Mother’s Day tribute from
brothers Janadas and
Janamitra to the late
Mrs C.V. Devan Nair,
Singapore’s first Indian
woman MP and wife of
the third President
REPORT ON PAGES 10,11 & 12
Mother was our world
Mummy’s boys... Janadas (left), Janamitra
(right) and Janaprakash.
T H E H E A R T B E A T O F T H E I N D I A N C O M M U N I T Y
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Marketing Team Head
SEEKING to regain some of India’s his-
toric reputation as a centre for interna-
tional learning, the Indian government
has announced an ambitious programme
to more than quadruple the number of foreign stu-
dents in the country’s institutions of higher educa-
tion.The “Study In India” programme launched on
April 18 seeks to increase the intake of international
students to 200,000 in less than five years. It stresses
India’s strengths in affordable quality education in
English and a “thriving innovation ecosystem”.
It is aimed at students in other South Asian coun-
tries, South-east Asian countries such as Malaysia
and Thailand, Central and West Asia and Africa.
Mr Sandeep Goel, who heads the programme,
told The Straits Times: “The world should know that
India offers great value for money (in) education.”
The branding campaign has a budget of around
$3.12 million. Online, it has a one-stop portal
(www.studyinindia.gov.in) that helps students
choose a course and facilitates admission into 160 in-
stitutions, including the Indian Institutes of Technol-
ogy and Indian Institutes of Management.
While the number of partner institutions is grow-
ing, involvement in the programme has been limited
to the country’s top-ranked institutes, which offer a
range of full and partial fee waivers. The portal will be
backed by a call centre and reinforced by frequent in-
ternational roadshows in target countries.
The programme is also working on simplifying
cumbersome visa regulations and securing agree-
ments to guarantee mutual recognition of degrees
with prospective students’ home countries.
The quality of India’s higher education has been
hit by a lack of investment and the absence of an en-
abling regulatory set-up. This is reflected in the con-
spicuous absence of Indian educational institutions
in international rankings. None of them was ranked
in the top 250 of the Times Higher Education
World University Rankings released in Febru-
ary this year, and only six of them made it to
the top 600.
Chinese institutions secured 22 of the first
600 spots. China hosts close to half a million
foreign students, more than 10 times the
45,000 in India.
Concerns that keep foreign students away from In-
dia include the poor law-and-order situation, racism
and pollution. There have been attacks on foreign stu-
dents, especially those from Africa, in some places.
That academic institutions in India have been sti-
fled by a complex web of bureaucratic control is some-
thing former Singapore foreign minister George Yeo
has experienced first-hand. He resigned as chancel-
lor of Nalanda University in Bihar in November 2016
after claiming that the Indian government had failed
to maintain the university’s autonomy.
Conscious of the need to radically improve the
quality of its academic centres, the Indian govern-
ment recently announced an Institutes of Eminence
programme that will identify 20 institutes and chart a
path for them to become “world-class”.
India out to woo more
Laughing their way to good
health with yoga
JAIPUR commemorated World
Laughter Day by organising laughter
yoga sessions in parks and public
places in the city on May 6 (right).
The event, called Hasyam, takes
place on the first Sunday of May every
year. The first World Laughter Day
was held on May 10, 1998 in Mumbai.
It was organised by Dr Madan
Kataria, founder of the global
Laughter Yoga movement. The aim
was to promote laughter as a positive
and powerful human emotion that has
the potential to keep people healthy,
physically and mentally.
Punjab panel to re-examine Class
12 history syllabus
PUNJAB Chief Minister Amarinder
Singh has announced the setting up of
a six-member Oversight Committee
after allegations that Sikh history has
been diluted in the Class 12 syllabus.
Historian Kirpal Singh will head the
committee to examine the issue.
The Chief Minister lashed out at the
opposition for “unnecessarily
politicising the issue”.
He told the media in Chandigarh on
May 7: “My government has decided
to prevent any such politicisation of
history books by setting up a
permanent committee to oversee
formulation of the syllabi and ensure
error-free books on the subject.”
500 children participate in
Kolkata inter-orphanage fest
ABOUT 500 underprivileged children
participated in various activities
related to literature, art and culture
during an inter-orphanage talent
festival held for the first time in
The festival, called Nakshatra,
brought together children from
various schools and shelter homes, at
the Birla Industrial and Technological
Museum auditorium on May 6.
Organised by Bhumi, an
independent volunteer non-profit
organisation, the festival saw the
children showcase their talent in story
writing, paper modelling, pot painting,
recitation, singing and dance
E-office system in all UP
THE electronic-office system aimed at
enhancing movement of files has been
implemented in all Uttar Pradesh state
The new system, announced by
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Oct
27 last year, was implemented in 20
departments at the state secretariat in
the first phase.
An official said the new system will
ensure that files are not delayed and
that digitisation expedites the process
of decision making. It will also cut
down on corruption as the system will
be monitored by officials in the Chief
Poor to get free medical
treatment in Madhya Pradesh
MADHYA Pradesh Chief Minister
Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced
that the poor in the state will get free
treatment for medical problems.
“People should help the poor get
the benefit of various welfare schemes
of the government,” he said during the
groundbreaking ceremony of a
multi-storeyed building at the Kailash
Nath Katju Hospital in Bhopal.
The hospital, which has 20 beds,
will have 100 beds soon.
‘One Stop Centres’ for women in
100 more districts
AS MANY as 100 additional districts
will have One Stop Centres aimed at
supporting women who are victims of
violence. A statement by the Ministry
of Women and Child Development
said the additional centres will come
up in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,
Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra,
Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil
Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
The centres aim to facilitate
integrated services for affected women
such as police assistance, medical aid,
psycho-social counselling, legal aid or
counselling and a temporary stay of
five days. The government has set up
182 centres since April 2015.
Indian tea industry records
highest ever production
THE Indian tea industry recorded the
highest ever production of 1,325.05
million kg as well as export of 256.57
million kg during the financial year
2017-18. This is according to the Tea
Board of India.
The total tea production in 2017-18
went up by 74.56 million kg or 5.96
per cent, compared with the
corresponding figure in 2016-17.
The growth in exports was mostly
driven by five countries – Egypt, Iran,
Pakistan, China and Russia.
May 11, 2018
BRIGHT future in India’s corpo-
rate sector seemed assured for
him as he had a degree from the
Indian Institute of Technology Kharag-
pur and a master’s in business adminis-
tration from the Indian Institute of Man-
He even worked for a year at Indian
multi-national Infosys, a global leader
in technology services and consulting.
But Mr Vinayak Lohani’s mind
turned to a more meaningful vision
which led him to opt out of the job place-
ment race after his master’s.
He was inspired by the spiritual and
humanistic ideals of the legendary In-
dian monk Swami Vivekananda, and
decided to devote his life to serving the
“divine in man”.
Said the Bhopal-born Mr Lohani,
39: “The most I can achieve in the cor-
porate world is to be a chief executive of-
ficer, but it didn’t feel meaningful. At
the same time, I was very interested in
Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy, such
as his high degree of empathy. This
moved me at a very deep level.”
In trying to emulate the Swami’s val-
ues, he wanted to get involved in hu-
manitarian work, but did not know
how to start.
“I thought about values such as love,
care and selflessness and then I thought
of children who come from vulnerable
backgrounds and don’t have anyone
around them,” he said.
“I felt I could translate those values
into action by creating a loving and car-
ing environment and transforming
That led him to set up Parivaar
(which means family in Hindi), a shel-
ter for destitute children in 24 Parganas
district, West Bengal.
“I initially wasted many months
speaking to people and companies who
were involved in social funding, but no-
body wanted to support me because
nothing was concrete,” said Mr Lohani,
who visited Singapore in February to
speak about his work before audiences
at Tanglin Club, Facebook and
“They thought it was just my wishful
“I was not worried about failure. To
me, following what I want to do is in it-
self a success. Only that mattered to
In order to kickstart his mission, he
tutored students taking management-
entrance exams and used the money he
earned to start Parivaar in late 2003.
He rented a small building to house
three children he picked up from the
streets. Within a year, the number grew
“The building could house only 40
children. Word spread about the cause
and I was getting so many cases,” Mr Lo-
“I had to find a bigger
At the end of 2004, he purchased a
plot of land and developed a campus
for boys and girls. In 2011, he built sepa-
rate residential blocks for them.
Today, there are more than 1,700
children at Parivaar, making it the
largest residential programme for chil-
dren from impoverished backgrounds
in West Bengal, according to Mr Lo-
Children from tribal areas in 11 dis-
tricts of West Bengal and Jharkhand
also live there.
Mr Lohani said he is approached to
accommodate at least 2,000 children
every year, mostly by field organisa-
tions, relatives or concerned citizens.
Parivaar has a team that conducts a
thorough check on each case. A report
is prepared and then assessed before a
child is admitted.
The children are housed in dormito-
ries. The campus also has a library, com-
puter room, dining area, football field
and volleyball court.
They attend classes on weekdays
and visit art galleries, theatres and mu-
seums on weekends.
After grade 12, they can do courses
in subjects such as hospitality, nursing,
information technology, beauty and
Mr Lohani said the children are also
given opportunities for higher educa-
tion and job placements.
Some of them are now interns at Pari-
vaar while completing their higher stud-
ies, while others have found employ-
ment in professions such as nursing and
An example is Kalpana Majumdar,
who was found begging at Kolkata’s
Sealdah station platform with her
grandmother. She was admitted to Pari-
vaar in March 2004.
Now, after completing her higher
secondary education and doing a pro-
gramme in sales, she is working at retail
According to Mr Lohani, around
Rs37,000 is spent on a child a year at
the residential institution.
This covers food, education, medical
expenses, clothing and toiletries, as
well as sports, cultural and recreational
Parivaar also has six day-boarding
centres – each with between 100 and
200 children – in Madhya Pradesh and
another one in West Bengal.
Mr Lohani said this is an initiative to
tackle malnutrition among children, es-
pecially in Madhya Pradesh.
“There is a significant tribal popula-
tion of 35 per cent in Madhya Pradesh.
We provide children there with meals
and come up with a curriculum,” said
the philanthropist, who plans to in-
crease the capacity of residential facili-
ties at Parivaar to around 3,000 chil-
dren over the next three years.
In recent years, many people and
companies in India, Singapore and the
United States have come to know
about Mr Lohani’s efforts and support
him with donations.
When asked whether his job at Pari-
vaar will ever be complete, Mr Lohani,
who has taken a vow of celibacy, said:
“It’s an endless mission. I’ve accepted it
as my way of life. It’s not a utopian situa-
tion. There will always be new prob-
lems and we should find ways to over-
He gave it all up for them... (Above)
Mr Vinayak Lohani with children at the
Parivaar shelter in West Bengal and (left)
some of them tying a rakhi (wristband) on
him on Raksha Bandhan (Brother’s Day).
Saviour of poor children
OUR years ago, 15-year-old
Anyabai won Rs54,000 (about
S$1,078) when she led her
school team to victory in a state-level
The prize money was more than
what her mother earned in an entire
Hailing from Alakhpura, a village
some 30km from the district headquar-
ters of Bhiwani in Haryana, Anyabai is
a Dalit by caste and desperately poor.
Her father died of a heart attack
when she was just two and the burden
of earning for the four-member family
passed on to her mother, Maya Devi,
whose life story provides a window
into the struggles of people at the low-
est rungs of society.
Scheduled Caste communities like
hers, comprising about 16.6 per cent of
India’s population, are generally an op-
pressed lot, particularly in impover-
ished rural areas where they are dis-
criminated against by higher castes
and are condemned to menial cleaning
jobs that no one else will do.
But there are those who have defied
the system and become achievers.
And Anyabai is one of them. She
could have been a victim of the oppres-
sive systems of caste and patriarchy,
but her skills as a footballer helped her
Just a few years after she started
playing, she represented India twice.
“She gets around Rs 60,000 for play-
ing every national match. Last year,
she won around Rs2.5 lakhs by playing
a few matches,” said Sonika Bijarnia,
her school coach.
“She manages to play two or three
matches every year.”
Football is not only helping her find
a purpose in life but is also helping her
bring her family out of the vicious cy-
cle of poverty.
Anyabai played in the Under-15
South Asian Football Federation tour-
nament last year in which India lost to
Bangladesh in the final.
She recollects the final with a bit of
disappointment, saying: “We lost
Anyabai, who has a sister and a
brother, is her mother’s pride.
“Nobody in the entire family has
achieved so much,” Maya Devi said. “I
didn’t have any hopes (while) Anyabai
Anyabai admitted that “life has
She said: “The scholarships I have
been getting have helped us to build a
two-room house in the village.
“It’s also nice that I get to make
friends from other parts of the country
and the world.
“I used to struggle with English ear-
lier. I try speaking the language now.
There is less hesitation.”
More than a decade ago, before
Anyabai started playing football, it
was really tough for Maya Devi to man-
age the family with just Rs150 (about
S$3) a day that she earned daily as a
“This income depended on the
farming season and I struggled. I used
to borrow money,” she said.
“It was tough to bring up my kids by
myself. If Anyabai achieves something
in life, I will consider my life to be suc-
cessful. I have worked very hard.”
Two years ago, she found employ-
ment as a sanitation worker. Among
the five cleaners in the village, she is
the only woman.
Anyabai believes she can contrib-
ute more to her family by becoming a
“I wish to play like (Argentinian
footballer Lionel) Messi,” she said.
The girl also has plans to take up so-
cial sciences in school along with voca-
tional subjects. “I will study further af-
ter class 12 but I wish to just play
and study after that,” she said.
Anyabai talked cheerfully about
the two big grounds in the village
where she, along with 200 other
girls, go for practice twice every day.
She said a decade ago her
school’s coach Gordhan Dass used
to train only boys in kabaddi, a tradi-
tional rural sport.
But that changed when the girls
began pestering him about introduc-
ing football to the school.
Anyabai soon developed a fasci-
nation for the game and, after that,
there was no looking back.
Today, it is the boys who are tak-
ing inspiration from Anyabai, who
has put Alakhpura on the map with
her remarkable success stories.
According to Maya Devi,
Anyabai is a cheerful kid.
“She doesn’t talk any nonsense,
she is a nice kid,” said the mother
Maya Devi puts on a ghoonghat
(veil), covering her head and face,
when she leaves the house.
Anyabai finds the veil too heavy
for comfort. “I will never put it on,”
she said with a laugh.
Indo-Asian News Service
I didn’t have
– Maya Devi (left with
changed the life of
a poor Dalit girl
Pride of Alakhpura... (Above) Anyabai (extreme
right, sitting) with her school team, who won
the Under-17 girls’ trophy at the 57th Subroto
Cup international football tournament in New
Delhi in 2016.
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