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Government of India

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October 6, 2016

Preserving the Rich Industrial Heritage of Railways

Author : Arun Kumar P

Indian Railways with more than 160 years of rich history; presents a wide spectrum of both tangible and intangible heritage.  Indian Railways is proud owner of four UNESCO accorded World Heritage Sites namely Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (1999), Nilgiri Mountain Railway (2005), Kalka Shimla Railway (2008) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai (2004). There are two more in waiting or in the tentative list namely Matheran Light Railway and Kangra Valley Railway.

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However, the repository of heritage of Indian Railway is not limited to its four world heritage inscriptions. Like any other industry, Railway technology evolves at a fast pace. For example, Steam Locomotives, Meter Gauge rolling stocks, Wooden body coaches are no longer in operation now. With their phasing out, lots of maintenance practices have also been gradually forgotten. At times, it becomes really impossible to locate an artisan who can do valve setting of a steam locomotive or a carpenter who can precisely fix the door of wooden body saloon. Beside rolling stocks, even equipment like block instruments, their tokens, token pickup devices, quadrant signalling devices, stationary vacuum exhausters, which were very common three decades ago, are now completely phased out.

Indian Railways, in addition to being a special industrial relic, occupy a special place within the national heritage spectrum of India.  The remains of rolling mill, cupola, brake block foundry, forging anvils of any old Railway Workshop are not only historical evidences or industrial relics but sense of belonging to the workshop. Similarly iconic station and office buildings at Mumbai (Victoria Terminus, Bandra Suburban, Churchgate), Howrah, Garden Reach (BNR Office), Chennai Egmore, Royapuram, Lucknow, Madurai etc. bear identities of their respective cities.

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The Station and Office buildings, locomotives, coaches, wagons, equipment, artifacts etc. when appropriately preserved and open for public display create memories of the past in the heart of the future generation and thus help maintaining a continuity of human experience.

Indian Railways, over the years, have been endeavoring sustained and focused approach for safeguarding its industrial as well as living heritage and to transmit it intact to future generations.

Today, Indian Railway maintains 34 Museums, Heritage Parks and Heritage galleries, spread all over India, for creating unique and rich experience to visitors about Railway heritage in India. The National Rail Museum in New Delhi, Regional Rail Museums at Chennai, Mysore and Howrah, are iconic tourist destinations in their region.

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Indian Railways have also preserved about 230 Steam Locomotives, 110 vintage coaches and wagons at prominent places including museums, heritage park etc., for public display. Many of these rolling stocks are more than 100 years old and they bring back memories of old glory to the mind of the viewers.

Indian Railways are also preserving about 16 Steam locomotives as working heritage. Although, not in regular service, these preserved steam locomotives are still capable of hauling tourist trains and ceremonial running. The Rewari Steam Shed has been rechristened as Rewari Heritage Steam Centre in 2002 for recreating the memories of working Steam Shed, a feat unparalleled in the World. Rewari Steam Centre now maintains six Broad Gauge and four Meter Gauge working steam locomotives, that include the iconic “Fairy Queen” (1855), placed in the Guinness Book of Record as being the oldest working locomotive in the World and “Akbar”, that featured in many Bollywood movies like Sultan, Gadar etc.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) and Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR), both UNESCO accorded World Heritage Sites, operate Steam services on regular basis. DHR and NMR, with working steam locomotive holding of fourteen and six respectively, attract steam lovers from India and abroad. The sight and sound of Steam Locomotives recreated smells and romance of a bygone era.

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Indian Railways have a large repository of built heritage like buildings, bridges, viaducts etc. As of now, about 25 bridges and 70 buildings are designated as Heritage Assets by Indian Railways. Notable among them are Jubilee Bridge near Kolkata, Yamuna bridge near Naini, Sone Nagar Bridge, Pamban viaduct, Bandra suburban station, Pratap Vilas Palace, Vadodara, Glenogle Bungalow, Mumbai, SER (erstwhile BNR) Headquarter, Kolkata etc.  Indian Railways have been making special efforts to conserve these built heritages.

Indian Railways have recently launched its heritage web-page (placing all relevant information including heritage inventories for easier access by citizen and all stakeholders.

With advent of technology and wider reach of internet, heritage displays need not be limited to collections in Museums and Galleries or in form of outdoor exhibits near prominent places like Stations, Administrative Offices etc.  Indian Railways is collaborating with Technology partners for creating a Pan-India virtual museum in a digital web enabled platform. This virtual museum shall contain all railway heritage components e.g. Locomotives, Coaches, Building, Bridges, Documents, Artifacts etc. for worldwide access through internet even on a mobile device.

The virtual museum shall also feature ‘contributory or crowdsourcing mode’ for soliciting contributions from large group of people, and especially from online communities. Such digital platform, already operational in some large museums in India, can also serve as ‘on-line’ repository of knowledge on Railway heritage, useful to students, tourists, research scholars and citizens.

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Union Minister of Railway, in his budget speech 2016, had emphasized promotion of tourism through World Heritage Railways and Museums. Preservation of Railway Heritage and unlocking its potential for making significant and meaningful contributions to India’s knowledge society and Incredible India Campaign shall remain one of the prime social responsibilities of Indian Railways and its associated Public Sector Undertakings.

*Assistant Director (M&C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi.

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Writing the future with a Talking Pen

Author : Bibin S. Nath

Maniyamma, an octogenarian tribal woman of Palakkayam colony in Chaliyargrama panchayat used to struggle with books and slates in her endeavour to become a neo-literate. But a ‘talking pen’ which reproduces the sound of a written text made matters easy for her and so many other indigenous people of the area. They moved the electronic pen across the alphabets and words of songs to hear and learn them simultaneously with ease. Below the roofs of Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram an NGO under the sponsorship of Union HRD Ministry, 320 Scheduled tribes including Maniyamma made their way into the world of letters and education.

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Here they not just learn letters but garner valuable lessons in health, sanitation, de-addiction, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. It is this talking pen and other such innovative efforts in literacy and skill development programmes which helped Jan Shikshan Sansthan(JSS), Malappuram to bag the covetous UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, 2016.

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The Confucius Prize for Literacy is an international prize awarded by UNESCO every year in recognition of excellence and inspiring experiences in the field of literacy throughout the world. Union Minister of State for HRD Upendra Kushwaha along with JSS Chairman and Rajya Sabha MP Abdul Wahab and JSS Director V. Ummerkoya received the award from UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova at a function held in Paris last month in conjunction with a global education meeting on ‘Reading the Past, Writing the Future’. This is the fourth time an organisation in India got bestowed with Confucius prize.

This is not the first time that awards come in the way of JSS Malappuram. The organisation has to its credit various awards including national Sakshar Bharat Award by the Government of India (2014).

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Vocational training to offer a level playing field:

Though Kerala has one of the highest literacy rates in the country, this success story has not always reached traditionally disadvantaged groups such as women, ethnic minorities, ‘scheduled tribes’ and migrants, who often live in financially under-developed and marginalized communities. It is here that NGOs like JSS makes a change. JSS Malappuram provides non-formal education to the illiterate and training in different vocational skills for neo-literate adults.

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The organization also helps beneficiaries to find work or to start an enterprise individually or as a group and has trained around 53,000 people including 41,000 women.

Talking pen developed by State Resource Centre-Kerala is part of JSS’s Vidya Programme – a comprehensive development project for Scheduled Tribes of the district. Advanced technological tools including mobile computer lab, LCD projectors are also used for literacy programme. Instructions are offered in Hindi, English, Malayalam and other regional languages, including the tribal language Paniya. Textbooks are written in the community’s local language and are also available in Braille.

i201610601.jpgTribal woman learning alphabets using Talking Pen as a part of ‘Vidya’ Programme conducted by Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram.

Braille Literacy Materials are developed by JSS in collaboration with State Resource Centre- Kerala and Kerala State Literacy Mission. Under this programme 341 visually-challenged beneficiaries have got Braille Literacy along with a vocational training.

Ullasam to Unnathi: Tailor made projects for sustainable development:

JSS Malappuram boasts of a set of vocational training courses which aims at sustainable and participatory development of marginalized communities. One among such projects is ‘Ullasam’ (Job with pleasure)- a novel venture which offers five days of job along with a day of yoga and meditation. Around 250 beneficiaries have been exclusively selected from widows, unmarried women of 40 plus year and divorcees. Under the scheme, non-woven cloth bag, baby bed, shoppers, mosquito cover etc are manufactured. Beneficiaries of the scheme are now earning Rs.5000-10,000 per month through the programme. Yoga and meditation exercises provided with the scheme helped in stress reduction. ‘Sparsham’ is another innovative project for the development of differently abled beneficiaries.

Insight’ is a special programme for the visually challenged group initiated by JSS Malappuram in collaboration with the Kerala Federation of Blind.

A project named ‘Dalam’ (petal) was started by JSS in order to bring self sufficiency in vegetable production among rural population.

Members of JSS family cultivated vegetable farms in their house yards and started distributing vegetable plants in grow-bags under the scheme.

Relief’ is another programme implemented by the JSS with the support of Pain & Palliative Society for enhancing the capacity of patients who are suffering from paraplegia and acute diseases.

The patients are provided skill training along with some soft skills and plays to motivate them.

Comprehensive Responsible Development through Education and Skill Training (CRDEST) is a special programme designed by JSS for the benefit of tribal youths with the collaboration of various Government agencies.

Through this project hundred tribal youths are identified from various tribal settlements. One week residential coaching in various subjects along with soft skills is provided as part of the scheme. The tribal youth trained under CRDEST programme are working as facilitators, trainers and motivators in tribal settlements.

‘Unnathi’ (rise) is the latest mega skill development programme adopted by JSS for empowerment of women in coastal areas. Thousand beneficiaries identified for the project in the first phase will undergo six month training in embroidery and apparel making. After training they will be provided with sewing machines.

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A skill development class in progress at Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram.

JSS Malappuram is also conducting literacy and skill development programmes in Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana(SAGY) villages of Malappuram district. It has conducted total enrolment campaigns of Pradhan Mantri Suraksha BhimaYojana and Pradhan MantriJan DhanYojana in SAGY villages. Basic computer course were also conducted for 1,500 villagers in association with National Digital Literacy Mission. Classes in new trends in the likes of Fashion Technology for marginalized women and mobile phone technology for Schedules Tribes were also conducted in SAGY village. Financial literacy classes are being conducted for the socio economic upliftment of deprived women of SAGY villages.

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A literacy class for tribal women progressing at Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram.

JSS Malappuram, a C category JSS is being provided with an annual lump sum grant of Rs. 30 lakh in two installments by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry. This grant powers the various activities of this institution. If the government can bring various government and non-government agencies under one umbrella, the benefits to the targeted population will many fold, opined Director of JSS.

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Another view from the skill development class at Jan Shikshan Sansthan, Malappuram.

* Information Assistant, Press Information Bureau, Cochin

BRICS : Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions

Author : Syed Mahmoud Nawaz

The 8th BRICS Summit is set to take place in the middle of this month in Goa under the Chairmanship of India. BRICS, grouping Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is a unique international mechanism which has been playing an important role in rebalancing global influence thereby having positive effects on world economy and politics.

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BRICS nations collectively account for 43% of the world population, with around 25% of the world’s total land area and close to 30 % of the GDP with around 17 % share in the world trade. These five major emerging economies are looking for their right place, in the global economic and political stage, which befits their potential and capabilities. Their rising prominence will surely help in resolving global issues in a better way.

In 2001, in a research paper on global economics titled ‘Building Better Global Economic BRICs’ which was published by Goldman Sachs, British economist Jim O’ Neill coined and used the acronym ‘BRICs’ for the first time for four rapidly developing economies-Brazil, Russia, India and China.

In 2006, Brazil, Russia, India and China began a regular informal diplomatic coordination initiative, with annual meetings of Foreign Ministers at the margins of the General Debate of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). This successful interaction led to the decision that the dialogue was to be carried out at the level of Heads of State and Government in annual Summits.

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First BRIC Summit

The First BRIC Summit was held in Yekaterinburg (Russia) in 2009. The depth and scope of the dialogue among the Members of BRIC group – which became BRICS in 2011 with the inclusion of South Africa – kept on expanding from year to year. More than an acronym that identified countries emerging in the international economic order, BRICS became a new and promising political-diplomatic entity, far beyond the original concept which was envisioned for the financial markets.

Over the years BRICS has evolved in a phased and progressive manner, thereby very meticulously strengthening its two main pillars: (1) coordination in multilateral forums, with a focus on economic and political governance and (2) cooperation between members.

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2nd BRIC summit-2010, Brazil

BRICS pushes for reforming the structures and forums of global governance, especially in the economic and financial fields – International Monetary Fund, World Bank, G-20 etc. There is special emphasis on the reforms of political institutions, such as the United Nations as well.

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3rd BRICS summit-2011, China

Intra-BRICS cooperation has also been solidifying with a clear and broad agenda which has been developed over the years. And this includes areas such as finance, agriculture, economy and trade, combating transnational crime, science and technology, health, education, corporate and academic dialogue and security, among others. The group is geared up to tackle challenges in the social, economic and environmental fields, and create new opportunities for the members of the BRICS group in different areas especially with an eye on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

BRICS as well as other emerging market economies and developing countries do continue to face major financing constraints at times in addressing infrastructure gaps and sustainable development needs.

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To address these issues, BRICS has now under its belt, the New Development Bank (NDB) which will mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging and developing economies. And to compliment the working of the NDB, the grouping also has the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), with an initial size of $100 billion, to help countries forestall short-term liquidity pressures.

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4th BRICS Summit

The idea to establish the Bank was proposed by India during the 4th BRICS Summit held in New Delhi in 2012.

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5th BRICS summit, South Africa

The 2013 BRICS summit was the fifth annual BRICS summit, an international relations conference attended by the head of states or heads of government of the five member states Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The summit was held in Durban, South Africa in 2013.This completed the first cycle of BRICS summit.

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6th BRICS Summit

During the 6th BRICS Summit at Fortaleza (Brazil) all agreements were signed by BRICS members and in May 2015 Shri. K.V. Kamath from India was appointed as the President of the New Development Bank with its headquarters in Shanghai (China).

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7th BRICS Summit

The 7th BRICS Summit at Ufa (Russia) in July 2015 marked the entry into force of the agreement on the NDB.

Recently the Bank approved its first package of loans worth about $811 million. The four projects in Brazil, China, South Africa and India are all in the renewable and green energy development sphere. And to quote the NDB spokesperson, “There are many more new projects in the pipeline including projects from Russia. They are at various stages of consideration or appraisal”. “NDB signifies developing countries’ coming of age; their aspirations to stand on their own feet”, the spokesperson added.

The Prime Minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi had recently said, “BRICS acts as a vital pillar of hope for this world full of political challenges, safety related challenges and economic challenges”.

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In September 2016, the BRICS leaders met informally on the margins of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China and according to a media note issued on this occasion, the BRICS leaders underlined the importance of further strengthening strategic partnership guided by principles of openness, solidarity, equality, mutual understanding, inclusiveness, mutually beneficial cooperation. They also underlined the importance of establishment of a just and equitable international order based on International law.

The BRICS leaders also strongly condemned the heinous acts of terrorism that continue to disrupt global peace and security and undermine social and economic confidence. They emphasized the need for a united global effort to combat terrorism in accordance with norms and principles of international law, including the UN Charter.

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The leaders appreciated India’s BRICS Chairpersonship and the good pace of implementation and expansion of BRICS cooperation agenda and voiced their full support for a successful hosting of the upcoming 8th BRICS Summit in Goa under India’s Chairpersonship. They also appreciated the strengthening of people-to-people exchanges through organization of various BRICS events across the cities and provinces of India.

In New Delhi, External Affairs Minister, Smt. Sushma Swaraj while sharing India’s plan of action during BRICS Chairpersonship said, “We will adopt a five-pronged approach. It will comprise of Institution Building, Implementation, Integration, Innovation, and Continuity with Consolidation”.

On the sidelines of the 8th BRICS Summit, there will also be the BRICS-BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) Outreach Summit which will see leaders from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand joining the BRICS leaders.

Goa has been chosen as the venue for the 8th BRICS Summit over many other places in India. Recently the Chinese foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi paid a pre-summit visit to Goa. After the visit, an impressed Mr. Yi said, “Goa has a time honored history, beautiful landscape, rich resources and hardworking people and is one of the most developed states in India. Goa is small, but beautiful. I believe Goa is an epitome of the future and bright prospect of India. I am sure the BRICS summit will put Goa at an even bigger stage”.

Now, the world awaits the ‘Goa Declaration’.

 *Author is a senior journalist and film-maker. He writes on a variety of subjects.

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