T H E H E A R T B E A T O F T H E I N D I A N C O M M U N I T Y
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
OCTOBER 20, 2017
MCI (P) 043/09/2017
spoke to Indians who have moved here
to find out how they have adapted to local ways
of celebrating the Festival of Lights
REPORTS ON PAGES 12, 13 & 14
Talwars acquitted after
DENTIST couple Rajesh and
Nupur Talwar (right) have been
released after four years from the
Dasna District Prison in Ghazi-
The Allahabad High Court
acquitted them of the charge
of murdering their 14-year-old
daughter Aarushi and domestic
helper Hemraj at their house in
May 2008 — a case which still
The police escorted the couple
to Mrs Talwar’s parents’ house in
Noida’s Jalvayu Vihar, where they
were warmly welcomed by rela-
tives and neighbours.
500 Noida policemen get air
IN A bid to spread awareness on
the increase in respiratory prob-
lems caused by rising air pollu-
tion, Jaypee Hospital in Noida
organised a free health check-up
camp for police officers in the city
and nearby areas.
The hospital also distributed
N-95 masks to 500 policemen.
The masks have air purifying
respirators which block small
particulates and protect against
Himachal to have 136
A TOTAL of 136 all woman-man-
aged polling stations will be set up
in all the 68 assembly constituen-
cies in Himachal Pradesh for the
assembly elections on Nov 9.
Chief electoral officer Push-
pendra Rajput said the stations
have been set up to motivate and
ensure women’s participation in
the electoral process.
In these polling stations, women
police personnel and women
employees would be assigned for
Survey results shed light on
children’s poor eating habits
ONLY 18 per cent of children
living in urban areas of India eat
fruits every day, according to
results of a survey, revealing poor
eating habits of a vast majority of
kids in India.
The survey involved responses
from 1,350 parents of children
studying in grade six to 10 in
India’s metro cities.
At 14 per cent, the proportion
of children eating protein once a
day is even lower. The results also
showed that only 35 per cent of
the children consume vegetables
as part of every meal.
New faster Delhi-Mumbai
Special Rajdhani Express
THE Railways has introduced
a thrice-weekly faster Delhi-
Mumbai Special Rajdhani Express
service without flexi-fares from
Hazrat Nizamuddin station in
Delhi on an experimental basis.
The train will cover a distance
of 1,365km in 13 hours and 55
minutes instead of 15 hours and
According to railway officials,
the new Special Rajdhani Express
has been introduced for three
months to gauge the public’s
response to a concept of flat
increase in fares against the exist-
ing flexi-fare scheme.
Shillong to hold first India
International Cherry Blossom
THE capital of Meghalaya, Shil-
long, will hold the first India
International Cherry Blossom
Festival from Nov 8 to 11.
Unlike the cherry fruit, the
cherry blossom tree when it flow-
ers is a sight to behold.
According to the organisers,
there will be several community
events during the festival which
include guided night walks under
illuminated cherry blossoms, live
musical events, a beauty pageant
and stalls showcasing the cuisine,
wine, arts and crafts of the region.
Dengue outbreak in West
MORE than 13,000 people in
West Bengal have been diagnosed
with dengue since the start of the
It has resulted in 30 deaths with
the North 24 Parganas district the
most badly hit.
Of the 30 deaths, six were
reported from the Kolkata Mu-
nicipal Corporation area and two
from the Bidhannagar Municipal
State director of health services
B.R. Satpathy said the health
department is taking preventive
measures in 90 municipal areas.
395 unidentified bodies found
in Kochi in six years
IN THE past six years, 395
unidentified bodies were found
in Kochi. This is according to
the statistics from the General
Hospital in Ernakulam.
On an average, the hospital
receives about 60 bodies yearly
and five monthly.
In relation, during this period
Kerala saw 2,224 murders
across the state according to the
crime statistics from the police
The hospital hands over the
bodies to private medical colleges
in the state.
Two postage stamps mark
TWO postage stamps have
been issued by Mumbai’s Postal
Department to commemorate
the 75th anniversary of the
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj
It has issued two colour post-
age stamps of Rs5 and Rs15 each,
showing the present-day busy air-
port and the image of the airport
in the past (below).
Starting with a single-engine
and single-flight operation 75
years ago, the airport now sees
an estimated 867 daily flights and
45.2 million passengers yearly.
Making a difference
through girls’ education
For better lives...
children who are
now going to
villagers in two
states to send their
daughters to school
ROM the time of her birth,
Antimbala was told she was
unwanted and a burden to her
family. She was convinced she was
blighted by destiny and couldn’t
succeed in life.
Antimbala struggled to form or
write words and sentences. It’s not
that she didn’t have the ability, but
she was made to believe that she
couldn’t be as good as her peers.
Then there was Narazna who
was so named because everybody
in her family was angry when she
was born. (In Hindi, naraz means
angry.) She was made to feel un-
wanted ever since she can remem-
For these two girls and many
others, Safeena Husain, a gradu-
ate from the London School of
Economics, imbued with a zeal to
change the existing order of things,
is a saviour.
She has been making sure that
girls from underprivileged back-
grounds are given opportunities in
the school system.
Ms Safeena wanted to make sure
that girls like Antimbala — her
name literally means “the last girl”
— are able to stand on their own
feet, on their own merits, and not
become victims of a conservative
society’s biases and prejudices.
Through her non-governmen-
tal organisation (NGO), Educate
Girls, she and her team work with
community-level volunteers called
Team Balika, who go door-to-door
to identify out-of-school girls in re-
mote rural areas and convince their
parents to send them to school.
“When Antimbala started class-
es, she was withdrawn and didn’t
join her classmates during the
learning activities. Our volunteer
started engaging her in classroom
games and tried to gauge why she
was so aloof,” Ms Safeena said
in Delhi, where she received an
award in recognition of her work.
“A year after getting support,
she (Antimbala) can now read the
stories in her text book with rela-
tive ease and her confidence has
Ms Safeena was involved in
various development projects for
around 10 years in South America,
Africa and Asia, before starting the
“I returned to India to drive the
agenda closest to my heart — that
of girls’ education. From the very
outset, I had a strong personal mo-
tivation to make a change in India’s
education system primarily be-
cause I myself found my pathway
through education,” she said.
The NGO’s journey had started
with a desperate request to the Ra-
jasthan government by Ms Safeena
to let her work in the most educa-
tionally backward areas.
“I decided to pick Pali district to
commence a small 50-school test
project with a handful of people,”
She successfully conducted the
pilot with the help of a local team,
and her NGO was formally regis-
tered in 2007.
It has now expanded to 13 dis-
tricts — 10 in Rajasthan and three
in Madhya Pradesh.
And today, around 200,000 girls
from the two states have been en-
rolled in schools with the help of
more than 11,000 Team Balika vol-
Ms Safeena said the challenges
that these girls face in their every-
day life are huge.
“A girl is generally seen as a li-
ability. Also, they are indoctrinated
to believe that girls must only be
seen and not heard,” she said.
Referring to Narazna, she said:
“Imagine the unwantedness! This
is violence that inflates forever...
The child knows that she is some-
thing less and that she is not as
wanted as boys.”
The NGO’s journey was also
challenging from the start.
When Ms Safeena and her team
approached people, asking them
about their daughters so as to en-
rol them in schools, they had doors
shut in their faces.
“Why do you want to know
about our girls? Go away,” they
In the scorching heat of Rajast-
han, they spent days going door-
to-door to speak to the villagers,
struggled to set up community
meetings and eventually earned
the trust of school authorities.
“They called us mad dogs,
slammed doors in our faces... all of
this was not surprising. For those
people, we were strangers trying
to convince them to challenge the
These days, there is more talk
about girls’ education.
“But even now when we enter
a new district, resistance has the
same core reason — the mindset.”
Ms Safeena believes that the
most important step in combating
resistance was to let them see that
the voice speaking to them was not
“We would use meetings to chal-
lenge the mindset around girls’ ed-
ucation and gender discrimination
by regularly conveying the benefits
of education and how it is a way to
alleviate poverty and improve liv-
ing,” she said.
A class three girl from a village
near Udaipur explained how this
sexist mindset kept her away from
“My mother did not want me
and my sister to go to school. She
said that education was useless for
girls,” said the 11-year-old, who
cannot be named.
“For six months, these people
kept trying to speak to my mother.
She used to yell at them and ask
them to leave. One day, they came
with an elderly person from the
village who was highly respected.
“After that, she finally agreed to
send us to school. I’m very glad
that (the Educate Girls’ field coor-
dinator) managed to convince my
mother. We love going to school to
read books and also because we
have made a lot of new friends.”
Indo-Asian News Service
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