Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Call for an Intellectual - Hindu Ordeal

 A Call for an Intellectual
(Bauddhika) Kshatriya

We live in the age of the information revolution, which has taken a quantum leap since the introduction of computers. The information flood is changing the nature of the society in which we live, in ways that we do not yet know and for which there is no precedent. This information revolution is in many respects an information war, with different groups struggling to put their views out to the general public as the truth. It is often a disinformation war as well, with groups trying to discredit those who have different views, using the media as their weapon.
In this contest whoever puts out information first usually gains credibility by defining the field. Whoever puts out information in the most sophisticated and high tech manner has the best audience and generally the best success in promoting their agenda. In the media realm packaging is more important than content and strong assertion often takes the role of real proof. People tend to believe what has been well presented in the media, even if it is otherwise biased or limited. Billions of dollars are being poured by various vested interest groups into this information war, with religious and political groups making great efforts to represent themselves in this new global arena. Advertisement, public relations, and lobbyists are hard at work, often to the highest bidder, to give a good image and strong media presence to their clients, if the price is right.
We live in a mass media dominated society, with daily exposure to some sort of radio, television, computer, newspaper or magazine. It has been said that the media is the message, that the media itself has made itself into the focus of our lives. The media has become our mind. Many of us spend more time taking in media information than interacting with other people or with the world of nature. These media images serve to build up our minds down to a subconscious level. They program our behavior, a fact that advertising has long known and sought to benefit from.
Now the Western information and media culture is spreading throughout the entire world, including what is called the third world, with the globalization of the world economy. Even villages are now getting television and the other trappings of Western modernity. India, China, and Asia in general are being brought under the influence of the media world.
Unfortunately, this Western media and commercial culture continues the same goals and influences as previous colonial forces, which only fifty years ago lost hold in Asia. This commercial culture seeks to supplant native and traditional cultures with a Western model, not only in terms of practical conveniences but in terms of thought and belief. It attempts to Americanize or Europeanize the world. Western religious groups, particularly Christian Evangelical groups, are learning to use the media for their advantage as well, doing preaching and proselytizing, and broadcasting their mass rallies through the media. Yet Christians as a whole use the media in Asia to promote their agenda over native Asian religions, which the media often stereotypes as primitive.
Islamic groups are also realizing the power of the media and spending large sums to influence public opinion in the Western world, stressing the humanistic side of Islam. The Islamic lobby in the United States is one of the largest lobby groups in the country. In Islamic countries the power of the media is recognized both for good and ill. The media is strictly controlled by the state to project an Islamic image, and portray Islam only in a positive light, while striving to keep the Western media and its views out.
In the context of India the question arises where are Hindus in this information war and media presentation? The answer is that, with a few notable exceptions, Hindus generally are not present or only feebly present, apologetic or half-hearted in their self-presentation in the information field. The image of Hindus and of Hinduism that prevails in the information age is created by non-Hindus and by anti-Hindu forces, not only by intention but also by default because Hindus themselves seldom challenge wrong views or provide an alternative. In this way Hinduism is being eroded, particularly in the minds of young Hindus, who seldom find their religion represented, or who find it denigrated in the media world around them that is rapidly becoming their reality.
Since independence India has been dominated by Marxist and socialist thinking that has viewed Hinduism, with its spiritual and religious values, as its main enemy. Now gradually a more commercial influence is arising with economic liberalization, but it similarly is trying to undermine and replace Hindu culture, which, with its self-sufficiency and spirituality, does not make for an easy commercial target. Hindu culture, which managed to survive as the predominant model in India even through a thousand years of domination by first Islamic and then European Christian influences, finds itself under a new threat, less overt but perhaps for that very reason more dangerous.
The intelligentsia of India since independence has been often self-righteously anti-Hindu and naively accepting of Western ideologies, often merely echoing or imitating the old colonial and missionary propaganda against their own venerable complex religion that appears alien to these disenfranchised souls. The result is that the ruling political parties of India have done little to protect the dominant culture of the country from media distortions but have in fact often encouraged these. They have used anti-Hindu propaganda projected through the media both in the West and in India to try to keep Hindus suppressed and afraid of asserting themselves, so that there is no Hindu challenge to their power. The result is that Hinduism continues under siege and often with little defence, particularly in this new battleground. Even Hindu religious groups and leaders are often more concerned about their own particular faction and seldom willing to come to the defense of the culture as a whole.
Clearly unless this situation is corrected the future of Hinduism is threatened or at least diminished. While several Hindu groups have noticed this problem, it still has yet to be faced and addressed in a complete manner. Hindu society is becoming aware of their difficulty but it has yet to really awaken and deal with it in the real world.
The front line of the battle in the world today is no longer on any particular battlefield with the exchange of bullets or bombs. It lies now in the media and in the information field, which can be quite as deadly and poisoning in its results as any battlefield. Even the battles that are fought with weapons gain much more importance if the media is there. A few people killed in Israel can become world news and shape global strategies because of the media. Dozens of people killed in Sudan or China, where there is no media, will have no effect.
In this information war a different kind of warrior is necessary and a different strategy is required. This is not an entirely new issue because there has always been something of an information war in the clash of cultures, nations and religions that has occurred throughout history. But today it has much more importance in the information age and has become the central issue.
Each culture has its intellectual defenders. These are its great thinkers who articulate its cultural values. These intellectual defenders serve to challenge negative views of the culture. They also serve to present a more favorable image of the culture and define its future. Hindus traditionally had their Kshatriya or warrior class to defend them. There has always been an intellectual Kshatriya as well, those who defend the culture from attack in the realm of ideas, which usually precedes or accompanies physical attack.
However Hindus today have failed perhaps more than any other group to create a defense for their culture in the media world. Hindus are routinely portrayed through stereotypes of caste, dowry deaths, widow burning, strange cults, poverty and superstition. The worship of Shiva appears in The New York Times as the phallic cult of the God of destruction. Krishna is portrayed in Western universities as an erotic God with questionable morals. Brahmins appear in the Western media as rich landowners oppressing their poor slave Shudras, right out of communist propaganda stories.
The world mass media seldom considers any Hindu point of view. Though Hindus are the third largest religion in the world, and the largest non-biblical tradition, in many presentations of world religions Hindus are left out or denigrated as polytheists, idolaters and animists. Some universities in the West teach that Hinduism is not a religion at all but a collection of cults mainly of a primitive nature. Such schools also teach that India as a nation was created by the British and was otherwise just a collection of warring states with little in common.
Though India is the largest democracy in the world and the second most populated country, it has no permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. In events of global importance neither an Indian or a Hindu point of view is given much consideration.  In Bangladesh Hindus are under siege and frequently have their property taken from them. In Pakistan Hindus have been almost entirely eliminated. In neither country has there ever been any prominent Hindu leaders or government officials. In Fiji Hindus are routinely oppressed. In Malaysia they have to accept an inferior position, where Hindus can be converted to Islam but no Muslims can become Hindus. When Hindus work in Islamic Gulf countries Hindus have to hide their religion. Saudi Arabia requires that India send only a Muslim ambassador and India has always meekly complied, bowing down to a nation with 1/20 its population!
In India itself foreign missionary activity is perhaps at its highest point in history, particularly targeting tribal groups, even to the extent of encouraging them to secede from the nation and form Christian states. In South India Catholic priests routinely dress up like Hindu Swamis and go to the villages speaking of Yoga and Vedanta in order to convert Hindus to Christianity. Yet Hindus seldom raise a voice and the world hardly knows of these facts. And, most strangely, it is the media of India that works probably the hardest to suppress knowledge of these goings on.
In America the large Islamic lobbyist money works to promote a positive image of Islam and does not hesitate to denigrate Hindus or India. In England Pakistanis organize to create a political influence and bend their politicians to criticize India on Kashmir, while Hindus in the same country, in perhaps larger numbers and affluence, do little to counter this. There are many other examples of the same phenomenon, a Hindu indifference to the media that puts them at a disadvantage even in their own country.
What Hindus need today, in fact what the whole world needs is an intellectual Kshatriya or intellectual warrior class. It needs a group of dedicated workers and activists who uphold the Dharma against this media and information onslaught. Such individuals must be above commercial manipulation and self-promotion, working tirelessly to counter this disinformation flood.
Yet this movement must start in India and in the Hindu community itself to be really credible. For example, when Hindus in America complained against media distortions of Hindu groups in India to The New York Times they were told that the information came from Delhi itself. Clearly the change must start in India to have any real effect.
In India the English language media is generally anti-Hindu and often pro-Marxist. The universities in India are frequently dominated by professors whose heart is not in the Dharma of their country but in Western materialism. Kerala and Bengal today remain under the yoke of communist governments. In Kerala Hindu workers are being killed. In Bengal Hindu sadhus are commonly attacked. It is no wonder that Hindus outside of India are subject to oppression, when Hindus in India itself are under siege.
The Vedas say that Brahma or spiritual power and Kshatra or political power must go together. When Brahma or spiritual power develops it creates an appropriate Kshatra or social power to extend its influence into society. It provides a dharmic order to our human relations, both individual and collective. If Brahma or spiritual power fails to impact the social order and raise the social Dharma, then it is a sign that this Brahma or spiritual power itself has failed, that it is not legitimate or real.
Sri Krishna, the great avatar, worked throughout his life to create a dharmic Kshatriya, an order of noble souls who could establish and sustain a dharmic social order. He was willing to promote a great battle, a civil war among the Kshatriyas themselves, to allow his handpicked dharmic Kshatriya followers to gain power. He purified the Indian Kshatriya with the blood of a dharmic war. Because of his great achievement a Kshatriya order was established that maintained a dharmic society for many centuries. This example should not be lost on us today. The Kshatriya of India today, its social and political leaders, require a similar dharmic purification, perhaps not a Kurukshetra in the literal sense but a purification from false values and egoistic practices that are rampant everywhere.
Let us also look at the example of the great Swami Vidyaranya of Sringeri, an Advaitin and a Mayavadin, who yet inspired two Hindu Kshatriyas who had become Muslims to reconvert to Hinduism and found the great Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar to protect the Dharma. Would not one say that if all is Maya or illusion, why would a great Swami start a kingdom? Such a question shows a profound misunderstanding of Hindu Dharma. One can only transcend the world by fulfilling one�s dharma and one�s karma, and even if one has done so for oneself, one still has the duty to others to teach, guide and raise the world. Let us also look at the example of Samartha Ramadas, who inspired the great King Shivaji.
Unfortunately so far modern India has not created a Prime Minister of this sort of inspiration. Many modern Hindus, taking up an excessive view of non-violence, have rejected the idea of any Hindu Kshatriya altogether. They have felt that Hindus should not have an army and should not defend themselves against violence, but should rather offer themselves meekly to their enemies. This attitude has naturally led to the idea that Hindus should not even challenge media distortions of them.
However in the Vedic view a country cannot exist without a Kshatriya order, which is the pillar of the society. The Mahabharata states that if there is not a righteous Kshatriya rulership that employs the danDa (rod) or is willing to punish adharma, then the people will end up eating each other. In the information age we could say that if Hindus do not create an intellectual Kshatriya then the people will end up destroying themselves with false beliefs and propaganda.
If a dharmic Kshatriya is not created through the force of Brahma or spiritual knowledge, then the law is that an adharmic Kshatriya will come to fill in the vacuum. This is exactly what occurred not only in modern India but throughout the rest of the world. After the excessive non-violence in the Indian independence movement no genuine Kshatriya could or was created in the country. This left the country prey to a false Kshatriya, based mainly upon Marxist ideals, mixed with war lord temperaments, such as we have found in communist countries, who similarly have misled the people and prevented the real growth of the nation.
One must remember the example of the Sikhs in India. Originally a purely spiritual movement, they were forced to take up arms and to adapt a Kshatriya order by the cruel oppression perpetrated against them by the Muslim rulers of the time, in which torture and genocide was the rule of the day. In this way they grew and flourished and became a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately India as a whole at that time did not take up the call of Sikh Dharma, which was the call for a real Kshatriya revival. The resurgent voice of Hindu Dharma that both Brahma and Kshatra are required, that spiritual knowledge must create a strong social order and discipline, was muffled. This movement of a new spiritual Kshatriya of modern Hindus, which the Sikhs began, needs to be completed today, not only for the regeneration of Hindu society but for the revival of Sanatana Dharma or the universal tradition of truth throughout the world. But it must be completed not so much in the field of arms as in the field of ideas. The only Kshatriya that can carry the day today is the intellectual Kshatriya.
Hindus must create a new intelligentsia that has the power to overcome and absorb the alienated and Western dominated intellectuals of India. Hindus must project an intellectual view that is articulate and compelling. They must bring the influence of Sanatana Dharma to the intelligentsia of the world. For a culture that has produced such thinkers as the Vedic seers, Upanishadic sages, Kapila, Buddha, Patanjali and Shankara, and in the modern times Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi, this is certainly possible. In fact we can find in such great modern figures of India as Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda good models of intellectual Kshatriya as well as spiritual masters. Clearly the success of Hindus in such intellectual fields as science, computers, engineering and medicine shows that they have the capacity. What is lacking is the motivation, the guidance, and perhaps the inspiration.
Another mistake Hindus have made is being too accommodating under the guise of synthesis, which erodes clear thinking. Under the guise that all religions are one Hindus hesitate to develop a proper criticism, however justified, of the exclusivist creeds working to convert them, and of other adharmic actions done in the name of religion in the world. There is also the danger that in trying to attract minorities into their fold Hindu groups in India will seek to appease minorities rather than to help them in a dharmic way. The true Kshatriya will help and lead, giving a positive direction for others to follow, not merely appease and accommodate in order to gain popularity. A true Kshatriya is devoted to dharma and cannot be won over by name, fame, influence or money.
The youth in particular need to be awakened to this call for an intellectual Kshatriya. They have the idealism and the vision of the future, as well as the vitality, but this needs to be directed not only by a spiritual urge but one that addresses the problems of society as well. To be truly relevant, particularly to the youth, this intellectual voice must address not only the social issues of today but environmental problems, the role of science, and the future evolution of humanity.
An intellectual Kshatriya must not merely be defensive but creative and expansive. It must project a positive view of Hindu Dharma, and give it a futuristic vision. Its purpose is not merely to adjust present or historical wrongs but chart out a new direction for all to follow. In this regards Hindu intellectuals must go to the universal roots of their tradition and find a compelling vision that can gather people of all backgrounds, helping them break through limited and unspiritual beliefs, toward a yogic vision of humanity. This is not to water down Hindu Dharma but to revitalize it in the world today. This new Kshatriya must be willing to spread Hindu Dharma in a dynamic way along the lines of the old Vedic impulse - kriNvanto vi�vam ãryam, make all the world noble.
Such an intellectual Kshatriya must be based upon deep thought. It cannot be developed through mere rhetoric, character assassination, or slogans. It requires not only a well thought out critique but a positive program of action. It requires not only a Hindu examination of religion, science and politics, but the creation of a Hindu alternative to existing systems. It also requires a model for revitalizing Hindu society itself.
For those who wish to take up the role of intellectual Kshatriya there is much that can be done. An intellectual Kshatriya must challenge media distortions, whether in schools, books, newspapers, or in the media or the internet. It must also produce genuine information expressing the truth of Sanatana Dharma, whether relative to history, art, politics, religion or philosophy. This means a new revival in the field of Hindu education, which is perhaps the key factor.
This Hindu intelligentsia must be willing to debate with other groups, including exposing their distortions and wrong beliefs. It must resurrect the tradition of tarka or intellectual debate that makes the darshanas or philosophies of Hinduism so significant. It must create a forum in which everything is critically examined so only truth remains. In short, it must wield the sword of viveka or discrimination, discerning the true from the false, and not bowing down to ignorance anywhere.
This new intellectual Kshatriya must also throw up an ethical challenge, which is the challenge of Dharma, exposing the danger of exclusivist religious cults, materialistic political philosophies, and unchecked commercialism. The West throws its ethical challenge to the world, criticizing other countries, including India, for a lack of human rights. This requires a Hindu response. Let us take an obvious example, the same America that tries to speak for human rights and democracy all over the world is also the biggest weapons seller and arms supplier in the world. The biggest buyers of these weapons are the Gulf Oil producing Islamic states, none of which are democracies and none of which have good human rights records, yet none of which are under any American imposed sanctions. Clearly the Western voice of human rights is not truly dharmic but motivated by commercial and nationalistic interests. Hindus need to create an ethical alternative to such questionable Western humanitarianism.
For it to truly develop, Hindu groups must cultivate and honor their intellectual Kshatriya, which not only includes listening to them but promoting their views, and funding their work if necessary. They must stop hiding in the veil of spirituality and allowing the forces of adharma to rule the world and even pontificate over their religion, telling them what it is and what it is worth.
In Western intellectual circles the talk today is of a �clash of civilizations�. This is mainly spoken of as a clash between the West and Islam, or a clash between the West and Chinese culture. In this clash of world civilizations the Hindu has been recognized as one of the players but has already been written off as minor. Why is this the case? Because the Hindu voice has only a small place in the world sphere whether politically, economically or intellectually. Clearly without an intellectual Kshatriya, Hindus will not likely be part of this churning out of a new world order.
Now such may not be pleasant items for Hindus to hear. Should we rather not speak of Rama and Krishna and forget this turmoil of Kali Yuga, some might say? True spirituality is not an escape but a transcendence. A truly spiritual person can face the facts of the world, however unpleasant, without having to turn away or without losing inner composure. This is also the message of Rama and Krishna, if we really look at their lives and actions.
There are those who may fear that an intellectual Hindu Kshatriya may promote a new Hindu fundamentalism or oppression of minorities in India. The Hindu Kshatriya tradition is not one of aggression but of protection, not of forcing conversion to a religion but upholding the Dharma. It is a tradition of holding to truth and creating a culture in which freedom to pursue truth, not only in the outer world, but in the religious realm, is preserved. Is this not what the global age really requires? It is time for that Kshatriya to arise again. The extent that it does will be the measure of the future of India and perhaps of any dharmic revival in this generally adharmic world. Let us hope that this call is heeded! Who is there to answer it?

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Plastic Cow - Saving Our Mother

The Plastic Cow Project


A Collective Effort to Save the Indian Cow from Plastic
UPDATE! Encouraging Court Order Dated November 18, 2014: Click HERE!

What is The Plastic Cow?

In India, one of the most striking images is the cow wandering on the road. In cities, towns and villages numerous cows and bulls sit or wander peacefully, settling down to chew the cud. It gives the impression of a society living together peacefully with animals. The holy cow, the Mother of India is revered by all and, in most states, is not allowed to be slaughtered.
India has an open garbage system, which means open garbage bins on the roads overflowing with stinking waste. Dogs, monkeys, pigs, rats and cows eat whatever they can find to survive. The numbers of stray dogs, rats and monkeys are equal to the amount of garbage on which they feed and multiply.
In cities and towns, large numbers of cows on the roads eat from garbage bins, foraging for fruit and vegetable leftovers, anything edible and smelling like food.
Since plastic bags have invaded our lives, almost all garbage and food waste is disposed in plastic bags. These bags spill out either on the road or from municipality dustbins. Since the plastic bags are knotted at the mouth, cows, unable to undo the knot, eat food leftovers including the plastic. Slowly, over time, they build up a huge amount of plastic inside their stomachs. It gets entangled with different materials and it becomes hard like cement inside their rumens, which is the first belly of the cow.
These cattle, owned or stray, often obstruct traffic and cause accidents. The municipality removes the animals from the road to be sent to go-downs, goshalas (shelters designed for cows), temples or they are simply dumped at the garbage landfills on the outskirts of the city. From there they “disappear” into trucks for transport to slaughter.

What are these cows doing on the road anyway?

There are many small “urban” dairy farms in cities and big towns. Dairy owners send their animals out on the road to forage for food as there is no green grass and little or no space to keep the animals at home. Still the owner milks his cows. These cows share the roads with abandoned calves, young and old bulls, old and dry cows. They scavenge between the garbage bins, the vegetable markets and hotels and finally end up on the municipality garbage landfills outside the town.
In places where there are cattle markets, there are more “owners”. These owners (brokers) buy the animals from farmers or cattle markets for very little money. The new “owner” simply leaves them on the road to fend for themselves. They mark the animals as their property. Whenever it suits them and the animal “looks fat”, they sell them off for a lot of money to an unsuspecting real farmer or for slaughter. When the farmer feeds the cow natural food and grass, the animal, having eaten garbage all its life, dies from indigestion and the farmer and the cow are both victims of a cruel and immoral practice.

The Holy Cow Reduced to a Dying Scavenger 

There have been anti-plastic campaigns in India. At present there is a ban on plastic bags up to 40 microns in many states. But no one has focused on the hazardous effects of plastic on the animals and their right to live a life free of plastics. It is the basic right of the cow to live and graze on natural food and not have to eat garbage tied up in plastic bags. This is an acute form of cruelty. The noble cow has become a scavenger.

Rumenotomy, the surgical removal of plastic up to 70 kg from the cow.

Plastics become visible
Plastics become visible
Karuna Society for Animals & Nature is based at Puttaparthi, in Andhra Pradesh (South India), 70 Kms away from Anantapur.  In December 2010, Karuna Society received 36 stray cattle from Anantapur town for permanent custody. Soon after their arrival one of the cows died. The post mortem conducted by our veterinary surgeon revealed that the animal’s rumen was full of plastic. After examination of all the animals, he advised us to start surgeries to remove plastics from their rumens to save their lives.
From the moment we received the “plastic cow” from Anantapur town, we realized that there are hundreds of cattle on the roads feeding on garbage, including plastic. They are sentenced to a slow and cruel death if they do not receive help in time. This is a cruelty most people are not aware of when they see the animals “peacefully” walking on the street. Think about big cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore where tens of thousands of animals are walking around with their bellies full of plastic.
It has been a life changing experience for all of us who witnessed the surgery and the removal of plastics and other waste items from the rumen. We are horrified by the suffering of animals caused by the human garbage system and the problem of letting cows and bulls loose on the road.
52kg of plastic is removed from the rumen
52kg of plastic is removed from the rumen

The Unobserved Disaster – The Plastic Effect on Wildlife

Along India’s rivers, there are thousands of temples, villages and towns, where untreated sewage and garbage flows in the water. Hundreds of kilometers away, garbage and plastic are deposited at places where wildlife feeds and drinks. Many animals die a painful and unobserved death. An elephant was found dead with 750 kg plastic inside its stomach. Turtles, fish, birds, wild pigs—no animal can escape!!
Pradeep Nath from VSPCA (Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals), Vishakapatnam has for many years been involved in rescuing endangered turtles and other wildlife and his observation shows that many animals suffer from plastic ingestion or get entangled in plastic bags and suffocate to death.

The Plastic Cow Project

Karuna Society, having realized that all cows on Indian roads are full of plastic, wrote a “Plastic Cow” report to all our contacts including the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization (FIAPO) network, to find ways to stop this cruelty.  Philip Wollen of the Kindness Trust, Australia, responded immediately and he told us to continue the rumenotomies with the assurance that the Kindness Trust would fund 100 surgeries as a pilot project at the cattle hospital at Karuna Society.
The “Plastic Cow Project.” started with four people, seriously concerned about the ban on plastics and violation of animal rights.  It is a work in progress, with multiple strategies being devised to end this problem. The ‘plastic cow’ represents an icon for all animals exposed to the human garbage system.

Different Strategies

  • Surgeries on Plastic Cows
  • Public Interest Litigation
  • Plastic cow campaign including documentary and website
Surgeries on Plastic Cows

The second cow that was operated on is doing really well.
The rescue of individual plastic cows from the road by the qualified rescue centers. These animals need surgery (Rumenotomy) but they can never go back on the road or to their owners, they need lifetime care and protection. At present the surgeries are performed at the Karuna Cattle hospital Puttaparthi and at VSPCA in Vishakapatnam and at some veterinary colleges such as IPAN (India Project for Animals and Nature) in Ooty.
The general opinion about rumenotomies is that the procedure is not always successful. Many animals develop post-operative problems and die some time afterwards. Owners of plastic cows feel financially more secure if they sell the animal. There is a shortage of cattle hospitals where aseptic surgery can be performed and the veterinary surgeons lack experience which adds to the problems.
Karuna Society started with the same doubts, but after several surgeries and improvements of the procedures the success rate is high.
Performing rumenotomies is not the answer to the plastic cow, only a total ban on plastics and removal of animals from the garbage-dump will solve the problems. We continue the surgeries as it is a life-saving procedure for the individual animal. As a pilot project, funded by The Kindness Trust, Australia, it gives us more information about the problems, the surgeries and the rate of survival.
Public Interest Litigation
The Plastic Cow activists filed a case in the Supreme Court of Delhi, for animal’s rights and the complete ban of plastic bags.
M/s VSPCA, Vishakapatnam, M/s Karuna Society for Animals and Nature, Puttaparthi, and three individuals Pradeep Nath, Clementien Pauws and Rukmini Sekhar are the litigants in this case supported by Senior Lawyer for Supreme Court Shyam Divan and assisted by Pratap Venugopal.
The respondents in this case are the Central Government and all the States of India, through their Animal Husbandry Departments, including the Animal Welfare Board of India.
 While there may be a couple of cases pending asking for a total ban on plastic bags as an environmentally hazardous pollutant, this team has specifically filed it as an animal rights litigation. This is clearly a case of the state violating its own laws where the Constitution guarantees the right to life to all living beings and yet, the plastic bag issue is not being either monitored or implemented by the state. We have also asked for a better garbage disposal system where there is no interface between animals and plastic.  As the case will unfold over time, many more aspects can be brought to the attention of the Court and the public.
On May 7, 2012, the Supreme Court announced in its first hearing that it may be considering a total ban on plastic bags. This made huge national and international news.
Excerpts from the Economic Times of India
8 May, 2012, 05.10 AM IST, Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN
Plastic bag threat more serious than atom bomb: Supreme Court
NEW DELHI: Excessive use of plastic bags and their unregulated disposal has been choking lakes, ponds and urban sewerage systems, the Supreme Court said on Monday while warning that it posed a threat more serious than the atom bomb for the next generation.
This observation from a bench of Justices GS Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya came on a PIL filed by two Andhra Pradesh-based NGOs drawing the court’s attention to 30-60 kg of plastic bags recovered from the stomachs of cows because of irresponsible disposal of plastic bags and defunct municipal waste collection system.
The court issued notice to the Centre and State Governments on the PIL seeking ban on use of plastic bags in municipal areas which did not have a prompt garbage collection, segregation and disposal system. The NGOs said absence of prompt garbage collection, segregation and disposal system allowed cows to rummage through garbage bins and eat foodstuff disposed of in plastic bags, which get stuck in their stomach.
But the bench wanted to address the larger questions arising from indiscriminate use of plastic bags, which not only posed a grave threat to nature and environment but also to the human race itself. It suggested that the petitioner make the manufacturers and a television channel, which has been running a campaign against use of plastic, parties to the PIL for a wider scrutiny of the important issue.
“All of us are watching how our lakes, ponds and urban sewerage systems are getting choked by plastic bags. We want to expand the scope of this petition. Unless we examine a total ban on plastic bags or put in place a system for manufacturers mandating them to collect back all plastic bags, the next generation will be threatened with something more serious than the atom bomb,” Justices Singhvi and Mukhopadhaya said.
Appearing for NGOs Karuna Society for Animal and Nature and Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals, senior advocate Shyam Divan said the problem was more acute in urban areas where people had a habit of disposing leftover food in plastic bags in municipal bins.
“Apart from the plastic completely choking the digestive system of the cow and causing excruciating pain to the animal, plastic residues enter the human food chain through dairy and animal products,” he added.

The petitioners sought following the directions from the court:
* Prohibit or phase out in a time-bound manner open garbage disposal system and remove open garbage receptacles
* Implement door-to-door garbage collection and prevent animals from moving around garbage storage facilities
* Municipalities must segregate all plastic waste from other waste
* States must issue directions prohibiting use, sale and disposal of plastic bags in all municipal areas
* Provide animal shelters and treat cows and other animals suffering from stomach ache due to ingestion of plastic.

The Plastic Cow Campaign
An outreach effort on National Scale is growing into an organic root level movement
The Plastic Cow Documentary
 The Plastic Cow Documentary, made by Kunal Vohra from Altair films  with inputs from activists, toxicologists, government authorities, householders, students, journalists, etc.
Philip Wollen wrote the following synopsis of the documentary:
The Plastic Cow uncovers the ghastly truth about the impact of plastic waste on the innocent Indian cow, which is now reduced to being a scavenger. The film focuses on the ubiquitous plastic bags, the exemplars of human negligence and waste, which the discarded and hungry cows consume whole for the rotting scraps of food they contain. These plastic bags, which also often contain rusty nails, wires and syringes, clog their stomachs, leading cows to die slow, painful deaths.
This unholy alliance of plastic, carelessness and negligence is not only torturing the Indian cow to death but it has also infected farming communities, rivers, forests and oceans, killing elephants, donkeys, fish, turtles and sea birds.”
The film has been seen by thousands of people in India and all around the world, on You Tube and other social networking platforms and at dozens of film screenings in various parts of the country.
The outreach program
This is envisaged as a focused campaign using the Plastic Cow documentary and intensive interactions at all levels of society – ministries,  municipalities, dairy farms and co-operations, educational institutes, veterinary doctors,  householders, children, animal organizations, women groups, media, religious groups, restaurants, the plastic industry, etc.
We need to expand into an all-India network of “plastic cow campaigners.” We hope that many people will join this campaign in large numbers from different parts of the country, creating “plastic cow chapters.” We want that all citizens of India should join this campaign to assert our sacred duty of respecting the rights of all animals to live and breathe as is their birthright.
What can you do as a campaigner? 
To screen the film is a good starting point everywhere. When people come forward, asking for advise and willing to volunteer, you can brainstorm and share ideas such as the below:
NEVER collect your veg. peelings in a plastic bag with a knot and put them in the garbage.
When you go shopping, bring your own (plastic or cloth) bag, never depend on plastic bags from the seller, REFUSE THE BAGS THAT ARE BANNED, below 40 micron, reuse the plastic bags you already have till they are worn out and then collect them in a separate bag and give them for recycling.
If you are really touched by the film and the suffering of the cow, reconsider your food habits. Nowadays the milk and meat industry are closely connected and there is no more milk without slaughter. Even by being a vegetarian you contribute to the suffering you have just witnessed.
Inform yourself about the health benefits of living as a vegan. It is easy.
A group of volunteers, friends, students, housewives or pensioners can go around in their neighborhood to observe the garbage disposal, the nr of small dairies and the nrs of cattle on the road. Meet with the concerned people and discuss what improvements can be made.  
Inform yourself as a group about the existing municipality laws and Government Orders regarding cattle maintenance, dairies and plastics/garbage disposal. Take the next step from there.
Try to find out where the illegal bags come from. (They are banned everywhere so why are they still produced?)
Professionally, or in the workplace:
When you are a government official in any of these areas, have the courage and voice your opinion, help the volunteers who try to change the situation. The same is for journalists, doctors, veterinarians, health inspectors, and shopkeepers. No effort is too small. Maybe the shopkeepers are a special group to canvass as they always want to satisfy the customer who has no bags with them.
When you have enough data about your area, meet with MLAs and any concerned official and politician and build up a pressure group.
Outside the Cities:
90% of the milk produced is from rural areas and small towns. At present there are 304 million dairy cows in India (live stock census Sept. 2012).
In 2007, there were 14 million farmers, 254 milk co-operations, 177 milk unions, and 1,33,000 village level societies. Now in 2013, the numbers are much higher.
In the rural areas the “Plastic Cow Campaign” might need to have a totally different approach through the women groups, creating awareness about plastics. Many dairy cows are taken out for a few hours grazing but the growing amount of plastic and garbage is affecting them too. 
Rescued and operated cow gives birth

"A Report from Karuna Society"

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hindu Apathy, the Real Enemy

Hindu Apathy, the Real Enemy, Exploited by World Religions
            This is an article by my friend Greesh C. Sharma, Ph.D. that explains ever so clearly how the apathy that Hindus often have toward their own culture, whether to practice it or to stand up in defense of it, is our worst enemy. It has been easily exploited by other world religions, anti-Hindu political parties, and the corrupt land-grabbers, vote-seekers, and temple-takers  all over India. This is a strong article that every Hindu, Dharmist, bhakta, yogi, sadhu, and guru should read and act upon if they ever expect to preserve the Vedic culture for the future generations to come and the well-being of India.
            Hari Om and Hari bol,
            Stephen Knapp

Morrisville PA: The opposite of apathy is action, resilience, determination, direction, pride, and clarity of thinking. One should know one’s place in the scheme of life, and being an important player in the worldly drama. The extremes of apathy are indifference, depression, immobility, paralysis, desperation, abandonment, and brain atrophy. In clinical terms, it is indicative of a serious disease revealing mental disorder or brain damage.

In mental health, the apathetic individual has no energy, talks inaudibly, moves very slowly, is uninvolved, and avoids any interaction. The 1996 edition of Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines apathy as “1. The absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement; and 2. The lack of interest in, or of moving or exciting concern, for things that others find.”

Apathy is not stoicism, spirituality, freedom from emotions, or an effective buffer from negative consequences. It is about living by default, and letting others control your destiny. It is about living in illusions that the ultimate outcome does not matter or that it is merely destiny. Such mindset is contrary to the Bhagavad Gita and the cumulative wisdom of Dharma. It is abandoning everything that should matter whether motherland, culture, identity, family, or one’s future. It is allowing others, regardless of their “motives,” to make decisions for you.

The collective history of any nation offers a good view of the past to figure out one’s national character. However, it works well only if history is written objectively and not driven by politics. In the case of Hindus and Bharatvarsha, history has been written, dictated, edited, and marketed by the Muslims, the British, and the Christians. Additionally, the pseudo secularists, leftists, Maoists, Naxalites, vote-seeking Gandhiites and capitalist/corporate interests have imposed and superimposed their biased views and are currently towing the line for self-serving motives.

Combined with Hindu apathy, passivity and femininity, now you have a repackage of one of the most original and developed civilizations being made by others, for others, paid by Hindus, and sold to the world. It is the holocaust of the Hindu civilization. The corporate world with its deep pockets has taken license to use Hindu religious symbols to market sandals, hamburgers, underwear, and many other mundane items.

            Unfortunately, the reaction from Hindus, if any, has been minimal. The cost of Hindu apathy has been very high in terms of destruction of the places of worship, burning of the libraries, partitioning of the country and now terrorism. Hindus are targeted from Guyana to Fiji, Pakistan to Parsippany, Nepal to Zambia, and everywhere else in between. The sixty-million-rupee question is: What is it about Hindus that apathy has become synonymous with the Indian national character? The international stereotype is that Hindus are submissive, acquiescent, yielding, consenting, compliant, and tolerant. These perceptions have given rise to exploitation by international organizations, many nations, missionaries, criminals, hustlers as well as politicians - domestic and international. Hindu apathy is unique as it has no parallel. Compare it with Sikhs, Islam, Christian, British, Japanese, Israel, even Pakistan, but only Hindu apathy wins the distinction.

            It is a serious endeavor to search, explore, and attempt to answer the question of incurable, pervasive, endless apathy among Hindus. Koh Nrapti Hoi Hame ka hani has not changed since the times of the Islamic marauders campaign of raping, burning, looting, and destroying Indian places of worship and the British massacre in Jalian Wala Bagh, not to mention the ongoing Chinese and Pakistani claim on Indian territory. What is amazing that so many Indian movements, religious, philosophical, social reforms, called by leaders and swamis, have come and gone but without being able to make even a small dent in the apathy of Hindus. If fear is the root cause then what is happening to the Hindu nation is what they have asked for.

Psychologically speaking, we behave according to our thinking which is a combination of concepts, values, and beliefs. A Hindu wakes up praying for the well being of the entire creation, practices non-injury, believes that all religions are as good as his or her own, and defines the entire world as one big family. Ironically other religions believe in violence, converting, jihad, calling Hindus as non-believers, and deserving death, or being saved. As a result, Hindus, because of their deep-rooted vocabulary and concepts, fail to confront the reality, adversity and danger. Apathy, thus, has become the modus operandi to avoid change, deny any feelings, and live in confusion. Hindu culture, unlike Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, promotes infantilism or inexpressiveness, femininity, and dependence. In other words, the non-Hindus become men, soldiers, masculine, independent, and confrontational. Let us accept that we are in a war of irreconcilable concepts and beliefs, and the losers are Hindus [if we should continue in this way]."

[This article and more information at  www.stephen-knapp.com]

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Seva Unites All - Words with million smiles

‘SEVA UNITES ALL': Industrialists Azim Premji, GM Rao, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat at Rashtriya Seva Sangam, New Delhi

Date posted: April 5, 2015 | Short URL: http://samvada.org/?p=25712 | Share: Facebook Twitter
New Delhi April 05: India’s most noted Industrialists from Bengaluru, Azim Premji of Wipro, Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao of GMR group attended the second day proceedings of 3-day ‘Rashtriya Seva Sangam’, along with RSS Sarasanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat at New Delhi on Sunday.
Full text Speech by AZIM PREMJI  given below: RSS Sarasanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat speaks at Rashtriya Seva Sangam, New Delhi
RSS Sarasanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat speaks at Rashtriya Seva Sangam, New Delhi
Wipro Chief Azim Premji  speaks at Rashtriya Seva Sangam, New Delhi
Wipro Chief Azim Premji speaks at Rashtriya Seva Sangam, New Delhi
Full Text of Speech of Azim Premji at Rashtriya Sewa Sangam :
Ladies and Gentlemen, Namaste
Everyone present at this meeting is present here because we all share a belief that we must work together for a better India. I understand that most of you here today are already working towards translating this belief into a reality with your hard work in the field, and that many of you have dedicated your entire life to this cause.

It is a great privilege to be invited to speak on this occasion and a pleasure to be here amongst people who are not only dreaming of a better India, but are actually dedicating their lives to it.
I must share with you how I happen to be here with you today. It was Mohan Bhagwatji who honored me by inviting me to speak on this occasion. However, some people expressed apprehension about my participating in this function.
They felt that by addressing a forum like this I would be seen as endorsing the ideology of the Sangha.
I did not follow their advice because:
Firstly, I am not a political person. I am however deeply interested in and concerned about my country. So I see no issue in speaking at an occasion where people have gathered to discuss how to contribute to the country. Also, I believe that merely speaking at a particular forum does not in any way mean that one endorses all, or any, of the views that might be expressed at the forum, or which may be held by the organizers.

Secondly, while I myself may not know many of you here, some of my colleagues do know some of you and, more importantly are acquainted with the good work being done by many present here for the genuine betterment of our country, and I did not want to miss this opportunity of speaking with you.

Thirdly and most importantly, after having met Mohanji, I realized how many people like you all over India, were dedicating their lives to the genuine upliftment of our country, with deep commitment to their work. And I thought, all those working towards a better India, should attempt to join hands where they can. And if there are differences of views or divergence of ideas they can only be resolved through discussion and dialogue. That is why I am here with you today at this very large gathering of dedicated people. When I speak of a better India, I visualize the India envisioned in our
Constitution, an India which is just, equitable, humane and sustainable. Such an India must be not only economically strong to be able to provide to all its citizens with shelter, nutrition, access to basic health and education, but at the same time it must be an India with great heart, which treats all living entities – human beings and nature – with care and compassion. If we are to become a great country, and realize the vision of our constitution, we need to work on many fronts. Let me refer to just some of these issues.

We must improve our governance and battle corruption at every level so we can release our energy for the betterment of our country and the world. We must make our country safe for our citizens and especially for our women, our children and the disadvantaged sections. We must work towards providing shelter to those who live in abject poverty, and ensure that every one gets a decent meal, access to healthcare and good Education.

We must act on these and many other fronts if we are to fulfill our own aspirations of a good society and as a nation become an important and meaningful member of the global society.
I believe that one of the foremost areas we need to address is Education.

When I first decided to set up a foundation, I considered many areas that needed urgent redressal in our country- livelihoods, health, education and environment amongst others. After much deliberation, I decided upon Education as a priority because I believe that a well educated population will be empowered to take care of its other problems such as livelihood, health, sustainability etc. Since Education is my area of interest, I hope you will not mind my talking a little more about it.

Our Education system needs a great deal of improvement, not only in ensuring that all our children, especially from the deprived section are in school, but much more importantly in the quality of Education. We know that Education is most fundamentally empowering for any human being and thereby for the nation. Unfortunately at this point our Education system is not delivering as it should. Let me briefly touch upon what I think is good Education. In my view, and as reflected in several National Policy documents and curricular goals, good Education is that which enables the growth and development of the child in multiple dimensions, such that she is able to fulfill
and expand her potential and become an active, contributing and concerned citizen of our country and the world. These multiple dimensions of development of the child include not just the cognitive, but also the physical, social, emotional and ethical development of each child. And this must happen in an integrated manner.

Good Education is not about rote memorization and getting good grades, it’s about ability to think critically, to question, and to develop the individual’s autonomy. Good Education is about developing good human beings, who are empowered to make informed and ethical decisions, and who grow into responsible and caring citizens. And most importantly, good Education is that which in its totality enables the development of our country, as envisioned in our Constitution.

There is a tremendous need for improvement in both our school and higher Education sectors. We at the Azim Premji Foundation decided to work single mindedly in the area of school Education, in which we have now been engaged for 15 years. Our focus has been totally on helping to improve the quality of education in the government schooling system. We chose this path because the mandate of government schooling, or the public education system as it is called is to serve children from all sections and all sectors of society including the underprivileged without any discrimination, a clear mandate to serve the most disadvantaged sections of our society. Our work, currently in the states of Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Bihar, which have over 350,000 schools, work is entirely focused on helping improve the States’ schooling systems, especially in the disadvantaged districts of these states.

In 2010, after ten years of experience of working in the field, we realized that a major problem was the great dearth of good Educational professionals in the field, decided to establish the not-for-profit Azim Premji University, for educating professionals, experts in the field Education and other human Development areas, who would be committed to working in the social sector.

Based on our work in school education, let me share with you a few points that strike me as pivotal in improving our public school system: First, all of us including the Government, needs to strongly and visibly reaffirm the importance of quality public Education, because public Education is foundational to democracy. It helps break down social and economic inequalities and helps build an egalitarian, inclusive society. We see that even the most economically advanced nations invest and develop a strong public Education system as they realize its critical value to society and democracy.

Our aim should not be to create a parallel system of private schools, but to revamp and enable the vast existing public system which today reaches almost every village in our country. It is imperative that we revitalize this system. Second, the problem is while we have many excellent policies and intentions, our execution on the ground has been very weak. We must focus on execution and implementation on the ground.

Third, improving the entire Education system is only possible if we carry all stakeholders with us. This means that not only must all the states be committed and its institutions involved, but most importantly that our millions of Teachers be motivated to change.

We must recognize the critical role of Teachers and make them partners in the change. This will only happen if we value our Teachers, give them adequate voice, empower them and acknowledge the importance of their role. Like any other area of work, some of our existing Teachers are highly capable and committed, while some are disengaged. However most teachers are like the average human being, like you and me, who, with the right education, adequate support and an empowering environment, can become the back bone of our efforts to improve education.

Fourth, improving the Teacher Education system, including the B. Ed., D.Ed. colleges is crucial if we want to develop good teachers. Unfortunately many of our 16000 odd Teacher colleges are more of commercial institutes with no real interest in Education. These are often owned by powerful people who resist attempts at change. So, reforming the system will be a daunting challenge which will take political will, commitment and courage. But unless we do this, our school Education will not improve for a long long time. Fifth, we must make sustained and systematic efforts to develop the capacity of existing teachers by providing comprehensive on the ground support in multiple ways, including opportunities and mechanisms for peer learning. This will require revamping our Cluster and Block Resource Centers as well as our 600 odd existing District Institutes of Educational Training (DIETs) which can then take the lead in addressing the multiple needs of school Education, including capacity development of Teachers.

Sixth, it is also most important to improve early childhood care for our preschool children to ensure they receive proper nutrition and early Education, as this foundation is crucial for the healthy, all round development of the child.

At present we have a 13 lakh strong network of Anganwadis which we must invest in and improve to ensure a sound foundation. Lastly, to make all this happen we will have to significantly increase public investment in Education which at present is woefully inadequate. Illustratively, our public expenditure for school Education is only 2.8% of our GDP, while that of other developing countries is over 3.5% and developed countries which have good Education systems 5% to 6% of GDP. This calls for political will and prioritization.

The issues I have raised are not the only ones in Education, but I do think they are some of the most important ones. If we want our Education to fundamentally improve, we will have to seriously take up the above challenges. If we really want to fulfill this huge agenda we will all have to work together, as such an agenda will require not only very strong political will but an enormous amount of commitment – “tann, mann and dhan”. Dedicated workers like you will need to take on ownership for those aspects of the agenda which find resonance in your own work, and also influence public discourse on these issues. Given the importance of good Education to every individual and to the
overall society, I am sure that many of you must be already engaged in working in many of these areas. I want to reiterate that we as a Foundation, are deeply committed to improving the public school system. I think that all players in the Education arena need to work together towards developing a robust, vibrant, high quality and inclusive Public Education System.

As I come to a close, let me leave you with a few thoughts. One, for me Values are very important. I have learnt that this is true for small actions as well as big ones, for what we are, is revealed not in big things but in the little things we do. I believe there is nothing more important than Integrity. Building a culture of integrity in an organization is about trying to be consistently straightforward in all actions and words with all people, including in our own daily interactions and commitments. Two, the test of our social commitment and humanity is how we treat the most powerless of our fellow citizens, the respect we accord to our fellow human beings. That is what reveals our true culture. Three, as a great pluralistic nation we must accept our differences. It is vital that we accept them and find a common ground to work together. Negative people only focus on differences. How empowering it would be for us as a nation if we focus on common causes. Instead of dissipating our energy on dissonance and discord, imagine all 125 crore Indians working together to battle our greatest common challenges – poverty, inequality, ignorance, disease – what a great country we could be!

I would like to thank you once again and to reiterate what an honour it has been for me to be able to address so many good people doing so much good work with such great social purpose. You indeed form a part of vibrant civilsociety of India, so essential in any great nation. Let us hope that our country awakens, and that we all together bring to reality the great India envisioned in our constitution.
Thank you and Jai Hind
– Azim Premji, New Delhi April 05, 2015

Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao of GMR group, speaks at Rashtriya Seva Sangam, New Delhi.
Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao of GMR group, speaks at Rashtriya Seva Sangam, New Delhi.
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