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
WE HAVE lost Inuka, the fourth and
last polar bear to die at the Singapore
Zoo, but the only one to be born there.
It was the first polar bear to be born in a
tropical region, and lived for 27 years
far from its Arctic habitat. The average
lifespan of polar bears living under hu-
man care is 25 years and this beloved an-
imal beat that in our sweltering heat.
Wildlife Reserves Singapore must be
commended for taking such good care
of Inuka and the other polar bears the
zoo had in the past.
Inuka was born to Nanook from
Canada and Sheba from Germany, 12
years after they arrived here in 1978. Its
name, “silent stalker” in the Eskimo
language Inuit, was chosen from sugges-
tions made in a nationwide exercise.
Inuka went on to be a Singapore
icon, one of The Straits Times’“28 peo-
ple and things to call our own”.
Zoo keepers and the people of Singa-
pore showered the bear with affection.
Inuka’s birthday, on Boxing Day, cele-
brated with special ice-based cakes,
was an annual highlight at the zoo.
When Inuka turned 27 last year, it
was presented with an agar agar cake
topped with salmon, easy to chew with
its ageing teeth. Towards the end, the
bear, close to 70 in human years, would-
stay in the cave in its enclosure. As
crowds gathered, keepers never forced
Inuka to come out, allowing it to rest.
Deputy head keeper Mohan
Ponichamy said the “fussy, smart bear”
kept them busy trying to find ways to
mask the smell of medication it needed
to be given three or four times a day.
Inuka would wait till the keepers were
looking away and then spit out medica-
tion hidden inside its food.
The playful bear would often play
tricks such as putting its toothbrush out
of the reach of its keepers. With such a
lovable creature in their care, it must
have been heartbreaking for the keep-
ers when Inuka was put to sleep last
month. So too for others. Tears were
shed at a memorial event.
Was it right to raise a polar bear in
conditions so different from what its
body needs? Despite the zoo’s best ef-
forts to keep them in a cool environ-
ment, the fur on Inuka and Sheba
turned green with algae in 2004.
While this was deemed harmless by
the zoo, it suggested that exposure to
the elements here was not suitable for
these animals. The polar bears were
later moved to a climate controlled en-
closure. And it was decided that the Sin-
gapore Zoo would no longer bring in
these animals from the Arctic.
Inuka, Prime Minister Lee Hsien
Loong said, was as Singaporean as the
rest of us. The bear was born here,
named here and raised here. It brought
a smile to the faces of many Singapore-
ans and visitors over the years.
Inuka’s spirit will live on at the zoo,
reminding us of the pride and joy it
brought to this country.
Aditi Balasubramanian, 17, is an 11th
grade student at the Singapore
HE family is
block of our society.
families enjoy strong
family ties, with 90
per cent satisfied
with their family life.
A strong family unit is one that is lov-
ing, supportive and united. Unfortu-
nately, some are afflicted by family vio-
lence, which can have long-lasting and
detrimental effects. Family violence is
not restricted to any community or
race. It occurs across the board.
However educational, ethnic and cul-
tural factors may affect how people re-
spond to it. According to Pave, a family
violence specialist centre, among In-
dian families, the most common forms
of violence are spousal violence, child
abuse and cases where adult children
abuse their parents.
Victims are sometimes unwilling or
unable to seek help. Some children may
be too young; elderly may be physically
or mentally unable to do so. Women are
especially hesitant to seek help, owing
to a number of reasons:
They believe that love and care will
eventually change the perpetrator.
They are dependent financially on
They feel that they have to tolerate
abuse, for the sake of their children.
They fear their spouse’s reaction, if
they were to seek help.
Such victims tend to suffer in silence,
fearing the shame that may arise, or out
of guilt that they had done something to
deserve the violence. Their ordeal may
not be obvious to others, as victims usu-
ally conceal the pain and physical
abuse. However keeping silent about
family violence or domestic abuse is not
the right thing to do.
First, if left unreported, the victims
will continue to suffer. Family violence
can be long-lasting, and negatively im-
pact the victims throughout life. Chil-
dren are severely impacted by violence,
both emotionally and cognitively. Re-
search shows that children’s capacity to
think or reason is affected by the
trauma of witnessing violence, with
some studies suggesting that exposure
to spousal abuse can affect a child’s abil-
ity to process and use new information.
Hence, continuous exposure to
spousal violence not only affects chil-
dren mentally, but also academically, di-
minishing their lingual and mathemati-
cal skills. Repetitive exposure to
spousal violence can also result in post-
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in chil-
dren, sometimes not obvious to parents
who are in constant conflict.
Second, not reporting the violence
also means that the person who commit-
ted the violence is not helped. Often
perpetrators who commit family vio-
lence do so because that is what they
saw their parent(s) do when they were
children. In other cases, they are vent-
ing their frustrations and anger on more
vulnerable family members because
they are unable to address or resolve
the underlying issues.
These people need help to change.
They need to understand that what they
are doing is wrong, how much it hurts
their loved ones and the high price the
family pays. In some cases, a criminal
penalty or sanction is necessary. In or-
der to break the cycle of family vio-
lence, a pro-active and enlightened ap-
proach is needed.
Victims should have the courage to
report it or tell someone who can help.
Perpetrators should have the
courage to admit they have a problem
and seek help to change.
The community should denounce
the violence but be supportive of the vic-
tims, and also make clear to perpetra-
tors they must change. While it is feared
that bringing the matter to light is
shameful or will result in punishment
for the perpetrators, it is better to bring
it to light, then work together as a fam-
ily and as a community to address it. In
the long run addressing it head on is bet-
ter than keeping quiet and leaving it un-
resolved. Help is readily available.
Persons who need help can approach
Pave, which works to promote a healthy
community, free from violence. Its ser-
vices are for victims, perpetrators, sur-
vivors and vulnerable family members
such as children and the elderly.
Members of the community can also
approach the Sinda Family Service Cen-
tre, which is is well-positioned to offer
families all-round assistance and coun-
selling, including programmes for the
families’ holistic development.
For children who live in violent
homes, trauma-focused cognitive be-
haviour therapy is available in schools,
family service centres and family vio-
lence specialist centres.
Family members who are victims of
family violence can apply for a Personal
Protection Order or an Expedited Pro-
tection Oder from the Family Courts. In
extreme cases when the perpetrator
poses a serious danger to the family, the
Courts can order the perpetrators to
leave the home under a Domestic Exclu-
Those who need legal advice or repre-
sentation but who are unable to afford it
can also approach the Legal Aid Bu-
reau, the Community Justice Centre or
the Community Legal Clinics.
We should work together to stop the
problem of family violence, and encour-
age instead a strong healthy environ-
ment of love and respect in families.
Ms Indranee Rajah is Minister in the
Prime Minister’s Office, Second
Minister for Education and Finance
and Second Minister for Law.
Hotline to call: Pave Family Violence
Specialist Centre at 6555-0390 or
Sinda at 1800-295-3333
Inuka: An obituary
Farewell... Inuka (top) and members of the
audience at an emotional memorial event.
Family violence: Silence not the answer
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