In other words, the developers will not be stopped easily. “We have declared a number of these as heritage houses but we are failing to preserve them despite investing crores of rupees,” said the mayor, adding that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation has neither the resources nor adequate laws to deal with the issue.

A recent Bengali film, Bhooter Bhabishyat, (The Future of the Ghosts) was a huge hit. In the film, ghosts evict the greedy builders from a 19th century palace and settle down in it themselves. In real life, will the city’s heritage ever be able to evict the powerful builders and promoters?

source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> Magazine / by Shiv Sahay Singh & Suvojit Bagchi / June 27th, 2015

Introduction of fair price medicine shop in West Bengal receives international attention

Kolkata :

The introduction of fair price medicine shops and diagnostic centers in West Bengal has attracted international attention.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday posted on her facebook page that a research study on the issue has been selected for discussion at the 11th World Congress of International Health Economics Association that will be held at Italy’s Milan during July 12 to July 15. “Our Fair Price Medicine Shops and Diagnostic Centres in Government Hospitals continue to receive more and more international attention and acclaim. A research study conducted on this innovative intervention of our Government to reduce out of pocket expenses of patient parties has been selected for presentation in the 11th World Congress of International Health Economics Association to be held at Milan, Italy during 12-15th July, 2015,” the CM posted on facebook.

“Already, 99 Fair Price Medicine Shops have been opened in just 4 years providing medicines at 48 to 77.2% discount. More than Rs.440 crore discount has been availed of by 157 lakh patients so far. It has been declared Model for the country. Moreover, 58 Fair Price Diagnostic Centres have been set up in just 4 years offering digital X-ray, dialysis, CT Scan and MRI at very affordable price,” the CM further posted on her facebook page.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Suman Chakraborti, TNN / June 26th, 2015

Chinese churches stand test of time

Kolkata :

Crumbling buildings and filthy roads at Tiretta Bazar — or Old Chinatown — bear evidence to the depleting fortunes of the Chinese community in the city. But behind those closed doors lie a secret the community so proudly cherishes. The shabby buildings with a ‘falling-apart’ look and feel house some of the historic churches of Kolkata. Step inside and the regalia, incense sticks and intricate altars will give you a feel of the Chinese tradition.

The fact that KMC and the tourism department have joined hands with a Singapore-based organization to revive Old Chinatown has come as a shot in the arm for the community. They are happy that these churches, which were originally established in the 19th century and then rebuilt in the early part of the 20th century, will get restored.

The Indian Chinese Association has appealed to the project co-ordinators that the revival project should centre around the six churches (they were originally temples but later got converted to churches as most of the Chinese people embraced Christianity) that the community is guarding so dearly for so many years.

While the project so long centred around the Toong On Church and the famous Nanking restaurant that it houses, now five churches have also come into focus. A visit to the churches is an experience in itself. Take the case of the Namsoon Church, for example. It is the oldest of the six. It was established in 1820, almost immediately after the Chinese settlers abandoned Atchewpur near Budge Budge. Located at the far end of the snaky Damzen Lane, you will easily miss it. But the church, dedicated to Kwan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of War, has a magnificent altar complete with an intricately carved roof hanging.

There are three more churches on the same lane. Choong Hee Dong Thien, built in 1859, is in a sorry state but the deity, Kwan Kun, believed to be the God of Fortune, is still maintained and worshipped by the community. The Gee Hing Church was originally built in 1888 but it reached such a dilapidated state that the community rebuilt and relocated it in 1920 to its present location on 13, Blackburn Lane. Even that is in a sad state now, though the members of the community regularly visit for prayers and offerings there.

“Times are tough and you hardly find time to hang around as regularly as you did earlier. But we still try to meet up for our board games of Chinese Pair, after prayers as frequently as possible,” said Chang Yu Sen.

“Our tradition lives in these churches. It reminds us where we belong and the culture and tradition of that place. We cannot relate to the changes that have come over China today, so we guard these altars to remain close to our roots. Today many of us might have become Christians but we have not lost touch with Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism that bind us,” explained Paul Chung, president of the Indian Chinese Association.

The other three churches — Sea Ip Church, Sea Voi Yune Leong Futh Church and Then Hane Miaw — too are crying for attention despite devotees’ best efforts at maintaining them.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey, TNN / June 23rd, 2015

Woman teaches slum girls to dream big

Kolkata :

Girls at Gobindopur railway colony would never dream of building their lives on their own terms with hardly any of them ever getting the opportunity of attending school and most of them being married off by 16. Many would face regular abuse at home, but they would not dare to protest. Finally, one of them, Uma Singh (27), decided to change things around and took up the cudgels for her tormented sisters in the colony, one of the largest slums in south Kolkata.

The first woman to graduate from the slum, Uma gathered youngsters from the area to launch a door-to-door campaign aimed at sending girls to school instead of marrying them off early. Eight years later, the number of girls dropping out of school has fallen dramatically, while underage marriages have stopped. Several girls from the slum are now training to be schoolteachers, painters or computer instructors.

Uma is pleasantly surprised with the transformation. “It pained me to see girls around me suffer like that. They had no ambition, no dream or desire. They were just happy to be alive which, I felt, was unfair,” she said. Uma got together a few of her like-minded friends and formed a group to fight for girls’ rights. It wasn’t a smooth start in troubled Gobindopur, where settlers were being evicted. Fighting to hold on to their shanties, residents did not really care about how their daughters should be treated. But Uma and her group didn’t give up.

They held meetings and workshops, performed street plays and screened films to spread the message of girls’ rights. Initially, they would be snubbed and asked to stay away from “personal affairs”. “It was a challenge for we were fighting a social evil and the deep-rooted belief that girls were not supposed to be ambitious. They were never treated on a par with boys. What’s worse, they didn’t have access to basic rights, such as education or even two square meals a day,” Uma said.

With her 20-member team, which was christened Nabadisha in 2008, Uma went from door to door, asking women to send their daughters to school. Some refused, fearing their husbands’ wrath. “We started sending those children to school without letting the men in the family know about it. Those who couldn’t be admitted to nearby schools were tutored at a centre in the slum. We noticed a slow change in the girls’ attitude. Even after the men learnt that their daughters were attending school, they didn’t really object,” said Uma.

Ratna Mandal said she would have been married off by now, had it not been for Uma. “She gave me the courage to dream of building a career,” said Ratna who is training to be a dancer.

Over the next two years, Nabadisha spread their work to five slums in the area. Most girls even in those slums now attend school, with more than 20 of them having cleared their higher secondary exams. Many are now preparing to work, which was unthinkable 10 years ago. Early marriages have been curbed but not stopped.

Nabadisha runs computer, drawing, dance and spoken English classes for girls who are counselled and guided every Sunday. “We hold ‘self-exploration’ sessions where we discuss their strengths, weaknesses and their future plans. Their problems are addressed. Girls in the slums have gathered the courage to dream big and stand up to wrongs within and outside the family,” said Poonam Sadhukhan, a Nabadisha member. Around 150 girls, aged between 10 and 18 years, are now being tutored, while over 100 have been assisted in three years.

Uma says she wouldn’t stop her work till drop-out rate among Gobindopur girls turns zero and they can support themselves financially. “We have managed to convince slum dwellers that girls deserve to be treated as equals and should be given a chance to realize their dreams. Once we have more girls working, their families will fall in. We are not going to rest till then,” Uma signed off.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Prithvijit Mitra, TNN / June 23rd, 2015

Playing for a job

Know Your Neighbour

 Sushila Ekka Basketball player
Sushila Ekka Basketball player

Survival has been a struggle for Sushila Ekka who has had to fight poverty and follow her passion of slam-dunking basketball to make a living. The young girl was a regular player in the Howrah district basketball team from where she has been selected to play national level tournaments. She started playing for the district when she was only 11 years old, a year after she started training under coach Alok Banerjee at Dumurjala Stadium.

“Sir (Alok Banerjee) had come to our school, Batore Adivasi Samaj School, and had told us that if anyone was interested in playing basketball, he or she should go to him. At that time, I was young and I had no idea about basketball. I went to play at Dumurjala and there I saw that this was a new kind of game that I had never seen before,” said Sushila. Prior to this, Sushila had no idea about any kind of sports and games. Living in poverty where her father, Lorenthis Ekka, is a labourer in a rolling mill and mother, Serophina Ekka, is a domestic help, Sushila’s prime interest was to get a job through sports quota. “I started to like the game and would practise as much as possible. My coach sent me to the district sub-junior tournament after a year from where I was selected for the state and national tournaments,” said Sushila.

She played her first national game in the West Bengal team in 2004. The team had won eighth position and Sushila was noticed for her performance as the playmaker in the five-member team. This year, the state team did not fare
well in the national tournament, but Sushila had still performed well. Sushila’s dream of landing a job came true two years back when she got a job in the electrical division of Eastern Railways. She joined the Railways basketball team and her coach, Satya Pattanaik, has always encouraged her to play well.

“Sir (Pattanaik) inspires me to play and has helped me in many ways. Before joining the Railways team, I would train under him and he ensured that I got all facilities, like jersey, ball and other accessories,” said Sushila. Before joining Eastern Railways, Sushila had also worked as games teacher in a private school. “I needed to earn a living to run the family expenses as well as my own. My parents would not be able to afford my expenses for playing basketball,” said Sushila. Although, she likes the game a lot, Sushila does not like to watch the big international teams playing on TV. “I have heard of the National Basketball Association in USA, but I have never watched them on TV. Also, I prefer watching games live than on television,” said Sushila.

Sushila has travelled across the country to play in various tournaments and invitation matches. Earlier this year, she went to Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu to play for an invitation match. There too, Sushila bagged the best playmaker award. “I have won several best playmaker awards in the past few years within West Bengal. The awards always inspire me to play better,” said Sushila.

She practises every morning at the basketball court in Calcutta Maidan, before going to work. However, her goals are more oriented towards her job than making it big in the game. “I have to practise a lot because I want to perform well. Only then will I get a promotion,” she said. Sushila also plans to study further. “I did not study after Class X because I wanted to play basketball. But now I think it would be better to complete higher studies so that I can get better job prospects,” she said.


DoB: September 2, 1992
Born in: Howrah
Education: Class X
Family: Parents, two brothers
Loves: Singing
Hates: Backbiting

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta, India / Front Page> Howrah> Story / Friday – June 19th, 2015

Diocese of Calcutta gets 1st Indian priestess

Kolkata :

It was a historic moment for the Diocese of Calcutta, Church of North India (CNI) on Sunday as Margaret Nilanjana Ali made it to the pulpit even as the diocese completed 200 years.

“It feels nice to be the first woman ordained as presbyter (priest) in the full time ministry of the Diocese of Calcutta, CNI. Rev Priscilla Papiya Durairaj was ordained earlier, but only in the part-time ministry,” Rev Ali told TOI.

The special service at St Paul’s Cathedral was officiated by Bishop Rt Rev Ashoke Biswas. On Sunday, he became the first bishop from the diocese to have ordained an Indian woman. Rev Biswas, a firm believer in gender equality, has been instrumental in having Ali take part in service along with the male priests.

Apart from Ali, the bishop ordained two male priests — Sebastian Hansda and Saikat Nath. At the ordination ceremony, he told the congregation, “Today is a very special day in the life of the Diocese of Calcutta. Ali, Hansda and Nath will now become Presbyter with God’s call upon their lives to serve.”

The solemn and elaborate oath-taking ceremony started at 6pm and continued till 7.30pm.

“Christianity was always a part of my growing up; my father (Rev John Nelson Ali) is a priest. My vocation evolved under his tutelage and today I feel complete,” Rev Ali said.

The clergy at Calcutta Diocese, the oldest diocese in the CNI, dating back to May 2, 1814, has been male-dominated and all a woman interested in theology could dream of was to become a lay worker in a parish or a deaconess.

Ordination of women remains a controversial issue in religious circles, either because of cultural prohibition, theological doctrine, or both.

In 1978, the ‘Movement for the Ordination of Women’ was founded in England. “There are a lot of women clergy now, and several women are entering theological colleges all over the world. But there are still pockets of resistance. If a woman felt that her vocation is to be a priest, she must be given the chance to explore the calling,” Rev Ali said.

The revolution came when a legislation for women priests was passed in 1994. On March 12 that year, the first batch of 32 women were ordained as priests of the Church of England.

As a priestess-designate, Ali was in charge of 40 children at the St Elizabeth Girls’ Hostel and had been attached to the Church of Epiphany where she gave sermons, read gospels and visited the sick as part of her grooming. She has been conducting services at St Paul’s Cathedral. She was groomed to succeed Margaret Macgregor, a Scottish woman who was the only other full-time priest.

“But she was white. I will be the first Indian priest from the diocese,” Rev Ali signed off.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Ajanta Chakraborty, TNN / June 22nd, 2015

Indian gets prestigious research grant under Obama initiative

New York :

An Indian neuroscientist in the US has been awarded a prestigious grant under President Barack Obama’s initiative to map the human brain.

The grant will help him to develop a “virtual neuroanatomist”, an artificial-intelligence system that can identify cell types and neural structures in microscopic images of brain slices.

The two researchers at the National Science Foundation, Partha Mitra and Florin Albeanu, have been awarded Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) under President Barack Obama’s multi-year Brain Initiative, a statement released by the laboratory said.

The award provides $300,000 over two years for the development of innovative conceptual and physical tools to advance neuroscience. The awards are intended to fund short-term, proof-of-concept projects with the prospect of high-payoffs.

Mitra is working to develop an integrative picture of brain function, incorporating theory and experimental work, it said.

He is also the founder of the Mouse Brain Architecture Project, an experimental effort to develop a brain-wide connectivity map of the mouse brain, the statement said.

Mitra’s work extends to the interface of physics, engineering, and biology, where he is developing theories that will allow researchers to extract meaningful information about neural circuit function.

“Florin Albeanu and Partha Mitra are working at the edge of the technology limit in neuroscience, and are actively expanding the limits of what we can do to understand the ultimate mysteries of the mammalian brain’s structure and operations,” said CSHL president and CEO Dr Bruce Stillman.

“On behalf of the faculty I congratulate them on winning EAGER awards, through which the National Science Foundation (NSF) enables them to continue to innovate,” Stillman said.

source: / The Times of India / Home> NRI’s> US & Canada / PTI / August 19th, 2014

Kolkata students develop system to help farmers switch on pump sets from home

Kolkata :

Five pass-outs from the Meghnad Saha Institute of Technology (MSIT) have bagged the runners-up prize at the prestigious Texas Instruments Innovation Challenge 2015 by inventing a system that will enable farmers to turn on their pump sets (to water their fields) from home by using mobile or landline telephones.

Not only will this help in conservation of water, the system also promises to protect farmers from snakebite. As per a latest WHO report, nearly 50% Indian farmers suffer snakebites while travelling through dense undergrowth in the night to reach the pump sets.

The ministry of water resources claims that nearly 40% water is wasted due to inefficient irrigation practices. An IAPC – World Bank report states that irrigation efficiency in India is only 35%. This is what Suman Basak, Anik Dutta, Sourav Sinha, Priyanjit Kumar Ghosh and Mostafa Kamal Mallick, from the electronics & communication engineering department of MSIT, set out to rectify in 2014. They participated in the challenge along with 3,200 other teams from engineering colleges across India and Sri Lanka.

“They came up with something they named XENCOM. Xen means water in Chinese and ‘Com’ is short for communication. They presented this idea to Nasscom’s Idea to Proto-type Challenge for eastern India and bagged first position in June, 2014. For the TI Innovation Challenge, they had to have the product ready. They toiled hard for the last one year to develop this,” says MSIT principal Tirthankar Datta.

Apart from the timer facility, the system considers several parameters such as temperature and humidity and after interpreting the data on the basis of test cases, lets the farmer know through SMS when it is time to water his field for better irrigation. Datta calls this ‘suggestive farming’. The farmer is also kept in the loop about power availability in his field at any point of time.

“We feel awesome. Our hard work paid off. We received a lot of support from out institute, Prof Datta, Kamalendu Langal and Saikat Paul, our point of contacts with the industry and Sudip Dogra, our faculty mentor,” says Priyanjit Kumar Ghosh.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Jayanta Gupta, TNN / June 20th, 2015