Avantibai who? Read the NCERT textbook

Rani Avantibai rose in revolt against the British during 1857, much like Rani Laxmi Bai

In yet another example of the role played by political pressure in shaping school curriculum, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has found merit in the demand to include Rani Avantibai Lodhi in school textbooks.

Last year, following an uproar engineered by MPs of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in the Rajya Sabha during the monsoon session, the HRD ministry had advised NCERT to consider the inclusion of the 19th century freedom fighter in textbooks. The protest had led to two adjournments in Parliament.

The council, apparently convinced by the ‘sentiment’ of the House, has made Rani Avantibai Lodhi a part of popular recall. The freedom fighter has been mentioned in NCERT’s social science textbook for Class VIII – on pages 58 and 59 under chapter five called ‘When People Rebel’ – from the new academic session that began last month.

Rani Avantibai rose in revolt against the British during the country’s first war of independence in 1857. She ruled over the Ramgarh state, today in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh. She is known to people in the state through folklore and, that apart, there isn’t much information available. The story of her battle with the English has often been likened to that of Rani Laxmi Bai, a must-read in history curricula followed by schools across the country.

(courtesy: MailOnlineIndia & Ritika Chopra)

Read the full story: Avantibai who? Read the NCERT textbook

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Ansari(Rajya Sabha) TV is soaking up money faster than a sponge does water

Speaker, in a joint session after nomination of Rekha in Rajya Sabha

Speaker, in a joint session after nomination of Rekha in Rajya Sabha

In creating an independent television channel to promote the Rajya Sabha (RS) and its members, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, who is chairman of the Upper House, seems to have indulged in an extravagance that our stretched public resources can ill-afford. Pallavi Polanki  files a very important & explosive report in Firstpost India :

Headed by Gurdeep Singh Sappal, formerly OSD (officer on special duty) to Ansari, Rajya Sabha TV is soaking up money faster than a sponge does water. For 2012-13, the bill will be around Rs 73 crore. In November 2007 when Sappal, then OSD to the chairman, requested the file on the initiative to “launch Rajya Sabha Television, which was eventually abandoned” to be put up for his perusal. Subsequently, in April 2008, when the GPC gave its ‘in principle’ nod to RS TV, the channel was proposed as joint project with Lok Sabha TV, under a common network called the Sansad Television Network. However, what transpired – the launch of RSTV as an independent entity – was neither approved nor endorsed by the GPC. This, despite members of another Rajya Sabha committee, expressing strong reservations about the creation of an independent channel.

… setting up of a new RS TV channel by spending several crores of rupees may not serve any purpose, as it would not be run by experts in the field, thereby leading to production and airing poor quality programmes. Moreover, the exercise to project the members of the Rajya Sabha was not advisable as proceedings were already being telecast by Doordarshan…But that was not to happen.

..No gazette notification was issued on the setting up of the channel…And for 2012-2013, the budgeted expenditure (for the channel)  is an astounding Rs 73.30 crore.

….Raising the question, do we really need more general interest programming using taxpayers’ money — on a channel dedicated to Parliament, when we already have a national broadcast network (Doordarshan) with a fleet of channels catering to everything from news and current affairs to entertainment, sports and more?

Read the full report: Ansari’s Rajya Sabha TV swallows huge state resources

Oldest Indian Parliamentarian Rishang Keishing says, It was so quiet and peaceful then!

For Rishang Keishing (92), the world of Indian Parliament had opened up through the window of a train. After getting elected from Manipur in the first Lok Sabha in 1952, it took four days for him to reach Delhi. He is the oldest parliamentarian in India.

“I had to board an overcrowded train to Delhi at Katihar. The police somehow pushed me inside it through a window,” Keishing, now a Rajya Sabha member, recalls.

For the first time, the man from Bungpa Khunou village saw India beyond Assam.

“I was awestruck when I entered Parliament. I entered the Lok Sabha and saw stalwarts like Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad sitting across me. I had only seen their pictures in newspapers. I thanked God for the day,” he tells HT.

Three other MPs of 1952 Lok Sabha are alive: Resham Lal Jangade (Bilaspur constituency), Kamal Singh (Shahabad-North-West) and Kandala Subrahmanyam (Vizianagaram). But they are leading retired lives.

Keishing is politically active and his memory remains razor-sharp. He recalls his first meeting with Nehru: He spotted the Prime Minister in the Parliament corridor and called out to him. The Prime Minister turned back. Keishing asked if some emissaries of Zapu Phizo (the secessionist Naga leader) can meet him.

“No, No, No” Nehru snapped back and questioned why a handful of Naga leaders refuse to accept India’s authority. Keishing, a die-hard Indian nationalist, hit back: “Why are you shouting at me? I have just come to hear ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

“Nehru followed me and caught me by my arm after a few minutes. He said they should first meet the home minister,” Keishing recalls.

His closest association was with Indira Gandhi. Keishing, then a minister in Manipur, came to meet her and she said, you become the chief minister.

“I said I belong to a small tribe and she replied, ‘In democracy, the size of your community doesn’t matter. What matters is the confidence of people’.”

After his first Rajya Sabha term, Keishing requested Sonia Gandhi to let him retire.

“Soniaji threw a dinner party. After dinner, I walked up to her to say goodbye. She told me, ‘you are re-nominated. Now you rush back to Imphal to file your nomination papers’.”

The biggest regret of the MP is, of course, the deteriorating standard of parliamentary practice.

“It was so quiet and peaceful. Today’s disruptions don’t help much,” Keishing says.

Sunil Gavaskar’s dream at Rashtrapati Bhavan

AJITH PILLAI imagines in his column Straight drive to Raisina Hill  in The Daily Mail about Little Master Sunil Gavasker,  dreaming of being the President of India and delivering his Presidential address:

Friends, cricketers and countrymen, lend me your bats; I stand here to bowl a few long hops to Manmohanji not to praise him; I know the shots he missed and the catches he dropped will live after him; The several good innings he played will be interred with the UPA’s bones: So be it with our PM…The noble Sushma Swaraj hath told you Manmohanji was anti-aam admi. And Sushamaji is an honourable man-oops woman…’

….By now dawn had broken. I decided to call APJ Abdul Kalam for his advice. Without any provocation he asked me if I preferred my eggs sunny side up and I answered in the affirmative. 

‘Gavaskarji, you are so predictable,’ he said in his typical drawl. 

And then he launched into classical Tamil which was not Marathi to me. 

Thankfully, he translated poet Thiruvallur into English although he made me repeat the verses after him. 

‘The axle of a cart loaded even with peacocks’ feathers can break. Think and then undertake work; to think later will bring disgrace.’ 

Rattled I rang up Sidhu for some news. He was apologetic. ‘Sunnybhai, things are bad. Soniaji says the Congress can’t back another Maharashtrian after nominating Tendulkar to the Rajya Sabha. And BJP President, Nitin Gadkari, says you’re unsuitable since you once refused to wear khaki shorts… Guru, I’ve finally learnt that a fat man downsized through surgery is more dangerous than a tree that grows in girth through watering.’ 

Well, there went my Presidential hopes… 

Read more: With Sachin joining the RS, the Little Master deserves to be considered for the presidency

Fine Print: Rajya Sabha to vote on Indian Media Censorship!

The Rajya Sabha is expected to vote on a motion on Friday that seeks to annul rules enabling individuals to demand removal of any content they deem offensive, on the grounds that these guidelines restrict freedom of expression. (courtesy: Bhuvaneshwari Joshi)

Hindustan stands by Katju’s opinion in The Hindu: Media (read, channels) are irresponsible, reckless and callous!

Media cannot reject regulation

Chairman of the Press Council of India Justice Markandey Katju wrote in The Hindu

If red lines can be drawn for the legal and medical professions, why should it be any different for profit-making newspapers and TV channels?

….The way much of the media has been behaving is often irresponsible, reckless and callous. Yellow journalism, cheap sensationalism, highlighting frivolous issues (like lives of film stars and cricketers) and superstitions and damaging people and reputations, while neglecting or underplaying serious socio-economic issues like massive poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, farmers’ suicides, health care, education, dowry deaths, female foeticide, etc., are hallmarks of much of the media today. Astrology, cricket (the opium of the Indian masses), babas befooling the public, etc., are a common sight on Television channels. 

Paid ‘news’ is the order of the day in some newspapers and channels where you have to pay to be in the news. One senior political leader told me things are so bad that politicians in some places pay money to journalists who attend their press conferences, and sometimes even to those who do not, to ensure favourable coverage. One TV channel owner told me that the latest Baba (who is dominating the scene nowadays) pays a huge amount for showing his meetings on TV. Madhu Kishwar, a very senior journalist herself, said on Rajya Sabha TV that many journalists are bribable and manipulable.

 ….Why then are the electronic media people so furiously and fiercely opposing my proposal? Obviously because they want a free ride in India without any kind of regulation and freedom to do what they will. 

Read the full column in The Hindu: Media cannot reject regulation

If Loksabha, a bat would really have come in handy to Sachin

Tunku Varadarajan writes in his column The World On A Page in The Newsweek International

Little Master, M.P.

Until now, the only argument Indians have had over Sachin Tendulkar is whether he is the greatest cricketer ever to have played the game, or merely the greatest Indian cricketer. But with his nomination to the Rajya Sabha—the Indian parliament’s upper house—some of his fussier compatriots are asking what (if any) skills the batsman possesses that would equip him for a legislature. Tendulkar, known to the game’s followers as the “little master,” is a notably apolitical man. He will be the first active sportsman to sit in the upper house, a sedate institution when compared with the Lok Sabha, or lower house—where a bat would really have come in handy.

Tunku Varadarajan is the editor of Newsweek International. He is also the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Fellow in Journalism at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. He was an editor at the Wall Street Journal from 2000 to 2007.

“#unfollowsachin” trend on Twitter

The recent nomination of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar for the Rajya Sabha seat has managed to stir up a storm in the entire country. Everyone, television channels, social media, general public, political parties has caught the bug.

Some are questioning the practicality of the nomination; some are in favor of a political seat for the little master; while some are terming it as a political ploy by the Congress party. The reactions are many and varied.

The Twitter has become battle ground between Sachin’s fans and people who object to his nomination for the coveted post.

There was a general consensus among the people that it was an ‘attention diverting tactic’ on the behalf of the ruling Congress party.

The party- plagued by allegation of corruption, scandals, and misrule- wants to shift the focus from the main issues, it was believed by some.

One campaigner flashed out the collective sense of outrage. According to him, by accepting the Rajya Sabha nomination from the Congress, and by personally meeting Sonia Gandhi, Sachin had, in a manner of speaking, sold his soul to the “corrupt” Congress.

Sachin Tendulkar had gone to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi, on Thursday prior his Rajya Sabha nomination announcement.

The issue came into limelight on the social media site, Twitter. So much so, the Twitter site is buzzing with calls, for and against the #unfollowsachin trend; with message pouring in at the rate of over 100 tweets per 10 minutes.

The cause was vociferous on the web.

The chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar tweeted- “ #UnfollowSachin still trending on twitter & I still believe 95% of them have nothing to do with hatred toward Sachin but towards Congress.”

Vijya Mallya was the most vocal supporter of the nomination- “Delighted to hear on the news that Sachin has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Befitting for an extraordinarily accomplished Indian.”

“I have unfollowed Sachin. He has become part of corruption now,” read one of the tweets.

One tweet sums the entire episode, “@sachin_rt U should’ve joined politics but not Sonia Gandhi, who is hated by the nation. Hence #UnfollowSachin. U’ve let down Indians.”

“Y #unfollowsachin? I thinks it’s great that he goes to d Rajya Sabha. Better than many many tht have gone before” reads the tweet of director and producer, Shekhar Kapoor.

The hashtag has not gone down well with the ardent fans of Sachin Tendulkar. The reaction was enormous. One person tweeted- “The most absurd hash-tag in recent Twitter.”

While the other read- “First you push him to score the 100th 100. Then you suggest him to retire. And now this. Mind your own work people!”

A majority of the people were of the opinion that the hashtag ‘Unfollowsachin’  is inconsequential and Sachin will always continue to rule the hearts of millions of Indians with his batting displays.

Silsila sequel in Rajyasabha, minus AB!

With the Rajya Sabha nomination, Rekha now has the option to share a very public platform with Jaya for the next six years. Jaya, who recently won a nomination from the Samajwadi Party, was sworn in for a fresh term in the Rajya Sabha earlier this week.

The heady Bollywood years and the attention that swirled around Silsila have ensured that many are seeing in Sonia’s initiative to get Rekha a berth in the upper House a deft move to keep Jaya in check.

Given their star status, comparisons are certain to be made on every move the two make and unsparing glare will fall on their attire, style and performance — where some foresee an edge to Rekha.

Rekha has spoken extensively about fellow actor Amitabh. In an interview, she had said:

“It’s so easy to gush about someone who has been an inexorable part of my life for over three decades now. Amitji has been a part of my consciousness ever since I saw him create magic on screen in Parwana playing the intense, silent, yet obsessive lover opposite Yogeeta Bali. Incidentally, Yogeeta was the one who introduced us at Madras airport.”

Bollywood actors sympathetic to Jaya say she spent her entire life making concessions for her husband. She had probably thought that the political arena would be one area where she would have the spotlight to herself and come into her own after years of putting her career on hold.

Now Jaya may have to share that space with Rekha.

68 % Indians don’t want Sachin in parliament !

Star cricketer Sachin Tendulkar’s nomination to Rajya Sabha was met with widespread bemusement on Friday, with many questioning whether the publicly apolitical batting superstar will have the time or inclination to serve as an MP.

President Pratibha Patil approved the government’s nomination of Tendulkar late on Thursday, offering him one of the 12 seats in the Rajya Sabha, or upper house that are reserved for presidential appointees.

He is the first active sportsman to receive the honour, with the seats normally gifted to people who have distinguished themselves in the arts, sciences or social services.

The adoration of the cricketer in India verges on religious worship – a fact not lost on Friday’s newspaper headline writers, with newspapers announcing that ‘God has a New House’.

Not to divert attention: Cong

Most members of the upper House welcomed the decision even as the Opposition felt this could be a move by the Congress to divert attention from the problems afflicting the party.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut maintained that Tendulkar should be given the Bharat Ratna but questioned the timing of his nomination to Rajya Sabha.

“Sachin is still on the field and has not retired. So why is he not being nominated for Bharat Ratna? And if Sachin is being used to divert attention from the problems plaguing Congress, then such politics should not be practised by them. Anything that Congress does is inspired by politics. Sachin is above politics,” he said.

Congress Rajya Sabha member Satyavrat Chaturvedi rubbished the opposition charge that Tendulkar has been nominated to divert attention.

“The Government, country and Parliament are above any individual. One person can neither build nor destroy the fate of a party or a government. The sooner this confusion is removed, the better. The kind of mindset Shiv Sena has, it can say anything,” he said.

Chaturvedi maintained that nominated members have also contributed immensely to Rajya Sabha.

“I have seen some nominated members who have made a lot of contribution. Can anybody ignore the contribution made by M.S. Swaminathan or Shabana Azmi? On the other hand, there were some who visited only once in a blue moon,” he said.

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Mayawati (BSP), Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), Sudip Bandyopadhaya (TMC) and Raj Babbar (Cong) welcomed Tendulkar becoming a Rajya Sabha member.

Hope Sachin is not bored: Hema Malini

Rajya Sabha is a place for retired people and one hopes that Sachin Tendulkar does not get bored with his new responsibility, actress and former MP Hema Malini said today.

“It is a very prestigious thing. I am happy for him. This (RS) is for retired people…and I suppose he is not retired yet. I just hope he doesn’t get bored,” Malini, whose term in Rajya Sabha ended recently, said.

Noted director Mahesh Bhatt hoped that glory will follow the 39-year-old star batsman in Parliament as well. “He is a legend. It is great that he has been nominated. Glory is his co-traveller. This (nomination) is just deepening of his halo,” Bhatt said.

“Don’t forget Sachin had taken on the Shiv Sena and said that Maharashtra belongs to every Indian not just to Maharashtrians,” actress Shabana Azmi wrote in reply to a Twitter user, who said Sachin would never raise his voice against anything wrong.

Bandit Queen director Shekhar Kapur wrote, “I think its great that he goes to the Rajya Sabha. Better than many many that have gone before.”

Actress Gul Panag tweeted, “I am all for Sachin for RS. Better than a retired 60+ sports person no?”

While Bollywood celebrities came out in support of Tendulkar’s nomination, the twitter world seemed divided with ‘Unfollow Sachin’ trending on the micro-blogging website.

“UnfollowSachin trended not just in India, but worldwide. Point was made loud and clear that Sachin’s fans don’t like his Rajya Sabha entry,” a twitter user wrote.

“We like Sachin for his cricket. With GpCapt rank in AF he degraded Air Force Offrs. Same way many don’t like him degrading MPs post (sic),” another tweeted. “Give him a chance, he has always done right things in his life,” a supporter wrote.

Sachin interested?

The reaction of media commentators and some of the ‘Little Master‘s’ fellow cricketers was one of puzzled caution.

“Frankly, I am at a loss for words,” said former Mumbai and India team-mate Sanjay Manjrekar.

“I never realised these sort of things interested him. He is not one to express his views publicly and this would be a real test for him. I hope he can make a difference in parliament.”

Tendulkar, who turned 39 on Tuesday, has played more Tests (188) and one-day internationals (463) than any other player since his debut in 1989.

He is the highest run-getter in both forms of the game and last month became the first batsman to complete 100 international centuries – 51 in Tests and 49 in one-dayers.

Doubts on serving as a politician

Despite recent speculation about his retirement, Tendulkar has given no indication that he plans to hang up his pads, leading some to question how he could fit an MP’s duties into his hectic playing schedule.

“He plays almost right through the year, where is the time to go to parliament?” said another ex-international Akash Chopra.

“I will be disappointed if he did not contribute and make a mark for himself in the Rajya Sabha.”

Not a great idea: Bhogle

Noted cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle suggested the nomination was a cynical ploy to gain ‘political mileage’ out of Tendulkar, who has rarely, if ever, spoken out on political issues or professed any party affiliation.

“I don’t think it is the greatest idea,” said Bhogle. “He does not have the experience of governing or doing social work.”

No comment from the cricketer

Tendulkar has not yet commented to indicate whether he will accept the honour.

But news of the nomination broke just hours after he and his wife called on ruling Congress party president Sonia Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi.

“My only fear is that the stamp of a political party should not come on him,” said Chetan Chauhan, a former India opener who forged a career as an MP.

“The minute he associates himself with a party, the public’s perception about him will change,” Chauhan was quoted as saying by a newspaper.

Well-known cricketers who are sitting members of the elected lower house, or Lok Sabha, are former internationals Mohammad Azharuddin, Kirti Azad and Navjot Sidhu.

A snap online poll in a daily revealed 68 per cent of respondents did not want to see Tendulkar in parliament.

Another editorial labelled Tendulkar’s nomination a populist move that made ‘little sense’.

Pointing out that that Tendulkar’s cricketing duties kept him on the road for 216 days last season, said nominating an active sportsman ‘defeats the purpose’ of choosing eminent people who can enrich parliamentary debate.

“His new role will force Sachin to choose between his duty to the team and his job as a parliamentarian. It’s an unfair choice,” it said.