Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Journey from Independence Day to Republic Day

India celebrated her 61st Republic Day yesterday. This day commemorates the commencement of Constitution of India on January 26, 1950. India attained independence from the British Rule on August 15, 1947; however, she did not have her own constitution at that time and her status was still of a Dominion under the British Crown with at first Lord Mountbatten and then C. Rajgopalachari as its representatives in India. The government ran in accordance to the Government of India Act 1935 in this period. This was to be continued until India frames up and adopts her own constitution. In order to create the constitution, the Constitution Committee was set up with Dr. Rajendra Prasad as its chairman and Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar as the chairman of its Drafting Committee. The committee adopted the constitution on November 26, 1949; however, its commencement was postponed by two months until January 26, 1950.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Presidential Address on the Eve of Republic Day of India by Smt. Pratibha Patil

(Here is the complete text of the presidential address by Smt. Pratibha Patil on the eve of 61st Republic Day of India)

My fellow citizens,

On the eve of our 61st Republic Day, I extend my warmest greetings to all of you across the country and also to those living abroad. To the members of our Armed Forces and Para-military forces who guard our frontiers and to our internal security forces, I extend my special greetings.

26th January, this year marks the completion of six decades of working, striving and, all along, being guided by the principles and objectives of the Constitution that was framed after careful deliberations and adopted in 1950. I often recall the speech of Mahatma Gandhi at the launch of the Quit India Movement on 8th August, 1942, where he said that power, when it comes, will belong to the people of India. The wish of the Father of the Nation found expression in the very opening words of the Constitution - We, the people of India. This was a strong affirmation that the impulses of the nation and its future would be guided by its people. They would reflect their aspirations and choices, through democratic means. They would also enjoy the fundamental rights that guarantee their freedoms and dignity. Today, is a reminder that upholding the values, determining the direction and propelling the growth of our nation is a task that must be fulfilled by every citizen of the country.

In the first decade of the 21st century, India witnessed transformational changes. It also emerged as a force driving change in the world. Our achievements and experiences have, indeed, brought the nation to a definitional stage, where the promise of a bright future as a developed and progressive nation is for us to claim, as we all work together with conviction and commitment. However, as we overcome deficiencies and convert our strengths into an energetic force, we must remain deeply conscious of what we must preserve and what we must change.

Foremost amongst what we must continue with, is our democratic principles and way of life. We have ably demonstrated that we are a functioning democracy, by time and again, choosing our governments through the ballot and by taking democracy to the grassroots. Also, as we are aware, democracy is very much more demanding. It is the rule of law. It is the rule of reason. And, as India has shown to the world, it is the rule of non-violence. Democracy involves a pattern of behavior, in which every individual must act responsibly, show respect towards dissimilar opinions and address differences in a constructive and accommodative manner. This will build harmony and tolerance - values which are intrinsic to our philosophy; these form the bedrock of a society that embraces the diversity of language, religion and culture to create a composite whole. These values must be followed uninterruptedly in a nation that is, as vast and as varied as ours.

Secularism, our constitutionally chosen path, entails respect for all religions. Its place in our national life is unalterable. India is a land where followers of different religions have lived together for centuries. We must maintain social cohesion. Our tradition of living in accord with each other must continue to form an integral part of the rhythm of life of our future generations.

Belonging to a civilization that has deep reverence towards nature, we must also be sensitive inhabitants of the Planet, in which climate change has become a major challenge. We must judiciously use its resources, work to conserve its rich flora and fauna as well as adopt environment friendly approaches. Use of energy efficient technologies and renewable sources of energy, are some steps that can reduce the carbon footprint.

Dear Citizens, our nation has made significant strides. We are the fourth largest economy of the world in terms of purchasing power parity. Our target of achieving a double digit growth rate is plausible and realistic, given our impressive performance during the last decade and our resilience during the global economic downturn. We should continue with policies that promote growth, and also take growth patterns to the bottom of the pyramid and, to those currently outside its purview. Empowering the poor and the disadvantaged, enabling them to move up the economic ladder, to join the ranks of the prosperous, is a task that must be accomplished by all of us. Women need to be made full and equal partners. The inclusive growth strategy, which we have chosen, can make our growth process equitable and sustainable.

The roadmap to inclusive growth requires social justice that can be delivered through an effective social sector infrastructure. It should make quality education and good health facilities available to all citizens, along with social services and job opportunities. This, in turn, will create a human resource base which has the skills, knowledge and capacity to work productively. Hence, our attention must remain focused on this, especially as we have a young population. They must be nurtured and prepared for taking up their responsibilities. Future growth in all sectors will depend on knowledge workers and skilled workforces. They can make our economy dynamic, our service sector efficient and competitive, our manufacturing industries broad based and our agriculture and allied sectors strong. Furthermore, integrating and developing linkages between sectors, say agriculture and industry, will further reinforce growth. These linkages can be fortified by having connectivity at various levels. For a nation which is the seventh largest in geographical terms and the second largest in terms of population, our existing physical infrastructure is inadequate. This constrains and limits connectivity. We have to change this situation. The number of bridges, roads, harbours as well as our power generation capacity and transport facilities, among others, require extensive additions. But, do not forget that along with these structures of cement, steel and mortar, it is also important to bridge our differences, build roads to connect hearts and minds, harbour compassion, generate goodwill towards all and transport these feelings to strengthen the unity of the nation. We will also have to create an atmosphere for our citizens to exercise their rights and tell them to perform their duties as well. This is important to make the development of a democratic nation of over one billion people, participatory and sustainable. In the next decade, not only must we witness the speedy building up of infrastructure, but also a greater cohesiveness among citizens.

A bottleneck and an impediment in bringing about the desired results, for which policies and schemes have been formulated and huge allocation of funds made, is weak implementation and corruption in the system. The causes of the chronic ailment of tardy implementation have to be treated. There should be accountability for lack of implementation of projects, programmes and schemes. This is critical for bringing about positive change.

Public-Private Partnerships and SHGs, that is Self-Help Groups, are important mechanisms for outcome-oriented action and for creating a wide network of stakeholders for growth. There have been numerous examples of how women in urban and rural areas have been able to become financially self-reliant through the SHG route. A movement towards universalisation of SHGs, that brings within its ambit all eligible women, can be a powerful instrument for the economic empowerment of women and for inclusive growth. Facilitation of their formation and functioning will, thus, create a wave of progress and change.

Dear Citizens, the world over, as also in our country, there is a rising demand for food-grains. This foretells the need for an intense focus on increasing agriculture productivity to ensure food availability, particularly of agricultural produces which are in short supply, to avoid spiraling food prices. To achieve this very important objective, I call for urgent steps towards a Second Green Revolution. There should be use of new technologies, better seeds, improved farming practices, effective water management techniques, as well as more intense frameworks for connecting the farmer with the scientific community, with lending institutions and with markets. Our farmers are ready and willing to work, earn and learn. We have to respond positively and do some "out of the box thinking". Higher agriculture incomes will improve the living standards of the over 145 million rural households, in the over six lakh villages of the country. With higher income levels, the rural economy will generate demand and provide impetus for growth in other sectors. Recognizing this reality, we have to involve the agriculture economy more pro-actively into the growth process, both as a centre of production and as a generator of demand for various products and services. There are many complementarities that exist between farming communities and the corporate world because both are private enterprises. The possibilities of win-win partnerships between industry and agriculture should be explored. For example, the food processing industry when located close to agricultural areas can transform India's rural landscape. Currently, food processing in India is as low as 10 percent of production, as compared to 65 percent to 80 percent, generally seen in the developed countries. Other agro-based industries would be equally important as propellers of growth. The question is how to attract farmers into such partnerships, which do not adversely affect, but rather keep the interests of farmers in the forefront and take into account their various sensitivities, particularly about their land-holdings. This needs to be done in a farmer-friendly manner and by creating awareness in the farming community. Some Indian companies have understood that linking farmers to industrial units would be beneficial to both. They have developed interesting models of engagement with the farming community. We should study these experiences, as we look at viable options that suit Indian conditions for harnessing the potential of village economies.

Dear Citizens, today, the optimum use of capital or labour or resources across the entire spectrum of our national activity is dependent on cutting-edge technologies and technological breakthroughs. We need technologies for more efficient and cleaner energy, for our industry and agriculture. India has to chalk out strategies that will promote research and development resulting in innovative methods and techniques. The quality of research in our country must be upgraded to build knowledge structures. I think the nation should take this up as an urgent calling. A knowledge economy requires an education system that encourages creativity and a capacity to think in a novel fashion. Also, our research institutions should join global knowledge networks to keep themselves abreast of worldwide advancements in research. Technology should reach a broader section of our society, and also the movement of grassroots innovations should receive encouragement.

A change which is required, and of which I have spoken often is the eradication of social malpractices in particular those related to discrimination against women. These pose a hindrance on our path to building a more progressive and equitable nation. We should follow a positive agenda for the empowerment of women. A change in our mindsets will be important to remove prejudices and create equal opportunities for all citizens. This is essential for our inclusive growth agenda and for tapping the full potential of our population.

In any mission, particularly one as complex and challenging as nation building, as has been said by our first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, "We have to labour, and to work, and to work hard, to give reality to our dreams." For this, motivational levels have to be kept high.

Media can have an important influence on how people see the country. With relentless advances in technology, media is now an integral part of our daily lives. It can create awareness by bringing information to the people, getting them to reflect, and making them realize their responsibilities towards the nation. With a media that plays a constructive role, people would be inspired to take actions that would contribute to building the nation and also to learn about the benefits of positive actions.

For growth, an environment of security is essential. Government is committed to maintain high vigil and take appropriate measures to address internal security challenges. Our country has been a target of terrorism for more than two decades. Government has taken and will continue to take necessary steps to tackle threats emanating from terrorism. It will also continue to work with the international community to combat this menace.
As in the past, in the future also, the voice of India in the world would be a voice for peace, a voice for development, and a voice of hope. In the global arena, we will seek a change in the structure of multilateral institutions, so that they reflect contemporary realities. We will continue to cooperate with the international community to deal with global issues. We will seek to build friendly relations with countries in our region and those across the world.

As 2009 came to a close, there have been many analyses about what are the possible prospects of the next decade for India. Some refer to it as the deciding decade, the decade of reckoning. On reflection, I fully agree that it will be so. It must, therefore, mean a decade in which all Indians must do their work with a sense of responsibility, discipline, integrity of mind and purpose as well as with a spirit of cooperation. We will have to inspire our young generation so that they are virtuous, with good character and a sense of fellow feeling towards others. We must channelise all our efforts towards the goal of taking the country to a higher level of all round national development and not rest till we achieve our goal. We can then be proud that we have performed our duty and borne our responsibility well. It is said that, fortune is an outcome of good work and can slip away, if we are lax in our work. I am reminded of a few inspirational lines:-

तय की हैं हमने,
ऐसी कुछ मंज़िलें
कि रुकेंगे नहीं हम!
आगे बढते रहेंगे हम,
हर कदम, दर कदम,
जब तक दम में है दम

With these words, I once again wish all fellow citizens peace, prosperity and progress on the occasion of our Republic Day.


The webcast of this speech is available at:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Uttarakhand Makes Sanskrit Second Official Language

Sanskrit, which is considered as mother of all Indo-Aryan languages, is now the second official language of the north Indian state of Uttarakhand.  The Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly approved a historic bill on December 23, 2009 to make Sanskrit its second official language after Hindi.

Terming it as a historic development Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Ramesh Pokhariyal 'Nishank' said that this was the first time in the world that a state was going to officially adopt Sanskrit.  He added that Sanskrit was not just a language, but also a tool to spread wisdom.

Mr. Nishank stated that it was apt for a region like Devbhoomi ('Land of Gods' as Uttarakhand is often called as) to adopt Sanskrit, since the region has been the home of sages.  From earliest times, numerous sages have used Sanskrit for propagating knowledge in our country.  It was his wish that we utilize the vast powerhouse of information available.  This step would go a long way in fulfilling this desire.

The state would soon draw up a plan for practical use of Sanskrit in official work.  The government stated that it would actively ensure the use of Sanskrit in official communication, besides encouraging people to learn the language.

Incidentally, Sanskrit already has a special status in Article 351 of the Constitution of India as a primary source for enrichment of Hindi.  In 2005, it was also declared as a classical language.

It should be noted here that Sanskrit is spoken by only about 0.005% of Indian population in India.  Though, it has a vast and varied knowledge in it, its use was only limited to the priest group in ancient India and the common public was prohibited to learn it by law.  Perhaps this move of Uttarakhand government would help to propagate this language in the masses.

That Sanskrit has become the second official language of the state is a good news for Sanskrit lover in the state and the beginning of a new chapter.

Ref:  Pratiyogita Darpan Magzine, January 2010.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

10 things you must know about eclipses

Whenever an eclipse occurs, a lot of questions come to our mind which those remain unanswered. Here are a few things that you must know about the eclipses:

1. What is an eclipse? What are its types?UP
Eclipse is a total or partial obscuration of light from a celestial body as it passes through the shadow of another body. Or simply, eclipse is a temporary disappearance of sun or moon obscured by shadow of either moon or the earth respectively. Primarily, eclipses are of two types: solar and lunar. These are further classified as complete or partial eclipses. Annular eclipse is a special forma of solar eclipse.

2. How does an eclipse occur?UP
While revolving in their respective orbits when sun, moon, and the earth happen to be in a same plane, an eclipse would occur. When the moon comes between the sun and the earth, it obscures the sun from an observer at the surface of earth and a solar eclipse occurs. Similarly, when the earth comes between sun and moon, a lunar eclipse would occur.

3. Do eclipses occur on some special days?UP
Yes. A solar eclipse can occur only on new moon day and a lunar eclipse can occur only on a full moon night, because these are the only days on which these three bodies come in a same plane. But not on each new moon or full moon day an eclipse would occur. They occur only when the sun, moon, and the earth comes exactly in a same plane.

4. How is it possible for the moon to obscure the sun completely though it is too small compared to the sun?UP
Indeed the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, but it is also 400 times nearer the earth. As a result, sun and moon have almost exactly the same angular size (about 0.5%) so that it is possible for the moon to obscure the sun. We can hide the sun from our sight by just bringing our palm in front of our eyes. It's just like that.

5. How do the complete and partial eclipses occur?UP
The earth and moon both cast two types of shadows in sunlight: the shadow having a dark cone-shaped inner region--the umbra--and an outer lighter penumbral region. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly in front of the sun so that the earth lies in the moon's shadow. When the moon is sufficiently close to the earth so that its apparent diameter exceeds that of the sun, then the umbra of the moon's shadow just reach the earth's surface. It moves in a general west to east trend over a very narrow curved zone on the surface, which can be up to 250 km wide, but averages about 160 km. An observer at a point where only the penumbra will move can only see a partial eclipse. An observer in the path on umbra will experience a total eclipse.

6. What is an annular eclipse? What is a diamond ring?UP
If the moon is far enough away to appear smaller than the sun, a rim (or annulus) of light will be seen around the eclipsed sun and an annular eclipse will occur. The period of annularity never exceeds 12.5 minutes and is normally much less.

At the time of complete solar eclipse, when only a small corner of sun is visible behind the moon, it looks like a diamond. When this phenomenon occurs with an annular eclipse, it looks like a diamond ring and is generally termed so.

7. How long can an eclipse run?UP
As already stated, an annular or complete eclipse never exceeds 12.5 minutes and the average time or it is much more less. However, a solar eclipse from its first touch to its complete release can take up to four hours. The maximum duration of a complete lunar eclipse is 1 hour 42 minutes.

8. Why does not the moon disappear even during a complete lunar eclipse?UP
The moon can usually be seen throughout totality of the eclipse being illuminated by sunlight refracted by the earth's atmosphere in the shadowed area. Since the bluer wavelengths are removed by scattering, the moon has a coppery red colour.

9. Is an eclipse a rare phenomenon?UP
No. Up to seven eclipses can occur in a year, either five solar and two lunar or four solar and three lunar.

10. Do eclipses cause any harm to human life?UP
10. No. An eclipse is a completely celestial phenomenon and it has noting to do about human beings. The funny mythological fables about eclipses that Rahu and Ketu swallow sun and moon during the eclipses are noting but superstitions.

Here is a video link about how an eclipse occur. Just check it. Any questions? Queries? Comments? Let me know.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Man Booker, Olympics, etc.

Today, I have brought two news for you that, I believe, are worth to know, especially if we care to keep ourselves up-to-date.

My first news is about Britain's novelist Hilary Mantel, who has won this year's Man Booker Prize for her novel Wolf Hall.  She beat five other contenders including two previous winners A.S. Byatt and J.M. Coetzee.  Wolf Hall is a fictional account of the rise of scheming advisor of King Henry VIII.  Mantel took about five years to complete this novel, but now her efforts have come to a good end as she would gain good fame all over the English-speaking world besides the prize of 50,000 pounds and a sharp hike in sales of her books.

Another news is from the world of sports. Olympics Games 2016 are going to be held in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, which will be the first South American city to host Olympics after knocking out Chicago from the race for the 31st Olympic Games.  Rio de Janeiro's victory came despite US President Barack Obama's personal pitch in favor of his hometown.

That's all for now.  In fact, I have lot more issues in my mind to put for discussion.  Lata Mangeshkar, playback singer, winning Officer de la Legion d' Honneur, the highest civilian award of France; North African country Libya completing 40 years of reign of M. Gaddafi after an army revolution in 1969; and the current political and constitutional crisis in the Central American country of Honduras after an army coup against President Zelaya in June 2009.  Lots of issues--seeds in soil--waiting to germinate.  But by the time they will germinate, news will become history.  So, just have a look over them, think over them if life permits you to do so--or just forget them.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Working on Wikipedia Marathi

As a New Year resolution, I have started working on Wikipedia in my mother tongue, Wikipedia Marathi. I had been on it at least for the last three and a half years,[1] but was so disappointed with its quality and so fascinated with that of English Wikipedia, that I had hardly troubled myself to even check what was going on there. I spend almost a year and a half on English version at first doing small edits and then making some encyclopedia-worthy articles and working on DYKs. [2] As I was editing, I had been learning the style of editing and other technical issues on Wikipedia.

Suddenly came a thought to my mind, when I was working on the article about David Diop for ghalibana, that I must write this article for Wikipedia and I created it in both English and then in Marathi version of wiki. Going through this process, once again I felt very pathetic about the quality of most of the articles on Marathi Wikipedia, and I felt I have no right to think like this unless I do not put my full efforts to make it worthy to the position where it should be. And I resolved to devote my maximum efforts to Marathi wiki and started once again working on it.

Marathi version of Wikipedia in not a tiny one in comparison with the scores of others. It is at the 58th position in the list having about 30,000[3] articles (this count is nowhere as compared with the English version, but it still is a significant number). It has a large number of registered users, but the fact is only a few, not more than 20 or 30, are able to contribute on a regular basis and to involve in the management process, which severely hampers its quality.

Now we have started a project there to create at least 2500 wiki-worthy articles in 2010. Starting only with three members, we hope we can find a few more who think in the same way as we do and who can find some time to build a great reference source in our beloved mother tongue. Let us hope the best.

1. I joined Marathi Wikipedia on February 01, 2006.
2. I had created five 'Did You Know?' articles last year.
3. It has 26,133 articles currently (January 09, 2010).

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sir Syed Ahemad Khan: Islamic Reformer in British India

Sir Syed Ahamed Khan (1817-1898) was an ardent reformer who worked to reconcile modern scientific thought with Islam. This was to be done, of course, not by attacking any basic belief, but by a rationalistic interpretation of scripture. He pointed out the basic similarities between Islam and Christianity. He was opposed to any allegiance to the Turkish Khalifat.[1] He also tried to reform the social abuses in the Muslim community. He attacked purdah (the seclusion of women) among the Muslims. He condemned the systems of ‘piri’ and ‘muridi’. He also condemned the institution of slavery and described it un-Islamic. His progressive ideas were propagated through his magazine ‘Tahazib-ul-Akhlaq’.[2]  In his ‘Commentaries of the Quran’, he criticized the narrow outlook of traditional interpreters.

Above all, he was anxious to put a new type of education. He advocated English education for the regeneration of the Muslims in India. The beginnings of the national movement frightened him, for he thought that any opposition to the British authorities would deprive him of their help in his educational program. That help appeared to him to be essential, and so he tried to tone down anti-British sentiments among the Muslims and to turn them away from the National Congress, which was taking shape then. One of the declared objects of the Aligarh College[3] was “to make the Musulmans of India worthy and useful subjects of the British Crown.”[4]   He was not opposed to the National Congress because he considered it predominantly a Hindu organization; he opposed it because he thought it was politically too aggressive (though it was mild enough in those days), and he wanted British help and cooperation. He tried to show that Muslims as a whole had no rebelled during the Mutiny[5] and that many had remained loyal to the British power.

He was in no way anti-Hindu or communally separatist. Repeatedly he emphasized that religious differences should have no political or national significance. “Do we not inhabit in the same land?” he said. “Remember that the words Hindu and Mohammedan are only meant for religious distinction; otherwise all person, whether Hindu or Mohammedan, even the Christians who reside in this country, are all in this particular respect belonging to one and the same nation.”

Sir Syed received various rewards in his life. He was chosen as a member of Imperial Legislative Counsil in 1878 and later was conferred Knighthood in 1888. He passed away in 1898 and very rarely after his death the Muslim community of India could find the leader of his personality and intelligence.

1. Caliph or Khalifa of Turkestan was considered to be the head of Muslims all over the world in those days.
2. Tahazib-ul-Akhlaq (Improvement of Manners and Morals) was an Urdu magazine started by Sir Syed in 1870.
3. Aligarh school was established  by Sir Syed in 1875, which later became Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, which finally became Aligarh Muslim University by the law of parliament in 1920 after his death.
4. As quoted by Jawaharlal Nehru in his Discovery of India.
5. The Great Revolt of 1857.

Another New Year's Day

Thus wrote Jawaharlal Nehru, who was then imprisoned in the district gaol of Dehradun for political charges by the British Empire, on the New Year Day of 1933, to his daughter Indira:

It is New Year's Day today.  The earth has completed another cycle round the sun.  It recognizes no special days or holidays, as it rushes ceaselessly through space, caring not at all what happens on its surface to the innumerable midgets that crawl on it, and quarrel with each other, and imagine themselves--men and women--in their foolish vanity, the salt of the earth and the hub of the universe.

I was reading his Glimpses of World History earlier this morning when these words caught my attention.  Indeed, the sun and the earth know no novelty in completing one cycle and starting of another one.  But, we, as pity human beings we are, must have to stop somewhere and take a break to review the past and to plan for the future.  So, let us take this chance as an opportunity to look behind and then to take a great leap forward…

Wish all the readers of this blog a very happy new year.  Let the New Year just only be the first step of a lot more prosperity and joy to come.