Diwali in Assam
The largest of the states in the northeast of India is Assam whose capital Guwahati (Dispur) has an inspired location on the banks of the River Brahmaputra. Amidst Assam's verdant lushness and wild sanctuaries, much of the rest of the state is devoted to tea plantation which yield the strong Assam leaf popular all over the world. The celebration of Diwali in Assam ranges from the diyas and mithai to singing the aarti with the whole family and then celebrating with firecrackers the epic moment that symbolises the victory of good over evil. People also pull out the little electric lights to substitute for diyas and light up the house early. Countless flickering oil lamps and lights are lit in houses all over Assam, making it a night of enchantment. Worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and fireworks and festivities are an essential part of the celebrations. Beautiful lamps are hung outside homes that are symbolic of the spiritual light dispelling evil and the darkness of ignorance. Doorways are decorated with torans or flower garlands with mango leaves and marigolds. Rangolis are drawn with coloured powders to welcome guests. Business establishments and families perform, chopda pujan or veneration of their business books. Everyone feasts and shops and starts new projects or ventures..
Jahidul Islam Khan, Barpeta, Assam

Covid-19 Martyrs’ Day

Thousands of healthcare workers have sacrificed their lives while saving humanity from the threats of COVID-19. This letter writer is a doctor who lost 4 family members in the 2nd wave. Sadly, such losses have been conveniently forgotten by all.

Be it widows and orphans of health workers who died in the call of duty, health workers who are temporarily or permanently affected, or the continued acts of discrimination and violence—unless there is official acknowledgement, these foot soldiers will continue to suffer in silence.

If the injustice is allowed to continue, no one will ever want to be a doctor, a healthcare or sanitation worker. The authorities must declare an official COVID-19 Martyrs’ Day and build a memorial inscribed with the names of all the martyrs so that present and future generations always remember their great sacrifice.
Dr Mayank Dabral, New Delhi

Bullets for Afghan Women
One of the victims was identified as 30-year-old Forouzan Safi, a lecturer at a private university in Mazar-e-Sharif. [Image:]

In what can be seen as a chilling message to women of Afghanistan, especially those who are activists, four of those who had reportedly taken part in public demonstrations against Taliban repression were killed in cold blood. According to international news media, the bullet-ridden bodies of four Afghan women activists were found dumped in a pit near Mazar-e-Sharif.

Since the Taliban took over, women activists have been one of the easier targets, many have still bravely stayed back, often gone underground to help their fellow citizens survive the regime. According to news reports one of the victims was identified as Frozan Safi. She was among the four who had “been disappeared days before”.

Frozan Safi, just 30-years-old, taught at a private university in Balkh, the northern Afghan province. After the bodies were found dumped in a pit, and she was identified, her father Abdul Rahman Safi told the local media she had “left her home 10 days ago with travel documents after receiving a phone call”. He reportedly said, “She was going abroad with the help of a human rights organisation”. However, her father added, “Two hours after Frozan left the house, her connection with us was cut off. We went to the city’s central hospital and found her dead body, which showed signs of multiple bullets on her body, in the hospital morgue”. No one has claimed responsibility for the murders, so far. However the message is loud and clear for the women: stay home and stay quiet.

The Weekend Australian quoted Human Rights Watch associate women’s rights director Heather Barr, saying it was just a matter of time before women activists were killed in targeted assassinations under the Taliban. They had been tracking women down after protests to—intimidate them. This is a scary new development.

Since they took over the nation in August, the Taliban have moved swiftly and deprived the nation’s women of all the basic rights and freedoms they had earned in the past 20 years. They have in the past few months, not been allowed to go out to work, leave home without a male chaperone, shop, run business, and have been forced to dress according to the Taliban’s own interpretation of the Sharia law.
Zahra Rahimi, Afghanistan

Street Children
The bustling metropolis Delhi has an estimated 60,000 street children, who are living without any proper access to food, shelter, education or medicine.

These kids are condemned to a life of hunger, abuse, illiteracy & malnutrition as Delhi has no social scheme to ensure that these street children are provided access to basic human rights like food, education, security, shelter and heath-care.

In a city where even grown-ups, women & men both, feel unsafe in venturing out in the dark or communicating with strangers, most of these unfortunate kids have to spend their life on the streets at the mercy of strangers.

Can you imagine how scary, helpless and lonely their life must be?

Just close your eyes for a moment and think about living the life of a street child for 24 hours and maybe you will better appreciate what the situation.

The present Delhi Government has taken many steps like improving the government schools and launching a mentorship program, to ensure that children of Delhi receive good education as well as academic guidance, irrespective of their financial background.

However unfortunately the plight of the street children of Delhi has somehow escaped the attention of the government, as well as the civil society so far.

For some strange reason street children, remain invisible to the society.

It costs just around Rs. 2500/- per month to provide for proper care, nutrition & education of a child and therefore the Delhi government was to launch a transparent & reliable sponsorship programme for street children, then it will not be difficult to find 60,000 kind souls in Delhi to sponsor & mentor at least one child’s upbringing & education.
Aditya Dubey, Aniket Gupta, Aman Banka & Siddhant Sarang, Delhi

Limiting Methane Emissions
The body of all living organisms has carbon and hydrogen elements. Their body begins to decay after death. The carbon gets converted into carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen gets converted into water (H2O) if oxygen is available in the surrounding. The same carbon gets converted into methane gas (CH4) if oxygen is not available. Methane causes more global warming compared to carbon dioxide. The heat waves emanating from the earth have to pass through the atmosphere. These waves cause vibration between the atoms of the gasses if they are present in the atmosphere. The heat then does not escape into space but is trapped in the earth’s atmosphere and causes the earth to become warm. The vibration in methane molecules is much more than in those of carbon dioxide. Thus, methane traps 28 to 80 times more heat and causes more warming. About 100 countries have agreed to limit methane emissions in the recent COP26 meeting in Glasgow to reduce warming caused by methane.

Large amounts of methane are emitted from agriculture and animal husbandry. The fields of paddy are flooded with water. The oxygen in the water is soon depleted. Then the leaves etcetera below the water begin to ferment and emit methane. Methane is also emitted by livestock during digestion as well as during fermentation of the dung. The leaves, twigs and carcasses flowing into the reservoirs of large hydropower projects settle at the bottom and ferment and emit methane. A study by National Environment Engineering Research Institute has found that methane is being emitted by the Tehri reservoir. India has not signed the COP26 methane agreement saying that it is necessary to increase agriculture, animal husbandry and hydro electricity for the country’s economic growth.

It is, however, possible for India to reduce methane emissions while promoting economic growth. The United Nations Environment Programme has said that one-half of the methods to reduce methane emissions are also beneficial for economic growth.
BG, Uttrakhand

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Vol. 54, No. 20, Nov 14 - 20, 2021