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Beaureaucrat turned Padwoman of India

Dikshit Passy
                                                                A journey of creating Pad men and Pad women across India amidst covid by Aman Preet , IRS                                                                                                                  Whenever there has been a disease outbreak it has been reported that women of vulnerable sections of society are impacted the most. There have been several reports which show that impacts of COVID-19 have adversely impacted women from weaker sections of the society. Globally emphasis is being given on importance of personal hygiene in combating the spread of coronavirus. For women personal hygiene includes menstrual hygiene as well, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on a major part of the menstruating population of India. Lockdown, movement restrictions, health facility closures, closures of schools and colleges  have affected the  access to sexual and reproductive health services along with availability of sanitary products. The economic fallout has also impacted access to sanitary pads and has impacted the physical and mental health of those who menstruate.In these times when we are going through ahumanitarian crisis , Aman Preet a 2010 batch IRS Officer along with the help of her family, friends, fellow civil servants, volunteers, NGO’s, foundations, and, entrepreneurs has reached to 17 Indian states and has provided menstrual products to the needy and underprivileged women. The drive was started by Sangini Saheli Trust founded during COVID-19 by her friend Priyal Bhardwaj. The issue came to Aman Preet’s notice through an article in a local newspaper in which it was mentioned that with the closing of schools and colleges, the subsidised or free supply of sanitary pads has also been stopped. Female students in fact, wrote to the administration to help them by supplying them this ‘necessary item’ along with other essentials. Many social organisations and individuals came forward to whole heartedly help the poor and the vulnerable sections of society by providing them ration, masks, sanitisers but sanitary pads were not considered important enough to be provided. Shortage of supply and the hike in rates was the major problem during lockdown. When Sangini Saheliprovided pads to the construction workers working in Lady Hardinge College with the help of Aman Preet’s batchmate EishSinghal,IPS and Pragya Anand, IPS ,the women told that this shortage of supply had made them resort to their old ways of using clothes .With the help of AkanshaSingh, wife of Mr. Alok Singh, IPS Commissioner of Police Gautam Budh Nagar distribution of hygiene kits containing sanitary pads was done in several slums and rural pockets of Uttar Pradesh.While the world is shifting to a newer normal every day, millions of us are not able to survive the magnitude of this change. The pandemic is not only a health crisis but an economic, financial, security and also a humanitarian crisis.   As part of an initial response towards the fight against COVID-19 and making a difference in the lives of the migrant women workers who were travelling back from bus stops and railway stations, pads were provided to them . This small step taken initially has now become a Pan India initiative. Her crusade has provided over 12.5 lakh packets of sanitary pads in over 17 states of India.With her help Sangini  Saheli has provided  relief supplies of sanitary pads and NGO-Ek Prayas is still providing other hygiene essentials to the patients and volunteers fighting with COVID-19 at world's largest COVID Care facility - Sardar Patel COVID Centre and Hospital at Radha SoamiSatsang Beas, Chattarpur. Their efforts were appreciated by DM, B.M.Mishra, IAS .Till date more than 2000 patients have been recovered from this facility which include womenIn Punjab, Hon’ble ADGP Shri. P.K. Sinha Sir supported the initiative and facilitated the timely distribution of menstrual products in women cells of all the 14 Punjab Prisons. Similarly DIG Shri. Madhur Verma, IPS posted in Arunachal Pradesh facilitated the distribution in all 20 mahila thanas there. Meerut jail and Tihar jail were also provided the supplies. In Assam, her batchmate Rocktim Saikia and his wife Dr. Pallavi along with IRS officers facilitated the Relief supplies of sanitary pads in Sarusajai Quarantine Centre, Guwahati. Several shelter homes, ashrams,observatory homes, kusht ashrams, homes for specially abled women and girls have been sent supplies of sanitary napkins during lockdown.                                                   This journey was full of many challenges also .Some people refused to distribute pads expressing disregard for ‘impure’ items to people even refusing to take ration if sanitary napkins were given along with it. Women saying that they need to take permission from her husbands and in laws to buy this,some women taking the supplies for their daughters and telling “didi yeh mehngi cheez hai ,bachi use kar legi,mere liye kapda hi theek hai” and telling horrendous stories of how they were using the discarded clothes of house to stop the menstrual blood to spill over .        In Bengal, with the help of her batchmates Atul Kumar Pandey and Nivedita Prasad  posted there,hygiene menstrual products have been provided in Sundarbans, Perulia and several slums across Bengalafter Amphan created havoc.  The women told that their every little thing was washed away in Amphan and not even a single piece of dry cloth was there with them to use to make even a cloth pad. Many girls told that as now their parents have become jobless as they were daily wagers and now they have no means to buy pads .                   When  Aman Preet  Came to know about the massive fire that broke out in the slums of South-East Delhi’s Tughlakabad area on 25th May 2020 , she along with her husband Sh. Dikshit Passy went there to provide them the relief supplies of pads provided by Rotary Club Of Delhi Metro. They were told by the women there that around 1500 shanties were burnt ,leaving hundreds of people homeless.  With the support of Rajendra Prasad Meena,(DCP), South East around 500 packets of Sanitary napkins were distributed .Women there touched Aman Preet’s feet and said, “Didi no one has thought of providing this to us since the lockdown has started. We were provided ration but not this .”                      Similar story was narrated by Aman Preet’s mother Smt. Neeru Kalsi who is AMO in Ludhiana after organising an awareness session on importance of personal and menstrual hygiene in times of COVID in slums of Basti Jodhewal in Ludhiana .She told that one woman was wearing saree with stains of menstrual blood . Lack of proper sanitation facilties and use of community toilets in many areas across country make the women more vulnerable to the diseases related to their menstrual health.        People of rural India still feel shame in acknowledging the fact that healthy periods are  the reason behind reproduction. Instead of considering  it as a gift from God, a virtue by which she will be a  ‘MOTHER’, it is considered to be a dirty and impure process. Mere mention of periods, menstrual cycle is considered  a taboo. Still the  cultural and social influences are so strong  and create a hurdle when we try to impart  knowledge on this subject. Aman Preet’sinspector Satbir Dahiya and his wife Sangeeta who provided pads in Sonipat and surrounding areas told that understanding related to topics like puberty, menstruation and reproductive health is very low in many areas. When the drive was taken to Narnaul by Nishant , many girls told that they are forced to skip school during the days they menstruate as they fear that odour of menstrual bloodd or stains on their clothes will stigmatise them .Her batchmate Gunjan Varshney ,IRS told that while discussing the problems faced by women in Ashoka Garden,Bhopal she came across many misconceptions being taught to the girls like some of them asked her whether to take bath or not during their periods. Munmun Sharma ,IRS also created awareness in Bijapuri, ,Jabalpur and told the tribal women of the area that bathing during menstruation is very essential and they should not  compromise their hygiene during this time of month .                In Ayodhya, Ankita Singh ,IRS who lead the campaign told that all women who were provided pads were asking for a newspaper or something to hide the pads. Women told that “masik dharm “, is still considered to be dirty and impure and they are not allowed to do puja . They wrapped the sanitary pad packets in their sarees or dupattas while carrying them back home . Ankita Pandey ,IRS when distributed pads to the women in Vadodra she told that many women didn’t knew about what healthy periods are . When we reached Doda district in Jammu ,Sanya khan the volunteer there told that in some pockets the women held pads for the first time and were taught how to use them . When Aman Preet reached to the sex workers of Delhi at G.B.Road to provide them pads she was told that pads have not been provided to them since the lockdown started and now they had no means to buy these luxury items .Similar story was narrated by the sex workers residing in Hawla ,Madhya Pradesh where the supplies reached with the help of her batchmate Anup Jain,IRS. In Buldhana, Maharashtra the drive was taken forward by her friend Suman Chandra ,IAS . In Giridh ,Jharkahnd a volunteer of the same village Shyam Prajapti who approachEd Aman Preet on her Facebook account initiated the movement and told that as still there is  lack of awareness on menstrual health amongst the women of this village he engaged local doctors also to spread awareness. In Patiala ,Aarti Verma,SSPO is spreading awareness on the topic and on her birthday she raised funds and bought pads and distributed in rural pockets of Patiala .Her friends carried forward this initiative to Uttrakhandand Jharkhand also . In Hyderabad ,Dr.Sandhya Rani w/o Aman Preet ‘s batchmate  Shri.Suresh Babu,IRS working in Mahashhwaram Mandal Primary Health Centre Distibuted sanitary napkins to the underprivileged women  ,migrant women of Dubbacherla village of Maheshhwaram Mandal along with other remote areas during lockdown .                              In India ,though  policymakers have now listed pads as an essential commodity  but still its accessibility and reach is considered as a luxury. There has been a huge impact on menstrual hygiene products and also the access to women healthcare essentials has remained limited since the beginning of this crisis . Further the taboos and myths associated with menstruation makes it difficult for the people still lingering in old age customs and traditions to talk about it openly. Lack of awareness, un-affordability and age-old taboos and restrictions force women to think that it’s unimportant to prioritise their health & hygiene and are forced to use unhygienic methods to cope with menstruation using old cloth and rags which are not only extremely unhealthy but denotes a lack of dignity to their entire existence within a society that advocates equality in the 21st century .It is extremely important that we understand the wholesome issue about menstrual hygiene and women healthcare and  how important it is for a menstruator to have an easy access to menstrual products . There have been multiple bright steps taken in the right direction by government, volunteers and other support groups which have come up during this Global Pandemic .There is urgent need to be inclusive, sensitive and to organize the administrative efforts along with the efforts of our civil society to address to such emerging problems .Her initiative of starting conversation on the topic is the small step towards ending Period Poverty.    
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Online classes, no child should be left behind

The Kandivli Education Society gave new Smart phones with SIM cards and one year mobile data to students of std 10 of SVPVVidyalaya, Kandivli West, a Government Aided school. According to the Principal Dr Sangeeta Srivastava, “Since the Online classes began in June 2020, few students were not attending the classes at all in std 10. Although there are several students in lower classes who due to many reasons cannot attend Virtual classes, they are using alternative  means of learning using the apps like Diksha and free Textbooks provided by the Education Department, Whatsapp or YouTube. Students of std 10 need to study  with a point of view of Board exams too. After a month long detailed finding we discovered that many students either could not afford to buy a computer or smartphone, or had only one gadget at home to be shared by parents and siblings. We have been getting many donors for text books and notebooks but during this period of Covid 19, it is important that students attend online classes to cover up their syllabus. The management of The Kandivli Education Society is always concerned about its students progress and on being informed few students who were not able to attend classes due to un affordability, they came out with this plan to give them the smart phones with 32 GB so that these students could study and join online classes and not affect their studies.  President KES Sri Satish Dattani and Hon Secretary Sri MD Chandarana and other office bearers of KES always take active interest in student welfare. They took a step further by providing SIM card with Internet data for the year so that students do not suffer in this account. Students are very thrilled and obliged and excited to attend classes like other students.There is no Tuition fees and no donations of any kind in this institution. Students come from economically weaker sections of the society. The school is fully digital since 2009.
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Delhi Man Turns Wasteland Into Model Lake in a Year, For Half The Usual Cost Delhi Man Turns Wasteland Into Model Lake in a Year, For Half The Usual Cost

Only a year ago, images of snow-white toxic foam floating over the Yamuna river in Delhi had shocked the world, waking it up to the reality of the water population in the country’s capital. According to the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), one of the main reasons behind this situation was untreated sewage, something that the city’s lakes and rivers have been struggling to tackle for years.However, in the last few years, The Delhi government has been able to follow a steady path of improvement through various lake rejuvenation efforts spearheaded by the DJB, Irrigation and Flood Control Department (IFCD) and several citizen groups. And one the pioneering projects that set the ball of positive transformation rolling was the Rajokri Lake project.Around 30 km away from the city, near the Delhi-Gurugram border, Rajokri, till 2017, was home to a dying waterbody that had suffered years of toxic abuse. Clogged drains led up to the turbid pond struggling under a filthy blanket of plastic waste and rotting sewage.However, under all the filth was a reservoir of potential, something that a team including DJB’s technical advisor Ankit Srivastava and architect Mriganka Saxena envisioned. Under their guidance, the DJB along with IFCD started the transformation of the Rajokri pond into Delhi’s first-ever decentralized sewage system.“Delhi has approximately 600 water bodies and the eventual goal is to revive all of them. However, there was no model of holistic revival that we could follow. So, instead, we created an in-house team to work on making our own model best suited for the city’s condition, and that’s how the Rajokri project was started as a pilot in 2017,” says Ankit, who is a graduate of IIT Bombay, in environmental science and engineering.He adds that owing to the limited annual rainfall received by the city, one could not have depended on conventional methods of water-body rejuvenation, which often involves cleaning the affected areas and letting it get recharged with rainwater. The multifold goal was to create a lake that could efficiently treat all the sewage water flowing in, while also containing clean water throughout the year. It was also supposed to serve as an inclusive community centre and a natural ecosystem.And so the revitalisation project was divided into two major components– the construction of a purification system and landscaping of the surrounding areas to not only enhance aesthetic value but also make long-term management of the lake more sustainable.Explaining this, Mriganka who was handling the latter segment with a focus on the project’s long-term sustainability says, “This project had to both enhance the landscape of the area but also benefit the people on a long-term basis. Hence the design was strategized in a manner that the structure could easily be maintained by the surrounding communities. Additionally, there were a number of environmentally responsible and sustainable guidelines that we were following under the guidance of National Green Tribunal (NGT). From doing the green landscaping with native plant species to creating percolation pores for groundwater recharge, a number of elements were added to enhance the value of the project.”Innovation in & Around The LakeHistorically, Rajokri was a mining area surrounded by hills. So during the monsoon season, rainwater would flow through the slopes into this waterbody. Meanwhile, over a period of years as more settlements began to come up around the area, the sewage would also flow into the same water, leaving it dirty and contaminated.Talking about their design strategy based on this reality, Ankit says, “Delhi receives rainfall for less than a month, so it is important to focus our efforts on treating the wastewater, instead of solely relying on rainwater. So the first part of the plan was to clean the water coming from the sewage at the STP through a unique SWAB (scientific wetland system with active bio-digester) technology. During monsoons, the water recharging the lake is anyway 15-20 times more, and our rainwater harvesting system installed on-site ensures removal of stilt and enhances percolation. Other times of the year, the system of STP allows it to maintain a stagnant level by containing the purified sewage water.”A scientific wetland system with active bio-digester, this technology is a natural alternative of sewage purification to the conventional chemical treatment previously used by DJB. This involves feeding sewage into an underground sedimentation tank equipped with a bio-digester to break down and decompose solid waste components in the water. This is then complemented with the use of wetlands and mechanised aeration systems to naturally clean the water.In Rajokri lake’s case, the wetland ecosystem was created with plants like spider lily and typha latifolia, a layer of gravel-lining zigzag to filter the water and a biofilm to process all pollutants. Once the water is pushed from the sedimentation tank into the wetland using solar pumps, the gravel layer works to isolate and immobilize heavy metals and other organic material in the water to an acceptable level.“The zig-zag design through three terrace garden-like steps ensures that water gets to spend maximum time in the wetland. At its outlet, the water is almost clear with a BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) of 20ppm,” says Ankit in this report.According to a 1996 book called the Treatment Wetlands by Robert H. Kadlec, Scott Wallace and Robert L. Knight, such wetlands are very effective in removing inorganic nutrients, heavy metals, particulate organic matter, suspended solids, dissolved organic carbon, etc. These wetlands have submerged aquatic macrophytes (aquatic photosynthetic organisms) with tiny cuticles that capture metals from the water surface and are also hardy enough to survive harsh conditions of pollution.Additionally, in order to contain the algal bloom and remove trace pollutants and phosphates from detergents that go into the raw sewage, the DJB team introduced unique purification islands in the water body. These islands are basically rafts made out of a 2X2-meter PVC pipe framework with geo-netting that supports knots of hormone-treated plants like canna and cyperus. These plants not only increase nutrient uptake and accelerate the growth of other beneficial aquatic plants but also absorb pollutants and create a balance by preventing eutrophication (excessive enrichment of waterbody with minerals and nutrients that allows excessive growth of algae and results in oxygen depletion). According to Ankit, the objective is to make the water clean and suitable enough to introduce fishes into it and enhance its natural ecosystem.Owing to all these innovative measures, the Rajokri sewage treatment plant now facilitates purification of 600 kilolitres (6 lakh litres) of raw sewage daily feeding the waterbody.Community Involvement & Impact of the LakeSpread across 9,446 square meters of redeveloped public space, including 2,000 square meters of the water body, the Rajokri lake is now a stellar example of innovation meeting grassroots level social development.From an amphitheatre, an open gym, green play area and a bioswale rain garden, to changing rooms and inclusive spaces near the Chhath ghat, the Rajokri lake in its entirety is made keeping in mind the needs of the community living nearby.For instance, Mriganka adds how based on one of the feedback received from the community, her team worked to separate the treated water body from an embankment assigned for the commonly practised Chhath festival rituals. The sandstone embankment tactfully creates the divide and water from the main lake is then pumped into the embankment situated at the bottom of the amphitheatre-cum-Chhath ghat.While their efforts have yielded the expected results, Ankit adds that he was pleasantly surprised to see an environmental and sociological impact after the completion of the project in 2018.“After the waterbody completely transformed, we were surprised to notice that 10 to 15 different species of birds had begun to migrate here. The wetlands were installed to encourage this and attract more species of birds and insects that would enhance the biodiversity of the area,” says Ankit.He adds that prior to the project the area was primarily a dumping ground and hub for antisocial elements and that its transformation completely put an end to it. “One of the major challenges while working on this project was to tackle heavy encroachment. Plus it had become a hub for drunkards and several anti-social elements making it quite unsafe. Once, all of that was taken care of we began to realize its sociological impact on the community as well. One of the best feedbacks received was how the women in the area began to feel more safe crossing the location after sundown.” he adds.According to DJB officials, a conventional project of this scale would have cost at least Rs 4 Crore, while the total expenditure of the Rajokri lake stands at Rs 1.6 crore, making it a cost-effective and innovative model for others to replicate. Owing to this, Rajokri lake recently received the excellence award from the Jal Shakti Ministry. With this success in place, Ankit and his team are now planning to complete 50 more water bodies in the next 5 months and also create 6 lakes across the city, by the end of the year.The story has been extracted from
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Quality pre-education the stepping stone to a bright future

After three decades of following the same National Education Policy (NEP) which was formulated in 1986, the new NEP was released on July 29 this year. One of the most significant changes envisioned by the latest policy is at the very beginning of a child’s educational journey — early childhood care and education (ECCE). NEP 2020 has given the highest priority to building strong foundations early in a child’s life, a vision which can be found to be reflected in HPPI’s work in the field of early education.According to UNICEF India, more than 70 million children attend pre-primary school in India. In a world which is increasingly becoming global, students need to be equipped with the right set of knowledge and skills to make them competent by global standards and be up to speed with new ways of learning. In India, Anganwadi centres or any pre-primary education centre plays an important role in providing children with a kickstart to holistic education.With the latest NEP, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8. ECCE will be delivered through a significantly expanded and strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and pre-schools that will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum. The planning and implementation of ECCE will be carried out jointly by the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs.HPPI, through its early education programmes such as the Pre-School Children of the Future (PoF) and the Nand Ghar Project, implemented with support from Vedanta, has already been working to maximise the potentials of young children in Anganwadis or PoF centres.Teachers at PoF Centres are trained to cater to the cognitive and psychosocial enhancement of children in the 3-6 years age group. Mostly linked to HPPI’s educational or Community Development Projects, or organised in cooperation with local Anganwadis, HPPI provides quality education to pre-school children and special focus is given to developmental needs of a student through four elements – Use your Brain, Use your Body, Use your Hands and Use your Imagination.The PoF Centres also create a foundation in language and comprehension and provides young children a head start into primary school. Currently, 457 children are enrolled across 19 PoF centres of HPPI.Nand Ghars are state-of-the-art Anganwadis which is a vision undertaken by Vedanta Foundation together with the Ministry of Women and Child Development to offer integrated education for children in the age group of 0–6 years while providing nutrition and hygienic sanitation facilities. HPPI is managing the Nand Ghar Project in partnership with the Vedanta Foundation with an aim to provide Early childhood development support to minimum 18,000 children in 0-6 years and health and nutrition services to minimum 36,000 pregnant women and mothers. HPPI is responsible for the Operation and Maintenance of the Nand Ghar Project across 13 districts of 4 states with 1,200 anganwadis/ Nand Ghars. Some of the many facilities at this modern Anganwadi include safe drinking water, mobile health vans, nutritious meals, clean toilets and awareness on practices that promote a healthy atmosphere for the mother and child. The Project provides good infrastructure in the anganwadis/Nand Ghars and equips them with good facilities, training to the service providers who in turn provide quality services on early childcare & education, nutrition, the health of mothers, skill development etc.  HPPI along with implementing best practices of pre-school education and community engagement also looks after the on-ground monitoring of nutrition and education thematic areas and supervises monitoring for skill, health and training component and builds the Nand Ghar into a resource centre for the community.With the new NEP, our efforts in the areas of pre-school education and childhood care have become more pronounced and show a promising quality of education being imparted right from the beginning of a child’s educational journey.
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One Village, One Pond initiative: In drought-prone Jhansi, 325 ponds revived under MGNREGS

As many as 325 ponds have been revived in drought-prone Bundelkhand’s Jhansi district under “One Village, One Pond” initiative launched by the district administration.Jhansi District Magistrate Andra Vamsi said that 11,000 migrant workers, who had returned to the state during the coronavirus-induced lockdown in the months of April and May, were employed in the pond-revival work.“The basic idea behind the initiative to revive ponds in the district was to have one pond in good condition in each gram panchayat of the district. There are a total of 496 gram panchayats in Jhansi. Till now, we have finished work on 325 ponds in phase one of the initiative. We are giving finishing touches to the remaining 171 ponds,” said Vamsi, adding the district turned the lockdown into an opportunity.The work was carried out under the rural employment guarantee scheme.“Till now, 1.12 lakh people in the district have received employment under the MGNREGA scheme because of this initiative. Under the MGNREGA scheme, these workers were paid Rs 182 for a day’s day. We have spent around Rs six crore on the revival of ponds in the district,” said Vamsi.The revival of the water bodies will help improve the groundwater level in the Bundelkhand region which is prone to drought, according to the district administration.“The district has just one source of water – the Betwa river. With this scheme, the district will have water for irrigation and other purposes during the drought and the ponds will improve the groundwater level. The idea was to have better groundwater harvesting with the revival of these ponds. Some of the ponds that we have developed did not even have water when work started. So, we have built them from scratch. We will be evaluating the worth of a pond based on its depth,” added Vamsi.According to the DM, the ponds are spread on one to three hectares of land with the maximum depth being eight metres, and minimum three metres.The story has been extracted from
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Mohalla School and A Rag-Picker

Sashi, a rag picker in Grade 1, went to school for a few days before the pandemic broke out and school shut down. He is only six years old and yet works for long hours to segregate items of value from the waste on the outskirts of Gaurinagar area adjacent to Rajnandgaon railway station in Chhattisgarh.  One day, he was rag-picking from the railway track, when his attention was drawn to a voice saying “aaj hum jungle ke kudku ki kahani sunenge”.  He started following the voice and reached the place where some children were listening to stories over the phone. So rag tag was his condition that the other children started making fun of him. But Sashi had ears for no one else; he was entranced and captivated by the amusing story. Seeing his eagerness, Nikki Yadav, who was organising these classes felt that something should be done for him. She spoke to him and asked him if he would like to listen to another story. The boy nodded excitedly, sat there and listened to three other stories in one go. He requested Nikki if he could join this reading session with a few friends from his locality. Sashi belongs to a rag-picking community living in the slums in the nearby areas of Gaurinagar. Listening to the innocent request of Sashi, Nikki’s eyes became moist and she couldn’t utter a word. That day she kept thinking how to support Sashi and to engage him along with his friends in reading stories. Nikki, a cook in the government school at Gauri Nagar where the Literacy Program of Room to Read operates, is an active member of her community. During the lockdown, she undertook the initiative of organizing Mohalla classes in her community to engage students in studies. She was engaged in one such class when she met Sashi. On 15th August, Room to Read’s Reading Campaign started to retain the focus on literacy and reading for children. The Reading Campaign along with a chance meeting with Sashi inspired Nikki to engage more children from the slums. She discussed her idea with the ladies of her neighborhood and motivated them to contribute and support her in this campaign. Shradha and Rukmani joined hands with Nikki to start mohalla classes for underprivileged children during the pandemic.  Together, they visited Sashi in the slums and spoke to other parents there. They motivated them to send their children to the community classes. Furthermore, Nikki requested Room to Read to issue them some of the storybooks that could be used for reading by the students, which was met with eagerly. “Room to Read works in 4234 government schools have distributed  more than 13 lakh age appropriate books through libraries and have befitted more than five lakhs children. I am happy that our quality reading materials and toll-free numbers are used for Mohalla Classes as well,” Says Sourav Banerjee, Country Director, Room to Read, At first, only a few children joined the Mohalla Classes from the slums, but gradually when other children and their parents came to know about them, the participation and involvement of children increased on a daily basis. While the classes started by sharing online stories, they soon spread to reading-writing with the support of the community members and books issued from Room to Read’s Library.  Children are now not only listening to stories but also reading colorful storybooks. Sashi soon came to know about the toll-free number for listening to the stories that has been started as a part of the Reading Campaign.  He enjoys listening to these stories and has become the brand ambassador for this toll-free number. He also encourages other children rag-picking to join the Mohalla Classes. Everyone within the community of Gaurinagar and the slums are appreciating this effort made for children by Nikki and her team. 
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Library Enraptures Three Generations

Library Enraptures Three Generations Like tufts of cotton, different layers of cirrus and cumulous clouds can be seen drifting with the breeze against the azure sky. A sparkling light blue river snakes past the valley forming a picture perfect setting. The van for the Reading Campaign, full of books, followed the undulating roads along the contours of the hills that presented breath-taking views of the valley with terraced fields. The van with books constitutes a mobile library that is a part of Room to Read’s three-week-long reading campaign. “To reach out to remote areas, a mobile library was conceptualized as one of the means to encourage children and expose them to good quality reading material,” says Country Director of Room to Read. He further added, “The most effective solution to end illiteracy is to build a culture of reading and Room to Read’s Reading Campaign aims to do just that. Launched on 15th August 2020 and concluding on the occasion of the International Literacy Day on 8th September 2020, this unique initiative aims to bring together people from all walks of life – students, teachers, parents, working professionals, celebrities and government representatives in a celebration of the magic of reading and through it the joy of learning.” The van reaches Burua village and the employees quietly set up the Mobile library with colourful books under a canopy.  Burua is a beautiful village in Bageshwar district of Uttarakhand. There are a lot of onlookers. The first person to arrive is a 76-year-old old man whohas the distinction of being the first person in the village to have cleared grade 5. He looks surprised after seeing the library, which is a very different experience for him. The excitement to explore the books is palpable on his face throughout the introductory session given by the principal cum cluster coordinator. He rushes to the mobile library after the address of the principal, picking up a book “Andhi” and reading it. After finishing it, he takes another book “Phool Ugana” and repeats the same process until he completes six books. As excited as a child, his eyes sparkle in the gloom of pandemic. “I have never seen books like these in my life and these are interesting books,” says Chait Singh in Burua village during the reading campaign event on 3rd of September. He wore a smile on his face and shared, “My children also studied in this school and right now my third generation that is my grand daughter is here in school. She is in Grade one”. He pointed his finger towards his granddaughter Sakshi who is engrossed in the books with her mother. He paused for a while as though bringing up the blurred memories of his school days, “I am very grateful and will surely discuss these stories with my grandchildren. I am an ardent newspaper reader but due to the pandemic, newspapers have stopped coming. Now, there is nothing to read”. He thanked Room to Read for providing this opportunity and reflected that he feels indebted as something good is happening for children after the pandemic started. He read 7-8 books during the event. He even took a walk around the children engrossed in reading and helped them to read more. The curiosity and the reading enthusiasm was not just limited to Chait Singh, but clearly visible in the whole family. His daughter-in-law Santoshi Devi was also there with her daughter Sakshi. Santoshi shared that the mobile library was a new experience for her but helping her daughter in reading was one of the best experiences she ever had. She added, “I am feeling proud and extend my gratitude to Room to Read”. Sakshi, who is in Grade 1, has never been to school for the pandemic broke out just when she was about to start schooling. The day of the mobile library set up in her school premises is her first day at school during the pandemic. She looks very happy as she enjoys the stories read out to her by her mother. The mobile library has gifted her the sweet experience of exciting stories during her first day in school. 
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Grannies of learning go digital

After winning national recognition, the mascots of women empowerment are now at the forefront of popularising online education. Moving with the Covid times, ‘Nari Shakti Puraskar’ winners 106-year-old Bhageerathi Amma from Kollam and 98-year-old Karthyayani Amma from Alappuzha have taken up the online mode of instruction to realise their dream of clearing the Class X equivalency exam.Determined to fulfil their goals come what may, the elderly women are now learning through the computer screen instead of the blackboard. Though they took some time to get familiarised with the new learning method, the duo are now quite at ease with the ‘new normal’ that Covid times has offered.The grannies were presented with the Nari Shakthi Puraskar, a national award to recognise exceptional work for women empowerment, earlier this year. Bhageerathi Amma, who cleared the Class IV equivalency exam of the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA), made news as the oldest equivalency course student. Karthyayani Amma too hit the headlines after she cleared the same exam by scoring 98 out of 100 and emerging state topper. Centenarian Bhageerathi Amma finds it hard to concentrate on her online classes, especially when her grandchildren are running around and playing in the house. So she and her literacy instructor Sherly spend time behind closed doors during mornings and evenings. Meanwhile, Karthyayani Amma is making full use of the online mode. “She spends most of her time in front of the laptop, either reading the online study material or watching ‘Aksharam’ Youtube channel of the Literacy Mission. The channel has a number of pre-recorded classroom videos and she diligently takes notes,” said Sathi, her literacy instructor, about the nonagenarian’s routine. KSLMA director P S Sreekala had called up the instructors to know their progress on the eve of International Literacy Day.  Both are presently pursuing their eight-month-long ‘Class VII equivalency course’. Once they clear this course, they will be eligible for the Class X equivalency course which is recognised as equivalent to matriculation.The story has been extracted from
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Press Release: Mainstreaming the Discourse on Water and Livelihood Security for An Atmanirbhar Bharat - A Dialogue Series by ISC and Tarun Bharat Sangh

Water security is the adaptive capacity to safeguard the sustainable availability of, access to, and safe use of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems, and productive economies. In light of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of water for overall human development is even more relevant. Recognizing the need to build a timely discourse and action framework to effectively address the emerging challenges that are at the intersection of water, environment and community resilience, international non-profit organization, the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) in collaboration with Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS) has initiated a new dialogue series titled ‘Water and Livelihood Security: The Foundation to Make India Atmanirbhar.’The aim of the dialogue series is to bring together practitioners, representatives from government, civil society, academia and communities to discuss, ideate and share experiences on enhancing and improving water and livelihood security in India.  The first session was conducted today in the august presence of Shri. U. P. Singh (IAS), Secretary, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (DoWRRDGR), and Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India, who delivered the keynote address.Shri. U. P. Singh (IAS), Secretary, DoWRRDGR and DDWS, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India“Discourses and collective deliberations are important. It helps eliminate the ‘Us vs. Them’ perspective and allows for the government, non-government organizations and various relevant stakeholders to discuss and come together to address water issues collaboratively.Rather than looking at water as a challenge, it is imperative to generate a discourse on how we can work harmoniously to make water intrinsic to the conversations on development.”The key note address was followed by a rousing thematic address by Magsaysay Awardee, Stockholm Water Prize Winner and the ‘Waterman of India’, Dr. Rajendra Singh. He spoke at length on the topic of ‘Nature, The Pandemic and Security’.Shri. Jalpurush Dr. Rajendra Singh, Chairperson, Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS)“Due to COVID-19, the people who were displaced and had left their villages to work in cities are returning – this is a revolution. But revolution by itself is not enough, it needs to be combined with action for change, to transform it into rejuvenation and eternal or sustainable development.Atmanirbharta or self-sufficiency needs to begin from India’s villages. Self-sufficiency in villages is possible through land, soil and forest conservation. The traditional wisdom of how this can be done still exists in India and is visible through various examples, wherein even rivers have been revived due to water conservation and agriculture possibilities increased.”This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by ISC’s Associate Director, Water Programs, Mr. Romit Sen. The discussion featured an expert panel comprising of Dr. Indira Khurana, Vice Chairperson of Tarun Bharat Sangh, Shri. Subhash Tamboli, Executive Director at Action for Agricultural Renewal in Maharashtra (AFARM) and Mr. Vivek Adhia, Country Director – India, ISC.Their conversations largely focused on the following key areas:1.    Securing agriculture-based livelihoods2.    Pathway to rejuvenation – making our villages and urban centers resilient3.    Role of government, civil society and partnerships to achieve scale4.    Inter-connectedness of water and livelihood with other aspects of Atmanirbhar Bharat Mr. Vivek P. Adhia, Country Director-India, Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC)“Access to clean and secure water has far-reaching influence on how quickly we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Traditionally, water has been the fulcrum across a range of issues - hunger, health, livelihoods or economic growth. For India to truly become Atmanirbhar, we will need to address competing and complementary uses of water. Now is the time to unlock the true role of water, and actualising its positive impact towards addressing the most basic human needs, rather than being looked at as a commodity for fair consumption across sectors.ISC and TBS will host several sessions as part of the dialogue series over the next six months, covering a range of topics. We will develop a paper at the end of the series highlighting curated solutions as part of a roadmap to ensure water and livelihood security.”The session also hosted the launch of the e-book, ‘Can migrants find livelihood security in their villages?’ co-authored by Shri. Jalpurush Dr. Rajendra Singh and Dr. Indira Khurana. An audience Q & A was conducted and the session concluded with a Vote of Thanks by Mr. Romit Sen.
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