Pune : Education doesn’t mean limiting a student to curriculum. It goes beyond that and in fact cocurricular and extracurricular activities play an important role in shaping a student as not mere a degree holder but a responsible citizen too. Social bonding at young age helps develop an understanding of society and people living around us. With a view to inculcate this understanding Vishwakarma University (VU) has participated in MHRD’s Unnat Bharat Abhiyan. Recently, VU has adopted 5 villages around Pune city under this project. In coming days, students and faculty together will make sure that villagers in these villages drink pure water, which is a severe issue at present.
What is Unnat Bharat Abhiyan?
Unnat Bharat Abhiyan is inspired by the vision of transformational change in rural development processes by leveraging knowledge institutions to help build the architecture of an Inclusive India. Technical institutes from across the country have been selected for the project and VU is one of them. The idea is to adopt villages, understand their persistent issues and find solutions with the help of technical know-how of students as well as faculty members.
How VU is approaching the project?
‘The aim is to sensitise students about issues of society. Many a times while living in a metro city, we are unaware of problems of people staying in villages on the border of the cities. Students should understand the real-world problems and find answers to them using available resources there. We are approaching the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan with this view,’ says Prof Maya Kurulekar of Faculty of Science and Technology who is guiding the students.
What did VU do as a part of the project?
VU has adopted Samrevadi, Bhadalvadi, Thopatevadi (1 and 2) and Mordari villages near Sinhgad Fort. All these villages have less than 400 households. They lack many primary facilities including pure drinking water. As the project started, first thing that was done was a survey of these households. Nodal officer Prof Kailas Bhosale has been coordinating the project for VU. He motivated as many as 67 students from the first year BTech course to do a comprehensive survey in these five villages. According to Prof Bhosale, the survey was carried out to identify the basic issues. The findings of the survey will be uploaded on the portal of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan. While doing this survey, students found that villagers were using water from wells but the quality was poor. As a result, villagers face medical issues. Students also found that medical facilities were far away from homes and villagers needed to travel quite a distance to access them. ‘After the survey was done, we decided to focus on one issue at a time. To begin we have focussed on providing pure water. We have a tie up with Wilo Foundation for Water Quality Centre of Excellence. Wilo India Limited has developed and sponsored Water ATMs for this centre where this water is processed and pure water is provided. We have one such Water ATM at VU campus. We plan to establish similar Water ATMs in these villages from where villagers can drink pure water. We also had discussion with Gram Panchayats for providing water to these Water ATMs per day for purification,’ mentions Prof Bhosale.
Along with 67 first year BTech students Prof Mrunmaee Randade, Prof Sandeep kumar Shukla, Prof Jameel Ahmad Ansari, Prof Sonali Botkar, Prof Rushika and Prof Maya Kurulekar are involved in this project. Prof Kailas Bhosale is nodal officer of the project for VU.
Sakal Today, Pune Edition dated 13th January, 2019
The activities of VU under this project will be monitored by coordinators of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan at IIT-Delhi and IIT-Bombay.
Being an International student makes you unique in a foreign country. Remember that it takes all kinds of people to make the world. So celebrate being different and wear your uniqueness with pride.
I was greeted by a deafening silence and deserted streets as I walked out of the Stuttgart airport on a chilly October afternoon. I collected my luggage and got on to the bus to Tuebingen, a tiny University town in South Germany. Once in the bus my eyes filled with wonderment. Snug little cottages along the road, carefully mowed lawns, intricate see-through curtains on the windows, winding tree lined roads and crystal blue sky! The sheer beauty of the place kept my sleep deprived eyes wide open. Everything was straight out of the fairytale! It was my first day outside India. I was going to be an exchange student at the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen for two semesters, spanning a year.
In the days that followed I had a series of jaw - dropping experiences. Busses and trains were more punctual than your watch! The women at the visa registration office treated me with a polite smile and voila! in 5 minutes my work was done. It was a refreshing change from India where red-tapism can be exasperating.
Life felt like a breath of fresh air every day. But beneath the excitement I could feel a pit of sadness and nostalgia that came from missing my family and friends back home.
Life at University
I faced a real challenge once the classes started. The education system in Germany is very different from that of India. The classrooms in Germany are very student - centric and the professor’s role is that of a guide. Most of the learning happens through discussions, presentations and assignments rather than lectures. Coming to class unprepared is not an option! The study material, which is provided in advanced, has to be thoroughly studied before the class. I realized that German students were better equipped to research and work independently, a skill not nurtured in the Indian education system. Adapting to it was hard and I had several bouts of feeling incompetent. I had to constantly remind myself that I am amongst the chosen few to have bagged the opportunity to be on an ‘all expenses’ paid exchange program, and there is no way I could let it go in vain. I modified and evolved my study habits to gradually generate a new learning curve for myself.
Adapting to new ways of learning was only one of my classroom challenges. I was different and so was my accent. For me the accent of my fellow students was alien to an extent that initially I would lose trail of the discussions in the class, trying to understand the words that sounded too twisted on the tongue for my Indian ears. It took me a moment to wrap my ears around it. I was conscious of my own accent too. It took me a while to realize that rather than being conscious of my uniqueness I need to embrace it. If I embrace my uniqueness, others will too.
Life in Tuebingen
Life in Germany was a fairy tale except that it was real. Tuebingen is a sleepy little town which comes alive with the multicultural student community from across the globe. The building I lived in housed students from countries I had never heard of, up until then! Eight students on each floor shared a common kitchen and my Indian curries attracted much curiosity. On several occasions I ended up inviting complete strangers to my dinner table. Some of them remain my close friends till date!
By the time I landed in Tuebingen in October, Christmas was already in the air. Everyone told me to not miss the Christmas markets. I went to one in Munich and the word to best describe it is ‘Christmassy’. There was snow all around, white, red and greens ribbon decorations, and shops full of goodies. Steaming Glhue wine being freshly brewed on the roadside to keep you warm in the frosty winter and bilgy lights emanating warmth. But the Christmas day was lonely, most of my friends had either gone home or made plans to spend Christmas with other German families. I was fairly new in town to get an invitation yet.
Tuebingen has a strong Indian community and it made me feel like home away from home. But I made a conscious effort to not remain clubbed in a ghetto and made friends across cultural lines and mixed with the locals.
Of all the memories I made in Germany, It’s the random acts of kindness that remain closest to my heart. Once I was walking in a Christmas market when an old lady came up to me and admonished me for not wearing gloves in the cold. She pulled out a pair of gloves from her big hand bag and handed over a pair to me. I use those gloves till date!
Time flew like the wind and before I knew it was time to buy presents for the family and return. A part of me never wanted to leave. Coming back when your own country feels alien you realize that something in you has changed.
My fellow International students, carry your culture with you for its an expression of your roots. Embrace your uniqueness, don’t be scared to be different in the way you look, the way you talk, what your wear. Its beautiful to be different. Be your self. Represent your culture and do it with pride.
As an International student don't forget that you are a guest in that country so be sensitive to the cultural nuances and respect them. Make an effort to understand the new culture, keep patience and don't be quick to judge.
The author of this article, Richa Singh is a Content Writer at Investronaut. She is a voracious reader and a keen traveller.
Painting by - Prof. Mitali Kulkarni
A long engulfing silence hung between them, shattered intermittently with silent sobs at both ends of the phone line. 25 years have passed since that fateful day, people have picked up the broken threads of their lives and moved on, but memories are stubborn. Incase you are wondering what I am talking about, well the story begins 25 years ago when Latur was struck with a massive earthquake.
As residents of Latur went to bed that night, little did they know that for many it would prove to be their final night. Still hungover after the relentless festivities of the recently concluded Ganesh Utsav, Latur was ravaged by a devastating earthquake, in the wee hours of 30th September,1993, measuring 6.4 on the Richter Scale. This was a calamity of unprecedented proportions that claimed 9,748 lives and left 30,ooo injured. Overnight the city known for its enchanting Kharosa Caves was reduced to a haunting heap of debris and dead bodies.
Broken Homes. Broken Dreams.
Nature’s fury knew no end. The rescue and rehabilitation work was severely hit by torrential rains that followed the mighty earthquake. Lt. Col. Sumeet Baxi, then freshly commissioned into the Indian Army, was deputed on the rescue mission to retrieve the trapped under the debris. As bodies were dug out, he worked day and night giving them a respectable burial and taking the injured to the hospital. Days passed by and the odds of finding anyone alive under the debris was getting smaller than the point of a fine needle. But as they say in Hindi - ja ko rake sayian mar sake na koi (The one protected by God can’t be killed).
On 5th October, 1993, four days after the catastrophic earthquake struck Latur, Lt. Col. Baxi heard feeble cries of what seemed like the voice of a baby from under the debris. Springing into action, Lt. Col. Baxi slipped through the precarious gaps that could have been fatal to his own life and pulled out a baby girl with her pulse still beating. The 18 month old girl was spontaneously rechristened Priya by the brave heart officer who handed her over to her overwhelmed father. 25 years went by and Lt. Col. Baxi’s army posting brought him to Pune. He came to know about the whereabouts of Priya, now in her 20’s, a confident young school teacher. Hesitant yet curious Lt. Col. Baxi picked up the phone to ask about her well being. Overcome by emotions, he found himself struggling to strike a normal conversation with Priya. A long engulfing silence hung between them, shattered intermittently with sobs at both ends of the phone line. “Thank You” - is all Priya managed to utter.
Unlike what we are accustomed to - taut muscles, handsome, shiny hair and being gallant at the drop of a hat, heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Reality is more complex and interesting than fiction. Lt. Col. Sumeet Baxi might seem like an ordinary man going about his daily business yet there lies around him the ring of a halo of heroism. For one who saves a human being, it were as if, one has saved entire humanity. By saving a life, a future, an aspiration that will create a difference by just existing, when it almost wasn't meant to be.
Debris of Hope
On 1st October, 2018 Lt. Col. Sumeet Baxi was felicitated by Vishwakarma University, Pune for his heroic act and selfless service during the Latur earthquake.
The audience were enthralled and deeply moved when Dr. Siddharth Jabade, Vice Chancellor, Vishwakarma University narrated the tale of valour of Lt. Col. Baxi to the audience present.
Prof. Mitali Kulkarni, Art and Design department, presented Lt.Col. Summit Baxi with a beautiful painting depicting his heroic act and Priya's journey of becoming a teacher today. Dr. Siddharth Jabade announced the noble initiative of VISHWAS, an NGO under the aegis of Vishwakarma University, to adopt the village called Mangrul in Maharashtra.
‘Touch the Sky With Glory’ – true to their motto, the Indian Air Force is an embodiment to the grit, determination, and grace. On this Air Force Day the nation salutes the spirit of sacrifice, courage and the inspiring discipline exhibited by our men in blue! Be it emergency evacuations, search and rescue operations or a full fledged war, the Indian Air Force always leads from the front! On 8th October 1932, the Indian Air Force was officially established by the British. That is why 8th October every year is commemorated as the ‘Air Force Day’. The day is celebrated with the public display of synchronized adventurous air shows at Hindon, near Delhi.
The Indian Air Force boasts of a glorious history of achievements starting from the Second World War when it halted the Japanese army in Burma and other South Asian countries. It played a decisive role in “Operation Vijay” for Goa’s annexation to India, the victory of Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 and the Kargil War in 1999. Fact Check - Did you know that the President of India is the supreme Commander of the Indian Air Force?
Unveiling Secrecy: RTI and Access to Information
The International Day for Universal Access to Information is celebrated each year on 28th September. The term ‘Information’ has important connotations and consequences for the modern world beyond the cursory “acts provided or learned about something or someone” as mandated by the dictionary. The extent, content, and nature of this ‘learned’ information as well as the objective and the audience of this learning, are fundamental to defining the political orders and models of governance that are conceived, and adopted by any state.
This is particularly true of states like India that are conceived as democracies, where the will and choice of the voting public reign supreme. In such a scenario, it is absolutely essential that the people who vote have clarity in their choice of elected representatives, which necessarily involves an unqualified and unrestricted access to information on ‘polity’ and ‘policy’.
Access to Information as a safeguard of Democracy
Public access to information is one of the keys to a thriving democracy. For a democracy to flourish, its public institutions should be free of corruption. In most developing countries, development projects are marred by high levels of corruption. The funds meant for infrastructure, education, health, and housing are diverted to the deep pockets of politicians, middlemen, and contractors. It perpetuates the cycle of poverty and injustice, undermines the rule of law and weakens confidence citizen have in democratic institutions. Corruption thrives due to the lack of transparency and back door deals. With access to information, governments can be held accountable and questioned for their policies and expenditure on health care, education and other public services. Access to information increases public participation in governance by allowing the citizens to scrutinize the actions of the government and encourage a well-informed debate on matters of policy and national importance. A debate, as we know, is the backbone of a healthy democracy.
Right to Information and the death of RTI activists.
In 2005 India joined the illustrious list of countries passing laws for open access to information when the Right to Information Act (RTI) came into force. Under the provision of this Act, any citizen of India can request information from a public authority or office. The concerned office has to reply within 30 days. The Act gives citizens access to information to which hitherto only government officials were privy to, making every citizen a potential whistle-blower. Unfortunately, the Act that was meant to bring transparency in the system has ruffled many feathers.
Tragically, since 2005, more than 60 people have been murdered and numerous others tortured for exposing the corruption in the government on the basis of the information they received under the RTI Act. Nanjibhai Sondarva of Manekvada village in Gujarat is the latest to pay the price for seeking information under RTI. He was murdered by six people in March 2018 for seeking information about the funds spent on the construction of a road in his village. Try a google search on attacks on RTI activists in India and you will be taken aback to find a never-ending list of people who have been murdered, kidnaped, tortured, harassed, assaulted and driven to suicide.
This despite the 2014 Whistle Blowers Protection Act which promises to protect the person who exposes corruption in the government bodies, offices, and projects.
India has been ranked a dismal 81st in Corruption Perception Index 2017 by Transparency International. India has also been characterized as the worst “regional offenders” in Asia Pacific region on grounds of murders of journalists, activists, opposition leaders and intimidation and threatening of investigating agencies. As the statics indicate RTI Act alone can’t combat corruption until a sincere political will to weed out corruption prevails. In the current scenario when crackdowns on activists, journalists and civil society, in general, are on a rise, isn’t it all-important to protect a few who dare to speak up and question the establishment?
The author of this article, Richa Singh is a content writer with Investronaut. She is a voracious reader and a keen traveller.
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