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CELEBRATiNG 18TH YEAR OF PUBLICATION

JANUARY 2021

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Editor: Neeraj Nanda I M: 0421 677 082 I Add: PO Box 465, Brentford Square, Victoria 3131

India 2020: The year that was… .......Read on page 9

Virat Kohli gets ‘ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade’ Award .......Read on page 15

HINDI IN AUSTRALIA .......Read on page 6

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South Asia Times

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EDITORIAL page

Contribution of Covid-19?

By NS Venkataraman*

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JANUARY 2021

t is reported that in a normal year, around 55 million people die in the world. It is now reported that in the year 2020, around 1.8 million people have died in the world due to Covid-19 alone. This means that compared to the normal year, around 3.3 % of people have died due to Covid-19 in 2020. Amongst the people who died due to Covid-19, a very significant percentage of the people were elderly citizens, many of whom could have been suffering from age related diseases or what is known as morbidity conditions. In other words, it is possible that amongst the people who lost their lives due to Covid-19 in 2020, more than 50% of them could have died even otherwise due to frail physical conditions. These figures are indicated not to belittle the harm done to world health by Covid-19, but only to point out the way that it would influence the thought process of the people in 2021, with significant impact in the psychic conditions of men and women in all age groups all over the world. In normal times, when some near and dear ones die, people would feel sad and depressed for some time and then resume their normal activities, though in most cases , the thoughts of the dear and near ones would stay in the mind during the rest of their lives. But, generally, it does not impact the lifestyle of the surviving people in most cases. But,

In 2021, the next thought that would come is the realization gaining uppermost in the mind of people that death is inevitable and is a law of nature, that would make one wonder where one would go after death and where they came from into the world. The conscience of birth and death is likely to occur too frequently in the thought process of people after the year 2020, as people have experienced the death warnings almost every day due to Covid-19 crisis. the deaths due to Covid-19 are likely to provoke different kinds of thoughts amongst people in the year 2021. During 2020, everyone was afraid whether they could also be victims of Covid-19. When some unknown person dies due to Covid-19 at a distant place and the news is read in the media, people

shivered whether they too could be near such a tragedy anytime soon. In 2021, the next thought that would come is the realization gaining uppermost in the mind of people that death is inevitable and is a law of nature, that would make one wonder where one would go after death and where they came from into the world. The conscience of birth and death is likely to occur too frequently in the thought process of people after the year 2020, as people have experienced the death warnings almost every day due to Covid-19 crisis. Whether one would admit it or not, in the year 2021, people would start searching for answers about the origin and end of life, more than ever before in the recent history of mankind. Inevitably, people would seek explanation from the religious scriptures and the so called philosophers and claimed spiritual teachers. Does anyone really know and does any religion convincingly explain the concept of death and birth? Such lack of clarity would create a sense of discomfort and restlessness amongst the cross section of people. It appears that most of the religions and spiritual teachers explain the events of birth and death ,with the explanation that nothing could be created without a creator and therefore, there should be God, overseeing birth, death and world activities. Consequently, people hear stories about miracles , life after death etc.

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without really knowing what it is all about. All religions and spiritual teachers and philosophers simply say that one should not question this concept of God and the religion advises people to simply accept the concept and further conveniently say that the human mind is incapable of thinking beyond this. Thus come the advocacies towards meditation, prayer, devotion etc. In 2021, it is likely that the thought process on “future after human life” would receive much attention, which would be the ultimate contribution of Covid-19. t is more than likely that with the development of vaccines, researchers would come out with medical treatment to safeguard the health of the people. The fear of Covid-19 will go away slowly and steadily in 2021 due to the efforts of the medical researchers. Covid-19 will gradually become a distant memory, but the fear of death that it created in every individual would take a long time to recede away and the introspection of future course after death would persist. While everyone look forward to 2021 with hope of a better year, certainly a better time will emerge in 2021. With the onset of year 2021, a more matured mindset towards the concept of life and its purpose and uncertainties amongst individuals may also happen. —*Trustee, Nandini Voice for The Deprived, Chennai Source- counterview.net


JANUARY 2021

PANDAMIC NEWS

South Asia Times

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SARS-CoV-2 Variants S

ARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has had a major impact on human health globally; infecting a large number of people; causing severe disease and associated long-term health sequelae; resulting in death and excess mortality, especially among older and vulnerable populations; interrupting routine healthcare services; disruptions to travel, trade, education and many other societal functions; and more broadly having a negative impact on peoples physical and mental health. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO has received several reports of unusual public health events possibly due to variants of SARS-CoV-2. WHO routinely assesses if variants of SARS-CoV-2 result in changes in transmissibility, clinical presentation and severity, or if they impact on countermeasures, including diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. Previous reports of the D614G mutation and the recent reports of virus variants from the Kingdom of Denmark, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Republic of South Africa have raised interest and concern in the impact of viral changes. A variant of SARS-CoV-2 with a D614G substitution in the gene encoding the spike protein emerged in late January or early February 2020. Over a period of several months, the D614G mutation replaced the initial SARS-CoV-2 strain identified in China and by June 2020 became the dominant form of the virus circulating globally. Studies in human respiratory cells and in animal models demonstrated that compared to the initial virus strain, the strain with the D614G substitution has increased infectivity and transmission. The SARSCoV-2 virus with the D614G substitution does not cause more severe illness or alter the effectiveness of existing laboratory diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, or public health preventive measures. In August and September 2020, a SARS-CoV-2 variant linked to infection among farmed mink and subsequently transmitted to humans, was identified in North Jutland, Denmark. The variant, referred to as the “Cluster 5” variant by Danish authorities, has a combination of mutations not previously observed. Due preliminary studies conducted in Denmark, there is concern that this variant has may result in reduced virus neutralization in humans, which could potentially

decrease the extend and duration of immune protection following natural infection or vaccination. Studies are ongoing to assess virus neutralization among humans with this variant. To date, following extensive investigation and surveillance, Danish authorities have identified only 12 human cases of the Cluster 5 variant in September 2020, and it does not appear to have spread widely. On 14 December 2020, authorities of the United Kingdom reported to WHO a variant referred to by the United Kingdom as SARSCoV-2 VOC 202012/01 (Variant of Concern, year 2020, month 12, variant 01). This variant contains 23 nucleotide substitutions and is not phylogenetically related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus circulating in the United Kingdom at the time the variant was detected. How and where SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 originated is unclear. SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 initially appeared in South East England but within a few weeks began to replace other virus lineages in this geographic area and London. As of 26 December 2020, SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 has been identified from routine sampling and genomic testing conducted across the United Kingdom . Preliminary epidemiologic, modelling, phylogenetic and clinical findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 has increased transmissibility. However, preliminary analyses also indicate that there is no change in disease severity (as measured by length of hospitalization and 28-day case fatality), or occurrence of reinfection between variant cases compared to other SARSCoV-2 viruses circulating in the United Kingdom.1 Another of the mutations in the VOC 202012/01 variant, the deletion at position 69/70del was found to affect the performance of some diagnostic PCR assays with an S gene target.

Most PCR assays in use worldwide will use multiple targets and therefore the impact of the variant on diagnostics is not anticipated to be significant. Laboratory evaluation has demonstrated no significant impact on the performance of antigen-based lateral flow devices. As of 30 December, VOC-202012/01 variant has been reported in 31 other countries/territories/ areas in five of the six WHO regions. On 18 December, national authorities in South Africa announced the detection of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 that is rapidly spreading in three provinces of South Africa. South Africa has named this variant 501Y.V2, because of a N501Y mutation. While SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 from the UK also has the N501Y mutation, phylogenetic analysis has shown that 501Y. V2 from South Africa are

different virus variants. In the week beginning 16 November, routine sequencing by South African health authorities found that this new SARSCoV-2 variant has largely replaced other SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. While genomic data highlighted that the 501. V2 variant rapidly displaced other lineages circulating in South Africa, and preliminary studies suggest the variant is associated with a higher viral load, which may suggest potential for increased transmissibility, this, as well as other factors that influence transmissibility, are subject of further investigation. Moreover, at this stage, there is no clear evidence of the new variant being associated with more severe disease or worse outcomes. Further investigations are needed to understand the impact on transmission, clinical severity of infection, laboratory diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, or public health preventive measures. As of 30 December, the 501Y.V2 variant from South Africa has been reported from four other countries to date. Public health response The authorities in the affected countries are conducting epidemiological and virological investigations to further assess the transmissibility, severity, risk of reinfection and antibody response to new variants. As one of the mutations (N501Y) – found in both the SARS-

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CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 and 501Y.V2 variants – is in the receptor binding domain, the authorities are investigating the neutralization activity of sera from recovered and vaccinated patients against these variants to determine if there is any impact on vaccine performance. These studies are ongoing. Genomic data of the SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 and 501Y.V2 variants has been shared by the national authorities and uploaded to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) and genomic surveillance of the virus continues, globally. The following activities have been initiated: National authorities that have reported virus variants are undertaking intensified sampling to understand how widely these new variants are circulating. National scientific teams are studying the effect of the mutations on reinfection potential, vaccination, diagnostic testing, infectionseverity and transmissibility. Researchers and government authorities are working with WHO and collaborating with members of the WHO SARS-CoV-2 virus evolution working group to assess epidemiologic, modelling, phylogenetic and laboratory findings as results become available. WHO is working with countries to identify how current surveillance systems can be strengthened or adapted to evaluate CONTD. ON PG 04


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PANDAMIC NEWS

South Asia Times

JANUARY 2021

SARS-CoV-2 Variants... CONTD. FROM PG 03 potential virus variations through ongoing systematic clinical and epidemiologic surveillance, establishment of genetic sequencing capacity where possible, and providing access to international sequencing services to send samples for sequencing and phylogenetic analysis. Risk communication and community engagement activities scaled up to explain the public health implications of SARS-CoV-2 variants to the public and emphasize the importance of maintaining ongoing preventive measures to reduce transmission such as wearing face coverings, practicing hand hygiene and cough etiquette, keeping physical distance, ensuring good ventilation and avoiding crowded places. As part of WHO’s SARSCoV-2 global laboratory network, which has monitored virus mutations from the start of the pandemic, a specific working group on virus evolution was established in June 2020, composed of experts in sequencing, bioinformatics, and in vivo and in vitro laboratory studies. The Virus Evolution Working Group works to 1) strengthen mechanisms to identify and prioritize (potentially) relevant mutations; 2) identify relevant mutations early and study the potential impacts related to viral characteristics (e.g. virulence, transmission) and effectiveness of available and future countermeasures (e.g. diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics); 3) evaluate possible mitigation strategies to reduce the negative impact of mutations; and 4) study the impact of specific mutations, including laboratorycontrolled in vitro and in vivo studies of variants. Sharing of full genome sequences is facilitating detailed analyses by partners. The Working Group is collaborating with international scientists with a broad scope of expertise in virology in general and coronaviruses specifically to better understand the research findings and support further studies. WHO risk assessment All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, change over time, most without a direct benefit to the virus in terms of increasing its infectiousness or transmissibility, and sometimes limiting propagation (see Q&A on COVID-19 and related health topics ). The potential for virus mutation increases with the frequency of human and animal infections. Therefore, reducing transmission of SARSCoV-2 by using established disease control methods as well as avoiding introductions

to animal populations, are critical aspects to the global strategy to reduce the occurrence of mutations that have negative public health implications. Preliminary data suggest that the growth rate and effective reproductive number is elevated in areas of the United Kingdom with community circulation of the novel variant VOC-202012/01. In South Africa, genomic data highlighted that the 501Y. V2 variant rapidly displaced other lineages circulating, and preliminary studies suggest the variant is associated with a higher viral load, which may suggest potential for increased transmissibility; however, this, as well as other factors that influence transmissibility, are subject of further investigation. Epidemiologic investigations are underway to understand the increase in cases in these communities and the potential role of increased transmissibility of these variants as well as the robustness of implementation of control measures. While initial assessment suggests that 202012/01 and 501Y.V2 do not cause changes in clinical presentation or severity, if they result in a higher case incidence, this would lead to an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. More intensive public health measures may be required to control transmission of these variants. Further investigations are required to understand the impact of specific mutations on viral properties and the effectiveness of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. These investigations are complex and require time and collaboration among different research groups. These studies are ongoing. WHO advice National and local authorities should continue to strengthen existing disease control activities,

including monitoring their epidemics closely through ongoing epidemiological surveillance and strategic testing; conducting outbreak investigation and contact tracing; and where appropriate, adjusting public health and social measures to reduce transmission of SARSCoV-2. WHO further advises countries, where feasible, to increase routine systematic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 viruses to better understand SARS-CoV-2 transmission and to monitor for the emergence of variants. Sequence data should be shared internationally through publicly accessible databases. In countries with sequencing capacity, WHO advises sequencing of isolates from a systematically selected subset of SARS-CoV-2 infections – the amount will depend on local capacities. Genetic sequencing should also be considered as part of investigations of unusual transmission events (e.g. increased transmission in spite of existing control measures) or unexpected disease presentation/severity. Where limited sequencing capacity exists, countries are encouraged to increase capacity in collaboration with public, academic and private sequencing laboratories, and may arrange sequencing at collaborating laboratories in the COVID-19 reference laboratory network. While mutations of SARSCoV-2 are expected, it is important to continue to monitor the public health implications of new virus variants. Any increased in transmissibility associated with SARS-CoV-2 variants could make control more difficult. Current disease control measures recommended by WHO continue to be effective and should be adapted in response to increasing disease incidence, whether associated with a new variant or not.

Prevention advice and communications for the public should be further strengthened, including precautions to protect yourself and others such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue. Moreover, infection prevention and control guidance and measures should reinforced, including: Use appropriate personal protective equipment when caring for people suffering from an acute respiratory illness; Practice frequent handwashing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment Practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands) Enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in hospitals, especially in emergency departments Wear masks where appropriate, ensure good ventilation where possible and avoid crowded places WHO has recently published an interim guidance – "Considerations for implementing a risk-based approach to international travel in the context of COVID-19", recommending the following principles for international travelers in the context of COVID-19 Pandemic: Confirmed, probable and suspected cases, and contacts of confirmed or probable cases should not travel. Persons with any sign or symptom compatible with COVID-19 should not travel, unless COVID-19 diagnostic testing has been conducted and SARS-CoV-2 infection has been ruled out as the cause for illness Persons who are unwell should be advised to postpone travel Persons at risk of developing severe disease from COVID-19, including people 60 years of age or older or those with comorbidities that present increased risk of severe COVID-19 (e.g. heart disease, cancer and diabetes) should be advised to postpone travel Depending on local restrictions, persons residing in areas where communitywide movement restrictions are in place should not be allowed to travel for nonessential purposes In case of symptoms suggestive of acute respiratory illness either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider

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Health authorities should work with travel, transport and tourism sectors to provide travelers, including to and from the countries affected by the new variants, with aforementioned information, via travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at points of entry, as well as communities adjacent to land borders with affected countries. The interim guidance also provides countries with a risk-based approach to decision-making, calibrating travel-related risk mitigation measures in the context of international travel, aiming at reducing travel-associated exportation, importation and onward transmission of SARS-CoV-2 while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic. Some countries have recently introduced travel restrictions as a precautionary measure in response to the appearance of new variants. WHO recommends that all countries take a riskbased approach for adjusting measures in the context of international travel, which includes assessing local transmission, health services capacity, what is known about the level of transmissibility of specific variants; social and economic impact of restrictions; and adherence to public health and social measures. National authorities are encouraged to publish their risk assessment methodology and the list of departure countries or areas to which restrictions apply; and these should be updated regularly. In line with the advice provided by the Emergency Committee on COVID-19 at its most recent meeting, WHO recommends that States Parties should regularly reconsider measures applied to international travel in compliance with Article 43 of the International Health Regulations (2005) and continue to provide information and rationale to WHO on measures that significantly interfere with international traffic. Countries should also ensure that measures affecting international traffic are riskbased, evidence-based, coherent, proportionate and time limited. In all circumstances, essential travel (e.g., emergency responders; providers of public health technical support; critical personnel in transport and security sector such as seafarers; repatriations; and cargo transport for essential supplies such as food, medicines and fuel) identified by countries should always be prioritized and facilitated. Source-WHO, 31 December 2020.


Community

JANUARY 2021

South Asia Times

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213 Victorians including 5 police officers lives cut short on roads in 2020 By SAT News Desk

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ELBOURNE, 1 January 2021: 213 lives were tragically cut short on Victorian roads in 2020. Sadly, five of them were Victoria Police officers. The provisional lives lost figure for 2020 sits at the same number of deaths that occurred in 2018, which was the lowest on record for Victoria. A Victoria Police media release says, “Excessive and inappropriate speed, as well as impaired driving, continued to play a significant role in road trauma. More than 34 per cent of fatal collisions in 2020 suspected speed to be a contributing factor. Throughout the year drugs were also alleged to be a contributing factor in more than 32 per cent of fatal collisions.” “Victoria Police continues to urge drivers to take things back to basics so everyone reaches their destinations safely. During the coronavirus restrictions, Victoria experienced an increase in lives lost and collisions per 10,000 vehicles on the road. Intelligence showed there was also an increase in incidents that involved speeds in excess

of 145km an hour, the media release says. Meanwhile, the Operation Roadwise continues to run across the state until 6 January 2021, where more than 10,000 traffic offences and 940 crime offences have been detected to date. Assistant Commissioner Libby Murphy says, “While we need to acknowledge the great work every Victorian has done to reduce road trauma in recent years, we need to remember that we’re talking about people whose lives have been tragically cut short and families who have lost loved ones. This year has been a challenging year for all Victorians. That said, we cannot become complacent about our behaviour on the road. Every single road user has a choice to make when they start their journey. That means slowing down, avoiding distractions such as using mobile phones while driving, buckling up and stopping for appropriate rest breaks when travelling long distances. If getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, it is essential you do not drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Too many people think road trauma only happens to other people, but it can happen to you or someone

Southern – 32 deaths in 2020, compared to 42 in 2019 – five-year average is 39.0 North West Metro – 32 deaths in 2020, compared to 47 in 2019 – five-year average is 49.8 (Figures provisional)

you know, so we all need to take care and look after each other.” An analysis of the lives lost provisional figures in 2020 shows: OVERALL The 213 lives lost resulted from 197 fatal collisions. Single fatality collisions decreased to 113 compared to 144 in 2019. There were 13 double fatality collisions, no triple fatality collisions and one quadruple fatality collision. There were 126 deaths in country Victoria 87 lives have been lost on metropolitan roads TYPE OF ROAD USER Drivers – 106 lives lost, the five-year average is 123 lives lost Motorcyclists - 33 lives

lost, five-year average is 40.4 lives lost Passengers – 31 lives lost, five-year average is 43.4 lives lost Pedestrians – 29 lives lost, five-year average is 37.8 lives lost Cyclists – 13 lives lost, fiveyear average is 9.6 lives lost Other – 1 life lost, five-year average is 1 life lost DEMOGRAPHICS Males accounted for 76 per cent of the lives lost (162 people). REGIONAL FATALITIES Eastern – 75 deaths in 2020, compared to 78 in 2019 – five-year average is 88.8 Western – 74 deaths in 2020, compared to 99 in 2019 – five-year average is 78.4

Victorian Lives Lost 2020 – 213 2019 – 266 2018 - 213 2017 - 259 2016 - 290 2015 - 252 2014 - 248 2013 - 243 2012 – 282 2011 – 287 2010 – 288 2009 – 290 2008 – 303 2007 – 332 2006 – 337 2005 – 346 2004 – 343 2003 – 330 2002 – 397 2001 – 444 2000 – 407 1999 – 383 1998 – 390 1997 – 377 1996 – 417 1995 – 418 1994 – 378 1993 – 436 1992 – 396 1991 – 503 1990 – 548

75 celebration events planned in Victoria to mark India’s 75th Independence Day in 2021 By SAT News Desk

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ELBOURNE, 9 November 2020: The Indian government has decided to celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day in 2021 in Australia in a big way. Plans are being sketched out and communities across Australia in all states are likely to be

involved. This information came out during a community consultation at the Indian Consulate, Melbourne on 8 November 2020. Talking to community members Mr. Raj Kumar, Counsel General in Melbourne, said the community is being invited to send proposals to organize 75 events on weekends throughout the next

year beginning August 2021. The Consulate will assist to chart out a plan in this regard. The programs, he said, should be in a celebration mode as cultural, social, or other and done by community individuals or organizations. These events should be to celebrate this big anniversary and should not be religious or political,

he said. There were a few proposals including from Mr. Vikrant Kishore to organize a film festival with support from Deakin University and a celebration cricket match at the MCG from SAT Editor Neeraj Nanda and a laser show among others. Much more will soon be known about the events.

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COMMUNITY

South Asia Times

JANUARY 2021

HINDI IN AUSTRALIA The La Trobe University’s decision to drop Hindi from its teaching attracted massive outrage from the community. A massive signature campaign urged the University to drop the idea as it cited lack of funds and falling student numbers as its reason to drop Hindi. The Hindi Action Group lobbied to politicians and others to save the language being dropped. Meanwhile, the university has postponed the final decision in the matter till January end 2021. Below is an article by two Australian academics on the subject. - SAT Editor

6 unis had Hindi programs. Soon there could be only 1, and that’s not in Australia’s best interests By Christopher L. Diamond*& Trent Brown**

Cultivating culturally literate Indian-Australian and non-Indian-Australian speakers of Hindi depends on providing a learning environment that is found only in university classrooms. La Trobe’s proposal, by halving the national university-level Hindi teaching capacity, would also undermine our capacity for building human connections between India and Australia.

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a Trobe University is in talks to discontinue its Hindi program, along with Greek and Indonesian. In the mid-1990s, six Australian universities taught Hindi. If La Trobe ends its program, Australia will be left with just one university (ANU in Canberra) that teaches Hindi. This would be a significant setback for Hindi in Australia. The decision reflects a COVID-induced budget crunch at La Trobe, but also a long-term decline in the study of Asian languages in Australia. Good relations with India are vital Hindi’s decline may seem strange, since it’s the official language of India, with more than half-a-billion speakers. Australians have a growing interest in India and connections between Australian and Indian universities are increasing. Given the current tensions with China, Australia’s relationship with India – and other large Asian nations – has never been more important. Even before the feud with China, the benefits of improving the Australia-India relationship were widely acknowledged. Australia and India have converging geostrategic interests. There is tremendous potential for mutual benefit by enhancing economic, social and cultural ties. Here in Australia, the Indian diaspora is large, numbering around 660,000, and growing fast. In the 2016 census, Hindi was among the fastestgrowing languages in Australia. A closely related language, Punjabi, was the fastest-growing. Community enthusiasm for Hindi is reflected in more than 2,400 community members signing a petition to save the La Trobe program. Language helps bridge diplomatic gaps In 2018, University of Queensland chancellor Peter Varghese, a former senior diplomat and public servant, released his governmentcommissioned India Economic Strategy to 2035.

This report sought to guide Australia’s engagement with India for years to come. Varghese noted Australia has struggled to match its enthusiasm for India with substantive engagement. Efforts to establish connections often fall short due to failures of mutual understanding. The report argues “peopleto-people” links between Australia and India will be as important as political linkages. They will help shape perceptions and foster mutual understanding in ways political delegations could never do. Varghese was not alone. The Victoria government’s 2019 India Strategy made its first priority to “celebrate and strengthen our personal connections”. Most recently, the 2020 joint statement on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between

Australia and India, signed by their prime ministers, Scott Morrison and Narendra Modi, gives people-to-people connections a prominent place in “enriching all aspects of bilateral ties”. Government talk of “people-to-people connection” has not been followed up with support for this goal. In particular, support for language programs has languished. Classes foster peopleto-people connections Language education cultivates people-to-people connections. These personal connections start from the very first day of a language class. Hindi classrooms in Australia have immediate positive effects for Australian students and society. Students are immersed in a complex of perspectives that reflect life in all parts of South

Asia and in global diaspora communities. Hindi language teachers capitalise on the bicultural experiences of students with South Asian heritage. These students are already experts in negotiating a relationship between Indian and Australian cultures. These skills make our students the best ambassadors for Australia in the “nooks” of Indian life that evade official state actors. Equal contributors to our classrooms are nonheritage students who enrol in tertiary-level Hindi courses because of their personal interest in South Asia. Together, heritage and non-heritage students negotiate learning Hindi and understanding Indian culture. They form lasting friendships that deepen the ways in which Australians of many different backgrounds understand each other.

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A blow to the local Hindi ecosystem University-level Hindi programs form part of larger language ecosystems. They depend on thriving primary and high school programs. This ensures a supply of Hindi students and educators at all levels. In Melbourne, a Hindi language ecosystem was just starting to take root. Two schools, Rangebrook Primary and The Grange College, now offer Hindi as their main language other than English. A number of energetic informal networks and societies focus on Hindi language and literature. La Trobe’s Hindi conferences and events have been an important focal point for these groups over a number of years. The loss of the La Trobe program is thus not only a blow to students wishing to study Hindi at a university level, but also to this entire emerging Hindi language ecosystem. While dynamic and engaging curriculums are needed to ensure sustainable Hindi programs at Australian universities, they are not enough on their own. There must also be sustained government support for establishing Hindi ecosystems in clusters around these universities. One of us made this point in a co-authored policy brief published in 2018. It echoes commentary by others on the decline of Hindi education in Australia since the mid-1990s. Current events in Australia and in the Indo-Pacific should make it clear why we need to reverse this trend. Source- The Conversation, December 3, 2020 (Under Creative Commons Licence) * Lecturer in Hindi, Australian National University ** DECRA Research Fellow, School of Geography, University of Melbourne


QUICK REVIEW

JANUARY 2021

South Asia Times

7

AK vs AK (Netflix)

AK vs AK; Director Vikramaditya Motwane; Produced by Deepa Motwane; Written by Anurag Kashyap, Avinash Sampath & Vikramaditya Motwane; Music by Alokananda Dasgupta; Starring Anil Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap, Yogita Bihani, Boney Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Harshwardhan Kapoor and others.

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ELBOURNE, 29 December 2020: I never thought I would see such a 108 minutes Netflix stuff on a less-cold, but boring evening. In fact, initially AK seemed to me probably AK-47, but it turned out AK vs. AK as a rather real-life docu-confusion laced with an experiential filmi potpourri. The insides of the much maligned Mumbai movie industry come to the fore with realistic sniping between Anurag Kashyap (AK) and Anil Kapoor (AK). There is no dearth of inside ‘masala’ in the world’s biggest film industry. And, that is what Director Vikramaditya Motwane’s AK vs AK is! The theme is simple. Anurag Kashyap and Anil Kapoor play themselves as themselves. Aunrag gets Anil’s daughter Sonam Kapoor kidnapped and camera follows Anil desperately searching Sonam across Mumbai. This is a disgraced director Anurag’s journey into the life of a fading (or faded) film star in real life as he grapples around searching his dear daughter Sonam. Or, maybe, a realistic take of the critical thinking Anurag Kashyap, about the issues faced by declining but famous leading

actors in the big bad Bollywood. The theme was taken up in a Pakistani film, but here it is so different. This one-night movie’s script keeps zig zagging with the shaking camera (intentional) as Harshvardhan Kapoor along with Boney Kapoor add the much needed pepper (or spice) to the Bollywood laid bare omelette. The common people’s adoration with selfie demands and the director-actor verbal duels make the movie style rarely seen in Indian cinema. I saw this (people after actors) at the many Indian Film Festivals of Melbourne (IFFM), I covered. I suspect, they outwardly frown it, but as one leading actress told me, “Actually we like it.” Motwane’s meta-cinema minus the Indian film censor’s scissors makes the movie an experimental wonder. The typical Indian filmi style cine-goer may find AK vs AK a riddle struggling with its unusual theme. It clicks. But, then this is also a consequence of the pandemic which made us stay at home and get glued to the streaming services. And the result is before us. Hats off to the AK vs AK team. Well done. Three and half stars out of five. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

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JANUARY 2021

Farewell to 'terrible' 2020: 15 journalists murdered, 50 died of Covid in India By Nava Thakuria*

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ndian media fraternity sets to bid farewell to the Covid-19 pandemic year 2020 with the horrible statistics of journokillings with some dangerous countries for working journalists in the world. The largest democracy in the globe witnessed killings of 15 scribes till the last week of December and the populous country also lost over 50 working journalists to novel coronavirus infection aggravated ailments. India along with Mexico emerged as the hazardous places for scribe this year as the global tally of mediavictims to assailants reaches to 92 in 31 countries, said Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), the Geneva-based media watchdog in its recent reports. Mexico, as it routinely observes journomurders for several years, witnessed the killings of 12 scribes in 2020 followed by Pakistan (8 dead), Afghanistan (7), Iraq and Honduras (5 each), etc. It also added that the Philippines and Syria witnessed murders of four scribes each, followed by Nigeria & Venezuela (three scribes each), Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Liberia, Somalia, (two each), Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Russia, Argentina, Cameroon, Ecuador, Mozambique, Paraguay, Sweden, Barbados, etc (one each). “Fewer journalists have died in areas of armed conflict this year, but too many of them have been targeted for their works in peaceful countries,” commented Blaise Lempen, general secretary of PEC reiterating the forum’s stand for condemnations against those incidents of scribekillings and consistent demands to punish the culprits under the law. More than 590 journalists have died of Covid-19 complications in 57 countries, where most affected countries include Peru (93 casualties), India (53), Brazil (51), Mexico (44), Ecuador (42), Bangladesh (41), Italy (34), USA (31), Pakistan (22), Turkey (17), UK (12), etc and thus a single year snatched away the lives of over 600 journalists with the pandemic and violence, stated Lempen adding that it

is the worst statistics since the Second World War. India witnessed the latest killing of a video journalist in Rajasthan as Abhishek Soni (27), who succumbed to injuries because of attacks by three assailants. Soni, who used to work for a local news channel, went to a roadside eatery along with a women media employee on December 8 evening. As they were waiting the assailants started starring at her. When Soni resisted them, it ended up in hot debates and physical attacked by them. Finally, Soni died in a Jaipur hospital on December 23. Earlier, a Malayalam journalist lost his life in a hit and run incident on December 14 evening inside Thiruvananthapuram city. SV Pradeep (43), who remained critical over the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Kerala, worked for media outlets like News 18, Jai Hind, Mediaone, Mangalam, Kairali, etc. Days before, sad news broke from Uttar Pradesh (UP), where journalist Rakesh Singh Nirbhik (35) was found dead along with a friend on 28 November as his house in Balrampur locality was hit by a sudden explosion. Severely injured Rakesh and his friend were taken to the hospital, where both succumbed to burn injuries. Victim families claimed it as a pre-planned murder as Rakesh developed enmities against some locals with his media reports in Rashtriya Swaroop.

Andhra Pradesh (AP) journalist G Nagaraj (45) was killed by a group of goons at Hanumantha area adjacent to Tamil Nadu. The Telugu reporter was attacked with sharp weapons in full public view on 22 November and he died on his way to the hospital. Nagaraj wrote a series of articles against the real-estate mafia for Tamil newspaper Villangam to invite probable enmities. UP’s Sonbhadra locality witnessed the murder of rural reporter Uday Paswan along with his wife on 16 November. Associated with a Lucknow-based Hindi daily, Paswan died on the spot as they were attacked by a group of goons. His wife Sheetla Paswan succumbed to injuries next day in the hospital. Another UP scribe Suraj Pandey (25) was found dead on a railway track at Sadar Kotwal area on November 12. His family members in Unnao locality claimed that the Hindi reporter was murdered. Bhopal based television reporter Syed Adil Wahab (35) was found murdered at a forest area on November 8. Wahab, who used to work for a Hindi news channel went missing since the previous day and later his injured body was recovered by the police. Tamil television scribe Isravel Moses (27) was hacked to death by a group of anti-social elements in Kancheepuram on the same day. Assam’s Kakopathar based television journalist

Parag Bhuyan (55) died in a mysterious road accident on 11 November night. The government also already ordered a CID probe into the incident and the police have seized the vehicle that hit Bhuyan and arrested its driver & handyman. Another UP journalist Ratan Singh (45), who worked for satellite news channel Sahara Samay was shot dead by his neighbours in Ballia locality on August 24. Tinsukia based Assamese television scribe Bijendeep Tanti (32) was found murdered on August 8 at his rented office. Weeks back, Madhya Pradesh journalist Sunil Tiwari (35), who worked for a Gwalior-based Hindi newspaper was beaten, stabbed and shot to death in Niwari locality on July 22. Same day, UP journalist Vikram Joshi (45) succumbed to injuries in the hospital who was attacked on 20 July by some local goons. Another AP journalist named Ganta Naveen (27) was murdered at Nandigama locality on 29 June. The digital channel reporter developed enmity with some influential persons in his locality and they are suspected to organize the crime. The brutal murder of UP’s young and brave reporter Shubham Mani Tripathi shocked the media fraternity. Shubham (25) continued reporting against illegal sand miners to Kanpur-based Hindi daily Kampu Mail even

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after receiving death-threats from the criminals. He was shot dead in Unnao locality on June 19 by two shooters. Orissa’s portal reporter Aditya Kumar Ransingh (40) was killed on 16 February in Banki locality. Last year, India witnessed nine incidents of journokillings, but only one case emerged as a targeted murder for works as journalist. K Satyanarayana (45) of Andhra Jyothy was hacked to death on 15 October. Local scribes informed Satyanarayana was targeted in earlier too. Others who were killed last year include Jobanpreet Singh, Vijay Gupta, Radheyshyam Sharma, Ashish Dhiman, Chakresh Jain, Anand Narayan and Nityanand Pandey. Kerala scribe K Muhammed Basheer was mowed down by a vehicle. Various local, regional and national journobodies in India along with a number of international media rights bodies like the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters sans/without Borders, International Federation of Journalists, besides PEC, have denounced the murders of scribes and demanded the concerned governments to book the assailants under the law ensuring justice to the victim-families. *The author is a northeast India based journalist and country contributor to PEC Source- coumterview.net, 31 December 2020


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SOUTH ASIA

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South Asia Times

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India 2020: The year that was…

By S. Varma

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ike the rest of the world, India too has gone through a turbulent year – the agony of a sweeping pandemic that has afflicted over 10 million people till now, as per official records – though the actual number of those infected could be many times more; a tragically bumbling government response that imposed a premature and mismanaged lockdown, only to ease it when the disease was spreading wildly; and, an already faltering economy given a mortal blow by the lockdown, which saw unemployment soar to an unimaginable 24% and the GDP contract by over 23% in April-June. Put together, all these caused a shocking rise in hunger and misery in the country, a plane of suffering that will be remembered for long. But, there is another feature of 2020 that will make this year a watershed in history. The BJP-led

government at the Centre, spearheaded by Prime Minister Modi, used the pandemic and the lockdown to drastically change the relationship between the working people of the country and the ruling elite made up of big corporate houses and traders, big land owners, and representatives of foreign capital. Here is how: Pro-corporate Farm Laws In June, at the height of the pandemic, the Modi government promulgated three ordinances that dealt a devastating blow to the existing system of cultivation, trade, stockholding and prices of agricultural produce. These were rammed through parliament in September. The government had earlier moved a Bill for amending the Electricity Act which too would end subsidized power to farmers, thus increasing their expenses further. Taken together, these three laws and one Bill

will decisively open India’s agriculture sector to predatory agri-businesses and big traders while crushing the farmers. Agricultural laborers, share croppers and tenant farmers will also suffer from the effect of these laws. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, or the APMC law as it is popularly known, allows private entities to buy up key food grains directly from farmers, in competition with government-run Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) with no guarantee for governmentdeclared Minimum Support Price (MSP). [The MSP is a price determined by the government at which produce is procured from farmers by government agencies.] In the unequal trade between powerless farmers and giant corporations, this would mean a death-knell for the MSP system, which is a lifeline for many farmers. The Farmers (Empowerment

and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, otherwise known as the contract farming law, is meant to give a boost to contract farming, which would turn farmers into wage laborers on their own land, besides subjecting them to the vagaries of global markets. The third law amends the existing Essential Commodities Act by removing all restrictions on stocks of essential food produce, and allows freedom to determine prices. It would encourage hoarding and profiteering in essential grains and vegetables. Besides destroying farmers’ lives, the four laws would also prepare the ground for the destruction of the public procurement of food grains, thus leading to a collapse of the Public Distribution System. Millions of people across India who depend on subsidized food grain – especially in these times when unemployment is high – would be left to fend for themselves. This is in line with what the advanced

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capitalist countries have been pressing India for in WTO negotiations and elsewhere, so that food grain can be exported from there to India. Dismantling labor laws The Modi government took advantage of the restrictions on protests to push through three more Labor Codes in Parliament, with the fourth one already passed last year. These new laws that replace 29 existing labor laws, allow employers to increase working hours to an unprecedented 12 hours in a working day, put in place a system of ‘fixed term employment’ that is, contractual work of a kind, dismantle the well-settled wage fixation norms for governments, give more leeway to remove workers from service without government permission, and brings workers in diverse trades with specific problems under umbrella provisions. CONTD. ON PG 10


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India 2020: The year that was… CONTD. FROM PG 9 Social security benefits remain restricted and employers’ contributions to various welfare schemes have been reduced, starving the bodies of funds. The enforcement machinery for labor laws, already gasping for breath, has been further disarmed. A large number of matters are now left to the discretion of government authorities. Even the right to organize unions and protests have been made more difficult. The new laws are thus a license to unbridled and intensified exploitation, at less wages and more freedom to hire and fire – a paradise as far as the capitalist class is concerned. Selling out natural resources & dilution of environmental regulations The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act was passed to change two central laws that regulate the mining sector – the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR), 1957 and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015. These changes allow companies without any previous experience to bid for coal blocks and also allows extraction of coal without any prior restrictions of end use. These are part of the process of privatizing India’s mining sector, especially coal, and allowing foreign capital to enter the lucrative field. A series of measures were announced by the Modi government

that dilute or do away with environmental regulations for extractive industries. The new draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rules exempt entire projects and project expansions up to 50% from mandatory public hearings and reduce the notice period for such hearings from 30 to 20 days. This is to suppress opposition from the people living in the area who will be affected by the projects. The new amendments also validate projects that kick off without seeking prior approval. Since the Modi government is handing over large tracts of land to mining and construction corporates, these measures facilitate their speedy takeover, leaving the local people side-lined. People’s resistance grows, govt. cornered As the year passed and the pain of the misconceived lockdown devastated families, the demand for increased support from the government, in the form of food grain and income support, gathered momentum. Several trade unions, working together under a Joint Platform, had already been struggling for better wages and for a roll-back of privatization of public sector enterprises, having observed an all-India strike on January 8. These trade unions continued their struggle throughout the year, despite pandemic-related restrictions. Protest days against the government’s callous neglect of the working people and

demanding income support and more food grain were observed on April 21, May 14, May 22, July 3, July 23, August 9 and September 5, with participation and sweep increasing throughout, as distress and anger among people grew. On June 25 and 26, ASHA workers (community health workers) and mid-day meal workers held countrywide protests. Simultaneously, since the government was pushing ahead with its privatization policy, workers from different industries to continued massive protests: coal workers went on strike on July 2-4, railway workers held protests on July 1617, defense production employees held protests on August 4, transport workers held a protest day on August 5, all government scheme workers held a historic twoday strike on August 7 and 8, and workers of BPCL held a strike on September 6-7. On September 23, the day the new labor laws were passed, all central trade unions jointly called for protests across India. Growing unity of workers and peasants These protests by different streams got woven into ever larger and more united actions, converging with farmers movements that had broken out against the three black laws. Farmers organizations had been protesting against these laws since June, when the ordinances were promulgated. On August 9, in a massive action, hundreds

of thousands of farmers and workers joined together to observe angry protests through a ‘jail bharo’ (fill up the jails) action observed in over 450 districts. On September 5, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, along with All India Kisan Sabha (All India Farmers Association) and All India Agricultural Workers Union, observed a Worker-Peasant Action Day, that again saw hundreds of thousands of people protesting against the government’s onslaught on working people. The farmers, under the banner of AIKSCC (an umbrella front of over 350 organizations) observed a protest day on September 25, days after the anti-farmer laws were passed. Then again, a much larger and extensive protest was held on November 5. Finally, on November 26, a historic strike by workers and employees took place that was estimated to be the world’s biggest strike ever. This coincided with the call by the AIKSCC to march to Delhi (‘Delhi Chalo’) which saw thousands of farmers from northern states beginning the march towards the country’s capital. They were met with violent obstruction by BJP-led governments in Haryana and UP, resulting in pitched battles, before the government was forced to back down and allow the farmers to reach the capital’s borders where they have been camping ever since. As the year draws to a close, the farmers’ movement against the three laws,

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the electricity Bill and to demand statutory protection of MSP, has gathered unprecedented support across the country. Most States have seen continuing protests and solidarity actions by thousands of farmers and people from all walks of life have come out in support. On December 8, a Bharat Bandh or general strike was called in support of the farmers, in which several states saw complete shutdown while most others witnessed sweeping protests. The Modi government, with no experience of facing and dealing with mass protests of this kind, is scrambling to find a solution but it is rigidly sticking to defending the laws even as it offers cosmetic changes. The farmers movement has broadened its vision by calling for boycott of goods and services offered by some of the top monopoly houses in the country which have a stake in seeing these laws implemented. Whatever the outcome of the present struggle, the people of India have shown historic resolve and courage that has shaken the Modi government’s arrogant plans of imposing a nakedly procorporate dispensation. In the process, India has also rebuffed the divisive and poisonous policies that the Modi government’s religious bigotry had followed. This new found unity and the confidence of pushing back the till-now-rampant policies will set the agenda in the new year. Source: PD, 28 December 2020.


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India: Corporates don’t even pay lip service to promote religious diversity at workplaces By Anuvab Mohanty*

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eligious diversity at India’s corporate workplaces is complicated. Imagine, for a second, that you are a young Muslim who just entered the workforce. In your first year, you receive bonuses and sweets for Diwali and Dussehra. HR decorates offices with Christmas trees every December. However, there are no observations for the Eid festivals. The festivals of the second most followed religion on India are nearly absent from Indian workplaces. This example, while not serious in itself, does demonstrates the lack of focus on religious diversity at Indian workplaces. Prompted by government regulations and simple profit-orientation, India’s corporations have taken big strides to attract women to workplaces. There is significant focus on delivering gender diversity, with large corporate houses organising seminars and occasionally creating gender-based hiring policies favouring women. Maternity leave policies are legally mandated and have been implemented across most large corporate houses. Zomato recently initiated a policy for period leaves. Compared to the prominence of these efforts, companies do not even attempt to pay lip service to promoting religious diversity at workplaces. Muslims account for 14% of the Indian population but are only 2.67% of the senior executives for BSE 500 companies. The remuneration gap reflects this employment gap, with Muslims earning 3.14% of the remuneration earned by these executives (Karunakaran, 2015). There is significant gap between the employment as well as education outcomes for the Hindu community versus the Muslim community. In fact, educational and employment outcomes for Muslims is like the numbers for the SC community. This is not exactly a surprise – educational outcomes are correlated with career progress. This trend is accentuated

by the fact that Indian corporate as well as college culture encourages conformity. This social pressure to conform prevents individuals from taking stands on issues that they feel would adversely impact their careers. Starting conversations on religious diversity would be one such cause for ostracization in the current environment of religious intolerance. How does someone looking for a good corporate career do that and stand for issues they believe in? As per Romi Mahajan, the only real answer to the conundrum is to be so good at your job that you are indispensable to the company they work for. At the same time, one has to ensure that one does not accept any moral or ethical compromises in the name of their career or company. Corporations have a way of making good people put corporate interests above human interests. One has to maintain an extremely strong sense of identity in a corporate ocean and constantly fight against the currents that push people towards conformity. To paraphrase Mr. Mahjan, it is not easy, but the difficult roads are the most rewarding. The BLM movement in the US is similar to the struggles of India’s Dalit communities. However, there are clear similarities between the American state-led oppression against people of colour and the Indian state’s general hostility to its

Zeshan Ali Khan, a Mumbai based MBA graduate, was rejected from a job because of his religion.

Muslim citizens. Zeshan Ali Khan, a Mumbai based MBA graduate, was rejected from a job because of his religion After the interview with Mr. Mahajan, we worked on finding some means to improve the inclusion of Muslims in India’s corporate workforce: Focus on early education: Early education is very strongly correlated with career outcomes. In fact, the biggest predictor of career success for communities is not their caste or religion, it is the completion rate for early education. An individual who finishes class 10th or 12th is far more likely to go to college and pursue a corporate career than someone who dropped out at an earlier age. The Indian state has suffered from chronically underfunded and lowquality early education. Most government schools suffer

from teacher absenteeism, low quality infrastructure and a variety of other issues. Fixing these issues, especially in areas with higher minority population would have an outsized impact on long-term outcomes. Offer corporate training on religious diversity: Regular sensitization and training within corporate houses is a must. Simple acts ranging from everyday comments about other religions to insensitivity about religious needs (such as the requirement to offer Namaz multiple times during the workday) can be serious barriers to religious inclusion. Simple sensitization can go a long way towards increasing inclusivity. Celebrate festivals of multiple religions and offer leave for religious reasons: Festivals of multiple religions should be celebrated –

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including festivals like the various Eids. Celebration of Islamic festivals is extremely rare in Indian workplaces. This is partially due to the fact that a lot of these celebrations are shaped around what has always been done instead of a real evaluation of what should be done. This has changed, especially for gender related issues, but remains to be done on religious issues. For instance, many corporate houses organise specific events celebrating Women’s day. Celebrations similar to Diwali gifts and Christmas decorations can be organised for festivals of other religions. Adopt a no-tolerance policy for bullying based on religion: Workplace bullying based on religious identity has a devastating effect on the participation of religious minorities. This can be overt in the form of comments and name calling or take the form of covert discrimination such as discrimination from promotion opportunities. Adoption of zero tolerance policies and creation of special committees to investigate allegations in the lines of POSH committees can reduce instances of workplace bullying. Recognise and prevent microaggressions: Simple acts of microaggression can often go unnoticed by the individuals who perpetrate them. For instance, it is common to persuade individuals to drink at social events after work on weekends. For some religions, drinking is prohibited. Appropriate sensitivity training can help individuals recognise these microaggressions and prevent them. References Karunakaran, N. (2015, Sep 7). Muslims constitute 14% of India, but just 3% of India Inc. Retrieved from Economic Times: https:// economictimes.indiatimes. com/news/politics-andnation/muslims-constitute14-of-india-but-just-3-of-indiainc/articleshow/48849266. cms?from=mdr *PGP 2019-21 student, IIM Ahmedabad Source-counterview.org


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Bangladesh: Fifty years of freedom as a confident nation By A. Biswas*

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angladeshis, celebrating the 50th anniversary of their Independence, are pining for happier times as the Covid-19 pandemic that has ravaged 2020 limps to its end. But the sombre national mood has been leavened by a quiet pride in that the country, defying all odds, has economically outperformed its neighbours in South Asia, including India. After 50 years of freedom, overcoming a myriad political crises and setbacks, Bangladesh edged ahead of India in terms of their per capita income, a major ‘first’ by any reckoning. Dhaka-based policymakers as well as common people showed remarkable restraint, even as their media reported the accomplishment. There was no gloating, nor any loud patriotic cheering among TV chat show panelists. This caused no surprise among analysts: it is not all about fluctuating GDPs and export performances. Bangladeshi researchers have just produced a new flood-resistant strain of rice that can survive underwater for long spells. Also, to deal with the usual postmonsoon waterlogging that affects agricultural production over 25% of its landmass, besides causing untold havoc otherwise, new methods of ‘floating farm’ techniques are being tried out in India’s East. No wonder Japan, Thailand, and Myanmar keenly track these trends, often sharing data with Dhaka, while carrying out their own research. After 50 years of freedom, overcoming a myriad political crises and setbacks, Bangladesh edged ahead of India in terms of their per capita income, a major ‘first’ by any reckoning. The Bangladeshi development ‘story’ is no longer only about jute and the export of low-end garments. Bangladeshis have silenced many of their erstwhile critics (and enemies) who opposed the freedom struggle idolised the late Indira Gandhi

along with the founding father Mujibur Rahman in the process. The scoffers included major world leaders like Henry Kissinger, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and even the otherwise respected late A.B.Vajpayee. While younger Bangladeshis have little knowledge of such matters, surviving old timers invariably recall some their caustic comments which bear remembrance on such a special occasion. History records Kissinger telling President Nixon gleefully in 1970 , receiving first reports about the massive nocturnal crackdown on unarmed people in Dhaka on March 26: ’Now the fun really begins …’ The genocide that followed eventually saw the death of over 3 million mostly innocent civilians! He derided Bangladesh as the world’s ‘bottomless basket’ that no amount of foreign aid could ever sustain as a country. Throughout 1970-71, the US supported Pakistan. Bhutto told newsmen without apparent regret during the Pak army crackdown, “Bengalis have disaster written in their stars.” During a Lok Sabha debate years later, Mr. Vajpayee asserted, ’Bangladesh cannot shift the burden of its appalling poverty on to India’, dealing with the issue of illegal immigration. Bangladeshi researchers have just produced a new flood-resistant strain of rice that can survive underwater for long spells. Also, to deal with the usual postmonsoon waterlogging that affects agricultural

production over 25% of its landmass, besides causing untold havoc otherwise, new methods of ‘floating farm’ techniques are being tried out in India’s East. Such attitudes have changed slowly over the years, although Pakistan is yet to extend even a routine apology to Dhaka for the excesses it had committed. Even as Dhaka has resumed diplomatic ties with Pakistan after a long spell of cold shouldering, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the new Pak envoy a few days ago, ’We can neither forgive nor forget what Pakistan did to our country and its people in the 70s. That memory will always be with us.’ A section of the Dhaka media reported another fact, again minus any fanfare or gloating: during the current month, Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves rose to a record high of $42.09 billion — not too bad for a Corona-ravaged year, for an economy that underwent a long lockdown and a worldwide downturn in trade and business. During the past year, official sources said, these reserves had risen by over $1 billion. Among reasons driving such progress were increased remittances from abroad, the stabilization of exports facing a decline during the corona pandemic, and a reduction in imports and foreign loans. Forex reserves were around $32 billion, on average in December 2019. These existed the $ 40 billion mark on several days this year. This enables Bangladesh to import $4 billion worth of items for the next 10.5

months! There was an added sweetener: Pakistan’s forex reserves in December 2020 mostly hovered around the $20 billion mark. Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves rose to a record high of $42.09 billion — not too bad for a Corona-ravaged year, for an economy that underwent a long lockdown and a worldwide downturn in trade and business. During the past year, official sources said, these reserves had risen by over $1 billion. In other words, fifty years on, the ‘bottomless basket’ of yore now has more than twice the forex reserves, compared to its former mother country, so beloved by major world leaders and powers. No wonder, today’s younger Pakistanis participating in serious TV panel discussions can be seen asking their senior leaders, former generals, politicians and others, just what had gone wrong in what was East Pakistan back in the seventies. ‘What was the trouble all about, why did we fight there?’ are most common queries. Rewriting inconvenient history has been an art where the Pakistani ruling establishment is in a class of its own. The answers vary significantly. Most surviving Pak leaders prefer to remain silent, admitting generally that ‘so many things went wrong.’ The leaders were misguided, the army and politicos botched up matters, there was much violence….and of course, India conspired with Mujibur and won big. The West, too, failed Pakistan

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in its crisis despite their promises. All this in the briefest replies possible. Facts like the massacre and the mass killing of unarmed civilians and rapes of countless women, the great refugee exodus to West Bengal and Tripura…. are a strict no-no even in 2020! Pakistanis still remain strongly attached to their’ denial’ mode. Only a few people criticise Gen Yahya or Bhutto, or the general exploitation of East Pakistan. Only 3% of Bangladeshis were above the official poverty line in 1971 after they won their ‘freedom’, their country in shambles after the massive killing of 3 million people and the scorched earth tactics adopted by the retreating Pak army, leaving most buildings razed or damaged! No one ever mentions in such discussions that before 1970, very few East Bengalis could go abroad because not too many passports were being issued by their West Pakistanbased rulers. (Bangladesh today has 76,00,000 of its citizens working or settled all over the world ). Only 3% of Bangladeshis were above the official poverty line in 1971 after they won their ‘freedom’, their country in shambles after the massive killing of 3 million people and the scorched earth tactics adopted by the retreating Pak army, leaving most buildings razed or damaged! Indeed, it has been truly a long journey for Bangladesh during the past 50 years. As of now, scores of manufacturing units based in China are considering a shift to Bangladesh. At least 7 South Korean units have already relocated their units to Chittagong and adjacent areas from Myanmar, attracted by better working conditions in Bangladesh. More are on the way. In fact, Vietnam and Bangladesh are the preferred destinations for such companies, compared even to India. *Ashis Biswas is a Kolkata-based journalist. The views are personal. Heading changed. The article was originally published in The Leaflet. Source- Newsclick, 28 December 2020.


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Sri Lanka delays COVID-19 vaccine, insists on ‘cremation-only’ policy By A. Biswas*

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s the Sri Lankan Government stalls on announcing a concrete plan to acquire a coronavirus vaccine, it continues to implement a cremation-only policy that is scientifically unfounded and widely recognised as inhumane. With 8,567 active cases and 185 deaths at the time of writing, Sri Lanka continues to face the worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic began, inciting fear and panic among the people. Despite the almost threemonth-long wave that began in October, the Sri Lankan government is no closer to securing a coronavirus vaccine, despite many countries across the world already lined up to receive the new Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines. But it is the country’s stringent ‘cremationonly’ policy that has gained global notoriety for its lack of nuance and respect for the funeral rites of Sri Lanka’s minority communities. “DISAPPOINTING: #SriLanka’s highest court refuses to hear case filed by Muslims & Christians against forced cremation of #COVID victims,” said the People’s Rights Group Sri Lanka in a Twitter post. “Where else can they go for justice?” Cremation, which is forbidden in Islam and generally not preferred in Christianity and Judaism, was mandated by the Sri Lankan government early in the pandemic, citing ground-water contamination. The claim which was spread initially by rightwing Buddhist monks was later taken up by hydrogeologist, professor Meththika S Vithanage in an article she wrote in April. Since the publication of the article, many virologists and epidemiologists have debunked the claims noting primarily that the coronavirus is highly unstable without a host and cannot be spread by water. “The coronavirus will die quickly in a dead body – probably all will have gone in less than a week,”

said Scottland’s virologist Dr Hugh Pennington in an email response to the People’s Rights Group – Sri Lanka Viruses, which require living cells in a host body to survive, cannot grow and spread from a dead body, the virologist also explained. “It does not grow in a corpse at all.” Muslims make up almost 10 per cent of the nation’s population, but disproportionally makeup almost 30 per cent of all reported Covid-19 fatalities, with reports of some fatalities being incorrectly identified. However, despite ample evidence and the creation of International burial standards for the safe burial of Covid-fatalities, the Sri Lankan government upholds that cremation is the only solution, with its Ministry of Health saying in a press release that article suggesting otherwise were “fake news”. After the non-consensual forced cremation of a 20-day-old baby went viral online, further allegations of non-consensual cremations in Sri Lanka sparked global outrage with protests occurring in the UK and US claiming the policy a human-rights violation. Sri Lanka is the only country, besides China, that mandates cremation for COVID-19 victims – a mandate that is against WHO regulations and against the United Nation’s request to uphold funeral rites of Sri Lanka’s minority communities. Reports show that many believe the policy to be racially motivated after the body of a Muslim was incorrectly diagnosed with Covid-19 and forcefully cremated against the wishes of the family. Since then, more than 50 Muslim Covid-fatalities have been cremated, with many being unclaimed by families in a hope to delay cremations. Speaking out against the policy, Sri Lanka’s former Speaker of Parliament, Karu Jayasuriya said in a tweet, “Sri Lanka’s anti-burial policy of COVID-19 bodies is against all international guidelines, including that of

WHO.” But as the issue of funeral rites continue to plague Sri Lanka’s minority communities, reports of increased Islamophobia have also been attributed to the relentlessness of the policy mandate. Tensions among the

community continue to run high as right-wing media publications in Sri Lanka and supporters of the governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party say that Muslims would “weaponize” the virus if an infected person’s remains were released to them.

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The sentiment echoes propaganda earlier in the pandemic by media and politicians claiming the Muslim community were “super-spreaders” and warning against buying food from Muslim vendors. Source- AMUST, 1 Jan 2021.


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south asia

South Asia Times

JANUARY 2021

Justice, Services Can Curb Sexual Violence Death Penalty Push Ignores Real Solutions to Regional Failings

By A. Biswas*

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ew York – South Asian governments should disregard populist death penalty rhetoric and listen to their own experts to prevent and end sexual violence against women, Human Rights Watch said in a video released today. Experts on sexual violence from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka address the growing protest movements across the region prompted by government mishandling of high-profile sexual violence cases. “Women and girls across South Asia are fed up with their governments’ failure to tackle sexual violence,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “They have long watched their governments tolerate – or even facilitate – impunity for sexual violence, and they are taking to the streets and demanding change now.” In Pakistan, a police chief criticized a woman gangraped in front of her children because her car had run out of fuel. In India, police and government authorities denied that a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gangraped despite her dying declaration – apparently to shield the accused, who allegedly belonged to a dominant caste. The state’s chief minister denounced protesters calling for justice as “anarchists.” In Bangladesh, the government failed to stop the viral spread of a video of a group of men attacking, stripping, and sexually assaulting a woman. All three cases led to protests in 2020 by women’s rights activists. Women in the Maldives have protested endemic gender-based violence, including sexual violence, and government inaction. In Nepal, protests have been driven by several shocking rape cases, while the government has also failed to respond to a new wave on online gender-based violence. In Afghanistan, women caught between government failure to protect women from violence and the Taliban’s repressive restrictions on women’s freedom of movement and rights to education and work,

are demanding their rights in protests and peace talks. In Sri Lanka, activists are demanding reform of the law on sexual violence, while a women’s protest movement seeking information about disappeared loved ones faces intimidation from the authorities. In many countries in the region, activists have adapted a protest song from Chile, “A Rapist in Your Path,” translating it into local languages and performing it at protests. “Patriarchy is a judge who judges us for being born, and our punishment is the violence you don’t see,” the song goes. “The rapist is you. It’s the police, the judges, the state, the president. The oppressive state is a macho rapist.” The experts interviewed by Human Rights Watch outlined key steps that governments should take to respond to sexual violence. Survivors often struggle to access services. “We need more health services geared towards survivors, we need more legal services, we need the police to be sensitized,” said Ambika Satkunanathan, a former human rights commissioner in Sri Lanka. “Hence, it’s not a shortterm project as it were but something that requires longterm change to tackle the problem.” Law reform is needed in some countries, but even

more important is the gaps in enforcing the law, which deny survivors justice. “We do have laws and we do have certain procedures,” said Farieha Aziz, co-founder of the organization Bolo Bhi in Pakistan. “What is necessary is that they are implemented.” When survivors seek justice, they often face insurmountable obstacles in the courts. Conviction rates for sexual violence are extremely low across the region. For example, in Bangladesh it is estimated that fewer than one percent of rape cases investigated by police lead to conviction. “It's not only that the police register the case,” said Dr. Lhamo Yangchen Sherpa, an expert in Nepal. “You then have to go to the court, which might take years and years. … [The accused] have good lawyers, which means that the case either gets dissolved or the case goes on for a very long time. That’s why people don’t report or they are settled outside of the court.” Survivors are often retraumatized by the legal process. “The judges still consider [the] victim as a criminal, and they ask a lot of questions that is against the human dignities,” said Shabnam Salehi, commissioner at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Most fundamentally, governments need to do more to prevent sexual violence, including by working to end gender inequity across society. “One thing that we have been advocating for and fighting for is comprehensive sexuality education to be made mandatory in all our schools,” said Umama Zillur, founder and director of Kotha, a feminist organization against gender-based violence in Bangladesh. Many children in South Asia receive little or no education in school about sexuality, consent, and healthy relationships. Rather than do the work needed to make meaningful change, some governments in the region have responded to protests by making populist calls to execute rapists. Pakistan’s prime minister called for rapists to be executed in public. In 2020 Bangladesh imposed the death penalty for rape. Indian law permits capital punishment for repeat rape offenders or for rape of children under age 12. The experts agreed that the death penalty is not a solution. Imposing death may further deter some survivors from coming forward, and experts expressed concern about weak justice systems wielding such power and the impact of weak judicial systems on procedural rights, including the right to

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“Women and girls across South Asia are fed up with their governments’ failure to tackle sexual violence,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director, HRW a fair trial. “When our justice system is not so strong, a death penalty sentence may actually result in the death of an innocent person,” said Ikleela Hameed, founder of Voice of Children in the Maldives. “The death penalty is not a deterrent for any crime,” said Vrinda Grover, a lawyer from India. “It lets the state off the hook from doing the work that the state needs to do in order to ensure that women and girls live free lives in this country.” Source- Human Rights Watch (hrw.org), Under Creative Commons Licence.


sports

JANUARY 2021

South Asia Times

15

Virat Kohli gets ‘ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade’ Award By SAT Sports Desk

T

he winners of the prestigious ICC Awards of the Decade including the Rachel Heyhoe-Flint for Best Female Player and Sir Garfield Sobers for Best Male Player were announced simultaneously across all ICC Digital channels, as well as the Star Sports Network, on Monday, December 28. Virat Kohli wins the Sir Garfield Sobers Award for ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade Ellyse Perry wins the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Award for ICC Female Cricketer of the Decade Steve Smith is ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Decade Virat Kohli is ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Decade Ellyse Perry is ICC Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Decade Rashid Khan is ICC Men’s T20I Cricketer of the Decade Ellyse Perry is ICC Women’s T20I Cricketer of the Decade Kyle Coetzer is ICC Men’s Associate Cricketer of the Decade Kathryn Bryce is ICC Women’s Associate Cricketer of the Decade MS Dhoni wins ICC Spirit of Cricket Award of the Decade Virat Kohli, who had scored 20,396 runs in all international cricket during the time period, which is more than anyone else, was also part of team India that won the ICC CWC 2011 and ICC Champions Trophy 2013. He was also named ICC Cricketer of the Year in both 2017 and 2018, so it was no surprise that he emerged as the clear jury favourite with winning the Sir Garfield Sobers Award for ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade. All-rounder, Ellyse Perry was a clear favourite in the Female Cricketer of the Decade category and won the Rachael Heyhoe-

Flint Award, as she had scored 4,349 runs with four centuries and took 213 wickets in all international cricket during the decade – which was also the most wickets taken by any player. Perry was also part of the Australian team that won ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in 2013 and ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2020 and also won the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Award for leading Women’s Cricketer in 2017 and 2019. She also went on to win the ICC Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Decade as well as the ICC Women’s T20I Cricketer of the Decade. Kohli was also awarded the ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Decade, whilst Steve Smith bagged the ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Decade for scoring 7,040 runs in 69 Tests in the period at an average of 65.79 with 26 centuries. He was also named the ICC Player of the Year in 2015 and ICC Test Player of the Year in 2015 and 2017. In the MRF Tyres ICC Test Player Rankings, his points tally was of 947 at the end of 2017 which is the second-highest in

the history of the ICC Test batting rankings history. Rashid Khan took home the ICC Men’s T20I Cricketer of the Decade award, for taking 89 wickets at an average of just 12.62 apiece with an economy rate of 6.14 runs per over in 48 matches during the decade. These are more wickets than anyone else despite starting in 2015. He went on to become the first bowler to take four wickets in four balls in T20I cricket when he performed the feat against Ireland at Dehradun in 2019. He is also the fastest bowler to reach 50 wickets in T20I cricket in terms of time, taking just 2 years 20 days to reach the landmark. MS Dhoni won the ICC Spirit of Cricket Award of the Decade, chosen by fans unanimously for his gesture of calling back former England batter Ian Bell following a disputable runout at Trent Bridge in 2011. The ICC Awards of The Decade that recognise the best players across Cricket over the past 10 years, invited fans to vote for the first time by selecting the winners across categories

including the Sir Garfield Sobers and Rachael Heyhoe Flint Awards, which celebrate the best overall player from the men’s and women’s game over the past decade. Fans provided 100% of the vote for the ICC Spirit of Cricket Award of the Decade, from a list of the past winners since 2011. More than 1.5 million fans from across the globe participated casting 5.3 million votes. The nominees for each of the categories had been determined by the Awards Nominations Committee according to on-field performances and overall achievements for at least five years during the period. The list includes journalists, statisticians, analysts and former cricketers, and broadcasters from all across the globe such as: Alan Wilkins, Alison Mitchell, Athar Ali Khan, Azad Majumder, Benedict Bermange, Dan Brettig, Danny Morrison, Daren Ganga, Emal Pasarly, Ian Bishop, Ian Callender, Ian Smith, Isobel Joyce, Julian Guyer, Lawrence Booth, Lesley Murdoch, Lisa Sthalekar, Mark Geenty, Mehluli Sibanda, Mohammad

Isam, Natalie Germanos, Neeru Bhatia, Neil Manthorp, Paul Radley, Peter Della Penna, Peter Lalor, Ramiz Raja, Rex Clementine, Rizwan Ali, Russel Arnold, Saadi Thawfeeq, Sambit Bal, Shahid Hashmi, Sharda Ugra, Shaun Pollock, Stephon Nicholas, Tim Cutler and VVS Laxman. Furthermore, Anjum Chopra, Snehal Pradhan and Isabelle Westbury voted for individual categories but did not vote for any of the ICC Teams of the Decade categories. The nominees for each of the categories were determined by the Awards Nominations Committee according to on-field performances and overall achievements for at least five years during the period. The complete list of nominees for the ICC Awards of the Decade were as follows: Sir Garfield Sobers Award for ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade – The best overall performer in men’s international cricket (Tests, ODIs and T20Is) during the performance period – R Ashwin (India) Virat Kohli (India) – Winner Joe Root (England) Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) Steve Smith (Australia) AB de Villiers (South Africa) Kane Williamson (New Zealand) Rachael Heyhoe Flint Award for ICC Female Cricketer of the Decade – The best overall performer in women’s international cricket (Tests, ODIs and T20Is) during the performance period. Suzie Bates (New Zealand) Meg Lanning (Australia) Ellyse Perry (Australia) – Winner CONTD. ON PG 18

New FIAV leadership takes office

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ELBOURNE, 6 January 2021: The new leadership of the Federation of Indian Associations of Australia (FIAV) has taken office. A media release emailed to SAT on Jan 5, 2021, says the following were elected by the FIAV AGM held on December 12, 2021, at Museum India, Dandenong: Mr. Sury Prakash Soni, President; Mr. Gurucharan

Singh Gandhok, Vice President; Ms. Usha Gulapalli, Vice President; Mr. Pradeep Gaur, Treasurer; Dr. Reena Dubey, Asst. Treasurer; Mr. Pritom Dutta, General Secretary; Ms. Sanchita Abrol, Asst. Secretary; Ms. Rashmi Gore, Committee Member, Mr. Gandhi Bevinakoppa, Committee Member and Mr. Sudharsan Sritharan, Committee Member.

“We sincerely thank all committee members and member organizations for their continued community service over the years. The new committee looks forward to working closely with community leaders, state and federal government for benefit of the Indian diaspora in Victoria, ” the media release says. Source- FIAV media release, Jan 5, 2021.

Prakash Soni & Gurucharan Singh Gandhok. Photos: FIAV

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NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2020 JANUARY 2021

South Asia Times

कहानी - कंगन

-गीतिका सक्सेना, भारत, ईमेल-gsaxena1809@gmail.com

‘अरे ! कमरे का यह क्या हाल बना रखा है रुचिता?’, कमरे के फ़र्श पर फैले सामान को दे खकर वसुधा ने पूछा। ‘माँ, राघव ने जो हीरे का कंगन दिया था हमारी शादी की वर्षगांठ पर, वह नहीं मिल रहा! सारा सामान निकाल कर दे ख लिया पता नहीं कहाँ है ? मैं बहुत परे शान हो रही हूँ, कहीं खो तो नहीं गया! यहीं अलमारी में रखा रहता था! बाकी सब चीज़ें हैं , बस वही नहीं है । राघव को बहुत बुरा लगेगा और नुकसान हो जाएगा सो अलग।‘ रुचिता ने परे शानी भरे स्वर में कहा। ‘जाएगा कहाँ घर में ही होगा! तुम ज़्यादा परे शान ना हो, कहीं रख कर भूल गई होगी। मिल जाएगा’। वसुधा ने रुचिता की परे शानी कम करने को बात टाल दी लेकिन वह भी सोच में पड़ गई कि रुचिता के कमरे में कभी कोई बाहर वाला नहीं जाता, कोरोना की वजह से आजकल सफ़ाई वाली भी नहीं आ रही है और रुचिता इतनी लापरवाह भी नहीं कि इतनी क़ीमती चीज़ कहीं भी रख दे । फिर कंगन जा कहाँ सकता है ? यूँ तो वसुधा और रुचिता दोनों सास-बहू

थीं लेकिन आपस में संबंध बिल्कुल माँ-बेटी जैसा था। वसुधा के एक ही बेटा था, राघव, जो आई.आई.टी. से बी.टे क. करके अब एक बहुराष्ट्रीय कंपनी में सी.ई.ओ. था। जब राघव ५ साल का था तभी उसके माता-पिता का तलाक हो गया था क्योंकि उसके पिता के अपने ही कार्यालय की एक महिला से संबंध थे। वसुधा ने तब से अकेले ही राघव की परवरिश की थी। उसने राघव को कभी किसी चीज़ की कमी होने नहीं दी। उसे अच्छे से अच्छे स्कूल में पढ़ाया। राघव पढ़ाई में होशियार था सो उसका चयन आई.आई.टी. में हो गया। वहीं ‘कैंपस प्लेसमेंट’ भी हो गया और अब १५ साल बाद वह सी.ई.ओ. बन गया था। इसी बीच वसुधा ने उसके लिए रुचिता को पसंद कर दो साल पहले दोनों की शादी करवा दी थी। उसने सोचा अब एक बेटी की कमी पूरी हो जाएगी। रुचिता भी वसुधा को माँ की तरह ही मानती थी। दोनों को दे खकर लोग अक्सर उन्हें माँ-बेटी ही समझते थे। शाम को जब राघव अपने दफ़्तर से लौटा तो रुचिता ने उससे पूछा कि कहीं उसने वह कंगन कहीं रख तो नहीं दिया लेकिन राघव

ने भी कहा कि उसे कंगन के बारे में कुछ नहीं पता। अब तो रुचिता के सब्र का बाँध टू ट गया और वो फूट-फूट कर रोने लगी। उसे इस तरह रोता हुआ दे खकर राघव ने उसे गले लगाकर कहा, ‘अरे ! क्यों परे शान हो रही हो मिल जाएगा और नहीं मिला तो कोई बात नहीं तुम पर ऐसे कई कंगन क़ुर्बान! चलो, रोना बंद करो और अपने हाथ की बढ़िया चाय पिलाओ’। रुचिता मुँह धोकर चाय बना तो लाई लेकिन उसका मन ठीक नहीं था। राघव ने उसे बताया कि उसके ऑफिस के कुछ साथी अगले दिन रात के खाने पर आने वाले हैं । उसने कहा, ‘तुम माँ के साथ मिलकर सारी तैयारी कर लेना। रोज़ तुम्हारे हाथ के बने टिफ़िन की तारीफ़ करते हैं सो मैंने उन्हें घर पर ही बुला लिया। तुम्हें कोई तकलीफ़ तो नहीं होगी?’ ‘बिल्कुल नहीं’! रुचिता ने कहा ‘तुम्हारे लिए क्या मैं इतना भी नहीं कर सकती’! रुचिता को वैसे भी खाना बनाने का बहुत शौक़ था और राघव को खाने का। वो रोज़ नई-नई ‘रे सिपी’ बनाकर राघव को खिलाती, वह भी उसके खाने की खूब तारीफ़ करता।

आलेख ओपल ख़रीदते समय ध्यान रखने योग्य कुछ जानकारी

-डॉ. प्रेम फेकी, मेल्बर्न, ईमेल-pphakey@gmail.com

(वर्तमान में डॉ. प्रेम फेकी भौतिक शास्त्र के शोध कर्ता के रूप में सेवा निवृत्त हैं । आपने बहुमल ू ्य मणी रत्न, खनिज पदार्थ, चट्टानें और दांतों के एनामेल आदि पर शोध कार्य किये हैं । डॉ. फेकी ने कैलिफ़ोर्निया विश्वविद्यालय, बार्कली में अमेरिकन और सोवियत मिशन द्वारा लाए गए मिट्टी के नमूनों का अध्ययन भी किया है । ऑस्ट्रेलियन जेमोलोजिकल असोसिएशन, विक्टोरिया, जो जौहरी बनने के इच्छुक विद्यार्थियों को शिक्षा व प्रशिक्षण दे ती है , में डॉ. फेकी लगभग २५ वर्षों तक विद्यार्थियों को रत्नों और हीरों पर व्याख्यान (लेक्चर) दे ते रहे थे। - संपादक) आकर्षक और बहुमल ू ्य रत्नों में से एक, ओपल बहुत ही नाज़ुक रत्न है । अक्तूबर में जन्मे व्यक्तियों का बर्थ-स्टोन ओपल होता है और कहते हैं कि विशेष रूप से १४वीं वर्षगाँठ पर इसे भेंट किया जाता है । भारत में ओपल बहुत लोकप्रिय नहीं है परन्तु ऑस्ट्रेलिया का यह राष्ट्रीय रत्न है , मुख्यतया दक्षिण ऑस्ट्रेलिया के सुदरू रे गिस्तानी क्षेत्रों में इसकी खदानें पाई जाती हैं । विश्व में ओपल का सबसे अधिक निर्यात भी ऑस्ट्रेलिया द्वारा ही किया जाता है । ओपल को घुमाने से इसके विभिन्न और आकर्षक इन्द्रधनुषी रं गों की प्रदर्शनी होती है और यही इसकी अद्त भु सुन्दरता है । ओपल की यही विशिष्टता, जिसे ‘रं गों का खेल’ भी कहा जाता है , इस रत्न को अनोखा और परिवर्तनशील बनाता है और हर रं ग के परिधान के साथ शोभायमान लगता है । ओपल का मूल्य इसकी गुणवत्ता पर निर्भर करता है जो मुख्यतया चार तत्वों से निर्धारित होती है । रं ग, रं गों का खेल, पैटर्न व शद्ध ु ता रं ग - ओपल की सतरं गी विविधता में जो रं ग पृष्ठभूमि में दर्शित होता है वह रत्न का मुख्य रं ग होता है , इसे गहरे , काले और धुँधले की श्रेणी में रखा जा सकता है । काले रं ग की पृष्ठभूमि में अन्य रं ग विशेष रूप से परिलक्षित होते हैं और लुभावने लगते हैं । परन्तु ऐसे ओपल का मूल्य अधिक होता है । रं गों का खेल - रं गों के खेल का प्रदर्शन ओपल का सबसे महत्वपूर्ण गुणात्मक तत्व है । रं गों के खेल के पैटर्न की तीन मुख्य श्रेणियाँ होती हैं । जब रं ग छोटे -छोटे पैबंद के रूप में होते हैं तो उसे पिनफायर या पिनपॉइं ट कहते हैं । साधारणतया फैले हुए छोटे -छोटे बिखरे हुए बिन्दुओं के पैटर्न के रं गों की अपेक्षा भड़कीले रं गों में पास-पास व्यवस्थित ढं ग से सजे पैबंद अधिक पसंद किए जाते हैं । जब रं गों के बड़े चकत्ते होते हैं तो उसे फ्लेम या फ़्लैश कहते हैं ।

महत्वपर ू ्ण तिथियाँ

१४ दिसंबर (पूर्ण सूर्य ग्रहण), १९ दिसम्बर (नाग पंचमी-तेलग ु ु), २१ दिसम्बर (वर्ष का सबसे छोटा दिन), २३ दिसम्बर (किसान दिवस), २५ दिसंबर (क्रिसमस), २६ दिसम्बर (बॉक्सिंग डे ), २७ दिसम्बर (हनुमान जयंती-कन्नड़), ३१ दिसम्बर (वर्ष का अंतिम दिन), १

जब असाधारण और बड़े आयताकार रूप में लाल, हरे , और नीले रं गों के बड़े चेक्स के पैटर्न होते हैं तो जोकर की पोशाक के चेक्स की तरह दिखते हैं , उसे हर्लेक़ुइन पैटर्न कहते हैं । काले रं ग के ओपल में इस तरह के हर्लेक़ुइन पैटर्न बहुत लोकप्रिय है । यदयपि जो ओपल केवल नीले और हरे रं गों का ही प्रदर्शन करते हैं उन्हें ‘मोर’ के नाम से पुकारा जाता है और वे भी बहुत लोकप्रिय हैं । ओपल की शुद्धता को दे दीप्यमान, चमकीला (रं गों में), धीमा/ दमित या नीरस की श्रेणी में वर्गीकृ त किया गया है । दे दीप्यमान ओपल सर्वश्रेष्ठ श्रेणी में गिना जाता है । परन्तु चमकीला ओपल भी अच्छा है । ओपल के प्रकार काला/धुँधले रं ग का ओपल - काला ओपल ‘ओपल का राजा’ है , परन्तु धुँधले रं ग का ओपल काले ओपल से रं ग में कुछ हल्का होता है । हर्लेक़ुइन ओपल - यह कम पाया जाता है इसलिय बहुत महँ गा होता है । बोल्डर ओपल - इस प्रकार का ओपल स्वाभाविक रूप से भूरे रं ग का होता है और काले या धुँधले ओपल की अपेक्षा इसकी कीमत भी कम है । यह कान की बूटियों के लिए अधिक उपयुक्त है । श्वेत ओपल या दधू िया ओपल - इस तरह के ओपल श्वेत या दधू िया रं ग के होते हैं । दधू िया रं ग के ओपल छितरे हुए रं गों को प्रदर्शित करते हैं । फिर भी ये बहुत सुन्दर और सस्ते होते हैं तथा कुछ लोग इन्हें पसंद करते हैं । फायर ओपल - इस तरह के ओपल का स्वाभाविक रं ग नारं गी या लाल होता है और मेक्सिको में पाए जाते हैं । कृ त्रिम (सिंथेटिक) ओपल - इस तरह के ओपल कांच या प्लास्टिक से बनाये जाते हैं और सस्ते दामों पर बाज़ार में उपलब्ध हो जाते हैं । इस तरह के ओपल ख़रीदने की

सलाह नहीं दी जाती है । जुड़े हुए ओपल (दोहरे या तिहरे ) आसानी से कम दामों में बाज़ार में मिलते हैं । दोहरे ओपल में ठोस ओपल को काले रं ग की आधार सतह पर चिपका दिया जाता है । यदि बारीकी से दे खें तो संधि के स्थान पर एक लाइन सी दिखाई दे ती है तिहरे ओपल में तीन हिस्सों को जोड़ा जाता है । नीचे की सतह काले रं ग की और ऊपरी सतह पारदर्शी होती है जो कांच या क्वार्टज़ की बनी होती है । बीच में सेंडविच की तरह वास्तविक ओपल रखा जाता है । साधारणतया, ओपल के मूल्य और सुन्दरता को बढ़ाने के उद्दे श्य से इस पर कई प्रकार की रासायनिक प्रक्रियाएँ की जाती हैं , जैसे रं ग करना, ओइलिंग करना आदि। ऑस्ट्रेलिया में ओपल की ख़रीदारी करना एक सुखद अनुभव है । ओपल ख़रीदते समय सर्वप्रथम यह ध्यान रखें कि कौनसा ओपल आपको अधिक आकर्षित कर रहा है । उदाहरण के तौर पर काली पृष्ठभूमि पर लाल चमक दिखने वाले ओपल साधारणतया लोकप्रिय होते हैं । मगर आपको नीला रं ग पसंद है तो उसे ख़रीदिये। उसके बाद दीप्ति या चमक दे खें, क्योंकि दीप्ति या चमक दिखाने वाले ओपल अच्छे दिखते हैं चाहे ओपल का मूल रं ग कोई भी हो। फिर रं ग के प्रदर्शन के बारे में ध्यान दीजिए। साधारणतया सबसे अधिक लोकप्रिय लाल रं ग है उसके बाद नारं गी, पीला, हरा और नीला। उसके बाद दे खें कि यदि आप महँ गा ओपल ख़रीद रहे हैं तो ओपल के साथ हस्ताक्षर सहित प्रमाणपत्र भी अवश्य ले लें, बीमा, पुन: बिक्री आदि के उद्दे श्य से इसकी आवश्यकता हो सकती है । अंत में, ओपल को किसी प्रतिष्ठित जौहरी से ही गहनों में जड़वाइए। चूँकि ओपल एक कोमल रत्न है इसे साफ़ करने के लिए किसी रासायनिक पदार्थों का उपयोग न करें । किसी मुलायम सूखे या भीगे कपड़े से साफ़ कर सकते हैं ।

जनवरी (नव वर्ष आरम्भ), १२ जनवरी

पंचमी, सरस्वती पूजा), २५ फरवरी

(स्वामी विवेकानंद जयंती), १३ जनवरी (लोढ़ी), १४ जनवरी (पोंगल, मकर संक्रांति), २० जनवरी (गुरु गोबिंद सिंह जयंती), २३ जनवरी (सुभाष चन्द्र बोस जयंती), २६ जनवरी (गणतंत्र दिवस, ऑस्ट्रेलिया दिवस), ३० जनवरी (महात्मा गाँधी-पुण्यतिथि), १६ फरवरी (बसंत

(हज़रात अली-जन्म दिवस), २७ फरवरी (रविदास जयंती)

सूचनाएँ

१. स्वर संध्या स्थान - ऑन लाइन तिथि व समय - शनिवार २ जनवरी

अगले दिन रुचिता ने सारा घर साफ़ किया और बढ़िया सजावट करके रसोई में जुट गई। वह जानती थी कि राघव के दफ़्तर के साथी आ रहे थे सो यह उसके मान सम्मान का प्रश्न था। उसने शाम तक बढ़िया स्नैक्स, सूप, ‘मेन कोर्स’ के लिए दाल मखनी, कढ़ाई पनीर, स्टफ्ड टमाटर और दही भिंडी और मीठे में फ्रूट क्रीम बनाई और फिर वह ख़ुद तैयार होने चली गई। आखिर उसे भी तो सी.ई.ओ. की पत्नी जैसा लगना था! अभी वह कपड़ों की अलमारी खोलकर सोच ही रही थी कि क्या पहने तभी वसुधा ने आकर कहा, ‘सूट या साड़ी मत पहन लेना! कोई राघव की पसंद की ड्रे स निकालकर पहन लो! उसे अच्छा लगेगा।‘ रुचिता ख़ुश हो गई और जल्दी-जल्दी तैयार होने लगी। थोड़ी ही दे र में राघव के साथ उसकी मित्र कनिका और उसके ४ दोस्त आ गए। रुचिता ने सभी का स्वागत किया और सबको बैठाकर सूप और स्नैक्स लेने रसोई में चली गई। इसी बीच वसुधा एक बार सबसे मिलकर अपने कमरे में चली गईं। राघव माँ को बुलाने गया तो वसुधा ने कहा ‘तुम बच्चे मौज करो, मैं यहीं आराम करूँ गी। मेरा खाना यहीं भिजवा दे ना।‘ घर की साज सज्जा दे खकर और रुचिता के हाथ का खाना खाकर सब उसकी ख़ूब तारीफ़ें कर रहे थे। एक ने तो राघव से यहाँ तक कहा कि ‘तुम्हारी तो किस्मत खुल गई भाई, ऐसी पत्नी पाकर’! राघव भी ख़ुशी से

17

फूला नहीं समा रहा था कि तभी रुचिता की निगाह कनिका के कंगन पर गई अब उसके पैरों तले तो जैसे ज़मीन खिसक गई। वह पहचान गई थी कि यह वही कंगन है जिसे वह ढू ँ ढ रही थी। लेकिन यह कनिका के पास कैसे? तभी उसके दिमाग़ ने कहा राघव के अलावा कौन दे सकता है ! पर उसके दिल ने कहा नहीं राघव मुझे धोखा नहीं दे सकता। एक बार फिर उसके दिमाग़ ने कहा तुम बेवकूफ़ हो, सबूत तुम्हारे सामने है और तुम नकार रही हो? फिर भी रुचिता ने सोचा कि बिना पूरी छान-बीन के वह राघव से इस बारे में कोई बात नहीं करे गी। उसे गुस्सा तो बहुत आ रहा था, उसका मन कर रहा था कि इसी समय घर छोड़कर चली जाए लेकिन उसने ख़ुद को संभाला और कनिका के साथ बैठकर उस से बातें करने लगी। उसने उस से कई बातें पूछीं जिस से उसे पता चला कि वह एक ग़रीब घर की महत्वाकांक्षी लड़की है । अब वह कनिका को कुछ-कुछ समझ रही थी। इसी बीच मौका पाकर वह सारी बातें अपनी सास को बता आई। वसुधा एक बार फिर अंदर से आकर सबके साथ बैठ गईं और कनिका को दे खती रहीं। वह मान रही थीं कि पूरी ग़लती उनके बेटे की है लेकिन उनका अनुभव कह रहा था कि लड़की भी कुछ ठीक नहीं है । उन्होंने सोचा जब अपना ही सिक्का खोटा हो तो दस ू रे को क्या दोष दे ना। वह यह सब सोच ही रही थीं कि सब लोग जाने लगे। .......(आगे की कहानी अगले अंक में...)

s'i=Pt sm;c;r

‘विश्व रंग’ में हरिहर झा के नवगीत संग्रह का लोकार्पण

नवम्बर के अंतिम सप्ताह में ‘टै गोर इं टरनेशनल आर्ट्स एन्ड लिट्रे चर फेस्टिवल - विश्व रं ग’ के तत्वाधान में वनमाली सृजन पीठ द्वारा आयोजित ‘किताबें करती हैं बातें’ सत्र में मेल्बर्न के लोकप्रिय और वरिष्ठ साहित्यकार श्री हरिहर झा का नवगीत संग्रह

‘दल ु ्हन सी सजीली’, आईसेक्ट पब्लिकेशन भोपाल, का लोकार्पण सृजन के क्षेत्र में प्रसिद्ध श्री संतोष चौबे द्वारा किया गया। इस पुस्तक में विभिन्न रसों के नवगीतों का समावेश है । हरिहर झा को इस उपलब्धि पर बधाई और शुभकामनाएँ।

हिन्दी-पुष्प के अंक, सितम्बर/अक्तूबर २०२०, पर कुछ प्रतिक्रियाएँ हिन्दी-पुष्प का सितम्बर/अक्तूबर अंक प्राप्त हुआ। ‘मृदभ ु ाषी हिन्दी कविता’ एक सार्थक रचना है । ‘आदर्श और यथार्थ’ कहानी पसंद आई। -कुसुम वीर, भारत हिन्दी-पुष्प के इस अंक में प्रकाशित कविताएँ और सम्पादकीय मनोरं जक और सूचनात्मक लगे। कहानी ‘कॉफ़ी की सुगंध’ अच्छी लगी और पाठकों को बाँधे रखती है । -सुमन वर्मा, मेल्बर्न हिन्दी-पुष्प का नया अंक दे खकर हृदय प्रफुल्लित हुआ। हर अंश में एक नई सुगंध है । -श्याम त्रिपाठी (प्रमुख संपादक, ‘हिन्दी चेतना’), कनाडा

हिन्दी-पुष्प का नवीन अंक प्राप्त हुआ। सभी अंकों की भाँति यह भी अत्यन्त रोचक लगा। गद्य-पद्य एवं समाचारों का अच्छा सम्मिश्रण। -राकेश सिन्हा, भारत काव्य-कंु ज सहित हिन्दी-पुष्प का सितम्बर/अक्तूबर अंक बहुत सुन्दर है । -बी.ए.डेविड, मेल्बर्न हिन्दी-पुष्प का अंक प्राप्त हुआ। हमेशा की तरह सभी रचनाएँ एक से बढ़कर एक हैं । -हे मा पाण्डे, मेल्बर्न हिन्दी-पुष्प का निरं तर प्रकाशन अद्त भु कार्य है , हिन्दी प्रेमी याद रखेंगे। -प्रोफ़ेसर सुरेश भार्गव, मेल्बर्न (आप सभी पाठकों का हृदय से आभार। - संपादक)

अब हँ सने की बारी है अध्यापिका और छात्र अध्यापिका (हिन्दी की कक्षा में) - बच्चो,

अध्यापिका और छात्र अध्यापिका – मोनू, आज फिर तुम दे र

कल हमने स्त्रीलिंग और पुल्लिंग शब्दों के

से विद्यालय आए, क्या बात है ?

सांभर का प्रयोग करते हुए वाक्य लिखो

था, इसी कारण दे र हो गई!

बारे में सीखा था, अच्छा, आज इडली और सोमी - ‘मैंने खाना खाया’!

अध्यापिका (सोमी से) - सोमी, इसमें

तुमने इडली और सांभर का प्रयोग कहाँ किया है ?

सोमी - मैडम, मेरे खाने में दोनों थे!

२०२१, रात के ७ बजे से आरम्भ कार्यक्रम के विषय में अधिक जानकारी

के लिए आशुतोष (०४२२ ४०० ६४३) से संपर्क करें ।

२. ऑल यू कैन ईट-वेगन बफ ु े स्थान - हॉर्न प्लीज़, नॉर्थ फिट्ज़रॉय तिथि व समय - हर रविवार ३१ जनवरी तक टिकट तथा अधिक जानकारी के लिए इस वेबसाइट पर जाएँ।

www.southasiatimes.com.au - 0421 677 082

मोनू – मैडम, रास्ते पर संकेत बोर्ड लगा अध्यापिका – लेकिन तुम्हारे दे र से आने

में संकेत बोर्ड का क्या सम्बन्ध है ?

मोनू – मैडम, उस बोर्ड पर लिखा था

‘कार्य चालू है , कृ पया धीरे चलें!

३. संगीत संध्या स्थान - ऑन लाइन

तिथि व समय - शनिवार ६ फरवरी २०२१, रात के ७ बजे से आरम्भ कार्यक्रम के विषय में अधिक जानकारी के लिए आशुतोष (०४२२ ४०० ६४३) से संपर्क करें ।

४. साहित्य संध्या स्थान - ऑन लाइन तिथि व समय - अधिक जानकारी के लिए डॉ. सुभाष शर्मा (०४३३ १७८ ३७७) से

संपर्क करें ।


18

sports

South Asia Times

JANUARY 2021

Virat Kohli gets ‘ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade’ Award

CONTD. FROM PG 15

Mithali Raj (India) Sarah Taylor (England) Stafanie Taylor (West Indies) ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Decade – The best overall performer in men’s Test cricket during the performance period James Anderson (England) Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka) Virat Kohli (India) Joe Root (England) Yasir Shah (Pakistan) Steve Smith (Australia) – Winner Kane Williamson (New Zealand) ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Decade – The best overall performer in men’s ODI cricket during the performance period MS Dhoni (India) Virat Kohli (India) – Winner Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka) Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) Rohit Sharma (India) Mitchell Starc (Australia) AB de Villiers (South Africa) ICC Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Decade – The best overall performer in women’s ODI cricket during the performance period Suzie Bates (New Zealand) Jhulan Goswami (India) Meg Lanning (Australia) Ellyse Perry (Australia) – Winner Mithali Raj (India) Stafanie Taylor (West Indies) ICC Men’s T20I Cricketer of the Decade – The best overall performer in men’s T20I cricket during the performance period Aaron Finch (Australia) Chris Gayle (West Indies) Rashid Khan (Afghanistan) – Winner Virat Kohli (India) Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka) Rohit Sharma (India) Imran Tahir (South Africa) ICC Women’s T20I Cricketer of the Decade – The best overall performer in women’s T20I cricket during the performance period Sophie Devine (New Zealand) Deandra Dottin (West Indies) Alyssa Healy (Australia) Meg Lanning (Australia) Ellyse Perry (Australia) – Winner Anya Shrubsole (England) ICC Men’s Associate Cricketer of the Decade – The best overall performer in men’s Associate cricket during the performance

period Richie Berrington (Scotland) Peter Borren (Netherlands) Kyle Coetzer (Scotland) – Winner Paras Khadka (Nepal) Calum MacLeod (Scotland) Assad Vala (PNG) ICC Women’s Associate Cricketer of the Decade – The best overall performer in women’s Associate cricket during the performance period Kathryn Bryce (Scotland) – Winner Sarah Bryce (Scotland) Natthakan Chantham (Thailand) Sterre Kalis (Netherlands) Chanida Sutthiruang (Thailand) Sornnorin Tippoch (Thailand) ICC Spirit of Cricket Award of the Decade – An action, moment, gesture, or decision on the field of play in international cricket during the performance period which best reflects the Spirit of Cricket. 2011 Winner – MS Dhoni (India) – Winner 2012 Winner – Daniel Vettori (New Zealand) 2013 Winner – Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka) 2014 Winner – Katherine Brunt (England) 2015 Winner – Brendon McCullum (New Zealand) 2016 Winner – Misbah-ulHaq (Pakistan) 2017 Winner – Anya

Shrubsole (England) 2018 Winner – Kane Williamson (New Zealand) 2019 Winner – Virat Kohli (India) Teams of the Decade (TOTD) compiled by the Voting Academy of journalists and broadcasters for the following five formats are: ICC Men’s Test Team of the Decade 1 Alastair Cook 2 David Warner 3 Kane Williamson 4 Virat Kohli Captain 5 Steve Smith 6 Kumar Sangakkara Wicketkeeper 7 Ben Stokes 8 R Ashwin

5 Shakib al Hasan

3 Aaron Finch

6 MS Dhoni

4 Virat Kohli

Captain and Wicketkeeper 7 Ben Stokes 8 Mitchell Starc 9 Trent Boult 10 Imran Tahir 11 Lasith Malinga ICC Women’s ODI Team of the Decade 1 Alyssa Healy

9 Rashid Khan 10 Jasprit Bumrah 11 Lasith Malinga

Wicketkeeper

Captain 5 Stafanie Taylor 6 Sarah Taylor Wicketkeeper

8 Dane van Niekerk

11 James Anderson

9 Marizanne Kapp

4 AB de Villiers

Captain and Wicketkeeper 8 Kieron Pollard

4 Meg Lanning

10 Stuart Broad

3 Virat Kohli

7 MS Dhoni

3 Mithali Raj

7 Ellyse Perry

2 David Warner

6 Glenn Maxwell

ICC Women’s T20I Team of the Decade 1 Alyssa Healy

2 Suzie Bates

9 Dale Steyn

ICC Men’s ODI Team of the Decade 1 Rohit Sharma

5 AB de Villiers

10 Jhulan Goswami 11 Anisa Mohammed ICC Men’s T20I Team of The Decade 1 Rohit Sharma 2 Chris Gayle

www.southasiatimes.com.au - 0421 677 082

2 Sophie Devine 3 Suzie Bates 4 Meg Lanning Captain 5 Harmanpreet Kaur 6 Stafanie Taylor 7 Deandra Dottin 8 Ellyse Perry 9 Anya Shrubsole 10 Megan Schutt 11 Poonam Yadav Source- ICC Media Zone


JANUARY 2021

photo feature

South Asia Times

Glimpses of Arunachal Pradesh By Sharad Kumar, New Delhi based Photo-Journalist who was recently in Arunachal Pradesh, India

www.southasiatimes.com.au - 0421 677 082

19


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JANUARY 2021

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