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Jain couple to leave 3-yr-old daughter, Rs 100-cr property for monkhood

BHOPAL, Sept 16: A Jain couple from Madhya Pradesh has decided to leave behind their three-year-old daughter and property worth around Rs 100 crore to become munis (monks), stunning the community that is no stranger to acts of renunciation.

Sumit Rathore, 35, and his wife Anamika, 34, are scheduled to take deeksha (the first step of their initiation into monkhood) under Sudhamargi Jain Acharya Ramlal Maharaj at Surat in Gujarat on September 23.

Their decision has sent shockwaves across hometown Neemuch, about 400km northwest of state capital Bhopal, where their families are established in politics and business.

The first question on the lips of incredulous Neemuch residents is: what about their daughter, Ibhya?

“I will take care of my granddaughter,” said Anamika’s father, Ashok Chandaliya, a former Neemuch district president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

He said no one could convince the couple not to renounce the world. “We had no counter to their religious arguments and relented. One cannot stop anyone when religion calls,” Chandaliya added.

Sumit’s father, Rajendra Singh Rathore, who owns a factory that makes sacks for cement companies, too accepted the decision. “We were expecting this, but not so soon,” he said.

Sumit and Anamika’s decision was not exactly a surprise for their loved ones because they had declared their intent to become munis when Ibhya was only eight months old and, as preparation, started living separately.

Sumit announced his final decision to take deeksha during a gathering of Acharya Ramlal’s at Surat on August 22. The Acharya told him to seek Anamika’s permission. She gave consent and expressed her desire to take deeksha too. Their families rushed to Surat to dissuade them, but failed.

Sumit and Anamika, who married four years ago, have taken a vow of silence till the deeksha.

Anamika was Neemuch’s first gold medallist in Class 8 board examinations. She did her BE from Modi Engineering College, Laxmangarh (Sikar) in Rajasthan, and worked with Hindustan Zinc before marriage.

Sumit holds a diploma in import-export management from a college in London, where he stayed and worked for two years before returning to Neemuch to manage the family business.

Sumit’s cousin, Sandeep, who is close to him, said, “He had everything that a man wanted. Property worth around Rs 100 crore, a loving wife and a daughter. But he chose to renounce everything. We are stunned.”

Prakash Bhandari, a leading Jain community member in Neemuch, said as far as he knew, this decision was unprecedented. “This is the first time that such a young couple is taking deeksha and that too by leaving behind a daughter,” added Bhandari, secretary of Sadhumargi Jain Shravak Sangh.

Earlier this year, a stunning renunciation by a Jain teen from Gujarat made waves across the country.

Varshil Shah, 17, renounced the world and became a monk in June, barely weeks after scoring a stupendous 99.9 percentile in Class 12 Commerce examinations. After initiation for his spiritual quest, the teen’s name changed to Suvirya Ratna Vijayji Maharaj.

The Jain community, with an estimated population of less than 50 lakh in India, follows an austere lifestyle including vegetarianism and a large section is known to observe customs laid down thousands of years ago. Digambara Jain monks – who consider the sky their clothing – still go naked.

The death of a 13-year-old Jain girl, Aradhana Samdariya, in October 2016, less than three days after she ended a 68-day fast under the tapasya ritual practised by her community triggered debates across the country.

Aradhana’s death put the spotlight on the community’s tapasya ritual. Amid debates, many Jain leaders came out in support of her parents, saying they were being hounded and the community was being maligned.

According to Jain elders, the ‘tapasya’ that Aradhana undertook was voluntary and the first of nine steps (nav-pad) aimed at attaining salvation, and it was not the same as the ritual of ‘santhara’ under which the elderly or the sick abstain from food until they die.

6-month 'cooling off' period for granting divorce can be waived: SC

NEW DELHI, Sept 12: A Hindu married couple may not need to wait six months for a separation order in the case of mutual consent and the marriage can be legally terminated in just a week as the Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the "cooling off" period in not mandatory and can be waived off.

The court ruled that the stipulation under the Hindu Marriage Act for a six-month wait could be done away with if all efforts for mediation and conciliation intended to reunite the parties had failed. The waiving off can be considered if the parties had already lived separately for at least a year. In such situations, the court could take a view that delay in proceedings will only prolong subsequent resettlement.

"The object of the provision is to enable the parties to dissolve a marriage by consent if the marriage has irretrievably broken down and to enable them to rehabilitate them as per available options. The amendment was inspired by the thought that forcible perpetuation of status of matrimony between unwilling partners did not serve any purpose. The object of the cooling off period was to safeguard against a hurried decision if there was otherwise possibility of differences being reconciled," it said.

Explaining the provision, a bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit said the object of the cooling off period is to safeguard against a hurried decision taken by a couple to get separated and to allow them to explore ways to settle their disputes but this could not be made mandatory.

Section 13B(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act says that if both parties do not change their pleas for divorce in a time period not less that six months and not later that 18 months, then the court shall pass a decree declaring the marriage to be dissolved. The period of six to 18 months provided in section 13B is an interregnum to give time and opportunity for the couple to reflect on their move.

The bench said the period of six months can be waived off if conciliation fails and the parties had genuinely settled differences relating to alimony, custody of child or any other pending issues between them.

"The object was not to perpetuate a purposeless marriage or to prolong the agony of the parties when there was no chance of reconciliation. Though every effort has to be made to save a marriage, if there are no chances of reunion and there are chances of fresh rehabilitation, the court should not be powerless in enabling the parties to have a better option," the bench said.

India ranks 136 out of 180 countries in press freedom

NEW DELHI, Sept 7: The murder of senior journalist and editor Gauri Lankesh in her home in Bengaluru has brought the focus back on the perilous conditions journalists in India work in.

India was ranked a lowly 136 among 180 countries in the latest world press freedom rankings released in April with the dismal performance blamed on “Modi’s nationalism” and growing “self-censorship” in the mainstream media. India slipped three places as compared to the year before. India was ranked just three places above Pakistan and was one notch below violence-torn Palestine. India’s neighbours Bhutan and Nepal were placed at 84th and 100th rank, respectively.

This came after a string of journalist deaths and murders, especially in small-town India, including Hindustan reporter Rajdeo Ranjan in Bihar last year. Two years ago, a similar study by Reporters Without Borders termed India as among the three most dangerous countries for journalists in 2015.

“With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media,” the report from media watchdog Reporters without Borders said. India was ranked 133 last year.

The report mentioned that journalists were increasingly targets of online smear campaigns and threats.

Prosecutions are also used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment.”

“No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship.”

The watchdog was also critical of a social media and internet gag in Kashmir and said that in the absence of any “protective mechanism, coverage of sensitive regions continued to be “very difficult”.

Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark took the first four positions in the rankings. The United States was at the 43rd position. Large swathes of sub-Saharan Africa, including dictator-ruled Zimbabwe, performed better than India.

China was 176th among 180 countries and was described as the “world’s leading prison for citizen journalists”. North Korea was at the bottom of the index.

800 engineering colleges to close down in India

BANGALORE, Sept 2: Over 800 engineering colleges across the country that have had a student enrolment of less than 30% of their capacity for five consecutive years will be asked to shut down from the coming academic year (2018–19).

The chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Anil D. Sahasrabudhe, said here on Friday that this was inevitable as it reflected on the quality of the colleges.

“Students can be shifted to engineering colleges in the vicinity that have sufficient student strength,” he said, and added that the decision was taken after several deliberations and collating data from colleges from different States.

“We compared the figures for the total intake and the admissions made for five years, and made a list of colleges that need to be shut down,” he said.

There are 10,363 engineering colleges across the country. The AICTE has taken this decision as thousands of engineering seats go vacant each year as supply outstrips demand. For the 2017–18 academic year, over 29,000 engineering seats went vacant in Karnataka alone.

“The seats that go vacant are in colleges where infrastructure is inadequate and faculty members are not up to the mark. So it is better if such institutions close down,” an official from the Karnataka’s Department of Technical Education said.

According to the official, some streams were losing their “sheen”. Even reputed colleges were approaching the AICTE to close down streams that do not have demand, he said.

However, despite the large number of vacant seats, managements of several college continue to file applications with the AICTE for starting new engineering colleges.

An official with the Department of Technical Education said, “It is the logic of demand and supply. There is no need for the AICTE to intervene and close down colleges. These institutions will eventually shut down.”

Sam Pitroda Announces Overseas Congress Expansion Worldwide

NEW YORK, Aug 27: The newly appointed Chairman of the Overseas Congress Dept of AICC, the legendary Sam Pitroda addressed The Indian National Overseas Congress USA members in New York.

INOC USA hosted a welcome event for its new leader at the Cottelion Banquet Hall in New York on August 26th, 2017. The event was attended by all the chapters of Overseas Congress, the executive committee and its National President Shudh Parkash Singh.

The event started with Shudh Singh introducing Sam Pitroda as a great Patriot and a man who brought revolution in Telecom and Digital Communication in India working with the complex bureaucracy, a difficult system and obsolete resources in the 1980's.

He said that Sam Pitroda was able to bring the telephone to every household in India with his initiative (CDOT) and said that he was fortunate to be working with a legend like Sam Pitroda who is our Chairman Overseas Congress Dept AICC.

Shudh also stated he will follow all directions of Sam Pitroda like he always followed earlier Chairman's directions.

"Our dynamic leader Rahul Gandhi could not have appointed a better person to lead overseas congress in my opinion," added Shudh Parkash Singh.

Sam Pitroda spoke on his journey in transforming Digital and telecommunication system in India and also recalled the support he received from the then Prime Minister - Late Rajiv Gandhi.

He said that he was specifically entrusted to rebuild and energize the Overseas Congress by the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi.

He said that he will work on building Overseas Congress in many countries and asked all members to work unitedly in this mission as he said that only Congress can build a strong, secular and progressive India due to its inherent ideology.

He recalled so many developments seeds that were sown with his initiatives and during the tenures of Late Rajiv Gandhi & Dr. MANMOHAN SINGH that India is now reaping the benefits. He hoped that all NRI's will work towards building a strong India. He mentioned he is at the fag end of his life, with two multiple bypass surgeries and Cancer and his only mission is to sow more seeds that will build a better India in the future.

He said that he will do his best to give Overseas Congress a good platform for this mission.

Senior Vice President Phuman Singh, National VP Kalathil Varghese, Exec VP Ravi Chopra, Vice President Kulwant Deol spoke very high of the initiatives taken by President Shudh Parkash Singh. They expressed thanks to Rahul Gandhi for appointing Sam Pitroda as their new leader.

Chapter Heads Gurmit Singh Gill, Charan Singh Prempura, Sher Madra, Sushil Goyal, Joby George, Dr. Jinna and others showed their enthusiasm along with other among members for having a new leader who is not only a Legend but also a NRI like us.

Rajendar Dichpally (National General Secretary) spoke on how NRI's can play an important role in developing the Congress Party in India and hoped the new Chairman will encourage NRI's to return to India to serve in Social and Public Life.

He also asked Sam Pitroda to build an effective communication channel to take the good thoughts and feedback from NRI's for various policies and programs that can be implemented in India.

Dr.Rajinder Jinna spoke on the telangana chapter activities and how the chapter was working with telangana Congress in giving ideas and support to their activities.
Chaitanya asked Sam Pitroda to speak to the Consul General in New York to reintroduce direct flights from Newark(NJ) to Hyderabad(India).

Gurmit Gill Mulanpur provided details of Chalo Punjab campaign he led for recent PUNJAB elections. He offered to repeat the same success for other states of India. Two veteran leaders from Punjab KK Bawa and Dakha also addressed the gathering.

Kalathil Varghese spoke on the activities of Kerala Chapter and also introduced his team and spoke to the good work being done in the chapter under the leadership of Joby George where they organized a national convention in Chicago.

Ravi Chopra recalled the good work done by the President Shudh Jasuja under the previous President's and also his role in Organizing a massive reception for Congress President Sonia Gandhi in 2001.

Phuman Singh spoke on the need for Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi to visit USA and address the Diaspora.

Charan Singh (President of Haryana Chapter) spoke on the activities of Haryana Chapter and said that under the Leadership of Shudh Singh Jasuja, the Overseas Congress has been doing a tremendous job and reiterated his support to his leadership.

INOC delegation meets new CGI Sandeep Chakravorty

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, Aug 23: A delegation of The Indian National Overseas Congress along with prominent community leaders met the new Indian Consul General of New York Sandeep Chakravorty in his office at the Indian Consulate here on Tuesday.

INOC President Shudh Parkash Singh led the delegation.

The delegation discussed issues relating to the Indian American Community like issues with emergency visa, delays in services etc. Many other issues were bought to the notice of the Consul General.

Rajender Dichpally, General Secretary of INOC, informed media that the Consul General told the delegation that he wants to make the consulate more inviting and more open for the Indian Community.

Ambassador Chakaravorty plans to bring all Indian organizations under one mobile umbrella app of the consulate where everyone can post their events and share the information.

Shudh Parkash Singh raised the issue of issuing passport and visas to Indians including the Sikhs and Punjabis taking political asylum. The Consul General replied it is a policy decision of government of India and not under his control.

The President informed the CGI that he has taken up the issue of NRI's property rights with the Chief Minister of Punjab and asked for protection of NRI property in cases where they were being duped by relatives in India.

Rajendar Dichpally spoke on how the Organization has taken active part in supporting candidates who are friendly with the Indian community and also wished and hoped that the Community will have more its own candidates running for office in the near future.

Dr.Rajender Jinna spoke of the conventions that were organized by Telugu associations to highlight the cultural, social and business seminars.

Ravi Chopra and Phuman Singh spoke on the need to have a 24 hours help line that can guide the community during emergencies. The Consul General said that this facility is already being implemented under his tenure. Any one can write to the consulate on at the email - and they will get a reply within 24 hours.

Kalathil Varghese, Vice President, pointed out issues relating to OCI cards and new Adhaar card rule.

Quddus Mohammed from Hyderabad Cultural Association asked for an event in the Indian Consulate to show case the Hyderabadi Culture which the Indian Consul General agreed immediately.

"We found the new CGI has new creative ideas. He is very open minded and considerate man," said Shudh Singh after the meeting.

"Our community here can expect a lot of good coming out of our consulate in coming days," Shudh further added.

The meeting ended with the delegation fully satisfied with the Consul General and his deputy for accepting all their proposals.

Historic solar eclipse turns day into night across the United States

NEW YORK, Aug 21: Millions of Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the US from coast to coast in nearly a century.

"It was a very primal experience, it really was," Julie Vigeland, of Portland, Oregon, said after she was moved to tears by the sight of the sun reduced to a silvery ring of light in Salem. "I've seen other really magnificent things, but there is nothing, nothing like this. Absolutely nothing."

The temperature dropped, birds quieted down, crickets chirped and the stars came out in the middle of the day as the line of darkness raced 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) across the continent in about 90 minutes, bringing forth oohs, aahs, shouts and screams.

In Boise, Idaho, where the sun was more than 99 percent blocked, people clapped and whooped, and the street lights came on briefly, while in Nashville, Tennessee, people craned their necks at the sky and knocked back longneck beers at Nudie's Honky Tonk bar.

Passengers aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean watched it unfold as Bonnie Tyler sang her 1983 hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

At the Nashville Zoo, the giraffes and rhinos started running around crazily when the sun came back. Several minor-league baseball teams - one of them, the Columbia Fireflies, outfitted for the day in glow-in-the-dark jerseys - briefly suspended play.

Gaurav Dhamija Masonic Centre celebrates I-Day in Karnal

By Deepak Arora

KARNAL, Aug 15:

Independence Day was celebrated with great enthusiasm in the premises of Gaurav Dhamija Masonic Centre and Polyclinic in sector-33, Urban Estate. Besides some well-known personalities, over 100 destitute children of KR Classes, a local school, attended the function.

Chairman of NIFAA (National Integrated Forum of Artistes and Activists) Naresh Barana, Advocate, and VW Bro. Subhash Katyal, Worshipful Master of Lodge Karan No. 244, Karnal jointly hoisted the National Flag.

Notables of those presents were G S Virk, a leading businessman in food industry in Seattle, USA; RW Bro. Inderjit Dhamija, W Bro. Navjot Singh Warraich and the Director and the Staff Members of JD Universal Infra Ltd. and Aegis Value Homes Ltd, in which Gaurav Dhamija was the Founder Director in his life time.

The children of KR Classes were told of the ethics of free masonry by RW Bro. Inderjit Dhamija in very simple words.

The organizers distributed sweets to all those presents.

It may be mentioned that Gaurav Dhamija Masonic Centre and polyclinic has been built exclusively by the Gaurav Dhamija Global Foundation in memory of its master Gaurav who left this world on the fateful day on August 24 last year in an accident.

A plot of 800 sq. yd. area was gifted to Gaurav Dhamija Global Foundation by the family of Gaurav.

The Foundation (Trust) is registered with the sub-Registrar Karnal and the prominent trustees of the Foundation being Inderjit Dhamija, father of Gaurav; Gurbhagat Singh Virk and A. P. Kapoor, both from the USA; and family friends besides Reem, wife of Gaurav.

The main objects of the Foundation are to impart education and health services and to aid and set up health and educational institutes in India and abroad.

Gaurav Dhamija Global Foundation (Trust) has set up a Masonic temple and polyclinic on the plot gifted to the trust to provide medical services to the under privileged and weaker sections of the society at most affordable cost.

Gaurav Dhamija

Chairman of the Foundation (Trust) Inderjit Dhamija explained that free education to the children of underprivileged section of the society are being sponsored by the Foundation for higher education so as to make them able to join the mainstream.

Gaurav Dhamija had studied at the John Hopkins University in Washington D.C. (USA) and specialized in financing system and real estate business before he left the USA to join family business in India.

He remained fully involved in handling the finances of the business of the family till the fateful day of August 24, 2016 when he breathed his last in an fire accident in the building where he resided in Hauz Khas area of New Delhi.

Grand Lodge of India meet concludes in Chandigarh

By Deepak Arora


A successful meeting of Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of India, the parent body of over 25,000 Freemasons in India, concluded here on Sunday afternoon.

The half-yearly two-day meeting of the Regional Grand Lodge of Northern India, which has over 5000 members in the northern region, also held its meetings on the same days.

Freemasonry is the world’s largest fraternal organisation spread all over the world with a membership of over 5 million of which a large number of Freemasons across the globe are of Indian origin.

Freemasons in India come from almost all walks of life. Among these are judges, government officers, bankers, lawyers, doctors, chartered accountants, architects, journalists and businessmen etc.

Some of the prominent Freemasons in India were Swami Vivekanand, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Pandit Motilal Nehru, singer Kishore Kumar, industrialists Dadabhoy Nowroji Tata, JRD Tata, Dr. Gaur Hari Singhania and Sitaram Jaipuria, actors Ashok Kumar and Parikshit Sahni, former India cricket captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Madhav Rao Scindia.

Speaking at the meeting, M.W. Bro. Harcharan Singh Ranauta, Grand Master of Grand Lodge of India, said “Freemasons believe in the Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Mankind. Charity is the distinguishing characteristic of Freemasons. The money we spend on such large scale charitable projects is contributed by our members out of their savings from their hard earned money.”

Freemasons, under the guidance of Grand Lodge of India and their respective regional grand lodges, run a large number of charitable projects all over the country.

A unique project being taken up by the Grand Lodge of India is to provide pure drinking water generated out of air to people living in remote areas.

The drinking water machine can run on both electricity and solar power. Each machine will cost around Rs. 30,000 and over Rs. 1 lakh with solar panels.

The project, known as MARG (Masonic Amrut Ras Generator), would be of immense use for people living in drought prone areas where ladies have to walk several kilometres to fetch drinking water.

The water machine generates water from the humidity in air and can generate about 15 litres of drinking water in a day.

The first project is being set up in Pench forest reserve area near Nagpur, Maharashtra for the officers on duty in the forest.

Other prominent charitable projects being run by Freemasons in India include a 150-bed paediatric hospital in Coimbatore; General Williams Masonic Polyclinic in New Delhi which has branches in more than 10 cities including Noida, Roorkee, Gurgaon and Faridabad; Masonic Public School in New Delhi having over 1400 students; Amrit Masonic Spastic School in Noida.

General Williams Masonic Polyclinic in New Delhi is equipped with latest equipments for blood tests, X-rays, CT scan, dental and physiotherapy treatment. These services are provided at one-third of the market price.

The Regional Grand Lodge of Northern India, with the support from Grand Lodge of India, also reconstructed two schools in Uttarakhand and two schools in Srinagar which were completed destroyed in the devastating floods that struck these two states.

Freemasons were also the first charitable organisation to reach Kathmandu after the recent earthquake in Nepal and have decided to set up a Masonic Polyclinic in the city besides adopt a village near the capital of Nepal.

Freemasons in the northern region under the dynamic and visionary leadership of Regional Grand Master Rt. Worshipful Bro. NS Sodhi have achieved many land marks.

It is running a school in jail premises in Ludhiana for young children who are forced to accompany their mothers in prison.

Similar schools are proposed to be set up in other cities in north India. These children are provided with elementary education, nutritious food and toys to play with. Futher artificial limbs are donated to the needy people once in a year.

Branches of General Williams Poly Clinic are opened in cities of Ludhiana, Patiala and Kalka providing charitable services to needy and general public at very affordable cost.

Latest addition coming up in Karnal is Gaurav Dhimija Masonic temple and Gaurav Dhimija Masonic Poly clinic which will cater to the needs of brethren and affordable medical services to the people of Karnal and around.

Many more charitable projects are in pipeline in coming year. The funding of all projects comes from contribution from its members exclusively.



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