Margshirsha 16, 2065 Vik Samvat, Yugabda 5110, 1 December, 2008

1. FESTIVALS: Makar Sankranti normally falling on January 14 marks the commencement of the Sun's northern course - the Uttaraayana patha. This turn in the Sun's course takes place at the point of time when it enters the sign of Makara or Capricorn. Sankraanti, signifying light, also gives the message of intellectual illumination. It is the capacity to discriminate between the right and the wrong, the just and the unjust, truth and falsehood, virtue and vice.
It is this discriminative wisdom - Viveka - which leads the individual on the path of human evolution and human happiness. Mere dry reasoning power devoid of this insight will be like the charging of a wild horse without the stirrup and the rider.
Kite flying in Gujarat and in many other parts of Bharat has been associated with this festival in a big way. It has become an internationally well-known event.
This festival is one among the six festivals celebrated in Sangh Shakhas. The close of the function is sweetened by distribution of TIL-GUL to the participants.
2. GITA STUDY TO BE MANDATORY AT SETON HALL UNIVERSITY: The study of Srimadabhagvad Gita has become mandatory for every student joining Seton Hall University in New Jersey, USA from this year. Seton Hall is an independent, Catholic university under the Archdiocese of Newark founded in 1856.
"This is unique," said A D Amar, professor, Stillman School of Business, the driving force behind the decision. "Nowhere there is a university-wide core program. The colleges decide on the core courses and generally oppose the university imposing core courses. But Seton hall decided that all its students should learn the core courses."
One-third of Seton Hall's more than 10,800 students are non-Christian. Many non-Catholics also study there. It has a significant number of Bharatiya students. The core course is for all students, whatever the discipline.
3. HELP VICTIMS, KEEP UNITY AND VIGIL: RSS SARSANGHCHALAK KS SUDARSHAN: The RSS expresses shock and anguish over the dastardly attack of the terrorists in Mumbai city that killed over 100 people including a number of policemen on Nov 26. The magnitude of the attack-- number of terrorists, huge quantity of weapons that they were carrying and brazenness with which they attacked a number of prime locations in the city -- clearly indicates that the terrorists have launched not just an attack but a war on the nation. It is clear that the intention of the terrorists is to destroy peace, harmony and morale of our nation. The RSS has always stood firmly against all those who have been the enemies of our national unity, democracy and civilization. At this hour of crises, I extend wholehearted support to the government and the agencies and call upon the entire nation to rise as one man and destroy the nefarious designs of the terrorists.
I urge the Swayamsevaks to continue their efforts to rescue hundreds injured or otherwise affected by this terror attack. I also ask them to maintain utmost vigil to ensure that nothing would hamper the efforts of the government and the agencies would be allowed to take place anywhere in the country.
I pay tearful homage to all those people who have lost their lives in this barbarous terrorist attack. I salute the brave security personnel, including senior officers like Shri Hemant Karkare, Shri Vijay Salaskar, Shri Ashok Kamte, who have laid down their lives valiantly defending our nation.
4. THE UPA HAS A LOT TO ANSWER: LK ADVANI, LEADER OF OPPOSITION: I visited terror-struck Mumbai on evening on Thursday, November 27, accompanied by my colleague Shri Jaswant Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. I visited the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (VT) Railway Station, where terrorists had fired indiscriminately at innocent rail users and exploded several hand grenades causing massive panic and killing more than 50 persons last night, I went to JJ Hospital where 102 victims of Wednesday's mayhem are lying in various states of injury. It was painful to hear the victims narrate their tale of misfortune. Sadly, over the last few years I have had to visit many such hospitals in the aftermath of terror attacks that have now become alarmingly frequent. Thereafter, I visited King George Memorial (KGM) Hospital to commend the valour of Assistant Commissioner of Police Sadanand Date, who volunteered to join the police action in South Mumbai although he was posted elsewhere. He has suffered several injuries from grenade shrapnel including one in his eye. But I marveled at his grit and determination even in this condition. As I left his bedside, he said to me, "Don't worry, we'll get them."
It is this spirit of our security officials that gives me confidence that despite the government's pussyfooting and its politically-motivated refusal to arm the security agencies with appropriately tough anti-terror laws, we shall overcome the terrorist challenge in the end.
It is a curious coincidence that starting with the attack on kar sevaks on board Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 26, 2002 almost every major terror strike in India has happened on the 13th or 26th of the month. This year alone, the Jaipur blast took place on May 13, Ahmedabad followed on July 26, Delhi on September 13 and now Mumbai on November 26. It appears the terrorists have made it a pattern to strike on the 13th or 26th of every alternate month. I wonder whether we will have to resort to numerology rather than firm intelligence to anticipate terror attacks.
The government's non-serious approach in this regard is reinforced by reports that the Mumbai attackers arrived in the city from the sea. Official agencies had been warning the Home Ministry for some time about such a possibility, but the government did nothing to bolster the Navy or the Coast Guard's capacity to intercept rogue boats. As a result, two mother ships are reported to have dropped the Mumbai terrorists off some 15 nautical miles from the Mumbai shoreline and they managed to reach their destination uninterrupted. it hardly bears reiterating that apart from strengthening and streamlining the intelligence network, the government needs to take whatever intelligence inputs it receives seriously and act on it.
Before leaving for Mumbai I had told mediapersons in Delhi that I suspected that the degree of planning and quantum of ammunition used, indicated that the terrorists were probably not homegrown.
My suspicions have been confirmed with Maharashtra government officials telling me that one terrorist arrested has admitted arriving by the sea route. It now appears that a mobile phone on a terrorist's person is of Pakistani origin. This reinforces what I told the media yesterday about the intelligence agencies' energies being diverted to nail so-called Hindu terror, which evidently enabled the Mumbai attackers plot away undetected.
5. SARKARYAVAH Ma. Mohanrao Bhagwat in an appeal to all patriotic citizens expressing satisfaction over the successful elimination of the terrorists who attacked various important installations in Mumbai, has appealed to organise public programmes to pay homage to victims of Mumbai terror attack and also to express solidarity with those who are fighting this terror valiantly so that all of us can live in peace with dignity and honourn on Nov. 30.
6. TIME FOR SOME TOUGH ACTION: As Mumbai and the rest of India come to terms with the carnage in Colaba and count the long-term costs of the devastation, there are two small points of reassurance.
First, the prolonged 60-hour shot-by-shot, live TV coverage of the siege of two hotels and a Jewish community centre, has bluntly brought home to Indians — particularly the country's opinion-makers — the ugly face of terrorism. The threat to national security and the well-being of the country could not have been driven home more unequivocally. India is no stranger to terrorism and Mumbai in particular has suffered incessantly since March 1993. But the sheer audacity of this particular operation and the spectacular publicity surrounding it ensured that every Indian, with access to TV, lived through the horror. If there ever was a wake-up call to rouse a Kumbhakarna, this was it.
Second, this was one outrage which finally snapped the endurance and infinite generosity of India. In the past, every assault on Mumbai — where, at times, the death toll was higher — had produced a flicker of anger, followed by an astonishing display of fatalism. What was often flaunted by the angst-ridden section of the media as the ‘spirit of Mumbai' wasn't a display of the gritty, stiff upper lip resolve Londoners showed during the Blitz in 1940-41. It was actually a demonstration of lofty aloofness which very easily translated into indifference or, worse, denial.
The mood is different this week; it is palpably angry. It is one thing for the three Thackerays to spew indignation. That's habitual. But when pillars of Mumbai society such as Ajay Piramal and Shobhaa De say enough is enough and when Ratan Tata expresses his understated dissatisfaction with the administration's unpreparedness, it suggests that something has finally given way. Those Swami Vivekananda once caricatured as “the patient Hindu, the mild Hindu” may well have become angry Indians.
The transformation was waiting to happen. For more than a decade terrorists espousing unacceptable causes have blown up trains, bombed crowded markets, hijacked a plane and attacked places of worship. Indians have suffered stoically but left it to governments to take remedial action. Instead of building on that trust, the political class has approached terrorism as a game of political one-upmanship, stoked subliminal fears and then left India vulnerable. Every terrorist atrocity was followed by assurances of “tough” action, greater preparedness and continuing laxity. The fanatically motivated terrorists who held Mumbai to ransom for 48 hours have made a mockery of the state's ability to protect its citizens. They not only killed but made a whole country suffer.
The men in uniform did a wonderful and professional job under difficult and even adverse circumstances. They showed what the country is capable of achieving when driven by a common resolve. But India has been shamed by the incompetence of those it entrusted with running the country. Mumbai wasn't a victim of ordinary intelligence failure; the grim truth is that there was zero intelligence. India was caught napping.
It is important to vent our anger through the ballot box, to reject those who preened while our cities burned. Unfortunately, this isn't enough. The collective choice must be shaped by a candid realisation that India is no longer on a conventional flight path: it is at war. Another wrong turn and a Mumbai that is already suffering the burden of a government's mismanagement of public finance will end up as a Beirut, a Karachi.
India doesn't need to replace an uninspiring tweedledum with a dreary tweedledee. It needs someone inspirational, someone blessed with guts, imagination, energy, integrity and application. It yearns for a leader who has the self-assurance to prescribe a bitter dose of medicine. India doesn't need a leader to manage the peace; it needs a leader who can lead us in a war. We are through with a Chamberlain; it's time for a Churchill. -- Swapan Dasgupta, the Pioneer, 30 Nov 2008,
7. WHY THE DELAY IN HANGING AFZAL GURU? : A terrorist has been on the death row for three years now. Had he been hanged after fair trial and all due review, it might have sent out the message that Bharat was going to be tough on terror.
Since September, 2005, when SC dismissed petitions seeking review of its judgement upholding the death sentence on Afzal Guru in the December 13, 2001, Parliament attack case, the convicted terrorist has been marking time in Tihar. Why the delay?
The evidence against Afzal is staggering. His mobile number, recovered from Mohammed, a slain terrorist who fell near Parliament’s gate No 1, was a crucial breakthrough. The court said that even minutes before the attack, three calls were made by Mohammed to Afzal. Also, there was evidence that the mobile was being exchanged between Afzal and Mohammed and other terrorists.
The court noted that an instrument used by Afzal till December 12, 2001 was recovered from a dead terrorist the next day. Also, there was recovery of explosives, fake uniforms, a key laptop and identification of Afzal by a landlord of a premise where the terrorists stayed. So, what is the Delhi government’s view?
8. RSS AND BAJRANG DAL ARE NOT TERRORIST GROUPS -- UK: The British government has said neither the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) nor the Bajrang Dal are terrorist organizations. Therefore, their members are not banned from entering Britain. “Neither organization is proscribed in the UK or in India, nor do the Indian government classify either as a terrorist organization,” British Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Lord Malloch-Brown said in reply to a question by former cabinet minister Lord Chris Patten. Malloch-Brown said decisions on whether or not to ban a group in Britain “must be proportionate and based on evidence that a group is involved in terrorism as defined in the Terrorism Act 2000.”
9. RSS RELIEF WORK DURING MUMBAI TERROR ATTACKS: During the recent terrorist attacks on Nov 26, RSS workers and workers from other organizations including BJP immediately rushed and worked hard at various hospitals in Mumbai to cater for the victims and injured people and security personnel.
The morale of these workers and general public was high and they worked even while the bullets were being fired at GT hospital. They arranged for food, shelter for relatives at JJ ( 125 workers),GT( 15 workers), and St. George hospital, arranged blood donation camps and other necessary help and coordination work.Workers at Mandovi arranged for shelter of stranded women passengers on the night of 26th. At Colaba, when people tried to retaliate and storm the Nariman house, a BJP worker Harish Gohil succumbed to the bullets while Praksh Surve was injured in the grenade attack.
10. FATWA AGAINST YOGA IS INSENSITIVE MALAYSIA HINDU SANGAM: The Malaysia Hindu Sangam respects the right of the National Fatwa Council to give guidance for persons professing Islam on the tenets and practices of Islam. However, in doing so, they must respect the sensitivities and feelings of other religions in Malaysia. Many Hindus have been deeply disturbed by the Fatwa Council’s announcement. Although the fatwa does not directly prohibit Hindus from practicing yoga, Malaysians do not live in isolation from each other. Many Hindus and non Hindus practice yoga together in a non religious manner, and this fatwa will have a tendency to drive a wedge between ourselves. This fatwa prohibiting yoga shows a tendency towards a lack of tolerance and understanding which can cause communities to distance themselves from one another.
11. WHY THE TAJ HOTEL SURVIVED?: A lesser building would have collapsed from the pounding it took during the anti-terror operations that lasted 59 hours, but the Taj hotel stands intact.
While the inside may be gutted, the structure itself withstood the blasts and gunbattles that lasted nearly three days.
So how did the 105-year-old building remain standing?
“The strength comes from the strong basalt stone, the large solid base and the design itself — atrium in the middle and the smaller cut-outs in the heritage wing,” explained Brinda Somaiya, conservation architect.
The Taj, that took five years to be completed and opened in 1903, was built with teakwood, Chinese mosaic flooring, rolled steel joists, girders and coarse rubble. JN Tata had ordered 20 steel-spun pillars, the latest technology at the time, for the ballroom that came under brutal assault during the terror strike.
In the 1950s, the hotel underwent additions and alterations. But, being a Grade 2A heritage building, the changes were minimal. The open galleries and shafts were left untouched. This helped minimise the damage.
The sixth floor that bore the brunt of the attack, was added in the ’60s. A decade later, the 23-storey tower wing was added with decorative arches and balconies overlooking the sea.
Earlier, as flames engulfed the structure, there were concerns that the extensive use of wood would make the structure vulnerable. Somaiya said it depends on the section of wood used. “If the section of wood is big enough, it can withstand fire even if the outer part catches fire,” she said. “Like an old lady with great inner strength, the Taj withstood the assault.”
12. BHARATIYA NAVY SHIP FIGHTS SOMALI PIRATES, SINKS SHIP: Bharatiya Navy stealth frigate INS Tabar has successfully repulsed an attack by pirates off the Somali coast and sunk their ship.
The Bharatiya Navy ship was fired at by pirates in the Gulf of Aden late on Nov. 18.
“The pirates fired at INS Tabar, which was patrolling the waters off the Somali coast. The ship retaliated and sank the pirate vessel,” a navy official said.
Earlier, INS Tabar had staved off an attack by Somali pirates on two merchant vessels - one from Bharat and another from Saudi Arabia.
13. ISRO TO ROLL OUT A RIVAL TO GOOGLE EARTH: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which is based in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of the sub-continent, will roll-out a rival to Google Earth, the hugely popular online satellite imagery service, by end of the month.
The project, dubbed Bhuvan (Sanskrit for Earth), will allow users to zoom into areas as small as 10 metres wide, compared to the 200 metre wide zoom limit on Google Earth.Bhuvan will use a network of satellites to create a high-resolution, bird's-eye view of Bharat - and later, possibly, the rest of the world - that will be accessible at no cost online and will compete with Google Earth. If a pilot version passes muster, Bhuvan will be fully operational by the spring. There are also plans to incorporate a global positioning system (GPS) into the online tool.
14. EMBRACING MEDITATION: Buzz up! Like many churchgoers in the Bible Belt, Kristy Robinson teaches Sunday school with her husband and helps prepare communion at their Episcopal church in Franklin, Tenn, USA.
She rounds out her church- and prayer-filled life with another spiritual practice that's not quite as familiar: meditation.
"I'll see a difference in my day if I don't," says Robinson, who opens each day with 20 minutes of absolute silence.
A report released this year showed an astonishingly high number of Protestants -- nearly half -- say they meditate at least once a week. Among the public, 39 percent meditate at least weekly, according to a report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Meditation has been, at times, eyed with suspicion. The Vatican in 1989 went so far as to say that methods such as Zen, yoga and transcendental meditation can "degenerate into a cult of the body" and be dangerous.
But for many Christians, meditation fits quite nicely into their religious life. They're drawn to biblical Scriptures, such as in the Psalms, which says, "Be still, and know that I am God."
For them, meditation has brought deeper meaning to their lives.
15. ASHOKA PILLAR NOW STANDS TALL IN AUSTRALIA: It has been hailed as historic. A five-metre-high Ashoka Pillar now stands at a monastery located midway between Sydney and Canberra, in a celebration of the spread of Buddhism from Bharat to Australia.
Believed to be the first in Australia, the Ashoka Pillar has been installed at the Sunnataram Forest Monastery in the verdant surroundings of Southern Highlands.
It was during a pilgrimage to Bharat last year that head monk of the monastery, Phra Mana Viriyarampo, decided to construct an Ashoka Pillar in Australia.
The monastery is dotted with carved sandstone 'Life of the Buddha' panels, copied from the Sanchi Stupa in Bharat, on display in the garden and under trees.
The Ashoka Pillar has been hand-carved by artists in Thailand and the sandstone supporting base has been constructed by monks and volunteers of the monastery.
16. YOGA DRESSED IN ARAB COLORS GAINS POPULARITY IN EGYPT: After searching for a year for a fitness routine compatible with her Islamic faith Fatima Ismael, a 32-year-old British mother of three has developed Rakha, a new yoga-like workout that incorporates Islamic chants rather than Hindu mantras. The new Islam-inspired total body fitness routine, may be the yoga alternative Muslims are searching for following a fatwa, or religious ruling, by a Malaysian sheikh denouncing yoga as un-Islamic in Egypt.
The postures of “Rakha” (which is also the Arabic term for prosperity) are gaining popularity among British Muslims eager for healthy lifestyles. A basic routine begins stretches and light cardiovascular exercise. Yoga breathing and stretching techniques are used throughout the routine to help center the body and relax. Instead of Hindu mantras, anasheeds or Islam-inspired religious hymns are used to trigger the spiritual state of mind.
17. SIX FALLEN BHARATIYA JOURNALISTS HONOURED IN STOCKHOLM: Six Bharatiya journalists, including Delhi journalist Soumya Vishwanathan, among the 87 worldwide who perished in their line of duty during the past 12 months, were among those honoured at the the Royal Cathedral of Stockholm, in an ecumenical service, on Nov.18.
The memorial, instituted by the Professional Foreign Correspondents Association, PROFOCA, of Sweden 2002, was commemorated for the seventh consecutive year. The six Indian journalists featured in the memorial, that has grown to become a global event of increasing repute were: Mohamad Muslimuddin, a correspondent for the daily Asamiya Pratidin; Ashok Sodhi, a photographer for Jammu's English-language Daily Excelsior; Ved Prakash Chouhan, a senior journalist; Komal Yadav, a photographer of Amar Ujala, a Hindi daily; Javed Ahmed Mir of a local Kashmir paper and Soumya Vishwanathan, a TV journalist, working with Headlines Today, who was shot dead in the capital by unidentified persons earlier this year when she was returning home late at night from work.
Ambassadors and senior diplomatic representatives of 34 countries - with the exception of Bharat - to which the slain journalists belonged, along with senior representatives of the Swedish government, participated in the memorial.
18. 11 ANJUMAN MEMBERS GIVEN DEATH PENALTY: A special court in Bangalore sentenced to death 11 members of Deendar Channabasaveshwara Anjuman Trust on Nov. 29 for setting off serial blasts at several churches in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa in 2000.
Special Judge S.M. Shivanagoudar, while sentencing a dozen others to life imprisonment, said though none was killed during these blasts, the attacks tantamount to anti-national activities by the members of the trust. He pronounced the order through a videoconferencing facility from the Sessions Court Complex because of security reasons.
19. POTTU AND NAMASTE, 5,000-YEAR OLD TRADITIONS: The sindhur, or pottu by which it is known in Southern Bharat, a unique marking on the foreheads of Bharatiya, dates back to the third millennium BCE. Even during the early days of civilization people used to wear the sindhur or tilak on their foreheads, excavations along the now defunct Saraswati river have proved. “The Bharatiya woman had adorned her forehead with sindhur as a symbol of marriage. This perhaps also indicated the existence of a structural family life in an orderly society,” Prof B.B. Lal, former director general, Archaeological Survey of India has said.
“We came across the sindhur in terracotta figurines from the sites along the states of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Carbon dating confirmed the fact that these terracotta figurines date back to the third millennium BC,” said Prof Lal. “Similarly the practice of greeting one another with namaste and the criss-cross pattern of furrows on farm lands, seen even today in Haryana and Rajasthan, date back to the Saraswati era,” he said.
20. OBAMA PROMOTES SONAL SHAH: US President-elect Barack Obama on November 19 named Bharatiya - American policy wonk Sonal Shah as a leader of a key policy working group.
Shah is one of nine leaders who will head seven Policy Working Groups tasked with "developing priority policy proposals and plans from the Obama Campaign for action during the Obama-Biden Administration,” the transition team announced.
Shah will co-chair the Technology, Innovation and Government Reform panel along with Julius Genachowski and Blair Levin.
Sonal Shah currently heads’s global development efforts and is on temporary leave from that job to help with the transition. Prior to joining Google, she was Vice President at Goldman, Sachs and Co. developing and implementing the firm’s environmental policy.
21. EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PREZ INVITES HINDU STATESMAN ZED: Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed has been invited by President of European Parliament (EP) Hans-Gert Pottering for a meeting to discuss Hindu issues and promote interfaith dialogue.
Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, will meet President Pottering in his Brussels (Belgium) office on December 10.
This might be the first major formal visit of a Hindu leader to EP during the current European Year of Intercultural Dialogue (EYID). Various other world religious leaders who visited EP as part of EYID include Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, Grand Mufti of Syria and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
Zed is Spiritual Advisor to the National Association of Interchurch and Interfaith Families, Director of Interfaith Relations of Nevada Clergy Association, and has been recognised by various organisations for his efforts in interfaith dialogue.
The EP consists of 785 elected members from 27 countries representing 492 million people.
22. YALE UNIVERSITY ANNOUNCES A $75M INDIA INITIATIVE: The renowned Yale University in US launched a Bharat initiative with a corpus of $ 75 million to increase its academic ties with the country.
“The initiative will create new faculty positions on Bharat; specific courses and new curricula across arts, culture, religion and science,” Yale University President Richard C Levin said. Yale plans to triple the number of Indian professors to about 30.
23. COUNTER-INSURGENCY SCHOOL CHANGES COURSE: When the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJSW) some 130 km from State capital Aizawl, was set up in 1970, the credo was: “Fight a guerrilla like a guerrilla.” The guerrilla, who followed certain ‘ethics of bush war’, is an endangered species today, having evolved into terrorists and shifted from the jungles to the urban landscape.
“Our regular job is to train the armed forces in India and abroad to beat guerrillas in their own game,” told CIJWS commandant Brigadier Anil K Ram. “But we have been updating ourselves to deal with the changing face of extremism, tailoring special courses for the police, who would be manning the battlefields of the future – thickly populated urban centres.”Accordingly, CIJWS has devoted three of its 13 training ranges to hostage intervention.
24. MULTIPLYING MADARSAS REFUSE MODERNISATION: In spite of the Uttarakhand Government's best efforts to modernise madarsas and bring these on par with mainstream schools by adequately funding the traditional religious learning centres, the madarsas have failed miserably to live up to expectations.
At the most, the State exchequer's generous gesture could help increase the number of registered madarsas from 11 in the hill State (when it was part of Uttar Pradesh eight years ago) to a whooping 299 at present.
In a shocking display of utter misuse of the Government's money, of the 299 madarsas registered with the Muslim Education Mission (MEM), only 33 could be modernised by the Social Welfare Department under its ambitious mission of bringing the hitherto old school of learning into the mainstream.
25. ROTORUA DEEPAWALI FESTIVAL 2008: The first Rotorua Deepawali Festival was celebrated in a grand manner on Saturday, 8th November 2008 at the Rotorua Convention Centre, New Zealand. More than 1500 people participated.
Inspite of being an Election Day, many dignitaries participated in the opening ceremony which was held at 11.00 am in the Banquet hall at the Rotorua Convention Centre. Mita Mohi (MBEJP) a Maori Elder, recited a Maori prayer and blessed the occasion. His worship the Mayor, Kevin Winters, JP, officially opened the first Rotorua Deepawali Festival by lighting the lamp. Mrs Steve Chadwick and Todd McClay (Members of Parliament), Brent Crowe (Police officer), and Sridhara Mysore (Hindu Elders Foundation) and a number of councilors were also present. The Master of Ceremony was Dr Meeta Patel and vote of thanks was given by Samir Shah.
26. 'RAM SETHU' ROCKS SELLING LIKE HOT CAKES: Ram Sethu, the mythical bridge which got embroiled in a controversy over the Sethusamudram project, is back in news. This time for the trade of coral rocks, considered to be a part of the holy structure. Droves of pilgrims here are buying coral rocks being sold by the agents and tourist guides, who claim that the rocks were a part of the bridge built by the 'Vanara Sena' for Lord Ram to crossover to Lanka to rescue Sita.
"Pilgrims visiting this temple town buy these stones thinking that they are from the Ram bridge. But they are actually coral rocks," an official of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park said.
As coral rocks tend to float naturally, pilgrims believe that the rocks are the ones used by Rama's army and buy it, he said.
27. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Shri Umeshchandra Mishra, pracharak for Thailand, Shri Dineshmani Dubey from Thailand, Shri Kulbhushan Joshi from UK; Shri Vasudev Singh from USA. Pravas: Dr. Shankar Tatawadi, Samyojak Vishwa Vibhag reached UK from Bharat after his pravas of Nepal and Myanmar. Shri Dattatreya Hosbale arrived in Bharat after his pravas of USA, Canada and UK. Shri Shyam Parande toured Bhutan and returned Bharat.
28. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Formlessness: Whatever takes from is false. Only the formless endures. When you understand The truth of this teaching, You will not be born again. For God is infinite, Within the body and without, Like a mirror, And the image in a mirror. As the air is everywhere, Flowing around a pot And filling it, So God is everywhere, Filling all things And flowing through them forever. -- Ashtavakra Gita.
On November 24, defence minister A K Antony told a public gathering in Kochi that our land borders are secure but not the seas. His words turned out to be, unfortunately, prophetic. Intelligence reports suggest that the perpetrators of the terror operation in Mumbai came from the sea. In all probability, they sailed past the naval headquarters before running amok in the city. How did terrorists at least 20 of them seem to have come in rubber dinghies evade the entire security establishment?
Clearly, our long coastline dotted with ports, oil rigs and tourist resorts is a porous border. The Coast Guard, the primary agency responsible for guarding the coastline, doesn't have the personnel or infrastructure to do its job. No border of this nation is secure, especially when there are numerous failed or failing states surrounding the country. But any attempt to secure land borders will fail if we don't secure our coastlines with more ships, listening posts, landing stations and trained personnel.
There is an urgent need for better coordination among various intelligence agencies and with the armed forces. This, however, is possible only if we have a major revamp of our security architecture. Many experts have outlined structural changes in the security establishment, like creating a federal agency, a centralised command structure and a nationwide information base with real-time access to security agencies. Besides, various wings of the security establishment have to be made autonomous and accountable.
An agency like the IB spends most of its resources to gather political intelligence for the ruling party. Most appointments at the highest level in the security establishment are politicised, which explains the lack of accountability. This country has witnessed scores of terror strikes since the 1980s and in the past three years alone, over 800 people have died in terror attacks. But not one public official in India has had to resign after a terror strike. Should security bosses, including the home minister, national security adviser and heads of agencies like RAW and IB, be so secure in their jobs when security personnel and civilians risk lives for their failures?
There is no dearth of reports on how to restructure our security infrastructure. The Kargil Review Committee and Girish Saxena Committee reports are just two of many. These suggested drastic changes in intelligence gathering mechanism and policing. Successive governments have endorsed them. But how much of the strategic vision charted out in these reports has been translated into reality? The government should come out with a white paper and Parliament should have a detailed discussion. We have had enough of piecemeal action and ineffective rhetoric. Wake up to the enormity of the challenge and act now. -- Editorial, Times of India, 29 Nov.