The Indian Railways will reportedly procure approximately 12 lakh CCTV cameras in its bid to provide passengers with a safer and more secure travel experience. In order to procure these CCTV cameras, the government is expected to set aside around Rs 3000 crore in Budget 2018. According to Railway officials, this would ensure the presence of state-of-the-art surveillance systems across all trains and stations operating in this country. This amount, however, is not expected to cover the cost of buying these cameras, and expectations are that the Indian Railways may enter the market and raise the necessary capital. These cameras will be installed in all 11,000 trains, spread across premier and suburban services, and 8,500 stations. “All mail/express and premier trains, including Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto and local passenger services, will be equipped with the modern surveillance systems in the next two years,” said a senior Railway Ministry official . The footage generated by these cameras will constantly be monitored by trained personnel of the Railway Protection Force. According to the Press Trust of India, the station master is also expected to be given access to watch the CCTV footage. These cameras are expected to aid the process of tracking the past movements of an offender who enters coaches reserved for women on a local train so as to arrest the person on his next trip. By the end of 2018, reports state that six such cameras will be installed in each coach of trains operating under CR. In total, the railway body is expected to procure 11,160 such cameras.
The Norwegian government has just passed a total ban on all fur farming. The legislation, which was announced by the Norwegian Animal Rights Organization (NOAH) on last week, will make it illegal for the country’s 340 fur farms to continue business. The facilities will have until 2025 to close down entirely. The ban’s approval was adopted after a 30-year campaign conducted by Norwegian animal rights organizations against the inhumane practice. Camilla Björkbom, chairman of the Animal Rights Society, says that the legislation sends a strong message to other Scandinavian countries such as Sweden. “We welcome the Swedish Government’s proposal to investigate the welfare of minkers on Sweden’s fur farms, but today we see that Norway shows that a ban on fur farming is possible. This is a great news … because it sets a good example for Sweden and the upcoming Swedish investigation.” “Norway is talking about today’s message to the growing number of countries in Europe who discontinue fur farming. By 2017, the Czech Republic and Germany have also decided to shut down fur farms,” Björkbom said.
Two labradoodles are being hailed as heroes after their animal instincts led to the rescue of an elderly woman who was lost outside in the snow. Eva and Adam first woke up their human owners at 4:30AM on Saturday morning when they began tugging on their clothing and begging to go outside. Confused by their pups’ unusual behavior, Susan and Lonnie Chester opened their front door to let the dogs outside. Before they could even fully open the door, however, Adam and Eva raced outside and led the Chesters to an older woman who was dressed in nothing but a night gown. The senior, who looked to be in her late 80s, was sitting in the snow near the Chesters’ truck. “She looked up at me and said, ‘I’m so cold,’” Lonnie told MLive. “I have no idea how long she had been out there. She must have been terrified.” Lonnie took the woman inside, covered her in blankets, and called 911. Shortly after emergency crews showed up at the house, the senior’s family also arrived on the scene to help escort her to the hospital for medical treatment. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in Norvell Township, Michigan were as low as 9 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius) this weekend. “We’re just so proud of our dogs knowing they may have saved a life. I hope this serves as a wake-up call for everyone, especially with it being so cold out,” Susan told MLive. “It could have been a tragic outcome had Adam and Eva not woken us.” (WATCH the interview below)
From the 14-year old who lost her own life while trying to save two boys in a 30-feet pond in Karnataka to a six-year-old from Odisha who grappled with a five-foot crocodile to save her older sister, India witnessed exemplary stories of brave kids the past year. And now these bravehearts are getting the credit that was due to them. These 18 children, including seven girls and 11 boys aged between 6 to 18, will be honoured for their display of courage with the National Bravery Award by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 24, 2018. President Ramnath Kovind will host a reception for the awardees who will also participate in the Republic Day parade on January 26. Here are the stories of these bravehearts:
Karanbeer Singh:17-year-old Karanbeer Singh was one among the 18 children in a Neshta’s DAV Public School van that fell into a drain from a bridge at Muhawa village. The accident killed seven children on September 20, 2016. Despite warning the driver to drive slowly on the narrow bridge that had no railings, Karanbeer’s request was not paid any heed. Sadly the van toppled over into the drain. The doors were jammed, and there was no escape. But the 17-year-old smashed a glass window, and despite being injured himself, managed to rescue 15 students. The Amritsar boy has been conferred the Sanjay Chopra award. Now a commerce student, he aspires to become a police commissioner.
Netravati ChavanIt was a usual day when 14-year-old Netravati sat by a stone quarry washing clothes in a pond in Karnataka. She also noticed two boys enter the 30-foot-deep pond. When she looked closer, she realised neither of them could swim and were drowning. Netravati dived straight into the pond to save the boys without thinking about her own life. While she managed to rescue 16-year-old Muthu (16) and returned to save the younger 10-year-old Ganesh, the boy in fear held onto her neck too tight and Netravati couldn’t make it. The braveheart has been posthumously awarded the Geeta Chopra National Bravery Award.
NaziaNazia might only be 18, but her determination and courage are well beyond her years. The 18-year-old hailing from Uttar Pradesh helped local police crackdown on an illegal business of gambling and betting, and put the miscreants behind bars. Nazia will be conferred the coveted Bharat Award. Despite, multiple threats to her life, Nazia has stood firm and continues to fight against her perpetrators.
Mamata DalaiThis 6-year-old from Odisha is the youngest of the awardees. Mamata Dalai fought off a five-foot crocodile to save her older sister. “She saved her sister’s life, and is now very happy to be in Delhi for the first time,” her father Nirmal Dalai said. She has been conferred the Bapu Gaidhani award.
LalchhandamaThe Class 12 boy from Mizoram lost his life when rescuing a friend from a river. Lalchhandama was awaiting his board results when the unfortunate tragedy struck. “But in his short lifespan, my son did what the family had taught him. My message to other children is this: try to do your best, don’t worry about the consequences,” his father, F Lalmasawma said.
Loukrakpam Rajeshwori ChanuThis girl from Mizoram was killed while saving a woman and her child who fell from a dilapidated bridge into the Imphal river. Though she managed to rescue the mother and child, she herself couldn’t fight the strong current and was washed away. Her death rattled her villagers enough to burn the Arung bridge down. Till date, the government hasn’t built another one. Rajeshwori’s father Laukrokpamraj will be receiving her posthumous award.
Betshwajohn PeinlangThis 14-year-old boy from a remote village in West Khasi Hills of Meghalaya showed exemplary courage when he saved the life of his three-year-old sibling from a house fire. As their mother was away washing clothes in a nearby stream, both brothers started cooking. A fire broke out. Even though the boys escaped from the house, Peinlang’s three-year-old brother went back in. The whole of their house was already aflame. Fearing for his sibling’s life, Betshwajohn wasted no time and plunged into the burning house and saved his brother. He took the 3-year-old to a nearby cattle shed till the neighbours arrived for help. They were lucky to have gotten away with a few burns.
Sebastian VincentWhen the Kerala boy’s friend Abhijith fell on a railway track while riding his bicycle on his way to school, 13-year-old Sebastian rushed to his rescue. Abhijith struggled to get up, even as a train roared closer. But Sebastian risked his own life and rescued him just in time.
Samridhi Sharma16-year-old Samridhi Sharma from Gujarat showed exemplary courage when a miscreant entered her house and attacked her. She successfully managed to chase the attacker away, sustaining knife injuries. She aspires to become a doctor when she grows up.
Laxmi YadavThe 16-year-old from Raipur in Chattisgarh was in the middle of a conversation with her friend on 2nd August 2016, with their bike parked near Ganesh Nagar Marg. Suddenly three bikers ambushed them. They dragged Laxmi with them forcefully to an isolated location with the intention of raping her. But the brave girl managed to catch hold of their bike key and threw it away. When the miscreants got distracted she pushed them and ran. She went to the nearest police station and filed an FIR. The cops arrested the trio and found one of them to be a repeat offender. Laxmi aspires to become a police officer to ensure women can be out and about safely in her country.
Chingai WangsaThe 18-year-old from Nagaland saved an elderly man from a fire in his village in Mokokchung district in September.
ZonuntluangaThe 16-year-old is a resident of Sialhau Village in central Mizoram’s Serchhip district. He saved his own father from a wild bear attack. The father-son duo ventured into the forest to collect vegetables when a wild bear attacked his father and severely wounded his face. Zonuntluanga, disturbed as he was by his father’s painful screams, still rushed to his rescue and bravely fought with the wild bear. Despite any big weapons, the youngster successfully chased the bear away with his rudimentary weapons. He then took his father to his village where he was treated.
Pankaj Semwal16-year-old, a Class 12 student from Nargaad village in the Dharmandal area of Tehri Garhwal district saved his mother Bimla Devi from when she was attacked by a leopard in 2016. His mother’s screams made the young boy leap to her rescue.
Nadaf Ejaj Abdul RaufThe 17-year-old from Maharashtra saved women from drowning, while risking his own life.
Pankaj Kumar Mahanta15-year-old Pankaj Kumar Mahanta from Keonjhar in Odisha displayed presence of mind and dived in to save three women who were drowning in the Baitarani river. The other nominated kids include Mansha N (13), N Shangpon Konyak (18) and Yoaknei (18). The National Bravery awards are conferred by the India Council for Child Welfare every year to children from remote areas and underprivileged backgrounds. The awards are divided into five categories including Bharat Award, Geeta Chopra Award, Sanjay Chopra Award, Bapu Gaidhani Award, and General National Bravery Awards, and carry a medal, certificate and cash prize. Gita Siddhartha, the president of ICCW, said, “We will take care of their educational needs and finance high-quality private education for them. Since their inception in 1957, the awards have been conferred on 963 children (680 boys and 283 girls), and most of them have grown up to become top lawyers, chartered accountants, and professionals.”
Imagine a scenario where you don’t have to visit a garden to buy vegetables. What’s better, you can choose to grow what you want to eat, in the comfort of your home. Archana Stalin and her husband Stalin Kalidoss are championing this cause, and are working hard to revive gardening and farming among the urban population. Bitten early by the entrepreneurial bug, the couple, who were classmates in college, decided to start an NGO together. After passing out of college, the couple moved down south, where they began working on ecological issues. Working with nature opened up a whole new avenue—that of organic farming. Enamoured, the couple dived headfirst into this new realm, even travelling to Bangalore to learn the intricacies of composting. The couple lived in a joint family, and the birth of their nephew around 3.5 years ago, began to change a lot of things. The family wanted to eat healthy, and this need gave rise to the idea of growing their own produce at home. For eight months, they utilised the first floor and the backyard space to grow plants. Taking note of their efforts, local newspapers started to pick up the story of this unique couple who were promoting sustainable farming. Archana is very active on Facebook, and when friends and acquaintances began to post queries related to farming, she realised that many of them were interested, but didn’t know where, or how to begin. She sensed an opportunity and decided to help them out. The couple didn’t own any land, and leased out 2 acres of farmland, 50 km away from Chennai. Since their work had taken them to these remote parts, they were familiar with the terrain and the people, which was a huge plus. The ball started rolling, and when it picked up speed, Archana quit her job as the marketing head of a major salon chain and started myHarvest in January 2017. As part of its many activities, myHarvest wants to inculcate the spirit of farming in the younger generation. Archana noticed that even though these children learnt about plants as a part of their curriculum, they did not use this information beyond the walls of their schools. She then decided to address this gap. The first step was to organise a gardening workshop in a school, which was well-received by the students, parents and teachers alike. Painting classes along with the gardening lessons kept the little ones engaged and interested. Archana noticed a trend, in which people were giving saplings as birthday return gifts for children. More often than not, however, these would soon be forgotten about, as the kids didn’t have the know-how or infrastructure to grow it. This gave rise to the idea of the “gift box,” which is a kit with a pot, soil, and seeds of 3 varieties of spinach—which is an easy crop to grow. The gift box was a big hit with the children and was distributed throughout summer camps, and schools, and could even be customised if required. Archana and her team also started an initiative directed at schoolgoing children. The initiative is called “Reconnect with Nature,” and has been implemented in 4-5 schools. It aims to make children more eco-sensitive and encourage them to grow plants. Archana laughs when she recalls that the children were particularly awed by the fact that tiny radish seeds could produce such a large vegetable. The team has introduced a game called “food chain,” which breaks down the journey of food, from the farmer to the market. During a session, one child pointed out that farmers should be fixing prices if they’re selling the food. The kids also have a gardening journal, where they note everything. Archana and her team are passionate about making children realise the importance of nature. While private schools are charged a fee to implement this initiative, the team take help from rotary organisations to fund its activities in government schools. Archana wants the initiative to be implemented across various schools in India and is working on creating a module to train people so that every school can grow a garden.
In a move to ensure ‘quality health for all,’ Delhi Lieutenant governor Anil Baijal gave his approval to a government scheme helping Delhi residents get high-end diagnostic (radiological) tests and surgeries completely free of cost in private hospitals – if the patient’s treatment gets delayed in government medical institutions. Under this scheme, the Delhi government is allowing 52 specified surgeries, free of cost, at private hospitals in Delhi/NCR. These include heart bypass, cataract surgery and 17 types of kidney surgeries. “There is no income limit for residents of Delhi, who are allotted a date of surgery after 30 days of diagnosis at one of the 24 specified government hospitals to avail the scheme,” the statement by the Delhi Government reads. To avail of the scheme, the patients have to show their Aadhaar cards, voter ID or driving license as residential proof in Delhi. The scheme was first passed by the AAP cabinet on December 12 and then sent to Lt Governor Mr. Anil Baijal for approval. While the Lt Governor on December 29, initially advised the ruling government to maintain an ‘income ceiling’ to make sure the most underprivileged section of society in need of medical aid don’t get left behind as compared to the ‘better-off’ sections, CM Arvind Kejriwal disagreed saying the income criteria would kill the very purpose of the scheme. Also, Health minister Satyendar Jain said patients in dire need of medical aid could fall above the ceiling limit too. And since these patients were taxpayers, they shouldn’t be deprived of availing the services. The argument, in favour of all needy patients in Delhi no matter what strata of society they came from, seems to have worked. After the Lt Governor gave his nod to the scheme without the income criteria, CM Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to announce the development and thank him. “Hon’ble @LtGovDelhi approves ‘Quality Health for all’ scheme without income criteria. Thank u so much sir,” he tweeted. “It is important to provide all facilities in government hospitals, but until such time, patients with acute medical ailments cannot be left at the mercy of private hospitals. Therefore, the Delhi government came up with the scheme of getting these tests and surgeries done without any waiting list. The government is bearing the cost of these tests/surgeries,” an official said.
Sushila Koli, a resident of Laximinagar basti in Lat, a village in the Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, has become a symbol of hope in the village thanks to her exemplary efforts in the field of education. A passionate believer in the importance of the education, Sushila noticed that there was no Anganwadi in the vicinity, and because of this, young children, who would have otherwise attended pre-school, had to abandon the hopes of receiving an education and would instead go to help in the fields. Sushila decided to do something about this and opened an Anganwadi in the basti. However, no one was willing to help her, and there was very little government support as well. So, she started an Anganwadi in her home and continued to teach children there for two years. Later, the Anganwadi moved to a temple in the area. “Initially, children would not come to the Anganwadi because the parents would take them to the fields,” says Sushila. However, she refused to let this bring her down and kept making door-to-door visits to encourage the villagers and get them on board. Slowly, the villagers warmed up to the idea and began to send their children to the Anganwadi. Sushila started the Anganwadi in 1991 and continued it till 2002. In the 11 years that she was a teacher, she helped more than 250 children learn the basics of education, and that too, for free! “The kids belonged to low-income families, and there was no question of charging them any fees. Sometimes the parents would give me food grains, but I never expected any money.” The Anganwadi was converted to a government school—Balwadi Vidya Mandir—in 2003-2004, in an area near the basti. Sushila is also a feisty and unconventional woman. She married Baburao Koli, an agricultural labourer who was a widower and had two sons from his previous marriage. Sushila recalls that her parents rejected the marriage proposal, but she responded by saying that she would only marry Baburao, and also take care of his children. Baburao firmly believes that getting married to Sushila was the best decision he made because she completely turned his life around. He had to drop out of school after completing Class 4, due to financial constraints. However, he always hoped that his children would have a better life. “I always wanted my children to pursue education and not become agricultural labourers like me. Today, everybody in the village proudly wonders how the children of a sickle holding labourer became so educated. My elder son is a teacher in the nearby village, while the younger one is an Assistant Police Inspector (API) in Thane,” he says. Baburao and Sushila also had a child of their own, and he is a Professor of Geography in Ichalkaranji and is also pursuing his Ph.D. Sushila proudly talks about the success of her students. “Nothing gives me more happiness than teaching other people, because education makes you independent. I urge everybody to take up this noble profession,” she says with a firm smile.
In 2015, Uber added a “panic button,” and cab tracking features to its taxi-summoning app in India after the public outrage over an incident of sexual assault by a cab driver in the national capital. According to Uber, these safety features, each requiring two finger taps, were the first of its kind to be introduced by the San Francisco-based firm anywhere in the world. Whether these facilities work or not is another question altogether. On November 28, 2016, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways notified amendments to the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, which stated that all public transport vehicles including buses and taxis, must install a location tracking device and one or more emergency buttons to alert the authorities, in the event of danger. This notification stated that it was mandatory for all public transport vehicles to install them by April 1, 2018. On Wednesday, the road transport ministry re-issued the order with a few modifications, stating that all public transport vehicles, besides auto-rickshaws and e-rickshaws, will have to do the same from April 1. This order comes amidst news reports that many states aren’t doing enough to meet the Centre’s objectives. In a firm clarification, the government has said that no further extensions will be given for public transport vehicles to abide by these new measures. It is incumbent on manufacturers, dealers, or operators to install these location tracking devices and panic buttons. However, the Centre has dropped the idea of installing CCTV cameras on public buses having more than 23 seats. The provision was shelved due to concerns surrounding privacy. “Three-wheelers have been kept out of this mandatory installation of GPS and alert button since they are open. Passengers are more vulnerable in vehicles with closed structures,” the official said to the publication. As per the government’s belief, once a passenger presses this panic button, the respective transport department and police control rooms will receive alerts and take necessary action. However, there are some who aren’t entirely convinced that merely installing GPS or panic buttons would do much to enhance overall safety. The focus, they believe, should be on tracking that data and ensuring a quick response to a dangerous situation.
Those living in Indian cities are acutely familiar with the vast quantities of waste they see. Managing that waste is a serious challenge, and our cities have mainly failed in dealing with it. This isn’t merely a failure of urban governance, but also a consequence of the staggering volume of waste generated by inhabitants of any major Indian city, be it New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai or even Bengaluru. But now, without the assistance of the state, individual citizens are taking up the challenge of reducing waste in our cities. Their solutions are simple but very effective and sustainable in the larger scheme of things. Take Bengaluru, for example. Many citizen-driven ‘plate banks’ have come up in the city to reduce the amount of disposable cutlery that is making its way into landfills. These organisations rent out steel plates, spoons, glasses, bowls and even serving spoons. Some of these organizations charge a small fee, while others share them out free of charge for various functions in a local community. Take the example of Rent-A-Cutlery, which operates from the Sarjapur and Whitefield areas, and rents out cutlery to local communities. Lakshmi Sankaran, along with Rishita Sharma, began this venture while volunteering with Whitefield Rising, one the city’s most influential citizen movements dedicated to civic projects, in their waste management and composting initiatives. Lakshmi shares about the driving force behind this initiative. “We decided to become part of the solution for one of the major problems the city is encountering, which is garbage mismanagement,” she said. For a set of one 12-inch plate, spoon, bowl and tumbler, the venture charges Rs 15 for 24 hours. All the cutlery, they claim, is sanitised using a citrus peel bio-enzyme natural cleaner made at home. They rent out their cutlery to poojas, functions, birthday parties, small community events, corporate functions and even get-togethers at homes. “Till date, we have saved more than 25000 disposables from going into landfills getting burnt through this initiative,” she claims. Besides the obvious amounts of waste that such reusable and clean cutlery prevents, another major concern is managing the city’s precious water resources. Nearly 4.5 litres of water is used to manufacture a tiny disposable paper cup that is found in offices across the city. These ventures are looking to change the way we approach something as basic as what cutlery to use. Imagine the number of the cups that are consumed by these offices on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, and the volume of waste generated is incredible – considering production, electricity consumption and garbage dumping. While ventures like Rent-A-Cutlery charge a nominal fee, others like Adamya Chetana (Invisible Spirit) Kitchen in Gavipuram not only supply mid-day meals to government schools in the city but also rent out cutlery to local communities for free. With a stock of 10,000 sets of plates, glasses, bowls and spoons, this community-driven venture, which began in 2003, rents them out to local communities. “The deposit is in the form of a cheque, which we will return once the utensils come back after usage,” said the organization. For cleaning and maintenance purposes, the organization utilises a commercial dishwasher. There are also residents of SJR Verity apartment complex on Kasavanahalli Road, who rent cutlery from a plate bank run by senior citizens of the Bhajan Group. This venture began nearly two years ago. “We started in a small way. We now have 200 plates, 500 glasses, 250 spoons. These are rented out for free to residents of the community. We maintain a log sheet, and there is a lot of demand,” said a resident of SJR Verity. On Brindavan Layout in K.R. Puram, the Reuse Cutlery Bank is managed by an active citizen volunteers group of the area. The plate bank has “70 dinner plates, 55 water/juice glasses, 50 tea/coffee glasses, and 30 snacks plates,” according to the Chennai-based publication. “Every year, we organise Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. This year, we decided to use only reusable cutlery. After the celebrations, we decided to invest in a plate bank. Since October, we have lent our utensils for various events, including birthday parties, sports day, and a baby shower,” said a volunteer of the K.R. Puram Rising volunteer group. There are many other such community-driven or commercial initiatives in the city that have not been listed in this article. The point of talking about them, however, is to show people that citizens don’t have to wait for the state to intervene. Residents of Bengaluru are availing of these services, and there are now many such options available that people in the city can choose from.
If you or your kids have ever played sports, you know that it can be hard to be extra kind to your opponent when you want to win. But thankfully for one hockey player, the game didn’t affect his rival’s sense of kindness and sympathy. Milwaukee Admirals hockey player Pierre-Cédric Labrie woke up in the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve just hours before a big game against the Grand Rapids Griffins because he received a phone call saying that his wife was in labor. He needed to get back to Milwaukee immediately, but he couldn’t find a flight or a ride that would get him there in time. Luckily, Griffins goalie Tom McCollum stepped up to save the day. He lent Labrie his truck so that he could drive the 276 miles to his wife’s side and witness the birth of their son Lionel. He made it just in time, too, with only minutes to spare. “It was an adventure. I made it on time—6:54 she delivered, and I got there by 6:15, 6:20,” Labrie said. Now that’s what real sportsmanship looks like — on and off the court.