Chhat Puja’s Environmental Connection

Chhat Puja, the festival honouring worshipping the Sun, and Chhati Maiya, is one of the biggest festivals of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal and Chhattisgarh. Chhat Puja involves offering flowers, whole fruits, incense, and ghee to Lord Surya. The offerings are usually, and traditionally left untouched in water bodies until they rot and decompose. Many environmentalists have claimed that such rituals do more good for maintaining the ecosystem in rivers, lakes and ponds than harm. However, some environmentalists do contradict this view as well.

Other than the states where Chhat puja is widely celebrated, Chhat puja is discouraged by local authorities, citing environmental issues. Kolkata, which has sizable Bihari and UP communities, see conflicts related to rituals involving water bodies. Some alleged that the rituals hamper water quality in the short term for bathing, washing, drinking and other purposes. But the biggest obstruction is made by several environmentalist groups, which sprang up with or without authorization, who are not opposed to idol immersion but raise serious concern over Chhat rituals.

Chhat Puja at Hooghly River in Kolkata

Let us for the time being focus on Kolkata, where Chhat is widely celebrated by a sizeable minority. For a long time, only the river Hooghly was used for Chhat rituals, while local ponds, lakes and other places were avoided. But as the Bihari and UP communities grew with time, there was the need of using ponds and lakes for Chhat puja in places far away from the river. That only caused minor local conflicts, most of which got resolved as soon as they started. However, as the State Government intervened, and provided the worshippers with additional ghats along the river, as well as designated ponds and lakes, the celebrations not only became peaceful but also spread among the locals, creating a sense of unity. This is when some environmentalists crept in and cited environmental issues to stop the festival and hence the unity in diversity.

Let us now look into why many environmentalists claim Chhat Puja is eco-friendly. Chhat puja is performed mostly on the banks of rivers and other water bodies, involving peace, tranquillity, and nature. Chhat puja rituals do not require temple or enclosed space, overcrowding, harmful colours, paints and water-soluble materials. Flowers, fruits, ghee decompose in water, providing nutrition for aquatic life. All the products used in this puja are biodegradable, thus making this puja so eco-friendly.

Rabindra Sarovar, Kolkata, where Chhat Puja is banned since 2018

However, several small factors concern environmentalists. Firstly, though the festival is supposed to be peaceful and quiet, many non-ritual elements have been added to it in recent times. Beating drums and bursting loud crackers are increasingly becoming popular among worshippers. Some protected areas surrounding water bodies, like Rabindra Sarovar Lake and Subhash Lake in Kolkata are home to a large number of migratory birds that arrive from Siberia during the onset of winter. Loud noise hampers their movement and even local birds have started avoiding their habitat in Rabindra Sarovar and Subhash Sarovar. Also, since the Bihari community has grown considerably in recent years, too many flowers, fruits, and ghee will block the sunlight and destroy the rich aquatic plants in these two places. The stagnant nature of such large lakes means that the products thrown into the lakes are likely to persist for a very long time. All these forced the National Green Tribunal to ban the Chhat puja celebration in these two lakes in Kolkata. To compensate for the above two places, worshippers have been allocated more ghats for performing the puja. Still, some miscreants try to create shortcuts and enter the lakes for rituals even though there are many other nearby places.

All these caused a section of the Bengali society to turn against Chhat puja. There are some genuine issues, which most worshippers can bring a change to celebrate the festival together. Voices must be raised against those who are not following law and order in environmental protection. Also, we need to raise our awareness against false allegations and petitions given by some environmentalists, without any justification for their cause. Social media is their best platform for spreading hatred. The number of hate posts, claiming rampant environmental pollution should be cross-checked and verified with reason before any action is taken. Otherwise, the peace and bond that this festival brings will remain a distant reality.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Cherry Blossom Festival in India

Cherry blossoms are infamous in Japan, where it is celebrated as a festival called sakura. Many other countries around the world have planted Japanese cherry trees for a cherry blossom festival that attracts huge revenue from tourists. Also, some countries in the world, such as Korea and China, have their native cherry trees, which bloom at the advent of spring. But all over the world, especially in the Americas and Europe, cherry blossoms are associated with Japan, and festivals are organized in parks around blooming Japanese cherry trees.

It is less known that in India, we have our own version of cherry blossom every year in many of our states. India’s own cherry tree, Prunus cerasoides, is native to Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Meghalaya, and have subsequently spread to other north-eastern states. Unlike Japanese cherry trees, Prunus cerasoides blooms in autumn. Autumn appears earlier high up in the Himalayas, so by mid-October, you can see the hills of Narkanda, Shimla, Kalpa, Dharamsala covered in a whitish-pink hue. By early to mid-November, cherry blossoms spread to other parts of the country, notably in Shillong in Meghalaya. Like Japanese sakura, the bloom occurs for a short period of only one or two weeks.

Like its Japanese cousin, Prunus cerasoides is considered sacred in Hinduism, and the flowers are used in worshipping Vishnu and Shiva. It is called in Hindi as padmakashtha. However, very little was known about it beyond its native range until 2016. Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), a national institute under the Department of Biotechnology, in collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), took the first initiative to set up a cherry blossom festival in Shillong. Dinabandhu Sahoo, the director of IBSD, was particularly inspired by wild cherry blossoms in the countryside around Shillong and was keen to establish a festival of international standard like most other countries around the globe. India’s cherry blossom festival does not coincide with the ones in Japan, or other countries around the world as the blossoms arrive late autumn, making it a unique cherry blossom viewing around the globe. Notably, Japan is very interested in India’s cherry blossom festival and is looking forward to promoting it among Indians and abroad.

Like 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a drop in tourism in the north-eastern states of India. As such, no cherry blossom festival was held, but the flowers, in their usual might, bloomed in the second week of November. This year also no cherry blossom festival will be celebrated, though the flowers will bloom in time. However, when the pandemic eases out, it will surely be a hit among Indian and foreign tourists, who love to see the landscape turn green to pink. Ward’s lake in Shillong is the most popular site of the cherry blossom festival, though there is also Umiam Lake. We only need good promotion, a festive mood, tourism infrastructure, and most importantly, awareness to make our own cherry blossom festival a success.

So, have you seen cherry blossoms in India? Do let us know in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Viewer Discretion Required: The Reality of ‘New’ media

Importance of Viewer Discretion to cope up with prevailing media bias

You switch on the news channel and see a person shouting at the highest of his lungs trying his best to make you think that the establishment is ‘always’ right. You flip the channel and are welcomed by a man who barely resembles Imran Khan, mimicking the Pakistani PM. Yet one more channel flip and comes a person on your TV screen, taking sarcastic digs at the screaming anchor while propagating his agenda.

News media in today’s context holds a particularly complex place. While there is no denying that in a democratic country, journalism and news act as power balancers and checkers. The commercialisation of news that has come up to be the truth as a consequence of competition and TRP races, has caused sensationalisation of stories. So something like PM visiting his mother is given more coverage than a crucial subject. Not just this but the increasing competition has also led to journalism counting on political parties for funds, thus biased news presentation.

Social Media: The New News Source
Social Media: The New News Source

For a short time, social media sites were considered the perfect successor. Since social media didn’t believe TRP’s, it had been assumed that bias wouldn’t seep in there. But social media comes with its perils. In some other context, the ‘personalised content’ trait of Social Media would be appreciated but within the context of stories, personalised content causes you to sleep in a bubble. You’ll be shown the content, you engage the foremost with. So if you follow leftist accounts, your opinion will progress from what’s shown as facts on those accounts. Which entirely kills the motive of stories within the first place. News should only present events as they’re happening. What to form of it should dwell in the hands of the audience, which, unfortunately, isn’t the case, right now. Social Media has also caused a faster spread of lies. Independent journalism, that became a fad with youngsters like Dhruv Rathee and Pratik Sinha could have brought change but even then the importance of viewer discretion can’t be neglected.

Need of the hour is that the ‘spectator’ becomes the ‘questioner’.

Ravish Kumar, Journalist, NDTV

The circumstances that we live in mandates every citizen to actively pursue true news. To become what they call, “active citizens”. To understand everything about everything and keep an open mind with well-formed opinions. As a citizen of a democratic country like India, it’s our responsibility to not just receive news but actively engage with it. We can not stop watching the news altogether since it’s only when we hear differing opinions that we get to introspect and see if we truly believe in what we are saying. The trick is to seek out a balance between the consumption of news and it’s analysis.

बलात्कार के मामलों में वृद्धि

आज हम बात करने वाले हैं रेप जैसे एक बड़े और गम्भीर मुद्दे पर । भारत मे रेप के आंकड़े दिन प्रतिदिन बढ़ते जा रहे हैं । कहने के लिए तो कानून बना हुआ है , महिलाओं और बेटियों की सुरक्षा के लिए बहुत सारे हेल्पलाइन नंबर मौजूद हैं फिर भी प्रत्येक 16 मिनट में एक रेप हो रहा है । ऐसा नही है कि ये रेप केवल मेट्रो सिटी में ही देखने को मिलते हैं अब तो ये रेप केस के आंकड़े गांव में भी बढ़ते हुए नज़र आने लगे हैं ।।

we demand justice inscription in frame

रेप केस में सबसे बड़ा मामला 16 दिसम्बर 2012 में देखा गया जो दिल्ली का निर्भय कांड कहलाया । उसके बाद देश मे कानून बहुत ही शक्त हुआ , लगा था कि उसके बाद ये रेप के आंकड़े कम हो जाएंगे लेकिन नही ऐसा कुछ नही हुआ जब तक उस केस में पाए जाने वाले दोषियों को सजा हुई तब तक देश मे ऐसे बहुत सारे गैंगरेप देखने को मिल गए थे ।

2109 के आंकड़े के मुताबिक अकेले उन्नाव में 86 बलात्कार के मामले देखने को मिले , इसी कारण इसे उत्तर प्रदेश की बलात्कार की राजधानी बना दिया गया था । कोविड 19 जैसी महामारी के बीच भी अपराधी अपराध करने से पीछे न रहे , इस माहमारी के बीच भी हमे बहुत सारे रेप के मामले देखने और सुनने को मिले।


12 मार्च को इसी साल 9 वर्षीय लड़की को क्रूरता से बलात्कार के बाद अन्नाओ के खेतों में खून बहता रहा और कानपुर के अस्पताल में जाते जाते उसकी मौत हो गई । यह कोई एक मामला नही था जो ऐसे महामारी के बीच देखने को मिला था ऐसे औऱ भी केस थे जो देखने को मिले जैसे – 17 अप्रैल को एक बलात्कार का मामला सामने आया तो वही दूसरी ओर 29 अप्रैल को एक नया बलात्कार का केस देखने को मिला , 17 मई को औऱ एक बलात्कार का मामला सामने आ गया । ऐसे एक नही हज़ारो केसेस होंगे जो महिलाओं और लड़कियों के ऊपर हो रहे दुष्कर्म को दिखाते हैं औऱ इनमे से कितने ऐसे भी केस होंगे जो अभी तक रिपोर्ट में दर्ज भी नही हुए होंगे । अभी हाल ही में हाथरस , बलमपुर में एक गैंगरेप देखने को मिला जिसकी जांच अभी तक चल रही हैं । 

जहाँ एक ओर हमारे देश मे आगे बढ़ने की बात की जा रही हैं वही दूसरी ओर हमारा देश अभी भी पिछड़ा हुआ है , जहाँ एक ओर पीड़िता के परिवार वाले सरकार से इंसाफ की गुहार लगाते रह जाते है वही दूसरी ओर एक औऱ अपराध जन्म ले चुका होता हैं 

आखिरकार क्यो इतने रेप हो रहे हैं क्या वजह है इसके पीछे ,  क्यो इंसानियत औऱ मानवता दिन प्रतिदिन खोती जा रही हैं । इन सब चीजो का कारण क्या है ?

इसके पीछे की एक बड़ी वजह है शिक्षा………

हम अपने लड़कियों को तो सब चीज़ सीखा देते हैं कि क्या करना चाहिए और क्या नही  , कैसे रहना चाहिए और कैसे नही । पर क्या हम अपने लड़के को ये सीखा नही पाते हैं कि लड़कियों की इज़्ज़त करनी चाहिए।

हाँ , नही सीखा पाते है क्योकि ये तो कल्चर जैसा बन गया कि लड़कियां तो सहने के लिए बनी है …. इसको एक उदाहरण के तौर पर समझते हैं ….. जैसे बचपन मे लड़के जब रोते हैं तो उनसे कहा जाता हैं कि लड़कियों के तरह क्यो रो रहे हो ….. मर्द बनो मर्द 

बस यही से हम उनको ये बता देते है कि रोती तो लड़कियां हम लड़के नही ऐसे कई छोटे बड़े किस्से हैं जिससे ये भूमिका औऱ ऐसी सोच तैयार होती हैं जहाँ लड़को को लड़की के साथ किया गया दुष्कर्म , दुष्कर्म नही लगता हैं क्योंकि उनकी पृष्ठभूमि ही ऐसी बनी रहती जो इनको कभी नही बताती की ये जो कर रहे हैं वह गलत है।

अगर हमसब को ये रेप केस कम करने या खत्म करने हैं तो हमे अपने लड़की के साथ साथ लड़को को भी सही दिशा में शिक्षा देना होगा और उन्हें लड़कियों की इज़्ज़त करना सीखना होगा । क्या गलत है और क्या सही ये बताना होगा ।

रेप केस को कम करने के लिए एक और काम है जो किया जा सकता है , अपनी लड़कियों को सेल्फ़ डिफेन्स सीखा कर । अगर ऐसा हो कि हर सरकारी और प्राइवेट स्कूलों में लड़कियों के लिए एक अलग सेल्फ डिफेन्स की एक अनिवार्य क्लास चलाई जाए जिससे हर वर्ग की कन्या को सेल्फ डिफेंस सिखया जाए तो इससे लड़कियां और आत्मनिर्भर बन सकती हैं उसमें इनको ये सिखाया की यदि ये वो ऐसे परिस्थिति में पड़ी तो खुद को या किसी औऱ लड़की को कैसे बचा सकती हैं । इसके अलावा लड़को को सेल्फ कंट्रोल भी सीखना ज्यादा जरुरी हैं । जिनसे ये रेप के मामले ओर कम हो सकते हैं ।।

हमने यहाँ पर रेप केस कितने हुए औऱ इनके पीछे की वजह औऱ इनको कम करने पर बात की है , कि क्या क्या तरीका है इनको कम करने के । 

तो चलिए आइये हमसब साथ मिल के ये कदम उठाते हैं क्योंकि अगर हम इस गम्भीर मुद्दे पर एक साथ आवाज उठाएंगे तभी हम इसको जड़ से ख़त्म कर सकते हैं नही तो हर एक 16 मिनट पर हमारी बहन और बेटियां इस अपराध की शिकार होती ही रहेंगी ।।

“बेटी पढ़ाओ और बेटी बचाओ” के नारे के स्थान पर “लड़के पढ़ाओ औऱ लड़के को लड़कियों की इज़्ज़त करना सिखाओ” करते हैं ।।

                                             धन्यवाद 🙏

लेखक – जयाबाला कुशवाहा

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An episode of Hathras – Has a lesson been learnt?

Consummation- the very word defines as a completion. In the episodes of marriage, consummation comprehends it as a completion through sex. India, which is a magnificent seat, of orthodox principles, has a lineage of cluster family. The elders of the family found it bashful even to speak or utter the word, intercourse or sex, in public. They would even live a monotonous life once they cross a mean age. In recent years, this collocation is lost.
The daily that we skim through has news of nothing but sexual assault, molestation, gang rape and so on. The thing with such a secluded or a private affair has been drifted. To be more precarious, it is thrust. What happened in Hathras? Where are we heading?

Where are we heading?

A decade ago it was Jyoti Singh or the case of Delhi gang rape, and now it is the case of Hathras. The incident throws light on the misappropriate handling of the innocent damsels in their hamlets. ‘ Black lives matter’ gained momentum a few months back in the US. Anecdotes happening around the small hamlet ‘Hathras’ will shoot ‘Dalit lives matter’ into the limelight. It keeps me locked in disdain when rape statistics are looked into.

Three thousand four hundred eighty-six cases of rape against women ( Dalit minors) in 2019.
Rajasthan has the highest number of rapes against Dalit women (554) then followed by Uttar Pradesh(537) and then by Madhya Pradesh(510)
Rate of rape against Dalit women is the highest in Kerala – 4.6 (per lakh population), followed by Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan( both by 4.5)
Only 32% conviction rate of offences under POA act (prevention of atrocities act), The scheduled castes and tribes.

Riya Singh, part of the core leadership of collective Dalit women, fight, briefs on NCRB figures about assaults on Scheduled caste Women and minors amounting to 3366 in 2019 is only the tip of an iceberg. The stumbling blocks sprawling before them in each step to the process of justice are not paltry-sized but little humongous.

First, one being the hurdle in filing the FIR. In 99% cases, the police hands one an acknowledgement of a non-cognisable offence instead of an FIR under the scheduled caste and scheduled Tribe (POA) act. Extra pressure is needed in each case to file an FIR and the next being, getting the FIR done under the accurate sections of the POA act and not just the IPC.

Secondly, the village network compliant to the existing caste core in the village is a big problem. Khap panchayats play the role of local supreme courts. When someone tries to file an FIR, the Upper Caste people reach the police station, changing the testimony of the woman before being written down. In other words, the woman is settled for a compromise. Victims are often on the receiving end of the slanders by the police officers too.

Thirdly, they don’t involve in supplicating the whole act, or they won’t instance the right sections. This evolves that if the trial reaches court and if not under the POA act, then the victims won’t get the full benefit. It means that these cases are meant to go to exclusive special courts, and the survivor’s family have entitled the compensation and travel allowances. The investigation is also meant to b completed within 60 days.

Lastly, there is a delay in the compensations to be received after the FIR registered. They too receive it after hundred of follow-ups and door knocks. There have been many cases were court-appointed lawyers don’t tell survivors their court dates, and even sometimes they have no idea who her lawyer even is.

The Hathras case may share outrage and protests with Nirbhaya, but constitutes a sheer difference in the administrative response as well as its possible impact. What has been learnt?
Strict adherence to the procedures laid under the POA act is essential. Instead of such outrages, the Upper caste folks should sensitise their communities and build a lively public discourse on affirmative policies like reservation that assures our fair representation within systems and right away withdraw their biases towards the POA act.

Written By – Ramya Sree. D

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